When Samuel Larsen (formerly of Glee fame) met Philip Paulsen, their friendship and instant musical connection turned into NEXT CItY. Now, the quartet has two new singles under their belt, ready to introduce their unique sound to the world. Atlas spoke to Larsen and Paulsen via email as they prepare to bring NEXT CItY to the next level.
Atlas: How did this project come together? Can you tell the origin story of NEXT CItY?
Paulsen: Sam and me met on a tour we were both doing. We instantly became good friends. After the tour ended we decided we wanted to jam together for fun. Sam is also a excellent drummer, so he sang and played drums while I played guitar.
The material we came up with was really good and unique. We decided this is something that is worth moving forward with and would be something special.
Larsen: Yeah, it was also one of those things where we had a lot of time to talk about what we wanted to sound like before we even got a chance to play, and once we did we immediately sounded exactly what we had hoped for, it was really awesome in fact the first two songs we ever wrote on the very first day are two of our staple songs in our set now.
Atlas: What inspired you as individuals and as a group when you started crafting your sound?
Paulsen: When we decided to started this band we knew we wanted to be dancey, but also heavy. So bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Death from Above 1979 was a big influence on us.
Larsen: For me, I’ve always been very into funk music and anything that has a great pocket that makes you want to move, but after going so far in that direction I was missing rock, so when I decided I wanted to make rock music again, I knew I had to figure out a way for it have the energy and the fuzz but still have a pocket to sink into. Figuring out how that would sound was something brewing in my mind for a long time before I met Phil and once I did it just came to us so easily.
Atlas: What artists prompted you to become musicians yourselves?
Larsen: I love Prince, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie the most, these are people that make very soulful, very funky music but are also rock stars, and incredible performers, there’s an attitude, and a limitlessness they possess, they are also able to explore different realms of music but still sound like themselves, have different eras and personas and still feel true. As far as bands go, my favorites are Queens of the Stone Age and The Strokes, both have such a unique approach to rock and roll as well as a unique approach on making it dancey as well, you can dance to any of those songs even though you would never call it dance music.
Paulsen: For me it was AC/DC. Without a doubt. I saw them on television when I was 13 and knew immediately that I wanted to pursue a career in music. From when I was 13-16 I wanted to be Angus Young. Literally. I got the Gibson SG and knew every riff and lick.
Atlas: Is there anyone on your radar right now that you can’t stop talking about/listening to?
Paulsen: I absolutely love the band Nothing But Thieves. Definitely one of my new favorite bands I discovered the last 3 years. I love how the singer reminds me of Jeff Buckley. I’m a fan.
Larsen: Yeah, they are a really awesome band. I also really like The Garden, Shame, and Warbly Jets, they’re doing some great things.
Atlas: How do you both approach the songwriting process? Does music come first or do lyrics?
Larsen: Sometimes a melody pops in my head and I record it on my phone to get things started, sometimes I get a lyric idea and most times when some lyrics come to you, the melody follows as well. Something about really trying to say something brings out the melody, other times it could be a guitar/bass riff or a chord progression that catches my ear and we’re off. Regardless of how I start a song, it’s not really done until I show it to Phil, whether he changes a little bit of the song or a lot of the song its gonna make it 10 times better.
Paulsen: For me it’s always the music that comes first and I leave the lyrics up to Sam. I usually get a riff that pops up in my head when I’m just going about my day and I run back to my MacBook to record it. Then I construct it from there with putting bass and drums on top. I also record any vocal melodies that pops into my head. Then I send that to Sam and he comes up with ideas, melodies and lyrics. As soon as he starts to sing on top of the idea, it’s easier to know where the song goes next and we build it gradually piece by piece.
Atlas: What’s the story behind “Blue Star”?
Paulsen: Sam brought in this idea he had recorded from a few years back. He had the riff, lyrics and the vocal melodies locked in. He gave the idea to me and I arranged it, came up with the backing vocal hook in the chorus and together we wrote the bridge. This became “Blue Star”.
We actually very briefly jammed on this idea the first time we jammed together. It’s a song we wanted to blend the heavy garage rock with the dance/pop element.
Larsen: Yeah it’s the very first song I ever worked on when I decided I wanted to start a band, I was making primarily funk music at the time and I wanted to shift into a more collaborative atmosphere as well as more rock, but I didn’t want to sacrifice the funk of side, so this was the first riff where I was trying to be heavy and dancey at the same time, the main bits were there, however I got stuck, after I met Phil and showed him the idea he pretty much took it from there and now its awesome, better than that its finished.
Atlas: For Sam- you were on Glee for awhile. What was it like being on the show? How did that experience affect how you approach music now?
Larsen: Well at that time I knew I wanted to be an actor and also a musician, and when the opportunity for Glee came up I knew I had to get it because not only did I admire the show, I knew it was the perfect way to do both acting and music at the same time. In my head that was the perfect way for no one to be able to tell me whether or not I was something in the future since it started as both an acting and music. As far as how it affects my music life now, I think it takes pressure off because I don’t have a fear of anyone thinking its contrived. It’s already happened.
Atlas: You’re playing a few shows to introduce this project to the world. Do you plan to take your music on the road for a full tour?
Paulsen: Absolutely. We are definitely taking this project on the road as soon as we are ready. We’re going to play and tour all over the world.
Atlas: What’s the master plan for NEXT CItY? Where would you like to be with music in the next five or 10 years?
Paulsen: In 10 years, we are headlining Wembley Stadium.
Larsen: Mark your calendars.
Catch NEXT CItY in Los Angeles and New York at their first showcases. Check them out and grab tickets below.
June 5, 2019 at The Peppermint Club: Get tickets HERE.
June 11, 2019 at Mercury Lounge: Get tickets HERE.
Check out their new single, “Tell Me”, out now!
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos courtesy of NEXT CItY