With their debut EP on Tooth & Nail Records, Sing It Now, now in stores, Poema's Elle and Shealeen sat down with Jesusfreakhideout.com's Scott Fryberger while on tour to discuss the album, writing music, and the origin of the group's name...
This interview took place on: 6/8/10.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Okay, so we have Shealeen, who's gonna be twenty tomorrow, and Elle who is seventeen, correct?
Actually I just turned eighteen. We all turn the next age within a matter of like thirty days. Us and our brothers.
JFH (Scott): So do you guys always have combined birthday parties since they're so close together?
Oh no no no. *laughter* Well, this year we don't even get parties.
Yeah we're on tour and everything, so we're driving like five hours to the next city and we just tell each other happy birthday, and that's it.
JFH (Scott): Is this your first tour?
Shealeen: No, we've been out with Bradley Hathaway, and a band called December, and then we did a two-week run with a band called PlayRadioPlay!...
They're called Analog Rebellion now.
Shealeen: Yeah, Analog Rebellion. PlayRadioPlay! is how people usually know them. But yeah we did that tour and now this one, so we haven't really toured a lot.
JFH (Scott): This is your first Tooth & Nail tour though?
Shealeen: Yeah, actually, Tooth & Nail did set this one up. So yeah.
JFH (Scott): And the other bands playing tonight...
Elle: They're actually not signed to Tooth & Nail.
Shealeen: No, but Tooth & Nail did set it up, because Windsor Drive went through Tooth & Nail to set it up.
JFH (Scott): Oh okay. I've seen them before, but I thought they were just an independent band.
Shealeen: But yeah I think they are independent. Even though they should be signed, cause they're really good.
JFH (Scott): How did you guys get a deal with Tooth & Nail? Did you go to them or did they contact you?
Elle: Well it all happened really, really fast for us, because... well, we went on one tour before the Bradley Hathaway tour, and we actually can't really count it as a tour, 'cause it was two days. It was two shows, and then we actually got cut from the home show. So it was sort of a rough tour.
Shealeen: It was one of our very first out-of-state shows ever.
Elle: First first first tour. And it was with a band called Sleeping Giant, and they're metal.
JFH (Scott): *laughter* Wow. That's really weird.
Elle: *laughter* Yeah, it was pretty random. They had two stages; one was like an acoustic stage while the metal band set up. But it was actually the first show that we did on that tour, and we met a Tooth & Nail representative, and during the tour we kept hearing things like "Yeah he won't stop playing your CD. He really loves it." And we're like "Oh my gosh that's awesome!" So we just happened to be going to Seattle to visit our cousins, and he contacted us and said "Hey while you're up here, you should showcase to the label. I set you guys up a showcase." We're like "Awesome, okay!" It was our first showcase, it was cool. And so we did it, and they seemed pretty optimistic, and then like a week later they called and offered us a deal.
Shealeen: It was crazy. God definitely opened the doors for us, 'cause we weren't trying to get signed. We didn't even think we were really gonna pursue music. We just said "Well, heck, let's just do it."
Elle: Yeah, and Tooth & Nail is probably one of the only labels we had ever heard of.
Shealeen: It really was. Growing up, all the bands we listened to were Tooth & Nail bands.
JFH (Scott): Is it hard jumping right into the music business while you guys are still young?
Shealeen: Well, I think the hardest part was school. Right around the time I graduated, which was in 2008, we started writing. So, for me, it wasn't that hard even though I'm taking college classes, but she was still in high school and our little brother is still in high school. We were all trying to do school and stuff, so I think that was the hardest part for me.
Elle: It's definitely hard. I had to get my GED and then start taking college classes online.
Shealeen: Plus, just the fact that we're just teenage girls, and our little brother just turned fifteen, he's been fourteen, so it's been really hard to tour without our parents. You know, they don't want us just heading out while we're just young and girls.
Elle: We'll usually have one of our parents tour with us.
Shealeen: And it's hard for them 'cause my dad has work, my mom watches our other little brother at home, so it's hard for them. It's a big sacrifice for them too.
Elle: But they're totally supportive, absolutely 100%. They'll plan their schedule around what we have to do, so it's cool.
JFH (Scott): Who all has been touring with you on this tour?
Shealeen: Let's see... we have our bass player, Jake, and our little brother, Christian, and our dad's with us on this tour.
JFH (Scott): Now, I got your EP a couple of weeks ago, and I was reading through the thank-you's, and you guys specifically thanked Children 18:3. Have they been a big help to you?
Elle: Before we signed with Tooth & Nail, while we were still negotiating the contract, it was totally an unrelated thing, but they were coming through town and a friend of ours said "Hey, we have this band coming through town and we're booking a show for them. Can they stay at your house?" We're like "Uh, okay."
Shealeen: I know, I was kinda skeptical, like a random band staying at our house. I didn't know what to say.
Elle: Yeah, so they came to the house and they said they were signed to Tooth & Nail, and we said "What?! We're negotiating a contract with them! So how do you like the label?" and started asking them questions, and they were just like "We LOVE that label!"
Shealeen: Talking to them really helped us decide to sign, because we were unsure, not knowing what we were doing.
Elle: But yeah that was a huge part of us deciding to sign with Tooth & Nail. And since then we've kept in touch with them. They've sorta been our very first people from the label, they're like our label siblings.
Shealeen: Yeah, 'cause they're siblings too, so we just call them our label siblings.
Elle: Yeah, so we've just sorta formed this close friendship with them, 'cause we're linked to each other in a lot of ways.
JFH (Scott): Do you also like their music?
Shealeen: Oh yeah!
Elle: You know, when they stayed at our house, that was the first time we ever heard their music.
Shealeen: When they played that night, we were so shocked.
Elle: Yeah, we saw them live and we were just blown away, 'cause they're the most chill people ever. But when they perform, it's like they explode on the stage. There's this energy that's like "Oh my gosh!"
Shealeen: I remember for months after that, 'cause we got their CD that night, we just listened and listened to it. I love it. And I don't usually really like punk music. But they're phenomenal.
Elle: They're like the standard for punk rock bands.
JFH (Scott): Who else do you enjoy listening to?
Shealeen: On Tooth & Nail or just in general?
JFH (Scott): Just in general.
Elle: We like country music.
Shealeen: A lot of country.
Elle: It's weird, 'cause people probably wouldn't really think that, but we love country music, all country music.
Shealeen: And growing up we used to listen to a lot of Switchfoot and U2, they're probably my favorite bands. And The Beatles.
Elle: Switchfoot used to be, well, still IS... they've been my favorite band since I was like nine years old. And we actually had the opportunity to open up for them when they came to New Mexico. It was like a dream come true for us.
Shealeen: Oh that was such a crazy night.
JFH (Scott): Was that really nerve-racking?
Elle: Oh my gosh.
Shealeen: The day before, I lost my voice completely, and it was such a crazy night. There was a lot of confusion, but we finally got to play, so I was still excited, and they liked our music, too. They said they did... *laughter*
JFH (Scott): A little star struck huh?
Shealeen: Oh yeah. Jon Foreman came up to us and told us we did awesome and I started crying. *laughter* I was just so happy.
Elle: I've never really met that sort of celebrity where I've just been so in awe of them all my life and then I finally meet them. It's never happened.
Shealeen: He's an inspirational role model. Jon Foreman's amazing.
JFH (Scott): Are you guys hitting any festivals this summer?
Shealeen: We're actually doing the entire Vans Warped Tour. We were gonna do Cornerstone, we did it last year and it was a blast, but because of Warped Tour we're not gonna be able to do it this year. So if anyone wants to see us, we'll be on the entire Warped Tour.
Elle: Yeah, we're volunteering at the Girls' Garage tent, and we'll basically be playing an acoustic set there every single day.
JFH (Scott): How long is that going on?
Elle: I think it's forty-three dates.
Shealeen: It starts like June 24 or 25, I think, and it goes till, I think mid or end of August. So it's a pretty long tour.
Elle: It's gonna be nuts.
JFH (Scott): Your song, "2 AM," is that about an actual occurrence, or is it just a cute little story you guys wrote?
Elle: It's sorta like a mix of both. It's about awkward situations.
Shealeen: It wasn't really about a date, I guess, it was kinda just "Hey we all have awkward situations, let's write a song about it."
Elle: Basically I was writing this song, and sometimes when I'm writing, I'll just sing random lyrics to what I'm writing, and so I started writing this song, and I just sung "It's 2 AM, it's gonna be another long night," and we sorta built it around that with situations that we had experienced. But like from the get-go it was sorta this random thing that popped into our heads, like "Wow this is such a cool idea for a song" and stuff like that. I don't know, we just sorta built it around that.
Shealeen: We worked for hours on these lyrics just to get it perfect. It took a while.
JFH (Scott): Well it turned out to be a really good song.
Shealeen: Thank you.
JFH (Scott): So Elle, would you consider yourself the main songwriter, or is it about 50/50?
Elle: It used to be that I wrote the songs. I wrote the song "Feel The Same Way" and a lot of "Blue Sweater," but then as we both matured as musicians, now it's always both of us. 'Cause Shealeen has so many good ideas for lyrics and melodies and stuff but then so do I.
Shealeen: Usually I'll feel that she'll come up with a great chord structure, and then maybe even like a melodic hook, and then I'll come in and be like "Oh what about this and this" or "let's change this."
Elle: Since we're so similar, it's awesome to have someone to ask their opinion.
Shealeen: I feel like it's identical almost.
Elle: Our style is so similar.
JFH (Scott): You said this is your first Tooth & Nail tour. How do you deal with the stress of touring and everything?
Shealeen: Honestly, I thought touring was gonna be so easy, but it's hard. For me, I think the biggest thing is just having each other. We can keep each other accountable and calm each other down. And I definitely try to keep in close touch with the Lord, 'cause it's hard.
Elle: Before every set, we'll definitely pray.
Shealeen: But it's hard to have quiet times and continually keep your heart in focus, but we have to make an effort to do that for sure.
Elle: Yeah, it's definitely having each other that's a big part of what keeps us sane.
Shealeen: I know! I was thinking, if we had to do this by ourselves, it would be so hard, so discouraging, but we're able to encourage each other so much.
Elle: And being family, we can be completely honest with each other, so that's a good thing.
JFH (Scott): Have you had any great experiences on this tour?
Shealeen: Oh, the hometown show! We played in Albuquerque. We had this show booked but it just ended up not working out, so the show had to get cancelled. But we still had to play a show, 'cause this was gonna be the last show we played in Albuquerque.
Elle: Our last home show all summer.
Shealeen: So we had to do something, so we were trying to scramble and find a coffee shop, or try to play after our church service, or just something, but we couldn't get anything together, so we decided to just play in a local park. So we just tweeted that we were gonna play at this park in a couple of hours, and it was amazing. I'd say about fifty kids came out, just sitting on the grass in front of us. It was so awesome.
Elle: Yeah and it was totally just an acoustic set...
Shealeen: No mics or anything.
Elle: Just my guitar, an acoustic bass, the little box that Christian plays, and it was just really chill.
Shealeen: Such a blast. And then afterwards, we all just played volleyball and soccer 'cause we were in the park. It was such a good night. That was like one of my best memories ever.
Elle: My favorite show on the tour. Home shows are always a blast, but that was like the coolest dynamic I ever had playing a show.
JFH (Scott): Was that right before this tour?
Elle: It was during the tour actually.
Shealeen: Yeah it was like three days ago. It was really recent, but it was cool.
JFH (Scott): What has God been teaching you guys lately, if anything specific?
Elle: To be patient. We're sorta waiting for a lot of things to come together and stuff. And it always does, but it always seems like it's at the very last second.
Shealeen: Even with the tour. 'Cause so much of our life revolves around what we're doing in music and stuff like that, so waiting on God has been hard. Like all these tours finally coming in and lining up in like the perfect amount of time. It's amazing.
Elle: It's definitely been God's perfect timing for a lot of things that have happened. I'm starting to see that more and more as we keep going along with this, but we've only been doing this for about a year. But we're just learning so much. That's just one of the things we've been learning.
JFH (Scott): Have you guys started writing any new songs?
Elle: Definitely. We have enough for an entire new album.
Shealeen: We wanna get back in the studio real bad.
JFH (Scott): Do you have plans for studio time?
Shealeen: Hopefully the beginning of next year. That's what we're looking at. It's kinda far off, but I'm anxious. But it's cool, I guess we can keep working on even more songs, try to perfect them, and put the best ones out.
Elle: We love writing. Gosh, writing is so fun.
Shealeen: We're trying to write on more topics.
Elle: Yeah our subject matter has definitely matured, 'cause a lot of the songs on Sing It Now were written when we were like fifteen, well I was fifteen, and we hadn't really experienced a lot of the stuff we had written about.
Shealeen: Yeah, people were hard on us. It's crazy 'cause just in the past two years on this album, and people were like "Oh, well there's not enough Christian lyrics on this album," you know what I mean? That's just so hard to hear, 'cause I feel like writing love songs doesn't mean that your heart isn't right with God. I mean, you just write where you're at and God will honor that. I think so anyway. But I'm excited for the next album.
Elle: We've definitely had a lot more experiences now, and so the stuff in our new songs is just way more meaningful to ourselves, and the stuff we've experienced really translates through the songs. When I've actually experienced it, it comes through.
JFH (Scott): How has Sing It Now been received in general? Have you gotten good feedback on it?
Shealeen: Well, like I said, it's a mix. A lot of people really like it. I think the sales have been pretty good.
Elle: We don't really have a reference point because we've never had a CD out. But, I think it's been good, people really seem to like it.
Shealeen: Some reviews have been kinda hard on us, mostly a lot of Christian reviews, but some have been really good. It's been mixed. But for the most part it's good.
JFH (Scott): That's good. I know I like the album, and I'm excited to hear more. That's all I had for you, unless there's anything else you wanna talk about.
Shealeen: Hmm... I never know what to say here! *laughter* Well, do you wanna hear about the name?
JFH (Scott): Oh yeah! Tell me about the name "Poema."
Shealeen: It's kinda cool, actually. Our mom was having her quiet time, this was like a year and a half ago, and we hadn't come up with a name until then. She was having her quiet time, and the Lord just kinda pressed on the name Poem [Po-EM], and she was like "Hey I thought of a name for you guys!"
Elle: We were just going by Elle & Shealeen. Sorta like every other girl group - Meg & Dia, Tegan & Sara.
Shealeen: But we wanted to be kinda different, we thought it'd be cool to have one word. But anyway, she said Poem, and we're like "Eh."
Elle: But people would just think it's "poem."
Shealeen: So I kept thinking about it, and I liked it, and I said "What if we did Poema?"
Elle: Make it sound more girly. More feminine.
Shealeen: It's a pretty name, and so we're like "Okay let's go with that." And then later on we actually found out it means "beautiful masterpiece" in Greek, or "God's workmanship" or "God's poem." That's what the Greek root means. I think it's pronounced po-ee-ma, but we pronounce it po-eh-ma.
Elle: It was almost like this perfect coincidence that we happened to love it and it happened to be like the perfect name for us. It was definitely meant to be.
JFH (Scott): That's really cool. Well it's been a pleasure talking with you. Thanks for your time!
Poema's debut EP, Sing It Now, is available now
wherever music is sold.