An Interview With TWO CHEERS Front-Man Bryan Akcasu On The Band’s New Music, Biggest Inspirations and More!
Posted On 19 Jul 2017
Two Cheers is an unusual band in almost every way, and it’s like singer and lead songwriter Bryan Akcasu goes out of his way to do it all wrong: On the eve of the release of Splendor, the band’s triumphant 2015 album, he decided to skip touring and spend the summer relocating from Los Angeles to a Detroit-suburb to form a new iteration of the band, get married, and buy a house.
The band’s music is unusually punchy and polished considering Bryan writes, records, and mixes exclusively in basements, bedrooms, and closets instead of studios, and Rollick, Two Cheers’ latest effort, is their most sonically lush and produced yet. The sparkly, beat-laden early 90s-esque indie pop that calls to mind Real Estate, The Cure, Wavves, and Young The Giant is also unusual and out-of-place in Detroit, where most bands are sticking to the city’s signature sound: grunge-y, lo-fi, raw, overdriven garage rock. On the spectrum of rock music lyrics, Bryan’s are in the category of “weird”; his chaotic, poetic, often tragic stream-of-consciousness vignettes are a far cry from the usual fare.
The band recently released their single, “Over My Shoulder.” They had their album release show at PJ’s Lager House on June 30th which tied into Detroit’s prestigious Corktown STRUT festival that spanned the whole last week of June.
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Learn more about Two Cheers in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2017 so far? How differently did you approach this year? What have been some highlights of this year so far?
2017 has been pretty eventful so far, full of some pretty hard times and some pretty productive times. This year I’m trying to take a new approach to a few things… In life and music, I’m trying not to worry so much and get hung up on comparing myself to others. That feeds in to my creative process too, where I’m simplify and do more of what I’m best at and less of what I’m not as good at or don’t like doing! So far, the highlight of 2017 has probably been finishing this record, because first of all I’m really proud of it, and second of all it took way longer than expected and now I can finally get cooking on some other things I have in store for Two Cheers.
Looking back on how you decided to form this band, what do you think first made you think you could do this?
In college I fell in love with a Japanese indie rock band called Number Girl. It made me realize that if this small, loud, sharp-edged, slightly avant-garde music sung in all Japanese could reach me and touch me across time and space, then maybe someone out there could hear my music, relate to it, and be inspired just like I was. Of course, after that point it took me a long time to get good enough at writing and singing to actually play music for people, but that’s when it first occurred to me that I could do it.
How did you first meet each other and come up with your band name? What other band names were you considering?
I’m really in to philosophy and politics, and I was reading a book called “Two Cheers For Anarchism”. The full title was too long, but just Two Cheers had a ring to it and it wasn’t taken, and I thought it was cool that it came from that book. On a deeper level, our music comes about in a somewhat anarchistic way, and superficial level our music is generally happy and cheery sounding. I don’t really remember the other names we were considering at the time… which is a shame because I know they were laughably bad.
Let’s talk about your newest album called “Rollick” that you will be releasing soon. What was it like putting this collection together? What was the inspiration for these songs?
It was fun and very spontaneous, but also drawn out over the span of over a very eventful year in my personal life. We produced it completely in my basement, so we had to figure everything out for ourselves both musically and technically. Because of the long span of time, all the songs were written in really different states of being and states of mind. On top of that, my four band members and I collaborated a lot on these, bringing all of our different influences together for the first time. So, the album is kind of a variety show in mood and style: There are some really dark, groovy, melancholy songs but also some really cheerful, energetic, hyperactive songs as well. No two songs started the same way or had the same trajectory. As for the inspiration, the whole album was supposed to be an ode to my wife and full of weird, vibrant love songs. But my grandmother and mother died during the course of the record, and the winter here in Michigan was harsh and cold, so a lot of the songs ended up being very sad, very cold, and very mellow indeed.
How do you think your sound has grown and changed on this newest album? What has remained the same?
I tried to steer clear of classic chord progressions, opting for weirder and more unusual things to base the songs around. Owen’s synths really added a new sense of atmosphere and space to our sound. We really stripped down the electric guitars and tried to find new ways to propel the songs — kind of transitioning from rock to pop in some ways, focusing on the beats, grooves, and vocals more. But I think the lyrics and melodies and the general aura of the record links it all back to our previous material. Also, I had a really specific late 80s/early 90s production style in mind: generous reverbs, chorused guitars, raw and passionate vocals.
I’m very curious to know more about why you choose to write, record and mix all of your music everywhere but studios? What is about the sound that you get from basements, bedrooms and closets that can’t be reciprocated in a studio atmosphere?
Partly it’s because we are poor artists and don’t have the money to hire studios! Well, we could, but we wouldn’t have quite as much time and freedom to get things sounding a certain way if we were on the clock. Plus, it’s just really fun and challenging and ultimately more satisfying to take our art from the cradle all the way to the grave, so to speak. It might not be the most professional sounding or the most efficient method, but it’s something that defines Two Cheers, for better or worse, and it pushes us to become better on several different levels. I have tried to work in a studio before, and I find it very frustrating and chaotic, and it never comes out right that way. It’s too much pressure. At my home studio, if you can even call it that, where I know my gear because handpicked it all, and I know my rooms because I’ve spent the time tuning them, I can record at my leisure when the spark of creativity strikes me or when I get that flash of intensity of feeling. Capturing inspiration and passion is way more important than everything sounding pristine. But even on that front, I am improving a lot as an engineer.
What are your plans for this summer? Do you have any tour dates scheduled?
This summer I am getting right back to recording a mountain of new songs I am in the process of writing. My goal is figure out a tour for fall. I’m also taking a trip back to LA in August!
Where do you think you are all happiest- recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Definitely in the home studio writing and recording new material; there’s just nothing like going in with nothing but a mood or an idea and coming out with a fully fleshed out song for the world to hear. That said, I really love performing too, especially in a city or town I’ve never been before.
Who are you listening to these days? What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Lately I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Bjork and other Icelandic artists, like Asonat, Lara Runars, Asgeir, and Samaris. Iceland is calling me; I’m learning the language and learning about it’s history. Also, listening to Wye Oaks, Gordi, Prinze George, MNDR, and FKA twigs. My all time favorites are Van Morrison, Fiona Apple, The Cure, Number Girl, Nick Drake, and Flaming Lips. I would love to record with Dave Fridmann some day.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I hope when our fans hear our music, they first dance, then they reflect, and then they play the songs over and over until they become old friends. My message in all of my music is to never take anything in life for granted, to remember that life is very short and precious, and to show appreciation for all of it, big and small.
What advice would you give to a young band just getting started today?
Learn how to record, mix, and master your own music! It’s liberating not having to rely on anyone to do it for you!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
If you love Two Cheers, dig into our back catalog and get in touch!