Long After Dark corresponded via e-mail for an enjoyable interview with Darren Fisher, Jaime “Muneca” Munoz, James Garcia, and Juan Bangcaya of the Hoboken, New Jersey band Artwork, who recently released their debut EP, Just To Feel Alive. The band discussed the record, working with two music industry vets, and their dream gigs.
Q) How are you doing and what have you been up to lately?
James: We are doing well. Thank you for having us. What have we been up to guys? (laughs)
Jaime: Playing shows…umm…(laughs)
Darren: Playing shows, working on new material. We’ve been promoting our new EP, “Just to Feel Alive.” That was in my best salesman voice by the way. (laughs)
Q) You released your debut EP, Just To Feel Alive, earlier last month, have you been pleased with its reception so far?
Darren: The response so far has been really great. A lot of people pre-ordered the CD through our website (ARTWORKband.com) which was surprising to me considering we’re a rock band in the “digital age.” But the fans have been really receptive and positive about the songs
Jaime: Yeah…I’m very pleased. The response has been tremendous. Our new fans are connecting quickly to all of the songs and downloads are going up every week and we’re getting tons of faithful fans. I think this EP is really just an introduction to the band and it’s only the beginning.
Darren: We have been gaining new fans from indie/internet radio stations spinning “Skies” as well. We did an interview recently with FJS Radio and they have been spinning us like crazy…like once every hour or so. (laughs). That’s one way of gaining momentum. (laughs)
Q) How did the recording process treat your first time as a group? Did you go into the studio with elaborate demos or did most of it come together as you began to record?
Jaime: The recording process was an amazing experience. There was really no pressure. We all took our time perfecting our parts and unifying collectively as a band to make this EP memorable. We allowed each other to really connect with our inner selves and bring all of our parts to life, and most importantly capture the vibe of the songs.
Darren: The writing process for ARTWORK is pretty simple. I will demo a song out on my own until I have the song structure and all the lyrics done and then I will show it to the guys. For “Just to Feel Alive”, we played shows for awhile before recording so I think that helped the band gel and work as a unit.
Q) Your lead single, “Skies,” has that real energetic jolt that helps serve notice of the group’s style, but there are many great songs on the EP. How hard was it to choose which song would be your first single and video?
Darren: “Skies” became our first single by accident really. “Skies” was the first song we completed recording and it was being mixed when we were approached by a director to film a music video. In hindsight though, “Skies” was probably the perfect first single for us because it’s just one of those great, optimistic rock tunes and I think “Skies” serves as a great introduction to the band.
James: Yeah…It’s one of those songs you catch yourself humming throughout the day. (laughs)
Q) Throughout most of the record, the group really excels at creating these great rock tracks, but towards the end a beautifully-crafted acoustic number, “Silver and Gold,” sneaks into the picture. Was that an intentional effort to diversify your sound or is this another strength of the band that could come out more in the future?
Darren: “Silver & Gold” was written about six or seven years ago and initially, I don’t think any of us had any intention of putting it on the record. I would just play it during breaks at rehearsal. We all knew “Silver & Gold” was special though, you know?
James: “Silver and Gold” is very haunting, compelling and sad. I’ve always gravitated to music that inspires you to go deeper into thought and consciousness. The music in itself is a story but as Darren’s voice enters, his lyrics paint a unique picture of thoughts and emotion, forcing you into a very private place.
Jaime: On this EP, we felt that it was important to show every single aspect of the band and also have a beautiful transition towards the end of the album. In this song, we wanted to focus on a more intimate side of the band. It was really important to us to have the vocals be in the spotlight on this song and capture that moment in time. “Silver & Gold” needed to be recorded because it’s one of Darren’s most personal songs and meant a lot to him.
Darren: That was the last song we recorded…I remember it was the dead of winter. I was recording acoustic guitars for “Skies” with Jaime and I guess we just got sidetracked. (laughs) I think there will always be an acoustic element to ARTWORK. I mean to me, that’s the true test of a good song…if the song is as impactful or even more impactful acoustic and stripped then it is amplified.
Q) I know it’s a bit early, but do you think that that there is enough material in the EP to build a full-length record around or if you decide to record a larger project do you think the band would lean towards newer work?
Darren: Regardless of whether we build upon what we have already recorded or record an entire new full length album with new music, the fact is that there is plenty more where the EP came from. (laughs) We will see but we have already been playing some new material at shows if that is any indication. (laughs)
Q) Your album was mastered by Richard Dodd, who has worked with the likes of Tom Petty, the Traveling Wilburys, and Green Day, was it comforting to know that your work was in the hands of someone with such credentials?
Darren: Working with Richard was actually by recommendation by our mixer, Dan Korneff.
Jaime: Yeah…Dan had a big part on this album. We spent several months tracking and discussing the sound and direction of this EP with Dan. Dan is an amazing mixing engineer and has a tremendous bio. He currently has quite a few platinum albums on the billboard charts and has worked with a ton of big named artists…Anthony Green, A Day to Remember, Papa Roach…
Darren: Breaking Benjamin, Paramore…
Jaime: Dan really took his time with us, understood our music and took it to a level. THAT was truly amazing.
Darren: Honestly, I was more nervous working with Dan than I was with Richard. I am a huge Breaking Benjamin fan and they’ve recorded their last three records with Dan mixing and engineering so I’ve always dreamed of working with him.
Jaime: Shortly after the mixes were done, we were debating on the mastering. So, we met with Dan and he mentioned that Richard Dodd would be the perfect guy for us. At the time, we really didn’t know his roster, but shortly after we looked into it and we knew he was the right guy.
James: Richard recorded and engineered “Kung Fu Fighting.” He’s our guy! (laughs)
Jaime: Yeah…We weren’t really concerned at all as far as him mastering the album. He was extremely professional, showed a lot of care for the album, and contacted us on a daily basis throughout every song on the ep. From the moment he heard the album, he already had a vision on where to take us to our full sonic potential. Working with Dan and Richard was truly comforting and for me, there was not a worry in the world. I knew that we were in good hands from day one.
Q) Do you have plans to tour outside of the New York/New Jersey area in 2012?
Jaime: Yes. Lately, we been looking into the Philly area, Boston, and pretty much the east coast. Touring just takes a little bit of time to try and get on the good shows and venue, but I’m pretty positive that it is coming very shortly.
Q) There’s really a tremendous ability to key on some of the melodic hard rock sound that’s evolved over the last 20-plus years in the EP, do many of your influences come from there, or is there a wide variety of inspiration for your music?
Darren: I think that’s the great thing about this band is that all of us have a wide range of what we enjoy in music and we all hone in on different aspects of the musical spectrum.
Jaime: I agree. For me, even a lot of my inspiration for production ideas come from a lot of artists. Tom Petty, Frank Zappa, Depeche Mode, Blind Melon, Cake, Foo Fighters, Deftones…
Darren: That’s funny you mentioned Depeche Mode. I remember during breaks in the recording, Jaime would be playing all these Depeche Mode songs from YouTube and I was never really exposed to them before. Shortly after, I found that one of my favorite songwriters – Duncan Sheik, put out a covers record with “Stripped” on it. (laughs) See, even the musicians we like have good taste in music! (laughs)
Q) Some quick hits to complete the interview: What were the first records you bought, who are you listening to right now, and if Artwork could play venue/festival, what would it be?
James: The first records I bought were the Rolling Stones Hot Rocks, Cream, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Motorhead…but I mostly listened to all different styles of music as I scanned the radio stations. I tend to get lost in music from my childhood. I love the productions of the 70’s. The recordings were done so differently than today. I still enjoy listening to the Dead Can Dance. They were an incredibly unique experience. Nowadays, I must admit I haven’t been listening to that much. Although, I caught a performance of The Secret Sisters and that really impressed me. I guess I’m not the typical guitarist. I really go with my gut feeling when it comes to music. If it tingles that special area in my soul, then you’ve got my attention. As far as venues, I guess I would say SXSW or Coachella. I think the biggest dream would be opening for Foo Fighters or U2 and I still fantasize about playing SNL. (laughs)
Juan: Underoath’s “They’re Only Chasing Safety” and Killswitch Engage “Alive or Just Breathing”. Right now, I’ve been listening to lot of EDM, Steve Aoki and R&B like Alex Clare and then you’ve got those old school classics like The Temptations (laughs). I’m all over the place. I would love to play Coachella or SXSW.
Jaime: My first records was actually Julio Iglesias, Ritchie Valens, and The Beatles. As
far as new records…Anthony Green, Discovery, Phoenix, Karnivool, City and Colour, and The Joy Formidable.
Darren: The first albums I ever bought were Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and The Offspring’s “Smash” on cassette tape. (laughs) I’ve been on a Filter kick lately but I would be willing to play any festival or venue as long as we are opening for Foo Fighters. (laughs)