AM Taxi’s new album was released on January 25, and Adam Krier chatted with Loud Hailer about the writing and recording process.
AM Taxi recently released Shiver by Me, the follow-up to 2016’s Semi-Confessional (Mixtape). It’s an album which has a raw live feel to it whilst showcasing the band’s ability to write visceral music packed with memorable melodies and hooks. It’s also an album that sees Adam Krier in a reflective mood and features some great lyrics and strong vocals. Adam took time to speak to us about the album, his songwriting process and his work with other bands/as a producer.
LH: Thanks for taking the time to have a quick chat. Appreciate it.
Adam: Oh yeah, my pleasure.
LH: The last time I saw you guys was the Semi-Confessional show at the Double Door and I remember that show really well because I still remember people shouting for encores at the end and you kept doing encores until you literally had no voice left. It was such a good show.
Adam: Yeah, that’s right. It was fun.
LH: I really enjoyed that one. I’ve been listening to the new album a lot and I really have enjoyed it. So good work. You’re pretty busy all the time, it seems. You’re with Lucky Boys Confusion and sold out the House of Blues here in Chicago last year. You also play with Ike Reilly and all this other stuff. Are you constantly writing for AM Taxi or do you put time aside to do it or is it just an ongoing thing?
Adam: Yeah, it’s ongoing. The writing is always happening. That’s my main creative output, I guess you could say. The Ike stuff, I’m contributing more just my playing. And then the same thing with Lucky Boys Confusion, we’re writing together, but these days it’s more like we get together, we collaborate. So when I’m on my own I’m working on the AM Taxi stuff.
LH: With AM Taxi, how does it work with the writing? Do you write and then you bring stuff to the band and then you guys just get together and work it out?
Adam: Yeah. Most of the time I’ll come in with the tune. I sometimes don’t have all the work done, but I’ll have enough of the melodies worked out. Whereas if I don’t have a melody, we might just sort of improvise, for rehearsal’s sake. And, you know, sometimes good vibes come out of that. I always have an arrangement in mind, but I found with these guys, that sometimes the best thing to do is to let them do it to see what they’re thinking and go from there. And sometimes, you know, they’ll come up with ideas I never had imagined, and it’s a great idea. And other times if we’re struggling I’m like okay, okay, okay, let me tell you what I was thinking, you know, It’s great, they’re good. They have lots of ideas.
LH: It’s good when you get a band like that because you guys have been around quite a length of time, right? The core of the band. And I guess when you get guys you trust like that, then it makes probably writing a lot easier or more enjoyable than just writing on your own.
Adam: It’s a lot of fun. It’s good because it’s never high pressure, it’s like let’s have some beers and laughs and then play some music.
LH: Sounds like the best way to do it to me.
Adam: Yeah, I love it.
LH: When I was listening to this album, I guess the first thing that jumped out at me is it’s a bit rawer than the other albums you’ve done. It’s a bit more punky, I would say, like a bit more spiky. Were you going for a little bit of a different sound? Did you have that in mind from the beginning?
Adam:Kind of. I mean, do you mean in comparison to all the older stuff or the last full-length?
LH: I would say the last full-length. Like We Don’t Stand A Chance has a different kind of tone.
Adam: Both of these records we did live in the studio, we recorded the music live and then went back and overdubbed the vocals. For Mixtape some of the songs were more polished and some were more raw. This one, does come off a little rawer than the last one. And I think that’s because most of it’s recorded in just two days and we went for a rawer sound. When we had to pull it all together we had Sean (O’Keefe) do the final mix so even though a big chunk of the songs were recorded over the week, there are songs on there that we did in the summer at a different place. So we brought in a mixer just to tie it up.
LH: Okay. So I saw you were at Electrical Audio and that Shane had mixed it, but some of it you’d recorded in other places.
Adam: Yeah. Some of the stuff we did at Electrical Audio, that stuff didn’t end up coming out. But we took that live approach when we went into the studio.
LH: It’s interesting you said that because one of the things I had written down to say to you was that, as well as sounding a little different/more raw than the other albums, it really did sound like a live album. It sounds like you guys playing live and I was wondering whether you did play live in the studio……. So I’m glad you said you did. It definitely worked because, as I was playing it, I could imagine being in a room watching you guys play a show.
Adam: Good, good. I’m glad you got that. One of the other differences with this record compared to We Don’t Stand a Chance was that we recorded it in a bigger room where we were able to utilize microphones and things like that. For We Don’t Stand a Chance we were in a smaller space. Even though it was live, it didn’t sound as live. On this one, there’s bleeding between the instruments into the other microphones. The last time we were all isolated. It just kind of contributes to the live feel.
LH: It really comes across and it sounds really good for it. I really like it.
Adam: I’m glad to hear it. You are one of the first people to hear it so feedback like that’s really cool. Not many people outside of ourselves and a few that worked on the record have heard it.
LH: No, I really enjoyed it. Track wise, one thing I thought was interesting in respect of lyrics is that you seem a bit more reflective on this one. I think maybe one of my favorite songs on there is “Swim Before You Sink.” And a lot of your lyrics have a theme to them, like “short time on earth to show what you’re worth,”. You know in “Movie about your life” you’re talking about having a certain amount of time and how you’re going to see yourself in someone else’s movie. And “L Patron” as well, “in the end we’re only worth what we’ve left behind.” Was that in your mind? Did you have a theme in mind when you were writing or was it just what came out?
Adam: I’m really glad that you picked up on those three specifically and there’s other lines sprinkled throughout that were kind of like that. It wasn’t planned out to be that way like a themed sort of record, but as we went along, the lyrics kind of came together. It sort of started to come to light that that’s kind of what it seems to be about. And I think that’s just because we’re older and you start thinking about things like that. The last record was more stories about traveling around and, you know, enjoying the present. But this one’s more about being aware of the future, but not letting it control you though. Being aware of it but not be afraid of it.
LH: I definitely got that. And the lyrics on this one are great. I like albums……. we’re from the UK originally. I’ve been in Chicago for seven years now and before coming over here I’d never really had exposure to songwriters like Jason Isbell and those kinds of guys, who are telling stories in songs. Since I’ve come over here, I’ll listen to a lot more of that music and there’s something about when a song’s not only pulling you in with the music but with the lyrics as well. When you want to hear what the lyrics are saying, it makes it a much better song and I think you get there on this album as well. I think lyrically, the songs are really strong.
Adam: Thanks, I’m glad that you feel that way. I mean that means a lot. It’s definitely something that I’ve tried to put a lot of time in to becuase I didn’t want it to come off too cliched…….. I don’t know if that’s the right word.
LH: It really works. I don’t know which is my favorite track. I did really like “Swim Before You Sink” but I also liked “Warsaw Blues” right at the end. It starts off pretty slow, and then it’s got that anthemic chorus where it sounds like you’ve got a choir singing on it.
Adam: So that one we threw on the end. That’s an older tune because when we were putting the Mix Tape together, the Mix Tape was made up of a lot of songs like that. It was written before that but it didn’t make it onto either of the those earlier EPs that we put out. And then we purposely didn’t put it on the Mix Tape because we wanted to include it on whatever the next full record would be. So that’s the reason it’s at the end as well, because it’s older than the other songs and it has the guys, the brothers John Schmitt and Luke Schmitt who used to be in the band, they’re singing with us. And I believe our friend Dan Wade is playing guitar on there.
LH: Yeah, I’ve seen Dan loads of times around Chicago.
Adam: Yeah, he plays a little guitar in the second and third verse. And also Luke plays the organ in that song.
LH: There’s quite a bit of keys on this album actually. Do play keyboards on it?
Adam: Yeah, it’s kind of how we started out. We started as a three-piece – me, Jason and Chris, the same three original guys that are in there. And then we recorded an EP I did like a lot of extra stuff on there, keys and extra guitars and things. And me and Chris sang quite a bit on it. So when it came time to like fill out the live show, that’s when we got the Schmitt brothers, John was my neighbor, so John and Luke were brought in to sort of cover all that stuff. But other keys stuff, there obviously isn’t as much keyboard stuff on this one as some of the older stuff because we had a keyboard player, you know, on the old stuff. But we threw it in when we felt it was necessary on this one.
LH: Yeah, it fits pretty well. I do remember four years ago, being at Wrigley Field to see the Foo Fighters and thinking, is that Adam playing with Urge Overkill on keyboards!? That must have been quite an experience.
Adam: It was crazy, yeah. We played like a 25/30 minute set. At one point in the middle, I was like, wait a minute, what am I doing? Wearing an Urge Overkill giant U t-shirt, jumping around playing conga drums at Wrigley Field. It was a blast, though. That was a ton of fun.
LH: So when I listened to the lyrics of “Swim Before You Sink,” I guess you’re kind of talking about sticking to your guns and doing what you love because there’s not that much time – so you might as well do something that you love. When I look at you, you’ve done that, right? You’ve followed the muse, I guess. You’ve gone after a career in music over anything else and you’ve done so many different things. How are you feeling at the moment? Are things going well? Are you in a good place?
Adam: Yeah, i just push forward, you know. I think that that’s the thing. There’s no routine to it really, you what I mean? Just trying to do the songs and a lot of times it’s a balancing act, trying to get all the pieces to fit. I feel really lucky, you know. And I think it’s something that when I was younger, I just sort of took advantage of it, just played shows and keep playing shows and now it’s kind of, I definitely appreciate every time I’m on stage.
LH: Yeah, it’s working out well. I think this album, I hope it does really well because I think this is probably some of the best stuff that you’ve done yet. It was released on January 25, right? I loved the fact that you did Mixtape actually on cassette, I thought that was ace. Are you putting this one out just digitally or are you going to do any vinyl runs or cassettes?
Adam: The vinyl will be out on Record Store Day. So January 25 it came out digitally and we’re be selling CDs through our page and stuff. And at the release show at Reggies on February 8, we’ll have CDs and things like that. But the vinyl will be cool. We’ll be doing colored vinyl and we’ve got a handwritten lyrics that come with the record so it’s an extra reason to get a hold of the vinyl.
LH: I’m going to be at the release show on February 8th at Reggies. Dan Wade’s band’s supporting you, right?
Adam: Yeah. It’s a great line up. So I’ve also been producing bands and the first band is a group that I did pre-production with called Take The Reins, and they’re a female-fronted punk rock band. They have a record that came out last year. It’s really pretty solid. And their new material they’re writing we’ve been working on, we just started working on it. That should be out either an EP or LP later this year. They’re great. Then Dan’s going second. He’s great. He’s always been a close ally, as well. He played guitar with us for a little bit and then he came into the studio and obviously he’s on “Warsaw Blues” and he played on one of the songs on one of our EPs that came out before the tape. So it’s good to have him. And then the third one 6′ 10 and that’s Tobin from Flatfoot 56 who are kind of a staple Chicago Irish punk rock thing. We played with them on the Warped Tour and I think we’re the only two Chicago bands that were on the whole thing. There were other bands like The Frantic who came on and off and Deals Gone Bad. So we really got to know the Flatfoot brothers through the Warped Tour. And Tobin’s always writing good songs and playing with good people. So it’s going to be an eclectic night. 6′ 10 is a little more on the folk end of things.
LH: I think I might have seen 6’10.
Adam: You’ll probably remember the singer. He’s literally 6’10. They’re cool. And it’s cool to see this punk rock guy do a more kind of stripped back thing.
LH: So I guess in terms of plans, are you going to go out on the road behind the album? Are you going to tour around a bit?
Adam: We don’t have any plans to do heavy touring. We plan to put this out and try to get as many people to hear it as we can. And if any opportunities come our way that make sense, we’ll take it. What’s tough these days is now the band’s older, a couple of the guys have kids and it’s tougher to take the act on the road. So no plans for sure but we’ll be playing locally for sure.
LH: You self-released this one, right? Was that a consious decision? Did you just decide to do it for yourselves?
Adam: Yeah, I mean the vinyl is coming out through Mutant League which is a Chicago based label. So that will be released in April. But the record in digital and CD format is independent.
LH: I’ve talked to various people and and it seems many are split on the music industry these days because I know things are moving forward and changing, right? There’s digital and Spotify and everything here to stay. I guess there’s negatives and positives of that. But it seems to me that one of the positives is it’s a lot easier for musicians these days to do some of this themselves than it ever was. You know, you don’t have to have some huge label funding everything.
Adam: Yeah. Things like we don’t have to have distribution to record stores. People can get the music whenever they want it. Radio doesn’t really matter as much as it used to. Obviously MTV doesn’t seem to play music. I don’t even know if it’s still a thing anymore.
LH: I don’t think it exists like we used to know it right when we were younger.
Adam: One thing that a label’s great for is getting your name out there and the last full length was on a label so we were kind of able to get our name out there. Now we’re kind of just going from that. We built up a little bit of a fanbase through that and it kinda just grew as we put out music every few years.
LH: Yeah, I think that’s really the main thing now that labels have to offer, right? They’ve just got a big publicity machine. I watched some interviews with label guys and they say nobody just sends tapes in anymore and they won’t even listen to anything anybody sends them unless they’ve got at least x many Instagram followers. And I’m like, well, what do you actually do? Because everyone’s just doing the legwork for you before you even sign them…. And it makes it a strange position now with labels I think.
Adam: It’s fun, the DIY approach. Even now it’s like everyone kind of has had different jobs the last few weeks. One guy’s designing tshirts, and one guy is trying to get custom drumheads and guitar picks, and someone else is working on the layout of the album, you know what I mean? So we’re working and it’s like a project, you know. It’s fun.
LH: That’s got to be satisfying, as well, when it all comes together at the end and you’ve done all that yourself.
Adam: Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
LH: So in terms of your plans, I didn’t realize you were producing now as well. Is that something you want to do more of?
Adam: Uh, yeah. I’d love to. I have a studio now called Sound Summit that we opened in the suburbs, which is right by my apartment. We have songwriters, young and old who come in and I have been working with them. And we have bands will come in. I’m not recording there as much as I’m using it as sort of a pre-production facility at this time but it’s great. I love working with bands and you know, giving them another way to hear their tunes.
For those of you in the Chicago area, head along to Reggies for the album release show on Friday, February 8.