When I catch him on the phone, 24-year-old Gabe Simon, singer and guitarist for The Kopecky Family Band happily tells me that he’s taking his dog for a walk. Living in Nashville, Tennessee where he and his five “familial” cohorts began making waves in the local music scene with their 2010 EP The Disaster, Simon admits that he has a lot to be grateful for.
Mentioning his excitement for the band’s upcoming tour, full-length album, as well as their first ever performance at Lollapalooza, he speaks with the spitfire serenity of a Buddhist monk who’s recently discovered Adderall. Apologizing every so often for what he refers to as “being a chatty Cathy,” his enthusiasm for music eventually extends to talk of all the arts, and in the course of a half hour, our conversation pleasantly flutters from Space Jam, Marquis de Sade, Jimmy Hendrix, Sandlot, Khalil Gibran and everything inbetween.
True Endeavors: What kind of dog do you have and what’s his name?
Gabe Simon: I own a Yorkshire Terrier. It’s the lamest dog ever, but he’s the most amazing dog in the world. His name is Maximus. I got him around the time that Russel Crowe Gladiator movie came out.
Maximus is a powerful dog name.
Powerful! That’s what I think! Real strong, demanding, destined to accomplish big things. [Laughs]
Where are you in the world right now?
Physically I’m in Nashville, Tennessee just hanging out. This is where I’ve lived for the past five years now, and I’ll be getting married here in September.
Thank you so much! There are a lot of personal and interesting things happening in my life right now. If we’re getting a little esoteric, I’m in a really great place, man. Everything has been moving smoothly in my life and with everyone else’s life, so it’s been a really interesting ride of trying to learn how to become an adult every day while having the ability to play music as your career.
It’s a weird thing, you know? I don’t know if you are going through the same thing, but there are a lot of responsibilities to be dealt with. College was kind of that one point where you were defining yourself as a new person and making new friends. And when you graduate, things change and you need to sort of settle into the hustle and bustle of things and find what you want to do. Some people will end up finding a job they don’t want to do, but I feel like we’ve found that job we were meant for. We have a saying in the band, which is that “the journey is the destination.” It’s something we believe in a lot. It’s our life’s mantra.
When do you start going on tour again?
Actually, this Thursday. We’ve been off for the last month and a half. The last tour we did was with a band called The Lumineers, and before that we played with a band called Gogol Bordello. And then we’ve been kind of working nonstop since August of last year, so we needed a break for a moment because we have a new record in the works. We wanted to start going into practice spaces to really just hash out all our new material to make the records sound great live. It’s one thing to make a record, and it’s another to pull off every sound you created in a live setting, you know what I mean? There was a lot of picking and choosing, and that’s a lot of what we’ve been doing over the last month and a half. So there hasn’t been a lot of rest. [Lead singer] Kelsey for instance went out to Colorado; there’s a big fest out there called Wanderlust which is a big yoga festival. And I had my own bachelor party last weekend up in Louisiana which was pretty cool. So we do all these separate life things. But when we get back together, the cool thing about us is that because we’re gone so much, we really are each other’s best friends. Even when I’m home, I’m calling up everyone and we’re all hanging out. Five years ago when we first started playing, we were young kids and hot headed and more passive aggressive. We didn’t know how to talk to each other. But now we know how to approach any disagreements we might have while touring and all we want to do is hang out with each other when we are home.
How has the process of re-tooling the new songs for a live atmosphere been? What are the biggest problems you run into?
The songs that maybe took a little longer to develop but came a little easier recording, those tend to be the ones that are the most difficult to play live. They tend to be more minimalistic with the core instrumentation stuff, but they are a lot more complicated in terms of tones and sounds and creating certain ambient effects. And while we haven’t been a band that uses a lot of effects, we realized that the sounds we created on the records were so pivotal. For instance, in the past we’ve had a lot of strings, and on the newest album there’s hardly any strings at all, so it’s hard, because you need to figure out how to use the guitar to mimic those effects. So the idea was to create chords that compliment each other without getting in the way of each other. And we didn’t realize how difficult that can be. But we pushed through it and I’m excited to try them live. We’ll be playing a lot of new stuff when we come to Madison.
What are the days like leading up to the tour for all of you? Has it become second nature, or is it an anxious few days getting ready?
Well it’s weird, because after this month-and-a-half long break, it’s sort of a surreal thing to be touring again. In a sense, I’ve felt like I got fired from a job or something in the last month, and now going on tour is as if I was rehired [laughs]. But I try not to think about the touring until the very last moment. I live all those moments leading up to the tour like I’m not leaving. It’s good for my relationship and my mind. I pack my bag literally an hour before I leave, and then I tell myself, “Okay, I’m in travel mode. I’m not feeling restless anymore. I’m ready to go.” But I’m kind of a trip Nazi when it comes to packing, so it’s better to be like that only for an hour instead of a 24 hour Nazi [laughs].
Being a band that constantly tours, where do you find the time to create new material? Or is some of that done while touring?
We just finished our last record in the spring, which was the first full-length we’ve ever done. We’ve released three EPs in the past, and we have those eleven songs I mentioned earlier that are in an excellent place right now. So all of that has been primarily what we worked on when we came home. And because this upcoming record is our first full-length, we’ve been trying our hardest to make it exactly what we want. We’re still writing more and more songs, and recently we’ve been talking about releasing something quickly after the full-length comes out. There’s no lack of material or ideas. With everyone in the band, if someone might not be feeling creative, you have two or three others who can pull them out of it. We write everything together, and there’s six of us, so it gets pretty interesting.
What has been the difference for your band in terms of writing a full-length LP compared to an EP? My brain thinks in terms of literature, so is the difference similar to the difference between, say, a short-story collection and a novel?
I feel like EPs are more like poems. You have a series of one-liners that don’t necessarily create a complete thought. It’s like a brainwave of different ideas. A full-length has the ability to go in-depth with characters and do things like foreshadowing. We love foreshadowing. That’s something we do a lot on our records. We’ll foreshadow certain sounds, tones, or even musical parts that become more prominent later in the record. We were very intentional with the song placement on this upcoming record to make sure that the chapters aligned correctly. As for the EPs, Kelsey likes to call them “Time Capsules”. They are just a collection of information based on things we were going through at that time in our lives. But with the new album, I feel it’s maybe the first thing we’ve recorded that makes complete sense as a whole. The other EPs just sort of seem like delving into a Shel Silverstein book to me. You like each piece in its own way, but the connections are a little vague.
I heard that the original name for your band was going to be “The Benny Rodriguez Family Band.” Is that true?
[Laughs] That’s funny, because I was just talking about this with someone the other day. That was the name I wanted to call our band so badly. I was a huge fan of the movie Sandlot, and we just talked about doing a music video inspired by Sandlot. Squints is my boy, man. So I thought it’d be a great name for the band, but it never got popular enough with everyone. I think it’s too obscure of a reference.
That’s sad, because it shouldn’t be.
I agree. I have some buddies who are in a band called Apache Relay, which is a reference from the movie Heavy Weights. I feel good names should be somewhat obscure, but should also have a significant life story. My dad and I would go on trips all the time, and we had this TV with a built-in VCR that he’d put in the center between the driver and passenger seats. And I would sit in the back and watch three movies: Fawlty Towers with John Cleese, Space Jam and Sandlot. Those were my three favorite movies. I’d watch them over and over again. But yeah, man. Sandlot. That should have been the one we used.
It could still be a side project. I don’t think my music collection would be complete without some music from The Benny Rodriguez Family Band.
Yes! It absolutely can be a side project [laughs].
You could title the album The Great Bambino or You’re Killing Me, Smalls.
“You’re killing me Smalls!” That would be the first single! That’s it. “The Great Bambino.” “The Sultan of Swat.” “The King of Crash.”
“The Colossus of Clout”
The colossus of clout! [Laughs] That would be so good! I need to watch that movie again. I think I’m going to watch it right now.
–interview by Austin Duerst
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