Las Vegas band The Cab inked its first recording contract while the bands founding members were still in high school and released their first full-length album, Whisper War, in 2008, garnering much love and enviable praise from that fickle beast known as the music press. With next week’s release of their long-awaited and much-anticipated follow up album, Symphony Soldier (drops Tuesday, August 23), the band has never sounded better, and is poised to win the house a second time, and for the much higher stakes that come with second-album-scrutiny. We chatted with Alex Marshall (piano/keyboards, rhythm guitar), quite possibly the most charming and un-apologetically upbeat musician that we’ve ever met with all their glorious artistic cred still intact, about what we have to look forward to in the sophomore effort and what makes him tick as a musician. Read, and rawk, on. Click here to buy SYMPHONY SOLDIER on 8/23.
The Music+Moxie Interview: the CAB
The Cab signed with its first label when you were still in high-school. How did you convince your parents to let you pursue a legit career as a musician around the time you were graduating?
We all played music in High school as a hobby. I don’t think any of us ever imagined that it could ever go to the next level, until half way through our senior year when we signed with Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen. All of our parents fully supported us in our decision to sign and to put the college life on hold.
I just demanded on eventful that you guys come to LA – when will that happen?
We are planning on playing a show in the near future after we release the new record! We don’t have a date yet, but we will soon!
Your first major tour on the eve of Whisper War’s debut wrapped with a celebrated SXSW performance, and festivals have been very good to the CAB since. Do you have a favorite festival? Share your best festival survival advice.
Bamboozle is such a cool festival – a lot of bands we’ve toured with play it and the crowd is always great! Ha! My festival survival advice would be to drink as much water as you can. Keeping hydrated during a long festival is definitely at the top of the Survival List.
Kids, write that one down: water is paramount.
Share your most magical recording moment on Symphony Soldier.
Our song ‘Love Sick Fool’ is very personal to me, so watching it grow and come together in the studio was great.
There is a complexity and depth to your songs and in their arrangement that denotes a mature understanding of musical form and theory which belies your age and your power-alt-pop genre classification. What does music mean to you? What is your mission in making it? What are you fighting for?
Our music means everything to me, it’s my art! My mission is to be able to move people in three different ways:
1. I want the listener to be moved by the compositions.
2. I want the melodies to be stuck in their head.
3. I want them to feel a personal connection to the lyrics.
One thing I’m fighting for is for artists to stay true to their music. Don’t ever change your art because someone doesn’t believe in it.
I detected some experimentation in the use of both rare and/or 40′s era tech, instruments and sound equipment on the first album. Do you like experimenting with musical and recording instruments and can we look forward to more of that in the new release?
We love big arrangements! From strings, timpani, electric pianos, bells, moogs etc. You can expect to hear all of these on Symphony Soldier.
How did the co-writing of ‘Endless’ with Bruno Mars happen? What was the collaboration like?
The session took place in New York around a year and a half ago. Bruno works with his buddy Phil and together they make a great writing team. We were lucky enough to get a session in right before “Noth’n On You” with B.o.B took off.
Do I detect the influence of classical training in the songs and videos? How involved is the band creatively in the videos?
We all have influences that range from classical to current music. From the song structures, melodies, chord progressions etc. We definitely want our influences to speak in the music and videos and are very hands on with our videos. We like to trade ideas and feed off each other to come up with the concepts.
Is there any particular fan action that’s really encouraged you and the band?
We have great fans so its hard to pinpoint a single instance that’s encouraged us. Seriously, our fans are soldiers, they’ve been by our side through every step of this journey. We’re very fortunate.
How do you stay sane in the studio and on the road?
The studio is my favorite place to be. I love having a good vibe in the studio and creating songs. Writing is my passion, so it’s never really been a job to me. It’s only human to miss your family and close ones when you’re on the road. That’s probably the hardest thing, but playing shows, interacting with fans and being with your boys on tour is something that can’t be substituted. It’s definitely worth it.
What part of playing live is your favorite?
The best thing about live shows is seeing the fans. There is nothing better than a crowd singing along to the songs and having a great time.
What makes a perfect show?
A perfect show consists of a solid performance and a great crowd. When the crowd is giving off great energy it feeds our performance.
Tell me about your definitive epic-WIN moment on stage.
Staples Center with Panic! at the Disco and Dashboard Confessional. Looking out and seeing a sold out crowd of that size when I was 18 was pretty surreal.
Give me some insight into your music and songwriting process.
Myself and Alex [DeLeon] do most of our song writing together. It’s a pretty unique process because we both draw from different places while creating. We’ve learned to just go with our instincts and what feels right. I think having different inspirations has really helped shape the direction we took on the new record. It’s a hybrid of our styles.
He’s underselling you there. Its a hybrid, sure, but as all good mixes are, it’s whole is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.
What has been the most rewarding moment so far in the Cab’s journey?
I’d say one of the most rewarding things has been pushing forward after our recent departures and creating the record that we wanted to make. Having creative freedom and just being true with your art is such an important thing. In today’s industry a lot of artists aren’t able to do that. Most of all, I’d say the biggest reward is right around the corner, August 23 and the release of “Symphony Soldier.”
What is the most ridiculous gig you’ve taken on as the Cab?
We played on a barge one time in Florida. We were floating in the middle of a lake and all the fans were on the shore. It was definitely a different type of show. Hope they brought their binoculars.
That is ridiculous…ly EPIC. I hope you have pictures!
Whats with everyone in the band expressing themselves follicly in the form of insanely unique and awesome hair?
Ha-ha well… We have a contract/pact that we all agreed to and signed in blood. Kidding… We all kind of just do our own thing when it comes to [that]…
Name your Guilty Music Pleasure.
I don’t really have a guilty music pleasure. I listen to everything from rock, rap, jazz, r&b, pop, to country etc. It just depends on my mood.
You’re forced at gunpoint to get your karaoke on; go!
Oh, bring it on: Journey, Don’t Stop Believing. [So there.]
Stop Being Awesome?
And he walked away ladies and gentlemen, he walked away.**
**Note: Not really. For one thing, its impossible: he was in a Tour Bus crossing into Utah en route to Salt Lake City, and I was connecting via phone while poolside in Beverly Hills, CA sipping a yummy pina colada. For another he is just too charming to ever walk away like a diva, even if someone were really asking for it. And last, but not least, I never actually told him to “Stop Being Awesome,” I’m just trying to wrap this interview with a clever and witty end-cap that’s highly entertaining and does justice to the high bar he’s just set.