Thursday, July 29, 2010

Spotlight - Pittsburgh Local Artist - Yours Truly - Edition 6

Yours Truly is our spotlight for the month (a little early for August). They are a local act who just recently came out with an ep entitled The Colorage. Below you will find a interview we conducted with the band along with their single off the new ep.

Don't Look Down by YoursTrulyBand

How did the band come together?

Justin Portis (guitar/vox) and DJ Huggy (bass) are Pittsburgh natives, and I, Eric Downs (drums/vox) am from Hershey, PA - I came out here to go to Pitt, and eventually, I worked my way into the music scene (in which Huggy was already prominent and to which Justin was returning after doing freelance songwriting for Universal Records in NY). Through a mutual friend/musician, one night, we all ended up on the same gig together in Erie, PA. On the car ride up (my first time meeting Justin), we just talked the entire time about our views on music, and by the time we arrived at the gig, before playing, we had decided to form a band. At that point, Hug was a given as the right bassist for the job. He has a towering collection of production credits for artists nationwide, and he brings that production mindset to our compositions, kind of grounding me and Justin's wild ideas.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?

People constantly tell us that we sound like an even blend of Incubus, the Foo Fighters, and Radiohead. We are strongly progressive, but simultaneously very pop friendly. Musically, we incorporate mixed time signatures, complex chordal and harmonic structures, as well as just plain old raw energy that those who have heard us describe as more of an experience than a just a sound (despite how pompous that sounds).

Are you all originally from the Pittsburgh area?

Justin and Hug are both from Pittsburgh, born and raised. I am from Hershey, PA a.k.a Chocolatetown, USA.

Do you all create music full time or is this more of a part time venture? Do you all have day jobs?

Right now, Yours Truly is technically a part time venture, but don't get me wrong - the hours we spend honing our craft near those of a full time job. Our dream is for YT to slowly take over until, yes, it becomes our full time job. In the meantime, Justin works for a major non-profit organization, Pittsburgh Cares, in addition to designing curriculum for Pittsburgh public schools. Hug is an esteemed producer - he's produced for Wiz Khalifa, has appeared on the Halo 3 soundtrack, has recently worked with Tony Williams (producer for Kanye West, John Legend, etc.), he produced (local Pittsburgh sensation) Joy Ike's latest album, and of course, he did all the production on our album. Personally, I work at the Apple Store and teach at the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh Fine Arts Academy in Wilkinsburg.

How do you create your music? What is the song writing process?

Well, as Justin has been a songwriter for many years now, he has amassed an enormous personal library of his own original songs, so, for instance, all the songs on our debut EP, "the Colorage," were songs that he had originally written. However, these final products are drastically different from his original conception. As I had mentioned, Huggy brings a strongly mature producer mindset to the songs, and I tend to bring more of a progressive perspective, so when you combine the three of us, you end up with the progressive pop that we have, featuring intricate arrangement, mixed meters, and an array of genres.

Lately, we've been working on some completely fresh tunes, and the process here has been considerably different. As with most bands, typically one member will bring a riff or idea to the table and then the band will try to flesh it out. It's kind of interesting to hear us to this, because in one way or another, we all have experience in jazz/improvisation, so on the spot, you'll hear improvised turnarounds, distinct feel changes, and lots of space. The one concept that I've been trying to bring to the table lately is for that base riff to be established, then, when the other members solidify a basic part, strip the original riff completely away find creative ways to re-introduce it around the other instruments. The effect here is that one riff, rather than just being a static part played together by all the instruments, develops a progression to it so that in the beginning the riff is in infantile form, but as the section progresses, the riff matures, and by the end, we have a full blown ensemble with parts that the listener has heard an organic evolution of.

This answer is getting long, but one of our other ideals in our writing is to fully utilize the possible combinations of instrumentation we have in an attempt to make us as powerful a power trio as possible. This means being able to sound as small as a mouse and as large as an elephant, being able to play in ultra-tight unison as well as having parts of songs where all our parts weave in an out of each other, sometimes not even playing at all, just singing a capella. In that sense, it's very much like a rock chamber group.

What are your goals for the band? What would you like to accomplish? Are you trying to get signed to a label?

Like most bands, our long term goal is to be able to write and perform music for a living no matter how meager that living is (although a greater-than-meager living would be cool). In the near future, we'd love to be able to start touring, seeing different parts of the country (or world, maybe?), meeting different people, and sharing what we believe to be a great product with those people. In regards to getting signed, we would certainly welcome the attention and support of a label. However, up until now, we have been an entirely DIY band. Aside from tracking drums for our recording, we've done everything from marketing, booking, merchandise design, to recording and producing, and despite the daunting amount of work that it takes, it's just that much more rewarding when you find success, you see smiles on people's faces at the end of the night, and you know that it was all because of you.

You have a new project you are working on. Can you describe it? Are all members involved?

The only project we have going right now is writing more music. We just finished our debut EP, "the Colorage," and we're pretty darn proud of it, so, at this point, we're just trying to spread the word.

Being in the Pgh area, do you find it more difficult to try and succeed?

Personally, I'm still pretty new to the music scene here. I've heard SO MUCH about how terrible a market Pittsburgh is for bands, and while I think I can understand some of the challenges that some people are facing, I truly believe that, with some extremely professional and diligent hard work, there is success to be found here. That being said, Yours Truly is only a year old, so we really haven't been around long enough to experience some of the things that critics of Pittsburgh's music scene have faced. However, our personalities naturally drive us to be thorough and professional, so naturally, we do tons of research and plan our actions in almost a painful amount of detail, and while we're not the biggest band around, we've definitely found some incredible successes, and I like to think that they have to do with our hard work ethic. At heart, we are 51% pure artists, and 49% businessmen. Musicians will hear this day in and day out - the art won't support itself, you have to know how to market yourself, and that is so true. Yes, if you have a good product, the wheels might be easier to grease, but you have to seriously treat this like a full-time job and perform as though you'd get fired if you didn't do good work.

What are some of the obstacles you face trying to create some 'success' in Pgh?

I think that the obstacles we face are the same as every other independent band - trying to take your artistic expression and turning it into a marketable product to peddle like a traveling merchant. It's the same thing that any clothing company, diet soda (err...pop, sorry), cell phone, or car company faces - having a good product is only half of the game; your targeted audience has to know about the product, know why it's good, and believe that it is good. There has to be buzz around it. As musicians, we face the same thing - we have to scrutinizingly perfect our music, expose it (via performance and media), and hope that our listeners will like it enough to pass it on to their friends, therein, creating a buzz.

What are the positive benefits of being in the area?

I think I can provide a good perspective on this, not originally being from the area. I came to Pittsburgh originally because I saw it as a great city to grow in. It's bigger than a town, but not as big as a metropolis, so you have many people to share your art with but you're not washed away in a sea of competition (like in a place like NY or LA). I think that Pittsburgh is a great intermediary step between nothing and everything. Plus, the cost of living is super affordable!

Is there a venue you have enjoyed playing more than others in the area?

That's tough to say. Each venue brings has its own crowd, its own staff, and its own setup, so the best venue is the one where the crowd is into your style, the staff if responsible, helpful, and professional, and the venue has a good atmosphere. We've had good experiences at most of the venues we've played, but perhaps some of the most memorable ones were the Smiling Moose and the Brillobox. We've had some absolutely packed shows there with crowds that were really into our music, which is always much more gratifying and reassuring to experience.

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