SIU alum cites Uganda trip as source of inspiration
With its blend of melodic pop and worshipful, Christian lyrics, local band An Epic, No Less has recently scored a record deal with label BEC/Tooth and Nail. They’ve recorded their debut album and lined up a series of touring dates, including a Saturday show at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. The Daily Egyptian talked with front man and SIU alumnus Todd Larson about the group’s roots, his time in Carbondale and the band’s prospects.
Daily Egyptian: Did you get started making music when you were at SIU?
Todd Larson: As far as playing live, the first show I played I was 17, and it’s just been pretty consistent since then, and close to full time in my 20s.
DE: Did An Epic, No Less begin while you were at SIU?
TL: It was kind of originally just a studio project and the first song we ever recorded was just toward the end of when I was at SIU.
DE: Were you involved in the Carbondale music scene while at school?
TL: I wasn’t a ton. I was in past bands that played a little bit around. I was in a band called Clock Tower Showdown for a little while. … We played super heavy. … I think we even played Hangar prior to it being caved in.
DE: Is An Epic, No Less your first religiously based band?
TL: As far as being a Christian band, that’s always going to influence a lot of what I write about. This band is the most deliberate about that.
DE: So the idea for An Epic, No Less came to you while you were working at an orphanage in Uganda?
TL: I was taking a trip to Uganda. I was going to work at this orphanage hospital for just a little while … I was thinking as long as I’m going over there I’m going to take the time and figure out where I want to go musically. … I was working in this bathroom and I was just scraping concrete off of these doors, just by myself, and I just kind of made a revelation that this is the kind of music I needed to do for An Epic, No Less, and it’s something that’s very difficult to explain but I just had that feeling come on me, like this the right thing to do.
DE: Do you think what you saw in Uganda had an influence on that?
TL: It might have spurred about like, you know, seeing what people are like there and church is like there and community is like there, but really I guess my big revelation came when I was just in solitude.
DE: Where you ever worried about splitting your audience by being an openly Christian band?
TL: Not really … We just wanted to play church music and worship music. … And really the bulk of our audience is church and church-event oriented.
DE: You describe yourself as Gospelectronica. Is that something you came up with?
TL: Yeah. We just smashed some words together and thought it sounded good.
DE: You’ve said you’re influenced musically by bands such as the Postal Service. Is there anyone in particular who has influenced you lyrically?
TL: Lyrically there’s lots of people I look up to. … I know this might seem boring, but I grew up reading old church hymns, which can be kind of a real boring, standard way of singing a song, but to me the lyrical content of those old hymns, I don’t think anything can beat it.
DE: Were you expecting to sign on to a label like Tooth and Nail?
TL: I always had in the back of my mind that there’s lots of ways to achieve success in music, but in my mind the way we could achieve by reaching a lot of people … would be going the label route, and I know that’s cliche to a lot of bands, wanting to be signed … and sometimes it’s just a pie-in-the-sky dream, but I did have in the back of my mind that a goal for this band would be to sign to a bigger label. We talked to a lot of people, and we’ve showcased for maybe five or six labels, and really Tooth and Nail was the one willing to take a risk and get behind what we were doing.
DE: Were there any particular challenges you faced in recording your album?
TL: Oh yeah. The fact of the matter is I have the worst rhythm on the planet, which is a big struggle for me to overcome. And plus just having writer’s block, just plain old writer’s block. … And also we did this completely self-funded.
DE: So what’s next for An Epic, No Less?
TL: Well, starting in I believe March, we’re booked up to do a tour with a band called Run Kid Run. I believe April we’re currently being booked with the band called Rush of Fools, and I think Tooth and Nail is wanting to go to radio promo early spring at the latest, and I think they would like to release our record come fall 2012. There’s a lot of stuff on the plate.