It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Lines In The Sky!
Interview Conducted By Scott Belzer – Saturday, January 27th
Nashville’s progternative powerhouse Lines In The Sky spoke with Rippin Headlines about the Nashville scene, Coheed & Cambria, and rockin’ the Toks ahead of their Boggs debut on Saturday, February 3rd with Challenger Deep, Sometime In February, and Great Wide Nothing.
- What is Lines In The Sky? When did it begin?
Lines In the Sky is a rock band with progressive and alternative flair from Nashville, Tennessee. Our earliest roots reach back to 2009/2010 when Bowman and Jesse were in high school. The band didn’t formally take off until sometime between 2012-2014.
- How has it evolved? What is its current incarnation?
LITS came about at the dawn of the post rock/experimental era. At the time, we heavily incorporated elements of Circa Survive, The Mars Volta, and other post-ish contemporaries. It then went a little more prog/alt direction with our album, Beacon. Then it veered slightly heavy with our Insight EP. Recently, we’ve been adding ‘dancey’ elements to the music. The new material in the pipeline is going to trend in that direction but with our alt/prog flavor!
- It’s odd to hear about a hard rock band with prog sensibilities coming from Nashville (which is known for country)! What’s it like being the type of band you are in such a boot-scootin’ town?
Honestly BrÖtHËr, it can be ‘the worst’. Country is big here but the scene is diverse with all genres; pop, rock, etc. The dynamic can be complicated. That said, we tend to be as friendly as possible and we have a flexible setlist! It’s all about being ‘chillers’. (As in someone who is ‘chill’)
- There’s a lot of flak about TikTok in musician circles right now. Tell me about the role TikTok has played in your success. Has it driven any part of your creative process?
Yeah, TikTok is another controversial space for music. Nevertheless, we have put some work in on TikTok. We’ve definitely seen new fans come from that space. There’s a certain musical formula that works very well on TikTok and we are a little torn internally about how well we fit in with it. Additionally, we all have very busy schedules and it’s often difficult to find time to make content for TikTok and if we do we have to feel good about it. Overall, it’s a love-hate relationship similar to that with other social networks. We can say that we have seen some positive growth from being active there! Musically, it hasn’t driven our writing process. It’s important to remember we are musicians and songwriters, not influencers or full-time content creators.
- You guys have quite an extensive tour history. What’s been your favorite place to play thus far?
Man, it’s very hard to pinpoint a single place down! Two places come to mind…
New York has always had dope bands. There is the Long Island progressive scene that has a long lineage of bands going back to Dillinger Escape Plan and before. We’ve been lucky to play with some of those bands that have followed in their wake.
Boston also has a sick scene. We’ve been outplayed (in a good way) there several times by total shredders. We played with a band there called ‘Schooltree’ in 2018 ish that was a joy to share the bill with.
- As a CO&CA nerd, it’s refreshing to see a band credit Coheed and Cambria and The Mars Volta as chief influences and trace those influences in the band’s sound. Tell me about how that music originally inspired Lines In the Sky and how it continues to inspire Lines In The Sky’s sound.
Yeah those two are probably our biggest influences. They both are often pigeonholed into genres that they greatly surpass. Both are extremely versatile and immensely creative. I’ll start with Coheed.
Coheed has always managed to write very catchy stuff while also playing interesting parts without flexing too hard on the fans. Groove is essential to their music. We have adopted that model and applied it to most of our songs. I would be remiss to not mention Claudio’s voice and vocal writing style. He’s incredibly unique and I (Jesse) have always loved unique singers like him. I often find myself performing runs or writing melodies that I can trace back to his writing in a derivative way.
TMV was another band that had SICK groove. Omar’s guitar playing was incredibly influential. He will play things with extreme precision but he also knows when to play something that isn’t technically ‘in time’ but it still has a sick pocket. Also, Cedric is another sick unusual singer that does the head voice thing very well. Their music is a meticulous puzzle. We try to compose in a similar way. We got to see them on this recent tour at the Ryman Auditorium. Very glad to see those two back together on stage again.
- Similarly – those bands’ albums are mostly written around concepts (in true prog fashion). What themes does Lines In The Sky write around (if any)?
We’ve never done concept writing like many of our contemporaries. We tend to write about things like interpersonal issues. These include relationships, personal struggles, existential crises, etc. Over the years we have tended to be vague with our word choices similar to many post rock lyrics. Recently, we’ve been getting away from that style of writing. We’ve opted for clarity rather than intentionally obfuscating the meaning of the track. Basically, we’re leaning toward pop writing. Songwriting is going to be a HUGE focus on the new material. We have already slotted several people as co-writers that Jesse frequently works with in his day job as a writer/producer.
That said, we also write about space and video games lol. We have a song about Halo (‘Library’ from Beacon) and we have a song about Bloodborne (‘Insight’ from Insight EP)!
- You don’t see a lot of bands touring these days that tour and record without label support, but Lines In The Sky remains completely independent. What’s behind that philosophy? Why go that route?
We are very good at touring on a budget. We’ve been known to cook meals on the road with a portable stove burner from time to time which saves us tons of money. If there’s a way to do something efficiently and cheaply we will sniff it out and do it.
There are two reasons why we are still independent:
- We have largely enjoyed executing our vision on our own terms musically. We have historically been in our own lane and there’s only so many times someone can say “you guys are great! HaVe YoU tHoUgHt AbOuT sOuNdInG mOrE LiKe ImAgInE dRaGoNs?” before you get protective of your craft.
- However, we would welcome some form of partnership with a label or agency. We realize we haven’t historically fit into an easy box for industry types to package. Many of our friends and fans consider us one of the most ‘slept on’ bands in Nashville for this reason.
- Any advice for younger bands that may want to take a similar approach?
In regards to touring, you have to be tactical. It’s not easy and you need to be very in tune with what your needs are as a band and personally. Money is scarce but there are ways to do things cheaply and effectively if you really examine every step.
- Any general advice for younger bands looking to get out there and start making music in 2024?
Yeah, several things…
Start with good music and a solid business approach. Seek out ways to improve both at any chance you get.
I would also say don’t shy away from the label/non independent route. There are certainly benefits from it. However, it’s important to be aware of when the right time to look for labels is. Get advice from MULTIPLE professionals about what they think the state of your project is. Don’t get precious about it and be open to all suggestions. Also, beware of shady ‘industry types’. Do your research on people. Can’t stress that enough!
- You guys have a lot of singles, EPs and a few LPs. What’s next for Lines In The Sky? When can folks expect another full-length?
We really want to get out and play a lot this year. We already have a slew of shows lined up after this run in February. We have just confirmed a nationwide tour in May and June. More details coming on that v soon.
DEFFO new music. There’s a few singles that will be happening here soon that will close out what we have been calling ‘The Insight Era’. As it stands right now, there are two songs from this period that will be singles in the coming months.
We’re already well into the writing phase of what appears to be an album. It’s honestly the best music we’ve ever written. Expect singles from that to start popping up during the middle of the year with a full length release following.
- And to finish things off, since I finally have the opportunity to ask questions to fellow Coheed fans—what’s one thing you’d ask Claudio Sanchez if you were hanging out one-on-one?
So I (Jesse) have actually met Claudio! It may be worth telling the story.
In 2018 or 2019 we saw CO&CA play Good Apollo 1 all the way through on a Neverrender tour. Fast forward a week or so, Nick and I are in Boston touring with ‘Edge of Reality’. My iLok broke and needed a replacement. (Those who are familiar with this specific piece of gear know it is a serious situation when one breaks). So I angrily went to Guitar Center to get a replacement. Nick came up to me and was like “you need to come over here right now” and I replied “for WHAT?”. Nick says “Claudio is here”. He points over to the synth section and I’m like “that can’t be him!” As I get closer I realize IT IS ACTUALLY HIM!
He was making a ton of noise on a synth (that sounded really bad lol) and I just walked up to him. I sheepishly said “heyyyy man are you Claudio?” and he responds “YEAAAH MAN! :D”
I nearly wept. I told him that we saw him in Nashville several days prior and that he was the reason that I write the music I write. We chatted for a minute about Mastadon and maybe one other thing. He also asked what band I was in and I told him ‘Lines In The Sky’. After chatting for a minute, I walked outside to process what had just happened. He then walked out the door with his wife and child, looked at me and said “Lines In The Sky right???”. Picture that, your biggest influence just repeated your band’s name to you after a chance encounter. My life had been made. I have no idea if he ever listened to us. Maybe he did and hated it lol. It doesn’t really matter though. I had unlocked a core memory.
Challenger Deep, Sometime In February, Lines In The Sky, and Great Wide Nothing perform in Atlanta at Boggs Social on Saturday, February 3rd. Tickets are on sale here.