Los Angeles-based Alternative band Trapdoor Social creates music that inspires conversation. Band mates Merritt Graves and Skylar Funk joined forces after meeting in college, to combine their shared interests in music and activism. One such product of their passions: their new EP, Science of Love, which dropped today. We got a chance to talk to the band about the new record, how they’re using it to give back, and what tips independent artists should take to heart.
What inspired your new EP Science of Love?
Technology has started speeding up faster than we can react to or even understand. If you ask around, I don’t think people would say that they’re really glad that the poverty rate in America has been rising as more and more good jobs get eaten by automation and algorithms, or that they’re pleased that sea levels are rising because we had no idea what effect dumping billions of tons of carbon would have. It’s simply happening because the technology is happening. Our goal with the EP is to have a conversation since right now it seems like we’re just passengers blindly putting our destiny in the hands of a force with no sense of right or wrong, fairness, or concept of human well being . . . which is completely insane.
You’re donating 100% of the profits from your new EP to a solar energy project with LA non-profit Homeboy Industries, which re-trains former gang members for jobs. Why is it important for you to give back through your music?
We feel it’s important to help out whenever there’s a serious need and you have the capacity to do something about it. Solar energy and job re-training are things we care deeply about and it’s exciting to try to make our music have an impact.
Do your environmental concerns come through in your music?
For sure—there’s a song on the new EP called “Angel City” that’s written about Los Angeles. Back in the 1930s, LA had one of the best mass transit systems in the country, but it was bought up and subsequently dismantled by oil and car companies, in favor of highways. Highways encourage sprawl, and sprawl encourages driving and redundant infrastructure, and driving and redundant infrastructure create snarls of traffic and CO2 tailpipe emissions. Unsurprisingly, when you let corporations plan your city for you, they’re going to plan it in a way that suits them and their shareholders, whether that’s sustainable or not.
What are your thoughts on streaming? Is it helping or hurting independent artists?
It depends on what the rates are. Streaming is a technology with its own biases, but ultimately it’s up to us to attach our values to it, and right now we seem to be saying that the pipes are where all the value is, and the content that flows through them is almost worthless. We just have to ask ourselves if that’s the kind of world we want.
What were the early years like? Did you face any challenges?
Ha, well I think we’re still in our early years—at least I hope we are! And yes, we face all kinds of challenges. The main theme is that there are so many logistics, administration, and marketing tasks involved with being an independent artist that they can’t help but impede on time you’d otherwise spend creating art. That’s the cost of industry revenue drying up 50% or so in the last decade; there isn’t enough money for that development and support layer to exist, and the result is that the artists succeeding are the ones who are best able to juggle that creative compression, and who are the savviest entrepreneurs and self-promoters. Again, it goes back to values. Is it important to us that all our artists also be skilled businessman? And if not, what are we doing about it?
Your music has gotten radio play on major stations around the US. Have you done anything specific to secure this?
Station programmers are very busy people who try to listen to as much new music as they can, but since there are only so many hours in the day, they rely on trusted blogs, charts, and pitches from companies to narrow it down for them. Just as there are PR companies that pitch to blogs, and licensing companies that pitch to music supervisors, there are companies that pitch to radio as well.
What are your top 3 tips for independent artists focused on growing their careers?
1. Make sure music is what you intrinsically love to do.
2. Keep challenging yourself emotionally and intellectually—this seems to be where all the songs come from.
3. Just keep your head down and stay at it. These things take time and you will get out what you put into it. Success just means staying in the game.
How do you partner with TuneCore?
TuneCore handled all of our digital distribution and payment collection for our last EP, Death of a Friend, and will be doing the same for Science of Love, which definitely makes our lives easier.
So what can we look forward to next?
We’re going to be touring across the US for the next 4 months supporting the EP, so if you want to stop by for a show, we’d love to meet you!