yellowcard’s ryan key talks catching the performance bug, self-awareness, and 20 years of ocean avenue

yellowcard’s ryan key talks catching the performance bug, self-awareness, and 20 years of ocean avenue

Emo children of the aughts rejoice, because one of our favorite live bands is making the rounds again, and they’re bigger than ever before. Pop-punk bad boys Yellowcard delivered a kiss of surf pop, a hint of nostalgia, and a whole lot of energy every time they took the stage. So when I had the opportunity to interview Ryan Key, Yellowcard’s lead singer, Star Wars aficionado, podcast host, and content creator extraordinaire – I snapped it up.

One of the first things I say, after promising myself not to bring it up? “I spoke to you in 2006 and it was to ask you to sign a t-shirt for my friend and I was too nervous to say anything else.” Cool. Word vomit.

“Oh, I was such a little shit in 2006 too,” Key immediately admitted, laughing. “So, it should be a way better encounter this time, I promise.”

Key’s self-awareness eased us into a conversation that ran the gamut. From our shared love of Star Wars (Though I haven’t quite expanded into podcast territory yet), being driven by bitterness through some tough times, how it feels coming off the biggest tour Yellowcard has ever experienced, and reflecting on 20 years of Ocean Avenue.

Yellowcard’s rapid-fire return fueled a “Celebrating 20 Years of Ocean Avenue” tour that took on bigger venues than they’ve ever played. The band’s welcome back was far from polite, with screaming fans more dedicated to the art form, acceptance of the music, and enjoyment during shows to fuel the energy.

From theatrical beginnings…

Admittedly, Ryan didn’t do much with music growing up. He took piano lessons for a couple of months, hated it, and quit. He wasn’t much for musicals, either. He was much more attached to the idea of the theater. An idea – it seems – that may have stemmed from his first role as Tiny Tim in none other than A Christmas Carol.

“It’s two lines,” Key admits, laughing. “But being on stage at 6 years old in front of enough people, I can only imagine shaped me, changed me forever. Having that moment happen on your impressionable little 1st-grade mind. It’s like, yeah I want more of this. You get that dopamine hit of being on stage and the adrenaline of that, you want more of that. And you don’t know why but I think as a kid, after that, I was just dead set on being on stage however I could.”

In 10th grade, Key was accepted to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville and his pursuit of acting and theater got really serious. He was super involved at school in the shows and the deep, specific education. “We were studying Stanslovsky and real heavy stuff for high school kids,” Key says.

…to stress-reducing hobbies.

To help blow off steam in his -very limited – free time? “I had a band on the weekends,” he explains. “I got my first guitar when I was 11 or 12 years old and I played it and I wrote really crappy songs and had some friends that I played with but that was never gonna be something that I did professionally. I never even had it in my mind. I didn’t really enjoy singing, to be honest, very much. It’s still not my favorite part of my job. I was the lead singer of the band but I think that comes from that sense of wanting to be an entertainer, wanting to be a performer.”

This fact can be hard to believe, as Key’s vocal range is impressive and wide-ranging in its pop-punk glory. And his life performance tactics? Energetic to this day, at a level most people aren’t entirely capable of even at their peak. “It was never in my mind as something I wanted to pursue as a career,” he shrugs. “I just didn’t get into college where I wanted to go.”

When one door closes…

Ryan never let his rejection to the Theater Program at Boston University – twice, unfortunately – go. “I got into school in Boston but I didn’t get into their BFA program. My parents were like, ‘We’re not going to spend all that money for you to go to a private school in Boston if you’re not in the program that you want to be in.'”

While reasonable, it can be difficult to recover from something like that so early on in one’s career. From that bitterness was born a focus. Admittedly – and fairly – Ryan was spiteful about what had happened and chose not to complete the BFA program he started in Florida. He dropped out of school, leaned hard into music, and eventually began singing in Yellowcard.

To hear an artist admit to leaning into something in that anger is very refreshing. You often hear about heartache and heartbreak in everyone’s work, but it can be difficult to address the times of anger and instances when you feel things didn’t go the way they perhaps should have. Having a creative outlet to pour himself into was clearly the way to go, and is something so many of us should embrace as a healing mechanism in times of trouble.

Celebrating 20 Years of Ocean Avenue

Ryan says the band really appreciates the fact that the fans have weathered the storms alongside them. He credits this grand musical journey to the fact that fans have been patient and forgiving.

I have, personally, been a fan of Yellowcard’s since I was an adolescent, so getting a peek into their tour dynamic was ideal. When asked about the “Celebrating 20 Years of Ocean Avenue” tour, Key was almost gushing. “I feel like my favorite part of the tour was the energy between the band itself. I don’t think we’ve ever gone on a tour that was so lacking in negativity as this one. This tour was so full of happiness and positivity that it felt like an alien world, almost, compared to the Yellowcard that I’ve known for the past 20+ years.” 

What Key refers to – this feeling of a more in-sync crew and better touring environment and experience – has been echoed by artists the world over since the pandemic triggered larger conversations around mental health and balance in the music industry. Tours are being approached in a more holistic manner, and it’s been a reinvigorating time in the music industry. He went on:

I think we all felt that way. Which compounded each other aspect of the tour. The shows and interaction with fans, on-stage and off, and the support I think that we had from our crew every day felt stronger and better. I think that’s because there was a sense of peace and calm on the road.

We’ve never had that. Yellowcard has historically been a bit of a chaotic and tumultuous bag of personalities that have not created the best environment to work in. So this was, you know, jarring in the best possible way, to get out there and get a couple weeks in and realize, Oh, everything is just OK. And we can just let that be.

Pausing to reflect

It was almost spiritual, the way that he described it. Key’s acute awareness of the dynamic of the band made me wonder, aloud, how long it took in his career to come to this acceptance of who he is and his identity in the band.

I think it started, for me personally, during the final chapter of it all, at the end. You know, in 2016, 2017. Realizing that I was going to lose it forever because, at the time, it truly felt like that was going to be the case. It started with, I think, just a simple idea of really wanting to enjoy that tour in 2016 and 2017 and the international stuff we did.

That whole experience, as much as I tried, was sort of tinged with the reasons we were stepping away from it. The metrics that you use to quantify success, right, started to say “This is on the way down. We’re on the backslide.” Let’s end this before it goes too far so we can end it on our own terms and make it something special for fans and for ourselves. 

It went a lot deeper than that because it did go into the personalities and the inner workings of the band and things that we keep pretty close to the chest. So, as much as I tried to really enjoy it all, there was still an air of sadness and kind of negativity that had carried into that from all of the reasons we decided to step away in the first place. 

It wasn’t until I got home and started to have to figure out how to make my own way [that the self-awareness set in.] And the pandemic, really, was huge. A good friend of mine from high school was stopping through to stay with me. I had moved back to Los Angeles – which didn’t work out because the pandemic hit and we couldn’t tour or work so I was only there for about 6 or 8 months and then I left to come back east – but I had gone out there to kind of re-establish myself there and start working on film and tv music and things I want to do, too, as I get older.

My friend stopped through and it was only going to be for a week but it was the week that the lockdown happened in California. So he ended up staying with me for an entire month. During that time, he sort of opened my mind to meditating and starting to truly figure out what was going on with myself and work on the reasons why I had ended up where I was. I had never taken a minute to look that far inward, I don’t think. So it really wasn’t until 2020 that I started to kind of forge the path that has led me back here, now, where I am. 

As if to echo this spiritual, self-reflective sentiment, he notably wrapped the tour wielding a lightsaber, a symbol that the force is strong. While he claims that he brought the saber to make his nephew happy, we know there were probably additional motives here. (Because, really, who doesn’t want to have a lightsaber on tour with them?) For those of you wondering, yes, he does have a lightsaber lying around. In fact, he has multiple.

Embracing creative outlets

Besides his lifetime love of the franchise, Key has had the opportunity to connect with the franchise on a different level since the pandemic. “I’ve been really lucky the last 3 or 4 years to intensify my connection with Star Wars through hosting the Thank The Maker podcast with my friends,” he almost gushes. “I think Star Wars reminds you, at 43 years old, if you just give in and let yourself love it the way that I do, it reminds you how to play. That’s something that adults just don’t do.”

At this point, Key doesn’t realize he has hit a home run and we dive into a conversation about what being a “Disney adult” means in certain circles and some of the symbolism involved in Star Wars. We agreed that a certain level of play is encouraged to truly live a full life, especially as we age. “I’m a big fan of my wife for allowing me to just embrace that side, that childhood side of me, and letting me dress up in costumes with my friends and swing lightsabers around, you know?” he says, almost in amazement. “It’s really been a beneficial thing.”

Embracing change

As for if anything has changed for the band over the years – aside from the deep, self-realizations and occasional weaponry – Ryan says writing with everyone has become much more simplified. Explaining that the technology just wasn’t there to support quick changes to tracks and production fixes when they recorded their first albums, Key said the process now is just so much more accessible. “We can get right into ProTools, create the demo, program the drums so that we can change those around – we can try all the different options.”

The great part about having home studios is being able to control the sound as you build it. This way, you have more of an actualized recording that more than likely will sound much more similar to the final product. “It’s way more inspiring to have a good-sounding, ripping demo to steer the direction of the melody and the lyric that I’m going to put over the music.”

But the way Yellowcard writes? Pretty much the same. And super focused on the instrumentals. “It’ll start with usually a guitar riff. Shawn also has brought plenty of ideas on the violin or ideas for the structure of a whole song. He’ll have like a motif or a chord progression he will bring in that we will then build riffs and things around that.”

But you have to remember, Ryan is one with The Force. “I get middle-of-the-night ideas sometimes. I’ll wake up or I’ll not be able to sleep, one or the other. And it’ll just happen and I’ll take out my notes app on my phone and start plugging stuff in.

The title track from their latest release, “Childhood Eyes,” actually came to be that way. “I woke up with that chorus melody in my head and I started to put words to it. I could hear it happening in my head. And when I got to Austin for pre-production, I had an idea for the verse and the chorus in my notepad but I had never picked up a guitar to put music to it. So I just said, ‘Hey I have these lyrics and I have sort of a cadence and a rhythm for them.’ And we wrote the whole song in 15 minutes.” 

Looking forward…

In the coming weeks, Key will be working from his new home studio. When asked about his plans for the space, he perks up immediately. “I’m doing the whole room black,” he says. “Ceiling, walls, floor. A lot of wood grain and a lot of green pops in the room. The vibe is super Scandinavian, and I love that. I’m a big fan of Iceland, Sweden and Denmark. I love that part of the world so much. So we have a lot of this [look] in our house.”

Even more than the initial planning and execution of the project, this room will hold so much more meaning for Ryan as an artist, as he explores new podcast-related projects, and films content, pursues long-term goals (like music supervision and composition), and writes new Yellowcard songs for us to enjoy. It will also hold space for Ryan as a new father, viewing movies and creating art in this space with his family.

You mentioned we met in 2006. I wouldn’t want to meet me in 2006, you know? It’s just not even comparable, the headspace I’m in now and the tools that I have now to kind of prove my reactivity and try to stay positive. Things I was just incapable of doing for the better part of my career in Yellowcard until now. So, in the end, stepping away from the band and having that time was probably the best possible thing that could happen to me, personally. Because the perspective that I’ve come back to the band with is just so wildly different than it’s ever been before.

Yellowcard has, once again, taken a front seat in Ryan’s life. Check out an upcoming performance near you throughout 2024.

carver commodore found free parking at sxsw 2023, and we demand to know how

carver commodore found free parking at sxsw 2023, and we demand to know how

The ever-charming and talented alt-rock outfit Carver Commodore – comprised of guitarist and vocalist Payton Pruitt, guitarist Phillip Blevins, drummer Noah Freeman, and multi-instrumentalist Clayton Christopher – took time out of their schedule to take over our Instagram account during SXSW 2023. We caught up with them post-takeover – and post-fest – to see how it all went down for them. Lead singer and guitarist Payton Pruitt’s words below.

an interview with Payton of carver commodore

iF: What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?

Carver Commodore (CC): One of the first songs I remember hearing is “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have a core memory of slamming my finger in the door of my dad’s El Camino and rushing to the doctor as my finger gushed blood and “That Smell” played over the speakers. I was probably 4 years old. I still love that song, and I’m 100% sure it has crept into my songwriting at some point. The Lynyrd Skynyrd “triple guitar assault” is definitely something we draw from as a band!

iF: Tell us a little bit about what got you started in music, and how this project came to be.

CC: I started playing music around 11 or 12 years old because a friend of mine played guitar and we both got into AC/DC at the same time, so I wanted to play those songs with him. I started singing and writing songs around 15 years old, and a few bands later, Phil (our guitarist) and I started Carver Commodore together after being in a folk rock band together.

iF: What did the road to SXSW look like for you, literally or figuratively?

CC: We’ve been trying to make it out to SXSW for years. We were booked for a few unofficial shows in 2020, but we all know what happened there. Couldn’t get on in ’21 or ’22, and finally made it in ’23. Played a few great shows with our boys in a band called Brother Moses on our way out this year and loved it.

iF: What has the experience been like? I’d love to see it through your eyes, as first-timers!

CC: Honestly, super chaotic when it comes time to play shows! Parking & Load-in kinda sucks, but that’s just part of it I guess. We had a few great shows and a few not-so-great, but I’m glad we finally got to experience it. It was a learning experience if nothing else! Would also be nice if SXSW would give artists water!

iF: Best showcase, besides your own?

CC: Hermanos Guiterrez at Stubb’s.

iF: What was the most magical thing you found in Austin?

CC: Free parking

iF: What’s your absolute favorite word right now, and why?

CC: “Mode.” No idea why – everything is just on “__ mode” (ex: “SXSW is on $30 parking mode”)

iF: If you had the ability to tell the future, would you like it?

CC: Probably not. Would just give us more to worry about or anticipate!

iF: What’s coming up for you next?

CC: We’re releasing a new EP called “If Nothing Happens” on August 15th! The first single is out April 11th and it’s called “Drown Me in Emotions”. Very excited for people to hear these songs.

iF: That’s amazing! We can’t wait.

CC: CAR-VER COM-MO-DORE! Thanks for letting us be a part of this!


Keep up with Carver Commodore here.

kenzo cregan talks good bbq and thrifting at sxsw 2023

kenzo cregan talks good bbq and thrifting at sxsw 2023

Kenzo Cregan trekked into the depths of SXSW 2023 this year, performing his signature indie rock for audiences from around the world. Though it wasn’t his first experience in ATX, he still seemed to allow the magic of the event – and the excitement around performing it – seep into his bones. If you’re looking for a quick, optimistic interview and an amazing artist to follow, this is it.

an interview with kenzo cregan

imperfect Fifth (iF): What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?

Kenzo Cregan (KC): The first album I remember listening to was The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I believe it is the pinnacle of great songwriting and production. It absolutely influences my songwriting. However, I only hope to touch the surface of that level of artistry.

iF: Tell us a little bit about what got you started in music, and how this project came to be.

KC: My musical journey began very early. My father was and still is a professional musician. He taught me how to play guitar, and the origins of rock n’ roll. My mother used to also be a singer back in the 80s, and both of them encouraged me to go after my dream. This current project was the result of a lot of trial and error. I finally realized what kind of project I want to have, and how I want to express myself musically.

iF: What did the road to SXSW look like for you, literally or figuratively?

KC: Well, this time around, there wasn’t a tour leading up to it. The bass player in my band joined me to form an acoustic duo for this run. We played 5 shows throughout the week, saw some other great bands, and made some great connections. We also got to explore the city quite a bit. We ate some good BBQ and went thrifting!

iF: Was this your first time at SXSW, or have you been to good ol’ ATX for the madness before?

KC: I had been before with a different project, and have been to Austin on tour.

iF: If you have been, do you have a favorite go-to spot for food, bevs, or people-watching?

KC: There’s this cool boot shop called Allen’s Boots that I went to before. So I had to stop by there for a quick look around.

iF: Best showcase, besides your own?

KC: The Dr. Martens Showcase was awesome! We saw this really cool punk band called “Dream Wife”. Definitely one of the best live performances I’d seen in a while!

iF: What was the most magical thing you found in Austin?

KC: Honestly, there was this Moroccan food truck we ate at on our last night. It was on Congress. Some of the best I’ve had in a while. Highly recommend!

iF: What’s your absolute favorite word right now, and why?

KC: “Love” will always be my favorite word!

iF: If you had the ability to tell the future, would you like it?

KC: Probably not. Feel like we’re heading towards some dark times, unfortunately. That’s why we need love now more than ever.

iF: What’s coming up for you that you’d like us to tell everyone about?

KC: I’m currently in the process of repackaging my music on all streaming platforms. As well as some new music in the works! Can’t wait for everyone to hear!

iF: Anything you’d like to add?

KC: Just want to say it’s always an honor and a privilege to be recognized for my music. Thank you for sending over these questions!


Keep up with Kenzo Cregan here.

ron gallo talks lead-up to a busy 2023 and exhausting trek to sxsw

ron gallo talks lead-up to a busy 2023 and exhausting trek to sxsw

For those who have never been, SXSW is no walk in the park. While the conference has done its due diligence over the years making the process more easily navigable, the week still feels like sheer chaos no matter how many maps, apps, and information you have in advance. New experiences and shows crop up on random corners at all times of the day, and there are so many things to do and see and share that you truly can’t go wrong.

Ron Gallo was in Austin for their FIFTH SXSW experience this year, and we had the unique pleasure of having them take over our Instagram account for a short time that week. We also got to circle back with some questions about the 2023 SXSW experience, answered below.

an interview with ron gallo

imperfect Fifth (iF): What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?

Ron Gallo (RG): The first CD I remember having in my possession as a kid was Coolio’s “Gangsters Paradise.” I’m not sure how it influences me directly now but I do gravitate towards listening to a lot of hip-hop from the era. Very nostalgic.

iF: Tell us a little bit about what got you started in music, and how this project came to be.

RG: I asked for a guitar when I was maybe 12, for no real reason. Took a few lessons, zero natural talent as a guitarist or singer. Then immediately started using it to write songs in high school when I started my first bands.

We were terrible. But I stuck with it. Then in my college years, I started my former band, which I think was when I started to figure out my voice and how to play half-decently. My “solo project” began in 2014 when I felt like my previous band was no longer in tune with where I wanted to go so I wanted to do my own thing that could perpetually evolve and grow and die with me.

Then came the first album in 2017, “HEAVY META” and that’s what started my actual touring professional music career which is still crazy to think about. Now, here I am still doing it. Not sure how.

iF: What a journey! Speaking of journeys, what did the road to SXSW look like for you, literally or figuratively?

RG: Woke up at 3:30 AM in Philadelphia on Wednesday 3/15, drove to the airport parking, took a shuttle to the terminal, went thru security, got on the plane, landed in Dallas at 9:30 AM, took another shuttle to the rental car, drove 3 hours to Austin, checked into the Airbnb, dropped off stuff, went to Waterloo Records and played our first show at 5 PM. Slept. Woke up at 5:30 AM the following morning to make pancakes for Chiara’s birthday then had to be out the door at 6:30 AM to go play live on air at KUTX at 8 AM. From there it was a relentless chain of play, pack up, go, rest, play, eat, pack up, go go go go go go go.

iF: Was this your first time at SXSW, or have you been to good ol’ ATX for the madness before?

RG: This was my 5th time!

iF: Not sure how you do it! Do you have a favorite go-to spot for food, bevs, or people-watching?

RG: Arlo’s Curbside! Amazing vegan burger. Also, love Jo’s Coffee/Tacos as well as Joann’s Fine Foods.

iF: Best showcase, besides your own?

RG: We didn’t see a single other show besides the ones we played because there was no time but I think my favorite show might have been a tie between Dr. Martens and Brooklyn Bowl/Consequence Party.

iF: So much to do, SO little time down there! What was the most magical thing you found in Austin?

RG: We found this taco truck oasis in some part of town that was off the beaten path where we had amazing food a bit of sun and warmth and a quiet moment.

iF: That sounds dope! What’s your absolute favorite word right now, and why?

RG: I like to call everyone BOSS, as a joke or by a random name that is not theirs.

iF: If you had the ability to tell the future, would you like it?

RG: I think the beauty of life is the not knowing.

iF: Insightful. And damn true! What’s coming up for you that you’d like us to tell everyone about?

RG: Just had a new album called “FOREGROUND MUSIC” come out a couple weeks ago and we are going to begin US and European touring in a couple weeks from now. Also going to be releasing our first book and a concert film we made very soon.

iF: Sounds like you’ve been busy! We absolutely can’t wait. Thank you so much for hanging out.

RG: Thanks for having us!!


Keep up with Ron Gallo here.

tony & the kiki stuns with music video for “extra express” alongside announcement for glittery ep light it up

tony & the kiki stuns with music video for “extra express” alongside announcement for glittery ep light it up

The world very largely feels like it’s falling apart at this time. During moments of darkness, we search for the light. We crave creativity. We rely on authenticity. And – while it can often feel overwhelming to seek the good – artists are ready to provide us hope, beauty, and escape. This feels especially true with the captivating glam rock project Tony & The Kiki, which just released the lead single and music video for their upcoming EP. Fronted by the talented and charismatic Anthony Alfaro, Tony & The Kiki truly captures your attention with a vibrant individuality and keeps you going with a message of inclusivity.

“Extra Express” is an anthem for the ages. With an energy that can get anyone up on their feet, the track boasts fantastic, wide-ranging vocals, and enough edge to really breathe new life into your day. The video is entrancing, depicting Alfaro with a backdrop of bright, flashy colors and images as a call to authenticity oozes from every facet of production. We’re big fans of the fashion, big fans of the energy, and insanely fond of this video.

We were lucky enough to ask Alfaro a few questions during release week.

Do you think where you’re from has any bearing on how you create?

Oh absolutely! Queens, New York is unlike anywhere else in the world. A stone’s throw from my childhood home is the most diverse section of THE PLANET. The most varied collection of cultures, races, languages, ethnicities, and nationalities in one single area. I pride myself on being an eclectic artist. While yes, rock and roll is my mother tongue I draw inspiration from all genres, mediums, and cultures, and I’d like to think that comes through in the work. My mom is a real-life disco queen and salsera and my dad is an incredible DJ who would mix Grandmaster Flash with Zeppelin back before mashups like that were en vogue. This kind of variety and culture clash is in my blood, my voice, and therefore my artistry.

I’m so glad you’re bringing flare back to rock. Big look, big voice, big vibes. What has been your favorite part of the journey creating this EP?

Ay Gracias, mami! Yeah I think the second we abandoned the crippling responsibility of being “cool” things really started to crystalize and get exciting for all of us. We’re an honest to goddess pack of weirdos and mystics…and instead of trying to be trendy and sexy for the masses we’re leaning into our queer, diverse, funky energy. Frankly, that’s been deeply liberating and joyous. LONG LIVE THE FREAKS! And F*** BEING COOL! Cool is boring and sterile… the absolute antithesis of what rock n’ roll is. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! 

What was it like recording at the storied Dreamland? Did you draw inspiration from Woodstock at all, or were you pretty sure of the direction it was all going in beforehand?

Well …we were on a tight and ambitious schedule so we had to arrive ready to slay the house down boots, mamá. On the other hand, Woodstock and that good chill hippie energy has always been a source of inspiration for us… the peace & love & vibes of it all. So I’d say we had a clear plan of attack but left some room for the delicious brand of magic that is so abundant up at Dreamland. Using their varied, vintage instruments (toy piano, guiro, Moog Synth etc.) and their mystical acoustics as yummy layers to add into our cauldron. Once we got the crux of what we needed we definitely got to play around and experiment. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as an artist. A true playground. Or in our case …a witch’s potion lab (cackles in Spanglish) 

The message in the song “Extra Express” is so important, and it is such an anthemic blessing right now. Was there a moment that triggered you into writing it specifically? 

Thank you for saying that, mi amor, we think so too!
A specific moment? No, mama. Our whole gay lives led up to the creation of this song. People like myself and my bandmates Max Vernon and Rodney Bush have been out here and queer for years and feel a great sense of responsibility for the legendary children that have and will come after us. They need something to listen to and be like “oh, yeah…that’s mine, that’s for me” This song is for them first and foremost. 

The music video for “Extra Express” is like a kaleidoscope. Where did the vision come from?

The Extra Express has always been like a psychedelic, queer, rock n’ roll cousin of The Magic School Bus and in this case I’m Miss Frizzle (LOL) and the listeners are my class of students. We wanted to evoke the vibes of Dorothy landing in OZ or Alice plopping down into Wonderland. We set out to create a portal into the land of THE KIKI, with all of its vibrant queer magic and electric, colorful vibes.  An invitation and a welcoming. 

What a FANTASTIC reference, especially for millennials. (I am SO pleased!) What do you hope fans glean from your music, in general?

I want our fans to be invigorated and vibrationally lifted by our music. We want to provide an antidote to all the heaviness that can come with living life in the 2020s… a warm sparkling hug; a fabulous coven, welcome to anyone who needs a good Kiki. Er’body is welcome here, mi vida… we are raising the vibes and getting asses shaking! Come thru!

Do you have anything else to share with your new bevy of fans?

Yes! I’d like to say “Hola Mi Kiki, Welcome… we see you, we’re here for you, we honor you, and we love you… f*** the haters and do you bb! Life is meant to be LIVED! Fasten your seatbelt cause it’s time for lift off… the new age is now! Vamos!”

Also follow us on IG and TikTok @tonyandthekiki and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more funky glam rock brujería heading your way. xo

Video Credits: Wardrobe by Max Vernon, David Quinn, Anthony Alfaro Makeup by Max Vernon Hair by Anthony Alfaro Choreography by Anthony Alfaro
Song Credits: Track Produced by Max Vernon Track Mixed by Lloyd Kikoler Track Mastered by Ryan Smith of Sterling Sound

teke::teke guitarist serge nakauchi pelletier talks morning ritual, the importance of aliens wearing masks, and upcoming sxsw showcase

teke::teke guitarist serge nakauchi pelletier talks morning ritual, the importance of aliens wearing masks, and upcoming sxsw showcase

SXSW is finally upon us, and the digital experience is absolutely wild. Montreal-based 7-piece rock collective TEKE::TEKE is set to perform at the M for Montreal/Brooklyn Vegan showcase on Thursday, March 18th between 7 and 8 pm CST. We got a quick chat in with guitarist Serge Nakauchi Pelletier ahead of their SXSW Digital performance, which curiously involved talking about hygiene standards around aliens.

What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?

The first music I remember hearing was the first album by The Kinks, Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Good, the bad and the ugly’, and Nakajima Miyuki’s ‘Aishite Iru To Ittekure’ from my parents collection. That right there has everything to do with what I’m doing today with TEKE::TEKE and how I do it. It didn’t occur to me until just recently, but it makes a whole lot of sense. I owe everything that I’m doing now to my parents and the early moments of music we’ve had together.

What was the first thing you did this morning?
Woke up to the sound of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s theme for the film ‘The Revenant.’

What is your morning ritual like?
Some stretching, green tea, and some reading in the bathroom.

If you could perform three of your songs live for our audience right now, what would they be?
They would be the exact three songs we performed for the SXSW event we took part in : those are ‘Kala Kala’, ‘Barbara’ and ‘Meikyu’. I feel they really capture the essence and energy of the band.

Clearly nothing compares to a live, in-person show, but these livestreams have fed the energy a lot of audiophiles and fans throughout the pandemic. What have you loved about performing digitally?
Three things come to mind :
1- Playing with the band
2- Seeing other people (technicians, camera crew, etc.)
3- The thought of making a difference in the lives of people watching.

Any thoughts on the digital SXSW experience this year?
I can only speak for myself and the experience of the event TEKE::TEKE took part in, which was extremely well-organized and fun. The whole set-up and visuals were cool and should look good online!

What is your routine like on performance days?
Just making sure that my mind isn’t too clogged with stuff, that I’m hydrated enough, I’ll do some stretching, some exercises, focus on my breathing, maybe a little warm-up on the guitar, and with the band we always do a little rallying cry that goes ‘TEKE TEKE YEAH!!!’.

What is one thing that you think is underrated? Rant about it.
Non-automatic stuff, haha… or things that demand manual work. For example, I just recently bought a coffee grinder (for my occasional cup of decaf coffee). I could’ve gotten one of those electric/plastic grinders but I chose to go for an all-metal and manual grinder, the one with a handle that you need to turn over and over. I figured: when in my life do I get to do something like this?… this kind of motion, as the fresh smell of coffee grain being crushed to powder rises to my nose. Just because the technology’s there doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. Give me handles, buttons, things to pull, to push! Haha… manual work, please!

If you could order carryout from any place within 10 minutes of your home right now, where would you go tonight? What would you have there?
Within 10 minutes, I would order and pick up from that Indian restaurant right on the corner of the street and have their delicious vegetarian thali. If I dared walk 20 minutes more though, I’d definitely go to this place called ‘Fleurs et Cadeaux’ here in Montreal’s Chinatown, my new favorite Japanese joint.

Aliens. The government admitted their existence and alluded to involvement, but we kind of skated past it during the pandemic. Do you think they’re enemies, or would you gladly accept an abduction to hang out with them?
I know this is actually true and I’m waiting to sit with them and chat. As long as they have their masks on.

There are so many amazing places to go when you want to get inspired. Where are you headed to next?
Can’t really go anywhere right now can we?… However, I’ll say this: personally my ‘place’ for inspiration has more to do with where I am in my mind than where I am physically. That has been a blessing during this pandemic as the inspiration juices just kept flowing.

What has been your favorite way to stay grounded during the pandemic?
I consider myself among the very lucky ones whose lives have not been affected by the pandemic in a major way. Yes, shows were canceled, some contracts were postponed, but all in all, I’ve been able to keep the same lifestyle as before, if not even a little better so, with more time on my hands and less stress. To stay grounded (whether during a pandemic or not), I need to stay creative and keep a certain diversity in what I do. Exercise is a must, for both mind and body as they are indubitably linked. Feed my curiosity, stay aware and open, learn things, get good sleep and think of others.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Check out our music videos for the songs ‘Meikyu’ and ‘Yoru Ni’ on YouTube and watch for our upcoming album ‘Shirushi’ out on May 7th with Kill Rock Stars.

Hang in there, we’ll see you live somewhere real soon! Peace!