How did the Boxing Lesson Form?
I started assembling The Boxing Lesson during the summer of 2001 in Los Angeles. My previous band had recently split and I was playing around town in a few projects and that’s how I met Casey the drummer. I quit that project after a month or two and Casey asked me if he could try out for the new band I had been talking about putting together. He came to my place the following weekend and listened to some demos that I had been working on and was interested. He had been playing in a punk band called Ignite previous to that and this slow paced music was a real challenge for him at first. That original lineup only lasted a few months and we played only one show together. In the beginning of 2002, we started totally new…I talked my old friend from Washington DC, Chris Judd, into playing bass for us.
I met John Treanor through an ad that I had posted in the LA Recycler. He was out of town while I was auditioning guitarists and I never got around to bringing him in. I auditioned/screened about 20-30 players and wasn’t happy with anyone. John called me a week or so after that and said he was back in LA and that he’d like to meet up. I was impressed that he also had his own band called Satellyte who rehearsed in the same building. The first second I saw his gear and heard him play, I knew he was the guy. John has amazing guitars, amps and pedals and his tone is always right on. John is really essential to this band. His parts are like the glue that holds everything together. He is a stellar minimalist lead guitar player. So, after John was in, we started looking for the fifth man. I always had this vision of a five-piece band…where everyone was playing as minimally as possible yet creating something that was bigger than all the individual parts.
I met Phil Cobb in person at the Silverlake Lounge in about April 2002. I had just played a show with my other band, Univac, and got into a really great conversation with him outside the club. We seemed to connect on a lot of levels musically and personally. I invited him down to audition and was hooked from the first swell of slide guitar he played. Phil has a great collection of old analog synths and guitar effects pedals and really uses them extremely tastefully. Phil constantly pushes the boundaries of the band and each of us personally. I love that about him. For the last few months, our friend, Daniel Haworth has been playing bass for us…he is a really talented player, he’s played a few great shows with us and he just played all the parts on the new record we in the studio working on right now.
The Boxing Lesson is a collective of influences. Each one of us brings something different to the table. When all these musical interpretations come together, it inevitably forms something unique. Like it’s something that you feel you’ve heard before and something that you’ve never heard before all blended into one. Over the last year, the band’s songs have gotten stronger and the interplay between the instruments has matured. We’ve been using certain techniques recently like multi-synth sections, use of multiple e-bows, slides, delays, etc. We all work very hard at making The Boxing Lesson’s sound as seamless as possible with 5 guys playing you have to or you have too much chaos. Which is sometimes good but that’s a different story completely.
How as a band do you write songs?
For the most part, I come up with a vocal melody and a chord progression on my own and bring it into the band to dissect and play off of. Sometimes things change, sometimes they stay the same. Everyone writes their own parts and everyone has a say in the songs direction due to that fact. There are songs that we’ve all worked on sections together or evolved things in a new direction together. There is also a song that Phil wrote all the music to and I came up with the lyrics, melody and interweaving guitar line. The song is called, Pharmacy, and it will be on the new record. I would say that’s the first true Boxing Lesson collaboration song thus far.
What are the group dynamics in the band like? (ex: are you all great friends, or acquaintenacnes, etc..and how do your relationships with each other affect the music?)
I feel that in a band, you are only as strong as your relationships with the other members. I believe that you all need to be friends. You can’t treat people like employees without building animosity. The Boxing Lesson is made up of a group of friends. Of course, these relationships have been building from day one. You basically come together due to the common ground of the music and over time, you build great friendships in the process. Creative tension is also a very good thing sometimes. There are times when we get in heated debates over what sound we are going for, which songs should be played and which ones not played, etc. which lyrics are terrible, which keyboard lines suck, which guitar parts make someone want to throw up. It’s exciting to have various opinions surrounding one group of guys. If everyone was coming from the same direction all the time, it would be pretty mundane.
We recently reviewed your ep on our site. How do you feel about it?
That review was really touching.
What was the recording process for your ep like?
The process for the first EP was fairly effortless. We basically went into a LA downtown studio and recorded those four songs on two-inch analog tape live. We captured the drums for all four tunes in one day and it took about a month to go back over the other instrumentation to smooth out the edges. The vocals were sung through a vintage Neumann U47 tube mic and came out sounding pretty amazing. We are all pretty happy with the end product on the whole. But I know that most of us have a lot of problems with the mix which was rushed through due to lack of money and time. Overall, the tones and mood we achieved was good enough for our first outing and our first demo. The new EP we are working on will sound more LIVE. We captured much more energy in the studio this time and the band as a unit is much tighter and much more mature than last year.
Is there any specific message that you try to convey in your music and lyrics?
Well, the songs are all pretty sad but they always have a sliver of hope underlying. I tend to sing about lies, deception, lost love, lost identity, independence, searching for something unknown, fighting, dreaming, the typical indie-rock shit, I guess.
What bands/musicans have inspired you the most?
Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of Pink Floyd and The Cure. Recently I’ve been listening to lots of Acetone, Interpol, Beatles (White Album), Sigur Ros, Braniac, Autolux, Elbow and Flaming Lips.
You’ve played a number of shows…how has the response been for your band?
We always get a pretty great response. We seem to appeal to a wide variety of music lovers. People seem to really connect with what we are doing. The Boxing Lesson offers lots of layers of sound which sometimes take time to jump out at you through multiple listens. I think this keeps things really interesting. If you hear a song you don’t like or a vocal melody that rubs you the wrong way for some reason, there is always something else to focus on a cool bass line, moog sound, guitar effect something to hold your interest until the next songs starts. We also tend to do a lot of ambient Brian Eno-esque segues between songs. This gives space in the set and gives peoples ears time to heal before the next song starts building. The Boxing Lesson can get REALLY loud sometimes. We are probably just as loud at times as your really hard bands out there although sometimes we are so soft that you can hear our amps buzz. It’s more of a curse than a blessing most of the time but you can almost always understand the lyrics that I sing. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve in the lyrics. It embarrasses me like nothing else sometimes. After a show, sometimes I just sit there and cringe at what I’ve revealed.
What is the Boxing Lesson’s place in the independent music world?
I don’t know how to answer that one.
What is in the future for the Boxing Lesson?
Keep working hard. We try to rehearse as much as possible. I personally want to write better and better songs over time and experiment more with analog synth sounds. We are playing a really cool show this coming Memorial Day weekend at Spaceland in Silverlake, CA. The bill is made up of some really great bands, Calla from NYC, and Black Eyed Snakes from Minneapolis. We’ve been working up a set for that. We are going to finish up this next recording over the next month. The songs are great. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some sort of indie label to put it out so we don’t have to put it out ourselves on Send Me Your Head Records like our first EP. A year from now, I’d like to be on tour with a full length album under our belt.
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