The Way Out [Interview]

If I learned anything today, it’s this:  Give keyboardist Evan Stoudt of the Way Out a chance to speak, and he will.  Relentlessly.  During our thirty minute conversation, Evan spoke about who kissed who at his band’s shows, why his name rhymes with the name of his band, and which bands he dislikes, cynically mocking Bloc Party like Michael Ian Black riffing on Masters of the Universe.  While the Way Out’s music is heart-on-sleeve, picture-clutched-to-the-heart indie-pop, Stoudt and guitarist Danny Murphy come off as anything but.  The pair sat on my bed, laughing and grinning like, well, like the fresh-from-graduation kids that they are.  When Evan mentioned the name of the kid who was caught making out with a girl at Southport Hall, Danny jumped up with a cackle and begged me not to put his name in the magazine (Don’t worry, Mark).

Since the release of their White Lies EP in late 2004, the Way Out has grown, both stylistically and in popularity, shifting from decent indie-melancholy to full-on atmospheric pop rock.  The growth has seen the band playing more and more club shows to older, more mature audiences and hosting less of their wildly popular all-ages parties.  Of course, this musical growth belies the band’s age; all five members graduated from high school this May.    ANTIGRAVITY sat down with Stoudt and Murphy in Mid-City one stupid hot night in late July to chat about the usefulness of the internet, how easy it is to sound like the Album Leaf, and the complex nature of jazz music.

MG:  Why don’t you guys tell me how you formed your band.
ES:  (to Danny) Have you ever seen that MTV interview with these two guys from another country, and whenever they ask them a question, they just look at each other and laugh?  (back to me) End of sophomore year [2003], we started  playing music together.  We were all just good friends, and then Danny came along.  He wasn’t part of the group [of friends] or whatever.
DM:  I came and sat at their lunch table.
MG:  Because you wanted to be in their band?
DM:  I became friends with them and then they found out I played guitar.
ES:  It was like, “Hey, Danny, you play guitar.  We play music.”
DM:  Yeah, you, Michael [Mantese, vocals], and Augie [Gallo, drums] had played together before.
MG:  You didn’t have a bassist?
ES:  Yeah, Nat [Kiefer, bass], he’s a good friend.  He played guitar, but we needed a bassist.  He wanted to play guitar, but we said, “Nat, go buy a bass guitar.”  Then he joined our band and now he writes phat basslines.  No coke lines. Just basslines.
MG:  That’s “phat” with a “ph”, right?
ES:  Well, Nat can definitely do “fat” with an “f”.  He can do what he wants.  But when he gets to the higher registers on his bass, that’s phat.
DM:  He rips on [the Commodores‘] “Brick House,” which I think can go either way.
ES:  Back to the question though.  I had an attic, and that summer we loaded our shit into my attic and we played in the heat.  Laid down some sweet tracks.  Actually, it’s funny.  We started as a sort-of funk jam band, and the first show we played was without Danny; we played as Acme Funk at a CYO talent show.  It was pretty terrible.  Well, no, it was awesome.  We were high school friends, and we just started playing music.  Go with that.
MG:  Are you guys satisfied with the way your band has grown?
DM:  Yeah, definitely.  I think we’re all happy with our EP, we’re all proud of it for what it is, but after that we’ve grown into something a lot better and more full.  I think we’ve shaped up into something that’s just a lot better than the EP.
ES:  I mean, we started playing funk songs because it was really easy to jam to.  You just try to hit notes, and then it’s jazz, you know?  So after we got through that stage, we wrote pop ballads, and there are remnants of the pop ballads still, like our song “Morning Star”.
DM:  Those are for the ladies.
ES:  But now we’re sort of more into our own sound.  We’re writing the songs and each song right now is where we feel we want our sound to be.
DM:  We had this ambient phase.
ES:  We were ambient because it’s easy.
DM:  It’s not easy.
ES:  No, it’s not easy.
DM:  It’s not easy because it’s not just notes and chords, it’s all about feeling.
MG:  Which do you like playing more:  playing all-ages shows or playing clubs?
ES:  This is a tough one.
DM:  This is a good one.
ES:  This is a great question.  We used to play shows at Southport Hall…
DM:  Which were really big.
ES:  Yeah, we did a CD release show and it did like 250 people.  You know, music nowadays is different.
MG:  Different since Southport Hall did all-ages shows?
ES:  You know how the Beatles had a lot of young fans?  If a band has fans that are under the age of 15, people just say that they’re teenybopper music.
DM:  For bands our age, it’s a big difference between having a fan base and having a social scene that follows you.  And right now we’re kind of in between.  I just think that the club shows, albeit they’re smaller, have a better atmosphere, and people just get more into it.
ES:  The thing about the Southport shows was that you look out and see this huge audience, and you see people dancing.  They had a disco ball there, and it would be spinning and shining lights, and we saw people making out.  That’s special.  It’s just two different environments.  We used to play a lot at the Mermaid, and that was really a great place.
DM:  We just played at Dixie, too, and that was awesome.
ES:  That was fun because it was loud, and we felt really close to the audience.
MG:  So why do you think that so many people under the age of 18 connect so closely with your music?
ES:  Because we’re 18 and we were 17 and 16.  It’s natural.  We’re not writing about doing hookers.  I dunno, I think it’s easy to identify with.
DM:  I think that we have enough catchy songs so that people can be like, “Oh yeah, I like them,” and then it kinda spreads.  The shows have been very good.
ES:  The internet has helped a lot.  You know, the internet?
MG:  Yeah, I’m familiar with the internet.
ES:  Things like MySpace and our website seriously help.  NOLAbands.com helped a lot, too.
MG:  Which local bands do you guys like the most, which ones do you have an alliance with?
DM:  Silent Cinema, Glasgow, the Eames Era.
ES:  The Eames Era is from Baton Rouge.
DM:  We’re good friends with the dudes in Glasgow.  We see them often.  We’re playing our next show with them at the Howlin’ Wolf on August 11.
MG:  How hard was it for you guys to earn respect from other local bands, being two, three, four years younger than them?
DM:  We don’t tell them how old we are.  They think we’re older.  We just play and they typically like us.
ES:  We spent a lot of time before we started playing shows just working on our material.  We wanted to come out with a bang.
MG:  You guys are the two musical songwriters in the band.  How does that work, do you just bring in a riff or something and the other…
ES:  Yeah, Danny basically will come in to practice with a good chunk of the song.
DM:  “Riders”, the first track on the CD, when everything comes in at the beginning, I think that I did everything right there.  I’m all in favor of, if you’re feeling a direction in a song, let that person go with that.  That typically happens.  As of late, it’s been more of them coming in.
ES:  Yeah, Danny will come in with something and me and Augie will shape it the way we want.  I’ll be insistent that I want something.  I think in “Echologue” we argued over the chords in the chorus for at least an hour.
DM:  And we had to play a show that night and record the next day.
ES:  I’ll come in with some ideas or chords and we’ll work together.
DM:  Augie has been helping a lot as of late.
ES:  He’s been helping a lot with arrangement.  He’ll say, “Nah, we can’t do this, we should go back to this here.”
MG:  How has it been working?
DM:  I think it’s been pretty good.  I think that the last two songs we’ve written could be the best songs we’ve done.  They have a feeling like nothing I’ve heard in anything we’ve done.
MG:  How was working at the Living Room Studio?
ES:  Oh, that was amazing.
DM:  Great atmosphere, great guys; they really know what they’re doing.
ES:  Basically we spent a month going and hanging out after school.  Sometimes we’d go there and spend an hour and a half just talking.  We went in small intervals.
DM:  They were just really helpful.  They had good suggestions, production-wise.  That really helped because we didn’t know what we were doing.
ES:  That really helped because once we made the record we learned how to make songs a bit better.
MG:  So what are your plans for the coming months with you guys all going away to college?
ES:  You could consider it a break because we’re going to be far away from each other.  Basically, we have plans.  When we come back for Thanksgiving we’re going to try and play a show.  We’re gonna do a show in December for sure.  Then when summer comes around we’re going to come back, play together, try to write some new songs.
DM:  The direction we’ve been going in is really promising, I think.
ES:  It started as just for fun in high school, doing what we like to do, and over time it became serious, and it means a lot to all of us, and we’ve had so much fun doing it that we don’t want to let it go.  So we’re just going to keep it in the background for now.  We want to go to college, check it out, have fun and such.  But once we come back we’re definitely going to be together and play some more songs.

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