PUBLIC interview: on touring with jesse mccartney, favorites, and 2018 goals
by anissa dimilta
PUBLIC is a three-member pop-rock band hailing from cincinnati, ohio. their members include john vaughn (lead vocals/guitar), ben lapps (drums), and matt alvarado (bass/synth/vocals). with new singles on the way and two EP’s (sweet lemonade/2017 and let’s remake it/2015)already released, PUBLIC is one of the freshest bands joining the music industry. they toured with walk the moon in 2014 and are currently supporting jesse mccartney on his U.S. better with you tour. anissa got the chance to sit down with them and they talked about touring with jesse, stars wars, and everything in between! after reading this interview and giving them a listen they will undoubtedly become one of your favorite bands!
what’s it like touring with jesse mccartney? i don’t know if you guys grew up with him, i grew up with him
matt: i mean he’s a childhood popstar!
ben: yeah, he was right there when we were growing up.
john: i mean i knew his hits, ya know! i knew who he was for sure. touring with him has been really good. the crew has been super super nice. he’s been very inviting.
ben: his fans are extremely energetic.
john: they’re loud!
ben: they’re ready to rock!*
matt: i think there’s a lot to take away from his set too just because he’s from a different atmosphere than a rock band. there’s a lot to learn from the set!
john: yeah, very tight. it’s cool.
i know you guys toured with walk the moon back in 2014, so are there any noticeable differences between the touring overall or the fans between that tour and this tour.
matt: i think it’s us. i think us is the biggest difference for me.
john: we’ve grown a lot since that tour for sure. i mean, walk the moon and people like walk the moon, that’s more from the band realm and that’s sort of the world we’ve lived in since we started. we’re sort of transitioning into more of the pop thing, hence the jesse tour. i can’t really describe it i guess, but there is just a different atmosphere about it; pop versus indie-rock bands. it’s cool, i like it!
how would you describe your sound to new listeners?
matt: i like saying rock-pop. i think we’re transitioning into more of a pop realm, but i still like that especially live we can perform in full band atmosphere. so, i put rock in front of it just cause we’ve got that really heavy vibe.
john: yeah, we like to get kind of heavy live for sure. there’s a groove -
ben: there’s definitely funk!
john: - that kind of sneaks in there. i think it’s coming out more in our songwriting, but there’s a funk thing going on there too.
i get a lot of pop from ‘i <3 you’ (i love you)!
all: yeah! sure!
matt; we had a thirty-minute set this time around, but forty-five minutes and it’s going back in.
your stage presence, is that something you’ve always had as a person or are you shy off stage and then when you go on stage it’s like a totally different person?
john: i’ve been told - and i think - that i am much more introverted off stage. they’d probably say the same thing.
matt: yeah, i think the thing about us on stage is just the music or anywhere we go the music just brings out that much energy in us. i don’t think we’re relatively extraverted or intraverted, i think that has nothing to do with our vibe on stage which is that music makes us all really happy.
john: we just feed off each other on stage and it’s always been about whatever we’re playing. um, but i feel like with how much we move around and jump around we just have never known any other way. when we played our first show we were jumping around everywhere and everyone was like, “that’s cool,” and we were like, “i guess we’ll keep doing it!”
matt: it’s like a mix of being fun and big idiots, i don’t know!
john: yeah, its just being honest!
having fun, that’s what it’s all about! how did you guys meet?
ben: john and i have been friends since like kindergarten and then around high school time we were in the jazz band and we ran into matt. he was playing the saxophone in the jazz band and during lunch breaks, he would steal the bass players bass and just start playing stuff. we were like, “who is this kid?! we gotta try and jam.”
john: ben and i were doing drum and guitar jams, cause he was picking up drums, in his basement. our dream was to have some sort of band at some point, but we needed to find a singer and find a bass player and matt just sort of appeared out of nowhere. we asked him to come jam one time and we played him a song that we had been working on and he stuck a bassline to it right away. immediately we were like, “heck yeah!”
ben: immediate chemistry!
that’s good! who are some of your inspirations that you grew up listening to or who you listen to on the side does not influence your music?
matt: i think it’s more and more getting to who we listen to on the side isn’t as active in our songwriting and playing. i think a lot of our sound is developed in our roots, like how we started picking up our instruments. so, for me, i could say the chili peppers were a big influence. muse was a huge influence, but you don’t see a lot of that in our playing, just who i am as a bass player.
ben: for me, it is pretty relevant right now. i’m really into earth, wind, and fire and chic and all this really good seventies and eighties groove-based, funk, disco stuff and that’s how i’m drumming right now.
john: i started playing guitar because of led zeppelin, i just wanted to be jimmy page. i liked learning things that were hard and i was not a vocalist, i didn’t want to sing. as soon as we started doing things i really looked up to brandon flowers, adam levine, matt bellamy; just guys that had a specific sound and i think a lot of that comes through. i don’t know, i feel like i’ve kind of developed a weird blend of those… not quite as good as any of them because they're insane, but yeah!
i only know like two out of everybody that you named, but it’s okay!
john: look ‘em up!
what are your top three must haves on a playlist?
ben: what kind of playlist?
everyday, you always have these songs on your playlist.
matt: i can’t start…
john: that’s really hard!
matt: see it’s a hard question because i don’t do playlists, i do CD’s. i go through cycles of CD’s where i listen to one new CD for two to three weeks and burn it out.
ben: we’re an album type.
so top three albums!
matt: you ask hard questions!
ben: can we just do what we’re listening to right now?
yes, that works!
matt: voicenotes is killing it for me.
john: yeah, charlie puth’s new album!
ben: it’s extremely good.
matt: i’m listening to the new 5 seconds of summer album.
thank you! it’s so good!!
matt: i’m trying to get my mind wrapped around it. it’s great! it’s a lot different than their last album, it’s a lot pop-ier. the other one was a little bit punk-pop-rock. that’s what i’m on right now, that’s what i’m digesting.
john: it’s just so hard! charlie puth’s new album has been killin it. joe hisaishi, he’s a composer who did spirited away and a lot of miyazaki films, i always go back to him when i want to unplug with compositional and more orchestral stuff. i really like that camila cabello song, "never be the same," i think that’s a really classic sound.
it’s a lot of all over the place, but it works.
matt: we’re always all over the place.
which song that you’ve released do you think is the best representation of your sound overall?
john: that’s already been released?
yes, i mean it can be one that you haven’t released yet if you want to tease at that.
john: well, if we’re teasing things…
matt: i would say ‘drops’ still; how funky we can get with stuff.
ben: well is that the best representation of the band? the new single that we’re about to release, it has a lot of the groove that we talk about, but it also rocks.
john: i feel like it would be a mistake not to plug that because it’s not released. we have a new single coming out pretty soon that feels like a really good balance of ‘new pop PUBLIC’, but also ‘PUBLIC that rocks’ a little bit and has groove. there’s some awesome percussion on it.
ben: we played it tonight!
john, i know you’re a very talented artist, so what would you be doing if you weren’t in the band? would you be doing that? i’ll ask you two the same as well.
john: aw, thanks! i have two things that i always think about and i hope to do them at some point. i’ve gotten into a little bit of acting, i really really love film. i want to do something with movies at some point. if i wasn’t doing something in the entertainment industry at all i would want to be a part of some sort of foundation that fights for endangered animals. i love big cats, i just love animals. it’s a passion of mine to help them out one day and be able to make some strides there. it’s just a soft spot in my heart… so one of those two!
ben: i would want to be a chef, absolutely. i love to cook and right now i only get to cook for my family every once in a while. it’s a huge joy for me.
what’s your favorite thing to cook?
ben: brussel sprouts. seriously, i have got it down! that’s my thing.
matt: cooking sounds like a lot of fun. i don’t normally cook things.. peanut butter and jelly is what i do, but i mean that would be a great job. i was going to school for engineering before i stopped - doing band stuff - not that i love it completely, but i think i’d be good at it. the other love i had was sports. i did gymnastics for a long time, i actually ended up getting hurt too much. there was really no backup plan, it was just band - which is cool, i like it!
you guys covered britney spears’ "toxic" tonight, what about that song made you want to cover it?
ben: it’s a great song!
matt: it throws people for a loop. i think it’s a fantastic song.
your cover is different…
ben: yeah! first of all, when we listen to that song it’s pretty awesome. also, it just fits! crowds are into it. that’s a song from what ten, fifteen years ago that everyone loves.
matt: i think that song is actually a really good representation of our sound. it’s a pop song, straight up pop, but we turn it into a rock jam.
john: we didn’t realize how different it was until people started telling us. they were like, “oh, you kind of made it this weird muse-rock song,” and we were like okay… it’s super fun to play and we just kind of went with it.
it gets everyone involved even if they don’t know who you are yet.
john: right, they know the song, but then they’re going to get the PUBLIC spin on it.
what are your goals as a band for the rest of 2018?
matt: we’ve got a lot of aspirations.
ben: we’re gonna release new music. that’s huge!
singles, EP’s, album?
john: we’re starting with singles!
matt: i’m not going to get into too much depth, but we’ve built a new team. we’re really excited! this is the first step of many. new single is on the way. new video for the single is on the way. a lot of new content, this is just the peak of the iceberg.
john: i think, slightly more in-depth and less industry, aspirational wise as we grow and grow the audience - this tour itself is going to do a lot of really awesome stuff for our exposure - i hope we keep progressing as a band. a band that has integrity and people connect with and people feel at home with, you know, and they can be themselves. i don’t know, maybe a band that’s fighting for the good stuff. it’s ambiguous, but that’s because we’re trying to figure that out right now.
why do you love giraffes so much?
ben: i do! it’s my favorite animal! i think they’re pretty outrageous in a very beautiful way.
i was told that you guys really really like star wars...
matt: john is the biggest star wars nut.
what was the newest one that came out..? hans right? what did you think of that one?
all of them: solo!
matt: how dare you...
i’m sorry.. i’ve never seen a single one.
john: WELL, i don’t know how much time we have after this… need to get some educating. i’ll tell you what i liked about it. i like that they’re going back to practical effects, so a little bit less CGI with the characters. that is what i liked about it… i’ll tell you my favorite star wars movie. my favorite star wars movie is—
matt: "phantom menace".
john: no, hey i like that, it’s "empire strikes back". it’s phenomenal. it has romance. it has an amazing score by john williams. i know you haven’t seen any of these, but i highly highly recommend watching the original trilogy. it just builds the relationship between luke and darth vader - you just gotta watch, i mean what are you doing?
you make it sound so nice!
john: it is nice! i don’t make it sound like anything. you heard it here first!!!!
matt: no questions for me?!
uh, what’s your favorite movie?
ben: matt is really into ice cream.
matt: i am really into ice cream.
what’s your favorite flavor?
matt: there’s no favorites.
there is definitely a favorite.
matt: no favorites, ice cream is good in any shape/flavor.
what’s your favorite brand?
matt: graeter’s and jeni’s are ohio natives and they’re fantastic. i think if i were to go with a flavor - a normal one - of graeter’s i would go with -
john: no, chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?
what? those are such plain flavors!
john: those are the staples!
matt: you can’t go wrong with vanilla.
ben: we’re saying if those are the options….
no, those aren’t the options: mint chocolate chip, rocky road, or ben & jerry’s chunky monkey.
matt: chocolate chip.
john: chunky monkey? those are so specific.
those are the best ones!
john: what flavor is chunky monkey? monkey flavor?
it has bananas and walnuts and chocolate chips in it.
ben: i’m a cookies and cream kind of guy.
john: i’m a cookies and cream guy too.
matt: i’m not really a nut person. i like coffee a lot, black raspberry chip, mint chocolate chip.
john: i’m gonna ask you a question now! favorite song?
ever? oh, um, "no pomegranates" by hippo campus. it hasn’t been released.
all: oh, wow!
it’s one of those ones that they only play live right now!
john: okay, favorite movie?
i highly recommend catching these guys while they are on tour with jesse mccartney this summer. see if they’re coming to a city near you and purchase tickets using the link below: