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Attention (Attn): The IndieLondon interview

Attention (Attn)

Interview by Jack Foley

AS ATTENTION (Attn) completed their UK tour with a well-received gig at London’s Barfly on May 16, we took time out to interview the band about their progress and hopes for the future.

Attention are, for the record, comprised of ex-members of US band Gratitude, an act that seemed destined for greatness before they were forced to split. Comprised of three-fourths of Grattitude, Attention (attn) are bassist Robert Lindsey, guitarist and lead singer Jeremy Tappero and drummer David Jarnstrom. Eric Malmberg completes the line-up on guitar and backing vocals.

Here’s what they have to say about their new material, life on the road and getting back into the recording studio…

Q. Gratitude were a great band, and an under-appreciated one by the public. How much did it hurt when you decided to part company?
David Jarnstom: It was a major bummer for Bob, Jeremy and me because we come from pretty humble roots and it’s not every day that you get to play in a band on a major label. On the other hand, we knew it was coming for a long time. From the start, it was pretty evident that certain people weren’t on the same page. After a while, the three of us decided we were just going stop worrying about it, because we didn’t have any say in decisions that were being made. That was all between Jonah, Mark and our management and, unfortunately, no one could figure out how to get along and make the most of a great opportunity.

It’s a shame, because I felt that was a great album, full of songs with mass appeal, and it was just pissed away. I feel like we could’ve done so much better, you know? We don’t talk to Mark anymore. We’re still cool with Jonah, obviously, or we wouldn’t be coming over to the UK for a tour together in May.

Q. What did you do in the meantime and when did the three of you decide to get back together?
David Jarnstom: Jeremy and I had been doing Attention for a long time before Gratitude, so after the split, we went right back to it. We toured Japan two weeks after Gratitude’s last show, which was incredible. We tried to keep things going strong, but it became evident that our current bass and guitar players weren’t able to fully commit to being in the band. Bob had been looking to play with us again anyway, so we had him move out to Minneapolis from San Francisco. Shortly after, we got Eric to play guitar and we went right into the studio and recorded six songs. It took a little while, but we got Attention up and running again and now we’re way better than we’ve ever been.

Q. How easy was it to get such a strong producing and mixing team behind you?
David Jarnstom: We knew Chris Testa very well from working on the Gratitude album. We remained good friends with him after the split and he was quite keen on the idea of us coming out to LA and doing something with him. He worked for free, bless his heart, and did an amazing job. When it came time to mix, Eric knew of a great guy in Minneapolis named James Harley. In turn, James knew Vlado Meller out in NYC for mastering, so everything just ended up falling into place. We were very fortunate to have so much talent working on our first recording as a re-tooled band. Especially considering we had no label or funding outside of our own pockets.

Q. How has the response been so far in America? Any favourite gig experiences to speak of so far?
David Jarnstom: The response has been great! We did a very successful US tour with our friends The Forecast, Spitalfield and The Graduate a couple months ago. We’re also doing bigger crowds in our hometown that ever before. I feel like we learned so much from the whole Gratitude experience that we’re just a more professional band all around.

One of the better gigs we had recently was getting to play with our buddies Motion City Soundtrack for a special Christmas show at First Avenue in Minneapolis. It’s one of the best clubs in the world. If you’ve seen Purple Rain, you know what I’m talking about.

Q. Were you looking forward to returning to the UK?
David Jarnstom: We couldn’t be happier to be returning to the UK! We strongly feel we’d be well received there. Kids give off so much energy during the shows here, it really makes it more intense for us. All the best Gratitude shows were over here, so we can’t wait to play for everyone with our new band. And Gratitude fans who came out and stuck around till the end were in for a treat (wink, wink)!

Q. Can you say a little bit about the inspiration behind the Stand Strong EP? Perhaps a couple of sentences for each, track by track?
David Jarnstom: For the EP we wanted a little bit of everything, so labels and fans would get the full spectrum of our sound in six songs. We have a heavier song in Heart Attack, lighter songs in Never Tear Us Apart and Raise Your Glass, a poppy one with Almost, and then more of the meaty melodic stuff in Every Time I See You and Stand Strong.

I didn’t write any of the lyrics, so I can’t get too in depth here, but I feel there is a common thread in all the songs that deals with relationships and not giving up on yourself and others when you fall short of your goals or hit a rough patch. It’s extremely positive music, which we are very proud of. There’s enough gloom in the world as it is, you know? We’ll never be one of those bands that take themselves too seriously. We look to bands like the Foo Fighters for inspiration in that regard. Rock n’ roll is supposed to be fun!

Q. What’s changed about the music scene since you’ve been away? Or has it remained the same? Do you think it’s easier for guitar bands now? Are the public more ready?
David Jarnstom: I’ve never really been one to follow trends in music, so I can’t really say, but it seems like there’s a lot more bad bands these days. You can thank MySpace and the Internet in general for that. It’s mostly kids with bad influences that never took the time to really learn how to play their instrument. They all get fixed up in ProTools. It’s just that easy to be in a band nowadays. It also seems like people are fixated on this dance-beat, garage band sound (at least in Minneapolis), which I never really liked. It seems like lowest common denominator music to me. Maybe I’m just old and jaded! Good old fashioned, riffy guitar rock will rear it’s head again soon. Just you wait!

Q. Anyone you’re listening to at the moment that impresses you? UK or US acts?
David Jarnstom: I loved the last Against Me! And Band Of Horses albums. As for UK stuff, I’m still totally in love with the last Radiohead album. Oceansize, Mew (I think they’re Danish, but live in London maybe?) It’s hard for me to think of new stuff. I think I’ve finally reached the point in my life where I listen to more classic rock than discover new bands! Ha!

Q. Will an album follow shortly? If so, when will you start recording?
David Jarnstom: We started it recently and we’ve had access to a great studio in St. Paul, just 15 minutes from where we live. Jeremy will be doing it mostly himself, with some help from James Harley on the mixing end. We have almost 20 songs to choose from, so we’ll have no problem making a killer album.

Q. What are your hopes for the remainder of 2008?
David Jarnstom: After we get back from the UK, we’ll finish off this recording and look to release it all over the world. We already have a Japanese label in Bad News, and we’re close to getting stuff done in Germany and the UK. If this Jonah tour goes well, we might try and do another on mainland Europe this summer, and we’ll make it back to Japan as well.

Of course, we want to do as much in the States as possible, but the fact of the matter is it’s a lot more fun to play in other countries for us right now! In fact, if we could find a way to just move to England we would in a heartbeat. We love it over there! Hopefully we’ll be playing many many UK shows in the coming years…

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