Artist interview with Sam McAllister and Megan Frestedt (Project Film)

Indie rockers Sam McAllister and Megan Frestedt — from Project Film — are just a few days out from a multi-city tour of the west. Stops includes trips to Portland, San Francisco, even Provo, Utah.

Ten dates in all when including two Chicago shows — Saturday at The Empty Bottle; August 14 at The Whistler — that bookend the thing.

Anyway, more information on the tour and ticketing is at the bottom of the post. Before that, though, is a transcribed interview with Sam and Megan lifted from a phone call I shared with them last weekend…

Sam McAllister: Hello?

Eric Hughes: Hey!

Megan Frestedt: Hi.

EH: Oh, we did it.

MF: Yep. Success.

EH: My phone’s too janky to do conference calling, so I appreciate the help.

MF: Yeah, Sam has the iPhone.

SM: OK.

MF: All the thrills.

EH: It’s actually been awhile since my last interview so apologies if it’s a little rusty. But I appreciate that you guys are free. And Megan, you’re where today?

MF: I’m in Minneapolis.

EH: You have family there, or what’s going on?

MF: Yep, my parents live here. I graduated from college about a month ago, so. A celebration.

EH: Oh, congratulations. Where did you go?

MF: Thank you. University of Chicago.

EH: Nice, cool.

MF: Yeah.

EH: So what have you guys been up to this summer?

MF: Played some shows. Booking this tour has been pretty taxing, and exciting. And we made a music video that hopefully will be done soon. That was fun.

EH: Was that your first video?

MF: It was, yes. We’re hoping to do a couple more. We have a couple people who are interested in doing videos, so hopefully we can do some more for this record. And Sam’s been writing some more material.

EH: OK great, yeah that’s my next question actually. About the progress on a follow up to Chicago.

SM: We’re going to do a follow up. I think it’s definitely kind of in the writing stages, but it’s probably like halfway written at the moment. And we’ve been trying out some new songs live. There’s this one that’s kind of like fully realized. And we’ve been playing a few acoustic songs that don’t really have a home. So we’ve been playing those. Yeah, I think hopefully early next year we’ll start recording.

MF: There’s a couple songs where we’re not quite sure if they’re going to make the record and so we’re just thinking about alternative ways to put those out, like a seven-inch or something.

EH: So where does the name Project Film come from?

SM: Um, it’s kind of boring.

EH: Because it sounds really exciting.

SM: I know, right? I used to record these, like, instrumental songs in high school that were like film score-esque because I was interested in studying film scoring in college at one point. And they didn’t actually go to a film. They were just like music that could potentially go into a film.

EH: Oh wow, that’s awesome.

SM: Yeah, they were pretty bad.

EH and MF laugh

SM: Anyway, I don’t know, maybe they weren’t. Who knows. The only one that saw the light of day was “Ink,” which is on Chicago. But I used to just have this folder on my computer called Project Film. And it would store like all the GarageBand files in.

EH: Uh huh.

SM: And that’s how that happened, so.

MF: We just kind of took it.

EH: So when did you decide to become, I guess, a duo, or is there more than just you two?

SM: Well, on the record it’s just the two of us. But playing the songs live we’ve kind of expanded into a four-piece.

MF: Have you seen us play before?

EH: I actually haven’t, no. A writer who used to write for this blog, he went to a show or two. But I haven’t been able to go yet.

MF: Yeah, we have a bassist and a drummer who’ve been playing with us live since March. So hopefully that will become more of a regular thing in the future.

EH: Are they going to be joining you on tour then, too?

MF: Yes.

EH: Can I just say that I’m a huge fan of the shots of you and Megan with the opaque, white circles over your faces?

MF laughs

SM: Thank you.

EH: I just think bands, they just want to plaster themselves over the Internet, and just get their faces everywhere. I just think it adds a little mystery. It’s a really good thing.

SM: Thank you.

MF: Yeah, Sam put them there.

SM: I stole that idea from someone, but I won’t say it.

EH and MF laugh

SM: But it’s fine.

EH: It just seems to be like you’re uh — not sure what the word is. Because your album cover is you two with bags over your faces.

SM: Yeah, it’s kind of the same thing, I guess, I don’t know.

MF: Sam was all about the bags over the heads. He used to do it every year for Halloween.

SM: It just gets so much response. It’s like the easiest thing to do for the most response.

EH: Yeah, I always struggle with Halloween costumes because it can be expensive, but. I mean a bag over your head. That’s pretty easy.

SM: Right? I know.

MF: We’re trying to start — a couple of people, a couple of our family friends that saw the cover of the record took some pictures of themselves with bags over their heads and random, inanimate objects with bags over their heads. So we’re trying to, you know, start a movement. We’ll see.

EH: I like it.

SM: Maybe we’ll do some contest where we’ll take submissions of pictures of people with bags over their heads.

EH: That’s a great idea.

MF: Yeah, I don’t think we have enough, uh, devoted, hardcore fans for that yet.

EH: You never know though! Just put it out there and see what happens.

MF: That’s true, that’s true.

EH: Maybe after this tour. Um, have either of you seen the movie Baghead? Came out a couple years ago?

MF: No?

EH: It’s just this, like, spin on a horror movie where it’s four — I think it’s four people. They go to a cabin in the woods. And then want to write a movie, and they come up with this idea of this killer who wears a bag over his head and you know, just kills people. But as they’re writing it, an actual person with a bag over their head is terrorizing them.

MF: Oh my gosh.

EH: So you don’t know whether it’s one of them or whether, you know? It was pretty good. Add it to your Netflix.

MF laughs

EH: So you’ve got your tour coming up in — I guess about a week right?

MF: Yeah, we’re leaving on Sunday.

EH: How are you getting around?

MF: We have a rented SUV. Or we are renting an SUV. So, going in style.

SM: Yeah, cramped, but still in style.

MF: We’re hoping all our stuff will fit.

EH: How excited are you guys to experience Provo, Utah?

MF: Oh yeah, so excited! Actually, I mean, Provo has its scene. We’ll see, we’re playing with some local bands, so that should be cool I think.

SM: That venue actually looked really exciting.

MF: Yeah.

EH: How big is Provo?

MF: We’re more scared about Fort Collins.

EH: OK, and why’s that?

MF: I don’t know. We’re playing at this place, it’s like an art gallery, which will be cool. But I think we’re probably going to end up doing our own sound mixing. Yeah, it’ll be interesting.

EH: I see. So you’ll also be going to Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle…

MF: Mmm hmm.

EH: Did you self book everything or how does that all — how does that all work?

MF: Yeah, I booked all of those shows. Most of them were straight with the venue. And we played in Minneapolis a couple weeks ago, like a month ago. We traded a show with a Minneapolis man that we know.

EH: So in addition to the band, you also head up a record label called Tandem Shop. Which came first?

SM: Um.

MF: Depends on your definition of first. For me, the label came first. And then Sam had all this music he’d been writing for a long time.

SM: The music had kind of come first but it was never really a thing. Like an established thing. Like I had been recording songs and putting them up on MySpace page, back when that was like a thing.

EH: Mmm hmm.

SM: And that was pre-Tandem Shop. It never really kind of morphed into an actual thing with recording and live performances until after Tandem Shop, I guess.

MF: Yeah, Tandem Shop is essentially the reason that I got involved because we were already working together, so we would like work — a night would happen where we’d work and then we’d take a break and play some music. And it just kind of gelled.

SM: I think also having Tandem Shop was motivating, too.

MF: We’ll be able to see all the other bands doing their thing. It makes you want to go out and play shows, and put out a record.

SM: It’s much more motivating when you’re a part of a community with other people who are doing things. Their music is getting written about, like by press, and they’re playing shows. That was something that I had always wanted to do well before the business side of things kind of happened. So that was just more motivating to me.

EH: So what’s going on with Honest Engines? You introduced them to me a couple months ago and, I don’t know if they played a show. They might have, but I missed it.

SM: They probably haven’t since uh–

MF: Yeah, no they definitely haven’t. They’ve done a couple acoustic things; Sam did them some acoustic. They’re kind of not playing shows right now–they’re recording a full-length. Hopefully it’ll be ready to go this fall or winter.

EH: Yeah, I really liked their EP from this year, um, French Song. It was just good — three songs. Especially the first two, I just really liked.

SM: That’s always the response. It’s just so good, but it’s only three songs.

EH: Yeah!

MF: Have you listened to Captain’s Log?

EH: To who?

MF: Captain’s Log was the EP they put out last year.

EH: No, just the one from this year.

MF: Well, we’ll have to send you Captain’s Log, because that’s good stuff.

EH: Yeah, I’d love to hear it. That’d be great. So I’ve been reading a little Dennis Cooper lately. He’s an essayist and I guess–I’m not really sure how big he is. But, he has this book out with compiled interviews and that sort of thing, and one of his main, I guess, tactics for when he interviews people is to do word associations. So I thought I’d do that with you, too.

SM: Ooo. I’ve never done this.

EH: It’s a lot of fun. Basically, I just say a word and then you tell me the first word that pops in your head.

SM: Sweet.

EH: We’ll start with something easy just because we all live here, but: Chicago.

SM: Oh my god.

MF: Project Film album! [laughs] That’s sad.

EH: That’s a good answer.

SM: I don’t–I don’t even. I’m so bad at this. Um–

MF: You’re thinking too much.

SM: I know! The first thing that popped into my head was Minneapolis.

EH: And why’s that?

SM: Well we’re both from Minneapolis and then we moved to Chicago. I think when I think of one I think of the other.

MF: Yeah, and the record’s kind of about transitioning from Minneapolis to Chicago.

EH: OK, touring.

MF: Sorry, what did you say?

SM: What was that?

EH: Touring.

MF: Boring?

EH: Like a tour. Touring cities.

MF: Oh, touring.

SM: Band.

MF: Portland. [laughs] We have like four days off in Portland.

EH: Oh, nice. I’ve never been. It’s the city that I’ve wanted to visit, but I haven’t been there. How about: Ben Gibbard.

SM: Everything. No. Yeah, I don’t know. Literally so many words.

EH: I was going to assume he was an influence. I guess when I listen to you guys it’s pretty unmistakable.

MF [laughs]: Yeah.

SM: Yeah, I do. I like Death Cab.

MF: It’s interesting though. I think the next record is going to be a little bit different, so it’s exciting to see it as it’s developing.

SM: Yeah, I think it will be a little different.

MF: A little bit less Death Cab.

SM: Probably a little bit less Death Cab.

MF: More rockin’, or something.

EH: I will say I like “Ink” a lot. I feel like it’s very different from the rest of the album, in that it’s all instrumental. It’s lengthy. I guess that’s not “rocking.” I don’t know if that’s the sound you’re going to be going for, but I really respond to that song a lot.

SM: The one song we’ve been playing live that’s new that has–that all the parts are fleshed out, it’s become a little bit more rocking on stage than I had originally imagined in my head, which is totally fine. But it will be interesting to see what happens on the record.

MF: “Ink” is cool. “Ink” is one of the ones that people either love or hate–totally. It’s super fun to play live.

EH: Yeah, I would think so. Is it a song that you can kind of just extend, or do you play it like it was recorded?

SM: It comes out a little bit differently. It comes out a bit more loud and crazier. Like in that end part, that long outro, it becomes–

MF: We throw some solos.

SM: There’s a bass solo, which is pretty great.

EH: Well, I think I’ll let you all go, this has been great. But I will mention that you’re playing The Empty Bottle on Saturday to, I guess, kick off this tour or say goodbye to Chicago. Great venue, probably one of my favorites. And then you’ll be gone for a bit and then you come back to The Whistler in August for a free show with Nelken. Have you played with them before?

MF: We have not, but I have seen them play and I am a huge fan of them. I’ve written about them for the blog a couple times. I really like them. I’m excited to play with them, and I’m glad they wanted to play with us. And we never played The Whistler before either. And we never played The Bottle before either.

EH: That’s awesome. Yeah, both places I really enjoy. The Whistler is free and it’s got all that exposed brick. And The Empty Bottle is just nice. I like that they don’t have any TVs. It’s just very like–you’re there for the music, you’re there to drink. It’s just cool. But yeah, good luck with your tour and perhaps I’ll see you Saturday, and if not, in August.

SM: Cool.

MF: Sounds good!

The tour:

07.16 chicago, ill  /  the empty bottle (w/ Cult of Youth and Austra)  /  21+
 | tickets
07.17 minneapolis, mn  /  fine line  /  21+
 | free!
07.19 seattle, wa  /  high dive
 | $6
07.20 portland, or  /  ella st. social club
 | $5
07.25 san Francisco, ca  /  kimo’s
07.26 provo, ut  /  muse music cafe
07.27 fort Collins, co  /  artlab
07.28 denver, co  /  oriental | tickets

07.29 des Moines, ia  /  house of Bricks | $5
08.14 chicago, ill  /  the whistler  /  21+ | free!

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About Eric

Hello there. Email your things to chicagotunes[at]gmail[dot]com.
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