Spotlight Interview: Conveyor

It’s safe to say that Brooklyn four-piece Conveyor is one of the more interesting up-and-coming bands out there right now. Their unconventional style, which mixes unconventional pop structures with ethnic rhythms and multiple part harmonies, is incredibly fresh, and after a couple of promising EPs the band has really come into their own on their debut, self-titled album.

Not only that, but they’re also four of the nicest people in music. And the combination of the two is why they were chosen to be second in our Spotlight series, to coincide with the release of Conveyor, available on Paper Garden Records and on the band’s current US tour – which you should catch if you have the chance because they’re incredible live.

As part of their Spotlight this week, we sent the band a few questions that they were nice enough to answer. The band talk about living with no regrets, their origin and the importance of their first small tour, and people going into the music industry because “music is fucking cool” rather than as a viable life choice.

Since you guys are relatively unknown, who is Conveyor? Who plays what?
There are four of us all told; T.J. and Alan play the guitar, Michael plays the bass guitar, Evan plays the drums, and the four of us sing.

How would you describe yourselves and/or your sound in one sentence?
Conveyor is the bottom of Maszlow’s pyramid of needs followed immiediately by the top of the pyramid.

Which came first: the music or the name? How or why did naming yourselves Conveyor come about?
The name came at one point in time; we can’t put a start date on the music, and hopefully we can’t predict an end date either.  As far as choosing a name goes, Conveyor just seemed to be a fitting word.  It’s a noun but not plural, it has a couple of different semantic implications, and it has an even number of letters.

What would you consider your influences when making music? What are some bands you think you could be compared to? Any you’d like to be compared to?
It would be nice to be compared to any ethnic folk music.  Authenticity is awesome.

Where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
Lyrically, our songs are based largely on our experiences.  As artists it’s important for us to be true to the things we know.  Musically, we’re inspired by things that are patient, constant, droning, evolving.  We like to ruminate and find multitudes of interesting ways to express limited numbers of tones.

Some artists want to the biggest and best in the world, and some are happy to just record, play, and tour. Where would you like to be in five years time as an artist? Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?
I think all of us share a collective desire for our music to become self-sustaining.  We also understand that just that goal requires a relative amount of success; we’re not necessarily shooting to be the biggest and best in the world, but I think in five years we all hope that we’re just able to make the music we want to make when we want to make it.

You guys all lived in Florida – though separately – and then you all happened to move to NY. How important was this decision for each of you personally and collectively?
We all moved to New York for different reasons that are individually important to us, but we don’t think that Conveyor could exist in its current state had we not met each other in Florida.  On the same note, neither do we think that our music would be the same were it not created in New York.  Environment can have distinct influences on creative processes.

Are there any other decisions you made along the way to where you are now that you look back to and say: “that was a great choice”? Or maybe some choices you regret?
Certainly “no regrets” is something we all try to live by.  As far as great choices, I think committing to our first small tour was a serious and important step in all of our personal decisions to really pursue this music professionally.

Is there anything that you’ve found out about working in the “industry” that you weren’t aware of beforehand, or something that blew your mind about it?
What blows our minds about the industry is how many people are working extremely hard not because it necessarily always pays off, but because it offers other, intangible rewards such as creative support, validation, etc.  People don’t go into the music business because it’s a proven, economically viable industry, people go into the music industry becuase music is fucking cool.

What’s your stance on “file sharing”? Do you see it more as beneficial or harmful? Do you think it has a place in the music industry?
I think as musicians, we’re extremely happy just for people to get a chance to hear our music.  If they’re stealing it, it’s obviously not ideal, but in the end people don’t do it maliciously, like they’re trying to put us under; it’s rewarding knowing that someone wants to listen to your songs so badly that they’re willing to steal them.

You guys are very active on social networks like Twitter. How important do you think that is for young bands? Is that something you feel you have to do or do you actually enjoy interacting there?
We think it’s important for young bands, especially with regard to having a voice and reaching out to people.  I don’t think we see it as either a chore or a reward because it’s a little bit of both.  To us it’s really about whether or not we enjoy doing it.  Posting pictures is great, interacting with listeners is great, and if it ever becomes not great, that’s when we’ll stop doing it.

A lot of the coverage you guys have gotten has come from blogs and sites. How important to you as a band are blogs? How important do you think they are in the music industry?
Blogs represent a point of contact with a much greater audience than we can interact with otherwise.  In that regard, they’re extremely important all around.  They’re crucial to the relationship that an artist has with a listener.  They also represent a fundamental new media for the expansion of music into the digital age.  With digital music available, it has become important to establish digital outlets and forums of opinion, which music blogs fulfill.

Do you read articles about yourself, or reviews of your music?
Most definitely.  It’s hard to avoid reading about ourselves with people able to tweet links at us or post things on our website.  It’s a give-and-take though, because no one wants to read bad things about themselves, but at the same time it’s nice to receive fresh, outside perspectives. In the end, by making art public you have to be comfortable with being exposed to good and bad criticism; whether or not you pay attention to it is a personal choice.

We know you put out a lot of stuff on cool vinyl. Do you guys buy vinyl? Do you think it’s important to you to have a medium like vinyl that’s tangible and you can hold in your hands, in an age where everything is digital so easy to throw away?
Yes, yes, and definitely yes.  Tangibility would be the primary reason we buy vinyl and sell our own vinyl.  Large-format art is something that’s important to us; it gives the entire piece a sense of weight and finality.  No project feels more done than when it’s pressed and irreversibly there.

What kind of jobs did you do as a means to either support your record collection or your music career, or both?
Soccer referee, apprentice electrician, teacher’s assistant, sound engineer, grocery store cashier.

Say Conveyor is throwing a party. First of all, what kind of party is it?

What kind of music is played there?
Whatever Doug Fischer from the Super Committee is DJing.

More generally, what have you guys been listening to as of late?
We’re always looking for different and new things to listen to.  Michael has been listening to another Brooklyn band called Monogold, Alan has been listening to our label-mate Dad Rocks!, T.J. has been spinning a 1963 record by the Pepsi-Cola company called “History of the American Negro Vol. 1,” and Evan can’t stop listening to another Brooklyn band, Lucius.

Do you all share similar tastes or do you each have your own little musical niche?
All of us come from different musical backgrounds and we each have our own personal collections that are dear to us, but at the same time we share a huge overlap in our taste of music and we never necessarily disagree with anything that another one of us is playing.

Has there been any music put out this year that you’ve found yourselves really enjoying?
Andrew Bird, Father John Misty, and Hundred Waters have been contemporary favorites.

If you could create a musical genius Frankenstein, which parts would you pick from who (John Lennon’s voice, Mozart’s fingers, Frank Zappa’s ‘tache, Michael Jackson’s feet etc)?
Andy Partridge’s wit, Sam Cooke’s voice, Miles Davis’ patience, and Elliot Smith’s words.

Is there one place anywhere in the world that you’d love to play? You know, like Machu Picchu, Mount Everest, Mariana Trench, Idaho… Stuff like that.
Just all of it, really.  Let’s go wherever.

What if we could expand that to the universe? Tatooine anyone?
There’s no place like home.

You’ve just put out an album and have been on tour for a while (or will have been by the time this is published), what comes next for Conveyor?
Can’t stop, won’t stop.  We’re going to keep recording and playing shows.  More of the same, but different and better.

Say this is an Oscar speech, who do you thank for having gotten to where you are?
Probably our director, if we get good enough to be cast in a movie and then win an Oscar for it.