We recently had a chance to sit down with Boston-based indie rock-melodic-punk band, Energy. We talked about the Boston music scene, the church choir, among other things!
Huge thanks to Jason for taking some time out of his day to chat with us!
Indie Minded: For those who may not be familiar with Energy, tell us a little about yourself and your sound.
Jason Tankerley: Well I’d say that our main influences that were most apparent in our sound during the beginning of the band were been bands like A.F.I. Misfits, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion, etc. What I pride myself in most regarding our overall sound though is that whether someone has never even heard of Energy or whether they’ve been following my every musical move for these past 9 1/2 years, when people are made aware that we have new music coming out, they really don’t know exactly what it’s going to sound like.
Lately I’ve been drawing from so many of my influences (recent and initial) that it’s honestly hard for me to categorize some of the music we make. Take for example a song of ours like “They”. What band does that sound like? What niche sub-genre does it fall under? I’m not quite sure. To me the only way to describe it to someone is that it’s intense and emotional rock music with electric guitars and drums.
Other songs we have like “Dead In Dreamland” have influences that are very apparent. That song in particular reaches from my fascination with bands like The Beach Boys, doo-wop productions from the 50’s and 60’s (Joe Meek/Phil Spector), combined with the guitar/drum sound of The Ramones and The Misfits. A song like “Dead In Dreamland” might seem like it’s just simply replicating the lyrical horror aesthetic of The Misfits, which it most certainly is in a lot of ways, but it is also referencing the lyrical stylings of some of those old 60’s rock songs. If you listen to some of those songs…the lyrics are pretty psychotic.
IM: Energy has been around since 2006, how has the music scene changed since your humble beginnings?
JT: Honestly, I don’t keep up to date with the music scene in general. I just focus on what I’m doing, and try to do the best version of what it is that I do. I always keep an open mind to new bands and all, but it’s usually just through word of mouth that I’ll hear something new that I really dig.
I can however tell you how the music scene was (that we were in at least) back in 2006. I remember when I was first talking with our bass player Conor about starting a band, we would always joke about how if you knew someone who was starting a new band – it was pretty much a guarantee that it would be a hardcore band. It was all that everyone seemed to be doing at the time where we were coming from. Now, I have absolutely nothing against hardcore. In fact, some of my favorite bands of all time are hardcore bands. We did however want to stir the pot a bit by coming out of nowhere playing fast, melody based punk music with strong hooks and clean singing.
IM: What should people expect when they come to a live show?
JT: An intense and emotionally driven performance. One of my main goals as the lead singer/lyricist has always been to come as close as I can in my mind to reliving what each song in the set was written about, and find that place inside me where that initial pain behind the lyrics began during every live performance of every song. Of course within an average 30-45 minute set consisting of roughly a dozen songs, that can be a little tough, and it can also be extremely draining emotionally to jump from one topic to another like that, so I do the best that I can. Generally if I experience a therapeutic feeling of euphoria after a show due to the satisfying act of properly conveying an emotion through song – then I’m content with the performance.
IM: You’re from Boston, the indie scene is alive and kickin’ in Boston, but do you still find it difficult to get people to come out to live shows?
JT: Not if you play the right shows at the right venues. If you just keep saying “yeah, we’ll play” to every promoter who approaches you, then you’re going to end up playing a lot of shows to no one. I feel that as a Massachusetts based band who isn’t touring currently, it’s important to play out live very selectively. Wait for good opportunities…and then jump on them. We are most certainly not an “over-hyped” band by any means whatsoever, but even the most popular acts can’t play every other weekend in Boston for too long before people start to say to themselves “Oh (insert popular band name) is playing? I just saw them a month ago, and they have another show coming up in the area soon. I’ll just wait until then.” It gives people little to no incentive to actually make it out to see you perform.
IM: That makes perfect sense to me. There are a lot of bands who play a few times a week, doing it that way must be hard to get a crowd out each night, especially during the week.
IM: Who are some of your musical influences?
JT: My influences are always changing, but at the same time they will always remain rooted in what initially inspired me as a young teenager. I’ve always looked up to bands who are able to pull of many different styles and sounds. The Smashing Pumpkins are the band that I try and use as an example every time I’m asked this question. They can do some of the heaviest sounding music (Where Boys Fear To Tread, The Everlasting Gaze, Dross, United States, Zero, etc.), beautiful piano pieces like the introductory title track my personal favorite album of theirs “Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness,” “Tonight, Tonight” with a 30 piece string section, songs like “Stumbleine” that are just bare bones acoustic tracks, or even “Run2me” which has elements of EDM in it. I could keep going, but I won’t. My point is that when they come out with something new, you have no idea what it’s going to sound like, it’s always a step forward for them creatively, and most importantly – it sounds like The Smashing Pumpkins. I want the same thing for Energy. I aim to have a vast array of genres, sounds, and styles to reach from, but it has to sound like Energy to me or it doesn’t make the cut.
IM: What got you started in music?
JT: Well, my father was always playing The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. around the house when I was very, very young. Those are some of my earliest memories. I eventually started to raid his CD/vinyl collection and get into other stuff, and began putting on little vocal performances to my parents of Peter Gabriel songs in our living room. When I was 13/14 or so, my parents bought me an electric guitar and I remember after a 10 minute tutorial from my father on how to play a two fingered power chord, going upstairs and learning “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath completely by ear. I kept learning little bits of the song and a couple of hours later they came up and were amazed that I had learned so much on my own. Impressing them with something that I did (that I enjoyed) was one of the main things that encouraged me to keep going with it. It was the first time where I thought that I might have an actual talent of some sort.
As far as singing goes…I was brought up Catholic, my mother was my CCD teacher, and I sang in the church choir for a bit. I’m certain that it had some influence on my singing, and I know for a fact that being raised by my own CCD teacher, having the whole religion thing in my face a lot, and eventually coming to the realization that God simply does not exist really had a lot to do with what I still write about to this day. At around 15 or 16 I knew someone with some sort of horrible recording device, so I decided to record some Misfits covers with me singing and playing guitar, a bass player, and Mike Assatly who actually would eventually end up playing drums for Energy on our first record. I just thought it would be really fun to actually record myself playing and be able to listen back to it, but once the recordings started getting passed around I started getting a LOT of compliments on my singing. It had never occurred to me that I could be the lead singer in a band until then. For some reason I just assumed that if I eventually planned on starting a band some day, I had better learn an instrument. I’d say that’s a basic summary of my initial attempts at music.
IM: Do you have an opinion on what’s going on right now with streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music?
JT: Yes. I think that without streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, people will just download music illegally, therefore no money will be generated for artists at all. Services like these will certainly not put an end to illegal downloading once and for all, but it really gives listeners a lot of incentive to pay for music again. I personally believe that this is the business model of at least the near future, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to the music business in a long time.
IM: What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to the music business?
JT: I’d say simply getting noticed. Energy got the most attention and recognition when we had a label putting a lot of money behind what we were doing at the time, and when we were touring our asses off. Since we left that label, I haven’t really had the resources to get another full tour to happen. I don’t think it’s impossible though. In fact, I know that it isn’t because we toured constantly before we ever even signed with that label. It’s just a matter of getting enough people together and making it happen. It’s something I’ve been struggling to do for the past few years, but it’s something I’m determined to make happen again eventually. All in all though, I think it’s a “right place/right time” type of thing. I think I’ve written more poppy sounding music now than we ever did when we were touring, so it’s really just a matter of us not physically getting out there and putting our new material right in people’s faces the way we used to that has hindered us from gaining “success” on a larger scale.
IM: If you could play with any musician or band (dead or alive), who would it be?
JT: The list of musicians and bands who I’d love to share the stage with is far too long, so I’ll just name a few off the top of my head: Danzig (doing a Legacy set), Ghost, The Smashing Pumpkins, Bad Religion, A.F.I. Foo Fighters, etc.
IM: What is your writing process like? Does the music come first or the vocals?
JT: It really just depends on what I’m writing. On previous records it has been the band coming to me with a song completely fleshed out instrumentally, and then I write vocal melodies and lyrics over it. With our more recent material, our “New Worlds Of Fear” record in particular, it’s been just me writing things alone on my acoustic guitar and translating it into a full band thing once it’s time to record. Sometimes I have guitar riffs just laying around for years that find their way into songs 5 years after being written, and sometimes I just go into the studio with fragments of songs that our producer Chris Curran helps me piece together. Songs like “Another Yesterday,” “Dead In Dreamland,” “They” and “The Infection” were all written the same way. It was me just strumming on chords and humming melodies until a song happened. Lyrics seem to always come last with me though. I may have a line or two here or there to help guide the feel of the song, but in the end it’s the final thing that I do to the song during the basic writing process.
IM: What can we expect from you for the rest of 2015 into 2016?
JT: Hopefully a lot. We’re currently planning a music video…or two…or three (at least one before the end of the year). Those are always fun and tend to generate some sense of excitement around the band every time we release one. As far as playing out live goes, we have some pretty big shows coming up in 2015. Two of which have been announced, but the biggest one is still something I am unable to mention at this point.
2016 will mark the 10 year anniversary of Energy. It’s looking like our first record “Punch The Clock” will finally be released on vinyl, so that will be a nice way to commemorate that. I hope to release a new full length record as well. We have most of the instrumental parts already written for it, it’s just a matter of writing a few more songs and coming up with vocal melodies and lyrics. The songs are very dark and moody. I don’t foresee a lot of poppy sounding material ending up on this one. I would compare it to Black Sabbath/Danzig/Samhain if I had to pinpoint a couple of specific sounds that would give you a vague idea as to what we’ve been working on, but a lot of it doesn’t sound like that at all to me. We’ve got a few punk songs written as well, but I honestly can’t see them fitting in with the rest of this material that I’ve been writing. It would just feel awkward. I guess we’ll just see what makes the cut when it comes time to record.
IM: Guilty pleasure (music-wise) – everyone’s got one, who’s yours?
JT: I’m going to go ahead and take Andrew W.K.’s point of view on this. I don’t feel guilty about any music that I enjoy. I can have a serious discussion with anyone regarding anything that I listen to and/or admire and explain why I do regardless of how silly the artist may or may not be to other people, which eliminates any sense of guilt I would have felt had I not self analyzed my own opinions and figured out exactly why I enjoy the things that I do about specific artists.
IM: How important do you find social media and engaging with your fans to be? Are you active on social media?
JT: I find social media to be extremely important when it comes to engaging the fans that you already have, but I’m not so sure that it’s as affective when it comes to getting new fans the way simply touring and playing out live a lot can be. I am very active on social media because it’s where most people spend most of their days, and I feel that if you aren’t at least somewhat active on a regular basis that people tend to forget that you even exist within a week or so.
IM: What do you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far in your musical journey?
JT: I think my biggest break was getting signed to an independent label within 24 hours of releasing our first demo online. That was the whole “right place/right time” thing I was talking about earlier. For a while it just kept getting better, and we ended up signing with an even bigger label after that. I think that all it would take for us to get right back on track would be the right person hearing our newer material at the right time, and seeing that we are an active touring band willing to put in the work to promote their investment.
IM: Before we let you go, who’ve YOU been listening to lately?
JT: Ghost. This band has honestly given me hope in music and that there are still people out there capable of blowing my mind with new ideas in the field of rock music. They’ve also inspired me greatly to create music again…which (if you’re familiar with the band Ghost) you’ll probably notice on our next record. I could go on and on about Ghost forever. I could do an entire separate interview about how great I think they are haha. As far as other bands go, I’ve been listening to the new Darkbuster record a lot, along with the new Smashing Pumpkins album “Monuments To An Elegy”. A band called “Now, Now” from Minnesota really struck my interest a couple years ago, and I’m really looking forward to their follow up record to 2012’s “Threads”. And of course I’m always eagerly awaiting what bands like Bad Religion and A.F.I. are going to release next.