In September 2017, northern NJ heavy indie power duo, Please Exist, released their new album, Slow Dance to the Apocalypse. Check out the interview with bandmates Ralph Chudley and John T. Fisher below to learn about the inspiration behind their latest work and to hear their words of encouragement for anyone who's willing to follow a dream.
What are your names and where are you from?
Tell us about your new album, Slow Dance to the Apocalypse. How does it compare with your past work? Who are your influences, musically?
R.C: Our new record, Slow Dance to the Apocalypse, is a collection of songs we've written over the course of the past 5 or 6 years. It was recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced by Joe Egan at Missile Silo Studios in Hopatcong, NJ. He's full of great ideas and was able to get me to perform vocally better than anyone has. Compared to our past work, most of these songs were actually written quite a while ago. While we do have an EP that came long before this, I would say a lot of Slow Dance was being written when that came out. So this is basically a freshman album for us. However, we've had other musical endeavors in the past. Other bands. This one seems more focused. We are on the same page.
I'm not sure that there was an influence to make this album beyond just having the need and the desire to create music and to tell fantastical stories and paint pictures with our music. As far as direct musical influences, we both listen to a lot of different things. For me personally, the influences that find their way into our music would be Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Norma Jean, Deftones, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nirvana, and Far. Jamie Lenman is my favorite songwriter of all time, so anything that he does.
J.F.: SDTTA is a really special and monumental record for us. It seems crazy, but we started this band back in 2008. Since then we’ve written over 50 songs! However, up until now we’ve not succeeded in recording and releasing more than a handful of them. We began to record a full length a few years back but ran into many problems along the way and it remains unfinished. This feels great to finally see the project through from start to finish.
I’m gonna piggyback on what Ralph has already said and add that Joe is really a master of understanding how to capture a band’s sound. He gets how our songs should sound and better than that he gets how we want them to sound. Making this record with him was an absolute pleasure. Out of the many recording sessions I’ve had over the years, this one was by far the most stress-free and enjoyable. That’s something that really goes a long way because when you’re recording with someone you trust, you allow yourself to focus more on just playing the material as best you can.
As far as how this album relates to our past work, I’d say that it’s a definite progression on every level. This material is more complex and I think more interesting. With each new venture, you want to push yourself creatively and with this record, I think we’ve done that just as we continue to do with our new material. As Ralph said, I don’t think anything necessarily inspired us to do this record other than the need and want to create music and tell cool stories with said music.
Personal influences for me with music, in general, includes pretty much everything I have ever listened to both good and bad, but some of my favorite artists of all time are Nirvana, Annoying Customer, Pixies, Helmet, Primus, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Fugazi, NIN, and countless others. There’s usually never a direct influence for me when writing music, but there are always tones of whatever I may be listening to at the time that tend to seep into our songwriting. Usually unconsciously but sometimes not haha.
What's been your personal journey? What has inspired you? Do you have any dream collaborations?
R.C.: I’m 34 now. I joined my first band when I was 12. I started out on drums and did that through a good portion of my 20s. I always had the desire to write my own songs, and for a long time I did that on the side. Most of the time with John playing the drums, but with other people too. A bass player. A keyboardist at one point. The problem with playing drums is that you're pretty helpless when the key songwriter for your band calls it quits. So after many bands falling apart, I just decided to make writing my own songs my focus. I knew that it would never fall apart because I'd always want to be writing and performing. Having John as a drummer/bandmate was a no-brainer. He's a great drummer, he's always believed in my songs, and he's one of my dearest friends. After many endeavors that didn't work out, we just decided to keep it a two-piece. Keep it simple.
If I could collaborate with anyone on a song, it would be Gwen Stefani. I just love her voice so much. So much firepower in her melodies. So if your reading this Gwen, let's make it happen! It would also be a dream come true to do a record with Brad Wood. One day, maybe.
J.F.: I played some instruments in school bands growing up, but it never really connected with me. In the school setting, it always became work. Having to fill out practice charts for so many minutes a day definitely took the fun out of it. I played violin from 3rd to 6th grade, then from 7th to freshman year of high school (when I decided to throw in the towel), I played saxophone. I thought I was done with music at that point, but my best friend Adam Kaniper (who was an amazing guitarist even when we were kids) started playing music with our mutual best friend Ned Mears. At that point, Adam said, “you should learn drums,” so in the 16th year of my life I started to do exactly that. It wasn't really even an option. I had to do it. I never had any formal training. I just a borrowed kit from Adam’s dad and tried to play along with some of my favorite records, so armed with that and the need/want to make music with my best friends, I was well on my way. For me, it gave a level of fun and excitement to music that until then I didn’t know was even possible. Almost 20 years later, I’m still making music with my friends. I can’t imagine my life without that in some capacity. I’ll be making music to the end of my days.
I met Ralph when I was 17 and started playing music with him when I was 19. Since then, we’ve been in a couple different bands together on and off to varying degrees of success, but this time since it was just the two of us, it’s been easier to coordinate and keep going. We’re both pretty laid back so our practices, writing process, and everything in between are low stress. It’s easy to be in this band, and that’s how we like it! The great thing about making music with Ralph is that we both like a lot of the same things and since we’ve been playing together for so long we have a musical shorthand that makes writing so easy. We both have a tendency to compliment each others' musical parts almost as second nature. Sometimes entire songs just flow out of us on the first go. In addition to all of that, Ralph is easily one of my favorite songwriters in general and certainly my favorite lyricist. The tonal landscapes he creates coupled with his detailed, descriptive and clever lyrics paint an undeniable picture in the listener’s mind that is unlike anything else I’ve ever listened to. It’s awesome to be able to call him my friend. It’s even more amazing to be able to create music with him. It’s an honor.
Oooo I second Gwen Stefani on the collaboration front. That’d be so cool!!! Brad Wood would be awesome, too. I ‘d like to record with Steve Albini one day as well.
What words of advice or encouragement would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar passion, or is maybe facing obstacles similar to what you've faced?
R.C.: I encourage anyone who wants to start a band or a solo career to just do it. There's nothing like the feeling of having a catalogue of work that's yours. Don't ever think you're not good enough or that your songs aren't good enough. Just have fun and express yourself however you need to. Whether it's drums, guitar.... singing about politics or astronauts. Whatever you want. Don't let anyone stop you. You're going to play last, with no one else in the room. Don't get discouraged. Someone's going to like your stuff no matter what. Most importantly, and I feel strongly about this... you are not your day job. Make the time to do the things you love, no matter what. What you do to pay bills is irrelevant. I work 55 to 60 hours a week doing something that has nothing to do with music, to pay bills. But if you ask me what I do, I'll tell you I'm a songwriter. Get out there. Create. Leave your mark.
J.F.: I agree with everything Ralph said there 100%. I couldn’t have said it better. Like he said, the first and foremost step with anything creative is to just buckle down and do it. Stop talking about doing it and just do it. Even if what you come up with isn’t great or how you wanted it to be, it’s still better than if you had done nothing, and that leaves you with room to grow and make it better the next time around. You’re always going to see/hear all the flaws in your own work, but you are still way ahead of the guy who sat back and did nothing because he or she was afraid to. You did it! You created! Now do it again and do it better and never stop because life is short. At the end of it all, what do we really have other than the things we’ve created. For me, the arts give a satisfying tangibility to one’s existence. Please Exist ;)
What's next on the horizon for Please Exist? Do you have any shows coming up? Plans for the next album?
R.C.: We have huge plans for a next record! We are currently working on a concept album based upon the idea of an insane asylum. Something like Arkham Asylum. With each song being about a patient with his or her own story to tell. The title, as of now, will be Storytellers in Straightjackets. We currently have no shows booked, but we'll pretty much play anytime, anywhere with a tad bit notice. Being a two-piece is awesome in regards to scheduling.
J.F.: Since SDTTA, we actually recorded and released an EP titled “Let The Nighttime Live” (a sister EP to our previous “Let The Daytime Die”). In addition to that and the process of writing the next epic full length that Ralph mentioned above, we have 5 other songs we’ve begun to record that will be part of a split release with our friends Deja Gravy. We are also in post-production on our first music video! It’s for the song "Chernobyl Has A Ferris Wheel" and it should be pretty cool. I’m currently finishing the editing, and it should be out in the coming month or two. Once it’s released, we have some cool ideas for a couple more videos as well.
Finally, how can people find you online?
You can find us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pleaseexist) for social media. That’s the page we’re most active on, and it’s probably the best way to get in contact with us. We’ll probably get around to an Instagram page one of these days. All our music can be found on our Bandcamp (https://pleaseexist.bandcamp.com) page. We also have a central hub blog-type page that is updated infrequently but has links to all things Please Exist, including a youtube playlist of live vids (http://pleaseexist.blogspot.com). If you’d like us to play your show/event/whatever, send us a message!