The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die may be a mouthful of a band name, but the cathartic style of genre-spanning emotional rock.
Their upcoming record, Harmlessness, which drops on Sept. 25, will be the first full-length from the group in two years. Previously, Topshelf Records had released their first LP, Whenever, If Ever.
Last fall, the Connecticut-born act put out a lengthy EP entitled BetweenBodies. Consistent with their refusal to maintain any sort of status quo, the EP features the spoken word of Chris Zizzamia partnered with the band’s delightful instrumentations for a completely refreshing take on the broad alternative genre.
This inability to restrict their sound to single definition distinguishes TWIABP, though its DIY ethics firmly cement the group as one of the best collections of musicians in recent memory. Such comprehensive creativity seems to partially come from the ever-revolving door of members. Currently, their Facebook lists 10 members in their lineup, though different members (including some not listed) have appeared on various EPs, singles and tours.
Shortly before heading out with Pianos Become The Teeth, I caught up with one of the band’s founding members, Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak. Here, we talk about Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s record label and how the band pushes themselves creatively and handle so many personnel changes.
Why do you release EPs and splits so often rather than traditional full-lengths?
Because there are no rules. We like to do whatever we want to do and sort of strike out people that help us release stuff.
Because you seem to constantly have releases, what does the band’s schedule usually look like off tour?
Really we just get together and write for like a week at a time because we live all spread out now. We just spend a lot of time, since getting off our last tour in November, just recording. I mean, we recorded almost 30 songs and it’s just been figuring out different releases for each of them.
Do all those songs get placed somewhere or do some of them get put on the backburner for future releases?
Yeah, we have stuff on the backburner for like even 2016 releases right now.
Are you working with an outside producer outside or is Chris Teti doing this one as well?
Well we haven’t worked with anyone else in almost three years. Our first two EPs I recorded in my basement, the Deer Leap split and Are Here To Help You, were recorded by Ryan Stack because Chris [Teti] and Greg’s [Horbal] previous band had worked with them.
After that, Chris had been an apprentice at a studio for a while and was starting to take on his own projects so we just started working with him and it was a lot easier. We prefer that to working with somebody else [because] he’s in the band, he understands our ideas and it’s a lot easier to get them out and get something that we’re really proud of.
Is Chris producing Harmlessness too?
Yup, he recorded and mixed it
How did you end up with title of Harmlessness?
It’s sort of a play on our first EP called Formlessness. Tyler Bussey, who started the band with me in 2009, was on Formlessness and then nothing else. He quit after our first tour and came back to make this record with us, so it’s sort of a reference of the first EP and having Tyler back, and the sentiment is sort of to live without doing any harm.
What’ve been the advantages and disadvantages of having such fluidity with members?
I haven’t really felt that there’ve been any disadvantages other than joyless nerds on the Internet who think it’s unnecessary I guess. I like constantly having new ideas and I like working with different people, just keeping things fresh as we go.
Are there spoken word bits on this new record or did you ever consider that?
That project was just a one-time collaboration with Chris [Zizzamia] who’d been playing shows with us for a while. We originally talked about doing a 7″ stuff with him where we do, like, the improv pieces that we do live, and then we got to the studio and it ended up turning into a half an hour EP.
Speaking of that EP, did Chris give you the words then you built the musical aspects around it or how did that work?
It was a little bit of both. He had pieces prepared and then he had some stuff that he’d already been performing with us. Sort of between the songs we do improvisation and that’s how we started working with him. Greg had invited him to perform with us and just throughout the years there’s some stuff that we’d done quite a few times with him and some stuff we just built in the studio.
How do you all continue to push yourself creatively?
I don’t know, we don’t like to do the same thing twice. There’s a lot of us and we’re all influenced by a wide range of art and music and I think it’s just keeping our ideas fresh and not being afraid of trying different stuff. We’ve never been motivated to sound exactly like our influences or something. You know, [we’re] just trying to avoid making derivative art.
The band has been a bit untraditional when it comes to labels in the past, what made you sign to Epitaph?
They were more or less willing to let us do whatever we wanted. We had met with them a couple of times and everyone there’s super nice and supportive and they haven’t said no to any of our ideas or plans. They’ve been stoked.
What did you not like about bigger labels in the past?
Nobody had really hit us up before. When we recorded the first EP, Greg wasn’t even in the band yet and I was looking for someone to put it out as a 7″ and Greg said, “Well, Topshelf [Records] would probably be interested.” So I emailed them and they were into it. They just kept releasing our stuff as we recorded it.
And I started my own label three years ago and I put out Between Bodies and the 7″… and the split with Rozwell Kid because I had the ability to do so. We’ve never really been approached until this past year.
With the amount of growth your label, Broken World Media, has seen, how do you balance that with your band continuing to get bigger by the release?
It has been really hard. With Broken World, I’ve just been hiring people to help out so we can stay on top of stuff while I focus on The World Is… but it has been really difficult. But I don’t want to give up either so [I’m] just trying to find a balance.
You all were kind of thrust into the limelight with Whenever, If Ever, would you change anything from over the past few years?
I don’t think I would. Everything’s been great. The record came out and we toured on it for almost two years straight and had a lot of really great experiences and a lot of really great opportunities so I wouldn’t change anything.
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die will make appearances at Asbury Lanes on Aug. 21 and at Le Poisson Rouge on Aug. 22. Their newest album will be available on Sept. 25 through Epitaph Records. For more information, go to theworldisabeautifulplace.com.