· By John Frazier
Get to Know Schematic
We recently chatted with Dave Elkins of about his new project, Schematic, and the recent release of the new album, Color (n.) Inside The Lines. Along the way, he shared some insight about how much his life has changed over the past few years and a lot more. Read on to learn more about what he hopes to accomplish with Schematic, how the new album came to life, and how it's different than anything he was a part of in his previous band, Mae. Color (n.) Inside The Lines is available now.
How did Schematic come to be?
I've been a songwriter and a producer for over a decade and have been playing music full time for just as long. In January 2011, I moved to Nashville and began life post-Mae. My goal was to finally build my own studio and produce full time while continuing to write and record my own music as it came to me. Learning more about the engineering process as well as full experimentation inside the studio was the catalyst for some of these songs. Playing a majority of the instruments and writing almost everything on the record was my motivation when I started making the album. Inviting my friends to express their creativity and help make the songs stronger and the parts all the more musical became the goals of finishing Color (n.) Inside The Lines.
What were you hoping to accomplish sonically with the record?
Finally having my own studio, my own methods, and time to experiment fully were the main ingredients to the sonic qualities of Color (n.) Inside The Lines. I really wanted to stretch myself to try new recording methods, play new instruments, and develop sounds in a way that I never did with Mae. To an extent, making this record was almost a rebellious and therapeutic exercise. Doing things contrary to my previous songwriting and production approaches were one of the motivations to making this album for sure.
Was the songwriting and production of the record a collaborative or solo process (or both)?
At first, I had one goal with Color (n.) Inside The Lines. After producing the (m)(a)(e) EPs, part of me wanted to take the production and recording process a step further and perform all of the instruments and write all of the songs and arrange all parts. In some cases, from a song's inception to the final master, I almost did exactly that, only calling on my good friend and out of this world bassist, Tony Lucido to join in. But Nashville being Nashville, and me being able to make friends with some outstanding creatives, I realized what a disservice finishing the album would have been if I hadn't reached out to a few people and ask them to put their own stamp on the songs. Paul Moak produced and engineered three songs on CITL at The Smoakstack, in Nashville. Paul also co-wrote "Stand" with me. Jeremy Lutito, a talented session drummer, and backbeat for the band Leagues played on these three track. I also co-wrote "Senseless Charades" with Mae bass player and engineer, Mark Padgett. "What It Means" was written with my good friend Stephen Christian, lead singer of Anberlin and Luke Buishas. That particular song took almost two years to come together as I experimented with the "co-write" Nashville experience. I was able to produce an EP for Nashville darlings, Coin this year. Lead singer, primary songwriter, and keys player Chase Lawrence performed piano on 4 or 5 tracks and I encouraged him to feel out the parts and contribute in his own way and style. He did a phenomenal service to the album. Finally, Eleanor Denig arranged strings for half of the record. I loved her work before I met her and am still in awe of the parts she came up with for my songs.
Who produced, engineered, mixed, mastered?
I produced a majority of the record myself here in Nashville at Schematic Studios. Mae's long time friend, touring sound guy, and studio engineer, Tom McNabb engineered and mixed most of the record. Schematic assistant Zach Dyke, engineered a bit on the album and even played drums on "All The Birds Are Singing." Paul Moak produced and engineered "Stand," "Outside," and "All-Time Quarterback." A super talented guy by the name of Chad Wahlbrink mixed a few tracks on the record. Look out for Chad! He is a genius! Mastering was done by Taylor Bray another genius here in town. The more I think about it, the more obvious it is that Color (n.) Inside The Lines needed the input of these people. I'm incredibly grateful to have such talented friends!
How did the process of recording this record differ from previous records you've worked on?
I've always just worked in one studio for one period of time when making an album. The closest comparison I can draw from would be Mae's first record, Destination: Beautiful. That record took almost two years to record as we slowly experimented back in 2001 and 2002 recording here and there as the songs came and the free studio time was offered. Even though the level of experimentation was much different on Color (n.) Inside The Lines, the spirit was very much the same. I was able to work with 5 different engineers in 6 different studios. I produced all but 3 of the songs, sometimes playing everything but bass, sometimes having 5 or 6 other players on one track. For the first time, I would meet with songwriters outside of my own creative circle to collaborate and finish tracks. Nashville's influence and creative community really came over me during the making of Color (n.) Inside The Lines.
What should fans of your previous projects expect or not expect from the record?
Interesting groove, mixed meter (interweaving time signatures) as much musical experimentation as I could come up with while still trying to write pop songs with a progressive lean. In many ways, I would call this Destination: Beautiful 2.0 (or 3.0).
Has living in Nashville or any other life events shaped your approach to making music?
It definitely has. Growing up in Virginia has it's perks, but not many of them are musical. In terms of community, obviously Nashville is called Music City for a reason. The album was started as a self-serving, narcissistic effort and finished in quite an opposite vein. I found myself missing the creative and collaborative process of making music. I needed to bounce my ideas off of someone who would give me critical feedback, make the music more interesting, more developed and more inclusive. In many ways I miss the collaborative contributions that only a band can provide. In the meantime, finishing Color (n.) Inside The Lines with friends in Nashville was the best alternative for Schematic.
Any upcoming tour plans?
After a short lived US tour, it was clear that in order for Color (n.) Inside The Lines to be a success, we needed to partner with the right people and make sure the album was marketed properly. Hence, the re-release on Spartan. There may be a few sporadic US shows this fall, but right now, we just got back from a Southeast Asian tour. Hopefully we'll get to play many countries in that part of the world and catch wind back in the sails of touring.
Tell me about your relationship with Spartan Records, how did it come to be and why did you choose to release the record with them?
John Frazier, Spartan owner, was Mae's first A&R and director of marketing for Tooth & Nail Records during Mae's years on T&N's roster. John came to our (Mae) weddings and celebrated with us in our personal endeavors as he has become one of Mae's closest friends. Personally, John is one of my best friends and over the years our friendship and our individual journeys through the music industry has kept us continually working together for over a decade. When Spartan was just an idea, one that John was willing to share with me, I knew that it would be a success. John's experiences in the industry, his passion for music, and his marketing expertise have made such an impact on me. Along with releasing Destination: Beautiful on vinyl, it only makes perfect sense to me that Spartan also have Schematic's first release on the roster.
Anything else we should know about Schematic?
I hope the best is yet to come with Color (n.) Inside The Lines. I loved every minute making this album and I hope even through all of it's elaborate, progressive pop experimentation, I'm really proud of the songs. Strip some of these songs down to an acoustic guitar or piano and vocal and I'm very proud of their essence. I love the fact that Schematic and Spartan are partnering together to release this album! I can only expect that the best is yet to come.