Tonight will be a night of many firsts for Texan instrumental prog-metal band Scale The Summit – their first tour with Intronaut (finally!); their first time touring in support of a “perfect record”; and their first time in Vancouver. Let’s show them a good time, shall we?
We got guitarist and co-founder Chris Letchford on the horn during the band’s 12-hour drive to Idaho and chatted about the grind that is touring, the new album, the weather (yep.) and shoe-licking.
Vancouver Weekly: You’re pretty much driving all day and then you’re playing Boise tomorrow (June 2)?
Chris Letchford: Yes.
Vancouver Weekly: How’s the tour going so far?
CL: It’s good. Yesterday was the first show of the tour… Technically it doesn’t really start until Portland with Intronaut (June 4), but we have a couple shows on the way there so last night (May 31 in Colorado Springs) was actually the first date.
Vancouver Weekly: Have you guys ever played with Intronaut before?
CL: Um, no, we had a tour booked a long time ago with them actually, but they landed a Mastodon tour – this was like, years ago – and cancelled that tour, of course, ha. But yeah, I’m excited, we’ve been planning on touring with them for a long time so it’s gonna be fun to finally make it happen.
Vancouver Weekly: What do you think draws people to your music, specifically?
CL: I think, just overall entertainment. It’s got great melody, and then at the same, it’s got aggression and in terms of the live performance, you get the extra energy as well. I think we finally captured the energy on The Migration [teaser], as far as production goes.
Vancouver Weekly: You brought in Jamie King (Between The Buried And Me, Last Chance For Reason) for that, right?
Vancouver Weekly: What has been different working with him?
CL: He finally understood. Like, we wanted a more natural, organic-sounding record, and we haven’t really gotten that yet. When we told Jamie, he’s just the first engineer we’ve worked with that actually finally understood exactly what we meant by that. I like our last records, it’s just, I didn’t really want that, kind of more compressed, flat sound, and this one’s obviously a lot more open and matches our live sound a little bit better. And he’s a super perfectionist, so… he made us play those parts ‘til… I got mad that we had to play them so many times, y’know, so many takes [laughs]. But it makes for a perfect record. It got frustrating, ‘cause he could hear stuff that I didn’t even know existed. He’d be like, “Nope, do it again. Nope, do it again.” I told him already, thanks so much, ‘cause it’s the first record that I’ve actually been 100% happy with, that I can actually listen to even after the countless hours of going through mixing and listening to it so many times.
Vancouver Weekly: Including what I’ve heard off The Migration that comes out June 11 (Prosthetic Records), you guys have – in my opinion, at least – a noticeably positive, pretty uplifting vibe. Is this something that just happens instinctively or is this something you’re deliberately trying to achieve?
CL: No, it just happens on its own. The last record, I felt like The Collective (2011) was a little bit darker, and then the new record just kind of happened to be, still some dark moments, but still very uplifting even when it is dark, so… Yeah, it just happens. I mean, we just write and what comes out, comes out.
Vancouver Weekly: What would you say is the biggest non-musical influence on the music?
CL: Um… good weather, honestly.
Vancouver Weekly: Yeah?
CL: The weather has been just amazing, the skies are so blue. When it comes to writing, it’s always weather. When I songwrite, I don’t really tend to listen to a lot of music, just to kind of keep my ears clear… But yeah, great weather always puts me in a good mood to work on some new songs.
Vancouver Weekly: What’s the greatest challenge you guys have faced as a band so far?
CL: I think just being able to play the kind of music that we play on a nightly basis without being completely fatigued. I think just being able to all successfully tour without having too many issues. That’s probably the biggest challenge, in general, just being a band. Most every band, really, just being able to stay on the road and, either not get burnt out or have financial issues. We’ve been able to make it work for so many years now, and only had one member lost on the way, so it’s pretty good.
Vancouver Weekly: So Jordan left roughly a year ago, now Mark is playing bass. What new dynamic has he brought to the group, both as a person and as a musician?
CL: Technically, he matches our technical abilities a lot better, and he’s got more training on jazz and theory, and he’s got perfect pitch as well. So when it came to songwriting, it was really easy, he’d be able to write his own parts in no time at all. That and he actually wrote a couple of guitar parts on the album; a song called “Oracle”, he wrote drums, bass and guitar parts. He also has a really strong work ethic. That was one of the things that was kind of missing, so it’s really nice to have that extra person to really help with the more busywork stuff.
Vancouver Weekly: So obviously, most of your time is spent on music – if you’re not playing music, you’re writing it or you’re touring or you’re recording – what do you do when you’re not touring or working on music at all?
CL: Umm… I lift weights. [laughs] I do weight training. That’s like my downtime, and then I watch basketball. The only free time I get is, usually I’ll be working on something band-related on the computer and I’ll watch basketball, but yeah, the one time that I completely set aside, completely separate from the band is when I do weight training.
Vancouver Weekly: Is that something you were doing before or is that something that helps you recuperate from the road?
CL: Well, I think it helps me manage the road. I’ve never really had as much time to exercise or anything when I first started the band ‘cause I just wanted to focus on just doing the band and get it to where we can take time off and it doesn’t really hurt us. Before, y’know, it’d just be, get out there as many times as possible so I just dedicated my life to that, like every single day, and kind of neglected my health. As far as eating well and exercising while I’m doing it, it makes touring a lot easier, because if you’re already tired and have a bad diet, it makes it even worse.
Vancouver Weekly: What’s the weirdest thing you guys have experienced on the road?
CL: In South Florida, we had some guy come up to me when we were loading the trailer, and we still don’t even know if he was a fan or even at the show, but he asked to see the bottom of my shoe, and when I lifted up my foot, he grabbed my foot, and licked the bottom of my shoe.
Vancouver Weekly: Okay, well there you go. [laughs]
CL: Yeah, it uh, it’s… that’s frickin’ weird! I was just kind of like standing there in shock, I was like, what just happened. I was like, “Dude, that’s frickin’ gross. What are you doing?” He was like, “Yeah, that’s just something I like,” and then he just walked off. What the hell just happened…?
Vancouver Weekly: Take it as a compliment.
CL: I guess… it was just bizarre.
Scale The Summit open for the mighty Intronaut tonight (June 6) at the Rickshaw Theatre, along with Mouth of the Architect, Seven Nines and Tens, Witch of the Waste and The Nautilus.