American Arson is a two-piece band, rocking from Michigan. Being a two-piece band presents challenges. But, duo Jesse Gentry and Evan Baker constantly stretch their creative limits to make great rock music, despite their production limits. They have several amps on stage that loop layering sounds on each other, combined with the massive guitar pedal board effect range, they earned the title "two-man wall of sound," because they sound like they should have five members.
After releasing several independent EPs, Facedown Records signed them and has worked with the guys to write their first full-length album titled A Line In The Sandwhich released July 3, 2020.
I got to talk with both Jesse and Evan regarding the band and the upcoming new album, A Line In The Sand. These guys are hard-working, honest artists whose mission I fully support. I believe in the same hope they share regarding their music, that everyone who listens to the album will find a song that they can connect with. I hope you enjoy getting to know Jesse and Evan more through this interview and get pumped for the new album!
How did American Arson start, and how did you two begin working together?
Evan: I started American Arson as a solo project in 2014. I was hiring a drummer at the time and that became a little bit of a hassle. For one, I was paying him quite a bit to make sure that he could stay on the road with me. And then also, he was involved in other projects, so availability was an issue. After maybe a year and a half of doing that I decided to kind of open things up and try to turn it into a true two-piece band instead of a solo project. I put the word out there and Jesse responded to that. He came over and jammed, we talked a lot, and we were on the same page with a lot of stuff. It seemed like a really good fit. That was about four and a half years ago.
You are very creative with your band. Tell me about your artwork.
Evan: It was about trying to think of something that you would look at and you would see the two words that make up the band name in visual form. The first word, "American," is the black and white stripes part of it, and "Arson" is the flame part of it. We hope American Arson sparks the idea that all of us have a fire, a spark, and it's up to us to do what we want with it. We can either hold it close and keep it to ourselves or we can share that with others. We can go out and ignite other people's passions and creativity. One way that we believe that we do that is by sharing our stories through music and then encouraging people to share their stories. So, that's kind of the "Arson" bit of it, allowing us that spark to spread between us and the people who support us and follow us.
What are some of the biggest difficulties of being a two-piece band?
Evan: We can we laugh about it now because we usually have a crew with us on tour. But honestly, especially when we first started out and didn't bring anyone with us, it was hard. We're a two-piece band but we have the gear of a normal five-piece. Just the two of us will be loading in and out, most of the time. It's a lot of work on the physical end in that sense.
Jesse: When you're first starting out, there's a lot of financial commitment from the members to get the initial recordings done. Also, the stuff that happens on the road, stuff breaks or whatever, and you are both pitching in instead of five or six people throwing in.
What have been some of the advantages of being a "two-man wall of sound?"
Evan: It's easy for Jessie and me to plan things. If we are looking to rehearse or looking to go on the road or something like that, we really just have to check availability with each other. And, it's also a lot easier to resolve conflicts because there's no behind the scenes, there are no factions forming or anything like that. Just two us saying what we're thinking and put it out there. And then from a musical perspective, it stretches us creatively. Because we have to really approach songwriting from a position of, "How can we get the most out of just two people?"
Jesse: The conflict management part is huge. The personal side of a band is crucial to the band's longevity. I'm glad Evan and I see eye to eye on a lot of things.
Before you guys went over to Facedown Records and started creating for the upcoming full-length album, you made a handful of EPs. Do you guys have a personal favorite EP?
Evan: It's hard to choose because the first three EPs were a narrative together. We got done writing them and people can tell from the titles and from the similar covers that they were meant to be part of a series. And the first two were released prior to Jesse jumping in and then he joined for the recording of the third one. Once we sold out of those cases that were handmade, we started packaging as what we call the Origin Story Trilogy.
Jesse: I don't know if it's my favorite EP overall, but my favorite song is "10 Towers." It means a lot to me personally. That one was fun. I think the other one I would say is probably the first one we ever released, "They Will Know Us By Our Love." Those are just really fun to play live, it's a really fast and aggressive EP all the way through. The crowd gets into it, there's a lot of singalong parts in it, so the people that have been with us for a while really love that stuff.
What have been some of the major differences in terms of songwriting from what you've been doing with EPs rather than a whole album on itself?
Evan: Our process didn't change that much. I think the weight of the responsibility of writing a full album kind of took its toll early on. It just got to be a little bit too much, and creatively, I hit a bunch of writer's block after cranking out the first couple of demos. And we can't say enough good things about everyone over at Facedown Records. They have been very supportive and understanding.
Jesse: Yeah, and you know the bigger projects are cool too. I think they let us explore a little bit musically and thematically, there's something for everyone on the album.
Were there any experiences or stories that led to the writing of these songs that you guys want to share or talk about?
Evan: Yeah, we as a band we believe in writing authentically from our life's experiences and being transparent. And so we write about everything. Whether that is relationships, whether that is our faith, whether that is politics, anything that we see going on that affects us profoundly. We never think about asking what do people want to hear us sing about? The other subject matter is going to be all over the place on this album. But that's a normal person's everyday life, they're confronted with a wide range of emotions, coming from a wide range of areas and topics. But at the end of the day, humans all have these vast and varied experiences and so the art that humans made should probably reflect that. And we're hoping that this album does.
Jesse: We wanted to write songs that we enjoyed and were passionate about the message behind it. We wanted to write an album that you can listen to front to back and take something for any given situation you were in.
After fans listen to the new album, A Line In The Sand, what would you want them to walk away with?
Evan: For me personally I just want people to be open to the stories of other people. I understand that people listen to music for lots of different reasons. for us, music is a storytelling outlet. And it's the way that we share our story. We believe that it's a privilege for us to be able to share the story and we're humbled when somebody takes the time to listen to it. I just hope that we have the kind of listener who will sit down and then think critically about the messages that are being put across in each individual song. Maybe some of those they'll agree with and maybe some of them they won't but, maybe they can understand that perspective of a different person. Then maybe that causes them to reflect on their own personal journey and their own personal stories.
Jesse: One of the biggest compliments is someone telling us how a song applied to something they are going through at that time. Whether it is a specific situation or just a general struggle that they deal with. Then at the end of the day, being able to connect with fans or friends or anyone because of the music that was written or the message that we were able to convey. And I think that means more than anything to us as a band.
How can we be praying for you?
Both: Not just for us, but for all of our brothers and sisters in the music scene this year. It has been very difficult for a lot of up and coming bands to get the financial support and fanbase they need to get the momentum going for their band. We're blessed to have normal jobs outside of the band for income, but not everyone does. Support is easy for fans, even just comments on videos, saying how much you love the song just a word of encouragement, or sharing videos. And we're all in this together but I know we're all anxious to get back on the road.
The Christian rock and metal community is close to Ryan's heart. He loves to spread his love for that through NRT. He lives in Ohio and grew up in Boise, Idaho.
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