An interview with Creeptones

  • Describe your sound in 3 words

Carmine – vocals/guitar/keys: Meticulously melded madness
Will – bass/vocals: Something for everyone
John – vocals/guitar/piano/drums: Carefully crafted chaos.
Tom -drums: Resonant, ambiguous, eclectic.

  • Could you elaborate on the philosophy of your new album?

Carmine: These songs are the end result of 10 or so years of playing live/recording demos at home. Time is one of the best filters, and for us we worked with the songs that stuck with us throughout the hundreds of gigs we played.

Tommy: This album is an amalgam of the past ten years of our lives. Anybody that knows us personally is aware that we have a LOT of material — and we have a tendency to write starkly contrasting music. One song may have an Arctic Monkeys vibe, another will be reminiscent of Radiohead. We don’t constrain ourselves to one genre. I don’t look at this album the way I would view a Pink Floyd album, which is a cohesive story from start to finish. We came up with the name “Hell + Ice” to make a metaphorical acknowledgment that this album takes many twists and turns. There are different stories being told with a degree of abstract lyricism; I always liked the listener being able to make up some of their own meaning and relevance to the songs. The way I would answer, what is the philosophy of this album is we wanted to put our production chops to the test and create the best sounding album we could make. Not just from a technical standpoint but from a musical standpoint too. It is much more organized than the previous album as far as the song structures and arrangements go. We wanted to pick songs that, to us, had something special about them. However we recognized that listening throughout, some songs sound entirely different from one another. So the name “Hell + Ice” was born. Capitalizing on the contrast instead of masking it.

John: As far as the creative vision, this album is a lot of pushing ourselves to the limit. We wanted to make an album that was something we’d listen to and something that we could stand by, The entire album is Self-produced and recorded, and most of the songs selected were among our more ambitious compositions over the past 8 years since our first album. Because of that,you’ll hear everything on the album from Hybrid Electronic and Acoustic Drums (All of this time, Day by Day), to experimental form Electronic music (Security threat), to cross-Genre tracks with the backing of a full Orchestra (All We Can Do). And yes, those are real strings! The general mindset we took for most of the composition and recording process was avoiding asking the question “Can we do this?” and rather focusing on HOW we could do it within our limitations as a self-funded, self-contained project. A lot of the philosophy of the sound of the album comes from Orchestral influences, specifically how many layers of instruments come together to create the texture of the music. This particularly evident in the Guitars, as there’s up to a dozen guitar tracks playing at once at points throughout the album, and harmonizing leads at various points throughout the album (Trapdoor, Pay the Cost, Sweet Stuff), but throughout the album, Various Brass instruments, Winds, Strings, keyboards and synths all come together to create expansive, layered textures. We’ve even done the same thing with voices in several places, notably in All of the Time, where there are nearly 40 vocal tracks at the end, with all of us singing the final melody octuple-tracked (or more) in octave-displaced unisons.

Will: Truth be told there is no major theme or philosophy. This album is the product of songs finely tuned over a period of time.  

  • Usually during a live gig you are able to tell the audience’s favourite song by judging from their reaction and attitude. In which ways the audience expressed their preferences now that you are performing using a live streaming?

Carmine: I believe that live-streaming is in many ways sometimes a much, much deeper and richer artist-to-listener experience. You’re literally talking to them, DURING the gig- and not just a couple words after each song. At some points, a topic will come up and it will spur a conversation about something interesting. Live-streaming is never going to replace the feeling of the huge speakers going boom, the arena rocking to the sway of the crowd, or the exhilaration of experiencing music in a festival setting- but that’s not what live streaming is trying to be. Live Streaming in terms of a relationship, is the artist and the fans getting to know each-other personally, sharing the day to day, the planning and the news- the live show is still the wedding reception and the end goal- but those day to day interactions. The hello’s, goodbye’s and all the other niceties that come along with it- those are the things I treasure most about live-streaming. 

Tommy: Our first entanglement with live streaming happened in 2016. We had a concert we were rehearsing for, and we were playing Queen songs. Anyone that knows Queen knows that their material is not easy to just pick up and play. So as a way to try and expose ourselves musically, we gave live streaming on twitch a shot. We’ve had many breaks and periods of time where we let life get in the way. As of more recently, the decision to transition to do way more live streaming came at a conveniently inconvenient time for all of us. We’re all aware of COVID-19. It was a major adjustment for all of us, and not just for us as a band. As a way to try and stay connected and grounded, and to be honest, not horribly depressed that playing live music is basically impossible with the regulations, live streaming was a no brainer. People seem to have gotten a kick out of it, especially on Reddit. It is exciting and encouraging to hear positive feedback, not just from our close friends and fans but from complete strangers too. It keeps us going and enables us to play joyfully throughout difficult times.

Will: They’re usually very positive. Some will requests songs and we’re more than happy to oblige.

  • What is your favorite album of the past year?

Carmine: Tame Impala- The Slow Rush. I never did this before, but I decided to read the lyrics as I listened to a new record for the first time. I connected with the music a lot faster than I think I would’ve otherwise. I’ve also been a fan of them since the beginning, and though the reaction was mixed, I personally loved it.

Tommy: My personal favorite album as of the past year is “Dissolution” by Pineapple Thief. I have enjoyed much of what this band has released but ever since they brought Gavin Harrison into the band, I became hooked. This album is a journey comprising of melancholic jams, somehow simultaneously hitting me in the feels and getting me pumped at the same time.

John – It’s actually a little over a year old now, but I’ve got to go with Tal Wilkenfield’s “Love remains” because i feel like it’s still new enough to be in the spirit of the question, and it’s stuck with me so much more than anything that’s been released since. It’s an incredibly harmonically and melodically satisfying album, very unique from what most modern singer-songwriters do nowadays. Makes sense, given her background as an incredible and eclectic bassist! The album really proves how There’s still plenty of harmonic space for artists to explore within the more song-writing driven side of music to allow for unique sounding songs and melodies, rather than just resorting to the same 4 chords we’ve all heard a million times, and thus melodies that all sound the same or stagnate on single note ostinatos.

Will:  Tame Impala’s “The Slow Rush”.

  • You released a full album with 13 tracks. Do people still listen to full albums?

Carmine: One thing we found during all the live performances throughout NJ, PHI, and NY was, every fan had a different favorite song, so it gave us some freedom to not be afraid to move around genre-wise. You’ll find glimpses and even full sections of many different genres, but not at the cost of cohesion. The blending of the tracks to stand on their own, but also be different enough to not tell the same story in 13 songs was important.

Tommy: I hope so. I’ve noticed there are a LOT of metal bands around here. Not to say we are prejudiced against metal — it is a great genre and we dabble in playing heavier music from time to time. But the very technical kind of metal music just never seemed to be our forte. But outside of musical genres, (I’ve grown to believe there are only two anyway, good and bad music) the music scene here has always treated us with much love. I have many fond memories of playing shows in Asbury Park, whether it be at the stone pony, the saint, langosta lounge and the list goes on. I feel joyful having those memories over the course of us playing live throughout the years.

John: We’d like to think so, because we all do! The culture for consumers of mainstream popular music may have shifted to a much greater Single focus, it’s hard to deny that, but there will always be a place in the music world for Artists who still treat the album, and music in general, as an art form. When an Album as a whole is well crafted, it almost feels wrong to listen to it out of order, or to skip a single song. Music with that level of care put into it is the music we like the most, and while the other people like us that love that kind of music as well may no longer be as in the public eye as the past, they’re still out there. That’s who our music is for. There’s more to the music world than just the upper echelon of pop music consumers!  

Will: I know I do, if you love any artists you’ve listened to more than just the singles.

  • How do you relate to the New Jersey music scene?

Carmine: New Jersey is where we’ve lived our whole lives. We’ve been in the city, but not nearly as much as some people seemed to want to go straight to after starting to play. We focused on Asbury Park and at the time started landing big slots on sold out nights at The Wonder Bar. Another spot of interest was Atlantic City. We met some great people down there including someone who we’d like to shout-out. Jerry Ryan started Elephants Talk Music Fest, the proceeds of which go to Elephants For Autism, the charity he started over 10 years ago. I’ve seen what he goes through to raise a child with autism, and to still be such a positive beacon for meaningful, impactful causes after enduring the things he’s willing to share publicly, the man deserves every ounce of credit he gets, and it’s certainly not enough. He was the entire Atlantic City underground music circuit for a while, and featured us on many shows, and great spots during his Elephant Talk Music Fest. Check him out at https://www.facebook.com/ElephantsForAutism/

  • If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?

Tommy:  If I could change anything about the music industry, it would be making the top artists actually perform their material on Grammy awards and other shows like that. I personally don’t go out of my way to watch these shows — I remember seeing Rihanna one year literally just dancing along to one of her pre-recorded tracks. She barely even sang! I was wondering… you don’t write your own music. You don’t play an instrument. Can you at least sing the song you’re making millions off of? Not a dig at Rihanna, I know there is a “show” aspect to it. But that annoyed me profusely!I would encourage people to stop playing the “numbers game” and getting upset over why certain pop songs have hundreds of millions of views, and yet their best friends band who write honest great music struggle to afford decent gear and no one’s ever heard of them. Accept that what is popular will not always align with your tastes and that is OK.

Carmine: Find more ways to empower independent artists. There ARE all the tools available you need to succeed in music, but assembling them and using them all as efficiently as possible may determine for some whether or not music can be a viable source of income. As much as we all say, “It’s not about the money”- yes, you’re completely right. But, if we can’t continue doing what we love, because we need to make money other ways to continue to provide music and live-streams at the level we strive for, money suddenly seems to be of importance to a degree.The labels still have the control in most cases because anyone has a price- and once you become successful enough, you could end up with an offer that would be shameful to your great-great grand kids if you declined it “cause it’s all about the music”. I’d like to see more power and revenue generating abilities for completely independent artists that own their music that work with 3rd parties to distribute until they have the capital and means to do those things themselves with an in-house, hired team.  

Will: People who take advantage of young talent, there’s a whole industry of malicious “record labels”

  • One last thing we should know about you?

Carmine: We have over 250 written songs, most of them demos for possible future tracks. When we have enough interest in us we’re going to try some pretty interactive and fun ideas regarding our unreleased pool.

Tommy: We really aren’t that creepy once you get to know us.

John: To assist our cooling fans we run a wall unit air-conditioner over our 3 Live-Streaming PC towers at all times. 

Will: No matter what, Creeptones will always make music that delivers.

Thanks Creeptones!

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