Hailing from Ukiah, California Top Shelf is a quartet made up of members: Carter Lane (vox) , Korey Ross (guitar), Chad Goodin (bass), and Drew Nicoll (drums) known for high energy live performances and leaving fans with something special, Top Shelf lays it all on the table every time they play. Each show is a unique experience of crowd participation and one of a kind musical solos. Top Shelf has just released their 2nd full length studio album The Sound and front man Carter Lane, caught up w/The Pier to discuss their first album since the 2008 release of Time To Wake.
The Pier: Making a successful band takes a lot of dedication. Can you guys tell us how Top Shelf came together?
Top Shelf: (Carter) Drew and I started the band in Chico after being inspired by the countless reggae festivals and punk shows we had been attending for so many years. There was just something about the vibe of shows that made us want to get serious about playing music for people.
The Pier: How did you guys come up with the name Top Shelf
Top Shelf: Well basically it went like this. Drew and I lived in a huge house in Chico where we use to practice in the living room. One entire wall had bookshelves where we, like every other college party house, kept our empty alcohol bottles. So when jamming one day and trying to think of a name that represented the type of music we played we only had to look up to see our name right in front of us. That was then, today, after growing immensely, our name represents what we reach for musically and spiritually as apposed to the old party days of Chico.
The Pier: Since your album Time to Wake, released in 2008, how has the band evolved musically?
Top Shelf: First off I think that the last 3 years have be major personal growth years for Drew, Chad and I and any time that happens with artists or musicians the art or music is bound to evolve. We also picked up Korey a little over a year ago so we were fortunately in a position to really look at the music we were playing and creating and give some vision and direction to it. We really took our time writing the songs for The Sound, when with Time To Wake we kinda just wrote them, recorded them and released them with out all that much thought about what we wanted to sound like. So I think that musically the growth in maturity of the band is very apparent in The Sound.
The Pier: What is your song writing process like?
Top Shelf: With The Sound it was pretty crazy. Our original idea was to write as many songs as we could with out any reservation about what they sounded like or what style they were, our first goal was to just write tons of songs and eventually we would just pick the best 12 for the album. So we wrote first drafts of every song then recorded it at our home studio. Then re-worked each song and recorded again with the idea that we would cut the filler and end up with nothing but the killer. We ended up writing 25 full songs and narrowing it down to 17 for the album.
The Pier: Did you guys encounter any obstacles while making The Sound?
Top Shelf:We are fully self supporting through our own contributions so money was an obstacle we had to overcome. But thats nothing new. Other than that, the experience was amazing and so unique to anything else we have ever done. It made us really value the process. It was also hard to cut the songs down to the right number. Cutting songs that you are somewhat attached to was difficult
The Pier: One of my most favorite songs in the new album is “Under Arrest”, such a fun track! what are some of your favs?
Top Shelf: Stoked that you like Under Arrest, that one was on the chopping block for a while. I love the way Rather Than A Billion and We Still Burn came out. Super genuine tracks with such great feeling. I think that my voice on We Still Burn is the best on the album. Jim left it completely dry with out any effects and you can really just hear me. And Rather Than A Billion is one of the last songs we wrote and has always just clicked with me. Adding the horns into it in tracking was the finishing touch and sold me on being one of my favorites of the album. I’m loving those right now.
The Pier: You guys have a tour coming up to promote the new album, what are some “must haves” to take on the road?
Top Shelf: Ear plugs. EmergenC. Halls Naturals Mountain Berry cough drops with the honey center (Thanks Eric). A sleeping pad. A neck pillow. Advil. Good tunes and good vibes. Oh and my band.
The Pier: Any specific cities you guys are most excited to perform at?
Top Shelf: Petaluma always rages and The Phoenix Theater has so much meaningful history to me that I just love playing there every time. Brad (from Sublime) performed his last show on that stage and AFI who are also from Ukiah and a big inspiration to us, pretty much got their start at The Phoenix so its a pretty special place for me to perform.
Carter Lane went on to tell The Pier that, Matisyahu is one of his biggest musical influences and in terms of being in a band, he enjoys the traveling and having the opportunity to bring everyone together over music & sharing that experience with everyone each night. As he put it, its “Priceless”