Interview with Joey Stevens of Rumspringa

Photo by Madia Savino

How was the recent string of tour dates with Bear Hands?

It went great. We all wished that we could have played more shows with them. It was a very fun, short and intense tour. It was a quick trip from San Diego to Seattle and back.

Did you have time to hang out with them after shows?

Yeah, definitely. Towards the end we started to hang out some more. It was pretty funny hearing their stories on the road.

Did anything crazy happen on tour?

Honestly, I’d say the craziest thing was getting stuck in Mother Nature’s winter storm near Mount Shasta, CA. It was on the drive from San Francisco up to Portland. Normally, that drive should be about 8-9 hours, at the most. It took us 14 hours to get there.

Wow. Did you make it to the show on time?

Yeah, we made the show, which was good.

Is Rumspringa officially a four-piece now or are you guys still a duo?

Yeah, we started out as a duo, but in 2010, Itaru De la Vega (the drummer) left the band and we grew into a four-piece. It all came together smoothly. Pretty quickly we started practicing some of the old songs and actually developed some new songs. We’ve been playing for the past 7 months as a four-piece. It’s still really fresh and new.

Were your new bandmates able to figure out your old songs pretty well?

Yeah, they’re naturally gifted musicians. I didn’t have to direct them too much. They were able to just listen to the old recordings and figure things out. They all pretty much played it by ear. The real fun part was changing the songs around.

When it was a duo, I was on guitar, vocals and drums. There were a lot of loops going on to fill up the sound. It was a great effect, but it was also somewhat constricting, as far as where the song can go. The tempo especially had to stay pretty locked down. Now we’re playing as a typical band, in a sense. We’re really trying to do something different and not stay within the old Rumspringa sound.

How do you envision your music sounding in the future?

I feel like the music now and in the future sounds very different than the old stuff while having the same groove — that’s the best way I can describe it. Right now, the band is going to be concentrating the most on honing in on the second record. We have recording equipment and a studio in my garage that was redone.

‘Sway’ is your official debut record, right?

Yeah, ‘Sway’ is the official debut. It was actually over a year old by the time it came out.

Interesting. What was going on during that year?

Well, there was a lot that went on during the tracking of the record. It took almost a year for the whole record to be made. Then, it took another year for the label to get their gears in motion and put the record out. Tracking would get broken up here and there because we would have to go out to tour and play shows. We went over to England twice during that time too.

Did you pick up some tricks you plan on taking to your second record?

I learned a great deal from recording the first record. The producer that we worked with, it was a very classic relationship between artist and producer where he needed us to trust him. There was a lot of re-organization with the songs. A lot of it was recorded live. When you do it live the first three takes are key ones. If you don’t get it in that time, you have to move on.

I think overall, the second record with the new band will be a little bit more laid back, but equally as intense as far as experimenting and freeing up the atmosphere.

Tell me a little about this crazy animated music video for “Triptych.”

About 6 months ago we played a very small movie festival. In that festival there was a feature-length animation done by Winona Regan, the animator who did our video. We were all blown away by her animation called Haunted Heart. Long story short, she worked on the video for four months and everything worked out perfectly in terms of timing. I didn’t direct her or guide her at all with the concept. She has such a strong and unique artistic vision. I just asked her to listen to our song and “let it take you wherever it takes you.” It complements the song very well in a way you wouldn’t expect. It works.

When were you guys signed to Cantora Records, for your EP?

Yes, the EP came out in 2008. My relationship with Cantora started really early — maybe even 2007. Nick Panama, from the label, was definitely the first person from the label to catch our show, which happened to be our first show out in New York. A friend of a friend told him about us. Savoir Adore, us and MGMT (before they went to Columbia Records) were pretty much the first three bands to start off with Cantora. So, we’ve been with the label now for almost three years. Now we’re at the point where I believe Cantora will be picking up our second record [laughs]. It’s an interesting relationship because we’re on the opposite side of the country. It’s an interesting dynamic. It’s great that people in New York can know about us and hear about us even though we’re not playing there at all.

Do you think you’ll be able to hit the East Coast soon?

I hope so. We were trying to do CMJ this year, but we were busy. I think the last time we were out there was around CMJ last year. Right now, we’ve been concentrating on playing the West Coast a lot with the new lineup.

When will you guys be heading into the studio again?

Early January is when we’re going to start hitting it hard — until SXSW.

Cool. You’ll be at SXSW in 2011?


Great. We hope to see you out there.

Thank you!

Pick up Rumspringa’s debut album, Sway.