Hailing from Boston, the influences that inspire the quintet, People Like You, are quite possibly the most eclectic of any band we’ve heard this year. They formed out of the ashes of emo/math punk band, I Kill Giants, and infuse their take on indie with elements of jazz, hip-hop, classical guitar, improvisation, and a decent whack of poppy melodies. It should surprise nobody reading this that People Like You don’t really sound like any other band on the planet.
People Like You recently released their second album, Verse via Topshelf Records. Verse is a record that shines as much as anything because of the quality of the playing. Perfectly judged twin vocals shimmer atop a breezy backing of horns, complex drum beats and intricate mathsy guitar meandering. People Like You combine the college rock roots of bands like American Football or Modest Mouse, but played with the finely honed craft of Youthmovies or Mothers.
A fascinating and complex record, Verse is a challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Following the release, People Like You have taken some time out to discuss how politics affects us all, their hugely varied influences and the joys of ripping off Philip Glass.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are People Like You?
People Like You are an indie jazz outfit from Boston. Our members include Chris Lee-Rodriguez on vocals and guitar, Michi Tassey on vocals and keys, Sander Bryce on drums, Matt Hull on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Sai Boddupalli on bass.
FTR: Your second album, Verse, is coming out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?
The entire process of making this record, from writing the first song to its release date, took three years, so we wanted to really take as much time as we could afford in the studio. Unlike the first album, which was recorded live with overdubs in about three days, we spent two weeks tracking every instrument, adding as many textures and experimenting with as many sounds and ideas as we could.
FTR:What was different about recording this album compared to your debut?
Like I mentioned in the last question, the first album was recorded very quickly. I (Chris) was in a rush to get a rough, raw cut of a bunch of songs I wrote for this band and release it to the world, so we spent only a few months rehearsing the songs and only a weekend recording everything. With “Verse,” we wanted to make sure it sounded as perfect as it could be, so that required more time in the studio, and more time rehearsing the songs beforehand.
FTR: The album’s coming out on Topshelf Records, how did that come about? Do you think labels are still important?
We’ve known Kevin and Seth for a long time. Kevin used to live right by our school in Boston, so we would always see him at shows or hanging around and eventually became friends fairly quickly. Sander actually used to intern at Topshelf a few years back. When it was time to find someone to release the record, they were the first people to which we sent it. Within a few weeks, they got back to us and were as excited about the album as we were, so it always seemed like a natural fit.
As for labels in general, it really depends on what an artist wants to gain out of a relationship with one. There are many artists who are still independent and try not to rely on labels to succeed, Chance the Rapper being the most famous. However, it’s also helpful for bands when there are other support systems to help them achieve whatever goals they want, which may be pressing vinyl or promoting a particular project. Labels are important as you want them to be, and when you’re doing it together, it provides different opportunities than when you’re doing it yourself. I think what’s most important is the level of communication, honesty, and trust that is had, not only between an artist and label, but also between members in a band. That’s what’s most important.
FTR: You’ve got members from a lot of different musical backgrounds, was it a conscious decision to try and combine different musical elements?
It was more subconscious than not. When we were writing this album, we weren’t set on creating a specific sound that fit into a genre or scene. We were just writing music that was most important to us, that was most urgent. Everyone in this band has a specific voice and style as a musician and an artist, so when we come together, we’re able to bring different things to the table to create something that may not be deliberately new but authentic nonetheless.
FTR: Why do you make music?
Because I have to. It gives me reason for being.
FTR: Who are your major influences? What were you listening to when you wrote Verse?
We were listening to a lot of different music on our own, from indie to classical to jazz to hip hop. Probably the most obvious influence is Philip Glass, from whom I ripped off the ideas of the Kneeplay interludes.
FTR: What about influences outside of music? Do you have any other artistic outputs?
All of us are involved in other musical projects. Michi has a solo project, Nature Shots. Same with Sander and his project, H A U N T E R. I write music for a punk band called pendejo. Sai plays in Animal Flag, and Matt has his own solo trumpet project as well as many other groups he gigs with. Outside of music, Michi does a lot of photography and used to paint a lot. Sander has a photo project called “Corners” which you can find on his instagram, @sanderbryce777. I (Chris) used to do spoken word/slam poetry a lot and have published two chapbooks of poetry under Beard Poetry.
FTR: Do you consider your music to be political? Do you think it’s important bands use their platform to say something about the world?
I think people are political, whether they like it or not. If you vote and pay taxes, you’re taking part in a political process, and you can only avoid one of those things to begin with. Obviously, not everyone is try to achieve some political ideology or agenda, but in order to survive in this world, it’s important to speak your mind and let your voice be heard, if not to make it better for you, then to make it better for your family. So while I don’t feel our music is actively political, it deals with real world issues that are affected by political systems, whether it’s the death of a loved one, which is affected by healthcare, to feeling connected to an island that everyone is leaving because of its disastrous economic situation.
I do feel it’s important to do something as well. We started doing something at our shows right after the election where we have specific merch that we sell at name-your-price, and 100% of the proceeds goes to a different cause each show. So far, we’ve donated to Planned Parenthood, BARCC, ACLU, Standing Rock Legal Defense Fund, plus many others. We have this platform to talk to people and fundraise for things we believe in. That’s the very least we can do.
FTR: What can people expect from the People Like You live set?
People can expect five friends from different backgrounds coming together and creating something special and different.
FTR: Do you prefer playing live or recording?
I prefer anything that involves music. Playing is immediate and recording is forever. They both serve a different side of the same purpose.
FTR: What can you tell us about the Boston music scene? Is it a good city to make music in?
Boston was a good city for us to make music in because of the company we kept. We are very fortunate to have a community of friends, artists, musicians who are incredible at their craft. A city is only as good as its artists, and we are very lucky to be apart of one like Boston.
FTR: What’s next for People Like You?
We have some exciting things coming up that we can’t quite announce just yet, but we can say there will be more shows and music in the not so distant future!
Verse is out now via Topshelf Records. Click HERE for more information on People Like You.