Chris Lane – Station – Interview

For the first time since before the pandemic, Station will venture onto the stage at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC, on October 22nd, to celebrate the release of their new album Perspective, released on 10/8/21. Station has been on the music scene for almost a decade, beginning with their debut single, “Everything,” in 2012. In 2013, the band released their EP, Wired, followed in 2015 by their first full-length LP, Station. In the 6 years since, Station released More Than the Moon (2018), Stained Glass (2019) and most recently Perspective. The band is comprised of Patrick Kearney (lead vocals), Chris Lane (guitar/keyboards/backing vocals), Emi Asta (bass/backing vocals) and Tony Baptist (drums). The band has been described “Guitar World” as one of the 15 current bands who are “the New Wave of Classic Rock.” What the band members have expressed is they don’t see themselves as sticking to only one style of music or fitting into a box. Their music has evolved over the years and will continue to be diverse and Perspective, is focused on this theme of how one’s perspective changes over time…. altering how things are viewed and experienced.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Chris Lane, founding member of the band. What a pleasure it was to speak with such an insightful, creative, and communicative individual, who shared his thoughts and perspectives on the band and their music.

Interview and Photographs by Rebecca Wolf.

Rebecca Wolf: I’m going to be there photographing the show on Friday.  

Chris Lane: Thank you. Bring earplugs, especially our style of music. If you forget them, I always have them. If you turned me upside down and shook me, guitar picks and earplugs would come falling out of my pockets!

RW: So, you must be excited that the new album came out. What feedback have you gotten?

CL:  I’m very excited. We found out today that we hit the charts. We hit two charts, so that’s great. We ended up on the hard rock charts at I think # 70 and on the new artist charts at # 125.

RW:  That’s great!  

CL: Yeah, I love this album. I’m very proud of it. The reception to the album has been great, so I’m very happy to hear that. The only thing that kind of sucks is that other than this Friday we’re not going to have a chance in the near future to do a proper tour and to play these songs live, with volume. That’s unfortunate. But, the response has been great so far. So, I’m very happy.

RW: Other than this Friday you don’t have any other tour dates set up?

CL: We have possibly two more shows in November and then after that nothing else. Things have been getting cancelled and we decided to be a little bit safer. I would expect that probably by the end of the year we’ll announce a full tour, sometime in the spring.

RW: Did you record most of the album prior to the lockdown or were you recording during the lockdown?

CL: We recorded all the basics, like the drum tracks and everything, in June 2019 and we did that at the same time as our other album, Stained Glass. We started working on it for real in January 2020 and, you know, March happened and we were probably about 50% done with it, maybe a little more. So, we finished it throughout the quarantine. The logistical challenge of trying to finish the record was interesting but it got done. We had to adapt our styles and, in some way the silver lining, it informed us a little bit more about what was important to us.

RW: Did you learn new recording techniques, or anything new musically, that you wouldn’t have learned had you not been stuck in the house or separated from each other?

CL: Well, we are students of music so we’re always learning new techniques. We’re always seeking out new everything. But, the thing we really learned was more about ourselves, just in the sense of what our tastes led us to, because we had way more time to record. So, if you look backwards now and you say, “Well, you were given the gift of time. What would you spend it on?” it just shows where our preferences kind of led us to. It just highlights how we feel about things, so the next record it’s a little easier because we’re like, “Well, we really like these things. Let’s focus on that,” from a time commitment standpoint.

RW: Right, I really liked the theme of Perspective, about everything being the perspective you take. Was it a personal theme for you, just coming from how you were feeling? Or, were you trying to talk to people in general, to relay that everyone needs to have a better perspective on life?

CL: I think it’s born from a personal standpoint but it speaks to a larger conversation.  Perspective is needed to understand yourself. The theme of the album being a change in perspective is not so much a change in opinion or a change in understanding. It’s more of a change in where you are in life and how that dictates the way your surroundings look. It’s fall now in the northeast, and I compare it to “these are the same leaves I saw in the summer but they look different now because it’s a different point in their life cycle. Still the same leaves, though.” It’s important to understand that leaves don’t look like what they did in the summer. They look different at different times. So, in the writing of Perspective it was a little bit more of taking stock in yourself, like, “How am I thinking about the same things I thought about 5, 10, 20 years ago? And, how do I feel about that?” That’s where a lot of the songs came from. Just kind of taking that moment, to be in the moment and self-reflect and understand oneself.

RW:  So, when you write an album, do you come up with a theme for the album and then write the songs, or do you write the songs and then see how they connect to each other?

CL: That’s a good question because it seems the albums naturally come out of us with a theme, which is I guess good and bad because it’s going to make us telling a story, which is a specific storyline very difficult. But, it’s also good because it’s very honest. It’s literally just pouring out of us. Usually songs are represented from a time period of writing. I wrote this over the course of a year, so it seems that was what was on the mind, on the soul on the heart at the time of writing. The next record might be solely about licorice [chuckle]. It’s one of those things where it seems to organically happen. The real performance aspect of it comes from interpreting those songs in a way that fits into a package. Like they are chapters in a novel and even though each chapter might have their own flavor, they’re all building on the larger novel. As a band we really respect and work well together because we come in with that vision of how do we shape the message.

RW: So, when you’re writing do you write collaboratively, do you sit there and write together, or do you write something on your own and bring it to the band?

CL:  I write most of the music on my own and bring it to the band.  My preference is to bring it to the band as raw as I can. We play with each other for a reason. No one is just a hired person to just do a job and leave.  We respect each other’s opinions and musicianship. The last thing I want to do is say to our drummer, “It does this.” My joke is always, [drummer asks] “What’s the part?” [I say] “Play drums.”  I like to do that, unless there’s something that’s so specific that I had this idea. That’s one of the things I love. We are extremely collaborative when it comes to talking about each other’s parts. When we record, if I’m recording a guitar solo and Pat and Emi and Tony are there they have every right to be like, “I like that. I don’t like that. What do you think of that?” I can comment on Tony’s symbols or Pat’s whatever. We view it as the sum of our parts. My guitar solo is just as affected by Emi as his bass playing.

RW: Ok, so when you’re writing do you write the music first? The lyrics first? What comes to you usually?

CL: Usually, the music comes first and usually I tend to not write by sitting down. I very rarely pick up a guitar, write a song and put the guitar down. I also don’t fiddle around and then hear something and say, “I like…” I would prefer to do that because it would make things a lot easier. I tend to come with a fully formed song in my head when I pick up the instrument, because I’ve been marinating on it and it seems to flesh itself out before I get to the instrument. I would prefer it if were the other way only because it means I commit to it very quickly because it’s literally just in my head constantly. Once I finally get it out it’s the first time I hear it and it’s a fully formed idea, and  I’m like, “Well, that’s the idea then I guess.” What would actually would be great is if I could like just noodle around, get a piece of an idea, think about it, improve it, and come back to it think about it. Instead, I just seem to get hooked on an idea and I’m like, “That’s the idea,” and then I have a very hard time reversing it in my head.

RW: Then do the lyrics come that way too or do you marinate more on the lyrics?

CL: A lot of times I find that I sing made up words that are supposed to mean something. Then I fit the lyrics into it to mean what I want to talk about. I find a lot of times I’ll have these words that I just like the sound of, as placeholders, and I’ll pretty much write the exact same lyrics for every song, every single time. Then I’ll replace them with what I’m trying to say, that’s more appropriate to the message of the song.

RW: I really liked that this album, Perspective, had this message. Do you feel the other albums had as strong of a message and a theme as this one?

CL: Our first album not so much, only because our first album is literally the product of all the songs we played on stage. Let’s record them. We’ve grown with each release. That first record is 15 songs because that’s literally what would fit on the CD. We would’ve recorded 20 songs if we could have. We did that because we didn’t know if there was going to be a second CD and financially, making records on your own is expensive. It takes a lot of faith to be able to front that much money in a band when you know you’re getting paid $200 a night to play for a couple of hours. Once we got to the second album we had a real business. We were able to make the record and know what we were going to do and we could kind of breathe a little, which was nice.

The theme of More Than the Moon is about time. It’s about not wasting time, understanding that time is short, precious, and that time is now. The next one, the reason it’s called Stained Glass is because it’s a mosaic of songs written from a while ago and then, as I say, “past us writing a song and future us interpreting it.” That’s why I think Stained Glass made a lot of sense going into Perspective because it’s the first hint that a lot of things were changing in our mentalities. It’s very different to record music in a different mindset each time. I mean, if some horrible tragedy came over the band before recording a record it would influence it, and if some great thing happened before it would influence it. Like the pandemic, it was a horrible thing and I don’t know if it necessarily influenced it but it definitely bolstered our sense of resolve to make sure that we do what we want on this record.

RW: Who were your influences when you were starting music? 

CL: My biggest influence from a songwriting perspective comes from the music that my parents exposed me to. I’m a huge Beatles fan… classic rock, kind of like that. As grew up I got a lot more into Led Zeppelin. Then when I was in high school I started to find bands that came out in the 80s that I had no idea existed through the miracle of either the internet or VH1 Classic. My taste was constantly evolving. My number one influence on the guitar is definitely Dave Gilmore from Pink Floyd. My number one songwriting influence is definitely Paul McCartney because everything Paul McCartney touches to me is like gold. Our music doesn’t really sound like that at all, though. I find that our taste in production and sound comes from these late 70s, 80s, early 90s. Whereas our taste in melody and song structure, comes a little bit more from that late 60s-70s vibe. 

RW: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet any of your heroes?

CL: Oh yeah, we’ve gotten to play with a ton of people. Pat Benatar, and….there are these moments where sometimes you’re like, “Why would you react that way?” So, Pat and I were playing an acoustic show at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut and we were opening up for Grand Funk Railroad. So, Bruce Kulick, who’s not the original guitar player for Grand Funk Railroad, but was their guitar player for the night. [He] is one of the guitar players throughout Kiss’s career, and I am a die-hard, huge Kiss fan and I wasn’t expecting him to be there. We’re playing; I’m a professional; I’m focused. I look to the side and he’s there and he just went like this [gives a thumbs up sign] and on stage, on the mic I just went, “Aahh,” like that. Then I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m on stage. Hello people.”  So, things like that happen.  

Y&T is a good band, definitely had their heyday in the 80s. The lead singer, he’s also the lead guitar player, and is an amazing guitar player and a great singer. It’s not a competition but he’s kind of intimidating in the sense that he’s that good. They’re not a band that the casual listener will automatically refer to. I think they’re one of the best bands out there. If I’m not mistaken, Lars Ulrich saw them and went home and formed Metallica. It also turns out that Dave Meniketti happens to be a really nice guy. Normally when we open for these bands they’re doing their own thing; they’re doing interviews; they’re at the hotel; they’re getting ready.  So, we’re sound checking and I said to Pat, because I’d seen him sound checking… “You’re going to have to handle this one in terms of the gusto because I’m a little intimidated by our friend over there.” He’s like, “Haha, ok, fine.” We’re playing our set, it’s the second to last song and it turns out that he came out in the crowd to watch us. Normally I wouldn’t be phased by that and maybe it would make my spirit be like, “Oh, let me show him what I can do.” Instead, I absolutely froze. I was just like, “He’s watching me!” I think we’re locking eyes, where I’m just not doing anything, just looking at him. And he’s the nicest person; they’re just they’re the nicest people. You just never really understand how you’re going to react until it actually happens.

RW: So, how old were you when you started playing guitar?

CL: Late, like 16, 16 ½. I’m self-taught so I basically just picked up the guitar. The guitar bug didn’t bite me until then. The only reason it did was because I started out playing saxophone and very quickly realized how much I like to be singled out on the saxophone.  In jazz band I’d play the solos, so when I got to high school I was like, “Well, I need to do thisnin the rock and roll context.” And, I could play keyboard. So, I formed a band where I played the keyboard and the saxophone. As time went on, I realized the keyboard and saxophone player did not get the moment to shine like the guitar player. My best friend Dave, who’s the guitar player, showed me a chord. Then my parents, who are super supportive, went out and bought me an acoustic and an electric guitar to learn on. I retreated into the basement and put on a bunch of Journey and Pink Floyd songs and I wrote, and came out of the basement figuring out my own little thing to do on the guitar. That was pretty much how I learned and why I have the taste I do in guitar playing. I’m the worst guitar player ever, technically. My hands are a mess but I can do my thing, so it works and I like it.

RW: So, did you learn by ear do you read music?

CL: I can read music. I prefer to learn by ear because I have pretty good pitch, so I can listen to something and absorb it way faster. After I graduated college I did a lot of work on off-Broadway circuits and different types of shows where I had to read music. So, I can read music, no problem. It’s just you find in rock and roll it’s a little bit easier to just be like, “What are they doing? Oh, okay.”

RW: Do you prefer to perform in a small, intimate place or a large venue?

CL: We’ve yet to play in the arena size place but theaters are a real pleasure to play because there’s a lot of energy in a larger room like that. Especially the fun, happy style of music we play, getting the energy back is needed. One of the reasons I love Arlene’s, where we’re gonna play on Friday, so much is it’s our home, so I love that. On the road especially we played some venues where you’re backed into a corner and you’re like, “This is not a good idea.” Then you play some other places that are really great setups, that are not big, not small, they just happen to work for the room and it leads to a really great show because you have a good time doing it.

RW: Is NY like home base for you because people know you’re from NY? Have you found that because you’re from the NY area the NY crowd has a connection to you more so than other parts of the country?

CL: We’re from the area so that is the connection but I don’t think the NY crowd is really any different than when we go to other places. I think it’s just about the connections we’ve made with people who like our music and will come to support us. One of the hardest parts about the band is that our style of music is not really the preferred style of music in NY. I don’t know if it’s the preferred music anywhere, so it’s one of those things where it’s like we were never really able to jump on a scene. We’ve been very supported though.

RW: I’ve been very happy to find new rock bands, whether it’s hard rock, southern rock, just any kind of rock. I’ve been very glad to find that there are still bands doing rock as opposed to whatever stuff is out there now. As a fan of classic rock, I’ve felt for a while that there’s no new rock out there and it’s nice when I come upon bands that are still making rock, so that’s been a pleasure.

CL: What’s funny…I feel like it’s kind of weird, because granted this is my world, so I live in it all the time, during the height of rock, during low period of rocks, it’s always a lot of bands. The difference is that it’s about the honesty that’s coming out of the rock scene. One of the things I love about the Beatles is that the music is just very like, “This sounds good and has a message and I’m writing.” I wasn’t there but I don’t get the sense that there’s this preconceived notion of what the Beatles should sound like at any given time. It was like, “This is a good song, let’s make this song.”  I think, throughout different periods of history, you’ve gotten a lot of groups who jump on the, “Well, we have to be this, right? We have to do drugs. It has to be about sex. If this song isn’t about farm animals it’s not getting on the radio.” You get that kind of conversation. I think right now there are a good number of bands out there that do believe they have to be something and I think that’s very unfortunate because I think that’s what a lot of marketing machines will drive them to, you know what I mean? One of the things that we’ve always had a very hard time doing is we’ve had a hard time describing ourselves to people in the sense of, “Well, what is your band about?” “I don’t know…. music and life and things.” And how do you say that to somebody? It’s so much easier to be like, “Well, what are you about?” “Partying!” “Oh, okay cool.”  I get it. That’s a lot easier. It’s a much better sales pitch than trying to be like, “Well, my music is introspective. It’s about different perspectives.” Then all of a sudden you know the person’s like, “Well, can you just give me one word?” and you’re like, “No!” I can’t do that for all the bands I love and I will never let Station be that either. It’s one of those things where it’s about the honesty and how real do you want to be in your music? If you do want to go the one-word route it’s pretty easy to do and it’s going to get pretty stale pretty quick. I think that’s what’s happening a lot of times with some current bands out there.

RW:  Yeah, I don’t know many bands in the same lane as Station.

CL:  See what you did there?

RW: Yes…I guess I did. I guess because I was reading about some other bands that were being mentioned along with Station. Honey…. something?

CL: I think you are thinking of Guitar World that came out with a list of the current, new wave of classic rock bands. One of those bands is a band called Dirty Honey. They’re a great example because if you listen to their music, I think anyway, it’s not really about any one thing. It sounds like these guys make music that’s in their head, that’s important to them, that they want to make and that’s the only way to be. So, I don’t know them but I don’t think they got up and they were like, “Okay, we’re gonna do that.”

RW: I don’t think it should be either. I’m trying to think of bands that I know, that are newer bands, that are considered some type of rock band, that would be described as one word. If anybody’s looking for one word, then you’re missing the whole point.

CL: I totally agree with you, that you’re missing the point. I think that a lot of the cultural leanings that seep into music sometimes, sometimes dictate the path of the band and I think that’s an easier thing to market but a harder thing to have longevity with.

RW:  I agree with you that I would definitely walk away from anyone trying to use one word to describe your band because one word really can’t describe much of anything.

 CL: I totally agree. If not nuance, why life?

One of the really interesting things I find about rock audiences who like classic rock and come out to see us as the experiment, is that I think a lot of people don’t realize….when you first heard it, “Who were you when you first heard it and how did that song implant itself onto you and how did it shape something?” So, I think what sometimes people lose perspective of when they see a new band, they’re not coming to the stage with, you heard us at a time in your life that was formative and encountered that music at a time when there was some meaning put on it beyond just the song itself. So, what happens is that you get people who hear new rock music sometimes and they say, “Well it’s not the same as the old music. It’s not the stuff I grew up with. It’s not the stuff like the classic stuff.”  And, classic not in the sense of classic rock, just classic in the sense of older. I think people forget life is a journey and someone who’s 50 years old might never hear a Station song at the time they’re graduating high school but maybe they’ll hear it at a time when they’re doing something else. That’s kind of where the nostalgia of rock and roll kind of gets confused because you get to this point where you’re wanting to say, “Well, they’re an 80s band.”  Sound-wise we could talk about the tenants of 80s music and how much reverb is appropriate on a snare drum. At the same time, are you actually saying to me that it reminds you of a time period in your life that you’re actually trying to describe back to me, and you know that’s a perspective. It’s one of those things where, it’s a lot deeper than a lot of people really want to go and you realize that it affects things like your business, how people react in live crowds… I’m just very fortunate and happy that we haven’t had to break down a barrier. When people come and experience the band they usually leave liking the band and I’m very proud to be part of something like that.

 RW: I think you’re completely correct because music is all connected, at least to me, to memories… to where it brings you.  So, I think you can’t compare.  You can’t say, “I came to hear a new band but it’s not giving me THAT feeling.” THAT feeling is connected to something different, so you have to come in and make a new memory or a new connection and find that bond and connection to the new music.

CL: Yeah, it’s a really quick way to also ruin music for casual listening because….my wedding song, “No More Lonely Nights,” it checks every single box for me. But now, if I’m driving and it comes on I will absolutely not hear that song without thinking of my wife, our wedding….same as it was the day before we got married when the song just represented a song I liked. It now has an invisible meaning to it. So, it’s not bad; it’s not good; it just is. But, you gotta come to terms with that.  You gotta realize that you’ve made that decision to ascribe a meaning to this.

RW: Right, I know for me, if I’m obsessed with a song, it’s because it takes me back to that place in time and I can be in that moment. It’s actually not so much anymore about that song, it’s about where it brings me to.

CL: Right, and that’s the philosophy of music that I always look for. I’ll write a song that’ll be about something but if the song doesn’t have enough room for you to listen to it and put yourself into it what’s the point? A song should be kind of a mirror that you take, you internalize it, and it now means something to you. I mean how many song meanings are completely twisted by people to mean something that it’s not actually supposed to mean but it means something to them now.

RW: Well, I think that’s actually what music is mostly about… perspective and what it means to you.

CL: I totally agree.