They’re called The Craters, and heaven help you if you don’t find their songs undeniably rocking. A year after their EP Thriller’s online-only mp3 release, these not-quite-legal Newton musicians have written a few more songs, played a lot more shows, and hooked up with a full band. I caught their last show of the summer at PA’s Lounge and was so impressed by their tight but relaxed live set I felt compelled to demand an interview. Lucky for me (and you) they complied, and I was able to chat with three band members the next day. Here’s my conversation with Jared Arnold, Wes Kaplan, and Josh Hirshfeld, who make up three quarters of The Craters.
The Tech: You guys are based out of Newton, right? What’s the band scene like there?
Wes Kaplan: I’m not sure how it is beyond high school, but it’s relatively eclectic.
TT: So is it safe to say you guys met up in high school?
Jared Arnold: We did.
Josh Hirshfeld: Some of us did.
JA: Wes and I started writing songs together in our sophomore year.
WK: The two of us played pretty much everything, at least on recordings.
JA: And we started gigging our junior year, playing at youth centers, YMCAs, etcetera.
WK: We’d have friends join us for live shows, but there wasn’t much musicianship. We were sloppy and confrontational.
TT: So you were mostly a recording band back then.
WK: Yeah, just really lo-fi demo quality stuff we did in my basement.
JA: We used to trade demos back and forth online. Our first actual release was called “Kick the Can.”
WK: That “album” was just us having 10 songs and decided that was enough to release. It was pretty short. Less than half an hour.
TT: Ten songs is the best length for an album, in my opinion. Anyway, did you put that release out officially?
WK: Just as mp3s online. There have never been any physical releases, or anything. We’re part of this label called Cooling Pie, which is sort of a collective, and hopefully when we finish our next release we’ll put it out through them.
JA: We released it thinking we’d make some kind of impact and we didn’t really know how to go about releasing something.
WK: Yeah, back then we were like, “How could you not like this?” And now we feel totally distant from it.
TT: Josh, were you also from Newton South High School? How did you guys hook up?
JA: I was from South but a few years ahead of these guys.
WK: It all started in Music Theory 101 …
JH: I knew Wes played synth so I asked him in our high school music theory class to join a band I was in called Kincade. We got to know each other through that, and after that band ended I was left without a musical project at home. I had always been a fan of The Craters and when Wes told me they were trying to make a solid line up, I jumped at the chance.
WK: I was pretty flattered when Josh expressed an interest in playing with us. I had always thought of us as not quite a real band, at least as far as playing live is concerned, and Josh is a good guitarist.
JA: Whereas guitar has been more of a songwriting tool than anything for Wes and me, so it was nice to get someone who could really play.
TT: And how about Noah [Rubin], how’d you get together with him?
JH: Noah’s two years above me, so four years above Wes and Jared.
WK: He was the drummer in this band Furvis who were already playing regular club shows by the time they were juniors in high school. They left behind a pretty serious legacy when they graduated.
JH: He’s sort of the holy grail of Newton drummers.
WK: Josh had played with Furvis a couple of times while they were looking for a new bassist. He’d also recorded their first EP. I was basically joking when I suggested to Josh that we ask Noah to join. We didn’t have a drummer yet and summer was fast approaching, so we figured we might as well just ask. Josh got in touch with him about it, and it turned out he had already been into us.
JH: He said The Craters made him want to start a music management company or something. Wiz Kiz Management.
TT: I do happen to know The Dead Trees [formerly known as the aforementioned Furvis] toured with Albert Hammond, Jr. So that means you’ve got a pretty high profile drummer.
WK: I do happen to know The Dead Trees toured with Albert Hammond, Jr. So that means we have a pretty high profile drummer.
JA: Noah’s always seemed like a pretty high profile drummer.
WK: We had to wait a while before he could play with us because he was on tour opening for Albert Hammond, Jr.
JH: There we go.
JA: We played a fun show in a basement with Allston, which was our first with Noah. That was probably the first one we’ve ever played in which I’ve been confident with our lineup.
TT: How about the latest release?
JA: Last summer we released an EP called Thriller.
WK: The plan was to split the keyboard oriented songs and rock oriented songs and release them as separate EPs. But by the time we finished the rock songs, we stopped caring about the keyboard songs.
JA: It’s sort of a Craters problem. We’ve planned to record more, but we end up tired of a batch of songs by the time we get around to them.
WK: Generally we don’t really like most of the shit we write, which is why new material tends to come so slowly. There are maybe two or three new songs we’ve written collectively in the last year.
JH: For the record, both me and Noah are really into what Wes and Jared write, even when they don’t like it.
JA: That’s the main reason they’re in the band.
TT: Tell me about production and arrangement.
WK: I don’t know if there’s even one thing we try to do, but one big part is being as concise as possible, never having sections repeat in the same way, and having a song go as many places as possible in as little time as possible. I like messing with color too, like trying weird sounds, having them come in and out unexpectedly … what about you guys?
JA: Another thing we try to do is avoid verse chorus verse chorus songs. We hope to have some interesting structure.
WK: We generally write section by section, although I’d say generally the best songs are written in one go.
TT: Will one of you come to the other with an idea and then work on it together, or do you literally sit down and come up with things completely collaboratively?
JA: The former way. We do make up songs on the spot while jamming though.
TT: How about some fun questions? Do you like fun?
TT: In a hypothetical touring situation where you only have room for one CD each, what will you select?
JA: Alien Lanes by Guided by Voices.
WK: I have kind of an ad hoc SMiLE mix, made from bootleg edits and whatever.
JH: Third Eye Blind, self-titled.
TT: Band you’d most like to support?
WK: I doubt anything beats the Madonna tour.
JH: I think it would be cool to tour with Madonna, opening for her, and then being her backing band.
JA: Albert Hammond, Jr.
TT: Catered meal of choice?
WK: More like Cratered meal of choice, right?
JA: Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavored Tortellini.
TT: More seriously. Plans for fall? Upcoming shows?
JA: There’s the possibility of playing Princeton sometime during the year, and a possible New York show, but no, nothing solid as of yet. This fall, Josh and I are heading back to school, to Princeton and Brown, respectively. Wes is doing AmeriCorps for the year — he’s working with the Hyde Square task force, helping them set up a youth music program in JP. And Noah is working and playing with other bands. It’ll be hard to get Josh, but since I’m only in Providence, hopefully Wes and Noah and I will be able to play.
Check out The Craters at http://www.myspace.com/thecraters. I recommend starting with “Nice Girls” and then moving on to “Crowning the Fallen.” And check out their MySpace to see if they add any Boston dates this fall — I know I’ll be checking.