It’s been a wild ride for Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Falling Still – one that is culminating in the recent release of their powerful self-titled EP. The record boasts six anthems that are as gritty as they are catchy. The group thrives on extremes, and they’re locked and loaded on Falling Still. The band’s origins trace back to middle school in Akron, OH where guitarist Eric Podnar, bassist Brett Hamilton and drummer Jeremy Cull initially met and began playing music together. The boys eventually moved cross-country to Los Angeles to introduce their unique brand of rock to the West Coast. It wasn’t long before Falling Still began writing and gigging furiously around town. Producer and engineer Michael Parnin (Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Rage Against The Machine) helmed the EP at Blacksound Studio in Pasadena, CA, and also turned the knobs on the band’s debut album, May All Magic Guide and Change You in 2009 and 2010?s ‘Don’t Kick The Whiskey.’ Falling Still builds on the energy of the band’s previous releases with its raw and raucous rock energy and sees them firing on all cylinders like never before. Steve Johnson of Icon Vs. Icon recently stat down with Eric Podnar (vocals/guitar) and Brett Hamilton (bass/vocals) the creation of their rockin’ EP, the challenges involved, their evolution as musicians and much more!
Tell us about your background. Where are you from and how did music first come into your life?
Eric: We grew up in Akron, Ohio. We all met in middle school. It is a strange story. The bass player in the band, Brett, who’s with me right now, he actually hooked Jeremy, our drummer, and I up. Jeremy and I were both looking for a band. Brett was with a different band. We had a different bass player. We’ve had a few different bass player throughout the years. We started the band in eighth grade. I moved out here when I was 15, it was my junior year. These guys actually graduated and moved out with me.
What drove you to make music your career?
Eric: What originally got me into music was that I was really influenced by Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. I thought it was incredible that he was able to record, produce and basically do everything himself. Before that influence I was kind of obsessed with music. I kind of hear songs in my head and they drive me nuts, it’s the strangest thing. I know a lot of people that write songs who don’t have that problem. Fortunately and unfortunately I have that problem. I get something in my head and I cannot get it out, I have to finish it. That’s why I keep doing it. There’s just something inside my brain that demands that I write these songs.
You mentioned Nine Inch Nails. What are some of your other influences?
Eric: The reason I started playing the guitar was Nirvana. We kind of started as a Nirvana rip-off band in the early days. We’re still saturated in the ‘90s and grunge because we like loud guitars, drums and screaming vocals. I’m a huge Radiohead fan, huge Bob Dylan fan, Bruce Springsteen. I was really into Marilyn Manson growing up. I loved the theatrics of it. I just love screaming vocals. I think it sounds great.
We must have grown up at the same time when we were in high school. You just named everything I am into.
Eric: [laughs] Awesome! We were doing another interview the other day and they asked what new artists we were into. I was like, “We haven’t even gotten over the old artists we’re into.” I feel like that type of rock music slowly died. We’re not trying to be a ‘90s band, but I guess that’s what we sound like.
Speaking of your music, your new self-titled EP just came out. For those not familiar with it, how would you best describe the sound?
Eric: I’ll let Brett answer that.
Brett: It’s very grungy. It’s exciting and kind of feels alive. Every song is drastically different from one another. We really took the time to make sure that each song is kind of individual. We didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again.
Eric: It’s kind of hard for people to put a label on what we do. Everything is so different. I think sometimes people get a little confused.
How does this EP differ from your previous work and do you guys feel you evolved as musicians?
Eric: Yeah! Absolutely! I think every record we’ve gotten better, better writing and better singing. I think there is a constant theme through all of our records that there’s a different style for each song. I don’t think that has changed. I think we’ve honed … I really love writing songs that start somewhere and then halfway through it changes into a different song. We never go back to the first half of the song, that way you never get bored. A lot of the three course songs bore me because it’s too predictable. We got into some trouble because people want three course songs. This album has more three course songs than any of our other previous releases. We really tried to have something that people can sing along to, instead of going on this crazy stoned journey with us. [laughs]
What can you tell us about the writing process for this new EP. How did it initially come together and play itself out?
Eric: The first song on the record is a song called “If You Stay.” That’s been kicking around in my brain since I was 14 or 15. I think it was one of the first songs I had ever written. Brett wrote some amazing lyrics for it and made it a little more mature. So that’s been around for a while. The rest of them … to be honest, we sent our last album to a manager that we respected and he was like, “I love it, but I really need three course songs.” So, that set us off in a direction to write three course songs. I think we have three, three course songs and three journey songs. It was really someone saying, “I really like what you are doing, but can you try this?” We really like to listen to people and their comments and opinions. This isn’t just for us, it’s for everyone. We kind of want to please a large audience. As lame as that sounds, that’s kind of what happened. Really great tunes came out of that.
“If You Stay” gets into some dark material. Why was it chosen as the first single off the EP?
Eric: It had been around for over 10 years of my life. I think that really says something about a song. If you can’t get it out of your head for that long. I’m hopeful that people will have that same problem and find it catchy.
Brett: It’s been around so long, there has to be something special about it.
Eric: Who doesn’t love that the first lyrics you hear from a band are, “If you stay, we will fornicate and fight!” [laughs]
I was kind of blown away by that! [laughs]
Eric: I always wonder if that turns people off? They’re like, These fucking douchebags!” [laughs]
Some people probably would be, but not this guy!
Eric: Thank you! [laughs]
Were there challenges to putting the EP together?
Brett: Yeah there were challenges, but there are always worse problems to have than not being able to get a drum card or taking a while to get vocals. Those are good problems to have.
Eric: I think a lot of times we obsess over it. We really want this to work. We are so excited and believe in what we are doing. I think we are kind of OCD about it. We’re actually recording some new songs right now. We’re going to release … we want to release a single a month, with a video. Then sometime in the summer we want to compile the single we released and have it as a new record. The point of doing that is to write a song, record it while we are most excited about it, get it done, and let it be what it is. We want to try something new.
You worked with Michael Parnin, who has worked with Grace Potter and Rage Against the Machine. Tell us about how you guys met and what he brings to the table.
Eric: He was working with a guy who was kind of living with us. He was working with his band called Sturgeon. We met him and he is from Ohio as well. We just kind of hit it off. He was the first person who understood what we were doing, before I think we understood what we were doing. He helped shape our sound and our writing. He is still a really great friend to us. We wouldn’t be anywhere without his help.
You’ve been doing some live shows lately. When and where can people catch up with you live?
Eric: We are playing San Francisco the 31st. We’re going to stick around here for a little while, the L.A. area and California.
Do you guys plan to expand your touring beyond the California area?
Eric: Yeah! We’ve done it a few times. For our second record we went to the East Coast. We did Boston, Chicago, New York. We went all over. Before we did this EP we did a West Coast tour. We did Arizona, Seattle, Portland, and places like that. I think right now we are going to stick around here and do some recording.
What can people expect from your live show?
Eric: It’s very loud and sweaty. It’s fun and we have really cool lights and projections. It’s a good time. A lot of people dance to it. Everybody that comes is actually very surprised by how much fun they have. It’s a rock show that’s kind of hard to come by these days.
What’s been the biggest surprise so far in your musical career?
Eric: We grew up together. We live together. We write together. We rehearse together. At the end of the day, we hang out together. That’s what I’m surprised with. When we started the band, this is kind of what we had in mind, to move here and work our asses off. It’s crazy that we are still doing it and have had the chance to do it.
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far or has that not happened yet?
Eric: I would say that our residency at Hemingway’s that we just had in Hollywood. It felt that everything before that moment was us going through college. We were learning and going through boot camp. All of our friends came and it was packed every night. We recently had our album release party. Even though we had done so much up until this point, I felt like we were just starting. It felt like that one moment solidified that this is working and it’s going to work.
Now that you have some years under your belt in the music industry, do you have advice for someone who would like get involved in the industry?
Eric: My advice would be to not get caught up in commercial music. I really think people are going to start appreciating artists who rely on their own voice to make music, as opposed to the more commercial bands that we’ve had recently. The best advice from me right now would to just be genuine. Write songs that you hear and that you are passionate about and want to get into the world. If you don’t have that song stuck in your head … I had a song stuck in my head for 10 years. That’s what you need to have. You have to be slightly crazy! [laughs]
Do you have any last words for our readers and your fans before I let you go?
Eric: Please help support us. Buy our record on iTunes, come to a show or tweet about us. Like our Facebook page. Take the time to do one mouse click. Not to sound selfish, but don’t do it just for us. Do it for all artists who are trying to do this themselves. It’s really become a hard environment. We generally support sharing music over the Internet for free. The days of paying for music are probably dead and gone. People still need to support the artists that they love somehow or it will become an increasingly difficult environment to live in. All you are going to have are Katy Perry songs if you don’t support bands like us.
Oh, for the love of god! Click like! [laughs]
Eric: This is the age we live in, where that’s what’s popular. Ugh.
I have absolutely nothing in common with a lot of music today. You guys are a breath of fresh air.
Eric: Thanks! We’re only getting better!
Well I’ll let you guys get out of here. I really appreciate the time you spent with me. Best of luck out there.
Eric: I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
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