A Chat With: Public
Public just wants to get to know you. In fact, even on their Facebook page, under the category "band interests," the only thing listed is "You." If you attended one of the trio's recent tour dates on their Sweet Lemonade Tour or follow them on other social media, you'll be quick to find out that's a genuine statement from them.
As an unsigned band, Public have still managed to put out top quality recordings of their indie pop tunes over the years, full of sticky, sing-a-long choruses and upbeat melodies. They just have to work a lot harder to get those radio-ready songs out to their fans, old and new, but don't underestimate them. John Vaughn, Ben Lapps, and Matt Alvarado have never been more ready to roll up their sleeves and build their foundation from the ground up. After already opening for fellow Ohioans Twenty One Pilots and racking up more than a million Spotify plays on their song "Pretty Face," the band have already reaped some reward from their hard work, but their momentum only continues to grow.
If you're looking for great music made by authentic musicians and even more genuine people, look no further than Public. In our chat with them last month, Vaughn, Lapps, and Alvarado have some fun revealing interesting facts about each other, but they also clearly communicate the message behind their music. In this interview, you'll not only find out Public's pet peeves and their last Google search, but you'll get an insider's perspective of their vision and their mission as a band. Get to know your new favorite band, Public, now.
ANCHR Magazine: Let's start things off with some tour talk then. Since being in the van with each other, what have you learned are each others’ biggest pet peeves?
Matt Alvarado: Ben hates dabbing.
Ben Lapps: I don’t dab.
MA: So I dab just to bug him.
BL: Now it’s more of like a game between us. Matt dabs cause he knows I’ll roll my eyes, and then I roll my eyes cause he dabbed!
MA: I know for me, I hate when people put away my stuff.
John Vaughn: No, we’re supposed to say something for you!
Matt: Oh, you say for me?
JV: Matt hates when people move his stuff. Matt hates when something that he organized gets arranged a different way.
MA: Usually I’m very odd about where I put things. I could put my phone inside a refrigerator and I’d know exactly where it is. Someone could be like oh, this is Matt’s phone. In the fridge. I should give this to him, and then I’ll go back and be like where’s my phone?
BL: John identifies every single smell that he comes into contact with.
MA: That’s not a pet peeve!
BL: This is a very interesting thing.
MA: What annoys John?
BL: Smells, I think!
JV: I’m very very descriptive. I really, really dissect a smell. I shout it to the band...
AM: You guys just did a tour diary video, part one. John you had said in it that you want people to come to the show and find something of value in the live show that you don’t have on the record. How do you arrange the songs then, or format the set? Is there anything you consciously do to add that value?
JV: I think from my perspective, we have a lot of little moments either in the beginning of a song, or in the middle of a song, or after the song where there’s space to add something that we think will highlight that song. I think it’s cool when someone does like a weird intro and then it goes into that song that you know. I think this is one of the first times where we’re crafting and building a set where we’ve tried to do a lot of that. We’ve got some instrumental jamming that we do that we haven’t done since we started. We kind of brought that back. Personally I love when a band can sound like their record, but I also like to go to a show and be surprised by the things they do. That’s the way I would describe it.
AM: Is there an artist that you think can do that really well? Like a show you’ve been to recently where you could pinpoint that?
BL: In my experience lately, the guy who’s doing that best is Jon Bellion. His live show is SO different than what’s on the record, just in like the most fun way. Have you seen his live show?
BL: His band is like just this incredible group of musicians and they just play, and they kill it. That’s my vote!
MA: I was just gonna say about the live set...a lot of the people who initially started liking us and our music is because we had fun onstage. I think that’s something that we can like really, really do onstage. We’re musicians first and foremost. A lot of what’s on the record is kind of compressed into a more pop format, where everything sounds a certain way and has a certain space. When we’re doing it live, John is a great guitarist, Ben is a great drummer, I’m a very okay bass player--
BL: He’s very good!
MA: We just have so much fun playing our instruments the way we want to play them. People resonate with that. They see we’re having fun and they wanna have fun too!
JV: Not to get too in depth on this one question, but just to add on what [Matt's] saying….On this tour, we’re musicians first. That’s how we were trained. We get a lot of joy from jamming and feeding off each other. Now what we’re really adding to this set is just engaging with the crowd a lot more. Even just these first few shows, it’s been a blast. That’s something you maybe get from our album, but it’s a nice change. It feels like the whole event is just collaborative with everybody. It’s like if we’re gonna have fun, we gotta all have fun! We’re gonna force you to have fun.
AM: Ok so shifting gears a little bit...If you could be stuck in a elevator with anybody, they could be famous, dead or alive, who would you pick?
MA: How long are you stuck?
AM: A couple hours, maybe.
BL: Are you stuck just to have a conversation and then we get out, or do we want someone that can help us get out?
JV: I would say the guy who invented the elevator cause he’d probably know how to get out.
MA: Maybe Tom Cruise cause he’s in a lot of action movies.
AM: It could be someone you’d just want to have a conversation with too!
J: I might have a different answer later, but probably J. R. R. Tolkien. I just watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies again. All of them, they’re amazing. I hadn’t watched them in a while, and being older I think I took a lot more from them this time. I read into them a lot more. So I would love to just talk to the person who wrote all of that, and pick his brain.
MA: I think I’d pick my brother.
BL: I was gonna say my mom!
MA: We’ve been calling back and forth every two, three weeks, but it’d be nice to sit down and just talk. He’s also small so he wouldn’t take up a lot of space.
AM: So you guys are working hard as an unsigned band. I know a lot of bands now are gearing more towards being independent so they can have more control over their artistry. What do you guys see the pros and cons of being an unsigned artists, and the struggles and rewards come with it?
MA: I think our mindset has changed drastically from when we were first starting as a band. We just started working with new management. We have a new team. A lot of the cons I saw being an unsigned band are kind of pros. Just the organic growth that we’re going through now seems so much more up our alley as ways we want to grow as a band, than if we just got signed to a label and got funneled money. This tour that we’re doing is a perfect example, we’re doing all these stops that we haven’t hit or we haven’t hit in three years. We’re just seeing who enjoys our music, who’s heard of us before from maybe radio or Spotify. Then just growing through them instead of just having a song on a radio promotion. It just feels so much more genuine. To see these people face to face.
JV: I agree. Early on, I think with every band, the Golden Carrot is to get signed. When you’re young, sure whatever. You don’t even know what that means... You’re like heck yeah! I think Matt’s right. The past 6 months we’ve had a rebirth of the band. Building a completely new team that we’re super happy with, and the new music as well... it’s really given us a respect and a hunger to get to know the people that like our music. It’s not many people right now. So grinding like we are on the Sweet Lemonade Tour...it’s really fun cause like every person that comes out it’s like man, that person said yes tonight. They like that one song that they like however much to pay $10 to come see us in Chicago. That’s huge! It’s an opportunity now to let them know that. We make it a point to thank them. Also to what Matt said, if we had gotten signed early, and I’m not saying there’s only one way to do things once you get signed...but if we had been given an advance early, and they just shoved our songs on the radio, and we didn’t have to go through that trial by fire… it’d be like oh you have a song on radio, people are gonna hear you just because they’re in their cars. We didn’t get that. So we kind of had to find different and interesting ways to do that. It’s kind of like it builds character. It’s almost like when you’re a kid and your parents make you do a job or chores...there’s a reason you do that. I feel like that’s what it’s like.
AM: Yeah that’s exactly what I like about having my own blog! So on the same track of new music, Ben I saw on Twitter you had asked fans for new music recommendations. What are some of the favorite recommendations from your followers, or just songs you guys are already into at the moment?
BL: We listened to the new Sir Sly record. Especially like the first few tracks. That was really dope. Let me check what else…
MA: Someone brought up Skott!
JV: I’ve had a music crush on her for a while!
BL: Who’s the British guy everyone brought up?
JV: Simon Cowell?
BL: Young guy!
JV: Declan McKenna! It’s cool to see him doing well.
BL: Besides that...who else? I tried to listen to at least one song from everyone that recommended something.
AM: Yeah, that’s great you guys are open to that!
BL: Absolutely, I love swapping music recommendations. Everyone’s got a little bit of different taste, but odds are if you like our music, we’re gonna overlap at some point. You probably like the same things as us.
AM: While you have your phones out, what’s the last thing you Googled?
JV: I usually have weird stuff!
BL: “Video Juegos”-- Video Games in Spanish! Matt and I were talking about it, we couldn’t remember what the Spanish word for video games was!
JV: How did you do it so fast?
BL: I have the Google app!
JV: Oh- what the word “SKRT” means in Urban Dictionary...SKRT.
MA: Mine is Quincy Jones! It goes Rashida Jones...Rashida Jones' Dad...Quincy Jones.
BL: Really? They’re related? I didn’t know that!
AM: So if you guys formed a cover band, which band would you exclusively cover and what would you call it?
JV: I bet we could actually---and I don’t want to bring this up because I think it’s such an oversaturated thing with musicians to bring this up and laugh about it, but I think we could actually kill as a Nickelback cover band. I mean that seriously.
BL: He does a really funny-- it’s funny cause it’s so accurate-- Chad Kroeger impression.
JV: I think we would actually kill it
MA: What would our name be?
AM: Some pun on nickels or change?
BL & MA (in unison): Pennyfront!
AM: Forget Nickelback, it’s all about Pennyfront! So if you weren’t making music, what would your dream job be?
BL: Baseball player.
BL: No wait, chef! Baseball chef. The chef for the Cincinnati Reds, and sometimes they’d let me play!
MA: I don’t know… I haven’t really thought about that. It used to be the other way around. I went to school for engineering and I wanted to be a musician. Now I’m a musician and I want to to go back to school for engineering. I’ve never thought about that! Probably some sort of athlete, but my body is broken so that dream died a long time ago.
AM: So what else are you guys looking forward to this year?
JV: I’m just excited to do more of exactly what we’re doing tonight. I just wanna keep touring. Because every show, there’s just something different--this is our first headlining tour, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s just that simple, but it just really feels like we’re playing for keeps now. We’re really going for it and it’s really cool. I’m excited to literally keep going. I want to release new music and go tour off it again. I’m not looking for any shortcuts, or like a song to go viral. I just want to go meet the people that listen to us.
BL: And make like friend fans.
JV: Yeah, like make them feel like they want to really get behind what’s happening. We want to recognize that we can’t do it without them.
MA: I’m excited to see what comes out of the rest of these shows. Who comes to what shows...how many people. How many we’ve seen before, how many people are new. Stay off, recuperate for a month, then go right back on and see if the same people come out. See if anything grows, if anybody resonates with it. I think that’s gonna be our new route for a while now. Just headline a bunch of shows. I could not be more excited.
JV: It’s just like an adventure. It hasn’t necessarily felt like that in the past. There’s just something in the air.
Public still has one more date of their Sweet Lemonade Tour, but keep up with all future tour dates here, and listen to their EP Sweet Lemonade in full below!
Can't get enough of Public? Check out our review and photo gallery of their show at Schuba's last month here.