An incredible force on and off the stage, Big D and the Kids Table have carved their place in the Boston music scene and beyond with their catchy music, invigorating live show, and of course, their charismatic and genuine personalities.
Rarely do I interview a band who is so full of energy and genuine, vulnerable, real answers. None of this well-rehearsed, polished, short and to the point repertoire with these guys. Instead, they give their all to the questions, diving deep and giving thorough answers that translate to vivid stories and experiences for their audience. This is a band that isn’t just doing press interviews because they feel like they have to, but because they really want to and because they enjoy the experience—and that comes through in their animated and engaging answers.
All of this to say, these guys are the real deal, and if you want some in-depth insight into not only the band, but into how to make your own mark as a musician in this competitive industry, you’re going to want to check this out. Trust me on this one.
Check out our video interview below or scroll a bit further for the transcribed version.
We had talked back in 2011 and one of the things you said, and I really liked this so I’m going to quote it directly, you had said “People who like our band are those people who aren’t just shopping in the big shopping centers of music and they actually want to find something that is quality.”
David: Yeah! I’m going to bring that back!
You’re like “That was a great quote!”
David: Do you want to know my new one?
David: These days I’ve been saying that it’s like we’re all in the industry of food. A lot of bands these days are selling candy bars, a lot of sugar in them, and they taste really good, (nom, nom, nom, nom, nom) because everybody likes sugar. But some of us, we like spicy food, and the first time you eat our music, you’re probably not going to like it, it might be too much for you, but eventually you become a spicy food person and spicy food people are for life and sugar sometimes faded.
That’s true, sometimes people go off sugar.
Ryan: Yeah. So…but don’t eat our music.
Are you sitting down coming up with these quotes?
David: No, you know what I think it derives from, is I’m dyslexic, so I think I have a lot of analogies.
That sort of makes sense.
David: I have a pretty good vocabulary but for some reason I just need descriptions, I’m a lot like my mother, that’s where it comes from.
I’m sure she’d be flattered to hear that. So that was back in 2011, so since then do you feel like the landscape of the industry has significantly changed? It most certainly has but I guess my question is how have you been combatting that in your lives?
Ryan: It definitely has changed, I mean we signed kind of late in our career in 2007 to a bigger label but yeah we’ve definitely seen a lot of changes since then. But I think with all the work we’ve done from the beginning on our own to kind of starting our own record label to put out the band has really helped us adapt to all the changes and stuff like that. Kickstarter was a huge tool that we used to put out the last record, the double record.
David: Crowd funding is a HUGE deal.
Ryan: It saved our ass cuz we wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.
David: We asked for $15, we got like $49,000.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s expensive stuff you know, recording it, pressing it, making vinyl and putting it out.
I think we’ve handled the downfall of the big music industry pretty well.
David: We’re known for DIY ness, people celebrate us for do it yourself.
Ryan: Don’t depend on other people to do the work for you.
David: Sometimes it’s nice that people say that about us but my god, how lazy is the general public that they don’t do a lot of work for their own band or business as they say these days. So the fact that back in the day we used to just go to Kinkos and make fliers and go every day and put them up and all that stuff. You know now that the “world wide web”, the internet exists we’ve been able to stay relevant because we love that diy ness where you can flier online and stuff like that. So for people who like to do diy stuff the internet and this whole thing has just actually been really fun for us. But the only difference I would say is people these days definitely want to write songs that people like. Like is this how you write a 1-4-5…every musician knows there really is a chemistry set of chords that people like and people are just doing those and working. But we all grew up on bands, like I was trying to say with the food analogy that when I first listened to Metallica, PIXIES, Nirvana I wasn’t sure about it. The Pixies always wanted to write songs that people might not like, you know what I mean?
David: We have the power to make a really sugary, great song that everyone might like but we’re kind of from the old school. So even though we are getting on board with the new way of doing social media, I don’t think we’ll ever get on board with the new way of trying to put out a song to get into an AT&T commercial.
I really appreciate the whole diy aspect of it too because I’m also a publicist, I own a PR company, working with emerging bands and it’s really hard getting bands to understand that they have to care about their career, you know what I mean?
David and Ryan: – YEAH!, Yes!
You can’t just pay somebody off and stop working.
David: Especially when you get on a label.
Right, I don’t think they understand that, I think they think the work ends and they don’t realize that’s kind of when it begins and they don’t put in effort. So I really appreciate that because I think there’s a sort of entitlement attitude that’s happening.
David: Well it’s almost like, let’s say you’re a single parent. And somebody says that they’ll take care of your kids for free and you never check up on it…you know what I mean, like shouldn’t you guys kind of like check up on this.
Ryan: I think we’ve definitely learned that nobody is going to work harder for us…than us. That’s basically the rule for everything.
Yeah, seems like it should be basic.
Ryan: And you know, you can find out the hard way that that is the case. Or you can be proactive and make sure that it doesn’t happen.
David: And I think that’s what makes the snotty musician. The snotty musician comes from somebody being like “what the hell, what the hell…why weren’t you on that?” Well, why weren’t YOU on that?!
Or just like kind of…I hate the word “dissing” but other bands being like “well that band’s no good why are they on the radio?” Well, probably because they worked hard!
David: When bands of the same style don’t like each other I call that dogs barking at dogs and chipmunks chirping at chipmunks. The only way you’re really going to take down the big music industry, meaning be noticed, get through that wall of capitalism, is if you do it together. You have to do it together. Like the metal scene, like grunge, the ska scene did that one time. I look at it as a super hero team. Wolverine does this, Storm does that, we’re all different but we’re all X-Men. So gossiping about bands in your own genre just showcases a little bit of insecurity in your own band.
Well we need a sense of community for sure, in general.
It’s definitely lacking.
David : They can do it differently than you and that’s ok.
In fact it’s probably beneficial down the line. All super important.
I think it’s really important for bands that are still getting their footing to hear stories about artists that have gone through tough times. Do you have a story you could share where that happened but instead of throwing your hands up it pushed you to be like “ok that was the worst experience and here’s how we can do it better?”
Ryan: So we were on Side One Dummy when we put out Strictly Rude. Side One Dummy is like the Warped Tour label. Then we put out another record called Fluent-In-Stroll which is like astronomically different and people got really upset at first. All the punk newsy things were like “one star how could you?” right? But then it was kind of like our Beastie Boys moment where a year later and everyone was like “that is such a good record” and you’re like “well I know” but the label lost confidence with us so our budget got cut because they lost a lot of money, so they didn’t give us any budget other than enough to make the record. So what are we going to do? [What happened is] every person we ever worked with were genuine people so we said “guys we can’t pay you to do the records.” Engineers who have families, who have kids, everyone did our record for free. So we did a $20-$30 grand record with zero money and that’s a really good example of picking yourself up and not going “well this is the only money that the record label gave us so guess that’s what we’ll do.” We were like “helllll no.”
Yeah that slides right back into the DIY and community…
Ryan: Yeah, make it work!
If you hadn’t spent that time investing in those relationships right?
David: No human can tell you no. Because if you don’t think on your own and come up with a new plan, what are you going to do, break up?
Ryan: If they tell you “we’ll only help you this much”, well that’s not enough, so what are you going to do, you know?
David: Yeah, imagine if your girlfriend was stuck in a burning building and everyone on the ground is like * shrug * “sorry can’t get her.” You’re not going to not try!
it’s funny because people don’t think of it that way…well I guess that just sets bands apart right? If you’re thinking of it as a do or die situation…
Ryan: That’s your career, you better take care of it.
David: And I say there are people who want to be in a band and there are musicians. People who want to be in a band can make the choice like, “Alright, I’m done, that didn’t work out, I’m going to do something else.” Musicians don’t have that choice. We’re infected we’ll go into poverty over it. It’s something that if you take music out of our lives, we just become melancholy, we die, you know what I mean, so…we don’t want to die.
What experiences do you think helped shape your view of the business side of the industry? Because I think that’s the part that a lot of emerging bands tend to neglect is looking at the business side of it as well.
Ryan: Well we had a lot of good models, like Fugazi. So those were our…see that’s the difference, the younger people will have more like “it’s pro tools, you can do it, it doesn’t matter, just put the hits out”. We had the guys that were like “you can do mail order yourself, you can incorporate your business” so we had really good people to look up to but we also went to music school and I did a double major in engineering and business so I know when they’re trying to hose me. (To Ryan) But you went to a better school!
Ryan: Yeah but the school I went to didn’t expose any of the musicians to the business side of it. Berklee is so cool but you’ve gotta know this stuff. The stuff they’re teaching is just, I mean like you were saying you could follow by example but nobody spelled it out for us: you should have a publicist, you need a booking agent, you need those things before you need a label.
David: Yeah! One thing leads to the next.
Ryan: Because you need them to help get you out there.
David: A publicist was like the last thing back in the day I learned.
That hurts my heart.
David: I know, you need a publicist.
Not to go on my own tangent but I feel like bands know certain things to budget for, like they know they have to have the budget for making the record, but then they go “well there’s no money for a publicist, no money for tour, no money for merch” and it’s like ahhhhh but those things are all key right?
David: But then what they do is they think the songs were the problem so they make a new record and then they do it again and again and again. And then they just expelling their music creativity. Like their best songs didn’t get off so they try to rewrite. What I’m saying is they’re blaming themselves and that’s what makes them eventually quit.
Yes, it’s a really tough landscape. Do you guys consider yourselves successful at this point?
David: I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.
That’s got to be a good feeling! I feel like a lot of artists are like “nah, never”, you know what I mean?
David: I never thought of myself as somebody in a band I always think of myself as a kid who listens to music and they let me write the lyrics. Like I write songs! I write songs w/the band but I’ve still never taken it seriously, that…(heavy voice) I’m in a band.
Ryan: I’ve had 2 experiences that were really enlightening to me. The first one was, we get to travel a lot with the band and we go to the normal places like England, Europe, America, Canada, but we’ve gotten to go to China, Japan, Indonesia, Malesia, Philippines…
David: We spear headed that!
Ryan: When we showed up in Indonesia a few years ago and all these people were there, a good amount of people, I was blown away that our music had reached that far.
Ryan: They were telling us how they get music and it’s a whole different world and that was really special to me that we could reach that far and have bands show up and we’d never been there before and we show up and there are people there.
David: – It was crazy. Heartbreakingly beautiful. They all had these bootleg shirts that were better than our shirts.
Did you get some?
David: No, they weren’t selling them, just wearing them.
David: Our poor asses couldn’t get to these places on vacation because daddy has the really good business…we would never be able to have as much culture as we have if we weren’t in this band. So we know the globe so well, and we have more friends in Austria than Austin. And then you see local Americans giving their 2 cents about certain things that they have no idea what they’re talking about and we’re just like lordy lordy. There’s so much beauty out in the world that we were allowed to see because we’re in a band.
Ryan: The other thing I was going to mention is somebody who enjoys our music and our band expressing to me the importance of one of our songs to them, in a manner that I could describe a song that I heard when I was like 13 and totally changed my life…you know what I mean, the same kind of language. When I stop to think about those kind of things, I’m one of the luckiest guys. I’m definitely successful in what I set out to do.
David: Well the reason I got into it was when I was in high school, it snows a lot in New England, nobody really likes high school that much. I have to get up early, shovel, go in my sad Honda Accord, which I was lucky to have, and drive to school I was really sad and depressed. But I would always put in a copy cassette of Operation Ivy’s Energy. And a like light switch it would just immediately put me in a good mood. And I really valued that so much, I remember the day, I was like “I’m going to, that’s what I’m going to try and provide.”
That’s so clear, that clarity is so amazing.
David: And it’s not money, it’s other things.
Ryan: Everyone says you can’t measure your success by money.
Yeah, well you guys are certainly some of the happiest seeming people I’ve run into. I’m sure you have your days but the fact that you’re still this energetic and into it and excited about it everyday…I have no doubt it’s a credit to the people you are as well as the view you’ve chosen to have of the industry and music and everything.
David: We can’t believe we’re here, where some people can’t believe they weren’t here earlier.
Ryan: And our predecessors had a lot to do with it, the bands before us, we had very good examples growing up.
David: We got to meet all the local Boston hardcore like Sam Black Church’s lead singer Jet was so nice to me. I sign my autographs almost in the way he signed mine because he didn’t just sign his name, he said thanks, drew a picture of their symbols, signed his name and something else and then when I was too scared and was like “thanks, goodbye!” he was like “no, stay” and I was like “oh I’m allowed to stay?” Yeah, he was just a model.
Just the way you treat people, right?
David: We had good heroes.
Well I could talk to you guys all day but I know you have things to do. Is there anything you want to add?
David: New record soon!
Ryan: Yeah, new record soon, 2018. I think over the winter we’ll probably get to recording and then by spring or summer there should be news about what’s going to happen.
Somebody will be talking about it!
David: And there might be a new side project. Big D had a couple songs that we put aside so Ryan and I might do something.
That’s awesome! Alright cool, thank you so much.
David and Ryan: Thank you!