The performance included a hit from their first album, A Violent Flame, entitled “Paper Ghost,” which Courrier released a music video for a few months ago. The set also included a recently released single, “Love is a Fire,” which will be on the new album but is currently available on iTunes.
Then Courrier delved into a set full of never heard before songs. Right now, Courrier is keeping the title of the album a secret to the public, referring to it as “#CofC” on Twitter. Even though the room was small and the performance was very imitate, I could clearly feel that they put just as much into playing for fifteen people as they would a few thousand.
Afterwards, I sat down with Courrier for an exclusive interview. I told the fans to chime in with their own questions as well.
AltSounds: So, our readers don’t know much about y’all, introduce yourselves!
Austin: We’re an alternative rock band from Austin, TX and we travel around the country playing for whoever will hear us.
AltSounds: How did Courrier come to be? What’s your origins and history?
Austin: Philip and I met each other like 6 or 7 years ago now, in our freshman year of college. Both of us were hacks on the acoustic guitar and we sat in our dorm room...
Philip: In a room not unlike this room…
Austin: We just started playing acoustic together and writing songs. Over the course of about two year it became serious. We met Nathan sometime after we graduated college and he joined, and Taylor joined to replace our old bass player about two years ago.
Taylor: Yeah, I joined right after you released the record.
Philip: It’s weird because we just started playing acoustic songs in a dorm and they were not very good. Then you start playing for a couple people that come over, then you start playing in coffee shops, then you start playing in a bar, then you start playing real gigs. Then you’re kind of weirded out because then you’re like a real band. Then we decided this is what we love to do. I never pictured myself being a professional musician. So, it’s strange to think, but we decided this is what we’re passionate about, so we became a band. We recorded our first record, the three of us (Austin, Philip, Nathan) and our old bass player, but it wasn’t until Taylor joined the band that we finally felt we were a unit.
Austin: Taylor joined the band and a month later we left on the road for a long time.
Philip: Taylor’s been our friend for a long time, so we knew him and Nathan we met him through friends. We had some guys leave along the way, before we were really Courrier. You think, how are we going to find guys that are not only good musicians and support us but make it so we can hang out with each other, because we have to spend time together. You think, how am I going to find people I can be friends with and work in the band. Non-coincidently, you get guys in the band and you’re like wow this is better than I could have imagined.
Taylor: A functioning band is a fluke –people that work well musically and friendship wise.
Austin: It’s always greater than the sum of its parts too. If you were to look at each of us as musicians, you’d be like….oh, cool. But when we come together, we write songs that are better than any of us could write on our own and we sound different that anything any of us would create on our own. That really adds up to Courrier, not just Austin, Philip, Nathan, Taylor jamming out.
AltSounds: So the puzzle pieces finally fit together?
Philip: Kind of.
AltSounds: If you mash them together a little?
Philip: Yeah. Like we were just born this year and now we’re on the radio. It’s crazy.
AltSounds: You’re now doing an acoustic house tour, and this is the third day. How’s it been so far?
Austin: It’s been pretty awesome. The main thing that’s different is going into people’s homes or places they hang out and meeting them there. It’s totally different than the stand-offish stage appearance. If we could change that somehow we would. Most of the time when we play shows –we’re backstage behind a curtain and we walk out with all our instruments, and play, and walk off. We might not meet some people because that’s just the way it works. That’s not how we ever wanted it, so this is a really good opportunity to do the complete opposite of that. We can prove to our fans that we’re people.
Taylor: It’s definitely really stretching for us as musicians and performers. We’re outside of our comfort zone –playing acoustically and being in people’s homes. It’s been cool having that kind of intimacy and looking at individual people in the room.
Philip: Staring at them awkwardly…
Taylor: From the beginning, we’ve always really cared about our fans and wanted to get to know them and this is an awesome opportunity for us to get to know the people taking care of us, and paying our bills, and just supporting us. We’re really thankful.
AltSounds: Y’all played at The Orange Peel in Asheville last year, does the smaller crowd or larger crowd make for a better show?
Taylor: Bigger shows for us because we’re more comfortable. Honestly, it’s a lot harder for us to play this way because we’re not used to it. The more people there are, the more surreal it is.
Austin: It’s so much easier for me to play for 2,000 people than it is to play for one person. The smaller the crowd, the more intimate it gets, and the more revealing it gets. At that level it’s so intimate it becomes personal. We know doing this acoustic tour we’re going to be better on a big stage in front of 50,000 people.
Philip: It's the ability to be vulnerable in front of 20 people and moving that to a big show.
AltSounds: Which artists to you look up to?
Philip: There are tons of artists we look up to and they change all the time. One band that’s consistent for us is Coldplay. That’s not just because they’re one of the biggest bands in the world. A lot of people don’t get it and that’s okay, but it’s cool to look up to them because they’re so humble about what they do. I don’t know if that’s just the British personality but they’re very self-effacing. It’s humorous in a way, how the biggest band in the world talks about how they’re just another band. Also, their creativity. There aren’t a lot of bands that attempt to recreate themselves every record cycle and that’s what they do incredibly well. Whether or not you like the new version of them, they’re always pushing themselves creatively and they’re not worried.
Taylor: Coldplay’s not a one-hit wonder than keeps trying to recreate that experience over and over again.
Nathan: They also function really well as a band. You don’t often see four original members together that long.
Philip: I read a book someone wrote about Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead and REM. It was about how they all split everything evenly between them, and how they’re some of the most successful bands that have ever been because of that. If you’re splitting everything evenly and you’re getting along, and that’s how your relationships are and it’s not just one guy making a bunch of money –you’re going to have a lot more success. Any other bands?
Taylor: Bruce Springsteen.
Austin: I like Death Cab For Cutie a lot.
Philip: Musically Jonsi. We always try to rip off what Jonsi’s doing because it’s so creative and weird.
AltSounds: Take us through your creative process. How does a Courrier song come to be?
Nathan: It’s all so different. One song, Taylor wrote a simple riff on piano, then Austin wrote the whole song. Then some songs we all wrote different parts. First, like something on acoustic guitar with melodies, then we all write the parts together. Some songs went through a frustrating fifteen revisions.
Taylor: More like fifty.
Austin: We all write different and our creative processes are all different. The way every single song on the record took a completely different path. One thing that really differentiated this record was being completely out of college; we treated this more as a job. I spent six months with 10 to 3 as my “work” schedule where I sat down and wrote music. A lot of it was me sitting at a piano punching myself in the head the whole time because nothing good would come out. But every once in a while a tiny piece would come out, and that would be applied when we all got together. We do song writing retreats too, where we’ll just get away somewhere and all clash on what we like and don’t like about songs.
Taylor: Patience was a necessary virtue on this record.
Austin: Somehow eleven songs came out, out of hundred of ideas.
Philip: It’s a frustrating occupation because some days you work for hours and nothing gets done.
Taylor: It’s also frustrating too because you have to not wear your heart on your sleeve when you ask, “Is this a good idea?” If I bring a crappy idea to the table, even though these guys are gentle, you can’t get offended. It’s constantly having to respect each other and trust that the other guys know what’s good.
Philip: The interesting thing with this record is that none of the songs were written on anyone’s individual behalf. Nothing was written alone, which is how the last record went. On this record, it was more, I have this piece or I have three verses, what could we do with it? On the last record, we felt entitled to our own songs. On this record, although we each wrote equally the same amount, we have no entitlement to which is our own.
Austin: Also, as much as I could claim one song. That song wouldn’t be the same without each of it’s parts.
AltSounds: So, for our readers. If they’d never listened to Courrier, what’s the one song you’d want them to hear?
All together: "Love is a Fire".
AltSounds: I love that that was a unanimous decision.
Philip: It’s good for our fans that have been with us for a while because it’s the mix between the old and the new.
Taylor: It’s the start of the next era.
Fan: I noticed you all wear the same or similar shoes. I was wondering if y’all as a group have a certain style?
Philip: We try not to talk about it but we’re pretty big nerds as far as fashion goes. Not that we go shopping together all the time, but that does happen. From the beginning of being a band we thought about branding. You think about what your image is going to be, not that you’re trying to put something on. We’re not. But there needs to be some consistency there. There are times when we walk on stage and someone’s never heard us but they stay because someone’s wearing a tie and they think, we’ll that’s weird.
Nathan: We hang out together, so we tend to have the same things.
Philip: I said the other day; we’re the Chili’s menu of clothing. You know how Chili’s changes their menu like every two months, but it’s still all the same stuff and the same ingredients. They have a taco that used to be a burger. We wear the same clothes, just different versions.
Taylor: Which one of us is the taco?
Fan: How does your religious beliefs affect your music?
Austin: Our beliefs and convictions are the most important thing about our music. The idea of not carrying what you believe in into what you’re writing about is absolutely impossible. It’s heartless too. For someone to say they wrote about a character that believed in something, it’s sad. We write with characters, and on this record there’s a very specific character you can see throughout. It’s not any one of us, but it’s a character that’s going through a lot of change. It’s moving a lot, traveling a lot and it’s being affected and affecting other people because of that. Of course all of our personal beliefs are going to come into that. If we didn’t get vulnerable and put that into our music, we’d just be total frauds.
Fan: Is the song “Love is a Fire” religiously influenced?
Austin: No, “Love is a Fire” is about how I went home for a day, back to where I grew up in San Antonio and I realized that I don’t seem to be who I used to be. I went home and I realized that no one really knows me anymore from there, even though people think that they know me. So that song was a proclamation of who I am or who I felt like I was becoming.
Philip: I also think to a certain extent, there’s a play on “home is where the heart is” and thinking about the people that do really know you. I think “Love is a Fire” really encapsulates that.
Austin: Yeah, definitely.
Philip: The type of music we write is never going to be about trivial stuff. We all love to listen to songs about nothing, but that’s just not the kind of music we write. We write songs that are more story based and about the stuff that’s most important to us. If it’s not relationships, it’s faith, or stories about grief or loss or hope. We never wanted to be labeled in any sort of genre. We don’t want to be a Christian band, but at the end of the day if that’s what we believe we’re not going to write about anything else.
Taylor: We’re all Christian dudes and we’re telling stories through that lens, through that perspective. It’s not worship music, but it’s what our principles are.
Philip: We get to tour, and hang out with and talk to so many different people that believe the total opposite. We get to share our stories and hear their stories. It’s a good conversation piece, but we’re not preachers.
Austin: Looking at any song on the record and calling it a religious song would be hard. None of these songs were meant for corporate religion. They are implying our own convictions on it. But it’s cool that our atheist producer can listen to these songs and take what he perceives out of it. It’s not like we wrote these for the ears of someone who agreed with us.
Taylor: I think anyone can take what they want from the songs, and that’s what the magic of it is. We’re not trying to make anyone agree with us, we’re just telling it like it is.
Philip: Once you release it, it’s whatever anyone wants to interpret it as.
Taylor: Bob Dylan was always a huge advocate of that. People would ask him what his songs were about and he’d say, “I don’t know, you tell me.”
Austin: We want to be successful and we don’t want people to think we’re writing music for any specific group of people.
Fan: Do you have a favorite song to perform?
All together: "Eyes Shine."
Philip: The second of the new songs we played, “Your Eyes Shine in the Darkness.” Even when we play it acoustic it’s so energetic.
Taylor: Even with acoustic guitars it feels like we’re playing a festival!
Austin: It’s the song we over-perform when we’re practicing.
Philip: We’re in the studio and I’m jumping around.
AltSounds: So, what’s next for Courrier?
Taylor: Touring for the rest of our lives.
Austin: We’re about to announce a month and a half long national tour in the next few days. So we’re out for three weeks on the acoustic tour, we come home for a week, and then we head out on that. Then we release the record in January and leave for forever again.
Philip: I’m kind of Type A OCD. We all want to have a plan in place for how to release the record, but everything we’re doing now is so new to us. Right now, we’re seeing how our song is doing on radio and you have to go with the flow.
Taylor: You just have to deal with the next 50 feet in front you.