Greg Katz govorec-pevec in kitarist v kalifornijskem indie rock triu Cheekface pove, da so smetnjaki metafora. Kdo bi si mislil?
Pogovor teče še o zgovornih in gostobesednih besedilih, ki na duhovit način komentirajo propad ne le ameriške družbe in se znajdejo na albumu Emphatically No., ki je na začetku leta izšel pri založbi New Professor Music. Na njem ni aktualnega singla.
Matjaž: Hello dear listeners! In the Hit of the week interview, I welcome Greg Katz the singer and guitarist from the band Cheekface!
Greg: Hey, Hello! How's it going?
Matjaž: It’s going good! It’s what? About 10 pm in California, how was your day? Did you need a big dumpster?
Greg: (laughs) Hm, not today.
Matjaž: In general, how big of a dumpster would one need?
Greg: (laughs) It really depends on the day. I feel it's more of a metaphor, you know?
Matjaž: You use a lot of metaphors and references in your songs that perhaps we, Europeans, without research don't really get.
Greg: Yeah, yeah ... you know, I always wonder. Our songs are so wordy that I'm like, ‘Do they make sense to somebody who's first language isn't English?’ And even in other ... You know, we dont have that many fans in the UK and Australia. So I'm like, I don't even know if we make sense to non-Americans. I heard a review, like some podcasters from the UK, who reviewed our last album and they were like: ‘The first thing to know about this band is that it's extremely American. (laughs) And I was like, I guess it is! It's pretty American.
Matjaž: In January, you released your critically acclaimed sophomore album Emphatically No., which was Bandcamp's top-selling alternative album, and labeled as an “essential listening”. Now, end of April you released the single We Need a Bigger Dumpster that follows the success of the album. It seems to me that it continues your established formula of social commentary with wry humor and jumpy tunes. You mentioned you got some coverage in the UK, and I read you have quite a following in America. Apart from us, did you receive any coverage from Europe and what is the general reception you got thus far for the single, and in general?
Greg: Me and Mandy, our bass player and my song-writing partner, we really started this project just for ourselves. Just like writing songs that we feel like writing and play 'em the way we felt like playing 'em. When we started writing together, Donald Trump has recently been elected President of the United States. We were feeling like the world just is really disgusting right now and it's so destructive and we wanted to do something creative to counterbalance how destructive everything felt. And that was kind of it, oou know? We put out a fist couple songs that we put out and just as a total shock to us, people on the internet started finding them and we started to have fans. People would DM us on Instagram, being like, ‘You guys are so great, I listen to you all the time, me and my room-mate put you on while we were vacuuming’, like whatever ... And I was just looking at our Spotify listener count and 23.000 people listened to us over the last week. For a project where we never had hoped to have fans or hoped to have an audience, where we were just making some stuff we thought made us feel better because the world is making us feel bad - it's pretty amazing! it's pretty amazing that anyone likes it, that anyone listens to it, because this is just something we never planned for or intended for it, so we are just astonished but also grateful that people are listening. It's kind of like how I feel about the album that we put out in January and this single. It's crazy that anybody listens to it at all and it's surprising and I'm grateful that it means something to other people other than us. But you know, we're the people that were making it for. It's still the same thing, me and Mandy sit down to write a song and if we finish what we're writing and are like: 'We love this one!' then that's it.
Matjaž: What I as a music-lover find interesting in all of your songs - We Need a Bigger Dumpster being no exception - is the dichotomy between your vocal delivery (which is monotonous) and the music you as a band play (which is lively and all over the place). So what frame of mind are you in when you create a song? Is it like visiting a Therapy Island?
Greg: Well, I think one of the secret ingredients to any Cheekface song is that they are all written in a conventional song structure. Like a verse and a pre-chorus and a chorus and then a verse and a pre-chorus and a chorus ... I guess the talking thing, I mean, that was just ... When me and Mandy stated writing together, we just, when we did some of the talking ideas, those first songs were just the ones where we felt like we're doing something that felt like true to us and making the kind of music we wanted to hear. We tried some more melodic songs when we started writing, but maybe like 4th or 5th or 6th song we wrote was the song called 'House Shoes' which is on our 1st album. And the only words in that song are house shoes and they are just spoken and repeated over and over. We finished making this song, which is like 70 seconds long, and we were like, 'I don't know, I think we hit on something unique here'. And then we played the demo for people and the people would be like, 'This is amazing' and then we were like, 'Ok, yeah, I guess, we did hit on something interesting.' And then the next song we wrote after that was a song called 'Glendale' which is also on our 1st album. And you know, House Shoes is 2 chords and 2 words. Glendale is 1 chord and the one word Glendale with some other words in between it. But then we started to feel like we were dialing in something that was something like we found what the style of the band was. And then the next one I think we wrote after that was a song called 'Dry Heat/Nice Town' which is the 1st song on the 1st album. And that was the first song that really seemed like it caught people's ears. And that one, you can kinda hear, it's like 3 chords. So it's kinda growth from the other two songs. There is a long rambling talking section in that song. All our songs, like you said, they are conventional song structure, so you get through the verse, you get to the pre-chorus and then there's a chorus and that's the part that's the most melodic part of the song, 'cause that's how conventional song structure works. One thing when you do a lot of talking through the verses, you don't have to write a incredible melody to make the chorus sound like it's really melodic. If you have a lot of singing in the verses you're like 'OK, how am I going one-up the verse with the chorus. But if you're just talking through the verses then it's easier to make it feel like the energy goes up when you just start singing, even if you're singing something really simple. So that's my pro-tip, my pro songwriting tip. Set the expectation very low in the verse and then it's easy to beat them in the chorus.
Matjaž: Yeah, and I also think it's more accessible to the listeners, no?
Greg: Yeah, I mean, me and Mandy in some ways we are traditionalists and it's a guitar, bass and drums band. Like there's nothing too fancy about it. And there's verse, verse, pre-chorus, chorus and that's it. Pretty simple, you know?
Matjaž: In one song you sing, "everything is normal", in other "Everything is OK", and now in the ‘Dumpster’, everything is fine – Those are sentences you repeat in your songs, is this your way of showing gradual progress in a negative direction?
Greg: (laughs) That's a really good observation! But no, I think there's two thing about those. I think Mandy and I, we both find ourselves telling ourselves that everything is okay, or everything is normal, or everything is fine and even though it isn't. Anytime you are looking around at the world and are telling yourself that, you know that you are in trouble. You know you are just like delusional because whatever. Just think about anything going on around the world and it's normal, okay or fine. That's really just something you tell yourself when you're trying to delude yourself. And the other thing is just generalizing about everything! Just saying everything is ... whatever. It's just an incredibly toxic and self-defeating way of thinking. Because if you are generalizing about everything in the world, you’re already in a bad place in your mind. But more than anything I think, going back to phrases like that and stretching them across songs and across albums, there is something that kinda unites all of the songs that we write. And there’s a few different phrases or words, or concepts, or ideas, or types of melodies, or types of guitar parts, or types of drum parts. They go through all the stuff that we made and that’s just sort of like you unite a catalogue of songs or you unite a body of work. You know, Alfred Hitchcock always said, ‘self-plagiarism is style.’ And he would know, ‘cause all his movies are the same.
Matjaž: If we look on your Bandcamp page, we see that the covers to the singles you released have a theme. You started with food (the cover of your first album), then electronics and now … I’m not sure I see a connection between a pencil (for the single Lauren) and now bowling pins … ? Is there some message behind it?
Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah … So, Mandy does all the cover art and the illustrations and all that. The Lauren single that was kinda a one-off ‘ cause that’s a cover song and we felt like that one didn’t have to have a theme that was united to the other covers. That’s a song written by Rosie Tucker, the original version of the song is incredible, you can find it on Spotify and Rosie has a new album out that’s great too. So that one we felt like it doesn’t have to fit in the theme, that song has a lyric about trying to remember how to hold a pencil, and so it made sense to put it on the cover. For the early singles we did the junk food theme, for the second run of singles we did the outdated electronics, and then for the next run of song I think we’re gonna do games. So bowling was the first game that came to mind.
Matjaž: When the pandemic is over, any plans to tour, any plans come to Europe?
Greg: Yeah, definitely. We are already cooking up some tour plans in the States towards the end of this year, so hopefully, we will get to do those shows. But as of now it looks like we will. So I’m excited about that and then we’d love to get to Europe and the UK. Like, Truth be told, like I said, we don’t have a ton of fans out that away or really in any other country. So it’s gonna be, you know, if we do it, we’ll lose money. But sometimes it’s worth it just to be somewhere different and experience something different. But all my friends who toured Europe and the UK have said that they recommend it and Mandy’s done it before and loves it. So we gotta do it, it’s just a matter of time and all the global pandemic thing.
Matjaž: One more re-press question - will you re-press your last album?
Greg: Yes, we will repress both the albums. It’s in the process right now. Unfortunately, due to the whole stuff going on in the world, the record presses are reaaally slow. So they probably won’t be … We probably won’t have the records in stock again till September, which is a long time from now. But we will have them in around September, maybe October, but no later than that I hope. So they will be back.
Matjaž: Alright thank you again, thanks for joining, thank you for your time!
Greg: Oh yeah, thank you again!