How did you get your start in music?
(Bryce) Through a bunch of friends in high school. My dad majored in music in college, so that is probably where it stemmed from. Through mutual friends playing in high school and then I met these guys in the band.
How did Ester Drang form and where did the name come from?
(Bryce) The bass player and drummer were doing some talent show somewhere. The singer that they had knew me and they asked me to come along for some reason. That’s pretty much how we met each other. As far as the name I just put two words together. It was from a music theory class I took in high school. Drang came from Strum’n Drang. It’s an old style of music where certain parts in music were emphasized, just like a rise and fall movement in music or something like that. Ester was the last name of a family that payed a composer to make some music. So I just put the two together. It doesn’t really mean anything, but that’s how it started
Describe for us the dynamics of the individual members of the band? What is the writing process like?
(Bryce) I will start out with the writing process. I usually start out with a 4 track mini-disc player and try to write everything in the song. Try to do drums and everything. Then I present it to the band. James, he’s the drummer, will try to rework things and add things because he also plays piano and different instruments. I just let the band members do to the song whatever they want to do because I think it is kinda boring when a band has someone who tells everybody else what to do. I like for them to be happy in what they are playing. Kyle, the bass player, comes up with all the bass lines. On the last record, it was pretty much just me and James, the guitar player, coming up with everything. This record was everyone working together.
(Jeff) Usually Bryce will usually will come up with the skelton of the song and the practice space is where he lives. So, he has all the instruments. He will record a whole demo or a whole song. Then we will get together and go over it. Sometimes it won’t change that much, but usually it will in a number of ways. Usually over the course of the songs life, in the process of getting the songs together, changing parts, then playing it live, by the time we get to recording and playing the song live, it is usually different at each stage. If we are playing a song live and go to record it, it usually changes some in the studio. When we go to record, we usually put down the basics on our own instruments, then it is kinda a free for all in the over dubs. Anyone can be playing a keyboard part, a guitar part, or any noise. At that point, the process because really collaborative.
How do you go about writing the lyrics? Are you the principle lyric writer? Does anything influence your lyrics, like books or experiences, etc?
(Bryce)I write the lyrics. My lyrics are mainly from life experiences. They are almost like conversations between me and God and about struggles. They are pretty simplistic songs, no theorizing or anything.
What are your thoughts on Golden West? What do you think of it in retrospect?
(Bryce) We were really excited about that disc when it first came out because we recorded it in the Greenroom with Chris Colbert. It was like going to your heros’ recording studio, you know, the bands you respect: Starflyer and Prayer Chain. It was exciting to record that record and we were all very happy with it.
What was it like to work with Chris Colbert?
(Bryce) At first, if you don’t know the guy, it’s kinda strange. After you get to know him, he is a really cool guy. I think sometimes it can get a little weird because you’re in the studio getting frustrated going through the day to day stuff and trying to figure out what to do. Chris is really cool. He has lots of ideas and moves you on to the next thing. He’s really kinda firm in what he’s doing. He’s just a really great guy to work with. He really brought out more of a live song on the record and I think he really accomplished that.
(Jeff) I actually didn’t record on Golden West. I joined right after that. So, I heard their stories about their experiences with Chris. He is a colorful character. So, I was prepared for the experience. When we recorded the current record and came in to mix it. It seemed that the dynamic had changed a little bit. It was like he gave us more credit or something. It seemed like the first experience with the guys on Golden West and with them being pretty green, he was kinda taking them under of his wing. There is still a good amount of razzing back and forth. The mixing went really well. He is really quick. We would do something for an hour and he would then get things set and we would change some things. It went really well.
What lead you to the stylistic change from “That’s When He…” to “Goldenwest” and to “Infinite Keys”?
(Bryce) I think we were in the “That’s When He…” stage, I was pretty much a Starflyer fan. So, there was not much originality there. I mean, there were bits and pieces.
Give us an idea of what to expect from the Burnt Toast Vinyl one sided disc.
(Bryce) It’s entitled “Get Rich Scemes and Pleasure Themes.” It’s about like the whole get rich quick American dream and how that is bad. It’s not against America itself, just against putting the riches first. Against just making money and that sort of lifestyle. Two of the songs are on the new record, they are just different versions. It’s not as a good recording in quality as the new record, but I really like it.
(Jeff) Hopefully it is coming. It has been done for a long time, before we did Infinite Keys. It’s out of progression. We did that when our old keyboard player David was still in the band. We recorded that and he quit. So, we had a few months after that to write Infinite, and the vinyl still hasn’t come out. There are two songs on that LP that are different versions of songs on Infinite Keys. One of them was recorded a long time ago with Steven Droves from the Flaming Lips. He played on it. It sounds a lot different than the other version. There is an instrumental song that we did for that, which we are very proud of. It was almost entirely written in the studio. I think it came together pretty well.
Who are your favorite song writers?
(Bryce) Right now, I will tell you what I am listening to. I like Beck’s new disc. I think he is a great songwriter because he tries different things. Of course the Beatles. I like Six Pence None the Richer. I think Matt Slocum is a fantastic songwriter.
(Jeff) I like a lot of people for different things. For songwriting, obviously, the Beatles. I think Elton John is an excellent song writer. I really respect Tim Mizer. He just had a solo record come out. He used to be in a band called Lasso and he is a really good song writer. That’s my plug for the evening. Dave Dennison.
You’ve been called a musical genius by fans and other websites. How do you feel about this perception that you are an elusive musical prophet of sorts?
(Bryce) I don’t see myself as a genius. I just make music and try to figure out stuff when I write songs. I haven’t had any lessons when it comes to music. So, if real geniuses looked at me, they would probably just laugh. That’s really how I see myself. I am just another guy out there playing music.