Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Interview with The Penny Serfs

>> The weather has been cold and fairly miserable, so what better way to distract yourself than by listening to some great new music?  The Penny Serfs, the Iowa based indie rock band, recently released an EP titled Like Eating Glass. The EP addresses themes such as "the painful reality that every battery must have a positive and a negative." It addresses heavy ideas but in a way that won't tear you apart while listening. I spoke with the band a few weeks back about their EP, recording a music video, battling snow in their quest to share their music with fans, and more. Read the interview and watch the video for the single "Dead Love" below.

>> In addition to doing interviews like this one, The Penny Serfs will be performing at the Music Now Festival in Cincinnati, OH on March 12th! Get more details on the festival at

Please introduce yourselves.
Andrew Linley, I play bass and sing a little.
Kyle Lewis, Drummer
Mikey Loy, I sing in the band
Stu Tenold, I play the keys and pretend to sing.

How did The Penny Serfs first come together as a band?
Andrew: We are all touring pros, "roadies" if you will. Mike, Kyle, and Stu all met while working with a few different artists on tour. Mike and I have known each other and have been messing around with music very casually for a long time. When we all came together it was kind of like the perfect storm. The songs came together very fast and pretty easily.

Your first EP, Like Eating Glass, was released earlier this month. What went into that EP? Tell us about its theme and how you made singing about love anything but generic.
Andrew: As far as the writing and recording of the ep, it was super quick. We did it in two parts, half was written and recorded in two days. We had gotten together to jam some ideas we had and ended up finishing three songs, so we just decided to keep the momentum up and booked a local studio and pounded them out. The other half we did in Atlanta after we had written a few more tunes.
Kyle: We made this EP with mindset of just having fun. It had been so long since any of us had been in a band, we really wanted it to be as stress free as possible. That being said, we recorded these song in 2 separate sessions, both sessions being only 1-2 days of recording. It sounds like a high anxiety scenario, but it was actually quite a pleasant experience. Mike and his lyrics are really the driving force behind the band, and he does a great job voicing our feelings as a whole.
Mikey: I think everyone has a few insecurities regarding love in the age of the Internet. Everything feels a little lonely even when you're with the girl/guy of your dreams. We spent a lot of time staying up late crafting these songs. We are super proud of them.

You also just out out a new video for "Dead Love." Where did the inspiration come from, and what were your goals for the video? What was the filming process like?
Kyle: We really wanted to push simplicity and low budget to its limits, and what's more low budget than filming with an iPhone?! We used a wide angle lens attachment for an iPhone 5 and had a friend (who also works in the "bizz" as a lighting/video tech) add some filters and do some light editing. The entire video was done in one straight take. Fast and cheap! Don't get me wrong, we did spend time planning out the video. Another co-worker friend of ours let us use his basement in Morristown, New Jersey to film. Little did he know, he would end up being our "camera guy" as well. The filming process was a lot of fun, we are very pleased with the was it turned out and grateful for the helping hands of our friends.
Stu: We're a band with a lot of concepts and basically a budget of zero. We all grew up without much, so I think we've all kind of learned to make due with what we've got. In the case of the video for 'Dead Love', what we had was a camera phone and a friend's creepy basement. We wanted to make it dark and brooding, but also not take things too seriously... It's only rock and roll after all... It was done in one take. Think we nailed it.

Do you consciously make decisions to try and set your band apart from others, or do you think it happens naturally?
Andrew: Naturally, I think. At least I don't sit around trying to think of ways to be unique, I prefer to just be who I am in my own skin and take that same attitude with the band. We write songs that resonate with us personally, and the best we can hope for is that they find a receptive audience.
Kyle: We love to play music, and the way we play and write is just our natural vibe as a band. As you can tell from listening to our EP, our music covers a various range in sound. Maybe that is what sets us apart.
Mikey: We never fit in anywhere really. It's definitely not on purpose, but now that we are adults we really don't give a fuck about being accepted by anyone. We are always to plain for the hipsters, and to creepy for the jocks haha. These days we take that as a compliment and hope we can make even more unique things happen.
Stu: I think one of the trends I don't really like in music right now is that it seems like many bands are "trying" to be different, but I think most of them are trying to be different in exactly the same way... I think for us, our sound is just a natural outcome of our eclectic influences and different origins.

In addition to releasing your EP, you also recorded a session with Daytrotter. How did that come about, and what was that experience like?
Andrew: You'll laugh at this, but we all just said one day how sweet it would be to do Daytrotter, and we hit them up and asked if we could. To our surprise, they said yes. It could not have been any cooler, we had a blast being there.
Kyle: Daytrotter is awesome! The session we had was a blast and a great experience. It gave us a chance to sort of rethink a few of our songs and get a little weird with them. Personally, I used brushes and hot rod sticks instead of normal drumsticks. Also changed up the timing and beats in some of the songs we recorded. That's what Daytrotter is all about, capturing a live full band take and encouraging them to switch things up a bit. We are really lucky to have had a part in their session line up.
Mikey: Daytrotter is one of the best live studio experiences. I remember a few years ago when my buddy old me the Lemonheads were doing a session there, and I was like "that is so amazing. One day I want to be on Daytrotter". That's how big it is to us. Mike Gentry the audio engineer was super nice and we had a lot of fun fooling around in the session.

You have a string of shows coming up, including a stop at NYC's Mercury Lounge. What are you looking forward to with these performances? 
Kyle: I love playing shows and driving across the country in our 1989 Chevy ex-prisoner transport van! I'm mostly looking forward to sharing the stage with my comrades. If I can look up and see one of my band member with a smile on his face while jamming out, then it proves to me once again that this is what makes us happy and fulfilled.
Stu: Just playing shows! Honestly, we would just play a show every day if we could book that many! We don't have a booking agent yet so we're doing ourselves and still kind of figuring out how to do that. But yeah, we're just psyched to play!

What can fans expect at one of your shows? Hopefully the snow doesn't interfere with your travel plans!
Kyle: Fans can expect a good show, bad jokes, and maybe a new song or two in the set. Snow has so far been a constant battle! Ever move we make, the weather is one step ahead of us causing grief. We will white knuckle it to the next show no matter what.
Stu: A great rock show! On the record, we can be a bit mellow, but live we really like to keep the energy up!
Mikey: The snow has definitely interfered. We have almost flipped the van twice. Our Philadelphia show was cancelled. But instead we drove to Columbus, Ohio and recorded a new song at Musicol Studios (which is a blast from the past) and turned lemons into lemonade. We are having a ton of fun out here in our old beat up punk rock band van. And we wouldn't have it any other way. We have some shows left in the Midwest and Michigan and they have been going great.

What's next for the band? More shows, more music?
Andrew: More of both! We're writing a ton of material, and have plans to tour throughout the year.
Mikey: We will do a full US TOUR in April, and then work on releasing a full length unless we end up "living in a van down by the river" first.. To quote the late great Chris Farley.

Is there anything else you want to say?
Kyle: We believe in what what we do, and love doing it. Thanks for taking the time to chat!
Andrew: If you haven't already, check out The Penny Serfs!
Stu: Serfs up!

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