By Alec Wooden
It’s hard for band’s to stand out these days – no one knows that better than bands themselves. Atlanta-via-Gainesville indie-pop quartet Debutaunts is no exception; respecting the challenges ahead of them to break out but feeling more at home than ever with a new city, a new record (Why Can’t We Have Fun) and a good outlook for what lies ahead.
You guys are newcomers to the Atlanta scene, so describe your sound for those yet to hear you.
Jazek Creacy: We all have way different backgrounds in music. It was all just a culmination of everything we wanted, because we’re all together on it. One person isn’t saying, “This is how it’s gonna be, this is how it’s gonna sound.” So it all came together like that.
Jonny Shupert: With our first record, it was a little bit more progressive and we tried not let anything influence the music. And then on the new one (Why Can’t We Have Fun), we kind of went back to our roots, like Motown, ‘60s rock, ‘80s rock – but mostly pop. This is not my quote, but from another review, someone said, “If Madonna and the Smiths tried to write a Beatles song.”
Creacy: The older records were way more progressive. But we realized that it’s 10 times harder to write a truly good pop song.
Why do people consider “pop” a dirty word?
Jeff Margaritondo: People don’t appreciate “commercial” music. But it doesn’t have to be “commercial” to be “pop,” which is the distinction that a lot of people fail to make.
Every band has different personalities within it. It’s what makes some great, it’s what makes some fail. Describe the personalities within Debutaunts and how they work together, even when they don’t.
Creacy: Jeff’s pretty laid back. He always takes it down a notch. Jon’s the polar opposite – all the time “let’s do it, let’s do it.” And I’m kind of like … I think I’m lazy (laughs).
Shupert: Jazek’s the creative free-spirit type, and I’m a little more technical. I would say that I’m rock and he’s roll (laughs).
Before your move to Atlanta, what were some of the worst part time jobs you had in Gainesville while getting the band off the ground?
Creacy: I worked at a telemarketing job where you just call people. But you’re not selling anything, you’re calling people to do surveys. And who wants to do something for nothing? It was connected to the University of Florida.
Margaritondo: Mowing lawns.
Shupert: I did the same thing [as Jazek]. One day I got sick of it, so I pulled up the paint application on my screen, and drew a big happy face on it and wrote “I quit.”
What’s the sound of the new record? Where does it fit for you guys as compared to past records?
Margaritondo: Since I wasn’t on the first two albums [Margaritondo only recently joined the group], comparatively I would say this album has a lot more tones on it. This time around there are varied tones throughout the whole album, and we really upped the production value in the right ways. We really spent a lot of time with amps [to get the right tones].
Shupert: This one was really a collection of singles. With that, we got bored really easily with every song we wrote. So the whole album, they’re all cool singles and I’d stand by any of them, but they’re all so different across the whole album. Most of these songs were also written apart – I was in Ohio, Jazek was in Gainesville – so that’s probably another reason the songs sound so different.
You guys have taken a bit of the “slow burn” approach in terms of releasing songs and videos from the upcoming record, preferring to leak something every few weeks as opposed to one lump release. What’s behind that decision?
Creacy: People get bored. Our generation, kids devour something and then they’re on to the next thing. As an independent band, we’re not on a label and our budget’s not huge, so it makes more sense to take time with it and try to develop more of a relationship with the fans and keep giving them something.
Shupert: Plus, we’re really cheap and we just wanted to milk the record (laughs).
Talk specifically about the video for “This is Yours” – it’s a cool idea (watch it here).
Creacy: We did it in our house, in our drummer’s bedroom. The first video that we did (“Everything’s Perfect”) was kind of high budget and so we wanted to do something that was more of a performance, more real. I can tell you right now, that was not one take kind of thing.
Margaritondo: It took probably like eight to 10 takes. But we had practiced previously before we tried to record it.
Shupert: I think we did the whole video for like $300, editing and everything. We absolutely had that viral mentality in mind when we made it, just wanting to do something cool that people would get excited about and want to show people.
Do you feel like you’re at the foot of a huge mountain right now, starting up at a scary music industry?
Creacy: People don’t know what to make of the music industry right now, and because they don’t, they say it’s falling apart. But really, there’s more bands than ever, more distribution companies than ever, more indie labels, and I think people are still as hungry to hear new music as they ever were.
Keeping them hungry for the music comes, more than ever, through the live show. What’s your approach on stage?
Shupert: We’re always considered ourselves entertainers. That’s our job. When we go on stage, that’s really the work. Bands are trying to do way cooler stuff now than they were in the ‘90s. Then, you just had to have a Marshall stack and you were a good band. Now, people are trying a little harder with the live show. It’s real hard to get kids interested in a live show.
Creacy: We really, really try to sound perfect. Not in a stale way, but it’s just more about the fact that we rehearse constantly before shows. We really work hard for it and and for the people that pay their five bucks and drag their ass out of their house to go see a show. We’re gonna work super hard for that.
Define “success,” in your eyes, with this record release and the coming months.
Shupert: I would define success as 1) we’re still alive, 2) we have enough money to pay the bills and 3) we’re making another record.
Creacy: I think we all don’t want to be rock stars. That’s just silly. If we could just pay the bills and just be comfortable and build our fan base, that’s success for me – not having to quit.
Debutaunts playing Vinyl, August 13. Tickets are available at the door.