Interview: The Ivins

The Ivins are an alternative rock band from Nashville. Jim Ivins took some time to chat with us and you can check out the band’s video for “Stockholm Syndrome” after the interview.

With The Code Duello coming out soon, how is the band preparing for that?

We could not be more excited about the album coming out! It has been a long time coming, having started recording all the way back in September 2013 when we were based in New York City, which preceded a stint back in our hometown of Richmond, VA and now our new home of Nashville, TN. We ended up getting caught up in a lot of music industry nonsense over the course of this time period with various record deals, management, lawyers, etc. and that’s what caused the delay but now that we are based in Music City, we decided enough was enough and are thrilled to be putting this out ourselves.

Currently we are preparing for the release by working with great people like HiFi Noise to get this record in front of as many eyeballs as possible. It’s because of people like you taking a chance on bands like us that we can make moves to break through the noise in this incredibly crowded music business of ours and we can’t thank you enough for that!

What was it like getting to work on the album with some big names in the industry?

I truly can’t believe all the amazing people we got to work with on this album. Getting to say that we have a Grammy winner – Michael Rosen (Santana, AFI) – a Grammy Nominee – Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, The Killers) – an American Music Award winner – Bill Leverty (Firehouse) – and the co-founder of Interscope Records – Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, RATT) – on The Code Duello is absolutely mind-blowing. We were working with management at the time who had the connects to a lot of these guys and they were brought in to give this record a level of authenticity that we didn’t have before. And I think it’s a testament to the music that they all wanted to be a part of it! Not to mention we had Mike Kalajian master it, who just did the new records for Saosin, Senses Fail and Circa Survive, so it’s great company to be in!

But in addition to these heavy hitters, we worked with some AMAZING guys from our home of Virginia that deserve all the praise in the world – Pedro Aida, Steve Barber, Andreas Magnusson, John Morand, Ben Green & Alex DeJong. We got inspired by the Foo Fighters’s Sonic Highways project where they went to different studios for each song to catch different vibes and we wanted to do that as well, if not simply to soak up as much from these guys as we possibly could. We also started the record with Brooklyn’s Anthony “Rocky” Gallo (John Legend, The xx), another INCREDIBLE producer/engineer without whom’s guidance and expertise this record and its vibe would not exist. I found him in the classifieds in The Deli, of all places; a listing he had forgotten he even had. Best accident ever.

What was the writing process like? Is there a certain way you write your songs?

The process for this album was all over the place. Sometimes I would bring Jack (my brother, the drummer) a fully formed musical track, sometimes we would build something from the ground up. No matter the case, I usually end up writing gibberish melodies while writing the music and then fill in my lyrics to the gibberish once the music is done.

The writing was done in stages so “Heartbreakers,” “Lay Me Down,” “Masquerade” and “Tell Me” came first, then “Freefall,” “Out Of Air” and “Mountains,” followed by “Nothing Left To Say,” then “Made Up Mind” and “The Seeker” and finally “Bring Life.” “Bring Life” was cool in that we knew we wanted one last song for the album and Jack pulled out his phone to play some ideas. He quickly skipped past one drum idea that he had beatboxed and I went “WAIT go back to that!” because as soon as I heard it, I could instantly hear the chords for the verses and then we just kept going and cranked out the whole song in a few hours.

“Stockholm Syndrome” actually came after that, but that song was initially to be a standalone single to tide our fans over while our record sat in industry purgatory but then we liked it so much and got such a good response from it that we put it on the album.

Another interesting case is “Roam The World.” I had written this weird, almost world music-inspired solo acoustic track for a yearly online community project called February Album Writing Month, or, FAWM, and I thought maybe it could be updated for our band. You can hear the original on my Bandcamp – it sound NOTHING like the new rock version. So we dropped the key to make it more “rock” and went to town. Jack is really great at acting like a producer in that I will sometimes bring him something and he has the ear to go “cut this section down,” “cut it down more,” “OK now let’s write a new bridge” and that’s exactly what happened here. Really cool to hear the evolution of a song like that.

How would you say the band’s sound has changed since you first formed?

We definitely honed in what we wanted to be as the album took shape, and we honestly let what we thought the album needed sonically and stylistically dictate where our sound went. An important thing I want people to know is that while this is The Ivins’ debut album, this is far from our first album. We have been playing in bands and putting out records for nearly 15 years, the latest and biggest of which was while we were called, simply, The Jim Ivins Band, which was more of an acoustic-driven pop rock band – think Goo Goo Dolls, Matt Nathanson, Gin Blossoms, Third Eye Blind. We put out five releases in that band – four of which you can hear on Bandcamp – and it was on our fifth release – Everything We Wanted, which is on iTunes, Spotify, etc. – that we moved to New York. On that record is a short song called “Emergency,” which has these cool vibey synths, distorted vocals and huge rocking guitars. Once we moved to New York, I thought, “what if we made the whole band sound like that song?” and that was kind of the impetus for The Ivins. A song like “Masquerade” was written early while I was still thinking “Jim Ivins Band with a twist” but it was really with “Freefall,” “Out Of Air” and “Mountains” that I truly figured out who I wanted us to be: rock music with a modern “late night” vibe, in the vein of bands like Stereophonics, Arctic Monkeys, White Lies, Garbage and Thirty Seconds To Mars, though I encourage listeners to draw their own conclusions!

Once the album is out on April 28th, what can we expect from the band? Will you be touring?

We are going to be playing as many shows as possible this spring and summer and are overjoyed at not only rewarding everyone who has been with us every step of the way, but also continuing to meet new fans and introduce as many people as possible to this music that we worked so hard on. If you are in the Nashville and greater Tennessee areas, you’ll have the most chances to see us, but we fully plan on bringing this show on the road!

Thanks for your time! Where can our readers keep up with you?

No, thank YOU! Readers can find us on all the social media – Facebook.com/theivins, @theivins on Twitter & Instagram and theivins.com for tour dates and more. Over at the website, I have also been doing a series of blogs called the “Cracking The Code Diaries,” which chronicle the making of each song on the album so be on the lookout for those as they come! The Code Duello will be available April 28 everywhere music is heard – iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, YouTube, Amazon, Pandora. You name it, we’ve got it. We want to make it so you can’t avoid this album!

Thank you so much again for talking with me today. I hope everyone enjoys the music as much as we enjoyed making it!