PropertyOfZack had the chance to speak with Ben Liebsch of You, Me & Everyone We Know this past week for a great and in-depth interview. We discussed the long process of making the A Great Big Hole EP, what it’s been like to slowly get back in the process of making the band a priority, the possibility of being much more active, new music, and an overall great look into the past and future. Buy the new EP here and check out the interview below!
You did one show about a year ago with Bright And Early, and then in June or early-summer it came out that you were working on new music. When exactly did the new music process start for you?
I started working on the record before that show last year. Trevor and I found ourselves having the same conversation we had back in 2009 when everyone quit. We were on the phone and I was like, “Well Trevor, I’m making that call again. Everyone in the band quit and I’ve got some ideas.” I was like, “Would you be down to work on these?”
When everyone left the band, we had created some debts that still needed to be taken care of. Albeit, I contributed slightly to those not being paid back, but the amount of what I had misused had been exaggerated publicly, but we still had a bunch of debt. I told Trevor that I didn’t really have any money, but that I had these songs. I wanted to continue making music, but I wanted to pay off the debt I had to him too. The full-length was only half paid for at that point. With everyone leaving, we basically weren’t going to get to the point where Doghouse was going to pay for the other half of the record based on a stipulation in the contract. We were going to release the full-length on our own, but Doghouse came into the picture pretty last minute to release the record.
Trevor said he was down. I think I came to the table with six or seven really basic ideas that were brewing in my head. These were ideas that were all over the map. I get a lot of those, but I find that certain ones will tug at me and sort of make sense with what I’ve tried to do with this band. We started working on those about a year ago. Because I work and Trevor is also an engineer and producer full time, we’d just meet up once every month or other month. This EP was recorded in like a week’s worth of days, just spread apart.
It’s well-known that you dabble in guitar, but that you need a band to create music.
How exactly did we do it? I’ve played guitar for six years before joining this band. All throughout the course of this band, I created the foundations of most of the songs with my guitar. I’m not technically informed, but I can put chords together. I don’t have an ego about the fact that I’m not very good at guitar. I spent six years learning how to write well and sing well. Trevor volunteered to record everything. He helped me out making a chord or two more interesting here or things of that nature. That’s the way it happened. I’ve got no secrets there. I make no effort to let people think I recorded all the instruments. I could have done it, but it would have taken forever.
It’s been quite the year and a half.
Well, I’m a year and eight months sober. So it’s been about a year and a half since everyone left, and the same amount of time since that last EP came out.
What was it like getting in there again, after things so drastically shifted again?
With Trevor it’s always been really comfortable. He’s a guy that gets what I’ve tried to do with the band over the years. He gets this is a weird pop-punk band. This has never been an indie band or anything of that nature. I’ve never made it out to be anything more complex than it is. This is a weirder version of a pop-punk band. He’s always gotten that. It was never strange. My biggest issue with myself personally was trying to figure out how to write while not being in such a state of mental and emotional turmoil. I didn’t tell anybody this when it happened, but once I was done recording the full-length, I didn’t think the band would record anymore. Despite the fact that I pulled the band back in 2009, I didn’t have much confidence that the record would succeed or that the band would do much just because the odds were so far against it. I went into that thinking that if this was going to be the last record that I’d do everything to really put all my effort into writing the best stuff possible and to use all my tricks. Some of the songs I wrote on there were what I thought was the best I could do. Writing again was figuring out how to stop psyching myself out. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I think Gretzky or Jordan said that. Singing wasn’t really tough. I’m slightly rustier than I was, but that’s because I’m not doing it every day. I’d record once every two months. I think with time, if it ends up being that I get a band together, I think things will come together. Getting back in the studio wasn’t too weird. It was the time to do it. I had more to say. Despite my best effort to tell myself otherwise, this doesn’t seem like something I can walk away from.
The EP has three songs. You released a short quick track first. How was the overall reaction to it?
It’s good and positive. People are stoked. People dig it. I wanted to save the songs that are of a normal length a little longer. I didn’t want to release two long songs and then have the third fans hear just be a short one. It’s really nice to see that people are still really supportive of the band. From what I can gauge, the band started to gain momentum in the spring of 2011. We started to gain momentum and it seems that the band’s relevance has really only shrunken back to what it was before we had a label, which is not bad at all. So I’m excited about that. I’m just really thankful that people are still listening. I’m always apologetic when people relate to my songs, but I’m glad those people have something to relate to.
As much as you’d like to prove yourself otherwise, you can’t stop making music. What exactly does this release mean for the near future?
When everybody left, it wasn’t my goal to rub anything in their face about what I could do without them. A big part of me thought I should wait a little bit to let all the excitement die down. I thought I should give that some room to breathe so it wasn’t so heated. Momentum is big for me. If you’re doing music everyday, touring is one of the best ways to keep yourself going musically. There’s also a fine line between that and getting burned out on tour. Plenty of people have released shit albums after writing on tour. I think it’s good to be doing it everyday instead of taking months off. That’s why I rushed it. I didn’t have anyone to answer to but myself.
But anyway, your actual question. I’m very hesitant to say that I’m definitely putting a band together and definitely playing shows, but finishing and hearing this EP has allowed me to see that I can do this sober and that I don’t have to be in some tortured state to write the way I was writing. I can look down that hole without being in it. That’s kind of what it was. It confirmed for me that I’m able to do this without a compromised mental and abusive situation. In theory, if all goes well, I’m hoping to put a band together over the next few months once I’m settled in Pennsylvania and to play a show or two and to go from there. It’d be cool to tour again. There would be things that needed to occur before that happened and I’d have to find people that were respectful of me. While I’m not needing a drink at every bar or liquor store I see, the old tour life I was a part of can’t be the same anymore. I’m starting to put my feet back in this pond. Obviously very slowly [Laughs]. I don’t want to say I’m back in the events that they don’t or that something happens, but it’s something I want to do. The message I was putting out there with the full-length of hope and positivity - I think I’m in a much better place to be delivering that than I once was in the past six years. There are still a lot of people that I think would like to hear that message delivered from me. If I may be so bold.
So hopefully we’re be seeing more small steps in quicker time intervals.
Admittedly, I was pretty lazy about writing because I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do with this. When I first decided to write anything else, I thought I really fucked up and that it all fell apart. In that interview we did a year ago before that show, I was like, “I’ve at least earned the right to bury this the way I choose to.” This was going to be what this EP was. I was going to do a song or two and just release it and be like, “this is it.” Singing on that song with Squid The Whale, I kind of saw after making something that there are still people that care. I kind of saw that I wasn’t ready to hang things up yet. That’s kind of all what the EP is about I guess.
Time and money are things of importance, but would you like to record more soon?
Yeah, in theory. I’ll have to take a couple months to do some brainstorming. I have to start messing around and seeing how that goes. I’m not a very good writer. This EP isn’t the best example, but there are only two and three-quarters of a song done for release. We lived on two EPs for four years, so it can work. I’m hoping not to have to wait so long. I’m hoping that I can take steps to getting squared up with everyone and then move forward and start doing the independent thing again.
It’s an exciting time for you, once again.
Building and planning. It would be great to not play a show until Bamboozle 2013 to pick up where things fell apart [Laughs]. It would be truly poetic. There’s a whole slew of other stuff that would have to occur for that to happen though. It’s a very transitionary time. I’m literally moving at the moment too. It’s a cool time to see what you’re doing still matters. I’m just thankful that people are still listening and seem to care. I’ve seen a lot of people that have grown a bit with the band over the years and it’s nice to see them still around and baring with me.
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