I recently got the chance to speak with Conversion Delay members JD and Sebastian about pursuing music and their latest EP release, Out of Sight.
Conversion Delay is a four piece independent rock band from Columbus, Ohio that have a wide range of influences placing them somewhere in between blues rock and heavy metal.
The group is comprised of Nathaniel Grosh (guitar, keys, vocals), JD Johnston (guitar, bass), Sebastian Olsson (bass) and Nick Allen (drums). Whether they’re playing a killer Nirvana cover set at the Big Room Bar or melting faces at local venues with their heavy original sound, these guys promise to put maximum passion and distortion into everything they do.
The Indie Sound: So, the band began as a two piece and then grew to add two more. Was that something you were looking for or did it just kind of happen?
JD Johnston: It was a strange progression. I was one of the first two, along with Nathan, the singer. We were in an industrial band that fell apart. We didn’t even know each other that well, but we decided to keep playing music together. The goal was always to have a full band but drummers are hard to find. We went all the routes.
We actually met our drummer, Nick, through Craigslist. It’s been about three years since we’ve been a three piece, about two since we’ve been a four. When there were three of us, we wanted another guitarist or a bassist, which I would have flip flopped for either one, and then Sebastian came along. He played in another group that we had played with around town and then he joined. Four is the plan, I don’t know that we’re searching for a fifth.
Sebastian Olsson: What we need is a dedicated percussion player. We need to have someone just on the bongos and the triangle. The electric triangle with all the distortion.
TIS: So you guys like the distortion?
Johnston: Oh, definitely.
Olsson: As many varied types of distortion as possible.
TIS: You have been described as a political rock band, would you agree with this?
Johnston: Yes. Especially now. It had been more subtle in the past, but this one subtlety kind of got skipped over.
Olsson: I think musically and lyrically the best way to describe this is direct. There wasn’t a lot said in code on this project.
Johnston: The opening track “Ultraviolence” is a very straight forward message, there was no tip-toeing around. And even some of the album artwork speaks to this, we’re all chalk-lined on the back.
TIS: Does the new administration motivate you guys?
Johnston: Three of us more than the fourth I’d say. He’s [Olsson] not the biggest on politics,
Olsson: It just makes me angry in such a fundamental way that I disengage because If I engage with this type of thing too much, then it overpowers everything else and you can’t function. Whether or not we have a cartoon in the White House is irrelevant to me.
Johnston: I would say the new administration plays a role, yes.
TIS: You guys describe yourself as ‘independent rock,’ what does that title mean?
Johnston: In one aspect we’re independent because we’re self-funded, we put out our own products … but on the other hand it kind of means we have done what we want musically.
This release is very much hard rock and pretty straight forward. There were elements of dance music on some the earlier ones that haven’t been lost completely. But you get some dance songs, some poppy songs and then some heavier ones.
“A lot of time, money and commitment go into this, but when you have that passion, you do it. You find a way to do it, you have to.”
TIS: So you guys don’t pigeonhole yourselves into a certain genre, you just make what you want to make?
Johnston: Right. Like, today we made a dance song. Cool. We like it, so we’re gonna keep it.
TIS: What musicians do you guys look up to?
Johnston: I would say that there’s a cool mix and also a lot of overlap, like if I could draw one of the Venn diagrams. The singer and the drummer both love the Gorillaz, Nine Inch Nails … ‘90s rock. Me personally, I’m missing out from the Gorillaz, they’re okay but I don’t particularly care for them.
Olsson: Gorillaz are great.
Johnston: Once you hit Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins that they all love that’s like my favorite thing in the world. And the Deftones. Sebastian trickles around that, but also tends to gravitate towards the poppier rock, like Weezer.
Olsson: Yeah, that’s fair. I’ve dabbled in thrash and progressive in high school, but at the end of the day I always come back to melody. Melody is primary to me. Whatever the dressing around that melody is, great. But it has to be direct and catchy.
TIS: Out of Sight has been your latest project. What has been some of the feedback you’ve received so far?
Johnston: People who are fans of the band really like it, but at the same time we kind of knew they’d like it. But from people outside, we’ve only had two other entities give an opinion on it. One was very positive and one was not so positive. I think some people weren’t expecting it to be as straightforward as it is.
Olsson: The eclecticism was a very large part of the last release. This is my first project with the band, and as a reaction from joining when the last one had just come out, the economics of it were such that a smaller form would be better and allow us to focus in more and really go at a specific sound. That specific sound being the darker and heavier parts of our overall sound, which rubbed some people the wrong way.
Johnston: Yeah some were not a fan of how heavy it was, but that’s okay. We made it to be heavy and we weren’t trying to pretend it wasn’t.
TIS: Do you find Columbus’ music scene to be welcoming of your sound?
Johnston: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever been looked at as the cool kids because our music isn’t particularly trendy. It’s not mainstream, but I don’t think it’s too far from it and I think we’ve been accepted well. Blues rock is big in Columbus and so is the heavy metal scene so we sit somewhere in the middle of that.
We kind of fit into both, but we don’t really live in either. So that hasn’t necessarily helped us. If we’re on a straight metal show, we’re softer than everyone else whereas on a blue rock show we can be a bit too heavy. It’s still been great though, we’ve met a lot of really cool people on both sides of that line, wherever it sits.
TIS: What has been your favorite show to date?
Johnston: I may just be speaking from recent memory, but the release show on March 11 at Spacebar was a great night. Gudger and Odds of Being Born, who are all good friends of ours, were on the bill too. When you pick bands to play a show with you, they’re not always the first to say yes, so that lined up perfectly. The crowd was great that night and people were super receptive to the new album and wanting to pick it up. That may be some recent bias on my part, but that night definitely sticks out as one that went really well.
Olsson: I was going to say the same one, but from a different perspective. For me, the majority of my music making has been done behind closed doors and this is the first time I’ve contributed to a project on this scale. It’s not every day you get to have a first like that and then to have people actually be there and like what we’ve been working on. It was a really great feeling.
TIS: Do you think Conversion Delay will be around for a while?
Olsson: When you’re independent, these things are a financial effort.
Johnston: Yes a lot of time, money and commitment go into this, but when you have that passion, you do it. You find a way to do it, you have to. I think all out of us would agree that we’re going to make music, so we just have to do it.
TIS: Describe your sound in one word to someone whose never heard it before
Olsson: That’s the unofficial theme of the band. Crush.