If you drive fifteen minutes north of White Plains on Interstate 684 to exit 4 and make a right, you will find Fox Lane High School, the alma mater of Westchester’s hottest up and coming rock and roll band, Ten Feet Deep. Lead singer Alexander Craig, who I recently met in Mount Kisco while putting together an upcoming fundraiser, graciously gave me a copy of their new self titled album. And after hearing one song, I was an instant fan. Read the interview with Alex below to find out what’s going down with Ten Feet Deep…
IP: So what was the first CD you ever bought? Just trying to get a grip on how old you are without asking your age.
AC: Haha, well I’m 24. Not that you would know from my first album…It was “Led Zeppelin IV” on vinyl. We moved into a house where the previous owner had left his record player which became mine. I thought the artwork on LZ IV was cool enough to buy it so – bam! there I was, a proud music owner.
IP: You grew up in Northern Westchester. What was an exciting weekend night for you like as a teenager? Did you guys venture into NYC much?
AC: I wouldn’t say we spent much time in New York City. I’d say the average weekend consisted of a party somewhere. It seemed that there was almost always a house where someone’s parents had conveniently gone away for the weekend. Then I guess other typical westchester stuff, movies, malls, camping. We spent a lot of time in the woods.
IP: Can you remember what made you want to be in a band?
AC: I had always liked singing, and considered myself a singer. But I think I really fell into being in a band more than anything. It just sort of happened.
IP: So what is the story behind how Ten Feet Deep got together? You guys all went to high school together right? Must be fun playing in a band with all your besties from back in the day.
AC: Ha! Yes, besties indeed. We were put together by our former drummer Matt, who is now in the marines serving in Afghanistan. He met me, we played together a couple times and then he said “we’re starting a band.” I said, “Matt, there’s only two of us.” Pete and Brendan showed up the next day and that was that.
IP: What was your first gig?
AC: Our first gig was going to be the pool show, where we played in the bottom of an empty swimming pool, which is where we got the name Ten Feet Deep. But we were actually hired to do a sweet sixteen last-minute because another band dropped out. So our first show was at a sweet sixteen as a band with no name.
IP: You guys have done a lot of shows on the NYC club/bar circuit. What are the challenges of playing in the city for a bunch of guys from Westchester?
AC: It’s a lot of 21+ and 18+ clubs. It’s hard to convince people that age to come spend their money seeing you. Most clubs don’t care if you wrote the greatest song in the universe and can play thirty instruments, or if you’re making fart noises with your armpit, they just want to see people buying booze. Usually we show up at a new club and we’re just another band, the goal is to leave and have people remember you.
IP: You guys opened up for Justin Timberlake at Hammerstein Ballroom. How was that?
AC: It was incredible, probably the single greatest experience of my life so far. It was an surreal rush just being on stage in front of 3,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs, then we were allowed to play our music for them! That really sealed the deal for me – I walked of stage and thought, “okay, that’s what I want to do for a living.”
IP: Any favorite venues to play down there? Places you want to play that you never have?
AC: We love playing the Bitter End, and The Studio @ Webster Hall. Most places are usually pretty decent. We’re doing Hiro Ballroom this month, and Cameo in Brooklyn as well which is exciting. I think Crash Mansion may be on our list of places to play. Places I want to play that I never have…Madison Square Garden, even if it’s just on the sidewalk out front!
IP: You guys have a new album out, and I’ve really been digging it. Great songs, love the melodies and harmonies too. Are you guys excited about it finally being done and people starting to hear it? I mean, that’s what it’s all about right?
AC: We’re very very excited to finally have this album ready to show people. We spent a lot of time putting it together and making it work, which I will be the first to tell you was not the easiest thing to do on a pretty small budget, but It’s done! And hearing someone tell you that they enjoy your songs is really one of the greatest things in the world. It’s definitely what it’s all about, and we can’t be more grateful for the opportunity to be doing what we love.
IP: What was your writing process like for the album? You are the lead vocalist, so does that mean you write all the lyrics? Is it collaborative?
AC: Songwriting is a finicky thing. Pete Chema, Brendan Ryan, and I write the songs. I’m definitely the slowest songwriter of the three of us. Sometimes they are collaborations between all three of us, or just two of us. And sometimes Brendan just shows up with some music and says “here you go, it’s all done!” and we arrange it together. I tend to feel like each song has it’s own personality, even from the moment you pick out the first word, or the first chord change. Each tune grows and develops from its beginning in its own unique way. Sometimes you write an entire song in an afternoon, and sometimes you get stuck and need help from someone, it’s just how it happens.
IP: Did you enjoy the actual recording of the album?
AC: For me the first two or three days of each song are the most fun, it’s like writing a story from an outline of an idea that you had. You get to pick you tones and textures, you get to pick your tempo and arrangement, you shape and feeling, your levels. After that the rest is like spellchecking, weeks of spellchecking.
IP: For those that have never heard your music, can you try to describe your sound? It’s basically rock and roll, right? Alternative? Indie? I don’t know, when I listen to your album, I feel like I’m in a local pub playing darts with a group of friends.
AC: Really? I’ve never heard that one before…we could be pop-dart. It’s hard to describe your own music, I’ve thought of it like trying to describe the sound of your own voice. I can only come up with “I sound like me.” But I’ve heard everything from Maroon 5 to Elvis Costello to The Beatles, which are all incredibly flattering. A friend of mine coined a term for us; he called us “Backyard Rock.” I like it, I hope it sticks.
IP: Yeah I like that too. Actually, that and “pop-dart” to me are basically the same sound, though I’d probably call it “rock-dart”, even though it does have a pop feel. It’s music to listen to while hanging out and having a good time. Reminds me a bit of Pearl Jam too at times kinda sorta. I particularly like “Without Melinda”. It’s definitely the standout cut on the album. So catchy. It’s a hit in my book. Who’s Melinda anyway?
AC: Melinda is Pete’s brainchild. He decided he wanted to write a song about a character who was an unassuming mixture of all the annoying qualities he could think of. The type of person who shows up at a party with a negative attitude and just ruins the whole vibe. I think the song is brilliant, it sort of highlights our quirky side, and it’s important to write songs that aren’t always something like “oh baby I love you, why’d you leave me?”
“Cry Me A River” (Justin Timberlake cover)/”Without Melinda”
Live in Washington Square Park
IP: Any other songs on there that stand out to you as ones you’re really proud of, or that are particularly special to you in some way? I like a bunch of the cuts on there.
AC: I am very proud of the whole album – each tune has it’s own little history. I think “Easy For You To Say” has a lot of special meaning for me. But I especially like “Peach”. It started off as a song about Brendan leaving a party early. He showed up and then suddenly had to leave and I just started writing a song about it. Then, all of a sudden, it turned into a song about the video game princess from Mario, it was a strange and interesting course of events. Then again, she is getting captured all the time.
IP: She is! What’s your goal with this album? Are you guys looking to get a label deal? There’s so many options for bands nowadays to release music and tour and stuff without major label support. Is it better to be independent? I know you have your stuff on Itunes now. What else?
AC: Well, we seem to be in the same struggle as everyone else, trying to figure out how to make some money so we can keep doing this. So far every dime we’ve ever earned has been flipped around and invested right back into the band, obviously we can’t keep doing that forever. It’s hard to say if signing to a label is the way to go, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories. I guess our short term goal is to find the right booking agent, if we can get on some multi-city tour as an opening act and find some new fans that way it would definitely be a huge step in the right direction.
IP: If you could tour with any band right now as an opening act, who would it be?
AC: Probably someone like Rob Thomas or Maroon 5. I think their fans would get our music. So Rob, if you do end up reading this blog; email us, okay? www.tenfeetdeep.com – I’ll be waiting.
IP: Any other bands or artists you are really feeling that are out right now?
AC: Personally I like a lot of stuff that sounds nothing like us, I really got into Of Montreal, Hot Chip, Chromeo, Ratatat. It’s great stuff, but I don’t know if we could open for them. People would be thinking “did this band get lost and end up on this stage?”
IP: What about all time favorites. Give me your five desert island albums.
AC: The Beatles – White Album
Buddy Guy – Heavy Love
John Hiatt – Little Head
Weezer – Pinkerton
Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song… because you still have to have holidays on your desert island.
IP: Ha! Can we expect a video for “Without Melinda” soon? What else do you guys have on the horizon? Any big gigs coming up?
AC: Yep, we’re putting together the “Without Melinda” video in the next couple of months, we just finished shooting one for “Worry Out”(the third track on the album) which should be done soon. Videos are a huge part of being in a band, you’ve got to get that YouTube presence. Our next big shows coming up are Hiro Ballroom on Saturday, March 13th and Cameo in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 27th. They’re all up on our website and our facebook page.
*Best of luck to Ten Feet Deep! Stay tuned to Westcheddar for more from them in the upcoming months. They will also be performing in Mount Kisco on April 17th at the BGC (where I work) as part of a fundraiser for the Cultural Arts Center. More info to come. Speaking of the BGC, check out pics and video footage below from our first ever Open Mic to get a glimpse of some more rising stars coming out of Northern Westchester…