Frontman Nathan Henry and keyboardist Mikey Leibovich reminisce about the early days of the band and using the Internet to get noticed, discuss signing with MySpace Records, explain how they’re pushing themselves on their upcoming third record, and why they want to make a difference outside of music.
This is your first official headlining tour, right?
Nathan Henry: Yeah.
I know it’s only a couple days into it but how’s it going so far?
Nathan: A couple sold-out shows already, so I guess that’s a good thing.
How’d the hometown show [in San Luis Obispo] go a couple of days ago?
Nathan: Oh, it was great. It was sold out in advance. We’d never done that before. I think the press is really starting to pick up that we’re from there. It’s been four years since we left, so I think it’s been amazing. It’s not going down, it’s only going up. We kind of thought the opposite. We thought as soon as we leave, people are going to forget about us. It’s on the Wikipedia page that we’re from there [laughs].
Where are you guys currently living?
Nathan: We don’t really live anywhere. With our parents, I guess. I mean, we’re on tour nine months out of the year, 10 months out of the year, so it doesn’t make sense.
Mikey Leibovich: We live with each other. In a bus.
Your big thing online right now is The Sherwood Show. How did that whole idea come about?
Nathan: I do all those, and I think it came up from a night that I was sitting up with Gabe from Cobra Starship. We had this long talk, like until the sun came up at six in the morning, and he was kind of just telling me his ideas about how to promote your band and stuff. Then afterwards, I was like I really love editing film. I’ve got a camera. I have a really nice computer. MySpace actually wanted me to make… I made our music video, and then I’ve been wanting to do stuff, but I need something to kind of motivate me to do it.
I always want to do web episodes, but it’s hard if you don’t push yourself. I need one every single week because otherwise you’ll just make them randomly. Maybe you’ll get one or two out a tour, but it seemed like people wanted more than that. So it’s kind of a combination of that, and then I decided let’s just do one weekly. I’ve been pretty good about it. I missed one week, which was last week, because of the tour starting and it’s been insane, but for the most part they’ve been out every week. I got one right now that I’m working on, which I should finish tomorrow morning or tonight.
I’m a film major, so I love that kind of stuff.
Nathan: OK, cool.
What do you edit and shoot on?
Nathan: I shoot on the Panasonic DVX, and then just Final Cut Pro. Keep it simple.
How long does it usually take you to produce one of those things?
Nathan: It depends. We did one in England that took me a while. It took me about a week straight of filming and editing it. We did, like, a movie trailer.
Yeah, the Robin Hood one. That was funny.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s hard because it’s not like our job to make these things. Our job is to tour. I try to squeeze them in, so they’re all done pretty quick. I get like two to three takes usually, and pull this guy out [motions to Mikey] because he’s like a child actor basically. This guy used to go to Hollywood and get callbacks and stuff. He was almost on Freaks and Geeks. That’s one of my favorite shows.
You could have been in the Judd Apatow crew.
Mikey: I know. If only.
Nathan: Yeah, you would have been huge and famous. You would have been in Spider-Man.
[Laughs] Now, the opening band on the tour is We Shot The Moon.
Nathan: These are good questions by the way. Normally these questions suck and I’m always sitting here totally unamused with interviews, but these are good so far. At least interesting.
Nice, thank you! So Joe and Dan were involved at the beginning of We Shot The Moon. Are they still involved with that?
Mikey: No. As far as I know, Joe and Dan helped record the record.
Nathan: They’re like producers.
Mikey: Yeah, they essentially kind of produced the record. I think Jonathan is trying to solidify a lineup of members so that they can kind of go do their thing and not really be related too much to Sherwood. I actually don’t know the answer as far as the future and what they’re planning on doing together.
Being originally from San Luis, that’s not exactly an area known for producing a lot of bands and whatnot. How were you first able to attract attention and end up getting signed by Sidecho?
Nathan: That was just a combination of doing anything we could, pretty much any lead we had.
Mikey: The Internet, really.
Nathan: I mean, the Internet’s a huge part of it. People heard about us, and we would come down here. I remember Halloween. No, not Halloween. It was actually 2004, Valentine’s Day. We were down here for the Mae, Copeland and Working Title show. We were here out front passing out samplers to our thing, and I met Rory that night. Rory, Chad, Chris and James all kind of work together doing Militia and Sidecho.
So I had met a couple of those guys. That led to us hanging out with James. We met a girl who worked for James. James has had a lot of employees come in and out, so he knows a lot of people. Anyway, it was a combination of the Internet and just basically whoring ourselves out on the Internet as much as we could.
Mikey: The first tour is really what got us exposure. We were playing shows in San Luis Obispo once a month, or maybe not that often.
Nathan: I think it was like every three or four months actually. We tried to sell them out every time and make money. That was what we did. We threw our own shows, made money, and used that money to buy stuff, like a van.
I vaguely remember that I caught one of your shows when you were A Long Story Short.
Nathan: Oh, really?
Way back in the day when you opened for Briertone.
Mikey: That’s awesome.
Nathan: Crazy. That’s old school.
Mikey: Adam from Briertone actually lives down here now.
Nathan: That was a long time ago. We only played a few shows, like three or four in SLO, I think. Maybe only two. I can’t even remember.
Now after Sidecho, you guys signed with MySpace to become one of the first bands on their label. What led to that decision?
Mikey: An email.
Nathan: An email from Tom. Basically he sent us a MySpace message. We got lucky that he found us kind of thing. But I think more importantly, we didn’t want to be on a record label again. We’d studied labels, we had a lot of friends on labels, and we were on a label before. We didn’t necessarily not want to be on a record label. We didn’t want to be on a traditional record label. All these labels promise you the world. Yeah, we’ll give you this, this, this, and this. It all comes down to who you know. If the bigger the label is, the more bands they have, the more they can pull favors. I mean, it’s a favors business. If you know somebody, then they can get you on a tour or whatever.
We figured the best company in the world that can do anything for a band is MySpace. They can work with a thousand companies, let alone they know every band because every band’s on MySpace. So it was one of those things where it was like if we’re a hardworking band, it’s a great label to be on. If you’re not a hardworking band, then it’s not the best label to be on because you can’t just sit back and expect MySpace to break your band. But we had already done a lot of work.
We didn’t want to be with a label because we’d just be lost in the shuffle. Oh, you’re just another Tooth & Nail band, you’re just another Militia band, you’re just another Epitaph band, or you’re another… I’m not trying to say these are bad labels. I’m just trying to say we didn’t want to be lost in that shuffle. We wanted to kind of be on our own and be like, “Look, can we go to Doritos and try to get them to do something where every time you buy a bag of chips you get a Sherwood record?” I don’t even know. Just crazy stuff.
We had crazy ideas, and we felt like the only way to make those ideas a reality was to sign with Myspace because they know those companies and they can do those things. This is the kind of music business we’re running into now where companies are starting to sponsor bands so they can put out music. It’s no longer labels who are able to front the money because there’s no money left. It’s just a hard time. There were a million reasons why we went with MySpace, but I think it’s pretty apparent that them being so huge was the number one reason for that.
Now you’ve been on there for about a year. Has it panned out how you had hoped?
Nathan: Oh, yeah. In a lot of ways, I feel we’ve been treated like a major label band. Every tour we’ve wanted to try and get on, we’ve had a shot at it. They bought us a nice vehicle. I mean, we’re pretty spoiled actually. I feel bad about it. [The theme song from The Office can be heard down the hall] We were on The Office. No, I’m just kidding [laughs]. I mean, I honestly can’t complain. Our record’s done pretty well considering that CD sales are down. It’s all those little things. I’m happy. I’m super happy.
You mentioned before how the Internet’s been really influential in your career, both with the MySpace thing and then you also had the Summer EP on AP.net. How have you been able to utilize all those resources to be effective?
Nathan: [Talking to Mikey] Do you want to do this one? Sorry, I’m kind of a business guy, so I know all this stuff. Mike’s the PR guy [laughs].
Mikey: Uh… OK, say that again. [Everyone laughs]
How have you been able to take advantage of everything the Internet offers and use that to build up the band?
Mikey: Well, I think that we’ve probably tried to do it as much as any other band, with the luck that you have the opportunity to reach a lot of people if they’re listening through the Internet. We first kind of got involved with Pure Volume, and we kind of got our first exposure on Pure Volume. Now it’s to the point where I think that every band has a MySpace page. You’re not really finding new routes through the Internet to get a hold of people. I think at this point a lot of bands have figured out that the first step is to be really visible on the Internet.
Nathan: Yeah, we were kind of right there at the right time.
Mikey: Yeah, it really was because it was like the reason we got our first tour. We booked it ourselves essentially with this other band from San Diego because we were getting emails from people who had been on Pure Volume and were like, “I really like your songs. I’d come see you if you came to Wichita, Kansas.”
Nathan: Or, “I’m in a band. Do you guys want to be on this show?”
Mikey: Yeah, swapping shows and that kind of thing, in the sense of being lucked out that there were people receptive to finding out about us on the Internet. Giving away the free EP thing was because we were kind of in between a rock and a hard place. After Sing, But Keep Going was over, after that record came out and our deal with Sidecho was over, we didn’t really know exactly where the next step to go was. We kind of had the idea of putting out something free, perhaps sparking some kind of momentum, because everybody likes something for free. Obviously, Radiohead’s done it with their full-length album, and they’re a big enough band where they can probably not see too much loss.
For us, it was like let’s do something to propel us so that for our next record we can either a) get a good record label as a home or b) at least get these songs out there early enough. I think that people hate waiting two-and-a-half to three years between records, so to release songs that you have, even if it’s like five or six songs, people would rather have that a year after your record comes out than wait a really long time.
You guys just gave away that b-side on AP.net. Do you have any more unreleased stuff out there?
Nathan: We have like five or six tracks, I think. Four or five. I don’t know.
Mikey: We definitely have some stuff which didn’t get recorded on our last record.
Nathan: What happened was our record took a little bit longer than we thought. We had some hang-ups in the studio, so there were like three or four other songs that we were going to do that we couldn’t get done in time before Christmas. We only had drums and bass recorded for those, so then later on we self-produced them. So we self-produced that song with guitars and vocals. I think it sounds a little more raw, a little more rock ‘n roll, which is cool for me. I only did like a couple takes of that song. Just got up there and kind of growly sang it.
Mikey: I think at that point we knew it probably wasn’t going to make the record, so you just kind of—
Nathan: No, I didn’t sing it in the studio.
Mikey: Oh, that’s right.
Nathan: I sung that one at Joe’s house. That was in his parent’s room or something. It was total DIY, that track, but it came out really good, I think. I wish it would have made it on the album. You know it takes a couple records to figure out what you’re doing, and I think we’ve finally figured out what we’re doing.
Your first record’s your first record, and your second record’s a big learning process. By the time you put out album three or four, you kind of begin to be like, OK, I get it. We know how to prepare for an album. We know how to work hard in the studio. We know how to hear the songs we want to hear, and kind of hear if a song’s not really translating.
Sometimes you’re like that’s going to be the best song in the world, and then you start recording it and you’re like what the heck happened to that thing? It just sucks. It doesn’t sound good at all. I think some songs made it on the record that we were not necessarily super stoked about, and then some songs did make it that we thought would have been better. But you know hindsight is 20/20, and there’s nothing we can do about that.
Have you started work on the third record at all?
Nathan: I think everyone’s got ideas. I think this record’s going to be the most involved record that we’ve ever had. I think everyone’s going to do a lot of their own style of writing and see what happens. Normally Dan’s done the majority of the writing in our band. I helped out a little bit on the last record with some lyrics and stuff, but I think this record I’m going to be very involved with the lyrics as much as I can.
I mean, it’s hard. So many bands have different ways of doing it. A lot of bands have one guy who writes everything, and nowadays you’re seeing a lot of bands where the singer doesn’t write. I think it’s that way for Panic At The Disco and Fall Out Boy. Lyrics come from another place.
I think now that we can actually work… See before, there’s no way to really work on your music all the time. In actual reality, we work on music like maybe one percent of the time we’re doing Sherwood, literally, because we’re constantly touring and doing anything else but actually writing music. I can’t remember the last time we even sat down and began to write. It was over a year ago. I mean, it sucks. You’re always messing around with a guitar or whatever, but it’s just not like people think it is.
You literally have to survive, it’s like you have to work, so we’re just working now. Then once we’re done with this, then we can go write. I don’t know. The next album’s going to be a lot different, I think. We’re going to have a lot more time, a lot more money, and we’re all going to have a lot more ideas. The older you get, I think you either get worse or better. Some things get better with age, and hopefully that’s what happens with us.
Around the third album, a lot of bands tend to adapt to that more mature type sound, with lyrics and sonically or whatever. Do you think you guys are going to start to do that a bit more too?
Nathan: I hope so. I think we’re all pretty tired of this scene we’re in, you know? I think we’re just getting older. We’re all mid 20s, pushing late 20s, and after a while you’re like, “I’m not 19 years anymore.” You want to challenge yourself. Either you have interesting friends. You’re watching interesting films, art, books, or whatever. You’re just becoming more artistic.
We get paid to kind of sit around and think all day long, so I think you just get real bored of stuff. I think at a certain point in your life, you get kind of bored of music. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting kind of bored with music. [Talking to Mikey] I don’t know if you feel that way. [Mikey shakes his head “No”] I mean, I try to listen to different stuff. For a while there I didn’t listen to my iPod for like a year, but now I’m definitely listening to it a lot more.
Are there any bands or other things that you guys look to for inspiration?
Mikey: I don’t know that it translates that much to Sherwood. For the sake of Sherwood, it’s like when you’re building a house and you’re building it in one style of architecture. It’s not so smart halfway through having your house built to decide you want something crazy or totally different. I think that in general it’s important for us to become better musicians, so that we know how to do it as opposed to what we want to do. We listen to a lot of different music, but Sherwood will hopefully always be Sherwood. Even we have a hard time defining it. People tell us there’s something about our music that they know it’s Sherwood when they hear it, and of course we’ll always keep that. I think that’s important.
Nathan: I think we all kind of bring our own style to the table. I think our band, more than most bands I’ve met, everyone’s very involved. Everyone definitely has an opinion and definitely cares, and I think that will keep things from getting in that don’t belong there. You know what I mean? Some bands, it’s like what the heck was that record? One guy did it all, he was all about it, and the whole band didn’t think objectively about it. Then this record comes out and everyone hates the band. “That’s the worse record I’ve ever heard.” I don’t necessarily think that could happen in our band because someone would say something, and then it’d be like, OK, we have to rethink this whole thing.
I don’t think influences necessarily are… In the past, we’ve always said Beach Boys and Beatles, but when I hear that I always kind of go, “I don’t think so.” You love all kinds of bands. You know what I mean? I love Jimmy Eat World just as much as I can pop in an old Blink-182 record and enjoy it. Is Sherwood influenced by all those bands? Yeah. I mean at some point, you can hear little things. But I think it’s all those subtle little things, like I like that fill on that Third Eye Blind song on their first record. You know what I mean? That’s how I think we’re influenced. You hear certain things, you take ideas from stuff you’ve heard, and mold it into your songs.
Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Mikey: Well, for me personally, it’s the opportunity to tour overseas. We did our first U.K tour this past winter. We went for three weeks with Hellogoodbye and Say Anything, and there’s just something incredible about knowing you’re in another country. We’re going to Japan literally right after this headlining tour ends. We’re going to Japan for two weeks, and it’s really, really exciting. Our record just came out in Japan two weeks ago, and we’re just having a single released in the U.K. next week, I believe, or maybe the end of this week.
For me, personally, it’s getting more of a macro kind of stance on music to understand that even if we aren’t the biggest thing in the U.S., there’s countries all over the world that might be a) more receptive to Sherwood and b) we might have a longer career in. Who knows? Sherwood goes to Brazil, or something ridiculous. So I think for me, that’s huge. I don’t know if, Nate, do you have another one or what?
Nathan: I think it always hits me in random places at random times. The little things are usually the big things for me. I think things like playing the Fillmore in San Francisco, and stuff like that. Clubs that I’ve been going to since high school, and then you’re sitting there on the stage. People like Bob Dylan, huge musicians have played on some of those stages. I think playing on some of the stages that your favorite artists have played on is definitely a big accomplishment for me.
We’ve been on MTV and stuff, and that’s cool, but I think when you really look at what goes into behind what it takes to be on MTV, a lot of times it has nothing to do with how talented your band is. It’s just who you know, and whatever. So you’re there, and you realize you didn’t have anything to do with that. But getting on those stages and playing those shows, that’s your hard work as a band to get there. That’s what you did to get there. You’re standing on that stage and you know what bands have played there. When I was walking around the Fillmore and you see all the artists, you’re just blown away. You’re like, “I don’t deserve to play here. And I got to. And that’s amazing.” That’s probably my biggest accomplishment is playing those stages.
So what do you have planned after the tour’s over and for the rest of the year?
Mikey: Well, right after the tour we’re going to Japan.
Nathan: Maybe Australia. We don’t know yet. Probably not, though.
Mikey: The latest thing I heard is that we might be going to the U.K. in May to do another tour over there and some festivals. We’re really anxious to get off the road and start actually working on this next record. At the pace that we’re going, I don’t know at what point we’ll be able to start recording, if it’ll be the summer or the fall. We may or may not do another tour this year, but we kind of really want the next album to start becoming a priority. We’ve already done three big tours and this fourth headlining tour to promote that record, so we can’t do a whole lot more for a record than that.
Nathan: There’s two ways – you can tour to make your band happy, or you can tour to make everyone who works for your band happy. Your record label, your booking agents. I think at some point as a band you have to figure out what’s important to you. It’s hard because once you start getting some moderate success, everyone starts pushing your band to work harder. They always do what you tell them to do, but sometimes it’s hard to get off the road, you know?
I think this next record’s our most important record, and I think that we have to spend a lot of time on it. The only way we’re going to be touring this summer is if we get a big tour. Other than that, I think we’re going to be home writing. Something really big that you can’t say no to. Other than that, I think we’re going to be home or doing foreign touring.
Is there anything you feel that as a band you have yet to accomplish?
Nathan: I would like to take the band’s popularity and do something good with it besides music, like start some nonprofit agency or do something that’s more involved with helping people on a basic human need level. Music’s cool and music’s great, but eventually if that’s all you’re doing it for, I think that you become very shallow. Not as big as Bono or anything. He can do a lot of cool things because of his status. If I could do that on an indie level kind of thing, that’d be cool. Just to help people and raise awareness. That’s kind of all I’d really like to do from now on.
I know that Invisible Children, To Write Love on Her Arms, and all those things are all pretty big now.
Nathan: Yeah, I know both those guys actually. We talk to Jamie a bunch, and then one of my buddies, Bobby, actually started Invisible Children with two of his friends. All of us in Sherwood know Bobby pretty well. We’ve seen a lot of those small ideas become huge things. Invisible Children’s huge now. They’ve been able to do a lot of cool stuff. I remember when Bobby was either just leaving on his first trip or just coming back, I can’t remember, but he was telling me all about it. He had just come back, before they had released their first DVD, and then it just blew up. Then I saw it everywhere and the next thing you know it’s on…
That’s cool. That’s kind of what I’m interested in, personally. I don’t know what exactly, that’s the hard thing, but I definitely know that a lot of people need a lot of help. I’m just not really sure what I feel like I’m going to be doing or what I’m good at yet. [Sean, their tour manager, tells them they’re almost ready to start sound check.] I think we have time for one more question.
Well, do you guys have anything else you’d like to add?
Nathan: Hopefully whoever’s reading this will catch a show on this tour because we probably won’t be touring again for a while.
Mikey: Probably not here in the States at least. It may be our last tour of the year.
Nathan: I kind of hope so. That means we’ll be writing.
Mikey: We’ve got a lot of saltiness.
Nathan: Yeah, we spent a little bit of money to make the shows cool, so hopefully that’ll make it more fun.
Mikey: I love your long-winded answers.
Nathan: Yeah, we don’t know how to end. I can’t answer a question without answering 60 questions.
Mikey: You’re the true PR dude. No matter what question gets asked, you know what answers you have to give. You did a good job.
Nathan: Well, this comes from a documentary called The Fog Of War. Robert McNamara says, “Don’t answer the question that was asked of you, answer the question that you wished was asked.” He said that’s a good rule to live by. If you’re going to be in the spotlight, you always have to answer the question that you want to answer.
Mikey: You know you’re still on the record [laughs].
Nathan: Hey, that’s good.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press