Cute Is What We Aim ForWhen Buffalo, New York emo band Cute Is What We Aim For crashed onto the scene a few years ago, they brought with them so much momentum (and critical backlash) that it seemed impossible for them to follow-up the success of their 2006 debut The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch. But judging by the reaction—and album sales—of their new album Rotation, Cute Is What We Aim For could very well possess something far more valuable than money or fame: longevity.

“We had so many people around us telling us we had to believe in ourselves and that was pivotal to the direction of the album,” says vocalist Shaant Hacikyan. “Now we do believe in ourselves.”

What was the writing and recording process like for Rotation?

We recorded in Los Angeles at John Feldmann’s house [The Used, Story of the Year], but it wasn’t until the pre-production stage when we really started to write. There’s something to be said for spontaneity, and I didn’t want the songs written out when we got there. Coming in with half-written songs was kind of awesome because we’d be playing something and [Feldmann] would just get up and walk away. So we would work for the hour that he was gone and pour our sweat and tears into [the song]—and then when he came back we’d ask him if he was impressed. It was like pleasing your parents because we just wanted him to be happy about what we were creating.

Cute Is What We Aim ForWas that stressful?

It was such a learning process, and I want to stress that?not just musically but from a life perspective?we developed and learned so much. We realized this is a career and we can’t just be kids and take it for granted. We never consciously took it for granted, I just didn’t realize what was happening because it happened so quickly. There’s so much satisfaction in understanding that life isn’t about the destination, it’s in the journey.

What was it like dealing with that success so quickly?

Imagine wanting to do something from the time you’re 12 years old and sitting in your parents house at 14 and saying, “I’m not going to college, I’m not taking the SATs.” It seemed impossible. It was such a whirlwind and it was too good to be true. All of us are mystified. We sit there every day and ask, “How are we here?”

It sounds like there are some new influences on this record. What did you listen to during the making of Rotation?

We didn’t listen to anything that was new, we listened to where music came from: the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and the Police—everything that kind of shaped modern music. We realized, “How are we going to make a statement if we’re trying to just go along with everyone else? Why not be influenced by the masters instead of individuals with the same influences as me?”

Cute Is What We Aim ForHow did you hook up with your new bassist Dave Melillo?

He was my dream guy to work with and we toured together [Melillo filled in for CIWWAF on rhythm guitar during last year’s Warped Tour], so over the past few years he’s been a constant. Throughout the making of this record, Dave was the voice of reason, had a solid head on his shoulders, and told us we were doing the right thing.

Getting back to Feldmann, did he support your unorthodox approach to recording?

I can’t describe him so much because I don’t think anyone would understand. He just gets us. John told us we were amazing and believed in us. He never heard the last record and the only reason that we worked with him is because [guitarist] Jeff [Czum] emailed Feldmann through MySpace and included a link to our music—and eight months later he got back with us. It wasn’t through management. It was through a random MySpace page and he listened to one song and dug it and we went from there.

What’s one of the most memorable moments of this recording?

John had someone else in the band punching the s*** out of me while I was singing. No joke.