Photo by Concert Fotos
Hailing out of McKinney, Texas, City of Auburn is a band beginning to create a stir. Originally a solo project, the band grew and expanded as its sound, emerging as an attention striking alternative rock proposal. With two EPs already under the belt, the band is currently working on a debut album for unveiling later in 2016. In anticipation, we grabbed the chance to explore and learn more about the band with founder/vocalist/songwriter Michael Osborn taking in its beginnings, releases, a girl called Auburn and much more…
Hello and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Thank you so much for having us, it means so much!
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and how you met?
Well we have James Motter on drums, Jake Potter on guitar, Luke Weeks on bass, Jordan Shepherd on guitar, and then Michael Osborn on vocals. City of Auburn started when I (Michael) was in middle school. I played drums for a hard rock band at the time and I wanted to kind of do my own thing as a side solo project. That rock band broke up around the time of me going into high school and I recorded the first EP, The Achromatic World, right around freshman year. I ended up getting involved with an assortment of different bands and those really became my priority, City of Auburn became something on the back burner. Eventually the bands I was involved in started to dissemble out and I had songs written for another City of Auburn album. I released the second EP Soul Searcher in 2014 and it became my highest point of interest. I always had the thought of doing live shows with City of Auburn and making it an actual band. I didn’t want to do it solo anymore. Over the course of me being in so many different bands those past years, I made a lot of friends that supported what I did, and when they heard that I wanted to do live shows and things, they showed interest and said they’d love to be involved. I ended up having a line up laid out for me. Once we got things solidified, we started to get moving. It’s just been a new experience since then. We’re recording our full-length album right now.
What impact have those previous experiences had on what you are doing now, in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction?
Yes! Our drummer is actually an EDM artist and he’s got a new album out really really soon so you should check that out (iamreflekt.com), and our guitarist Jake is actually the singer of a hardcore band that I also play bass for called Crucify The Flesh (https://www.facebook.com/crucifydaflesh). I guess out of all the bands I’ve been in, there’s really only been one that really made something out of it. Before City of Auburn became my main focus, I played drums in this progressive metalcore band called Citadel. I played in that band for around 4 years. We broke up for so many reasons, but we were all just growing apart as people and some lifestyles really started to change. I barely talk to the people in that band anymore and I honestly don’t even know where they are in their lives, and that’s really weird to say. But the one thing that really pushed everything over the edge was that there was this other band called Citadel and they were this hair-metal band from like the 70’s that apparently reserved that band name back then. I’m pretty sure they haven’t even made any music in like 10 years. They sent us a message on Facebook (not even a formal email) claiming that we were infringing on the copyright over their band name and they threatened to take down our Facebook page if we didn’t change our band name in under 72 hours or something. We replied back saying we would change the band name immediately. But literally like 6 hours later our page was taken down. It was so stupid. These old farts from the 70’s picked a fight with some 20-year olds in a local band. They even called us unimaginative and unoriginal even though we were two completely different styles of music. It was almost hilarious haha. But my experience in that band really shaped what I am doing now. Metal is a cool music style, it’s just not for me anymore. I remember that the scene we were involved in wasn’t the kindest and we weren’t really growing. It always felt just really empty and I never truly, fully enjoyed it. Doing what I do in City of Auburn has already brought more opportunity and way more enjoyment than anything I’ve done before. I feel like doing what we do as a band, we can express ourselves in a new way that isn’t us writing a breakdown all the time. It stretches you lyrically, and it is really awesome to grow in something else. I’m personally having a blast.
Photo by Cindy Williams of Exquisite Photography
What inspired the band name?
Okay, so this is probably going to sound so stupid but changing your band name after two EPs is just too much work. I started this in middle school like I said, and I was friends with this guy that was interested in this one girl named Auburn. I barely knew this girl. I probably talked to her once, but I really liked that word ‘Auburn’ so being the un-creative middle schooler I was, I was just like ‘I’m going to call my band Auburn muhahaha’ but there is actually another artist under that same name. One friend that I didn’t know really well randomly told me that I should call the band City of Auburn just because. I just went with it. The name has no significant meaning or anything, it’s literally named after some random girl I met once and apparently I made a city after her. I know; it’s embarrassing when I have to explain it.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and what you wanted it to offer?
I can’t really tell you what was going through my head starting this out in middle school, but forming this into a band, the intention has been to make something genuine and honest. I think it’s important to make music that is transparent and doesn’t follow trends. I always want to be different at heart, and I really want to connect with all those who take the time to listen to us.
Do the same things still drive the band from when it was fresh-faced?
Absolutely! I think it’ll always be that way, and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it that way.
Since those early days, how would you say your sound has most evolved?
Uh, it’s evolved haha. The first EP I recorded is drastically different I think. The quality of that record isn’t that good, and just the songwriting was just everywhere. There are these really weird musical segments and, my gosh, the lyrics are just strange in some places. I don’t really talk about that album anymore because really it in no way represents what we do now. The Achromatic World is just a mess in lots of places, but I’m not ashamed of it. It’s where I started so I shouldn’t discredit that. It just doesn’t really represent what I do now. When I did Soul Searcher, it almost sounds like two different bands. Way more of a refined sound that was driving and musical compared to things I’ve done before. Vocal performance was significantly better. I guess I wasn’t going through puberty anymore so I finally found my voice. I feel like Soul Searcher was where I really began. This progression is only evolving even more with the upcoming album.
Do things move organically within the band in terms of sound and ideas or does the band deliberately go out to try new things?
I think it’s definitely been an organic thing. I matured as a person, so the music follows with it. You realize that you like different things and find different influences as you continue to make music, and that’s really translated on what I’ve done so far.
From what you said earlier about where band members came from musically, I am presuming there are a wide range of inspirations to you all; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
The thing is, with our weird history of me starting off solo to forming a band the other guys haven’t had the chance to fully collaborate on anything yet. Even with the new album, the album was finished with writing about a month before our first shows. I left room for everyone to be on the record for sure, but as far as influences on the band, we really haven’t had any because we haven’t written as a collective yet. I remember writing the new album listening to a lot of Balance & Composure and Being as an Ocean. They pretty much shaped the sound the record I think. I’ve always had the mentality that if you’re going to write another record, it has to be a step forward from your previous release. So I listened to bands that grew through their albums and you keep seeing a better record; that eventually translates on how you do things as well. One band that has impacted me so much is Falling Up, they’re just so fantastic. I love so many bands and artists to count.
Is there a process to the songwriting which generally guides your songwriting?
This is so hard for me to explain haha. It really just starts with me playing something on the guitar just to get an idea going. I usually always have something humming in my head and I’m always trying to discover those notes. If I’m liking where it’s going, I’ll imagine the next part. It just keeps going from there. It sounds really simple, but figuring out what parts go into each other becomes complicated when you’re trying to keep the whole album in perspective.
Where do you find the source of inspiration to the lyrical side of your songs most often?
I think I go through phases lyrically. With The Achromatic World I talked a lot in concepts and stories. With Soul Searcher it became something that was unintentionally personal. I wrote the album out of order and looking over the lyrics, I saw that it created a personal story. It really described my life during the process of that record and that became really apparent to me. I didn’t mean to write songs about me, but that’s what it became and I’m glad that ended up happening. With this upcoming album, I was personal from the beginning and that was completely intentional. I wrote about the things I struggled in as a person, and I wrote about growing in those areas. I don’t think I’ve ever written something so personal and honest, and I can’t wait for people to see that. I think right now with starting to write more music, I want to write about people. I desire to have a heart that’s open enough to understand where people come from. Instead of trying to write about the things I’m struggling with, I want to write about what others are going through and make effort to meet on their level. I’m drawing inspiration from that right now, and it’s definitely been something new.
Can you give us some insight to the themes and premise behind your latest release?
Soul Searcher was our most our most recent release. It came out in August of 2014 and we’ve been playing those songs ever since. It’s a personal record like I said, and it really was the most organic album when I wrote it. Everything just came together when I needed it to and it was such a blast to release. It really sparked a lot into pushing this project forward.
It kind of tells a story. It outlines the events of a person that rekindles his faith and relationship with God, that person being me. I remember that I went through a lot of things that left me hurt and I felt like I was becoming bitter. My faith was put on the back burner. I didn’t want to deal with God. As I kept living out my life, I felt empty. I was surrounded by others of the same faith and even though I was scared, I did want to get right with God again. The EP is about that journey, and my faith really strengthened from that experience. The term ‘Soul Searcher’ is not about finding out who you are, it’s about finding out who you are in Christ. It’s about finding yourself in him, and knowing that he’s with you.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
Definitely will have songs ready to go…there might be some things that I’d like to try and experiment with when we’re actually recording, but I really see no use going into the studio to record the next part of your career and have nothing prepared or mapped out. I just feel like it is wasting time. Obviously there are exceptions like the writing process being cut short or something, but I’d rather release an album of 7 tracks and have them all be amazing then to have 12 tracks and half of them push the record down due to underdevelopment. It’s always great to go in knowing what you want and having things prepared. I think it just makes a better record.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?
I just absolutely love playing live with this band. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun playing live before. It’s really amazing to be playing with literally your best friends every night. I love making people laugh and going insane on stage. Our dynamic is really cool live because the guys in the band weren’t on the records, so when we play live you get to hear little things here and there that they add to the songs. It’s really cool because you actually get an experience that’s different from the record. The thing I probably love the most is connecting with people after the show. I love getting to be around the people who support what we do, it’s so amazing and I’m so grateful for their time.
We ask this of numerous emerging bands; it is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it and do you feel the opportunities are still there to make a mark if the band has the drive?
It’s honestly complicated where we’re from. All the venues that are close to us are really in Dallas and all the promoters/booking agents are all involved in one singular production company that’s really well known. They completely support the idea of local openers, but the thing is it is all pay-to-play shows and it becomes ridiculous. It sometimes works really well for band that already have a fan base, but for the ones starting out it can become really hard. A normal situation is that if you want to play on a show, you have to sell 25-45 tickets for $13 or $17 a piece for a Sunday night show, and you only play for 20 mins. Those are such inconvenient prices and there’s always an up charge at the door for people under 21. No one wants to go out to a Sunday night show when there’s work the next morning, so getting a minimum of 25 people out is hard to do. Above all of that, you get no money back from the money you sell from the tickets. So you put in all the work to bring out all the people on a Sunday night for a 20 minute set and the promoter leaves early when he’s collected all the money from the bands. You don’t walk away with a lot of exposure because you played in front of people you invited and a few others. We’ve been trying to do shows elsewhere because of that, touring is your friend honestly. Go out of your city; bring good appealing merch, put on a good show. You can get people’s attention really well I think. There is also that side of me that is open to be completely wrong, the system that’s set up right now could be really effective and I just haven’t seen it bear fruit yet, so who knows. There’s been a rise in DIY venues lately and there’s so much more opportunities to play because of it. It’s been a journey to figure out everything, but I’m excited to see where it all ends up.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that the bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
I think it can go both ways. With all the marketing that goes on, your band’s ad or social media can be lost in the mix because everyone is doing it. But at the same time, if you have a developed plan and start small at first it can become really effective. Networking can become something that is so helpful, but sometimes physically playing shows instead of a YouTube ad can go a lot further. It’s hard to promote yourself when you don’t have all the resources available, but start small. It can pay off as it grows.
Once again Michael, a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add?
These were all wonderful questions, thank you so so much for having us. Check us out on Facebook and Bandcamp. We have a new album coming late this year, be on the lookout for new music soon!
Check out City of Auburn further @ https://www.facebook.com/cityofauburnmusic and their music @ http://cityofauburn.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 16/03/2016
Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright
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