Ride With Me is the veteran Hongdae band’s first full-length album release.
Table People are capable people. Not table sheeple. And like a table, they’re a little bit square, with four legs to stand on, generally sturdy and solid. No, really solid. Table People are mahogany. They’re like that thrift store find, handcrafted and polished, that when you see you think, “What are you doing here? You aren’t plywood!” and even though you weren’t looking for it, you decide you can’t pass it up.
In the November of 2012, the band released their debut EP. Since then, they’ve played all over the peninsula and recorded a split EP with the Korean band Les Sales, but Ride With Me is their first full-length album. Before you roll your eyes and say to yourself, “Great, another album review by a groupie who’s just going to tell me why this album is like, the best EVER,” let me put this out there: Ride with Me is not the album for you if you are feeling blue. Not even close.
The album opens up with a cheerful plucking of a major chord that, if looped, would make for a sunny alarm ring, something you could wake up to and manage to feel okay before you’ve had coffee. It then jumps headfirst into an eager rock anthem which is felt through the whole album. The lyrics are often indiscernible during the verses, and if you try to sing along you’ll probably end up inventing them. But hey, so what? Eric Davis’ vocal melodies are more of an accompaniment to the catchy guitar strains. The way a white wine is supposed to compliment a light summer dish. And when you pay closer attention to the lyrics, you are pleasantly surprised with lines like, “Just because you don’t have a million dollar nose / Doesn’t mean you’ll never have a feminine sneeze.”
Ride with Me is just the sort of energetic, upbeat album you’d want to blast from an old 90’s Volvo hatchback while driving down a highway on a summer afternoon. I caught up with original Table People guitarists/vocalists Eric Davis and Ethan Waddell and recent addition Myoung Shin to talk about their latest release.
First of all, congratulations on your new album! Ride with Me is a catchy summer album. It’s not possible to be bummed out when listening to it. What were some of the most enjoyable aspects of working on this album, and what challenges did you encounter along the way?
Eric: Most enjoyable was probably that we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and were able to avoid going into debt making it. We seriously owe a big thanks to our friends and family for spotting us the cash to live out our rock n roll fantasy. That took a lot of stress off, so now we can play the shows we want to play instead of worrying about which ones will allow us to pay our bills. Challenges would include finding a new bass player and drummer halfway through the album. But it all worked out because now we’re a happy band and really solid live.
Ethan: For me the most enjoyable aspect of working on the album was the recording process itself. We put so much thought into our parts, so to finally hear all the pieces come together, I found, was incredibly rewarding. We recorded the album during two separate time periods. So the first six songs were recorded in the spring of 2015 while the last five were recorded from the summer to the winter of 2014. For the spring 2015 session, especially, I believe we found the sound that we were looking for. In that respect, recording the first five songs during the summer-fall of 2014 was a challenge in that we were still discovering what styles worked for us.
Myoung : I am very satisfied with the tone of my bass that our recording engineer Brad was able to record. We’ve also had a lot of challenges, like how to market the album. Since we put lots of effort into the writing and recording songs, I think we couldn’t put much effort into promotion.
How did Table People meet each other? And how has the band changed over the years?
Eric: We met the way most great songwriting partnerships meet: craigslist. But I was a pretty crappy guitar player and singer back then, which is funny considering I’m just barely passable now. How has TP changed? I’d say we’ve gotten a lot more polished and ornate. The first EP is pretty primitive and punk. That has its charm but we’ve kept adding members that are more technical and add more wrinkles to each song. Personally I like both sounds. If we ever get to sounding proggy and jockular we try to reign it, try to pretend you only have 2 fingers or your guitar is missing strings.
Ethan: I think in terms of artistic taste, Eric and I have a lot of similarities. So when we first met through craigslist, that made a strong impression on me. He sent me some demos, “Different Places” and “Saving Up” (which are on the first EP), both of which have lyrics that I liked a lot–both sad and funny at the same time. So I thought if this dude could work on his singing and guitar playing then we could start a cool band. I think Eric’s come a long way since then, and it definitely reflects in the music. The changes that the band has gone through have also been dependent on the members we’ve had. Up until now, we’ve changed both our bassist and drummer four times, all of our past member have all had an impact on the way the music sounds now and how it’s changed. With Soyoung on drums and Myoung on bass, I think both Eric and I feel way more comfortable developing a style that fits the mood and content of the lyrics. When Soyoung first auditioned, it seemed clear that her natural rhythm would be perfect for Eric’s guitar playing. And Myoung’s bass playing is really melodic and he plays right in the pocket with Soyoung, so it’s given me a lot of space to experiment with guitar/bass interaction. While in the past, we experimented a lot with punk, rock and roll and noise rock, with Ride with Me, I think we realized that poppier stuff suits us better.
Myoung: When I met Ethan and Eric last year, they had lots of rock ‘n’ roll songs like “Dirty Wedding” or “Chiko.” I really loved listening to these songs, but I was not comfortable with playing those heavy songs because I’m not the kind of bassist who shreds. So I’ve been secretly pushing these guys to write more mellow songs, but it doesn’t seem like this plan works. Anyways, I can definitely say we are developing our style toward somewhere fitter for us.
Can you talk about your creative process? What is your personal favorite song that you’ve written or worked on?
Eric: I’ll usually make a chord progression that I’ve been playing for a while. Then I have a couple sets of verses and choruses sitting around needing music. I’ll see if any of those jive with the progression. If not, then I’ll write new lyrics. Once I get a rough sketch of something I like, I take it to Ethan. He often changes it a lot. Writing vocal melodies is especially hard for me, so Ethan makes a lot of them. Then after we’ve jammed it for a night we’ll bring it to Seoyoung and Myoung at the practice studio. That’s where we arrange it and tinker with it. Personal favorite would probably be either “Call Me” or “Ride with Me.” It think those are the closest we’ve come to perfecting our sound.
Ethan: When Eric brings a song to us, first, I try to find a melody that works. Then often times, we’ll change the chords accordingly. The process of arrangement entails constant alterations to either the chords or the melody and continues until the two are as close to perfectly balanced as possible. Myoung is really quick with learning and making parts. He’ll also make riffs that I base my own parts on. Soyoung has perfect pitch, so when something is off, she’ll tell us. I think that the first five songs on Ride with Me are my favorites.
Myoung: Eric mostly writes lyrics with his guitar. Ethan knows how to write good melody, so Eric brings lyrics and chords, and Ethan arranges the song with us. For me, when there’s good chords, good rhythm and good composition, I know right away if I can write good bass phrases or not. I was able to put lots of good bass phrases in our song “Ride with Me.”
Is there a musician that you’re really digging right now, and can you recommend an album and/or a book we should check out that our readers may not be familiar with?
Eric: I just got Apple Music so I’ve been downloading stuff like crazy. A lot of old albums that I miss from college. Kingsbury Manx, Holopaw, Sportsguitar, Love of Laughter. Stuff from 10 years ago. As for current artists, I like Parquet Courts, Say Sue Me. Grey from the Killer Drones turned me on to Through the Sparks. He used to play with them back in Alabama. Also, about a month ago I saw a Korean band called Silica Gel and they were amazing. I bought the CD at the show and it rules too.
Ethan: I’m listening to electronically influenced music these days: Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and Porter Robinson. I’d recommend Baekma’s new album. Its gonna be really good. I could also recommend a Korean acoustic singer named, 셀린셀리셀리느 (SellinSellySelline). His music is dark and kind of haunting. I’ve been meaning to see him live for years, but I still haven’t.
Myoung: I’m listening to Real Estate, Posse, Beach Fossils, Mac Demarco, Wavves, Public Service Broadcasting, Manchester Orchestra, and Beach House these days. I’d like to recommend a Japanese anime though. The anime is called Ping Pong and this anime’s soundtrack has its’ own unique style.
What is your spirit animal?
Eric: Koala Bear drinking a white russian on the 18th green of Pebble Beach at sunset to celebrate selling his robotics start-up to Google.
Ethan: A combination of a penguin and a raccoon.
Myoung: I think all the cats are really nice to me. Just to me.
For more info on the band’s upcoming shows, visit Facebook.com/TablePeople