By Nicholas Jason Lopez
2023 has been a year for change for All Poets & Heroes, as the indie-pop quartet recently relocated from Central New York to Nashville, but they’ve taken it in stride.
With their latest single “The Fall” now out and about, the band has embraced this flannel-friendly season in full force, imaginary pumpkin spice lattes in hand, ready for the imminent cold and whatever challenges may come with it.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with lead vocalist/guitarist Rob McCall about who they’re currently listening to, their stance on the use of AI in music and much more, which you can check out below.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Rob McCall – That there’s room for exploration. We’ve never been a group that feels the need to marry ourselves to one particular sound – our records can have soaring ballads with string orchestration like in “Above Water,” or the hard rock and sort of “f**k you” attitude of “Tardigrade,” or “Give It To Me Straight,” which is poppy, fun and upbeat. Our records carry a lot of sonic diversity, but at the end of it, it always sounds like us.
Music Bugle – What inspired the band name?
Rob McCall – Our name comes from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” which was actually the original name of the band. However, if you search “Walden” on Google, a million things would pop up before you ever found our band. That being said, there was something about the essence of “Walden” that still felt right. A friend of ours agreed and asked me which chapter of the book I enjoyed most. “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” the second chapter, was always my favorite because it’s so full of hope and optimism, as Thoreau thinks into his future experiment at Walden Pond and to me, that always felt like being an artist. You’re working on this music you care so much about and as it’s all coming together, you begin to think, with knowing naivety, that maybe people will hear what you’ve recorded and it will strike a chord in them the same way your favorite artist did for you – you’re so full of hope and excitement and optimism. Our buddy really liked this chapter as well and began combing through it and stumbled upon a few lines he liked, but one most definitely stood out above the rest: “All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora and emit their music at sunrise.” We knew we had the name right then and there.
Music Bugle – Would you say your sound has matured over time?
Rob McCall – I’d say it has. If you listen to our first EP, ‘Where We Lived and What We Lived For,’ released back in 2017, it would probably seem like a different band had written those songs than that of a song like “21″ or “Tinderbox.” In 2017, we were still so green that we enlisted the help of some friends to help produce it. The EP came out great, but somehow, it didn’t quite feel like that was us. We began to find our sound over the course of two and a half years recording 2020’s ‘Occhiolism.’ To me, that record really solidified everything we stand for. Corey (Jordan) and I worked so hard and made something we are still so proud of. ‘Occhiolism’ opened the doors for us to work with Allen Tate of San Fermin on our follow up 2-part album ‘Colorful Lungs’ and during that experience, we learned and grew again. I think that’s what artists are supposed to do. We’re supposed to grow and evolve and have room to experiment – even to fail and to learn from those failures – and successes – to mature into something that maybe we didn’t know we could grow into.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Rob McCall – If I need a break form music or just life in general, I find myself seeking out the people I love – my friends and family. These people who always have a way of getting me out of my own head and allowing me to enjoy the moment and if that’s not what I need, then nothing beats a walk in the woods, or a solo round on the golf course.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Rob McCall – Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a Faye Webster kick, but Fall is upon us, so I’m sure Gregory Alan Isakov, Iron & Wine, Leif Vollebeck and other soft folksy music will be in my ears – and probably a little Vince Guaraldi too.
Music Bugle – How important is mental health in the music industry?
Rob McCall – We know it’s important to us, but to the music industry at large? That seems a bit more up in the air. It does seem like there is a lot more awareness in the industry around mental health and more understanding from fans, but I think there’s always more to be done on that front, especially from the music industry.
Music Bugle – What shows are you currently binging on in your free time?
Rob McCall – We just watched and could not wait for every moment of “Ahsoka.” I mean, that felt like one of the best things out of the “Star Wars” universe in awhile! I wish there were more episodes and movie coming after that.
Music Bugle – What do you feel is the next step for the band?
Rob McCall – We just released a new single, “The Fall,” on October 24th! We had been holding on to this one for a while, so we are so excited to get it out into the world. We worked with our friend and very talented producer, Erik Brauer, on this song and are working on a slew of other things with him. I feel like he is very much helping our sound continue to mature. Other than continuing to write and record music, the next step is to continue to play shows and expose our music to more people in our new hometown of Nashville, Tennessee! We feel like the move alone was a big step in our musical journey, so now it’s time to see it through and see how we fare.
Music Bugle – What do you wish happened more in the music industry?
Rob McCall – I know the industry has changed a lot, but it seems to me that labels used to develop artists more – to stick by them a little longer, even through some troubled times. I’m not sure that TikTok, data and algorithms lead to labels finding artists that can last decades and become these legacy-type bands. I actually saw a post the other day that said something along the lines of, “Major labels feel frustrated that they haven’t seemed to have broken a major artist in a decade or so.” Whether that was just clickbait or not, the sentiment does seem to hold some truth and I think the truth is that labels don’t actually want to invest in artists the way they used to – with time, effort and molding. Instead, they want something that sort of comes prepackaged and supported by data and some algorithm. It seems they just want to be able to throw some money at something that’s already taken off and if it doesn’t work, they drop that artist, which makes sense. It’s a lower risk game for them and with not a lot of great revenue streams for artists these days, they need to have some risk management. To me, however, what made these labels the “majors” was that they knew how to find talent, knew how to cultivate it and took risks. They took risks on artists like David Bowie, Talking Heads, Radiohead and so many other amazing acts without much to support their claim other than maybe they had a cult following and that the label had a good feeling about them. Risk is a part of the game and I hope they still want to play. Otherwise, we may lose out on some incredible art.
Music Bugle – What’s your stance on the use of AI in music?
Rob McCall – I feel sort of how Billy Corgan does. He said that, “AI will change music forever, because once a young artist figures out that they can use AI to game the system and write them a better song, they’re not going to spend ten thousand hours in a basement like I did.” He goes on to say that art is about discernment and those artists using AI who can discern the best, will still be creating art. It’s the artist who still want to create more organically that are going to suffer – who will have a hard time competing. To me, great art takes time. It takes learning your instrument, finding your voice through trial and error, through failure and hardship and I’m afraid we may lose that if AI becomes too strong a thing. I do feel though, that good songwriting and good song craft will always be appreciated and I think we’re seeing that with a lot of artists coming up the ranks right now – artists like Faye Webster, Blondeshell, Sam Fender, Shallow Alcove, Darryl Rahn, Cece Coakley and so many more who have moments seemingly centered around them a strong sense of community they’ve created. I wholeheartedly believe that the true artist spirit won’t die off anytime soon – it’s too pure, too human not to fall in love with. Those seeking money and fame will use AI. Those who have a need to create because it’s this force within them that they cannot stop will continue to do so and people who need those voices will continue to seek and find them.
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