David Upp performs under the name The Greatest View and arrives in Wichita on July 31 for a performance at Barleycorn's. He spoke via phone recently about The Greatest View's origins and evolution.
What was the initial idea behind the music and presentation of The Greatest View?
It was my first time to try and go it solo. I've always tried to have a band. I got a laptop and I got a MIDI controller and I tried to do things as simply and DIY as I could. I recorded everything in my studio apartment in Houston, Texas. It started out as a fun project. I really liked the songs. I have a producer/mixer friend in L.A. I said, "Hey, I'd actually like to make these songs sound like they're big and real," because when I had them in my laptop they were kind of thin and small. It started there, kind of a fun project, noodling around on Logic. I'd either write them on guitar and try to make them sound more synthesized. From there it became, "Maybe we should take these songs on the road."
Tell me a little bit about translating that material from the studio version to the live environment.
The hard part is that it's pretty much me being the frontman. I run a lot of backing tracks. So it's like a whole produced programmed show. It's a little bit daunting, especially for somebody like me that's been in rock bands. I play percussion and guitar and sing over the songs. To make it feel like it's a whole, real piece is a little daunting. But once you go out there and do it? They're your songs so you go out and believe in them and believe in what you're doing, you're fine. I think you can see artists sometimes who have dialed it in and you can tell the difference. I don't want to be one of those guys.
You mentioned having played in bands before this. What was the decision to go it alone and not recruit a rhythm section, second guitarist, all that?
I think in the long run that's the dream, whether it's label support or funds. But right now it's DIY as much as I can. I'm 31 and do it because I love it. But everyone's either got full-time jobs or they've got kids.
You're describing something common: As one becomes older it becomes difficult to coordinate schedules with other musicians and consider who has a family and who has a fulltime job. How have you kept going through that? Because there are some people who, at a certain point, say, "I'm going to go be an architect!"
[Laughs.] I'm definitely not good with building or with blueprints, so I definitely couldn't do architecture. I love architecture, though. I definitely understand and there's been moments where I get there. I've picked probably the two hardest careers to make money at: Music and I also love film. Either way I want to do art.
I've done that before where I've just worked, I've done the job. You start seeing the effects. You gain weight. You're not happy, you don't have motivation. But when what you're doing is something you love I think the good opposites happen. You feel happy even if you're tired and exhausted, which we've been touring this whole time. But it's kind of a good tired.
You mentioned your passion for film and I'm curious: At a time anymore when so much music lives on YouTube, which started as a strictly visual platform, there must be something in that marriage that's to your advantage.
One hundred percent. We did a little short film for one of the songs off the record. It's Wes Anderson-inspired with some French surrealism. I think you want to be able to marry those two because, to me, they represent each other once you do put them together. But it's that's thing of trying to find the time, the money. Going out on the road and coming back and having either a simple or complex idea for a music video [can be difficult]. For me, it's easy. I can write something and I can visualize something. A song for each video. I love what Beyonce does with her stuff. She's very visual. I think you kind of have to be.