Interview, Ticket Giveaway: The Senators at MMMF 2015
The Spec interviewed folk act The Senators back in 2012 and since then, much has changed for the Phoenix-based group, including its lineup and sound.
Frontman Jesse Teer and members Joseph Bitz and Jason Yee remain, while Bryan James has returned to the band from a brief hiatus. Together, the four piece has big plans for the future like headlining the McDowell Mountain Music Fest local stage on Friday, March 27.
Also on Friday, The Senators is premiering its new single “Hummingbird,” which highlights the band’s new musical direction for the future. “To us, it’s more than just a single,” says Teer. “We’ve grown up a little more as a band. It feels like we’re essentially taking the car out for a spin for the very first time, so to speak.”
If you’d like to see The Senators play “Hummingbird” live for the first time and catch other notable acts Passion Pit, Portugal. The Man, Strfkr and more, all for free, you’re in luck– The Spec is giving away a pair of tickets to MMMF Day One.
Below, read our interview with Jesse Teer, listen to “Hummingbird” and enter to win a pair of tickets to MMMF Day One on Friday, March 27…
What made you decide to explore different genres of music with your new releases?
While “Hummingbird” hits closer to the expected next step for us, the new songs that will follow definitely push more on the boundaries of what we’ve done in the past. Folk is still the starting point for me as a writer – its storytelling and the warmth of its instruments is so inviting.
Now, we’re playing around with elements of synth, electronic, hip-hop, and even some jazz, too. I wouldn’t say we’re jumping around from genre to genre but rather taking sounds that are appealing to us and incorporating them into our songwriting in ways that make sense. It is awfully freeing to realize that we aren’t constrained by a genre, an image, or even our own expectations that had guided us in the past.
Furthermore, who are some of your greatest influences in the genres of jazz? hip-hop? electronic?
Our cross-country drives are always interesting – we have such a mish-mash of CDs collected that we pop into the deck. Joe has always been a fan of EDM, and sometimes he turns the van into a dance club. A Stones‘ album gets changed out for Greg Alan Isakov, which is then is followed up by Daft Punk. We even throw some T.Swift on from time to time. I’ve always loved Talib Kweli, Common, Jay-Z, and had a soft spot for the trumped a la Chet Baker and Miles. We have somehow avoided ’80’s pop for the most part since its recent resurgence.
Who are the new band members and how did you get connected?
We are really happy to have Bryan James back again playing bass. He’s such a wonderful guy and he’s always making everyone smile. He played with us up until about a year ago when he had to take personal time away. David Thibodeaux and Chuck Linton are a few new faces with us on stage, too. David began to work with us in performance, now he’s an important partner in our production and he’s the man in the shadows working his butt off with us to create these singles. Chuck, we later discovered, actually went to grade school with Joe. He’s added so much as a multi-instrumentalist and is such a positive force. It’s nice to have fresh insight and creativity around us. We’re making some huge strides as a band.
Can you tell us about your partnership with United Way — what projects are you planning to do with the organization? Why do you think it is important to be involved in the community?
We have the most amazing job in the world, and we’re lucky to have a Phoenix community that is incredibly supportive of us. We see it as a requirement that we are connected, and giving back to our community just as much as we get from it. There are real challenges right in our backyard: one in five children in Phoenix struggle with hunger, the problem is all around us and affects individuals and entire families. The Valley of the Sun United Way is an incredible organization of folks that approach ending homelessness, hunger and other solvable problems affecting Phoenix in a comprehensive way with programs that are specific to affected demographics.
We kicked off our partnership with Valley of the Sun United Way by fundraising with the pre-sale of our new single. Half of proceeds will directly benefit their programs for bringing an end to childhood hunger. We plan to continue supporting by fundraising in whatever way we can. I think creating awareness is even more important, so we’ll invite our friends and fans to join us for a day of service, and partner together with United Way to throw a big benefit show at the beginning of summer.
(For Jesse and original members) What have you learned about your musicianship, the local scene or the music industry itself since the release of your debut LP last year?
It is heartening to watch the Phoenix music scene develop and coalesce. March in Downtown Phoenix has been such a testament to the growth. There has been a huge music event with a great draw every weekend. After playing VIVA PHX, which was a wonderful night of music, we’re happy we get to cap things off with a set at McDowell Mountain Music Fest this Friday.
When we interviewed you back in 2012, Jesse told us ““We were really looking for an identity in the first album and I think we found that.” Do you think that you still have the same identity today? If not, in what ways have you changed as a band and how do you think those changes will show in your forthcoming sophomore release?
We’ve gotten to a place now where we’re writing great songs that we hope people will connect with, and we’re being ourselves in the process. Things got a little costume-y and a little bit kitsch in the past. It’s nice to shed that skin and be genuine. That transparency, I think, comes across in the music and lyrics. We’ve had a bit of a coming of age.
You said you’re “aiming big this year.” What do you have planned over the next year and what do you hope to achieve?
We have some great local and industry partners, and it has been nice to realize that we don’t have to do absolutely everything ourselves for this indie band. Things are never truly make it or break it, but we’re looking at a properly scaled-up national release of these new singles.
What are you most looking forward to at McDowell Mountain Music Fest? How was your experience at Viva Phx earlier this year?
We had the chance to play a great little venue, Last Exit, for VIVA and we were blown away at the turnout. We had pretty full house for our set. We really appreciate Stateside for putting such an immense night together.
McDowell Mountain has been on our calendar for a while as the date we debut some new singles live, and as the local release of “Hummingbird.” We’ve been anticipating a great night – we are headlining the local stage, and we’re sandwiched between Portugal. The Man and Passion Pit.
a Rafflecopter giveawayWinner will be notified by email the morning of Friday, March 27.