From left to right: Brock Lange (bass), Ryan Janac (drums), Fred Baker (vocals/guitar), Jordan Stafford (keys/vocals), and Frank Dillon (guitar)
Tucson, Arizona band Rival Shapes is a breath of fresh air. Their music is confident and polished, representative of a young band comfortable in their own skin and capable of turning heads with their talent. Their debut EP was released in November of 2016, and EP #2 is on the way shortly. We caught up with Rival Shapes’ lead singer Fred Baker to discuss their formation, first EP, and what’s on the horizon. Check out our interview below along with an exclusive previously unreleased track!
How did you meet and form the band?
In mid-2014 I moved back to Tucson from a decade of life in Brooklyn. I only really knew one person in Tucson at that point, and that was Frank. We reconnected one afternoon and shot the breeze, started hanging out a lot and sort of rekindling the relationship. We decided to get together and play some music to see if we might want to start a project. That was in early 2015. Frank played in a band called Is To Feel with Brock and in The Signal Fire with Ryan a while back (bass and drums, respectively), and was sure they’d be the best choice for their respective roles. Brock’s brother, Jordan, came into the picture after we decided we couldn’t go live without our keyboard parts–he’s the newest addition to the group.
What was the first song you wrote together?
The first song we wrote together was a little diddy called Alive and New. I’ve never experienced a musical relationship quite like the one between us. It’s so easy–Frank will write guitar parts and I’ll come in with lyrics, melody, and sometimes a song idea with somewhat of an altered arrangement from the original idea. Alive and New was like that. We wrote it pretty much on the spot off of that initial guitar part.
What current bands/artists do you admire or draw inspiration from? If you could play one show with one other band/artist. Who would you choose and what venue would you pick?
A.A. Bondy (Believers), Interpol (El Pintor), old U2 (Boy and Unforgettable Fire days), Morphine, Sting, Peter Gabriel. I’m also listening to Aesop Rock and B. Dolan’s new records a lot. If given the chance, I’d play a show at Largo with A.A. Bondy.
You released your first EP Push in November. Tell us a little bit about the recording process for these 5 songs. Where did you choose to record and how long did the process take?
We ended up doing most of the recording in my apartment in the Sam Hughes neighborhood in Tucson. It took a while–we were trying to squeeze the best performances we could out of each other and get the most out of the equipment we were using, which was very spare. The process began in early 2016 with Ryan tracking drums for the songs at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville where he lived at the time. Billy, the engineer at the Bomb Shelter, did an awesome job getting the drums tracked. If we’d had our way, we’d have tracked the entire record to 2″ the way we did with the drums, but it was ultimately more cost-effective to do the recording on my computer. Billy sent us the drum tracks and I took the recording process over from there.
Brock put down bass and once we had the rhythm section recorded, Frank and I came in afterward and laid down guitar tracks. Vocals were the last to go in before we started mixing and sweetening. We finished in September of 2016, so it was a long process. We tried about six different amplifiers before we had the ones we wanted to use for the recording. Mixing took forever. Endless tweaking. Also everything takes longer when you’re forced to work around the other things that detract from doing your art, such as keeping a roof over your head.
I’m impressed by the EP as a whole, but find myself really drawn to “Young Elder.” Can you give us some insight into the creation and story behind that track?
As is often the case with our process, Frank created a guitar and drum idea and floated it my way. I took it to my steel-string and found a tuning I liked and the melody came with relative ease. The lyrics took a little longer to come by. At the time, I was dealing with the loss of my father, with loneliness and the strain of carving out a different path for myself, so the imagery and feel of being out at sea fit well with my emotional state. It’s a song about keeping on keeping on. Broken hearts reach for an answer to why they must suffer loss, but there isn’t so much as an echo coming back from that void. But if an answer would come from anywhere, it would come from an old soul.
What does 2017 look like for Rival Shapes? What are your plans for shows, new music, and getting your music out to as many listeners as possible?
Our second EP, Pull, will be out in May 2017, and we’re working on the music video for the first single, “Evaporate.” We’re putting together as many regional shows as we can between now and then, and already have a few songs being written for a 2018 release. We have a couple of PR firms working to maximize our exposure and we definitely stay busy on the social media front. We’re also planning to create acoustic versions of a number of songs from both EPs and release those in some shape or form in the near future.