Q&A: The War on Peace

With a few releases and business models behind them, The War on Peace collectively agrees that their newest EP Automated People encompasses the sound and creativity they’ve been striving for. With a stellar first single, “Fear of Loss”, and accompanying sci-fi inspired music video directed by Chicago-based filmmaker Chris Hershman, the band is setting the groundwork for what they hope will turn into a successful career.

In addition to covering the basics (solid music and supplemental materials), The War on Peace is working on new and creative ways to not only standout in a saturated music scene, but to monetize on their art. The first result has been a subscription service called The Collective, which the three members were kind enough to discuss with Listen Live and Local, along with some interworkings of the band and their creative process behind putting together an EP.

Listen Live and Local: You guys have started something called The Collective. Can you talk a bit about what that is?

Jeremy Schering: Originally it was my idea. I wanted to be able to connect with our fans and friends on a more intimate level. The original concept was a subscription service. You pay $2.50 a month and we email people who are part of The Collective unreleased songs [and] early versions of songs. It kind of gives you an inside look of how we create together. The other half of that is we have Collective events, just laid back times where we play a little music and hangout with people who are a part of that group. It’s been interesting to date, but it’s been good. People are connecting to the band way more when they can hear the stories behind the songs.

Grahm Bailey: For a while our business model was us releasing a song every month. Then we would collect it into an album. We did that for about two years. I can see a big motivating factor for part of The Collective, where if you love a band you just want more and more. You want to hear the B-sides. You want to hear the process. You want to be involved and feel like you’re a part of something. It’s kind of like a door we provided for people who wanted to do that. We’re still trying to figure out if the $2.50 a month makes sense.

Steven Burkholder: In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have charged, but it requires so much energy to maintain that you have to put some monetary value on it.

 

LLL: Do you have any other creative ideas on how to monetize your music?

Schering: I think that we’ve been pretty preoccupied with writing this new EP. As it grows, we’ll be able to put more time and energy into coming up with things to give to The Collective. It’s important for what we do as a band and I think we’re still figuring out exactly what it’s going to look like, but one of the main motivations from the very front end is that in today’s music market, you have to find new creative ways to survive as a band and monetize your band and your music. People aren’t paying for music like they did, obviously. I support streaming services and moving forward. As a consumer who loves music, I love Spotify. It’s the best $10 I spend a month.

Burkholder: That’s not a very popular opinion among musicians.

Schering: It’s not a popular opinion among artists, right. But I think it’s good for the consumer. Could you imagine if a band like Muse, or Coldplay or Beyoncé for that matter, created some kind of subscription service where you could have access to behind the scenes songs as they were demoed and written. If you could pay $5 a month to have access to what Beyoncé is doing as an artist, I think she’d make a fortune. But the labels would never allow it. All the red tape behind it doesn’t make any sense for them to do it, but I think that’s what people want with bands they love. They want to be able to see behind it and connect more. Especially for a band like us, we can’t just get up and go tour for months and months. We have responsibilities and families and stuff. That was one of the original motivations. We have to get creative about how we’re going to monetize our music.

LLL: Your newest EP is set for release on May 12th. How is your new music different from what you’ve released in the past?

Burkholder: This new EP, in a lot of ways, is a good in sort of summation of what we’ve already been working on. It’s less of a difference and more of a nice revolution point in our growth.

Schering: That word was “summation”.

Burkholder: Summation. Is that a word? I went with it. Spoke it boldly.

Schering: It was a good word, but it wasn’t very loud. I was making sure [it was heard]. I think I’m very curious to see where we go from here. I feel like it’s everything that we’ve worked on as we built our band to date. These songs are what we were trying to do a year and a half ago. This is what I’ve been trying to do.

LLL: Do you feel like your writing and creation process has evolved over the years?

Bailey: I feel like we’ve really refined our craft sets. Specifically, one of my roles in the band [is what I call] a sonic painter.

Burkholder: We kind of give Grahm a paint by number thing. He ignores it all.

Bailey: To your point though. Obviously you can get lost with the sonic palettes available in electronic music today. It’s not just a guitar or drum set and a bass anymore. Especially as a keyboard player, any frequency, any sound; I have an unlimited palette. So we really are intentional about setting that palette before we start to some extend; limiting ourselves so we can potentially be more creative. I feel like that was a challenge for me, but also I feel like that is part of the live process too. What’s being heard has to be represented live. I can record 100 keyboard parts, but I can’t play 100 keyboard parts.

Schering: To give you a little taste of what things were like before, not necessarily this EP, but Stephen will write the beginning ideas; verses, choruses, maybe a simple drum beat to keep the thing going. Maybe a couple keyboards, some bass just to keep an idea of what the song is going to be like. Then Grahm would take it and paint. A lot. Maybe adjust the arrangement, change things around, but a lot of instrumentation. Then I would get it and open it up and there would be massive amounts of keyboards from Grahm. Good stuff, but I would spend hours and hours wading through everything. Grahm writes a lot of the instrumental and musical parts outside of Stephen’s melodies and voice. A majority of what you hear is Grahm. So, on this EP Grahm [did] a lot more filtering. I think it made the process more condensed and more precise.

LLL: With so many electronics in your music, it must take a skilled engineer to get the music sounding the way you imagine. Where’s production done?

Schering: We record all our music in house.

Bailey: Mixing and mastering guy right here, Jeremy!

Schering: That’s what I enjoy. As we were finding our roles in the band, I realized how much I enjoy the back end of what a song sounds like and how much those last finishing touches affect the final produt. I’m not exceptional at it by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s fun as an artist to go into more of an engineer and production role. It’s been interesting seeing how those things are connected and seeing how you have to take a step away from being an artist when you’re finishing up those final mixes. It hasn’t been as difficult for me as I thought it would be. In the future, I’m sure we will work with some people on the back end. It’s just worked to date and I think we will know when the time is right to work with someone else. Just for now it’s been easy and efficient to do it all in house, and we’ve done pretty decent at it.

Bailey: I feel like the final mixes are on par with anything else that is out there. Just to say we are able to accomplish that is great.

Burkholder: It’s getting so hard to tell the difference, just with the technology, and Jeremey is just really coming through with knowing how to make things sound great. So, great job guys!

The War on Peace’s record release show will be on May 12th at Subterranean. The night will also include performances by Minor Characters.

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