Interview: Out Of Service

Out of Service

Recently I was able to hop onto a Zoom call with the emo rock band Out of Service, and we discussed their recently released single called “What You See” that features John Nolan (Taking Back Sunday/Straylight Run), their upcoming touring plans, and most importantly their finishing touches on their third full-length record called The Ground Beneath Me. Out of Service is comprised of Teebs Williams (guitar), Mike Capuano (vocals), Ken Bond (drums), and Brian McGovern (bass). The upcoming album will be released on Enjoy The Ride Records on June 3rd, and the vinyl will be available for purchase at the same time as the digital release date.

All right, thank you so much for connecting with me today, fellas. Let’s discuss the new single called “What You See” which features John Nolan from Taking Back Sunday and also Straylight Run. What went into writing this song, and how’d you manage to get John involved in this project? 

Teebs Williams: We had gotten half our record done, and we recorded our demos for half the album. We were putting together the second half, and we wanted Side B to feel a little different. So the direction of that song came from that. Side A hits you really hard, we wanted Side B to be a bit more dynamic and diverse.  That’s kind of where the seed of the song kind of started. 

Ken Bond: Yeah, I remember, in terms of where it came from, Teebs just started playing that kind of quieter riff in the beginning. And I layered the snare drum on top of that, and Brian came in with the bass, and it just flowed there. Lyrically, I think that the first half, there’s kind of a Part A and Part B to that song. So the first half that he sings is really personal about his personal narrative, with some prejudices and that he’s faced. And then the second half is kind of more general. And that’s why that kind of transitioned over to John Nolan for that part. So, in terms of the art of the song, in terms of themes, that’s how it evolved.

Brian McGovern: And we had sent John three or four songs to pick from for his feature, and he picked What You See. Once he did that, that’s when we started working with him on it. Where he would come in, and how he would build it. And originally, we just thought he was going to be on the bridge of the song. But when he sent us the final tracks, he also sang a part at the end. That part ended up a classic John Nolan thing, and twe absolutely loved it!

So how did that partnership kind of come to be? Did you reach out to John over social media?

BM: Ross, the owner of our label from Enjoy the Ride Records, has a connection to him as a Long Island native. He reached out and it was his initial idea to bring in John Nolan. And I don’t think that when Ross first pitched that, we all thought like, “Oh, yeah, John Nolan is going to sing our song…” But <Ross> said, “Oh know him pretty well, I’ll reach out to him.” And then also, Nathan Hussey, who engineered, produced, and mixed the album we are discussing, as well as all of our previous LPs, also knows John on a personal level well. So we had another connection there that I think definitely helped him get to “yes,” on being a part of the project. So we were just really happy to kind of have all these forces coming together.

That’s awesome! And it turned out really well, just looking from an outsider’s perspective about how all the collaborations came together and all the guest spots that you had on this record, which includes songs with Emery as well as others.

BM: Yeah, that was a “Teebs special,” the Emery one. So he had the connection there. And then he brought that one on for us. I think both collaborations were just really special, because I think that it was just really cool to connect with people that have influenced so much of where we’ve come from musically. 

KB: It really just brought us kind of full circle where all of us knew each other in high school, and these are all the bands that we cut our teeth to in terms of our high school bands, looking to different influences and styles. These bands helped us to understand our place in music; they influenced a lot of that. To be able to have them on tracks on our album and be able to reference them by having them as guests was an amazing experience. For me, the first time hearing those tracks when they bounced back their vocals I got chills. Both times it was knowing that these are people we’ve seen in concert dozens of times, and we’ve listened to their albums hundreds of times. Having them on our tracks was a surreal experience. 

BM: Yeah, I have to say, I think that’s the best word for it was surreal. I mean, when we got the tracks from Emery, they came directly to my inbox, and they sent them to me raw with no mixing on them. No music in the background. So I opened up these WAV files, and it’s literally just Devin and Toby’s (from Emery) voices, with no context. It was wild to hear it. So I immediately sent them over to Nathan, and just hearing the final product was just just great for us. 

TW: Usually with a song, we’ll start with a voice memo of me “noodling” on the guitar. And then I’ll send something over to our singer and he’ll just track maybe a verse in a chorus, or verse one, chorus one, from there, we’ll be like, “Okay, do we have something that’s worth pursuing?” And, and if we do, then we’ll usually do like a full guitar demo on it, using GarageBand. And then we’ll build it from there with the whole band, but then we also get in person, and the song flips itself on its head. 

BM: Yeah, can we talk about that a little bit, there was a period of time where, because of COVID and everything, we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to get together to write this album. And we had a lot of discussions about that, as a band. I, in particular, was very adamant about us getting together in person. So we came up with a way to do that safely. And that had to do with us all being in separate rooms, and connecting all of our instruments to a recording system. And we literally were spread out among the building by wires, but we could all hear each other, and we could all discuss through headphones. And there were a number of, I mean…there’s a couple of songs, especially on the back half of the album, that were written entirely by that process. Songs like “The Sky Fell In” and “The Fall…”

KB: Which is the next single, and also has a feature on it. A much smaller one, as far as how much of the song, but Nathan Hussey did a guest part on that song.

TW: But also like harmonies and backing vocals on that feature, to Brian’s point.

BM: But yeah, we found a way to get together in person. I think that’s when a lot of the songs really kind of came into their own and kind of took on a new life. And it was definitely the first time that we’ve ever thought of writing all the songs all together. We used to trade parts around, electronically, even on the last two records. Even with Burden, there were a lot of parts of songs that were kind of written as we were recording in the studio or at home this time. We demoed every song, four or five times, maybe three or four times, before we made it to the studio. And I mean, there are some songs if you want to go back to, like “Shelter,” that we put out in the Summer of last year. I mean, that song is completely different from the original demo, that they’re not even recognizable, because they morph so many times through the process that we put together.

TW: Yeah, I think before we would give ourselves artificial deadlines for recording, and we’d go into the studio or whatever, and we’d come in with kind of half-baked ideas and have to flesh them out in the studio. With this album, we gave ourselves a lot more breathing room where we basically fully demoed the album. That’s the recording process Brian was talking about where we would all be in separate rooms, using mics and headphones to write, fully demoed the album, listened to it, chopped parts up on the computer, rearranged things, added solos, and all kinds of stuff. And we really dug into them again after that process. So I think that we let these songs mature in ways that we weren’t able to in the past because of the time constraints that we were working under with the recording process that we had.

Do you have some experience of kind of “chopping things up,” remotely, and did that work to your advantage during the pandemic? 

TW: So for sure, absolutely.

KB: I would just want to add one more thing. This is the first album where we wrote way more songs than we needed, and then narrowed it down. I think that we had 32 different potential songs, and probably 26 or so that were almost complete. So there’s a lot more <unreleased>.

Thank you guys so much for the early listen of the new album, which doesn’t even include “Shelter” on it, which kind of surprised me! The record has a ton of great moments on it, and I feel like it’s gonna fill a void for what our scene has been missing lately. So what went into the actual sequencing and narrowing down of the songs you guys are talking about? 

TW: A lot of arguing. <Laughter> For me, at least personally, it was a lot like thinking about the vinyl sides, like Side A or Side B. And Side A came together fairly quickly, those first five songs were done probably by December 2020. I think we had the final demos done for those. And that’s actually why we sent those out. And that’s how we got signed to Enjoy the Ride, and our goal was to make a six song demo, and use that. So that was kind of like how we kind of went about that. And so once we had our Side A, I think it felt more difficult in some ways. But we knew we wanted Side B to feel different, and to feel like you were experiencing a different part of the album at that point.

KB: Yeah, I think two or three songs that we’ve written originally carried over to Side B. And then the rest we wrote knowing that we had this kind of new perspective that we wanted to take for the second half of the album. And the other thing too, we had originally kind of conceptualized this as three separate albums, this whole project, with doing an acoustic album, a heavy rock album, and then more of like an experimental electronic album. And then we decided to kind of focus on this on this heavier kind of rock album, and then kind of save all the other material that we had developed, which is another set of songs in addition to those 32 for later on. And we’re excited to maybe one day share some of that stuff. So I think that with that our focus really sharpened, and we were able to kind of figure it out. We started writing at the end for the different things we felt like we’re missing from the album.

TW: Yeah, I think one thing that I always reference in my mind, and I think it’s turning 25 years old, is Third Eye Blind’s self-titled album. And that album, for me at least, that’s one of the best, complete albums out there where every song has its place and has a purpose in the album and the sequencing of the album. And we weren’t referencing that album necessarily when we wrote this, but I think just that idea of every song, filling a piece of the puzzle and making sense in the album was one of our goals when we when we were writing, where we didn’t have any fillers or any songs that kind of repeated in terms of their purpose. 

That’s a great record! Obviously, the live performance is a powerful tool for bands in gaining a connection with their fans and expanding their audience. How would you describe your guys’ live shows, and what are you most looking forward to when you are getting back on the road?

KB: I was gonna say dynamic and energetic. I mean, we’ve always had a show that was very fun to watch, and I would say we have a lot of energy up there,  and we have a lot of fun. These new songs are very dynamic, and we do try to carry that over to the live show. We’ve been playing out again, recently, and it’s been really nice to be out there being able to be with people and playing on stages again. It’s just something that you don’t really realize how much you missed until you’re actually back out there doing it, or even back out there in the audience. So we do have a number of shows that Teebs has been hard at work trying to try to book us in different places. And so we have a bunch of shows coming up. And we hope that in the places we’re playing that people who, who’ve heard the singles or who hear the album, are able to come out.

TW: And this is our first time, really with two guitars, our singer started playing guitar live with us. And I think that filled out our live sound a lot and allowed me to play more lead guitar and more other kinds of fun stuff that I like. So I’m very excited to do a few more shows here. We just announced one in Philly on April 16. 

Are you going to start the tour, regionally? Or what are you guys thinking?

KB: We have a Northeast run coming up. We’re going to be doing like Long Island, I think, and some other shows in the mid-Atlantic. Right now we don’t have any touring plans for the West Coast or Midwest. We’re looking at the possibilities. A couple of people have asked us to play in their cities. So we’re just looking at what’s feasible for us and what will work, but no immediate plans right now for any of that.

Got it. So, can you guys describe your partnership with Enjoy the Ride Records? Why did you feel they were the best place for your band to release the new material?

KB: I think that, for me, Ross is just a guy who really believes in us. When we had that initial meeting with him, he really “sold us” on hearing our music and appreciating it in ways that I don’t know that other folks have expressed. I think that also, knowing that they’ve been very selective, they’ve only ever signed one other band, was pretty cool. That’s a vote of confidence, because we’re the kind of band where we need a label that really takes care of our needs, our sound, and thinks specifically about the audience that we’re going for. But also our capacity in terms of that we’re not able to tour very much, because of other obligations and stuff like that. I think we really appreciate that about ETR. Ross and their team really allows us the flexibility that we need to make great art, and share it in the ways that we’re able. And they also appreciate us for the music and for what we’re producing. And we’re not just kind of one band in the stable of a ton. They’re really able to support us individually and think specifically about our needs as a band. 

That’s awesome. Yeah, I’ve always had a good experience with working with the management at Enjoy the Ride, so it sounds like you guys have a great partnership working out. What are some artists from both the past and present that each of you admire and look to for inspiration for your own music?

TW: I definitely think Manchester Orchestra is an influence on a lot of our stuff. I think the way that our album kind of flows is very similar to a Manchester Record in the way that the tracklisting flows. When Million Masks came out, not long before we started really putting the tracklist together, I wanted a more dynamic and a different sound throughout the record. So, Manchester is a huge influence for us, for sure.

BM: I think that, for me, I like a lot of lighter influences. And then like heavier influences are a lot of the places that we land  in between the things that I usually listen to. Bands like Radiohead, I always like to think and kind of compare and contrast them with Oasis. And because they kind of came up at the same time, and they had a laser focus on the music. They obviously had a vibe and an aesthetic, but the music and the album covers had very consistent themes. They just really were into the artistry of the things that they made. And I like to think about that in terms of perspective. Mike Capuano, our lead singer, has done the art covers on our last three releases, so we kind of have some consistency there. They always collaborated with the same artist for their covers. And then just in terms of the music, just listening to each album, they took different approaches. And, Teebs and I will talk about that at the beginning of the record process, Brian too, about what our approach is going to be. And they were very purposeful in building out an actual experience for themselves, constraints for themselves, a way of being in the creation of an album that I think is just super profound. And I also think, Underoath, for me it’s widely known that their writing process is very kind of chaotic, and comes out of a lot of friction. And I think that the four of us are people who would usually shy away from friction. So I think that just hearing them talking about the writing process has helped me embrace that as a process where it’s okay to argue over tracklists. And we will argue over which 16th note, like a bass drum, should be on and I don’t think that we would have done that five years ago, or seven years ago. But we do that now, I think because we realized that we really have to care and take stances on what we believe in about our songs to make them the best that they can be.

Yeah, I think it’s a healthy discourse for bands to have together throughout that process, because it shows you take care and your end-product is going to be basically what’s gonna live on. So it’s great that you mentioned a lot of those bands. I’ve had a chance to connect with Spencer and Aaron <of Underoath>, not too long ago, and yeah hearing about the songwriting process they go through with their bandmates, it’s a similar process. There can be disagreements, there can be things that come together right away and become a lead single. But it’s always interesting to hear everyone’s take on that. So, what can fans look forward to with your partnership with Enjoy the Ride Records, for one, and are there any plans to release the new material on vinyl, or other formats, with this new partnership?

KB: The vinyl for this album for The Ground Beneath Me will be out and available for immediate order and immediate shipping on June 3. There’s not going to be a big wait after the album releases, and people will be able to get their hands on it right away. And that’s the same day that it goes live on streaming services. As far as the future, I mean, we plan on sticking with working with Ross and ETR for the long haul here. And we’ll see how many more records we want to make. I guess it really has to be a joint decision here, but we’re excited to keep working with them. And like Teebs said, we did write a number of songs because we were initially planning like a three-album process and the acoustic album is completely recorded. It’s not finished being mixed, but it’s done, and it’s completely different than anything else we’ve ever done before. So we might have a lot of variety coming people’s way in the near future.

TW: Looking forward, I would also say we, I guess we can say that we’re going to be doing a joint Patreon service with Enjoy the Ride Records, where we’re going to be exploring our album. Every month, we’ll focus on a different track where we have a podcast episode about the track we’re going to have. We’re going to share demos of all these songs, and we’re going to share them on there with people and have an  acoustic version of each song. Yeah, we’re also doing an acoustic version of the record that’s kind of more homemade. But it’s more stripped down with just guitar and vocals, just to have different content and explore different versions of the songs and think about their own play-throughs to maybe as well. And I’m pretty excited about the podcast aspect in particular, I mean, we’ve already started recording them, we’ve done the first two songs, and we really kind of do a deep dive into not only our process, like we’re talking about here, but we get into stories from the studio about each song. We get into the meaning behind the lyrics. We actually played clips from demos and showed how parts of the songs have evolved over time. So for people who are really into that, “behind the music”-type stuff, it’s gonna be really cool. So we’re putting the work in now trying to get it done. It should be a good time! 

That’s awesome. There’s a lot to look forward to I guess from you guys coming out relatively soon with the new album, all the Patreon packages, and the podcast. There’s a lot on your guys’ plate, for sure.

KB: And we’re super grateful for you, Adam. You contacted us about this interview, and also you’ve covered us in the past. We really, really love your work and are really excited to be able to collaborate with you again on this.

Looking forward to it! Yeah, I’ll most likely be reviewing the album when it comes out too, so I appreciate the early listen to it. I’ll give you a funny story about when I first listened to it. You sent the album as WAV files, so I put it into GarageBand and I was kind of a “noob” to GarageBand, so I pushed play and all 10 or 11 tracks started playing at the same time. <Laughter> And I was like, “What is this?” It sounded like The Mars Volta for a little bit. <Laughter> Well, thank you guys so much and have a good night!