Sometimes you see a band live and a song sticks out, sometimes it’s their individual performances or sometimes an element of their overall show itself. On rare occasions you might catch a band where all those factors are memorable for all the right reasons, which was the case when I recently saw Mind Drop live. The Illinois band has made a habit of winning over the audiences of the many big bands they’re sharing bills with, bands like Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, Nonpoint and more. Now Mind Drop is ready a little more attention, with a new EP coming out “The Awakening” (produced at Johnny K’s Groovemaster Studios) and even more touring opportunities on the horizon. I recently talked with the band about everything happening right now, read on…..
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to talk to me….there is a lot going on with the band but can you start by telling us a little about how Mind Drop came to be and what led you to this point?
Chris Ruzic (bassist) – Adam and I played in a band called Mr.Pill. We were going through some changes in that band and were looking for a drummer. Adam had a close friend, Robert Bull, so he came in and kicked major ass. That band eventually folded and the three of us started to write new music…a year or two later, we launched Mind Drop. We used to do shows with Jason and his previous band from Champaign IL. It was one of those situations where we always said, “Man, I really wish Jason wasn’t in that band.” He had everything we were looking for in a 2nd guitar player. Years later he parted ways with that band and we quickly acquired him. Robert left Mind Drop in 2008 for personal reasons, that’s where Dan Sissum(Mirrored Image, Broken) stepped up to the plate and became part of the family. In 2011, we had a falling out with our previous vocalist, and after countless auditions, we ran across Shauna Lisse from Madison, WI, and a brand new chapter began. Dan eventually moved out of state for work, and that is when Robert came back ready to tear it up once again. In May of this year we started working with Thom Hazaert. He has been a staple in the national arena and has broke many bands out. He is the president of THC:MUSIC out of LA. Our single “Dissect” was just released digitally on THC:MUSIC/Fontana/Universal this past week, and it went to active rock radio in August. It is now on over 600 retail outlets worldwide and the full EP drops on September 10th.
Jason Beck (guitarist)– Mind Drop has definitely been a process of evolution. We have seen many highs, lows, and “in-betweens” as a band, but have managed to refocus and persevere through intense determination. My opinion is that we are all deeply rooted in our passion for music and everything that goes along with it. This point in time is very bright, and the thought of what is beyond the horizon is exciting. We have a long way to go to fully realize our dreams but, when the fruits of our labor begin to present themselves we will be able to enjoy them that much more by knowing all the hurdles we have crossed.
LRI: Shauna is obviously a focal point as any singer is in a band and she has a lot of charisma. What led you to discovering her and how your approach or art changed as a result?
Jason – Our friend and ex-drummer Dan Sissum came across her ad on Craigslist. We split ways with our old singer and were diligently looking for a new spark. We held many auditions and met some great people, but there was something quite different about Shauna. She was very green, but had an incredible ear for melody. We all heard this “timelessness” to what she was writing, and we saw her potential in breaking the metal genre’s lines. I think that she has done a wonderful job of that, personally. In the studio we were able to listen to nothing but her vocals, and after hearing this we found her melodies stood on their own. Because of her creativity and musical background our craft has changed greatly.
Adam DeAses (guitarist) – Before Shauna, I personally had never really worked with another musician with her kind of vocal knowledge, creativity, and ability, so it was pretty effortless to communicate our ideas with one another…it was a breath of fresh air. I know the whole band was intrigued by what she was bringing to the table, and we all were eager as hell to see what we were capable of now with her on board. It definitely made us take a closer look at what we were writing. In the past, we often overplayed parts, trying to fill gaps and voids in the music due to a lack of direction or vocal content. With Shauna, we’re able to manipulate any part of the song as we see fit, experiment with whatever comes to mind, instead of just having music written with vocals on them. It’s a team effort, the way it should be. We actually have several versions of each of our songs that we just narrow down to one when we prep it for the studio. We’re all likeminded, and she’s right there by our sides from start to finish of a song, pushing us to make them come to life. The fact that she came into our lives hungry to write, practice, record, perform and tour was just icing on the cake.
LRI: Your rhythm section is seriously tight and dedicated and any band that wants to move forward knows the lack of a solid drummer or bassist can quickly spell doom. What do Chris and Robert add to the personality of the band and how long did it take them to lock in as partners??
Jason – You are absolutely right about the importance of a tight rhythm section. I feel very fortunate to be in a band with both of these guys. Robert is hands down my favorite drummer. His energy is super intense and I can seriously get lost on stage sometimes because I want to watch him. Chris is a monster on bass. He has really honed his abilities with Robert on the new EP. It was fun for me to watch Chris practicing his parts in the studio over and over into the early morning hours. I think that dedication really paid off on the final cuts. Chris and Robert have a long past in playing together, so locking in seemed almost second nature to them. Their ability to create such a tight foundation makes everything else sound that much better.
Shauna Lisse (vocals) – I couldn’t agree more about the rhythm section in a band. It’s very important and I feel so lucky to be in a band with Robert and Chris. I agree with Jason, I may be biased, but Robert is my all-time favorite drummer. His presence and energy really influences our sound and he’s a beast on stage. Chris knows how to lock in and demand the stage while bringing a rockin’ bass sound. They are our backbone and important to Mind Drop. They keep us in line and hold us all together. Like I said, I’m so lucky to be working with them!! It’s a dream come true.
Adam– I’ve been working with Chris and Robert as a team in two different bands now for several years, and it’s become quite fulfilling watching them not only grow as musicians, but to see them mature as songwriters for Mind Drop. They’ve worked very hard to become a solid backbone and the bottom end for this band. There’s a chemistry and history there with those two, it shows in the studio and on the stage, and no one can take that away from them.
LRI: The band experienced success at radio with earlier tracks like “Monster” and “Situations” and have now released “Dissect” from your forthcoming EP, “The Awakening”. How much did you learn from being creative in a place with the reputation of Groovemaster studio and working with producer Matt Dougherty?? How much did you all enjoy the process?
Robert Bull (drums) – Matt made us feel like we were “at home”. From loading in, to working the grind into the late hours, to referring us on where to go to eat; Matt not only proved himself to us with his skill and talent, but made his way into becoming a member of this band… The “6th” member of Mind Drop. It would take all day to speak of all the things I’ve learned at Groovemaster.
Chris – Matt Dougherty is a god. Jason and I were at a Christmas party at Groovemaster when our friends in Mindset Evolution were there recording their debut record and their guitarist Brad recommended Matt. We were so honored to even be able to set foot in Groovemaster as the long list of our favorite bands that have recorded there and all of the hits that roll out of the door there can attest. Working with Matt was incredible. He had a calm coolness about him that helped each and everyone perform to the best of their abilities.
LRI: As a band coming up it has got to cross your mind that bands like Disturbed or Megadeth have either recorded or mixed their albums there…..
Jason- There is a definite electricity that can be felt throughout that place that made us realize our creativity and abilities. We did not have some parts written to these songs we recorded, and when the pressure was on we persevered. In fact, some of those parts are my favorites. Matt really helped us to not only polish the songs, but added tons of insight that helped point us in the right direction.
Shauna-This is my second time stepping into Groovemaster but I’ve learned through each experience, I’m always learning. This time around I learned how to work with another producer (Matt). It wasn’t difficult, in fact we got along instantly. I felt really comfortable working with him. We all fed off of each other’s ideas.
Adam – I remember telling Chris back in 2006 or 2007 that one of my goals was to someday record at Groovemaster, and now here we are with our 2nd e.p. created within those walls. Honestly the experience was priceless and we just scratched the surface when it came to all the things possible there. Some of my all-time favorite bands created masterpieces on some of the same equipment we used, in the same rooms, it really left me in awe. It forced me to strengthen my weaknesses to the best of my abilities, and to further strengthen my strong points and Matt was right there guiding us through the whole rollercoaster ride, and he made us feel relaxed, right at home while doing so. He did push us, taught us new things, made us work harder than we ever worked before, and I thank him for that, yet he still made us smile and laugh whenever possible…was something I never really experienced until now. Like the others said, he is like the 6th member of Mind Drop, and I hope that relationship stays that way for many years to come.
LRI: Adam and Jason are creative guitarists who have an ability to deliver the low end crunch but also melody and important elements of backing vocals. Has that extra element or signature part of working with the guys become something of an identity for Mind Drop?
Chris – Working with Adam and Jason is simply amazing. We all push each other to the ultimate edge of a cliff. Watching and learning from these guys is something I have never experienced in any of my other bands.
Shauna – Definitely. Adam and Jason are key to delivering the heavy sound that Mind Drop has. They both are unique in their own ways. I couldn’t be more proud/happy to have them as band members. Adam brings more of the growls and lower voice. Whereas Jason will sometimes harmonize with me. They help me out a lot! (laughs). I do believe the guys helping me with background vocals has helped with our image or identity of Mind Drop. We are always looking to add more though.
Jason – I have always looked up to Adam as both a guitar player and a showman. His style is unmistakable and I have adopted it as my own. I like to think that our like-mindedness in our approach to the instrument is why our music seems to grab people’s attention. Adam’s approach to a riff is really the signature behind the music. We kind of overplay everything on guitar. Where someone may play one note, we will play eight (laughs), but in all seriousness this style has really become the identity and sound of Mind Drop. The backing vocals are quite hard for me personally. I do not have Adam’s ability to growl and Shauna’s range is so high that even an octave lower can be difficult to reach. This is something we are working on constantly. Vocal exercises have become a permanent fixture to my daily routine. As with anything, practice makes better and when we lock in it sounds amazing.
Robert – When I think of Adam and Jason as a unit on their own, my first thought is extreme attention to detail and the ability to make the audience feel what they are trying to convey with their talent. As a drummer, having two like-minded guitarists that share, split, and emphasize specific parts in the songs, helps me to fabricate, tailor and refine exactly what needs to be played with a bit of spice added.
LRI: What types of things impact the bands lyrical ideas that some people might not expect or get at first listen?
Shauna – I use a lot of symbolism. I want listeners to think of their own lives when listening to our songs and not just think about what I’m talking about. I want people to feel connected to our music. My lyrics are my diary; I get to sing to everyone about my personal experiences, without REALLY ever having to tell them EXACTLY what they are about and in return people can guess, but also make a connection with the lyrics to their own lives…instead of mine.
Robert – Shauna mainly has the upfront role of the lyrical content. There are times, however, that we all inject our own thoughts and ideas that help mold the words. Whether it be a phrase, a word, or melody hook, we all lend to each other to help hone down each others talents. This is what makes us better and better all the time. Shauna’s lyrical writings are so well fabricated that they become a personal part of the listener’s life….. as if it were written “just for them”.
LRI: You’re sharing the stage with many national bands that have become household names like Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat as well as bands who are massive draws on the hard radio circuit like Eye Empire or Bobaflex. Is there something you have learned about the day to day work involved in running a band from these guys and does it add perspective to some of your own steps towards building your fanbase?
Jason – We are constantly learning. We fully believe we will never know everything, or even most of everything. When we get the chance to chat with these bands we learn so much that we cannot remember it all. Getting to that level is a dream that we are striving toward, and if any national act offers advice we will most certainly listen. Music is a business and an art form. As much as we would love for it to be “all about the music” the reality is that it is mostly business. We as a band have been utilizing each others strengths to capitalize and grow our fanbase and our business. Getting the music out there is our primary focus at the moment.
Adam – It’s hard work, an endless amount of hard work. So many bands laugh if you mention the word, “business”, but the truth is, without some kind of business approach, they better hope that someone with a lot of money loves them and their music, because that’s the only way they’re going to have any kind of longevity in this industry. The thing about all those national bands that people often overlook is that they all have a great product. Meaning their music shines, their merchandise looks good, their live show is awesome, and they play as many shows as they can, wherever they can, and their ever growing fanbase is just one of the rewards of all their hard work. So when words of wisdom come from the mouths of those bands, we’re all ears.
Chris – Some of the bands we played with have taken us under their wings and have had heart to heart conversations with us. Some of the guys will check in with us to make sure things are going good still. The most important lesson that I have learned is…It is a very small tight knit group of people doing the same thing you are doing. Treat each show like it is your last. You never know who is watching.
LRI: How do you keep the morale of the band or the fun factor lit when you’re doing less than exciting things like traveling or rehearsing or is every element of Mind Drop band stuff still pretty much a passion for all of you??
Jason – We try and joke around a lot. We also try and find fun things to do during those periods of doldrums. I remember last year while in Pennsylvania I was driving and stopped at a rest area. It was only about five miles from where Flight 93 went down on 9-11. They had a really nice memorial set up for all the people that perished. Everyone else was sleeping at that time, but Shauna and I read the whole thing and took pictures. And of course, since our van has no A/C we like to go to the movies so we can sit in the air conditioning for a while. Ultimately, our passion is our music. Even the things that are not so glamorous can be fun.
Shauna – Jason pretty much summed that one up. I would like to add that, with all our personalities, there’s pretty much never a dull moment in Mind Drop. We keep things interesting in and of itself…(laughs). Our main thing is to stay positive to the best we can, even during times of traveling, rehearsing…and the not so glamorous side to being in a band. We do a pretty good job at that. We’re all good friends so I think that helps a lot!
Adam – I think we all just naturally get along, and enjoy each others company. We all laugh at the same stupid jokes and can relate to one another on some level…we’re very much a family in that sense. I promised myself long ago when Chris and I started Mind Drop that I would never be in a band with an individual that I didn’t genuinely care for or respect, so we’re all very fortunate to be working with the group of people we have. I personally enjoy every element of this band. It’s definitely a passion for me, although I’ve learned over time that it’s not healthy to be in control of all those elements or to have your hand in every element, even in the slightest of ways. At that point, it’s overwhelming, no longer fun, and nothing but work. We however put a lot of trust in each other by having different roles in this band, and it’s that separation of those roles that frees up personal time, allowing us to breathe a little, have fun and just enjoy the ride.