This Friday, Dowsing will release its third full-length and first for Asian Man Records, titled Okay. We recently caught up with singer/guitarist Erik Czaja and guitarist Mikey Crotty to talk about the album in detail, (the band’s lineup is rounded-out by bassist Michael Politowicz and drummer William Lange). We discussed what it was like writing and recording the record, as well as the story behind its title. We also spoke about some of the album’s lyrics, their upcoming tour and more. Be sure to check out a song from the record after the interview, called “Dissolve.”
Bill – What led to you guys teaming up with Asian Man Records for the release of Okay?
Erik – We met Mike, (Asian Man Records owner Mike Park) in 2014 when we were on tour with Sundials and The Sidekicks. We stayed with him because Sundials was on Asian Man. We all were like, “Yeah, let’s stay at Mike Park’s house. That would be great, that would be a lot of fun.” So we did and then we saw his garage and all the records and it was really cool. I was already on the label with my other band, Pet Symmetry, so it was cool for me to see where all our records were. A year or so later we were done with this record and Mike was one of the people that we really wanted to work with because we thought it maybe sounded more like Asian Man would be a better fit than our old label. I think Mike listened to the record once and said he loved it, so that’s all I needed to hear to know we were making a good choice.
Bill – How would you describe the album’s writing process?
Mikey C. – We were going through some lineup changes and then it came time to start writing more stuff, so it was really just us two working through the first batch of songs. We were having our friend John Siorek drum for us so that we could write with drums.
Erik – John also plays in Knuckle Puck, so he could only commit so much time to us because Knuckle Puck was about to go become huge. Now they are doing great things, we love John, he’s awesome. So yeah, there are really old demos of songs that we did with him that maybe one day we’ll use for something, but it’s different. We had about seven songs and we demoed those. It took us a few years to get the record done because we had to do a whole new live band and then be like, “Okay, let’s do this.”
Bill – How would you say those songs changed once the new members joined and added their input?
Erik – I usually write songs alone in my bedroom and have the lyrics already fleshed out. Everything’s already there, kind of the backbone of the song. I’ll show it to the band and then Mikey will kind of layer his parts on top of it. That’s kind of how it works. Once we have everything else it’s easier for Mikey to write. Usually I would have all these ideas and be like “Okay, we’ll do this.” For this record, it was more “This is what I have, but what can we change? Can we add some kind of flair to this song and not make it so flat?”
Mikey C. – Kind of restructuring it.
Erik – Yeah and everyone is singing more. There are three or four people singing at a time now, which makes it a lot more powerful. There are just little things that we added on top of the sound that we had before. It only changed because we took the keyboard out, so it’s just different, but we added all this new stuff to still make it us, but something new. I think it worked out.
Bill – Where did you record Okay and what was your time in the studio like?
Mikey C. – We recorded with Mike Bardzik at Noisy Little Critter in Downingtown, PA. It’s right outside of Philly. He’s recorded stuff for Spraynard and Sundials. He really helped with a lot of the producing and stuff.
Erik – We were there for ten days and recorded all analog, except for some of the guitars. We ran out of tracks, so we had to do some of the vocals and some guitars digitally. Everything else was all analog. It was fun. We used to make records in like three days and this one took us about six and a half days to record all the instruments and vocals, and then we hung out for three days. It was nice because we were all very well practiced. We were used to doing it so fast anyway that it was easy just to be like, “Okay, let’s bust this out,” but also make it sound the best we can.
Mikey C. – We also toured out there, so we were already tight from touring too.
Bill – What’s the meaning behind the record’s title?
Erik – Usually the album titles are just really dumb things that I’ve said and went, “Oh yeah, I’m going to jot that one down.” I have a notepad on my phone of stupid things I’ve said, it’s an ongoing list. The original name for the record was Finally Ghost, after one of the songs. We were playing a game for the Wii U called Luigi’s Mansion where you’re a ghost and you chase your friends around. When you catch them they go to sleep. So we were playing the game and I finally won and I could become the ghost and I was like, “Finally Ghost!” So that was going to be the name of the record and eventually everyone else, as we were recording the album, said “It sounds like we’re not a band anymore.”
Mikey C. – It was great up until a time.
Erik – Everyone was okay with it until they were like “It sounds like we’re going to break up.” I was like “Okay, that’s a good point.” So then we were talking about other names and we saw our friend Hania, she’s friends with our bass player Mike, and she drew a picture of this hand. We thought it was pretty cool and we thought we might be able to use it as the artwork for the album. She thought it was a cool idea too and we initially didn’t want to call the album anything, but then we were told that we needed to call it something for iTunes. We didn’t want it to be untitled or self-titled either, so we went with Okay. We’re fine with calling it whatever; we were calling it LP III for a long time. What’s funny is, this is not even on purpose, but the very last word of the last song on the record is “okay.” Then there are also three fingers up in the okay symbol and this is our third record, but that wasn’t planned at all either. It just worked out very nicely.
Bill – The album’s first track, “Wasted on Hate,” is definitely more of a punk-leaning song. What inspired its creation?
Erik – We had seven or so songs done for the record and I was out in the garage with our new drummer Will, he and I were just jamming. I started playing and we wrote it there in about ten minutes, just the basic structure of it. We decided to add to it and then it became the record’s opening song.
Mikey C. – I think it also has to do with our influences, because Will comes from more of a punk background.
Erik – I’m really the only one who listens to emo and it shows, (laughs).
Bill – “Dissolve” is one of the most powerful songs on the record, but its lyrics are somewhat vulnerable. What motivated you to write this song?
Erik – That song is actually the weirdest song on the record when you’re talking about themes and stuff like that. It’s about my dad, which is weird because I’ve never written a song about a family member before. It’s kind of about him going through a lot with his father recently and family matters, and then my relationship with my dad, like me finally understanding him on a new level that I never did before. That’s kind of what the song is about, it can be about anything you want, but that’s what it’s about. It’s interesting because I’ve never really talked about anything like that before. It was one of the last songs we wrote for the record too. It was just this old demo that I had on my computer for about two years and then we randomly decided to try it and it turned out really well. It’s definitely a weird song though, but in a good way. Everyone added a lot of cool stuff to it.
Bill – “Red Legs Kicking” is one of the album’s more unique tracks in terms of how it’s structured. How exactly did this song come together?
Erik – That was one of the original songs we wrote for the record. It’s probably over two years old now. For me, I don’t really write songs that go verse/chorus, verse/chorus. Sometimes it’s like verse/musical thing/verse/big outro. That’s like a song to me, I don’t know. I don’t really think about that kind of stuff. This record, I think there’s only like two choruses on the whole thing that repeat, and they don’t repeat the same way. One of the songs the chorus drops out. The song “Outside,” there’s no second chorus. It’s just weird stuff like that. So “Red Legs Kicking,” it just kind of came out in that structure. It’s just a bridging of different parts that make sense to me. There’s no chorus in that song, there’s no repeating lyrics. I don’t really ever do that, so to me it makes sense if you don’t have a chorus to kind of piece it together. For me it’s all linear I suppose.
Bill – I thought it was a really cool song to end the album with…
Erik – Yeah, we wanted to start the record strong and then end it stronger. All records kind of work that way too where it’s all pretty fast until the one song that’s sort of slow, and then it gets fast again immediately. I just like how it flows and having that song last makes an impact.
Bill – When you go back and listen to the record now, what aspects do you like best?
Erik – Sometimes I just think about things I wish I did. That’s usually how it goes. What do I like the most? I really just like that it’s all guitar. It’s just a wall of guitars and it’s really cool. I always thought you needed other things in songs to add to it, but we just found ways to go about not needing certain instruments. That was the nice thing for me, trying to find new ways to approaching songwriting.
Mikey C. – It’s fun listening to it now and being like, “Oh, I like that we did that part there.”
Erik – I think the record sounds really good and that’s my favorite thing about it. We didn’t rush it, we took our time for the first time and we did it the way we wanted. And I get that from every song.
Bill – Do you guys have anything planned in terms of a record release show?
Erik – Yeah, we’re going to do like a matinee house show at the end of the tour we’re going on. It’s going to be a BBQ thing and we’re going to donate all the money to a charity. It’s going to be on June 4th, the last day of the tour.
Bill – What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming tour?
Mikey C. – I’m excited to be back on the road with Kittyhawk, honestly.
Erik – I’m excited because we’re going on tour with all our friends and we’ll be going to Maine and a lot of Canadian places. We’ve been to a lot of Canada, but we’ll be there for a longer period of time on this tour. It’ll be nice to see some new places.
Mikey C. – We’re going to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, we’ve never been there and we’re pretty excited about that.
Erik – Usually when we go on tour we’ll play the bigger cities, but along the way we’ll find smaller towns to play too. Those shows are sometimes the most fun.
Mikey C. – I think that’s what makes touring really fun for me personally. A lot of bands don’t go to the smaller towns, but it’s fun. There’s nothing wrong with it.
Bill – What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year and beyond?
Erik – We’re trying to book something late in the summer, probably West Coast again, but it’s probably too early to say. We’re still trying to figure it out, but we’re definitely going to Europe in the fall. We’re also going to play The Fest in Florida in October. We’ll see what happens after that. Maybe people will like the record and we’ll get asked to do something cooler. Who knows? We’re up for anything, whatever we can do.