Hopefully, you caught last week's portion of the interview, where our pals Kevin Schlereth and Jay Costlow let us have a peek at the creative process behind CATECHISM, their latest album release. For the second and final half of the interview, we talk about the inner workings of the Chroma Artist Collective. We also have some laughs as I throw some absurd questions at them.
Fallon: So you’re a part of the Chroma Artist Collective, which might seem like a big change to people who’ve seen the Kevin Schlereth project as “DIY till I die" "the 3rd X is corporate sponsorship”... *laughter* I haven’t spoken with anyone [about this], this is a totally an assumption...
But [anyway], what are your hopes/dreams/goals/ for being involved with Chroma? This can be answered as a project and as individuals, and maybe that’s worth explaining because Chroma’s not a “record label”, it’s an artist collective with everyone involved having space to be as individual or collective as they want to be.
Jay: I was slightly confused about Chroma when it first started, but after staying in Chicago for a bit and getting to talk to Dave Mantel [about it a couple weeks ago] I appreciate Chroma trying to be inclusive with helping one another, that we’re able to help each other find shows and give input in regards to our art and be more vulnerable with each other and support each other’s music when it comes out.
Fallon: And that’s what you’re looking for, for a place to boost each other up?
Jay: Yeah, I think that’s great.
Kevin: Well… when we first started talking about it a couple years ago my first conversations with Dave were these ideas of this unity of people that he’s been recording, whereas I’ve had these thoughts about an artist collective where the only ambition would be for artists to promote one another. When I began to have too many friends and too little space to put out a distro on the merch table for everyone I began to have conversations, with bands like Foxhollow back in the day, about having more of a web-based thing. A lot of the questions were like “who would or could be in it?”, so I was really excited about the idea of Chroma at first because it all was registering in my mind as “This is the thing that I’m excited about.” Now seeing the ambitions of everyone involved in Chroma, ideas like workshare and other assistance in that way is not super attractive to me. I’m in this place where I know how to run my little ship and I don’t want to be expected to run it a certain way or be obliged to run anyone else’s ship. I actually had a bit of a crisis talking to Dave about this nightmare scenario where I’m having to book everyone else’s tours. *laughter* [Of course though], part of my own personal mission is to help bring others out on tour.
But it’s been really cool to be a part of something that’s figuring out what it is. It’s definitely going to be that thing I want it to be, you know, being an umbrella we can point to and say “These are good folks making good art, and now you know where to go.” The curation side of it is really exciting to me and that’s going to be a big part of what Chroma is.
I’ve been surprised with how exciting some of the things have been to me, even when it’s not what I thought I wanted, like the mixtape. I hope Chroma keeps looking at things and trying things, and that it’s a place where everyone can dream big and say “Hey I wanna do this crazy thing, is that something we can do? And if it’s not that’s fine.” It’s interesting and attractive to me to join hands with other artists and say “We’re purposing to be seen as an entity together!” I’m hoping we can affect positive change in music scene culture a little bit.
On a personal note, it’s a huge opportunity to me where I’m a part of something where I’m not the main person. In my touring life with Kevin Schlereth ['the project'] it’s always been my ship to steer. Even with the difference from working by myself to playing music with Jay, Chroma is our thing, but it’s also Dave’s thing that he started. It’s cool to have the chance to just submit to it and be a part of something where not every decision is something that I’ve chosen.
I want to emphasize the vulnerability Kevin shares with his journey processing his involvement with Chroma. It's truly special to me to be able to have a group of people, all holding different impressions and ideas to come together under a well talked out, united ambition. What Kevin shared illustrates that really well, I feel.
Moving forward with the interview, we shift the focus back onto the Kevin Schlereth project.
Fallon: So you’re on break from tour, right after releasing CATECHISM at Audiofeed; what’s next for the Schlereth crew?
Kevin: We tried, maybe we failed, to see if we could push CATECHISM to Spotify and maybe be featured on one of those editorial-style playlists, which we didn’t do. We do have about 300 monthly listeners right now, which may not be impressive in the Spotify world, but it’s impressive to me! It’s really special to be interacting with people’s responses to the album; the number of stories I hear about somebody's’ coworker downloading the album because they told them about it. I hope we keep seeing more of that, that it won’t fade out, but be something that keeps expanding a little bit. As a recorded product, it has more buy-in with our base [audience] than with anything we’ve [previously] done. I’m hopeful and curious to see if that will translate toward getting people interested in what we do outside of our little “club”. I’ve become aware over the last couple years how there’s a small community of people for whom our art is very important and who engage with it in very personal ways. Through doing things like Audiofeed, Take Hold Fest, Jayfest (editor’s note: Jayfest is the colloquial term for Flood City Fest, which Jay puts on annually), we’ve been able to see that kind of galvanization of some of the people we’re so close with resonating with our art and this album. I think our hope and ambition with this album is to try to find a way to bring a few more people into that. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we did put out the music. *laughter*
Jay: I wanted to say before, with the people who’ve had more to say than just “Hey, good album...” I ran into a guy at a festival yesterday, and we had a very short interaction where he asked if I had any music, so I gave him the Kevin Schlereth link. Then two hours later he came back with his family, and he must have went off and listened to the album, but he had tears in his eyes coming back and saying a lot of things about it. I don’t know if the album will ever be known among a ton of people, but it is cool that the people who have heard it have been so affected.
We then proceed to banter about streaming for a bit before coming back to the question at hand: what’s next for the Schlereth Crew?
Kevin: Threat Fest is our next proper gig, just outside of Nashville August 24th & 25th.
Fallon: And you had mentioned before the interview you’re moving to Wisconsin. Jay what are you doing until Threat Fest?
Jay: I’ll be hanging out in Colorado with Comrades.
Kevin: We also have a music video coming out sometime this year, as well as a really fun tour that’ll run mid-September through mid-November. And then we have a split coming out.
Fallon: Not to dwarf CATECHISM or anything… Any details on this split you’re willing to part with?
Kevin: Well, it’ll be 2 songs, both bangers. And hopefully, hopefully, it’ll be out before the next Stranger Things.
Fallon: You know the kid everyone loves from that show, he’s in a band! You should try to get a supporting slot on that tour.
Kevin: Yeah, that would be the dream *laughter*. One of the far down dreams. Oh, also, the tour in the fall will be tea themed.
Then Jay started rambling about chocolate.
Fallon: Okay, we’re getting down to the last few questions here: if you could have people listen to only one song off the album, which would it be and why? You both can have your own answers.
Jay: Mine would be “TONGUES”, I like the teaching of that song the most.
Kevin: I think I wanna say “HOLY”. Maybe it’s because it’s the one that still surprises me the most, the one I still get chills from singing, but I think it gives you a good idea of what we’re doing for the rest of the record, minus the massive drums at the end. I would feel like you have a reasonable representation of CATECHISM if you listen to any song, but particularly that one.
Fallon: Okay, now time for the fun questions!
Yes or No: In the song “MEEK” you make a deliberate nod to Taylor Swift.
Kevin: ...no…. Not deliberate but I’m open to being told what it is.
Fallon: I’ll have to get back to you on that…. (Editor's note: the moment I refer to in the question is 1:14 on "MEEK". It makes me think of a more somber version of the "Oh, oh" parts in Taylor Swift's "22". You be the judge!)
Red swim trunks, the perfect article of clothing?
Jay: No. Yeah, sure.
Fallon: If you don’t get this job, what’s your backup plan? *hysterical laughter*
Jay: Well I already got one, so…
Kevin: I already moved here…
Fallon: How many pennies would fit into this room?
Jay: Hmm that’s a good one… A lot.
Kevin: Oh man, there’d be so many. I could probably fit like 4 million pennies in this room. It’s a pretty small room.
Fallon: And possibly the most important question of the interview: burritos or pizza.
Kevin: Pizza. Always pizza.
Jay: Pizza, it’s more reliable.
Fallon: Alrighty, any last things you wanna plug for the interview, minus the music video, the split, Threat Fest, and the tour?
Kevin: Bloodline Fest! It’s happening the 2nd weekend of November in South Bend, IN. A place for community and music.
Fallon: There you go, people of the internet. If you wanna send 4 million pennies to the Chroma Artist Collective in Chicago we will then send them to Kevin and he will try to fit them in the room he’s in.
Such a fun and uplifting conversation. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to share our conversation with you all here through Chroma. Tune in next week for another exciting blog post, this time written by our very own Patrick Quigley (of Analecta, Sailbear). We have a fresh new post ready for you all each and every Monday!