Posted by: will | June 13, 2007

Band Interview – Street Smart Cyclist…

Street Smart Cyclist are an incredible new band that I had the pleasure of discovering earlier this year with their demo seven inch record. I am not sure I have ever been so impressed by a band’s first songs. However, SSC’s material simply jumps out at you. You can read my review here. Go visit the band’s myspace page here to check out the songs. I caught up with John and Jon from SSC a few weeks ago. Thanks to both for pulling off a little interview magic for me.

How would you describe Street Smart Cyclist’s sound and what are some of the band’s main influences?

John: It’s pretty obvious that the band is primarily influenced by the entire mid-western emo sound, but we’re all into a lot of stuff other than that. Nate loves the Replacements. Ross loves the Beatles. I love the Smiths. We all love so much music, the idea was to just come together completely respecting each other as both musicians and people and just make a band. It worked out pretty neatly.

Jon: I always tell different people different things. If I feel like someone will know what I mean, I usually just say we’re emo, but if I have to tell people at work what our band sounds like, I usually say mathy indie rock. Its so embarassing to tell people who aren’t into punk that you play emo, because they’ll think you love Dashboard or Simple Plan. We do love Dashboard, but not Simple Plan. We definitely set out to write upbeat emo and pop-punk laced with some more angular flavor thrown in, in the vein of Braid, Promise Ring, American Football and all that 90’s stuff. We also bite Rage Against the Machine a lot.

How is the Bethlehem, PA music scene? Any up and coming bands to watch out for?

John: Bethlehem is really just part of the greater Lehigh Valley area, and there is always something going around here. I’m not sure what is right now, but something is definitely going on. Dave’s in another band called Storm the Bastille that went from being really bad to really good in a matter of days or something. They’re doing really awesome stuff.

Jon: The Lehigh Valley music scene is amazing. Its not a very well-known area in general, but Bethlehem, Allentown and to a lesser extent, Easton are definitely on the punk rock tour map, thanks to a lot of really great hard-working people who are not us. Definitely agree with John, Storm the Bastille got all epic and famous all of a sudden. Yo Man Go is also excellent. Jon, their one guitarist, always writes my favorite shit, and 2/3 of Off Minor recently joined their band, so they ballin. They’re touring this summer with Bridge and Tunnel, from Long Island. There’s a lot of other stuff going on depending on what you’re into. Lots of hardcore and crusty stuff, for the most part. It seemed like there wasn’t much of an emo presence for a while, or maybe that people weren’t as into that style as much as other stuff, but now it seems like there’s more of it going around. Other awesome bands that came out of the Valley include, and are definitely not limited to Weston, Digger, Pearls and Brass, Gatecrashers, Pissed Jeans, Ultimate Warriors, and Carpenter Ant, among others.

With a healthy six-member lineup is the song writing process for the band chaotic at all? What factors have influenced the band’s songwriting the most?

John: The songwriting process is awkward. Things basically either click right away and you come away with something you’re really proud of, or you just have a cluster-fuck of parts flying around each other and nothing is working out. Being the singer, I try to get everyone on the same page as each other. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Jon: I definitely agree with John. Constantly hit or miss. Sometimes everyone wants to be the guitar superhero and write some noodly part and it just sounds like diarrhea. That always happens when we try to practice without John. John is like the architect. John is just endowed with that pop know-how, always bringing structure to everything. Or sometimes just two of us will write songs and then everyone writes their own layer. Thats the main thing: nobody writes all the parts even if we’re working on one person’s idea. You might bring some riff to practice thinking its going to sound one way, and then everybody lays down their parts and you have something wildly different than you started with. But that’s the fun of it.

How important is the DIY/punk community and spirit to Street Smart Cyclist?

John: Growing up in the Lehigh Valley punk scene, you basically become immersed in DIY ethics and ideas. There have always been house shows and people putting out their own records and booking their own tours and all that. Seeing others around you doing that kind of stuff makes you psyched to get out and do it yourself (no pun intended). The DIY and punk communities play a big part in what the Cyclist is.

Jon: Punk is of utmost importance to Street Smart Cyclist! When we started this band we would always joke that we were going to get all these myspace messages and show requests from shitty radio emo bands who don’t get what we’re trying to do, what we’re affiliated with, etc. but it totally didn’t turn out that way! I mean, we definitely get mad props from poseurs and biters alike, but for the most part we seem to be that emo band that plays with DIY hardcore and screamo bands a lot, and we like that just fine. That was always Dave’s and my goal: to be the emo band revered by hardcore bands. Which brings me to my point: It’s all punk! We can play a show with any DIY band, and even if they’re super heavy and then we roll out with this twinkly bullshit, we can still be buds and appreciate each other’s bands because we’re in the same community of believers, united by our ethics, and similar clothing (hehe). In the LV, people start coming to local shows liking what they like, and after a few months, they end up liking all these styles they never thought they would. And that’s because its all in the presentation, in what kind of a person you are. Its as much about what your band does as how your band sounds. Unfortunately we seem to have developed a reputation for canceling shows, but that hasn’t happened in a few months. We were really disorganized for a while, and case in point, I think we were starting to get a bad rep. But book us! We won’t cancel ever again!

What’s the band’s opinion on file-sharing?

John: I really don’t care. A lot of kids hear about a lot of awesome bands they probably never would have otherwise through file-sharing. If anything, file-sharing helps young bands get their name out, and it keeps money from musicians that are already too wealthy to begin with. It’s a wonderful system.

Jon: Digital media is the great equalizer dude! The greatest democratizing force of our time, leveling the playing field for all bands. Well thats not quite accurate, because I think its more like not only has the playing field been leveled, but its tectonic plates have shifted as well, creating all these little playing fields. That is, its not like all bands are trying to get signed, and all reaching toward this be-all end-all goal of getting a major label record deal. I hate when I hear ignorant motherfuckers my own age talking about getting a record deal. What the fuck year is this, 1970? Do it yourself! In this age, you can order some inexpensive recording equipment, illegally download recording software, teach yourself how to use it, write some decent songs with your friends (virtually the only tough part left), and push them on the internet with a little bit of ingenuity. That’s basically all we did, and we have 1500 myspace friends, and our tour is almost booked. That’s not being arrogant, I’m just saying I’m so impressed that we’ve been able to get as far as we have without so many of the amenities enjoyed by major and even indie label artists. Shit is a straight up miracle! Ha, but our songs aren’t available for download right now because our 7″ just came out and we need to create some incentive for people to buy it. I’m sure they will be available again shortly.

Do you think it’s necessary for a band to be “signed” to be successful?

John: Due to the rise of the Internet, I don’t believe being signed is really necessary anymore. Sure, money is coming from your pocket initially, but with the Internet on your side, you can promote your band and get people excited about it without driving to their town and playing a shit bar for eight drunken people. Plus, the payback of releasing a record yourself is far greater than what it would be if you were signed, so all is well.

Jon: No. Again, the internet changes everything. A band like Metallica can’t just record one decent single and throw 10 other stinker tracks on an album and expect the whole thing to go platinum anymore. What’s gonna happen? Kids are just going to download the single. There’s this added incentive to write better material now, and all these propped up one hit wonders have to worry about producing actual content as opposed to just having the advertising muscle to get famous no matter what. So if you’re a band that writes good content, I think you definitely have a better chance of getting noticed. But then again, now the internet is so saturated with bands that it becomes difficult to stand out. It’s like this big stage that everybody gets to be on, no matter how terrible their band is–which is awesome, but its really easy to get fatigued having to constantly sort through crap. Also, you can’t just send friend requests to people on social networking sites, because they get so many requests from bands that they just don’t care anymore. So we don’t add anybody anymore, except for friends that know us, and other bands and labels we like. So what does modern success look like? For me, I think I’d just like to get to the point where I don’t have to pay for any band activities out of pocket anymore. Some combination of having labels pay for releases, and being able to make enough money playing shows that we have a large enough band fund to pay for merch and gas, and playing out is not always an expense. So really, just breaking even would be enough success for me. And you don’t have to be signed for that, just be smart with your money.

What’s been playing on the band’s collective stereo lately?

John: I think everyone has been pretty into the new Battles record. In fact, I’m listening to it right now. It’s pretty fucking incredible. Also, everyone is really excited about the new Algernon Cadwallader stuff. That band and those dudes are amazing.

Jon: I know that all of us have recently been real into Battles, Colossal, new Das Oath, and the new Ghostface Killah. New Kidcrash is also awesome and we are stoked to be playing with them in North Carolina this summer.

What’s on the horizon (releases, touring) for the band in the near future?

John: We’re touring in July! Get us on Dudefest somehow!

Jon: We’re writing for a full length right now that’s going to get recorded sometime before the end of summer. We’re going on tour for a little over a week in July. Maybe buying a van? We’re probably just going to try to do a lot of weekend jaunts in the next year, as we’re all kind of busy with work and school.

Any last words?

John: I’m late for my creative writing class. Last week of classes! Fuck yeah!

Jon: Probably just going to up the punx.

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Responses

  1. great interview. Poor Simple Plan btw.


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