In a world where the music that moves us is so often defined by it’s genre or label, The Material represent art that is thoughtful, powerful, organic and inspiring. The 5-member, Southern California band make compelling music that mirrors their individual life experiences and the real world around them. Soulful and raspy, female lead, Colleen D’Agostino, delivers powerhouse vocals over precision drumming, melodic guitar riffs and driving bass lines – creating an undeniable connection between their music and their audience. It’s no surprise that connectivity is at the core of the group’s collective mantra, “To Life” which is inked in each members skin.
With an organic and authentic approach to making music, The Material have accomplished what few other bands have successfully achieved – individual and career growth that is both cohesive and continuous. Their hard work and dedication to their craft have turned the heads of many in the industry, earned the legions of dedicated fans and have established them as one of the most exciting bands on the scene. For “Everything I Want To Say,” the band teamed with producer Kyle Black (Paramore, All Time Low) to capture the intense, raw emotion of the band’s lyrics — a collaboration is nothing less than spectacular! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Colleen D’Agostino to discuss her musical roots, the origin of The Material, the making of their powerful new album, “Everything I Want To Say” and much more!
We also like to shine a little light on an artist’s early years. How did music first come into your life?
I am a kid of the 80s, so I loved Madonna, Michael Jackson and all of that kinda stuff. I started singing at an early age. I joined my school choir when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I started taking vocal lessons when I was around 9 years old. I was just doing show tunes and Broadway stuff back then but it definitely started my love for being on stage at that age, which was really cool. I just continued doing that until college. I got a music degree and decided that was what I was going to do with my life! So, I have been at it since I was a little kid!
Who were some of your influences along the way and made you the artist we see today?
I grew up mostly with pop music, so it is funny the transition that brought me to rock music. In college, I really just wanted to study music and sing but at San Diego State, which is where I went, if you were going to be a vocal performance major, you could only sing classical opera. I actually sang in a couple operas and studied classical music just to give myself a foundation to what it really means to be a musician and not just a singer. I definitely appreciate that now but at the time, I was thinking “I just want o be in a rock band!” [laughs] At that time, I was listening to a lot of Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Alkaline Trio, Get Up Kids and bands like those. I guess when Evanescence came out, that was kinda when I was like “Oh! I could be a female singer in a rock band!” I had always been a fan of Gwen Stefani of No Doubt but I wasn’t really into the Ska sound, so when Evanescence came out, that is when I decided I could use classical and opera belting background I had learned and apply it to a rock band. That was a really cool thing.
How did The Material form?
We formed in 2006. That is when we actually started jamming together. A buddy of mine, our first drummer, Noah, we were working at surf shop in San Diego together and decided to start a band. We formed that way and then John, our guitarist, we went to high school together. He was on tour with another band called In Memory, out of L.A. and once we started the band, he was all for it. He played a show in San Diego and decided to quit that night. He came with us and started The Material. That is how we formed. We didn’t really start playing many shows until 2007, when we became a five piece band. We put out or first EP in September of 2007. From that, we got picked up to play on the MTV Dew Circuit Breakout where we were in the finals, which was the first thing that made us a real band. It helped to see the future for us!
The Material has worked very hard on a new album, ‘Everything I Want To Say.’ How did you arrive at the title and what does it mean to you personally?
We were looking for a title that Would be thought-provoking. Because our music has a positive message, we get a lot of really cool emails or messages on Facebook from fans that might say “I was going through a tough time and your lyrics really helped me say everything I want to say but I couldn’t. Listening to this music really helped me through this tough time.” Every time I would her that, I would think “Wow! That is so cool. Our music is everything they want to say. The lyrics are helping them get there!” That is really what sparked the idea. We were also trying to think visually, what would be thought-provoking as well. That is when we arrived at the idea of the phone booth for the cover. I think the phone booth represents communication and connection between people, “Everything I Want To Say” fit in with that as well.
When you first embarked to put together this album, what were your expectations?
This is our fourth album and on our previous albums, we have had really lofty goals for things. We would get really excited when awesome things happen and would get upset when things didn’t happen. Finally, after a two year hiatus from writing, we just said “Let’s just play music we want to hear. People respond to it. We love to play it. It doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks of it, as long as we love it. We just went back to our roots and wrote an album we all enjoyed playing. We didn’t have any real expectations from it. I think by doing that, it became very real raw, natural and honest. I think that has been hugely the reason why it has been so successful with people because there was no preconceived idea for it. It isn’t part of a trend that is going on right now. It is just rock! The very straight-forward rock we want to listen to it. We put our hearts into it and didn’t really care about it appealing to a certain label. We just wanted it to be awesome. Our only real goal is to play music around the world. We love touring! For us to be able to get out there and play our music! Our only hope for it is that a lot of people hear it!
What can you tell us about The Material’s songwriting process and how you typical go about bringing songs to life?
In the past, Jon [Moreaux] and I would start acoustically writing a song together, just the two of us. Then we would bring in the band. We had a studio where we would all meet up and show it to everyone. Everyone would add their two cents and we would make it that way. This time around, we just tried to organically grow the songs. We would all go into the studio together and start playing. Maybe one of the guys would play a riff or maybe I would start singing a melody. Then from that we would all build on the song together. That way you get everybody’s strengths and ideas all balled into one. I think it really helped out this time around to make the songs sound more rock.
You worked with producer Kyle Black for this album. What did he bring to the table for the project?
He was awesome! Kyle and I have been friends for a long time. He used to be the bass player for the band Nural. There were on Hopeless Records. It is actually a funny story. We were on tour with them and our van broke down. It wasn’t going to be ready for another week, so their band said “You can hop in our van with us. We will drive up the coast and play these shows and we will drop you guys off on our way back down the West Coast!” We said “OK!” We all packed into this fifteen passenger van for two weeks! It was really a good bonding experience! We fell in love with Kyle. After that, he started working with Mike Green and we found ourselves becoming fans of his work while we was with Mike Green. When he broke off on his own, we just decided to give him a chance as far as producing goes. He definitely was a great choice! I am very happy with the way it came out because we went in there as friends and we came out of the process even closer.
Looking back at the entire process of bringing the album to life, what do you consider the biggest challenge for you?
I think the biggest challenge for me we letting out some of these emotions I had experienced I have had over the past two years, putting them on paper and being public about them. I went through a lot of hard times with my family over the past year and I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to share all of that with everyone. In the end, it was definitely cathartic for me to be able to share that. Now, I am getting messages from people saying “Hey! That song Bottles has really helped me because someone in my family is an alcoholic.” It just made me realize by being that voice and sharing those feelings, I can definitely help other people who are in similar situations. It was very emotional in the studio, especially with that track, “Bottles.” Kyle had been through a family member dealing with alcoholism as well. That was a really cool experience in the studio because he was so supportive. He would say “Sing it! Give it everything you’ve got!” I think the tape you hear is one of the first few takes. We only did a couple of times, just so we could capture the emotion of being on the verge of tears in the studio. I am really happy with the way it turned out.
The Material is known for their live show as well and it is something you are very proud of. How would you describe it to those who may not have caught you live yet?
We definitely love to rock onstage! I think we bring the energy, especially this time around with the new songs. Everyone is very excited about those so there is a lot of adrenaline running on stage with this straight-forward rock stuff. Our CD release show was at The House of Blues. During that, we decided to make it more of a show! We did a drum circle on stage, I play keyboards on a couple of songs and acoustic guitar on one as well. We are really trying to incorporate all of the different elements. I even pick up the tambourine in a couple of tracks! We always used to take ourselves so seriously and now we are there to have fun! We try to do that and to get the crowd involved. We are getting ready to play Warped Tour in a few days. It is just a short set but we plan to rock all the way through! Then we have a few dates after that as well. We are playing the Roxy on June 30th. Then we head up the coast to San Francisco on July 5th. We will be touring with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus in August! We are really excited about that!
Obviously, you have been at this for quite a while and a live show is always unpredictable. Have you ever had a Spinal Tap moment on stage, where something totally unexpected has happened to you during a performance?
[laughs] Yeah! We did a CD release show for our EP called “To Weather The Storm”. It had a lot of really cool electronic tracks. It was really cool, so we wanted our live show to sound exactly the same as it did on the CD, so we would play with some of the electronic tracks. We were very excited about the show. However, at the beginning of the set, the computer malfunctioned and we had to start the song over. That was the first and only time that has ever happened. I was completely mortified! [laughs] I guess that is my Spinal Tap moment! We still turned it up to 11! [laughs]
Is there anything that stands out as a defining moment in your still blossoming career?
Absolutely. I really think the CD release show at House of Blues for “Everything I Wanted To Say” was a defining moment in my career. I grew up in Los Angeles and I used to walk by the venue when I was younger and think “One day I am going to play there!” That was our first show there, our CD release show. We were headlining on a Sunday night and there were over 700 people there and it was a dream come true to me. We also got a really great writeup by The Grammys, www.grammy.com did a cool review! [Click here to check out the review] To see a review of our live show on their website was a total dream come true for me!
In your opinion, what does the future hold for The Material?
We are definitely excited to be headed out on tour in August. We have a couple of shows still to be announced, as well. For us, we are looking forward to traveling and the tour. If we can use our music as a vehicle for us traveling the world, it is definitely something we are interested in. We have been talking to a few different international booking agencies, so hopefully we will get a chance to play overseas this year!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in the music industry as you have?
If I could go back in time, I would work just as hard as a I did, but I would try to have more fun with it. It is really fun and easy to start a band if you can find people you get along with and love to play music with. As soon as you get a taste of what it is like to be on tour, it is easy to take each moment you are experiencing for granted. I would tell people that if you can get out there and play shows with your friends — enjoy every moment of it! Take a little snapshot for your memories. You never know when you will be back in that city or the little tiny town in the middle of the U.S.A. Those are the times you can make some of the best memories of you life!
Very true. Thank you for your time today, Colleen! We are looking forward to spreading the word on this amazing album!
Thank you, Jason! See you soon!
Catch The Material On Tour! Upcoming dates include:
Jun 20 – Long Beach, CA @ Warped Tour (Ernie Ball Stage)
Jun 30 – W. Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy
July 05 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Aug 12 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven (w/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
Aug 14 – Orangevale, CA @ The Boardwalk (w/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
Aug 16 – Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Café on the Strip (w/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
Aug 17 – Pomona, CA @ The Glass House (w/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
Aug 18 – W. Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy (w/ Red Jumpsuit Apparatus)
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.