We had the pleasure of sitting down with Thriving Ivory frontman Clayton Stoope to talk about the band’s past, present, and future. Here’s what he had to say:
So tell me a little bit about the journey from recording in your dorm rooms to where you guys are now.
Clayton Stoope: Well, it’s been a long road. We had no money to record. We were basically broke college kids. Eventually, we actually asked all of our parents for money, and that’s how we ended up recording about 90% of what’s on the record now. But, it was very gradual. We put out our own record and then started getting a lot of local support. We got a call one night from the program director of KITS in San Francisco, and he said that our song “Angels On The Moon” was a hit. He said that they were gonna put it in full rotation the next day.
At that point, it was the biggest thing that had ever happened to us. We didn’t have a record deal and had never been on the radio before. That was kind of the thing that sparked it all. After that, we started looking for a lot of the record deals, the record companies, the major labels, and that in and of itself was definitely an emotional roller coaster. There were a lot of plane flights to and from New York; a lot of depressing flights back.
Clayton Stoope: Hah, yeah. We ended up signing with Wind-up Records, and it actually happened kind of randomly. They got our demo, just the one song I think, and called us up. They charted a private plane and flew us out three days later and basically asked us at the dinner table if we wanted to be with Wind Up Records. And we haven’t looked back since; we feel like we’ve been in a really good spot.
You guys have a really distinctive sound, especially your voice. How would you describe that sound to people who haven’t heard you guys yet.
Clayton Stoope: I don’t know. Cause we hear so many different comparisons from different people. I mean, I could probably explain a little bit by telling you some of our influences. We’ve always been into really dramatic sounding music, a lot of U2 and Coldplay.
I don’t know if we’re really going for a specific sound rather than just trying to write good songs in and of itself that both musically and lyrically have an emotional impact on a lot of people. That’s always the toughest question though because I think people have their own perception of what they want things done like. But, I always get in trouble when I say piano rock. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll just say that those are our influences and, you know, modern… uh, I can’t even do it! Modern alternative piano vocal rock music… (laughs)
(Laughs) Alright. Now, following up to that, I also read how important it was for you guys to have meaningful lyrics, which kinda reminded me of another CD I was reviewing recently where the melody was really catchy but the lyrics were as hokey as they could possibly be. I was wondering, do you think lyrics that have more substance to them help sustain songs over time rather than just a catchy melody?
Clayton Stoope: You know what, I think so. I think it’s a combination of both that creates a song that you can hum. Although there are songs that have been around for 30 years, like “Feliz Navidad”, where the lyrics are super basic and a sombrero. I think now-a-days there’s so much stuff out there, I think to stick out, as a new band especially, you need to have a song to rise above and get people’s attention, not only your single but your whole record. I really think you have to have good lyrics. I think a song that tells a story and along with that story, creates a mental image, a mental storyline for people, can really catch on.
All of our songs usually start with lyrics and then move from there.
Develop a melody afterward?
Clayton Stoope: Yeah somewhat. Scott’s not here with me, but I know he really takes a lot of time and puts a huge amount of importance on lyrics. Like Counting Crows or others, that’s kind of a storytelling type of writing. I know he’s not into indie or poppy types of lyrics.
I read that you guys also get a lot of inspiration from different sources. Like with “Hey Lady” you were inspired by a movie clip you guys saw?
Clayton Stoope: Yeah, I was talking to Scott… A lot of times a song will be fairly general, and I can kind of figure out what it means, or the general meaning of it, since it can mean different things to different people. But “Hey Lady,” when he played it for me at first, it was the middle of the night, and he called me over. Whenever he writes these songs, he’s like, “It’s the best song I’ve ever written!” He says that about every song (laughs).
Obviously, it’s from a guy’s perspective talking to a girl, and I don’t think he had a girlfriend at the time. I was like, “Who is this about? Is it gonna be awkward? Like, am I gonna be singing this song, and there’s a girl in the audience, and that’s who it’s for, and she’s gonna hate me?” And he just looked at me really nonchalantly and was like, “Dude, no, I just went to Blockbuster, and there was this movie title that had those words on it, and I just grabbed it.”
He’ll do that every once and a while, you know, watching a TV show or reading a book, and there’s like a cool half line that somebody says. I think there are a lot of places to find inspiration from.We were watching a live U2 DVD, and they were playing “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and that’s kind of where we got our inspiration for “Angels on the Moon.” So, it comes from all over the place.
What’s your favorite track on the album?
Clayton Stoope: My favorite song to play live is probably “Day of Rain” which is the last song on the album. I like it because it’s a little different. Definitely doesn’t have a standard structure to it. But live, at the end, we tack on a little snippet of “Let It Be.” That’s really cool, because we get a really good response from people.
Speaking of tacking that on, do you guys do any other covers at your shows?
Clayton Stoope: Yeah, through out the years we’ve done a bunch. We were actually just having a discussion with the record company. We were trying to get them to come up with an idea to do covers, because it’s always such a battle. Everyone has their own idea; one person wants to play this, another person thinks it cheesy, another person wants to play this, but somebody else doesn’t want to play the guitar solo in that song. So it’s like the hardest thing, harder than writing the actual songs is picking the covers, because every one has their own ideas. We’re tossing around ideas of doing something like covering a cheesy pop song that would be totally ridiculous, like “Toxic” by Britney spears, but I don’t know.
That’d be cool though. I’ve heard Travis’ cover of “Baby One More Time” and they did a really great job with it.
Clayton Stoope: Really? I don’t know what we’re gonna do (laughs).
What’s the most memorable gig that you guys have had?
Clayton Stoope: We had a show in Salt Lake City, and we had never been there before. We’re to the point now to where we have been to almost every major market, and our shows are getting better and better. But we had never been to Salt Lake City before, but our album went like Top 10 before we had ever even been there. The radio station there had played the crap out of our song, and they played a lot of our other songs there as well, so we sold out the show. There were 1200 people there, and we had ever been there before.
And I just found that the fans there were really intense, like in a good way. And it was really cool, it was a really cool show. It was probably one of the more memorable things I’ve done.
What kind of hobbies do you guys do to kill time on the road?
Clayton Stoope: Oh, man. We just try to sleep, number one. We used to play a lot of video games, we had PSPs. Those got stolen in Montreal, so we don’t do that anymore. I started reading a lot. Ever since junior high, you could not get me to open a book, and now, being on the road, I read a lot, so that’s good.
What are you reading now?
Clayton Stoope: Right now I am reading a book called Water For Elephants.
I’ve been wanting to read that one actually. Are you enjoying it?
Clayton Stoope: It’s actually really good. It’s about an ivy school drop-out who ends up being the veterinarian for a traveling circus. It’s really good.
So you’d recommend it?
Clayton Stoope: Oh yeah, I’d definitely recommend it.
Clayton Stoope: Yeah. Other than that, we just listen to music and beat the shit out of each other.
Hah. Very cool. So what’s on your schedule for 2009?
Clayton Stoope: In 2009, I think we have the most time off that we’ve had since July. We’re not doing anything until the 20th of January, and then we start touring. I think our first show is in San Francisco, which will actually be our biggest show, our hometown show, which is really, really special.
Then we take off until middle of March, I think, cross country and back. And then I think we’re gonna try and jump on tour with another band, a bigger band. I’m not sure who yet.
Interview By: Emma Loggins