Linear Symmetry is an Omaha, Nebraska-based band. They are playing CrossroadsKC on October 31st. Vocalist and violinist Huma Haq, drummer Andy Alback and keyboardist Chris Story recently discussed the beginnings of Linear Symmetry, their love of playing live shows and advice to aspiring musicians. Please excuse the tardiness, but answers from all three members are coming! Here are answers from Huma:
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
Huma: Not really! They liked music but not making it for performing. My parents would’ve preferred a more academic path for me.
Andy: No. I am the first!
Chris: Yes. My father played in bands his whole life. I grew up playing in his cover rock band. My mom was always a pretty good singer, too.
What was your earliest musical memory?
Huma: I remember coming into my older brother’s room daily when I was around 6 years old. I’d sing for him and he’d kind of give me pointers. He was the only one in my family who encouraged the music.
Andy: Haha, honestly I think it was when I was at a Huey Lewis and the News concert with my parents. There was a guy sitting behind us, and was heavily intoxicated and fell forward onto me. He needed a new drug, one that wouldn’t make him pass out.
Chris: My dad playing the piano in my living room. I remember that being the first thing I was drawn to. I was able to kind of play the piano myself, and make sounds with it being there.
How did Linear Symmetry first come together?
Huma: This is more of a question for Chris and Andy since I actually just joined a year or so ago after being acquainted with them and their music! I know they have been friends forever after having played in a separate band before this for quite some time.
Andy: Chris and I were playing in a JamBand together, and we were looking to start another project. Are intentions were to keep a small and simple setup, and our main goal was to make people dance. We added Huma to the mix after about 2 years of being a duo. We were stoked about the addition, she continues to impress us on many levels.
Chris: Andy’s and my old band was sort of coming to an end, and we needed something new. We were definitely leaning toward the electronic scene, and decided to get a computer and started writing. A year later we found the missing piece of the puzzle in Huma.
Who are some of your favorite producers and why?
Huma: I hope this fits in that category, but everyone who knows me knows I love Beyoncé. She’s an amazingly talented and trained vocalist and dancer, and has a clear understanding of performance art (“putting on a show”–be it through the vocals, choreography or overall self-presentation) and business. I highly admire her and her grace, poise and personality onstage!
Andy: When I was young I was always a fan of a lot of the staple Hip Hop/Rap producers. Later on a became a big fan of STS9. They were how I fell in love with electronic music, as well as playing music. Right now I’m into The Polish Ambassador, Thievery Corporation, Big Gigantic, and other artists that incorporate a live aspect of performance, whether it be with instruments or vocals. Electronic music has a lot of the same beats as those early hip hop artists I liked, and I think is why I was drawn to the electronic/produced sound.
Chris: Big Gigantic and Daft Punk. We’re definitely all fans of STS9, too. They’re all respectively creative in the originality of their music and produce really good sounds with a composition-like feel to the songwriting.
How do you approach producing tracks?
Huma: Good question for Chris since he handles most of the production! My part of the writing process, however comes after the pseudo “base” track is written by him. We exchange ideas for where to place vocal or violin solos and go from there.
Andy: lol, I leave that to a real musician! I do try to put in some input or ideas when I can. Although Linear was a vision I dreamt up and talked Chris into doing, It is definitely Chris’ brainchild. He really has a good ear, and I couldn’t ask for a better musician to be writing the music I play.
Chris: I usually come up with a handful of ideas in my head before I start writing, like drum beats and rhythm patterns. From there, I put them in the computer and start mixing and matching sounds using those patterns and beats. It’s kind of something where I like to not know what I’m gonna come up with. So, I have a plan, but it never ends up turning out that way and instead becomes something completely on its own.
How did “Light in the Night” come together?
Huma: We had some inspiration from a few videos we had seen and thought it would be cool to film a video with a kind of dark, relaxed feel. It’s a pretty accessible song for those who like almost any genre, so we thought it’d work!
Andy: That’s a good question for Chris!
Chris: Ha! We had a songwriter friend, Chad Mustard, come into town to give us a little inspiration for the song itself. He and Huma wrote some lyrics, and we ended up choosing it for our first music video.
You are playing CrossroadsKC October 31st. How do you approach your live shows differently than your studio work?
Huma: Live shows are something I am more familiar with, having loved being on the stage since childhood. I always have a pre-set outfit/makeup, and a routine to get myself prepared physically, vocally and mentally. I LOVE live shows! Studio work is a little more relaxed since I don’t need to look presentable necessarily, but I focus just as hard (if not harder) on relaxing and honing my sound.
Andy: Our live show is much different. I think we incorporate a lot of other elements into our live show, and are able to create a bigger sound, and overall show. We used to also do a lot of projection visuals, or use lighting to enhance the experience of our live performances.
Chris: Live shows are a little bit more “in your face”. It’s hard to compete with the energy of a live band and instruments compared to just hearing our songs through the Internet.
Do you have a quote or motto that you live by?
Huma: Wow! There are quite a few that I’ll shuffle through day-by-day. I’m re-reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and right now I’m remembering the first agreement: “Be impeccable with your word.”
Andy: Be Good. And, Go Big Red.
Chris: No, I don’t have a quote that I live by. I like to stay open to new ideas so I try not to get settled into one thing to do in reference to my life.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Huma: The same advice older musicians/creators have given to me: Don’t!! Listen!! To anyone!! Who says!! You can’t!! Do it!!! Just listen to yourself, and those who have achieved what you want to achieve. If you like to read, read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It holds wonderful advice for artists of all kinds. Just keep going. You never know when you could be just three feet away from your goal!
Andy: Play every single day, as much as you can. I used to write down the hours I spent practicing. Doing so actually made me want to practice more, I feel. I kind of got a late start in music, and had a lot of catching up to do. I’m still working to get better. One thing that I always tell people is that its never too late to learn an instrument. I would also advise people to learn drums, no matter what instrument they play. Lastly, I would probably add something about learning the computer side of music, whether that be producing or recording. Staying current is important, and as the technology of music changes, its good to be up to date.
Chris: There are two sides to music: There’s writing and performing music, and then there’s the whole business side that everybody hates. If you want to get your name out there, you have to learn how to promote yourself. It’s kind of egotistical but if you don’t believe in your work, nobody else will.