By Rhiannon Levengood
Photos by Rachel Meyers
A group of four men dressed in matching wine-colored, three-piece suits may seem like they’re the lost part of a wedding party to you, and usually you’d be correct. Even the immaculately slicked-back hairstyle would fool you. However Warren, Elliott, Erik, and Dallas actually make up an alternative pop band called Ceramic Animal.
Their carbon-copy fashion is not the only thing that catches the attention of their new fans because their sound is equally as, if not even more enticing. With their first single “So Familiar” from their upcoming sophomore album, Ceramic Animal brings forth a psychedelic vibe to take us on a trip back to the late 60s. The track is innovative and surreal, slow and relaxing, and extremely difficult to compare to any specific artist, which makes Ceramic Animal truly a distinctive band. The lyrics explain the familiar feeling of falling in love with someone for the first time, and how welcoming that feeling is. But this is all only a taste of what’s to come, which the group‒in very few words‒hints at their next record being unlike anything they’ve done before.
Luckily, I had the chance to speak one-on-one with these guys during an experimental interview. They showed me their darts skills while giving me an inside look at their goofy personalities and at their lives as up and coming musicians.
Please introduce the other band members and describe them in a single word.
Dallas: That’s Warren, that’s Elliott, and that’s Erik. And handsome, handsome, and handsome.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Elliott: The wilderness. I listen to exclusively Celtic music. That’s it. Celtic music and Ceramic Animal to pad the stats on Spotify. I don’t need anything else. But inspiration? I pull that from my brothers. My friends. See, it’s really important to write good songs. To be inspired to write good songs. But getting the inspiration to keep on truckin? Woo boy, that’s the important thing. That comes from family, from fans, from friends, and from each other.
What are you most proud of in regards to Ceramic Animal?
Rik: Just a couple weeks ago we found out we got an official showcase at SXSW‒a week later we were featured as “Artist of the Day”. Totally out of the blue, but something we have had our eye on for a while‒and are thrilled to be a part of.
What have you discovered about yourself since joining Ceramic Animal?
Rik: Writing stuff down is powerful. Frequently when we are together we write things down that we want to do or accomplish. Some big things, some small things, but at the time it can feel intimidating‒you don’t know how you’ll be able to get all that done. It’s crazy to come across past lists we’ve made and see that we did everything on them. Luckily we keep making new lists.
Elliott: You look back on these once-daunting goals and you’re like…”really? That was keeping us up at night? We crushed that.” It’s like going to watch your younger brother play rec league intramural basketball when you’re 12 and he’s 9… You’re watching some real cracker jack athleticism. It’s bad ball. As a 12 year old, there’d be no contest for you out there. But when you’re 9 and in the moment, it’s scary. You don’t have the context. Gotta keep pushing.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Warren: No one is going to do it for you, and you shouldn’t want them to anyway.
Elliott: Right, because no one really knows what they’re doing. There’s a good Steve Jobs quote about how the frameworks that are set in stone for how all of us live our lives were created by people that weren’t any smarter than we are…I’d Google it. It’s a real barrier breaker.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the band?
Elliott: At some point I’ll probably sell out, cash it all in, and start a puppy farm.
Rik: I see what is going on in automation, and it’s thrilling. I’m hoping to save up enough money and invest in some sort of high-tech “Key-Machine” or “Board-Bot” to take over for Elliott. That way he can chase down that puppy farm dream he is always talking about.
What is a typical day like for you?
Elliott: I wake up around 6 without an alarm. I make the bed. Then I drink at least 16 oz of room temp water. Sometimes I throw a pinch of Himalayan salt and a squirt of lime in there‒early morning for me is all about the alkalinity; flush the body, get the system lubricated. If you’re having a tough day, then you’re just not hydrated. Sometimes I’ll have some coffee with some butter, but not until close to 9. I love taking my time in the morning‒that’s what they’re for. I’ll look at the band email, check some social media accounts‒see if there’s anything we can respond to. I don’t eat breakfast until 12 or 1. I’ll get some kind of physical activity in. The band gets together sometime late afternoon. We let it rip until about 9 pm. Whatever we need to do‒rehearse, record, rehash. If we know people playing that night we’ll snake some big delicious beers and bop out for some live music. The rest is private.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your musical career so far?
Dallas: Gettin’ that paper.
How did you get into music?
Elliott: I was pressured into it by my parents and brothers.
Rik: I took up the snare drum in 4th grade because my friend said, “drummers get chicks” [It] took a few month to realize this rule for whatever reason didn’t really apply if you are only playing a snare drum‒but I had just bought a 12 pack of sticks so I kept with it.
Dallas: My dad is a guitar player. He is the one that really got me into it. I play bass and my twin brother is a drummer, we have played together most of our lives. We have been in bands together off and on, too. I actually met these guys while I was playing in one of those bands.
What instruments can you play?
Dallas: Bass, Guitar, Keys, some drums and hand percussion. I can get by on a lot of things after just playing around for a bit.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your musical career so far?
Warren: Hearing from people who find our music, and how it impacts them positively. When we hear that something we made has helped someone get through a tough time, or it’s a song they share with someone they care about, it’s an awesome feeling.
Besides the release of your second record and mini summer tour, what are you looking forward to most this year?
Elliott: SXSW‒that’s gonna’ be a good time. I’m excited to see what this year brings. Every day there’s some kind of nugget worth appreciating. Want to make sure I’m staying in the moment.
What’s the earliest memory involving music that you can remember?
Warren: An early memory involving music for me that got me to start playing guitar was watching a Led Zeppelin live DVD that I got as a gift when I was 10 or 11. It might have just been called “Led Zeppelin DVD” or something generic like that but it had a few shows from different venues they played through the years‒all of which were pretty incredible.
Where is your favorite venue?
Dallas: To see a show in Philly, World Cafe Live, Johnny Brenda’s, and Union Transfer are great spots.
How would you describe your next album in 5 words?
Warren: Three words: Cowboy Sneaker Boot.
Would you change anything about your journey so far?
Elliott: Nope. Wouldn’t even consider it. If things didn’t go the way they went, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I love where we are right now…I loving knowing what I know. I appreciate the mistakes we’ve made‒and I’m glad we made them. I also appreciate the things we (sometimes accidentally) got right. The grass is only greener on the other side if you aren’t cultivating your own yard. You never know what (or how) decisions will impact your trajectory down the road. If you don’t learn to be happy where you are now, nothing can change that for you, not permanently.
How do you deal with a creative block?
Warren: Gotta power through. Power through the tough days and take advantage of the easy ones.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Rik: Don’t expect anyone to do it for you. Create as much of your own opportunity as you can. When people are willing to genuinely help you along the way, it is a wonderful thing, cherish those people. We have been lucky to run into some people like that, but you can’t rely on it as the rule. Learn to enjoy figuring out stuff on your own, surround yourself with good people. Have some fun.
What is your dream venue to play?
Warren: A sold out Wembley always looks pretty fun. I’ve never been to Red Rocks but it is supposed to be great, so playing it would be a great excuse to go.
What’s an instrument you’d like to learn?
Waffles or pancakes?
Warren: Ahh this question always has me wafflin’.
Who is your most played artist on Spotify?
Rik: T. Rex or The Kinks
Which artist would you most like to tour with, dead or alive?
Dallas: Otis Redding or Queens of the Stone Age
What is on your tour rider?
Warren: Baby wipes
Elliott: Hair Tonic
Rik: Saltwater Taffy
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Rik: Don’t worry so much‒take action quickly rather than delaying.
What would your spirit animal be?
What was the last tv show you binge-watched?
Elliott: One Punch Man
Rik: The End of the F****ing World on Netflix
How do you take your coffee?
Elliott: Scoop uh’ butta’, scoop uh’ coconut oil
Rik: Black, sometimes a splash of cream.
Dallas: Wawa 12-ouncer
What’s your go-to drink?
Elliott: My sleeper choice is an ice cold can of Hamm’s Special Light Beer.
Rik: Magic Hat #9
Rik: Tootsies and Necco Wafers
If you were stranded on a deserted island, which fast food place would you crave the most?
Favorite kind of pizza?
Elliott: Momma’s homemade pizza pie‒made from scratch
If you missed their last show in Philadelphia, PA, you can catch their next show on May 17 at Union Transfer with Low Cut Connie. Tickets available here.