by Deborah J. Draisin
Theory of Flight formed in 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. They opened for Everclear at The Hard Rock Cafè this past November after the successful release of their first CD Within Reach in October. Their single “Can’t You See” has been nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media award.
Theory of Flight is composed of Beau Hodges –vocals, Vince Casas and Stephen Goodrum – guitars, Tyler Williams – drums, Joey McMahon - bass and John Columbo – keys.
Recently, the absolutely lovely Beau sat down to answer some burning questions for me (and also to thank me for being late in returning his call so that he could enjoy a leisurely lunch with his lovely wife.)
Q: I just read that “Can’t You See” was nominated for an HMMA and that the awards were yesterday – did you win?
Beau: We did not win.
Q: Aw, I’m sorry!
Beau: Yeah, there were a lot of really great contestants, and we’re fairly new, so not a lot of people really knew who we were. I was really excited about the potential; I think we had a really good chance of winning. A lot of the people I thought were going to win last night didn’t end up winning, but the whole experience was really fun. It’s always good to be out in Hollywood and walk on the red carpet and all that, so it was cool.
Q: Did you have to duck a few paparazzi along the way?
Beau: I actually punched a paparazzo.
Q: Awesome! That should go on the front page.
Beau: That’s one of my life’s goals; to knock a paparazzo out.
Q: If I haven’t punched a paparazzo in the face, I haven’t made it, damnit!
Q: You live way too close to Hollywood anyway; I think it has to happen. You guys have been through an awful lot of personnel lineups in a short period of time – did the DIY concept kind of backfire, or what happened there?
Beau: You know, we have on paper, but actually if you really step back and look at it, a lot of people who were there with us in the beginning weren’t necessarily on for the long haul - they stepped in to help us accomplish a few things. So, the original band in the beginning wasn’t really the band - it was three members who knew that they really wanted to do this and then some people who we brought along to help build it up. Now we’re finally in a place where everyone is on the same page. It’s like anything in life, you know: you don’t really know what it’s going to look like until all the pieces are in place.
Q: Good point: any time you’re trying to get a concept off the ground, you’re going to use fill-ins. I’m glad everybody’s intact now – you’ve got a nice outfit! The band also brought in the big guns by going with (Producer) Mark Needham, and it shows – the record sounds great. Did you know what you wanted before you headed into the studio, or did it all come together as you were working?
Beau: We definitely knew what we wanted to accomplish, even from the beginning. We knew exactly what sound we wanted to create: really big with a lot of guitar, underlying tracks and loops. Heading into the studio, we had about nine songs that were probably going to be on this first album, and then we some other ideas began to formulate. We developed those, hoping that they’d kick off even more ideas for making for a stronger song. We’re very calculated – it can be a good thing, but sometimes it’s nice to go off the cuff. Sometimes we’re a little too smart for our own good.
Q: You overthink it?
Beau: Yeah, we definitely overthink it sometimes.
Q: A good producer can guide you in the right direction: “Hey, you don’t need that chorus to be ten minutes long, now come on!”
Beau: Yes, exactly.
Q: Having done local television, did that go further toward impressing your grandmothers then it did racking up fans?
Beau: You know what - you’d think, but Vegas is different. More people watch the local FOX show than they do E! or any of the other channels. Vegas is like a little planet unto itself, and everybody’s very into that town and what we’re doing from the standpoint of the community. We were surprised to find that the t.v. interview really did a lot for us – we actually got invited to come back! I hadn’t realized things were that way until we got invited to do that interview.
Q: True that Vegas is like its own little cocoon, but so is New York.
Beau: Yeah, New York is exactly that way.
Q: Definitely, I mean, if you were to talk about something that appeared on the “Today” show, my grandmother would certainly be impressed.
Beau: Oh, my grandma was way excited: “Wow, you guys really are good, you appeared on t.v.!”
Q: “I don’t have to mortgage my house to feed you!” Well, all kidding aside, you actually have a very nice following behind you for only being a band a year. Are these people who have been behind you all on other projects, or did TOF really just do that in a year?
Beau: It’s all new fans! The projects that we were in before didn’t really cross over – we all did stuff in different places, and then came together in Vegas to put together this project. It was just fresh; I’ve been in projects for three or four years where you work and work and work and it’s like pulling teeth to get new things to spark, you know? Then you jump into other things where everything just falls into place and works great, and there are fans jumping on this and that, so we’re really excited that this appears to be that sort of project.
Q: It is very exciting – you have to be in the right place and right time before anything can take off running, and you learn that. Talk about how you got involved with the Children’s Miracle Network.
Beau: We got connected through our publicist, Steve Levesque (Luck Media.) One of the reasons that they approached him about working with us was because we had already been involved with a lot of local charities. We’ve worked closely with is the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. We performed at Camp Cartwheel here in Vegas, which is specially set up for kids who are either terminal or in remission. We fell in love with those kids – one specific young man really touched our hearts. We were just like “Man, this is better than anything,” you know? Connecting with these kids – just how powerful, rewarding and fun that is, it’s like “Let’s do this every night.”
Q: It’s hard, isn’t it? I mean, you get attached and…
Beau: It’s not by any means something that’s easy, working with people that are terminal. We’ve lost a couple of our little guys while there with them, and it’s hard, but it’s totally worth it. We all like to pretend that we’ve got our stuff all dialed in and everybody’s just safe, but it’s not how it really is. Something could happen tomorrow and any one of us could not be here anymore, so we just decided that we’re going to embrace it and touch as many people as we can with our music, and it means so much to them. It’s so rewarding, and why not, you know? You only live once, and we’re not going to protect ourselves from the ugly realities. Music itself is such a powerful form of communication – it’s such an inspiring thing. It would be kind of selfish of us to have something so encouraging and not share it with people.
Q: You’ve stated actually that you like to see visible reactions to your songs – that you want to make emotional connections with people, which is a valiant cause. Is there any art that you makes you feel connected to it emotionally? I could ask you what band or song inspires you, but people can draw inspiration from any form of art - any medium, really.
Beau: I love movies. I’ll watch the big stuff that comes out, but I’m also really interested in short films. I’m constantly developing all of these little screenplay ideas that I have in my own brain. What inspires me from an artistic standpoint is anything that has excellence in it. I can be a fan of any large band, but it’s the excellence in production that they carry that will move me. Same thing with a movie or any sort of genre that I’m not even into musically, but it’s just so catchy or well-written, and I’m just like “Yes, I love that!” Any kind of art that’s special; that you can tell is not just your run-of-the-mill painting, or piece of writing, or performance - that they were inspired within their souls. It’s as if the art is bigger than their talents; as if they were just created for that piece of expression. That stuff just turns me on - watching that process happen is really cool.
Q: It is really cool, and you can spot right away the difference between artists who are pouring their hearts and souls into their works versus those who are just cranking stuff out for the money.
Beau: Yeah, it’s so obvious, and it’s neither inspiring nor exciting to watch – it kind of takes all the joy out of it, seeing something that’s just cookie cutter.
Q: It takes the purity out of it.
Beau: Very true – that’s a great way to put it.
Q: I know that you come from a musical background, but are there any other fellow artists who inspire you that way – that kind of make you want to go for broke with this band?
Beau: Oh yeah, I have a lot of different artists who I really, really love. Johnny Cash doesn’t necessarily inspire me musically - although I love everything he’s ever done - I’m just not wired to be able to do what he’s done. I have a big thing for Cash.
Q: Johnny Cash also has a great story.
Beau: Oh, dude! Everything about him – the way that he connected with the generation, the changes that he was able to make in the way that people think, and how pure and raw his voice was. I also really love Dave Grohl. I could go on and on – my problem is that I’m so eclectic musically that I don’t even know where to start; it depends on what mood I’m in.
Q: I think most musicians are; any musician that claims only to be able to pull inspiration from one source is probably lying.
Beau: They’re either lying or ripping somebody off.
Q: You have to be well-rounded as an artist; you have to pull from every source available to you. So, it sounded like you might be interested in directing; was that maybe the situation with the “Set the Night on Fire” video?
Beau: I had very little to do with the direction of the music video – not that I wouldn’t love to someday direct movies or produce videos. That’d be a lot of fun to try; I don’t know if I’d be any good at it. We had some very great people around us for the video – Michael Gaskell (MG Studios) is a guy here in town. He did all of our photography and a lot of our videography. We brought him the song and asked him “What do you see, what do you hear?” We wanted it to have kind of a summer vibe to it, but we didn’t have a massive budget to do this like epic music video; we didn’t want to try for something we wouldn’t be able to pull off. We knew that we could make a live performance lots of fun, so we found a location and just went after it.
Q: Sometimes people do have the huge budget and the video winds up having absolutely nothing to do with the song, like how they did it back in the eighties, when you couldn’t even tell what they were singing about half the time. Maybe there’s something to be said for keeping it simple.
Beau: I totally agree. I think that if a song has substance, that’s all that needs to be said. If the song is really ambient and has a lot that it could mean, then fine. “Set the Night on Fire” is a hot, steamy love song; it’s pretty obvious, so we thought we’d just create the vibe and let the song talk.
Q: I think that’s a great approach; I’d prefer that any day over some overproduced crap which means nothing. I’m a stickler for things that touch my heart as well.
Beau: Me too – we’re on the same page.
Q: Which I appreciate very much! So, has working with (Manager Micah) McFarlane toughened you up more for the grueling tour life? You feel more prepared now?
Beau: When we began to do our research on Micah, and all the artists who he’s worked and connected with, one of the things that we saw with everybody was the respect. He has integrity. Micah is no b.s. at all; he says it like it is, and he has very clear expectations. In this industry, there are a lot of people who will tell you one thing only to have you find out really quickly the reality of what it actually is. Micah is a very straight shooter. So, yeah, we’ve toughened up, but more than that, I feel very safe, very protected. It’s kind of like we have a big brother watching out for us on the playground.
Q: Like you might not wind up on the side of the road with no money and your van stolen? What’s the worst tour experience you think you’ve had – what was like the hardest day?
Beau: Me and my bass player were in a project together, and we were on this trip. We were heading up into this pass – I was driving, actually, I’ll take the blame for it – and I saw a place to get gas, but I said I would get off at the next exit, only there wasn’t an exit, so we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. We were stuck on the side of the road for like four hours, trying to find somebody who would pull over and let us siphon some gas out of their tank or something. Stuff like that just stinks. We’ve got some pretty amazing people around us now that think ahead and just kind of watch out.
Q: I think getting stuck in the van is a rite of passage for any band. I don’t think you can really tout yourself as a true-blooded American band if you haven’t broken down someplace. Then the next stop, of course, is playing Reading and Leeds and having bottles of piss thrown at you; that’s how you know you’ve arrived.
Beau: We haven’t had that happen just yet.
Q: You’re looking forward to it, though, right?
Beau: I cannot wait to get hit in the head with a bottle of champagne or something!
Q: I know you did a show with Everclear recently – how was that?
Beau: That was amazing. We’re all huge fans – talk about these guys, writing some hits, Man! Art Alexakis is brilliant; extremely talented, and we were so privileged to have an opportunity to play with those guys in front of a packed house. We were the first concert to be held at the brand new Hard Rock Café on the Vegas strip – it’s the most technologically advanced Hard Rock Café in the world. It sounded great, and it was a blast – just a wonderful night.
Q: Sounds amazing – what do you have for everybody to look forward to in the coming year?
Beau: We will be making a strong, concerted effort as soon as January to start doing some heavy touring, so hopefully we’ll be in a position where any of your readers can come out and see us play not too far from them. We’re going to release a single to radio probably at the end of January or the beginning of February – we’ll be announcing really soon which song that’s going to be. Right now, we’re just having a blast. Everything is coming along smoothly, and all the people around us are so good at what they do, making it fun for us to just be musicians again without having to be band or tour manager, or website designer. It’s so nice to be able to wake up and just be a lead singer.
Q: When it starts to feel like a job, it’s time to get out.
Beau: What’s funny is that in the very beginning, that’s all it is. If you don’t do this or that, make that phone call, you don’t go anywhere. No matter how great your music is, if you’re not out working it, working it, working it then you don’t have an opportunity to share your music with everybody. To finally have people around us that believe in what we’re doing to hand our music to people is so exciting.
Q: We’re in a different world, too, where bands are pretty much required to make direct contact with fans, or you don’t survive, and that, in and of itself, takes some effort. I don’t remember anybody coming outside after a show in 1986 to talk to anybody - they got in the limo and they drove away. Now, it’s expected.
Beau: Yeah, you can have your most amazing fan who is so loyal – has every one of your albums and all of your posters hanging on their wall send you a myspace message, and if you don’t respond back, they think it’s because you don’t like them, no matter how crazy your world is. It’s not just important, but it’s the reason why I’m doing this. The medium of just connecting and sharing and collaborating with people is my favorite part about this whole thing. Being able to connect on a deep level with a lot of people and bounce ideas – create some kind of a movement that gets people thinking is just so exciting.
Q: I think it’s a really unique opportunity for bands as well to sort of keep them grounded, perhaps, as well as just interacting with other bands, because that didn’t used to be the easiest thing to do, either. Now, you have Warped Tour and just tons of festival shows where you just really get to know other artists.
Beau: I think that’s so great for music. It’s not easy, financially, to be able to play music full-time because of the way that the music industry has changed. Probably the most positive thing about the big changes in the music industry right now is being able to embed, to file share – as difficult as it is on some level, it’s a powerful thing that in just a matter of moments, your music has the opportunity to go around the world. The days of the massive, untouchable rock star – fifty to sixty thousand fans crowded around outside of Madison Square Garden just hoping to catch a glimpse of John Lennon, for instance – those days are probably done.
Q: I’m not sure that all of those older dudes have gotten the memo yet; they’re still holding onto it.
Beau: Yeah, I’m not sure, either. Not that some of those dudes aren’t worthy; they were so brilliant – they’re the foundation of that we’re doing what we’re doing now. I mean, why would you want to stand outside for an hour and a half in the cold when you could just send a myspace message and talk directly to the bass player of Theory of Flight, you know? As great as it is to watch him walk by, I’d much rather carry on an actual conversation.
Q: You’d much rather the kid be able to kind of consider you a friend than somebody who is on a different level than they are.
Beau: And I want that to be the case no matter how far we go with this thing, whether we never sell another record or whether we travel all over the world and win Grammys, as amazing as that would be. I give you full permission: when I become that person who is untouchable, unreachable and doesn’t care about fans, Deb, I want you to call me on the phone and tell me, okay?
Q: I’m keeping this number – don’t think I won’t hold you to that!
Beau: Everyone is this band is my closest friend in the world, and we all feel the exact same way. This is a medium to connect with the world; to communicate some of our ideas, and to touch and inspire people. It’s definitely not about fame or anything like that drawing us toward what we’re doing.
Q: And I think that’s the perfect quote to stop on. Thank you so much for your time, Beau. Can’t wait to see what you’re putting out next, and definitely come tour New York/New Jersey, please!
Beau: Cross your fingers – Micah is working it out for me to come and hang out with (I don’t want to say who it is) but she’s sold millions of records and has one coming out next month. He’s looking to have me spend a couple of days with her and talk about some vocal stuff right before we go in to remix our single. Maybe when we’re out in New York City, we can swing by and have some coffee and do a face-to-face interview or something.
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