Interview with Craig Eubanks of Solidify via email correspondence July 29, 2019.
(This interview was originally published on July 29, 2019. It was reposted to the updated website on January 5, 2020.)
How about a brief introduction of Solidify, the members and where everyone’s from.
Solidify is a rock band from Fort Smith, AR. Our music is on the heavier side, but we’re easy to listen to. If you like rock music at all, you’ll like what we’re doing. Our music is just one facet of what we pride ourselves on, though. Our live show is really where it’s at for us.
Most of us are from the Oklahoma/Arkansas state line. Steven and John are from the Oklahoma side, while David and Ashton are from the Arkansas side. I’m Craig. I was raised mostly in Louisiana, but I’ve lived in Oklahoma for the past decade.
When and how did you guys come together as a band?
Prior to 2015, Steven had never tried to play anything. He wanted to give the drums a shot, so he bought a set, and I started bringing my guitar over to jam with him. We were just doing it to hang out and have some fun at first, but it didn’t stay that way for long. After our first couple of shows, we began to break it down and analyze what we needed to do to make our music and live show better. We decided on a direction and began tightening things up. Our first step was to find the right people who fit our vision. I’m pretty sure that step is the hardest, by the way.
In 2016, we were a three piece. Steven had switched to the bass, and I picked up vocals. A co-worker overheard us talking about finding another guitarist, and he recommended his “little cousin” who was “unbelievably talented”. Pshhh. Listen. Everyone has a cousin, sister, friend’s brother-in-law, whatever, that’s “the best guitarist ever”, so I didn’t take him seriously. He didn’t even have any videos to prove it. Another friend of mine brought John in to audition one evening, and we were blown away. Steven and I went back to work, excited to tell our friend that we didn’t need his stupid cousin because we had a John Starks. Turns out, John was his cousin. Life’s funny like that.
In 2018, we needed a drummer to fill in for us on short notice. Steven and I worked with David, so we asked him to help us out. Well, he may not have had the best impression of us from work because that’s just not where our focus is. After much harassment, he reluctantly agreed, so we sent him our song “Insomnia” and told him, “Look, you can play the song however you want later, but we need to see you do it exactly like the track this weekend.” David got there, and we ran through the song a few times to make sure that he had it down perfectly. A few hours later, he figured out what we were up to when our friend Live Sosa showed up to shoot our first music video. After that we were like, “Hey, you’re already in the video. May as well stay in the band, right? See where this goes?” Since then, he’s been very engaged and happy (I think). He’s even agreed to be set on fire for a future video or promo. I made sure to screenshot that text for legal purposes.
After having John and David’s talent in the band, we were able to attract Ashton. We had seen him play around town, and he was always great to watch. We were talking about getting another guitarist, but we hadn’t started reaching out to anyone yet. Out of the blue, he messaged us asking if we might have a spot for him. We pretty much stopped working for the rest of the day to address that. He came in, learned all the material in three days, and played his first show with us flawlessly.
What is your songwriting process as a band, lyrics and music?
The music is almost always written first. I used to write everything except the drums, then bring it to the guys to see if they liked it. Shortly after joining us, John brought the music to what would later become “Insomnia”, and I wrote the lyrics for it later. We loved the result. Now, the guys will bring music to the table, I’ll work out a melody, or sometimes a few melodies, and I’ll bring it back to the garage to get everyone’s opinion. After that’s set, I develop the lyrics.
Once we’ve put everything together, we get a rough recording of it and start looking at it from an outside perspective and asking the difficult questions. “Do we really need this breakdown? Does it add anything unique to the song? Would it be missed?” “Is the intro too long?” “I know that part is fun to play, but is it fun to listen to?” “Is there ever really a reason to have a bass solo?”
Tell us about the creation of your song “Insomnia” and the success it found.
John wrote the music for “Insomnia”, and we were immediately hooked. I was a bit intimidated, though, because it was my first attempt at writing lyrics into someone else’s music. I sat at home for days with it on repeat trying to give it a voice. The music initially sounded upbeat and a bit happy to me. After a while with no progress, I got pretty frustrated with myself.
I remember my daughters being really clingy one night because my work with the band was cutting into our time together. I acted like a jerk to my daughter, so my wife took the girls upstairs to get ready for bed so I could have some space. I felt horrible about it. I sat in silence meditating on how I’d been acting over the past few days and on what my priorities should be. I finally played the track again, and I heard a somber undertone that I hadn’t heard before. The words were written that night, and the track was recorded soon afterward.
We recorded the track with a few different people to try to find the right studio. Kyle Simpson of Simpson Studios quickly won us over. He wasn’t timid about telling us where we needed to improve our song writing and performance. The first thing he did to the song was to chop off the intro that we loved. “This isn’t the 90’s, guys.” Next, he had John simplify the guitar work through the chorus. We went with it because we wanted Kyle to have room to do his job as a producer, and I held back my tears even though that beautiful guitar was gone because you don’t wanna cry in front of your boys, right? After Kyle had finished his magic, we walked away with a much better product than we had imagined.
We were surprised each time a new station or podcast picked up “Insomnia”, but the most surprising one was when The Valley FM in Australia contacted us asking if they could play it. We were stoked! The video that we released for it hit over 10,000 views in a month and is still our most streamed song on Spotify.
How about “Reunion” and the rest of the ‘Prima Materia’ EP? And how did you choose the name, ‘Prima Materia’?
“Reunion” is the only song of ours that we didn’t write. A friend of ours named Marc Cooper wrote that one. He brought it to us saying that he wanted us to give it a shot. We all connected with it immediately. As we played it with him, we each put our personal touch on it and ended up with what we have now.
“Prima Materia” means “original material”. We thought it was fitting for our first EP. Each time someone joins, they want to understand the reasoning behind the name Solidify. When I explained it to Ashton, he saw the symbol behind the band logo and started drawing connections. He began studying things related to our concept and our symbol to get a better understanding of our brand, and we talked about themes for our first 6 or so EP’s. “Prima Materia” was the name pulled from those discussions. I know this is obscure, but we’re curious to see if anyone else draws the conclusion for themselves.
You guys were on one of the main stages for Rocklahoma 2019! How was that experience?
Yes! We had been wanting to play Rocklahoma for a while, so we were excited to get the invitation. Rocklahoma is always a great time, even when you’re not playing. The people there are like family, and there’s always something going on. If you’ve never been, it’s hard to explain.
We pulled in Thursday night to enjoy the festival and got stuck in line for about 7 hours due to tornadic weather moving overhead. Since we weren’t going anywhere, we hopped out into the road with our acoustics to play and meet some of our neighbors. Everyone was cool. Some of them showed up to support us on Saturday. That meant a lot to us.
To be able to get up and have a shot in front of such an awesome crowd was a huge honor. The Roadhouse crew was top notch. Having a good crew on our side lets us focus on the show.
What other show or tour stories do you have, that you can talk about in public?
Last year, we opened up for SOiL at The Riff in Springfield, MO. After the show, people were crowding around to talk to them. We didn’t want to get in the way, so we decided to go outside and load our gear back up. At that time, our show opened with David playing drums to a series of tracks which culminated with the Mortal Kombat theme song where he would take his hoodie off to reveal a Reptile costume from the game and play the drums. It was just something fun to do.
So, we’re outside The Riff huddled up talking, and Ryan McCombs walks up to us to hang out for a minute. He was really laid back and hilarious. The conversation was going well, no one was making it awkward, we were having laughs… then Ryan’s curiosity gets him. He has noticed that David has a box tucked neatly under his arm and is just holding it nonchalantly. He asked what was in it, and David just deflected the question.
After a minute, he isn’t satisfied. He stops, looks right at David, and asks again more attentively. “What’s in the box?” We all start in because we think David’s Reptile costume is in there, and it’d make for a fun anecdote. David doesn’t seem to think so, though, so we start harassing him by quoting lines from the movie “Se7en” excitedly. Ryan joins in, “What’s in the box, California?!?”
Finally, to shut us all up, David begins to open the box. We’re quiet enough that we should’ve heard the denim scraping the sides of the box instead of the costume’s satin-like material. David unceremoniously pulls out the contents. “Guys, guys. It’s just my sweaty jeans.” You can literally see the aftermath of the show we just played in dark blots throughout the legs of the jeans. Ryan looks at him, genuinely confused and maybe a little concerned, and asks, “Why?”
So we get a brand new song from you in August!? What can you tell us about this one?
Yeah, August 3rd! This one is called “Nobody Listens”, and we’re really excited to share it with everyone. John brought a song to us that starts off with a guitar riff that’s difficult to pin down and explain. It sounded a bit eerie and mysterious to me until Steven said that it made him think of people in powdered wigs. After that, I couldn’t go back. As I listened to the song, I had thoughts of people at a banquet table and later in a ballroom.
This kind of setting isn’t really for me. I don’t enjoy tightly organized events, forced conversations, or dress codes. I found myself in a pessimistic mindset. I imagined myself at a table, people watching, hearing shallow conversations where each party was just waiting for their turn to speak, seeing people in powdered wigs staring at their cellphones, nodding while pretending to listen to someone who’s talking just to hear the sound of their own voice.
At first, I thought, “I wouldn’t even try to speak. No one would really listen anyway.” Then, I realized how negative I was being about a situation that I had created myself. I’m the only one at fault there because I’m the one imagining all of it. When I wrote the song, I put the verses in 3rd person and focused on the imagined group of people and the futility of one-sided conversation. The chorus is written in 1st person, though, as it’s a stab at the arrogance I found in myself during my meditation. “Am I the only one who’s making any sense? It’s hard to hold my tongue, drowning in ignorance. Doesn’t matter what I say. Nobody listens anyway.”
What’s next for Solidify? What roads and destinations are you guys looking at for short and long term?
We have a solid lineup, reliable transportation, and all the equipment we need for a while. We’re spending the rest of 2019 writing new material and exploring new sounds while extending our reach to a few new states. As the year closes, we’ll take some time off to spend with our families over the holidays, then we’ll begin building a new stage show for 2020. We’re hoping to be a part of more festivals next year and extend our reach even further both digitally and physically.
Long term? We’re all trying to pay off bills and get our families ready for the day when we have to quit our day jobs to make this a reality. It’ll be a tough road, so we’re doing everything we can right now to mitigate that a bit. Fortunately, our support structure is completely on board.
To finish up, any final thoughts or shout-outs to give?
Always! We’ve had help from so many people along the way. To anyone who’s ever given us honest feedback, positive or negative, constructive or down right angry, whatever, we really appreciate it. Thanks for telling us we sucked when we sucked. I don’t think we would sound the way we do without Kyle Simpson. Aside from offering us quality work as a producer, he’s changed how we look at our music.