Voice and songwriter for the website SongsToWearPantsTo.com (and many other projects), Andrew Huang, recently took some time to talk to JFH's Scott Fryberger about one of his more serious projects, Your Heart, while in the midst of a series of album releases - Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring...
This interview took place in Autumn, 2010.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): The first question I have for you is one that I've actually kinda wanted to know for a while now. And that is, 'what kind of bands and artists do you listen to most often and find yourself inspired by?'
Well, I go through a lot of phases, because I do listen to stuff from almost every genre that's out there and a mix of current and also older stuff too. So it's hard to really say like one genre or a few artists that I listen to a lot of, but my recent phases have been a lot of UK, dubstep, grind-type stuff. And I went through a huge Lady Gaga thing over the summer. *laughs* And the new Arcade Fire album I've had on a lot recently. I'm trying to think of... Oh, Owen Pallett was a huge thing for me earlier this year. Um... yeah just a big mix of stuff and there's usually like one thing that I'm really playing a lot of more than anything else, and then I just have a shuffle playlist for when I'm not in the mood. But yeah, I just go through phases of one thing, and it could be anything from classical music to Britney.
JFH (Scott): So pretty eclectic. Well, on your website, Songs To Wear Pants To, you've played songs in all kinds of different genres. What instruments are easiest for you?
Andrew: I'm pretty good at anything that has strings, but I'm not great at woodwinds. I know the fingerings for several wind instruments, woodwinds and brass, but I guess I'm not a good breather. But I'm sort of competent with anything stringed, just nothing with wind.
JFH (Scott): Is your music what you do for a living, or do you have a different job?
Andrew: Yeah, my main income is usually from people who find me through Songs To Wear Pants To, or sometimes through a friend, but mainly it's through the website. And I just write music, a lot of the time, for personal projects that people have going on, like a song they want created specifically for a movie or an animation that they're working on, or for their friend's birthday or their parents' anniversary or whatever it is. And then I also do some full soundtracks to short films, and occasionally sound effects for podcasts, for iPhone apps, and a little bit of voice-over stuff occasionally too actually. So that's my main source of income, and then I also get a little bit as well from the downloads of the Songs To Wear Pants To songs. And that's pretty much what I do. Oh, and a little bit of commercial work lately, too. I've been getting a little more into that thanks to some fortunate contacts I've made.
JFH (Scott): Like national companies' commercials?
Andrew: Yeah, stuff that ends up on TV. I don't know how widely broadcast, but like big name jewelry companies and radio and TV stuff. It's kinda new to me still. I haven't had too much of that kinda work.
JFH (Scott): Still pretty cool.
Andrew: Mmhmm. Very exciting for me, cause it's a little more pro, I guess.
JFH (Scott): Yeah haha. Now, is Songs To Wear Pants To who gets credited in those commercials? Or is it Andrew Huang, or what?
Andrew: Well, there's not really like a credit for it. Like any commercial you see on TV, you're not gonna have credits involved in it. But for any films that I score... I guess it really depends... If it's the kind of thing that I'm gonna get credited for, it depends on what kind of piece it is. For a serious film, I would just go under my name, but for a lot of people who are doing like funny animations or anything like that, then I would go with Songs To Wear Pants To because that all just fits in with the vibe of the premise of Songs To Wear Pants To - just being kinda fun and silly and zany.
JFH (Scott): That's actually how I first learned of you, with Songs To Wear Pants To. Some of the songs I heard just cracked me up, so I kept visiting the site.
Andrew: Where did you hear about it first?
JFH (Scott): Actually, it was from my fiancee. She knew about the site, and I didn't, and she told me about it and I checked it out and it was awesome.
JFH (Scott): I have another question about Songs To Wear Pants To before we go on to Your Heart. How did you come up with the idea for the site?
Andrew: Well, I have been playing and recording music in whatever capacity I can since I was very, very young. And so when I was in my second year of university and I couldn't find a job, I thought maybe I could turn my hobby into something that could pull in a little bit of income even if I would still have to find something else part-time. But I posted an eBay auction and I just said that I was a decent musician and I knew my way around home recording pretty well, and that I would record a song for the winning bidder. And I actually did a few of those for a couple months, and that surprisingly caught on. I don't even know how the word got around or who those people were that bid on the songs. I mean, I did end up emailing with them to figure out what they wanted in the songs, but they came from all over Canada and the States. So, I don't know how they found the auctions initially, but I was doing that for several months, and then I had the idea that I should do silly... actually, I don't even think I wanted it to be silly at first, but once the ideas started coming in, it was just the most fun thing to do to kinda turn them all into jokes. But anyway, I was living with a friend of mine who could do pretty decent html and php code at the time, and so she helped me put together a website, and it was kind of a cool idea to take suggestions from anyone in the world online and post songs based on those and it's just taken off from there.
JFH (Scott): Then you got super popular. Do you have a lot of regular visitors to the website or is it just the same few that keep coming back?
Andrew: It's actually a really good mix. It's almost - according to Google analytics - it's almost exactly half and half between returning and new visitors. I don't know what it is for a normal website or different types of websites or whatever, but it seems like that's really good for me because it means that a lot of people are coming back but that I'm also getting a lot of new people visiting. So, I don't really know what the exact numbers are for my consistent fanbase or how much it grows or anything like that, but I get, on average, about twenty or thirty thousand hits per month, and maybe twenty to thirty song ideas emailed to me per day.
JFH (Scott): Wow, that's a lot. More than I thought.
Andrew: It's definitely really helpful to have so many people coming through, even if they're just visiting one time or whatever. But maybe they'll listen and share it with somebody. I don't know. It's all been spread through word of mouth since the beginning.
JFH (Scott): So you have four albums coming out from Your Heart, each based on the four seasons, with Summer and Autumn being out right now. If you had to pick between the two, which would you recommend to people?
Andrew: Autumn, definitely. At this point in my life, I consider Autumn to be the best thing I've ever done. It's a very specific style or a small selection of styles of music, but I think in terms of the craftsmanship of the songwriting and the recording and arranging, I think those ten songs are definitely the most balanced and emotionally resonant and maybe honest songs that I've ever put together. I'm more proud of them than anything I've ever done. It's Autumn all the way, no matter what the question is. *laughs*
JFH (Scott): Is Winter in the works right now?
Andrew: Yeah, I'm working on Winter and Spring at the same time right now, just kinda because I wanna get this whole seasons thing done. *laughs*
JFH (Scott): *laughs* Fair enough. Now, Summer and Autumn are focused pretty heavily on love. What about Winter and Spring?
Andrew: There's definitely love as a theme spanning all the records. And I think that's more a product of Your Heart as a band, as a project - I guess just the style it is and the frame of mind I'm in when I'm working on something for that project definitely lends itself more to songwriting about relationships and love. So yeah, love will continue to feature as a theme on Winter and Spring, but Winter will be a lot more about the breakdown of love and relationships, and about things going wrong a bit more. And Spring will definitely have this sort of vibe of freshness and a little bit of new love, maybe young love and energy in general.
JFH (Scott): Are the songs based on anyone in particular? Or are they just generic love songs?
Andrew: I think about half the time, maybe a little more, I'm writing them, not completely fictitiously, but definitely mostly fictitiously. I mean, every song has a little something that I've experienced going into it, but they're definitely not all about real people. And then the ones that are are about either my wife or about - well it really depends on the song, but if there was one person I write the most about, it'd be my wife. But other songs might be about people I used to know or friends that I have or what have you.
JFH (Scott): And when do you plan on releasing Winter and Spring?
Andrew: Right now, I'm thinking about - just because it would be nice to have the seasons done and have Your Heart be able to focus on other types of projects, I'm thinking I might do a double release for both of them this coming spring. They'll still be separate albums, but I'll put them out around the same time and just have one album launch show for both of them.
JFH (Scott): You've also released some B-sides and EPs as well, one of them being Spring Fling. Why did you release that before Winter?
Andrew: It just happened that I had a lot more material sorted out for Spring, and there were all these songs I had already decided that I didn't want on that record, except possibly the song "Spring" will still go on it. I'm just not sure about that, because that song is now - well, by the time Spring comes out, the song "Spring" will be about two years old. So, I've just never been sure about it. But that one and about ten others make up Spring Fling, and they were all ones that I was pretty sure weren't gonna make the cut for Spring. So, since it was springtime at the time, I decided that I could make a little free EP. So I just kinda tied up the loose ends that they still had; some of them still needed a little polishing or re-recording or whatever, and I got them done. I guess it's kinda in part because it was spring, and - I wasn't like this a few years ago - but I've become a person who, as much as possible, finishes the songs that I'm starting and tries to get them out there for wherever that is as soon as possible. Just because I'm finding that that's a much better way to be a songwriter I guess.
JFH (Scott): So are Summer and Autumn the only albums you have available in physical copies?
Andrew: Yeah, and actually, we're sold out of Summer physical copies. No more Summer. As for Autumn, we still have maybe fifty copies. And the cool thing is that they're just kinda like a hand-bound book that me and a friend worked on. It's just a book, no CD or anything, but it comes with a download code. It's a nice little table thing or some people like to put them on their walls or whatever. But it's more like an art piece. I don't know, I didn't wanna have like a jewel case and that kinda stuff.
JFH (Scott): That's a really cool idea. And I remember when you guys were making them, you made them out of recycled paper right?
Andrew: Yeah, we actually had a friend who had found like stacks of these old art textbooks from, I think from the 70s, so they were printed on really good grade thick paper. And they were just on the side of the road where someone threw them out, so we took them to Kinko's and guillotined them down to the right size and and laser printed on top of them. So Dylan, my friend who did the design, designed it so the artwork had a few holes so the original artwork would show through. So it looks pretty cool.
JFH (Scott): Is recycling a big thing for you? Or was that just a cool concept for the album?
Andrew: I'm definitely an environmentally-minded person. With Summer, I also wanted to avoid jewel cases, so we made the CD sleeves out of discarded vinyl covers. And when Autumn came around, I thought we could get rid of even more plastic if we didn't even have any CDs, so that's why we went with the book this time around. But yeah, I'm definitely a recycler, and a reducer, and a reuser. *laughs*
JFH (Scott): Oh good, you remembered the mnemonic for it.
Andrew: Yeah *laughs*
JFH (Scott): So you're gonna put out Winter and Spring sometime early 2011?
Andrew: Yeah, early 2011.
JFH (Scott): What are you going to be doing between now and then?
Andrew: In terms of Your Heart, we're just writing and rehearsing and playing the occasional show, maybe one show a month. So there's not a whole lot to expect from Your Heart. From other projects, there will be little blips, but that's about it.
JFH (Scott): Well, that's all the questions I had for you as far as Your Heart is concerned. Anything you would like to say to close the interview?
Andrew: Uhhhh..... I'm always bad at these sort of questions. haha... I think all the important information has been gone over already. But thank you so much for your interest and for the review!
Your Heart's new album, Autumn, is available now at iTunes.