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The Hot Sweat
Stephen Jerzak
The Spill Canvas
By Cristina Carrazza-- Regional Head, Midwest

After three years, The Spill Canvas is finally getting back on the radar. For a band that plays everything from emotional, acoustic ballads so powerful rock songs, it is safe to say that their return was met with much anticipation. At last, the quartet from South Dakota is following up their successful 2007 release “No Really I’m Fine” with two EPs, “Abnormalities” and “Realities” which were released earlier this year The Spill Canvas is currently wrapping up a national headlining tour with Tyler Hilton. At the Chicago date of the tour, I sat down with lead singer Nick Thomas to learn more about what the band has been up to.  Make sure to catch The Spill Canvas on the road this summer as they support the Goo Goo Dolls and Switchfoot.

Cristina: To start off, introduce yourself and The Spill Canvas
Nick: My name is Nick. I play guitar and attempt to sing in The Spill Canvas.

CC: The Spill Canvas just released some new material for the first time in almost three years. Before that, it seems that each full length was very different from the others in terms of sound and lyrics.
NT: You know, from “Sunsets and Car Crashes” which was our first official release on an indie label to our newest EP “Realities” that just came out in April, there is a huge span of musical growth and experimentation. I think that even from “Sunsets and Car Crashes” to our second release “One Fell Swoop” we started to change what we wanted to do. I like to say that the music found us more than we found it, and we just go from there. “No Really I’m Fine” was our first major label debut; that was different because we were involved with a major record company. They want to make money, it’s a business, but there was still good integrity in keeping our artistry and making it what we wanted it to be. After that, we took the longest break we’ve ever taken as a band. We were just gone for so long. It was well needed rest, a lot of personal issues that needed to be taken care of. This is a very difficult business to be in. It’s a dream; it’s ridiculous that I get to call this my job. So ridiculous.

CC: I thought it was interesting how you mentioned that the music comes to you. So what are some of the influences that drive that for you? What really fascinates me about The Spill Canvas is that you have such different sounds but they all seem to be connected in one way or another.
NT: I know, it’s bizarre! I have since put some of my hippie ways to rest. Truly, still I’m just a big hippie but not as bad. You know, the whole it’s all about the music thing. As silly as it sounds it’s true. I’ve tried to have co writing sessions with guys who write monster hits. And the songs just end up sucking. This is a dumb analogy, but it’s like when you’re staring at a specific painting really close 24/7 you get constructive criticism but until you yourself detach and see the whole picture that’s when you start appreciating things and seeing them the way you’re supposed to. It’s just a matter of learning about the music and looking.

CC: In your opinion, how do “Realities” and “Abnormalities” compare to your previous work.
NT: Well, we took a really long break. Before that, we were just doing some extensive touring. So we need some time off. We started picking up writing and everything just seemed very dark and different. It was very low, and I was going through some personal issues that I guess can be heard. It was pretty difficult; it took a lot of time. A guy at our record label left the company. He was the big puller for us and let us do whatever we wanted. It’s not like the label didn’t support us but they just didn’t understand the same way he did. It took a long time for us, management, and label to cooperate and get a direction going. We wrote about 30 songs and used about eight of them. That for me was a big change because I’m used to be in control of the lyrical content and song structure. But it is a business, to a certain degree. But it has changed.

CC: Is that one of the reasons why two short EPs were released instead of a full length?
NT: Yeah. In addition to our just liking of the idea, it was presented to us by the label. The whole market of the music industry is becoming single based. Back in the 60s and 70s you bought whole records. But back in the 40s and 50s people just listened to singles. I feel like with the internet now and the instant information age we want and focus our attention to singles. Most people don’t really notice full lengths.  The whole notion of slaving away for four months and creating this full length that was basically a work of art is not there. One song can be great, but it is just one song. I’m a gull length person myself, but I do enjoy the two EPs.

CC: How does that affect your songwriting then, now that you have to focus your attention to a specific track instead of creating a collective work?
NT: It’s a lot of pressure. It’s weird because when we were doing “No Really I’m Fine,” that was our first major label debut and that was a lot of pressure. There was pressure but I loved the challenge and got to it. Everything flowed, and clicked; it was all there. This time around, there were a lot of smaller things in the business and how it woks that we didn’t understand. After all, I am an artist, a lazy musician *laughs*. To be on top of the business wall was a different experience. We really didn’t know what was going to happen or the future of the band. Ultimately, we’re still doing it. We’re here and taking things one day at a time. We are fully aware of what we want.

CC: Going back to the promotion of singles, I know you guys are known to be a tour heavy band. Even between the two EPs you guys were out promoting it.  As generic as this sounds, I think it really influences the focus of the band and the way you present these songs to people.
NT: Absolutely. Being on the road and pushing something that you’ve just creating is an experience. I think a lot of people these days connect with music through the internet. I turn 26 in a couple of days but I’m still a young kid. I got into music before mp3.com, back in the age of dial-up where you couldn’t stream anything because your computer was so slow. But what I did is I started booking my own shows. It is such an organic way of building it up. I think part of the issues that I had to deal with during these past couple of years is that I was out of my groove. I had been on the road for so long.  There’s this freedom about being on the road; it’s so overwhelming and beautiful. It’s pretty amazing to see how the promotion through touring affects our music and the effect it has. Specially now. I mean, I love all the social networks but I have never gotten my own myspace or facebook. It’s so cold and clinical and instant. I’m more into phone calls and letters, being more personal and intimate. I’m definitely not bashing it but I’m trying to promote things the way they were supposed to be experienced.

CC: I know your live show gets a lot of praise…
NT: Yes! We fooled everyone. What happens is we show up four hours early and make sure that we get into the air duct system. Only when we play though. Maybe if the support artist is good we’ll help them out a bit, but we really pump it up for our set.
CC: Well you heard it on Musiqtone.com first!
NT: Yes, exclusively. I’m just kidding.

CC: You are currently finishing up a headlining tour with Tyler Hilton, AM Taxi and New Politics.
NT: This tour was so amazing. Obviously every tour is fun. But specially for me, I’ve had a rough couple of years so I had no idea how I was going to get back on the road. The other guys in the band have obviously been very supportive. This tour really put things into perspective. It ended up being exactly what I wanted and we needed. All the bands get along really well. I think that it was good for us to do this tour. I wouldn’t have picked any other bands to do it with. It is such an eclectic line up. It’s interesting.

CC: Any particular reason why this tour stands out to you?
NT:  The connection with the artists on the road is a big thing. There are so many things that feed into a regular day. You need a commonality between the bands. But we get along really well. We are really lucky when it comes to the bands that we tour with.

CC: Speaking of touring, this summer The Spill Canvas is hitting the road with The Goo Goo Dolls and Switchfoot.
NT: Yeah. I haven’t thought about it yet. I haven’t processed it. It’s really intense. This is obviously one of the biggest tours we’ve ever been a part of so far. We love these bands. I mean, at one point or another you’ve listened to The Goo Goo Dolls. And I actually really enjoy Switchfoot. I think our bass player Landon is a huge fan of theirs. Everything about them is great. It’s really surreal. I still think someone is just playing with us. We’ll show up on the first day and they’ll tell us it was all a joke…

CC: So what are your expectations going into it?
NT: I understand how the big shows go. I mean we played a couple of shows for MTV, I think Wyclef was in one of them and some other monstrous bands. And we’re just another nobody. What you learn from these things is how to expose yourself. People at the show tonight will probably know us. Out there, we’re playing while kids are still filing in. But in that time, we’re still trying to make a statement. Hopefully people will think “oh I’ve heard that band, or that song, or that name” even if they’ve never seen us before. Regardless of whether they like it or not, it’s just a matter of taking the opportunity and getting our name out there.

CC: I guess it is a completely different show, because what you’re trying to accomplish from a regular headlining show is completely different.
NT: Oh yeah! It’s much different. Even the way we’re planning out our set list is important. For example, our Warped Tour set was so different from our other shows. It was mostly rock songs. But with The Goo Goo Dolls, I feel like we’ll be playing more chill songs. It’s going to be fun.
CC: I think that’s another thing that is so unique to your music. You can appeal to different crowds and specifically cater to them but still be identified as the Spill Canvas.
NT: I know right? It’s weird. It’s bizarre to think that we’re in band that has lasted for so long and has had so many different phases. I just don’t feel like music should ever be tied down or defined.

CC: So to tie this up, we can expect a full length sometime in the near future?
NT: Oh yes. We did record a few songs that weren’t released, but we probably have to go back to the studio. But it’s coming soon.

CC: Where do you see The Spill Canvas in the future?
NT: The Spill Canvas will always be the Spill Canvas. I might try to be a rapper in the future… But maybe you’ll see some more acoustic stuff again.

The Spill Canvas
The Hot Serat
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