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07 March 2017

INTERVIEW: Funeral Advantage.

Photo by Tim Oxton
Boston-based dream pop project Funeral Advantage is the brainchild of Tyler Kershaw. Since releasing an impressive debut LP in 2015 called Body is Dead, the project has remained fairly quiet. A still surface doesn’t necessarily reflect tranquility, however. During the interim, Kershaw struggled through personal hardships, and eventually began the cathartic process of transforming those experiences into songs. Please Help Me, released on February 24 via The Native Sound, is the end result.

The juxtaposition of sparkling, jangly guitarwork and dark lyrical content is one of the hallmarks of Funeral Advantage’s sound. For me, this contrast is also the true core of dream pop music. Dream pop’s task has always been to reconcile its own dual nature in a way that sounds both effortless and catchy. It’s extremely difficult to do; Funeral Advantage excels at it. Body is Dead juggled these contrasts skillfully, but it was rooted in hope and enveloped in nostalgia.

As far as aural juxtapositions are concerned, Please Help Me picks up where Body is Dead left off – the hooks are clever, the textures shimmer, and there’s enough reverb, delay and jangly guitar leads to please any lover of dream pop. But Please Help Me is rooted in a much darker place. There is no nostalgia here; instead, it feels more like a release. Nostalgia will always be linked with dream pop, but being liberated from it feels damn good, too. 

In other words, we love this project. We're proud to share our interview with Tyler Kershaw of Funeral Advantage with you.

How and when was Funeral Advantage formed?
It was formed in my bedroom in 2013 after I was kicked out of one band and my other band broke up in the same week. I decided I didn’t want to have to worry about either of those things happening again.

Can you tell us what you’ve been working on and what you’ve got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, video, etc.)?
I have a new record that just came out on The Native Sound, so I’ve been hard at work with that. I’m never not writing so you could say I’m shaping up the next songs that may be the next Funeral Advantage release but I don’t want to corner myself into that. That’s when you start limiting yourself.

How would you say Please Help Me differs from your debut LP, Body is Dead?
Different circumstances surrounded the writing and recording so it became a much darker record than my first LP. It’s unmistakably me, but as I get older and more horrible things happen, that happens to reflect in how I create.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one’s sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that Funeral Advantage identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
I don’t. That “scene” never fully accepted me for one reason or another. I don’t mind sticking a label to my music so I guess you could say that it’s dream pop. I consider it just pop music. Verse – chorus – verse. I stick to the pop formula because that’s what I grew up listening to. I don’t want to tamper with that because I think it can lead to interesting choices. I want to remain within context of a pop song.
I like genres and categorizing things. I never truly understood why everyone shies away from that. Nothing matters and genre doesn’t really mean anything anymore.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
I haven’t really listened to that much. I listened to The Depreciation Guild on your radio show and I thought, “Wow, I like a current band!!” and it turns out they broke up like 8 years ago.  I grew up listening to Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils and all those older Captured Tracks bands and the ones that are still going out of those are really the only ones I still care for. You can find some hidden gems in local pockets anywhere you go. Turnover is a huge favorite of mine, but then again, they’re objectively good. You can’t not like Turnover. Wildhoney from Baltimore, The Arctic Flow from South Carolina, Strange Mangers from Boston, Plastic Flowers from London are a few of my other favorites.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps/synths that you prefer?
I’m always changing what I use. I don’t think I’ve had the same pedal board set up for two tours in a row yet. I had this really old Japanese Boss chorus my ex-girlfriend got me that was owned by Robert Smith (or more likely his guitar tech). That was used heavily on recording Please Help Me. It broke during a show and I don’t know how to fix it so I got another newer Boss Super Chorus that’s more reliable. I used a Roland JC120 for a while but that broke as well so now I’m back to using Fender amps again. I recently bought a Squier Jaguar for $190 to demo songs with and it actually sounds better than my really expensive mustang that I use on stage. So I truly have no idea when it comes to gear, my world has been rocked.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
I record in my bedroom. I normally demo songs on Garageband just to get a feel for the where I want the song to go, because the file size for that program is way smaller than Logic, I don’t have to worry if I’m gonna run out of space one day. I don’t want to have to worry about crashes or anything so Garageband has always been my go-to for demoing. When I record for real, I use Logic.  For anyone starting out, I’d recommend Garageband and Logic because Logic is just the beefed up version of Garageband. Very intuitive and a smooth transition. I’ve always been confused by Protools and it’s not right for my sound.  

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
There’s good stuff everywhere. DIY/Bandcamp releases need to be supported and encouraged. 

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Cassette over everything. The cassette player in my car broke a few months ago and I considered getting an entire new car because of it. It forces you to listen to the entire record. I’m so scatter-brained that it’s hard for me to listen to an entire album front to back on mp3 when I can just change it to something else with a click. Cassette is always my recommended medium.

I find vinyl kind of tedious. Past the approval process for the masters, I’ve never once listened to one of my albums on vinyl and I do not own a record player. Although I do have a pretty extensive collection.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
The Cure, Minks, ELO, Owl City.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Nothing matters, do whatever you want.