Simplified: BeatCrave Fav of the MonthBy Lindsey Darden
Your votes have been counted: Simplified is your BeatCrave Fav for the Month of July!
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based band has a lot up their sleeves, not only in the way of genre but along the lines of heart, drive, and staying power. It’s these qualities that caught our attention and earned them a place in our BeatCrave Fav series, as well as our readers and their fans. Truth be told, what’s not to like: their down-to-earth persona and penchant for playing live goes well with their appreciation for their fans and vice versa. And these days, sometimes it really doesn’t matter how good you sound (although that helps); it’s the quality of music for the sake of making music, for the sake of one’s audience that sticks just as much. Naturally, Simplified is made of such good stock.
Although having drawn audible comparisons to the rich vocals and instrumentals as well as subdued but heartfelt messages a la their contemporaries – Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews Band, and Jack Johnson in particular – it’s a discernible edge all Simplified’s own that also appeals to our ears. Lead vocalist Clee Laster and guitarist Chris Sheridan originally founded the band in 2001, and together they have gone through various changes with the band from its formation to its current form. Today, bassist Chris Lynch and drummer Donnie Marple round out the foursome, making for a cohesive sound that goes beyond typical rock, branching into a soulful quality that can be sensed by listeners, new and long-time fans alike. In fact, Simplified’s fans – a huge portion of them having discovered them on college radio – have rallied up on numerous occasions in support, most recently to feature them on late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as well as various charities during the holiday season.
Exciting times are in the works for Simplified this upcoming Labor Day weekend. Among them, ESPN and its sister networks will be starting the college football season right with the single, “Shall We Begin?”, from their latest album release, Brighter Days, which will be featured in video representations and montages from September 1-5. Simplified’s music captures and expresses an undeniable human spirit – an awesome quality recognized in being our BeatCrave Fav for the month of July. Check them out in our exclusive interview below.
BeatCrave: Who or what would you say inspires or influences your style of music?
Clee Laster: Lot’s of things. Life. Love.
Chris Sheridan: As far as musical inspiration it’s all across the board really.
Clee Laster: Yeah, I grew up listening to Van Morrison and Otis Redding. They are both a huge impact on what I do now.
Chris Sheridan: I think we all grew up listening to a lot of different things and Simplified is a combination of all of that thrown into a pot. And we get really inspired by the ocean too. That’s probably where the beach & reggae feel come from.
BC: We love the complexity of your layered alternative sound. You’ve got blues and roots fused together with rock, among other things – how do you ‘settle’ on a style when you’ve got a little bit of everything to latch onto, genre-wise?
CL: Thank you. We don’t really settle on a style. We came into the project with an open mind and we write what we feel.
CS: Yeah we never discussed or said we want to be like (fill in the blank)…Our sound is a comprised of everything we all like as individuals and as a band. If one of us brings something to the table like a riff, lick, or melody we will play with it as an idea. Sometimes it’ll become something (a song) and sometimes it’ll end up in the trash can or be put on the back burner. We communicate well when we do writing sessions and everyone has input. At the end of the day though it sounds like Simplified.
BC: What would you say are your favorite songs to have come together on your latest album, Brighter Days? Yes, “all of them” does count as an answer, but were there a few that stuck out to you individually or as a band the most?
CS: My personal favorites are “Screaming at the Ceiling” and “She Don’t Care”. They are both very fun live songs.
CL: My favorite song to record was “Brighter Days”. I felt like I put the most emotion into the song. “Screaming at the Ceiling” is my favorite one to play live though too.
CS: Yeah just today we were driving to pick our guitars up at the shop and “Screaming at the Ceiling” came on the radio, on WSGE 91.7. We were thrilled to hear it. Especially since we haven’t run a radio campaign for the record yet. I think Clee wanted to do a kart wheel (laughs).
BC: Later this month it looks like you’re playing a few shows in your home state. What’s next for you?
CS: Right now we have a lot going on. For upcoming shows we have some festivals and university shows coming up. We have the Black Water Music Festival in Live Oaks, FL coming up at the end of September. We are also in first place for the Samsung Summer Krush Contest to perform in Seattle. And if we do that they will air our performance live on Jimmy Kimmel. So that’s pretty cool. If we win.
CL: We also just signed a deal with ESPN and licensed one of our songs to them. Our first single off “Brighter Days” is “Shall We Begin” and they liked it.
CS: Yeah we are stoked for that. The song is going to be used for ESPN’s “Kick Off to College Game Day” from September 1st through the 5th. So that is going to give us a lot of national exposure. It’s a pretty exciting deal. They used Kenny Chesney last year so we were excited and humbled that we got the call from them.
BC: We understand each comes with its own brand of energy, but we’ve got to know – which do you enjoy more: playing live shows or in the studio? Or, what do you personally gain from either, or both?
CL & CS: Live!
CS: Playing live and recording in the studio are really two different beasts. We’ve only recorded 3 studio albums but we’ve performed something like over 2500 shows. I don’t even really know how many. So naturally we are more comfortable in the live setting. But we really wanted to capture the essence of our live show on “Brighter Days”.
CL: And I think we accomplished that working with producer Jerry DePizzo (O.A.R.). We like our past studio records but we always felt they were missing the “live” feel.
CS: Yeah, Jerry has heard us several times when we played shows with O.A.R. So I think he knew what we were going after. It was great working with him. I don’t think he slept for 3 weeks. He was very committed to capturing what we all wanted.
CL: Yeah it was a great experience recording “Brighter Days”. We all had a lot of fun and learned a lot. So playing live and recording in the studio both has their differences and you gain a lot from both.
BC: Your band formation didn’t start off in the “complete” standard band formation that it is today, but you wrote new material and played acoustic shows despite that fact. What words of encouragement or advice would you give to bands that are still looking for the right players to round out their respective bands?
CL: Keep on going and don’t give up. There are people out there that share your dreams and goals.
CS: It can be very difficult for bands to keep it together which is why the average band doesn’t last for more than a year. Personal differences and creative differences contribute to the demise of a lot of projects. For advice to bands who are looking for the “right” players I would say this: Don’t look for the “best” players. Look for the “best” players for the job/project. Finding someone who wears a lot of hats is the key. With the way the music biz is now, especially for independent artists, it’s good to have people that can handle things outside of the music like bookings, managerial duties, and creative duties.
CL: It’s a good idea to be sure everyone can handle being in close quarters for a long, long time. An 11 hour ride in a 15 passenger van can cause some anxiety.
CS: (laughs) Yeah, I suggest you get everyone in the vehicle and just take a nonstop trip across the country and back and see how things work. If everyone is still alive with no injuries you probably have the right guys.
BC: What would be your dream venue in which to perform?
CL: Madison Square Garden.
CS: Red Rocks.
BC: And now for a few bonus questions: what was the last book you read?
CS: “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. My sister put the book in my hands. I usually take her advice when it comes to music, movies, and books. So I read the whole thing. It’s basically about success stories and factors that contribute to high levels of success. A great read.
CL: Damn, I don’t even remember… something by Stephen King, maybe. The iPhone has taken over. (laughs)
BC: What is your guilty pleasure?
CL: Being lazy and relaxing. Staying in bed watching movies all day. Sometimes you just need it because we are out all the time doing shows.
CS: It’s nice to have a day or two to do nothing. But there is always something to be done when you are in this business so sometimes your thoughts take over and you start thinking of things to do when you should be relaxing.
BC: If you could visit anywhere in the world for a week starting tomorrow, where would you go?
CS: I want to go to Hawaii so Clee won’t be able to go. We spend enough time around each other. (laughs).
(Clee)-No you can go to Fiji.
10. And last but not least: cake or ice cream?
(Sheridan and Clee)-Ice Cream Cake!