Interview: Alex Reed and Jason Lancaster of Go Radio Discuss ‘Close the Distance’
For a band that likes to stay busy, it can sometimes be difficult for members to take a step back and reflect on what they’ve created and the progress they've made.
Tallahassee-based Go Radio have hit the ground running between the release of their new album, Close the Distance (which was released September 18 via Fearless Records), and their upcoming #GoToHell Tour with supporting acts Paradise Fears and Stages & Stereos.
Guitarists Alex Reed and Jason Lancaster recently took some time out to tell GuitarWorld.com about the new album, their influences and their writing philosophy.
GUITAR WORLD: It's been a busy year for you guys. You had a headlining tour in May, recorded an album, went on tour with the SafetySuit and are touring again in support of the new record. What can we expect after this fall/winter? Do you anticipate some downtime?
ALEX REED: As you've already pointed out, we like to stay pretty busy! I anticipate after the holidays that we will hit it full throttle again and get back on the road. I think I speak for everybody in the band when I say that being on the road is our most comfortable and favorite setting. Getting in front of our fans and actually performing the new record is our highest priority.
JASON LANCASTER: We really just want to reach as many ears as possible. We're so proud of Close the Distance and its message, and we want everyone to know about it.
There are a lot of indie-folk and acoustic elements to Close the Distance. What led to this softer and more eloquent side of you guys?
REED: I’m glad you noticed that! It might surprise a lot of people, but the majority of our songs actually do start off as more of an indie/folk acoustic styling. Between the four of us we listen to a very wide variety of different kinds of music, so we definitely pull influence from a lot of genres. For me, this record was the most natural progression we've made. Our fans have always connected with our softer, more ballad-heavy songs, and this time around it’s just what was coming out. We've grown up a lot and had a lot happen in our lives. These songs and the overall vibe of the record are a pretty accurate representation of what has gone on in our lives the last couple of years.
LANCASTER: We've always been fans of those genres, but we never really had a way to incorporate any of those styles into our music. We got that chance on this album, and it was really exciting to open the doors to all the different sides of music that we hadn't expanded into yet.
How and when did you both begin playing guitar? Who were your early influences, and can we hear these influences on the new record?
REED: I started playing guitar when I was 13. The first time I really remember taking an active interest in the guitar was when I started going to a different and more contemporary church. Instead of a choir they had a worship band. They use to play all these really cool rock versions of songs, and I remember just thinking how cool it would be to be on that stage. Within a year, I made it into the worship band [laughs]. You could say I was pretty determined. My biggest and earliest influences were my parents. They are both professional classical musicians as well as orchestra teachers in my hometown. They got me started on piano and cello when I was a toddler, and that made it so much easier to pick up the guitar later on. The album is very piano and string driven and having that background is something that constantly influences my writing.
LANCASTER: I started playing when I was 9. My Dad got me my first guitar and I have played ever since. I grew up on a lot of really great Southern rock. Things like Eric Clapton, SRV and the Allman Brothers were always around my house, and they always had a massive impact on my style of playing. I hope you can hear that in the things I play, because it's always been something I've been really proud of.
Tell me a little about your writing process. Is it a collaborative effort, or does one person write something and bring it to the table for everyone else to chime in? I want to know how you guys fuse together.
REED: I think we really found our groove as a group in the Close The Distance writing process. Like I said earlier, we are constantly evolving and growing, as people and musicians, but this time around was the smoothest process yet. In the early stages of writing we spent about a month putting together ideas and writing individually. I was in Philadelphia and the rest of the guys were scattered throughout Florida in the time off. We would shoot each other demos back and forth through email.
About a month prior to heading into pre-production with James Paul Wisner, we all got back together in Tallahassee at our home studio and starting molding these songs into actual songs. We kind of locked ourselves up for four weeks working ten-hour days, six days a week. Sometimes a song would spark from a chord progression. Jason would play on the piano and we would just build it from the ground up and run with it. Other times, somebody had a bit more of a conceptualized idea and everyone would add their two cents. From vocal melodies to actual drum parts, everybody was heavily involved with every aspect of these songs. I think you can hear that we were really on the same page on Close The Distance this time around.
LANCASTER: We started from scratch on this record. We made a point to keep everything band based, and we would start with whatever was closest. Sometimes a guitar, and sometimes a piano. There are even songs on the record that started with drum beats.
Tell me about your gear. What was used to record vs. what you tour with?
REED: I play a Gibson Les Paul Standard through a New Vintage H&B 50 amplifier and a New Vintage 4x12 cabinet. New Vintage Amps is a company based out of Duluth, Minnesota, who we recently started working with. They are probably some of the best-sounding amps I have ever heard and they work with the likes of Mark Hoppus, OneRepublic and 3 Doors Down. In fact, we started our relationship with them about three-quarters of the way through the tracking process of Close The Distance, and when they sent us a test model to the studio, we ended up going back and re-tracking a handful of parts.
We also have a pretty cool relationship with Gibson. We use a lot more variety of guitars in the studio than we are able to live, but I think more often than not, that’s the case. As far as live, we really rep New Vintage and Gibson across the board.
LANCASTER: I play a collection of different Fender and Gibson guitars. My baby right now is a 1960s Goldtop reissue. I play through a New Vintage H&B 50. It's an amazing head.
How did you guys see Close the Distance as you were writing it? Did you anticipate the record to be as lush and radio-ready as it is?
REED: We absolutely had a goal with the record. With our previous records, I don't think we ever focused in on a certain direction, and with this one there was definitely more of a vision. That being said, I don't think there is ever really a way to know exactly what you’re accomplishing as far as the big picture goes. Songs change so much in the tracking process and you kind of have to let them take their own path as you go.
LANCASTER: I didn't, personally. I wanted to write something honest that was going to make a difference in someone’s life.
What is your philosophy behind writing music? Do you go for the overall "good song," or do you write with certain intentions? Is it ever a stream-of-consciousness process?
REED: Write what comes from the heart. That is my only consistent philosophy with writing. Of course, I would like every song to be a "good song," but you have to allow room for the bad songs too; they make the good ones better. Sometimes I'll write a super folk-heavy song, and sometimes I'll write a super ambient-heavy song, but it’s when the four of us get into the same room that they become actual "Go Radio" songs.
LANCASTER: A song has to be honest. It has to be real and it has to make waves