While it’s been four years since THE NEW TRUST put out their last studio full-length, Get Vulnerable, vocalist/bassist JOSH STAPLES has been anything but resting on his laurels. In that time, he’s recorded and toured with the Jealous Sound, regrouped with his original band the Velvet Teen and even recorded and released an acoustic TNT album with some friends. Now, the Santa Rosa, California-based indie-punk band have booked their first U.S. tour in quite some time, which will take them out to Chicago where they’ll record their new record, Keep Dreaming, with legendary engineer Steve Albini. We checked in with Staples to get more details.
INTERVIEW: Scott Heisel
It’s kind of odd to announce the impending recording of an album that already has a title and everything, isn’t it?
Well, to talk about an album that hasn’t been recorded yet is one of those things, like, who knows what’s going to happen? It could turn out to be a piece of shit, but I’m confident that if everything goes well and we all arrive in Chicago safely and we rehearse the songs 21 days in a row on this tour, it should go fine. It should be good.
Are you playing the new record start-to-finish on your upcoming tour, or are you just kind of working the songs in throughout?
We’re going to try to play as many of the songs as we can every night, and we do play some old songs too, but it’s probably going to be about half-and-half. At least that’s our plan, and it’s just the three of us, as it has been for the last, essentially, three [or] four years. Me and Sara [Sanger, guitar] and Julia [Lancer, drums]. The old songs we play are the ones that translate well to a single guitar, opposed to the crazier ones that have too many guitars, in my opinion. But yeah, we’re going to be playing every single night on the way out there, which is something I’ve never done before. We’re literally playing every single night. There’s no nights off.
Are you concerned you’re going to enter the studio and not be at your best vocally?
The opposite, in my opinion. I mean, I’ve never done this before, but I’ve always talked about it. To tour out to do a record seems to be the ideal way to do it because if you play all the songs—like, [for] every other record I’ve ever done, either the Velvet Teen or the New Trust, we’ve recorded and then you go on tour, and then by the time you get back from tour the songs sound way better than the record. Ideally, you’re playing every night, so you’re just getting better every night. So I’ve always wanted to tour out to do a record and haven’t yet in my lifetime, so that’s kind of a big deal, I think, for us, and I think it will be a clincher to make these songs the best that they can be. Vocally, I mean, I can never tell. I don’t know. I’m very haphazard with vocals. I have no training regime. I have no drinks I take before or after. I just kind of wing it and cross my fingers I don’t blow it out.
You’re recording with Steve Albini, and he’s very vocal in saying that he’s not a producer; he’s very much an engineer. He’ll get sounds and he lets the band do their thing. So, going into this, what are you expecting to get out of working with Steve? He’s not the guy that’s in there telling you to do take after take after take. He’s going to say, “Do you like it?”
Exactly, and that’s exactly what we want. We don’t want anybody to tell us what sounds good. Essentially, I’ll be producing the record and Steve will be engineering it. That’s how we’re imaging it because all of us will be the judge of whether our takes are good enough and whether we like them or not, so the New Trust will be essentially producing the record and Albini will be recording it because we don’t really want anyone to tell us how the songs are going to be better. We’ve been working on [these songs] for a long time, and we’re pretty sure they’re pretty good, and we’ve been laboring over them and changing them over and over again… We appreciate the fact that he’s an engineer, not a producer, and he makes the best sounding records that I can even imagine. He’s made so many of our favorite records, and to get that treatment with our music is, firstly, really intimidating and nerve wracking to be in the same room. But at the same time, he does what he does and he never listens to demos, he doesn’t pick his projects, it’s very much work for him, and that’s what we really like.
So has he heard your band at all this point, or will the first time he hear your band is when you guys show up to the studio?
It’s exactly that. In fact, if you go to their website, it tells you that they don’t want demos about what your band’s going to be like. They don’t want to know. He’s going to set up the things he sets up. We’ll describe what we do for him, and we’re a three-piece rock band and we want the drums to sound gigantic and we want everything to sound the best it can—I mean, he’s the only guy in the world that’s been able to replicate the Zeppelin drum sound, and he’s done so for Page and Plant themselves, so that’s a huge deal. He’s the best at what he does, and I’ve always thought a band are as good as what their drums sound like, so that’s kind of what we’re going for.
It’s been four years since Get Vulnerable came out. Do any of these songs date back that far?
Two of the songs on the record are songs that we had around Get Vulnerable time, but we just left them off because we felt Get Vulnerable was… To add anything would have made the record different and we’re really happy with that record, all three of us, so to have changed it or add anything that wasn’t 100 percent written and done would have imbalanced it. I think it’s good from beginning to end, in my opinion. That’s one of my favorite things I’ve done, so we left a couple of those off. Kept them for the new record, and the new record ended up being longer down the road than we imagined, so we’re not the quickest writers anymore these days. We’ve written a bunch of songs and we’ve kind of scrapped the majority of them. We’ve written albums worth of songs and let them go to seed, and then we came up with new ones.
As the primary lyricist and vocalist in the band, what’s that process like to write all of those songs and then say these aren’t good enough and you’re throwing away all of these ideas that aren’t just musical ideas, but also lyrical ideas? Do you end up kind of cannibalizing those songs down the line for other songs, or are you just abandoning those thoughts entirely?
I’m keeping them on the back burner. We had an album’s worth of songs and we didn’t know how we were going to record them and we had a couple people in mind around here that we would have liked to work with, but then we got really ambitious and decided [to record in] Chicago at Electrical Audio, and we realized maybe we should kind of, like… A lot of the songs we had written were piano songs, and we had just done an acoustic record and we realized we don’t want to be known for having soft records, and we decided a lot of the piano songs, a lot of the mellower songs, we just kind of put aside, and then a couple songs that are a little more straightforward like those New Trust pop-punk songs we occasionally write, we kind of put those aside as well. I don’t really write enough songs to ditch any. I can’t afford to ditch any, so we always keep them in the back of our head.