Me: We are sitting here with some very delicious Mexican food after the gig with Unfinished Evolution, or at least three-fifths of it. We have Julia on vocals, Brandon on drums and Connor on guitar.
The other two band members, Pete and Logan, had other appointments unfortunately, so they missed all the fun.
It seems like every time I see you play live, it’s at the Smiling Moose so that must be your favorite place.
Julia: It’s good for what it is.
Brandon: It’s not the greatest but…
Julia: It’s fun.
Brandon: …it’s fun and you can get in pretty quickly. It’s not a huge deal to get in. It’s just $15 presale and whoever shows up, shows up. It’s not too hard or anything.
Me: Pay to play is the name of the music business these days, especially for up and coming indie bands and all that good stuff. How does that affect you guys? How does it affect your ability to gig? How does it affect where you play? How does it affect the size of the crowd? The amount of money you make?
Brandon: It makes booking shows a little complicated because the way that we do it through a few of people who book shows, they’ll throw a bunch of dates at you and they’ll be relatively close together or you have other shows that you’re doing with other people, and if you have to sell a certain amount of tickets and get people there, then you can’t have two shows in one weekend or else a not whole lot of people are going to show up. Just with our experience. Because it’s friends and some bands that we’re friends with and that kind of stuff. We don’t make a whole lot of money because it is pay to play. But it’s better than just playing in your bedroom and not doing anything because you get to play a show and get a little bit of cash. But it’s really fun, honestly. Just playing shows is an amazing experience, really.
Julia: I’d say it’s especially nice to get out and get to work with a bunch of other bands, because not only are we making connections, they are too. So it’s supporting other bands that are trying to get out there without bringing any of them down as well as bringing ourselves down. It is certainly difficult, especially being a Prog band to get gigs, (laughing) but when we do they’re a lot of fun and we get to meet a lot other who like the same kind of music we do, which is really helpful when it comes to connections.
Brandon: It is.
Me: So you just have to hit the big Prog festivals like ProgPower in Atlanta and ProgFest in New Jersey. You just have to hit those.
Brandon: Do the one in Madrid. Cruise to the edge.
Brandon: Hit us up! We got this – we can sell out your boat!
Me: There you go!
Connor: Pretty much Julia summed it all up with the whole tickets and stuff.
Me: There is a trend of bands, particularly on Facebook and social media, trying to get other bands to follow them on social media, various outlets. I’ve also noticed the trend that a lot of the audience members at these shows are other band members.
Me: So what is your take on that? Because it almost looks to me that bands are supporting other bands but that there are no real new fans coming into the mix.
Brandon: The whole bands supporting bands thing I think is a good thing because you’re exposing each other to your music. And if they support you and stay, then that’s amazing – not everyone does that which is kind of unfortunate. But whenever they do you can make new friends and potentially new opportunities from that. You’re still playing to people, sometimes it’s the same people but that just kind of comes with being a smaller band in not a very musically oriented city, comparatively.
Me: I wholeheartedly disagree. If you did 80s cover tunes, you’d be all over the place!
Brandon: Yeah! Playing Jergel’s every week! It is kind of hard to get new people out because of availability, or ability to get there – transportation-wise, just because we’re all under 18. But the whole social media thing helps, though. Because if you follow back and promote your show on social media, then people will know about it and hopefully come out. But it is kind of a toss-up whether they will or not. But that’s sort of the name of the game.
Julia: Honestly, one of the plusses about it is whenever a new band ends up supporting you, then usually the people that support them say, “Oh! They’re supporting them, so why don’t I go over and listen to some of their stuff, too. Because if I like them, I might like this band.” And so that’s definitely a big pro, because when you’re playing shows with other bands their people can sometimes stick around. There are some people that will leave, and that’s understandable because they saw the band that they saw, but the ones that stick around usually start to get into the bands that they play with. And that can definitely promote our band as well as the other bands that are there. So that’s definitely a good thing. It is definitely a lot of bands supporting other bands’ business, but that can also lead to good things, as well, because they can tell their friends about it even if they don’t show up at the shows. Even just having that “follow on instagram” so they know what’s going on. Or if they have our email so they can ask about anything.
Connor: I just think it’s really important to have connections with other bands in the area, even if they’re smaller than you or larger than you. It just helps build a fanbase overall.
Brandon: And it develops the community.
Me: New album!
Me: Working on recording it, right? Writing some songs, got some stuff rolling. Where are we at on this one?
Brandon: (looking at Connor) You want to take this one?
Connor: Yeah, I’ll take this one!
Brandon: Oh, Boy!
Connor: It’s been a rocky ride since the beginning of this band.
Me: Welcome to having a band!
Connor: Getting up to speed in a Prog band when your favorite band is Pantera, and all you know how to do is play power chords sends you in a woozy. Song parts have changed over the time for all of us because we’ve all evolved. It’s been a year since we wrote our first song.
Me: I think I was at that gig, actually.
Connor: Oh, yeah.
Connor: It’s been a long time. We’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes. Julia was in the band, then Julia wasn’t in the band then Julia was in the band again.
Me: She’s BACK!
Julia: I’m here to stay.
Me: She’s here to stay.
Brandon: That’s going on a shirt. We’re just going to put your face like with Jack Nicholson. “It’s Johnny!”
Connor: It’s been a rough ride. We’re trying our best and hopefully by like January or February of 2019 to be ready to record.
Me: Do you know what studio you’re recording at yet?
Brandon: Connor made it sound very bleak. It’s been a long ride just because of our circumstances, but it’s been productive most of the time.
Me: That will teach you to be more careful when you choose a band name. When you choose a name like “Unfinished Evolution” you are setting yourself up!
Brandon: You got me there.
Julia: I was telling them, we should write an album and just not finish it. Like write it and never end the concept.
Brandon: We’ve had a lot of lineup changes and that was really the bane of our existence because we had to catch the new members up and we had to write new parts. Because we brought in a keyboard player, we had had two guitarists, bass drums and clean vocals. Now we have clean vocals with Julia, one guitar with Noodles (Connor), Pete’s playing bass and Logan is playing keys and aggressive vocals. So that opened up the possibilities but it also placed a hurdle for progress because we had to catch everyone up, we had to write parts for keys and had to write lyrics and all that stuff. But that’s why we only have 3 songs and we’ve been together for a year. Also we kind of had to whip Noodles into Prog shape…
Brandon: …from being a power chord little man.
Connor: It took a lot of anxiety and paranoia but I’m here!
Brandon: We have a lot of ideas. It’s just been kind of hard flushing them out just because of all the craziness that’s been going on.
Julia: Not to mention all the differing opinions can definitely get in the way.
Me: Welcome to having a band.
Julia: It’s nothing I didn’t expect because I expected a lot of differing opinions. I definitely didn’t expect to get done with the album, not even when I was in the band and then I left and then I came back. I just had a feeling that it might take a while but where it was going was gonna to be good. I think it will be really good once it comes out. I just hope it keeps going.
Me: One of my favorite things always to see in a band, because I think it’s one of those things that truly defines how tight a band is and it’s a very underrated thing. I don’t think most people pay attention to it – is when every member of a band is playing the exact same line at the exact same time: Rhythm, notes, everything. And the reason that always fascinates me is because that takes some damn fine musicianship. If you have the drums playing and the keyboards playing and the guitar and the bass and the violin and the piccolo and the bagpipes (laughing) and whatever else.
Brandon: The kazoo!
Me: The kazoo! All at the same time – if they’re playing the exact same riff at the exact same time, you have to be dead on. If anyone is out of key or anyone is not tuned or anyone is not in perfect time. And you guys did that a couple of times tonight at the show. And it is amazing.
Brandon: Thank you!
Me: That’s one of the things that used to make me listen to Kansas a lot. How hard do you guys work to lock in?
Brandon: One instance where I noticed this the most, was when we were playing Sorceress.
Connor: There was a lot of syncopation.
Brandon: It was a lot of homework, honestly. We went and learned it individually and then put it together in rehearsal. I want to write more parts that are unison. We are integrating that more but it is kind of hard to get it all synced up. We just need to know what the exact rhythm, what’s going on. It just comes with practice and doing your homework.
Julia: Speaking as the vocalist (laughing) When it comes to the music, that’s what they focus on first and the vocals comes after. And I understand that because I like it being that way. But it’s also really difficult whenever the band decides to let you know “here’s the timing for this and here are some notes and go off of that.”
Me: But this is Prog.
Julia: This is Prog
Me: So it’s more like “Here’s there first verse timing, here’s the second verse timing, here’s the chorus timing…”
Julia: Oh, I know! I remember the one time where Pete texted me “write a part in 7 6 7 3.” I’m like “In what key?” And he’s like “I don’t know”. So I wrote something that I could transition into any key humanly possible, tried to put it to the music. It actually turned out pretty OK. It is a lot of communication that is definitely a lot of the key to having it sound tight and everyone being involved in the process of writing so it can lock in and we can all be in sync. Whenever when it’s such weird timing, especially in Prog, that’s one of the hardest things especially for vocals, to catch on to. I’m not trained to be a Prog singer but I’m catching on slowly but surely like we did with Noodles or Connor or whatever you want to call him. (laughing) So it’s definitely a lot of communication, a lot working together. Not as much “Let’s put these these 2 people in this room and work on this part and these 2 people in this and have them work on this part and then this person will sit here and figure out what they’re doing.” It’s more of a band effort and that’s good. That’s how we wrote our first song really quickly and efficiently.
Connor: That’s how we did “Reassurance”. Here’s the story: we had the whole song planned out and everything. We tried to get all of the people that were coming in and out of the band to learn the song. It wasn’t coming together it was turning out to be me, Brandon and Pete playing it instrumentally. A lot of the fans really liked it, but we just weren’t really happy with the product so we took the end half of it and cut that off and kept it and then we took the beginning and cut that off and threw it away for future ideas. We took all our new parts, especially with the keyboardist because he wanted to be included in the new stuff. So we put it together in the heat of the moment and it turned out well.
Brandon: Funny how keyboard wanted to be included…
Brandon: Just kidding. We had some ideas and motifs that we had in the initial one but they weren’t really flushed out and weren’t set like how many times we were doing this and how we were transitioning. The transitions were really sloppy, so we cleaned that up and sort of cut the fat, added some parts that gave it some depth and put some vocals on it. And it turned out way better than we were expecting.
Connor: I’m really proud of it.
Me: And this is going to be on the album, right?
Brandon: Reassurance, third track – BAM! Concept album!
Me: I mean it’s Prog – so it has to be a concept album. Are you going with Damsels in Distress for the concept or introspection?
Julia: It’s about, in a way, someone who’s dealing with two different sides of themselves, and the struggle of trying to figure out which one is more right than wrong. It’s a lot of figuring out what’s more right than what’s wrong.
Brandon: The lines sort of blur…
Julia: Yeah, everything’s just kind of meshed all together and the person doesn’t really know how to deal with it. It’s really relative to life except we take it to a whole other level…
Brandon: It’s Prog! Go big or go home!
Julia: You gotta involve some fun stuff that you’ll hear on the album when it’s done.
Me: But the upside to doing Prog is when you have a 30-minute set you only have to do 3 songs!
Julia: That’s true!
Brandon: But one more thing I’d like to add it’s very introspective in a way, because of what the topic is about, which we’re not getting into right now, but it’s in an application in the real world to the story. Because it is a story, it’s not like a conceptual thing like language or nature, but it’s a story that you can relate in some ways to, hopefully not all of them which we will find out, I guess. But it is sort of an introspective look at what’s going on in this person’s world.
Julia: Honestly, everyone can relate to it in some way. I don’t think maybe exactly, but in some way. There’s always a general meaning where people can be like “Oh, OK. I get it.”
Julia: Just quote that “Yeah.”
Me: Who are your major influences.
Brandon: You go first, Noodles. I’m going to look on my Spotify because I can never remember them.
Connor: I’ve only been playing guitar for 3 years. It started out with basic music, like 80s rock and metal and stuff like that. Metallica, Pantera and stuff. Then this man pulled me into it and he was like “Listen to these bands” and I was like “Oh, this is really cool, this sounds cool.” Then he was like “Let’s try learning it” and I was like “No, I can’t do this.” But they forced me by casting really hard songs to cover that we couldn’t even do properly. But it got me to where I am. A lot of my Prog influences, we kind of bounced ideas and bands off of each other when it comes to musical stuff. This man right here tells me about the Monsters, Inc. soundtrack and I listened to it and I told him to listen to the Incredibles soundtrack. It’s just back and forth. I like current Prog Metal, I like old Prog Rock, I like tons of weird things – slide whistle parts in Metal songs. Weird Jazz parts – just crazy stuff all over the place, complicated, stupid, something you wouldn’t even think I’m doing. A lot of it with Prog is just coming up with new ideas.
Brandon: Hence the name
Connor: Currently, a lot of my influences are all over the place. Jazz stuff and being in music school and taking music theory classes since I’ve been talking about all this Jazz. I’ve been into a lot of Jazz stuff recently, like modern Jazz or Jazz Fusion, Snarky Puppy and stuff.
Brandon: With Noodle, I showed him “Blood on the Radio” by Thank You Scientist, and that was his first Prog song. I sort of evolved my taste over a while, I used to religiously listen to Mastodon, Gojira, Opeth. I still love Opeth and Mastodon but now it’s more of a wide spread between King Crimson, Yes, Genesis to Opeth, Dream Theater and then the Jazz and the Fusion, so Chick Corea and the Return to Forever stuff. And Michael Camillo is a Latin-y, Jazz pianist. He was talking about the Monsters, Inc. and Incredibles soundtracks and I genuinely listen to those and they’re fantastic. I love them so much. I don’t know why. It’s AMAZING!
Julia: Thank You Scientist was definitely one of mine. That was the Prog song Brandon showed me. The first Prog song I ever really listened to while knowing it was Prog was Marigold by Periphery. I remember hearing it and thinking “Why are they screaming?” And then I was like “Oh, dang. This guy can go from screaming his lungs out to singing really well.” That got me thinking about what I wanted to be musically, when it came to being a vocalist because every vocalist needs to find a sound. Well, they don’t need to, but it’s better to know what you are good at versus what you’re not. I decided to start working on more and then Pete asked me if I wanted to be in this Prog band and I was like “OK, why not? May as well try it.” I realize that maybe back then that wasn’t the best idea because I kind of jumped into it and I was like “Oh, I don’t think this is for me.” And then when I wasn’t in Unfinished Evolution, I started listening to Thank You Scientist, more Mars Volta, Dillinger Escape Plan, Opeth. And I just realized why I went into it in the first place. I’ve incorporated listening to at least one song by them a day just to keep me motivated. It’s something that isn’t as appreciated as it should be for how difficult it can be to create that kind of music. I think those bands specifically, they’ve been keeping me in this field and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so.
Me: OK – where do we find you?
Brandon: On Instagram @UnfinishedEvolution, on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/unfinishedevolutionprog/
Me: Where do you have your upcoming shows listed?
Brandon: Instagram – we’re still trying to figure out this whole promoting thing.
Me: I think that’s the bane of every band that’s in existence right now. You have major acts that are stumbling over themselves because the music industry is evolving in a direction that I don’t think anyone has foreseen. We’re evolving into 8/100ths of a penny per play on Spotify vs. people buying an album.
Brandon: I’m kind of guilty of the Spotify thing. I like the music and a lot of it and I just want to get it but if there is something like Close to the Edge that you can get on vinyl that you know you like. I like doing that. That’s just me being preachy but get vinyl in addition to Spotify so you can expose yourself to different things.
Connor: Or just regular CDs.
Brandon: Vinyl’s cooler!
Me: Thank you very much – can’t wait to hear the album!
Brandon: Can’t wait to get it out there!