Interview By: Jim Markunas
Powerful, groovy, risk-taking Kansas City, Kansas music phenomenon, Antennas Up, is channeling the fever of Saturday nights of the 70s with contemporary electronic sampling and fist-pumping pop. On their debut self-titled album, releasing April 14th, 2009 on the band’s own independent label, Plastic Artifice, Antennas Up will grab you from the inside and provide a soundtrack unique and strong enough to inspire.
Self-proclaimed nerd and bassist of Antennas Up, Kyle Akers, had a heavy influence on the songwriting of the album. With a knack for video games, fixing computers, and chasing girls out of his league, Akers took his nerdy frustrations to the studio, while globetrotter and guitarist, Bo McCall, brought his adventure-seeking attitude.
McCall, a professional exchange student, spent years soaking up the music of other cultures and annoying his roommates with late night practicing. Suffice to say, native Zimbabwe roots music is not his forte. While they all had an equal amount of input in the creation and final version of the album, the beer brewing, “100 percent awesome” and modest percussionist of the group, The Ryantist, acted as the conduit during production with his hands on the buttons. His passion for snapping photos and switching up stage lighting led the group to agree that the soundboard was the best place for this tactile-obsessive musician.
The self-titled album, mastered by Bob Power (Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Common, Citizen Cope) and mixed by Allen Farmelo (Yerba Buena, Department of Good and Evil), marks the first release from Antennas Up, but the band has been recording music together since 2002. After countless failed attempts at getting girls with their geeky demeanor, Antennas Up decided to make rock stardom a serious endeavor in 2006 when they started touring nationally with artists like Ha Ha Tonka and Downtown Harvest.
CWG: Tell us a little bit about the charity moustache contest!
Bo - A better question might be why has Kyle NOT shaved his 'stache since the contest was over?!
Kyle - Well some friends and I were talking about growing Moustaches for Moustache March, and I asked my girlfriend if that'd be alright, and she got a very...skeptical look on her face. I said "well what if it was for charity" just so she'd feel bad if she didn't like something I was doing for charity. That triggered something in my head and I decided to do SOMETHING involving my moustache for charity, so I called up Luke, Lennon and Brett from Ha Ha Tonka and Clay Hughes from Tide House and said, guys, let's grow moustaches and make stupid videos about them. Then we met with Heather Mergenmeier from Ozanam Guild, decided to make their monthly happy hour fundraiser a moustache contest, and use the videos to promote it. For more about Ozanam Guild and Ozanam, visit OzanamGuild.org and Ozanam.org.
CWG: Do you ever chase girls under the guise of "fixing thier computers? Tell us a little about that!
Bo - I have chased girls under a lot of silly guises, but fixing their computers was not one. I am definitely not the techie in the band. Now I am sure that Ryan and Kyle, on the other hand, have alot of computer love stories to tell. If not, then ask Kyle about his Star Trek the Next Generation Box Set of dvds. Super cool. Not.
Kyle - Funny story actually, I think of the half a dozen women I've dated, I've fixed all of their computers, using their technological trouble to get to know them better, or at least as a chance to see them outside of whatever realm I met them it. Surprisingly, it works.
The Ryanist - yeah... it's ridiculous... but it works. the only trouble i've run into with it... is that sometimes their friends and family find out you're good at that sort of thing...so they all start to ask for free tech help... it can get out of hand.
CWG: Bo, you've been described as a "professional exchange student." Tell us about your world travels. What brought about your wanderlust? Which country has the best music?
Bo - Wanderlust... I am really fortunate. My dad took me on a lot of trips from the time I was a baby. Eventually, I started taking off on my own. Travelling is addictive. You would think that eventually you visit enough places and then you calm down. But it has the opposite effect. The more I see, the more I NEED to see.
World travels...My Dad worked on a few government contracts overseas, so I had the opportunity to live in Brazil, Thailand and India with him as a youngster.
I also took a semester off my junior year of high school to backpack Europe.
In college, I studied as an exchange student in Australia and then went back to live in Australia for about three months after I graduated. I have done numerous backpacking trips throughout Canada, Europe, Fiji, the United States and parts of Asia.
Which country has the best music...I can't qualify "best" because they are all unique and rich in their own ways. I'm still a sucker for traditional Irish music though.
CWG: How did you hook up with producer Bob Power (Tribe Called Qwest, Common, The Roots, Citizen Cope)?
Kyle - Some of our good friends in Philadelphia, Downtown Harvest, had been talking with him about mixing their record, so they gave us his digits and we called him while we were in NYC on tour. We met with him, talked a bit and gave him some music to listen to. He put us in contact with Allen Farmelo to mix our record and said he'd be happy to master it. Since those two had been friends and worked together before, it worked out really well because they could collaborate and shoot info back and forth through the process.
Bo - our friends in the Philadelphia based band Downtown Harvest introduced us. We gave Bob a call and sent him some demos. Next thing you know we were having a chat at his studio in Manhattan. Check out Downtown Harvest by the way, they are a wicked band.
CWG: What did working with a producer that specializes in hip-hop bring to the table for the musical style of Antenna's Up?
Bo - It was humbling and thrilling to work with someone of Bob's caliber. In high school, I listened to Qtip's 'Amplified' (which Bob produced) so much that I had to buy a second copy because I wore the first one out. The Ryantist engineered the album and worked with Bob more closely than I did, so he could give you more insight into what Bob did specifically with the sonics. This album is definitely the best sounding album I have ever had the pleasure of working on.
The Ryanist - Bob power has golden ears. There is no question about it. That final step of mastering can make or break the sound of a record, so we were incredibly fortunate to have his hands on the buttons at that crucial stage. He just knows how to make things pop. He's a genius with his gear. If we had asked him to make the record sound like fish playing tennis in a car full of electric neckties... I'm confident he would have somehow made it sound exactly like that, but better than anyone could imagine. He's an impressive dude.
CWG: What can we expect from Antenna's Up in the near future (Besides world domination)?
Bo - after we get back from this Northeast tour, we will beginning work on a new album. Fingers crossed, a European or Japanese tour in the future!
The Ryanist - Universe domination.
Antennas Up Gets Hairy
chicks with guns|reality check|