We constantly feature notable rising artists in the alternative scene on the verge of success. Meet this week’s artist: the Las Vegas based alternative duo that is Almost Normal.
Andrew Zakher and Ashley Lampman combine their talents to create a mixture of acoustic and percussive elements with keyboards that drive their evolved sound. Prior to reforming the line up in summer of 2013, the group has performed at several venues on the Las Vegas Strip and most surrounding states. They’ve shared the stage with local and national touring artists including The Rocket Summer, Steel Panther and Las Vegas natives, Imagine Dragons.
Find out how Almost Normal came to be, their musical influences, and their take on all things alternative culture in our interview below.
-Blink 182 "Enema of the State"
-No Doubt "Tragic Kingdom"
-The Police "The Classics"
What are your fondest musical memories?
As a band, the live shows have really inspired us and given us some great memories because each venue and crowd of people bring new experiences.
As a listener....
Ashley: When I was younger, going to shows and feeling the energy from the crowd was always a huge release for me and was the turning point that made me want to play music.
Andrew: I remember listening to movie scores in elementary school and how the music made me feel. It was such an incredible feeling. As I got older, I started going to live shows and got the same feeling, which led to me creating music on my own.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Ashley: I recently got Sirius Radio and can't stop listening to the Alt Nation station.
Andrew: I've been drawn to movie scores since I was little, and it is still a major influence on me. I like to mix it up as well with some indie, pop, and hip hop acts as well.
What is your creative process like? How do you approach the writing process?
Ashley: Ideas are sparked in many ways and have been evolving over the years of working together. For instance Andrew will have a keyboard or piano lick and I'll start humming a melody or pull out my notebook of lyrics and derive from that.
Andrew: Either one of us would come to the table with an idea and we build from there, layering sounds of synthesizers, piano, vocals and drums.
Something we find interesting here at IndieBeat is how the base city of artists impacts their creative process and sound formation. I feel like in the last few years Las Vegas has really forged it’s way into be a growing hub for alternative music, developing bands like The Killers and Imagine Dragons for instance, and really integrating live performance more into the tourist entertainment culture. As locals, can you describe to us the Vegas music scene? Has it changed over the years? How has it inspired into developing your sound?
The Killers and Imagine Dragons really set the bar for Las Vegas bands. The city life and large entertainment pool here in Vegas encourages us to stand out and create our signature sound and live show.
Ashley: The Vegas music scene is constantly evolving and with more venues and local city developments there are more opportunities for local bands to showcase their talents. We've been in and around the scene for about 7 years, and have noticed in recent years a much stronger music pull to the downtown area. We personally love downtown! It allowed us to start making a name for ourselves to a diverse, creative and open minded community. Shout out to Mandy at Artifice ;)
Andrew: I think it's a lot easier to reach out to people but at the same time it's hard because it's so easy and everyone is doing it. The online market becomes saturated and it's challenging to find our place. As a fan, it's fantastic because it's easy to find new artists and just click to listen rather than going to the store to buy a CD.
Ashley: I agree with Andrew on this one. It's an amazing tool as an artist that allows us to expand our brand and share our music to new ears by online platforms. As a fan, there's both pros and cons. The quickness is there and it's like "I want it and I want it now" lol but there's a sense of nostalgia and excitement lacking that in store purchases provide.
I read somewhere that Almost Normal started off through a Myspace connection. How did the project come about?
Ashley: I was seeking a music outlet and didn't know where to find people to play with so I made a classified ad on MySpace in hopes to find some new band mates and friends. After Andrew reached out, we all met in person and there was instant chemistry and connection.
Andrew: After the first rehearsal, Ashley joined the band. There was a different lineup, but in 2013 it dwindled to just Ashley and I, and that was the reinvention of Almost Normal.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
Ashley: Oh man, there's so many great artists I don't think there could be just 1 choice. But for some reason Steven Tyler has been one since I was 15 lol.
Andrew: Hans Zimmer because his work is just incredible!
As most bands do over time, Almost Normal has evolved both in form (going from a quartet to a duo) and in sound. You started off playing a more traditional pop-punk sound reminiscent of Paramore and your Blink-182 influence, and now have evolved into a more electro-alternative vibe with innovative elements of multiple genres, similar to that of Twenty-One Pilots. I’m wondering how you would describe your sound aesthetic, and how did you go about deciding on this new direction for the project?
The new direction wasn't a choice, but we ran with it. We had years of experience working and writing songs together, so this change really forced us to work harder and think of new ways to get creative with songwriting. We like to capture emotion and that's the most important element for us to get across to our audience. Experimenting with synthesizer sounds is our go to, and we build from there. Each song has its own life and we allow it to evolve into its full potential.
Andrew: For the music videos, we were lucky to find Jake Stark, a visionary with cinematic views that just so happened to match perfectly what we wanted to capture. We like to go for visual concepts that help our music tell a story, and we're inspired by life and everything around us. The "In Technicolor" EP has a black and white cover with small hues of color. Black and white imagery is timeless and bold. That was our way of introducing to the world Almost Normal as a duo.
You guys are performing a lot of local shows lately, and have plans for a summer tour. What does an Almost Normal live show look like? Do the visual elements extend to your gigs?
Were definitely taking more time to expand on the visuals for live performance. We don't want our live shows to only reflect the audio of our EP, so we're making sure to add percussive elements and also experiment with lights / visuals to really create a unique experience!
We’re coming up on festival season. Are you attending any as fans? What would your ideal festival lineup be?
We would love to go to many festivals this year if the time permits. The lineups that have been released this year, like Outside Lands are perfect and I wouldn't change a thing. It's a good mix of genres and Elton John makes it legendary.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
We're writing new material and working on venturing out on our first surrounding states tour in the summer.
Finally, a question we have been asking all of artists lately: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Ashley: I can't stop listening to all these! Misterwives - "Reflections,"
Vance Joy - "Riptide"
Glass Animals - "Gooey"
Andrew: Shake Shake Go is a young band on the rise thats has a nice indie folk sound. Check out "England Skies"
Be sure to get a copy of their EP In Technicolor via iTunes, which includes the powerful synthrock ballad Clockwork streamed below.