Into It. Over It.’s Evan Weiss is running a little late for our phone interview, but with what little time he has off these days, who can blame him? A week out from a fairly aggressive 31-date spring tour for the US and UK with barely any breaks, Into It. Over It. had returned from his second run at SXSW barely two weeks prior, and had released a new album, the lush, purposeful Standards, a little more than a week before that.
Accompanying the exclusive stream on Entertainment Weekly’s website three days before that, the 31-year-old Cherry Hill native turned Chicagoan said, “This is my favorite one,” and with reason. Written in a cabin in the words and recorded to tape in a place called Tiny Telephone with musical great and acclaimed producer John Vanderslice (Mountain Goats, Spoon), Standards is a concise, 12-song graduation that raises the bar on Into It. Over It.’s prolific musical catalog. Expansive, moving and, at times, distinctly familiar, this newest release is a reflection of an artist in constant progress, everything for a reason.
Keeping me updated through text, Mr. Weiss also has a good reason for this slight tardiness: breakfast.
Hi, Evan. How are you?
Good, how are you?
I’m good. I’d love to hear more about this breakfast thing.
Haha, yeah. This dude Justin who’s come to see Into It. Over It. and Pet Symmetry quite a bit. He’s trying to get a restaurant off the ground that’s a brunch-focused kind of thing. We are the first band he’s ever designed a menu around the band’s songs, and using that influence to curate a menu.
We actually had it in like a pool house, next to the house that he lives in. And he just gave us like a four-course breakfast. (laughs)
How was SXSW?
It was…We did South By right this time. The first time I ever did it, it was like a ton of shows, all at once. It was very haphazard, very slapdash. This time we did one show a day for about a week. Really took our time, didn’t overexert ourselves. We had a really nice place to stay. It ended up just being a really casual, easy week that kinda set up the tone for the rest of the tour. Basically got to try to do as much as we could, and we basically got prepped for any kind of circumstance that we would experience on this tour in a matter of a week before leaving. (laughs)
So you had done South By one other time?
I did it one other time in like 2010.
Second time must be better than the first time; you have a better understanding of what to expect.
Yeah, absolutely. I knew exactly what I was stepping into. I mean, South By is tough because it’s a little…kind of transactional. It’s almost like you’re playing like a convention center. The whole thing is like one giant convention center across the city. The shows feel…You know, it’s not like playing a show on tour, it’s not like playing a headline show or anything. So with that vibe, it really just helps us as a band become a better band before leaving for our actual trip.
You’re coming off of SXSW straight into a seven-week US tour with The World is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die. Is that a co-headline?
It’s a co-bill. It’s a co-bill with them, but it’s our headlining tour.
How’d you put this tour together?
Well, we did a tour with The World Is… a couple years ago. They’ve always been really good friends of ours. We were planning the stages for the headliner this year, which is the first time we’ve done a full band headliner in a couple years. So I figured out that I really wanted the Sidekicks to come, I really wanted Pinegroves to come. So the big thing was kind of trying to find the direct support of the co-bill on the tour.
And I saw The World Is at Fest [in Gainesville, FL], and we were hanging out at Fest and I still hadn’t figured what exactly we were going to do. And we were sitting around and talking and we were like, “Do you guys want to do this tour with us again?”
We thought it might be kind of weird to do almost the same tour a second time, but it’s like, it worked so well the last time, and we all get along so well. It’s like, “Yeah! We know this works. Let’s just do it!” And everyone was in, so it kind of came together pretty organically.
Standards was recorded entirely on analog and has garnered critical acclaim as your best album to date. What came first: making a conscious decision to switch from digital for your next album or working with analog-purist John Vanderslice?
It absolutely came from wanting to work with John. I essentially realized that he was the right guy for the job, but John doesn’t record any other way but to tape. So I kind of fell in love with John’s attitude and his approach, and then he sprung the tape thing on me, so it was like, “Well, if I want to work with you, I guess this is what we have to do.” So now that we’ve done it, I don’t know if I could go back to recording an Into It. Over It. record on a computer.
This new album strips away a lot of the layers afforded by digital, but opens itself up to the addition of other, more organic elements, like strings and more varied compositions. How else is this album different than the two previous?
This is the first album that I let someone else take the wheel. On previous albums I’d be very controlling, or very clinical and very just kind of in my own head about it. And this time I wanted to make it very clear from the get-go that John was the one who was driving the car. And that we had the songs but that I really wanted him to kind of execute the vision. Or at least take what we had and give it some fresh perspective that maybe we hadn’t thought about.
It was the first record where I would admit openly that I kind of didn’t know what to do with an idea. Or this was the idea that I had, but I didn’t know how to make it…John would just really spring into action. “Well this is how we’re going to do it, this is what were going to do. Grab this, do that.” You know, just kind of orchestrate the whole scenario.
So it took a lot of the pressure off of me and it really opened me up to a lot of new sounds and a lot of new things that I hadn’t previously thought of to make music sound awesome.
Do you think you will seek out another producer that might put you in the same free mindset, or do you think you’ll work with John again on the next one?
Well, I’d always love to find people who could open my mind or expand my mind when it comes to making sound and creating things. That being said, John is the first person that I have made a record with that I would consider making another one with.
Typically, I really like to work with somebody different on every record because I think that really helps me grow as a musician and helps the records each have their own vibe. But yeah, I would definitely consider working with John again.
That also being said, if you know someone who could help me out or teach me a bunch of new tricks, I’d love to make a record with them.
Writing the record in Vermont with drummer and writing partner Josh Sparks placed you in a secluded cabin that required you to drive an hour into town to pick up groceries. What did you guys eat while you were up there working to fuel your process? What were your days like?
We would buy maybe two and a half weeks of groceries at a time, and Josh is an amazing cook so we’d be cooking daily for every meal while we were up there. We actually lived pretty decadently. (laughs) We were eating, like, four- or five-star meals up there. Josh is a phenomenal chef.
A love-hate relationship with where you’re from is lyrically referenced by the songs “Open Casket” and “No EQ” on the new record, and the project 12 Towns cleverly offers another geographical frame of reference. Despite their specificity, why are locations such a relatable character in your songwriting?
I think it just sets the vibe. Generally everything I write is about something that really happened or is a real thing. So location just kind of sets the stage for the rest of the story. It’s able to put the listener in a certain place and imagine where they are and create the landscape in their mind.
There has been a question of whether the success of Into It. Over it. and TWIABP is indicative of an “emo-revival,” something you have claimed to not have much to to do with. Could you expand on that a bit?
I mean, I never said that I didn’t have much to do with it, but it’s never a thing that I said. It was never a thing like, “This is my thing!” Like, I never claimed that to be my own.
If people want to say that, then sure. I’m never going to tell them that they’re wrong, but I’ve never looked at it like that. I look at it like I’m writing music. So I don’t think about it. It’s just not a thing I think about at all.
But also, if someone says, “This is an emo record, and I love it!” it’s like, okay, sure. As long as you like it, you know what I mean? It doesn’t matter to me. So I’m not about to tell someone what they need to think my record is. So as long as they are enjoying it…
I recently read an Reddit thread commenting: “It seems like a lot of the hot new ’emo revival’ bands are from the Pennsylvania and New Jersey are right now… Anyone in the area know why?”
(Audible sigh) I mean, I just think that Philadelphia just has a really great DIY community. It kind of sprang up right after I left. When I was living there, there wasn’t anything like that. Like house shows or like a community of bands that really got along or like a circle of friends that were making a lot of art together. My sister still lives there and she’s a part of it and I kind of live vicariously through her with what’s going on there.
Chicago has got its own little hot bed, as well. Just a ton of great musicians and a ton of great bands and I feel like art has a way…People come together and they’re able to bounce ideas off each other like a snowball effect. Once bands get going and people start seeing what they can do, they want to do it themselves. It becomes this huge thing. Regrettably, sometimes it slows, but Chicago is on a rebirth right now, and I think Philadelphia is in rebirth from five years ago. It’s really exciting to watch.
Could you tell us a bit about what it was like growing up and getting into music closer in a New Jersey region closer to Philly than New York City?
Philadelphia has got something to prove. It’s not New York. It’s never going to be New York, and it’s like the little kid brother that gets picked on a lot. Because of that, bands have to work twice as hard, but with that, the community surrounding them is twice as supportive.
So it was a really great place to grow up, especially when R5, which is the production company in Philadelphia, was really starting to flourish in the city of Philadelphia. I got to see so many of my favorite bands in some of the coolest rooms and be exposed to a lot of culture and art at a very young age. And I lived there till I was 23, so all my most formative years were spent watching my favorite bands in awesome art spaces and churches and interesting venues in the Philadelphia area.
Do you think that the kids that are currently in the formative years of their music education are having experiences that are vastly different than yours? Do you think they are missing out?
No. Well, there was a lot of pre-internet stuff that I was experiencing living around Philadelphia. And if you wanted to find a show you had to know the right people. With that being also said, there was a show going on every night, and all of us would pile in a car and go.
So I think it’s different, but I honestly can’t tell. I don’t know how to answer that question. I’ve never felt the way I felt when I was seventeen going to shows ever again, you know?
It’s just easier to consume now than it was. You had to work for it when I was younger, and I think that made the pay-off a little better.
Several influential bands and albums celebrated ten-year anniversaries this past year, cashing in on reunion and anniversary tours that sold out as quickly as they’re announced. What do you think this says about the state of music and the economy of nostalgia?
I think nostalgia is huge. It’s huge in any genre. Like, Guns N’ Roses played the Troubadour the night before we did, and it had sold out in, like, 40 seconds. (laughs) There’s nostalgia everywhere.
But 52 Weeks is coming up on its ten-year anniversary and I’ve thought about what it would be like to maybe try to play the whole thing or what we could do with that. That would be really fun. And I think it’s fun for both the bands and the people that want to see those songs. It’s also just a nice reason to do it. Like, no one would want to come see an eight-year anniversary, or the eleven-year anniversary; ten is just a nice, round number.
If it’s one reason for a band to have a good time and have a chance to play a record that they made, then I think that’s awesome. As long as some band is playing a record that they like.
Being just past 30, as opposed to just past 20, touring and playing shows, often many nights in a row, must a take a mental and physical toll that a younger self might more easily bounce back from. How is performing at 30 different than performing at 20, 25 even?
I’m actually in better shape now than I probably was when I was in my twenties. My voice feels better, my range feels better, I feel more comfortable in my own skin.
It was funny, because I used to play in this band called The Progress. We did a reunion show this past year, last winter. We did it at the Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia, which is a small room; we just wanted to do it for all our friends. And we actually played better at that show than we ever had when we were actually band.
I actually feel less weathered these days than I used to, maybe when I was in my early to mid-twenties. We also don’t drink anymore, which is a huge thing.
Oh, that’s great! You didn’t drink when you were writing this new record?
We actually stopped between the making of the record and now. It really helps when you’re busting your ass day after day.
Into It. Over It. performs April 22 at Irving Plaza in New York City and April 24 at the Theatre of Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, go to IntoItOverIt.com.