Posted: by The Editor
Self-described atmospheric rockers, Mess, are about to embark on a few tour dates with scene legends, American Football. We wanted to catch up with the band in the midst of this exciting event. The Kansas City DIY group has been, quite literally, doing everything themselves since the beginning (with the help of some friends of course). After self-releasing their debut album, Learning How To Talk, earlier this year, the band has been making waves in and out of the DIY scene.
Learning How To Talk is an elegantly arranged narrative about the twists and turns of a blooming relationship, specifically the intimacy that blossoms and withers as time progresses. Fragile, and ready to burst at the slightest indelicacy, the story is accompanied by shimmering guitars and and reverberative drum fills.
Mess has set an impressive example for other DIY bands to follow. We spoke to bassist, Kevin Briody, and vocalist/songwriter, Allison Gliesman, in the haze of excitement. Stream the album below and learn more about the pros and cons of being your own team, how the band started, their go-to Taco Bell orders, and more.
How are you doing? Are you excited to be playing with American Football?
Kevin: We’re doing awesome, thanks! Oh yeah, we’re unbelievably excited about supporting American Football on their midwest tour dates. We only found out about it a few days before the announcement, thankfully, because that would have been hard to keep a secret. We basically found out at the same time as everyone else, so getting to share that excitement together while it was fresh was really special.
What advice would you give to new bands trying to book shows/gain traction?
Kevin: Support your local scene as much as possible — whether that means going to shows, booking shows, shouting about bands you love on Twitter… Whatever you want to do, do it! No matter where you are living, there is always space for people who genuinely care about making the community better. If you’re supporting a venue or DIY space as a patron, they will probably let you perform there. If you are supporting touring bands, they will likely support you when you play in their town. If you are showing up early for a show and you’re staying until the end, promoters are going to remember that. That’s not to say do these things with the expectation of being rewarded. It’s just amazing how naturally everything starts coming together when you immerse yourself in your scene.
How’d you first get into music/your local scene?
Kevin: Music was always something I loved growing up, but I don’t think I felt really compelled to make my own until I discovered The Wonder Years in high school. Their record, The Upsides, was foundational for me understanding the importance of music and the impact it can have on a person.
As far as getting into the local music scene, I really wasn’t involved until a few years ago! My friend Jacob Garrett booked bands at his house and I loved going to his shows. He really introduced me to the music community. The Rino, which is a great venue in Kansas City, also had a big impact. My friends Steven Ervay & Rebecca Elliott started booking shows there, which eventually turned into me booking shows there as well.
Allison: Local music scenes can often be intimidating, and I wasn’t involved in ours until I was in this band. I met so many wonderful people who were welcoming and kind at the time we were first starting out, and those people are still some of my closest friends now. I think a lot of positive changes in my life started taking place whenever I started to be involved in Kansas City music.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Allison: Honestly, I don’t. I have a notoriously bad memory. I have small recollections of writing “songs” in middle school, but thankfully my brain has blocked out a lot of that time in my life. I do, however, remember the first original song I ever performed in front of people. I was 16 and so embarrassed by everything, but I felt invincible after I did it. Even still, I’m proud of that song because of how it made me feel then, at a time. I really needed it. It was the first song I ever wrote in a way that was honest and cathartic, and I’ve chased that quality in writing ever since.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the formation of the band?
Allison: Kevin and I met through a recurring open mic that we both attended when I was a senior in high school. He always said we should play together, but I didn’t get serious about music until a year or so later when I dropped out of college and was looking for something to give me direction. We played a ton of different stuff together just the two of us and solidified some key ideas and goals for the project early on. From there, it only seemed natural to collaborate with other musicians, and so we brought in another guitarist (Tanner) and a drummer. The entire formation was surprisingly natural and comfortable.
Is the album based on real things you’ve experienced or more of a story from an outside perspective?
Allison: Learning How to Talk is a fictional story. However, like any work of fiction, the album is informed by real life experiences, perceptions, and emotions. Writing the characters came pretty easily because I have been both people in my life. Both of them are me, but also neither of them are me. It almost felt more cathartic to write from an outside perspective because it gave me the chance to examine these parts of myself objectively and without shame. That sort of self-reflection ages you years and years!
What are some of the pros/cons of releasing music without any management or label?
Kevin: We all cherish that Mess has been reliant on our own work-ethic and resources rather than those of others. We have ourselves to blame for any successes or failures, and we value that accountability — It’s rewarding! It’s also reassuring when we can engage with talent buyers, press, venues, etc. and feel comfortable in those conversations.
With that said, our goal isn’t to stay independent forever. I really envy the camaraderie between the label team and bands on great labels. A few that come to mind would be Chatterbot, Tiny Engines, Topshelf, and Take This to Heart. Their bands are visibly supportive of one another and if you talk to a band on one of those labels, they will tell you that they love their team. We definitely value the work that labels do, it’s just about finding the right fit for both the label and ourselves.
What have you learned along the way, not having that extra help?
Kevin: A million different things, but I think the best summary would be: The knowledge and tools you need are already out there. Whether it’s booking a tour, pitching your record, financial stuff, etc., there are good examples out there. As well as people who have been through it and are willing to help you. So, while we are an independent band, we’re incredibly thankful and owe a lot to the support and resources of those who care about us. Also to embrace failure. I screwed up so much when we were starting out, and I learned from that. Development is a welcome part of the process.
Allison: I’ve mostly learned about community and karma. Everything is so much more fun and productive when everyone is growing together. There’s more than enough room for everyone in the music world, and competitive energy among artists can stagnate everyone. Find other genuine people who you get along with and lift each other up.
Where do you see the band going from here? What are some of your goals/expectations?
Kevin: We’re going to be announcing another tour really soon! It’s the longest run we’ve done, yet, which is exciting. So, that’s where we will literally be going! But that will be the last run of shows supporting the release of Learning How To Talk, and then we’re going to take the winter to work on new material. As far as goals and expectations, we don’t want to set anything concrete going into writing at this point, but Allison has sent us some demos we’re really excited about. Definitely eager to shift into writing being the main focus again.
Allison: I’m super excited to hunker down and write this winter! We were writing Learning How to Talk for about two years, and now that we’re finally done, we’re free to do whatever we want, to explore different subjects and styles. It makes me feel like a little kid in a candy store!
What’s your go to taco bell order?
Allison: I’m not like other girls; my body is made up of 60% baja blast
Kevin: Spicy potato soft tacos! Best post-gig meal ever. I think Tanner is the one who got me into the spicy potato soft taco. Evan always gets a plain meat and cheese burrito. He’s the pickiest eater I’ve ever met. Hit our dms @feedthebeat.
The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.