Today, we bring you part one of Speakrs’ Artist of the Week feature. Speakrs is composed of Dan Smith and Izaac Burkhart, both hailing from Minneapolis. The duo released “Afterglow” in 2015 and they’re already creating new music. While they might not live in the same city now, the duo is continuing to surprise fans everywhere, even with a song on MTV’s Teen Mom.
Read on to learn more about Speakrs:
BTS: What inspired you to begin making music?
Dan: I didn’t grow up around music, but my dad had an old acoustic guitar from college. Around 16, a friend who was over grabbed it and began playing some songs I knew. For some reason it kind of amazed me that songs I knew from the radio were being played on this instrument. Connected some dots for me and I just sort of dug-in after that.
Izaac: My dad was definitely my first inspiration with music. He was always singing around the house and would play and sing John Denver songs while me and my sisters danced around the house! I eventually asked him if he’d teach me how to play guitar. I feel so fortunate to have parents that encouraged and supported me while I grew musically. I didn’t start writing and recording my own music until I was 13 or so. A family friend at our church believed in me and let me borrow his 8 track recorder for a couple years. That was the point in my life where I found an outlet and a way to flesh out all of the songs in my head.
How did you come to decide to make indie-pop music?
D: I don’t know how conscious of a choice it was. I think when you are younger, you just try to copy everything you hear that inspires you. Then, as you get more experience, you figure out what kind of sound you are best at and what your musical instincts are. At least for me, those two factors made a lot of the choices for me.
I: Dan and I are fans of all kinds of music but indie/rock/pop was definitely the type of music that we bonded over when we met in high school. Dan and I both make a lot of music that isn’t indie-pop to make a living. There are many things I love about that because I’m a music fan first, but indie-pop seems like the perfect style for the both of us to make our art and convey the message that is Speakrs.
Who are some of your influences for this sound?
D: Discovering Radiohead was a major milestone for me, as far as influences go. They will always be a benchmark I look to. Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky were my first foray into the post-rock world and changed my conception of music. I love songwriters like Elliot Smith, Ryan Adams, Ben Gibbard, Chris Martin. Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay are artists that I have looked to for the last decade. Hard to narrow it down, but those artists have achieved legend status for me.
I: Death Cab for Cutie, Coldplay, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros are bands that I’ve loved for years and will never leave my musical veins. All of these bands pay attention to dynamics, detail, and emotion. Also, they all share a sound aesthetic and “atmosphere” that Dan and I both love.
How does making music make you feel?
D: I think it depends on the day. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make music for a living, doing something that is a passion. It is a very fulfilling enterprise. Like every artistic discipline, you put a lot of yourself into it and the evaluation of what you’ve made is very subjective. That can be a little nerve-wracking and get in your head. Music is one of the things I care most about succeeding at. So, fear of failure can definitely be a real source of stress. Again, feel very lucky to do what I do, but it is a real job, with it’s own highs and lows.
I: When I first started playing music with other people I remember feeling so free and weightless. It brought me so much joy and was also a great release and outlet. I’m constantly chasing that feeling everyday. Some days are harder than others but when finally find the missing piece to a song or write something out of the blue that you didn’t expect to find, it’s the best feeling in the world.
What is a day in the life of SPEAKRS like?
D: Pretty diverse. Music as a living looks different for everyone, but I think it is common for a lot of working musicians to have irons in many fires. A lot of different side-work. I also do another solo-project I have done for a number of years called Weaver At The Loom. Izaac was an original member of that project as well.
I: When we were making the Afterglow EP, Dan and I were both living in Minneapolis. We had a studio on the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis and it was such an inspiring place to be. You could walk out of the control room and have a bonfire or walk down to the beach in seconds for a fresh air break. We’d meet there around noon and work into the night. That was where both of us brought song ideas that would become the Afterglow EP. It was a very creative and trusting environment between the two of us and I’ll always remember those times fondly. It was a self produced record, so we oversaw every single piece of the puzzle along the way. This record is being made in a completely different way. I’m living in Nashville now while Dan is still in Minneapolis. It has been a “postal service” method so far and it has been working out great. One of us sends a Pro Tools session over and we’ll Facetime about it and then start working on it and then send it back and forth. It’s actually very efficient this way. We’re definitely going to book some flights so we can work in the same room together from time to time.
What are some of your favorite things about being in a band?
D: I haven’t really done the traditional band thing for a while now. It is mostly studio-projects for me these days. But as far as what I love about being a musician, I love the freedom and ownership over what I do. I love being able to create everyday.
I: My favorite thing about making music with other people is the perspective you gain from bouncing your song off of someone you trust. It can only make the music better and it more rewarding overall. Its not always easy when you hit a wall but it really is a beautiful process.
What are some of your least favorite things about this lifestyle?
D: Probably the unpredictable nature of the business. It can be a bit of a feast-or-famine type career. That can be a little wearing.
I: I’m definitely a free spirit and love making my own schedule. Making a living in music can be so challenging but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Making music that you love with your best friends is priceless.
Where is your favorite place to write music?
D: My home-studio. I am a total introvert-recluse. Wherever I am living, I set up a cave and spend all of my creative time there.
I: I have my own studio setup at my house in Nashville and that is definitely my favorite place to create. I have all of my instruments all hooked up and ready to go at all times so I can record them instantly when the inspiration strikes. I also love going on walks wherever I’m at to write lyrics and melodies.
What was the first song you performed together?
D: We have actually never played a show! But “Afterglow” was the first song we wrote as Speakrs.
I: The first song we wrote together for Speakrs was “Afterglow” but we’ve never actually performed it live as a band! That time will come though! The first song that we actually performed together was “Buck up, they’re coming” when we were in Weaver at the Loom together from 2007-2010. Dan asked me to join his band when I was finishing my senior year of high school and we ended up recording the I Was Searching and I Found EP together that summer. We played many shows together following that release and it was such a fun time in my life.
Who do you want to reach through your music?
D: Everyone and anyone. If it connects with someone it connects. I don’t want to put any parameters or restrictions on that. It’s hard enough to earn peoples’ attention. I am grateful to anyone who will take time to appreciate my art!
I: I second Dan on this one. Anyone and everyone! I’m so flattered anytime someone says that our music meant something to them in anyway. It really makes it all worth while. We really love what we do and when we can connect with people across the globe with our art it is the coolest feeling!
You can listen to Afterglow on bandcamp here.