Through extensive touring, energetic live shows, and a powerful message, The Savvy has slowly built a dedicated and thriving fan base. Bandmates Joe Stockton, Korey Shrum, and Chris Duke, describe The Savvy as, “high energy rock and roll.” In 2010, the group released their debut EP entitled Kill The Noise. Produced by famed producer James Paul Wisner, Kill The Noise was fueled by rock anthems and soaring vocals. On June 17, 2011 at the Ichthus Festival, Marc Webb had the opportunity to speak with The Savvy about releasing new music, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the challenges of touring.
Webb: First off, how many years have you played at Ichthus?
Joe: I think as a band it is our fourth year. It is our third consecutive year, but we played a long time ago.
Webb: Could you tell me a little bit about the story of playing at Ichthus this year?
Joe: This year, we are not playing as much as we would like. But, we are promoting a lot, and making the best of the spot we got. It’s not the best slot that we’ve had, but we are making the best of it. We are hoping for a good turnout.
Webb: Did you guys come here [Ichthus] back when you were in high school and middle school as fans?
Chris: Oh yeah, for sure.
Korey: Totally. I came with First Baptist of Somerset a long time ago.
Joe: I used to come with a youth group. It wasn’t my church; it was one of my buddy’s churches. I used to go with them every time for like two or three years. Then we started playing.
Webb: Do you remember any shows from when you came as a fan that were really memorable?
Joe: Yes, two. The first one was Noggin Toboggan. They are not around anymore. I think they only played one year I went. They played on the old school Deep End [stage]. They got me into punk rock music, three piece just straight up really fast. I think that same year I saw House of Heroes for the first time. I thought they were just fantastic. I am still a fan of that band.
Webb: What is it like for you guys coming here as a fan and now getting the opportunity to play on stage?
Korey: It is kind of surreal.
Joe: Honestly, the funny thing is that a lot of our friends are in bands that play here, and we are actually fans of our friends’ bands. It is kind of the same as it was, but we play. We are still psyched to see as many bands as we can while we are here. In a sense it is very different, but it’s also the same.
Webb: You guys changed your name a little while ago. Your name was Nineball, and then changed the name to The Savvy. What was the reason behind the name change, and what is the meaning behind your new name, The Savvy?
Joe: The reason we had to change our name was basically legal reasons. There was one Nineball with the trademark, but there were hundreds of other Nineballs without the trademark that I guess we were competing with. It just made sense to change it. Actually at the time, we were talking with a lawyer and a label. They were like, “If we signed with them, we were going to have to change it.” We decided to not sign with them, but changed our name anyway to avoid that conflict in the future.
Webb: So are you happy with your new name, or do you miss Nineball?
Joe: Honestly, I never liked Nineball [laughing]. The founding member of the band, he actually left the band four years ago. He named it when we were like 14. People were like, “Eight ball, what?”
Korey: Tell them what it was going to be: Blue Duck.
Joe: It was between Nineball and Blue Duck. I guess Nineball was a little better than Blue Duck.
Webb: How would you describe your music to an average person who has never heard your music before?
Korey: Fun, energetic.
Joe: High energy rock and roll. I guess our live show is what a lot of people really like. A lot of energy, a lot of water. Fun, high energy rock and roll.
Chris: I think people can just tell that we enjoy what we do when they come watch us. I think that makes it a good experience for them.
Webb: You recorded a cover of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson a couple of years ago; can we expect any more covers from you?
Joe: Oh, I am sure. I was actually just thinking about it today. There is a song called “Because” by the Beatles that I would really like to do. I don’t think it is very well known, so that probably wouldn’t be the best idea. There are a few that we have played live that would be cool to cover. I would like to do a White Stripes cover. I am sure there will be covers. Kids love covers.
Chris: We are a fan of many other bands.
Joe: Last October, we did a cover of “Monster Mash.” So yeah, there will be more.
Webb: Kill The Noise has been out about a year, have you started working on new music yet?
Korey: Oh yeah.
Joe: We actually have been doing a lot of writing and demoing. I have a home studio. We are not going to release any stuff that we do in our home studio. That is kind of where we build the songs. A couple of weeks ago, we just did five brand new ones [songs].
Korey: We are letting them sit.
Joe: I would really like to pump out a good 20 songs before we pick anything. As far as releasing them, we are kind of rethinking the idea of releasing an album, and possibly trying something new; like releasing more frequently, maybe two songs, A-Side/B-Side kind of thing. Do that throughout the year, instead of just releasing one album, sitting on it for an entire year and releasing another. But, nothing is really finalized with that.
Webb: Is it too early to give us a preview of some of the songs, how they sound musically and lyrically?
Korey: The first song on our new set is a song called “Pretty Disease.” It was on that Halloween EP. It was just kind of a rough demo. We got a lot of good feedback from it. I remember I was working at Chipotle in Nashville. Some kid came up to me and was like, “I like your tattoo.” I said, “Thanks.” He was like, “Are you in a band?” I was like, “Yeah.” Then, he asked about who we were, and he was like “I totally just got your Halloween EP, and was so stoked on ‘Pretty Disease.’” We have had a lot of good feedback from it.
Joe: I think a lot of the newer stuff lyrically and musically is a little bit more mature than our last EP [Kill The Noise]. Our last EP was pretty polished, just straightforward.
Korey: This one is a little grittier.
Chris: A little more out of the box. Just in general, kind of off the grid, I guess.
Korey: A little more interesting.
Joe: A little less pop rock, I guess. But, I wouldn’t say it is going to be so weird that you couldn’t hear it on the radio.
Webb: Are you looking at producers yet? I know you worked with James Paul Wisner; are you looking at working with him again? Are you looking for someone new?
Joe: I think we are going to try somebody new. We actually have been talking with the guy who did our cover for “Thriller.” We just really clicked with him. We are going to talk to him a little bit more. I don’t think we are ready to make any decisions.
Korey: There are a lot of good people that we would love to work with.
Joe: It is a matter of budgets. We loved working with James. I think we want to look for somebody who is a little bit more organic with the way they put stuff together. Like with drums, to where what you track is what you hear on the record.
Webb: So are you wanting a more live kind of feel?
Chris: Sure, just more raw [feel].
Korey: We want something that is a little more like our live show. We get so many compliments on our live show; that it would be good for kids to come and see us, and then take something home that sounds like what they just heard.
Joe: I think a lot of that comes with just finding the right guy that can pull that out of you. Being in a vocal booth and singing on stage are two different worlds completely.
Webb: You mentioned that you start your songs in your home studio. Could you expand a little bit on how you create a song and the writing process for songs?
Joe: Yeah. I think it is a little different for all of us. Korey is the newest member of the band. He is pretty new to songwriting. He will write a lyric and then hum a melody to it. He will sing that to me, and then I will put that on a guitar. For me, it kind of works the same way. It kind of comes in like either a specific guitar riff in my head that I will build a song around, or a lyric that I put melody to like “Man that’s a cool line. That has got to be a hook in a song.” I will put a melody to it, and then I will jam on the guitar until it builds into a song. Sometimes Chris will come to me with a chorus or a riff. I will start to build around that, and vice versa. I can come to them with something and they can build around it.
Webb: That’s awesome. It is something that a lot of bands don’t do. Most bands don’t have the entire band in on the writing process.
Joe: It is kind of a new idea for us. It just makes us all more proud of the final product.
Korey: It makes it more personal; it is something that kids definitely grab on to. I think that we all go through different things. There are different things that kids could relate too that maybe some other kid couldn’t relate too; like the way Joe is feeling or the way I am feeling, and then we put it into a song.
Webb: Have you ever thought about recording any music videos?
Joe: Yes. Actually, if we were to go through with releasing two songs at a time, whatever that A-Side is we want to try and put a video to it. Every two months have a video come out. I think music as a whole right now and the way that kids are, is kind of going for a more visual round. When I was a kid, all I needed was the song. I would just jam it all day long and all night long. Nowadays, kids are going straight to YouTube, “Oh I like this song, let’s go to YouTube.” If there is no video, then they are like, “Well whatever, I will find another band because there are hundreds of thousands of bands out there.” That’s definitely something we want to look into. It’s actually something I have talked to your brother [Matt Webb] about.
Webb: What would you say is the hardest part about being on the road constantly?
Joe: The hardest part about being on the road constantly is the fact that nowadays a lot of kids would rather be on their computers at home than be at rock shows. It can get disheartening. We play some really awesome shows, but at the same time in between those awesome shows there are some really dead shows. It is kind of hard to keep your head up sometimes. But, I mean I guess we have been doing this for five years, and we are still going. So, I guess we keep our heads up. I would say the hardest part for me is just those shows that kids don’t make it too for this reason or that.
Chris: It is frustrating [sometimes] to try and get people to care about something that you care about.
Webb: On the other hand, what would you say is the best part about being on the road?
Joe: For me, it used to be playing those awesome shows where the kids are just vibing off of your energy, and singing the words back to you. Now though, I really like connecting. Even if we go to a city and there is a group of two or three friends that we make. Those friends remain friends, I think that is my favorite part. Just making friends and meeting people.
Korey: I think we are all people persons.
Chris: People people [laughing].
Korey: People people [laughing]. For me, definitely just meeting new people. I think I am the one most eager to just meet new people. I think making new friends in different cities, and remaining friends like Joe said is probably one of the best things.
Joe: From a band that has been touring for so long, I think we have just as many really close friends across the United States as we do at home. That’s really cool. Even if there is that show that was not that good, we get to go to our friend’s house afterwards and just hang out. Grill out or whatever, and it is kind of worth it at that point.
Webb: Looking way back, what inspired each of you to become musicians? Was it a certain band, event, person, or instrument?
Joe: I have a really funny answer and a really serious answer [laughing].
Webb: You can give both [laughing].
Joe: When I was really little, my mom got me “Ninja Turtles On Tour” on VHS. I watched it all the time. They had these big fake guitars. I went to my grandpa’s house, and he cut out a big, fake guitar out of a tree for me. I just played the heck out of that thing. They wore these cut-off jean jackets with sparkles all over them. I was like, “Mom, I want sparkles on my clothes [laughing].” After that, I guess my mom saw that I was really into music. She would just jam like “Phantom of the Opera,” and my dad would jam stuff like Michael Jackson to Van Halen. I was surrounded by music. For me, I guess that is just where I ended up.
Chris: My brother has been a drummer. He is older than I am. He started playing drums before I even thought about it; I was more of the sports guy. One day, I just kind of decided to give it a shot. Sit down, and see what happened. He ended up teaching me some stuff, and I just kind of fell in love with it.
Webb: I am sorry to interrupt you, but you have a huge spider on you.
[Chris quickly flips the spider off his leg; it flies straight at me.]
Chris: Holy! I hate that. I am so sorry. Thanks for telling me.
Joe: Yeah, good looking out.
Korey: I was just watching it crawl up.
Chris: You didn’t say a word?
Korey: I was going to flip it off, but then you threw it on him [laughing].
Webb: I don’t think it is on me.
Chris: I think you are good. Anyway, my brother inspired me I guess. I just gave it a shot, and fell in love with it.
Korey: I remember getting my first cassette tape ever from my friend Tristan. It was Michael Jackson. I think that lit a fire underneath in me. Always going to the lake with my mom back home. She was always jamming music, and really soulful music and country music. That has always been a part of my life for sure. I joined the road with these dudes like four years ago. I did merch for them for a year. Actually, our old bass player ended up quitting. I didn’t know how to play. I was like okay, I will learn how to play bass. Joe taught me how to play bass on the road, and I have been going ever since.
Webb: As a musician, which do you like more, playing a live show in front of fans or creating songs in the studio?
Chris: That is just two different worlds.
Joe: That’s a good question. I think it just depends on my mood. As of lately, it feels so good to play. Our last guitarist actually left the band in December, and I had just been singing. I kind of got thrown back on guitar. Whenever I started playing guitar again, I don’t know what happened, but I really reconnected with that instrument. Ever since then, live shows have been as fun as when we started playing.
Korey: I think just because I am so new to creating songs that I would say live show, just connecting with people.
Chris: Yeah, I am kind of the same way. I have been playing live shows longer than I have been writing music. So that was kind of my first love. But, I love song writing. It is therapeutic almost. It is just a different kind of thing.
Webb: What does the rest of 2011 look like for you guys. What can we expect from The Savvy for the rest of this year?
Korey: We have some more festivals.
Joe: We are playing Cornerstone and Lifest. I think we have another southeast tour coming up in August. But, for the most part we are going to focus on getting new stuff. Getting new songs, finding the right producer, and putting a plan behind when we are going to release it [new music]. That will probably be our biggest focus for the rest of the year.
Marc Webb interviews The Savvy in the Ichthus Press Tent on June 17, 2011.
Photo by Jeremiah Massengale.