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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Skaters Ollie Into A New Phase Of Their Career
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Forgive the men of Skaters. They didn’t mean to make getting signed to a major label look so easy. They just happened to go from releasing an indie EP on their website, to having everyone knocking at their door.

In actuality, Michael Ian Cummings, Noah Rubin, Joshua Hubbard, and Dan Burke (along with contributing member Tommy Allen), have all paid their dues as members of other indie rock bands. With Skaters, however, all of their due paying finally paid off, as the energy they created with their free EP, Schemers, quickly spread throughout their native New York City.

Now members of the Warner Brothers roster, Skaters’ full length debut, Manhattan, is due out February 25th. That night Skaters will be performing a hometown show at Bowery Ballroom, which kicks off a tour that will last through early April and cover both the US, and UK.

With their album release, and tour, nearing, I caught up with Skaters frontman Michael Ian Cummings to find out more about the band’s journey, their album, and how they managed to turn a request for video content into an excuse to have a pizza party. Cummings also discussed what it was like recording with Usher right outside the band’s studio door.

Adam Bernard: You were a band firmly ensconced in NYC’s indie music scene. Now you’re an act signed to a major label. Contract signing aside, what moment can you pinpoint as the first time you realized you weren’t an indie band anymore?

Michael Ian Cummings: Well, I guess it’s when the ink dried on that fuckin contract for five records. That was a big thing for us, and we didn’t really know how to feel about it at first. It was weird, because we didn’t really plan on doing all majors, and having the majors be interested, but that's just what happened, and then once the majors were interested the indies stopped talking to us. I don’t really know why. I never saw us as a major label band, but it just kind of worked out that way.

Adam Bernard: A lot of bands in the indie scene have a negative view of major labels, and live by a “DIY till we die” ethos. When you were in the process of signing with Warner, did any of your peers attempt to talk you out of it?

Michael Ian Cummings: It’s funny, some people said, “Don’t fucking do it. Don’t work with them.” Other people that have been on major labels were like, “My experience is they’re all the same, and if you can get tour support...” You get a lot of other perks just being on a bigger label that you just wouldn’t be able to do (without one). We toured all last year pretty much on the Warner credit card, on our tab that we’re running up with them, and we didn’t even have a fuckin record out. That definitely would not fly on an indie.

Adam Bernard: What would you consider your most “payin dues” moment from coming up in the ranks?

Michael Ian Cummings: We tried specifically not to pay dues. {laughs} That was like our goal from the get go, we were like we’ve all been in other bands for years and years and years, let’s not do the bullshit where we’re like we’re gonna book our own tour, and lose money, and be in a cult band for two weeks. We tried not to do that. We only played in Manhattan all the way up until we got signed. I think that was one of the things that you just kind of learn from your previous bands, what not to do, or what you don’t really have to do, so I don’t really know if we paid proper dues unless you count the ten years prior to this playing in other bands.

Adam Bernard: I think those count as dues. You paid the dues so you were smart enough not to pay them ever again.

Michael Ian Cummings: Exactly. You know when to not play three shows in a row, or when to space out the shows to make the venues grow, (and to) make each show special in some way.

Adam Bernard: Was it scary at all to know you were going to do this in such a different way?

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah. It was a little different. It’s funny because we created a lot of opportunities for ourselves just by making things a bigger deal than they were, and I think bands are capable of doing that, but a lot of people don’t. One thing that I think this band was really good with was promoting ourselves early on. We just told everybody, “You can’t miss this show.” Even though we hadn’t played a show yet, we’d tell everyone we’re gonna play our first show, it’s a new thing, just make it a big deal. That kind of was our attitude, and anything that came of it was just... it all happened really quickly. It wasn’t like a master plan, it was just let’s try to sell out every show.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned making things a bigger deal than they were. Now that it’s all said and done, is there one of those things that you can reveal that you were like, “I can’t believe we got away with that?”

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah. We lied a lot. We lied all the time. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: Give me your favorite.

Michael Ian Cummings: We would tell people there aren’t many tickets left. We’d just tell everyone there were only a few tickets left. Shit like that. Little things. People end up wanting to not miss out, so they end up bringing their friends, and buying stuff in advance. Just talking yourselves up. It’s hard to self-promote sometimes, but we seem to be pretty good at it.

Adam Bernard: Let’s talk about your new single, and video, “Miss Teen Massachusetts.” First of all, how many Miss Teen Massachusetts’ do you know?

Michael Ian Cummings: One, actually. Our bass player’s sister.

Adam Bernard: Is this about her?

Michael Ian Cummings: No. I just really liked the way it sounds. I don’t even know her. Dan’s one of eight kids, I just knew of one his sisters was Miss Teen Mass.

Adam Bernard: How’d you come up with the mental ward concept for the video?

Michael Ian Cummings: That was our director, Danilo Parra, he came up with that concept. It was his idea to have a big caper, with kind of twist at the end, and we just ran with it. We really trust him.

Adam Bernard: “Miss Teen Massachusetts” is off of your upcoming album, Manhattan. How will Manhattan differ from your EP, Schemers?

Michael Ian Cummings: It’s definitely, sonically, very different. It’s like the Schemers EP on steroids, or something. It’s very aggressive, it’s a lot darker, it’s a lot faster, and we really tried to cut the fat wherever possible. The record’s like 33 minutes. That was another thing, we were really intent on making a short record so you could play it over and over.

Adam Bernard: Being that it’s darker, and faster, is it almost an audible representation of the city?

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah, we tried to capture some kind of vibe, some kind of ethos of the city. There’s a lot of work hard, play hard, kind of attitude in New York, and the two together, we tried to get that vibe. It’s not always upbeat, and it’s not always happy, but it’s always energetic, and fast paced, just like New York.

Adam Bernard: Going from NYC to the road, what’s been the wildest, or most interesting, thing you’ve seen, or experienced, while performing?

Michael Ian Cummings: We had this crazy show in London at this club called the Purple Turtle. It’s not a very big venue. We were doing a support tour, and we decided to add the show last minute. Keep in mind our record’s not out yet, so no one knew any of our music besides maybe some people had the Schemers EP, but mostly just two singles. We played this show, and we totally fucked rammed it, and there were kids knowing all the lyrics, and like moshing to our songs. It was a head trip. It freaked us out a little bit. We were like how the fuck do they know all these songs? The record hasn’t even been leaked at all. It was just finished.

Adam Bernard: I know you also recorded at Electric Lady Studios, and I read something about Usher singing outside your bathroom door.

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah. Our door was right next to the bathroom door, and there’s not much space up there, so he would do his warmups while they were like setting up tracks and stuff. He would sing, and come up with ideas, and light candles, right outside our door. We’d play a song that's really fast, and loud, and we’d turn off the song and then you’d just hear Usher with his angelic singing outside the door. If you had to go to the bathroom you had to walk past a security guard and Usher.

Adam Bernard: Were you knocking on the studio door before you opened it like, “Is it cool for us to leave the studio now?”

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah, it was funny. They had this big fat security guard right out front, and a town car always outside of the studio, so every time we wanted to leave the studio we were just like, “Excuse me dude, can you get up?” He fucking hated us, that security guard.

Adam Bernard: So there was never any like, “Hey Usher, you wanna sing backing vocals on this?”

Michael Ian Cummings: Definitely not.

Adam Bernard: He might regret that now.

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah, I think he definitely will regret it.

Adam Bernard: I’ve read that despite your band’s name, none of you actually skate.

Michael Ian Cummings: We did when we were kids, but we don’t anymore. It’s more about the attitude we had when we did it, where we just didn’t give a shit, and we just wanted to have fun, and had no expectations. That feeling when you get out of school and you’re like, man, I don’t really give a shit what happens, I just want to have a good time. That’s why we started this band. We’d all been in other bands, and we had that attitude, we just wanted to have fun playing music again.

Adam Bernard: So did you expect this to turn into a project that was going to be full time, or did you expect this to be a side thing you’d have fun with?

Michael Ian Cummings: It was supposed to be an art project at first. It was supposed to just be a fun thing.

Adam Bernard: Finally, you did an NY pizza crawl late last month. Who came up with the idea, and how many places did you end up hitting?

Michael Ian Cummings: We ended up hitting five. We were trying to hit all five boroughs. We didn’t get to Staten Island because there was too much traffic. We hit up two in Brooklyn instead. It was kind of like a joint effort between us and the label (for) some video content. We were like, well, let’s make it an excuse to go do something we want to do, let’s just get pizza all day long. {laughs} There’s going to be a video coming out that shows us going around.

Adam Bernard: That’s actually brilliant. The label said we need content, and you said well, we’re gonna eat pizza all day.

Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah, and we’re gonna film it, and you guys will love it.

Adam Bernard: What was the best place you went to?

Michael Ian Cummings: I think Di Fara in Brooklyn is the best pizza. That and Totonnos. Those are my two favorites.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 4:46 PM  
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