upcoming releases, sentimentality, and a keen eye may make 2024 the year of keli price

upcoming releases, sentimentality, and a keen eye may make 2024 the year of keli price

You know that feeling when you sit down for a cup of coffee with an old friend. Someone it’s been absolute years since you’ve gotten to know. Part of you is nervous, but when you sit down and start chatting, the ease of the conversation dissolves all the stress and expectations around it. Before you know it, you are involved in their story again, rooting them on as you did before and invested in what is coming their way.

That’s a lot like how my chat with Keli Price, multi-talented creative (writer/actor/producer) panned out. To be fair, it had been since 2013 that I got my first batch of questions in, over a decade since we had connected with excitement over his burgeoning acting career.

In that first chat, we discussed falling into Youtube spirals and music as a really big passion of Price’s. Now, we build upon that chat, touching on his fast-paced emergence into the film production world and the attention to detail a sentimental man will pay to his work.

2024 is the year of Keli Price. If you don’t believe me, he’s currently on season 2 of Rap Sh!t, which is available on HBO Max. Plus, he has 3 film releases headed down the pike, and two east coast teams to cheer into their respective post-seasons, and that’s just the beginning. Below, words from our recent sit-down.

How have things been? It’s been a while!

Absolutely! It’s been a long time, and so many things have happened. It’s so nice to be in touch again.

You’ve gotten pretty heavily into the producing side since we last spoke, though really you have kept your toes in the acting and now producing pools as well it seems!

I was not expecting to get into the producing side the way that I did. It just kind of happened. We made this movie about my great grandfather who had this crazy sports story and people came to the screening and wanted me to produce their other movies. I did and then our company was born.

We make about 5 movies per year in the action space primarily, and we get into other genres too. It was to honor my great grandfather who lived to 100, so I got to know him pretty well.

How did you get involved with the upcoming Hellfire release?

Hellfire is coming out this year, in March or April. That movie stars Harvey Keitel, Stephen Lang, and Dolph Lundgren. It’s a really cool, sort of fun action movie. We got involved on the financing side and we’ve been taking a ride for quite a while with this movie from pre-production through post.

We’ve taken a look at the cut recently and it looks great. Saban FIlms is distributing it. I love them over at Saban, I have a lot of projects with them. They’re great. I’m excited to see what they do with it.

What was the timeline like from start to finish on this particular project? Because the adoring public might not know the ins and outs.

We’ve been involved with Hellfire for about a year and a half. Our highest profile movie Bandit, which was #1 on Apple TV and Amazon Prime and Paramount+ took about 2 years to make also. But it was because it was a period piece and a lot went into it.

The fastest movie we ever made was in 2 months. I don’t know how we did it, it was an enigma and it will probably never happen again. It was a weird scenario. It was called The Curse of Wolf Mountain. I was getting involved in another project and it kind of all fell apart. I just needed a script and I went and I wrote this movie within 2 weeks. We were on set 2 months later.

It’s crazy, but that’s how quick we can go when everything is firing. But it rarely happens that way, it usually takes years to make a movie. That’s just the way that it goes, and you put so much time into it. That’s why our company is so specific about the projects we take on. We know we’re going to be on there for what could be a few years. It could also be a few months, but movies could take time.

It’s true. This leads me to the Murder at Hollow Creek project because you told me that you’re writing, producing, and starring in it. I’ve been flummoxed by people who can do that. You come from a place where you’re kind of looking at every facet of the film. You have empathy with other people involved in the process — How does it feel different than when you are less involved in a project?

That is so true. And specifically on that set, I remember having instances where there were situations with PAs or whatever. I get very emotionally tied into people and their feelings. That’s just the way that I’m built. I’m all about forming connections with people on set, whether you’re a PA, another director, or a producer. To me, it’s supposed to be a safe place where we are literally making this piece of art.

It’s kind of like camp, we’re all together and gearing toward this goal. It’s a really special experience that you can’t explain unless you’re there and it is like summer camp. You make all these connections, you’re there for a couple of months, and then you’re just gone. And sometimes you stay in touch and sometimes you don’t but all of those memories are always there because you’re on location.

Murder at Hollow Creek was the second time that I really wore all three hats. So the cameras are rolling, I’m in a scene because I’m acting in it too. The scene ends and quickly I’m like, “Oh, shit. That light’s about to fall, can we get somebody to…” or, “Oh, God, like, we need to make sure that this actor is getting to set because their plane landed in Texas and they’re supposed to be in Mississippi and there’s a hurricane or tornado or whatever… are they on their way?” It was constantly stuff like that.

We did have an actress that got rerouted because there was literally a tornado in Mississippi. She couldn’t get to Mississippi so I was literally in a scene, I finished the scene and I walked up to the other producers. I was like, “What is going on with Penelope? Is she OK? Is she on her way? Who do I need to call?” So yeah, it’s a different experience. (laughing)

On Rap Sh!t, for instance, I was a recurring character on that show. I would just roll up to the studio and eat my Chinese food or whatever they had that day. They had EVERYTHING at the Sony lot, by the way. The best food. I’m a foodie, so when I’m acting at the Sony studio. There’s Chinese, Mexican, there’s these donuts. They’ve got a Zeppole truck. If you’re a New Yorker, you probably know what that is. (laughing) They’re the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life.

When I’m on that set, it’s so relaxing and a different experience and I just get to hang out with the other actors and not have to worry about making the day or lights falling or people caught in hurricanes. It’s just hanging out, eating Zeppole’s. Every once in a while I get a gig here and there and I’ll take it, and I’ll act, and I’ll love it. But our company, Price Productions, does take up most of my time.

Understandably so! You have so many different projects at any one moment.

I love producing. I was getting into the film business as an actor because that was the only way I knew how to do it. But if I was able to break into the business as a producer earlier on I probably would have. But I just figured I would go on auditions and I could get involved in movies that way. If I wanted to produce, I didn’t know what the first step was.

I made this movie, as I alluded to earlier, about my great grandfather where I wanted to honor him. Ended up going – in 2014 – and just started to shoot. We were at Ellis Island, getting footage there. It started to come together as a film.

Athletes were calling and saying, “We notice you’re making this movie on discrimination in sports, we would love to be a part of it and tell our story.” It ended up being something a lot bigger than I thought it would be. That’s what started our company.

But it was such a learning experience, making On Thin Ice. I packaged it, I financed it, I distributed it. I did everything on that movie – with a great team, by the way. It was really like a family project because it was a family member for all of us. My brother edited the movie. It was my mom’s grandmother, she was heavily involved in that movie. She produced the hell out of it with me. She did such a freaking great job, so it will always be special to me because of that.

How we got it done I have no idea, because we all had no idea how to make a movie. But we did. And that was our first one. And now I make about 5 per year in the action space. But everything I know came from that movie. As you go, you learn more. But that movie I had to dive in and put the talent together and put the financing together and put the distribution together in all these areas that I had no idea about, and suddenly I’m in it. That’s what gave me that education on film production in general.

Well, and also, it’s cool that you set out to kind of honor your great grandfather’s legacy and, in doing that, you kind of created a legacy of your own that you get to now build upon. That’s super dope.

Thank you! I never thought of it that way but it’s so nice of you to say. I guess there are such things as happy accidents, but they’re not really. Because, as I said, I wanted to be a producer and in film my whole life, but making this movie just to honor his legacy, it did kind of put things in place.

Out of all of the characters that you have played so far, which has been your favorite?

I like that question. That is a good question. The one I enjoyed playing… Bobby Love was so much fun to play. Just because it was the two-sider role, a guy that got to put on this facade. It was also my first role so I have to give it a shout out.

Do you have any anecdotes from filming that role that kind of sit with you?

Yeah! It was The Naked Brothers Band, if anyone needs to know. It was my first role. Bobby Love was a famous British rocker but he was really a surfer dude from San Diego. I remember we were having the balloon fight for battle of the bands. We had this scene where I was in a fight with Nat. My band was on stage, his band was on stage and we just started brawling and he was grabbing my hair, I was grabbing him. People were pulling my pants down and my shirt. (laughing) That was memorable.

Working with Richard Dreyfuss on Your Family or Mine was a highlight because I’ve always been a fan, since Jaws and Mr. Holland’s Opus. He was unbelievable in that movie. Such a powerful character and so relatable, too. That scene at the end of the movie when his daughter is on stage and he’s watching in the audience, it’s such a beautiful moment. He’s an incredible actor, so I enjoyed working with him.

It was fun working with David Walton and Dax Sheppard in About a Boy. That was a fun character. Zak on AwesomenessTV’s Side Effects with Lulu Antariksa, Meg DeLacy, Finn Roberts, and Chester See was a lot of fun. We had a few seasons of that series. Going to set with the same people all the time was fun. It’s like Rap Sh!t. When you are constantly going to the same set with the same people it becomes like a family.

Like Rap Shit, Side Effects incorporated music in the main storyline, another passion of yours. That’s great! I actually have a follow-up question to a conversation we had back in 2013. You had mentioned that you would love to work with Michael Fassbender or Robert DeNiro, which I totally agree with. But have your bucket list acting partners shifted at all?

Robert DeNiro is still the same. He will always be, probably, my #1. My grandfather and I talk about it all the time. We watch mafia movies together, we’re New Yorkers. My grandpa is from Brooklyn and he just started me on these movies early on. Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Al Pachino, Joe Pesci. I gravitate, naturally, toward Robert DeNiro. He is one of the greatest actors of our time. I grew up watching all of his movies.

I would love to work with Hillary Swank. She’s my favorite actress, she’s amazing. She’s got such vulnerability and power and she is just captivating to watch. I would add her to the list. Al Pacino, definitely, though he’s always kind of been on the list.

We can’t mention everyone!

(Laughing) Yeah, I know! Fassbender is insane. I can’t believe that was my answer. He’s unbelievable, already a legend.

Well, so seeing that list of people… when you were young, what were you guys watching at home?

Love that question. My Uncle Arthur and his husband Uncle Lenny were like a second set of parents. We were always around them. Lenny was really close with me, and Arthur too, and our entire lives, they would come over and it was always about horror like Chuckie or action movies like Die Hard. And those are primarily the movies we make now.

A Steven Seagal, a Bruce Willis, a Mel Gibson – which we have Mel in Bandit – so I grew up qatching movies like that. With my brother after school I remember Rocket Power and Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon. Those were my go-to.

You mentioned Die Hard. We don’t have to delve into it, but is it a Christmas movie or is it now in your mind?

So funny. No. It’s not a Christmas movie in my mind. Just because movies are set during Christmas time, that doesn’t necessarily classify them as a Christmas movie. The writer definitely deliberately set it during Christmastime, but that doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. It’s an action movie.

Thank you. Alright. Time to ask you about Mad Props. It’s coming to theaters in February. I saw you worked with some big names on it. So, tell us about it.

I’m so happy that I got involved in that project, it was my second documentary. Like I said, we make a lot of feature films. But it’s been a while since I made a documentary. And I heard this guy’s story. It’s based on this banker in Oklahoma who always wanted to be involved in film, never really got a chance, and loves movies. So he started collecting movie props. Like BIG movie props, like the volleyball from Castaway. Like, Indiana Jones props. He would go around the globe finding the greatest movie props of all time.

Our movie takes us on this journey with him to find movie props. As a creative in the film business, you would get a kick out of it. It’s eye-opening to see how much these props cost, but it’s also like a history of movies too. Sometimes with a documentary subject, you’re not sure how their family will be on camera. But his family is really fun and engaging to watch!

Is there anything right now in particular that is inspiring your work?

My grandma passed in August of 2022. She is always an inspiration for me. My grandma had issues with other people, but she never had issues with me. It was all out of love, everything was out of love. I could play you voicemails where she’s like “Keli, where are you? This is my fourth call. Are you OK? I heard there was something going on in Los Angeles. Are you OK?”

And they’re so precious you never want to delete them.

Yeah, I have like 50 of them. I’m going to see if I can play you one.

**This was the piece of the interview where we paused to listen to his grandmother’s voice over his voicemail, adorable Brooklyn accent and all. We may have both shed a tear or two talking about our families. After a time, we got back on topic by speaking about Keli’s sentimentality:

I’m a very sentimental person, and I always look back at my childhood and things that I did and names of beaches and schools I went to, and I infuse them into my work life. If you look at Murder at Hollow Creek, the antagonist’s name is Bill Brooks. That’s my grandfather.

Aw. He’s an antagonist. How cute!

(Laughing) And my brother’s name in that movie is Nick. His name is Nico in real life. I’m just sentimental like that. So it’s always my family that is inspiring me.

But also, if I watch a movie or a show that can influence me. I’m really into success stories like Steve Jobs. andthat kind of stuff too. Underdogs who experience success inspire me. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Evander Holyfield, Allisyn Felix, Amy Mullins, and more.

OK but yeah, you like sports. Do you have teams?

I love baseball. But I watch basketball and football the most. Die-hard Knicks fan, always have been. They’re my #1. In football, it’s the Jets. I have to pause because the last few years have been a nightmare. (Laughing) Thinking that we would at least have a nice run at The Big Game…

**This was the point of the interview where I identified with his struggles as the fan of a losing team, and we went off on a sports tangent entirely unrelated to this. Spoiler: Keli Price does know enough about professional basketball and football to engage you in lengthy conversation.

Though bummed about the current performance of his teams, Keli ended our chat as graciously as ever. “It was great connecting with you and seeing where you are in your life, and expanding on where I have been. I like doing interviews with people I trust to do great storytelling.”

___

Storytelling like Price does with every production he helms nowadays. If you learn nothing else today, understand that a next wave of independent entertainment moguls is surfacing. These people have touched many facets of the industry, and they want to tell stories with a sense of vulnerability and passion — and have fun and treat everyone respectfully while doing it.

If you haven’t caught up on Rap Sh!t, now is the time. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming releases of Hellfire and Murder at Hollow Creek among others over at Price Productions.

the rolling stones, youtube spirals, and psychology: an interview with keli price

the rolling stones, youtube spirals, and psychology: an interview with keli price

It is rare to find someone who is so mad talented at such a young age. But Keli Price has been knocking on music’s door for YEARS. He’s a singer and songwriter and has naturally forayed into the acting arena. He recently played Zak in ‘Side Effects‘ on a YouTube-exclusive channel called AwesomenessTV. But that’s not all. He’s currently recording music, reaping in the benefits of years of hard work, and being the coolest bi-coastal citizen you’ll ever encounter! Check out what he had to say about it all in our interview below. And swoon.

Serial Optimist: We have it on good authority that you have been involved in music for quite some time. When did you realize it was a passion you wanted to make into a career?

Keli Price: Music has always been a passion of mine. I could never get enough of it. When I was about five years old I would sing with my dad as he would play the guitar to songs like “Needle and the damage done” by Neil Young, “Angie” by The Rolling Stones, and eventually, I was so immersed in music that I knew it was going to always be a big part of my life.

SO: What was the first live show you went to? Any musical artists you would suggest that the Serial Optimist readers see live?

Keli: It was a Bob Dylan show at the Tiles Center on Long Island, NY. I was about five or six at the time. I remember turning to my mom and saying “He’s really good but I think he’s depressed”. You should definitely check out “Cream” or “The James Gang” in concert, if you get the chance. Both of those bands put on amazing shows, never a dull moment.

SO: Making a note of it now! What was the first song you wrote? What’s the story behind it?

Keli: The first song I ever wrote was called “LA”. I was in a hotel room in Los Angeles with my little brother Nikko. I was about eleven years old and he was eight. We were sitting there in our boxers about to get ready for the day when he picks up the guitar and starts strumming this chord progression. I started singing this vocal melody and that was that. There was something so organic and natural about that experience. I’ll never forget it. I still go back all the time and listen to the song. I’m transported back to that moment every time.

SO: We hear you may have attended Pepperdine University. What was the collegiate experience like for you?

Keli: Pepperdine was a great experience for me. I studied Psychology there and learned a lot more about why Bob Dylan is depressed;) No, but I really did get so much out of that experience and added so much to my personal knowledge about people in general.

SO: How did you get involved with AwesomenessTV and ‘Side Effects’?

Keli: I was called in to audition for the casting director Sheryl Levine, for the role of Zac. I was then brought back to read for the producers. I got a call a couple of weeks later that I had gotten the part.

SO: Easy enough! We read your FanLaLa interview about how you see YouTube as a television rival. We concur as you can see the power of YouTube sensationalism with Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, etc. Besides ‘Side Effects’, what has been the most artistically stimulating content you have run across on YouTube or a similar platform?

Keli: I mean, I personally go on “YouTube” more then I watch television. Whether it’s to check out music, watch an interview, or check out a video that all my friends are talking about. YouTube pretty much covers it all. Even if I missed an important political speech, a crazy NBA dunk, or an episode of my favorite show, chances are, I can check it out on “YouTube”. It gives anybody the chance to get there own content out there to the world. Giving an opportunity to people that can’t get their foot in the door at TV Networks or record labels, to be seen or heard on another medium, youtube.

SO: What is your favorite food joint in New York? What about LA? (We’re looking for stellar places to hang in our travels, too!)

Keli: “Hunan Café” is a little Chinese restaurant off of the Sunset Strip. It’s the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. It’s my favorite restaurant in LA. When you’re in New York you should definitely check out Gitane in Nolita.

SO: YUM! Can’t wait! Ok, so tell us a little bit about ‘The Sound of Magic’.

Keli: ‘The Sound of Magic’ is a coming-of-age rock musical with a mix of music, comedy, and fantasy. The film is set in a world we all know with an element of the beyond. It allows the mind to escape into a fantasy of wishes and dreams come true. I really enjoyed playing the role of Lee who is calm and cool and definitely beats to his own drum. It was a pleasure filming with such an eclectic group of actors and brilliant directors.

SO: Can’t wait to see it! If you could perform with any talent, who would you choose and why?

Keli: Mick Jagger. On stage with Mick Jagger would be a dream come true. Acting-wise, acting opposite someone like Michael Fassbender or Robert De Niro wouldn’t be so bad.

SO: Haha! No, that probably wouldn’t be bad. If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

Keli: Trust your instincts.

SO: Thank you! And finally, what do you think is underappreciated in this world?

Keli: Diversity! There is so much to learn from people who are different than you are.

___

Want to keep updated on all things Keli? Follow @KeliPrice now!

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!

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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!

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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!!

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Keep up with Ron Gallo here.