Against The Current: Fueled By Fandom
It’s a familiar narrative in 2016: a nameless ranger from [insert city here] whacks up a YouTube channel, shuffles out a few mildly renovated covers of whatever Top 40 pop is blindingly white-hot at the time, and within a few months, boom – record deal. Poughkeepsie powerhouse Against The Current tell a similar story, except for one vital plot twist: they’re amazing.
The trio began dropping bona fide bangers a fair ways back in 2012, and between the immediate pull of their cover jams and some damn fine original material, it was just a short while thereafter that record offers started flooding in by the dozen. 2014’s Infinity EP spread like wildfire across the internet – and took them to our humble shores Down Under on a theatre tour – but it was 2015’s Gravity EP that saw Against The Current truly erupt.
The past year-and-a-bit since has seen the band sign to emo-pop label Fueled By Ramen (Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Twenty One Pilots), tour with scene essentials like All Time Low and Good Charlotte, and, just last week, release their debut album: In Our Bones. In a bid to earn her trust before she becomes our new world leader, BLUNT had a chat with frontwoman Chrissy Costanza to vibe on the world of pop music, the importance of fandom, and Against The Current’s rollercoaster ride from YouTube regulars to major label magnates.
So of course, In Our Bones is your debut full-length. How did taking the plunge into album territory differ from the way you would approach putting an EP together in the past?
When we were putting the EPs together, we were basically just doing them in a week – just kind of throwing together the first songs that we wrote together. But when we made the album, we took a really solid approach to it. We spent months and months going back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, writing, like, 40 songs for the record, and working really hard on the production and the intricacies of each song. It was a lot of fun!
The music is very accessible, but in saying that, it is like nothing you can find from any other artist. Is that something you were aiming for? To cut against the grain of traditional pop sensibilities whilst also embracing them to an extent?
Yeah! I mean, we’ve never been afraid of being a ‘pop band’ – we’ve always had that rock influence to us, but we definitely lean more towards our pop influences, especially when it comes to the vocals and melodies. So I don’t know, we just kind of made the music that we wanted to make. We weren’t really doing anything intentionally; we weren’t creating songs trying to be more pop or less pop, or more this or more that – it was just whatever came together, and whatever felt right to us. We never went into the studio with any specific intent for any of these songs.
One of the themes I see popping up in a lot of your songs is personality, and a lot of the lyrics seem as though they come from a really personal perspective. Sharing these songs with the world, would you say it’s important for you to connect with your audience and your fans on a personal level?
Yeah, for sure. That’s one of the reasons why people listen to music: for some reason, it hits them in the right spot. That’s kind of what we’ve always wanted to do, and the way that we’ve been able to achieve that is just being genuine and being honest, and talking about things that we personally know about – things that we’ve gone through and understand – because ultimately, if we’re writing songs about situations that aren’t applicable to us, then we’re just talking about things we don’t know about, and we can’t relate to people in doing that. So we try to keep everything very genuine and coming from ourselves, primarily.
“Radio is definitely very different for us – even the smaller-scale local radio stations and online stations: it’s a whole different world!”
With this album you’ll be reaching millions of potential new fans; do you think that as Against The Current continues to explode in popularity, you’ll be able to maintain that connection?
Yeah – I think we’re kind of like a homegrown band; we really are a band that has been created by our fanbase, through word of mouth and people telling their friends, telling their friends, telling their friends – we’ve kept the same core fanbase for years, and we’ve just seen that core fanbase grow and grow. Ultimately, when we’re gaining new fans, those fans are becoming part of the heart and soul, and not just a ‘sometimes / fair-weather’ fan. We get to know a lot of our fans really well and they stick around for a really long time, so hopefully we’ll just maintain that tight inner circle – it’s just that the tight inner circle keeps growing.
The past year has just seen Against The Current soar through the ranks – how have you been adapting to that fame? Is it weird to you, or are you sort of used to it?
It’s not a shock because it’s something that we’ve been around for so long – we’ve had friends that have had that and who had been experiencing that for much longer than we have – so it was like, ‘Yeah, this is what happens as you grow and develop’. I guess I don’t feel it directly so much, because when we’re not on tour and we’re not doing those things, I kind of just do ‘home’ stuff and hang out with my family. I don’t know – you don’t really feel it directly until you’re out there in those situations, where you can see it right in front of you.
Lately, we’ve seen a lot of how platforms like YouTube have really changed the landscape of music. Being someone who started off there, what has it been like transitioning from the interwebs to radio and other major forms of distribution?
We got our start on YouTube doing those covers, and we weren’t doing anything intentionally then, either. It kind of just exploded in front of us – which was awesome – so I think we’ve always wanted to be a really diverse band, and we’ve always wanted to utilise any outlet we possibly could, and explore any kind of path that we could to get our music out there and connect with more people. Radio is definitely very different for us – even just talking about it – even the smaller-scale local radio stations and online stations: it’s a whole different world! But it’s awesome, and it’s awesome just being behind the scenes with it and learning about the process – that’s really, really fascinating – so we’re having a great time with it.
So it’s been just over a year since you signed to Fueled By Ramen, which – honestly, they’ve been my favourite record label since I was eight and first discovered music. Going back in time a bit, how did you guys hook up?
They actually came out to see us at a show, back in… whenever that February [when the signing was announced] was, I think it was the October or November before that – they came and introduced themselves, and we got to meet them, we talked for a little bit, and then we just kind of kept talking from there. We felt like they were the ones who understood our vision, and understood what we wanted to do as a band, and they didn’t want to compromise the integrity of what was already there or change us – they weren’t looking at us and saying, ‘This could be this; you have the potential to be this’, they were looking at us and saying, ‘We love what you’re doing, and we just want to blow it up’. And that’s what we were really looking for in a label.
“I went through a period where it was all just female rockstars – I was very into Lita Ford and Joan Jett, and Pat Benatar was my absolute hero for a really long time.”
Did you ever get into the whole mid-2000s emo pop scene?
I was actually talking about this with a bunch of people last night: I kind of really missed that boat, and I’ve kind of missed the boat for all of the bands – even the ones that we’re touring with now. When I was growing up, I didn’t really listen to any music from the “scene” or any of those emo bands, so I’m kind of playing catch-up now [laughs]. I’ve just been learning everything over the past couple of years since I joined a band for the first time; I’ve been telling my bandmates, ‘Ah, this song is so good’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we listened to that song in 2006’. And then I’m like, ‘Alright then’. I’m bringing it back! Keeping it relevant.
So who were the bands – or what was the music – that led to your artistry growing up?
The three of us have all grown up on a super diverse array of music. Green Day was kind of what got Dan [Gow, guitar/vocals] into playing – he loved Guns N’ Roses as well – Will [Ferri, drums] is a huge Something Corporate fan, and then I have a lot of influence from my parents; I listened to a lot of ’70s bands, I grew up on a lot of Grateful Dead and a lot of Led Zeppelin, and then a lot of Frank Sinatra. But then for a while, I went through a period where it was all just female rockstars – I was very into Lita Ford and Joan Jett, and Pat Benatar was my absolute hero for a really long time. I still admire her more than anything in the world! So that’s when I started to really get that feeling, like, ‘I like music, and I like writing songs – I like singing and all of that – but I think there’s more to it than being just me and these songs: I want to be a part of a band and be a part of that kind of vibe’.
When are we gonna see Against The Current back and kicking on Australian stages? It’s been two years, dude!
Hopefully really soon! We’ve actually been talking about it a lot, because that’s definitely the place that we need to hit the most out of anywhere right now; we haven’t been there in so long! The stars just haven’t aligned yet, but we’re hopefully going to come back as soon as possible!