- Photo by Brandon Hambright. Download a free copy of "Braver" after the interview.
Log on to video-chat website Stickam, and you can meet random folks from all over the world. Or, in the case of power pop-punk group The Greater the Risk, you could discover the lead singer for your band. Vocalist Deek Kaufman was playing acoustic cover songs when guitarist Ashley Drewes and bassist Nate Wilson landed on his profile about a year ago. Coincidentally, Kaufman was just finishing up his degree at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Kaufman's school pal Blake Gillespie was brought in later to play guitar and a Craigslist ad hooked them up with new drummer Derek Ames.
For the follow up to their well-received debut EP, The Greater the Risk will enter the studio with producer Bryan Russell, who has worked with such renowned artists as Coldplay, Aerosmith, Paul Simon, and Straylight Run. With an East Coast tour also in the works for 2011, the new year promises great rewards for this young band.
Style: Tell us about that one song...
Deek Kaufman: "Braver" is a song that [Ashley and Nate] sent me the instrumental tracks to when I was auditioning for the band. I sent them back the vocal melodies and the lyrics for "Braver." The story of The Greater the Risk is that we are all college graduates and we are all putting our lives on hold to pursue music. That's what "Braver" is about. It's about taking chances and living life they way you want to live it, right now.
What is the biggest risk you've taken for music?
Kaufman: With my degree, I could be making a pretty decent salary, in a perfect world. But, I'm working construction at 6:00 in the morning. Then, coming home at 5:00 at night to jam with the band, or write songs, or promote, or play shows. Financially, that's a sacrifice and it's a lifestyle that we're taking a risk on.
Ashley Drewes: I turned down a job in Northern Virginia with Vitamin Water making pretty good money. But, I don't want to live up in Northern Virginia. I like Richmond a lot. The music scene up there is different. I like the scene here better. It was right when I met Deek that I was offered the job. We hadn't even recorded a song yet. I thought, I could either be really well off or I could go do this band and possibly fail in four months. As a band, our greatest risk now is that we're dumping a couple thousand dollars into our next CD. There's no guarantee that it's going to turn out awesome, but we're hoping it will.
How did you connect with producer Bryan Russell?
Drewes: I emailed four different producers we wanted to work with and sent them a couple of really rough demos of the new songs we wanted to record. You know, "Hey, this is what we're trying to do." We got hit back by another producer from Maryland and Bryan also hit us back. We went with Bryan because he was really all about our style. He said, "I really like what you guys are doing." He was (excited) about the project, not just about us paying him money to record us. We just got lucky that he responded to my email. [The cost] is coming out of what we make at our day jobs and a little is coming out of what we've made at shows.
How do the new songs compare to your first EP?
Drewes: [The new songs] are a little more mature sounding. We've already had two lineup changes in the band. So, it's a similar sound. If you listen to us, you'd recognize the new songs as The Greater the Risk. But at the same time, we're taking it to a different level.
Kaufman: We have ten or eleven we're bringing into the studio and the best five will be our new disc.
Drewes: We've sent Bryan demo tracks and he tells us what's good. We go into pre-production for two days this month and then we go back into the studio January 7th through the 20th. We'll have the mastered tracks back in March for a Spring release.
Kaufman: We played four of the new songs at the Conditions CD release show at the Canal Club. We have many fans who have seen us before. They love the tracks [on the EP], they love “Braver,” listen to it a couple of times a week. They said one new song of ours in particular, that doesn't even have a name yet because we're still working on it, was their favorite song of the set. That was cool. They know every word to our older songs and still this song they've never heard before was their favorite out of the set.
What has been your most memorable show?
Drewes: The Conditions' CD release show was sold out. It was the biggest crowd this band has played to before and the audience was very responsive to us. We've played to sixty or seventy people on the regular, but to play for four hundred people was awesome.
Kaufman: We get a good turnout in Virginia Beach. The most fun I've have is playing a club down there called Club Relevant a couple of months ago. They have two rooms and something was going on with the bigger stage's sound. They moved us into this coffeehouse setting and everyone was packed in there and we were on the floor with 'em. Everybody was into it and that was the most fun for me.
What is your first musical memory?
Kaufman: When I was a little kid, I had a Limp Bizkit CD. I just remember going crazy in my room, listening to it on one of those boom boxes with the detachable speakers on the side. That was probably the first time I even noticed what music could do.
Drewes: Mine's a little worse. I used to sing karaoke to the Backstreet Boy's first CD and I used to dance to Brittany Spears when she came out with "Baby One More Time."
What would be your favorite album of 2010?
Drewes: Jimmy Eat World's new album “Invented.” The single is not good, but the rest of it is really, really good. Do you want to agree on that one?
Kaufman: Yeah. That question's kinda tough. We get down with the best records of 2007.
If you could play a show with anyone, who would it be?
Kaufman: For me, it would be Anberlin.
Drewes: Jimmy Eat World.
Kaufman: Those two are probably our main influences as a band.
If the band were to receive an award, what would it be for?
Drewes: We get along pretty well as a band. I don't know if we should get an award for that, but we have a lot of friends in bands who constantly complain about one another. We actually spend a lot of time with one another outside of making music. We're all friends. That's one of our key points in choosing members. Like, "Yeah, that guy's a great guitar player, but am I going to want to hang out with that person?"
Kaufman: The friendship award. Me, Nate, and Blake, all live together in the same house. We like to bounce harmonies off of each other around the house. Ashley and Derek are always over. If we're not at band practice, we're usually hanging out with each other. For practice, we rent a storage unit on South Jefferson Davis highway. It's not the nicest area, but at least there's a barbed wire fence around it.
Drewes: We've been there for a bout a year now, it's not bad. A couple of shady characters, but nothing too alarming. It's cheap, but it works.