The reverb heavy bedroom pop of Tyler Kershaw has been a mainstay of the Boston scene since Funeral Advantage’s 2015 debut album, Body Is Dead. Two years later, Kershaw gave fans a new dose of the same sound steeped in the intimate details of a break up on his EP, Please Help Me. Now, he’s ready for the next release and so are we. I had the opportunity to ask Tyler about the natural progression of his music relative to Boston, the industry, and himself. He responded thoughtfully with humor, honesty, and some advice for new artists. Funeral Advantage will be performing on HassleFest’s Underground Pop Stage alongside Mini Dresses, Lily and Horn Horse, Beverly Tender, and Sweetcreem 11/9 @Lilypad. Don’t miss it.
Boston Hassle: What have you been up to?
Tyler Kershaw: I finished a new LP of just like 12 songs back on New Years Eve. I’m at a place where I don’t really know what’s happening with the record but I have a lot of songs I’m really excited about. It’s complicated. I could release it tomorrow if I wanted, but I’m definitely putting out at least one single by the end of 2018.
BH: What musical direction has this taken? Has it been as emotionally susceptible as ‘Please Help Me’?
TK: Not really. You know how sometimes you say something in a public setting and you go back and think ‘I wish I hadn’t said that’? That’s how I feel about that record. Some people will look at you like you’re crazy if you’re too emotional in a public setting but at the same time it’s very cathartic and it feels good. I understand why a lot of people do it but, it might not be for me. So this next record, it’s a little more hidden. It’s definitely still myself. Maybe I even more than the last one but it’s more subdued.
I think I just gave away too much on the last record and it left nothing to the imagination. I’m a big fan of music when you can interpret the artist’s meaning for yourself. A song can mean something completely different to someone than what it meant to the person writing it. I think the specifics I put into my last record ended up taking that away. I’m not saying that this new record is subdued by design. It was just a necessity for me to do that.
BH: Have you found any shift in the sound? You’ve said that you’ve been listening to a lot of slowed down black metal. Did you add any of those elements to this record?
TK: It’s really hard for me to be influenced musically. It’s more about how black metal artists do it rather than what they’re doing. I had no formal music training whatsoever before I started recording. I just learned things by doing them and that’s how they work. They pride themselves on sounding shitty with that homegrown feel and I’m the same way.
I don’t think I could write a record that doesn’t sound like me. You’d be able to pick out a record I wrote pretty easily. I’ve started producing records for a few bands this year and the sound on a few of the tracks is very unmistakably me. Even if I try getting into the headspace of another band, it can sometimes still come out sounding like me.
This new record is still going to sound like me but what I’ve heard is that it sounds more radio friendly. One of my friends after hearing it said, “Oh you’re touring with 21 Pilots this summer?” They think it’s a sort of lo-fi Kings of Leon. I don’t even listen to Kings of Leon . In the other direction, there’s a shoegaze track on it though that’s almost all distortion – which I don’t use ever. Then there’s one song with really heavy saxophone and another that’s really Latin based with a kind of jazz beat to it. And then, there’s a song me and my friend Alex recorded it in 2008. It feels like an interlude and it really fit. Ultimately, the step I took from Body is Dead to Please Help Me is the exact same. So if you took two steps away from Please Help Me, that’s where the record is in terms of weirdness and pop sensibility.
BH: Is there a reason you’ve stayed in Boston?
TK: I used to say If you can make it in Boston you can make it anywhere. All bands that get big are from NYC, Tennessee, or LA and then you get these cult favorites that aren’t and it seems like it was a harder time for them. I had a chance to move out to New York a couple years ago. Then, right before Please Help Me dropped, I was literally looking at apartments in San Francisco and I found one and I was gonna move there because there’s a huge dream pop scene out there.
The reason I’ve stayed is – I don’t want to say laziness, but convenience. Starting anew would be really hard to do. I have the most solid band I’ve had ever right now. They’re like my best friends and they’ve been in the band for a year and a half. It’s very familial so leaving them would be tough. Then again, one of them just moved to Colorado, the other just moved to New York City so I guess the feelings weren’t mutual . But the reason I stay in Boston is because it’d be tough to get a new band going with no footing. Getting new guitarists was easy because we’re so well known here. If I do that in San Francisco, like, “Hey I need a bass, a drummer, two guitarists, keyboard I need all of that right now,” it might be harder. Which is why I’ve been working on a project writing songs with my partner so we can get out there, tour a little more and if we pick up and move tomorrow it could be easier.
If you ask a lot of people this question they’ll say, “Oh, cause the scene is just so good here.” If you’re asking me if I’m staying here for the scene, the scene is the last thing I’d be staying here for. It’s never felt like home. It hasn’t felt like home in years in a scene sense really. People care about us but other bands don’t which makes it hard to want to stay. But, what other choice do I have? I love Massachusetts. It’s my home. My partner’s from Massachusetts as well. We plan on staying here because we love it here. My friends are here, my partner’s here, my band is here, and my job is here so it’s hard to move away. I wouldn’t chain myself necessarily but the reasons I’ve stayed are different from the reasons I’d leave.”
BH: Do you listen to anyone from the Boston scene?
TK: I don’t really listen to any local Boston bands besides like Deep Secret and House of Harm. I Wish I Could Skateboard is really good too. I’d give them the award for best band name in Boston if I could. Easily.
BH: You said you’ve been writing with your partner a lot, but in the past you’ve been adamant about your process just being you in your bedroom by yourself. What’s this shift been like?
TK: It was definitely relative to the person I’ve been writing with. I met them and it was like someone had copied me but a version that was an overall better version of me. I never wanted to write with anyone at all then her and I just started. She writes these loops on guitar around the repetition and how different frequencies can change as you listen to it more. Then, I write songs based off of the loops and she adds on top and I had never tried writing like that. Writing with a collaborator, they’d say, ”let’s get together and we’ll jam and then-” and I’m sorry but I don’t want to jam with you. I’m not the type of person who can jam because I’m not classically trained. Someone says play an A and I’m not sure where that is on their guitar. But my partner’s mindset is the exact same as mine like, “look I did this and if you can, try to base your shit off of that.”
It’s interesting that I needed someone I had this deep connection with to be able to write this way. The songs we write together are very different. You can tell. Like you know when you meet a person and their parents and you see this amalgamation that they’ve become. They have their father’s eyes, their mother’s lips and it’s very mathematical what happened biologically. That’s what the songs are like. You can tell what parts are mine, what parts are hers but they melt together really well. I still haven’t been able to write with anyone besides myself because this partner is basically me. But, I don’t see myself being able to write Funeral Advantage music with this person at all. We’ve discussed that. I feel a different way when I write with them. I’ve never been able to write a funeral advantage song with someone else before. Which gets into the problem of how my new record hasn’t been finished yet.
BH: How so?
TK: My ear for mixing and panning wasn’t super developed until recently. Then I started coming home from work and making sure it was the only thing I’d focus on. So now that I’m more tedious about recording and audio production, I’ve found it harder to collaborate with mixers, which is why it’s taken so long for this record to come out but speaking to that, I’ve been able to record way better on this record and it’s gonna sound different from anything I’ve made due to the collaboration that’s happening at the end of the cycle.
BH: So this album has been a year in the making. How many people have you brought in to mix it?
TK: More than a few. These songs have been done for way longer than a year. I finished writing the last song August of last year. It’s taken a while. At the very least I’ll be releasing a single by the end of the year. As for the rest of it, who knows. It all kind of depends on the label or if I just take it on myself. There’s a music video from June I want to have it out next month. My partner filmed and directed it and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s taken a while but it’ll be very soon.
It’ll be February since ‘Please Help Me’ was released and I’m definitely doing something before that. Robert Smith from The Cure said their 40th anniversary since releasing their first album is coming up and if he doesn’t release a new album by then, he’s never releasing another album again and that’s the exact way that I feel right now.
BH: There’s a lot on the horizon. I’m excited for people to finally get to hear it.
TK: It’s gonna happen. I just need the stars to align. Music is difficult when you’re dealing with it from a monetary standpoint. You gotta make certain people happy with your release date. That’s why I might just do a surprise release on Spotify just to fly under the radar of label management but then again it does feel nice to get some money in return. I mean money is the best part of this right?
BH: I think you were right when you said it the first time. This is complicated.
TK: I think it was John Favreau who complained about fans coming up to him asking about when his next movie was coming out. He had no control over that. None. He can tell you when he’s filming, what he’s working on next, but he can’t tell you that. He has no control over that. It’s the same. The mix has to be right, the master’s gotta be right, the labels gotta be right, management’s gotta be happy, the shows have to be right and it’s.. a drag and a part of me wants to just say fuck it and release it on my own and move onto the next thing. I have so much stuff I’ve made since finishing this. I have songs for the next record and I’m ready to work on the next thing but I want to get this project out.
BH: Is there a silver lining anywhere?
TK: There’s definitely a silver lining. I feel very artistically fulfilled writing music, playing it live, and producing and I’m very very happy with the space that I’m in. Obviously, I’d like to release the record but – I hate to be crass – but when I was younger I would sneak into my parent’s basement and watch this show called Real Sex. It was this gross sexual show and they were interviewing pimps and one of them said, “the worst part of sex is coming.” And even as a seven year old that resonated with me.
Like writing the songs, that buildup, that creative process is the best part. The worst part is releasing the record and having the songs be out there. It just doesn’t hold a candle to creating and being in the cuff of making something really good. When a rocket takes off, there’s the part that falls off so it can actually get out into the universe. That part falling off of it is that initial creative process. It’s the most important part to me. It’s why I love demos so much. I’ll listen to the Cure’s demos and you can tell where all the parts that he’s working through are and it’s way more interesting than the finished product.
BH: Do you think there’s a point of reckoning when an artist has to accept? People are trying to make a living off your work, you’re not just making it for you anymore, are you?
TK: I’ve always felt like ‘making it for yourself’ is kind of bullshit. The only person I know like that is Luke from Mini Dresses. He’s got hundreds and hundreds of songs he’s not releasing that he loves because he just loves to write and it makes him feel good. But if someone releases a song to the public saying, “fuck labels, man, this song is for me.”
No you are not. You’re making it for attention and you’re making it worse just saying that. It’s almost offensive, I think. I used to have a roommate who had that attitude and I couldn’t understand why he would release. Why would he go through a label if it was just for him? He could just put it online and maybe I’d believe him. Overall, I think it’s complete bullshit: making it for yourself. You can make it for yourself but you’re not releasing it for yourself.
BH: After you released your other two projects, were you surprised by how you felt afterwards, that come down from the high?
TK: Yeah definitely. You release and it’s there, it’s a thing. It’s fully created and existing in reality and it’s not yours any longer. I saw my first album take off and the best you get is, “I used to write that song. I used to know that.” But in my mind, it’s not mine any longer. It’s other people’s and I guess there is a shock in that.
I wondered why I felt so detached from those songs after I released the album. They took on a life of their own. Feeling aftershock from a release, the jets breaking off the rocketship, is definitely there. The best you can do is play it live and change it up and bring back that creativity. If I have any advice to new artists, it’s that if you’re feeling that way, do it differently live. Coldplay does Fix You completely differently now from when it was first released. And yeah, I just made a Coldplay reference but I feel like it’s a pretty good example. It’s a great song but they’re tired of it. But that’s my advice. Change it up live, but don’t change the substance of the song.
BH: So with those experiences, what made you want to release another album?
TK: It comes back to the question of why be an artist. I still make records to play these songs because the records have meant a lot to a lot of people. I was doing an interview on a podcast and the guy said one of my songs was his wedding song. That’s the kind of stuff that just keeps it going. Anyone that tells me my music has helped them or even just affected them as small as, “hey, I like that song.” I can live off of that for months. I can write off of it for months, just have a creative outlet based on that. It does it for me. I do the opposite of ‘writing music for me.’ I write it for other people. Part of it is my own artistic need but also for other people. People tweet at me asking where the new stuff is and I want to give that to them. I have a way to give this to them and I want to do that. And I enjoy making records, it’s the only thing I’m good at.
Feature Photo: Adam Parshall