Rolling out of southwestern Connecticut, A Will Away is a band that is unafraid to be honest. With a passion for good music and the power of rock and roll, the quartet speaks to the complexity of human life, drawing from their own crazy catalog of experiences. Rare Candy had the pleasure of chatting with Matthew Carlson (vocals/guitar), Collin Waldron (guitar), Sean Dibble (drums), and John McSweeney (bass) while they were on tour with This Wild Life in Santa Ana, California and we discussed the struggles of touring, life in the studio, and the mystery that was the 80’s.
By Tatiana Becerra
RC: Something that is very evident in your songwriting is that you draw from very real places and genuine experiences. Do you have any memories or experiences that continue to inspire you?
Matt: All of them.
Collin: I think every single shitty thing that’s happened to us inspires us.
Matt: We went through the transition from adolescence to adulthood on the road, crammed in a van together. We talk a lot and we are literally like family and we hang out all the time. We’ve just gotten to this point where the only honest way for us to convey anything we think or feel is to tell it from our side. We’re sort of telling the ridiculous, over the top life story of all of us and how it sort of pertains to what we want to share with other people.
Photos by Linda Wang
RC: Could you talk a little about the process of making Here Again? It’s been out for a while now, do you feel like you’re still riding the wave of that album cycle?
Matt: We’re definitely still in the middle of the cycle. I don’t think we’re anywhere near done with it. For the process of writing Here Again we lived in the studio for the better part of 6 or 8 months. We weren’t going to close the book on it until it was finished. We had the flexibility of saying, “we’re all going to come in today, and we might not actually get anything done. Let’s see what we can accomplish in that period of time.” When there’s no time constraint, you just sort of fill in the gaps and you wait for it to happen organically and it sort of pieces itself together. That was the experience we had when we made Bliss, which was a shorter record and so a shorter recording cycle. It was the same thing, we had this opportunity to sort of just let the gaps fill themselves in. You know you wake up one morning and it’s like, “Fuck! I have the lyrics to three songs.” You’re not fighting a clock, you’re not fighting an objective, you’re waiting for the material to make itself. If you trust the group you’re with and the producers you’re with and the space that you’re working in enough, it does just happen.
RC: Do you have a favorite part of that process? Or do you think that entire process as a whole is what was rewarding?
Matt: It’s difficult. I think the most satisfying part of the process is when you get to share it. The first people we got to share it with were some of our close friends who play music and stuff, and getting those initial little bits of feedback I think was probably the most satisfying part.
Collin: Sharing it is definitely the best.
Matt: Sharing is caring.
RC: Have you started giving any thought toward future projects? Do you think the next album will be more challenging because this process was so organic?
Matt: It’s not going to be any more challenging, it’s going to be exactly the same because I don’t think we really want to make a record any other way. We’ve already started writing. We write all the time… maybe the things we’re writing now will never end up on the record.
Collin: We’ll listen to the songs, and we’ll think, “Oh, okay these all make sense together but this is not it.”
Matt: I think it’ll happen the way we want it to happen or it won’t happen at all.
RC: What’s your take on the modern world of streaming i.e. Spotify?
Matt: It’s tough…
RC: It’s an outlet for you guys in a lot of ways, and social media is as well, what are your thoughts on social media as a band?
Matt: We struggle with it because in the same token it is both the thing that helps us succeed the way we’ve succeeded, as well as the thing that keeps us from actually making a living doing what we do. The unfortunate part of web culture, the way the world has sort of homogenized is that people who aren’t capable of doing a job are often accepted into doing that job, our president, for example. I mean truly, we elected a meme and I think that says everything about our culture.
We don’t as a culture respect instrumentalism or musicianship, at all. Kids don’t grow up learning how to play instruments anymore, they grow up learning how to program, and that’s a change in the world that maybe the rest of us have to adapt to, but I don’t think that allowing the validity of human culture, and human emotion, and human feeling, and human talent to devolve and decay for that is worth anything to anybody other than corporations. If you were to throw rock music back on the radio tomorrow with Z100, people would love it and they would respond to it and they would accept it as mainstream culture the same way that they’ve accepted trap rap and hip hop. I think that someone somewhere made a conscious decision to make money rather than make music, and I think it’s probably going to be the death of us as people or as a band. But we’re going to ride that wave right into the ground, y’know? Because I do think it’s important and I do think that people care and I do think that there’s a reason, I think it inspires something in people. I think that people just need to unplug for a minute and remember that they’re human beings.
Collin: It’s all Spotify…
Sean: Spotify is cool.
Matt: Honestly, we love streaming services. We love the flexibility of being able to sort of start from the bottom and work our way up. It’s just sort of interesting to watch the double edged sword cut you both ways.
Collin: There are so many exclusive releases now, the music industry is so different. It’s an industry, it is a business. You just physically sold records back then.
RC: Your band is incredibly authentic and honest. By being yourselves and putting out good music with a genuine desire to connect with people, you’ve started to build a dedicated fan base. I’ve seen cases where bands have unrealistic expectations thrown at them and experience a pressure to provide or be something they’re not. Do you ever feel pressured?
Matt: The thing that is interesting about that, I think by virtue of what we put out into the world we cater to a type of person who wants and is sort of desperate for actual human interaction and when they come to our shows, nobody is weird, nobody puts unnecessary pressure on us, nobody makes us feel uncomfortable, there’s nobody that we avoid. There is a community aspect that seems to have come out of what we put out that’s really awesome, like we’ve made so many unbelievably close friends just out of people who come to our shows. I do think that the universe sort of reciprocates what you throw out there, maybe not in any financial sense. The pressure to be anything other than what we are is definitely not coming from our fan base, so if there is any pressure it’s sort of internalized. It’s sort of us thinking, why is it so difficult for us to do this? Why is it so difficult to stand on something that we’ve invested our time and energy to? That’s the only pressure we feel, trying to come up with a better way, constantly, a better way forward. That’s probably it.
Collin: None of it is detrimental to our health.
Matt: We want to move forward, we want people to interact, and we want to continue to be able to make good music and this is the truth, we will not to be able to continue to make music for anybody at all if we cannot make a living doing what we do. We want to forever and ever and ever and ever, we want to have this fun, have those moments, and have that connection forever, but it doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t just poof out of thin air for rock bands anymore, so that’s the only pressure. How do we engage with people that make our presence worth your money?
Collin: That’s the reason why all the bands are out here, trying to have a job.
Matt: You bare your entire life. We’re out here trying to make music for people who care about it, to hopefully be able to continue doing that and make a living doing so. Otherwise, why would we be in California? We live in Connecticut.
Sean: I totally forgot we were in California.
Matt: Exactly! It’s unbelievable to me how difficult it has become, when years ago it seemed so easy to us. It was just a thing we did, and suddenly it’s become so difficult because our lives have become so much more real and our responsibilities as people have become so much more real and we just do our best to sort of do what we love and be able to support the life we need to have.
Sean: Amen, brother.
RC: What motivates you to keep going?
Matt: I mean, rock music sort of lit a flame in us as children. For whatever reason, it made us feel something, it drew us in. We think that rock music is probably the United States’ most fucking phenomenal cultural export, truthfully. It raises people to action, it pulls out this primal part of you that is so goddamn human that you can’t walk away from it and not look it in the face and I think that infected us the same way it infected people who are fans of rock music. It’s so important to us.
Collin: The connection with the crowd? There’s no better feeling. It makes your heart race, it’s an adrenaline rush. We get off stage and we’re all stoked.
Matt: It’s so rewarding. It’s a rush, and when you feel somebody connect with you and you feel that they’re feeling what you’re feeling it’s this weird spitting out into the universe and feeling the universe throw something back. That’s why we continue doing it. Because it’s a hell of a way to live. Truly.
RC: Have you gotten any advice from friends, family, mentors that has stayed with you and continues to resonate?
Collin: It’s hard to pinpoint anything. Our families support our shit.
Matt: It’s always been a mixed bag, like there have been people in our lives who have supported the hell out of us and there have been people in our lives who have destroyed the hell out of us, and you’ve got to sort of take all of it. You are the person you are, you are where you are for a lot of different reasons and because of a lot of different people and there’s just nothing, there’s no one thing that defines anything. It takes a village. We are here because of a ridiculous number of people and to even try to begin to name them would be insulting, because I promise we won’t remember them all. There’s been a lot. It’s been a long time. We really enjoy ourselves doing this. It’s just funny.
RC: I think my favorite way I’ve seen you describe yourselves is “eighties pop rock on acid”, do you have any favorite 80’s icons or movies?
Johnny: Oh, absolutely.
Sean: The Eagles, Don Henley just by himself...
Johnny: We were talking about 80’s movies just the other day, like The Goonies… I’m planning a Goonies tattoo this year. I’ve seen it way too many times. It’s just such a good movie.
Sean: Quote him on that or he won’t do it.
Johnny: Yeah, quote me.
Matt: I love everything about 80’s culture exactly as it is because it’s so goddamn corny but still really real. It’s like the preliminary for what we live through now but with ridiculous electronic music.
Collin: All those synthesizers…
Matt: It was such a precursor but also, people actually had to go out into the world and look like that and be like that and say those things and do those things there’s this very impassioned awesomeness to all of it. It was a time when the world seemed a hell of a lot smaller, and there’s something really comforting about that. When I’m going back and looking at 80’s culture and looking at movies and music and sort of seeing the world before it globalized the way it has. Things are just different. It’s almost futuristic in how different it is but it is literally the past. It’s a nostalgic, beautiful alien world that we no longer have.
Catch A Will Away on tour this fall with Have Mercy!
Get tickets here: http://HaveMercy.shofetti.com
Listen to Here Again on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/02DBnqZkecihs7uxnjF7v7
Buy Here Again on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/here-again/id1200010128