It’s July 16, right in the midst of the dog days of summer, and the temperature is not easing up. However, for Bergen County natives Escape Directors, the heat isn’t getting to them at all. Today is the day they have been patiently and anxiously waiting for since March. It’s the release date of their new EP, The Crowded Room. To celebrate the occasion, the group planned a show at one of their favorite spots: Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ. The pre-orders started coming in for the album long ago, and before they knew it, the show was officially sold-out a month in advance. Not bad for a band that has only been together for a year.
But let’s rewind to March, when the weather wasn’t so hot and the band was heading out to Cleveland to record with producer Jim Wirt, best known for his work with artists such as Incubus and Andrew McMahon. Nick Wilson (piano and guitars) had nothing but praises in talking about working with Jim. “Working with Jim was a wild week-long journey.”
However, it wasn’t all fun and games. They did in fact make an EP together. It seems as if the songs were brought to a whole new level that may not have been reached without him. According to the band, he brought a “sonic definition” to the music that didn’t previously exist in their demos. It was really interesting working with someone of his clout. They were able to see the recording techniques and thought process of someone whose been doing it for about as long as each of the band members have been alive.
The band told stories of the recording process. Whether it was trying to find the right bass line or using the best sounding piano in the world, the band really worked together. Even before they hit the studio they worked hard on these songs as a band, and that comes across in the recordings. “You’ll find the main difference is that these songs are more band-oriented; the songs still have that honest lyrical aspect but also have more melodic instrumentation,” they said.
Lyrics are perhaps the first thing that people pay attention to when they hear a pop song, a fact that is not lost on lead singer and guitarist Steve Carter. There are songs that come straight from the heart like “The Distant Past.” However, he has also mastered the art of storytelling. Songs like “Money Changes Everyone” incorporates characters whose their lives are changed by the one thing that can mess with us all. “I try to make every lyric as visual as possible—painting little pictures in the listener’s mind. I think it allows them to latch onto and relate to the songs because they can see as well as listen. Lots of different films and art inspire the emotions that go into the songs as well as personal experiences.” Relating to the words is something that their fans definitely do. You can see it in their eyes as they sing the words.
For those who are familiar with the band’s work, they notice The Crowded Room definitely is different from the band’s first release, Ladders. And not in a bad way. Their newest effort reminds listeners of Coldplay, Radiohead and Jimmy Eat World just to name a few. “It’s amazing to be compared to the bands that inspire us. We’re still zoning into our sounds, so it’s good to know we are on a solid path when we get those comparisons. We don’t mind it,” said Steve.
Now funding this EP was something the band knew they could not do alone. Still attending school at the time and working to pay for the necessities, heading out to Cleveland to record with Jim Wirt could not have been done without their fans. Perhaps the future of funding projects for many bands, they turned to Kickstarter. Basically, anyone can donate a certain amount of money, and the band can set what they get in return for the amount donated. For instance, if someone donates $5, they can be rewarded with a digital version of the EP. The band’s Kickstarter project was so successful that they doubled what they asked for, “[Which] was very humbling,” according to Nick. Besides the money, it proves that the band has a loyal fan base that is willing to help support them so they can make music.
In addition to Kickstarter, the band also used a New Jersey-based foundation called The Project Matters who “supplied an enormous amount of love, guidance, and financial support,” Nick said. The Project Matters was started in memory of Benjamin High, who was the brainchild of Green Arrows. Ben’s life was sadly taken away too soon at the age of 19. To commemorate his life and his love of music, The Project Matters was started. They help New Jersey-based bands gain exposure, just as Ben would have done.
Now we are back to present day and the band is sitting at the bar at Mexicali Live, eating their burritos and drinking water—that’s right, water. They don’t drink before shows, and after finishing their burritos, bassist Brendon Bigley commented, “I feel like we made it; we got fed!” They’re still young guys and they appreciate the little things. And after selling out the venue, a complimentary burrito was definitely earned.
It was great seeing the band interact with everyone coming through the door; family members, long time friends and fans. This was a big moment for them, and they definitely spent a lot of time preparing. “We spent two months preparing for that show—it was the most we’ve focused on one particular event,” said Nick.
Their 11-song set list was carefully chosen and a projection screen displayed specially made videos for each song. The band definitely stepped-up their game, and with this set they could go toe to toe against any national touring act. However, the audience definitely helped them. “It is a lot easier to perform and entertain when the audience has super high energy and is singing along to every song. It was the most fun we’ve had as a band and we’re looking forward to doing that on a regular basis.” So the EP is released, the show has been played and, in their eyes, a great deal of pressure has been relieved. When a band is releasing new material, there is always the thought of, “I wonder if people will like it?” Well, Escape Directors have nothing to worry about. Critics and fans alike have nothing but nice things to say about the EP. So what’s next for them? It seems like you spend months planning and then it’s over before you can even blink. The band has some pretty big plan moving forward. “We were planning on recording our next album in space, but Muse beat us to it,” they joked. “We just want to build our team and keep expanding our base. We’ve come a long way in a year and we’re hoping that upward climb continues as we play more shows and write more music.”
The crowd is leaving the once packed room and all that is left is the band packing up their gear. Nothing but smiles on their faces, and they should be proud. Escape Directors are on track to become a household name, and they sure as hell deserve it.
Catch Escape Directors at The Saint in Asbury Park on Aug. 22, as they play their Project Matters release show. Find more info at escapedirectors.com.