Eclectic alternative rock band Variants are about to release their sophomore album Commonwealth. By further developing the group’s sound and a larger spectrum of material Commonwealth promises to be Variants’ most ambitious project yet! By the Barricade reached out to Variants to find out more about their upcoming EP, tour plans, and writing process. Find out all about it from drummer Michael Rivera in the full interview below!
Variants will be releasing their new EP, Commonwealth on October 23, 2015. How will you guys be celebrating the release ?
Michael Rivera: We have two shows scheduled for that weekend. The first takes place on the release day at Pavilion Entertainment’s “Back From The Dead Fest.” This show will be held at The District in Lafayette, LA, and will feature a handful of Lafayette locals, for some of which is a reunion show (Back From The Dead). Halloween is right around the corner as well, so it’s fitting. Our show the following day is in Monroe, LA. Not a fest, but it should still be fun nonetheless!
Can you tell me a little more about the album’s cover?
The “moment” was us looking through our photographer’s portfolio for something cool to use for our album art. No one in the band is artistically inclined when it comes to visual art, so he helps us out a lot with awesome pictures and graphics. We used a picture of his for the “Bitter” single artwork, and we wanted the EP art to be thematically similar. This image stuck out to us. Firstly, because it looked cool. However, the more we thought about it, the more it made sense analytically.
Michael Rivera: When brainstorming EP titles, I was trying to think of something related to metal. Not the genre, but gold, copper, etc. Lance uses metal analogies in his lyrics throughout the EP, which you will notice if you watch/listen to our video for “Understand.” Gold suggests value or wealth. While in the studio, we had talks about what was best for us both as a band and individuals, which led us to “Commonwealth.” In the image, both of the figures are pointing at one another, as if coming to a mutual understanding of each others’ decisions, and accepting each other for who they are.
The 4-song Ep is your sophomore release and was recorded and produced by Jay Maas of Getaway Studios. Were there instances when you felt intimidated by Jay’s work?
Michael Rivera: We were all very aware of Jay’s success both as a producer and member of Defeater, but I don’t think it ever “intimidated” us because Jay is so down to earth. Not once did he brag on anything that he’s done. He’s very humble. He even told us on a few occasions how he couldn’t believe they were doing so well and how he couldn’t believe they were releasing their new record on Epitaph. All of this while we sat on his couch, mouths agape, listening to their new record while he was finishing up the mastering process…haha. It’s always great meeting successful music industry folks who know how to keep their egos in check.
Michael Rivera: The writing process was mostly the same. We write something, track it (roughly), and then take it to the studio to record it. But yes, the recording process was much different. For our full length, there was much more pre/post-production work than there was for our EP. Jay and Brooks at Mockingbird Studios simply have different approaches to recording. Jay is more raw, and Brooks is more polished. They’re both good at what they do, it’s just totally different methods.
You released a single, “Bitter” and a music video for “Understand”. Each of those tracks have a life of their own. What two tracks off Commonwealth do you think differ the most from each other?
Michael Rivera: I would say that “Bitter” differs the most from “Dirt | Dust.” “Bitter” is the newest song on the EP, and “Dirt | Dust” is the oldest. The latter is influenced more by melodic hardcore/punk and more similar to our full length. “Bitter” is more rock influenced, and I believe is the best foreshadow of things to come for us in the future.
“Bitter” has a lyric “I’ll take a broken arm over a broken heart any day.” I’d agree, but have any of you ever broken any bones?
Michael Rivera: I broke my finger once playing baseball. Eric broke his rather long femur once too (he’s 6’7). I’m not sure about the other guys, but I know Edward has taken some pretty nasty falls on his bike so I wouldn’t be surprised…haha.
Michael Rivera: The response for “Bitter” has been unreal. It seemed like every person at the show sang along to the chorus with us. They were powerful enough to let Lance back off the mic and let the crowd take it. It was an amazing feeling, and one of our most fun shows to date.
Michael, you’ve been booking shows with Pavilion Entertainment to help enhance your hometown’s local scene. I really admire that! What was the most memorable show you worked on, and what made it spectacular?
Michael Rivera: One of the most memorable shows for me was the first “big” show we did. We booked The Acacia Strain in a 200 cap all ages room and it sold out. Another favorite of mine was the Turnover show we hosted last month. They’re one of my favorite bands and half of them are from New Orleans, so it was great to have them. Fun fact: Austin and I went to high school together for one week before Katrina hit. Who would’ve guessed 10 years later that guy would be in one of my favorite bands and I’d book them. Life is crazy.
I’ve heard that Variants has been hard at work planning a winter tour. Are there any details that you can share about your upcoming shows?
Michael Rivera: We haven’t announced the tour just yet, but we can say that we are excited to finally be heading to the west coast. After this tour, we will have seen nearly every region of the U.S. DIY, which feels great to say.
Is there anything else that you want to say to the readers of By the Barricade?
Michael Rivera: Thanks for reading, and check out our new music video for “Understand” on Absolute Punk! We hope you’ll tune in on October 23rd for the release of Commonwealth. Let’s be friends on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: variantsla