Interview with Law of Numbers

Law of Numbers: Songwriting and Producing Team

Jessica Gilbert: Jem and Dan, it’s great to have you here and thanks so much for doing an interview for TSM.

Law of Numbers: It’s our absolute pleasure Jessica. Thank you for including us in your wonderful online magazine!

Jessica Gilbert: Firstly, I know that you formed in 2008. Tell us a little about how you came together as a team. And how did you come up with the name Law of Numbers? I think it’ s an awesome name.

Jem Carp: Dan and I actually attended the same school and we knew of each other, but our paths crossed again on another music project I was working on with one of Dan’s mates. We were looking for someone to produce some songs and Dan, having won “Triple J Unearthed” (a prestigious music competition in Australia) in 2004 was a logical choice. Immediately, we clicked and it was great working with such a talented musician and producer. From there, we decided to search for some great artists to collaborate with further and started writing some new material right away.

Thanks for your kind remarks about our name Law of Numbers. I must say we laboured over coming up with the name. It partially stems from our individual academic backgrounds of accounting and law, and partially because we wanted our moniker to be synonymous with us as songwriters/producers. Music theory and songwriting are very much steeped in mathematics and the law of numbers. The numbers in our logo are known as the fibonacci series and historically this has had a huge impact on music. Having said all that, whilst there is law of music, songwriting for us is pretty much random – songs generally appear from thin air!

Jessica Gilbert: What inspired you to get into songwriting? And what was the very first song you wrote together?

Jem Carp: While Dan has been playing drums and bass in bands from an early age, I have also had a passion for music for as long as I can remember. As a kid, walking into a music store for me was like I was walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and not much has changed. I remember some years ago visiting Jim Morrison’s grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris in the middle of winter and being led directly to his grave by the sound of a group of people singing “Break on Through (to the Other Side).” That’s the power of music and I knew I wanted to write songs right there and then.

We both started songwriting as a way of diarising the moments in our lives. PJ Harvey once said that “music is what you do because you can’t speak” and there’s probably some truth in that in our case. I picked up the guitar so that I could write songs and tell stories. The first song we wrote together was called “Gravity.”  I wrote the lyrics in LA and Dan wrote most of the music and produced the track back in Australia. The song was specifically about a chance encounter I had with Britney Spears walking along Sunset Boulevard as she was on her way to her secret gig and how her life as well as ours is full of ups and downs.

Jessica Gilbert: What’s your process for writing lyrics? And where do you get the inspiration for your songs?

Jem Carp: We are always typing phrases or titles into our phones or computers that we can use for a song. Lyrics appear often and everywhere, so when we sit down to write we often refer back to our notes. We are often asked what comes first, the music or the lyrics. Sometimes we start with a title and an idea, and brainstorm all the words we associate with that idea. Other times we start with a melody or chorus hook, and work backwards. If we are writing a really modern pop song then Dan will find a cool beat and we will work from there. If the song is more acoustic or ballady then normally I will pick up the guitar, and words and melodies start coming, and then before you know it a song is born. We are in the middle of the digital revolution and an age of increasing emphasis on music hooks and beats; we never underestimate the power of a lyric. I have always felt that music captures your attention whilst lyrics capture your heart! Every song should tell a story. I definitely believe that “music is what feelings sound like” so the marriage between lyrics and music is key.

Our writing process is pretty random and generally depends on what style of song we are writing, which artist the song is intended for (in which case we will research what he or she sings about and try and come up with concepts that look at things from a different angle), or whether the artist is with us in the room (which is always more fun). We just finished recording a song we wrote with Sammi Palinkas called “Good v Bad” which is a playful pop track about looking innocent and sweet, but being rebellious and cheeky. We wrote the music first, played it to Sammi and the three of us just wrote down lyrical ideas that came to mind there, and then from the music.

Inspiration comes from some mysterious songwriting place. Sometimes you need a road map to find it and other times you find it by dumb luck. Many of our songs are a description of a specific time and place, some totally make-believe, some not but all universal in concept. I find music is really visual, and so it stimulates images in my head so that a word, a line or an image will appear that will trigger a bigger picture with a character that may be me or someone else. People and books are great songwriting resources. The song “Mexico” was written in Mexico after a guy I just met told me the story of how he and his girlfriend hopped on a plane as their second date to watch the fireworks explode over the Mexican sky on New Year’s Eve.

We have written many songs about our own experiences and relationships, but try not to be too specific or give too much away. We wrote a song with Katie Marino and Femke last year called “Second Opinion”which is more or less about the uncertainty of diving into a new relationship. I think there are aspects of that song that we have all experienced. “Deja Vu” is along similar lines, and both were written really quickly. “7 Seconds” is lyrically very personal, but tells the story of instant attraction which everyone can relate to (“Lets cut to the chase, you don’t really know me and there’s nothing more I need to know about you”). It’s not so much about writing perfect lyrics, but rather lyrics that are honest and relatable. I think that’s the essence of a great song.

Law of NumbersJessica Gilbert: You wrote, produced and recorded your debut EP Shadows with singer Emilie Gassin in 2009. You have collaborated with a whole variety of artists. What artists are you currently collaborating with now?

Dan Karni: Yes, we wrote with Emilie in 2009 and have since worked with some other great artists in Australia such as Candice Alley (ARIA nominee), Kim Cooper (Australian Idol finalist) and in the US, Katie Marino (toured with Jessica Simpson and Rascal Flatts). Right now are writing a song for a very special project that I cant say too much about for young Aussie superstar, Cody Simpson. We are also writing with up and coming Australian pop artist Sammi Palinkas for releases in the US this year, as well as talented American songwriters Femke and Simone Porter.

Jessica Gilbert: Two of your singles – “Superstar” and “7 Seconds” were both featured in episodes of the Bruckheimer-produced CBS-TV drama Miami Medical. How did this come about?

Dan Karni: After we finished our debut EP Shadows, we sent a few copies to Warner Bros TV in LA and their writing team (and said a few prayers). Truthfully, we didn’t expect to hear back. We then received an email that they were keen to use our debut single “Superstar” in an episode of their new Bruckheimer show Miami Medical. A week later they then told us that another song “7 Seconds” would be used in another episode. We were actually in the US at the time when the episodes were aired, and it was really cool watching the shows with our music going out to twenty million people or so across the world.

Jessica Gilbert: Who are some songwriters you admire?

Jem Carp: There have been so many amazing songwriters throughout history. We were at the ASCAP “I Write the Music” expo in LA last year and met Linda Perry (who has worked with Pink, Christina Aguilera etc) who we both adore. We love her vulnerability and honesty that she conveys in every song. We really admire country singer-songwriters like Taylor Swift; US rock songwriters like Ryan Adams, John Mayer, Michael Stipe (R.E.M), Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), UK writers like Chris Martin (Coldplay), James Blunt, Damien Rice, Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Australian writers like Missy Higgins and Pete Murray and writer/producers Redone (Lady Gaga), Dr Luke (Katy Perry), Max Martin (Britney, Avril).  Recently, we have been fortunate to work with super talented Dutch writer and producer Femke.

Jessica Gilbert: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?

Jem Carp: Wow, that’s a tough one! There are a heap of real challenges facing the world today and here is my five point plan: a) establish a “guns for guitars” or “pistols for pianos” program to reduce the violence in the world b) enact a law that every song must have at least one real musical instrument c) I would move Australia closer to the rest of the world, so that flight times are reduced therby reducing pollution and assist global warming); d) music history should be compulsory at schools as this would improve the level of education (my nephew thinks that AC/DC and R.E.M are just letters of the alphabet); and e) replace “dance” parties with “ballad” parties and thereby tackle the drug problem.

Dan Karni: Jem may actually have been serious in case you were wondering. I would love to think that its possible to tackle the many health problems in the world today. We have all in some way been touched by cancer and other diseases. We have come along way in the areas of medical research, but there is still a way to go.

Jessica Gilbert: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?

Jem Carp: Many years ago in Thailand I read a book about Jimi Hendrix and how the last song he ever wrote before his death was called “The Story of Life” (which is ironic in itself). I had the chorus lyrics painted on the back of my guitar, so that I would never forget them – “The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye. The story of love is hello and goodbye, until we meet again.” In our studio I have an old Nashville quote on the wall that reads “3 chords and the truth can change the world.” I will also never forget the famous words of Ferris Bueller when he said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Dan Karni: The music biz is so competitive and you really need to persist in the face of disappointment. Calvin Coolidge famously said: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Jessica Gilbert: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

Dan Karni: We are really excited with what lies ahead in 2011 as we are working on some great projects with some great musicians and writers. You can keep updated with what we are up to via our Twitter page (www.twitter.com/lawofnumbers), YouTube (www.youtube.com/lawofnumbers) and MySpace (www.myspace.com.lawofnumbers).

Jessica Gilbert: Thanks again for doing this interview and wish you both the best of luck with everything.

Jem Carp: Thanks Jessica and we wish you continued success with Talent Spotlight Magazine. It’s been fun!

LON with guitars

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