TMP Rising Stars: The Contagious
This month, our featured Rising Star is The Contagious, a three-piece rock band from Montgomery, TX. Consisting of Mac Johnson (guitar and lead vocals), Cayden Diebold (bass and backing vocals), and Jake Douglas (drums), these boys have enjoyed their experience with the Texas Music Project, and we spoke with them about their origin, writing process, and love of playing to live audiences.
How did you guys get started playing together?
Mac: I’ve known Jake since the third grade, and we started a band as soon as we realized we both played instruments.
Cayden: Jake and Mac had established Contagious in 2011. I later met them at a music program, and when they left I asked if I could join. That was the beginning of THE Contagious,
The Contagious is an interesting name. Who came up with that?
Jake: After Mac and I started playing together, we would hang out at recess trying to come up with the coolest names that we could. I think we had started out with “The Losers,” but that didn’t last long. One day, one of us just blurted out “The Contagious,” and it has stuck with us ever since. We just wanted to write catchy and “contagious” songs.
Speaking of songs, what’s your writing process usually like?
Cayden: Very collaborative. Somebody plays something and we just kinda bounce ideas off of each other.
Jake: It usually starts off with a riff or two that Mac has that we put together.
Mac: Yeah, sometimes I’ll come up with a melody at home and I’ll take it to the boys. When we all get together, they add in their magic, and a song is born.
How do you typically record those songs?
Jake: When we finish writing a song, I will usually bring out my laptop, set up the microphones, and record it as a demo. We do it sort of like we would in the studio, even with my drums fully miked up. It’s a good way for us to take the song home and listen to it for improvements
Cayden: In the beginning it was all done on Jake’s computer, but “Sedona” and “This Time” were recorded professionally.
What has been your favorite live performance so far?
Mac: I can’t really pick a favorite. I don’t care where we play as long as we can blast our stuff really loud.
Jake: My favorite performance so far has probably been at Warehouse Live opening up for a couple tribute bands. The energy that we felt on stage was unreal. There were a lot people in the audience that we knew, but also some we didn’t know, so it was a good mix.
What have you learned about setting up and sound checking at different venues?
Jake: After playing so many shows, I’ve sort of developed a fast and easy system for setting up. And I have always been interested in how all the sound equipment works, so it’s been cool going to different places with different sound systems and board operators and learning how each of them work.
Cayden: Yeah, everyone has a different way of doing things.
Mac: I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a place by the sound board operator. If they’re really cool and helpful, you’ll most likely have a good gig. If they don’t really care, you might be screwed!
When you aren’t playing music, what do you all enjoy doing?
Cayden: When I’m not playing music I’ll usually go hang out with friends or ride my BMX bike.
Mac: I like to watch YouTube and chillax with my buds. I am also a hot wings enthusiast!
Jake: When I’m not messing around with recording equipment or learning new instruments, my friends and I like to shoot and edit random videos.
And you edit the band’s music videos too, right?
Jake: Yes, it’s usually me shooting and editing all the videos for our YouTube channel. I like to use a few GoPros and my DSLR camera and then edit on Adobe Premiere Pro. For instance, the “This Time” music video started out as an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) for promotional purposes. I just accumulated footage from pretty much all the shows we had played at that point, and when we had sent the finished EPK to our manager (Billy Hale), he wanted to see it as a full music video. I didn’t have enough full band footage, so we went out to different places to get more. Then I sorted through all of the footage, picking the best shot for each part in the song, and it kind of showed people what we were like both on and off the stage.
What has your experience with the Texas Music Project been like?
Jake: Billy first got us involved with the Texas Music Project, and it has been incredible! We’ve been given many more opportunities to play and they’ve all been outstanding.
Cayden: We fully support what the Texas Music Project stands for. We love the idea of showing the benefits of music and music education, especially for those who are less fortunate.
Mac: We got involved with them because we really wanted to give back to the state and our communities by making sure music stays in schools, and that’s what led to our gig at the Dell Children’s Medical Center.
Wow, that’s great! What was it like performing there?
Mac: It was a super experience. The kids were so cool, and I think they liked us, too.
Cayden: Playing at Dell’s was amazing. We got to use our amps and a full drum kit, which is exactly the way we love to play. It’s very cool to be able to interact with those kids.
Jake: There was one little boy that sat up front during the whole show, and afterward I went up and gave him one of my drumsticks. His face lit up with excitement, and I will never forget that moment.