SXSW 2014: SomeKindaWonderful x Vinyl Mag
For Cleveland based grunge-soul group SomeKindaWonderful, songwriting comes naturally. “There’s always something holding you back. I think that’s the human condition. It keeps you playing for something,” says Jordy Towers, lead singer/songwriter for the group. Jordy’s powerful vocals combined with the band’s haunting melodies drive their first release Reverse beyond your average pop break-up ballad.
With lyrics like, “I told my story in REVERSE ’cause it hurts” and “Could I get a DO-OVER?!,” regret and second-guessing become songwriting avenues that lead the listener on a reverse chronology love story.
“One of my favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They tell a love-story backwards. I’ve always wanted to do a song like that. The lyrics started coming out, and as they came out it, I started noticing that maybe I can just write this backwards,” says Jordy of his inspiration for the song.
“Reverse,” written the first night the three band members got together, provides an eerie soul-rock punch to the ears. On a soul-searching journey after leaving his LA rap career with [a major label], Jordy stumbled into a small-town Ohio bar where he met Matt Gibson and Ben Schigel. Matt (guitar) and Ben (drums) combined their Cleveland rock influences with Jordy’s LA hip-hop sensibilities to create a sound that doesn’t quite fit neatly into any genre. In addition to the three members that emerged from that fateful meeting in the Ohio bar, Sarah brings her gospel upbringing, with a love of neo-soul and rock to SomeKindaWonderful while Steve adds hip-hop, soul, and gospel elements to the sound.
The members of SomeKindaWonderful kindly took the time to sit down with Vinyl Mag during SXSW to talk about the evolution of the group, their inspiration and upcoming album.
Vinyl Mag: So, you guys are from Cleveland and LA?
Jordy Towers: I’m from LA, and these guys are from Cleveland.
Vinyl: And you left LA, and you found your way to Cleveland. Tell me about that.
Jordy: Dude, I got depressed [when my major label deal didn’t work out]…so, I had some family out in Ohio, and I was doing some soul searching.
Matt: We were in this bar just drinking right by this studio in Cleveland, and Jordy is in there for whatever reason on his soul-searching trip. We went back and started talking and wrote “Reverse” that night.
Jordy: We wrote “Reverse” that night, and we finished it the next day. It was pretty much demo-ed out that night with rough vocals.
Matt: Like 90 percent mixed that night.
Jordy: Ever since then, every little thing has felt like fate. Even timing things, like obstacles, we got over them at the right time…I’m not mad about anything, because everything led us up to this point.
Vinyl: Could you all talk about what each of you do in the group?
Jordy: I’m pretty much the tip of the band; I bring all the elements together. I used to be a rapper – an underground rapper. I toured with Lupe Fiasco. I’ve been in a freestyle battle with pretty much everyone in the game. I’ve moved on to something else. That’s where our music is. Our music is a mesh of hip-hop, reggae and rock. Cleveland is really known for rock.
Matt: I was thinking about that today, because Jordy brings the hip hop reggae vibe. You were always listening to Folky music, and I was always into the Genesis and Rush, high production stuff, and we interfused everything together.
Ben: It’s a songwriting vibe mixed with great production and sound.
Matt: Steve probably comes from the hip-hop world with a little bit of reggae, soul, gospel. Sarah brings her beautifulness of bringing it all together.
Matt: It’s a really cool mix.
Vinyl: Sarah, what about you?
Sarah: I had a heavy gospel influence in my upbringing. I grew up a huge hip-hop fan, a huge neo-soul fan, a huge rock fan, and it just works. That’s why, even though each of us has different backgrounds and upbringings, it works, and it’s very natural. You can hear my gospel element in the music. I balance out the testosterone.
Jordy: And she brings the perfect hair.
Matt: Stunning good looks.
Jordy: Perfect style.
Vinyl: And you guys bring the….stubble?
Ben: We almost called ourselves The Stubble Boys.
Matt: If we were going to play Irish music, we’d be The Stubblins. But like I said, I play guitar and ukulele and little bits of other stuff…harmonica at times.
Vinyl: Ukulele! That’s the instrument of peace.
Matt: It reminds me of Hawaii; that’s where I bought it. I had to take the island with me, musically.
Jordy: There’s something about when it comes to writing songs; there’s something about the way he plays that pulls songs out of me. I write the lyrics and most of the songs. Just something about Matt, and it’s not just the way he plays but something about him, he makes me really comfortable to just f*ck up if I have to. You know what I mean? If I sing a bad note, it doesn’t matter. He just wants to get it done with me.
Ben: The musical chemistry is crazy between all of us.
Sarah: You would think we’ve all been life-long friends.
Vinyl: How long have you been together as a group?
Matt: About a year; we’ve known each other longer.
Vinyl: Tell me more about the process of getting your songs out. It sounds like you have been hampered by legal and logistical difficulties.
Jordy: We have a song called “In Chains,” which is about how we’re all still locked down at some point in our lives regardless of how we have gotten our release…as far as we think we’re getting, there’s always something holding you back. I think that’s the human condition. It keeps you playing for something.
Sarah: Yeah it does.
Matt: Gotta have struggle.
Vinyl: It’s really impressive that your first song “Reverse” was not only written in one night but on the first night you guys met.
Jordy: One of my favorite movies is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They tell a love-story backwards. I’ve always wanted to do a song like that. The lyrics started coming out, and as they came out, I started noticing that maybe I can just write this backwards. I wasn’t sure if the guys were going to like it but…
Everyone: We really like it!
Jordy: I wasn’t sure; I was like f*ck it! I just tried it, and it f*cking worked.
Ben: Musically, we didn’t have any ideas for what we wanted it to sound like. We just ended up with this haunting eerie cowboy soul R&B song.
Jordy: Now it’s become our sound.
Vinyl: How would you define you your sound?
Jordy: We actually call it grunge soul.
Sarah: Regardless of the genre, that element of the soul is there, and it’s raw and powerful.
Ben: I think that stems from all of us having different things we like, different kinds of music; it’s not like I like what I like, and he likes folk music, and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to hear that sh*t.’ We’re all open to whatever.
Jordy: Subconsciously, we all want to please each other musically. Subconsciously, we all know that we are pleased musically. It’s a mixture of everything that we’re happy with.
Vinyl: Can you tell me more about your name. When I first googled you guys, this 1961 song “Some Kind of Wonderful” came up by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Jordy: That was us. We produced that.
Vinyl: Ha! But where did the name come from?
Jordy: I had a dream about the word wonderful. At first I was like, we hate to use the word wonderful, because our music is f*cking gorgeous. There’s wonder and then there’s wonderful, and I was like man, let’s just call it SomeKindaWonderful.
Ben: It’s how it makes us feel. We had about five or six different ideas of band names before that but [Jordy] actually still changes it everyday. Everybody who hears it loves it. That was the first one that we were like, ‘that’s it.’
Vinyl: So what other things inspire you?
Sarah: Inspiration in life. Life itself is inspiration.
Jordy: When people do good deeds out of their character. Anything that makes you feel super strong.
Ben: Any feeling you have could be inspiring.
Jordy: Being around my family, my band; that’s what inspires me. I love you guys, you know? And being around our fans; the people that are there for us.
Sarah: You know…there are also lot of things that make you feel pain when you see in the world, and our songs hope to empower people. Our inspiration comes from wanting to make the world better, from wanting to help, from living up to a sense of purpose in our being. Jordy and everyone likes to say, it’s about the message.
Vinyl: What’s the timeline for your upcoming album?
Jordy: We’re kind of wrestling with the name of the album. [It will be out this summer]…one more thing I want to say: I feel like music is in an intermission stage right now, and they’re waiting for something, and that’s where we’re going to give them something. I’m honest about that, too. Our record is f*cking ridiculous.
Matt: We have been so part of every genre that we try to put that in our music but make it have the artistry again. But we write such great songs that it still has a pop appeal but not to the point where that’s what our whole thing is about.
Sarah: Kind of like how Lorde was; I don’t think Lorde had the intention to make a pop song, but her song really thrives in that arena.
Matt: Here’s another thing I want to say: a lot of times the whole listening of an album from start to finish is lost. It was created with the intention of a certain experience. I want people to put it on the beginning and be taken on a journey. We want to release it on vinyl, really cool color with a bonus track.
Vinyl: What does the year have in store for you and what upcoming shows are you most excited about?
Ben: This is kind of our introductory show, us presenting what we have to the world and to SXSW and then LA next. We will continue after that, but we’re not exactly sure yet as of now.
Vinyl: Craziest moment?
Matt: Partying on the road, getting roofied in Chicago, showing up at the hotel at 9 a.m. with no shirt on – just a sports jacket. This is ON the record.
Jordy: This is on the album!