Recently I was able to catch up with Austin pop-rockers White Label Analog after they released a great new single called “Curves.” I asked the band about their songwriting process as well as how they stayed active during the pandemic. The band is considering upcoming touring plans as well as releasing more singles in the near future.
Thank you so much for connecting with me today. Let’s discuss your new single called “Curves,” which was released last month, I believe. What went into writing this song?
Chris: Well, it actually started when there was a second surge of COVID. And people still weren’t doing a lot of going out and stuff like that. So obviously, during the pandemic, we were afforded the luxury of a lot of downtime to do some writing and stuff. And it really just started out as a simple idea with a beat that I was creating. In my little workstation at home, I have a little studio setup. And Heath and I, we used Logic Pro to do a lot of file swapping to do collaborative songwriting. Heath and I are the founding members of White Label Analog. So we do a lot of the majority of the songwriting. I started out with a beat and just started layering some vocals, and some melodies on top of it, and just kind of went from there. And I wanted to write a song that kind of had a positive message, because I think people were very pandemic weary and wanted something to come out of the cold weather, and try and make people feel good going into the Spring. And so this was just kind of a message of hope. And so that’s just really kind of how it started, Heath and I usually go back and forth iteratively in the songwriting process, until we get a song into its final draft form. And then we usually do that pre-production wise, pretty extensively, until we actually take the song into a more high-end studio and do the actual recording.
Nice. So what were your memories of this Heath, as far as the building of this track? Is that pretty much in line with what Chris was saying?
Heath: Yeah, definitely. I mean, basically, everything Chris said is exactly what’s on this song in particular, which was more so Chris’s “baby.” So this was a song that he did 80-90% of, whereas in the past, it’s been a little bit more everybody kind of contributing. So this was just kind of a song that he kind of came up with on his own. And then we kind of molded and shaped and did a little bit of extra intricate stuff to it. But for the most part, this was definitely his baby, and so didn’t want to overly tweak it too much. This is kind of a first time situation for him. And it turned out great. So we’re really happy with it, overall.
Yeah, it sounds great! And from the production standpoint, the songwriting definitely perked my ears up quite a bit. So good job on that.
Chris: Thank you. Yeah, I was initially a drummer by trade, and I was always a singing drummer. And then eventually, I came out from behind the drum kit from people who inspired me like Dave Grohl, and stuff like that. I’m not a very good guitar player. Dave is a much better multi-instrumentalist, and I led a lot of percussion, and played some keyboards, obviously singing but it really helps to have somebody else collaborate and be a co-writer that is. A very well-rounded instrumentation. So that’s usually how our process goes. But we’ve worked with different guitarists and different songwriters on some of our material, but this is really kind of my branching out, so to speak. So it was a special song for me. And, obviously, during the time that it was written, it’s just now things are starting to kind of get somewhat back to normal, coming out of the COVID era.
Yeah, that’s true. So what did each of you learn about yourselves as both people and musicians during this difficult time in the pandemic, and how did you keep the momentum going to record new material during this process?
Heath: I guess that was a big thing for us. We wanted to keep the momentum of at least doing something. Everything’s kind of first shut down. So that’s actually why we decided to go into writing mode. At a time when a lot of people were starting to kind of do all of their live streaming shows and that kind of thing, we decided we didn’t really want to partake in any of that. Let’s just hunker down and try and start getting a bunch of songs written up and try to find our way in the studio. So that was basically what our kind of plan was, was to try. And we didn’t know how long the pandemic was going to last. It was gonna be six months, or a year or two years, or whatever. And obviously, it ended up more of the latter. So it kind of worked to our advantage in some aspects, just to where we tried to take advantage of that time and get in. So we tracked five new songs, got them all kind of buttoned up to where we could start releasing them quarterly, basically, to where we could do a series of singles, and just kind of focus on each song for each quarter. And so that’s what we did “Feel” in Q4 of last year, Q1 of this year, was “Curves.” And then in Q2, we’ve got a song called, “Let Me Be” we’re looking at, and then a song, “Dance With Me,” that’ll be in the following quarter as well. So and then, kind of continuing on from there. So I mean, as far as the pandemic, it was kind of beneficial, I guess, from a musical aspect. But we had the same challenges that everybody else had to deal with on this.
Chris: I guess, for me, it’s pretty much echoing a lot of the same stuff. And at the time, “Curves,” Texas had just literally been through what we call the “snowpocalypse,” where it had the big, really bad winter storm. People were without power, and it was just kind of nutty. And, it helps that it was a good time to create, because there wasn’t really a whole lot else you could do during that time. Austin was pretty much shut down for a couple of weeks, and it was pretty sketchy there for a little while. I’ve been trying to do some self improvement stuff, like working out and trying to keep your mind occupied, keep your body fit. And, of course, I would say, I probably did quite a bit more whiskey drinking. <Laughter> COVID wasn’t very kind on the waistline, but yeah basically, just trying to create ways to keep the wheels moving forward, because this COVID thing was so impactful for so many musicians, and so many bands weren’t able to tour. And shows were very, very limited, especially in the cold weather, and quite frankly, it didn’t make any sense to risk people’s lives and risk our own lives. So really, writing was the focal point for what we were doing during the pandemic.
Yeah, and Austin is a very big music city in general. So what types of things do you take from being in that area that you bring back into your own music?
Chris: I mean, Austin is certainly a mecca for live music. There’s just tons and tons of bands. I’d say it’s good in some respects, and it’s hard in others. We don’t really have the industry down here like LA, New York, or Nashville does, but we do have a ton of bands. So there’s a lot of competition. And with the advent of technology and the increasing capabilities to do things DIY, and putting music out yourself, the markets are flooded with new music every day. I can’t remember what is going on right now of how many songs are uploaded a day,
Heath: It’s like something like 70,000 songs per day get added to Spotify. So, it’s really tough to stand out even in our own backyard in Austin with it being so competitive. So, one way to kind of set yourself apart is by playing live shows, and being a really good live performance band. But with that not going on, it really boils down to music, and what you’re able to do through music and social media. I don’t know that Austin quite gets the support that maybe it could. Lots and lots of people have moved here, and it’s grown tremendously. And a lot of the aspects that drew people in, a lot of musicians are having a much harder time living here, because the cost of living has gone up. And so some of the things that inspired people to move here now kind of have been threatened a little bit because of the development and because of population growth. And South by Southwest is still a really cool thing. I was glad that it actually went on this year, because it was canceled the previous year, or I think they did an online event. And then the previous year before that it was canceled. And then we have the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which is another big kind of music event that happens here. So it’s a great town to be from, but not necessarily easy to be in.
Yeah, I guess it’s tough to kind of break through if you’re just starting out, too. I’m sure.
Chris: It really is, it takes time. Heath, and I’ve been doing White Label Analog for a while now. And it’s gotten increasingly competitive in the time that I’ve been here, which is most of my life, and he’s been here for a good portion of his life as well. And the city has gotten bigger, and the competition’s only grown since we’ve been here.
Interesting. So the song, “Feelin’ It” was my first introduction to your band’s sound. What was the overall reaction to the success of that single?
Heath: It was a tough one, because we released it when places still weren’t even open. There’s still places we’re just kind of crawling out of COVID in the third quarter, fourth quarter of last year. So, we just wanted to get something going just to kind of get that ball going, Hoping for momentum and not knowing when things were going to ease up. And, they were going to start allowing people to congregate and gather more and let bars and whatnot open again, as well. So it was just kind of more of a feeling out song, but it was more so just let’s see where this can go. And just kind of remind people, “Hey, we’re here, we’re still doing this. Here’s, here’s a new single to kind of try and get you guys engaged again, and see where we’re heading for 2022.”
Chris: Yeah, I think the reaction on Spotify started out pretty strong. And it’s continued to grow. I mean, we’re getting close to 45,000 streams on Spotify for that track. And the press responded pretty well to the track. It’s just a fun song and has some, like, 80’s nostalgia kind of baked into it. So it’s just a good fun track. And we wanted to have a song come out before the year ended before we hit 2022. And so I don’t think we had maybe quite as much time to plan for the release as maybe we would have liked. And we released it right after the Austin City Limits Music Festival. So there was probably some overlap there between some of the media being focused on, ACL when we released that song. And I think more and more we realize every time we release a song or something or record an EP, that timing is a big, critical factor in determining maybe the response that you get to the music that you release. So you kind of have to be mindful of what’s going on. Typically we try not to release something at the end of the year because of the holidays and stuff. People are really distracted.
Yeah, the industry really shuts down around then…
Chris: Exactly. And then you’re probably competing with some really big releases from the super huge, household name artists who typically release holiday music or whatever, at that time period. So, we’re just kind of trying to be mindful of the time period, but we wanted to get something out at the end of the year. So we went ahead and pushed it out, fully knowing that we would be able to back it up in 2022 with other material so that we could kind of keep momentum building.
Yeah, it makes sense, both on the marketing and band standpoint, to kind of keep that momentum going. What are some artists, both past and present, that each of you admire and you look to for inspiration in your own music?
Heath: So, it’s a tough question. For me, it’s just really too hard to kind of pinpoint, and just say, I love this guy, this band, or whatever. It’s just a vast array of things that musically that I appreciate. And Chris is the same way. I mean, it’s every genre I think, with me, with the exception of maybe modern country. That’s not really my jam. But other than that, across the board, really R&B, rap, hip-hop, pop, punk rock, and even some metal and heavy stuff. Definitely old school heavy stuff, because I don’t really follow much of the genre anymore.
Chris: Yeah, I think I think we’ve always wanted to kind of be a band that isn’t necessarily tied to a specific sound, and we want to be able to experiment. And like when Heath and I formed the band, at the end of 2013, one of the premises behind the whole idea was to make sure that we had a good time, that was fun, because until you’re making really good money, you have to really be doing it for the love of it. Because, monetarily speaking, it’s a hard pursuit. That being said, we’ve heard comparisons of bands that we actually really, really like, which is kind of nice feedback. Comparisons to Walk The Moon, or comparisons to Neon Trees, Phoenix, or The Strokes. And so, through the time period that we’ve been a band, our music has evolved. In some ways, our earlier material is a little bit more guitar-based, rock guitar-based, and some of the newer stuff has more influence of synthesizer and is a bit more beat-centric, and a little more pop-oriented. So really, we want to be able to say, “If we want to do a rock song, and put a little more grit into our music, and want to be able to write a song like that, or if we want to do something that leans more into the pop realm, we want to be able to do that, too.” And so that’s why the influences are such a wide range, and can really span from the 60’s all the way up to modern day pop. Growing up, I listened to a lot of punk rock. And Heath was kind of a metal head. But our tastes have grown. And obviously, we’ve always tried to be somewhat diverse in our appreciation for music. I love Reggae, and I love all kinds of classical, and anything that’s done very well, or something that you can kind of take a little nugget with you and internalize and use that in your vision for writing and the creative process moving forward.
Yeah, that’s a good point. I mean, it’s nice to not really be pigeonholed into a certain genre and having the ability from a musician’s standpoint to plug yourself into multiple genres helps out quite a bit for your marketability. So, hats off to you guys!
Chris: So I think we still like to stick within the realm of indie rock, and maybe lean towards pop. But within that, that’s almost as broad as saying, “Rock.”
What can fans of White Label Analog look forward to for the rest of this year? You mentioned some of the singles that are coming out, but are there any plans to put together an EP or full-length?
Chris: I think that is the plan moving forward. We were releasing a series of singles. And our plan is to, once we have a few of them out, we will put a collection of them together and remaster them all together. If we have to do a little tweaking, or mixing, we might do that, but we’ll probably do a collection of those songs, maybe add a few more songs, and we’ll do either an EP or a full length, but we haven’t decided yet. I think we tend to gravitate towards an EP. But yeah, that’s the plan, we would like to do some touring, because we really miss it, and because it’s been shut down. And that’s a part of the process, and it’s also a lot of fun. It’s part of the journey of being in a band, and we love performing live. So we plan to do more shows. We’ve got some really cool local shows coming up in Austin, and some regional stuff that we’re working on.
Nice! Makes sense. So once again, thank you guys, so much for your time today. What did you learn about the recording process of your debut record that you took to heart leading up to the release of your newer material?
Heath: I think every time we’ve gone in to record, we’ve just gone in with the notion of trying to make it better than the previous. So that’s always kind of been our mantra is to take whatever lessons we have learned. And then, next time, let’s do a little bit better, whether it’s changing studios itself, changing the way that we interact with the engineer or whatever, finding different mixers, different mastering, etc. Every time I think we tried to kind of look at it as a new adventure, yet wanting to make it better than the last. So this last session, we actually did it at a place called Ice Cream Factory here in town, and just had a great one we had done one single day before. I think that’s why we didn’t do one there before.
That’s awesome. So it sounds like you guys have a great work ethic as far as being a band together, and I wish you guys nothing but the best as you continue in your careers. If you ever come out to the East Coast, I’m just outside of DC, hopefully we can connect again at some point.
Chris: Thanks so much for having us here!