Interview: Time Spent Driving

interview by tom maxwell

You’d be surprised to know just how much of your life you spend driving. You see I know a little about time spent driving because my parents got divorced when I was only four and my father was hell-bent on seeing my brother and I every two weeks regardless of the fact that he lived more than two hours away. I started to learn about life’s reality when I was forced to leave one of my parents every other weekend. You can learn much about yourself in the comfort of your car. Funny enough, driving is probably one of the most dangerous things we do just about everyday. I mean shit, who knows when their card is going to get pulled.

On a lighter note is this band Time Spent Driving. They’re a relatively new outfit from Canada (of all places) who have quickly made a name for themselves. Their first album “Just Enough Bright” was released by Sessions Records earlier this year and received much acclaim in the indie world. I would describe their album as beautiful melodic emo punk. Truthfully, I also reviewed their latest album and it is definitely one that has yet to leave my disk changer. I got a chance to talk to singer and songwriter Jon Cattivera around Turkey Day and here’s what he had to say:

Do you write a lot of your songs on the road?
How’d you guess?! To be honest, when we were writing our first songs, I did write a lot while driving. I wrote a few songs in their entirety, and finished several parts of songs – but it was when I was driving alone. Since then, I take out my notebook while on the road with the band, but it’s harder to concentrate or let you mind roam with three other people right there making noise.

You ever see that Fox show about crazy police chases? Well, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the road?
For sure! – that’s a good one. We’ve seen a few accidents, and I crashed our van right into a white pick up at the beginning of our first U.S. tour. It totally smashed the hell out of our front end, and Derek, our guitar player who pretty much owns the van, basically looked like he was going to have a stroke or something! I slid something crazy like 128 feet or something, the cop went and measured when we tried to lie about how fast we were going. Too many crazy things actually, and I don’t want to fill up your whole zine.

You released your first LP “Just Enough Bright” back in May of this year. How has the album taken to your fans? Have you seen an increase in the population at your shows?
Definitely. Our EP was out for a while, and we had a label change with it, some bass player problems, etc. It’s really hard to build a good fan base with just an EP. When our full-length came out, it was instantly a better feeling in every regard. I think the older fans liked the new disc, and I think it’s a little more appealing to new fans because it’s a bit more diverse.

Have you found it easier to “break the ice” with fans in the US or Europe?
Europe, Europe, Europe. That’s all I can say. Every show had a good aura surrounding it. Everyone seemed like they were at the show to listen to live music and have a good time – and if they did enjoy themselves, they would actually buy a shirt or a CD. It helped that we were playing with Favez. They’re from Switzerland and have toured Germany many times, so they had good turnouts. Everyone should check them out if they have a chance. U.S. shows can be cool too of course, but sometimes there’s just this certain “who are you” vibe sometimes.

Word, your right, Favez is the shit. People in the U.S. can be such snobs. What’s the craziest experience you’ve had sleeping on the floor of someone you met while on tour?
One time I woke up at this girl’s house with her cat sleeping down at the inside the end of my sleeping bag. Not her pussy but her real cat. Kinda weird that a cat would like to hang out down there. We slept in this super crazy animal farm in Texas (of course) one time. They had like 6 dogs and too many cats to count. It was super dirty and I had fleas in my sleeping bag for the whole rest of the tour. Sleeping at other people’s houses is hit or miss.

How crucial was J. Robbins’ role in “Just Enough Bright?” I mean would it have been the same record without him?
No way. The main thing about J is that he is seriously the nicest guy. I think that is part of what gives the records he does a certain charm. It allows the band to feel totally comfortable while recording, and that is super important. He didn’t actually change anything about our songs as far as structure, lyrics or the main vocals (but he made sure they were in key). The main thing he had input on were all the instrument tones, song tempos, the extra layers of keyboards and percussion, effects, and back up vocal parts. He rocks, I recommend him to anyone and everyone.

A listener can easily think your songs are based around relationships largely due to lyrics like “If you were here right now I wouldn’t write this down at all. I’d think out loud, embracing you in a calm confessional.” Are your songs primarily based on relationships?
I’d say they are, but the funniest thing is that a lot of times people think a song is about a relationship, but it’s not at all. The song you quoted is about a relationship, but it’s funny you mentioned it, because when we were in the studio, our guitar player noted that he really liked the lyrics. He said at first he thought it was about my relationship, but then he’s like: “It could be about the band too.” So hopefully people hear what relates to their lives in our songs.

What do you think sets Time Spent Driving apart from its contemporaries?
There are a lot of really cool bands that I envy around right now – but I think a lot of bands really just throw their songs together, we don’t write a ton of songs constantly, so I’d like to think we’re about quality not quantity. Another thing is I hope that people can listen to our music and like it, and then look at the lyric sheet and appreciate that it’s not completely laden with clichés and the same old stuff. It also just seems like the scene is so saturated with wanna be Saves the Day bands, and no offense at all to Saves the Day, but I am really glad we’re not a part of that. It just all runs together for me.

What’s next on the agenda for Time Spent Driving? I know you have some tour dates around California coming up in December, but are there any new records (possibly 45s) or major tours on the horizon?
Right now we’re between bass players, which is a recurring theme for us. We’ve got some good candidates lined up though, I’ll be doing some solo-acoustic stuff till we’re good and ready. We are writing for a new record and in the meantime, we plan on playing some shows, doing some short west coast tours. Anything bigger is probably going to have to wait until our next release.

When you do have a new record what do you plan on doing differently from “Just Enough Bright?”
We’re really hoping for more time in the studio, I think we could do some really cool stuff with a bit more time. We did “Just Enough Bright” all analog, no digital whatsoever – and we’re proud of that record because everything is real. I think we’ll probably do the next record with protocols or something though, just for a change of pace. We like to mix things up and try different things.

Any closing thoughts?
Thanks for the interview, thanks for reading. Please keep up with us at