Monday, February 20, 2012

Talking with Omer Leibovitz of The Courtesy Tier

James: I keep looking back to the "Brick City Sound  Riot Festival" and the first time I saw the band  perform live. Though there were a over abundance of excellent performances, the Courtesy Tier offered a lot of interesting twists and turns. Can you give me a little background on the band? How you met and how you evolved?

Omer: Layton and I met in Boston around 2001.  We had both been Jersey boys Layton from south jersey growing up on a diet of grunge and Hip Hop. I grew up in North Jersey on more of a Punk Rock and Metal diet, but we both also loved the usual classics such as Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan etc...

We were both freshmen attending Berklee college of music. We met in the dorms, naturally connecting on important issues such as pot consumption, psychedelics and music, we had decided it would be great to do some messing around.  At that time Layton had already been attending Berklee for a semester longer and when we would hang out he and his roommate would start exposing me to a whole lot of Jazz music they were studying: Coltrane, Elvin Jones (which became one of Layton's biggest influences), Grant Green (which became one of my greatest guitar influences).

To make this long story a bit shorter, we spent about 5 years playing in a 7 piece experimental rock band: Drums, bass, Keyboards, two guitars, and two saxophones. Touring around, playing festivals and such, until getting along became difficult, and truth be told once the drugs wore off a bit neither Layton and I wanted to experiment so freely with our music anymore.  So we broke up and started a 3 piece instrumental band called The Courtesy Tier and moved to NYC.  When Layton and I realized that we had wanted to get back to our rock roots and could not see eye to eye with our Bass player, he decided to go his own way and Layton and I decided we were gonna learn how to sing and move forward... Here we are now.

Originally Courtesy Tier was actually Courtesy Tear which was one of those joke sayings used by us and our friends at the time, referring to something crass we should not get in to.  We connected with what the name meant to us.

To Layton and I playing music is not about us it's really about the people we are interacting with.  We have always discussed how important it is to us that our live shows would not be about people coming to see us, but rather us coming to entertain and interact with people.  We were craving that authenticity we got from our Jersey VFW days.  When you felt like these bands you loved were on your team. And we wanted to get back to that, we didn't want to be another band doing anything for a record deal or money. Feeling like we were exploiting people who would come see us by charging as much as we could, or guilting them in to showing up just because some guy that might book us will be there and its all about impressing him.

Courtesy Tier, we connected with it. we wanted it to remind us to move slowly and make art that might actually better someones day, or make them happy or get them dancing.

James: How long did it take before you found your voice and felt that you could make things work/gel as a duo?

Omer: It's been about 3 years as a duo, and we are just starting to feel a bit closer to gelling the way we would like.

James: Did the sound and direction of the band change as the lineup changed?

Omer: Yes the sound has changed drastically, this is the most honest we have dared to be.

James: You mentioned how drugs were a big influence early on in the band. When did it stop working for you?

Omer: I don't know that they were a big influence, but they were around and I dont think they ever worked for any of us, I think they slowed us down.

James: Was it difficult at first to write and create without that influence?

Omer: No it was a very natural transition towards focusing more on achieving a musical vision verses before when we would be more on the instant gratification of the playing experience.

James: Though you come from the Jazz and Classic Rock background I can't help but feel a Alt Country vibe in a lot of your songs?

Layton: Absolutely Omer grew up listening to a lot of punk rock, but also loves country and Folk: Towns Van Zandt, Bob Dylan,

James: The song "Fall Asleep" from Holy Hot Fire had an immediate impact on me. I often found myself waking up with the songs rhythm in my head. I was curious about its inspiration and recording.

Omer: The basic song Layton and I wrote on the spot while jamming around, the words are a story of growing up, learning to accept that life is just a series of phases. People come and go ushering you from one world to the next, those who stick around are usually still teaching you.

James: The song "Cold" originally appeared on "Map and Marker" . What led to your decision to re-record it for "Holy Hot Fire"?

Omer: We re-recorded "Cold" because we really love playing that song. In the two years we've been playing it the composition has just kept developing, shifting and getting more involved. So we wanted to capture the new version the way we play it live.

James: Have you had the chance to tour in support of  "Holy Hot Fire"?

Omer: Not as much as we would like. We are going down south during March and hit up SXSW for a few shows.

James: I've seen you perform live a couple of times and have been very impressed by both performances. I've also noticed a big difference in your personalities on stage. While Layton is constantly smiling and looking as if he's having the time of his life. You seem a lot more subdued and focused. I might even go as far as saying possessed. How would you describe your personalities both on stage and off?

Omer: Yeah I don't think its a conscious thing, just kind of happens.  Layton has always been pretty laid back, and I have always been really afraid of singing and nervous in general so that might shine through a bit.

James: I understand you’re in the midst of writing new material. Can we expect another release soon?

Omer: Yeah, we are hoping by spring.

James: What are your goals with The Courtesy Tier? Where do you see yourselves going as both songwriters, musicians and as a band?

Omer: Creatively we are always pushing ourselves to stay inspired. For the next record we are working to try and satisfy our love for electronic elements in music, and loop based writing.

James: How do Omer and Layton measure success as a band?

Omer: Most importantly we want to like what we hear back. We also never let it get boring, we love to constantly push each other away from getting too comfortable and we do measure success through those small victories.

The Courtesy Tier  Band Site

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