TAP Interview: Pacific Air’s Ryan Lawhon

Southern California duo Pacific Air is still kind of a new band, but they’re already making great strides. Our writer Cassandra Paiva talked to older brother, Ryan Lawhon on the night of their first CMJ/New York show about their start, touring, and two of the best things on the planet; music and food.

How are you?

I’m doing pretty well.
Where are you right now?

I am in the 7th floor lobby at the Holiday Inn in Soho.

You guys are kind of a newer band, so give me a little background about yourself. How did you guys start and what’s it like working with your brother?

I started the band with my brother, we’ve been writing music for a very long time and we decided that a couple groups of songs that we really, really enjoyed all worked together and we wanted to start an actual, official band. So we just started out. We’ve been writing music for a bunch of different commercial reasons in the past couple years, and we’ve been in previous bands. We’ve been kind of in a lull with all that, and we felt like it was a good time for us, and the songs really connected with us, and so we started the band. Nothing too crazy.

What did you guys listen to growing up and what made you decide you wanted to be a musician?

We listened to a lot of very ambient, New Age music actually. My mom was kind of a pseudo hippie, so we always were very indulgent with lots of melody, not too much rhythms, lot of synth pads, a lot of just ambient noise. We really became accustomed to that. We really grew up on artists like Enigma, Ray Lynch, Enya, a lot of just almost tribal voices with nothing but synth pads and lots of space. And the fact that we still talk to people, and not many people appreciate that like we do, so we really wanted to make pop music that kind of has a similar space, where it’s not so crowded with too many rhythms and too many instruments and so it’s just kind of spaces for maintaining a pop sensibility.

Your lyrics are sort of dark, but your music and melody is upbeat and happy, do you feel that writing music is kind of a therapy for you?

Yea, it can be. It’s not all the time. I tend to be more focused on conversation, not focused around myself in person and so it’s nice to be able to write music that focuses inward and is able to kind of express emotions. Most of the time, the music that we write kind of turns around depression for the most part. No we’re not depressed people, per say, but that’s something we never get out when we’re interacting socially. So it’s nice to have an album that’s like a little therapy for you.

You’ve only been a band since March, do you feel like it’s been a whirlwind for you, and how are you adjusting?

The whole process so far has just kind of come real quick, it doesn’t really feel real yet. We haven’t really had time to catch a breath. We released our first song in March and since then we’ve just been doing non-stop work. We’re from Southern California and we’ve actually been living in New York since June just recording, and we’ve finally finished our album. And so it’s a great feeling to release your song and within two months be able fly out and record a full length with a producer that you love. So it’s been pretty crazy so far. We’re kind of getting into touring now, so that’s something we’ve really been looking forward to. Despite touring being hectic, it actually feels like we’re calming down, because now at least we know what we’re doing, as opposed to recording, we don’t know if we’re going to be shooting a video tomorrow or recording tomorrow, it’s just a lot of things so quickly.

How did you get the opportunity to tour with Passion Pit?

We actually are good friends with them. And Chris Zane, who produced their record, also produced their record, so we were connected through that. And they liked our music and asked us to come out with them and so it was a great opportunity and a really great tour.

What are some pieces of advice you’d give other bands?

Just write great music, and don’t really try too hard. I know that a lot of artists right now are really trying to look a certain way and do a certain thing. We haven’t really tried to do that so far, we’ve actually waited a long time to put out photos or anything, not because we try to play a mystery game or even try to do anything, just, try to make music that you can stand behind and that you feel connected to. People are smart, people will be able to pick that up, people can tell when someone’s making music for money or when they’re making music because they can feel it. Not only is it a connection with the artist and the music, but there’s a lyrical connection that you can tell is being sung by that person, for that person. So, I just think do your best and that’s something that we, I feel we’ve done a really good job of so far, maintaining our credibility and what we want to do through this whole process and it’s not difficult to do but it is something that a lot of artists and a lot of people lose sight of because we have so many people telling us different things and different opinions. Just be strong with what your original vision was and keep with that, and I think that will get you further than most things out there.

Ok. I read that you guys moved a lot when you were younger, how does that help with touring?

I never thought that it would be a positive thing growing up, because, by the tie I was 16 we moved over 25 times, and most of those were full relocations to new areas. I never stayed anywhere for longer than 6 months and since I’m an adult, I thought that would change, but it really hasn’t since then, and it’s really prepared me well for touring, just constantly being on the road. When you don’t really have a place to call home for than 6/7 months at a time, you learn to not really make close relationships with anybody, but you’re really good at starting relationships and so that’s one thing that’s really important with touring, just to make sure that, when you’re on the road or the same bus, talking to all these other bands for 2 months at a time, it’s nice to see that you’re all cordial. So it’s been very helpful in relating to people on a short term basis.

Describe the whole process of making the Long Live KOKO EP.

We don’t really have an artistic process where we sit down. For each song, it’s completely written by me and my brother and it really just depends on who starts the song and who has the strong artistic vision for the song. With most of the songs, I usually start them and write. I write all the lyrics and melodies and my brother and supplement that with the production aspects and mostly rhythms, so it’s been a nice collaborative effort up to this point. But there are some songs that are fully his, some that are fully mine. There’s no real process. And we’re definitely not a lyrics first band, I don’t start with an acoustic guitar and figure out what lyrics I want to write. I usually tend to write the music and melody first and then I relate it to my life and see what lyrics fit what I want to display the most.

You’re playing CMJ later this week, how are you feeling about that?

I’m really excited about it, I try to play cool about it most of the time, but CMJ is something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. Being completely west coast raised my whole life, New York’s kind of a symbol of east coast power and awesome art and everything that revolves around New York. And so, this week, well tonight actually, is our first show we’ve ever played in New York, so I’m really excited about it, it’s definitely achieving a personal goal of mine, I’ve been looking forward to for years. CMJ, I’ve been told is like SXSW’s little brother in a bigger city, so if it’s anything like SX it’ll be a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to it either way.

What are you looking forward to going on tour with Walk the Moon?

I’m looking forward to experiencing some cold weather, because I think the coldest weather I’ve ever been in is like, 40 degrees. I never really experienced anything super cold and I’m a serious pussy when it comes to weather, so I have massive jackets because I like the way they look, but I’ve never actually had to use them. I think we’re playing Minneapolis on January 18, so I think shit will get real, quick.
I’m also looking forward to, my brother and I and the whole band, are really big foodies, so we really like to experience different food from around the country. We’re really big on asking and talking to locals and seeing what is the good stuff to go to. And sometimes we’ll go to their references.

What are your favorite dishes, Italian or Mexican or Chinese, what do you prefer?

I’m a Southern California kid, so Mexican is my go to standard. I don’t eat any Mexican food, because I’ve had it my whole life, and we have some of the best. I’m most interested in trying new foods. I’ve been really into Thai food this past year, all different types of Thai dishes I’ve been really intrigued by. We found some great places here in New York.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten on tour?

We haven’t eaten any really crazy foods. I’ve been kind of disappointed, everywhere we’ve gone had really basic things. We had a really great oyster filled steak here in Tribeca that was great. But no like, crazy combinations or anything. I think we need to leave the country or go to New Orleans for that. Once we get there, we’ll try some crazy stuff. The best dish I’ve had was actually a Ramen dish I had here in New York which was just phenomenal.

On that line, what countries would you like to visit/tour?

The country that I feel a strong desire to go to is Germany. Not for food purposes, but for castle purposes. My brother is very, very into European castles and structures, he’s been very intrigued for years about that. So we’re really looking forward to going Germany. If we’re talking about food, probably to Spain.

Last question, anything we can expect from Pacific Air within the next year?

You can definitely expect a full length album and just a lot of touring, and hopefully a lot of good shows.

Pick up Pacific Air’s Long Live Koko EP now on iTunes

10/27 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room (supporting White Arrows)
11/01- San Diego, CA @ Casbah (supporting Lord Huron)
11/02- San Francisco, CA @ Bimbos (supporting Woodkid)
11/03 – Los Angeles, CA @ Luckman Theatre (supporting Woodkid)
11/27 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court (supporting Walk the Moon)
11/28 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater (supporting Walk the Moon)

January and February Performances:
*Supporting Walk The Moon
Jan. 18 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
Jan. 21 – Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe
Jan. 23 – Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall
Jan. 24 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Jan. 25 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg SOLD OUT
Jan. 26 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom SOLD OUT
Jan. 27 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom SOLD OUT
Jan. 29 – The Southern – Charlottesville, VA
Jan. 30 – Boone, NC @ Legends @ Appalachian State U.
Jan. 31 – Washington DC @ 9:30 Club
Feb. 01 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA
Feb. 02 – Providence, RI @ The Met
Feb. 04 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Lounge
Feb. 06 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
Feb. 07 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
Feb. 08 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
Feb. 09 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom


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