Interview By: Bekka Collins for The Sound Alarm
The Sound Alarm: Could you introduce yourself and your roles in the band?
Ryan Wallace: vocalist, guitarist, mysteriest.
Cody Stockton: keyboardist, techist, comediest.
Jason W. Smith: drummist, beard cultivatist.
TSA: How did you all get started in music?
H+V: We decided to embellish the answer to this particular question for excitement’s sake.
When Jason was born, there was a drumstick lodged in his mother’s womb, which he used to play jazz standards. He received his first (toy) drum set as a young child, and he has never stopped playing since.
Cody was born with extra (invisible) digits, enabling him to play works by Franz Liszt with one hand and push elevator buttons inconspicuously. He was captivated by the piano in the house from the time he could crawl, and has mused over keys ever since then.
Ryan was conceived with a turkey baster, and to express his residual angst regarding the ordeal, turned to mandolins, then guitars, and eventually to full-out singing his woes to audiences.
TSA: Seeing as you have undergone a name change from Walter Alias to Heroes and Villains, is there any meaning behind the name Heroes and Villains?
H+V: Heroes and Villains is a name that is epic and big, and implies action, and those are ideas we wanted to conjure in people’s minds when they heard our name.
Walter Alias was originally supposed to be our “alter alias” under which we could produce ridiculous music spanning several genres of cheese. But back then, we found ourselves using that name for our main project at that time. But recently, we have occasionally played cover gigs on the side, just for fun and for a few dollars more, where we did songs from Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Journey, etc. and we used Walter Alias when people asked the name when we went by, so as to further differentiate the cover gigs from Heroes and Villains.
TSA: What can we expect from a Heroes and Villains live show?
H+V: Thrills, excitement, an outstanding display of musicianship, and good form. We will soon have a light show as well! We can make quite a lot of sound for any ensemble, especially considering that we are only a trio.
TSA: How was the writing and recording process of your latest release Plans In Motion?
H+V: We completely changed the way we were writing. Before, with Walter Alias, it was more or less a series of orderly jam sessions based on an idea one of us had, that was then hewn into a song as a full group. But when we became Heroes and Villains and a trio, we took a much more refined and “studio” approach to writing. We set up our own Pro Tools studio, and started recording everything ourselves.
So now, a song from conception to finish goes like this: We’ll start with an idea that one of us has and immediately record it in Pro Tools, just vocals and guitar or piano. Then we really listen to it intently, cutting and splicing, thinking far ahead about the song’s structure, theme, vibe, and production ideas. Then we’ll add some of those thoughts to the recording, as well as more rhythm and lead tracks, and start cutting and rearranging again. And eventually we’ll get the song just the way we want it, and start polishing it with production stuff, percussion, vocal harmony, etc.
Changing our writing style like this has, in our opinion, really improved the quality of our songs. It allows us to always listen objectively to what we’re working on, and serves as a sort of “audit” that keeps every little part furthering the main point of the song as a whole.
TSA: How do you think Plans In Motion differs from your previous release?
H+V: There are so many ways. We were a quartet, and now we’re a trio. Also our writing methods changed drastically. At the same time, we changed our band image. Before, our image was a dark, epic cataclysm, and now our image is lighter, much more colorful, and not as stiff, which is reflected in the music (although the last track on Plans In Motion is reminiscent of our previous release). We also used our mad engineering skillz (sic) to record everything ourselves, which was a lot easier than being in someone else’s studio constantly knowing it costs lots of money, which isn’t the best creative environment. There are just orders of magnitudes of differences between then and now.
TSA: If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?
H+V: Bob Ross. We would work so well him. He likes happy little trees; so do we. He knows clouds are very very free; we know this too. He wishes everyone Happy Painting; and that’s fantastic.
TSA: What is your dream tour line-up?
H+V: That all depends on the genre!
JAZZ: Johnny Hartman, Herbie Hancock (circa ‘74), then Miles Davis (circa ‘70) with Jimi Hendrix on guitar.
COUNTRY: Glenn Campbell, Brad Paisley, then Willie Nelson with Asleep At The Wheel.
RAP: Dr. Dre (circa ‘92), Busta Rhymes, then Snoop Dogg with The Roots.
R&B: D’Angelo, early Aretha Franklin, then Marvin Gaye.
METAL: Slayer, Gwar, then Cannibal Corpse with Jim Carrey dancing.
ROCK: U2, Elvis, then The Beatles
But if we were playing in the line-up: Mew, Heroes and Villains, then Queen (so we could watch Queen after we play :))
TSA: Personally, what do you think the best and worst things are about touring?
H+V: Best: traveling, meeting new people, bringing our music to the good people of foreign and not so foreign lands, good regional food, the feeling of freedom, spreading the seed, you can drink at all hours of the day, and lots of newness.
Worst: wallet depletion, lack of personal space (especially when trapped in a van for hours after a meal featuring beans and onions), it can be tiring, and again, it can become really tempting to drink at all hours of the day, leading to more exhaustion.
TSA: I’ve heard people call you Kansas City’s best kept secret, how do you feel about that?
H+V: It has taken a bit of time for some parts of the Kansas City scene to respond to our music. Before we released Plans In Motion, a lot of people knew who we were and loved our music, but we didn’t really begin to “surface” in the scene until just recently.
TSA: Is there anything else you would like to add?
H+V: We like to host soirées at our house, which has been dubbed “Heroes and Villains’ Epic Party Castle” by reputable sources. And also, pterodactyls are no joke. They’re very real.