Columbia College Chicago favorites Carbon Tigers consists of Chris Wienke (singer/keys/guitar), Nick Cudone (guitar/keys/vox), Aaron Sweatt (bass/guitar/vox), and Darien Williams (drums/vox). After the band’s 2010 release of The Burrows, the band has followed up with their latest offering The Wars At Home. The EP is a melting pot of indie-rock and art-rock with enough pop sensibility to go around. Epitonic had the opportunity to speak with the mustachioed and charismatic Aaron Sweatt as he details the band's M.O. and future plans.
Compared to other cities, have you benefited from being a part of the Chicago music scene? Where do you see yourselves in a place that's been deemed as a vibrant and supportive community of artists?
Chicago has been good to us thus far. It's a HUGE city with sooo many amazing venues and neighborhoods. Although it seems the scene has changed quite a bit since the bands from suburbs saw mainstream success. It’s also an expensive city to live in, which makes maintaining a van and/or trailer hard. It can also hard to be able to tour for extended amounts of time with the rent prices where they’re currently at. I know we’re not in New York or San Francisco but this certainly isn’t Lima, Ohio. As for the community, we’ve been lucky enough to share the stage with a lot of our favorite bands from the area and hope to see more enter the scene and rise up. It’s been too long since Chicago has had a big rock band come out of it.
What influences the writing and arrangement of your music?
Honestly, our biggest influence has always just been writing music we like. We take inspiration from all over; our early days had us listening to much more math-rock styled bands but as we started asking the questions, “What goes into a good song?” or “What makes this song so great?” we found ourselves looking to more mainstream music. Not every song in the mainstream is “good” or “great” but there must be a reason that a band can go from nowhere to somewhere over night before hitting their sophomore slump. We looked at artists like that, as well as music from decades ago, ya know- the kind of music that got popular without pumping in millions of dollars in radio promotion. But again, and I can’t stress this enough, we always aim to write the music we’ll enjoy.
Can you reveal a little bit that goes into the songwriting process?
Our song writing process has always been very very collaborative. One person will come in with a chord progression or riff and we’ll jam on that one idea for what seems like a few minutes but in reality is sometimes half an hour or more. We have as much fun with it as we can before we try to tame the beast and get it to roll over. When we go from riffing to song writing, it’s a completely different ball park that can sometimes include more talking than playing. Every idea is explored, auditioned, and then of course, either accepted or denied.
Would you say Carbon Tigers has a message for the world?
That’s a great question. I was recently reading an interview with Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino on Complex and he was talking about how music is pretty much the advertisement for a brand now. He also made a hilarious point about expecting people to buy music is like expecting people to pay for the smells at a bakery. I don’t know if we have some big idea or brand that we’re pushing out. We’re just guys who like listening to and playing music. That may ultimately be our downfall but I think it’d be worse for us to lie about that. This is who we are and what we do. We work 9-5 jobs then meet up around 7 to play music and hangout with each other.
Any special plans for 2014?
2014 is already looking like it’ll be one of our favorite years as a band. This year we will be performing at music festivals in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, as well as in TX during SXSW. We’re all incredibly excited for these bigger opportunities to play for new ears. We are also doing our best to make sure these hometown shows in Chicago are something special for all of our friends and fans that might have seen us already in the past.
Deep dish or old fashioned pizza?
New York style all the way.