The Evening Guests: Indie Folk Rock and Rickrolling
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The brainchild of singer/songwriter Jokull Jonsson, The Evening Guests has morphed from one Icelander’s pet project into a dynamic indie folk band with a dynamic, passionate sound. Today, Jokull (vocals, guitar), along with Alec De Kervor (guitar), John Lin (bass), Ken Hirako (trumpet), Gerard Uht (keys), and Mike Sassano (drums and percussion) join us here at Progressive Man to tell us about their successful Kickstarter, their upcoming EP release, and what’s next for The Evening Guests.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us at Progressive Man. Where are you from? Tell us a little about the band and how you came to play together.
JJ: In a nutshell, most of us met at the Musician’s Institute. We found Ken in the schizophrenic pool that some people call Craigslist. But we’re from all over. I’m from Iceland, but we have members from as far as Taiwan and as close as San Diego.
How did you come up with your band’s name?
JJ: Well The Evening Guests was the name of my grandfather’s radio show that he hosted for thirty years. And, he made a special request that no one would take over his show, so the show was over after he died. And, I thought it would be a good way to keep the name going by naming the band, The Evening Guests.
Jokull, originally you were a solo artist, but later assembled a band. How long has the incarnation of The Evening Guests been a band?
JJ: Let’s see. Like you said, it started as a solo project about a year and a half ago. And, in early 2012, I had done a few gigs by myself, playing the songs that we perform right now. And I was just kind of getting bored with being a solo artist. So I decided to put together a band. I called up a few friends like two days before a gig and we just threw it together. And you know, it was going to be a one time thing, actually. And then we all liked what we had and just decided to keep going with it.
What genre of music would you say that you play? What made you decide to head in that direction?
JJ: When this started and I was just by myself, it was just straight up folk. But, once this started to become more of a band dynamic, we started moving more towards indie rock. So I guess those genres kind of mix together. So I would say indie folk.
What would you say is the band’s favorite song to play? Why?
ADK: Oh man, I have to think about that one. They’re changing all the time for me right now. Top of my head, I’m going to go ahead and say, “Annabel Lee”.
JJ: Mine is “Not in Kansas Anymore” because people tend to waltz to that song, and I enjoy watching people waltz while we play.
MS: I like “What a Show”, because I just like holding that tempo and that groove and that feel. The song is just awesome.
JL: Probably “What a Show”. It’s about the same reason, that laid back feeling, and the lyrics are pretty awesome too.
KH: Mine is probably “Shake Your Head”, because I get to kind of not play so much and just shake my head and really enjoy the music.
GU: I would say “Wouldn’t You Like to Know?” because I like to, like when we did the show at Skinny’s, just get up and scream at the crowd. Like, “You better fucking start clapping!” You know, because I’m locked behind that piano all the time, and if I have a chance to just jump up and get in someone’s face or interact with the fans, I’ll take it.
Who writes the songs? Is it a group effort? Tell us about your creative process.
(Everyone in the band points to Jokull)
JJ: Of course, they all point at me. Well, I write basically the skeleton of the song, if you will. And then I bring it to rehearsal and everybody brings their own parts and we sort of construct it together. As for writing the lyrics, I write them as the base of the song, I guess? I don’t know, like, I’ve thought about it a lot. It just comes from this one spark that pops up in my head. Like, something sparks in my head, usually the main hook, and I just try to finish it.
Speaking of songwriting, are there any particular themes that you try to stick to when writing your songs?
JJ: Particular themes? Not really. Like I said, it’s just whatever comes to mind. And I try to make it fit with the other songs as much as possible. I guess that would be the best way to put it.
What’s one of your favorite memories as a band?
JJ: So we have this little routine that we do at every show to one of our songs “Coat Check Girl”. I call out each band member, and they do a little solo, it’s sort of a little ditty that we do. When it’s time for John and I call him out, he does a little dance routine. It’s really funny, and it’s just, we do it as a joke. And after doing this like five or six times, I eventually told him, “Okay, John. This bit is getting a little old.” So I tell him right before the next gig at the Park, just do a bass solo. Well, John wasn’t really happy with that. So, the song comes up, everyone’s doing their little solo, and then I call John, expecting him to do a regular bass solo. Instead, all the music stops and suddenly I hear “Never Gonna Give You Up,” by Rick Astley. The whole band is in on it. John’s dancing around for like two minutes, and I’m just staring at him. That was the night John and the band Rickrolled me and the entire bar.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you face as a band on your way to success?
JJ: Keeping members.
GU: That, and there’s an enormous under appreciation for the value of live music. Some people don’t appreciate it. And it’s something we’ve been working on with people and venues. Like, the lady who cancelled on us for a show at the Infusion Lounge. Just calling her and telling her, “You realize, that it’s been forty grand a piece, just for school, you know, hours of, you know, blood, sweat, tears, passionate love going into every single song. And then you are going to tell us that you want us to show up, you’re not going to pay us, and we’ve got to bring in ten people and ten grand to your bar, or you can find some other like, bank of mommy and daddy band to come in”. It’s basically just educating people on the value of music and the people performing. And, once that hurdle is overcome, showing them our music, and then having them love it.
ADK: And keeping your drummers from bursting into flames.
What projects do you have lined up? Are there any new songs you’re recording or upcoming show dates? What’s next for The Evening Guests?
JJ: Well, we have our first official EP release in April. Until then, we have a couple of smaller shows lined up. We just came back from a break and have been writing new material. We’ll see what happens after the release. We also have new material that hasn’t been recorded yet, like “Shake Your Head” and “Like Hell”. And, we’re working on a new song called, “Don’t Watch Me Leave”.
GU: We also have a bunch of acoustic stuff that we’re going to use for B-sides on the record.
You guys had a great Kickstarter campaign, tell us a little about it and what is was for.
GU: Okay, so the Kickstarter. We recorded the album at the end of last year. We ended up just going into the studio and recording, getting it done just to have it. The production team was really great about it. We were going to put our Kickstarter up in tandem, but couldn’t. And then our drummer ended up leaving for a year long engagement. But we put it up, and we made our mark in ten days, which was quite surprising. We have a lot of great support from dedicated fans, friends, family, and people we don’t even know. I mean, it all happened so fast. So it was a very successful campaign. It was an enormous ego boost for the band. I mean, thank god somebody in this world loves our music.
ADK: I think I speak for all of us when I say, thank you so amazingly much to anyone who might be seeing this who contributed to that.
Where can fans find your music?
JJ: Well, we have facebook, and we have our own official website, Eveningguests.com. We also have Soundcloud on our official website, and a Bandcamp, which is the store. It’s the best place to buy our music.
GU: So the website would probably be the best place to find everything.
Thank you very much for sharing your time with us!