“An album that you can be proud of doesn’t result from the ability to see your destination.”
October 1 will mark not only the beginning of UTG’s favorite month but the release of The Como Brothers‘ full-length debut, Baby Steps. Blending elements of pop and blues influenced from the likes of The Beatles and John Mayer, these New York-based brothers couldn’t be more proud to finally release this 12-track effort for the world to experience.
Andrew Como took some time to speak with us about the upcoming album as well as how he and his brother differ in writing, their time working with Dan Gluszak and Casey Crsecenzo, and what their future plans entail. Read through the break and get familiar with The Como Brothers!
I get the feeling that music has always been a part of your lives. Would you say that you two were influenced from a young age to get involved with music?
Growing up we watched our Dad and uncles jam together at family parties. We really wanted to be part of it, and that was a big influence as to why we picked up instruments in the first place. From a young age, our parents encouraged and paid for music lessons. Matt and I started to take piano lessons, and after a couple of years I took up the alto and tenor saxophone for school band. I started playing guitar in 6th grade, and Matt picked it up later on. I still remember the first song I learned to play was “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, and the first riff I learned was “Day Tripper” by The Beatles. After that I was hooked.
When did you two officially start making music together as a band?
We were in and out of bands in high school, but it was mostly cover material. As The Como Brothers Band, we started writing and playing original material in 2010. Everything that has happened since then culminates into what is now our first full length album, Baby Steps.
Would you say that you two are very similar in terms of ideas and personality or are you complete opposites? And how do you think this dynamic affects the way you create together?
I wouldn’t say we’re complete opposites, but we definitely have our differences both as writers and in our personalities. In terms of personality, generally speaking, Matt looks at life in a more straight up way; at the end of the day, everything in the left column should balance out with the right. He’s more of a realist and believes that an outcome is the direct result of precisely what you put into something. I, on the other hand, am more of an optimist. I tend to believe that sometimes things can be stacked in your favor and that it’s all going to work out. I believe our personalities really shine through our writing styles. Matt has a darker feel to his writing, while I write with a more wide-eyed hopefulness. I think this really gives our songs and catalog a lot of perspective because it’s not just one person’s take on a series of life events. Our contrasting outlooks helped to give a more even-keeled overall tone to our first full length.
The awesome part about all of it is that, when it comes to actually sitting down and writing together, we’re both very flexible and open-minded. For example, even though I might not agree with Matt’s notion that the world is going to end tomorrow, we both gained the ability to play devil’s advocate and strap on each other’s mindset long enough to finish a song and complete an idea.
On the other hand, sometimes our differing views can help redirect a song completely. In our song “Hang My Head,” Matt sings of hardships and reasons to be down in life. He didn?t have a bridge for the song before the studio and was stuck, so he asked me if I could put something down. The last line of the bridge I wrote is, “I’ll never love you in a game like that. Now I’m writing the rules. Never blue.” Or in other words, no one’s going to decide how I feel one way or another, and that I can make my own positive reality. The bridge ended up turning the song into something uplifting for the final chorus.
Are there any specific people or bands that you feel have inspired you to a point that their influence is apparent in your sound?
Oh, absolutely. As far as song writing goes, The Beatles have always been a huge influence. John Mayer has also been a very big influence both in songwriting and in our playing. He’s the reason I picked up a Strat and is why Matt and I are so aware of all the old blues legends. A lot of our songs are guitar and riff driven, and I believe a lot of that came from Mayer.
I’ve never been to New York personally but I get a sense of the city in your music, as odd as that may sound. Do you feel that New York has played a big role in your work?
Well, I think that being someone from New York gives you a sense that you’re part of something larger than yourself. The message our music gives off is one that transcends Matt and I personally. Although we’re singing and writing about our personal experiences, we hope that our songs are relatable and big enough that someone else can hold what we’re saying to be true. I think the New York you’re hearing in our music is our self-awareness in relation to how we affect others and how others are affecting us.
So let’s talk Baby Steps. It’s your first full-length record. Is it everything you wanted and intended it to be?
It’s not everything we intended it to be, but it’s definitely everything we want it to be. In the studio, a lot of things change from your original vision. There are two songs on the album in particular, “Late Nights” and “Only Me,” that sound completely different now than from when they were originally recorded. We scrapped both original versions of the songs and completely rebooted them, and looking back, it was completely necessary. An album that you can be proud of doesn’t result from the ability to see your destination. Matt and I found that a fulfilling album is the result of making good and smart choices along the way. A lot of curve balls are thrown in the studio, and not everything turns out how you initially intended. However, you have to trust your bandmates, engineer, and producer in steering the ship around the whirlpool.
What was your goal for this record when you began writing and recording it, in terms of what you wanted to portray and accomplish for yourselves.
We wanted to make an album that was as accessible as it was relatable. The topics of the songs are very universal. There’s nothing on there that will cause anyone to say, “Well, I really have no idea what they’re trying to tell me.” Everything is pretty straightforward, and that’s exactly how we wanted it to be. We wanted to write a pop album, but on our own terms. Every song on the album was written with a pop sensibility. We tried to be as melodic and artistic as we were economical and logical with every section of every song.
You had some pretty impressive help with production and musicianship as well. What can you tell us about that?
Our producer Mike Watts (As Tall As Lions, The Dear Hunter, Brand New) is good friends with Dan Gluszak (Envy on the Coast, Times of Grace, Heavy English). Before the album, we were looking for a guy on the drums to do the songs justice, and Mike told us we had to use Dan. We were so glad that we did because the man is incredible. He brought the songs to a different level and gave them life. For someone to be so good but to have such restraint and foresight is really refreshing to experience. The guy really understands playing for the song, and I think that it’s evident on the album.
Someone else that we’re very grateful to have on the album is lead singer of The Dear Hunter, Casey Crescenzo. He was recording his latest album, Migrant, at VuDu Studios while we were there recording Baby Steps. We saw him often while recording, and he passed through during the session for “Late Nights” and “Chasing Ambience.” He ended up tracking Mellotron Strings on “Late Nights” and Fender Rhodes on “Chasing Ambience.” He’s a super talented dude, and we were very happy to have someone so accomplished on a couple of our tracks.
Other than Casey obviously, Why did you choose those guys in particular?
We chose to work with Mike Watts, owner of VuDu Studios, to record the album because he was our producer for our previous two EPs and were really happy with how they came out. We initially were interested in working with Mike because we loved how the As Tall As Lions self-titled album came out. We were fans of ATAL before we even knew of Mike.
We’ve also worked with our other producer and engineer, Tom Flynn, since The Speed of Sound days. That guy knows what the hell is up. It’s like he read my mind every single time I wanted a particular sound or guitar tone for the album. Tom and Mike also directed/shot/edited/produced our music videos for the two singles off of the album, “Straight Face” and “Late Nights.”
We also felt honored to have Steven Haigler (The Pixes, Brand New, Fuel, As Tall As Lions) master the entire album. The guys at VuDu Studios are all extremely talented, and we love working with them.
The album cover is perfect. I’m assuming that’s actually you guys? Sweet TMNT sweater by the way.
Thanks! Yup that’s us. Ninja Turtles sweater and all. I believe Matt is age 5 in that picture, and I’m 3. That was back during the beginning of the piano lesson days. I’m glad you like it though. We thought it was an awesome picture that tied in with the album theme. We wanted to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
So any touring plans in support of the album? And would Gluszak be on the road with you?
We’ll definitely be playing all over the Long Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan in the immediate future (check our website schedule for dates!). As far as touring goes, we’re in the process of looking into touring the northeast as well as the college circuit. We’d love to hit the road all year across the country — but the reality of finding a way to do it is where we are at now. Our drummer right now is Jeremy Scalchunes. He actually grew up with Gluszak, and they’re best friends ironically enough. Jeremy was recently telling us that they taught each other a lot about drumming. He was saying they used to set up two kits facing each other and would just go back and forth for hours. Jeremy is a beast! We’re excited to have him on board.
What’s the next big goal for the brothers?
The next big goal is to get Baby Steps into the ears of as many listeners as humanly possible through live shows, promotion, etc. That being said, we always have one eye on what’s happening and the other on what’s next. Matt and I have been writing a load of songs for what will be our sophomore album.
Lastly, what are you two going to be for Halloween this year?
Well now that you mention it, being two Italian brothers, we really should be Mario and Luigi. However, now that the album cover’s out, I think it would be a huge let down if we were anything other than the Ninja Turtles. Thanks for the awesome interview!
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter