Movies With Heroes
'Creating The Perfect Musical Vision'
As the old cliché goes, there are two sides to every story, and the music of MOVIES WITH HEROES is no exception.
For MOVIES (Chiemena Ukazim: guitar; Jeff Royer: bass/vocals; Jeremy Bentley: drums; Keith Wilson: vocals; and Patrick Kirchner: guitar), five years of indie-touring, self-released records, and uncompromising live shows culminate with the release of their national debut, Nothing Here is Perfect. The album, an overpowering blend of the ferocious and the fragile, manages to deliver on two fronts, simultaneously rocking both melodically and methodically.
On one hand, you have the cerebral lyrics, the delicately deliberate arrangements, and the intricately structured melodies. It’s music from the brain, plotted-out with the uncanny precision. On the other hand, you have the sound of something visceral and fierce. This is the sound of five grown men going for broke. The sound of five lifetimes worth of passion being distilled into a single powerful presentation. It’s music from the heart, brimming over with sincerity and ardor.
Since solidifying in 2000, the band has shared stages across the US with the likes of COHEED AND CAMBRIA, DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, CURSIVE, THE PROMISE RING, RAINER MARIA, and more. Now in partnership with CI Records, MOVIES WITH HEROES is poised to make an impact on a national front as one of the most excitingly honest and emotive bands to emerge from the independent music scene.
Chatting recently with both vocalist Keith Wilson and bassist Jeff Royer, I first asked just where their wonderful name had originated?! Keith - "When we began writing together we had a song which was originally called Movies With Heroes. It ended up at the top of a long list of names, most of which had no significance to us whatsoever. The song was about someone at the end of their rope, digging deep to take the next hard step in their lives. The song followed a structure like a screenplay and told a story with the down and out person as the "hero" so to speak. Eventually that song was called Screenplay after we used the original title as our band name."
Jeff - "It actually came from the name of an old song of ours. We used to go by another name, which was officially the worst band name in history, so I won’t repeat it."
Your album title 'Nothing Here Is Perfect' really tells it like it is, but please describe in your own words what this title means to you yourselves? Keith - "I gave everyone a copy of all the album lyrics when we were still in the mixing stage and needed a title, and asked people to just circle or highlight any phrases that jumped at anyone. Jeremy circled that phrase from Ink, and we all agreed it was the most intriguing title. For me that reflects alot of the struggles that we have worked through, both against our own imperfections and otherwise. The song is ultimately about second chances and grace in the face of imperfection and false starts."
Jeff - "The title is a snippet of lyrics from the album’s second track, “Ink.” It’s about sort of reconciling yourself to your situation, recognizing that the circumstances of your life might be less than ideal, and then moving forward rather than giving up."
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Movies With Heroes at their musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? Keith - "For me, that would either be 'Wildflower' or 'The Wave.' 'Wildflower' is so simple and succinct musically and lyrically. The lyrics are very meaningful to me because I wrote them with the intention of being a simple blessing for someone who had come through a hellish episode in their life. I didn't want to write a song about her hard time and suffering, or even recovery and healing. I just wanted to recognize the strength and beauty and let that be the blessing and encouragement. I also like the fact that it is non-specific and I hope it could become many things to many people. In that way I feel like it's the perfect pop song. 'The Wave' is a favorite for different reasons. Jeff and I both wrote lyrics for that song. He wrote the verses and pre-choruses, I wrote the chorus and bridge. We were writing about different life experiences, but they came together in a really interesting way for me that ultimately makes both sections more powerful. I love the musical arc in that song, which was also a result of collaboration between Jeff and I and then the rest of the band. The dynamics are powerful and moody, and the pounding solo section drives the song home and feels to me like a musical movement of a great wave."
Jeff - "I’d say the third track, 'Wildflower.' I think it’s the best example of the band firing on all cylinders. The music is simple but interesting, and the vocal lines have some of the best melodies Keiths’ written to-date. It’s got the pop hooks that we love and still rocks out."
Noting that your press release calls this album ' ... music for the brain,' I'm now wondering what it actually does to the brain to enhance the listening pleasure?! Keith - "Well that is a reference to the hidden backward subliminal messages which will tell people to believe that we are Rock Gods. So, quite literally, the record will manipulate and decieve the brain. I'm kidding. I think our lyrics and our music, in structure and sound, are cerebral. My hope is that people can listen casually and just enjoy the songs, the melodies, etc. but that if they want to, they can listen more closely and pick things apart and get intellectually engaged in what we are saying and playing."
Jeff - "We put drops of acid on the booklet, so the album actually affects your brain quite dramatically!"
Since solidifying as a band back in 2000, and now just releasing your national debut album here in 2006, what has been the hardest part of the five-year waiting period in-between? Keith - "We have had a tough time keeping hope alive at times. The fact is we and our music weren't ready until now for the "masses." However 3, 4, and 5 years ago we didn't have the wisdom or perspective to know that. So, it just felt many times like we had this music we wanted to give the world, but just didn't have the means or the "break" we needed to do so. We had a few tours that were just devastating failures. Those kinds of blows to our morale were tough to take over and over again. Somehow though, we kept dusting ourselves off, believing that our work wasn't done yet. I'm glad we stuck it out, because I feel like we might finally be at the beginning of the rest of our lives and careers."
Jeff - "Keeping up band morale during the not-as-exciting times has been a challenge throughout the years, but now that this album’s coming out, it was definitely worth the wait. We’re all dangerously motivated right now and are ready to go for broke to make this thing happen."
You've also been described as a '... working class Coldplay' and '... the Foo Fighters with a doctorate,' but if you had to describe yourself to a newbie to your sound, what music metaphor would you guys use?! Keith - "Arena Rock with an fragile indie rock heart."
Jeff - "Essentially, it’s just rock and roll with a heavy concentration on melody. We love a good hook, and when reviewers call 'Nothing Here Is Perfect' a pop album, we love that."
Is it safe to say that due to your band name that you guys are into action movies?! If so, what has been one of the best movies that you have seen recently ... and why?! Keith - "People often get that impression, which is entirely our fault. I guess since I explained the band name earlier, you can see that there isn't any tie to that sort of hero. We like movies as much as the next 5 guys, but aren't necessarily partial to action movies. With that said, I am a big Peter Jackson fan and thought 'King Kong' was pretty amazing. Three of us just watched 'Walk The Line' the other night, which is one of the best films I have seen in a while and it really stuck with me. Maybe it's because I have been reflecting on the cost or the toll of a music career in my own personal life, and so it was interesting to see the story of a guy who let that life get the best of him for a time. So, I guess you could say that in addition to it just being a great and inspiring film for a musician, it served as a cautionary tale as well."
Jeff - "No, actually we’re not particularly into action movies, although our drummer, Jeremy, has seen every movie ever made. He especially enjoys movies where two characters trade places (”13 Going On 30,” “Trading Places,” etc.)"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! Keith - "I always thought we would do a cool cover of 'Love Song' by The Cure, but then 311 covered it, and on top of that we are suddenly getting all these Cure comparisons so it would seem to obvious, or like we were trying too hard. We used to do a driving, rocking cover of 'Time after Time' for fun. I always thought it would be fun to do that and have Cyndi Lauper sing background vocals on it!"
Jeff - "If we could figure out a way to cover “Knockin’ Boots” by Candyman, that would be awesome, since I know all the words. Other than that, I’d be all about doing a version of “After The Rain” by Nelson."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! Keith - "Um, huh? They're OK, I guess. I am partial to reptiles myself ... and monkeys. Monkeys are probably the most entertaining animals. The jungle's entertainers, sort of."
Jeff - "Like penguins? We LOVE penguins, dude. In a strictly platonic sense!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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