02/19/2013 03:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A-Sides with Jon Chattman: Justin Tranter Discusses Semi Precious Weapons' New Path, While El Sportivo Takes Us "Lowe"


Photo/ Blake Wood

Having toured the world with pop goddess Lady Gaga for over a year (following their debut "You Love You,") it would have been so easy for Semi Precious Weapons to just sell out for their next album. With a fan base rich in "Little Monsters" as well as their own disciples, it just seemed logical that the band would try to make a commercial pop record. But, it didn't play out that way. Like Gaga herself, Justin Tranter, Cole Whittle, Dan Crean, and Stevy Pyne are in it for the art and are making music that's true to themselves first and foremost. Having said that, the song doesn't remain the same. Whereas "You Love You" was a glamified (I'm making that a word) rock record in the tradition of AC/DC, their new single "Aviation High," which you can listen to here, and the new album it'll appear on (released later this year) have a more AFI feel. Along with the new sound comes a new style for the band - so say goodbye to frontman Tranter's high-heeled platforms (at least I think) and say hello to glamified (take note Conky) suits and ties. I caught up with Tranter this weekend, and asked him about SPW's growth since their previous record and tour. As I discovered, Los Angeles clearly worked wonders for their evolution. "The basic way of life out here is so breezy that I found myself writing more about love, its dramas and my awesome friends, instead of the glamorous tales NYC survival," he explained. "There are [also] so many different people in LA making music all day to be inspired by. When you find yourself watching Tricky Stewart make beats at 5 a.m. your perspective changes." Read on...

Right off the bat, you guys have a noticeably different look... was that a conscious decision to develop a new one before the new album drops?
We've always been inspired by fashion, and recently I've been really into menswear designers like Juun J. Our style has grown - which is good - because I feel like it matches the new music, and even though I love a good look, music always comes first.

Speaking of which, the new single does mark a different direction for you. After touring the world with Lady Gaga, I have to admit I'm surprised (and thankful) you guys didn't try to make more of a pop record. Can you explain?
I'm glad you're feeling it! Our goal was to just write the best songs we could, and have the sound be whatever it needed to be to serve each song. We, for sure, made a conscious choice to do something new, but the details just happened naturally.

What was the songwriting process like this time out versus last time?
Last time, the four of us would get into a room a day before a show in NYC, turn up real loud for three hours and see what happened... which I wouldn't trade for anything, even diamonds. However, this time we were in our home studio in Los Angeles almost everyday and wrote enough for four albums which lead us to where we are now with "Aviation High."

Let's go back to the whole Gaga thing for a minute. You and the band saw the world for over a year opening for her. Can you even put that experience into words?
We got to play about 200 shows in arenas and stadiums opening for a massive artist who also happens to be a really great girl with really great fans. I mean, we got to go to f--king Japan, you can't ask for anything better.

Still, you were embraced by her "Little Monsters" do you think they'll dig the new record? And double negatives be damned, there is nothing not to like about Japan.
We hope so! We are real proud of it, and we'd would love it if such passionate fans embraced it.

Spill the deets (that's details, people but I shortened it to come off as hip), what's the name of the record going to be, and when will it be released?
We aren't fully sure of all the details yet, but I can tell you there is going to be a lot of new SPW music coming out in the next six months. Right now, we are just thrilled to have one new song out.

Have you started planning for a summer tour? If so, would it be headlining or opening up for another member of music royalty?
We have started planning some things. We actually can't wait to get back out on the road. We are always up for a royalty situation and headlining...but nothing is official yet.

Like SPW, El Sportivo is making some sweet new music. (You were expecting a better segue?) Daron Hollowell (as his friends and family call him - unless he has them call him El Sportivo, which would be pretty badass) just released a debut full-length LP Nights and Weekendswith his band The Blooz, and it's a doozy in a very good sense (as opposed to a Groundhog Day Stephen Tobolowsky sort of way). Hollowell runs his own multi-media agency by day, but has been making music for years. I reckon he's a musical force to be reckoned with, and I'm not just saying that because he performed for me at an A-Sides Music session filmed at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains earlier this month. Watch the video above, and listen to his poignant take on the band's "Oh Lowe." Now.

Bonus Jonas
The final piece to this A-Sides puzzle is Wild Adriatic, who just dropped a video for their cover of Bruno Mars' mega-hit "Locked Out of Heaven." Watch it here, and keep an eye on this Upstate, NY band. I hear this guy likes them and he has good taste.

About A-Sides with Jon Chattman:
Jon Chattman's "A-Sides Music" series features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I'm hoping this is refreshing.