illfunk sat down with Exposed Vocals to have a little chat about how we got here, and where we are off to next. Check it out:
Greg Bilderback isn’t afraid of a little hard work. That’s why it only took him a few months to build his group SixTwoSeven from a mostly theoretical solo project to a full band on the cusp of something much bigger. Since the start of 2016, SixTwoSeven has grown from just Bilderback into a quintet that includes two of his brothers. The Seattle band this spring also teamed with producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden) to record the four-song EP Some Other’s Day (due Aug. 5), and lined up the group’s first-ever live gig, with a tour to follow.
And though Bilderback has been playing music since he was 5 years old, he’s mostly been a drummer. SixTwoSeven marks the first time he has played guitar in a band. “One of the most surreal experiences was watching a childhood hero of mine like Jack Endino walking around the studio playing air guitar to my solos,” Bilderback says.
It was another of the singer’s inspirations that inspired him to seek an audience for the songs he’d been writing and recording in private over the past six years, while raising a family and working a day job. After seeing the British rockers Muse perform in Seattle last December, Bilderback decided his time had come.
“I left that show just being so inspired,” he says. “I could not stop thinking about wanting to be onstage, to the point where I was obsessive about it. So I made a website and dropped this recording I had on the internet.”
The track he posted amassed 1,000 streams the first day, and “that was enough to get me excited about it,” Bilderback says. With help from childhood friend and local producer Mike Knapp, Bilderback cleaned up the sound of his home demos and, working some connections, got them to Endino. When the producer called from a beach in South America to say he wanted to produce an EP, Bilderback began turning SixTwoSeven into an ensemble that includes Knapp on bass, Jason Bilderback on guitar, Matt Bilderback on keys and backing vocals and Dave Cook on drums.
Along with one new song, the lean, chugging rocker “One Single Night,” Some Other’s Day comprises three tunes from the catalog of music that Bilderback had stockpiled over the years. They’re intense tunes, drawn from his own experience: Powered by a bright snarl of guitar, “Top of the World” is about Bilderback’s contentious divorce, while he wrote the mournful, minor-key “Joshua’s Song” after administering CPR to a young man on a four-wheeler who had been struck by several cars after zooming onto the highway. “He ended up dying in my arms on the side of the road while we waited for the paramedics,” Bilderback says. “I wrote a whole song about it. It was the only way I could process the experience.”
Writing songs has long been the way that Bilderback has expressed himself. Though he’s performed in various band over the years, and has had the sense since he was little that he was a born entertainer, his path to rock ’n’ roll frontman had been circuitous. “I’ve worked in every shithole factory in Washington state there is to work in as a trained electrician,” says Bilderback. Though he later became a power engineer, and now works a comfortable desk job, he still identifies with the lunch-pail kid he used to be, and his music reflects it.
“I want to be a champion for the underdog,” he says. “We have kind of a motto: ‘We come with the attitude of an underdog while delivering the punch of a champion.’”
So tell us your story. Where did you grow up? What made you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Port Orchard, Washington about 60 miles West of Seattle. I have always made up my own melodies and lyrics, I think I wrote my first song at about 3. It was a country song about trucks. My brother and I would make guitar and drum sounds with our mouths and try and overdub tapes when I was in kindergarten. I think I started playing drums about 3rd or 4rth grade, but my dad always had a guitar in the house too. It was the one thing that was his that he never had an issue with all four boys picking up and using it whenever we wanted. So all of us play multiple instruments as a result. Then I discovered the Cure, Bauhaus and Joy Division. That was really when my taste in music started to become my lifestyle also. When I left behind the Motley Crue, “Smokin’ in the Boys” glam metal sound for things that aligned more with my ideologies and beliefs. That was middle school for me. Then when I started skateboarding things gradually transitioned to punk. Throughout that whole time my brother and I were writing and performing songs together in various arrangements. We had many garage bands over the years. It’s always been a part of who we are. We were involved in theater too. We all love being on stage performing.
How did you come up with the name SixTwoSeven? What was your inspiration behind it?
6-2- and 7 are actually the last three digits of my first AMA Motocross racing number. I love dirt bikes, I love to race and ride motocross and supercross, I am a huge Carmichael and Kevin Windham fan btw, and I have a track in my front yard. When you are an amateur racer, it is usually customary for you to race a three digit number, and that is typically the last three of your AMA card. When I bought my house, the home phone they gave me also ended in 627 so there was that. The first song I wrote and recorded by myself for the demo was a song called “Motormouth” about racing dirt bikes. I entered the recording in a songwriters contest online back in about 2011, and I needed a band name and a picture. I grabbed a high definition racing photo off my PC, and the numbers SixTwoSeven were right there crammed together on my front number plate, so problem solved, I rolled with it. Needless to say I did not win, and fast forward 5 years later and I have trademarked it, so I guess I am stuck with it from now on.
What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
Hahahaha sharing? That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? I am not yet convinced thus far, that there IS any money to be made, so yeah I give almost all of my music away for free. I think as the CEO of a fledgling independent record label (DubSeven Records) it is paramount that we establish relationships with fans, clubs, media outlets and radio stations for the future. I ship more merchandise out promotionally at my own expense than I ever have commercially. I’m ok with that. As for torrent type stuff, I say this, if people are trying so bad to get their hands on something I have made, that they are willing to take on the risk of acquiring it nefariously, then that is a nice problem to have. If people want to steal your music, then by default that implies people first want your music. Let’s face it, not everybody who cuts an album has to worry about people stealing it. In this business, in order to achieve any level of success, you have to build some brand recognition. You need to make your music available to people in places where they look for music they already like. The best way to do that is setting up promotional opportunities centered around those “trustworthy” sources. We try very hard to do that as a label and as a band.
Since everyone was a start-up once, can you give any smaller or local bands or artists looking to get gigs and airplay some tips?
Radio play? It is a lot of work. Even if someone is spending money on your behalf, it is not a guarantee that you will get played. Most labels pay for a radio campaign of some kind for their artists, but on top of that, you have to keep track of the stations your firm is reaching out to and then follow up with them yourself too. As a label I have contacted every station manager playing our music in the country, and at minimum taken the time to thank them personally (from the band and the label), then also offered promotional materials, T-Shirts, Posters, CD’s, Stickers and such to their DJ’s and to their listeners, and submitted interview requests to appear on their broadcasts. All of that seemed to have a much bigger impact on how well we charted from week to week on the College Radio Charts (inside the top 200) than simply signing checks to an agency and waiting to see where we placed. Certainly their initial introductions to the station managers were critical for getting “adds”, and cannot be overlooked, but my point is you cannot rely on that alone to garner spins. Have a lazy week and watch your record drop from #166 to #505 in just 7 days. As for Gigs? Don’t be afraid to get rejected. The same booker will turn you down 3 to 5 times and then give you the biggest gig of your life. You just have to be patient and pay your dues. That’s all about networking. If you really want to get better shows, then show up to your gigs early, stand in front and cheer on the bands that play before you, stay late and support the bands the play after you, and share other band’s music with your listener’s through your social media pages. I promise if you do that, you will get booked for decent gigs eventually.
Do you ever make mistakes during performances? How do you handle that?
I always screw up playing live, lol. I am a drummer, I still think playing guitar and singing live is really difficult. Especially if you care about being animated and performing visually as well as musically. You can’t trip out about stuff like that. Smile, that’s what I do, I just smile about it. Most people will never notice, unless you are recording, so just roll with it. My pet peeve is stopping songs. I feel like you should never do that. Ask the guys, if that happens I am kind of an ass. I really think you have to drive on and through stuff like that. If you stop and throw your hands up in the air, it is a virtual guarantee that someone will notice that, since you went and drew everyone’s attention to it. For live performances the most important thing I think, is to let people see how much fun you’re having. Everything else will take a back seat to that, if people can genuinely feel how much you love doing what you’re doing. I just tweeted a Tom Petty quote today about music. “Music isn’t really supposed to be perfect. It’s all about people relating each other and doing something that’s really from the soul. It must come from the soul.” You cannot say it much better than that.
Does anything interesting happen on tour that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?
Sure, our tour was the best and worst time I have ever had in my life. As the label exec, tour manager, and band leader it was one of the most stressful ordeals I have ever survived. As a giant kid who wants to play music everyday instead of go to work at a desk job, it was the most exciting experience I have ever had. Kind of depended on the moment I suppose. We did a tour diary for Arena.com and yeah, there were lots of funny stories. Overflowing motorhome sewage tanks, motorhomes getting stuck, lots and lots of me screaming “Get back in the F$%king van!” at the top of my lungs. I think having the motorhome get stuck in the entryway to a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles just before church got out was a pretty good story. It’s fairly safe to say I did not maintain my cool throughout that whole ordeal. I’m laughing….now. We made it home, so all is well that ends well. That being said I was happy to return to my desk job the following Monday morning. I cannot lie. It felt a lot safer to me.
Where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration? What is your usual songwriting process?
My blue collar life is my inspiration. Same as your lives. I work, raise children as a single parent, coach sports teams, and cook dinner just like you do. I apply for jobs, get turned down for promotions, and work unpaid overtime to suck up to my boss, just like you all do. I have bills due, house repairs, angry girlfriends, and personal failures, just like you too. These are the things I write about. Wreckless Soul is about my son Blaeklee, he has always been the most devout non-conformist, almost to the point of conformity. Top of the World is about my ugly divorce, the public shaming that came along with it, and learning to love myself again. Joshua’s Song is about a teenage boy who died in my arms after being hit on his ATV by the SUV driving in front of me. One Single Night, is about how after living through all of that, I am FINALLY ready to tell the world, if that is all you’ve got, then be ready, because I cannot be stopped. SixTwoSeven is my destiny.
What are some really embarrassing songs that we might find on your mp3 player?
Oh man…embarrassing? I have been such a music snob for so many years, even if I liked something too dorky I might not have had it on my MP3 player. I guess the most embarrassing would probably be the Biebs, I have some Biebs on the player. The kid has some skills, don’t hate. On top of that dude skates too…I also have a teenage daughter so I was going to be exposed to his music like it or not, thankfully I am raising a music snob too, so at least she tends to find more obscure tracks (if such thing exists for the Biebs) so it isn’t all the really-really cheesy radio stuff. We share an iTunes account, so some T Swift may come on, or even Selena Gomez. Some dudes might find that embarrassing, I’m a dad, so I’m proud of it. My guilty pleasure is going from Brandi Carlile to the Beatnuts on the same playlist.
If you were given half a million dollars and a year off, what would you do? How would you spend it?
That is an awesome question. I would like to say I would record a record and take a world tour, since that is about the only way I could afford it. Honestly though, I couldn’t sleep at night if that is all I did. What is the point of being granted power, money, resources, or influence, if you don’t use any of it to make the world a better place than it was when you arrived? So I every summer my daughter and I volunteer at an orphanage in Ensenada Mexico. All the children there are very special to me, I would love to have more time and more resources at my disposal to make things better for them. There are also 3 very special children there that I would really love to adopt, but single white American men aren’t typically the Mexican Government’s first choice for adoption of a family of 3 orphaned Children. Maybe half a million dollars and some more time off would help, I’m not really too sure it would though, unfortunately.
What are you working with now?
About $18 in change and a windowless van. Things are looking up yo…
How do you find ways to promote your music? What works best for you?
Be very creative. I love seeing stuff like bands doing surprise shows in public places. I saw an ad on the GigTown App for a surprise show in the parking lot of a Vegas convention. That sounds really cool. I always liked the idea while touring of setting up in a rest stop, and playing until the cops showed up and shut us down, but we never really had any time between driving. I give away CD’s everywhere I go. Getting a haircut and get good service, give ‘em a disc. Have a waiter who really seemed to get you, and you want to leave more than a decent tip, give ‘em a disc. Sending out promotional materials to radio stations, and spending two hours at the post office packaging up discs and posters, hand a disc to each employee who helped you. You’d be surprised how you can turn a home appraisal appointment into an opportunity to promote your music. The key is never think about anything else. 100% of every fiber of my being is concentrated into my effort to succeed. Even when I’m sitting still, calories are burning in the name of SixTwoSeven. It never stops.
If you could perform anywhere and with any artists (Dead or Alive) where and who would it be with? Why?
I want to play with the Foo Fighters bad. I would die if I saw our name on the bill for a Muse Concert. Royal Blood, oh yeah that would be so sick. I have been trying really hard to work us onto a Dinosaur Jr. or Pretty Reckless show too, but no luck so far. Their staff is very friendly though, so it will happen eventually, when it is supposed to. We toured with Nomeansno out of Vancouver Canada when I was 19 in a band called 5HC (Five Hoss Cartwrights) and that was my pinch me moment for the last 20 years or so. Looking to update that here real soon.
So, what’s next? Any new upcoming projects that you want to talk about?
We are trying to wrap up a few more video shoots. We still need to promote this album, so we have some shows coming up in Eastern Washington and Idaho, Canada hopefully too. We are working on a trip to Texas to play in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. We have been invited to take part in a television show about Breaking Artists so we are trying to figure out the financing for the trip to NJ to take part in that as well. I’d like to spend some free time if I can ever get any, on making some more hip hop tracks with illfunk and MC MD, “Honorable Thugs” was almost 10 years ago already so it’s definitely time for DubSeven to release some more hip hop. We (SixTwoSeven) also have about 15 other songs we need to get recorded before next summer, so we can release a full length record and get a tour in before summers end 2017. I have a very busy life, it’s full. I don’t really get bored.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
My life would look very similar. I would go to work as an Engineering Manager, just like I do now. I would coach my kid’s teams, and skateboard every chance I could get just like I do now. The primary difference being, I would probably still have a savings account, and a lot more week ends with-out plans.
Do you remember buying your first album? Who was it? What was going through your head?
I think my very first cassette tape was Quiet Riot Metal Health. I was in 3rd grade. I remember being afraid to show my Mom the cover, I figured she would say “No” because the dude looked scary. She bought it for me anyway, but I don’t think my Dad was too stoked. I remember also being at a swap meet when I was really little, at the Tacoma Dome. My dad bought me my first skateboard there, but anyhow, I had a little cash for some reason, so he let me and my brother cruise around the booths. I bought Poison “Look what the Cat Dragged In” and Motley Crue “Theater of Pain”. I remember being absolutely shocked when my older brother enlightened me to the fact that the faces on the cover of the Poison record were the guys in the band. Needless to say we did not yet have MTV at our house, so that was the first time I saw Glam Rock face to face.
How do you juggle the rest of your responsibilities while trying to stay ahead in your music life?
I stay up really-really late. I work more than 50 hours a week at my day job, and probably close to that at DubSeven. I want this so bad, I just refuse to let a day go by, without nudging it in the direction we need to go. There is no time to rest, and we have accomplished nothing worthy of taking time out to celebrate yet, so I just keep grinding. I drink two pots of coffee and two Red Bull’s every day, lol. Just gotta keep at it. It’s going to take longer than I wish it would, but it will get there eventually. I will see to that. I always tell people when they meet me, you have never worked with anyone like me. No one believes me at first, they always laugh. There is always that moment a few months later were they remind me of how I told them that way back when, and how full of it they thought I was. I feel like the entire world is moving in slow motion around me, I really do. I’m already thinking about mundane decisions I will make 5 hours ahead of this very conversation. It’s a blessing and a curse, as I tend to come off very impatient. Changing my mind about one little thing right now, sometimes effects a chain reaction of decisions made after that point, and sometimes I don’t like explaining every time I might appear “inflexible” if you will.
What should fans look forward to in the next year or so?
Another SixTwoSeven record. A full length record. And more bands on DubSeven. Keep your eyes peeled for Drive on Mak (Austin TX) the Welkin Dim (Portland OR), and Amelia (Eugene OR).