Skybox is a pop group from Chicago.

Livermore (The Ataris, Rise Against) mastered your last album, and with Morning After Cuts you chose to use Sean O’Keefe (Fall Out Boy). Was this a step in another direction?

Tim: O’Keefe had seen us live a few times and we were in the middle of writing some songs when he said he really like us and wanted to help us out. He got us into a nice studio and it seemed to just work out. It wasn’t a style change because we’re still different from the type of music he had been previously recording; it was more that he came along at the right time when we needed to go into the studio and record. He had a nice place, some nice stuff, and some good ideas so that’s really why we used him.

How do you handle reviews when they come out next week?

I don’t really get concerned about what the reviews say as much as the mentality that we have when we record the songs. Having fun and enjoying ourselves is important to us. And then there’s the people that come to our shows and are our fans, I think it’s more for them than the magazines. Of course it’s really nice when you get compliments from fans and definitely people within the music industry. It’s always flattering when you get good reviews, and hard when you get bad reviews. But we don’t go into the music just for that.

You guys used to incorporate props and spectacles during performances and recently have been doing that routine less. Was the decision to change the live set motivated by a desire to be viewed more professionally?

A lot of the stuff we were known for I feel like we have moved on from and changed how we do live shows. We have gone back to the core, being a band that plays their songs and has a really good time. There are times when we like to throw some surprises, but the whole aspect of going out on stage and like I don’t know, we had this one show where we had like pirate dancers and people doing video shows and things like that, I feel like we’ve gotten away from that and gotten more to playing the songs for what they are. I think people still like that, and as long as it’s good music, then people don’t need all the showy stuff. Plus, it’s expensive (laughs). Yeah, you always worry that the spectacle might become more important to the people than the music and it’s definitely an attempt by us to have our audience look at the music first, and then the show later.

With all the venues available for new music, the half-life of a song’s popularity seems to be shortening from months to weeks and even days. With music constantly being updated, do you feel it’s necessary to continuously be putting out new songs—sort of like guess and check mathematics—or do you prefer to put out one full album at a time?

Yeah, I think you made a really good point actually. The way the music industry is now, and really society as a whole, is all about the new thing and with the internet it’s all about what’s hot this week or even today. I think entertainers generally feel the need to produce fresh material. I don’t think there’s pressure to make the next big song, but just to give people something new to listen to. Music is just fun, and it’s fun to evolve your style and your art and make something new everyday. A log of bands stick with the same thing from album to album, but I think it’s fun to try some things and keep evolving.

Remaining a pop band, how has your music evolved since your last album?

Yeah, I feel like it’s a lot different. We’ve gone through a lot in the last few years. With the last album we were just coming out of high school and that was just what was going through our minds as far as getting out of your house and being free to experiment. I think with this record we had some things happen to us and they changed who we were and I think this record is more about being comfortable with who you are as a person and then building on that.

You were originally based out of Tempe before moving to Chicago. Was the move commercially motivated?

Well, I guess it was kind of a band decision. Arizona was a little difficult because we were out in the desert. You have the West Coast pretty close, but touring the West Coast is difficult because you have to drive for long periods of time and it’s expensive, plus it’s difficult to get out to the Midwest so I think Chicago made it easier to tour and reach the East Coast.

Is there a mentality in Chicago artists that you have noticed?

We’re still settling into Chicago, our drummer is actually from Chicago, but our keyboarder, drummer and I are from Kansas City, and so we are still learning. I think Chicago has the hardworking mentality and the blue-collar attitude that you can’t get things handed to you. There are not many labels in Chicago so you have to go out and work a little bit harder to get noticed by people on the East Coast.

What side of the border did grow up in? KCK or KC-MO?

 Yeah, actually Kansas City proper pretty much. I lived in the country on a farm for a long time and so did Christian, but we spent a lot of time in Lawrence going to shows. Most of the time we were too young to get in so we would just sit in the alley and listen or try to sneak in. But there was a good music scene in Lawrence when we were young. Bands like The Anniversary and The Get Up Kids would always play and we would wait until they were done and then we’d talk to them for a little bit so we learned a lot from those talks. Our roots are sort of making music in our parents’ basements with the blown out speakers and writing songs that made us happy because you know, it’s hard to stay happy in high school (laughs).

So the title then, Morning After Cuts, is that an emo reference or is it more about dealing with a hangover?

The name itself is kind of about getting up in the morning and you have cuts on your arms and legs and you don’t remember how you got them and you go back in your head and try to remember and retrace your steps. With due time you get back to before the night started when there was that sense of optimism and I think our fans can relate to that and get something out of those songs that’s more than just listening to a record.

The scary part is the inevitable recidivism

(Laughs) That’s definitely at the heart of being an artist, the fact that those monsters will come back and you’ll have to approach them and deal with them again because you can put them off, but they just come back. A lot of the demoing that I’m doing now is trying to address that.

Coming out of a rough night with a will to write pop songs is pretty admirable though. My mornings sound like distorted Tom Waits.

(Laughs) Right, but I don’t think pop music is something you go out and try to make. I think that you just have something in your head and you know it when it comes out. It can be fun and a little bit strange at times, but you know that it’s all okay in the end.

What’s next?

We’re slowly releasing songs on some upcoming mixtapes and then the CD comes out on the seventeenth. We’re playing the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival with Atlas Sound, Surfer Blood and that’ll be part of releasing the CD. After that, we’re just going on the road and touring a lot. We start March 3rd and will pretty much be on tour through summer.

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© 2009

Skybox Interview

Matt Marsaglia