Seattle, Washington rockers The Classic Crime have been consistent with releasing a laudable effort every two years since their 2004 inception, beginning with Albatross in 2006 and leading up to their best to date; fourth studio album and do-it-yourself Kickstarter success story, Phoenix.
After leaving Tooth and Nail records in July of last year, The Classic Crime decided to take the independent route and test the power of their fan base by utilizing Kickstarter to aid in funding their next creation. At its completion, Phoenix was the ninth most funded musical project on the crowd-funding platform, nearly tripling their initial goal of $30,000 in just a month’s time with an impressive $86,278 from backers.
Vocalist/guitarist Matt MacDonald recently took some time to speak with UTG about Kickstarter and all things Phoenix so read through and get caught up with The Classic Crime!
Let’s talk about Phoenix a bit. I’ve read that you said that the title is cliché but there is more meaning to it. What does it represent for you?
We didn’t pick the album title until we were mixing it. Most of the songs were written during a slightly hopeless and ambiguous period for us. We were newly independent, and we’d just lost a founding member (our first member change ever). Things seemed bleak. So a lot of the record reflects a questioning of purpose and meaning during a dark period. Our first album, Albatross, was named after a hopeful and inspiring bird, and it was clear to us that the albatross dream had burned to the ground. The songs were written in the ashes of that dream. As we mixed the album, we started to feel a renewed spirit, a spirit of rebirth. At that point, the cliché of the “phoenix” made perfect sense… however, instead of focusing the art on the fiery aspect of it, we focused the art on depicting the void created after the bird burns, because the record really is about the time spent in the ashes.
You guys made great use of Kickstarter in succeeding to get Phoenix funded through it. How vital of a role did the site play in getting this album done and what is your advice to bands that are wary of utilizing Kickstarter to help them succeed?
Kickstarter was a way for us to collect pledges for rewards from our fans. Kickstarter did not provide for us the fans, or really much of anything other than the service. Our fans were connected to us through Facebook and Twitter, and it’s really our relationship with them that provided them the knowledge and the access to pledge to our campaign. My advice would be that Kickstarter is not a platform for brand new bands. You have to have some visibility and some platform first. People aren’t going to pledge for your unmade art until you have a track record of creating things they like. They have to trust that you’ll create something they’ll want.
I’ve read a lot of people/fans complaining and criticizing bands about using Kickstarter to fund albums and such. What do you have to say to those that may think it’s wrong to ask fans for money in order to get an album accomplished?
Yeah I think people will usually be cautious of new concepts and ideas. I don’t personally think Kickstarter is the end-all-be-all solution to some of the music industry’s struggles, but I think it’s actually a return to the roots of how art was historically created. If you go back several hundred years, you’ll find that most public art, if not all, was commissioned, meaning; someone who enjoyed the artist’s work would pay them to create something unique for them. Only until the last century did corporations (record labels) slip in between the artist and the client. The labels paid for the art, and then charged a premium to distribute it, making sure that the artist paid them back first with the sales. I understand why some people are angry about completely bypassing the label, but truth be told, it’s a far more traditional concept than the record label owning the masters and rights to distribute.
When going in to work on the new album, what was your focus and what did you want to do differently from your previous efforts?
We wanted to take our time, and we did. We spent around 4 months total, which is over twice as long as we’ve ever had to make a record. Part of the reason was that we did most of it part-time, but I think the main reason was that we wanted to make sure it was right. We had a lot at stake and a lot of folks to disappoint if this wasn’t our best effort, so we made sure it was.
What songs from the new album have been your favorite to play live?
I like “Beautiful Darkside” live, as well as “The Precipice.” It really changes depending on crowd response… that’s probably an insecure thing to say but it’s true. How people respond affects my perception of songs.
Are you currently touring or have any upcoming tour plans?
We are working on east coast dates. More info to come soon… shhhhhhh!
What is your favorite thing about tour life and being on the road?
The people we meet and the places we see, and playing music every night on stage.
What are some of the most important influences that go into The Classic Crime’s lyrics and sound?
I think lyrically I’m obsessed with anything brutally honest. Music has a way of snapping you out of routine complacency and wrenching your heart out of your chest. It lifts the veil. Generally speaking, I try to enter this zone when writing music, because I think it’s the realm we all long for… the realm of “Self” as psychologists would put it. When swimming around in the “Self,” you have a better chance of striking a meaningful chord than hanging out in the “Ego.” My biggest influence is to be honest and true with who I am and what matters to me. I think that’s probably good advice for any artist.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you guys as a band?
Not having enough money to pay our bills.
Who are some lesser known bands that we should keep an eye on in the next year or so?
A band called Ambassadors from NYC. Been listening to them in the van… we think they’ll take off.
Being from the Seattle area, who are some of your favorite acts that share your headquarters?
A local band called Shim that sort of disbanded. They are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career thus far?
Our Kickstarter, this record, going independent.
What’s the next big goal for The Classic Crime?
Make music for the rest of our lives.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion