We are pleased to offer Blow The Scene readers around the world and exclusive interview with Philadelphia’s rising noise rock practitioners, Ladder Devils. The band, who feature ex-members of The Minor Times, recently dropped a new full-length record on hometown label, Brutal Panda Records, who collected three new songs and an out-of-print 7-inch, to bring music fans the 9-track Nowhere Plans LP. The band has been creating a groundswell of notoriety with grip of online song premieres by leading music outlets BrooklynVegan, Lambgoat, Alternative Press, and of course, Blow The Scene. With a live show that punctuates the band’s energetic blend of noisy rock and alternative anthems, Ladder Devils are poised for big things in the coming months and years. In this interview we catch with up bassist / vocalist Matt Leo and guitarist Tim Leo, as the brothers give us the skinny on the making of Nowhere Plans, signing to Brutal Panda Records, pro and cons of being a Philly band, upcoming plans, and much more.
Without further ado, let’s here from Ladder Devils..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the World! Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself and declare your on-stage weapon of choice with Philly’s rising noise rockers, Ladder Devils.
Matt: My name’s Matt, and I play bass and do some vocals
Tim: Tim Leo, I play guitar
Joshua BTS: Ladder Devils recently dropped a new LP, Nowhere Plans, on Brutal Panda Records. Give us the skinny on the record. When, where, and whom did you record with?
Matt: Well, we did a split with Kowloon Walled City, and Fight Amp, which was just an awesome experience. All those dudes are super sweet, and also pretty much destroy the world. Plus, our two good friends Mike and Bob run Brutal Panda and are really good at it. So last fall we decided we needed to have some vinyl of our own. We were losing our drummer and went to record some last songs with another good friend, Brad Wallace, at Permanent Hearing Damage in Port Richmond. We screwed around for a while with mixes, had some drinks and wrote a song in our kitchens, then wised up and sent it off to Scott Evans from Kowloon to actually mix. The dudes at Gradwell Studios mastered, and that was that. The upshot of all this is, we’re surrounded by very talented people who are generous with their time and resources, and we drain them like leeches at any and every possible opportunity.
Joshua BTS: How did you land on the name for this record and does it correlate with any lyrical motifs found throughout? And on that note- What are some of the prevailing lyrical motifs Ladder Devils touch on in the lyrics?
Matt: Nowhere Plans is a part of a line from a Beatles song. Our lyrics tend to be small ideas or shorter lines like that, which we then repeat and
beat the hell out of until they inform our perspective and take on some larger meaning – generally only to us. I don’t know that we have a motif to our songs. Eric and I both write. When I do, I generally try to inject some bit of humor into things that make me feel awful, and I generally do it with all the effectiveness of a Dominoes Pizza commercial.
Joshua BTS: How do these lyrical contexts relate to the cover art for Nowhere Plans? Who crafted the cover design for the record?
Matt: My brother Tim did the cover, and he nailed it. If a picture of a pretty girl playing sweet riffs on her leg has a lyrical context, then I wish I could write it.
Joshua BTS: What does the writing process look like for Ladder Devils? Is there a captain that steers the ship or this a genuine collaborative effort?
Matt: The writing process has pretty much always been the same for us as long as we’ve been playing music together. Which has been a while now I guess. Someone will come with a piece of a song, a riff or a few parts and we repeat them and beat the hell out of them until they inform our perspective and take on some larger meaning – generally only to us. Tim and Eric carry a great deal of the process on their backs, and they do an awesome show great job at it. Mike Howard joined the band a couple months ago, and he’s actually been teaching us a hell of a lot about songwriting from the drummers end, which has been really awesome and super fun, to say the least.
Joshua BTS: Ladder Devils craft a unique sound that incorporates a wide array of tonal arrangements, distortions, effects, etc.. Any unique pieces of equipment that you find pivotal in capturing the band’s overall sound? Any odd recording techniques to deliver your signature sound?
Matt: Our gear is badly treated as a rule and in general disrepair. Our practice space has a wall lined up with repair tags. Tim’s headstock has been glued enough times to be mostly epoxy. Last month I shoved a teflon spatula in my amp to stabilize a loose circuit board. We believe we have a personal relationship with our gear, and it’s a dysfunctional and hurtful relationship. This is a recurring theme. We have few friends. We do have an affinity for recording things in our kitchens. This last time we did some drums in Tim’s basement and ended up putting mics in the floor joists. Whether or not that was a good idea remains in question.
Matt: I just do Ladder Devils. Eric plays music with another friend Brian Medlin, in a project called Ghost Away. Tim plays drums and guitar on enough other projects in the area that I can’t keep track of them. Mike Howard wrote that Spin Doctors song “Two Princes”.
Joshua BTS: Sonically, you guys pull from a wide range of alternative influences, everything from early Nirvana to The Jesus Lizard and far beyond. Did you establish a context for the overall sound in the formative stages of the band? Or did you just let the songs develop organically?
Matt: I guess we try to avoid deciding what something ought to sound like before we hear what it actually sounds like. I realize that sounds pretty new age-y. Actually, I think I bit that from some seminar.
Joshua BTS: Is there a specific story behind the band name?
Tim: “Ladder Devils” was a song Matt and I wrote in our old band Minor Times. The name is kind of open to interpretation, but for me it’s a reference to the negative, competitive nature of people- Be it at work, music or just in general.
Joshua BTS: I understand you recently parted ways with longtime drummer Jon Van Dine. Did this present any challenges to the release process for Nowhere Plans?
Tim: Yeah, Jon’s gone. He was planning on leaving the band in the beginning of 2012 after we recorded the record, but he stuck around for a while. The only impact it had on Nowhere Plans was that we only recorded 3 new songs. Originally the plan was to do a full length, but we didn’t want a new drummer to feel like they had to play exactly what was on a brand new recording. Does that make sense? So we held off on a bunch of songs, and ended up adding our older EP from last year. Our new drummer is our buddy Mike Howard. He’s an old friend and an awesome musician. For the first time in a long, long time, we all fit together as a band.
Tim: We have a slew of new songs, and some loose plans of recording before the end of the year. In 2 days we go on a long weekend tour with Fight Amp. Eric (guitar / vocals) is having a kid this fall, as is Howard (new drummer I just mentioned). So there’s some procreating going on.
Joshua BTS: With Ladder Devils being based right in our back yard, I am interested to know- What do find are some of the pros and cons to being a band based out of Philly?
Tim: I love all of the little scenes and venues that we get to experience. It seems like there’s always another awesome band or house or basement that’s been going at it for a couple of years right under our noses that I’d never even noticed. That sort of thing is pretty unique.
The downside is that it’s obviously cliquey. I’m tired of the ‘members only’ ultra pessimistic and generally disinterested bullshit you can’t not run into. That’s not just in Philly though.
Joshua BTS: How did you come to link up with Brutal Panda Records?
Tim: We were all friends first. When we started this band those guys were into it and supportive right off the bat. As you may be able to tell, we don’t so much have our shit together, so it took awhile to get enough material for a legitimate release. But we’re stoked to be a part of their label. Those guys work really hard for the bands they like (for no gain other than exposure for those bands) and they have a pretty impressive track record.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy writing and performing with Ladder Devils – What do your daily lives look like?
Tim: Matt and I are welders. We work together in South Philly. Eric does art direction for a graphic design company. Howard is a tattoo artist at Yellow Rose. Matt, Eric and I live in Kensington / Fishtown and Howard is right across the bridge in NJ, so we all end up hanging out at each others’ houses. Alcoholism.
Joshua BTS: Thank you kindly for taking a few moments with Blow The Scene readers from around the world, as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
Tim: Thanks for being interested in our music.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
Photos by Senior Staff Photographer, Dante Torrieri, taken from our exclusive Harkonen, Ladder Devils, Whores, Atlas Moth Philly Showcase.
Upcoming Ladder Devils Shows:
8/3/12 – Lansdale, PA – The VFW w/ Wives
8/4/12 – Syracuse, NY – Gorham Bros. Music w/ Blood Sun Circle
8/5/12 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus w/ HULL – Tickets