The Invisible World Talk Superheroes, Boulevardia, and New Music

Meredith Schneider

the invisible world

The Invisible World is a band with a history. Over a fifteen year time period, they’ve changed names, faces have come and gone, and the music has even seen a transformation in itself. One thing is for certain: these guys are not about to stop. In fact, they’re gaining so much traction in the midwest that they’ve been playing gigs like crazy recently, and they’re summer is about to heat up. Having just announced their set at this year’s Boulevardia Beer, Food, Art & Music Fest, they’re about to showcase their musical progression among some big names—and some big eats.

We met the guys at the house of their lead singer—Jesse Collins—where they practice after their day jobs. Jesse, Bryce Veazey, Brandon (Woody) Woodall, Jon Gibbens, and Ara Woodall sat around a coffee table, watching the Kansas City Royals game out of their peripherals while sipping on black coffee and beer. They were all very nice, discussing their hobbies and interests with ease. Not only did we find out who their favorite superheroes area, but we got insight into why their recent EP Color/Echo took a little longer to get to the public (it has everything to do with kidney stones), and what they’ve got coming up.

How’d you meet each other?

Bryce: Woody and I met in kindergarten. I wish we could say we started the band then, because that would be awesome. But we started playing freshman year of high school for the freshman talent show. That was the first gig. Practiced a couple pop/punk songs all year and then played the talent show. Took it from there.

Jesse: We’re all from Independence and we all went to Truman High School I met Bryce and Woody playing football on the corner in the neighborhood growing up. Then I went back and watched them and their band play later on. They were playing Good Charlotte covers and all kinds of the greatest music. I don’t know if New Found Glory was one of them. I was like, “THESE SONGS ARE AWESOME!” So that’s how I started with these two. They were playing together before that, but I have been playing in a band with Bryce and Brandon for at least 15 years.

Jon: We all went to high school together. Bryce, Woody and I all had geometry together and that’s how I met them. We became friends at that point. I was playing in various bands at the time with another group of friends that they beat at the battle of the bands. Twice. Woody likes to remind me of that. We came in third one time, though! After high school I was wanting to get more into producing so I sat in with Jason, who had just produced our last record. A Dead Giveaway (the previous name of The Invisible World) just happened to be the band that was recording at the time. I learned a lot of the songs. I think there was even a few times when the former bassist–Corey–had to go do something and couldn’t make a show so I would sit in and play bass. Jesse and I were hanging out one afternoon after Corey left and he asked me to join the band.

Woody: Ara is my little brother. He will be 19 soon, so he just started with us like last year. Corey, who played bass for us, had left to be a grownup and do grownup things. So we were down to a four piece. It worked for a little while, but it was still missing an element to it. Ara has been following in our footsteps and coming to shows since he was knee high to a grasshopper. He’s become quite a musician and he was a good fit. He’s been around us forever and we wanted someone who would gel with us. Not just musically, but also be able to hang out with us. Because we’re a family, we’re not just a band. We’ve been doing this for a long time together.

Bryce: Ara was sitting in on this last record even before he started with the band. So it’s kind of like you have to do an internship or something to start playing with us. But there’s a picture of him when he was six or seven years old just yelling at the stage. It goes back that far. It’s great.

What do you guys love about living and performing in the midwest?

Jesse: We’re not going to fall off into the ocean like California at some point. We’re going to be safe right here.

Woody: Safety and security.

Bryce: Obviously, there’s a difference in egos between here and the coasts and even bigger places in general. That makes Kansas City very nice. The midwest in general… we’ve played all over the midwest and I can’t think of a single area that we’ve played where we thought, Ehhhh I don’t like the people there. It’s that midwest hospitality. (pauses) Well, I may have spoken too soon. As I was saying it, I was just thinking about Lawton, Oklahoma.

What happened in Lawton?

Jesse: We had some outside company book the tour. It was our first tour getting out on the road for an extended period of time.

Bryce: It was our first show of a tour. It was totally mismatched. We were playing with like, heavy metal bands. It was a strange night. People responded weirdly to us and we heard lots of weird things.

Woody: Lots of weird characters. It was like cartoon characters walking around spouting off their little tidbits and catchphrases.

Jon: That place had a giant, Icy Pete juggalo hatchet man on the bathroom stall.

Jesse: There was one guy that was convinced we were from Kansas. No matter how many times we told him we weren’t, he kept saying, “Ahhhh you guys are crazy in Kansas, MAN!” And when it got really late, this one dude pulled up in a car and he was blaring this music. He was G’d out. I don’t know how to explain it. I could have sworn we were all standing there when it happened, but now I’m questioning the whole thing. I may have imagined it.

Bryce: You may have hallucinated it. It was an interesting night. I’m sure there are other parts of Lawton that are really nice.

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So, besides Good Charlotte, what music do you love?

Woody: Their solo projects. Benji and… Oh, The Madden Brothers. (laughing) I love ’90s rock. Like The Gin Blossoms.

Bryce: Brand New, Thrice, Manchester. A lot of people in that genre. A lot of stuff outside of it too. I worked for 90.9 The Bridge briefly in college and was exposed to all types of really cool music. When we went to SXSW this year to play Midcoast, we listened to Kendrick Lamar the entire drive down. John instigated that. We find songs that are appealing, so that’s fine. We don’t listen to modern country, but that might be it.

Jesse: I saw Justin Timberlake last year and that show was SWEET. But Brand New. We’re all obsessed with them and have been for years.

Jon: Maybe don’t say that, because you don’t know who’s reading this.

No one is calling you stalkers. Except me, now.

Jesse: Well, we’ve semi-stalked people before. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. This should probably be off the record, though.

Jon: This was the same tour when we played in Lawton. It was the next day. We were still in Oklahoma. The Flaming Lips are based out of Oklahoma City. We were bored in the van one day and thought, “I wonder if you can Google Wayne Coyne’s address?” And sure enough, you can. You can Google his address and it shows you exactly where he is.

Bryce: We were just going to go put posters and CDs on his porch. Assuming that he wasn’t even there, we thought he was on tour or something.

Woody: Jesse had a full care package. Like, a pair of boxers and stuff that he wanted to leave there.

Brandon: We drove by his house like, three times. You could see all the stuff from The Flaming Lips shows in his backyard.

Bryce: He has two back-to-back houses that he bought and built like, one big house between them. From either side they look like the front of a regular house that should be there, but you can see stuff through the trees.

Woody: We did find out for sure it was his house. Because here he comes, just walking down the street while we are in front of it.

Jesse: So we were just like, “Wayne! Hey!” Hanging out the windows of the van. He turns around and he just makes a face at us and he says, “What the HELL are you guys doing in this neighborhood?”

Jon: I mean, keep in mind it’s a white van that just creeps up on him. The door flings open and we’re all freaking out about him.

Bryce: To his credit, he got in the van and talked to us for a while. We showed him all our stuff. Our t-shirts and stuff and were trying to get him to go to the show. He looked at the merch and was like, “Yup that’s you. Yes. I see that,” to each of us. He saw a neighbor selling a van and he was walking down the street to buy it for a friend of his.

Jesse: We never took a picture of anything. We didn’t expect to see him. We were all dumbfounded and no one believed us. But evidently, according to Wayne, his neighborhood is a total drug neighborhood. He said, “The only people who are here are people searching for me, or looking for crack.” Well, we’re here for both. (laughing)

So that answers any question I’d have about adventures on tour. What made you choose “The Invisible World” as the name for your band’s reincarnation?

Jesse: “The Invisible World” is kind of a thing that I had, once we took a break from A Dead Giveaway. I had been kind of playing around, writing songs and playing them as The Invisible World. I think Bryce even put out a little EP together where he had some stuff that he had done and that was the first thing that was officially out there as a The Invisible World recording. I think we discussed a band name for awhile. One of them ended up being a song title on this record, “Bellamy.” It all just kept coming back to The Invisible World, which was something I got listening to coast to coast AM late night conspiracy radio.

What is the story behind the song “Brick By Brick”?

Jesse: The song is a nostalgic song that I wrote about being a teenager before we all had our own homes that we could go hang out at. So you had to get a few friends together, pile in whoever had the biggest car and go drive around some back roads blasting whatever the newest album was that everyone was getting into. Those moments are built up over the years, kind of like bricks creating a structure, forming long standing friendships. They inspired our music back then and still do to this day.

Your music video for “Cars” played at the Berlin International Film Festival. What was all of that like?

Bryce: Right after we re-formed and chose the name and stuff, “Cars” was on that original EP as a The Invisible World song. At the time, we were experimenting with recording the whole band just totally by ourselves at home. We thought we could mess with it enough without professionals. So we recorded three original demos as The Invisible World and “Cars” was one of them. It wasn’t an official release, just recordings to have recordings.

We wanted to put something out first instead of just recording an EP and putting it out, so we decided to make a video. Of the songs we had already recorded, “Cars” was the simplest, it was the best, it had a nice whistle hook in it. I could see a video to that song. Woody threw out this idea of a guy in a parking lot who has cars following him, kind of nudging him and stuff. It ended up being one of the scenes. We just thought, “OK, there it is.” We could build a music video–kind of a short film–around it too.

We hadn’t put anything out as a band yet, so we decided to do a Kickstarter to raise money to help us make the video come to life. That was the point when Crowdfunding was a really big thing. So we did that, we raised $1,000, and we shot the video in a day and a half. There were people in it that we knew. Ara was in it, and so was Woody’s dad. But we hired Kansas City-based actors to be in it. DJ–the main guy in the video–is popping up in commercials everywhere now! We started to send it around to people. Some of the radio stations picked it up, which was really cool. Having our work shown at the Berlin Film Festival was pretty wild. It didn’t win anything, but we still got face time.

Woody: I had a 3am conversation with Lazlo [of 96.5 The Buzz]. I was laying in bed and tweeted him, “Hey, check out our video!” He thought it was cool. I went to sleep pretty quickly after that.

Jesse: The Berlin Film Festival was an opportunity that we came across on Facebook. Someone had put out this call for short films about cars, and I was like, “Well, we have a cars video.” Then I tried to get Toyota to sponsor us, and they never responded to us.

What do you think of the current state of the music industry?

Jon: The music scene is so saturated with so many bands and so many different styles of music that it’s hard to get noticed anymore by just being good. You almost have to have some sort of niche to make yourself noticed anymore. On top of that, the big wigs are only interested in what’s “sellable” and not truly good music anymore.

Bryce: It really is an odd time, unlike anything before, for a lot of entertainment industries. The best term that I think could be applied to it is the Paradox of Plenty. If the music industry were thought of like a country, it would be one with so many incredible resources yet an uphill struggle to keep a solid economic foothold. People expect to be entertained for free now, and they can be, just by paying for a little bit for internet each month, they pretty much can be these days. I don’t feel like the technology advances have hurt music, but they have definitely made it a bigger pool to swim in. We’ve done everything DIY style. We record at home, we design at home, we promote from home – because we have access to resources that put us in touch with the necessary avenues for those efforts. However, I think it’s a far cry to claim that labels are irrelevant anymore. We are certainly limited in our reach and the amount of importance that we can shine on ourselves.

Jesse: There isn’t a lot that I can say on this subject that Bryce and Jon didn’t cover. But one thing that I think makes it harder now to become a self sustaining band as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago is the fact that anyone can purchase decent recording software, a few mics and record a song that sounds similar in quality to what you hear in the mainstream. Not to say a band couldn’t do it similarly back then but you needed experiences and more training to do so. I remember what our attempts at home demos sounded like 15 years ago and they weren’t very soothing to the ears, but folks would listen to them. Now if you put out something of the quality those were, the song would be turned off after the first note.

Who are your favorite superheroes and why?

Jesse: Mine is Alex Gordon, who plays for the Kansas City Royals. He’s got that laser rocket arm out of left field and that’s it. He’s always throwing people out. You know.

Bryce: Superman. I’ve had a lot of conversations with my brother about this, especially with the movies coming out recently and all of that. But the interesting thing about Superman is that, even though he is all-powerful, he can’t be everywhere and do everything at once. He has to decide. There was a scene a couple of movies back where he goes up above the earth and he sits and he’s just listening. He hears all the chaos and all the places that need him, but he has to focus on one and go do that. That’s my adult version of why. When I was a kid, my favorite was Cyclops for no apparent reason.

Woody: Cyclops was a loser. I hated him! He was a whiny bitch! Batman, though. The story arc that he has… he doesn’t have any superpowers but he still has the wherewithal to use the resources that his family gave him to fight bad guys and stuff. That’s hard to beat, but I’d say I definitely like Wolverine the best out of everybody. His attitude is just incredible and the way he goes into Berzerker mode… I like Kevin Smith movies, too.

John: My favorite has always been Spider-man. I think it stems back to when my dad and I would watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. Spider-man was the one we always watched. I don’t have an adult answer for it.

Ara: I’m going to go with Michaelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t know how much of an adult answer this is, but he’s pretty cool. He’s a party dude, but whenever it’s time to throw down and kick some ass, he’s down to do it with those nunchucks swirlin’ and twirlin’.

So what’s up next for The Invisible World?

Jesse: We’ve been booking a few shows lately, and some of those are still coming together. We will be going to Des Moines, Denver, Indianapolis. We’re playing Boulevardia in June, so we’re really excited about that! I think we want to get on to another record a little quicker than last time. I don’t have kidney stones this year, so I think that will be a thing we can do.

Ara: My friends can come to this one finally. None of them are 21.

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