Interview with The Class Acts

In my constant search for new music it’s nice to have a band kind of fall into your lap. Kalamazoo indie rock foursome, The Class Acts, contacted us about possibly reviewing their new EP, Plus One. I gave the EP a listen and then gave it another listen and then just one more before getting back to the guys to say that we would love to do a feature with them and that’s how this interview came to be. There’s a bit of The Strokes, maybe some Weezer and The Black Keys thrown in for good measure in The Class Acts’ sound and I can guarantee you’ll be unable to resist the catchy hooks contained in their little 5 track EP. Andy McCotter and Ed Ryan talk about the new EP as well as where the guys have been and where they’re going below.

The Class ActsFirst Off, can you start by giving us a little history? How did The Class Acts get their start?

Andy: We actually got our feet wet by performing as a 3-piece (Andy – Drums, Ed – Vocals and Bass, John – Guitar) around 4 years ago. It was each members’ first musical project, and we’re lucky enough to all be best friends, so it’s been especially cool seeing how time/experience has changed the way we create and perform. This past January, however, we added a fourth member (Alex Tobin) to the band to play the keyboard. This has definitely added a new element to the way we go about our song-writing process.

What was the writing process like for Plus One? Did the writing / recording process for this EP change at all from that of your first EP, Functions?
Andy: We had a really nice creative burst once Alex joined the band. The added keyboard / synth really inspired us to try new things, and it helped us hone in on a sound that we’d been developing for a while now. The recording process for this EP was also entirely different than how we’ve gone about it in the past. As a 3-piece, we had completed two EP’s at Broadside Productions in Kalamazoo, MI. We loved the result of those projects, but we felt it was time to change things up a bit. Ed recommended a friend of his, Garrett Gagnon, to work with us this time around on tracking, mixing, and mastering  – we couldn’t be happier with the process and results. As opposed to our previous EPs, this one was created without us worrying about a deadline. Tracking was especially great because we were able to take as much time as we needed to get the take that we felt was “it“. We have nothing but great things to say about Garrett – he’s really become like another member of the band at this point.

Where did you draw inspiration from for Plus One? And where do you draw inspiration from in general when you’re working on new music?
Ed: Because most of the songs on this EP were brought to the band as sort of skeletons by myself, I can answer this one. These songs were written in a period of change in my life – leaving home, moving out, starting college, the excitement of living in a new place, the bending and breaking of relationships and the formation of new ones, being alone – these are all events that I kind of drew from when writing the songs. I was listening a lot to bands like Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit, Bombay Bicycle Club, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Parquet Courts, SKATERS, and The Strokes. I don’t really think this EP sounds like any of those bands, but I figured that it might be worth including what I was listening to. Each group of songs is influenced in a different way. Since we finished these ones, I’ve been really interested in songs that tell stories, but I haven’t ever written that way myself. I fluctuate between wanting to write songs that everyone will like and wanting to write really weird stuff, though the weirdness never sees the light of day. I also move between wanting to write vague lyrics and really niche, descriptive stuff.  A good example of the latter is the band Frontier Ruckus – Matt Milia’s lyrics are really wordy and constantly name-drop landmarks from where he grew up, yet the music still appeals to a broad audience. I’m really interested in that kind of writing, but I’m not sure that it will work its way into the next set of songs we put out.

What do you hope your fans and new listeners take from Plus One?
Ed: I like to think that Plus One is a more mature effort when compared to our other releases. I feel stronger about this group of songs than any we’ve put out before, and I hope that listeners can appreciate the growth and progress. I think the addition of keyboard and further vocal harmonies has really filled out our sound, and I feel that the EP as a whole has a higher production value. They’re still relatively simple songs like always, but we worked hard to make something with a bit of emotion and depth, so overall I guess I just hope that our friends and listeners can sense that.

I know the Detroit area music scene is especially active, how is the music scene on the west side of Michigan?
Ed: The west side of the state is a great place for bands in my opinion. The major cities for music are definitely Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, and both harbor a cool mix of bar-scene music and DIY culture. The house venue market in both towns is really strong – organizations like DIT Grand Rapids and DIT Kalamazoo hold down the fort really well, and there are always awesome touring bands coming through and playing basement shows. The dudes from Fusion Shows in Lansing do a great job of bringing bigger / national bands to Grand Rapids (Pyramid Scheme) and Kalamazoo (District Square & Wild Bull), which is nice because it gives locals a chance to play professional venues with relatively large draw and gives music lovers a wide range of music to watch. Both cities have an acute feeling of togetherness. Very proud to call Kalamazoo (and the west side of the state in general) our home.

Any touring plans to support Plus One?
Ed: We actually wrapped up our second weekend tour just yesterday. We didn’t have much out of state experience prior to this year, so we made it a summer goal to play out a bit more. We made it to Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois for a long weekend in May and again in August. Both mini-tours were filled with good friends and lots of cool new people. Great experiences for sure. Ed’s about to start booking another small tour for the late fall, and we’ve got our hands full in Michigan for the next few months. We’re hitting Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Ann Arbor all within September and October, with an official release party for the EP on Thursday the 28th of August at our place in Kalamazoo. Really excited to keep the momentum we’ve been feeling lately.

And finally, what lies ahead for The Class Acts?
Andy: More shows, more shows, and more shows. We’re strong believers that the best way to develop music is to play it live, and it’s also one of the most fun parts about this project. We hope to expand our tours to more dates / more states in the next year, too. Ed actually just bought a van this summer, so we’re set as far as traveling is concerned – right now all we have to do is keep booking.

Make sure to support The Class Acts by heading over to their Facebook page and giving them a like, following them on Twitter, and picking up Plus One. You can also get their Functions EP on bandcamp.