Infectious Magazine’s Sami Marshall recently had the opportunity to chat with Maryland seven piece brass rock band Stacked Like Pancakes while they were in Florida to kick off both the Warped Tour festivities and their own Spring Break tour. The band talked about their big break on Warped, defining their sound, and their breakfast food preferences.
You can check out the full interview below!
Their tour has a few days left, and you can still buy concert tickets to any of the remaining dates here.
To see these guys live on the 2017 Warped Tour, and trust me, you do, you can check out dates and buy tickets here.
To hear more from Stacked Like Pancakes, you can purchase a CD here.
Infectious Magazine: I know the tour just kicked off, but how are you guys and how has Florida been treating you all?
Zach Foote: Very nice!
Kellen McKay: Nice and toasty.
Andy Dawson: Better than icy Baltimore. When we left Baltimore, there was snow on the ground. So then we drove straight from there to Jacksonville and it was great. The weather’s great. The people are great.
KM: Yeah, a lot of friendly people! I was at the World of Beer in Orlando, and even after you guys left and I was chilling there, there was like five people that came up and said “Hey! How you doin’ buddy?” I think the Baltimore general area is more…
KM: You just keep to yourself. It was cool to experience that. We have a World of Beer in Towson, and if you sit alone there, I promise no one is going to walk up to you and say hey. So yeah, that’s just a random cool experience. We made a lot of new fans in Orlando at Full Sail the other day. I think we all have been glued to our phones in the last couple of days since then. Letting all the notifications roll in for the hundreds of new followers on our socials – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – as well as thousands of new views on our YouTube videos. It’s really exciting to see all these stats roll in just from what happened two days ago.
IM: Yeah, the crowd really reacted well to you guys. I don’t know if they knew who you were before this, but there was such a good response.
AD: Probably not.
Kevin Goren: There was one person who knew who I was!
IM: Oh, yeah! I remember that!
KM: I think maybe 1% total.
Will Lopez: When we were checking out the Facebook live stream feed, we were looking at the comments to see what people said, and the number one thing that I saw was “Who are these people? What is their name?”
IM: As you mentioned, you were at the Warped Tour Kickoff. How was that? Did you have a great time?
SLP: Oh yeah!
KM: My personal experience, I actually told the guys this before we went on stage, which is 10 years with this band, it’s been a long time that I’ve been legitimately nervous for a show. Anxiety is totally different; it’s not fear-based, I guess. Nervousness is like fear. Speaking for myself, I was very nervous, just because it felt like there was a lot on the line. And Kevin Lyman was taking a big step for us. We know that we lived up to it, based on the reception we got and are continuing to get. Hopefully if I was nervous, you guys were, too.
IM: No, they were all good.
KG: I was actually chill.
WL: That was my first show with Stacked Like Pancakes.
WL: Yeah, I picked up a couple weeks ago. That was very nerve-wracking for me. It was the first time I had played with these guys in public.
[Editor’s note: You can check out their full performance on the Warped Tour kick off show here.]
IM: How do you guys feel about the bands that were announced for the summer?
ZF: I’m really excited!
KM: I’m stoked for the lineup in total, but it is kind of weird that a lot of the bands we’re really excited for are only doing like one-off Warped dates.
KG: GWAR isn’t!
KM: Like Streetlight Manifesto is only on one show in the whole tour.
ZF: Big D & The Kids Table is only on for like a week, too.
KM: That’s not upsetting really, because the lineup as whole is so different than last year. Last year, there was some big older heavy-hitters – Sum 41, Yellowcard – and I guess this year it seems more widespread. Kind of like an even balance. Even Kevin Lyman said it himself, they’re going back to the roots of the tour. If Kevin is passionate about it, then I’m all about it. If he believes in what he’s doing, then so should everybody else.
ZF: Time has proven that it’s just worth trusting him.
KM: Anybody else in the lineup?
ZF: I’m super stoked about it. Weirdly enough, this is the first year that I’ve known a lot of the bands that nobody else does. With a lot of them, people are like, “Who are these people? I haven’t heard of them before.” And I already know. Last year, it was all the popular acts – the I, Prevails and Pierce The Veils – I don’t listen to.
IM: Who are you guys most excited about seeing? Is there one band in particular?
All: GWAR (laughs)
ZF: We’ve been talking about that one the most. I really want to see Alestorm.
IM: Now each year, Warped does the Think TEI workshops. If you could attend one, whose would you want to join in on?
KM: Attend? I’d love to do one!
IM: Alrighty, what would you do if you had that chance?
KM: Whatever they need. Seriously. I love being in that position. It’s almost therapeutic for me. Just helping other people. In this band, and also outside of it with all my musical endeavors, I always want to make myself better and to have all these successes and achievements, so I have them under my belt, so when it comes to a time when people come to me for advice, input or help, they know my credibility is there to help. And to help them in the best way I can based off my experiences and successes. I just love being in that position to where it’s not just a matter of helping people, it’s helping people because I know what I’m doing. I’m only able to say that when big things like this happen. They kind of go hand in hand. I want to help people, but, in my head, I’m only able to help if I have all these successes. For me, I’ll teach whatever they want. I’ll teach vocals. I’ll teach drums – I have a degree in percussion.
KG: Trying to compete with me?
KM: I’ll teach guitar, lyricship. I don’t care, it’s whatever they want. I just want to be in that position. I’m hoping to hook up with them this summer.
IM: Anyone else?
KG: I mean, personally, I would teach drums.
KM: Alec, are you going to teach classical composition?
Alec Leventis: I guess so. (laughs)
IM: Moving on from Warped Tour, before you begin that, you will be attending your 4th LAUNCH Conference. What do you guys enjoy most about doing something like LAUNCH?
ZF: LAUNCH is all about just talking to as many people as you can. Yeah, you get to play if you’re one of the bands chosen to do that, but you also get to play the rest of the year. But with places like LAUNCH, you hook up with all these people who are in charge of getting you involved in things like Warped Tour.
AD: The opportunities that LAUNCH brings are why we’re here. Why we’re doing Warped Tour. Why we opened for Reel Big Fish. All of that. We learned the stuff we needed to about the music industry, speaking for the band in general, from LAUNCH. They have such great panels there with all these higher ups. They basically tell you, if you want to make it, this is how you do it. There’s no easy way out.
KM: I think it’s important to note that LAUNCH and what’s so great about it is it’s not like a SXSW. I don’t mean to bash SXSW, but the scale of it needs to go down. At LAUNCH, even symbolically, the people speaking at the panels are just on a small riser. Once they are done speaking, they walk off the stage and they come talk to you and you’re suddenly among them. It’s not like they’re on an 8-foot high stage and they go to the green room where you never see them again. You feel like it’s an opportunity for you to be there at the same level as everybody. Whether you’re a baby band just starting out or whether you’re August Burns Red – who was on the panel and nominated for a Grammy – wherever you are in your musical journey and wherever you are in the business, you can benefit from it somehow. We have absolutely had many of our opportunities stem from LAUNCH. If you just hustle, people take notice and they start talking, and the opportunities happen. It can really be as simple as that.
ZF: Kevin said it himself, he literally found us as he walked by us playing on the street at LAUNCH.
IM: From the previous conferences you’ve attended, is there a moment or piece of advice that has stuck with you?
AD: There’s the “Can You Handle The Truth” panel where you submit like 30 seconds of one of your songs and some of the higher ups listen to it and give it their honest feedback. There’s this one guy who is notorious for just shredding you, and, I wasn’t in the band at this time, they submitted “Suburban Superhero” and we were like the first band that he didn’t rip apart. That always felt good.
ZF: The smallest piece of advice that a few of the panel people had mentioned was yeah, you’re surrounded by all these people who can do great things for you, but don’t approach them like they’re product.
AD: Talk to them like a person. Don’t suck up to them.
ZF: Talk to me about my cats! That’s great. If you come up to me and go “Hey, this is my band! Listen to this” they get that all the time. Talk to me like I’m a person.
KM: I remember our first year at LAUNCH. I remember seeing Kevin Lyman walk by and it was a matter of like 20 steps and he was bombarded by 20 people. He couldn’t even make it those steps, and he had a stack of CDs and lots of portfolios. He’s such a down to earth, warm-hearted guy. He’s so good at what he does. He does listen to all music that’s sent to him and that’s put on his desk. He does care about everybody, but you to have to remember they’re still human beings, just like everyone else. Just remember that these people are accessible and they’re just human beings even though they seem like a world away from you, they’re really not.
IM: Now I’ve never been a big ska person. But I do enjoy that it’s very upbeat and rambunctious at times. And, as you all know, it has it’s roots in American jazz, which I don’t feel is a genre a lot of the younger audience tend to gravitate towards. So, first off, what inspired you guys to start a band that does this sort of off the wall genre?
AD: Take it away, Kellen!
KM: So, as the only founding member of the band, I’m the only one qualified to answer this question. I grew up with a core group of friends who introduced me to the ska genre, specifically Reel Big Fish. I remember going on my friend’s crappy Mac computer, with the floppy disc drive and taking 10 minutes to pull up a video, and watching Reel Big Fish’s “Everything Sucks.” As soon as I saw that, I loved the combination of how silly and quirky the performance was, but it was still very good quality music. The horn parts were intricate, they made sense. Yes, it’s silly, but you can still have a serious conversation in a song even if it’s surrounded by the quirkiness that is ska. Our roots are in ska and I fell in love with Reel Big Fish. I think when the band first started and I wrote that first album, I really wanted to be Reel Big Fish. So if you listen to the first album, the songs are ridiculous. But over time, as my admiration for different types of music grew, and we wrote the second album, it was my own personal discovery for what Stacked Like Pancakes should sound like. And I’ll be honest, with the song “Laughing at Me,” which is basically a hip-hop song, I don’t think I got it right the first time with what’s on the record. What we performed at Full Sail was a revamped version of that song. If you listen to the two back-to-back, they’re pretty different. The only things that are the same are the lyrics. If anything, that’s the congruency with my songwriting. The lyrical content has been consistent and growing as things have happened in my life. It’s a ska movement with it’s roots there, but really rock is what’s coming out. I think we’ve kind of coined the term “brass rock.” It feels good to say that, but who cares what our genre is? We’re just going to keep writing music and keep playing whatever feels right.
IM: Do you ever get nervous that there’s going to be a disconnect between you and the audience because of the type of music you play?
KM: (laughs) Yeah, we’ve talked about that quite a bit actually. I think, for a while, when I took a break between the last album and this new one we’re working on right now, I thought about that a lot. I can’t write an album for anyone else besides me. That’s what it comes down to. It sounds selfish, I guess, but it’s really not. I think the more important way of looking at it is if it’s not full of heart, then it’s not going to be worth listening to. It’s gotta mean everything to me. Every song has to mean everything to me. I think the guys agree that the few songs we’ve put together so far there is a lot of heart. I feel very passionate about this music. I think it’s heavier. I do rap a little bit more, but that’s only because I kept listening to a band like twenty one pilots, which we kind of eluded to a lot at Full Sail. I realized what it’s like to feel the need to say many more words than you can in just solely the genre of ska. It’s become a multitude of genres and sounds and things I appreciate to form the next album.
AL: I can speak for Kellen too, one thing he was talking about earlier was, in terms of how he’s writing, one thing he seems to be excited to do is he’s writing parts for what the individual plays. What would Mike play here? What would Zach play here? All of us listen to completely different kinds of music. As someone who is not the leader of the band and not the priority songwriter, it’s awesome to have someone who knows how we like to play. He caters to everyone else in the band.
KM: The beautiful thing about the guys I have standing next to me right now, with the exception of Will because he’s the newest and that’s ok, is, with there being such a consistency where there wasn’t for a while, I don’t write music for trumpet, I write music for Alec. I don’t write music for a guitar, I write music for Michael. All of that culminates to being able to write for the player, not the instrument. That definitely falls in line with the whole idea of writing with heart. I’m super excited and I can’t go into too many details. I’m very secretive about it and it’s kind of baby steps because I’m very sensitive in the beginning process of putting an album together. 2018 we’ll definitely have a new record.
IM: I do really like the way you write music. I think writing for a person, rather than an instrument, is going to give it a more genuine feel and I think that’s going to have a better connection with the fans. Rather than just hearing a song, you’re getting to know a person. That’s very cool!
IM: Now there’s seven members, which is a lot.
KM: It’s too many. Kevin, you’re fired.
IM: That was easy! (laughs) You said you’ve played on small stages and still went all out, and tonights stage is quite small. I feel like you have to be very aware of what each member is doing at any given moment so you’re not running into one another.
AD: Oh, horns bump into each other all the time!
ZF: We’ve played a few gigs where the stage was so small the horns couldn’t even be on the stage. We had to be in front of the stage with the audience. And that became hyper-awareness because playing trombone, you have this giant thing that comes out from your face three or four feet and you don’t want to impale the kid in front of you.
IM: No, that would not be good. So you guys would have to know each other pretty well. What do you guys do to keep the comradery up so it translates to stage performance?
KM: Touring really helps because you live together for however long the tour is, 24 hours a day. We rehearse regularly, at least once a week. And, you know, we go to Hershey Park… no, we don’t. We should do that though!
ZF: I can’t ride rides.
AD: Shut up, Zach! You can eat chocolate and be happy.
KG: Zach, you’re fired.
ZF: Another thing that helped was a majority of us went to school together, too. I’ve played in multiple brass quintets with the other horn players, so we’ve been playing together a lot longer than the time we’ve been in this band. Also, a lot of Super Smash Bros.!
KM: Specifically to adapting to different stage environments – this is clearly way different from the stage at Full Sail – often times at our rehearsals we’ll do a mock set up of a typical stage and go over the options. That way when we get out to a venue like this, which is a very small stage, we kind of, for the most part, are on the same page. Hopefully from here, with Warped Tour on the horizon, we’ll have plenty of space with our future stages.
IM: You all seem to be very well-versed in the music industry and you know the ins and outs, or are at least learning them very quickly. Is there one thing you would want to change about the industry?
Michael Busch: People should buy music.
AD: I have a whole laundry list of things I would like to change. That’s a big question. We keep hearing from bands we’ve toured with that touring in America is awful because America doesn’t have the same value of the arts that Europe does. When we were on tour with Reel Big Fish, the other band there was Masked Intruder, they were telling us when they were on tour in Barcelona they took the stage and you could’ve sworn they were like The Beatles. Everybody went nuts! People there go to see live shows, while people in America don’t necessarily do that because that’s not completely the culture here. You kind of already have to have a name for yourself to draw a crowd. That’s what I would change here. I just wish society as a whole valued music.
KM: I think the root of that is in many European countries, government funds the arts. If the government is funding the arts more, then people will respect the arts more. Maybe that’s the answer, I don’t know. We’re also way bigger than many European countries. But I do definitely agree that the arts are way less respected in America and you have to work a hell of a lot harder to have any success in the music business.
AD: This is kind of irrelevant from the rock/ska thing, but the Towson University symphonic band went on tour in Italy, I guess this was my first senior year (laughs), and the three shows we played, we’re just some American band, and all three shows were packed! They loved us! Italians love American marches. It was amazing. It was so much fun! Towson doesn’t draw crowds like that at Towson.
KM: There are some people you run into in the music industry and they just aren’t good people. In all aspects, whether it’s a sound guy or a promoter or a venue owner or people in different bands, there’s so many assholes out there. I talk about this sometimes and they just go “oh that’s people everywhere!” But no, there are some people out there who legitimately and deliberately screwed us over and cost us thousands of dollars in opportunities that we thought were fair greater than they actually were. There are people in the music business who are in it just for sake of deception in order to better themselves with what’s going into their pockets. It can’t be about that. It has to be about the music and the artists. It has to be about people who are busting their ass to make things happen. Your comment about us being well-versed is very much appreciated. It’s something, as we get bigger, we are hoping, if we continue this mindset and the way we handle ourselves, to soon be a role model for groups that are coming up. Maybe even be a standard for upcoming bands for how they should handle themselves in the music industry to be successful. And we can show you what to look out for.
IM: Now, with a name like Stacked Like Pancakes, I have to ask this question. Pancakes or waffles?
ZF: Wait for it!
KM: French toast.
IM: There’s always one!
ZF: Pancakes, for sure.
IM: So only one of you is out the band.
ZF: Yeah! We’re not an Assortment of Waffles!
KM: Stop being violent on the recording!
IM: Yeah, it’s gonna come through! (laughs)
IM: Besides Warped Tour, what’s next for you guys?
KM: We’re working on it.
AD: Good question!
KM: Actually the one thing I can say is album number three. That’s the big thing. This fall/winter, we’re working on a couple opportunities, but there’s nothing really set in stone that we can talk about. Definitely want to get at least one more tour in before the end of the year. And then it’s album number three from there and who knows what that’s gonna be! I have the vision for it. I have what I want. But we’ll see.
IM: Is there anything you guys want to add?
KM: Join the Pancake Nation!
AL: Go to Facebook and join Pancake Nation. It’s our little fanbase. We just sort of talk about whatever we want. #PancakeNation.
KM: It’s a Facebook group that you can do a search for. It’s a private group but if you request to join, we’ll say yes. Hit us up on our socials for sure. They’ve been blowing up. We’re super responsive on our socials, especially being on tour because we have a lot of dead time in the van. Talk to us because we can get bored sometimes driving places.
ZF: I’ll be playing Super Smash Bros.
IM: He’s set!
KM: Join the Pancake Nation!