When you’re a musician or a band globetrotting on tour and playing gigs all over the place, it can be nice to come home every once in a while. It’s a great time to see old friends and family and return to familiar surroundings.
This Saturday the Willimantic indie rock act The World Is A Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid To Die will be performing at the State House in New Haven on for a quasi-hometown show where they’ll be doing their best to mimic the energy and theatrics of their documentary and live album, “Thank You For Being Here,” which came out last October.
Local emo pop outfit Cinema Stare and Berlin techno-folk project Emperor X will be starting the night off a little after 7 p.m.
I talked with guitarist and trumpeter Chris Toti before the show about having a guy following the band around with a camera while on tour, documenting the band’s first shows since the COVID lockdown, thoughts on coming back to Connecticut, and what’s in store for the near future.
RD: Who had the initial idea for this type of release with Thank You For Being Here being both a documentary & live album and where was the album recorded? Was it recorded over a series of shows or was it recorded during one specific show?
CT: The idea came out pretty much right before the tour because the filmmaker Adam Peditto was going to come along with us and he at first wanted to do a documentary of just the tour. It seemed like a great opportunity to try to document what it was going to be like because we didn’t really know what to expect going into it at the time during the end of 2021. Not many tours had really happened for almost two years at that point and once we knew that there was going to be a documentary made during the entire tour, I was like “Well, we’re going to have to record these shows anyways so we should do a live record. It’ll be great to document this.” We’ve made a couple other live records in the past and I think it’s an important thing to the band, so it felt like a good time to document us at this time in every possible way both musically and in film.
We recorded audio from a few different shows on the tour, but we ended up keeping the audio from two or three of them because we had Chris Baum, who is the violin player for Bent Knee, playing with us. We felt that he helped give a better representation of some of the songs, so the live album is a few different shows combined, mainly from the East Coast towards the end of that tour.
RD: Did knowing that parts of this particular tour was going to be recorded in real time for the album & documentary change your approach to performing live at all? Were you guys more pensive about how your performance was going to come across or did you feel more relaxed while capturing the vibe of a live show?
CT: I think because it was deeper into a tour, we were pretty locked in by that point. Usually when we’re on the road, it takes a week or two to really feel that we don’t have to think about the set at all. It’s all happening and by that point in the tour it just felt really fluid, which is partly why we used some of the shows later in the tour. It was basically six weeks of rehearsal in a way, but by that point I wasn’t really thinking about it. We were a few weeks deep into someone having a camera around us all the time so it just felt natural.
I definitely wanted to play as tight as I could for those, but it didn’t feel weird at all. It felt very natural while doing it.
RD: How do you view the documentary side of Thank You For Being Here as a capturing of a specific time, place and moment for the band? What do you think the end product of the film represents when you watch it?
CT: It basically documents us coming back to do another record after a number of years. Our record previous to that was made in 2017, then we had that tour in 2021 and the record we released that year, Illusory Walls, was absolutely the longest we had ever spent on a record because we didn’t have to tour around it. It held a different weight for us, especially since we hadn’t toured since 2019, and it held a different weight than any other previous record because we never had quite the gap like that. In the end, it showed that we could work together as a unit, make a record we’re proud of, even when we’re deeper into our careers, and still have fun with it while also being able to work ourselves through one of the most difficult times to be touring as well. There was no guideline on how to do stuff for bands at that point, most tours were getting canceled while ours was one of the few that hadn’t gotten cut short because of COVID related stuff at that point.
We were seeing so many tours around us getting canceled, even a few dates in or halfway through. I feel that everything we do is kind of a snapshot into our lives at that point and I guess the documentary is that same sort of thing while getting the visual aspect of it rather than it being shown through the music or the lyrics. It shows how we all kind of operate together in video form, I guess.
RD: Yeah, I totally get that. Being in a band that does a lot of touring all over North America, Europe and everywhere else, what are your thoughts on coming back to your home base to play the State House? Does it feel different at all to play a local gig now since you guys are an established band in the independent music world?
CT: It definitely does feel different, but it’s cool. It’s a cool feeling and it definitely holds a different weight than a random show on a long tour because I know close friends of mine that I see very frequently are coming to the shows as opposed to people I’d see once every six months or every year. A lot of people that we’ve known through the years would be there, people who saw us play these small basements when we first started or even later on. These are people that we might have lived with or have close attachments to being where we’re originally from. It’s cool because we don’t play Connecticut very often at all, usually we end up playing either Boston or New York while on tour.
I like being able to come to Connecticut when we can because it is a state that kind of gets skipped over, so it means a lot to be able to play in the state and have bands on the show that we’re friends with and have known for a while. It feels kind of like a homecoming in a way, but it’s just so much more special than most shows would be for us on a personal level.
RD: I can see why it would be. After the show at the State House, what are The World Is A Beautiful Place & I’m No Longer Afraid To Die’s plans for the rest of the year? Can we expect a new album to follow up Illusory Walls at some point within the next few months?
CT: Starting next month in April, we have a full U.S. tour where we’ll be playing our first LP in full. It’s for its 10 year anniversary, and then we’re going to have some festivals in the U.S. and Europe this summer. We are writing stuff for a new record, but I don’t see a new full album this year coming out. I will say that we have been working on a couple songs for a split that we are in the middle of recording, so we are working on new material. I think the rest of the year will be finishing up those two songs for a split and just touring.
The World Is A Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid To Die
with Cinema Stare and Emperor X
310 State St., New Haven
March 25 @ 7 p.m.