Since the release of their debut EP, alternative dup Ships Have Sailed
– comprised of Will Carpenter and Art Andranikyan – have been garnering a lot of attention for their intricate compositions and fun performance style. Their most recent song – titled “UP” – is more of a call to arms than anything else, a thought leftover from 2016, that certainly carries into this year (and this new political regime).
We got to catch up with the duo briefly, who regaled us with inspired stories, “UP”, and their bright future.
What was the first album/song you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
Will: I’m not sure about ‘first’, but an album that majorly changed my musical journey was ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana. Prior to that I was playing classical instruments…but hearing the creativity that went into that record (creating genius from simplicity) inspired me to pick up the guitar and bass and start playing and writing rock music. ‘Nevermind’ was introduced to me actually through a mix-tape…my older sister had a friend who made her this amazing mix, which had the song Lithium on there, and after hearing it I had to go find the album. I actually was introduced to a huge number of artists from that one mix tape – it completely opened my world up: The Police, The Cure, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers…it really was an amazing mix. Kinda changed my life!
When did you decide music was your calling? Was there more of an “aha” moment?
Will: I think my mom would say SHE knew about 18 months into my life – she had left me playing with some toys with a Vivaldi concerto playing in the background and when she came back into the room a couple minutes later I was humming along flawlessly…or so the story goes. 😉 As for me, I’ve just always loved the way music makes me feel, both listening and creating, and I just can’t imagine doing anything else. There never was really an ‘aha’, it’s just…this is who I am, and this is what I do!
What’s the Ships Have Sailed inception story? Be honest, was it a meet cute?
Will: Ships Have Sailed really just started as a collection of songs that didn’t have a home. I was playing in an alt-rock / hip-hop band at the time, and simultaneously going through some life transitions, so these contemplative songs kept coming out of me, but they definitely weren’t a fit for my current (at that time) project. At the same time, I felt a deep connection with these songs and so I didn’t want to pitch them to anyone else, I really just wanted to create them myself, so that’s what I did, and that’s where our ‘Someday’ EP came from. Not the most interesting inception story, I know, …if I was trying, I could probably create a much better one…so nope, not a meet cute! 🙂
Lyrically, “UP” is very much a revelatory song. Was there something specific that inspired you to write something so emotional?
Will: Yeah, it’s interesting…’Up’ is an uplifting message, but there is a lot of emotional content in there as well. Look, 2016 I think was a little bit of a tough year for a lot of people and, while we had a ton of great things happening last year, there was a lot of struggle happening within our worlds as well. Everything from family and personal illnesses, to unexpected hurdles out on tour, to losing Dan (as a band member, and thankfully not as a friend) left me feeling a very odd combination of emotions. It all kinda hit me as I was driving Art and I to the Seattle airport to fly back to LA the morning after our Vancouver show, which was the first show we played as a duo without Dan…it was simultaneously sad and happy; satisfied, but still hungry; excited, but exhausted, just opposites upon opposites washing through me as Art was kinda drifting in and out of sleep in the passenger seat, and then ‘Up’ just kinda popped into my head and wrote itself. Like I said, I think 2016 will go down in a lot of folks books as a transitional and challenging year, and for me, ‘Up’ was the perfect release for all those emotions.
The song itself is super inspirational. In that regard, what’s been the biggest bit of advice you’ve received regarding your art?
Will: I think the most important piece of advice for any artist, or really any person for that matter, is about perseverance. When you truly believe in something, whether it be something you’re creating, or feeling, or doing, don’t let anyone change your course. Don’t give up, and never stop fighting for what you love.
You’ve been traveling like crazy over the last several months, and doing some big things with your live show. What has been your favorite performance so far?
Will: There are a couple notable ones in 2016. The Bowery Electric in New York City, which is an awesome venue to start with, and then couple that with a really amazing lineup and just a room full of great people and really great energy all night! For a different reason, we really loved playing The Radio Bean in Burlington, VT, partially because it’s my home state, and that’s always cool, but also because it was one of the most intimate shows we’ve ever played…a stripped down set, and you could hear a pin drop…it was amazing! It felt like we were playing in our living room! …and 2017 has started off with a bang too – the very first week of January, we were fortunate to open for The Big Pink at Springboard Festival West in San Diego, and we’ve got a couple more cool things in the works as well, so stay tuned! 🙂
What do you find you draw the most inspiration from?
Will: Honestly I love imagining other people’s worlds. Like, we each exist in our own version of reality, and that concept is just fascinating to me. I really try to imagine how people feel within their own version of the universe – their hopes and dreams and struggles. It’s an amazing exercise really, especially if you’re struggling with something yourself…imagining other people’s hurdles can make your own seem much smaller.
Who is your favorite super hero, and why?
Will: That’s kind of a tough question…I guess I would have to say Spiderman, mostly because I love the fact that Peter Parker is a complete nerd (much like myself…) and yet stumbles upon a way to transcend that stigma and make the world a better place. Superheroes give us all something to aspire to!
All time favorite song. GO!
Will: Now that is an impossible question! Can anyone really pick just one? I usually have a favorite for about a week at a time…right now I’m on a kick of ‘Colors’ by Halsey – it’s such a sad song, but with such an upbeat vibe, I’m seduced by the paradox of it! …and then next week or tomorrow it’ll be something different!
What does 2017 look like for you?
Will: It’s looking like it’s going to be another busy year, that’s for sure! We started it off with a music conference and festival in San Diego, and there are definitely some more of those on the horizon this year. I would really like to spend some more time in the studio this year…I can feel ideas waiting to be born, so I think that will be the primary focus for Ships this year.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Will: Just that this has been a really fun series of questions! Thank you for taking the time to interview us and to everyone reading, thanks for taking time out of your day to get to know us better!