Sean Foreman and Nat Motte
Just finished performing on Warped Tour, currently recording 4th studio album
When you think of DIY bands, chances are the acts that come to your mind are not on the billboard charts. At least not yet. When we first reached out to 3OH!3 for an interview, we had our doubts as well. However, as you will see below, 3OH!3 was born and raised in DIY ethos and continue to move forward with the same mentality even today. Needless to say, it’s worked out pretty well for them. Not so long ago, members Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte were sending their demos in cute little packages to every record label they could find the mailing address for. Today, even though they sell extremely well and collaborate with the likes of music’s biggest names (Ke$ha, Katy Perry), they remain grounded in the practices it took to get them this far in the first place. Give the interview a read — you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what they have to say, if not a little bit inspired as well!
IndieAmbassador.com: Reading about your background, it appears that you guys got discovered by doing what everyone tells you not to do: sending demos to labels. Was it really that easy or was there more to it?
Sean Foreman: Oh yes, the sending of demos. I must have missed the memo that you aren’t supposed to send CDs out to labels, because I definitely did. Not only a CD, but I literally hand crafted little cute suitcases with photos and another CD without the music video. I was the Martha Stewart of demos. Not that it helped, they ended up on the record label’s floor I’m sure, but nonetheless it was fun to do and I felt like I was championing our band. Our path to finding a manager and an agent and eventually Photo Finish (our label) was a much longer series of events. Every time I go into the photo finish office now I go through and listen to all the demos as tiresome as that can sometimes be, it’s also fun.
IndieAmbassador.com: Obviously you’ve progressed past that same grassroots promotion. Any outside the box marketing techniques that are working in particular for you guys today? How was it helping to produce the video add-ons for your latest release’s deluxe package?
SF: I don’t think we have progressed past that same grass roots promotion. We continue to do things that is entirely untethered from our label that Nat and I think of spontaneously. For our CD release for Streets of Gold we took over the planetarium in Boulder and created a personalized laser show for some new songs as well as performed for the handful of people. We continue to break the wall down between musician and fan with interviews direct on UStream or answering questions on twitter. We have always pioneered our marketing with either an image or an idea and worked out thematically that way. Thankfully all our art and graphics for T-shirts and CDs have been done by Nick Motte (Nat’s brother) and Andrew Kimmel in Boulder. So we always are on the same page about our overall aesthetic and it keeps it in house.
We placed extra add ons in our deluxe version of Streets of Gold, sort of like that demo, but a little bit more realized. Our long time friend Isaac Ravishankara flew out to LA while we were recording and recorded a sort of mockumentary that we all wrote. Additionally I drew a comic specifically for the deluxe. It was a blast to make a variety of pieces, not just music for the album, and hopefully the fans got something special out of it too.
IndieAmbassador.com: You’re both songwriters, something that makes you unique among top 40 acts. How much of an effect did writing all your songs in a snowy mountain cabin have on the vibe of Streets of Gold?
SF: To be a song writer in the Top 40 is pretty unique. All those acts or artists you think are writing their own songs (and I mean even the ones that aren’t the most obvious) are walking into the studio with the song already written, ready to record. Nat and I not only write our own music but we produce it as well. I can count on one hand top 40 artists that do the same. Not that I’m patting myself on the back, although I wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s just a rarity in the business. Not to say we don’t collaborate. I think an artist would never learn anything without collaboration and thankfully we’ve learned a lot in the process of collaborating with certain artists and producers.
Colorado was a great place to write and demo out music because it’s first and foremost, home. There’s no glitz and glamour or the shady facade of LA to distract you. So Nat and I get down to the important task of just working and writing. We tried to demo out 2 to 3 songs and ideas a day. Which over the course of 14 days turns into quite the process but was essential.
IndieAmbassador.com: Because you’re both songwriters, you lead very busy lives in terms of collaboration with other artists. Any tips for musicians on balancing it all? Are there any specific tools or resources that help you with this?
SF: Balancing your life can be difficult, but for one turn off the TV. Work like you should with anything you love. Obviously if you have a job you have to work around that, but just put in the work. Music speaks for itself, but its voice can only travel so far without putting in the footwork. Nat and I might be considered weird by other artists because we don’t go into the studio at midnight and do drugs all night and maybe record a single idea before we pass out on some groupie’s tits in the parking lot. Nat and I get into the studio around 10 am and work until 8 or 9 PM and so do most other songwriters. Artists a lot of times need that magic hour of creativity and to be honest that might work for some people but I prefer to think that a good balance of work and creativity is usually better than a one in a million lightning strike of brilliance.
Indieambassador.com: Despite the fact that you guys are constantly touring, you’re revered for having an incredible live performance, rejecting the temptation to appear as exhausted as you actually might be on stage and thus enhancing the concert experience for fans. How do you manage to stay emotionally invested in show after show like that?
SF: Touring like we do can be extremely tiring. This might sound cliché but a lot of times we do go on stage exhausted and unsure but the crowd amps us up and inspires a new energy. We put so much work into our live show because we feel it is one of the most important things we do and thankfully our fans give back what we put out.
IndieAmbassador.com: When I caught up with you backstage at Warped Tour, you mentioned that you’re constantly trying to find a way to make your products as affordable as possible for the sake of your fans. What in particular does that entail, and do you think you sell more because of such a strategy?
SF: I don’t know if we sell more. I guess our aim to keep prices low isn’t an aim to reach higher profits and would make any business man cringe but we owe it to our fans. We know the price of our product, though it may be immaterial, and we want to keep that as low as possible for our fans. We consistently work with promotors that dont add surcharges to tickets, we sell our merch for reasonable prices when other bands hike them up. If you wish to read more about our struggle with price matching you can read one of Nat’s diatribes on our Facebook page. We obviously wish to continue making music and it’s nice to be able to pay rent with what you do, but we also care very much for what the fan gets out of the experience and we can bite the bullet on price points if it means we are reaching a larger audience.
IndieAmbassador.com: What is the largest challenge facing 3OH!3 as a band right now?
SF: Well, as we mature as a band and as people we face new things everyday. Whether it is a lawsuit or a disgruntled promotor or even last night a meth head in Des Moines tried to attack Nat as he was walking out of the venue. We face new things every day but honestly we are still having a blast and face an exciting future.
IndieAmbassador.com: What excites you most about the music industry right now?
SF: The music industry right now is ever changing. Someone brings something new to the table everyday that changes the game. I love the mixtape culture. The ‘I don’t give a fuck’ about money mentality of just releasing music. Its so immediate and I think it really works. It builds hype and helps the artist along. I’m also excited that the technology to record and produce is not in the hands of the elite — any kid in his basement can record an album and there is a lot of great stuff out there as a result.
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