Having won over an army of fans while on tour with Tove Lo and Semi Precious Weapons together with being championed by Atwood Magazine, Baltimore alt-rock quartet The Last Year's star is most certainly on the rise.
With their new EP Static Automatic out now, and tour plans in the pipeline, PopWrapped chatted to bassist/synth player Scott Ensign to talk influences, dream shows and plans for the future.
PW: How would you sum up the band and your music up in a couple of sentences?
Scott Ensign: I feel like our music and sound is very transporting. We definitely try to evoke a visual or feeling with the production and we try to not be limited to just the sound of a guitar, bass, drums or vocals.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
SE: Absolutely! All of us have different childhood nostalgic influences. I know for me, I grew up listening to a lot of 90's alt rock so that is just ingrained into my style. We are always listening to the newest cool records that come out, so that keeps the influences ever changing.
PW: When did you first realise you wanted to be part of the music industry? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
SE: Well, I grew up in a musical household. My dad is a musician who has always been in multiple bands so having musicians and instruments around all the time has always just been part of everyday life. My dad is also a great showman on-stage and I remember going to see him perform as a kid and just loving it. I started playing the upright bass in the school orchestra in 5th grade and didn't really care much for what I was supposed to be doing with it. Instead, I learned how to play Iron Man and it was all downhill from there!
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you might say you're similar to or do you make a determined effort to be something completely fresh?
SE: I feel like being an original band is like taking all the parts of other music that you think are cool and slamming them together to make your own sound. Within one of our songs I can usually point to 3 or 4 other bands or songs that I feel like we made a conscious effort to take cues from. It's like you add up all these ingredients you've collected over a lifetime of listening to music and bake your own cake!
PW: Tell me about your EP Static Automatic. Is there a story behind the title?
SE: Well, Niki (Barr) is the lyricist so I can only say what it means to me. For me, it's about being stuck in a situation where you are going nowhere and you just keep having the same arguments as to why things are not happening. It's almost like you know what the result of an argument is going to be before it even happens. Hence, Static Automatic.
PW: Could you pick a favourite track from the EP and if so, which is it and why?
SE: I've poured a lot of time and energy into making all the tunes on the record unique unto themselves so it's hard to pick a favorite. I will say that I really enjoyed creating the production for “Magic”. It's a tune that has a sound unlike anything we've ever done before.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
SE: One thing I love about this band is that we have no problem in the song-writing department. We probably have enough songs for another whole record ready to go right now and we're currently working on some brand new tunes on top of that. We are really objective about the process so if something isn't working or doesn't sound right, we just move on to the next idea. I hate getting hung up on a song idea and trying to force it. I always think the next idea is gonna be the best song we write!
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
SE: I think this question is unanswerable for me. I could never pick a greatest song or greatest artist. I just don't view music in that sense.
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
SE: I would love to play at Red Rocks Ampitheater in CO. I feel like if you get to the point where you are playing Red Rocks, you're doing something right!
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
SE: Just off the top of my head I would say Depeche Mode, The Police and the Smashing Pumpkins – but it’d have to be the original line-up. Then again, I feel like they would all blow us off stage so maybe not!
PW: What are your touring/performance plans for the rest of the year? Will fans see you at any festivals or are you focussing more on headline shows etc?
SE: We have some dates booked coming up in the next month including a run up to Summerfest in Milwaukee WI. We are hoping to do a longer run possibly out west in late Summer/Fall.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and do you agree that it's necessary for bands and artists today? How has it helped grow your fan-base?
SE: It certainly allows you to get yourself in front of people who are not close to your home base. It's absolutely necessary in the industry today. I don't see how you can really operate without it unless you are just playing a local scene where everything is word of mouth. It's definitely made it a lot easier for us to keep in contact with cool fans that we have made while out on the road. Touring is expensive but now you can communicate with fans that are states away without hopping in the old van!
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
SE: Playing a lot more shows, working on new music and doing a few more videos. We shoot and edit our own videos so it takes a considerable effort to get that done. Hopefully getting out to the west coast. California is calling my name!
PW: Finally then, what’s your ultimate ambition as a band and with that in mind, whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
SE: I think our biggest ambition is to get to a point where we can just stay out on the road playing shows non-stop. We really want to make music that people want to add to the soundtrack of their life and to connect with the fans on a personal and relatable level.