Archie Powell Introduces “Rick Morvanis” and Reveals the One Constant in his Songwriting Over the Years

April 28, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

Archie Powell and the Exports Present Rick MorvanisOur van is a 1997 Ford something-or-other (I’m not much of a car guy). His name is Rick Morvanis and has hundreds of thousands of miles on it. Despite having no proper heat or defrost, a broken tape deck, or doors that open from the outside (save the driver’s seat and back hatch), we keep him around for good vibes. I’m sure we’ve spent thousands of dollars to keep him alive by now. He came to us free in exchange for web design work that our bassist, Adam, never actually ended up having to do.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

You can either eat cheaply or healthy, there’s not really a way to combine the two. I tend to eat poorly on the road due to financial constraints. A “good day” is signified by choosing beef jerky and peanuts over Taco Bell.

How many strings, cymbals and drums do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

Cymbals seem to get about a year of solid use out of them, whereas guitar strings break too frequently to accurately to estimate for this question. I’m sure I spend a few hundred dollars a year to replace them. Drum heads are changed semi-frequently as well. Equipment maintenance may as well be factored into our utility bill, it’s such a regular expense.

Where do you rehearse?

Our rehearsal space is shared with another band and is fairly cramped with everyone’s gear packed in. It’s got just enough comfortable standing room for all five of us. There’s a small fridge where you can purchase beer for a dollar (honor system). No crazy experiences there, really. It’s our office. Not a lot of partying happens at the rehearsal space.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

I was about 15 when I started writing. This was right around the time that I was transitioning from prog metal to pop songs, so it’s hard to say exactly what was going on at the time. I’m sure it was about wanting to kiss pretty girls or whatever. I guess not much has changed.

Describe your first gig.

I grew up amidst the punk scene in Milwaukee, WI so there were loads of basement shows that were really hot, crowded and smelled of piss. Back then everyone drank this caffeinated malt liquor called Sparks since we lived in one of the handful of states that hadn’t made it illegal. Shit was fluorescent orange and stained your tongue something fierce. These were the kind of shows where you’d have to take special care not to leave your guitar unattended for fear that someone would run off with it or draw genitals on it or something. All in all, a pretty good hang.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I’m a bar tender. It’s great. Probably the best way to earn a living as a non-professional citizen.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

I still don’t pay any rent with the music, but at this point we’re privileged enough to be able to ask for considerable amounts of money for performance, certainly leagues beyond what we got when we first started this band in 2009. I assume that if we continue to work hard and be kind that we’ll only be that much better off in 5-10 years.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

If it’s not fun, don’t bother.

Heartbreak, shame, sorrow and guilt. In the case of Archie Powell, his new collection of songs prove that for him, no good crush gets requited. He and the Exports present Back in Black, an explosive set that marries the melodic, hooky addiction of their previous albums with a new heavier, noisy backing. Powell notes that the political songs on their critically acclaimed Great Ideas in Action got a lot of attention, but he felt that the more inwardly centered songs held up just as well. “I felt that the real strength of our body of work was with internal subject matter. Writing this album, I wanted to be bluntly transparent about sex and romance. I was really looking to be nakedly honest despite any discomfort or personal embarrassment it would invariably cause.”

Archie Powell is the son of a violin prodigy who played in the Chicago Symphany Orchestra before landing as a permanent member of Milwaukee’s orchestra. He started playing guitar at 11 and writing “awful” songs at around 15. Immediately following college, he and keyboardist Ryan started the Exports, bassist Adam joined after they recorded their first EP and they rounded out the permanent line-up with drummer RJ. The band’s first recorded effort was a digital freebie called the Loose Change EP that expanded their audience to a national level. It was followed by Skip Work, their debut full length, which drew praise from Boston Phoenix, Powerpopaholic and My Old Kentucky Blog among others. Great Ideas in Action followed in 2012, and critics from Esquire, Billboard and NPR’s World Café were impressed.

You can find Archie Powell and the Exports online and on the road.