Posted On 29 Jun 2018
Hailing from the musical hotbeds of Kansas City, MO, and Lawrence, KS, the electro-alternative OTHER AMERICANS TODAY released their debut self-titled EP via AWAL. Comprised of members of such regional luminaries as The Architects, Latenight Callers, Radar State and Brandon Phillips and The Condition, Other Americans is a virtual Midwestern supergroup of sorts.
The cohorts first crossed paths in when a mutual friend and matchmaker introduced Brandon Phillips to vocalist Julie Berndsen “We were all looking for something new to do musically, recalls Brandon. “The way I remember it, a mutual friend (KC music producer Joel Nanos) told me that Julie was looking to start something new and I sent her a note about it. We had tacos to see if we liked each other.” With first date jitters behind them, the duo enlisted drummer Adam Phillips, bassist Zachary Phillips and late keyboardist Ehren Starks, who passed away suddenly in March 2018, and began writing the material that would become the EP.
The band premiered the late night public access by-way-of 120 Minutes-inspired video for lead single, “Murdering Crows,” directed by artist Adrian Halperin, via The Spill Magazine in May 2018, exposing the band’s brand of kickass dance rock to a broad and international audience. Superlatively catchy and conjuring up well-intentioned comparisons to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fiery Furnaces, and even a jauntier and more aggressive Passion Pit, the new EP captures the excitement and spontaneity that punctuates coastal indie rock while embracing elements of the electronic dance rock that populates midnight warehouse parties.
“All the basic tracking [for the EP] was done at Element Recording and was mastered by Nanos,” he recalls. “Then I took it to my spot and worked and reworked it all for a year until it sounded like something none of us had heard before.” Prior to the EP’s release the band makes their hard fought and won live debut on June 11, at Kansas City’s Riot Room, an already sold-out performance supporting singer songwriter Meg Myers.
Illuminated with the knowledge that the journey is as important as the destination, Phillips admits to looking forward to the period of dues paying that their debut brings. “I’m looking forward to all the firsts;. first show. first record. first tour. Magical thinking could have me pining for a post-Grammys Maserati coke party by the sea, but if I’m all wrapped up in making that fantasy come true, I’ll miss the fun of being present for the firsts and the fifths and the tenths.”
From there the plan becomes a bit more complicated, “The ‘Plan’ as I see it is to con some major label artist into taking us out as support, steal their identities on laundry day, have reconstructive surgery, then only tour in countries without U.S. extradition treaties,” Brandon jokes.
Learn more about Other Americans in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time, Other Americans!
Brandon: Our pleasure.
So how has 2018 been treating you all? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year and how close are you to reaching it?
Brandon: Just getting our EP finished and released has been central to literally EVERYTHING this year so being this close to the release date is exciting. When you’re doing it all yourself, there is a sort of tunnel vision that sets in so I’m hoping that on release day, I feel like Beatrix Kiddo crawling out of the grave and taking a breath.
Julie: Its been great minus Trump. Our music goal slowly but surely has been getting there. We just opened for Meg Myers and had a blast with that!
Adam- So far so good. My musical goal is to be busy AF. Not enough touring yet for my taste, but the EP hasn’t even been released.
First show was supporting Meg Myers and the 2nd one is playing a festival with Spoon and Social Distortion, so I definitely ain’t complaining.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about it all so far?
Brandon: Julie and I didn’t really know each other so we had to sit down over some tacos and talk about goals and music we liked and work ethic and stuff. That felt like a fairly adult way of starting a band as opposed to the usual “met-my-drummer-over-key-bumps-in-the-CBGB-mens-room” type story.
Julie: It was kinda like a blind musical date over tacos. It went well until I flipped over a table for not having enough queso. That stuff is important! We were both looking to start music projects and got connect through Joel at Element music. Brandon is such a hard worker, talented musician and hilarious!
Adam -Yeah, this was a long time coming. Years of playing in different bands with Brandon and Zach. Always having conversations about doing something like this. Julie showed up and just knocked us all out. Like, whoa
How difficult was it to come up with your band name? What other names were you considering?
Brandon: I don’t remember any of the other names we considered and I take that as a sign that we chose well.
Julie: The night of the election we were texting about how we couldn’t believe Trump won. I remember texting the guys saying we were the Other Americans who didn’t vote for Cheeto face.
Adam- Yeah, it was on one of those awful TV news demographic breakdowns. They broke everyone down into these tidy little groups and at the bottom of the screen was “Other Americans ___% eligible voter turnout”.
I thought it was pretty gross and demoralizing. It felt really good to try to turn it into a badge of honor.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If you don’t think that it has, why is that?
Brandon: KCMO is weird. There is ZERO industry presence here so there is none of the pressure that my LA, NY or Nashville friends feel to look or sound a certain way – which is great if what you want is to define yourself from the inside out instead of by comparisons to whatever is currently buzzing. But it also means that you are battling geography in terms of being heard. There is less opportunity to connect with the music biz for the inside baseball stuff but way more opportunity to just be an artist or a band and carve your name into the cliff.
Julie: I’m not from KC area and am from Hutchinson but did find myself not listening to the typical stereotype music you would except from Kansas. I always adored hip hop, female led rock.
Adam: Being located in the center of the county means that we can get almost anywhere inside of a 24hour drive, but it takes an extra decade for our musical trends to find their way to the suburbs. Ha!
Why did you all decide to break away from all of your other bands and form Other Americans? How does the sound of Other Americans compare to all of your group’s music?
Brandon: Speaking for myself, I didn’t exactly “break away”. We still do Brandon Phillips and The Condition and The Architects but I always wanted to do something like this. Maybe I just stopped waiting for “the right time” or for “things to settle down” or whatever lame reasons I had for not taking some new adventure on. I don’t want to be a musician with a narrow lane. If a song idea or a musical idea is “too Beastie Boys” or “too Depeche Mode” for one band, I’m going to want to create a band where those ideas can flourish…or at least be explored.
Adam – whoa, yeah. Who told you that?! I’m not breaking away from anything. I play in BP&TC, the Architects, & Radar State too! I made a record with Brian Marquis. There’s just way too many things I want to do to stop with any one of them.
What does it feel like to be releasing your album today via AWAL? Can you recall the first time you guys heard it all the way through? What was that like?
Brandon: Imma hand that off to Julie and Adam….
Julie: We were so excited! I think I drove around in my car as to me that is the way I most enjoy listening to music!
Adam- I’m through the moon about it. AWAL seems super cool. So far so good. (Fingers crossed. Knocks on wood. Kisses two fingers and points at the sky. Does that weird catholic crossing myself thing. Taps the table twice and takes a shot)
Hearing it back for the first time was a real treat. Headphones is the way to go for me. My car stereo sucks. Brandon kicked the sh*t out of producing this EP. Made me feel proud of all of us.
How did you choose “Murdering Crows” to be the first single released from the collection? What was it like making the video for it? How creatively involved were you all with that process?
Brandon: Murdering Crows was the song where once that mix started to take shape, I knew we had a real band and a real record. All the stuff I wanted for us as a band was present in that song.
Julie: That sound just felt right on a lot of levels. That song highlights each band member in its own way.
Adam- I don’t even remember it being up for discussion. We just WERE going to go with Murdering Crows first. It was like it was carved into a tablet or something.
How was your first live performance recently at Kansas City’s Riot Room?
Brandon: Supporting Meg Myers! Totally sold out, sweat-drenched, radically fun.
Julie: The show was amazing and I couldn’t sleep that night I was so pumped from The energy that the crowd gave us!
Adam- it was a dream. The old Riot Room in Kansas City. Packed to the gills. Meg Myers was there too, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. (J/K Meg. Call me! Let’s tour!)
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Brandon: My therapist would recommend that my time be split between stage and studio for the same of my happiness and she would be correct.
Julie: I feed off the crowd so to me that is happiest place i find myself. Recording can be fun but I love the idea of each show having its own vibe and energy. Okay, I’m sounding like a hippie.. someone cut me off.
Adam- gotta have both. I don’t ever want to have to choose.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates this summer that you would like to tell our readers about?
Brandon: Two new shows were just added in Lawrence, KS and North Kansas City with the fantastic Lawrence-based rapper, Approach.
Adam- and our next show, before the 2 dates with Approach will be playing the Middle Of The Map Festival in Kansas City with Spoon, Social Distortion, Greta Van Fleet, Nikki Lane, Grizzly Bear and bunch of others. The concert gods have smiled upon us and we hope to stay in their good graces.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
Brandon: It’s got two layers – The first layer is that being a musician is about connecting with yourself. Being able to make any sound you want happen as loudly or quietly as you can imagine it. That is the first thousand steps toward bliss. Bliss is achieved when you’re making music you love and you look up and see 200 or 2000 people loving it as well. You all may as well be naked at that point because there is no deeper connection to be had in this life – you are fully connected with your best self, and then with 2000 other selves. Welcome to priesthood kid, you’re a shaman now. A working class lama.
Julie: To me self expression is important and bring people together to have a good time is happiness for me.
Adam- I was raised by entertainers. I have it in my blood. The whole deal is right up my alley. I love the writing and recording. The performing. The behind the scenes stuff. I don’t want to quit any of it. It all adds up to really fun shows and making people feel good. How does anyone top that?
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
Brandon: Our present moment seems to be about confronting all that is revolting, appalling and abhorrent in human nature and how we grapple with all that nastiness socially and politically. If the anxiety and despair of that conflict seems crushingly heavy, believe me, I feel you. Music can deal with times like these by being cathartic, by being escapist or by articulating a truth we need to hear in order to move forward. Hopefully, a little of all three of those tactics are present in Other Americans and every musical thing we do because you really need all three of those in your life. I need Black Flag and The Bronx to push me into catharsis. I need Lady Gaga for the escapism. I need Frank Turner and Operation Ivy to articulate something I can recognize as the truth.
Julie: Yes, it impacts everything, love, rights religion, etc. To me, I’ve not lived under a time where I can’t keep up the crazy news that occurs during the day and not have it impact how I write, perform and make music.
Adam- it’s a total mind fuck. I don’t even know where to begin. It definitely impacts the music. It definitely impacts everything. I’m trying hard to lose myself in my work. Anything else just feels awful.
How important do you think social media has been to this band? Do all you help to maintain all your sites or is one of you more into it all? Or do you rely on your PR/management team to handle it?
Brandon: We handle it. That said, if anyone would like to step in and handle it for us my number is 816.3**.4**9
Julie: I’m glad Adam handles a lot of that because I would be posting a lot of pictures of my cats with our music….
Adam- Yeah, it’s important AF, but not because I want it to be. It’s such a pain in the ass to try to add that to the list of things to do in order to play music. BUT, It’s one of an increasingly small number of ways people discover new Music and make plans. There’s just no way around it. For now.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Brandon: If I’m allowed to be “producer-nerd” for a moment…I’d love to do some old school “sound clash” type records with Doomtree, P.O.S., Dub Narcotic. Like, in the mold of King Tubby Versus The Roots Radics Band.
Julie: Missy Elliott, NIN
Adam- oh god, those are great ideas. I hadn’t thought about it before, but YEAH to all of that.
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
Brandon: Violin. Finally make time to learn that fucker.
Julie: The drums… Adam would you help?
Adam- I would totally help you learn the drums, Julie. But, the thought of being stuck on an island with only one instrument sounds like an episode of Black Mirror. That one instrument is going to break or break down over time, and then you are going to be the saddest motherfucker on earth.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Brandon: If someone chooses your record to keep them company on their bus ride home from work, that is no small thing. It’s actually a pretty big thing. Same goes for bouncing around a dance floor like a mollied-out mental patient. Catharsis or comfort or whatever, it’s an honor to be something to somebody. Although I don’t really get to choose what we mean, I do hope for the connection.
Julie: Being present in the moment and each moment if it is good, bad, pretty, ugly is a moment can I hope everyone can identify in some type of way.
Adam- 1.) I want people to dance their asses off. 2.) I want people to hear it and get inspired to make their own bands.
Where can our readers connect with this group?
Julie: Social media Facebook, Instagram , email etc.
Adam- Wherever there is injustice, you will find us. Wherever there is suffering, we’ll be there. Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find.. J/K
Reg YT Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul0z_pJ4Ce0&t=1s