May 29, 2014 Interview – Chase Johnson of Open Air Stereo
Patience, passion, and perseverance are a few of the qualities one must possess to make in it the music world. For Laguna Beach, CA based alternative rock band Open Air Stereo the journey began a decade ago, while still in high school, honing their sound and dreaming big. Forfeiting their line-up five years ago the band released their spectacular debut album Primates in 2013 while touring across North America with the likes of The Killers and Candlebox. With a engaging mix of atmospheric rock guitars, and massive melodies Open Air Stereo are building a following at a rapid pace. Recently we sat down with lead vocalist Chase Johnson to talk about the beginnings of the band, his dreams as a musician, the future of the band, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – You began Open Air Stereo over a decade ago. The band has built a strong name for themselves over that time and developed as musicians. How would you describe the past decade working on music as Open Air Stereo?
Chase Johnson – I would describe it as the most amazing thing in the world to be honest. I would not be the man I am today without it. I get to play, write, and breath music with three of my best friends in the entire world. It is just a blessing.
Crypticrock.com – It is great you have sustained the band as long as you have.
Chase Johnson – Yes, I know Nick and I have been working on this for a long time. We really consider Open Air Stereo starting around five years ago when Scott and Evan came into the picture. That was when the family was really made.
CrypticRock.com – Many may remember you from your appearance on MTV’s Laguna Beach : The Real Orange County. Open Air Stereo was actually featured on that show.
Chase Johnson – It is funny because some people just saw it as I was a main character on the show. To be honest, the band was featured and that was the whole point. We did the show because I was asked to do it and we were friends and I said I will do it if you feature the band. That was what it was all about and it was a great experience.
CrypticRock.com – Was there a sense of anxiety on your part being so young and having your band showcased on a national TV series like that?
Chase Johnson – To be honest you think I would, but I was so excited. I have always had an ADD class-clown kind of thing going on, so I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t like the attention, in the most respectable of ways (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Of course it was great exposure for the band and you handled it excellently.
Chase Johnson – I think the big thing to remember as well is my mom told me before it began, she said they can only use what you give them. That was some of the best advice, all we gave them was the band and we did not give them all the drama. They can splice and cut you anyway they want. We did a good job of being showcased for who we are as a band, even if we were much younger, it showed we have a true passion for the music.
CrypticRock.com – Yes it did work out really well. Now as mentioned the band has been together over a decade but it wasn’t until May of 2013 that the band’s debut full-length album Primates was released. That is a long time for a band to go without releasing a debut album. What prevented the band from releasing an album sooner?
Chase Johnson – Well we signed to Sony/ Epic records straight out of high school and during that time record labels were going through huge changes. Everyone’s teams at the record labels were switching up, it was not just us, it was everywhere. There were so many changes going on, there was a mutual agreement to leave the record label and take the masters with us. We were about to release them, but I think it all happened for a very good reason that we did not. That prolonged the process, the great thing is we had a chance to release some of the old songs we wrote a long time ago, and some of the new songs that we wrote with Scott and Evan.
CrypticRock.com – It sounded like everything happened for a reason. Now that the album is here it’s really a great piece of music filled with atmosphere, melody, and a lot of passion. What was the writing and recording process like for the record?
Chase Johnson – It is ever changing for us. We never do one thing again. Sometimes it is me bring a melody to the table, a lot of times it is Scott bring guitars to the table. We all have different things. Sometimes it will start with a beat. It jumbles around and always something different. Sometimes we will all get in a room and jam together as a foursome. It is kind of neat that we keep in exciting like that. We write on the bus as well. We just go for it when we are driving across the country getting into the next stage.
CrypticRock.com –So the wheels keep turning in the writing process for the band.
Chase Johnson – Yes, the wheels are always turning for us. We never really like to stop to be honest. It is not in our nature to stop. We always like to keep going.
CrypticRock.com – That energy is a good thing. It is clear the album is a mature piece of work and extremely cohesive in style and sound. This really opens a lot of music fan’s eyes. Can fans except to see some new Open Air Stereo material released within the near future?
Chase Johnson – Yes they can. Definitely they can expect new fresh music from us in the near future. Actually we were just on the road right now and have a three song EP which we are selling out here and bringing to radio stations as well. We are really excited about our new direction, I am really excited (smiles). We are looking to release something in the near future.
CrypticRock.com – That is something to look forward. Over the past few years you have toured with quite a few bands including The Killers and Candlebox. What have those experiences been like for Open Air Stereo and what are some of the most important things you have learned while touring?
Chase Johnson – We had to learn a lot. Evan and Scott had toured before Open Air Stereo. Nick and I were spry and green for it. You definitely learn a lot, your first tour you look back and say ok now I know what not to do. The middle tour you feel you know how to do it right. The drinking definitely goes down (laughs). You look forward to sleep and showers. You are out there to make music, play music, and showcase it. Touring is a beautiful thing. Every once in a while we will get a little testy and tired, but then we think about how much worse it can be and how amazing our lives are that we get to play music every day of our lives. It is truly a blessing and we definitely know that.
CrypticRock.com – That is a great thing the band realizes that at such an early point in their careers. Many bands will not realize that and party it up and they take things for granted. The band just concluded a series of heading tour, how did the tour go?
Chase Johnson – It went really well. We had a great time. It is humbling, we are playing a lot smaller places than we did with Candlebox and Hinder. It was nice, it was more intimate, and was really fun. We also visited a lot of radio stations to promote our single “Damned”.
CrypticRock.com – Playing smaller intimate clubs is always really nice as a musician. You also have the chance to meet the fans. Is it interesting to find out where the fans discovered the band?
Chase Johnson – There are definitely a lot of people from the Candlebox tour who are coming back, which is great. I think it shows how important touring is for a band, I think sometimes people forget that. Being out there, staying after the show, and talking to people you hear their story as well. I think doing that really helps. We love new fans and old fans. We really appreciate them supporting music in general. It is those kind of people that make this crazy business go around. We love them for it. It is funny because sometimes we hear people find out about us on social media. People are finding out about us on MTV and VH1, the video for the “Damned” just appeared there. Sometimes we find out is from SiriusXM The Pulse channel. It is all over the board, however they find out we love them for it. We are so blessed to have people coming to our shows. A long time ago before the MTV show, it was all friends and family in the crowd, now there are actually people showing up. It is a really gratifying feeling.
CrpticRock.com – It has to be. As you said the band recently released a music video for your latest single “Damned”. The video is shot quite beautifully to match the music. What was the concept behind the video and the production of it like?
Chase Johnson – Well we were blessed to hook up with director Devin DeHaven. His whole thing was I really want to showcase the band. You guys are a live band and I want to see you performing in a cool setting, so that was the whole thing. Then our beautiful friend, a model named Katie, she was in it. We all have a love for old school cars too. We had a chance to hang out in the desert. We did not want to have a video too literal to the song, but indirectly in the end it was, we were out in the desert doing what we wanted to do; playing music and living our lives the way that we want. I think sometimes people get so tied up with work or whatever, every once in a while you have to take time off to do what you want to do. I think the video showcases people doing just that.
CrypticRock.com – It is a good video and it is a very good song as well. It is obvious the band has a very broad sound which is accessible to many people. What are some of your musical influences?
Chase Johnson – There is such a broad range of influences between all of us in the band from The Beatles, U2, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, old school Incubus, the list goes on and on. It is all over the board.
CrypticRock.com – That all does bleed through in any bands sound. That is what influences are. My last question for you is pertaining to horror films. Crypticrock.com covers rock/metal and horror films. I’d like to know what are some of your favorite horror films?
Chase Johnson – I love the old Hitchcock films. The Birds (1963), Silences Of The Lambs (1991), and American Psycho (2000) to name a few. I like all the Scream series, I know that is kind of weak, but I think they are hilarious.Feature photo credit Jonathan Weiner