10 Questions with | Intercontinen7al

INTERCONTINEN7AL is a virtual band of musicians that is the first and only group to ever create and release songs with original music recorded from all 7 continents (they are currently awaiting response from the Guinness Book of World Records regarding recognition of the feat). INTERCONTINEN7AL have been recording since 2020, and are about to release third album, which will include an original composition featuring musicians from both Ukraine and Russia collaborating together to promote peace. Indie Boulevard got in touch with founding member Matt Smith to find out more about the creative process, band’s goals and of course talk about the new single «War’s The Noise«.

IB: Hello Matt! I want to start our conversation with a little revelation. For the first time on Indie Boulevard, we have a truly intercontinental supergroup as our guest. Intercontinen7al consists of musicians from all 7 continents of the world, and even from Antarctica. And of course, my main question is how? How did this idea come about, and how did you manage to rally musicians from all over the world?

Matt: Hey! Yes, so it all started back in 2020. I was living in Columbia, Maryland and performed in a local band called Toast as a guitarist. Once COVID hit, and we weren’t able to meet socially or perform at all for the first few months, we looked for creative ways to continue collaborating together, even if it was fully remote. I discovered this app BandLab, which is a truly incredible program that let us record and share different musical ideas (guitar parts, vocal melodies, drum tracks, etc) and start to build out original compositions. A couple months went by of us trading different ideas, and we then opted to experiment and publish some rough draft song concepts. We set them as “forkable” to the BandLab public community, which means that the song is no longer private and that other BandLab users can add any instrumentation ideas that they like. Our little group in Maryland quickly made musical ties with various future bandmates, such as  Argentina’s Gustavo Prida, San Francisco’s Hope Gray,Australia’s Robert James Shoveller, and Rieneke from the Netherlands. Another member of the group, Marcin Nawrocki from Poland (who is also our resident producer), joined our songs once I received an alert that he flagged one of my songs as something of interest. 

I distinctly recall walking outside my house in Columbia one day during the summer when an idea hit me like a lightning bolt – what if we borrowed the Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways concept of creating music with artists from various cities in the United States, and expanding it to instead record globally with folks on all of the 7 continents! We tossed around a couple band name ideas, but after a bit INTERCONTINEN7AL was finalized, with the “7” in the name drawing inspiration from the song «7empest» by Tool. 

Matt Smith — Guitar/Vocals/Production, Columbia, MD USA

To recruit the remaining members, I reached out to fellow friends and family members who were musicians (ex — Alex Burke, Devin Heritage), and utilized Explore and Creator Connect tools in BandLab. The most trying task was establishing the Antarctic connection, so I basically Googled email addresses for the active research stations in Antarctica and then messaged each and every one to see if there happened to be a musician stationed on site that was interested in working with us. I seriously still can’t believe that we were able to get Belgium’s Aymar de Lichtervelde, stationed at Princess Elisabeth Station, and Stijn Thoolen from Netherlands, stationed at Concordia, to join the project! They both submitted their recordings through either BandLab app or via WhatsApp, and I was in direct communication with them to help guide which direction our song was going in. Aymar and Stijn represented Antarctica on the Volume 1 song «Manor Hill», which was the first tune to include music recorded from each continent. We will have a remix of «Manor Hill» included on Volume 3, thanks to our production mastermind and fellow band member Marcin Nawrocki, to ensure that our Antarctican connection is maintained. Since the first record, we were able to recruit tons of other talented musicians through the app — Darren Fellows, Bubbas Bentless, Andrasta, Miami73, Rousevision, Manuelonics, etc. — who were either referred through other bandmates or we found by simply exploring the app for potential collaborators. It’s been the greatest happy accident I could think of. 

IB: This is a colossal project that requires not only courage and patience, but also organization. How is the workflow going? After all, each continent has its own time zone.

Matt: Workflow is going great! BandLab is extremely easy to use, and generally what happens is a bandmate will post a song idea and upload it into our band «folder», for lack of a better term, and then anyone else in the group can add their own tracks or instrumentation as time permits for them. Everyone has busy schedules to begin with, so we try to allow as much space and time as needed for song ideas to develop and mature before they are finalized and ready for release. I frequently communicate with band members to determine what contributions are completed (such as a vocal part or guitar solo), or if they need to rerecord for some reason. The varying time zone issue only really comes into effect if we were to do a live Zoom call (which we ended up doing during Volume 2 recording and production — we definitely need to have another team chat soon!). We ended up scheduling the call around 9 or 10am Eastern Standard Time in the US, so most people in the group would be available. 

Aymar de Lichtervelde in Antartica

IB: What was the biggest challenge you faced from the beginning of this project?

Matt: I would say the biggest challenge was recruiting willing participants from Antarctica. As I mentioned above, it took a great deal of back and forth communication to discover the two musicians that we ended up collaborating with. But at the same time, it was incredible once we climbed that mountain and were able to actually obtain guitar and percussion recordings from there! There’s a phrase that I hold dear to my heart — «every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible». That’s kind of how I felt about putting this first album (and particularly our «7 continent song») together. 

IB: What are the goals of the group? What would be considered true success for you?

Matt: First and foremost, our primary goal with each record we release is to generate as many funds as possible for the given charity that the album is dedicated towards serving. Our group strives to give back any way we can, so we created a fundraiser page for the Ukrainian refugee relief effort (through International Rescue Committee). We also donate our proceeds from streaming / album sales to the same charity. 

As for the «success» aspect of the group, I suppose one dream I do have is to be officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the first and only band to record an original song with instrumentation from all 7 continents (which we’ve actually done twice now). We previously submitted to Guinness, and then had to resubmit our application, so we are crossing fingers on a positive outcome. That would be quite the feather in the cap! 

Stijn Thoolen  at Concordia in Antartica

IB: You released two albums, «Volume 1» and «Volume 2» and I really liked them. The third full-length album is on the way, the lead single «War’s The Noise» is already available on all digital platforms. Tell us about the song (and a couple of details about the upcoming album)

Matt: About a year ago, UK’s Andrasta had composed lyrics and came up with a beautiful vocal melody. Realizing it could fit with the album theme, she uploaded her acapella demo track in BandLab. After hearing it, I was instantly moved by it and aimed to write a chord progression that could be married with the vocal. It was unlike any other song I worked on, as it was starting from just a vocal part, and the first few chords I tried seemed to instantly work with Andrasta’s part. Other INTERCONTINEN7AL members Miami73, Dale Pearson, Gus Prida, Hope Gray, Rousevision, and Marcin Nawrocki then inserted their own personal flavors into the track — adding guitar, saxophone, drum programming, backing vocals, bass, and guitar respectively! For the ending of the song, I was hoping to emulate Guns N’ Roses power ballads like November Rain and Estranged. For the record, «War’s the Noise» is currently out on SoundCloud and BandLab, but will be made available on Spotify, iTunes, etc when the full album is released this December!

The album is certainly unique in that we are continuing to expand our sonic landscape, and incorporate new genres that we previously did not explore. For example, there is a song called «Blank Page» which has more of a Gospel / R&B / Motown vibe to it. In addition, there is the song that includes a collaboration between Ukraine’s Yaroslav and Russia’s Ruslan as a pro-peace track, which I will dive into a bit more in the next question.  

IB: How did recent events in the world, especially in Ukraine, affect the new album? I know that there will be a song in Ukrainian, and also proceeds from the forthcoming third album go to help refugees from Ukraine, organized by the International Rescue Committee.

Matt: When we started to work on recording for the third record earlier this year, we initially had a different charity selected. However, once the Ukraine-Russia conflict came to pass, we quickly decided that we needed to divert our attention to this cause and do whatever we could to raise money for those most impacted. As a byproduct of that decision, we also began researching the app to determine if there was a Ukrainian musician that would be available to participate in a song for the record (as we already had our Russian bandmate Ruslan as part of the group). Ruslan happened to know about Yaroslav from Kyiv, and after some direct messages were exchanged we were able to move forward with our song «Куди ми йдемо звідси» (or «Where Do We Go From Here?») using an instrumental composition that Yaroslav recently put together. Rieneke from the Netherlands provided the words and vocals, while Dale Pearson laid down some wonderful saxophone on the song. 

Joshua Pearlson — Lead Guitar, South Africa

IB: Everything has a cause and effect. What do you think is the reason for starting this senseless war? How are the members of the band going through this difficult time?

Matt: I wish I had a definitive answer to that question. In my humble opinion, a lot of it boils down to a single individual who is ruthless, power hungry and has a delusional sense of grandeur, but there is certainly a lot more to that origin story. I can’t speak for everyone in the group, as there are literally close to 30 members that have participated on this record, but what I can say is that from my experience, music can be a welcome distraction from some of the hardships that are taking place in the world today. Making our first record really helped to get me through the first year of the pandemic, for example, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other bandmates felt the same way in that music brings a cathartic release. 

IB: «War’s The Noise» a sad rock ballad about the horrors of war and indifference to people’s lives. Unfortunately, our world is designed so that the entire planet depends on a bunch of old people in suits and their decisions. War of the old by the hands of the young. Do you have any thoughts on how to save our world from these people?

Matt: It’s an interesting question, especially considering I previously referenced how I was aiming for a Guns N’ Roses vibe for the ending of our single «War’s the Noise». GN’R’s song «Civil War», much like other rock tunes like CCR’s «Fortunate Son» and Springsteen’s «Born in the USA», touch on very similar themes that your question addresses. It is sad that we continue to go through reiterations and endless cycles of these issues, but all major changes don’t occur overnight, and I like to believe that more and more ill suited members of government who are currently serving and creating obstacles to progress will eventually be replaced by more forward thinking individuals. 

Nereo — Bassist/singer from South America

IB: Let’s get back to music. How can a musician get into your project? Is it important to have professional music skills?

Matt: As I referenced above, we are always open to having new members come and join in our project! If you are reading this and are interested, drop me a line at intercontinen7al@gmail.com and send over a link of any songs that you’ve previously worked on. Our band is comprised of amateur musicians, so no need to be a «professional» artist or musician. 

IB: And the last question. How can an artist start making a living from music?

Matt: Good question. Unfortunately musicians receive a pittance from Spotify, which distributes earnings at roughly $0.004 USD per stream. So unless you are Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, or someone else at that level, you need to supplement your album sales / streaming income with other outlets. It’s interesting (and depressing) to note, that some well established artists like the Animal Collective are not able to tour given the post-COVID climate with inflation / increases in shipping expenses and other limitations. I don’t see how any musician that’s starting out and not in the upper echelon of top touring artists can earn enough to keep a living. You definitely need to have a primary occupation that will provide the majority of your income (which is the scenario for practically everyone in our band). 

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