Photo Credit: Cory Woodruff
Having similar influences from bands like The Fray and A Great Big World, Cincinnati’s Telehope are on to great things. With their infectious and jubilant single “Joy”, the five-piece journey through their music, dabbling in the genres of indie-pop/piano rock music. In the last three years, the band have built up experience by playing events to support different causes and charities, was opening act for former American Idol finalist Danny Gokey and was also placed in the finals for The Underground’s Battle of the Bands competition.
It’s been over a month since the band released their debut record, Chasing Dreams and we had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Brad (vocals/guitar), Adolph Goetz (lead guitar) and Ben Malson (keyboard) to talk more on its writing process, Telehope’s mission of bringing hope to listeners and the rewarding aspects of playing benefit shows to showcase their music.
How did you guys originally form and what influenced you to follow a career in music?
Ben: My biggest inspiration is Adam Young from Owl City. When I first started listening to him, I fell in love with music and just how it can affect people, so I wanted to have that same effect on others through my music, so that’s kind of how I started being inspired with it.
Adolph: I actually was really into soccer and I was the goalie but I ended up screwing up my back, so I decided that I would learn how to play guitar ’cause I couldn’t move my back. I fell in love with the band Relient K and they were the first band that got me into music and then it just continued from there.
Mark: I grew up in a family where we were really musical and I just kinda grew up in that atmosphere. I just loved music from the day I was born. I learned guitar when I was twelve. But yeah, that’s how it pretty much started.
I noticed that you guys formed another band called Undivided and that was a pop band. Telehope is approaching the indie-pop/piano rock spectrum. How did you guys decide to form a new band and go towards that approach in music?
Ben: We used to be Undivided and a few years of doing that we were like, this really isn’t going anywhere, we don’t really have a specific message or brand or kind of sound that we wanna convey so we decided to rebrand. The biggest thing of all is that we wanted to have a message of hope to people and convey that through our music and how we interact with people.
So when Adolph came to me with the idea of changing our name, I said ‘Okay’ as long as it incorporates the word ‘hope’ as that’s our mission. So we really have been working on branding Telehope with hope and with visual aesthetics. When you see Telehope and when you hear our music you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s Telehope and you won’t be like confused with any other messages of any other bands.
As you grow, it’s sort of like a progression that evolves in your music too.
Adolph: We started the band when I was sixteen and now I’m nineteen so there’s definitely a big difference there.
“I think it’s really important that as a band to focus on the bigger picture of things. While being in a band is cool and fun, there are a lot more serious things in life to focus on…”
You guys released your debut album Chasing Dreams last month. What was the writing process like for that one?
Adolph: You know, every single song was completely different. We don’t have a set writing process so sometimes, I would come to the band with just one guitar riff. With “Have My Heart”, I actually wrote just about the entire song before presenting it to the guys. It really varies completely song to song. Moving forward, we would like to write it a lot more as a unified group and write as a five-piece in a room. But to this point, it’s been completely random and varies song to song.
Ben: Our biggest thing for when we write [is] we don’t want to put ourselves in a box. Whether that’d be through our genre or how we do things because you never know when you’re gonna get inspired or how you’re gonna get inspired, so we don’t ever want to limit ourselves so we’re pretty open to whatever comes our way.
Listening to the record as well, it’s quite organic and natural and it flows really well. In the beginning, especially when you open with “Joy”, it’s catchy, piano rock. Towards the end, it’s quite slow-paced. What were you feeling at the time when you were making the record?
Adolph: I would say the answer to that question also varies. All of our songs are very personal to us. For example, “Ghost” – I wrote that song about three years ago and it’s a very vulnerable song and it played very specifically into my life at the time. I wasn’t ready to release it three years ago because I wasn’t ready for the world to hear that. I was still working through those emotions. I would definitely say that each song has a personal connection to each of us and the writing process is just through inspiration with personal experiences.
Ben: I mean the title of the album says it all that we’re trying to convey chasing dreams. And so, that’s very much personal to us because we are chasing our dream of making it big in the music industry. So all of the songs in Chasing Dreams, they’re all very personal and each one has a story behind them and that in some way is related to chasing our dreams. Whether that’d be working through something that’s hard in our personal lives or whether it’d be in “Joy” where something great has just begun. Pretty much all the songs have a very positive message, even the songs “Insomnia” and “Backwards” where they might seem sad in a way but really, they have a redeeming conclusion.
Obviously, you care so much about these songs to make it that emotional and to put yourself in that vulnerable place. That must’ve been sort of scary for you guys wasn’t it?
Adolph: I would say especially with “Ghost”, that one’s pretty black and white about some of the stuff that I was going through a couple of years ago and I didn’t really want my mum to hear that song for example. And the story behind that one is kind of interesting ’cause I wrote it probably like three years ago but I didn’t show Ben until like maybe a year and a half ago. And he was looking through my book of lyrics and he was like, ‘Oh, show me this one’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t want to show you that one. I don’t really like it and it’s not very good.’
But I finally caved in and showed him and he was like, ‘This is going on the record.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know about that’ and he took me to the piano and he sat down and he played the little piano part and we haven’t turned back since. I have lots of people walk out and say that’s their favourite song of ours and that’s crazy.
It’s hard to be private in a band ’cause you’re sort of sharing everything with each other. It opens up certain wounds but it’s sort of relieving as well.
Ben: It’s pretty awesome to be able to like write what you’re feeling and then release that – like a weight off your chest where like people know but they don’t know necessarily exactly what you’re feeling but still have a general kind of feel of what we’re talking about.
I noticed that you guys released an album instead of an EP. How did you guys come to that decision?
Ben: When we were kind of nearing completion of the album, we had six or seven songs and we kinda had two others in the works so we added one or two to make it a full album. Marketing an EP as opposed to an album are two different things, so we wanted to market the actual album.
Adolph: A couple of months ago when we were working on the album, we actually had probably about thirteen songs written. And then as we were listening back, the flow of the album felt a little weird and there were some songs where we weren’t quite happy with and we decided that we’d rather have a shorter album. We ended up cutting a handful of the songs and we may or may not revisit those in the future but we decided to just to go the eight songs and move forward from there.
Did you guys produce the album yourselves or did you have help from other people?
Ben: I produced, mixed, recorded and mastered the whole album and that’s like my biggest passion aside from writing music. I spent the Summer in Nashville, Tennessee last year, which is like the music city of America so I learned a ton down there. I’ve been doing various internships and courses to be able to learn how to produce. It’s one of those things where I feel like if I want it done really well and exactly how I want it then I’m gonna have to do it. Since it’s my passion, might as well do it.
Just to wrap up, you guys have played a lot of events and charities to support certain causes. What would you say has been the most rewarding part of supporting those causes and doing those benefit type of concerts?
Adolph: The first show we ever played was actually at a homeless shelter and that was really powerful. It was really cool to see people’s joy and just the warmth that we brought into that rock community. I think it’s really important that as a band to focus on the bigger picture of things. While being in a band is cool and fun, there are a lot more serious things in life to focus on and being able to support those through our passion is amazing and really, it’s a huge blessing.
Ben: Especially with our mission of Telehope to bring hope to people. Like what better way to bring hope to people than through benefit shows and other community events. That’s what people need and it’s so fulfilling to see people, you know, in the middle of a show just being so joyful that people take the time to play music where they otherwise wouldn’t normally.