Q & A with Kenyon

The Deep State in the process of writing their foxy new Band Bio, so they enlisted the help of a writer. These were the writer’s questions, along with answers from one of the band members.

WARNING: the following contains language and mixed metaphors that some readers may find offensive.

1. Where are you from? 

We all live and work in Boston. That’s right – Boston, Massachusetts – you’re welcome, America. I love this city but the last thing I want to be known as is a “Boston” band. We really don’t need to talk about the Pixies and Aerosmith anymore, do we? I did spend 20 years in the Northampton, Massachusetts area, soaking up local flavor like The Stone Coyotes, Steve Westfield, Sebadoh and The Unband.  Our bass player Eric is originally from Philadelphia, which probably explains why he’s such a nice guy. Our drummer Tyler is from PDX, so that explains the tattoos and the exceptional taste in music.  Our guitarist and co-songwriter Gregory is from the greater Boston area and refuses to divulge anything more than that. I like to think that he has a really checkered past, maybe something sensational that we could eventually use in our band bio. I originally moved to Massachusetts from the Troy NY area, which probably explains why I’m such a prick.

When and how did you start playing music?

Out of options, I moved to rural Massachusetts when I was 18. I was loaned a copy of “Bubble & Scrape” and “Smash Yr Head on the Punk Rock  from the red-headed kid behind the counter at Platterpus Records in Westfield, MA. I didn’t really know anyone and I was way out in the hinterlands so I started playing guitar so I’d have something to sing along to. I just picked up a Mel Bay book and started figuring it out. It ain’t that complicated, you don’t even have to read music if you don’t want to!

I’ve never felt the need to go many places to demonstrate my sufficiency at singing and songing, that’s really really boring to me. I wanted to be in a band. I also really loathed the idea of being a singer-songwriter type. What, be another whiny dude with a six-string complaining that his girlfriend dumped him? Zzzzzzz. (“What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head” – Cracker)  I kept looking for people I wanted to be in a band with, but western mass was a small pond with some pretty big fish that I didn’t really click with, so I laid low, took a lotta notes.  Eventually I gave up looking for the bomp de bomp and put my creativity and energy into film work. It took me moving to Boston years later to find people that I wanted to be stuck in a small stinky loud room with.

Oh, and for anyone who’s ever dealt with depression, you don’t need me to tell you how insidious and determined it is to keep you scared and lame, quiet and alone. Don’t try and tough it out, I wasted too many years doing that. 90% of this music is brought to you by anti-depressants and I wish I’d gotten my hands on some 20 years ago. I’ll never again confuse high-functioning with really living my life.

So a few years back when I realized I might just have a few decent stories to tell, I started playing with Gregory in late 2016 and Tyler dropped from the heavens (more specifically, Oregon) in January 2017. We snagged Eric in March of 2017. We played our first show in like May of 2017. It’s just been a blur of cash money, limousines and flash bulbs ever since.

We were close to calling this project “Blood Simple” after the movie poster hanging in our rehearsal space, but went with “The Deep State” instead.  Late January 2017 was such a weird time in the country. Everyone was looking for hope, for good news, for sanity. We responded by being, I don’t know, tongue-in-cheek? We could have just as easily been “Fake News” or if we’d formed this year we’d be “Space Force.” Maybe we like our name because we’re such big fans of The War on Drugs – the band, not the disastrous campaign to lock up young men of color and to criminalize what are essentially public health issues.

2. What formal training do you have?

I played a lot of trombone when I was younger. I would get offers to play in ska bands in college. I didn’t like ska music enough. I mean Pilfers were great, I dug Mephiskaphales, and of course Fishbone is the baddest band in the land.  But nah, I wasn’t feeling that suburban white boy ska thing. Felt too much like the kids from marching band were trying to be cool.

The other guys have obviously learned how to play, they’re tight as hell. No Berklee grads here, though, no.  State schools, largely.

3. What music have you released, and how was it released? Who did you work with for those releases?

Now we’re talking! I *really* wanted to work with Mark Alan Miller and Justin P at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA. Mark is a dear friend with whom I worked in my documentary film days and who has also engineered some of my favorite records. It just proved too difficult in the beginning to get the guys 100 miles away when we had studios right here in Boston, so we went to Woolly Mammoth to do some songs with David Minehan. Gregory’d worked with David before on his plume stuff. David is a force of nature and a hell of a fun guy to work with. He was in a much-loved Boston band called The Neighborhoods and also was the touring guitar player for Paul Westerberg and later the Replacements reunion shows. So obviously I jumped at the chance to work with him. We sat down, I looked him in the eye and said “David, real quick man, can you just show me EVERY Replacements song on the guitar?” He threw his head back, let out a hearty laugh,  and swung his chair back around to the mixing console. Oh well, it was worth a shot, right?

Mark Alan Miller from Sonelab actually ended up mixing two songs from those early Woolly Mammoth Sessions.  It would’ve felt really weird to not have his name on this thing somewhere. We have this plan of blocking a long weekend at some point and doing a few songs in Sonelab’s main room, full bleed, full energy. Also, there’s a brewery next door to Sonelab and their beer ain’t bad! But Jesus, when is this super hoppy IPA thing gonna end anyhow? It’s like lighting a pine-scented candle to cover up a fart.

We released some songs digitally and we finally just had some CDs made up. I don’t have any means of playing a CD unless I rent a car, so I treat them as shiny business cards at this point. When the time is right and the songs are right, we’ll start pressing vinyl like the big kids do.  We’re really just getting started here.

4. Who are you working with for your current projects? Where have you been recording?

The great thing about Boston is that there are so many great recording options. Q Division, Woolly Mammoth, Zippah to name a few. We’d like to hit them all and catch the vibes of the different rooms and learn from the countless hours that their engineers have spent in there. There’s plenty of cheap digital mobile studios these days, but as far as these younger engineers go – if their tattoos ain’t faded, there’s nothing they can bring to the table for me other than making trips to the beer store.

5. How would you describe your current projects, both musically and in a more interpretive way? (I.e., do you see it as an album, if you’re recording an album, that’s about anything in particular?)

Shit, this project all started for me in 2014. I was never more than a casual Superchunk fan, but their 2013 album “I Hate Music” spoke to me so directly. I truly couldn’t get enough of it. It was meditations on aging, ambition, desire, missed opportunities, the joys of staying in. It was precisely a record I needed at that time in my life. My friend Justin, the man who’d married my sister, got stomach cancer and died just shy of his 40th birthday in the spring of 2014. Let me tell you, eulogizing a brother will get you thinking about the shit you’ve done with your life and the things you’ve left undone. (I inherited his grey Fender guitar which Gregory now plays in the band.) I’d made documentary films that’d played all over the world, I was a fairly popular teaching fellow at Harvard, I had a rewarding job with this incredible non-profit, but I never got to do that rock band.  Itch, itch, itch. That same summer I was taking this brilliant course at Harvard Extension School called Technomusicology that completely rekindled my creative zeal. And then that same summer I saw Wussy play at the Midway Cafe on their Attica tour and I decided right then and there to start a band. Credo quia absurdum est, right?

6. Tell me about a few of the songs on your recent album–what inspired them, what things you did that were new to you, why they’re good songs, etc.

We just released 5 or so songs that already feel like our “old songs” and we are excited about our new material that is more of a product of the band. But from the older stuff I like “Crows Feet” – one day I was looking in the mirror at the wrinkles around my eyes and thought “shit man, you’ve earned each and every one of those crows feet.” And that was the first song I showed to Gregory when we hooked up. I liked the parts he came up with right there on the spot. It wrote itself mostly, which is probably why the lyrics aren’t very profound. I like “Settle the Score” because the band took it in a direction that I hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes you just have to trust your team, y’know? It snakes around on itself and puts emphasis where I least expected it to. Oh and I totally stole the riff from Scott Swan, which I’m most proud of.  “Impressions of Before” is definitely one of my consciously constructed numbers. I wanted it to go from quiet to loud to fuck you loud at the end. Both that and “Settle the Score” were more recent studio experiences at Zippah. Brian’s enthusiasm, support and knowledge really tugged great performances out of us and I think he’s really gonna freak over the new shit we’ve got in the works.  I really should call him and book some more time.

7. Do you play live shows and/or tour often? Give me a few details about that (the scope of tours, if you play solo or with a band, if you’re known for having intimate or rocking live shows, etc.).

I definitely wanted to spend our first year banging on these songs in public. So we spent the last year kicking around mostly Boston, mostly empty dive bars, but a gig is always memorable. You meet some weirdos, you get some feedback on your performance from folks in various stages of intoxication and undress. I had one guy ask me if I was a classically trained singer, which is hilarious because I learned to “sing” by yelling along with Ian MacKaye songs in my car in high school. On our second gig, a kid asked for my autograph. I wasn’t expecting that at all, but now I’m spoiled and disappointed when it doesn’t happen like all the time.  But seriously, the best thing about the last year was making new musical friends. Boston is saturated, but some real talent floats to the surface. We played a few shows with a killer power pop band called The Melatonins, and I’ve been playing some acoustic solo shows with Jim Detore from Shotgun Waltz, who is not only a sharp bandleader and songwriter, he shreds on the pedal steel and mandolin.   

8. Have you won or been nominated for any awards?

No, and I am not in this for any awards. I’m in this strictly for the camaraderie, songcraft and drink tickets.

9. Have you received any quotes about your music from press, venue owners, bookers, etc? Give me any clips you have.

Keytar Bear gave us 5 Stars on Facebook. That was a big deal for me.

10. Who are your influences?

Jason Narducy, Bob MouldLou Barlow, Del Shannon, Barbara Keith, Lance Angelus, Craig Finn. Amy Ray. Bruce Campbell. John Davis from Superdrag. R.E.M. of course. They had a knack for imbuing songs with such feeling and apparent depth, but if you turn them sideways, there’s nothing to them. They’re just a polaroid, y’know? They’re geniuses like that. You want to learn song-craft? Reverse-engineer “Driver 8” from their third album. It’s a perfectly constructed song and they recorded that shit in their 20s. Fuck. Oh and who’s better than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? God, they were just the best. And I love love love me some Yo La Tengo and of course Radiohead keeps everybody honest.

I think anyone who’s known me for any amount of time is not surprised that my songs sound exactly as they do, and that they couldn’t really be any other way. But I do I rely on the band to push back against the tendencies and traps I often fall into.

11. Who have you been compared to, and how are you different from them?

Buffalo Tom, R.E.M., Pearl Jam. I get it, I sing with my chest and play a jangly Rickenbacker. How are we different?  We are not currently offering any reissues or retrospective box sets.

I’m trying to think of what other arbitrary shit we’ve been compared to. Like I said, you get some really random unsolicited advice and comparisons at last call. I think this one dude said we were like The Flaming Lips? I don’t really know them other than some excellent songs off of that Yoshimi record. I know that they do their own thing and have endured and thrived, so I’ll take that comparison I suppose. They also strike me as a band who likes drugs.

I wish someone would compare us to The Heats or The Flying Nuns or something cool like that.

12. What is the release date for your new record? Will there be any singles or other releases surrounding it?

I’m sorry, that’s classified. Also, we don’t know.

13. Will you be making any videos for the album? If so, please give a little info–name of the director, basic concept, etc.

I spent years behind a camera at rock shows and happily editing rock footage in a dark cave. I’m enjoying being on the other side of things for a change. I haven’t had the energy to cut too much video for us, it’s a different part of the brain and involves looking at endless footage of yourself, which is like listening to your speaking voice played back on a cassette player. Ewwww. I did do a fun behind-the-scenes video of our recent time at Zippah. That’s on our website. I am told that we need to “generate” more “content” for our “social media presence.” Gregory handles the Instagram and Twitter stuff. My Facebook page is mostly just my drunken political or baseball rants and passive-aggressive digs at people from middle school. Y’know, the way it should be.

My dream music video would be shot by my buddy Lance or Josef, and would feature yours truly being played by David Bowe fighting a giant monster of some kind. But right now, Lance is in Oregon, Josef is in Germany and I can’t afford the SAG rates for David Bowe. Let me write a song about fighting a giant monster of some kind and I’ll get back to you.

14. Where can people buy your music and merch?

Our music is on iTunes, Spotify, BandCamp, and something called Tidal. Right now the merch lives in a series of boxes in the corner of our rehearsal space. We shlep it to shows and then forget to set it up.

15. Who should people contact for more info?

info@thedeepstate.band or send us a Message on Facebook @thedeepstateband