by Ryan Johnson
Erik Paulson, lead singer of local hit Remo Drive, released an LP last month with his solo acoustic project, Focus Ring. Focus Ring appeared in early 2015 and has been gaining steady traction ever since. Before he opened for the all around amazing Jeff Rosenstock acoustic show at The Garage, I had a chance to sit down with Erik to discuss how this project came along, some details on Introduction, and where Focus Ring is headed.
Focus Ring’s first release was early last year, what brought this project on?
I think I was at Chipotle with my friends and I was like “I have a lot of ideas for songs, but they don’t really fit Remo Drive stuff, so I’m gonna try an acoustic thing,” and I then recorded it that night and released it that night. So I did that and was like “this is pretty cool,” so I did another one a month or two later, so I just did a few little EPs like that. Then I kind of lost traction doing it when Remo Drive went on tour for the summer, because I wasn’t home to work on stuff. So when I got home I decided I should try to do an album like this, so I started working on more songs and stuff. I think it was around August that I recorded it, because I had a cold and I didn’t want to go out and do anything. I guess in retrospective it probably wasn’t a good idea to record when I had a cold because my voice sounds kinda off, but I’m still happy with it. I was originally going to put it out in August, but decided to sit on it for awhile, to see if I like it and all that, and now it’s out.
Introduction is your first solo LP and it has so many personal stories on it. Is it a different experience as an artist with having your name attached to this album as an individual? A full album is really exciting as well, how did it feel to complete that?
It’s definitely a lot different. I get out exactly what I put in, so if something isn’t happening it’s all on me to do everything, which is kinda a cool thing, but also adds a little more nervousness at shows because you don’t have other people to rely on, but once I got the set really down it started feeling really good because there is some pride in being able to do it 100% by yourself without people there. It’s pretty much like Remo Drive, where I write the majority of the stuff and the other guys add to it, so this is the same, but there aren’t people adding to it. The Remo songs don’t change a whole lot, but you can definitely hear that there is some Austin and Steven playing and in this it’s just all me.
So, Remo Drive, you guys have been playing lots of gigs, toured with Weathered and some other great bands in early January, and dropped Introduction a few days after wrapping up that tour. Does it get tough, working on both? How do you keep those balanced?
I was going to wait a little longer to release Introduction after the tour, but I decided might as well. I had been listening to a lot of hip-hop and noticed that Drake and Kanye don’t have huge rollouts before they release stuff, they just put it out there, there’s not a lot of stuff coming before it. I thought that might be something worth trying and I feel that it definitely paid off. I think it was pretty well received, It seemed that people liked it a lot. It got a lot of downloads on the first day, which is always a nice feeling. Bandcamp has a limit of 200 free downloads a month, so my goal is always to drain those if possible, and I think this got really close like 10 left or actually got them all, so that was exciting.
You obviously have a good amount of songwriting experience, hence the whole album, has that always been more of an independent gig for you, or have you done a lot of writing with Remo?
Yeah, It’s definitely more collaborative now than it used to be. When it was first starting I’d write a whole song by myself and that’d kinda be how it turned out. With some exceptions–Steven has written a few of them. With the new stuff we’re working on right now especially, it’s a lot more input from everybody else. I didn’t realize before, but kind of letting go of my ideas and letting other people touch them is a good thing. Since we’re all from slightly different musical backgrounds so it’s cool to hear how everybody adds their own thing, I feel like it makes us more unique as a result, rather than me isolated just sounds like me vomiting up all my influences.
Were there any highs and/or lows that really stuck with you throughout the production and release of Introduction?
Not really, because it was so much on a whim. I wasn’t really thinking about it a whole lot. The only thing I was kinda conscious about while I was doing it was, the other acoustic releases had been done more hastily, so for this one I wanted it to sound a little tighter performance-wise. So I took a couple more extra takes on stuff then I would have, where with the original stuff, my rule was one take, get it down and good enough. So for each of the songs I just took a week in my room and practiced, then recorded them. I was originally going to release it in September, my friend was going to do tapes for it, but that ended up falling through. By the time December rolled around I contemplated just releasing it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to wait for someone to release it. So I showed it to my friend Dayton a few weeks before I put it out and he was into it, so we put it out on his little label that he is starting up, which is really cool, Tilde Records. They’re also putting out an Infinite Me/Awe Howler split. I’m not sure what is all announced and what isn’t, but it’s cool, check out the label.
What is to be expected for Focus Ring in the future?
I’ve got some guys playing with me now, and I’m a big Weezer nerd, so we play kinda old Weezer-y sounding stuff with a little more influence from outside stuff, it’s not a carbon copy, it just feels like the same kind of energy. Probably an EP of that type of music and another LP of acoustic stuff later in the year, once I have some time to just sit down and get real sad.
So it’s not exactly a solo project anymore?
It’s still where I’m planning on holding onto the songs in the same way as I have. They’re just more, like, facilitating me doing what I hear, rather than adding their own stuff. They’re more like an extension of me, or that’s how it is right now, I’m not sure how it will develop. For now it’s just a similar thing, they’re just my dudes, Eric 2 & Eric 3.