INTERVIEW | The Last Year to Tour East Coast for "Static Automatic"
Alternative rock band, The Last Year who hails from Baltimore Maryland is about to hit the road for their first headlining tour which will kick off later this month, hitting most of the major cities on the East Coast. The band was created by Niki Barr, on vocals, and Scott Ensign, playing bass and synth. Their partnership which is accompanied by drummer, BJ Kerwin, and guitarist, Scott Griffith emits sounds reminiscent of Debbie Harry, Scott Weiland and Patti Smith. Their tour will also be the exclusive release of their new album, Static Automatic which includes their newest single, "Rush". During this very exciting time for The Last Year, took a few moments to talk about their creative process, favorite moments on the road and what they are looking forward to in the future.
What are the origins behind The Last Year and how did you form your band?
We started in 2014 as a duo, Scott and I. We had been in a band together for several years before disbanding and starting this new project. Co-writing between the two of us clicked right away. We sent some demos to our manager and a few people in the industry and there was such a great response. We knew we were making something special. BJ, the drummer from our previous band, played on the record and officially joined when we hit the road. We knew Scotty, our guitarist, from the Baltimore scene. We had a feeling he would be the perfect fit for our sound and he was!
What was it like starting out in Baltimore?
The scene here is very supportive. We have a close relationship with Matt Davis, formerly of 98 Rock. He held weekly on-air shows dedicated to the local music scene and a Monday night showcase at a local club. We have him to thank for giving Baltimore bands like us a leg-up at a time when it’s extremely hard to get noticed.
What themes do you feel are the most important to lyrically cover in your music?
When I start a song, I usually have no idea what it will be about. I tend to hear the music and melody or rhythm, first. I’ll listen to the musical idea over and over until I feel something and that’s when the words start to flow. I don’t always know where the lyrics come from, but I imagine they’re always tied to things going on in my life or in the lives of those around me.
A couple of our favorite songs of yours are “Sugar” and “Chemical.” What were the inspirations for each of those songs?
I think I still hang on to this one torturous relationship from long ago and it finds its way into so many of my songs, including Sugar. I was love sick and what I mean by that is I would go from being infatuated and obsessed to physically sick to my stomach. I felt like the idea of Sugar fit so well and could mean something to someone else.
Chemical is about our neurotic, unpredictable tendencies. We’ve all done things, acted in certain ways, said things we didn’t mean to say, or completely lost control. Chemical is about those moments.
We hear that you’ll be going on a spring tour at the end of March. Can you tell us a little about that?
We are VERY excited to announce our first headlining tour AND the exclusive release of our new record, Static Automatic! We’ll be hitting most major north east cities, so check our website for dates and tickets!
Where have been some of your favorite places a tour has taken you to in the past and what are your most memorable moments from touring?
I love our shows and have some great memories – we have the greatest fans!! One of my favorite parts of touring, though, is the sightseeing. We found ourselves in the Phoenix area during one of our tours, so we took a drive up to Sedona. It was a hot day, driving in the mountains and I remember watching the van’s thermometer go up and up. We weren’t sure we would make it without the van overheating, but we did! We hiked up the mountains of Sedona. I was at peace. I think about that moment all the time… the view, the breeze.
Who have been your biggest musical inspirations?
I’ve always been attracted to strong personalities. For me to fall in love with a band, there has to be some kind of charisma and captivating sound and style. Dave Gahan, Trent Reznor, Scott Weiland, Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Freddie Mercury… I could go on, but those are a few that come to mind.
What advice can you give people trying to pursue a career in music? How do things generally look for new musicians entering the field?
I just read this out loud to Scott and he immediately responded “learn how to do everything yourself”. Ha! It’s true. We’ve all been playing music since we were teenagers and as an indie band, there’s never much money in the bank. So, we’ve had to do everything ourselves, from recording, mixing, and mastering a record, to designing artwork and merch, to producing our own music videos, and everything social media! You have to be prepared to NEVER stop working! It’s around the clock for us.
Where do you see yourselves in about 5 years from now?
In five years, I hope I’m able to set aside some time (even for just a week) to simply RELAX!
How would you define beauty and what do you think wisdom is composed of?
Beauty is a perception. I find beauty in fitness. When I’m working out, I feel so strong and unstoppable. It really balances all the chaos and challenges I face every day.
Wisdom is gained through experience. We’ve had to learn MANY things the hard way. It has literally been blood, sweat, and tears, but we keep picking up the pieces and we just move on and learn from our successes and mistakes.
I think the pursuit of knowledge is so important. I listen to podcasts when I’m working out or driving. I try to learn new things as often as possible.