Chris Martin and Chris Phillips of IAMDYNAMITE were still kids when they met, fusing their musical talents together in a various assembly of southeastern Michigan bands before finally honing in on the two-man magic their current IAMDYNAMITE collaborations produce. Both accomplished musicians in their own individual right, both studied for years through professional teachings, utilizing classes and school groups to polish their skills. When others veered off in favor of textbook careers after high school graduation, both men chose instead to pursue their love of music, their interest unwavering in accomplishing all that was possible on stage, perfecting their sound until success was achieved.
After hustling to book their own shows from Brooklyn to LA, growing a steady stream of fans across the country, producer Matt Noveskey took notice of the team in 2010, helping the burgeoning rockstars to record their debut album, Supermegafantastic. The album, originally released in 2011 on Brando Records, was remixed and re-released in early 2012 when the band signed with Sony Music.
While last year’s gigs included opening for Blue October, the B52s, and Bush, the duo is now on tour with Sum 41, a multi-month adventure extended from last fall that has taken them through Canada and the U.S., and will take them back to Germany, where they played last spring, in March. “I had a great time at the concert,” said Molly Larsen, a local Portland fan. “I went wanting to see Sum 41 as I hadn’t heard of the opening band, which doesn’t always go well, but I really enjoyed all the music played that night. I think both opening bands played great sets that really got the crowd in the mood for a fun night!”
I sat down with Martin and Phillips while they were in town, to talk about the beginnings of the band and what it’s like being on the road.
On the Road to Stardom
Q: When did you start playing? How old were you?
Chris Phillips: I picked up a pair of drumsticks when I was 10 years old. My mom played piano and my dad played guitar and they needed a drummer. They wanted me to play drums, I liked it, and there you go.
Chris Martin: I think I was about 11 or 12. I don’t remember why I picked it up. I remember a friend had one, and I started liking guitar music, so I just wanted to learn how to play it. Our first gig was at Class Night for the senior class a week before their (pointing to Phillips) graduation in 1998. There were six of us, and we played a lot of Rage Against The Machine songs.
Q: What’s a typical day look like for you?
CM: Drive for a couple of hours, load into a venue around three in the afternoon. It’s not exciting at all. It takes a while to unload, park the van, soundcheck around 5 p.m. We might not play until 8:30, so we’ll get something to eat nearby. Play our show for 30 to 45 minutes. We go out and sign merchandise, take pictures. The main act takes the stage and as soon as they’re done, we head back out to sign stuff. By then, it’s usually 12-12:30 a.m., so we’ll pack up, settle up with the venue, and then drive to our hotel.
CP: Find a dumb movie on TV and fall asleep.
CM: If we have a day off, we’ll find something to watch, like a marathon, and just eat bad food. That’s it. Not terribly exciting.
Q: Any bands/musicians you’ve been super excited to meet or play with so far?
CM: We didn’t play with her, but we met Cyndi Lauper at the Los Angeles show. You know, we started in on a ‘Time After Time’ duet with her as we shook hands. (laugh) She’s the most famous person we’ve met so far. When you’re playing with the bigger bands, your paths don’t often cross. They’re on their bus and everyone is running around. The people you really get to meet are their crew, and that’s always cool. But you don’t usually get to hang with other bands.
CP: I think the most starstruck I’ve been was meeting the B52s. They came to us backstage and said, “That was awesome. You guys rocked!” Their drummer came out and looked at us and said, “Solid. Really solid.” They were really neat, and came to the meet and greet to hang out with us. They didn’t have to do that, so it was really cool.
Q: People think you sound like…
CM: Well, people always say whatever two man bands they can think of, so they always say the Black Keys and the White Stripes. Which is cool, but we just clearly don’t sound like them, which is pretty obvious. We have one song that sounds a bit Weezer-ish, so I assume that’s why people mention them. Honestly, those three bands are the ones people mention most often.
CP: Sometimes they just use decades, “It’s like an 80s thing with some 90s, and a little now…”
Q: You think you sound like…
Q: Hard lessons you’ve learned about being on the road?
CP: You can’t eat fast food all the time.
CM: How time consuming a show really is when your set is only 45 minutes. We get in at 3 p.m., and we go home at one in the morning, so it’s ten hours, and we only played for 45 minutes.
CP: There’s a lot of hurry up and wait. But if you’re even ten minutes late, you throw the whole thing off. You just have to be ready to go at any moment.
Q: What’s up next for you guys?
CM: Right now, we’re stockpiling new songs, since we’ve both been sick the past few weeks. Right now we’re trying to get better, and then we’ll sit down and work on them and start recording some new stuff. But really our life is really just going to be like this, touring, playing shows. It’s been so long since we’ve added new songs to our live show, so it’s kind of terrifying but exciting to see how things have changed.
CP: The way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll start recording in early 2014.
Be sure to check out the latest video from IAMDYNAMITE, a head-spinning, toe-tapping show of “Where Will We Go” but heed the warning – you’ll be singing it hours after the video ends. It’s just that catchy.
“I know my fate. There will come a day when my name will recall the memory of something frightful—a crisis the like of which has never been known on earth, the memory of the most profound clash of consciences and the passing of a sentence upon all that has before been believed in, demanded and sanctified. I am not a man, I am dynamite.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender