When People Band Together: An Interview with Mike Five of Lights and Lines

Hailing from Brighton, UK, Mike Five is a guitarist and podcaster, the curator of the Off The Record Independent Music Festival, and the manager for the music collective and independent record label Lights and Lines, which runs the aforementioned festival. According their website, Lights and Lines aims “to share new and exciting music from the underground with music lovers everywhere.” Sharing stories is a major part of their philosophy, and so is the belief that real power “comes from below, not above.” Hence their mission to build “real, strong, and local communities up from the underground.” These ideas square perfectly with my own philosophical inclinations, so I dropped Mike a line to find out more. 

Can we start with the idea that real power comes from below, not above? How so? And why is that idea central to building strong communities?

Ah, this could be a long answer! Community is really important to me. And the idea of real power coming from communities is something I believe to be absolutely true, but more and more it’s in danger of being forgotten. 

Too often we’re told what to do, what to like, where to go and everything else. Governments and global corporations spend too much time and money dictating what we should be doing with our lives and not enough time listening to what people actually want and need. This top-down exertion of power stems from authority figures determining goals that often suit themselves rather than the vast majority of people. 

But the reality is that if you push people too far they will push back – look at all the great protest movements in history: the Suffragettes, workers rights movements, and more recently things like Black Lives Matter, or the vigil’s that were held for Ashling Murphy and Sarah Everard that reignited debates about violence against women. 

Some of these enabled real change – women can vote, workers get paid holiday and so on. Others are working towards real change by keeping the conversation alive and letting the establishment know that the issue isn’t going away. When people band together to address some of the wrongs in society, their power is often realised. 

So communities have the power to bring people together to enact change. But in a society where human interaction is becoming more marginalised, and technology encourages us to hide away from real human conversations, I think people are drifting apart. We’re becoming lonelier and more isolated. 

If communities weaken and dissolve, so does our ability to join together and change things, and I don’t want that. Society only really works because the majority of people work together within it, sometimes we need to work together to break stuff, challenge the norm, and change things that are simply wrong.

And how does music fit into the equation?

Music is central to it all for me! It’s an innate part of human existence that often provides a window into the human condition at any given moment in time. There are loads of great examples in history of music being the driving force behind movements that create change.

Take Reggae music in Jamaica. It became a way to bring the voices of the oppressed to a wider audience. Or something like Bella Ciao, popularised again as an anti-facist song in Money Heist (Netflix) – originally this was an Italian folk song sung by workers in protest against the harsh working conditions in the fields of northern Italy. There are countless other examples throughout history of music marking a moment in time, and helping create a movement. 

The sense of community in music is also really strong. Take live music, for example, people who know nothing else about each other can go to a gig and connect, dance, and sing along to the same songs together. For a few moments the band and the fans have a shared experience, a brief opportunity to connect and forget about the rest of the world, and a shared sense of emotion. I think that’s really energising.

With the label I wanted to create our own place in the independent music community where we can help amplify the voices of up-and-coming artists, and work together to do something different. I think the whole music industry is a mess and anyone who accepts that music is art has a right to be angry that musicians are getting paid 0.003p per stream, are being asked to pay for reviews, and to play gigs, and are forced into competition with each other to survive. I’m angry about it anyway, so I wanted to do something about it. 

The battles we’re fighting aren’t always big global ones, but the community we’re building rally together to support real, independent, underground talent, and go against the grain of the mainstream and accepted norms of the industry.

I’m on board! Connecting the dots, how did you go from recognizing the relationship between music and politics to starting a record label? Or maybe to put it another way, what inspired you to start a label?

I suppose everything is political, and I’ve always believed that music can be a force for good, a way to share stories and perspectives. Starting the label was all about connecting with people. It’s interesting to me that in a world that’s more connected than ever so many people feel alone. 

Most indie artists work alone, they self-release and self-promote. This can be alienating and lonely at times. Indie labels can help artists double their efforts, reach new audiences, develop their skills, and provide a sense of community to support and encourage their creativity. I think my skillset and experience enable me to help coordinate and bring structure to those efforts, and bring people together.

How do you find the artists that you work with?

It varies. With people like Gozer Goodspeed and GRIM17, I was a fan of their music and owned quite a bit of it before I set up the label. When I approached them to see if they wanted to work together, we just seemed to click and that was that. Similarly with Crushed By Pimps, I was already a fan and they approached me just before they went into the studio to talk about what the label was up to. It’s easy to sign a band when you’re already a fan!

Others are more of a gut feel. Torrid (A Love Affair) asked me about playing a gig and we ended up putting out their debut album. I’d only really heard a few demos and seen a live video but there was something about them that made me think we’d work well together. We do, and that album is stunning! 

Torrid (A Love Affair)’s latest release, Poems from Mars.

I’m a music fan first and foremost and I’m always listening to new music that I either discover or people send to me. I think you have to really love a band to put their stuff out. It doesn’t work if you’re not a bit obsessed with their sound. So however I find them or they find me that’s the first thing. Then after that it’s just about attitude and working together – will we get on, do we have a similar vision, can we collaborate? 

What is your relationship with your artists like? How involved are you in aesthetic decisions, for example? Or even business decisions, for that matter?

I’m really close to all of them, I think you have to be. When you put an album out you probably spend six months working with the artist beforehand, and then when that album is out there I think you have a lifetime commitment to keep it alive! If you don’t have a good relationship with the artist then it’s hard to deliver on that. I chat to all of them most days either by phone, zoom, or on various messaging apps. 

The way I work is very collaborative but the focus changes depending on the artist – e.g., for some I’m more heavily involved in things like artwork, for others I don’t need to be. Similarly with business decisions, sometimes people want to try different things and I’m up for that, other times they want me to suggest approaches and I do. The business side is often more about can we afford to do it rather than what should we do!

I’m also curious about the phrase “music collective and record label.” What’s the difference between the two, and how do they complement each other?

The idea of collectivism runs through lots of things I’m involved in. For me it’s about giving the group priority over any one individual. 

The label aspect is us putting out other people’s music. We choose who, and to a certain extent how and what, we put out.

But we also do other things under the Lights And Lines name like put on live shows. We run a festival every year, we’re putting on a songwriting exposé in May, and we offer support and opportunities to collaborate in lots of other ways to the entire independent music community. 

The collective is our community if you like. It’s everyone from the people who work with me behind the scenes on all the things we do, to the artists we collaborate with, and the fans who support the label.

For example, we offer a label subscription. Sign up for a year, and we’ll send you a copy of everything we release for 12months. People love getting CDs through the door throughout the year, and the money we get upfront covers things like manufacturing which means we can pay the artists quicker. All the people who sign up to that subscription are part of our collective. They are giving the group priority over the individual – and I love them for it!

A lot of my readers are independent musicians, and we all know that promoting music from the ground up can be a daunting task. What kinds of challenges do you face as a label manager? How do you overcome them? What have you found works, and what doesn’t?

It is a daunting task – and actually just recognising that and acknowledging it is an important step, I think! 

We probably face the same challenges as everyone else: How do I reach more people? How do I get more reviews and radio plays? How do I afford to do any of this in the first place? Where am I supposed to find the time?

I don’t think there’s a magic formula, or at least if there is one, I haven’t found it. But we are trying different things and just seeing what lands well. For us a lot of what we are doing is about creating blended or hybrid experiences – mixing physical and digital assets to create a more holistic listening experience. 

For example, we record interviews with the bands pre-release where we go track by track through the album and then release it as a podcast called The Inner Sleeve: Digital Liner Notes. Liner notes have always given listeners an exclusive behind the scenes look into the artist and album. But sadly, in the age of streaming, these little windows into the creative process have been largely lost. The podcast is our attempt to bring that back, but for the modern world, and it’s really popular!

We also quite often do things like release physical copies first through Bandcamp, and wait a few months before releasing albums to streaming. The idea is a bit like a film release – when it first comes out you’ve got to go to the cinema to see it, or wait three months for it to appear on streaming. 

This builds interest around the music, and especially the physical product, which is not only a much nicer thing to have but also where the artist can actually get paid a decent amount of money for their art. Interestingly, I’ve found it naturally extends the lifecycle of the album, too. For example, if just as sales are levelling out the tracks come out on streaming and one gets playlisted, that gives you even more to talk about.

I imagine the festival presents its own challenges as well. How big of an undertaking is it, and how do you manage it?

I love the festival! Last year was our biggest event so far with twenty-three bands playing across three stages. 

It started off as just me, I was bored of going to see three bands play on a Tuesday night and watching all their mates walk out after their set—what’s the point in that? You might as well charge your mates a fiver to come and see you at your house. 

Live bands need to grow their fanbase and this just isn’t the way to do it. I realised that if you want to keep people engaged enough to stay and discover other bands, then you have to do something a bit different. So the first year I put on eleven bands on one stage in one day. 

Quite quickly I realised that it was a bit much to do all on my own. I was doing the door, introducing the bands, loading in gear, coordinating with the sound engineer, managing set times, and basically everything – which was hard work! So after the first year I started to ask for help from people who I knew and thought would be interested and since then it’s become something much bigger than just me.

It is a lot of work, but it’s fun. Each stage now has its own curator so I only manage the one and then just oversee everything to make sure it runs smoothly. There are now about ten volunteers who all help out on the day, which makes a huge difference. They are awesome humans!

All of that and podcasting, too! Do you still have time to play guitar?

Ah well guitar is my first passion so there’s always time for that! 

I co-host a couple of new music podcasts; New Music Saturday with my good friend Dr. Bones in Canada which has been going for about seven years with the two of us. That’s basically a poker night for me, we sit down on a Saturday night, have a few beers, and go live on the podcast with a mix of music and chat, we play about thirty tracks by independent musicians every week, it’s great fun!  And this year I was asked to join the team at You Haven’t Heard This Music Podcast which is more of a magazine style new music show. Those guys are great fun as well and that one is only every two weeks so it works well for time!

What’s on the horizon for Lights and Lines?

At the moment I am applying for some Arts Council funding to help us reach more people through more live shows, and to help fund some things like vinyl releases. Other than that, I’m always looking for opportunities to reach new fans, find more artists, and grow our community. I think we have something special here and I want to build on that!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Mike! I really appreciate it!

Thank you – I really appreciate the work and research you put into this and the really personalised approach. Very cool interview, thank you!

The Process Is the Motivation: An Interview with the Jasmine Monk (aka “Jaz”) of The Smashing Times

Thanks once again to Janglepop Hub for turning me on to another great band! This time around, it’s The Smashing Times. What really grabbed me about this band – even before I heard their music – was the fact that they were releasing their songs as singles on 45 RPM seven-inch vinyl. Given the price point, it’s the kind of move that takes more than a bit of chutzpah, but when I gave the music a listen, I ponied up and ordered the record, whose echoing, twangy guitars and plaintive vocals made me nostalgic for the days of my youth when the seven-inch single was the coin of the realm for indie bands. What really piqued my interest, though, was the fact that I couldn’t find any trace of the band on social media beyond their Instagram page, so I dropped them a line to find out more…

Who’s in The Smashing Times? How did you get together? What’s your working relationship like?

Myself – Jaz – Ole and Zelda/Anais. Ole and I knew each other from a now defunct punk house in Bellingham, Washington, that was called D. Street and I think may have even been on a street with a similar name to that. Anais and I go way back and similarly met at various occasions in odd places in those shabby early twenties bohemian party scene days. It’s interesting how being young and poor sort of deposits you in buildings that have gone without updates. It’s as if bohemia really does exist in some static dimension.

We sort of conceptualize what we want to do. When Ole and I first met again here in Baltimore we were sitting at Asian Taste talking about the Yardbirds and Mod Revival stuff, Squire, Purple Hearts, The Jam etc… For us the Television Personalities are really the perfect intersection between the punk DIY, irreverence, and the sick riffs of Petula Clark’s session musicians. Then Ole turned me on to The Times single “Red with Purple Flashes.” Holy moly, that single is everything. Our name is sort of a portmanteau of The Times and the single “Smashing Time,” also that film.

When we started, we wanted to be a mod revival band, but Anais had never drummed before and Ole hadn’t played bass in nine years or something. So, I wrote tunes that were carried by the vocals and guitar. We were drawing heavy from Cleaners from Venus, The Times, and TVPs on the first EP.

One thing I love about The Smashing Times is that I feel like you’re really going all-in on a kind of DIY nostalgia: seven-inch records, cassette releases, general avoidance of social media. Is that all part of a single conscious decision with respect to how the band presents itself, or is it just organic to who you are?

We are lucky to have inherited this concept from Crass. I’m so sick of perfect things and cleanliness. I want to make something with no motivation other than to make it. Like an Enso circle, the brush stroke is the art, the process is the motivation.

Ole is the largest contributor to our tactile and visual aesthetic, he is like our Gee Vaucher. Part of it is tradition, part of it is convenience and habit. I think on my last count I have been in 15 or 16 bands. And it’s like, here we go again, gotta get the tape out and then a single and try to get somebody to finance an LP. The price point on a single is about the same as a cassette but you can get a smaller batch of cassettes made and don’t have to sit on them for as long. Summer Inside happened because we were couped up for so long and couldn’t play shows so we were just like, lets make some tunes and keep putting out mixtapes.

It feels really good to me to have so much control over it. Ole and I started playing music during the Napster days, but people still bought CDs and LPs. It’s been awesome to have access to so much music but at the same time it has become really devalued. Having a tactile thing is like an offering to people who listen to the music. It’s like, hey you found us, good job, here is a thing most people can’t appreciate, but you listened, so here is a delightful bauble which, for your perseverance, you deserve to enjoy.  

We have another single in the bag but we are learning that the plants are still so backlogged with the success of Mcartney III that they don’t want to do singles anymore. They don’t really make money for the plant, labels, or for the bands. So yea, we do it so that little you, the listener, can enjoy the experience. Here is the single, get ready for the LP… “Big A, Little A, bouncing be. The system might have got you but it won’t get me.”

I mean, even the sleeve for the 45 I bought (“Dreams on Union”) is, I think, a hand-folded, photocopied sheet of letter-sized paper, just like the indie records I used to buy from bands when I was in college. I’m picturing the band hunched over a dinner table, folding the sleeves by hand and sliding each record into the package. Is that accurate, or am I romanticizing things?

It literally does happen across the kitchen table. I will try to get a pic for you.

The decision to photocopy it has to do with the early TVPs singles and the O-Level stuff. It’s sort of a shibboleth. Basically Ole sat me down with his collection of old stuff and said “look what Dan Treacy did, let’s do this.”

I know you work with the independent label Painter Man Records. How did that relationship come about? Broadly speaking, what does your deal look like, if you don’t mind me asking? I’m also curious about the choice to release cassettes and seven-inch singles. Was that their idea or yours—or is it more the result of a dialog between the artist and the label?

Technically the cassettes are on Heavy Numbers Choons, Painter Man distributes those. In truth the single is self-released. We like the Painter Man logo so we were fine with it being on there.

Ah, I see. Some but not all of your music is on Spotify and other streaming services. How do you decide what to release on Spotify and what to hold back, as it were?

We do it in batches and the single didn’t make it in the first batch.

You mentioned in our correspondence a while back that you’re based in Seattle. The city is legendary among music lovers for its indie music scene in the 1990s. What’s the scene like today?

We are from various parts of Washington. Inevitably you end up in Seattle. We are mostly from the northern-most part of the state and centered around Bellingham which is near the border with BC. Because of this we had a lock on Vancouver as well as Seattle and could help distros and touring bands facilitate the crossing. I played with Jay Arner in his old group Fine Mist up there and got deported the night we opened for Hercules and Love Affair. DEPORTED. They had us in this holding vestibule and they wouldn’t let my friend Rachel go to the bathroom. Imagine having to pee in the vestibule.

Seattle has become Amazon’s town and is basically unlivable for bohemians. We all moved to Baltimore in 2018 and then Covid happened. Seattle bands that I like are Super Crush and Shine. Baltimore bands that I like are Corduroy and Posmic. It’s cool to be in a new town and meet all these local characters and hear new music.

I’ll have to check them out! In terms of your music, one thing I really love about “Dreams on Union” is your effective use of pauses. They build a tiny amount of tension that propels the music forward like a little sonic slingshot. And, of course, there’s plenty of jangle and echo, which I also love. Can you say a little bit about how you record your songs—how you approach production and arrangements?

That is good to hear. I worried they might be too progressive. It happens differently every song. I write all the parts and have a general sense of arrangement. Anais has had a bigger hand in arrangement on our newer stuff. The arrangement is big part of the value of having band members is. Everyone has suggested things at one time or another that have worked out beautifully to my mind.

I wrote and arranged “Dreams.” Anais really did not want to learn it and hates playing it. That is probably where the tension came from. The drums on it are the first take. She just got up and walked out so we had to make do. I think it turned out well, I love idiomatic art and music. I feel like on the middle 8 bass part you can picture Ole being like “oh shit, what is next?” and that to me recreates the spontaneity of fabulous improvisation like the Velvets and Miles Davis but without the burden of all that horrid skill.

We have three Shure SM57s and some kind of Shure drum mic. I’ve learned a lot about how to use them and EQ and so on and so forth. I think you can really hear the progress. It’s slow going, I’m more of a tactile and intuitive person so rather than looking up a youtube video on how to do things I just dig in and learn from the mistakes as they happen. Those recordings are gloriously imperfect but that was where we were at the time and honestly it’s what we are going for.

I feel like that Sad Eyed Beatniks person really gets the indeterminacy thing. I listened to a bit of one of their tapes on Bandcamp, I heard the drums drop the beat, I’m having that. I bought all the tapes. Similarly, but not nearly as cool, check out the guitar solo on “Heart of Stone” by the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards frets out. He fucks up the solo and they keep it and it sells millions of copies. Because the imperfection is attractive.

What about writing? What moves you? What, to your ears, makes a good song?

I think we are all sort of coming to this realization that modern life is bunk. Anais and I are in our early thirties. They say you realize there is no future. Even if you can pay your bills, what is the point? That being said, vague lyrics about your condition are bound to strike a chord with someone, I think good poetry needs to be vague enough for a sort of empathic bond to be formed between the speaker and listener. Our shared suffering is where we form solidarity and understanding. The aughts were all about shrugging and racing to be the first one to say “I am detached.” But then we got around to watching Manufacturing Consent, it matters, art matters and solidarity matters, and it seems like awareness is beginning to grow. Pay it forward, you know?

The real challenge is marrying modern day problems with a wide array of 60s-90s British pop culture references and giving you that warm feeling in bottom of your belly like the first time you heard Ride or The Creation. I’ll never be able to do that like Mick Trouble does. Have you heard that LP? Amazing.

I’ll have to look for that one! I imagine playing live is a big part of how you’ve developed a fan base. Any chance you’ll tour anytime in the near future?

We are planning some gigs on the West Coast this June hopefully with Semitrucks from LA. Paul from Expert Alterations/Corduroy will be filling in on drums. We are pretty excited to hit the road again after the last couple years.

Any other plans?

We are wrapping up an EP and will be shopping an LP this summer! Our mastering dude says there are 18 month wait times on vinyl so look for the EP in 2023.

I am working with Blake from Corduroy on a second Midden Heap EP and Anais and I recorded an album in summer of 2021 under the name Roshan Gosh.

Sounds like you’re pretty busy these days! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! 

Thanks for having me. It means a lot that there are people interested in representing underground music.

Just Kind of the Way I Write: An Interview with Scoopski

I’ve been meaning to interview the artist known as Scoopski for a while now. Recording with his wife (Mrs. Scoopski) in their eponymous band, his music strikes a delicate balance between poignance and humor. Take, for example, their latest album, See You Soon, whose cover depicts a fetus making a set of devil horns with his fingers and whose lyrics raise a wide range of existential questions like how did we get here, where are we going, and what exactly does one wear when it’s too warm for a hoodie yet too cold for a tee shirt? Though we didn’t get to tackle these questions when I caught up with Scoopski recently, we did get a chance to talk a bit about the peculiarities of our hometown as well has the latest endeavor that he and Mrs. Scoopski have embarked upon…

What part of Philadelphia are you from? Do you find that it influences the way you look at life in general and songwriting in particular?

Hey Marc! Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me! I’m from the Northeast part of Philadelphia. I actually grew up in the Philly suburbs, but I’ve been a Philly resident for 6+ years now.

That’s funny! I grew up in Northeast Philly and live in the suburbs now.

I think the place you live definitely influences your songwriting in some way or form. Anything and everything that inspires me is in-bounds for a song topic, and Philly/PA is directly mentioned in a number of Scoopski songs, most notably “Emergency Joyride,” “The Philly Monk,” and most recently, “Pennsylvania.” If I didn’t live where I lived, I could’ve never written those songs. Maybe I’m secretly trying to become to PA what the Chili Peppers are to Cali… Who knows!

Well, we do have plenty of bridges you can write about being under! The title of your 2020 album Bad Things Happen in Philadelphia echoes a certain politician’s comment about the City of Brotherly Love. What were your thoughts when you heard that comment? 

The funny thing about that is that the first time I heard that phrase, all I could think was “Man, that’s an excellent album title!” and almost immediately, that album cover of our cats shooting lasers out of their eyes towards the Philly skyline popped in my head. I’m aware that people flipped that phrase around and claimed it as a Philly pride thing, and that’s cool, too, but my interpretation of it was quite literal and just silly!

One thing I like about your music is that it’s funny without being jokey, if that distinction makes sense. Why is humor so essential to your music? 

Thank you! I like to think of it that way as well. I think the weirdest thing is I don’t usually write songs with the intention of being funny… It’s just kind of the way I write! I’ve always liked artists who use lots of pop culture references, and I think when a reference to a videogame or a movie is dropped in the middle of a somewhat serious song, it almost immediately brings some levity. I also think some of the songs may seem silly on their face, but are actually a little darker than they let off, such as “Clark Griswold,” which is a song about feeling like a total failure.

Definitely… Does the humorous nature of your songs ever influence your musical decisions, particularly with respect to arrangements, instrumentation, and style? 

I would say sometimes, for sure. For example, on the first album “Bad Things Happen in Philadelphia,” the track “Miles” which is about a character from Sonic the Hedgehog, starts off with one of the iconic sounds from the videogames.

Sometimes, on the flip side, the music can actually dictate the topic of the song. The track “Mr. Spyder” from that same album was a co-write between Mrs. Scoopski and I, but it started with that piano intro she came up with. All we could think of was that it sounded like a spider, so we came up with the lyrical content around that.

Visually, your album covers employ a lot of ironic juxtaposition. The cover of 2020’s Things Are Fine evokes the Jet Star rollercoaster that washed out to sea in 2012, and the cover of the “Joy to the World” single that your released this past November features a handful of goth kids seated around a fairly chipper Santa Claus. How does that sense of irony translate to your music? Or is it actually ambivalence?

In the case of the cover of “Things are Fine,” that cover was pretty intentional. There was a lot of really bad, negative things going on in our lives from the time that album was recorded (May 2020 to February 2021). I always loved that image of the Star Jet in the ocean, the two of us actually drove down to Seaside to see it ourselves in 2012, shortly after it occurred. When I was thinking of album covers for “Things are Fine,” that image really stood out to me. A rollercoaster that was separated from where it originally stood when the boardwalk beneath it collapsed, beaten and worn down by chaotic storms. Yet it still remained, and still stood tall. I think there’s an odd message of hope in that image. 

Absolutely! I was entranced by that image as well!

As for the “Joy To The World” cover art, that one is totally ambivalent. That image was an old internet meme, taken at a nearby mall in the Philly suburbs. Our cover is very poppy and not gothic or heavy in any way, so I suppose it’s more of an ironic cover!

And speaking of covers, you recently released a pop-punk cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” What was behind that decision, and why that song? Also, just out of curiosity, what’s involved in getting permission to record someone else’s music?

10/10 segue there!

Thanks! I try!

As for that cover, I’ve always liked that song, and really enjoy a handful of CCR songs as a whole. One day Mrs Scoopski had that song playing while we were cleaning, and immediately the sound of a pop-punk cover of it popped in my head. The original really already has the tempo of a punk song, so it was actually a very natural transition. 

As for permissions, that song and the other covers we’ve done as Scoopski are only on YouTube, and not on any streaming services (aside from BandCamp, where I have payments disabled for that song). The reason being is I’m actually not quite sure how it works, myself! The only reason our cover of “Joy To The World” is on streaming services is because I do know that song is so old that it is part of public domain, so anyone can do their own version of it without worrying about copyrights. This is definitely a topic I need to learn more about, myself!

You and me both! Now, Scoopski, the band, is a family act. You play guitar and bass and handle production, while Mrs. Scoopski plays piano and synth. And you both sing and write songs. What’s that dynamic like? 

It’s really amazing to have a life partner who is as into music as I am, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We were bandmates first, we played together in a band where she played keys and I was the lead singer for about a year before we began dating. 

I think we both made each other better songwriters in a lot of ways, too. I knew virtually nothing about music theory before knowing her, and she says I helped her come out of her shell more with songwriting.

I’m very happy that recently Mrs. Scoopski has become more and more prominent in our songs, especially on the album “See You Soon,” where she wrote and sang lead on 3 of the tracks. (On “Things are Fine”, she played lots of piano/synth and sang lots of backup vocals, but only sang lead on the closing track).

I get just as psyched when she shows me a song she came up with as I do when I come up with a song. I remember when she first showed me the song “While We Wait” and how excited I was to record it, it’s still a favorite of mine.

Scoopski usually tends to have more songs where I’m the lead singer, just because I usually write songs really quickly and pump them out, and she usually is more measured and gets moments of inspiration. But I always go to her for input on my songs, especially during the editing process. There’s been lots of instances where a part of a song had a bad musical decision on my part, and she steered me in a much better direction.

Do you ever get to play live? If so, is it just the two of you, or do you fill out the band with additional musicians? Also, do you need a bass player? 

Unfortunately, there is yet to be a Scoopski live show!

We have played live before in the past, but not as Scoopski. As I mentioned previously, the two of us were in a band together, and we’ve also performed acoustically at open mic nights a couple times, but it’s been many years since we both played out together. 

This is something I’ve thought about a lot in the past year or so though, as you’re now on a growing list of people who have asked us about performing live!

The public demands it!

I really like the way my friend Modern Amusement (who can be heard featured on the song “RIDING THE WAVES” on our new album) performs live. His music is upbeat and energetic, sort of like how ours is, and he performs solo. But, instead of performing acoustic, he actually plays an electric guitar with distortion and all along to a backing track with the drums, synth, bass, etc. It sounds really great, and I’ve totally envisioned us playing live shows this way eventually! 

There’s something really magical about being in a full band, when everything clicks as a unit, you feel like a family. But, it’s also a lot of work and comes with a lot of emotional baggage… and at this point in time I’m not sure it’s something the two of us would be completely committed to, especially since we actually have our own little family now! So this is another reason why the option I mentioned previously may work best for us.

But hey, if we do decide to go the full band route, I will certainly hit you up for your bass skills! 😉

Nice! Your latest album is dedicated to your newborn son. How has becoming a father influenced your outlook or changed the way you think about making music? 

Absolutely! Becoming a father is very new to me, but it’s already the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

It’s extra special to us, given the journey we went on to bring our son into this world, which is documented and summed up in the YouTube video for the title track “See You Soon.”

The thing about this album is, to us the vibe of it feels very celebratory and triumphant. A lot of the songs feel like they’re sung with a big smile. It’s especially a stark contrast to us when compared to our last album, and hopefully those good vibes shine through to the listener as well.

 What’s on the horizon?

I feel this question goes hand in hand with the last, because with our baby boy being here now, we haven’t quite figured that out!

I’m a songwriter, so there is constantly new ideas kicking around in my head, I just can’t stop them. But when I record, edit, and mix the Scoopski tracks you hear, that is very time demanding. Especially in the editing process, I am almost in another world with my studio headphones on, and that doesn’t gel very well with having a newborn baby at home.

But with the nature of our project just being the two of us, as long as we’re both alive and kicking, I see no reason to think Scoopski won’t continue to exist and thrive to some extent.

The challenge will just be figuring out how music fits into our new lives as parents. But music has always been the thing that bonded us, and so for that reason I know the music will find a place, especially because we want music to be a huge part of our little guy’s upbringing!

Maybe a children’s album would be the next logical step for Scoopski? Might be!

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Scoopski!