Today, we are honored to finally put up our interview with Project 86 frontman Andrew Schwab!
SOM: Could you please introduce yourself?
AS: Sure, this is Andrew Schwab from the band Project 86.
SOM: How did you get started in music?
AS: Well, as far as the band is concerned, I started the band in 1996-which is twenty years ago. It’s actually our twentieth anniversary this year. I started the band essentially in Orange County, California, through mutual friends, through going to shows and kind of being involved in the underground hardcore scene here. Through the scene and through relationships, I met a group of guys that eventually was able to assemble and put together Project 86. Prior to that, just starting with music in general, I was always a music fan growing up, ever since I was as young as I can remember. I had some family members that were musicians and music was always a big part of my upbringing. As I got a little bit older and into elementary school/junior high, music became even more important to me as it was, you know, an escape. I became a big fan of bands like- well, the Beastie Boys was the first band I was ever a fan of and as I got into junior high, I liked a lot of hip hop and I also liked a lot of metal, just anything that was just sort of “forbidden” I guess. [Anything forbidden] Musically by my parents to listen to, I liked. So I guess that was sort of the foundation to start Project 86 in the mid-90s.
SOM: Who are your biggest musical influences?
AS: It’s a pretty broad question, especially having been in the same band for twenty years. A big goal of Project 86 has always been to constantly evolve but still retain the same sort-of core sound and really not make the same album over and over again. I think that’s played a big role in keeping fans interested over the course of time that we’ve been a band. So at different points in time, I’ve had different influences definitely. I would say that my influences now are much different than when I started the band. I’m kinda talking about our influences as a band as a part of our PledgeMusic campaign we’re doing right now to fund our tenth studio album. A few of the bands we actually covered some of their songs. We’ve never done a cover record or anything like that. We recorded a song EP of cover material- I call it influence material because in my opinion, a cover band is one who is trying to emulate and sound exactly, perform exactly like the original. But for us, it’s about taking songs that were important to us or bands or artists that were important to us and putting our own twist on the songs so it sounds like our band. But we revisited a Beastie Boys track- I mentioned them as a big influence-, we covered a Sound Garden song, and a Fugazi track and we also did a song by Billy Holiday and we actually covered the song “Man Of Constant Sorrow” from that movie, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? So it’s a pretty diverse EP but it kinda touches on a few of the songs and films and sounds that helped shape our band. I hope that answers the question. *Laughs*
SOM: Yes, it did! Thanks!
What is one thing you CANNOT tour without?
AS: One thing I cannot tour without? That’s a good question. Now it depends on if we’re talking about a tour on the ground or flying, because we do a lot of flying to shows as well and the approach is totally different with what comes with us, whether we fly or whether we drive. I would say in general, one of the most important things to me is having the right bag. Usually that’s a backpack. I actually just bought a new backpack for some shows and touring that we have coming up over the next six months. That’s really important to me because it keeps my things organized and otherwise, if I don’t keep my things organized then I don’t have enough pocket space for whether it’s tech or shoes or shirts or whatever. I constantly lose things on the road. I’m notorious for losing things while I’m on the road, especially expensive things. So having the right bag or the right suitcase or backpack is really, really important and especially if you’re flying. When you’re flying, you have to fix the maximum amount of stuff in your checked bags and your carry-ons, and it has to be really well organized so you can get to it. So as I’ve gone further in my career, I’ve become a bit more particular about how I pack and I try to be more efficient and comfortable. So, yeah, the right bags.
SOM: That’s different because most musicians that are asked that question are like, “I need my coffee” or “I need my laptop” and that’s just about it normally. I like that. That’s different. I really liked to be organized too.
AS: Yeah, well, it’s important too, like, whether you’re talking about personal effects or your band related items. You know? You have to be able to fit it all and it seems like we’re always running out of space or our space is at a premium. So how do you maximize the space and get all of your gear together and still try to be comfortable along the way? I’m just really stoked because I just found this backpack- I’ve doing research on backpacks for the last couple of months, and I finally pulled the trigger and bought the one that I wanted, and it’s cool because it has all of the functionality I want. Most people don’t put this much thought into it, but I’ve had a lot of backpacks that have let me down. Whether they’ve ripped, they’re not big enough, they don’t have the right amount or size of storage, they’re not waterproof or they don’t protect your laptop. So the bag that I got has all of the above and more, so I’m stoked on that.
SOM: Well, that’s good!
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one album, what album would it be and why?
AS: That’s a tough question to answer. I guess I would have to look at my library of music and- there’s probably data somewhere in iTunes that says over the last ten years what album have I listened to the most. Ummm… stuck on desert island… well, it would need to be- If I was stuck on a desert island and could only listen to one record, it would need to be something that makes me feel.. good about my situation or helps me see that the glass is half full rather than half empty. So it couldn’t be anything too angst-y or depressing or dark, it would need to be something kind of uplifting. So…. *Heavily sighs* I don’t know! That’s a tough question! A record that I want to take with me and have….. Let me come back to that, I’ll think about that.
SOM: *Laughs* Okay! Who in the band is most likely to be late to practice?
AS: To be late to practice? Probably me. Yeah, I’m not late to everything I do, but I’ve never been a big fan of rehearsal/band practice, so I try to spend as little time there as possible. But my band really doesn’t rehearse that often, so that’s a good thing. We live in different areas so we end up flying to get together and our practice is usually our soundcheck. The guys I play with are fortunately good enough, so we don’t usually need a band practice.
SOM: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not working on music?
AS: I do visual art. Specifically, when I was younger, it was illustration and calligraphy. And recently, I’ve picked up the pen again in the last couple of years. I’ve been doing artwork semi-professionally for people. Whether we’re taking about graphic design or actual drawing or illustration or calligraphy or lately I’ve been doing a lot of tattoo design for people, which has been really fun. So that’s what eats up most of my time now. From an enjoyment standpoint, I love it. If I could, for the rest of my life, make a living doing visual art and music, that’s what I want to do. And I’ve made it through my adult life thus far through that. So the key will be if I can continue to do that *chuckles*, ‘cause you know, those are young man’s games, but so far, so good.
SOM: That’s good. That’s really cool actually. I did not know that.
Does your band agree on any sports teams or is it pretty divided?
AS: Well, let me think. There are various levels of appreciation for sports in the band. For example, our bass player Cody is probably on one side of the fence, being he doesn’t really care about sports. I would be probably on the other end because I really really care about sports. Our drummer and I like different football teams and I would say pretty much that’s [football] the biggest sport that we follow. I would say it’s pretty much divided but there’s mutual respect or each other’s teams, like there’s no rivals in the band- which would be interesting and would be actually really fun. So yeah, there’s a fair appreciation for sports in the band, especially football, in varying degrees. The jest of the matter is our drummer, his football team is the Seahawks and they play in the NFC. And my team is the Steelers, and we play in the AFC, so we’re not really rivals unless we were to meet in a SuperBowl.. and that’s only happened once and that was eleven years ago. So there is sort of a mutual respect there.
SOM: My parents are big Steelers fans too.
AS: That’s cool.
SOM: What do you think the bands biggest accomplishment is?
AS: I think remaining an entity for twenty years and in such a way that there is not a noticeable degrading of our sound during that time. I think if you put on any Project 86 record and there are songs that are very strong that could sit well with different eras of our band. Usually, what you see with artists is early in their career they’ll hit a high point, and the rest of their career is quick deceleration or evolution if you want to call it. I think the biggest accomplishment and goal for most musicians is to be able to make a living doing music, and I’ve been able to do that every step of the way with my band, including now. And that’s huge. That’s one percent of all artists that do that in such a way, where you know, if you put on our most recent records, the last couple while they’re different than the first or second record that we ever put out. I don’t think- obviously, I’m biased- but I don’t think that the material is weak compared to stuff from earlier in our career. There may be varied tastes among our fanbase, “Oh, you should make a record like this” “Or make a record like this record that you put out”.Just judging by reactions to certain songs, I feel like we’ve continued to put out quality material, which is unlike most artists and bands throughout our career.
SOM: Speaking of the twenty year mark, what are you guys doing special to celebrate hitting that?
AS: This whole year has essentially been a celebration. We started out the year by bringing back some vintage pieces of merchandise and making them available one last time, and those have been really successful. We’ve raffled off some of our stage banners and various pieces of Project 86 history. The last several months we have been hosting a PledgeMusic campaign to fund our tenth studio album. It’s all very round numbers and very poetic and that’s been cool- it’s our twentieth year, tenth album- and we’re currently funding a double album for our tenth album in our twentieth year. It’s going to be twenty songs for twenty years, basically.
SOM: That’s awesome!
AS: And in the fall coming up here, we are doing a 20-Anniversary tour, heading out to twenty cities in the US and playing music from throughout our whole catalog and doing an extra long set and some extra special things with the fans along the way. It’s part of our PledgeMusic campaign. We’re writing songs with fans at the shows, bringing fans up on stage- some of whom will actually perform with the band, whether it’s playing drums or guitar or singing a part. Which, there will be some quality control on our end to make sure it’s not a comedy of error. But that will be really cool. It’s pretty exciting, all of the above. Our PledgeMusic campaign is at 120% funded and once we get to 150% funded, we’ll be doing the double album.
SOM: That’s awesome. I’ve never heard of doing that sort of package with the PledgeMusic. I’ve heard of some different ones like doing dinners with the fans and band, and listening to unreleased demos. Pretty sure there was one where some band- I don’t remember who, [It was actually Papa Roach]- they were signing their studio fridge and selling it to people, which is really weird. But I mean, that’s what you get when you do a PledgeMusic project- you get some really fun stuff that doesn’t make sense all the time. I really like the idea of having people come and do stuff with you – like writing songs.
AS: My favorite package this time around- and we really tried to push the creativity when it comes to what we’re offering fans because we realized that crowdfunding has been around for a little while now, and most bands do the same thing, so we’re trying to do something different. One of the packages I really love is called “The Fifth Band Member”. We’ve actually done [crowdfunding] for previous records with “come have dinner with the band” or “spend the day with us” etc… But this package is really exciting because you’re not treated as a guest. So somebody purchases a fifth band member package, they come to meet us at the venue when we load in, and they’re actually in the band for the day.
SOM: That’s awesome!!
AS: So they load in, soundcheck, help us set up, feels what it’s like to be in our shoes for an entire day of doing a show on the road and not being treated like a guest at all. You’re sharing our dressing room, you’re sharing our food, you’re sharing everything that we use. You can see for better or for worse, this is what it’s like to be in our band.
SOM: That is so cool!
AS: Yeah, we feel like that’s a unique experience just because of the perspective, you know?
SOM: What is your advice to a new musician?
AS: Well, it’s been so long since I’ve been a new musician, and the industry has changed so much. It’s almost unfair for me to pull from my experience to give from my advice, but I would say that from the musical standpoint that there are a set of principles that apply no matter what era of music that you come up in. The two things that I’ve found are 1. write music that is honest. You know what I mean? Don’t try to manufacture hit songs, rather write songs that come from a genuine emotional place. If you’re going through a break-up and that is the thing that is driving your emotional state of mind throughout your day, write about that. You know? For better or worse. And the second thing would be strive to have your own sound. Don’t try to sound like other people and, inevitably, when you first start out, you’re going to sound like your influences. Everybody goes through this. But as you grow as an artist, the goal there is to find your own voice, and really, what that comes down to is relaxing and being yourself within the music- that’s harder to do than you think. It’s a lot easier to do what other people have done because you don’t have to be as vulnerable that way. If you do your own thing and it sucks or nobody likes it, that makes you feel really awful! *Laughs* But it’s worth the risk to try to find your sound and your own unique voice, as well as to write about subject and topics that are unique to you and you are passionate about and that your heart is connected to. You can’t really go wrong with that.
SOM: My last question I would have is what is your weirdest tour story?
AS: THERE’S SO MANY! Ummm… Tour by itself is weird. It’s simultaneously the most exciting and most boring thing at the same time. It can be the most inspiring experience you can have, and it can be one of the most deflating experiences as well. All of those things are simultaneously in play when you’re on the road. And every day is a new day. But in the same way, every day is the same day! You know what I mean? You just wake up in a different town and do the same things and have the same conversations and meet the same people in some ways. It’s amazing, the more you do it – the more you realize you’re doing the same things over and over and over and over again. It’s really not that diverse of a job experience when you boil it down. I think the weirdest thing you can experience on tour is just going on tour. Maybe that’s an easy way out of the question. Do you want a specific story?
SOM: *Laughs* It’s okay.
AS: But really when I think about it- I’m being honest when I say this- being on tour is weird. Like, I feel totally disconnected and disorientated because I’m living out of travel luggage and sleeping out of hotel rooms and traveling in a bus or van or on an airplane, you know? And performing songs for strangers that I would probably never hang out with otherwise, and they feel this kinship to me because they like the music that I was a part of making. That’s weird. The feeling of being away from home is so strange- you get in this weird, dysfunctional way that’s almost attached to your tour life. Then you come home and it’s really hard to adjust for a couple of days to being back home. But when you get adjusted to being at home, you don’t really want to go on tour. But when we start this tour this fall, the first couple days will be super uncomfortable because I’ll just want to be at home. Once I accept “Okay, I’m on the road”, I’ll be okay with being on the road and then that’ll end and I’ll have to be used to being at home. It’s really strange so, that’s a roundabout way of answering.
SOM: It makes sense though. Tour really is just weird. I think being a musician is weird. But I really want to be a musician, but the whole life style is just so different. It’s fun and there’s so many different aspects to it and I love the whole thing, but it is just a weird career choice.
AS: It’s just a lot of bigger highs and bigger lows in my opinion. The things that suck really suck and the things that are fun are really fun. And obviously, it’s really easy to get addicted to being on the stage, especially if people are coming to your show and liking your band. So that kinda make everything that sucks worth it.
SOM: *Laughs* Did you think of your album that you’d want on your desert island yet?
AS: The album I would want on a desert island. Um, not really?
SOM: *Laughs* Me… I can’t ever choose.
AS: I think that this one kinda goes against what I was saying philosophically, but the record that’s sort of stuck with me over the past four years or so is Born To Die by Lana Del Rey. It’s definitely not an uplifting record, but that seems to be the one that I come back to the most consistently over the last half decade or so.
SOM: Well that’s all I have, I think I’m going to end it here. Thank you so much for doing the interview with me!
AS: No problem!
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