Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It.
Evan Weiss is one of the busiest, hardest-working people in the indie scene. We caught up with him on the phone when he had an off day in Richmond, Va., before coming to Pittsburgh to play Broken World Fest 2
With Standards was there anything different in the writing process for you? Anything different than Intersections and Proper?
The main difference in the writing process between this record and the other records is that we went to another place to write the record. Like physically went to another place to write the record. We wrote the whole thing in a cabin in Vermont which was awesome and an incredible experience.
The big part of the creative process of that was being able to take a step away from our daily lives, kind of minutia of living in Chicago. The main thing was writing for fun again, instead of over thinking the writing process, where that could distract us from having fun which is why I got into writing songs in the first place, to test myself as a musician and take a lot of pleasure in the creative process of writing songs. In 52 Weeks, you’re writing these songs and you’re moving so fast you can’t think about the decisions you’re making and in turn that becomes a really enjoyable experience and I think I kind of forgotten that on the last couple records. Maybe got a little too clinical or maybe too, just overthinking it, you know? And this time we went into it with an open mind and a clear mind and I think that was the big difference.
Were there ever points in the writing process with being in a remote location and not being able to come up with anything or thinking “I don’t know what to do here?” How did that sort of work?
Actually no. We never had that experience [laughs]. There was always something to work on. There was an idea we could chase or thing that we could invest some time in. All the things we kind of worried about or we had fears about going into it, there was definitely trepidation you know whether or not we would run out of ideas or maybe go commit suicide [laughs]. It would be like The Shining
and we would lose our minds or something. Run off naked into the woods. None of that happened. It was absolutely very focused and enjoyable experience. By the end of it, we didn’t want to leave. We were like “man this is why we’re here. We were put on this planet to do this, sit in a room and make music together.” And that was kind of a relief in its own right and also kind of creepy in its own right. That kind of realization you know, can kind of discover yourself in this complete isolation. We never ran into that problem. It was actually a super enjoyable 30 days.
Since 52 Weeks and Proper, it just seems like you keep building momentum. Around the release of Standards, Entertainment Weekly streamed your album and interviewed you. Do you have surreal moments anymore? Is that stuff weird for you or do you just accept that now?
Yeah, I think the most surreal stuff is when I can to talk to people I really look up to or have exchanges with people I really looked up to currently look up to, in a creative sense. Whether its other musicians or other visual artists. Those are generally the most surreal things to me. With Entertainment Weekly
, doing the Playboy
interview was pretty cool, you know I can’t look at it like it’s a geek out thing. I just kind of accept it. “This is this awesome experience and I enjoy it while I have it.” But also at the same time, not think too much of it because then I can find myself harping on it or obsessing over stuff like that and if it weren’t to happen again, maybe get a feeling of rejection. That’s not cool.
You don’t want to expect stuff like that … and no I don’t think I deserve any of those opportunities, but at the same time I don’t want to obsess over them because it would maybe feel worse later, if something went away. I just take everything I have very graciously and very patiently [laughs].
You’re playing Broken World Fest on Friday (April 15). Do you have any plans for Saturday, for Record Store Day? It’s not really a secret that you’re a big collector.
I kind of forgot about this year with the tour we’re doing. You know I haven’t even taken a look at the list but I had a lot of friends tell me that there wasn’t a ton on the list that I’d be psyched about. I don’t frankly know what the cool store in Pittsburgh is. I can’t remember doing any record shopping in Pittsburgh, so if you have any tips for me I’d gladly take them.
With you being involved in a ton of projects, from Into It. Over It. to Their / They’re / There to Pet Symmetry and everything else, to you ever get tired of writing songs or playing shows? Do you think you can write a bad album? I’ve listened to most of your stuff and it’s all pretty great.
Thanks man [laughs]. The touring aspect is one thing I get a little tired of. I generally break down being in a band into four categories: writing, recording, touring and practicing. Those are like the four main big corners of being in a band. Touring for me is number three for me definitely, right above practicing. If I could make a living not touring anymore, I probably would. But touring is such a massive part of that. It’s just as important as writing and recording. It’s hard to parse that sometimes.
But I know how important it is. The hour that we stand on stage playing is some of the happiest 60 minutes of my life. I wouldn’t say it’s so much the playing shows portion of it, as it is what else goes into is. Being away from home and traveling and maybe driving 12 hours in one day, three days in a row. The kind of difficult stuff that drains the body and drains the mind. That’s getting hard for me as I got older. The writing and the recording process, the creative process, I’m still learning so much more every time I do that stuff and that to me is what’s really exciting about making music. I would never feel exhausted from doing that kind of work.
Are you going to tour or write any new stuff with your other projects? I assume you’re touring Standards pretty hard now but come later in the year.
There’s always something going on [laughs]. There’s always something to work on. Pet Symmetry has demo’d a fair amount of new songs and I think that’s probably something we’re going to focus on. I don’t know what’s going on with Their / They’re / There really. Everyone’s got an agenda and something they’re working on. There will always be something, man. I can’t stay out of the studio too long.
Changing gears a little bit, are you a Chicago sports fan?
Well I would be a Philly sports fan first. I was born and raise 10 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I lived there until I was about 24.
Wow, I totally forgot about that somehow.
Do I hate Sidney Crosby? Yes [laughs].
I wasn’t going to ask that but I’m glad you let people know where you stand on that front before you get into Pittsburgh.
Are you rooting hard for the Flyers in the playoffs right now?
Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah I am [laughs]. It’s funny no one has asked me sports questions ever then I did an interview with Sports Illustrated and the last four or five interviews I’ve done, people have been like “yeah, so sports right?” and I’m like "sure" [laughs].
I’m a casual fan. I used to be really, really all about it until I started doing music more full time. I’m one of those people where when I’m into something, I get fully into it. With music taking up so much of my time, I don’t really get to check in on the sports front a lot. Especially living in Chicago it’s really hard to keep up with Philadelphia sports.
That being said, I’ll be rooting for the Flyers until they get knocked out then I’ll be switching gears to the Blackhawks [laughs]. But yeah I love hockey and I love baseball. I’m glad baseball is starting again. I think the Cubs have a really likable team this year. They had a really likable team last year, too. I may be more of a fan of a city rallying around a team than the team itself. When the Cubs are doing well, the Chicago atmosphere is just so much nicer and I think that makes the city a lot more pleasurable to live in when the teams are doing good.
Last thing, who are some of the younger bands that you like that you’ve either toured with or listen to?
I’m really, really into Rozwell Kid. I love that band. I’ve never seen a band be so flawlessly perfect, everything single night but also play the songs differently ever single night. And everything is coordinated but also improvised. It’s so awesome. It’s such an exciting and reliable and incredible band to see every single day…
That’s the first one that comes to mind. Frankly, I don’t listen to a lot of new music. I’m on this kick of listening to a lot of like early ‘80s instrumental, new age acoustic guitar players [laughs]. I’m really into this one record label called Windham Hill. I’ve just been diving super hard into this new age, experimental acoustic guitar playing. It’s really bizarre. I’m going through a phase [laughs]. It’s funny, I’ve been asked this question a couple times recently and I’m like “Yeah man. All I’m listening to is instrumental guitar music. Sorry I don’t have a cooler, more modern answer. I’m just really deep into this shit right now,” [laughs].
With that being said, no spoilers but is the fourth Into It. Over It. album going to be…
Only instrumental guitar. Me playing guitar in a room [laughs].
Are you gonna go sans pedals too? Straight up acoustic?
I haven’t given it that much thought yet [laughs]. You put me on the spot here. I’m gonna commit to something [laughs].