q & a with seriously

Meet Seriously. Hailing from Orange County, the quartet first jumped onto the scene with splash, making their debut at the world-famous Asian American talent show Kollaboration, which they apparently entered on a whim. That performance could have been the band's first, last, and only gig, but they walked with away the competition's top prize. The guys' act grabbed the attention of husband-and-wife management team Woody Pak and Gloria Lee, who signed Seriously to their label, Chaos Theory Music. Last year, the band released their self-titled EP, a tasty fresh blend of melancholy pop/rock tunes, and will soon be back in the studio working on a full-length album.

Currently, through the month April, Seriously has embarked on their Heart Tour, with shows at UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Irvine and the Asian Cultural Festival in the New York. For more information on the band, the tour, and to hear some sample tracks, visit Seriously's MySpace profile here.

I recently hung out with the members of Seriously, chatting and sharing a pizza in their studio/crash site/headquarters at Chaos Theory Music. Turns out, they're a cool bunch of guys with a good perspective, a great deal of loyalty to each other, and a hell of a lot of talent... all in spite of their young age. Read on:

Please introduce yourselves. Your name, age, and what you play in the band.

Josh: I'm Josh. I'm 23, and I play the bass.

Chris: I'm Christopher Phan. I'm 19. I sing.

Nathan: Nathan Park. I am 20, and I play guitar.

Philip: My name is Philip. I'm 20, and I play the drums.

You guys are 19 and 20? For real? I knew you guys were pretty young, but for some reason I thought you were a little older.

Nathan: Well, I'm 19, but I'll be 20 when you put the interview up.

Josh: I'm a grandpa.

How did you guys start out and get together as a band?

Philip: It was for the talent show Kollaboration. We got together just for the event, and apparently we won...


Philip: It was totally unexpected. We did it for fun. We just tried out and we were like, if we make it, that'll be great. We definitely didn't expect to win.

Josh: We got together like three weeks before the show. It was pretty spontaneous.

So you guys got together specifically for Kollaboration? I knew you won that year, but I wasn't aware that the band came together just for the competition. What did you guys play at the show? Was it an original song?

Chris: Yeah, it was an original song. The electric guitarist that was in this band, Alex Yi, we wrote a song together called "Irony." Oh, and actually Josh didn't play bass for the audition. We had this other guy. He's out of the picture.

He's like the fifth Beatle.

Chris: So it was basically for kicks. We thought it was going to end that night.

But you won. I mean, I've been to Kollaboration. There are a lot of talented acts. When you won, we're you like, hey, maybe we can actually do this...?

Chris: When we won, we were so shocked. We really thought we didn't play our absolute best. But I guess we did something right, or I guess we did something that stuck out to the audience and judges. So when we won, Woody and Gloria came up to us. And Woody, who was a judge, was actually super-skeptical about us. He actually scored us very low. But Gloria saw something about us, and she decided to take us in and really go the full stretch with us.

Josh: Even after Kollaboration, we were supposed to only record one song, the "Irony" single. But then after working with Woody and Gloria for a little bit, they were like, maybe we should develop it a little bit more and see where it goes. So that kind of brings us to today.

It seems like you originally had no intention of actually pursuing this and making it happen, but Woody and Gloria really helped nurture and coach you into the process of becoming a real functioning, working band. Am I right?

Josh: I guess they really pushed us, in a way, to develop whatever talents we might've had as a band. Some of us had never really written songs before, or done anything like that. But they asked us to try. So I guess through being pushed a little, we found out that maybe we have certain talents we didn't know about.

Nathan: I think another thing is, Seriously didn't even know about the recording demo deal until about a week before the actual show. They were like, the first place musical act gets a demo deal with Chaos Theory Music. That really upped the game for everyone's mentality. I wasn't even in the band at the time. I was in another group that performed at Kollaboration. So we were all competing against each other. And like the guys were saying, they were just planning to record one song, but Woody and Gloria kept pushing them, bringing out the best in every one of us.

Philip: I think, pretty much, they gave us the opportunity, and we took it.

How would you guys describe your sound?

Chris: These days, we're pretty much exploring every genre. All the songs we've written have such a different feel. But I'd say, in general, it's like pop/rock/blues. Indie. Some indie. And then like, some pop. I don't know.

Nathan: I think the main thing is that all of us are writing songs. Not just one main songwriter. And because we all have vastly different musical influences, when we write songs we have our own perception of it. But when we bring it to the band, everyone adds their own little spunk to it. That's why our sound is kind of all over the place.

Who are some of your creative influences?

Philip: I guess I could say my main influences right now are the bands Muse, Maroon 5 and Dave Matthew Band.

Nathan: My favorite style of music is jazz, funk and blues, around that realm. Solo artists that have made an impact in the jazz and funk world, like Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten, who's a crazy bassist. With respective to bands, my favorites are U2 and Muse.

Chris: When I was a kid, I grew up listening to Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, because I didn't have any money to buy CDs. So I just listened to whatever my sister had. And she actually had John Mayer's Room for Squares, so I grew up listening to that stuff too. So I'd say even up to now, John Mayer's one of my huge influences—singing, writing, guitar-playing.

Josh: During the time when the band started, I was kind of into those singer/songwriter kind of guys.. Low-key, not a big name, really lyric-centric, very understated style. But now, playing in this band, and getting influences from Nathan, Chris, Phil, I really like the big band sound like Muse, U2. They have this great energy to them.

What's the Heart Tour all about?

Nathan: We're actually partnering up with bone marow donor programs, and what we're doing is a call to awareness, trying to recruit possible donors and putting their names in the registry. Our goal is to raise 2000 participants in this program, because on any given day there are over 6,000 patients looking for a bone marrow donor. Basically, we're trying to do something for a cause that's bigger and greater than us, and hopefully through this, we'll help bring that cause to fruition.

Josh: We should mention Asian for Miracle Marrow Matches, the Cammy Lee Leukemia Foundation, and the Asian American Donor Program. That's who we're partering with.

I know that in the short time you've been around, you've managed to build a pretty sold Asian American fanbase. How would you guys describe your fans? Have you seen some crossover with non-Asian audiences as well?

Philip: Looking at all our gigs in the past year, we've been playing a lot at Asian venues. It's true that a lot of Asian Americans are our big fanbase, but now and then we'll play at gigs where there are African American and white people in the audiences, they actually really love our music. So I guess you could say that we really have the believe in our heart that we could reach out to everyone and every race.

Nathan: We really believe that we can break the mold that people have... these preconceptions of Asians, and Asian males, with respect to what they can do in entertainment and the music industry. We're not going to listen to them. We really believe in ourselves, and we really believe that we can do this, and break out of whatever boxes that people put Asian Americans in.

Josh: I guess we want to reclaim what William Hung lost for us. That whole attitude that only Asians who are comical or something can make it to the big time. Hopefully with hard work and good music we can change that.

Have you guys faced obstacles or barriers as an Asian American band?

Josh: I wouldn't say they're obstacles so much as... Sometimes people that I talk to will make a passing comment like, oh, why an Asian band? I'm like, I don't really know what to say to that. Why not? I wouldn't say it's a big obstacle, but I can sometimes feel that people have their reservations or skepticism about an Asian band doing very well.

Sometimes it's the Asian folks who are the biggest skeptics.

Josh: Yeah! They're like, oh, you don't play in the orchestra? Mom, I play in a rock band now.

It's obvious you guys have dedicated a lot time and energy to the band. You're literally sleeping in the studio. I mean, there are actually beds in here. Do you feel there's a lot of sacrifice involved with this process?

All: For sure. Most definitely.

Josh: For the past couple of months, these guys have been all I've known. As soon as I'm done with work, I come up here, we rehearse, and...

Nathan: Repeat.

Josh: Yeah, rest and repeat. We don't make money. It's really out of the love for it. I mean, I don't see it as a sacrifice, especially because we love doing it. It can be frustrating, but you love it at the same time. I don't feel like we're losing anything by putting our time into this. If anything, we're gaining. Even if it all falls apart in the end, I feel like what we've done here is a really good thing.

I normally don't like to ask this question, because I feel like it's fairly typical for Asian American artists, in general, to get asked this... but because you guys are pretty young, I have to ask: what do your parents think of Seriously?

Chris: My mom just says, "Make sure you get your degree." Insurance, I guess, right?

Josh: As long as I get the bills paid, I'm in the green.

Nathan: When I first told my parents, they flipped. It was crazy. I guess my parents are really proud of the fact that I'm going to UCLA, pursuing my career. But when I was like, I'm going to take a quarter or two off, my mom was like, "What? No no no." It was really bad, actually. But over time, you know... My mom actually had dinner with Woody, and they talked. And my mom knows that he has no intention of snatching me out of school, and he'll make sure I finish my degree. You know, I think my parents have eventually come to accept what I'm doing as long as I take it as a "serious hobby." So yeah, it's much better now.

Philip: Same as Nathan, yeah, my parents flipped. I've never seen them react so harshly before. With just one statement. It was amazing. I was jumbled with so many different emotions. It was to the point where I can honestly say my parents wanted to kick me out. I guess it was a lot to say in one statement, at that time. It was difficult. It was crazy. But my parents came to meet with Woody and Gloria... and that brought a lot of temper and pressure off of them. Right now, they've come to accept it. But they still definitely want me to finish college. If I make sure I do that overall, I'm pretty sure they'll be okay with it later on.

How would you describe your working and personal relationship with Woody and Gloria?

Josh: I would say "family-esque." They take care of us. And when we need to be rebuked, we get rebuked. And they yell at us like they're our parents sometimes, to get our acts together. But I can honestly say that I feel like they love us a lot, not just as a product or some kind of money-making thing, but as real members of a family.

Nathan: If you look at some of the big music labels, you never hear about managers or producers nurturing their artists the way they nurture us. So in that sense, we're extremely blessed. We're not even paying a penny to live here, or to record the album. They're taking care of everything. Their vast musical background, their knowledge of the music industry, and their belief in us, it just really instills belief in ourselves that we can really do this. We're extremely lucky that we have these family-esque figures in our life. We respect them with all we are.

Chris: We also babysit.

After the Heart Tour, what's next for you guys?

Philip: After the tour, I think we're going ahead with our upcoming album, which we're pretty stoked about. Hopefully, it's going to be amazing. Well, more than hopefully.

Josh: It has to be amazing.

Philip: Okay, it will be amazing.

Are you planning for the album to have a particular sound, influence or direction?

Josh: It is even more all over the place than our EP. It is ridiculous.

Nathan: In a good way.

Josh: Yeah, in a good way. Sometimes, I'll be like, dude, we just played like ten genres right now.

Nathan: But even in all those genres, you can still hear the Seriously foundation.

Chris: I think we're still trying to find our real identity within this band. And hopefully we'll find it prior to our album release. When you have a direction it definitely helps you shape how your music's going to sound. And with us being Asians and all, we really want it to be amazing. So when people hear it, they won't think, oh, this is an Asian band, or whatever. They'll just think it's really awesome.

Josh: I think what I really appreciate about this whole project is that Woody is really into trying anything. He's very experimental, all about the crossover of genres, different wacky ideas. He gives us that freedom. It's just a good place to be to explore our sound.

What makes you angry?

Josh: Slow drivers in the fast lane. Especially on the way to the studio.

Nathan: Racism.

Josh: Yours is all deep. Mine's so lame and shallow.

Philip: I recently bought a new nano iPod. You know how the back is all shiny and silver? For some reason, there's always a scratch on the back. I can never avoid that. That pisses me off.

Chris: Not having a lot of socks. Forgetting musical equipment. Bad food.

Thanks, guys.

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