By Samantha Spoto
Photo courtesy of Scout Boys.
The members of Scout Boys may spend as much time trying to convince you that aliens exist as they do playing music. Sometimes, they manage to do both simultaneously.
Their most recent release, What If, Like, When We Die, features songs with eccentric titles like “I’m a Cactus, Fucking Kill Me” and “Spooky Basement Noises.” The four-song EP is a short preview of what listeners can expect of the band’s first full length album, due out sometime next year.
When standing in front of the five-piece on stage, it’s nearly impossible to miss their genuine enjoyment. Songs become interrupted by smirks and laughter as members move about in costume wigs and sleeveless thrash metal shirts.
With this band, it may be difficult to tell whether or not they’re being ironic. However, one thing is glaringly obvious: at the heart of it all, Scout Boys is comprised of a close-knit group of friends driven together by their excitement and enthusiasm for music.
Scout Boys’ current line-up is lead singer and guitarist Felix Chmiel, Mike Rivkin and Daniel Clemens also on guitar, Joe Casanova on bass, and Jeff Zeitler on drums. Rivkin and Clemens chatted with BTR about their debut album and the supportive Long Island music scene.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): When did you all start playing music together as Scout Boys?
Mike Rivkin (MR): Felix and I were the original two members. We both exchanged songs that originally sounded a lot more pop-punk than they do now. We basically did the Postal Service-style thing where we sent each other songs, worked on them, and then decided we had some decent material.
We recruited a drummer–Abbas Muhammad, who now plays in the band Colorful Kid–and a bass player, Jo Jo. Then we played shows for a summer. Our first show was with Modern Baseball at Fordham. Then we released a demo of songs and just kept working at it.
Eventually Abbas had to leave the band, so Jeff came in and started playing with us, which is when we recorded our first 7 inch, What a Time to Be Alive. Dan actually had a guest vocal part on that record, and by the next time we recorded our other 7 inch, What, If Like, When We Die, Dan was full-time. That was about a year ago.
Since then, we’ve been working on a new LP and playing shows. And now we are a ridiculous three-guitar band. My amp was way too loud at the last show we all played together and I didn’t play particularly well.
Daniel Clemens (DC): It was sick, I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s what punk rock is all about, dude. Everybody was probably too drunk to care.
BTR: It seems like there is a really close and supportive community of musicians on Long Island. Can you speak to that?
DC: It’s very cool that everyone who is in a band on Long Island is friends with each other and genuinely interested in each other’s music. On any given day, if we were ever offered a show and somebody couldn’t play, I could ask someone in another Long Island band to learn the parts. And they could. And I don’t know if there is anywhere else that really has something like that.
We’ve gone on tour and we’ve seen other music scenes; they’re great, but I’ve never seen a situation like this. I really think that makes Long Island unique. Especially when Dong Island was around, that place was cultivating artists. They would let you sleep in their basement and write music. I don’t know if there is anywhere else quite like that.
BTR: So I know you have an album coming out in 2016. Can you explain you’re writing process for the new record?
MR: When we first started, I wrote all the lyrics. It was a matter of fact that Felix had never written lyrics when we started the band. I wrote the lyrics to begin with, and then as Felix started finding his voice as a lead singer, he started writing his own personal songs.
DC: We are a bunch of goofballs. We come up with song titles before we write the songs. We’ll be sitting around and saying some ridiculous things, and think, “That’s such great song title, lets go write a song.”
MR: Give some samples of the upcoming song titles.
DC: I think our favorites are “Everything Is Chemtrails,” “The Strange Dream About Weird Money,” and “Planet Moon.” Anyway, then we’ll bust out the guitars and talk about what we’re listening to. We definitely like to be influenced by other things and then see what we can put together ourselves.
Eventually five months will go by and we’ll think, “Whatever happened to that song?” Then Felix will be like, “Oh, I wrote lyrics for that, I forgot to send it to you.” Felix has an extremely good way of tying loose ends together. I don’t think any of the rest of us can do it quite like him.
MR: We used to call him the architect. He would take these riffs with odds and ends and turn it into something structured.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Skaferowsky.
BTR: So when you talk about influences, who are your influences for the upcoming record?
DC: One of our biggest influences is the Canadian band, Land of Talk. Also–and I’m not even kidding–HOT 97.
BTR: HOT 97, the radio station?
DC: The best radio station in New York. This is not a joke. We all got to the point where there was a lot of music coming out that we didn’t relate to anymore. For a while, the punk sounds started seeming insincere. So we stated going out and hearing R&B and rap.
One day, we were like, “Hey, I was listening to HOT 97.” Then someone else would be like, “You were? I listen to that everyday.” Same thing with the new Drake mixtape. The biggest influence of this record is definitely Drake’s mixtape. You can write that down. It is a fact. It is 100 percent fact.
There are beats and rhythms that we would have never heard in punk rock music. When we heard them in rap songs, we thought they sounded really cool. We wanted to try and incorporate that into a punk song. Even the ways that lyrics are laid out in rap music. That’s stuff you would never hear in punk, but it gives us new ideas.
BTR: So, would you still consider the new record a punk record?
DC: Oh yeah!
MR: I say no.
DC: Yeah, what is punk? Who knows?
MR: We’ve had a lot of trouble in the past year figuring out what scene to play in. Putting three words next to our band name kind of seems difficult. Not to sound like we are some ground-breaking band thats defining all genres, but we don’t really know where we want to fit in.
We’ve played emo shows and I don’t think we fit in that scene. We play plenty of shows with Iron Chic’s crowd, but I feel like our music probably doesn’t sound a ton like that even though the scene seems to like it. I don’t know, we’re still finding our niche. I think the new record is more of an indie record than a punk record, though.
DC: And that’s what I like about being in Scout Boys. When I was in other bands, there was one focused sound. We would write songs and throw them away because it didn’t sound like the others. Everybody listens to different music in Scout Boys. It’s really nice being in this band and being exposed to other music from your buddies and bandmates.
BTR: Who will be recording the new album?
MR: Joe Reinhart at The Headroom in Philadelphia. Joe is probably my favorite guitarist in the music scene. He played guitar in Algernon Cadwallader, and he now plays guitar in Hop Along and Dogs on Acid.
On top of him being an incredible musician, he’s recorded some of our favorite records. He recorded the last Joyce Manor record and he engineered the last Hop Along record. We’re excited to get in the studio with him. We spent a lot of time talking about where we wanted to record the next LP. We were talking about cost, time, and location. At the end of the day, we all decided that there was no other studio that can produce the sound we wanted like Headroom can. We are going to start demoing the record next week, actually.
DC: During the process, we’re going to be playing more shows on Long Island and getting the message of chemtrails and aliens out there so that people know what to expect when the record comes out.