Getting Candid with Quarters of Change [Interview]

We sat down to interview NYC based foursome, Quarters of Change. The group met in high school in NYC and have been honing in their sound over the years.

They released their debut album in 2022 and just finished a headlining tour around the US. Their sophomore album is set to come out in early 2024.

We’re getting candid with singer Ben Roter about how growing up in NYC influenced the band’s creative vision, how Ben approaches songwriting as something that will leave an impact beyond his lifetime, and the importance of being vulnerable in music and discussing hard topics like addiction.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation. Hear the full interview with Quarters of Change on Name 3 Songs podcast.

A lot of us have these key memories of music that really form us as human beings. Is there anything that stood out to you like “music is what I have to be doing”?

So, a little bio for me – my birth father died when I was 3, so I never really knew him. There was literally nothing that I had to get to know him by. But he was a musician and had 4 albums worth of material that he’d been writing his whole life. It always really informed the power of music and the meaning of creating lasting messages throughout your life that are out there as like a sonic recording. 

And I always really appreciated that. It’s like what spawned a love of music and then as I grew older it felt more like a mission to carry on like the family legacy or try to make him proud. Because it’s the only thing I have to bring closure to the situation. And now I feel like I’ve made some music that I really feel like he’d like. That’s really beautiful and another reason why I just fucking love music. 

That’s a really amazing story and thank you for sharing that with us. When we think about artists of the century, it’s like their music is timeless and that’s a big focus for them. And I think a lot of artists who are starting out aren’t thinking in that mindset. It’s such a personal story to you, but also such a unique way to approach what you’re doing.

Yeah, thanks. I think the other thing for us when it comes to that – how precious each song is means a lot to us. We’ve been a band for so long and everything that we’ve written feels really intentional.

I feel like I made a lot of mistakes when I was writing stuff [in the past]. I was listening to Leonard Cohen talk about when he wrote Chelsea Hotel Number Nine, and talking about how he revealed that the song was about Janis Joplin, and then like when she died suddenly like it was one of the biggest regrets of his life that he added her in a song like that. And so especially after I saw that – the amount that a song can mean – I’ve definitely become a lot more mindful of that.

That’s really interesting that you say that because your sophomore album is coming out at the start of 2024, and the themes of that album are going to be addiction and isolation and exploration. And those are all like very heavy topics that are hard to talk about. Do you feel like it’s difficult for yourself to allow yourself to be that open in your writing?

To me, vulnerability is what is going to make a song good. Honesty and what you’re speaking is going to make a song good. Being able to close your eyes and listen to the music hitting your ears, what’s coming out of your heart is a big part of me trying to think about my writing process. And these things just so happen to be the stuff that I find really hard to say. Music’s always been a space for trying to say what I can’t say.

And sometimes it can be scary when I write something and I’m like, why am I feeling like that? Like that’s not good. I struggle a lot in my personal life with feeling like I have some sort of control. And I feel like the honesty and vulnerability that I’m trying to project is coming from a position of, “if you’re gonna come for me, I hope you’re coming for who I really am.”

You mentioned Leonard Cohen earlier and you saw him talk about Janis Joplin and it changed the way that you felt about things. It’s really cool that you’re absorbing the culture of what’s come before and it’s influencing the way that you’re acting as a band.

Yeah, I just love culture. I think that like music is so much more than like a commodity, but like at the same time, it’s something that people will literally go drive out to a place to all enjoy. I love film, I love art. I love the idea that the human brain can conceive of something greater.

The Kendrick Lamar from Live in Paris – I watched it a year ago and good art literally makes me cry. I watched that and tears were coming down my cheek and I was like, wow. The talent, thoughtfulness, the grandiose, it’s so awesome to me. It drives me every day and there’s so much of it out there and I just love that. There’s a lot of stuff in music that you look at as a competition but there’s so much stuff out there that music, art, everything that I could never even see myself compete with. I don’t think about it like that.

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