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Into The Wild: Evan Weiss Clears His Head On Into It. Over It.'s 'Standards'

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Writing or recording an album in the wilderness has become an indie staple in recent years. The theory is that artists seeking to create raw work, or learn about themselves, should retreat to a remote location, deny themselves internet access – apparently the ultimate sacrifice in this day and age – and solely focus on writing stripped down music.

It clearly worked for Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who wrote his band’s debut album, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, in a Wisconsin log cabin and subsequently won the admiration of jumper wearers around the globe. Since then, everyone from Chris Connelly to Johnny Borrell has decided that swapping the city for a shed in the middle of nowhere is an ideal course of action.

It’s fair to say, then, that Evan Weiss, the architect of the project Into It. Over It., has broken a pattern somewhat with his third album. Despite being written in a Vermont cabin with current drummer Josh Sparks, ‘Standards’ is his most colourful and accessible effort yet.

"There was no intention to fabricate a certain mood or sound. We didn’t want to think about what we were writing, we just wanted to write."

Weiss is an honest character, an attribute reflected in his music. Initially hailing from New Jersey, but a long-time resident of Chicago, his music has been shaped by the heart-on-sleeve approach of his Midwestern peers. There’s no pretension to what he does, which perhaps explains why his decision to cut himself off from technology was made purposefully rather than on a whim.

“It was mainly a way to clear our heads,” he says. “It was an incredible experience and something that Josh and I will remember for the rest of our lives. There was no intention to fabricate a certain mood or sound. We didn’t want to think about what we were writing, we just wanted to write.

“That was the ultimate test, almost. When we wrote a track we’d ask ourselves: ‘Do we like it? Does it flow? Is it loud or quiet and does that work? If yes, then great, let’s move on.’ We had no intention of making a ‘sad’ record; it was just a location.”

‘Standards’ is certainly anything but sad. It’s both Weiss’s most triumphant record, with rousing choruses and often dramatic vocals, and his most experimental judging by some of his production choices. Weiss and his band chose to record the final tracks direct to tape in San Francisco with John Vanderslice, breathing additional life into the original compositions.

“The biggest advancement for me was using new recording techniques and sounds that I’d never heard before,” he says. “That’s what interests me as I get older – making things sound wrong instead of right. For example, the challenge with many guitar lines was making them sound incorrect and yet correct at the same time.”

Despite his taste for adventure, Weiss has been somewhat pigeonholed as a proponent of the emo revival in recent years. With cult ‘90s acts like American Football, Texas is the Reason and Mineral playing reunion tours to sell-out crowds, a whole new generation of twinkly Midwest-inspired acts has also emerged. Though emo, and its overlapping scenes, has only become a universal sub-culture in recent years, it’s been a key facet of American indie culture for a lot longer.

“I’ve always just called it indie-rock rather than the dreaded E word,” Weiss says with a chuckle. “To be honest, I got involved in music at a very young age. I used to go to shows in Philadelphia every week, constantly buy CDs with my allowance money and basically just hear anything I could get my hands on.

"That’s what interests me as I get older – making things sound wrong instead of right."

“There was a great scene of ‘emotional’ bands when I was that age so I developed a passion for it. I know some people attach a degree of nostalgia to it but when it comes to my own music that’s not the case. I’d like to think that I could have written any of my songs today.”

Weiss’s continued attachment to such an openly expressive style of music is a fascinating reflection of how the entire scene has evolved. He might now be in his 30s but Into It. Over It.’s combination of intimate lyrics and finger-tapped guitar melodies continues to appeal to fans of various ages.

A frequent accusation levelled at emo is that artists who operate within its boundaries never truly grow out of their awkward teenage selves. ‘Standards’, though, is more than just mature. It feels life-affirming, which seems odd when you consider Weiss named a recent EP ‘Life is Suffering’.

“I’ve become surer of myself,” he says. “Some of the lyrics I’ve written may come across as doubt. I think coming to terms with being confident in who I am has been a big part of developing as an artist. Relationships still happen at 30 years old; it’s just about how you convey that through good storytelling.

“You can tell I’m getting older. I listen to more jazz and classical and instrumental stuff as opposed to the punk and hardcore music I grew up with. But I’m still making this style of music. It still feels fun and current to play these songs.”

One important aspect of Into It. Over It.’s success is that it has been organic. Weiss’s approach is ultra-DIY, much like the acts who influenced him, but unlike many of those bands he’s lasted a lot longer. Weiss claims that his fans have grown up with him and his music.

"I think coming to terms with being confident in who I am has been a big part of developing as an artist."

He played over 250 shows around the world in support of his last album, building a steady international support base. Since first playing the UK in 2011, he’s popped back repeatedly. Returning for six shows in May, alongside the Hotelier, he expects that run to be a highlight once again.

“It might be my favourite place to play in Europe,” Weiss says. “It’s like a patient, polite version of the US, which works well for my music. I get such warm treatment. People that come to my shows tend to be like that: they’re awesome, passionate, well-dressed and well-spoken people who care about supporting art.”

Weiss is keen to stress that this relationship is “very transparent”. This is hardly surprising. His music is very transparent, too. When asked why he thinks this approach to music is so appealing, he’s unerring.

“I don’t think it’s the emo thing,” he says. “It’s just about bands coming across as real. People don’t want machismo rock bullshit and they don’t want to be lied to.”

Into It Over It Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat May 07 2016 - SOUTHAMPTON Joiners
Sun May 08 2016 - BRISTOL Thekla
Mon May 09 2016 - LONDON Scala
Tue May 10 2016 - MANCHESTER Sound Control
Thu May 12 2016 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Fri May 13 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social Club

Click here to compare & buy Into It Over It Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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