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Interview: Olive Vox

21 February 2022

Photo by Heidi Yowell

Parental influence can’t be overlooked in the case of Olive Vox, the duo made up of brothers Parker James (20-years-old) and Caden Shea (15-years-old). Mom and dad grew up during the height of alternative rock and grunge and, as parents do, constantly played their favorite music in the house as Parker and Caden were growing up. As important as fruits and vegetables, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins were steady parts of the boys’ diet and coupled with graduating from the local The School of Rock, it’s not surprising that the brothers wanted to be more than passive fans.

Before the band, or perhaps in parallel, Parker’s been growing his social media fanbase as a content creator/influencer on TikTok and YouTube (and whatever other platforms the kids are flocking to these days) and that popularity has crossed over as fans are taking notice of Olive Vox.

Though it’s a ridiculously overused quote pulled from a song Pete Townshend wrote for The Who, it’s applicable to say that the kids are, indeed, alright. Those of us who survived the ’90s will hear the familiar grungy warmth on the 5 songs on the band’s self-titled debut EP while Gen Z will be introduced to something that very few new bands are doing.

I caught up with the brothers recently from their home in Texas where they were anxious about making videos in front of a green screen they had cobbled together with some posterboard.

Who influenced what you listened to when you were younger?

CADEN: Our parents have always listened to rock music and that’s what we’ve grown up around. We’ve gravitated towards that and then we started finding music ourselves and what we liked.

Kids usually start out listening to songs, not bands. Do you remember when you made that jump from knowing songs to discovering bands and do you remember which band felt like it was “your” band, the one that you thought no one else knew other than you?

CADEN: For me, and everyone knows them, it was Cage the Elephant. I’ve been listening to them for 10 years of my life, since I was 5.

Are your parents musicians?

PARKER: My dad’s a singer.

CADEN: My mom taught me guitar.

With the type of sound you make as Olive Vox, I have to imagine you were exposed to your parents’ ’90s albums.

CADEN: Yeah. Nirvana. Smashing Pumpkins. You name it.

PARKER: My mom is a big Nine Inch Nails fan.

What was the first concert you went to and did your parents take you?

PARKER: We went to Twenty-One Pilots and then Cage the Elephant.

CADEN: The Twenty-One Pilots concert was insane. We were back in the grass but it was surreal to be at a concert for the first time. It was super wild.

Twenty-One Pilots is basically comprised of two main members. I think they’ve been adding some touring musicians to replicate the sound of the records. You two are the face of Olive Vox but do you have a band that records or tours with you?

CADEN: Yeah, it’s kind of like the same concept as Twenty-One Pilots. Our drummer, we’ve known for a while, we used to do School of Rock together.

PARKER: We found our bassist off a Facebook ad.

CADEN: We got lucky with him. Sometimes we play with a rhythm guitarist and I’ve been friends with him since I was in 4th grade. It’s just our friends.

Do you think the School of Rock program was where this all grew out of?

CADEN: That definitely was a huge part of it because everyone in the program was joining bands. We were just like, “Shoot, we’ve got two people from School of Rock.” They’re not in our band any more but we got them and went from there.

When you were first starting out, were there a lot of rough drafts with lyrics and with music or did you start off pretty strong because you had the School of Rock stuff under your belt?

PARKER: There’s a lot of lyrics that I don’t use. You write a whole bunch and then you find a way to put it all together.

CADEN: “Bury Me Low” was something I wrote when I was 12 and I put it off for about 2 years. I was like, “This riff sucks.” I was using this crappy Big Muff pedal and it just sounded terrible. I was running out of ideas so I popped this one back up and I just wrote the whole song and it turned out great. You just go with the flow.

For the songs on the EP, did you record them one at a time or did you go into a studio and record them all?

CADEN: We recorded a total of 8 songs, only 5 are going on the EP. We recorded two separate sessions so songs like “Middle Name” and “Sunflower” were in the first sessions with two different people.

PARKER: And then we went back in. We weren’t really happy with their performances so Caden retracked the bass and retracked the drums and that’s what you hear on the EP.

CADEN: And then we did more songs in the second session.

How do you take that jump from writing songs in your bedroom to deciding that you should do something with them and share them publicly?

PARKER: You’ve got to start somewhere. You don’t want to continue to sit in your room and that’s the only thing you do with it. We were like, “Let’s make it happen.”

CADEN: Find a studio, which our manager found in the Denton/Argyle area called the Echo Lab. We just went at it, went in and recorded and it turned out pretty good.

PARKER: Pretty cool studio too.

Matt Pence produced the songs. Were you familiar with any of his work, like have you heard Centro-Matic?

CADEN: We didn’t really know him when we were going in, we literally met him at the door.

PARKER: We just walked in and recorded. He had some pretty cool ideas.

CADEN: He helped us out with a lot of the drum parts. The one part on “Finger” where it slows down and it’s just the high hat, that was his idea.

You did some touring at the end of 2021. What’s it like going on the road for the first time?

CADEN: It’s really cool. It’s awesome being in a van with all your friends chilling. Obviously, our parents, two of the moms drove us around.

PARKER: We can’t drive the van because we’re not old enough to rent a car. I liked New York.

Was that the first time you’d been to New York?

PARKER: Yeah. Getting there, it was just giant buildings. It was surreal. I loved it.

What kind of turnouts were you getting on that tour? How long of a set were you playing?

CADEN: We have some new songs that we threw in there to make it an hour-long set.

PARKER: In L.A., we played over an hour.

CADEN: We added in a couple of new songs that haven’t been recorded yet. We have about 8 songs records, that’s about 30 minutes, and then we added the rest of the new songs.

PARKER: As far as the turnout, it was up and down. New York was really cool. Chicago was good. Connecticut was also really good.

What type of stuff did you learn about touring? Had you anticipated the 6, 8, 10 hour drives?

CADEN: Some parts were boring. The drives weren’t as bad as expected.

PARKER: You kind of get used to it. You just fall asleep. We did drive through some states but it was backwoods country, nothing but dirt fields for miles. Nothing you can do but sleep.

Parker, you’ve got a pretty huge social media following on TikTok. Are you able to use that as a platform to promote Olive Vox and are you seeing your TikTok followers crossing over to become fans of the band?

PARKER: Yeah, a little bit. Olive Vox and my things are two things that live on their own, but it’s a great way to promote. There is crossover. Anyone that wouldn’t utilize that is not that smart.

You played the Levitation Festival in Austin. How was that?

PARKER: It was good. There was a lot going on around Austin at that time, a lot of cool people, a cool atmosphere, we went to vintage stores leading up to it. It was a pretty enjoyable experience.

Did you see any bands that you weren’t familiar with that impressed you?

CADEN: We saw Fuzz, which we are familiar with. We saw this one before them, The Well, who were good. They are a little heavier, metal-ish.

Who among your peers do you think in 20 – 30 years your kids are going to be listening to?

CADEN: I think Cage the Elephant will be around. They have a lot of hits, like “Cigarette Daydreams” is all over TikTok and it’s a big emotional song. I think that’ll be considered a classic in 20 years.

PARKER: I feel like Billie Eilish has reached that point, you can’t really forget about her.

CADEN: She’s the Nirvana of this era.

What type of people come see you? Are there older people who grew up in the ’90s and love alternative and grunge music? Are there people your age?

CADEN: It’s a mix, people all ages show up.

PARKER: Mostly like mid-20s, but sometimes older, sometimes younger.

Music takes up a lot of your life. When you’re not doing interviews, when you’re not recording music, when you’re not on tour, what consumes your time?

CADEN: Just writing music and trying to make videos. TikTok is a really big thing right now and you just need to try to promote yourself on that and hope one of your videos blows up because you have to get on that algorithm.

PARKER: That’s been a big effort for a while.

Did COVID slow down everything for you?

PARKER: Yes. I feel like it slowed down everybody. It was pretty annoying. We actually got COVID. I got a sinus infection from it. Not fun. I lost my taste and smell but it came back.

What dreams do you have as a band? You’re just starting out and there is still so much in front of you, what do you hope to do?

CADEN: We just want to be a massive rock band and make an impact on music. All music right now is so stagnant to me. What I hear on the radio, it just all sounds the same. We like that older generations like our music, but we want to bring it to the younger generation and see what they think about it.

PARKER: I feel like everything has this layer of glam and gloss and singing about weird and random topics. Sing about something meaningful, not like how much you just spent on your designer bags.

A European tour would be amazing. We’ve never been outside the United States. I want to go abroad and travel.

Do your friends consider you guys rock stars?

CADEN: I wouldn’t want to be around my friends and be like, “Hey guys, look, I’m in a band.” I think we’ve always just stayed friends and now one of my friends is actually playing in the band some times. It’s just casual.

 

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