Interview with Rory, Joey, Zach and Jacob from the Power Pop band, The Whiffs. We caught up with the Kansas City locals while they where on tour with The Get Up Kids in Salt Lake City, Utah.
How has the tour been so far?
last night was the first night of the tour. It was really fun, we have friends in Denver that we hung out with. First show down, you know, that’s always the one that you gotta knockout. It went swimmingly and all the other bands are great. It was a good crowd, so it was a good time.
How did you get connected with The Get Up Kids for this tour?
Jacob grew up with them. He builds drums back in KC with a company called CNC drums. They have an insane roster, he builds drums for the Rolling Stones. It was actually Ryan [Pope] (The Get Up Kids) that helped us get started.
Your new album, Another Whiff just released on December 6th. What songs where you most excited to see released?
The latest single is mine so that one is my favorite song [laughter] but the first single that came out was Joey’s. We all write our own songs and sing our own songs. We got three songwriters, so the first song “Shakin All Over,” is Joey’s song and my personal favorite is called “On The Boulevard.”
How long have you guys been together and do you tour often?
We’ve been a band now for about four years now and we play a lot of shows in the East and in the South. It’s hard to come all the way out here (Salt Lake City, Utah) on your own. You have one bad night where you make $20 and then we have to drive another nine hours to the next town.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever experienced while you’re being on tour?
I probably don’t remember. [laughter] I feel like I like witness insane shit all the time and it’s just like, okay, it’s just another show, just another one another day. It’s hard for me to think about that stuff unless I have a reference. Some of those things we might want not want to say publicly. I got no shame in my game. [laughter]
If you could set up your dream tour, where would you go?
Well, we were supposed to go to Europe but our record wasn’t going to be done, it got pushed back. But there’s this cool fucking agency in Europe called Otis and bands that they book are right up our alley. Bucher like right up our alley. We hadn’t heard anything from them and then they finally contacted us with only two months’ notice before we would have to go out there. They had set us up with a month-long tour with only two confirmed dates on it. So, we realized that we wouldn’t have our records and there was no reason for us to do this. Also, the itinerary they sent us is fucking insane so we let them know that it was not going to work out and they got pissed off at us.
This booking agency was wondering why we weren’t gonna go… You got us two days booked for a month on the tour, and you’re mad at us? If we were going, that’s when I would have shit myself… on the plane to Europe with two dates confirmed.
Aside from musicians, do you find inspiration from books, poetry or artists?
Inspiration is everywhere whether it be art itself or something an artist said, you might find some little kernel of wisdom that you can create an analogy to write a song about. We tend to follow a formula that is tried and true. You know, rock and roll is kind of contrived, you only have X amount of notes to play and it’s kind of a limited style in a way. I mean, you can get weird but will it sound good? My whole thing is, as an artist, I started out when I was trying to imitate the stuff that I love and eventually getting that down to a degree where you start chipping that away into where you find your sound and they become influences instead of a derivative, like a rip off or something. The whole process is like finding yourself and making all those influences yours now, like you’ve added onto it and it’s now the next step in the lineage or whatever.
All of these bands like The Who, The Kninks, The Stones, they’re all kind of playing the same music. Those bands started off with the 50’s rock and roll stuff like Elvis, little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Big Bopper, but all of those bands, Rolling Stones, Beatles, all of them were doing rhythm and blues basically, but they eventually harnessed that into a sound that expressed themselves individually and from their own point of view.
Kind of like our first record that had three of the same Ramones songs in it. We ripped off Chainsaw three times on that album. But we did it our way and it worked.
What are your thoughts on music distribution these days with social media and online streaming?
Well, we’re not the best at it.
Do you think that it is helping with your style of music?
I think it helps to a degree, but I think there is a lot of people that gotta be told what to like first. You know, I think that in general there’s a group of around 20 record labels across the world that are putting out power pop and that style of music and the people that follow those labels are going to listen to everything that they put out. As far as we are concerned for distribution, we just need to be on those labels. Each of those types of labels probably have a lot of middle aged, record collector guys that will buy the record.
We also sell stuff at shows and we will piggy back off of our buddies’ bands and other bands that come through Kansas City.
I do know that as soon as we got reviewed online, we got an email from somebody wanting money from us, asking if we wanted to pay for some radio play and all this stuff. They kept responding to us and we never got back to them. But these guys that just want money from us… you say that you like it but you want us to pay you to promote it? Go fuck yourself! [laughter]
I think that there’s like a cottage industry that prays on musician’s narcissism, so they’re like, “yeah you’re great, you could really go places!” Little do they know that they just sent the same email to 200 other people. “We just need the right producer man!” [laughter]
There are some labels now that don’t even pay the costs of the record at all. You pay it and you use their distro. There are so many different types of deals out there now with labels, with our label they just pressed 450 records and gave us 80. We sell ours and you sell yours and if we need to then we will press more.
We have been kind of lucky though. When we put our first EPA out, we’d been a band for three months and our friend that lives in Austin booked us on all these crazy shows. We played with the Dead Boys, Television, Protex, it was a bunch of amazing bands that we got on the same bills with.
So, we’d only been a band for three months and we just banged out eight songs in one night, got tapes made, this is also where we met Joey. The label that ended up pressing it is Drunken Sailor in the UK and they just did it for us. We didn’t ask them or have to pay for anything. I’ve never had a label tell us, “I’m going to press this for you.” It was crazy.
I have noticed a lot of different deals between record labels and artists where nobody is being taken advantage of, a lot of transparent deals with 50/50 split deals with cross promotion for each other.
I think it manages expectations when you do things like that. Especially as long as people aren’t pressing too many records and running small batches. It keeps the record label happy and the artist has something to sell while they are on tour. I mean, we are always doing the leg work ultimately. We’re gonna go out on tour and obviously the best way to sell records is to be on tour. None of us are well off enough that we can just buy hundreds of records on our own and then go out and sell them all. The thirty people in Kansas City that wanted our record also want it for a deal, like half off or something. [laughter] Your friends always want a deal!
The Whiffs new record, Another Whiff, has been in our regular rotation since we received it for an early review and we highly recommend you check it out and follow these guys on their socials, links are posted below. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Power Pop, it can be summed up simply as a more aggressive form of pop rock that has a strong 70’s garage rock feel. If you are a fan of Dead Boys, The Shivvers, The Damned, The Ramones and/or Protex then you will absolutely dig this album.
Check out our review of Another Whiff here.
We would also like to thank Tim at Dig! Records for helping us get connected with The Whiffs.