Sacramento rock outfit A Lot Like Birds. Have you heard of them? Well, if you haven’t you’ll have your chance to get acquainted May 10 at Metro Gallery in Baltimore. This, of course, will be five days after they release their new album, “DIVISI,” to the masses. We recently caught up with guitarist Michael Franzino to talk about what it’s like to be on Equal Vision Records, how they survived going through a lead singer change not too long ago and why this new album was was one of the hardest ones they’ve ever made.
You guys are from Sacramento. Have you been to Baltimore before? Anything you’re looking forward to the most while on the east coast?
We have been to Baltimore many times. It’s actually in our top five places to play. I’m personally looking forward to visiting the Pier and getting myself a Dragonite in Pokemon Go. Also, though not in Baltimore, I’m looking forward to seeing my east coast family in New Jersey.
Let’s go back to the beginnings of the band. How did it come together and at what point did you realize you could make this band your life?
I started jamming early versions of our first album with various Sacramento musicians my senior year in high school (2007-08), but had difficulty finding musicians I felt were right for the project. In 2009, I decided to just record everything I could play myself, program the drums, and hire talented friends in other bands to play strings, horns, guest vocals, etc. That record became “Plan B,” and the actual band sort of formed out of the guests on the album. We later snatched up our drummer Joe when the band that brought him to Sacramento dissolved. Eventually, when our bassist left for school, we picked up Matt Coate who was in a band with Danika (the girl who sang on my solo record). He happened to have an incredible voice, and he stepped up to take on vocal duties with our front man Cory. There wasn’t ever really a point where I realized I could make the band my life; it was more so that I deliberately decided at age 15 that music was going to be my career, and then persisted until it was so. I never made a backup plan because I didn’t want failure to be an option.
You have a new album coming out. Can you tell us a little about how the record came together? What was the recording process like? With whom did you work?
This record was an extremely trying one for us, and it took us way longer to get out than we had hoped. Between all of us starting side projects that demanded way more time out of us than anticipated, and the added pressure of a major lineup change, it has taken us four years to put out a new record. As you can imagine, a lot can change in four years. Not only are we a different band as far as members go, but our sound has grown into something much different as well. All this change added a lot of pressure onto the album, so we took immense care and wild measures to make sure it was the best thing we could possibly make. I think by the end, we spent around four months in the studio with Dryw Owens due to his (and our) perfectionism. We could not be more grateful for the care Dryw put into this album; he may as well be the sixth member of ALLB. We all are immensely proud of this thing.
The release is on Equal Vision – how did your relationship start with them? That’s a pretty well-known label and I’m curious about how you two came together.
Funny enough, in 2009 we played with a band called Mozart Season (coincidentally, the band that lead us to our drummer Joe) on their showcase show for Equal Vision. I was aware that Dan (president of EVR) was at the show, and being the green wide-eyed 19-year-old that I was at the time, I approached him with a burned CD of our first record, “Plan B,” and gave him a short heartfelt plea to check it out. We, of course, were nowhere near ready to be signed at the time. However, when he saw us on a showcase at SXSW, three years later, he remembered us and was impressed at how far we had come in that short time period. He shot us an offer and the rest is history. We love Equal Vision.
I read that you parted ways with your singer in 2016. That can sometimes change the identity of a band – how did you guys deal with that challenge?
It was difficult for sure. Change is always hard to deal with, but we understood that and did not take it lightly. We had no intention of ending the near decade of hard work we’ve put into A Lot Like Birds when we still have five talented people who believe in this band’s vision. So we regrouped, buckled down, and worked harder than we have ever worked on anything in our lives to make a great record. We are immensely proud of what we created, and the band is now stronger as a unit than ever before.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Radiohead, Mew, Death Cab For Cutie, Sigur Ros, Bjork, Pedro the Lion, Damien Rice, Russian Circles, Tera Melos, The Mars Volta. Because they make great music.
Can you give us names of some bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Pinegrove, Turnover, Soak, Julien Baker, Mitski, The Hotelier, All Get Out, Hop Along, Foxing, Sleeping at Last, Polyenso, O’Brother, The Soil and the Sun, Chelsea Wolfe. Also, all the bands we are touring with: Household, Hearts Like Lions, and Owel.
What are some of your favorite venues to play and why?
Our favorite venue ever was this small 150-capacity pizza place in Sacramento called Luigi’s Pizza. It was by no means the best venue ever, however back before it closed, we had kind of developed a cool thing there. We played there every few months, it was always sold out, tickets were cheap, there was beer and pizza, it was in the desirable part of town, all of our friends would come and the shows were just super intimate and fun. The Luigi’s shows were the golden shows of our youth. We also used to play these little DIY-type shows in Vegas at a little taco shop. It was basically enjoyable for all the same reasons as Luigi’s. 2000-2010 at The Boardwalk were very golden years as well. We also love most House of Blues venues (mostly because the catering is incredible), Webster Hall, Union Transfer, The Bomb Factory, The Old Masquerade in Atlanta, The Ottobar (for all the phallic drawings in the green room) and The Norva.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
This question is too hard. It’s not the most perfect song in the world – probably isn’t even my favorite of all time – but the song “Ordinary” by Copeland has been very important to me for a few years now.
And, finally, what can we expect from your upcoming show at Metro Gallery?
Stoked dudes playin cool tunes.