In the new issue of Creative Loafing Tampa, we explore the themes, sounds and form of "Structures." The Tampa post-rock band's first full-length an early contender for local release of the year, and we'd put it up against any indie-rock record that's come out over the last year.
On Friday, Career — which recorded the album in at the Springs Theatre in Sulphur Springs — will play the seventh show of an eight-stop of a tour by performing "Structures" in full during a show in Ybor City (coincidentally being held next door to our offices).
In our preview, we describe frontman Ryan Fouche's penchant for cobbling together lyrics that read like literature, which makes complete sense since he's the proud owner of a literature degree, something he didn't really know what to do with after graduating.
That confusion, paired with the general lifestyle of many young people trying to find their way in a post-recession world, is a hallmark of "Structures," according to Fouche who wrote the lyrics in the perspective of another character.
"There's a lot of me in that character, for sure. I graduated during the recession with student loan debt and a lit degree I didn't know what to do with," he told CL in a message. "For the sake of low rent, I've mostly lived in low-income neighborhoods and have had to grapple with my own role in embracing a neighborhood that I may love, but still kind of a feel like an outsider in."
"Structures is supposed to examine the relationships between neighbors in that situation, the class/cultural/economic/racial/physical structures that divide us up, and what we ultimately have in common with each other."
Get a lot more background on the album, learn about new music, reach into the band's past and mine Fouche's influences in our Q&A below. Stream "Structures" at the bottom of this post, and get more information on the show via local.cltampa.com. Read our feature online by clicking here.
Opening track on Grand National Championships, was different, non-"Structures" — “reconcile the sins of our fathers,” I think, was the lyric. Could you talk about that song a little?
That's a new one we're calling Scions, for now. Without giving too much away, it's about a couple escaping Tampa to refresh in the Appalachian Mountains, but finding the anxieties of our balmy, Southern city hard to shake. "How do we reconcile the sins of our fathers?," is the couple trying to come terms with their own roles, their families' roles, and the role of society at large, in sustaining systems of oppression in a nation contradictorily founded on the principles of Freedom and Liberty by way of brutal colonialism, manifest destiny, and slavery. Sorry that sounds like a freshman's college thesis, haha; it's kind of a lot to unpack succinctly.
But yeah, it's a serious question I've been grappling with--where we fit into these social and political equations--and one I think we as a nation need to face head-on before we can start doing better, instead of shrugging it off with neo-jingoism and/or apathy.
I’m guessing there are multiple sources, but where does the anger and conviction in your songs — specifically the anger and conviction in your voice — come from?
I try to match the mood of the vocals with the mood of the music. Career's sound leans towards the heavy/aggressive side, so writing about issues that genuinely piss me off keeps me honest on that front.
I also tend to write in third person about characters who are anxious or frustrated or angry and I like to accurately represent them in my delivery. Also also I was never that great at singing but have always been pretty good at angrily ranting. So there's that.
Could you give me some background on yourself? Where were you born, how’d you end up in Tampa, how does the life you live and where you live it affect your songwriting? There’s also a sarcasm in there — I just wanna know about it.
Sure! I was born in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a middle-class suburb between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami with very little personality or things to do.
It's been a convoluted journey to Tampa, for sure. I moved from Pembroke Pines to Boca Raton for college, to a semester in London, to Gainesville for a year off from college, to Tallahassee to finish up my undergrad, then, once I wore out my welcome in Tally, to Tampa in 2010 to play music with buddies I met while touring. Definitely got my fill of Florida experiences, and those experiences have informed my writing, but I'm more focused on Tampa nowadays.
I'm living in Ybor Heights now and that part of town sings. Roosters in the morning, loud car systems, low flying helicopters. When we started writing "Structures," we tried to embody the sounds of a Tampa neighborhood like mine (though the original inspiration for the lyrics was initially based off a St. Pete trailer park). There were nights I'd wake up and not be able to fall back asleep, so I'd sit on my couch and let the noises of my block dictate my writing. More than a couple movements of "Structures" were written that way.
You’re not a fan of Kerouac. Could you explain that and also offer of some other authors who are more inspiring to you?
Haha, that line is more attributed to the character in the song, but I do have a love/hate relationship with Kerouac and the Beats. I've actually been inspired by him recently--at least in the newer material we've been banging out. I grew up with preconceived notions of the Beat generation, that they were just a bunch of self-involved proto-hippies romanticizing this freewheeling lifestyle that just wasn't accessible to most Americans. That's fine, and maybe still has a certain amount of veracity to it. But within the last two years I decided to put those ideas aside and read On the Road and loved it.
I like the the flawed characters Kerouac wrote about, trying to find meaning in their restless lives in one way or another. I also like the idea of travel narratives and kinda want to try my hand on creating one, so that's been the subject of our newer material. In that particular song, where the first line is "I always thought Kerouac was a dipshit," it's supposed to be a little tongue in cheek considering OtR inspired the lyrics.
As far as "Structures," it's hard to pin down specific authors I drew from since it was written almost two years ago. There are a handful of lyricists whose writings helped the vision along — John Darnell's masterful storytelling, John K. Samson's clever imagery, Craig Finn's seedy sermons. I will say that in the last spoken word part of Structures I did have Maya Angelou's "On the Pulse of the Morning" on my mind. Specifically, her reading of it at Bill Clinton's inauguration. I remember hearing it as a kid and her delivery of the final lines of the poem have always stuck with me.
Musically, what or who are some of the primary influences for Career?
We're musically all over the place as a band, and I'm not just saying that. The nice thing about Career is we can bring elements of all the different genres that we've been listening to to the table and those ideas won't immediately be shot down by other members. We're pretty tolerant to new ideas in the writing process.
There are probably multiple narratives on Structures, but there is a one about guy in run down home, structures that character was uncomfortable with and the follow up will be about the character getting out. How much of that is you?
It's all in the perspective of one character and there's a lot of me in that character, for sure. I graduated during the recession with student loan debt and a Lit degree I didn't know what to do with. For the sake of low rent, I've mostly lived in low-income neighborhoods and have had to grapple with my own role in embracing a neighborhood that I may love, but still kind of a feel like an outsider in. "Structures" is supposed to examine the relationships between neighbors in that situation, the class/cultural/economic/racial/physical structures that divide us up, and what we ultimately have in common with each other.
Why was it important for the music to be unconventional in the sense that it starts, stops and kicks back up at different times, in all kinds of different volumes and time signatures?
We'd been toying with loud/quiet/silent dynamics and odd time signatures in the stuff we'd written before that point, and with the Music Box project being by-definition unconventional, it made sense to extend those elements to the piece. I'd like to think it adds to the mood and drama of each section, while also keeping us interested and on our toes.
I wanted to ask you about the band. You, Sulynn, Leo and Matt were Ink & Sweat. How long did that go on, and why did it run its course? Could you talk about how it became Career and who is in the band now?
Yeah, Ink & Sweat burned through some members with Sulynn and myself being in that band the longest. It was mainly a straight forward punk band with a few off-timing noodles here and there. As members swapped out and the band dynamics morphed, so did the songwriting process and our sound. When Matt joined the band, not only did he cement our core lineup, he and Leo's more experimental side (check out Nude Tayne, who are working on a reunion tour soon, if you haven't yet) helped redefine what we sounded like by locking in with each other and giving Sulynn and I the sonic space to experiment.
There was a practice where the music we were jamming on didn't sound anything like what we had started with, and to start fresh with a line-up we were finally happy with, we decided to change the name.
When we were asked to work with The Music Box, we realized we needed additional musicians to help us manipulate the art installations. Jon was an acquaintance of ours when we asked him to help out. He showed up to our practice space with a notebook and scribbled down the skeleton of the song. Not only did he kill the performance, stomping on floorboards wired to guitar strings on a second story balcony, he meshed really well with the rest of us. After Music Box, Matt asked us if we should see if Jon wanted to be a permanent member and there were no objections on either side. He's since dreamt up and built a beast of a noise table, complete with a Russian, foot-operated bass synth and a reverb-ed out french horn, being piped out of a beefy PA set up. I couldn't imagine the band without him or those elements now.
After Leo left the band for Philly, we tried out a couple drummers, ultimately snagging long-time buddy of ours Chris Krause during a black-outy 4th of July party. Six days in of our tour and I think I can say he's gonna workout just fine.
Could you elaborate on some of the instrumentation (orthodox and otherwise)?
At our core, we have a straight-forward band setup: two guitars, a bass, drums, and uh...Jon, haha. During the Music Box performance we had to get creative with what the artists had built, so Sulynn got to jam on a half bass, half shovel hybrid and a percussive wheelbarrow outfitted with drum mallets, triggered by bike brake handles. We were able to use the shovel (built by artist Tory Tepp) on the recording, so that was tight.
We asked Leo, who was the drummer at the time Structures was written, to play with us for the second half of the tour. So far, it's sounding pretty rad.
How long did it take to track, mix, master and get pressed. Who pressed the vinyl?
We tracked the record live in about two days with Dan Byers, who also mixed it, in Sulphur Springs Theatre. Carl Saff mastered the mixes and it was pressed by Sun Press in Miami. Jon put up the cash with his grown-up job so we could self-release it, but if you know a guy for the next record let us know.