Up until about a month ago, NYC’s The Narrative were completely new to me, but when I was approached with their material, I found their sound infectious and full of charm. Their tracks blend just that right amount of pop and indie rock, fusing together poetic ballads, lovely piano and acoustic guitar melodies, and the voices of band members Suzie Zeldin and Jesse Gabriel perfectly. Their tracks have an incredibly polished sound, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that the band was unsigned.

The Narrative embarked on their tour in support of Eisley yesterday and will be heading out for a series of dates on the Vans Warped Tour afterward, but prior to hitting the road, Jesse allowed me to pick his brain on the production of the duo’s self-titled album, the upcoming tours, and the future of the Narrative.

Your sound has an extremely polished quality. Do you work with a producer and can you tell me about the production process behind your songs?

All of the material we’ve done up to this point has been produced by Bryan Russell at Red Wire Audio in conjunction with the band. I think when we first started working with Bryan, he took a firmer lead in the production role but was always open to ideas and critique, which is part of what has been great about working with him. As we went on, doing the full length and some things between and after, we started to play a larger role in helping on the production end of things, but Bryan has always been a key player in the development of the songs as they work their way through the recording process.

As far as the production on the full-length, I think we knew we were writing pretty poppy stuff and wanted to record the album that way, but at the same time we saw we had a really diverse group of songs and wanted to do them all justice on their own. I think the full-length shows a lot of our weaknesses, but at the same time, hints at a great deal of strengths we have as songwriters and, as flawed as I find it now, I know this is part of what makes it beautiful and attracts people to it. Anyway, we had some ground level ideas from the get-go, but a lot of those songs were more fully developed in the studio.

How do you decide what direction to take with a song and how does Bryan fit into that decision-making process?

Overall, due to the diversity of the songs, we had a lot of decisions to make, and some were easier than others. For example, I knew from the second I heard Suzie play “Don’t Want To Fall” that I didn’t want anything but keys and her vocals. I think that song could have gone in a dozen different directions, but I loved it how it was when she first played it for me in my living room.

On the other hand, “Fade” had a lot of initial directional trouble. I was writing guitar parts that were steering away from straight pop, and everyone else was hearing something way more pop-oriented. I think I had a lot of difficulty going in that direction because of my own personal tastes, but I’m usually pretty good about understanding that just because I’m not liking something doesn’t mean it’s not good. I think I’m usually pretty on point with writing guitar parts, and it’s sort of an internal struggle for me when I feel like I’m not doing what’s right or what people want, but in the case of “Fade,” I think it was the best thing for the song to go against my instinct.

What I love about Bryan in a situation like that is that he refuses to tell you what to play. He just gives you really vague direction about where to go, and you have to connect the dots to get there. On one hand, it can be a frustrating experience, but on the other you know at the end of the day that you wrote that part and that’s rewarding. Sometimes he has ideas he’s super excited about and will say, “I really want to hear this,” and we’ll listen and either OK it or not, but most of the time he’s going to try to get the band to develop things on their own, which I think is invaluable for helping a band to grow throughout the recording process. This inevitably makes the next writing and recording process more productive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9jpCWkNT3k

Can you tell us a bit about your influences?

I think on the Just Say Yes EP we didn’t have any big ideas for our production and were really just excited about recording the songs we worked on. At that time we were both coming from a place heavily influenced by bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Jimmy Eat World. At the same time, when we wrote the music, I think we really just wrote without trying to force anything and maybe those influences played a more “back of the mind” role. However, when it came time to record the songs, I know these were the kinds of references we were citing to Bryan as far as directional help.

On the full length, I don’t believe we were really trying to model after any bands. I think one of the nice things about how Suzie and I work when we write is that we just write what comes out. We’re not looking to sound like anything or anyone else. We might say, “Hey, this part reminds me of this song. Maybe we can take it in that sort of a direction and it’d be cool,” but we never start out trying to write a song like one that has already been written. I don’t think it’s even that we wouldn’t love to write a song that’s like one of our favorites, but it just seems natural to let the song take a hold of you instead of the other way around.

A few of the photos on your site have a third member in them. Who was he and has there been a big adjustment without him?

Charlie played with The Narrative for about two years between 2008 and 2010. He recorded drum parts on the Just Say Yes EP and then came on board to play shows and help us develop the band in a multitude of ways. He helped with drum and song arrangement on our self-titled full length as well. He’s a great drummer and was a really solid addition to our live set, but unfortunately decided early this year that he could no longer be in a touring band. Being in a touring band is stressful and not for everyone. Charlie did what he felt he had to do and hopefully he will find happiness.

At first when he left it was a sort of “Oh shit!” moment because we had to scramble to find someone to play Warped Tour and some other shows we had coming up, but from a writing standpoint, there hasn’t really been much of an adjustment. Suzie and I have always been the ones writing the songs. It was nice to have help arrange parts, but sometimes having many opinions can be as bad as it is good.

Suzie and I are comfortable writing and playing with each other and are more than happy to continue playing with a rotating cast of drummers, bassists, or whatever may come. We’ve been working on some new music lately that I think will be totally awesome, and I’m actually really excited to be arranging the songs the same way we did on the EP with just Suzie and I. I think it will make for a totally interesting process to be back to our roots, and we’ll get results that couldn’t have come about otherwise, for better or for worse.

What is it like to be honored with “Top Unsigned Bands of 2010” from PureVolume?

It’s unbelievably cool. PureVolume has been a major player in the music industry for many years now, and it feels great as a band just to be recognized by them on any level, let alone to be on such a prestigious list. The fact of the matter is, I have no idea if in the scheme of things it really matters to be on this list or any list, but I don’t care. To me, if someone who really cares about music can look at our band and go “That’s one of the best bands right now without a label,” that’s incredibly rewarding. We might never pocket a dime off of our music, but at least I know someone really believed in us. I don’t write music to inspire people, but I listen to music to be inspired. If my music is doing that for someone else, I suppose that’s the ultimate success.

Did this affect your motivation to get signed?

Supposedly, a bunch of artists from the 2009 list got signed directly after that list came out. I haven’t heard that any of the bands on the 2010 list got picked up, although I suppose they may have. I think for a half a second we were thinking, “Maybe this will get us a label.” We’re always wondering what that would really mean for us, though. Getting signed doesn’t quite mean the same things it used to. I think we’d love to be a band constantly on tour and continuously growing our product, and maybe a label can help do that. I think that’s exciting for us.

To be honest, though, I think most labels know we exist. If they don’t, they will. We’re a hard-working band, and we write music that people love, and I don’t really give a shit past that. I think we’re a good business investment, but I don’t make decisions for anyone but us. If a label wants to sign us, it’s not hard to reach out. Of course, we’d be looking for a deal that we believe in as well. We know we can supply music that sells, so we’d expect from a label or any business partner that they would hold up their end of the deal.

Both you and Suzie are vocally talented. At what point did both of you realize that you wanted to sing and perform?

The lovely thing about playing in a rock band, whether it’s pop rock or grunge or metal, is that you don’t have to be the best singer in the world to get by. There are some incredibly talented vocalists out there. I think we do alright, but they key is that I believe our vocals suit our music very well, and that helps give the illusion that we’re vocally talented. (LAUGHS)

I believe Suzie knew she wanted to sing and perform from the time she was a youngin’ and was constantly attempting to divert her parents’ attention from her baby sister by singing and dancing. I knew when I got out of college that I wanted to give being in a band a serious go before embarking on some other path, but I did not expect to sing. Suzie sort of forced me into it. She said, “Sing me a song,” and I played and sang “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls for her. Then she said, “You have to sing.” So here I am, stuck with it.

What can your audience in LA expect from your show in May?

This tour will be the first time we do an acoustic tour. We’ve re-arranged a lot of the songs for this tour, so you’ll hear a lot of stuff that’s different from the album. We also have a cover or two we’ll be playing, and we’ve never played a cover on tour before. I think the shows will be really intimate and hopefully we’ll get some nice crowd interaction going. I think there’s a place for that sort of thing, and I’m hoping this tour will be fun for the audience in those regards.

Will your set with Eisley be different from The Warped Tour?

Yes, definitely. As I mentioned, we’ll be doing the Eisley tour as an acoustic duo. For Warped tour we’ll be playing “full band,” which means mostly electric guitar, a drummer, and our trusty iPod bassist who never misses a note. While we’re doing our best to maintain some energy for our acoustic set, it’s a totally different kind of energy. I hope on Warped we’ll have a more “sweat and get dirty” sort of energy, even if we’re playing some laid back indie pop stuff! That’s what Warped is all about after all, right?

What does 2011 have in store for The Narrative?

After this Eisley tour, we’ll be taking a short break and gearing up for the Vans Warped Tour. When we come home from that, if we’re not going on tour again, we’re going to do our best to get a bunch of writing in and possibly book some studio time. I don’t think we’ll make another album until next year, but I hope that by the end of this year, we’ll feel like we’re in a good place to do so. Other than that, we’ll just be brainstorming ideas about how to survive as a band in this climate. As an unsigned/DIY band we get to make all of our own business decisions, which can be exciting but also very scary. I’m hoping we’ll be able to come up with some new tools to keep old fans engaged and pique the interest of potential new fans.

The Narrative Dates with Eisley:

04/27 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
04/28 – Jammin Java – Vienna, VA
04/29 – The Southern – Charlottesville, VA
05/02 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
05/03 – World Cafe Live at the Queen – Wilmington, DE
05/06 – The Beaumont Club – Kansas City, MO
05/10 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
05/11 – Martini Ranch – Scottsdale, AZ
05/12 – House of Blues – San Diego, CA
05/15 – Troubador – West Hollywood, CA
05/16 – Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
05/17 – Rio Theatre – Santa Cruz, CA
05/19 – Neumos – Seattle, WA
05/20 – Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR
05/21 – The Venue – Boise, ID
05/24 – Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MN
05/25 – The Rave Bar / Eagles Club – Milwaukee, WI
05/26 – The Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
05/27 – Grog Shop – Cleveland Heights, OH
05/30 – 12th & Porter – Nashville, TN
05/31 – Workplay Theater – Birmingham, AL
06/01 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA
06/03 – Warehouse Live – Houston, TX
06/04 – Granada Theater – Dallas, TX

The Narrative Dates on Vans Warped Tour:

07/19 – Marcus Ampitheater – Milwaukee, WI
07/20 – Blossom Music Center – Cuyahoga Falls, OH
07/21 – Susquehanna Bank Center – Camden, NJ
07/22 – First Niagra Pavilion – Burgettstown, PA
07/23 – Nassau Coliseum – Uniondale, NY
07/24 – Monmouth Park Racetrack – Oceanport, NJ
07/26 – Meriweather Post Pavillion – Columbia, MD
07/27 – Farm Bureau Live – Virginia Beach, VA
07/28 – Verizon Wireless – Charlotte, NC
07/29 – Firestone Live – Orlando, FL
07/30 – Cruzan Ampitheater – Palm Beach, FL
07/31 – Vinoy Park – St Petersburg, FL
08/01 – Aarons Ampitheatre – Atlanta, GA
08/02 – Riverbend Music Center – Cincinatti, OH
08/03 – Verizon Wireless St Louis – Maryland Heights, MO
08/05 – Invesco Field – Mile High – Denver, CO
08/06 – Utah State Fairgrounds – Salt Lake City, UT
08/07 – Desert Sky Pavilion – Phoenix, AZ
08/09 – Cricket Wireless – Chula Vista, CA
08/10 – Home Depot Center – Carson, CA
08/11 – Sleep Train Ampitheatre – Wheatland, CA
08/12 – Idaho Center Ampitheater – Nampa, ID
08/13 – Gorge Ampitheatre – George, WA
08/14 – Washington County – Hillsboro, OR

For more information on The Narrative, go to:

thenarrativemusic.com