Some people might label the kind of rock Northeastern band, Keep Flying plays, as a dying genre, but the band is here to show everybody that their music is alive and well and very well loved. With many adoring fans showing up to their showcases all throughout the week, and a stage performance that was all energy, it was hard not to see how loved their music is. The band has the perfectly imperfect rock n’ roll stage persona and music that keeps you moving creating the best rock show of all SXSW. Before one of their sets, I got the chance to talk to lead singer Henry Menzel about all things Keep Flying.
GMAT: Welcome to Austin! How are you enjoying SXSW?
Henry: It feels good! I’ve never been in the thick of SXSW before. We played last year, but I think we played a venue that was off the beaten path and we kind of stayed right there. This is an experience, it’s wild!
GMAT: So you’re definitely more experienced in the whole SXSW thing this year?
Henry: Certainly! Absolutely, and now we have two days in it, so we get to experience it during the night time and during the afternoon, and I’ve always kind of wondered what it was about. A million people always show up and I’ve never been in a proper way. It’s dope!
GMAT: Well then, hope you like it enough to come back next year!
Henry: That’s the plan!
GMAT: So, your music is definitely harder rock than the “mainstream” media likes to put out, so is there any conflict or any problems that you’ve hit going outside of the “mainstream”?
Henry: I think that bands like us, we have a community of our own because we don’t ever enter the “mainstream”. At least not really anymore, I think that time has passed you know? I think back on when pop-punk and things like that made its way into the radio notoriety - that would be early to mid 2000’s - that sets gone away. Do we have a problem? No, because we never really get there. I mean it’s unfortunate, and some bands are able to transcend and get there in terms of the attention, but we’re not at that point yet.
GMAT: Well, hopefully you will be!
Henry: I mean that’s a goal. It’s one step at a time. So, the answer really is no; we never really get there. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just hard. Not only are we in a genre of music that is a sub-genre, but we’re also different amongst all of that. I wouldn’t say that’s a disadvantage, it’s helped us get some more attention because it’s something fresh and different, so it works but I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point. You never know though.
GMAT: You never know and I hope that you do get there!
Henry: The taste of the American consumer is always changing!
GMAT: As is the industry! Speaking of hard rock though, were there any bands while you were growing up that inspired the way you play music or did it just come naturally?
Henry: Well most of us played in ska bands for a long long time, and that’s easily why we have a horn section in our band. The six of us each come from our own unique tastes, so that’s also what makes our music eclectic. From my perspective - speaking for me - Less Than Jake, Real Big Fish, Four Years Strong, New Found Glory. If you mash those together you kind of get us! Though everybody in the band has a different thing, like my drummer is all about straight edge hardcore and hip-hop, our sax player listens to literally nothing but Weird Al Yankovic, our guitar player really digs grittier punk stuff. Literally everybody’s different and we all clash it together to get what we create.
GMAT: So, I know you were saying it’s hard to break into the industry, but Keep Flying is definitely hitting a major growth spurt these past couple of months, so how does it feel to know you have fans practically everywhere in the country?
Henry: It feels great! I mean that’s success to me. Not only do you need to create your own path to success, but you also have to create what your success is. You have to set your own goal, it’s not like it’s a corporate structure where it’s like “this is the entry level position and you get promoted to this”, there is none of that. Success is exactly what you set out to do. That is a successful feeling, meeting people nearly everywhere in the country or the world and having them know what we do.
GMAT: So, you were talking about how the harder rock community is a tight knit one, so what I want to know is - if you could create a music festival with yourself and three other bands that you know and love, who would you pick?
Henry: That’s such a hard question, and the reason it’s such a hard question is because I come from different schools of thought, because it could be as a consumer what would I like to see, or as an industry professional - I use that term very lightly - what would be successful. If it were up to me, it would just be friends playing a show, and I’ll use this opportunity to put together a music festival featuring my friends in bands that I love a lot: Harbour, Nominee, Bloom, Carousel Kings, Patent Pending. That would be our stage at the festival.
GMAT: Sounds great! So speaking of festivals and shows, I’ve seen a few videos on the bands Instagram of the crowds, which are crazy and look like so much fun to be in, so I wanted to know if you had a favorite crowd?
Henry: That one’s easy, we’re all from different parts of the Northeast - I’m from New Jersey - but we’ve really been able to cultivate a home on Long Island, specifically at a venue called Amityville Music Hall, and we’ve had different events there that seem to just get crazier and crazier every time. You get the rockstar feeling consistenly there. I’ve felt that other places too but that’s home. I really want Pennsylvania and New Jersey to follow suit in terms of how great the shows are, but right now Long Island’s number one.
GMAT: So, as of right now the band only has two EP’s out.
Henry: Correct. We’re working on far more music.
GMAT: That’s what I was about to ask! Is there anything in the near future that we should look out for?
Henry: Yes! We’re going in the studio at the end of March to do two or three songs. What will most likely happen is, you’ll get a single and you’ll get two more songs on a split - with we don’t know who - and then we’re targeting for a third EP by the end of the year. Christmas time is where we do our home shows on the North East, and what we want to do is have those be the big EP release. That’s what we’re looking at: a single, a split, an EP, we want to have a music video for literally every song we put out. We’re about to finish the fourth one for the latest EP then we have two more after that to do, and then we’ll do the rest of the songs.
GMAT: So a lot to look out for!
Henry: Yes! We want to have more releases. I think last year we were able to put the two EP’s out on vinyl and that kind of pushed back other things. We put the two EP’s out via Smartpunk records, and they were great! They helped us really push those two EP’s as far as you can go on a vinyl release.
GMAT: You’re reading my mind! The vinyl’s y’all released are so dope looking, so with the new music that you plan on releasing this year what would the vinyl’s look like for that? If you could create one right now what would it look like?
Henry: Well I know for certain whatever the EP is going to be, it would probably be something that somehow connects the themes of the previous two to the next one, because the way I’m envisioning how we write is that it’s going to be the third part of a series. We’re very into TV so I like to look at each release as part of a greater tapestry of art. Not to say that the split won’t fit into that - I’m sure it will - but in terms of the visual component we’re not there yet. I would hope that everything seems connected, even musically. The way that I look at it is, if you put our music on ITunes and you were to order everything, it should be a flow. You should be able to see us go from where we started and feel the shifts and direction changes, I want the listener to evolve with us as we change and they change.
GMAT: So, last question because I know your set is about to start, but if you could give any piece of advice to anyone looking to pursue a career in rock music, what advice would you give them?
Henry: That’s so hard. I’ll tie it back to what I said before which is, what you view as success needs to make sense and needs to be realistic. Not to say you shouldn’t shoot for the moon and go for the big stuff, but you need to learn enough to be sensible in what you’re trying to accomplish, so if our goal - which I think is a reasonable goal - we want to go on tour, we want to play theses dates, and we want as least 50 people to show up, that’s a reasonable goal. To go on tour, like our kind of band, and say we each want to come back with $1,000 that’s not a reasonable goal. What I would say is: set goals, set reasonable goals that you can achieve within your means and try to be as happy with them as you can. Not only do you have to be creative with what you put out, you have to be creative with what your level of success is. You’re creating everything, it’s your world you need to make it so you’re happy with it. That’s all I got!
GMAT: Well that’s great advice! Thank you for sitting down and chatting and good luck on your set!
With great wisdom and even greater music, Keep Flying is a band that you definitely want to get into, especially with the promise of all new releases coming up. Soon enough this rock band from the Northeast will be taking over the world!