Upon concluding a tour cycle that saw them playing endless gigs, from clubs to festivals, 18th & Addison’s Kait DiBenedetto and Tom Kunzman had earned some time off. The group spent month after month performing show after show, with few if any breaks. Instead of much-needed rest, however, they were back in the studio with over a dozen songs they had written after the release of their second studio album, 2016’s Makeshift Monster. They had plenty of material to choose from, enough for another album, but instead, the duo opted for an EP featuring four songs that DiBenedetto says were “the strongest, and the ones that directly correlated what we were feeling the best.”
The band spent a surprisingly short time — four days over the course of September and October 2017 —with producer Dave Ryan at Audio Pilot Studio in New Jersey. Longtime drummer Brian Dylla tracked his parts on the first day. Kunzman completed the bass parts equally quickly, and two days were divided between guitars and vocals. “Everything was seamless,” says DiBenedetto. “It was one of the best experiences we’ve had in a studio. Dave Ryan had a great understanding of our vision going into recording this EP, which made bringing everything to life even more exciting than it already was, and he wasted no time doing it, which we loved. Finding guitar/bass tones and drums sounds was a breeze, and recording vocals, which is usually a bit of a nightmare at times, ended up being a blast. Overall, it was great, and Dave killed it.”
Vultures was days away from release when DiBenedetto reconnected with Guitar Girl. She and Kunzman were gearing up for an EP Release tour, joined by the Makeshift Monster tour rhythm section. “Brian [Dylla] is the backbone of our live show,” she says. “I’ve never had more fun playing with a drummer in my entire career, so we’re really lucky to have him. Lenny Sasso will be playing bass again. We’re extremely grateful to have these guys in our corner.”
“Time Bomb,” your new single, was the first song you and Tom wrote for Vultures. How did it influence the songwriting and direction for the remainder of the EP?
I think it’s a great introduction for what’s to come on this EP for sure. When Tom and I started writing songs for Vultures, we dove into it with a lot of animosity towards some of the people in our lives that we trusted and put a lot of faith in. For a while we let a lot of toxic people and bad decisions determine our fate. At some point, you start to see through those people, realize their true intentions, and ultimately learn things about yourself. That’s what “Time Bomb” is about. It’s less about pointing the finger and more about how we deal with all the madness.
You had a full year of touring, press, and expanding your fan base going into this new EP. Where do you see the most growth and development in 18th & Addison as a result of those experiences?
We’ve always made it a point to talk to fans of our music on social media, but this year I feel like we’ve reached a whole new level connecting with them. We have people from all over the world that write us every day about how they love our music and how they want us to play in their country. It’s incredible. We’re so fortunate to have platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to stay in touch with them, and great streaming apps like Spotify that allow us to share our music with them.
Why the decision to release an EP rather than a full-length album?
Well, like I said earlier, we had plenty of songs written — at least 12 to 14 — but Tom and I both felt like the four we chose for Vultures were the strongest melodically and structurally that also accurately encompassed everything we had gone through and overcome the last year or so. They had the most raw emotion, whereas some of the other songs were lacking that in one way or another. Not to mention, being an independent band, we wanted to be smart financially and focus on quality rather than quantity.
We should back up a bit and talk about “Crumble & Crawl,” which was released at the beginning of the year. Can you tell us more about that song?
That song was actually written for the movie Cold & Calculated, which is a short supernatural horror film that Tom had the pleasure of acting in. Tom got the role, and when the director mentioned needing a song for the film, we didn’t hesitate. It was a great opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, and we had a blast. Usually, when we write music for a film, a TV show, or for other artists, we keep that completely separate from our band, but we were extremely proud of this song and thought it would be a cool side of us to show to our fans.
The last time we spoke, you described yourself as “very much a rhythm player.” You’re doing some lead work on the new songs. Was that a natural progression, and are you focusing on playing more lead?
Yeah, I’d say it’s been a natural progression. I’ve been playing lead on songs of ours even prior to the new EP, and although I prefer playing rhythm over lead, we’ve always just done what’s best for the song regardless of who plays what. I haven’t necessarily focused on playing more lead, but I also don’t avoid playing it if it’s what works best for the song. Tom is just a lot better at it, haha!
Between touring and rehearsing, is there much time for practice, and if so, what does that consist of? Do you work individually, jam with Tom, or both?
When we practice for tour, Tom and I will usually put a set list together and work out the live show details, then we send it over to our live guys. We definitely have to check everyone’s schedule because Brian and Lenny play with other bands as well, but we try to get together once a week leading up to a tour. In between practices, Tom and I will go over songs acoustically together if we need to just to stay tight, but we definitely look forward to full band practices.
How have you both grown as musicians and performers as a result of so much time on the road, especially playing for crowds like those on the Warped tour?
We’ve always prided ourselves on a really solid live show, but the more we play on tour for bigger crowds, the more we get to involve the crowd and put on an even better show. I feel like that’s also helped us become better songwriters in a sense, because not only do we write these songs to connect with people melodically and lyrically, but we leave room in our songs for crowd participation to take our live shows to the next level.
In April, you participated in Tech Fest, which you described as “a very different type of show for us.” How so, and why are those different types of shows important?
At the last minute we had a fill-in bass player bail on us, so instead of canceling the show, we decided to do an acoustic set with our drummer, Brian. We wrote new arrangements to almost every song, which gave the songs a totally different vibe, and having Brian there to make the acoustic set even more powerful really set us apart from some of the other bands that day. I think that show, in particular, was important because not only did it prove our band can make the most out of a tough situation, but we showed everyone a different side of our band. It was definitely a more laidback approach but also had just as much energy as any other shows we’ve played plugged in. It was a great experience.
The term “punk” is often used to describe 18th & Addison’s music. But, in fact, you grew up on Johnny Cash and Metallica because of your parents, prior to discovering bands like Good Charlotte and Green Day. Do you still draw from the music of your childhood and feel those influences within the punk aesthetic?
Absolutely. It’s funny, because in a recent interview someone asked us what artists/bands inspire and influence us, and although I’ve checked out a lot of the new “punk” bands that are out now, I always go back to the same bands as when I first started playing and writing. Bands we grew up listening to (Green Day, New Found Glory, Nirvana, etc.) are timeless, and I still find myself pulling inspiration from them.
18th & Addison is now five years old. What do you see when you look at that timeline?
I’m extremely proud of us. We’re an independent band who has achieved so many goals we’ve set for ourselves, and it’s just the beginning. We grow every day as musicians, and learn more and more the longer we’re in this band, and we’ve never been happier.
What’s ahead for 2018?
We’re going on our first tour of the year in the beginning of June, and we can’t wait to play these new songs live for everyone. We’re excited to share Vultures with the world and to continue to connect with everyone all over the place!
Kait DiBenedetto Guitars and Gear
- Black Fender Cabronita Telecaster
- White Blonde Fender Thinline Cabronita Telecaster
- Black Yamaha APX500III Acoustic/Electric
- Vox AC15 Special edition
- Custom 18th & Addison pick (.73mm gauge)
- D’Addario Custom Light 10 gauge (Acoustic)
- Ernie Ball Power Slinky 11 gauge (Electric)
- Boss Chromatic Tuner
- Sennheiser e935