By Candice Anne Marshall
Ships Have Sailed
Will Carpenter – Vocals, Guitar, Production, Composition
Art Andranikyan – Drums
Interview | February 27th, 2017
IMM – Hello Gentlemen! What an honor to finally be having this interview with you! I have been a personal fan of yours since 2015 when I first heard your sound. At that time, you had your Debut EP ‘Someday’ out and I became an instant fan. Since, I had noticed that you have played a several notable live performances such as SXSW and NAMM – can you tell us which of your live performances were most memorable to you and why?
Art Andranikyan – Hmm…I think for me personally every show that we have played so far has been memorable in its own way, but if I had to pick I would say it’s a toss-up between our Vancouver B.C. show and our show in New Brunswick, NJ. Our Vancouver performance was very special to me because that was our first show we played as a duo. We had some down time in Bellevue Washington so Will and I rented an hourly studio at Evolution Studios for some rehearsal time together to work on some of our songs. Our New Brunswick show was unforgettable to me because it was on the same day as game 7 of the World Series and it was our first show of our northeast tour. We had finished playing and we were on the drive back to our hotel when I decided to check the score and saw that there was a rain delay. The game was stopped until we got to our hotel, we opened a bottle of wine and cheered all thru the night witnessing history being made by the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series Championship in over a century.
IMM – For new readers, can you tell us a little about your career highs and lows?
Will Carpenter – This is an interesting question, because the more I think about it, the more a music career seems like an intentional choice to live in a bi-polar universe. The highs and lows are equally intense and entertainment is one of the most unreliable businesses out there, so you have to expect to be lifted and crushed, sometimes in the same moment. I’m not going to single things out, but I would say some notable career lows would have to be the loss of band-members. Often you can stay friends, and I’m always thankful for that…other times, that’s impossible, which can be painful and especially if you tried your very best to make it possible and still fail. Still, the highs for me are always the new ideas…creativity strikes and that is really what it’s all about for me – a new melody, an enticing lyric…these things pop into your head and suddenly, you’re reminded what you live for. Sweeter even that it the moment when you release your creations into the world and see people react.
IMM – I see that you are from Los Angeles. Do you think this is where it’s at in terms of getting your music mainstream?
Art Andranikyan – I believe being from Los Angeles has its ups and downs. When you are from L.A. you are constantly under the spotlight as an artist. Sometimes that spotlight might be deceptive especially when you are a small fish in a big pond. Los Angeles has a bigger name in a scheme of things but honestly in my opinion I believe you can get mainstream across the map and not even make a sprinkle in LA. A lot of our followers are from the UK, our music gets played more on other radio stations based outside of LA and California. We played a show at The Bowery Electric and pretty much sold the place out, whereas in LA it’s a bit harder to draw. I Love Los Angeles don’t get me wrong, but I guess you just have to prove your worth to L.A.
IMM – What have been some of the challenges you have faced and how have you overcome them?
Will Carpenter – I think the biggest challenge we face comes down to balance. Being an independent project, we do everything for ourselves…I do all our songwriting and production, we do all our outreach when it comes to booking tours (actually Art does a lot of heavy lifting there) and we coordinate all our own creative content and strategy as well. We aren’t managed, we don’t have a label of a booking agent, and it all comes down to how hard we, ourselves, are willing to work. But that’s kind of the beauty of it, no? I feel this shows our dedication to the project and the music we create and I feel our fans, those people who find our music resonates with the core of their being, who we have come to think of as family…they appreciate our dedication and our approach. Our challenge becomes our blessing.
IMM – I saw something about notability in terms of The John Lennon Songwriting competition. That’s fantastic! Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Will Carpenter – Yes, that was an amazing honor, not only because we got an incredible live opportunity at the NAMM Show, but because of the foundation behind the competition. Look, I’ve been a Beatles fan since the moment my mom introduced me to ‘Pop’ music (her terminology for The Beatles), and I have to say that John and George were always my favorites (sorry Paul). They just had this honesty about them, and John’s death was both tragic and meaningful…to be given an incredible opportunity with that type of a name behind it is simply incredible, and it’s hard to find the words to describe the feelings that go along with an experience like that.
IMM – I often wonder what brings Musicians together in terms of mutual likes and how they discover their ‘sound’ or ‘brand’. What was the process like for the two of you?
Art Andranikyan – When I began playing for Ships Have Sailed as a session drummer I was very attracted to the music and the style of songwriting they had been developing for the past year and a half. Growing up I have always had a very diverse taste of music just like Will has, but for me what stood out the most was Will’s hard work ethic and professionalism towards the band. I myself work hard at all times when I need things to be executed, but I can say Will is on another level when it comes to pushing the envelope. He motivates me to even work harder and always sets the bar high. If we put his professional attitude aside, he is also a great guy! He says he’s a control freak and I agree with him on that aspect, but it is easy working with him especially when you can justify what you are doing and why you are doing it that way. Being in a band is like a marriage, kind of, sort of. You basically see that person almost every day and every night being together on the road and in the studio. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and how hard he works for this project.
Will Carpenter – I’ll agree about the ‘control freak’ part (laughs) – but seriously, I do have a focused vision for Ships and it’s important that Art and I see eye to eye on that. I would also say that we do connect with our mutual work ethic – both of us are quite dedicated and willing to put in long hours to make what we do great…it’s not often you find someone who can do all that and also feel comfortable to hang with, like a brother, and so I think when you do it’s important to recognize that and hold on
IMM – I saw that you won ‘Best Alternative Song’ at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards in November 2016 for your single ‘Drive’. What an honor! I read a little bit about the songs theme, but I would like for you to tell us more about what was behind the lyrics and your thoughts on it….
Will Carpenter – ‘Drive’ was supposed to be an ethereal ballad about nostalgia. It’s not about just any one thing, but it’s supposed to evoke a sense of longing…for something you never had, or once had, or dreamt about…you get the idea. It’s like, that time when you were an adolescent, staring up at the stars, drinking cheap (possibly illicitly procured) malt beverages, and dreaming of what could be, or could have been. It’s sad, and it’s happy, and it’s hopeful…it was supposed to be all of those things, but also non-specific. So, when we showed up at the HMMA ceremony, we didn’t expect to win…in fact, we were sitting all the way up in the balcony. It was our first awards ceremony, and we didn’t know what to expect – honestly, I always thought that people knew they were going to win…but there we were, sitting about a mile from the stage and they call our name…and we freaked out and just started running… I had no words prepared and just fumbled through the speech (also out of breath, by the way) …there’s some footage on YouTube I think…worth a laugh or an ‘awwww…’ 😉
IMM – I see that there is a lot of excitement about your new single ‘Up’ which was released on February 3rd, 2017. I read that the idea for the song was written and created after a ‘particularly reflective and somewhat exhausted moment, a new idea was born’. Let’s delve into that a little further for the sake of our readers.
Art Andranikyan – I remember talking with Will when we were in Vancouver B.C. last year about all of the events that were happening in the world and in particular America. We were looking to write a song that inspires people and makes them feel good about life. Perhaps a positive uplifting, motivational song to help the average working person wake up and be motivated to work hard at what ever they are trying to do in life. We all go thru hard times and face difficulties and some times the struggles seem like they are never ending. Our song ‘Up’ is to help people see the silver lining in their struggles and stand up to make a change. Nothing in life will be fixed if we don’t stand up for something we believe in and help the person next to you understand what it is that needs change.
Will Carpenter – Honestly, Art is right…we had some pretty profound conversations on our Vancouver trip last year…we ourselves were going through some pretty significant changes at that time, and despite the upward momentum of the project, life seemed to be throwing curveball after curveball, kind of trying to knock us off our path. I was driving us to the airport in the very early morning after our show, and Art was dozing off in the front seat (we hadn’t stopped for coffee) and suddenly, this melody with lyrics just popped into my head…it kind of just wrote itself…and I was just like: this is what we need…this might just be what everyone needs right now. So, I pulled out my voice notes, sung as much as I had and decided I wouldn’t listen to it until I was back in the studio…once I opened it up I immediately started pre-production.
IMM – I have listened to ‘Up’ and it’s fabulous! When can we expect the music video release? To me, this song can best be described as a Rainbow: many beautiful layers with a story throughout each – the colors being the emotions felt that are woven throughout. Great song!
Art Andranikyan – WOW! I love your description of Up! I hadn’t looked at it as a “Rainbow”! You usually get rainbows after a strong rain and dark clouds. As far as a music video timeline, Will and I have been in discussion but at this point we do not have an exact time frame when we will be working on one. It is in the works but due to our extensive tour schedules we are kind of limited with time.
Will Carpenter – Yes, exactly…this comes back to being very DIY and having to pick and choose where we spend our energy. Right now, people really want to see us live, and we love meeting new people and being out on stage…it’s a no-brainer. But I also do want to develop the video for this song…I believe it’s such a powerful message of hope, and it deserves to be visually represented as such…I hope we can make that happen soon!
IMM – I saw your video from last week where you were at an Irish Pub. You said something that made me pleased to see and is something that not a lot of Artists think about: You said, ‘This year, we’ve made no goals’. I think that when there’s too much expectation put into projects. People tend to build those up too high and inevitably they are let down. What was your reason for that statement?
Will Carpenter – Last year we planned to make an album. Obviously, it didn’t happen, but what did happen was that the opportunity to tour further than we ever had on both coasts presented itself. We also made an incredible single as a result of not making an album, so it seems that everything turned out exactly as it was meant to. We noticed that, and decided that, this year, we’re going to take the opportunities as they come, spend as much time in the studio as possible, but without expectations, and trust that the right things are going to happen…thus: no ‘goals’… J
IMM – What was the Millennium Music conference like?
Will Carpenter – Honestly? It was amazing. The musicians there were talented and welcoming, and the panelists and mentors were all kind, contributing members of the music industry. Everyone was there to help…there wasn’t a lot of jaded or negative energy, and that alone was really cool. Add to that I got to meet a childhood musical mentor (Chad Taylor, of Live) and that we got a quality hang, and he even stayed to check out our set…super chill, humble guy, and easy to talk to. I don’t really get star-struck, but I used to cover Live songs with my band back in the day…so it was surreal in the best possible way. All in all, an excellent experience!
IMM – I love the video you posted to your Facebook Band page on February 21st which gives a behind the scenes tour of your studio and the making of your new single ‘Up’. What do you feel is the value in sharing your creation process with your fans?
Art Andranikyan – We love sharing what happens behind the scenes with our fans so they can really understand what goes into bringing a song to life. Usually bands like to connect with their followers and share some back-stories to how things were conceived. We believe in being human and being personable with our fans. The value of it is you are giving them something and also leaving them with something to connect with you. We actually have different segments released every Tuesday and we call it ‘Quick Look’!
Will Carpenter – Honestly, this is the first time we’ve given people a view into how we create. For me, it started because I posted a tweet in early September right when we were getting off tour about a new song we were working on…and the Twitter following blew up with: ‘show us’, ‘when can we hear it’, etc… But the reality is that a song is really just an idea until it’s produced, and the production process can take quite awhile, especially if you’re balancing other things along with it. For ‘Up’ it took about 4-5 months until we could release it, and so I felt it was an interesting idea to reveal everything that went into the creation of it so people understand what it takes to create something like that. Granted, condensing days and weeks into 1-3 minute segments isn’t a perfect view of reality, but it does give people a bit of an idea…hopefully folks are enjoying it!
IMM – What has the industry response been like for your new single?
Will Carpenter – We’ve been fortunate to get rave reviews from the press, and good feedback from radio programmers. We previewed it earlier this year to some folks at Springboard West in San Diego and also this past weekend at Millennium Music Conference, and our biggest problem is that people tend to rip the headphones off before they even get to the chorus, which I guess is a good thing because they think it’s awesome already, but I’m sitting here like: “don’t you want to hear the hook?”
IMM – What has the fan response been like?
Will Carpenter – Honestly, we couldn’t be happier with the response we’re getting. Nothing but 5-star reviews on iTunes and we’ve gotten over 30k streams on Spotify in the past two weeks… Apart from that we get feedback on Twitter, Facebook and whatnot every day from fans who are struggling with something, and are using our music to put a smile on their face and push through it. For me, that’s literally what I’ve always used music for…it’s an inspirational medium that can get you through anything…so the fact that our song is translating to people like that is truly humbling.
IMM – I always like to ask Artists if there is any Industry or Radio peeps they would like to give a nice shout out to – who would you like to thank for their support of your music?
Art Andranikyan – I think Will and I would both agree on giving a warm thank you shout out to Debbie Mazella over at Magic 98.3 WMGQ in NJ and also Pat Monahan lead singer of “Train” who also hosts a weekly show “Train Tracks” over at Sirius XM The Pulse! I am sure Will could add couple more names…
Will Carpenter – Absolutely, Debbie and Pat have been huge champions of ours…as well as Jim Ryan, who programs over at The Pulse. Additionally, I feel I should mention my dear friend Morgan Taylor Reid, who always is there for me when I need feedback on a track…Taylor Briguel who taught me what a ‘release plan’ was, and quite honestly: everyone in this crazy industry who still believes in the value of independent music.
IMM – Your album art on all of your music is gorgeous! Who is behind the design and branding of Ships Have Sailed?
Will Carpenter – Great question! Our very good friend Jody Talmadge designed the artwork for ‘Up’. She also designed ‘Moodswings’, ‘Whispers’, ‘Re: MIX’ and the ‘Midnight’ single. Jody and I always work together on the concepts, but she is masterful at the execution, and she never gives up until our visions are absolutely aligned, which I believe is a huge part of what makes the art translate.
IMM – Do you have any tours planned for 2017? Any festivals?
Will Carpenter – So far, we have SXSW on the books, followed by a couple of SoCal shows (one in LA and another in San Diego). Following that, we will finally be making our way to the U.K. for a short run of dates in May (to be announced), and over the summer we will be trying to show the south and the mid-west some love…get at our Facebook events to stay in touch with all that!
IMM – In terms of Industry Music peers, can you tell me who you really look up to and who you would like to collaborate with?
Will Carpenter – I’m literally down to collaborate with anyone and everyone…as long as the talent is there, I feel I have a wide enough range in musical taste that a collaboration is always interesting and promising. As far as dreams, let’s keep it to about five (so I don’t run on all night) and folks who are still living: Coldplay, Walk the Moon, The 1975, The National, CHVRCHES.
IMM – Which instruments (other than the ones you both currently play) do you also play?
Art Andranikyan – I can play most percussive instruments like Djembes, Cajon’s, Surdo’s, Bongos, Congas, etc.…. I can also play some piano and sing.
Will Carpenter – If it has strings I can generally figure out how to play it. That includes bowed instruments (although my tone isn’t always great) and I’m picking back up my piano skills…albeit slowly. I can also hack away on drums (not that I would show anyone), and I used to play clarinet…
IMM – Which is your favorite instrument to song write with?
Art Andranikyan – Usually for me when it comes down to song writing it’s a little different as a drummer. I hear rhythms and grooves to add to a song away from the drum set. I will have couple different ideas to play just to bring the song together, but then I will go back and finalize all of my grooves and drum fills. I usually like to have couple different ideas already in my head before I sit down to play it on the drum set.
Will Carpenter – For me it’s never about the instrument with songwriting…it’s always about the song. The song comes first and then you find the instrument that sings best with that song…does that make sense? If we’re really looking for a definitive answer I guess I would say guitar, but that’s just because it’s my go-to instrument to pick up in any scenario…
IMM – What are five things about each of you that are unique that no one really knows anything about?
Art Andranikyan – Hmm five things about me…
- I can nicely gift wrap anything under 2 mins
- I love to be really organized
- The only thing that will disturb my sleep is smell.
- I don’t eat anything 4 hours before show time
- I have a strict warm up routine before going on stage
Will Carpenter – Here goes:
- Incredibly OCD.
- I prefer espresso to coffee.
- I started my rock career as a bass player.
- I worked for a long time in the food service industry and as a result I’m awesome in the kitchen.
- Songs tend to pop into my head when I’m in the worst position to capture them!
IMM – Okay, final question: What do the next 6-12 months’ look like for the band in terms of your career?
Will & Art – We are definitely going to be out on the road quite a bit this year, but we’re trying to get into the studio as well. ‘Up’ felt really good coming out of 2016 and we want to keep creating. At the same time, we’ve been loving the human connections we’re making with people out on the road, so we’re striving to define a healthy balance of both!
IMM – Thank you! We look forward to hosting you on Indie Music Monday!
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