“For a guy who allegedly loves ska so much, you really suck at playing ska on the drums.”
I’m sitting in a tiny, sweaty storage unit in DUMBO, hanging out with Sketchy during one of their practice sessions. Currently we’re waiting for bassist John Shields to return from the bathroom and to kill time, the band jokingly re-imagines their song “Rye Whiskey” as a ska-punk song. Thirty-five seconds in, and Chris Shultz (vocals) decides to give some honest feedback to Craig Shay on his performance. Despite the bluntness of the comment, Craig pays it no mind: there’s no animosity here, Sketchy is full of nothing but brotherly love. (It’s also a shame that at no point does anyone crack a “Ska-tchy” joke).
Once John returns, we all take a swig from a warm bottle of whiskey before deciding that they will give me a live preview of their debut full length album, I Wanted This to Go Different, breaking down the influences and meaning of each song after they play them. Between songs, the band also gives me insights to their recording process, such as waking up to hearing drums being tracked and taking a train to the studio with an ex-girlfriend to meet her new boyfriend.
You can read the track-by-track commentary below.
Sketchy self-released I Wanted This to Go Different on September 18, 2015 via Bandcamp. You can download the album for whatever price you’d like here.
The band will also be playing their record release show with Hopeless Otis, Disposable, Only Sibling, and Hot Love at Fat Baby in New York City on Saturday, October 3, 2015. You can find more information on the show, including where to get tickets, here.
“The Thinkiest Guy In Thinktown”
Chris (vocals): I really wanted to write a song about my mom being sad. This song is about how weird it was to watch my mom cook dinner one night ‘cause she was sad that I was moving out and she spent her whole life raising me and it’s all she’s cared about and me just living my life was taking away the only thing that mattered to her. I wanted to try to be like… I could never understand that kind of passion, because I’ll never be a mom.
Craig (drums/vocals): So this is kind of a reaction to the song “Rye Whiskey” that I wrote… I wrote that one first, and that one is the song you write two weeks after a breakup while “Whiskey Nostalgia” is the song you write nine months after that same breakup. I had some time to think about things, maybe be less negative about how things were. Just kind of reflecting, like “oh, I kind of miss some things.” Coming to peace with that.
John (bass): It’s also the only song on the album that I have a bass solo, so…
Craig: Yeah, that bass fucking rips.
Chris: It came out way better than we expected it to on the record, and we were really happy with that. So we put it as the second track.
“I Wrote A Suicide Note”
Chris: I wrote this song when I was really depressed. It’s literally about me writing a suicide note. There’s no hyperbole or metaphor. And when I was writing it, I realized how selfish and stupid I was and how all I was doing was trying to blame all of my mistakes on other people. I was a piece of shit. And now I’m not. I wrote this like a year before Sketchy became a band an-
Craig: I heard the demo of it and I Facebook messaged you. I didn’t even know you yet! That’s how much I liked it.
Guli (guitar/vocals): This song is the beginning of Sketchy. I had known of Chris probably for almost a decade before we officially met. Vizzi and I had been talking about trying to put a band together and one day he told me he met a guy who could be our singer, sent me the demo of this song and was like “Oh, so you know, it’s Chris Shultz.”
Vizzi (guitar/vocals): By the way, the day I met Chris was one of the weirder days of my life. I won’t get into it, but it involved a ska show, an older woman, and a dog at a bar.
“Molly And The Zombies”
Vizzi: So sometimes you’re really good friends with someone and you make the really dumb decision to start sleeping with that person. Uhh… and this is a song about that. And meeting that person’s new boyfriend.
“Someone Else’s Hook”
Craig: Oh, I wrote this song! This song is about dating someone and you’re more interested in them than they are in you and you’re very conscious of that. It kind of sucks, like… you’re on their hook. It’s a pretty obvious metaphor. And maybe kind of douchey.
Guli: The funny part about writing this song is that Craig already had the lyrics and we had spent an hour writing the music and we just didn’t like how it was coming out at all. I got bored and started messing around with a riff and that basically became the actual song.
John: For real, I always thought the whole point of this song was that it was literally “someone else’s hook.” After I first heard it, I went home and started combing through Lawrence Arms songs being like “…who did we rip off for this song?”
Vizzi: Nah, it’s Long Island Pop Punk, baby.
“It’s Like Drugs, Man”
Chris: I was in my old town and I saw this kid who was on my baseball team. We caught up and he was such a fucking prick. I started wondering “was I this much of a prick when we used to hang out?” and I couldn’t believe I used to associate with people like him. When he got really drunk, he said to me “I remember one year for Halloween you dressed up as a punk rocker and I guess it just stuck with you for the rest of your life.” Like, trying to act like he saw me become who I am. But he doesn’t represent me anymore, he just remembers this personality that I created to survive high school. This song is about my shedding of that persona because I’m never going to be that person again.
Vizzi: Can you please turn the AC back on, oh my god oh my god oh my god.
Chris: Oh yeah, sorry it’s loud and we thought it’d be easier to hear with it off.
Guli: Musically, I grew up listening to, aside from punk rock, a lot of metal. If you listen to the main riff, it’s almost like a metal riff. I don’t want to say this is a metalcore song, but I won’t deny that I really love like Emmure, and The Acacia Strain, and Trivium and stuff. Um… but I also really like Sum 41’s Does This Look Infected? and I think that all of those things combined became my main influence for this particular song. It’s one of our heavier songs, and Craig gets really mad.
Craig: This is the meanest song I’ve written. Like I said, I wrote it two weeks after a breakup. It’s very tongue-in-cheek though, the line in the chorus “You’re like rye whiskey, I always ask for it” and I think when I said that I ask for it, I’m placing the blame on me. Like, putting myself in positions where I might feel upset or uncomfortable. But yeah, I wrote it in a minute and a half, the song is a minute… it’s a punk song.
John: Just so you know, Craig actually wrote all the Sketchy songs.
Craig: I wrote a good half or so. Anyway, I wrote this song in college about a show that my band, Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine played with Chewing on Tinfoil and Bizarro Me [Editor’s Note: Bizarro Me was my old band]. It was the best night, and the venue was located at 15 Mulberry. It was just such a cool night, I wasn’t even drunk that night, just so overwhelmed about how cool everything was. I wanted to use this song with Eli, but for whatever reason I didn’t think it would work full band. Then I brought it to Sketchy and it just worked out.
“Song For Last Year”
John: I joined this band a year after they had formed. I begged them to join and they refused me for awhile, but eventually Greg Steiner (former bassist) quit. He was a very noodly bass player and I’m a very simple bassist. This song… I happened to completely forget, right before we played it. This has nothing to do with the meaning of the song, I just wanted to say sorry for fucking it up. My bad.
Chris: This song is about when you decide to make a commitment to someone and that moment in your life when you say “I need you to trust me that I am going to put my all into this.”
Guli: This song came together by accident. I was sitting around with my acoustic guitar and just messing with chord progressions when Chris stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said “Wait. I have lyrics for that.” He runs to get his notebook and then the song just happened.
Chris: When Vizzi came home, we told him that we had accidentally a song.
“Being A People Is Hard”
Chris: This song is really, really self-explanatory. It’s about how I don’t think that anybody can accomplish anything great without support. We’re all dying for that kind of system; we live our whole lives waiting to find our plan.
Vizzi: You know know and love someone for years, but if you can’t communicate with each other, if you can’t just ge… you need to communicate with people. That’s the whole thing.
Guli: I think it’s worth noting that this is the first Sketchy song, musically at least, that we actually all wrote as a five person unit. Other songs were like “hey, me and Chris wrote something!” or “Hey, Craig wrote something!” but this was the first time when all five of us worked together. It’s cool that the lyrics are all about people needing to communicate with each other, and then we did just that.
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