LA based, multi-instrumentalists brothers Matthew, Michael and Mark Cook, better known as The Ceremonies, sat down with Live2Play Network’s “Guitar Guy” Tim Hemingway to discuss their experience in the music industry, being in a band with family, and as always, their best or worst gigging moment.
L2P – Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. How are you doing?
The Ceremonies – Hey Tim, we’re doing good.
L2P – So, it sounds like I’m on today with everyone, Matt, Mark and Michael. All of the brothers, correct?
Michael – Yeah, right. Unless our parents lied to us. (laughs) Mark and I are twins, fraternal twins. That would be quite disappointing to find out in our 30’s (in a parent’s voice) “Guys we have something to tell you.” (everyone laughs)
L2P – That would be a very terrible story, but you could maybe make an album out of it. (everyone laughs) Just to get started, why don’t you give me a quick background on the band, how you got started or formed. We probably don’t need to know how you met, I think we’ve already covered that one.
Michael – Yeah, so we started out being around music when we were little. Music just kind of flowed from bedroom to bedroom throughout the house. We really started out as a trio playing acoustically for school gigs and charity events. We did a lot of musicals, like choirs and what not. Then from there, the process of forming The Ceremonies kind of happened organically. We were just kind of like, we want to do this and we have certain idea that we want to convey as The Ceremonies.
Mark – Yeah, as brothers we have been playing together for years. Officially as The Ceremonies, we have been playing together for probably a year, maybe a bit more.
Matthew – I had a lot of bands growing up. In high school I was always playing music. Whenever I would have a missing or absent band member, Mark or Michael would fill in the gap. Like if the drummer couldn’t show up one day, they would step in. So we initially started off playing together kind of that way. Then from there, after I was done playing in my high school bands and ventures, I kind of realized that we should be doing something together. That’s kind of how the band came to be.
L2P – What is it like being a band with family members? What are the benefits and disadvantages from your perspective?
Matthew – This is an interesting thing for us because we get asked this type of question all of the time. It seems like most people sort of predict there will be a lot of tension because there’s family and I guess it makes sense. But for us, we’ve always been more like friends than brothers, or brothers that are just close friends. So we don’t really experience a lot of fighting, it’s mostly collaborative. If there is any bickering involved, it’s not really about the music, it’s about something trivial. For us, you know, it’s more about really being in a band with your best friends, as opposed to your brother who you’re going to start a boxing match with.
Mark – Also, we all have similar tastes in music and similar goals as to what we want to accomplish with music and art. So working together sort of just lends itself to situations that work out well.
L2P – So how did you come up with the band name The Ceremonies?
Mark – We had this idea that we wanted our name to represent something, so we chose Ceremonies because it means communal gatherings, where people come together to express any of the emotions on the spectrum of emotions. Whether it’s the sadness of a funeral to the happiness of a wedding, it’s all encompassing. And we liked that sort of communal aspect of the word ceremonies. That was really the basis of the name.
Matthew – And it doesn’t limit us to any certain sound, like he said, ceremonies range on any emotion of the human spectrum. Along with that, there were a couple of literary references that we had with the name. Like Lois Lowry’s The Giver. She talks about the ceremony of three, where children begin dream telling again. So there’s a bunch of connections we had to the name. The fact that all of our initials are MC, which is the abbreviation for Master of Ceremonies.
Michael – Also to pay homage to the New Order/Joy Division song “Ceremony” as well.
L2P – That’s an interesting segue there Michael. I have been listening to your EP and I can see that you have been influenced by a lot of different genre’s. For example, the opening track “Wolfdance”, which is probably my favorite, starts out with almost an early Pink Floyd-esq sound and then jumps into a rock-driven new age sound. That’s a really long way of saying, who do you see as being your primary influences? Who made you want to become a musician?
Matthew – Our influences are all over the place, but musically, in terms of sonics, we’re really influenced by the 80’s Manchester scene, or just 80’s English music like Stone Roses, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen. Bands like that, and then given the fact that we harmonize a lot, that sort of influenced by 60’s bands like The Zombies or The Beach Boys, Righteous Brothers. So it’s kind of like a mesh of those two genres.
Michael – I just wanted to say that for Mark and I, we gained a lot of influence from Matt, because of all the music that came from his bedroom. We got to listen and discover what he was listening to.
Mark – From that aspect, Matt really influenced us in discovering new music.
Matthew – Those are really our influences in terms of our music now, but I’d say that I think all three of us would agree that growing up as kids, our primary influence that probably shaped our love for music was Michael Jackson.
L2P – You can’t go wrong with the King of Pop. Your self-titled EP is out now, so what does 2014 hold, more touring, more recording, what can we look forward to?
Mark – At some point in the middle of the year, we are going to release our full length album. We have been working on it in the studio. Also, we do have another tour starting up on February 16th with Glasvegas. It’s sort of our first international tour because we’re making a few stops in Canada.
Matthew – We’ve actually never been out of the US, we just got our passports, so we’re pretty excited to do that.
L2P – So you have been playing together for several years, as The Ceremonies and even before that. I have to ask my favorite questions which is, what is the craziest, strangest, or most random thing that has ever happened to you at a gig?
Matthew – Okay, so at our first show as The Ceremonies, I got seriously electrocuted by the microphone which I want to say was kind of a shock… (Matthew’s brothers are both laughing). Yeah, there was this huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling of venue. As I went to touch my lips to the microphone for the first song, I watched like all of the power suck out of the chandelier. Like the chandelier and the lights around it went dark and I felt this huge jolt go through my body.
It happened a couple of times, so I was pretty shaken up at that show. I kept flinching, I wasn’t sure if I should keep singing or stop, but I kept getting little hits of shock after that first initial big one. I didn’t want people to think that I was losing it and randomly spazzing out on stage, so at the end of the show I wanted to prove it to everyone. I told crowd, “I’m going to touch it again, you know, take one for the team so everyone knows that this microphone is a live electric socket.” So I touched it and all of the lights went dark and shocked me again, and all of the girls started screaming. It was pretty intense.
Michael – (In a high pitch voice) “Don’t touch it!” (laughs). Mark and I were afraid to touch our mics.
Matthew – I mean we’ve been shocked by mics at other shows, but this one in particular was pretty strong.
Michael – Especially for our first show, it was an eventful night.
L2P – The dangers of improperly grounded gear!
Matthew – Yeah, it’s just like a whole different thing when you see the lights go down with the shock, because then you’re like, “Woah, that just went into me!”
L2P – Well that is a great story, I really appreciate you sharing it. I love to ask for those types of stories because they really give the interview a human element and let the reader see into your lives as touring artists.
Matthew – Do you have time for another one real quick?
L2P – Absolutely!
Matthew – Okay, this one isn’t really a show story, it’s more of a tour story, but we once accidentally left Michael on the bus as we were boarding our flight to go to the next state. We were in Chicago and heading back to the West Coast, and Michael had fallen asleep on the bus.
Michael – And I was back on my way to Tennessee.
Matthew – Right, Michael and the bus driver were headed to Tennessee, and it wasn’t until we were at the gate that we realized he wasn’t there.
Michael – (laughing) That was a frightful and great moment for me.
L2P – That sounds like the John Candy story from “Home Alone” about leaving his kid at the funeral home. It really goes to show which brother is loved the least.
Michael – I know, right? The funny thing is, they told me that they woke me up and checked each bunk thoroughly, so I must have been hiding behind the door or something like that.
L2P – That’s awesome! Thanks for two great stories. Shifting gears, you have your self-titled EP out, you’re touring, you recently signed to a major label. I’m sure these things alone have fulfilled many of your goals as musicians, what other goals do you have?
Matthew – I think our main goal is to affect as many people as we can with our music and our message, and the meaning behind our music. We don’t want to be limited to this notion of being just a band, we think of The Ceremonies more as a collective art experience. We do spend a lot of our time in other mediums, we’ll do paintings together, or recently we self-published a book of poetry and drawings that we did with a quill pen and a 1940’s typewriter. So there’s a lot of different mediums that we engage with, I think we’d like to engage as many people as we can with the meanings and the mediums. Really, I think that’s where our drive comes from, making art, making cool things, and hopefully interest people in the way that it interests us.
L2P – Very cool. I love that you guys are so passionate about what you do. Just in closing, what advice would you give to young aspiring musicians? What would you say to those kids who are playing in bands in High School with dream of going somewhere or doing something musically?
Matthew – That’s a hard questions. Ummm, I think the most important thing is just having a drive, or finding something that you want to stand behind. The things that appeal to us the most are things that are dignified with meaning and with a sense of change embedded in them. I think my advice would be to concentrate on not only perfecting your craft, but making sure that what you’re doing has purpose.
L2P – Michael, Mark, any closing thoughts.
Mark – I agree (laughs)
Michael – Just love what you do 100% and commit to that 100%.
We would like to that The Ceremonies for taking the time to talk with us.