Trapdoor Social makes indie-pop perfection but what sets them apart from other bands, is their passion for environmentalism. We talked to them about their insanely catchy song "Truth" and their solar-powered concerts.
How did Trapdoor Social form?
Merritt and I (Skylar) met at Pomona College, doing environmental studies. I remember some nearly-all-nighters in the computer lab working on class projects and talking about music and life. We started the band a few years later, living in LA, and agreed we should make some cool music and try to promote a message about the fragility of the world we live in. We started playing shows in 2012, and in 2013 picked up Louie Gonzalez on guitar. So by now he's basically family. Other guys have come and gone and we love them but are getting a little more flexible about who plays any given show. On top of that, we've incorporated marching bands and brass bands and stuff like that... super fun stuff.
Tell me about your new song “Truth” what’s the story behind it?
Truth is a really fun tune written by our guitar player, Louie, actually. He explains it this way:
"Truth is about the mistaken belief that we can find a 'perfect love'. We build an idea of what we want when seeking love. We seek the perfect match (physically, emotionally). But truth is there will always be compromise in building relationships. We need to cultivate self-love and be accepting of each other's flaws, see each other's potential, and grow together."
I remember being on tour, staying at our buddy Gordy's house in Minneapolis (thanks again Gordy!) and hearing Louie working on this idea. Good times!
I love the idea of sola-powered concerts. How does that work? Walk me through the details.
Ok so a few years back we invested in this solar generator. It's built into a big box trailer, that we could take on tour, carrying all our gear in there, and it's got these 6 solar panels on top and 2 big ol' batteries inside (plus charge controller, inverter, etc. etc.). This beautiful machine charges whenever it's in the sun, and on a full charge it can go all night running power off the batteries for a sound system, lights, everything you need for an outdoor concert or small festival. It's kind of a blast to put it all together (but also a full day's work) (but totally worth it).
We use it for school shows (like the upcoming Sunstock Berkeley and Ecochella at St. Mary's College), outdoor shows in backyards, breweries, on the beach in Canada... all over the place. Y'all got any ideas? We're probably down.
Why is that important to you?
This kind of thing has been a major part of our mission since Merritt and I started out. It's at least a conversation-starter, or a statement, that clean energy is HAPPENING and it's gotta be now. It's really great to run sound and power for a protest or rally (like we just did for the Youth Climate Strike) because it aligns with their mission and even if the band's not performing we're there and that means a lot to us in itself.
Do you think more bands and artists should be conscious of their environmental impact?
This is such a crucial moment in history where SO much damage can be done... or it can be averted. So I absolutely do think artists should take seriously their platform and do what they can to make the world a better place. I also think it has to be done... sustainably. For example, we were so stoked on this solar show idea that we started a thing called Sunstock Solar Festival. It was a cool idea, had some amazing moments, and taught us a lot... but it was a huge amount of work (my main job for 7 months each of the 3 years we did it) and we were losing money. So we had to pull the plug, so to speak (ha). For now at least. We love that cause and we will continue to support it however we can, but we're no use to anyone if we burn out now.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the music industry?
Look. We've been trying to figure this stuff for... 7 years? It's obviously not easy. We're learning more all the time, and despite frustrations, we are finding our way. It's really exciting. But yeah we were lucky to survive this long, haha. We've had a ton of support from some pretty amazing people... without whom we'd be broke and confused.
What’s your piece of advice for young musicians?
Rock on!! Music is a fantastic thing to get to do and if you love it, you can find a way to do it. I just met a nice young saxophonist who is considering moving to Los Angeles to do music and I told her to go for it! DO find stability and balance - you can't have a good life, let alone career, if you can't afford your lifestyle or are having nervous breakdowns. If that means stay with family or get a day job to support your work in the evenings, do that, and then make that music!!
A wise man once told me that success in the arts isn't fame or fortune, though that may seem nice - it's just staying in the game. Every day making art is a shot at changing the world, a statement that represents you, and an opportunity to connect with people. That inspired me a LOT and I really hope I can do this for a long time!