When I meet up with Skaters, it’s a rainy Tuesday night in the city called Liverpool. They just played a gig at Studio 2 on the legendary Parr Street - but saying just "a gig" would be an understatement. It actually felt (in the best way possible) like a band practice - they changed the setlist, dealt with sound issues that lead them to playing "Band Breaker" in the crowd (and they loved it so much that they deliberately decided to do it again during "Rock And Roll Bye Bye") and made the crowd so eager for more that they finished the set with a rare cover of Nirvana’s "Territorial Pissings". They laughed, discussed the most ridiculous stuff with each other (like Josh checking if Noah looks better from the audience perspective) and chatted with the crowd. If you were watching them for the first time, in this tiny venue filled with the atmosphere of relaxation and DIY-ness, you might have thought these NYC boys are quite new to this business. Oh well… they are not.
To be perfectly honest, they know this business quite well. They already played most of the major festivals, toured the world, recorded at the Electric Lady Studios and released their debut album with Warner. Two years after that, they come back. Without the record deal, but with a different band members, plans for the most "fuck let's do this" tour/record ever and the ominous message on their jackets with three words - "Bye Bye Skaters". So as we sit down with Mike and Noah in the world’s smallest dressing/storage room, I sip the beer they gave me and I’m a bit scared of what I can actually hear about the future of Skaters. But luckily, they really are stuck with rock and roll.
So… you are back. You have some new songs. Why did you decide to show them to the UK crowd instead of the US? That would be a normal thing to do since you’re an NYC band.
Mike: Well, we haven’t been here in a long time!
Noah: That’s not why…
Mike: Ok, go ahead, Noah…
Noah: The answer is - because this EP wouldn’t even happen without the UK. It’s been put out on Gary from The Libertines label. That’s the only reason why this whole thing is happening. It’s essentially a combination of two things - one of them is that Ratboy has asked us to go on tour with him and we said "yes" because we like him, and two - Gary offered to put out the EP for us. This tour and this EP is very UK exclusive.
Last time I saw you was in the US, when you were on the road with The Orwells. You were 1,5 a year releasing your first album and you had Dan on board. Now you have a new bassist and Mike is playing guitar. What happened during those two years?
Mike: A lot of things happened. I think everyone’s life got really… real. We parted with our label, which was a big change. We had no support from them. No money to do anything. And everyone has a life, you know what I mean? And the reason why the members have changed… well, members have always changed. Dan couldn’t afford to do a tour, so it’s not like he abandoned us - he just couldn’t afford to do it. No one is making money on this. It changes the way you act. Originally, we were gonna do a three-piece. It would just have been Noah, Josh and myself. Then Stuee, our friend who lives here, just offered to do it for free. It’s really just "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of thing. So a lot of thing has changed.
At this moment Josh comes to the room and asks someone to help him with loading the equipment back to the car. After a short talk (Mike: "man, I promised this interview 3 years ago. Just wait 10 minutes"), Noah walks out with him. Sadly, he doesn't come back later.
Mike: Yeah… Everyone has a real life. You have to pay the rent. Shit happens. We spent a year working on and writing new songs and we went to the studio and recorded this all fucking shit. That’s pretty much it. There’s a lot of work and it seems to an outsider’s perspective that we disappeared. But you never see all the work that goes on.
casually lying on the stage
When the record company broke the deal - what it more discouraging or rather cathartic?
Mike: It was cathartic. Noah and Josh didn’t really feel so, but I celebrated. I knew it was a toxic relationship. They done a lot for us, but they also hindered us from doing a lot of ideas. And when they allowed us to those ideas and were working with us, things were always kind of messed up. Towards the end it just wasn’t productive at all.
This is very DIY - the tour, the record, the process… Obviously it gives you a lot of freedom. You recorded so many songs. Wasn’t it harder for you to choose the ones that will go on an actual album?
Mike: There was a lot of songs and it definitely made it hard to find the direction, but we knew we wanted to grow in a way that was kind of.. I don’t think I can say more mature, but we felt very different than we did in 2012/2013, when we started the band and recorded that record. We were so far from "Manhattan". We were writing such different songs. It kind of took shape on its own after a while. This is kind of a strangely britpop record in a lot of ways. Once we embraced that, everything got a lot easier.
I can see a lot of differences. Like "The Loner" is very punky and upbeat, while "Mental Case" & "Head On To Nowhere" are quite soft and melancholic.
Mike: Which is more of a direction of the record.
So did you become softer?
Mike: As people? No. Vaguely we became more honest. There’s aspects of your personality… like I always love artists that have a kind of like spastic moments because that’s how life is. That’s how we always feel like. You never feel like one way all the time. I find it very boring with bands like Interpol which are an awesome band, but everything sounds the same to me and I’m like "How do you write the same fucking weird songs all the time?". It always sounds exact the same. That’s just never been my fucking thing.
aaaand more lying.
You said that your sound now is more britpop. It reminded me of what Damon Albarn once said about Gorillaz being a virtual band because it’s almost impossible in the celebrity obsessed culture to move around genres and change ideas. Is it that sort of thing for you?
Mike: Yes. If you don’t change it’s not… fun. I’d rather be misunderstood for a minute and then eventually understood. You know what I mean? We wanted to get it out of the way, so we released "Save Her Something Special" as a single. We were wondering if people are gone panic, like "Fuck, what happened with this band?". We didn’t want to conform to this box that we’ve built for ourselves. Which I think a lot of bands do. They put themselves in a box. They categorise themselves and then they can’t get out of it. I like bands like Blur and like Radiohead. I’m not saying just music, I’m talking more stylistically and creatively.
You named your first record "Manhattan" cause it was a collection of songs strongly connected with New York. What is the new record about then?
Mike: "Manhattan" was almost like a concept record. Like a kid moving to New York. All songs were very dissolutioned, kind of like the record starts with the kid excited to be in New York and by the end he’s totally dissolutioned and kind of fucking… sick of it? The new record is less conceptional. At points it’s more personal and at other points it’s goofy. It’s in various level of seriousness.
Did you enjoy making it more than "Manhattan" then?
Mike: You know, it was two really different processes. "Manhattan" was done with ultimately unlimited budget. We could do whatever the fuck we wanted. We recorded it at Electric Lady which was awesome. We had awesome experiences, we worked with great people. This one - we went into the studio for six weeks and didn’t leave. Just fucking recorded. I think if I were to do it again, I would have recorded it for a shorter amount ofttimes and do it in chunks. This process was kind of insane. We were going crazy by the end of it. I think in some ways the first record was more exciting to record, but this one was way more gratifying. We got to experiment more and we could fuck around. It totally changed my mind. It was more fun, you know, because with all these sketches of song it could just work its way to the top.
Mike: "Let's play another song in the crowd, I actually enjoy it more"
You have a lot of bye-byes. "Rock And Roll Bye Bye", "Bye Bye Skaters"… You’re not REALLY saying goodbye to everyone though, right?
Mike: Well, who knows… You never know. We’re not gonna jump of the bridge. When you listen to the song you’ll understand. That song is more of a reflection of where we are in this preservation society of rock and roll. That’s kind of like how we feel. "Rock And Roll Bye Bye" is like choosing to go into this profession, which is just fun when you’re a kid. It’s really honest and pure. And then it can sometime become your work and after a while people judge you. Someone says: "My son doesn’t do anything, he’s in a band". And then, after a while, people just get used to the fact that you’re a musician. They don’t say it anymore, but they go "oh, I’m jealous". It’s just about the kind of bullshit people have to put up with when they commit themselves to anything. Ultimately, if you like touring you just keep touring and that’s what "Rock And Roll Bye Bye" is about. We’re not waving goodbye.
What’s in cards for Skaters then?
Mike: Hopefully this record gets a break. We could use a little break. It’s not just about money, it’s just to keep you going. Like compensation. We don’t need that to keep going, but you need some shit to your own or whatever. So hopefully this record will make people enjoy it. I think they will, I think it’s the best what we have done. We’re all very excited about it. Everyone is gonna be really on our side, I hope. I’m confident. We do everything by ourselves, so we decided that the record is gonna be out in October. Now we… plan. Hopefully it will all come over.
If you wanna check the coolest band in NYC town out - here's their facebook page. They also have a new EP called Rock And Roll Bye Bye (do not mistake with the Rock And Roll Bye Bye record that is out in October) that you can either buy on iTunes or listen to via Spotify below. Strongly recommend doing both. And listening on repeat.