PropertyOfZack Interview : : Sainthood Reps
PropertyOfZack recently did an interview with Derrick Sherman of Sainthood Reps that turned into one killer conversation. Derrick and I discussed Sainthood’s slow start, the process for their debut record Monoculture, the story behind signing with Tooth & Nail Records, Mike Sapone’s importance, touring, and future material, among other things. It’s truly a great read, so don’t miss out!
Sainthood Reps was created in 2009, but has really been sort of slow out of the gate. Was that mostly because of your larger commitment to Brand New?
Not so much, I mean I guess it played a little bit into it but I think initially Brand New had a long tour in the fall of the year that we started so it didn’t really get started until 2010 full on.
Brand New has obviously been taking some more time off than normal lately, so has that just allowed you to explore Sainthood Reps more?
Yeah, exactly. 2010 and 2011 has been all about Sainthood Reps and I’ve had a lot of free time to work on that so we’ve been really seeing that through. The record itself was sort of a long time in the making. Getting the contract signed took a long time. It was really slow going. We took over 6 months to mainly make them sign the contract.
Can you discuss the other members in the band and their backgrounds?
The main writer other than myself is Francesco. Me and him have known each other for a long time. He used to play drums in this practice space on Long Island. It was sort of a communal place there was a whole bunch of bands that would practice there. There would be a few rooms that a whole bunch of bands rented out, so there was always musical gear in these rooms and you would be able to just hop in and jam with whomever. So we would hop in there together and we’d play. We’ve been playing together for years. He never really was in a band before. One day he started showing me some songs that he’d written on guitar, and he sang. So we started collaborating together and sort of made the band. It’s really his first project and it’s his first time singing and he only picked up guitar a few years ago, which is pretty crazy. Anyway, so that’s Francesco. Bradley Cordaro plays the drums. He’s sort of been one of those Long Island musicians , who has just been around. He’s hopped from band to band, working as a recording engineer and when he’s not playing music he’s recording other bands. He has his own studio. And on bass we have Jani Zubkovs who’s a longtime music companion of Brad’s since he plays the bass and Brad plays drums, they’ve been in other bands together for a long while. Actually Jani used to be in a band on Triple Crown Records called Lux Courageous. I think they were out in the early 2000s. Somehow we all met each other and formed a band.
Sainthood Reps have played scattered shows over the last few years. How were those experiences considering only a demo and a split have been released so far?
Yeah it’s been a huge learning process. Usually, I guess at this point I’d consider myself, in rock n roll years, on the older side of the spectrum. I definitely have the most experience within my band. A general rule of thumb or advice that I’d give to bands is if you only have a demo , I necessarily wouldn’t advise you to go on tour. I’d advise you to play as many local and regional shows as possible. That’s something I always find funny. When bands are like, “Yeah we have a 3 song demo and we’re on tour, here’s our bandcamp and please fund our tour via kickstarter, because we have no money.” That’s not the way to do it. Any way, sorry that was a little tangent. What I’ve realized with our band, what we need to do because everyone was so unrefined, the best thing to do was play a lot of shows in a short amount of time. So we had some friends book us some tours and luckily we were able to play with some really cool bands, All The Day Holiday and Caspian, Balance & Composure, The Felix Culpa. So we had some pretty cool tours that we were able to do right out of the gate and that was really instrumental in helping us kind of discover what our band is about. While we were playing these shows, it was a huge learning curve. We were not very good when we started and unfortunately we were learning that on stage, playing in front of people. Which, this is a public apology to everybody. But you know, we’re still learning. I think with any band, no matter if you’ve been a band for 10 years or a year, there is always room to grow. I think we’re better now and that was the point of those shows.
Is it a nice change to be up there in small rooms where there’s sort of a lack of knowledge for the band compared to how it is for you most of the time?
It’s funny it puts you right back into your place. Not that I ever think anything of it per say but it’s definitely humorous if I have a Brand New show one weekend and we’re playing Electric Factory sold out, and like a few days later I have a local Long Island show for Sainthood Reps and we’re playing in front of like 80 people in a bar. There’s definitely an adjustment. I can’t describe it other than it’s kind of humorous. I don’t know if that makes sense. I wouldn’t say its humbling but it just gives you good perspective about who you are as a person, like it helps you realize that the music for the most part, if there’s a thousand people there to see you play I think some musicians might get confused and think it’s for them, but it’s actually for the music they are creating. So it’s never more evident then when you’re able to do a super huge show and then a super small show. Then you’re able to look at it from another perspective. When I’m playing with Brand New it’s easier to play great because I’m playing along side a band that’s been together for 10 years, they have a massive following, the energy of the show is there and it’s easier to perform, then I go to a Sainthood Reps show and we often need to win over a new audience, no one’s heard it before, there’s a lot less people there, they are more critical, and it feels like you have a lot to prove.
Has it been interesting taking on the lead role of the band as opposed to normal for you?
I don’t sing in the band so I consider Francesco the leader, he writes most of the songs. I guess it’s kind of split but he definitely is the lead singer/frontman.
POZ: Well as in just being most experienced I guess?
Derrick: Yeah. It’s weird it’s like a new set of responsibilities that I don’t necessarily know if I enjoy, but I don’t mind it at the same time either. It’s just there are some days you want to be able to play your guitar and not have to worry about any of the business side of things or constantly maybe trying to help your other band mates out and give them advice. It’s such a different, you know like a well-oiled machine with one band and like a new band just trying to work together and figure it all out. So as far as that stuff goes it’s definitely not my favorite part of the task but I’m more than happy to help in any way I can. I think sometimes I might be offering my advice too much, and everyone in the band is just like, “Shut up dude, we got it.”
It was announced in February that Sainthood Reps signed to Tooth & Nail Records. You said it took like 8 months to sign the contract, why so long?
I don’t know I think just when you’re dealing with a big label like that it’s just so much harder to push the paperwork through. That’s the one drawback to signing to, well they are still considered an independent label, but you know they’re not, they’re a pretty big label owned by an even bigger music corporation. So with that there’s always a lot of legal nonsense that goes on. It just takes weeks and weeks and weeks just to hear back about certain things on the contract. And it wasn’t even like there were crazy demands being made or anything like that, it was like just to hear back, “Are we good? Can we do this? Can we go record now?” It just took weeks. The one good thing is last July we got an offer from Tooth & Nail and we’d pretty much agreed that we wanted to do it and we just needed to solidify the contract. In August we rented out a practice space and started rehearsing every day and writing new songs and just getting ready because we knew we’d record some songs soon. Luckily, the one good thing about the contract taking so long is we wrote a lot of songs that probably wouldn’t have made the record otherwise that we’re now super happy about.
Was the band fielding offers from other labels as well or was it pretty clear it’d be Tooth & Nail?
Yeah we had a couple smaller record label offers but they were the first one we took seriously. It just so happened that once we talked to them we realized they were super behind us and on the same page as us. They seemed really excited about it. Anyone we’re trying to work with us as a band, that’s what we look for, people that approach us and seem excited. I’m not trying to work with someone who, like even with the interview, you had contacted me a while ago and I never forgot that and I appreciate that you contacted me so I want to do an interview with you. I’m not going to try to solicit myself to other people, like if we can find a common ground and people show interest then I’d rather work with someone like that rather than someone that I have to win over. So I don’t know. I think it’s a strange fit for us. They’re the greatest people and they totally stand behind what we do and that’s all we need from a label.
Was there always a plan to sign immediately before putting out any real release?
It just sort of organically happened. We were prepared to do it the way most bands do and release an EP. At some point we were recording a double EP we were going to put out and in the midst of that they contacted us and we sent them over the EPs we were recording, they liked it, and from there it sort of took flight.
How has the band’s writing sort of progressed since 2009?
Initially the concept of the band when it was just me and Francesco, we had this idea that half of the songs would be vocally driven indie rock post whatever you want to call it, just music, and the other half would be like instrumental post rock influenced music. Because we were just trying to write the music we love, and we couldn’t tell what we wanted to do because we had all these instrumental songs and songs with vocals and we were like “let’s just try to go half and half with it”. As we got the band together and we started touring, practicing, and writing together, in there we kind of found the sound of the band . It changed more toward influences that we all sort of like together and what our playing styles were best suited for. That turned out to be, from what people tell me it sounds like, Nirvana,Fugazi and I get a lot of Brand New obviously. It has more of an early 90’s angular chord kind of sounds I guess.
There has been some criticism that the newer demos and songs kind of sound extremely similar to Daisy, in a few ways. Is sort of differentiating Sainthood from Brand New going to be a hassle for you, or do you not mind?
You know Francesco said it the best once, he said it’s never a bad thing to be compared to a good band, we all consider Brand New to be a good band so it’s a compliment. I think the hassle comes from, first of all my position in Brand New. I’m just a live guitar player, I’m not in any photos or anything like that, so a lot of people that are fans of Brand New don’t even know that I exist really. So if someone on a blog writes Derrick Sherman from Brand New has a new band, sometimes it causes a lot of negative feedback and people are like, “Who’s Derrick Sherman? He’s not in Brand New, what the hell is this?” It’s a hurdle to try and keep the Brand New name separate from Sainthood Reps, but it’s in no way out of a reason that I don’t want to be compared to them. It’s nothing like, “I just want to do my own thing!” It’s not like that at all.
You hit the studio with Mike Sapone a few months back. You’ve obviously worked with him a few times now, but was it necessarily a guarantee that you would be doing this with him?
Obviously I know Mike really well and I admire him. I’ve always dreamed of working with him on my own music. He recorded demo songs for us like “Condor”. You know, he liked that song , but I could tell he wasn’t super excited about it. Over the months as I sent him more songs he lent us constructive criticism, but he didn’t have that wow factor about it. When he likes songs he gets super excited about it and can’t stop talking about ideas for it. And he wasn’t really having those with the instrumental stuff we were sending him. So I figured since Brad is an engineer we would record the songs ourselves and see what happens. And then I sent him the newer batch of songs that ended up being the record we recorded and he was super excited about it. From there I asked him if he would consider working with us and he was super into it, so I was super excited because He didn’t have that feeling initially with the old songs.
How long were you in the studio for?
I think we wound up being there for February, March, and maybe a little bit of April.
Did Mike add his touch to the record in a way that the album probably would have been different otherwise?
Absolutely. I think anytime a band works with Mike, from what I gather, there seems to be a lot of comparisons between the bands, like Sainthood Reps sounds like Brand New. Xcerts sound like Crime In Stereo etc. But to me Brand New sounds like Sapone. Crime In Stereo sounds like Sapone. Like you’re going through Mike Sapone’s filter. He’s such a genius and a creative force. Not to discredit those bands at all, I’m just trying to give more credit to Sapone because he is such a force in the studio in a good way. He helps you change a sound or idea for a song and helps it take shape and come to life.
How many songs are on the record?
We tracked 10. We were hoping to record a few more but we went way over on our time, and luckily we could go over because Mike is our friend. We could only complete 10.
Has it been mixed yet?
Yeah we mixed and mastered it and it’s good to go. Sapone also mixed it for us.
How stoked are you just on the end product?
Very excited. It was nice because when you’re in the middle of making a record you never know if it’s good or if the ideas you had are the right ideas or not. You’re always seeing if you can try to tweak somehow. Now we’re far enough away from the record to be able to listen to it and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s just something that regardless if it’s received well I can look back on it and be like, “Hey man I got together with one of my best friends and we were able to sit in the studio for a couple months and make this record and it was an amazing time in my life.”
When are we going to get this release?
It’s coming out August 9th, 2011. It’s a pretty interesting day I started looking it up. It’s the date that Jerry Garcia died and also the second atomic bomb was dropped I think in Nagasaki.
When are we going to hear our first song?
I’m hoping it looks like June 28th. We just got the master the other day so we’re trying to release these tunes as fast as possible.
How much time and effort are you going to be able to put into this project in the future? Brand New does have a tour scheduled in September. Otherwise are you going to do this any other time you can when you aren’t playing live?
Yeah, exactly. I don’t consider the Sainthood Reps a side project, I consider it a full time band. Like I don’t want a Brand New fan to read into it this the wrong way, but this is my project and if there’s an opportunity for my band to play and go on tour we’re going to do that. Hopefully I’ll be able to balance out touring with Brand New and playing with Sainthood Reps.
And you guys are going to be doing some dates with North Korea, but when are we going to see more tours announced?
I’m not sure. Right now we’re still booking our own shows and tours . Once we get this record out hopefully some friends will want to take us on tour and help us out. As of right now we don’t have much planned after the release so we’re trying to put that together.
You just mentioned that the record was only 10 songs but you guys had written a lot and wanted to record more, so have you guys thought about future releases?
Yeah I mean if we were the Beatles and were able to not tour and record as we wish, we already have one EP that’s pretty much in the can and ready to go. And we have a few new songs that we think are contenders for record two, so yeah.
Thanks so much for your time, is there anything else that you’d like to add?
The name of the record is Monoculture.
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