Airstream Futures

Earlier this month, Chicago’s Airstream Futures released their debut album on Paper + Plastick, entitled Spirale Infernale. We recently met with the band, (singer Devon Carson, guitarist Jeff Dean, bassist Megan Edgin and drummer Mike Soucy) and talked at length about the record. We discussed its writing and recording process, the impact of the album’s producers, what influenced some of the lyrical content and more. Airstream Futures merge punk, ‘90s alternative and indie rock subtleties to create a style that’s uniquely their own. Also apparent in their sound is how much fun the band members have writing and playing music together. Despite forming just over a year ago, Airstream Futures has already accomplished a considerable amount and show no sign of slowing their momentum anytime soon.

Bill – What was the writing process like for this record? Were these mostly songs that were finished for a while or were some written just before they were recorded?

Mike – We had the album actually done before we even played a show. That was kind of the intent with it all. Jeff and I had been working on a third to half of the songs before Devon even joined. It was kind of out of the ashes of a former band and we had stuff ready to go, just no vocals.

Bill – So how exactly did you guys find each other?

Mike – I didn’t think it was a good idea, (laughs).

Jeff – I actually met Devon because a band that I was recording, she came in to do backup vocals on their record. I remember saying, “Oh, somebody brought the talent with them,” because she was so great. We just kind of started shooting the shit and then we figured out that we’re both originally from Vegas. I don’t know if there’s just something that if you’re from the desert, kind of like same tribe type of thing. So we just hit it off and I always wanted to do a band with Devon and I told her that too. It just needed to be the right situation. When Mike and I started putting the songs together I knew that this was it.

Mike – I didn’t. The first time Devon came to practice we didn’t really have anything for her to sing, so she just came in and started singing. I’m like, “This is not going to work.”

Devon – (Laughs).

Mike – Is this the first time you’ve ever heard this?

Devon – No. I thought the same thing.

Mike – It just wasn’t jiving, like with the guitar-heavy music. I just didn’t think that it was going to happen, but I was dead wrong.

Bill – So how did it go from that point to realizing it might be something that would work?

Jeff – I think the next time Devon came in and sang it was like, “Holy shit.” And then Mike was like, “Okay, you were right. You were totally right.” And I was like, “I know.”

Mike – We had one vocal melody done and she sang it at that practice and it sounded great. I was like, “Okay. Done.”

Devon – I was really skeptical. I liked Jeff a lot and hanging out was really fun, but I had no idea really what to expect as far as playing in a band together. But when we started writing it was the first really collaborative writing process that I had been involved in. I had been in bands before, but really mostly what would happen was everyone else would write the song and I would sing it and that would be about it. This was really collaborative and I was really nervous to make the attempt to join these guys and try and contribute to their songwriting process. Once we started doing it though it just felt really good and right and fun.

Mike – When we started doing the vocals, Devon and I started getting together to write vocal parts for the songs. Having played in other bands, I was never really a big part of that process before. Devon and I would get together and we would tackle one or two songs at a time. We would take little notes that I would write about stories or things that happened, and at the end of a six-hour session of drinking wine and eating cheese and writing music, we’d have a song. And the first few that we did I was like, “Holy cow. These are really good.” And we shared them with these guys and they liked them too.

Bill – And then at what point did you join the fold?

Megan – It was a bit later for me. We have a mutual friend, Justin Yates, he recommended that I audition to join the band. I remember I was at school and I got a message from Jeff asking if I was interested. I checked out some of Jeff and Mike’s old bands, I knew some of them already, but I listened to some of the music and then I was so excited. I was just thrilled. Then when they sent along the tracks of what they’d been working on, immediately it just like, “Wow. This would be really fun.” It was really exciting, so I worked on the tunes and went in and auditioned a few times. I had a blast playing with them and it just kind of worked out. It’s been awesome.

Jeff – It was interesting because originally when Mike and I started writing these songs it was kind of like when The Bomb ended I was never really happy with how everything went down and I really missed playing music with Mike. And I missed playing music with Pete, (bassist Pete Mittler) as well. When Pete was let go from Naked Raygun, that’s when we all started talking again. Originally the three of us thought we’d pick up where The Bomb left off and then we’ll just try to figure out what we’re going to do for vocals. That’s when I was like, “Okay, this is the band Devon is singing for. It’s going to be great.” We jammed with Pete a couple times, but he just got so busy with personal stuff and then he joined The Bollweevils. So Mike and I were still practicing all the time and then we basically wrote the bulk of what the album ended up being. And then it was like, “Okay, we need to find somebody.” Thank goodness for Justin, (laughs).

Bill – How would you describe recording the album given that Jeff was able to record and mix it?

Megan – It’s lucky that it’s been so convenient. We’ve been privileged too. Jeff is a fantastic recording engineer and to be in a band with someone who has that skill set, and having the accessibility to such a great recording house, it’s a dream. It’s fantastic.

Mike – With regards to the drums, the way that the drums sound now with the later recordings that Jeff’s done, are awesome. Not that the original ones were not, but he’s gotten the drum sound down really, really well. Even when I was still playing with Dan, (Dan Vapid) I was telling him that I wanted to record my drums with Jeff because it’s easier and it’s going to be better. It just makes sense.

Jeff – Thanks, dude.

Devon – Also Jeff is a really nice producer. He’s very patient and complimentary.

Mike – He knows what all the buttons and knobs do, (laughs).

Bill – That’s important, right? What sort of input did Rodrigo Palma, (Saves the Day) and Derek Grant, (Alkaline Trio) have in terms of their role as producers?

Jeff – The both contributed a lot, more on the backend of things. We had the songs almost finished basically, at least musically. We did drums and guitar first before anything else, just knocked it out in three days I think. Rodrigo was there for that and helped out guiding some stuff structurally. As we started getting the bass and vocals together, that’s where he and Derek both really came in and contributed ideas for melodies and harmonies and stuff like that. It was pretty collaborative. They let us do our thing, but kind of contributed when they thought it would make the song better.

Mike – Derek would send us little humming parts over him playing the song on an acoustic guitar. Then Devon and I would listen to it and use it as a jumping off point to start a song. It was good because sometimes you just need that nudge in a direction where a song is going to go.

Bill – Right. Ideas you wouldn’t otherwise think of.

Mike – Yeah. And then some of them don’t sound at all like what he sent originally, but it was that little push that we needed to start things.

Jeff – Rodrigo also had a lot of ideas for backup vocals when we were in the studio.

Mike – He has a lot of detailed ideas, even with drum beats and fills and stuff like that.

Devon – He’s really good at tweaking something and just taking it to that next level.

Bill – That’s awesome. What does the record’s title mean?

Devon – (Laughs). It’s a French phrase that basically means “shame spiral.” We would joke about drinking too much and going down a shame spiral or something like that. We were talking about how to say it in French for some reason, trying to make it sound fancier. We didn’t necessarily want to call the record “Shame Spiral,” (laughs). We did a Google Translate of it and it turned out kind of different, but I asked someone I know who’s French how to say it and when he told me I was like, “Oh. That’s awesome.” So we did it basically because it sounds fancy.

Bill – Got it. “Colony” is one of the album’s most passionate songs and also references David Bowie in its lyrics. What inspired its creation?

Mike – I was hanging out with these two guys and they were going on and on about colonizing Mars and the capabilities of humans harnessing the technology to do that. I was with another friend and we were listening to them and making fun of them so badly. It was the most ridiculous conversation, like “Did you hear what he just said? We’re going to colonize Mars? There’s no way.” I’d written down some notes about that experience and how ridiculous it was, and then Devon and I started to write down the lyrics and that’s about it.

Devon – There’s also metaphors about what the conversation was about and that point of view of someone who’s not really informed and making a lot of assumptions.

Mike – I’m the ideas person. Devon is the one who sort of puts the ideas together and then I come back with a splash of paint on the idea.

Jeff – Wow…splash of paint, (laughs).

Mike – We’re like the Property Brothers or something, (laughs).

Bill – I’m guessing the answer is no based on your response to the last question, but would you say that the songs on Spirale Infernale share a common theme?

Devon – I wouldn’t say no exactly. Usually a song came from either a personal experience or a story that then turned into an overall human experience. Like something very specific and then in each of those stories finding the human truth in it or the shared experience. I think that’s where a lot of the songs come from. There’s not a common theme that we were conscious about, but I think when you listen to each song it kind of reflects that.

Jeff – I would say there’s a real story behind the majority of all of it. It all comes from an actual experience.

Mike – But sometimes that sort of changes. So “Dreams of Narrow Wings” was just a title, I didn’t write any words other than that. I had woken up from a dream about flying and jumping off a cliff, so I just wrote that down. Then the song kind of changed and it’s not about that.

Bill – Bands usually aren’t very fond of this type of question, but given that the record incorporates a variety of different genres, how would you describe its sound?

Jeff – As far as songwriting goes, I feel like I get into a certain headspace when I’m writing for a specific band. The songs that I write with this band wouldn’t be songs that Dead Ending would play or All Eyes West or Noise By Numbers even when I was in that. I feel like I get into a very specific idea in my head of how I want to go with something. When we were doing this, with what I was saying before, I was like “Okay, I get to play with Mike and Pete again.” I kind of viewed it as a continuation of what maybe from a guitar standpoint The Bomb would have progressed to if we would’ve kept playing together. I knew how Mike and I played together, so I just started writing and it kind of went from there. I would say the songs turned out more melodic in some ways compared to Bomb songs, but there are parts of these songs that are almost more aggressive. Knowing how Devon sings and what she’s capable of, I knew it gave me a little more range to open stuff up. It doesn’t have to be downstrokes and power chords the whole time. Even though Mike and I did a lot of the music for the record before Devon was involved, I feel like once she was in it really opened up the music. Everything we’ve been writing since then and having Megan in the band and her writing bass lines, I feel like it’s going to be loud guitar rock because that’s what we fuckin’ do, but there aren’t really any ideas that are off the table.

Bill – Tell me about the video that you guys made for “Dreams of Narrow Wings.”

Megan – My buddy Jim, (Vondruska) he takes photos and makes videos and I’ve worked with him before with other bands. He’s really talented and really great. So we reached out to him to see if he’d be interested in filming a video for us. And he was and we ended up just going to our practice space and having such a fun day hanging out. The song itself is pretty serious, so the idea was to have a lighthearted video in contrast to that. We just kind of hung out and drank and had a lot of fun.

Devon – The song is about feeling powerless and helpless in the face of world events, and now when I go back and watch the video it’s kind of an escapist video to me. The song is about it being so frustrating not being able to do anything about anything, but then showing us in the video playing music and drinking and doing our best to drown our sorrows. And also coming together as friends to support and help each other through these times.

Bill – Very cool. How did the band end up working with Paper + Plastick for the record’s release?

Jeff – I’ve talked with Vinnie, (label owner/Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello) on and off for years. He actually wanted to do the second Noise By Numbers record, but it just didn’t pan out. He had talked to me about some other projects that I’ve done since then about releasing them, but it just never really lined up. With this, Less Than Jake was playing in town and Mike and I went to the show and we just started talking. He said that he wanted to do the record. I’m like, “So, are we doing this?” He’s like, “98 percent yes.” And I’m like, “So what’s up with this other two percent?” He’s like, “Just give me a day or two.” Then a week later he was like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” It was pretty simple.

Mike – We drank all their beer.

Jeff – We did drink all of Less Than Jake’s beer, (laughs). That’s probably what the two percent was about.

Bill – Nice. You guys have played some especially noteworthy shows recently, opening for the Descendents, Tiger Army, Pegboy and The Bollweevils. What were some of the highlights from those shows?

Mike – Having Karl Alvarez, (Descendents bassist) buying one of our t-shirts and then wearing it onstage.

Devon – Milo, (Descendents singer Milo Aukerman) was really nice. I finished watching them play and I ran downstairs to grab my stuff and Milo came down to the dressing room and was like, “Do you guys have a record out or anything?” And I was like, “Will you sign my poster?” (Laughs). He was just asking about our band and stuff. It was really cool.

Mike – And onstage Milo said that we sounded like Tilt meets Husker Du, which is a pretty great description.

Jeff – Checks all my boxes, (laughs).

Megan – The Pegboy show with The Bollweevils was a lot of fun. Just hanging out with those guys, they’re really fun people. It was a blast.

Jeff – We played with Channel 3 at Liar’s Club and Larry, (Pegboy singer Larry Damore) was telling me after the show that our bands were going to play together. I was like, “Okay.” Then it was like two weeks later and he asked about playing a show and I was like, “Oh, Larry was serious. Awesome.” It’s been a crazy year with all this stuff. December 9th was the first show that we played last year. From where we started when we played that first show to what’s happened since, I would never have pictured all this happening.

Mike – And without a record. We’ve done almost 30 shows.

Jeff – We toured England in May and it’s just been this nonstop awesomeness of people being super cool and being really responsive to the band and just good times. We all have a lot of fun together. It’s probably the happiest I’ve been in a band in as long as I can remember.

Devon – By the way I hate you, (laughs).

Jeff – Just so you know tonight’s my last practice, (laughs). I might not even do that.

Bill – What does the band have planned for the future, both short-term and long-term?

Jeff – We have a two-song single that’s going to come out in the spring. It’s already done. It’s coming out in England on Little Rocket Records, which we’re stoked about. And then we’ve already tracked drums and guitars for our second album, and vocals and bass for one of the songs. So we’re in the process of sorting out all the vocal melodies and bass lines and everything for the second record. I’ve already got like seven songs written for the third record. We’re just trying to write as many songs and put out as much stuff as we can. And hopefully tour as much as we can and see the world as much as we can.