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Interview: Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It./Stay Ahead Of The Weather)

2010 has been a busy year for Evan Weiss, with multiple split releases, endless touring in the US, UK and Europe under the name of Into It. Over It. Weiss is ending the year on a high with two superb recent releases; the first is a split record with long-time friend Andrew Koji Shiraki, otherwise known as Koji. Secondly Evan has joined up with members of Castavet and Native, to form a "supergroup" called Stay Ahead Of The Weather.

Weiss talked to Alter The Press to discuss the various split releases, the "Tweleve Towns" concept, his split record with Koji, Stay Ahead Of The Weather, future plans and much more.

Alter The Press!: 2010 has been a busy year for you with several splits, as well as the recent Stay Ahead Of The Weather record. Many of split releases with the likes of Everyone Everywhere, Pswingset and Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) were part of your 'Twelve Towns' concept. Could you explain the idea of 'Twelve Towns'?
Evan Weiss: The basic idea behind the project was to try and promote different friends, be it labels, bands and/or designers, in a series of limited split 7" releases that were all connected. I wanted to expose people to a vast number of other creative friends. So far, I think it's been an awesome success. It's promoted great labels like Count Your Lucky Stars, Topshelf, No Sleep, Mightier Than Sword and Evil Weevil. It's shown off some awesome artwork & photography from Steff Bomb, Marky Hladish (MidwestLove), Brian Mietz (Diner State), Craig Shimala and Paul Octavious. Not to mention, all of the bands who are some of my closest friends, new and old.

ATP: How did the concept come together and what influences led to each town being chosen?
EW: The concept was an idea which I'd had on an eight week US tour that I'd done when I was playing bass in Damiera. I had come up with a list of stories from that tour and wrote the towns names down on a napkin. The list was actually about 18 towns long; some of the stories will never get to be told, but I'm really pleased with the results. I'd left Damiera shortly after that tour and began to really focus on putting this project in motion. Everything happened organically with the other bands and record labels. It was really exciting to watch come together.

ATP: Could you explain how each split came together. Was it case of being offered to release a split with these bands or was it a collective decision?
EW: I'd put the word out about the idea on my website and simply began generating interest in friends. I had approached several bands/labels because I knew it wouldn't be in everyone's best interest or timing to do a 7" release. It was pretty casual though. Most of the exchanges went something like "Hey, I'm doing this project. You wanna do a record together?" And the response was usually pretty simple and positive: "Yeah, sure!"

ATP: These splits were also released through several labels, most notably Count Your Lucky Stars and Topshelf Records. How did your relationship develop?
EW: Keith and Cathy at CYLS had approached me about doing a record when I was doing 52 Weeks. At the time, I wasn't able to devote much time toward anything else. I think this delay worked better for everyone. In that time I was able to develop more as an artist while they were able to develop more as a label. Timing is everything. They are some of the best people I know.

My relationship with Topshelf goes back to The Progress (my old band) being on a compilation they had done years back. However, I think our recent dialogue might have started via Twitter. I sent them a direct message saying that I love what they are doing as a label and how much I enjoy the Pianos Become The Teeth LP. A couple days later we were talking about putting out some 7" records. They are incredibly professional and easy to work with. Everything about doing a release with them was awesome.


ATP: Because they were released on several labels, its clear these labels gave you of plenty of freedom and not tie you down. How helpful was this?
EW: SO HELPFUL. All of the labels were into letting me take the reigns. Choose the bands, designers, vinyl colors, blah blah. We were all able to work together on all angles, even doing distro between labels for each release. But, this all goes back to everyone being friends. The DIY music scene is so exciting now because everyone is working together. This project was no exception. All of the labels and bands have healthy working relationships with each other. Everyone is making decisions in everyones best interests. There is no competition or rivalry. All of the releases were through verbal agreements and everyone involved knew what the purpose of this project was. They just wanted to take part in something different. It's a support system. If you support your friends, they'll support you back. If you grow, everyone grows.

ATP: More recently you've released a split full-length with Koji. I understand the record had been an idea for quite sometime right?
EW: Koji and I have been friends for years. Right around the time I began touring full time, we talked about doing the split. We were on tour together for about a week and figured out all of the details while on the road. About a month later, we booked the recording time and after some discussion with No Sleep, were able to iron out the final details for the release.

ATP: Despite it being a split record, you worked together in the studio. How did this affect the recording of the record?
EW: Personally, in the best way possible. We wanted it to be a collaborative effort. We were pretty democratic about splitting up the studio time and in the end, both of our sides got an equal amount of attention. We were able to track and mix it in 7 days. If I didn't have Koji there as a mental support, I might have lost my mind. Mark Michalik (who recorded the record) actually did lose his mind.

ATP: To coincide with the release, you've released a three-part making of video series. How important was the series to show how the pair of you worked together?
EW: So important. We wanted people to see how we work together and get some background on the release. So many bands do split recordings and you never actually get to see how they are made or how close the bands are as people. It was really imperetive for us to show others what our week in the studio together was like and give people a glimpse of the scene in Chicago... Even if is only for a few minutes. I think it's an awesome companion to the LP and gives the listener that extra level of sincerity that we needed people to know about.

ATP: Can we expect any further split releases?
EW: he last Twelve Towns 7" will be with Such Gold and will be released on No Sleep / Mightier Than Sword in Feb. At that point, my recordings for that split will be over a year old. After that release, no more splits for a long time.

ATP: In addition you're a member of Stay Ahead Of The Weather. How did the band come together?
EW: SAOTW was started by Nick Wakim (of Castevet) and I. The original idea was to start a pop punk band together, but I don't really know how to write "conventional" pop-punk whatsoever. I only know how to write what I write. We wrote the basic structures for the five songs on the 7" by ourselves before forming the band. We tossed around a couple ideas like recording the songs as just the two of us, or using them as my side of the Koji split. Eventually we decided against that. Matt Jordan was a friend whom I'd known for a bit, but we eventually became co-workers. He was a perfect fit stylistically for how I play guitar. The songs took on a little more shape. Finally, we asked Bobby Markos (from Native, who'd had some downtime this summer) to play bass. We worked on the songs for a couple weeks before finally booking the recording time. We recorded the 7" in the 3 days before Koji and I started recording 'IIOI/KOJI'. No Sleep didn't jump on board for the release until after the recording was finished.

Since the record's release we've began to take the band a little more seriously. Bobby had to leave because Native's been keeping him super busy. Our friend Owen Mallon (from the band Noumenon) has taken his spot. Writing and working in this band is great because we're all primary songwriters in other projects. This is perfect because we can just enjoy this band for what it is. We trust each other and don't have ego's or hangups about the music. We can just create and have fun with it. There's no pressure because we're all working on other stuff.


ATP: Your début release 'We Better Get Goin' If We're Gonna' has drawn comparisons to bands like Piebald and The Get Up Kids. Was there a particular sound the four of you were aiming for when you entered the studio?
EW: Not really. Just fast and melodic songs that aren't too long. Nick and I are very strict about keeping songs short. Before we started writing we joked about trying to combine "Jersey's Best Dancers by Lifetime" with "Nines & Sixes by Mock Orange". I'm not really sure if that was the outcome. I'll take those comparisons though.

ATP: I understand you've began writing new Stay Ahead Of The Weather material. What can we expect from this and when?
EW: We're about 3 songs deep in writing a 4 song follow-up. We'll be recording it this winter/spring and it'll be released on No Sleep sometime in the summer. We're playing one of the new songs on a tour with Castevet that we have coming up.

ATP: Are there any musical influences you all collectively have together?
EW: I'm not sure. We all come from similar hardworking personal backgrounds. We're all based in the same Chicago scene. I'd say that would be the tie that binds.

ATP: With each member of Stay Ahead Of The Weather being involved in other projects, could you explain how the song writing process works?
EW: Pretty similar to the first 7". Nick and I will come up with the basic structure. Then we'll show it to the other guys and tweak the songs until we're all satisfied. It's very democratic and thought out from every angle. It's definatly few and far between, rehearsel wise. SAOTW is something fun and pretty casual for all of us. If it becomes something otherwise, it'll lose what's special about it.

ATP: How has your experience in your previous bands (The Progress, Damiera and Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start) affected and influenced your role in SAOTW?
EW: It's refreshing to do a band that is so free of stress. It's also the first time I've ever felt like all of the members are on the same page creatively and mentally. I hadn't been in a band that I had a part in starting since The Progress. It's so exciting to have done so much, so quickly and see our hard work paying off. I think with age and experience, you just become smarter at managing the duties involved with being in a band. We're all just smarter about it. More careful and making less mistakes.

ATP: SAOTW and the split with Koji were released through No Sleep Records, a label who's reputation has grown over the last 12 months. What is it like being an artist on NSR and why do you think there reputation has grown?
EW: I've been a part of the NSR family since early 2009. I've known Chris Hansen (No Sleep Records founder) since 2007. It's been really nice to have seen the label grow in the last few years, but then again, everyone has been growing in the few years. I think it's just a sign of the times. When you sign hardworking bands, good things will happen for everyone involved.

ATP: You've spent the majority of 2010 on the road with shows with the likes of Grown Ups, Former Thieves, My Heart To Joy and more. What are your stand out moments from touring in 2010?
EW: My second tour with Former Thieves. It included Fest 9 and CMJ. Europe with Grown Ups was amazing. Then there are shows like playing in my buddy Joel's living room in Oskaloosa, IA to about 20 people. It was one of the most memorable shows I've ever played.

I also think the Stay Ahead Of The Weather tour with Castevet will be the best tour I've ever been a part of (in my life) and that trip leaves the day after Christmas.


ATP: What are your plans for 2011? Any new material in the works?
EW: A lot of touring. I'll be recording a new full length this spring which will be out before 2012. It's the first time I'll have worked on making a "normal" full length LP. There will be a bunch of other awesome surprises per usual. I've set a list of goals for this year. Last year it was to put out some 7" records and go to Europe. I'm excited to see what 2011 will bring.

ATP: With future IIOI releases, can we expect another concept like 'Twelve Towns' or '52 Weeks'?
EW: Probably not for awhile. However, you know I love a good concept.

ATP: Is there anything else you'd like to say to close the interview?
EW: This was great.

'IIOI/KOJI' by Into It. Over It. with Koji is available now through No Sleep Records.
'We Better Get Goin' If We're Gonna' by Stay Ahead Of The Weather is available now through No Sleep Records.

'Twelve Town' Releases:
Into It. Over It. split with Pswingset is available now on Count Your Lucky Stars.
Into It. Over It. split with Everyone Everywhere is available now on Topshelf Records.
Into It. Over It. split with Castevet is available now on Topshelf Records.
Into It. Over It. split with Empire! Empire! (I Was Lonely Estate) is available now on Count Your Lucky Stars.
Into It. Over It. split with Bob Nanna & Lauren Lo is available now on Topshelf Records.

Official Website
Into It. Over It. on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

Stay Ahead Of The Weather on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

Sean Reid