VQDM Interview with Shallow State
VQDM: When was it that you created the band and how did you actually come across the name of Shallow State?
Jeff: The band has had a few different incarnations dating back to 2004 or so. Prior to this current line-up it had only existed in brief periods and had long periods of indefinite hiatus frustratingly enough. The name itself came from the point I felt like the industry and society was at. Every single coming out on the radio seemed to be about partying, bling, big asses, promiscuous girls, big boobs, drugs, drinking, sex...where was the emotional attachment? Where was the intellectual investment in the "art"? It just seemed like the state of society and music was shallow and fake.
VQDM: As a child growing up did you have any musical background within your family and have you had their support in what your doing currently?
Jeff: My love, passion, and lust for music started on the porch of my cousin's house when I was maybe 7 or 8. My older cousin worked for PolyGram Records and she would always be bringing home new cassette tapes <remember those? lol> of various bands like Skid Row, Motley Crue etc...and I remember sitting there on her porch the day she brought home Pearl Jam "Ten" and listening to it in its entirety with her older, much cooler friends.
My parents never really understood the whole "music thing" as they affectionately like to refer to it. I think they just saw the older I got the more money I was spending on gear and more expensive things became and to them it was a waste. Part of it was probably the run of bad luck I had putting bands together and keeping them together. I could see how to them it would seem like a waste of time and energy. Over the years it sometimes felt like that to me as well to be perfectly honest.
VQDM: What was the one most influential musician on a lyrical level as far as inspiration and style with what you write?
Jeff: While I don't think our styles are similar the most influential person for me as a troubled kid was Layne Staley. It seems like a strange choice for a kid I am sure but really the music and lyrical content of Alice in Chains helped show me that positive things can bloom from negative experiences and that expressing those emotions were far better than keeping them inside. Music was the necessary vehicle to allow me to say to certain people what I couldn't say to them in actuality. Writing became the only safe outlet where no one got hurt and granted me some much needed things like closure, forgiveness, relief... Even though I am older and wiser (or at least I would like to think I am) I still write mostly about people in my life or life experiences and the idea of music being that necessary release is how and why we titled our upcoming debut album "Catharsis"
VQDM: If you had to choose between being a villan or a super hero what would you do , who would you be and why?
Jeff: The villains always seem to have cooler suits and weapons but I have too much of a guilty conscience that I think I would have to be a hero. I enjoy helping people so maybe a vigilante-hero like Green Arrow or The Crow would be up my alley.
VQDM: As our lives change our music grows, has there been any major changes in your personal loves as far as what you listen to as a fan? How has that music effected what you do in your own band?
Jeff: I grew up on 80's MTV so I still have a guilty pleasure in loving 80's pop like Roxette, Peter Gabriel, Huey Lewis and the News, and a plethora of other artists I know I am going to catch some shit for. I really love all styles of music. I used to work as an engineer in a few recording studios in Chicago and worked with all different kinds of genres and I found it pretty easy to find some aspect I liked of every project I worked on which certainly made the job easier. I find myself listening to a lot of stuff outside of Shallow State's genre lately. Stuff like Phantogram, Chvrches, Pvris, Florence and the Machine, Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Ray Vaughn, lots of various stuff.
VQDM: They use to say that getting a big deal or signed by some major company was left to those who were young right out of the gate.. however that is not what is really happening in the world today. Do you feel you are in the right time frame to be picked up by a heavy hitter in the music industry based on what is going on around you? Do you feel age has anything to do with it?
Jeff: Age certainly has SOMETHING to do with it. Anyone who says otherwise I think is delusional. However age is not the end-all factor. It's just much easier when you're younger and do not have the responsibilities of an adult. No mortgage, no spouse, no kids. Your only bill might be your cell phone at that age that certainly makes it easier to sign a deal and head out on tour and roll the dice. Once you get older you have to start seriously doing the math and thinking about replacing your full time job's income before you agree to anything which can be a slippery slope if you have to keep taking money up front that is loaned out from a label at the same interest rate as a payday loan store. I am happy to see the landscape is changing for bands and that smaller labels are starting to thrive under new business models.
VQDM: Where would you pick to play if your band would be able to travel anywhere and why?
Jeff: It may surprise you but we just played there. The Metro in Chicago. The place just has a hold on my heart. I had a chance to see so many amazing local and national bands there as a kid that there was nothing I wanted more than to be on that particular stage one day. We got to play there two months ago with Starset and Gemini Syndrome and the experience was something I will always cherish.
VQDM: As a vocalist and a guitarist do you find it is harder to connect with people who are not directly involved in some way with the arts?
Jeff:Honestly I never really worry about that. I feel as long as I am true and genuine in what I am saying it will connect with some people - maybe not with others but I think the worst you can do is fake it. People see right through that pretty quickly and once they do you lose a lot of credibility and that connection is ultimately lost.
VQDM: How important do you feel involving young kids of today with live performances is to you all as a band driven to make a successful journey?
Jeff: I just remember how important it was for me as a kid and how inspired I was seeing live shows. With so many things in technology being automated, synthesized, sampled, etc...I think more value will be placed on those who can actually play an instrument. I had an EDM producer in my recording studio back in the day tell me "You know one day there wont be a need for musicians anymore because we will just be making music entirely with samples." To which I replied "With no musicians it makes me wonder who is going to perform and record the samples for ya."
VQDM: The social media has been such a wonderful tool, however it has made many bands lazy with self promotion. Do you have any suggestions to others as to how to get your band out there without depending on the networks like facebook, twitter, and Instagram?
Jeff: Grassroots. Make that connection with people. Go out to other local shows and support other local bands. Mingle with their fans and talk with people and be personable. Let them get to know you and they will want to get to know your music more than if you just shove a demo cd at them and walk away.
As for the digital platform and social media. Really learn how to actually use things like facebook marketing and look-a-like audiences to find those hungry music fans. You know...the ones like yourself that always need new music to get their hands on. The ones that actual go to live shows and spend money on merch. They are out there and you have to separate them from the casual listeners and casual fans.
VQDM: If you could share the stage with any band or artist dead or alive who would it be and what would be your main reasoning behind it?
Jeff: Alice in Chains. No band has consistently meant more to me as a musician and a fan over all these years.
VQDM: Is there anything unique about your upcoming album that will be hitting this year that you would like to spill some insight to everyone on?
Jeff: Without trying to sound like Chinese Democracy...this album is literally the culmination of over 10 years of effort. I have tried for over 10 years to keep a band together long enough to be able to record and release a full length commercial album and every time the project has either stalled or the group has parted ways right before or even during the recording process and everything has had to start all over again and again. Band members have moved out of state. They've slept with other member's girlfriends. They have changed careers. You name it...it has happened.
VQDM: Do you have a time line for yourself or your band as far as hitting your goals on a musical career?
Jeff: We have things we certainly want to achieve and various plateaus we want to get to but I think we all understand the most important thing is staying together for the long term. We have to give things time to give things a chance to gain momentum and luckily we have a great chemistry and working relationship that allows for that. We've really become a family over the time we've been together.
VQDM: Anyone in your life that you would like to give props to for helping you become who you are today?
Jeff: Honestly anyone who has chosen to be a part of my life. Our time here on this Earth is a limited resource and those people could have chosen to spend time with someone else or in some other way and they chose to spend it with me and that is a privilege I think we as people take for granted or overlook often. Everyone who has come and gone has shaped me and I would like to think I'm a better person for it.
VQDM: Last but not least is there any plans for touring in 2017? If so where and when do you think that will happen?
Jeff: We are thinking of doing something along the lines of a mini-tour and maybe jumping on a few consecutive dates of a national tour with a similar band but hey, if Jerry Cantrell calls me I'm sooooooooooo in :)
Thanks for giving us a little glimpse into Shallow State and we look forward to the album coming out and being able to do your first review!