It’s time to take y’all back on over to the NYC music scene for this next badass band. I preface by saying that I truly believe you have to be in the right mindset to really connect with a bands music on a level deep enough to become a fan. Sometimes you hear a song and think “It’s okay.” and then weeks later you hear that same song, or another one of that band’s songs, and think “Holy shit, it’s like they wrote this song for me.” Then you don’t stop listening to them. I am not saying that this makes the band any less badass, it is just a matter of hearing their music at the right time for YOU that will solidify you as a fan. That is how this band was for me.
This band was a referral to me from a friend of mine from the East coast. I saw her tweeting about them constantly and I became curious about them so I checked them out. A couple of weeks later, she was awesome enough to send me a video and this is when they hooked me. The haunting melodies, poetical lyrics, and soothing yet rough vocals of The Assembly Line, on second listen, just clicked. The band is made up of four hilarious dudes (getting to know them through their interview cracked me the hell up): Thor Nguyen, Vocals/Guitar, Chris Potter, Guitar, Zack Falkow, Bass, and Josh Ridley, Drums. I don’t know what it is about this combination of musicians but man did they get it right. Their songs are comprised of some of the most honest and forthright lyrics I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. Songs like ‘Chasing Ghosts’ and ‘Heart to Life’ and ‘Pretend’ really stand out to me from their record (dubbed ‘Graves like Oceans’). The guitar, bass lines and beats are so perfectly matched to the lyrics it’s hard not to be riveted to your speakers. They truly tell their the ‘story’ through their music. The boys of The Assembly Line were kind enough to grant me some time to shoot them some questions so take a read, get to know ‘em and check out their tunes. You’ll dig them.
When and why did each of you start playing?
Thor: I started playing in the 6th or 7th grade. Other kids were doing it, so why not me. Plus they seemed to be getting all the ladies. So I’d sit in front of speaker with my Yamaha acoustic guitar from Sam’s Club and tried to mimic what I heard.
Chris: at 6 years old I just HAD to have a guitar. Then it started…. all the sex
Zach: I started out playing drums in third grade after seeing the movie “That Thing You Do”, and picked up guitar in fourth grade. Played both throughout middle school and high school. But in high school band, the teacher said at one point, “So, you play guitar? Can you play bass?” And the rest is history…
Josh: I’ve had an interest in drums for as long as I can remember, setting up pots, pans, baskets, and anything I could tap on, playing along to cassettes tapes of Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses, as young as 5, if not, younger. Around ages 12 or 13, I’d use friends’ drum sets and learn by ear. I started actually taking lessons in high school and got my first drum set when I was 16.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
Thor: Pop, MTV 80s stuff. Whatever my parents would blast through the house. I still listen to pop. But as I went through high school, college and being in the bar/club scene in NYC, I started picking up other stuff. I just look for really good melodies.
Chris: I listened to everything from Pop to classic rock. Then around 12yrs old or so I got really into punk. At this point I listen to literally everything. I wanna know as much as possible about the music industry and what’s new and great.
Zach: Growing up I definitely listened to an eclectic mix. I was raised on a steady diet of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix and James Taylor, as well as a lot of Motown and 90’s pop and R&B. But I started getting into the Warped Tour pop-punk stuff around middle school too, so that became a part of it. I still listen to bands like Yellowcard and New Found Glory because they’re so tied to my formative years, but I’ve gotten into newer indie stuff recently like MuteMath, As Tall As Lions and Death Cab. I like to think I’m very open to all different types of music.
Josh: I used to listen to a lot of Rock, Hard Rock, Metal, 90’s Alternative, and whatever was on TRL. Now it’s definitely more eclectic, pretty much everything except country.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Thor: I’m not someone that will start name-dropping a bunch of older people because at the end of the day they don’t relate to me. I wasn’t apart of that time so in essence, I really don’t get it. I think there are some talented and amazing musicians all over time. But for me I admire people that directly impacted my life. Ben Gibbard and Jim Adkins are my two biggest influences and whom I admire the most. I’ve grown up with them and I’ve heard how their sound has matured, as they got older. And it still sounds good, which is amazing. And who doesn’t love Justin Timberlake. Ha.
Chris: Chris Cheney (Living End), AFI, Lars (Rancid), Avenged Sevenfold, Strung Out and so many other heavy metal guitarists. I truly believe that if you can play epic metal on guitar, you can play anything.
Zach: Paul McCartney. Because he’s Paul f’n McCartney. Multitalented and still killing it long after the Beatles. That’s legend status.
Josh: A lot. The Rev and all of Avenged Sevenfold, favorite modern day band. Carter Beauford of DMB, he makes complex drum patterns look like child’s play. Michael Jackson, Jason Mraz, Dave Grohl, to name a few.
How often and for how long do you practice?
With busy schedules and work, we don’t get as much practice as we’d like. We usually practice at least one day a week for 3hours. When we have upcoming shows, we add an extra 3 to 6 hour day to make sure we’re tight for each performance. Any rituals before a show? A lot of shows are played after we get out of work. So most of the time, we get there, set up, sound check, have a drink or 2, set up merch, and hit the stage. When we have the time though, we like to take it easy, calm the nerves, explore the area if we’re in a new town, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the experience as much possible. On stage, we usually do a quick huddle before we start playing.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
We believe that seeing a band perform live shouldn’t just be like listening to the CD. We like to add intros to songs, throw in some changes to mix it up a bit, combine and extend songs, sometimes open with a video, and just give the fans something unexpected. We like to get the crowd interacting and singing along, and we try to talk to as many fans as we can afterwards. After all, it’s not just about us having a great experience, but making sure they do as well. What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far? We’ve had a couple stand-out occurrences in that past year that have been pretty big for us. We had 4 songs featured on MTV’s Teen Mom 2 in early 2011. Also, have played some big shows with great bands such as Allister, Rookie of the Year, and probably our biggest show to date with 100 Monkeys at Gramercy Theatre in NYC.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
So far we’ve done almost everything on our own. To be writing new music, promoting and performing the old, doing all the booking, managing, and business side of things, on top of working full-time jobs (with lots of overtime), it can get overwhelming. But it’s a challenge we’ve accepted and adapted to. The Assembly Line started out as a solo project and we’ve made it into this full band that you see now. Thor wrote a great album, “Graves Like Oceans”, that we’ve been promoting and performing for the past year. In just over a year, we’ve managed to accomplish a great deal on our own. We do however, recognize and appreciate the help we’ve gotten and owe a huge thanks to our producer and fans, and we’re excited to be working with some great people in 2012.
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique?
Why not? If you really listen to what’s going on out there, there aren’t too many groups playing the style that we play. Yes, we might sound similar to something out there now, but the content takes it in another direction. We write what we know, not what we want to pretend or what we think people will like. It’s honest and it’s not a cliché. It’s the type of music that can stay relevant for years. Plus a majority of us are hot.
How does your creative process typically work?
Thor: I usually think of a melody; it happens at the most random times, when I’m on the subway, walking around the city or taking a shower. If I’m somewhere random like that, I’ll sing it into my phone and revisit it later. It takes me awhile to flesh out songs. I’ll record it in Garageband, usually like a verse and chorus and leave it there for weeks or months. Then I’ll come back to it and see if it’s still catchy to me. If it is, then I’ll work on it some more. But sometimes a song just happens and I can write it to completion in a day. It’s just a moment thing. After that, I present it to the guys and we work it up and tweak it from there.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
We just finished recording a new single, “Full Impartial”, to be released early 2012. And just shot a music video for the song, which will be released soon after. We are writing new tunes, which we hope to have recorded in the very near future, and we’ll be teaming up with some great people in the music industry to make some noise and hit 2012 hard.
How do you define “success”?
Being able to live comfortably, the way you’d like to by doing what you love. It would be great to be successful across the board i.e. great music, endorsements, fame, huge tours etc. But when this is all over, we will define our success as a band by the relationships that we have acquired, the places we have been and the sounds we have created. That’s what will live on. A ton of money wouldn’t be bad either.
What’s been your most memorable fan encounter so far?
We recently played a show at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA. Before the show, a woman came backstage and asked, “Are you The Assembly Line?” She then told us, “There’s a boy out there, his name is Augie, it’s his 11th birthday today and he’s always wanted a birthday party here, so we told him to pick one band to go see.” We found out he picked us after having seen our YouTube videos. So we got the whole crowd to scream happy birthday to him during our set and gave him a gift bag of merch. It was nice to see him and his family so happy.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
The music industry is definitely not the same as it used to be. Maybe change the fact that the industry doesn’t seem to like taking chances on developing acts anymore. A lot of the time, companies are looking to work with you only if it’s an absolute guarantee that they can make revenue immediately. The truth is that there is no such thing as a “sure thing” anymore, and that it might actually be better to take a band that clearly has talent and help them get to the next level. Bands really have to do a lot themselves these days and sometimes the bands that really hustle still don’t break out.
One song you never get tired of.
Thor: Way too many to list. But R. Kelly’s – “Bump and Grind” is in there.
Chris: Toto “Africa”
Zach: “23” by Jimmy Eat World
Josh: “Nookie” – Limp Bizkit
If you had only 5 minutes on Earth to perform one song that would leave an impact on the world today, what would it be and why?
An Assembly Line song that has yet to be written…
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Thor: NSync Giant Stadium. Pop Odyssey Tour. That shit had so many lights!!
Chris: AFI, KISS
Zach: MuteMath and As Tall As Lions at Best Buy Theatre, Nov 2009
Josh: Toss up… Taste of Chaos Tour 2008 with Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu. OR Metallica and Godsmack 2004
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Thor: xBox. Doing it. Keeping it Real. Cook.
Chris: Exercise, party, eat, read, bird watch and levitate
Zach: Cooking and baking.
Josh: video production, party, football, sleep, eat, tweet, repeat.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Thor: Uncle Jesse
Zach: Either Ross from “Friends” or Batman in The Dark Knight…without the speech impediment.
Josh: Eric Matthews
What is something no one knows about you but you wish more people did know?
Thor: My name is not Thor. It’s Thornfin. Still Scandinavian. But to many people can’t say it.
Chris: I love mussels (notice the spelling… I mean the food)
Zach: I’m pretty good at volleyball…?
Josh: I’m better than Zach at volleyball
Best prank you have ever pulled?
Thor: We took a picture of Zach’s face while he was sleeping in the backseat of the car on our way to DC. He’s going to find out by reading this – but we used the app Fat Booth to make him look obese. He literally spent 5-10minutes taking photos of himself with his phone trying to duplicate the shot. We bring it up every moment we can to this day and he still doesn’t know.
Chris: I stole 2 horses once w/ a friend. Is that a prank? It was pretty badass. We had cigarettes and wanted to be the “Marlboro Man”.
Zach: My dad bought this fish tank when I was in high school. I thought it was a ridiculous purchase/waste of money. So for April Fool’s Day, I got my step dad, who worked at the Consumer Product Safety Commission to write up a fake press-release that my dad’s exact fish tank model had been recalled because it was electrifying the water and killing the fish. My dad was cursing and yelling for a good 15 minutes straight before I told him it was a joke.
Josh: hmmm… now I’m gonna have to do something to top those 3.
Thor: Zach Falkow.
Chris: Umbrellas in NYC, slow walkers. Bars and clubs that are immensely crowded, but for no good reason. Lines. Waiting.
Zach: Flakey people who don’t return emails or text messages. Takes absolutely no time or effort to do.
Josh: Indecisiveness, laziness, hypocrisy
What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?
Thor: I run restaurants now. I did pharmaceutical market research and I was a marketing coordinator for a tech company.
Chris: I have worked at a few major record labels and currently work at MTV Networks.
Zach: Back home I worked at a doctor’s office doing front desk and hanging x-rays. Mom was the doctor, so that was always interesting. Besides that I had a brief stint scooping ice cream at a neighborhood ice cream parlor, and I worked at my college gym’s rock climbing wall.
Josh: Growing up, always worked in restaurants. But the past few years I’ve been working freelance in television production and still do.
Twitter: @TheAssemblyLine Facebook: Facebook.com/theassemblyline