Interview: Animal Talk

erica batchelor is talking to animals…

Since they hit the scene in 2011, Animal Talk has caught the attention of many with their indie-dance style of music. They have been rated one of Boston’s 12 Best New Bands and have hit the stage with the likes of Young the Giant and The Mother Hips. Their song “Can’t Dance With It’ has already taken to the airwaves and is responsible for their accelerated popularity.

Check out Animal Talk’s debut EP which is available for free download on their website and be prepared to shake it. It’s simply fun music to listen anytime of the day or night. Ben Bourgeois was nice enough to take the time to chat and discuss the formation of Animal Talk, future plans and everything in between…

Greg Faucher // Rob Johanson // Steven Kilgore // Ben Bourgeois

Pop-Break: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in playing in a band.

Ben Bourgeois: That’s been going on for so long that I can barely remember the beginning of it. I think I was one of those typical musician kids who just started banging on stuff and dancing and singing. I kept saying, “Mom I want a guitar for my birthday” and one day my dad just broke down and got me a guitar and that was the beginning of the end. It was one of those things that I was good at and I knew I would do it for the rest of my life. It’s what I went to school for and it’s fun. It’s what I do now.

PB: Well, obviously you made a living out of it and you sound really good doing so. How did you guys meet and decide to start Animal Talk?

BB: A few of us knew Steve, the singer in the band. He and I went to school together [music school] and believe it or not he was getting his masters at the time I was finishing up my degree. He taught classical guitar and I took a couple classes with him so for a little while he actually taught me some classical guitar. He and I got along from the very beginning. As for the rest of the guys, when I moved to Boston, we just sort of knew each other through the Boston music scene so it sort of made sense. We were all free and I knew that the dynamic with the four of us would be really good and that we would all get along personally and I think that is the most important thing. We all really like each other. When I say that, it’s honest. We enjoy each others company. I’ve said that before and not meant it.

PB: You know that’s funny you say that because when you talk to bands you never know if they are friends outside of the band or if they actually enjoy each other. Sometimes it comes through on stage and you can hear it and witness the chemistry of everyone together.

BB: You’re absolutely right. We’ve been in projects where that wasn’t the case and it’s just not as fun. It’s just not fun, it doesn’t feel right. You know when really the only time you ever hang out with the guys from your band is whenever you’re at practice and recording or playing a show. With us, we see each other a few times a week just to grab a beer. Sometimes we won’t even talk about band stuff. We talk about other peoples’ bands or work.

PB: So you guys are really friends.

BB: Exactly.

PB: Where did the name come from?

BB: It’s such a typical band story. Every band has a similar story where they say, “I’m going to start a band called …this”. We put together a bunch of names we all liked. We had a really long list because we did it for a couple weeks and towards the end of it we just got really burnt out and we were making up some pretty bad stuff. I think Animal Talk is what we decided works and it fits with the music and it’s a fun combination of words and I don’t know why but it made sense to us and it wasn’t like a line from a movie or a book that we read or anything like that. It was just the one we liked and thought worked.

PB: What is your favorite song to play live?

We play a couple covers. For a while we were playing a different cover every show and I have to admit those are the most fun to play. Recently we did a cover of Caribbean Queen the Billy Ocean song and when that song starts I’m happy. I’m happiest on stage when that song is being played. But, I really like our whole set. There are moments where the crowd is really responsive. Our song Can’t Dance is a lot of fun. It sounds good to play live.

PB: That’s my favorite off of your EP so far.

BB: Thanks. Yeah that one has gotten the most radio spin and everyone always likes that song when we play it so it fits well.

PB: Now who mainly writes the songs? Is it a group effort?

BB: Our song writing process is a little scattered. For instance sometimes Steve will come into rehearsal with a song fully flushed out and we’ll take a listen and think thats it. We don’t have to do anything to it, lets just play it that way so we’ll do that. In other cases he’ll come in with just an idea with one or two chords and say here’s what i’m thinking and we’ll take a few weeks to flush it out. We work on that song for a little while so it changes depending on the material. Sometimes we’ll have a song happen when we’re just jamming and goofing around. Steve writes all the lyrics and he writes great lyrics and we’re going to keep it that way. We don’t have a standard formula that we follow every single time. If it works, it works. Sometimes somebody just writes something good and we go with it.

PB: So you guys just sort of experiment with it and see what works and what you like.

Ben: More often than not its a long process. We’ll play the same verse a million times over the course of a week because something just isn’t exactly right for us. We’ll try a bunch of different ideas. Sometimes we’ll change the harmony around, stuff like that. A lot of times we exhaust a million options and go back to the original idea.

PB: Sometimes you just need to go with your gut.

Ben: Exactly. The whole journey of trying everything else is sort of what makes you realize that. It’s important to try every other option sometimes.

PB: Who are some of the bands musical influences. Who sort of inspired you to come up with this dance, indie, fun type of music?

BB: That’s always a rough question for me to answer because we listen to so much music. The influences come out in weird ways but i think most directly right now some older stuff like Prince or Talking Heads or even some newer stuff like TV on the Radio. They’re a band we’re completely in love with right now. Those guys are so great. And believe it or not, stuff like Faith No More. They vary a lot so its hard to pinpoint but it’s those bands that make you want to dance. We don’t really write dance music per say but that’s always really interesting to me. How are they doing this? How are they making me want to dance with a guitar?

PB: Well it sounds like you guys are doing a good job of that and you’re really hitting the ground running. I read that Animal Talk was rated one of the top bands of 2012 by the Boston Phoenix. How does that feel to be gaining so much popularity and so much positive feedback?

BB: The thing I like about getting the attention is the fact that the crowds are getting bigger and we have a larger audience whenever we play and to us that’s what it’s all about. When we started this band it was really just a bunch of guys. Friends hanging out, drinking beer and playing shows. When we can include more people in that, that’s something special. That’s when it really starts to get interesting. We weren’t necessarily prepared for it when it happened because it happened really fast. The EP came out late last year and it started getting spun on the radio and people were asking for things like a Facebook page and a website and we didn’t have any of that. We weren’t setting up to do that so we had to play catch up a little bit.

PB: It definitely seems like you guys have gained popularity pretty quickly since the release of your first EP. Is it true that you are in the process of recording a second one?

BB: Yeah, but we’re not going to do a bunch of things in the studio. What we’re doing is we’re going to just start recording and we don’t know when we’re going to stop. We have one song done. We’re starting another one soon and we’re just going to keep doing it. We don’t know if it’s going to be a full length or an EP or what but we are recording.

PB: Do you guys have a favorite venue so far you like to play at?

BB: No, you know I’ve been asked that before and Boston is all about friends and people that we know. We also like playing on the road with new people but it’s really about the audience for us. You walk into a venue that’s a hole in the wall and you get this initial impression but then the audience is the best and you have the best time. We don’t walk into a place with expectations. It’s more about the people coming out to see live music. We’ve played both big venues that have felt cold and small venues that have felt awesome. You never know what you’re going to get.

PB: So far has your best crowd been in Boston?

BB: Yes and no. I think there’s something about being in a city and playing for the first time when you have a room full of people who have never heard your music live. That can’t be replaced. That is a great feeling. At the same time, when you’re done with all that and you go back home and play for your friends, that’s awesome. I don’t know which one I like more but that’s why we do both.

PB: I saw you guys have a few shows booked. Do you have plans to tour heavily in the next year or sometime in the future?

BB: Right now we’re really focused on our region. Draw a little circle around where you are and branch out. Maybe our circle gets a little bigger once we get those areas. A lot of bands jump into touring and spend an entire year on the road but right now we’re doing a week or two out and then come back home. No set plans, just branching out slowly as much as we can. Just keeping it in the northeast region. Maybe playing SXS. Last year we went down and played a few shows in the south. That was fun. CMJ music marathon festival in NY in October. We’ll be down there for that and playing surrounding shows but thats about it. Thats the way we’re doing things for now.

PB: I would love to see you around Philly in the future.

BB: Definitely, you’re within our circle and that’s the thing you grow your circle. You grow your region. Playing a few shows every couple months in a few different areas. That’s where we are and what we’re doing.

PB: For my last question, tell me something fun or something no one really knows about you guys.

BB: You find a lot of things out about each other when you’re driving for nine hours in a van together. Greg is deathly afraid of toothpaste. He hates toothpaste. To brush his teeth he uses mouth wash. Just the idea of toothpaste makes him gag. Its funny! All you have to do is pick up the tube and walk towards him and then he freaks out. Rob has to eat every twenty minutes. Actually I think every ten minutes he has to have a full meal or else he becomes a little whiney. He needs a salad and pasta and a whole legitimate meal. I am the most easy-going guy in the world. I have no weird issues or anything like that. I’m a pleasure to be on the road with.

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