Interview: Indie-Rock Group, Arms Akimbo, Release Addictive New EP
Arms Akimbo are the rocking, rolling, indie revival you've been waiting for. The LA-based group dropped their newest EP, The Wrong Kind of Dance Party, yesterday, a six-track collection of high-energy rock jams to get you dancing.
The Wrong Kind of Dance Party opens with "Parachute," a bombastic confessional of a song that starts with a resounding guitar riff and soft, steady percussion. Howling vocals come in quick, lines like "I've been honest before / But I haven't meant a thing that I've said" shouted into the void of laborious love. Later, the track eases up into a deep bass line for a moment before melancholy percussion kicks back in to end the emotional instrumental breakdown.
Next is "Velleity," a pure indie-rock track with some twang. The song opens with sweetened vocals and minimalist guitar plucking before a layered arrangement explodes onto the scene. Matter-of-factly warning, "I'm not waking up on your bedroom floor," the band weaves effortlessly between slow-rolling rhythm lines and rollicking melody.
The halfway point of The Wrong Kind of Dance Party finds "None Of My Business," an uptempo indie-pop take focusing on those late-night college parties that vacillate between awkward discomfort and, if you're lucky, memory-making merriment. The vocals here are strong, displaying serious skill, steady the whole way through and never competing for attention with (the no shortage of) high-powered instrumentation.
On "Cedar Point," the band beautifully merges their respective dismal rhythm lines for lush instrumental cohesion beneath soft harmony before the song picks up later with signature Arms Akimbo howls and heavy percussion.
Next is "Seven Mirrors," a tropically-tinged indie anthem: the soundtrack to a summer day. Clocking in at just over five minutes, the song pulses with sunny energy as the band joins together for distant harmony and dynamic riffs.
The Wrong Kind of Dance Party ends, just 20 minutes later, with "Rearrange," a devastatingly lovely slow-going ballad. An adamant folk rhythm is strummed for most of the track as a grieving falsetto sings warring lyrics "To lose yourself is senseless" and "To lose your sense is selfish" atop the barely-there arrangement. The end of the track finds a swell of emotive instrumentation rushing to fill in the blanks.
The Wrong Kind of Dance Party acts as a sort of inauguration for Arms Akimbo; a disruption of the indie-rock movement so powerful, so skilled, that the band may as well be leading it. Robust rhythmic structures, bittersweet (and therefore most sincere) songwriting, and bursts of melodic interludes are just three extraordinary components of Arms Akimbo. There are many multitudes more, each wrapped in dazzling sonic gems, given like gifts by a band who can do no wrong.
Listen to The Wrong Kind Of Dance Party below and read on for an exclusive interview between Arms Akimbo and The Music Mermaid.
Key to the interview:
PS - Peter Schrupp, vocals and guitar
MS - Matt Sutton, drums
CK - Chris Kalil, vocals and guitar
CB - Colin Boppell, bass
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Matt Sutton for Arms Akimbo: We are four guys, all born and raised in different parts of Southern California, that met in college.
The band actually stems from Chris’ recording arts senior thesis project. For the assignment, Chris worked with Peter to track some of his solo project material on writing full-band arrangements since that was part of the project criteria. They brought both Colin and myself in to work on the sessions and the rest is history.
Describing our sound is something that is always really hard for me to personally do... I think our music definitely has flavors of Manchester Orchestra, Local Natives, and Portugal. The Man with a big emphasis on powerful harmonies, driving and creative rhythms, and lyrics that come from the heart. But you should listen to it and decide for yourself because I could be completely wrong.
Our end goal is to be the most famous 4-piece, exclusively brunette, indie-rock band from Culver City, California.
TMM: Describe each other using three words each.
Arms Akimbo: Chris is jocular, authentic, and sleepy (according to Colin). Peter has lots of curls (according to Matt). Colin is charismatic, merry, and boisterous (according to Peter, impressively crafting his answer using Colin's initials). Matt means beers, biceps, and business (according to Chris).
TMM: Like so many other emerging bands, you guys are stationed in Los Angeles. What are the advantages and disadvantages of putting out music in LA?
Chris Kalil for AA: LA is super over-saturated with musicians but we have never found that to be a disadvantage. It's cool to be surrounded by so many creative people and it pushes us to be better and work harder. The music scene out here is a lot more of a community than people might expect.
TMM: What has the production process been like for The Wrong Kind of Dance Party?
MS for AA: All of our music is mixed and mastered by the very talented Stephen Gomez [of The Summer Set]. We started working together in early 2016 and he has been our go-to guy ever since; when we decided to work on a six-track EP, he was the first guy we called. Before we went into the studio, in terms of the actual process, it was an unconventional blast.
To kick off the process, Stephen and I locked ourselves in a non-air conditioned garage during the middle of the summer in Pasadena for an entire day and cranked out all six tracks. It was 105 degrees outside and about 120 in the garage... definitely not the most comfortable situation, but it really made us give 110% to every take so we could get the hell out of there as soon as possible. After that, we went into his cozy home studio in Hollywood and finished one song a week for six weeks. Besides a hotter-than-hell garage for day one, the rest of the experience was so relaxed and chill.
TMM: What is the songwriting process like? Is it a collaborative effort? What sort of themes do you tend to employ?
Peter Schrupp for AA: Honestly, we're pretty siloed off when we write. For a band with multiple singers, we're not much of a "jam band." I think our songs are best when they're brought to the table with a skeleton of a song at about 70% completion. That way everybody can influence and mold the track with their own parts, but we don't get too sidetracked or deflated working on minutia. In the early stages, I tend to start a song by playing around with instrumental parts until I like something. Then I loop it and sing over it part-by-part. I know Chris is more of a traditional "acoustic guitar and vocals" sort of writer.
TMM: How has your sound evolved since releasing your debut EP, Vignettes, a few years ago?
PS for AA: It's gotten so much more intimate and personal. There's an alternate universe where our Kings of Leon / Vampire Weekend influence dominates every song. Over the past year, however, we've leaned in to our folk taste and we've gotten more intentional about which songs to green-light. I think that cohesion can be heard in the record because the tracks fit well dynamically. It's rock AND roll, ya know? Roll doesn't get the credit it deserves.
TMM: We know this is a tough question but bear with us… which track (out of your whole discography) are you guys most proud of and why?
PS for AA: I'm personally amped about the last track on the record. It's called "Rearrange" and it counters the rest of the album quite a bit. I love it because of the process we undertook to create it -- going into the studio, that track had the most space to play and write in. It was the last one we worked on and we somehow wrote and recorded all of the parts in like eight hours. It just put a nice bow on the whole experience for me. (ALSO, the new tracks we have yet to record are reeeeealllly exciting...)
TMM: You’ve had the pleasure of opening for some seriously incredible bands. Can you talk a little about what that experience has been like?
Colin Boppell for AA: When we opened for Walk the Moon, we'd been a band for less than a year. They were all very kind to us and complimentary of our music, which meant a lot to us. Being such a new band, a few kinds words from those guys was a big affirmation for us. And last summer, we opened for Eric Burdon & The Animals which was definitely a surreal experience. Sharing the stage with a legend like Eric Burdon is something we'll never forget.
TMM: What has been your most memorable musical moment as a band so far?
CK for AA: There have been so many to choose from but one of my favorites is the time one of our single release shows got so crazy that the Los Angeles Fire Department almost shut down it down for disturbing the peace. It was pretty rock 'n roll.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Arms Akimbo?
CK for Arms Akimbo: So much! We're hitting the road in a big way in 2018, so the next couple months we'll be mobbing around the U.S. in our minivan. We've also got new music coming and we're even dipping our toes into the music video world. Plenty of reasons to stay tuned!