The Spill Canvas

Spill Canvas

Drummer Joe Beck talks about the band’s latest album No Really, I’m Fine, as well as the group’s early days and what it’s been like as one of the few to come out of South Dakota.

How’s the tour been so far?

It’s been awesome. It’s like a month into it now. There’s two more shows. All the shows have been packed and the kids have been really responsive. It’s been a great tour.

So Yellowcard is playing acoustic and I know you have some acoustic roots. Any plans on doing an acoustic tour at some point?

It’s obviously something we’d like to do eventually. We’re doing a headlining set this summer where we’re going to incorporate more elements of that, but to do a full acoustic tour, I don’t think that’s in the near future anytime soon. But definitely somewhere in the horizon, for sure.

You’re going to be doing a headlining tour for a month coming up. How do you compare that with a support slot? Do you do anything differently?

Yeah, obviously when we’re headlining we have like twice the time to play, so we can do a lot cooler things and we can incorporate more instrumentation and a little bit more diversity into the set. When you’re opening, you kind of just go in there and bam! Play a quick little six-song, seven-song set and get out of there. But when you’re headlining, you really have more time to make the set like a show. You know what I mean? So we look forward to those.

I saw you guys are going to be headlining the House of Blues. That’s pretty sweet, dude.

Yeah, we’re excited about that.

That’s pretty big for you.

It’s a super cool place. We’re pumped.

So are you going to be releasing a new single pretty soon?

Yes, it’s going to be “Saved.” I’m not exactly sure when it’s going to be released, but that is the next single that’s going to be released. We have yet to shoot a video for it, but that’s hopefully pretty soon.

I know “All Over You” hasn’t gotten a lot of radio play but it has gotten a lot of video play and stuff. Are you pretty happy about that?

Yeah, absolutely. The radio’s actually picking up really strongly now. Not necessarily in California, but I would assume really well in the East Coast, the mid-West – in those areas. We’re just kind of looking forward to hopefully having that more so and having it increase more. MTV and Fuse have been really playing us a lot, so it’s been great. It’s kind of the first time we’ve ever had that.

Your new CD came our last fall, No Really, I’m Fine. What’s that line refer to, because I know you went back and forth between a couple different titles?

We were definitely toying around with a couple different ideas. Nick’s a very sarcastic person, we all are, and it kind of just showed, not bitter, but you listen to the lyrics on the CD and they’re very straightforward and honest. That’s kind of what it’s saying. No really, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me [laughs].

Nick’s lyrics are very poetic. Do those come in before the song or do they get worked in as you go along?

It kind of varies, you know? We try not to force any songs. We kind of let the songs find us. Sometimes Nick will come up to us and he’ll be like, “Hey, I have this lyric over this guitar part.” It’s almost all ready to go, you know? Or sometimes we’ll be jamming and we’ll come up with the music first. We’ll record the music all together and then he’ll put lyrics over it afterwards. So, it kind of depends. We really just try not to force anything and let it come to us.

The band started out as Nick’s solo project. Has the writing become more collaborative over the years?

Definitely the music, yes. Nick obviously still writes all the lyrics, but with the music we really all add our own little spin on everything and it’s really become a band thing. So it’s kind of cool how it’s evolved into what it is.

On this last CD you worked with Neal Avron, who’s one of my favorite producers. What was that experience like?

He’s also one of my favorite producers and it was such an honor to work with him. He’s done some of our favorite records, so it was very surreal to be in there. It was such a great experience. We got to experiment with a lot of different sounds and we just learned so much from him. I think we’d go back to him in a second.

Did he come after you guys?

When we were looking to do the new record, we had just recently signed to Warner Bros./Sire. We were like, “Who do we want to do this record with?” We basically met with like 10 different producers and decided on him. We knew instantly. I remember going right after that meeting and being like, “He’s our guy.” He was the third or fourth guy we met with, so we knew instantly. It was just a very good, positive vibe with him, so it was awesome.

With each record you’ve gotten more expansive, and this one you got a little bit poppier too. What were your goals for the album?

We don’t go out there with a goal, like, we want to write this kind of record. We wrote 30-35 songs for the record, and these 12 that we picked we felt were the best songs that we had written of those. Now who knows what the next record’s going to be like? You know what I mean? We don’t know what it’s going to be like because when it comes time to write we’re going to write as many songs as we can and pick the best songs out of that batch of songs. Whatever comes out, comes out as the new record.

You incorporated some different instruments, like you had trumpets on one song and had slide guitar on another. Do you want to keep doing more of that?

Absolutely, we definitely want to do that more so. You know we got to work with some crazy awesome artists. Andrew McMahon played piano, and we had the same trumpet section that was on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It was such an honor to work with some of these amazing musicians. The more we can do that, I think we’ll try to do that, for sure.

You were originally on One Eleven and then bumped up to Sire. What has that transition been like?

Awesome. Sire treats us amazing. I think One Eleven was a perfect stepping-stone. When we signed, we were nobodies. We still are nobodies [laughs]. We were completely unknown to the world, and just through touring and their help we got to the point where we were able to sign to Sire. Now with Sire’s help, you know, hopefully we can get to that next level. So, it’s been a great little stepping-stone.

These days with the industry so tight, there’s a lot of pressure on bands to immediately produce a big hit and sell a lot of records. Was there any of that pressure for you guys?

We feel really honored to be on Sire because they never really made us feel pressured to have a hit single right away, and if we don’t have a hit single right away then we’re dropped. We feel like they back us one hundred percent and they’re going to work hard not to have us be a one-hit wonder or a two-hit wonder but to be a career band, which is what we want to be. We’ve had three records already and we feel like we can do another four or five. We really want to be around for a long time, and I think Sire really feels that way too. We kind of are like-minded in that respect, so it’s cool.

While your CD hasn’t sold a whole lot yet, it definitely has been doing a steady stream. What’s that been like?

It’s cool, you know? Obviously, it’s so hard to sell records these days. The industry is changing so much that nobody’s selling records these days. So to have us continue to sell at a steady rate really shows that we’re still out there working our butts off and people are still responding to that, so that’s awesome. We feel really honored to sell records today, period.

With “All Over You” having that growing popularity, you seem to be right on the edge of getting huge, or not. How does that feel? Are you nervous at all?

It feels great, but it is kind of nerve-wracking a little bit to be so close to breaking. At the same time, we don’t feel nervous because our fans aren’t going anywhere. If we don’t ever get huge, we’re still going to tour the country and have all these fans still come out, and we get to hang out with them and play music. We’ve never really set out to be the biggest band in the world. We still consider ourselves lucky to tour the country and play music every day for our job. We cannot complain with whatever happens, you know?

Like I mentioned before, the band started out with Nick, and then you were one of the first ones to join.

Yeah, I was the first one to join.

How did that come about?

We all went to high school together and Nick was basically like, “Hey, I want to start doing this full band.” He called me, and I joined with a couple other guys. I quit my band. I was in a band with Dan and Landon prior to this band, so I quit that band. Then slowly but surely as the other guys quit, we poached the other two guys, so it’s kind of funny how it’s worked out like that. It’s basically that other band plus Nick as the other guy, so it’s kind of worked out very well [laughs].

You’re from South Dakota and I can’t really off the top of my head think of any other bands from there.

There’s nobody.

How’s the music scene out there?

It’s pretty nonexistent. As you can see by the only two bands, like we poached all the other members from the other band, you know [laughs]? There’s really not a lot going on. It’s getting better now. We’re hoping that our success hopefully inspires other people, other bands back there, to get out there and tour. There’s nobody around the area who’s doing really well, so they don’t really know what to do. They don’t know they just need to get out there and tour. Whereas in New York and stuff, they see all the examples of it because there’s tons of bands coming out there and tons of bands touring. South Dakota doesn’t see that. So hopefully if they see us doing that, they’ll be like, “Oh, we just need to get out there,” which is what we did.

How did you first get that attention and start touring?

We got lucky by getting on a small tour right away. We were just like, OK, we’ve built these contacts. We can book our own tours. We got a booking agent and just toured in like the crappiest, smallest places, and basically just built it up slowly over the course of five years. It’s been quite the process [laughs].

Do you still live in South Dakota?

Yeah, we still live there. We all live there.

Do you still play shows around there, too?

Yeah, actually right after this tour we’re going home and playing a show there. We’re super excited to play there again. It’s been a long time. Obviously, we’re never at home, so it’s hard to get there, but we love playing hometown shows. There’s a special place in our hearts for the hometown.

I’ve noticed throughout your career you’ve been able to befriend a lot of bands. It seems that networking aspect, especially with the Internet, is really key today. Do you feel that’s been a big benefit for the band?

Absolutely. We have friends all over the country now just from various bands we’ve met. Warped Tour was a big thing last year because there’s so many bands and you can make friends with everybody. It’s been great to have all our friends over the country, so every city we go in we have friends from various bands that come out and hang out with us. We don’t even have friends at home anymore. All of our friends are all over the country. You know what I mean? It’s kind of weird how that works [laughs].

After the headlining tour’s done, do you have anything lined up after that?

Yeah, we’re doing these mtvU dates, so it’s like Wyclef and Flo Rida and stuff like that. It should be interesting.

What a perfect match [laughs].

Then we’re taking a couple weeks off to get ready for the headlining tour, and then we’re going out with Motion City Soundtrack for a couple weeks. I don’t know if that’s coming out here, it might be more like East Coast. After that, it’s kind of open as of yet, so we’ll see what happens.

With this album cycle and beyond, what do you want to accomplish? Are there any plans on what you want to do?

There’s a lot of life left on this record. We’re going to release “Saved,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if we release at least one more single after that.

Do you have any favorites?

I have no ideas. There’s talks of several, so we don’t really know which we’re going to do yet. Like I said, there’s a lot of life in this one. We’re going to tour a lot over the U.S., and we want to get overseas a lot and kind of spread the name still. Keep doing what we’ve been doing the past four or five years. We have a lot of ground to cover and I think we’re going to do it. Obviously, a new record is on the horizon too. We’re always writing songs. I forgot to say this but we’re releasing an EP here pretty soon. It has some acoustic stuff and rare stuff.

Is it online only?

Yes, digital only, so it should be interesting. It’s called Honestly, I’m Doing Okay [laughs].

That goes along perfectly with No Really, I’m Fine.


Originally appeared on Mammoth Press