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Interview: Vinyl Theatre’s Keegan Calmes talks bringing new album Starcruiser to life

Vinyl Theatre is back with their latest album Starcruiser. They’re taking these new tunes on the road this fall. Before their stop in Phoenix, AZ, on October 22, Atlas sat down with singer Keegan Calmes to talk new music and the shifting music industry.

Atlas: Can you walk us through the story of Vinyl Theatre?

Keegan: We started writing together probably nine years ago now. It was quite a while ago but we were all in college together- we all went to different colleges but we were all in college at the same time. We started writing over email and Skype. I met Chris at a cross-country meet and he met Nick in a music theory class in high school so we’ve been together and writing and touring for a very long time.

Atlas: How did music play into your identities before forming Vinyl Theatre?

Keegan: We’ve been playing since we were kids so it’s been pretty definitive. No matter what we’re doing, music’s like an overarching theme. No matter what we were focused on, even if it was school, music was pretty much number one still. It’s shaped us in every way.

Atlas: What’s your creative process when you’re writing an album?

Keegan: We all bring a lot to the table. Sometimes Chris will bring a full song written out or I’ll bring a song to the table and we’re just collaborate on it, make it as good as we possibly can. Our drummer does all of the mixing and producing now so it’s all in-house. The three of us work on something together until it’s finished without that many outside people messing with the finished product which is nice, keeps creative control.

Atlas: You’ve just released your new album, Starcruiser. How is this album different from your previous work?

Keegan: This one is the first one we’ve done completely independently- the mixing, mastering and production is all going to be Nick and we pretty much did everything on our own. It just feels like it’s more representative of us- a newer sound. I feel like we’ve kind of matured into this record.


Atlas: What is most striking feedback you’ve gotten from fans? What’s really stuck with you?

Keegan: I think the biggest one is when people come up to us at shows and being like “hey, I was going through a really rough time a few months ago and found you guys on Spotify” or something to that effect and our song really helped them get through it. That’s pretty much what it’s all about and that means the most to us when somebody actually feels like they can get through something because of the music. I’m always looking for something to help me and it becomes a much more special record when I can find a band I can relate to.

Atlas: Since you’ve been a band for a long time, you’ve seen some ups and downs in the industry. How do you see the industry responding to changes- is it doing well or lagging behind?

Keegan: The Music Modernization Act just got passed which is great. We’ll see what that does for artists but essentially it should help with streaming revenues for bands. I hope that it helps artists to catch up and be able to make a living again. I know that a lot of bands on our level and below are struggling just to make it or struggling just to get out and touring because they just can’t afford it but their streams might be pretty decent online. There’s not a lot of revenue there but that just got passes so hopefully it helps out. We’ll see what ultimately happens there.    

It’s a very crazy, changing world right now- especially for indie bands- and it’s definitely changing so I’m hoping that this act being passed will make it more sustainable for artists to keep making music.

Atlas: What artists are on your radar right now?

Keegan: The new Young the Giant’s pretty good, I’ve always liked them. Of course twenty one pilots just came out, that’s always interesting. A big one for me that’s always a go-to is Foster the People right now. I go back to their latest record a lot.

Atlas: What’s the master plan for Vinyl Theatre?

Keegan: We’re looking at some support tours for the spring and we’ll see what happens there. We want to go out and support the record but also get in front of some new fans because we just headlined back to back. Right now we’re at radio with “Our Songand it’s doing pretty well so that’s exciting for us because we’re doing it independently as well. The plan is to just give this record as much life as possible.         

Vinyl Theatre’s Starcruiser Tour stops at Phoenix’s Rebel Lounge on October 22. Tickets are still available here.

Story by Olivia Khiel