Formed in December 2015, Kentucky rock/hard rock/post-hardcore band Softspoken is comprised of 5 members: original members Chris Wethington and Billy Zimpelman, Sam Scheuer, Nick Sits and Austin Armstrong. Their music embodies the idea that people should take pride in who they are, and never be afraid to let their voice be heard.
I got the chance to talk with Chris about where the name of the band came from, who some of the band’s musical influences are, what inspired their latest single “Paradox” and so much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
For those who might not have ever heard of you, can you give us a brief history of the band and how it culminated into what it is now?
Softspoken was originally a side-project for me when I was living overseas. After I moved back to the states in late 2015, I reached out to Billy and put together the original lineup to make a transition from a passion project into a full-on band. Billy and I are the only remaining original members. Sam joined in April 2017, Nick joined this past summer, and Austin joined at the end of 2018.
Where did the name Softspoken come from?
As I mentioned, I originally just had a personal side-project when I was living in Japan. While I was living there, I had quite a few interactions with co-workers, bosses, or even strangers who’d comment on how quiet or ‘soft-spoken’ I was — and especially one time by a boss who said that I couldn’t be successful being as reserved as I am. It bothered me at first, but after thinking on it I decided to take it as a strength and be proud of who I am and how I am. From there I started using the name ‘Softspoken’ to organize my solo ideas. That name stuck when I decided to move home and start a full band.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey to listeners with their music. You guys classify your sound as melodic post-hardcore, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Using just descriptive language, I’d say our music is passionate first and foremost – it’s a true representation of who we are as people and what we’re feeling; it’s equal parts chaotic and structured, melodic and discordant. And tying into the above, the message we want to convey is for people to just be proud of who they are – to not worry about the negative opinions of others or feel like they need to compromise who they are for the sake of someone else. Be you and be proud of who you are.
Kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences as a band?
This varies a lot per member, but when we first got together to start writing Billy and I talked about writing songs that spoke to people like songs from our favorite bands had spoken to us when we were starting out as musicians. [So we like] bands like Underoath, As Cities Burn, Saosin, and acts like The Story So Far, August Burns Red, ERRA, Northlane, and others with styles that might not be directly incorporated into how we write, but still inspire us as creators.
Let’s talk about the latest single, “Paradox”. What inspired that song?
The idea for “Paradox” came at a time when we [the band] were discussing whether it was in the best interest for us to match what was popular/trending, or to do what we really felt, regardless of how it conformed. We started asking ourselves: Why do people listen to music? And how do they listen? What is the itch that pushes someone to listen to a song? There’s no simple answer. Each person has a different perception, and different preferences. So then the question became: How do we write music to connect if everyone connects to something different? As a band, we came to the conclusion that we have to just write who we are, and be honest and genuine in what we do, because people can connect with what’s real.
But the issue – or paradox – there is that by being us, we were deciding to not be exactly what was trending, and therefore it would potentially be more difficult to cut through the noise to get heard. As we moved into a new album cycle, this thinking permeated everything Sam wrote lyrically and became the backbone for “Paradox” and kind of the idea behind the album title Deaf Perception as well.
What was the song writing process like for this song specifically?
Songwriting is typically a very natural and easy thing for us. We always start out in our practice space, just jamming out ideas. As members start to vibe with what’s being played, we add in parts and as certain ideas or riffs resonate, we go over them and build a structure. “Paradox” started with the intro lead that Billy plays and we built it from there. It’s a fairly straightforward song in terms of the structure and that’s what we wanted for it; we wanted it to be short, to the point and kind of maintain energy.
Do you guys tend to write by yourselves or do you like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
We write everything on our own, but that’s not to say that we’re against outside opinions. One of the reasons we decided to go with Matt Goldman for recording our album was because we respect his creative abilities and his knowledge of music in general, so when he jumped in to tell us to change something we listened and worked with him to make the best songs we could. But – and this kind of ties into what was said above – at the end of the day, the music we write is an extension of who we are, so we think it should reflect our ideas and emotions first and foremost.
Were there any major changes to “Paradox” that happened once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
The general structure of the song remained almost exactly the same. There was a breakdown-ish part at the end of the pre-pro[duction] version that got cut entirely. The major change was the drums. It was just Sam, Billy, and I at the time we recorded, so all of the drums for the pre-pro[duction] were just simple beats written in midi. We had our good friend Cole Clark (formerly the drummer in Picturesque) come in and write drums to the tracks with our/Goldman’s direction, and that really helped to give the song the feel and energy it has now.
I know your new album Deaf Perception is coming out in June. Is it finalized enough yet where you know how many songs are on it and what people can expect from it?
Yes! There are 11 tracks total. Stylistically, the songs cover a wide spectrum of what one might consider to be “post-hardcore” – from light and atmospheric, to heavy and groovy. The album has a lot of layers, and there’s a lot to dig into, from the lyrical content to the instrumentals. We hope people will sit down with it and really experience everything we put into it.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
We’ve recently upgraded our in-ear monitoring rig, so we’ve been nerding out about that most recently. On our last run, we had enough time to stop by the Sweetwater Factory and picked up two of the Two-Notes CabM cab simulation pedals to use for our guitars when running in-ears. Those have been really cool. Small footprint and super easy to connect, but a lot of possibilities and great tone.
Honestly, I’m the gear nerd in the band. If you sit in on the live streams we do sometimes, or our podcast we’ve started up, you’ll hear wisecracks about how my gear setup changes from month to month. I love reading about and trying as much stuff as I can; it’s that elusive quest for the “perfect tone”. I’m pretty happy with what I have now, though.