Occasionally, there comes along a band so exciting that on the first listen, you know they’re going to take over your world (and in this case, probably everyone’s world.) Arms Akimbo are one of those bands.
With a sound that feels like they’ve been together, doing this, since the beginning of time and have perfected their art, its impossible to not get caught up in the velvety vocals, brilliantly catchy bass and guitar and drum combinations that keep you hooked for the whole song.
Therefore, when Arms Akimbo announced they were dropping a brand new EP Seven Dollar Paycheck, we just had to have a chat about it. See how it went below.
Firstly, how would you introduce yourself as a band to someone who had never listened to you?
We always have trouble explaining our sound but there are a few obvious influences. Hippo Campus, Kings of Leon, Local Natives and a healthy dose of pop punk for starters.
But perhaps, the more interesting thing is, we’re four friends who live together and create music while navigating Los Angeles in our early to mid 20s.
I’ve read in a previous interview that your songs can be written in some pretty strange places (hotel parking lots?) what was the writing process like for the Seven Dollar Paycheck EP?
These songs are kind of rag tag – Chris came up with Pitchfork after SXSW 2018 and definitely set a tone of talking about the struggle of balancing touring with our personal lives.
Cruel Lovers is a chorus I (Peter) have had for years that didn’t fully realize until I worked the verses out with the guys. Ghost is one of our oldest songs, Nirvana has been re-written several times and Paycheck is a new one I wrote using voice memos while I was driving. That song jumped to the front of the line while we were recording which is always exciting, especially given that it became the title track.
The band got together as the result of an assignment, right? Did it take a long time to perfect your sound or was it something that just came together naturally?
It definitely did. We have had to reinvent ourselves several times. It’s actually as if we went through severe lineup changes without ever losing members. Our first iteration was a fun college band that played house parties and on-campus festivals, so we were age-appropriate for that audience.
After we all graduated we noticed something got kind of corny and we went through a confusing period where we ended up trashing a whole LP or two worth of songs. Chris started writing more for the project and he and I now split singing duties. Colin used to be our drummer and Matt was our bassist… and we ended up switching them too!
We are able now to utilize Colin’s strength with harmonies and Matt’s “swing” on the kit. It was a complete reworking but out of that came our last record, The Wrong Kind of Dance Party. It’s folkier, harmony driven and talks about burying that college era.
Even this record is a huge step in a different direction from that one. It seems we’re often reinventing, so it’s exciting to make those shifts, and so far they’ve been well-received!
Songs like Cruel Lovers seem quite personal, which song off the new EP has the most meaning to you?
Cruel Lovers is actually a little distant at the moment. The chorus speaks a little about clinging to relationships that lack good communication. When I wrote the verses, I had to dig up emotions from a few different relationships to really find the feeling. So, it’s personal but the experiences are all spread out.
The songs that really resonate the most for us are Paycheck and Pitchfork. That’s why we sandwiched the record with them. Between the struggle to just “do something right” in Paycheck and the illustration in Pitchfork of feeling love when we “take the band on tour,” we felt a relatable theme to build the record on.
Paycheck and certain excerpts from your Twitter hint that kicking off in the musical world isn’t the most financially rewarding process, but it is clear you’re having a lot of fun! Do you ever consider a life outside of music/what do you think you’d be focusing on if you weren’t in a band?
We never do.
It’s almost a curse to realize you’re gonna be a musician. When you’re an angsty little teen and you write your first song on an acoustic guitar it’s an overwhelming “oh shit” moment. We all just realized that it’s over and at that moment we’d be musicians for better or for worse.
If not for music I don’t think we would necessarily be in LA but we don’t spend much time dwelling on that. We spend more time just trying to make it all work. It’s a balancing act.
On the brighter side, what is your favourite thing about making music?
It has to be touring and seeing people sing along to our lyrics in cities we’ve never been to. It’s one thing to connect to people but seeing it first hand in unbelievably beautiful and rewarding.
In the van we recap every night telling each other the cool little conversations we had with fans. Those are really powerful memories.
Which are your current favourite songs to play live, and which songs are you most excited to play live from the EP?
Pitchfork is our current closer. It’s a lot of fun to shred at the end of a song. Our recordings are so clean I think we catch a lot of people off guard with how heavy that song and Cruel Lovers can be live.
Songs like Ghost, with the chanting (wooooah woooah wooooah) section seem almost like they were written with the live performance in mind, is this something you consider or is it just a bonus?
Definitely a consideration. We put a lot of thought into our performance and anything where all four of us are singing is a bonus.
Ghost is kind of an old fan favorite we were asked to bring back. It’s so old that Matt and Colin were on opposite instruments when we recorded it initially but it never sounded quite right until now.
We used to write more of those big anthemic (woah woah) tracks more. I think for a time we wanted to have a slightly smaller sound so it is fun to bring this song back and be able to chant a big chorus like that with the audience.
Is there anywhere you desperately want to play, whether it is a country, city or venue?
I know Matt would love to play Coachella. He grew up out in the desert so that would be a big win for him. I personally would love to play anywhere in the UK or Europe (I studied in Oxford for a while and Colin studied at Trinity in Dublin so it’d be fun to come back and play).
What do you want to achieve in the second half of 2019?
More touring and hitting new cities. We really want to bring this EP out to as many people as possible. It’s been well received so far so we’d love to keep that rolling.
We also just want to spend more time hanging with other bands in our orbit. At SX we shut down a karaoke just hanging with some of our buddies in other bands (Hate Drugs, Harbour and some Topshelf Records people). We ripped up the karaoke and were all hoarse for our shows the next day…it was well worth it. Any time spend with other artists is amazing.
And last but not least, is Matt ever going to cut his hair again?
We shook a magic 8 ball…it said “not very likely”
Stream Seven Dollar Paycheck below.