Contact Music was fortunate enough to catch up with Eric Sanderson of We Are Augustines' in London prior to the band's recent European tour. It's been an emotional ride for the Brooklyn three-piece over the last year. Their previous band, Pela became the victim of the music industry at it's cruelest. 'We lost everything' Sanderson said, 'we went from being a band for 8 years, producing 2 records and building a network of friends and industry support that disappeared overnight, it was a complete abyss'. It took them a while to pull themselves away from that experience but in re-evaluating what they wanted to achieve and taking on board the response from their fans, they formed their new band and have just celebrated their year anniversary. 'Its incredible says Sanderson, in a year and a half's time we went from complete rock bottom, truly questioning if we should even continue to do music and now we are going on our first European tour and this will be our fifth time back to the UK'. With their old band, they lived the rock star life and did all the partying and they are determined not to fall into that trap again. 'We have set a code, we wanted to have a conscious, have intention and be artistically minded and be good people and when we set out on that path all these incredible opportunities opened up to us'
And those opportunities have come in thick and fast, from playing with the like's of The Boxer Rebellion and The Kaiser Chiefs to appearing on The Late Show with Letterman and enjoying support from both fans and the industry. Sanderson talks to us about them, about how the band has changed and tells us what to expect from their debut album, 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships'.
How's the UK treating you this time round?
Its wonderful as always, the people here are so warm and everyone is so supportive of what we're doing, at our shows we have people dancing and singing along and being really celebratory.
The UK has really embraced you and you've had a lot of support from Radio personalities as well as the fans, how do you feel about that?
Wonderful, we couldn't be happier, its quite amazing actually to go from rock bottom and then to come to a place where we are played on major radio stations in Europe and the UK, its just incredible.
Are the UK crowds different to those in the US?
Every city in the US is different. Some, like Seattle, Boston and New York clamp their arms and just stare at you, that thing that some cities are famous for, it goes along with the whole bullshit hipster thing. We are fortunate not to experience it too much and London isn't at all like that at all. the crowds really open up to us.
Do you have any stand out gigs?
Not really but the show that I'm most looking forward to is Frightened Rabbit show coming up in Edinburgh. When our old band broke up, it was right about the time Frightened Rabbit's 'Midnight Organ Fight' came out and it was quite emotive for me and it encouraged me to get back into music because it reminded me how much I loved music. When we played Glasgow, Scott and Billy from the band came to the show and we met up and we hung out and it was really wonderful to meet them and see that they liked what we were doing and I was able to tell them how much their band meant to me and next thing you know we have a show set up.
How would you describe your live show?
100% passion, we work really hard on the energy. Both in our recordings and in our live show, energy is really important to us. Whether it is the kind of song that will make you want to jump up and down and scream at the top of your lungs or it's a slower more introspective tune, we are always focused on the energy behind it. The shows are very celebratory and very thoughtful at times.
What has influenced you as a band?
We never intended to be very 'heart on your sleeve' when we create music but it did kind of end up that way. It ended up being representative of our lives, whether that was travelling the world or dealing with family issues or personal internal issues and enduring the difficulties of that, it all becomes representative. But we are now trying to talk about the bigger picture, look at 'Chapel Song', you could take it literally as a man watching his first love walk down the aisle and marry someone else. But really what the song is about is traversing a life and having to deal with change and the fact that things aren't permanent.
Which artists have inspired you over the years?
So so many! But the Chicago scene in the 2000s was very motivating, pretty much anything that came out on Thrill Jockey. It was a very interesting kind of instrumental music and that was influenced from Brian Eno, I've recently been really into Brian Eno - I have a nerdy passion for instrumentals! I think the northwest scene, Modest Mouse, Elliot Smith, heavily influenced us both. But with listening and playing music for so many years now, the influences are less direct than they used to be. The music we made ten years ago, you could listen to and say 'oh that sounds like such and such' but we have all worked very hard on trying to reach inside ourselves and express who we are rather than use someone else's expression. Hopefully when people hear our music, they hear what we are going through.
How has your music changed in the transition from Pela to We Are Augustines?
The thing that has really changed is how we go about what we do and why we do what we do. With the old band we found ourselves sacrificing what we were comfortable with for this intangible idea of 'making it', nowadays we realize that 'making it' is being conscious, being compassionate, living a career that we can be proud of and a life we are comfsortable with. It doesn't matter if we are making lots of money or are successful because we have a sense of consciousness in what we do and we have compassion towards other people and that's all that matters. That was not there in the other band.
Now you are riding high on the wave of success, are you ever tempted to go back to your old ways?
Yeah we are, its hard when journalists are asking you questions about your life all the time in terms of self importance, it makes you feel different and 'better' than other people or when your pictures are on blogs or if people come up to you after a show, its not always a given to keep you ego in check. But we have all been doing a really good job about it.
What can people expect from RYSS?
I believe the album to be nostalgic, a bit raw at times, something that they can put in the car or on their headphones but also at a bar and people can turn up and really celebrate life but also connect with it on a deeper level in the privacy of their own home. It can be very emotional at times.
And finally, can the fans catch you at any festivals this year?
Coachella on the Saturday, the day we are most excited and also Sasquatch Music festival in the states, a beautiful festival out on the gorge in Washington and we have other ones that are in that are in the works that we cant announce yet.
We Are Augustines are currently touring the States but they will be back in the UK in May, playing London Dingwalls on May 5th and will also be appearing at Latitude Festival this year. and Rise Ye Sunken Ships is out now.