New York’s Team Spirit are quickly making a name for themselves. In the past few months, they have dropped their debut album, Killing Time, with lead single Teenage Heart getting plenty of airplay on some top ALT radio stations and also opening for Julian Casablancas + The Voidz on the Texas leg of their tour.
We traveled to Austin to see The Voidz and to catch up with Team Spirit, chatting with them before they took the stage at Emo’s. We talked about everything from Arctic Monkeys (we had opposing views on their best albums), to Ebola, and along the way quickly fell in love with the guys and their wicked sense of humor.
Ayad, what was it like to transition from Passion Pit to fronting your own rock band? Your role in the band has certainly changed, was it hard to adjust?
Ayad :Pretty awesome. You know I had been touring awhile and gotten use to that and it was like a year of not touring, I started playing the guitar again and it just came pretty quickly. Vice came out of the wood work super quick and were like hey we wanna put out your record, so it was a really quick and easy decision. Then things just started building up again and we have been touring and touring and writing and recording and yeah pretty easy actually.
How did it go from Passion Pit to this? The music is fairly different..
Ayad: Yeah. I was in Black Metal Bands before Passion Pit. I was always a metal dude and I started doing film scoring at college where I met Ian and I started playing keyboards, so I did that and a lot of synth playing, then after awhile, playing the guitar just got way more natural. I didn’t write any music in Passion Pit, just a lot of re-mixing. I always felt that was a fun ride, but this is where my heart and home is. It is Rock and Roll and I just love it to much. It is why I started playing when I was 11 years old.
Who does the song writing?
Ayad: Mostly this guy
What was the most difficult song to write on new album?
Ayad: Teenage Heart. Only because it had a totally different chorus and my girlfriend was like it sucks and I was like you’re right. So it went thru a lot of hammering and because this really short power pop jam instead of like a 41/2 minute long journey. So yeah maybe that song. Why which one did you think when you said REALLY?
I mean, I am not saying this hatefully, and I don’t write music, but it seems like such a simple song..
Excatly. Simple songs are harder to write, you can sit there and meander and jerk off for ages. If you do a pop song in like two minutes and ten seconds that has all the elements, that is craftsmanship, that is a lot of hammering and it seems really easy, but it was hard to get there.
BEN: Every second of the song counts
AYAD: All killer, no filler. The longer ones are a bit easier because you can just jam out and go whoa. All the songs had a lot of hammering and redoing and cutting up and putting back together and seeing how many different ways you could play them.
Ayad: About 9 months from like I should start writing songs to this is done. I recorded it all myself as well.
So did you just find these guys and decide to bring them on tour with you?
Ayad: Actually I’ve known these guys forever, but started playing together after the record was done. I recorded it in the mountains. I have a studio as well, in New York, so I just moved up there for a month, did a little tracking there, finished up writing in New York. I am pretty glad they didn’t get subjected to it, because they would probably hate me a lot more than they do now.
What is your writing technique?
Ayad: What is really weird about writing a song is you have to think…what am I going to write about. So a lot of time I just sit in my underwear at home and just play guitar with a drum loop until a riff comes out, work the riff for ages, then do the form, then add vocals kinda last.
Your favourite song to play live?
Alex: Satisfaction. It is more of an epic one, so it has kind of a nice rise and fall. It’s dynamic
Ayad: Satisfaction is a fun one to do live because we rearranged it to do it live, and its like, it’s a more direct arrangement, but it was fun to get into band practice and figure out a new way
Do you often change the arrangement for live shows?
Ayad: No. Not to often. That was like the biggest change. Mostly because I recorded it a little bit higher than I can sing live, so we were like, lets drop it down and in turn made it easier to play and then it just all fit way better.
Do you prefer just performing your songs or jam sessions where you just go with it?
Alex: We don’t really do that. We only really jam if we are writing something. That is another whole other type of musician I guess.
How did you feel the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
Ayad: Actually I still haven’t heard a Team Spirit song on the radio
Alex: It’s been in a Pepsi commercial
We just heard you guys Monday, here in Austin…
Ayad: I have missed it every time. We haven’t had that THAT THING YOU DO moment when you’re in the fucking store and you turn it up and you run all around
Alex: The other problem is there isn’t really a main stream alternative rock radio station in New York City, which is a total bummer
Tonight is your second show playing with The Voidz. How was the show in Birmingham night before last?
Ayad: Fucking Awesome. Fucking Rad.Nice stage.Great. What’s so cool about it is, when the Strokes first came out I was definitely listening to a lot of metal and not like rock stuff. I was never really a huge Strokes dude. I was listening to a lot of Mars Volta and prog-rock. This is kinda like that, but with fucking Casablancas vocals and it is awesome. I am more stoked to be with these guys than if we were touring with the Strokes, I think.
Alex: We grew up when the Strokes were first breaking, we were in High School, so it was the kind of thing where it was like..it was just kind of amazing to….I dunno..feel like we were getting to..I dunno..somewhere other than we were. I guess is the best way to put it. It’s nice to feel like even tho we are obviously so much smaller than them, it is just great to be around them and their energy, sort of be around something that has worked so long and just observe that. We just appreciate it, honestly. I think what’s cool about it is the music they are doing now is not influenced by anything these kids have heard. I think it could serve as a really cool gateway for a lot of them into more interesting experimental music.
Most embarrassing song on your iPod or phone?
Ayad: I think the most embarrassing song, I will listen to Taylor Swift, like really seriously all the time. My girlfriends sister got me a Taylor Swift calendar for Thanksgiving last year.
So what do you think of her new album? Everyone is raving over it
Ayad: I haven’t heard it yet. They won’t let me listen to her in the van, but I think it’s probably bad. I know I shouldn’t like her, but you know, that’s why it’s a guilty pleasure.
Alex: It’s a cynical play to extend her career and you can print that
And your most embarrassing song?
Alex: Most embarrassing song on mine? I mean I am not embarrassed by anything I listen to, but I have taken to listening to Hall and Oats a bunch, but I am not embarrassed by anything I listen to. I will stand on a mountain and say I love Steely Dan
Dan: Oh man. I don’t know. I love like crazy new wave. I don’t know. I am not embarrassed either. Joe Jackson..Stepping Out, that is an amazing song. I think right now that is my favourite song.
Ayad: Sometimes Dan will play Euro Dance music and we are all like ..what is going on . With that being said, he has also introduced us to Todd ( ? ) which is one of our favourite records of this year
Kieren: Probably Box car Racer
Ayad: How about U2?
I hate U2 and I love the picture you have on Instagram
Ayad: The books about dicks?
We were in line laughing about it, it was perfect
Ayad: That should go viral and do justice in the world
What did you think about their forced music?
Alex: It devalues it. The thing that is most annoying about that, ultimately, is that Bono apologizes about it, but then says, we were just afraid that no one would ever hear this music that we made, and it was like what planet are you on dude. Like what really is in his mind, like what he is really saying is ..we would be upset if EVERYONE in the world didn’t hear our music. That’s a whole other thing. Super entitled bullshit, it made me hate them even more.
Ayad: If you are worried about people not hearing your music, don’t force feed it to them, make better fucking music
About Black Bell Records, what do you look for when your signing bands to your label?
Ayad: Oh my god. Stuff I would listen to. Stuff I like. The label has gone thru a couple of phases. I started out with Joy Formidable and that was a great first record. Signed a couple of awesome bands that were a little bit more established. More recently I have been working with just smaller, New York rock and roll bands that are just fucking great. Bands that I want to make sure they make good records and get heard and put around. I have had the label about five years or something, currently have about five active bands. Total Slacker is touring a bunch. Honduras who just put out a 7 inch.
This year you were at Southby…so are you coming back in 2015?
Ayad: Hopefully, yeah. I mean I have been to 6 of the last 7. The only one I missed, I was in the hospital. Fuck that shit.
How do you pick where you go on tour? Or do you get a say?
Ayad: No. No. They tell us. It is based on if they think you will sell tickets or not, or if they want to give you a chance. They have their big guys that will definitely sell tickets, so they can afford some young bands that they think in a year or two might be a medium band, they want to support those guys
I think that is why we really like Southby and enjoy it. 80 percent of the stuff you see, is stuff you are not familiar with. One last question, we know you have to go get ready and we have to get to the queue.. we want to know what your favourite Elvis song is…
Ayad: Oh Burning Love. How did you know that? Why did you think I would have a favourite?
We do our research?
Ayad: we have actually been learning it as a cover, we are going to record it. We also have an Eddie Money cover in our back pockets we will share with you one day
Thank you to the guys of Team Spirit for taking the time to talk to us, we hope we see you in Austin this coming March, and we are waiting on that Eddie Money cover!
To find out more about Team Spirit click here