Tuned Up and Sitting Down with Finish Ticket

Recently I was given the opportunity to sit down with alternative quintet Finish Ticket on one of the dates of their tour opening up for twenty one pilots and Echosmith. We chatted about how the tour was going, in addition to discussing their newest EP, When Night Becomes Day, their roots in the San Francisco Bay area music scene, and their plans after the end of this current tour.

TUNED UP: When Night Becomes Day, released at the beginning of September. It succeeds your full-length debut, Tears You Apart, which saw widespread release last year. Talk to me a little bit about the writing process of the EP, and how it differed from the process involved with Tears You Apart.

Finish Ticket: Actually the two are extremely different. Tears You Apart we released initially in February of 2013, before we were signed or anything. With that record, the three of us who started the band had just left school to pursue music full-time. We decided that’s what we wanted to do with our lives, so we spent 2011 figuring things out and 2012 focusing on Tears You Apart. That record was in the middle of a weird change for the band. Since we had lost a couple of members, we first brought in Gabe [Stein], and he rerecorded drums for us. After that Nick [Stein] came in to complete the lineup, and we released the record independently around that time as well. The whole process was long, but once it was over, we used Tears You Apart to build a following. Eventually we got signed and the label re-released the album.

We then toured all last year partly to promote it, but mainly to get our foot in the door with touring. We’d toured in the past, but not like we do now – not as extensively. The process with When Night Becomes Day was insane because we were touring constantly and it was the first time to not be home and have that [writing] space. In the past, when I wanted to write music, I’d just go away from people and find my own space to write. With touring, we don’t have that space or time. Every time we had a chance we would go demo, and from those sessions we decided the 4 songs we wanted to use for the EP. (We added “Never Alone” at the very end.) We really only had that time in between being on the road. The recording process was also kind of a run-around – we had originally set up to work with a producer in London, so we went over there, recorded the 4 songs over the course of a couple of weeks, and then went on a European tour while the producer was mixing the tracks. As soon as we got back to the States, we got sent the tracks, but they didn’t sound at all like we had envisioned them, so we ended up scrapping nearly the entire session. We took a couple of pieces we did from that recording in London, but for the most part we had to scratch it. Also, one thing dramatically different for the EP is that this was the first time we’d done any writing or recording with a decent following and a label looking at what we were doing. We had so many more people that were involved this time around. Tears You Apart was creating songs just to create, and that was all we knew. With this EP, we had so many different people and opinions along the way, making it such a different experience. Being our major label debut, it was a stressful experience as well.

How come you didn’t care for the songs you recorded in London?

We didn’t have very much time. We only had 2 weeks, and a lot of work to do. Both we and the producer wanted to do the best possible job, but we couldn’t finish it. The producer did a great job, but it was just unfortunate, since, like I said, we got the tracks after getting back from London and only then did we realize those tracks weren’t where we wanted them to be. We worked 12 straight 16-hour days, and a part of doing it right is being able to step back, but we didn’t really have that time. That’s essentially what the problem was. I think we could have salvaged it if we were able to go back, but obviously the producer’s in London, so we can’t just fly back.

That makes sense. So you have been touring with twenty one pilots and Echosmith for a little while now. How has that been thus far?

It’s been amazing. This tour has been our favorite by far. The crowds are incredible, and then meeting them after is great. The vibes from the audience are fantastic from the stage as well. It’s so new to us to see all these people watching us, because before this tour we’d really only played in front of our own fans. On top of that, the bands are so nice backstage. twenty one pilots has a huge crew, but they’re all so nice, and they all look out for us. Since they’re helping us out all the time, and it’s a huge team effort where we don’t want to do anything to ever upset them. We want to see their show, and we’ve been doing our best with everything behind the scenes. Their guys are so helpful – one of the guys does lighting for us, and we didn’t ask; he just volunteered. Usually as the band that’s opening, we don’t have that privilege, so we’re feeling really welcomed.

Would you say this is the biggest tour you’ve ever been on?

Oh yeah, every night. Last year we were touring all the time, but we’d do a lot of little clubs, and every once in a while we’d do something like a festival, or we’d have the opportunity to open for someone big. Every time we’d do that there’d be this huge adrenaline rush. With this tour, every night feels like that big opportunity. It’s been a really tiring tour because doing that takes so much out of you, but we love it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of going on stage and performing for so many people.

I think the smallest show on this tour is just slightly bigger than our biggest headlining tour. With the same sized crowd that made us think we were huge before, those kinds of turnouts on this tour are small. We’re super grateful to be here and aren’t taking it for granted at all. You don’t ever want to lose that spark.

That passion is one of the main reasons why you can keep going and it will continue to motivate you. Anyway, back to When Night Becomes Day, which has 5 new songs. What did you have in mind when you wrote that? Do you have an album that you’re planning with those songs or did you just want to put out the EP, and give it some time to spread to the new fans that you’ve made on this tour?

We had just been writing for an album, which was so hectic. We didn’t have much time, so even though we had all these ideas and plenty of other songs we could have also recorded, it seemed a little easier at the time to focus in on a few and make them really good. It’s a little less stress overall, and an easy way to “test the water” with our major label debut. Not only that, but it’s easier to market an EP. That said, we’re big fans of albums, so we’re going to start on another album soon. For us it’s all about the [full-length] album.

An EP is a nice thing for the fans that’s often there to satiate their desire for new music.

Exactly. Our old fans have been following us for so long now that to them Tears You Apart has been out forever, so we decided in the end that we had to give them something new to enjoy. We don’t want to forget about them. Like you said, at this point we’re trying to reach more people to expand our fanbase, and it’s really easy to do that with an EP. For us it’s about marketing the EP and getting those new fans a taste [of our music], and then if they like what they hear, there’s a whole other album they can go back to in Tears You Apart. I think it’s especially good timing with what we have going on now. Once we’ve expanded our fanbase, the next step will really be to write the follow-up record. After this tour we’re definitely starting work on that, and we don’t know what it will sound like yet, but the goal is [to take] the next chance we get after this tour – it’s just a matter of timing.

For sure. TUNED UP is based out of Columbus, Ohio. We’re really into our local scene – we’re privileged to be based in a place like Columbus because the bands there are fantastic. Talk to me a little bit about your own scene though. Since Finish Ticket is from the San Francisco Bay area, how does that particular scene impact you as artists, and what are your general feelings toward it?

The San Francisco music has such a huge impact on us, especially when we started the band. The three of us [Brendan, Alex, and Michael] started it when we were in high school, out of a desire to be one of those other local bands that we saw. We used to go to local shows like every weekend in San Francisco, and when we were starting out [as a band] there were so many great bands. The quality of music in the Bay area was so high that it really set a standard for us to try to create and perform music [at that same level of quality]. Back then, there was a lot to the music scene in San Francisco, and we were also younger than all of these others since we were in high school, so there was a stigma with that. Often people wouldn’t respect us, so we would walk in determined to prove to them that we weren’t “just a high school band,” and many times that’s exactly what we did. We would strive for compliments telling us otherwise, and [the kind of live show we put on now] is a direct result of that. As a band, we’re definitely a product of what that scene was when we were in high school.

We haven’t really been keeping up with the San Francisco local scene nowadays – we’ll go to a show every now and then when we’re home. From what I have seen though, the scene is a bit more scattered now than when it was [when we were] in high school getting started out. Back then there were four or five bands that were huge, but they’ve all since broken up. There hasn’t really been a group or wave of bands, or a ton of good music all at once. A band will pop up here and there, but then they’ll go off and tour nationally. We were so lucky at the time to have a lot of local shows where the lineup of bands was amazing, and [there was this] real sense of community and camaraderie that we wanted to be a part of.

And now you’re one of those “huge” bands, even if the scene isn’t quite what it used to be. Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me, and I wish you the best for the remainder of this tour and after getting home from the road as well.

Finish Ticket is an alternative / indie rock band from Alameda, California. The quintet is currently signed to Atlantic Records. When Night Becomes Day is available for purchase on iTunes, and you can stay up to date with the band on their website or over at their Facebook page.

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