SKATERS Discuss ‘Humblecore’ and Distaste for Katz’s [INTERVIEW]
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SKATERS is a charged up band from NYC that has hit the scene with an explosive post-punk one-two. We caught up with lead singer Michael Ian Cummings to chat about their infectious single, “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” and the sarcasm that is “humblecore.” He also pulls no punches when it comes to the very first gig he attended, his distaste for Katz’s, and the downward spiral we know as Ludlow Street. Check it.
Bowery Boogie: Tell me about this “humblecore” term you’ve used to describe your sound.
Michael Ian Cummings: Yeah I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know what the fuck happened; I don’t know when that started, but I think we were just fucking around and joking about bands being humble. And it’s funny – genre names are pretty funny – it’s just a joke, really. There’s nothing less humble than calling yourself humble, right?
BB: And now people attribute that to you guys.
MC: I know. It’s funny. It just fucking haunts us now and I have to explain that shit every time. I mean, I’m not really complaining. There’s nothing really to complain about. “Oh no, I have to explain myself in an interview.”
BB: Who influenced you to start playing?
MC: I was into classic rock when I first started playing guitar, like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin – you know, guitar god type of shit. So that’s why I chose guitar, obviously. I was a rock kid, raised on that shit. And my dad played guitar, too, so that was probably a big influence because we had guitars around, but I never really touched it until I was like 14. And then I started getting serious about it and never put the thing down.
BB: What is the backstory/inspiration for “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)?”
MC: I just wanted to write something that was super commonplace, that could be used to identify with other things. Just that feeling of wanting to be a part of something – I think it’s kind of a universal feeling. I hadn’t ever heard anyone put it in the way we did. Sometimes you kind of come up with little phrases and they turn into things you didn’t expect.
BB: So there isn’t a specific story behind it.
MC: I don’t know, maybe there is. It’s so hard to tell anymore, because shit takes on its own life after awhile, you know what I mean? So I just fucking lose perspective of that stuff. Is that vague enough?
BB: Yeah, that was good. I mean, I secretly wanted some crazy explanation.
MC: Yeah, yeah, everyone does (laughs). It was about a love affair I had with Juliette Lewis. Me and Juliette Lewis had a love affair, and it just, just never worked out. I just wanted to dance. Just trying to dance, you know? That’s also a lie.
BB: What do you want your fans to take away from your music?
MC: I want them to take our vinyl away. I want them to take it from the show to their house, and play it, and enjoy it. I want them to take some t-shirts, too, and wear them at their work and their schools. That’s what they can take from our band.
BB: First gig you ever attended?
MC: It was called The Rosenshontz and they had a song called “Teddy Bear.” I was two years old, and they were a regional kids band from New England.
MC: Yeah, It’s true.
BB: Did they put on a good show?
MC: Yeah, it was awesome. It was awesome. I was just a little baby, but I remember it – it was great. I had a picnic blanket, and snacks – some goldfish – yeah it was really fun.
BB: So no mosh pit, you were just chilling on a blanket?
MC: I don’t know – have you ever seen kids dance? There’s no control! They let all of their inhibitions go. Kids dancing is probably the most honest thing you can find out there. Nobody dances like kids dance. They just fucking go for it.
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BB: What have you been listening to lately?
MC: I’m listening to our mix – we just mixed the record, so that’s all I’ve been listening to – it kind of takes up a lot of time. I also just check out my friends shit or whatever. Just kind of fucking about.
BB: Do you have a go-to?
MC: Oh, I have tons of go-tos. Tons of ‘em. You know what song I really like? You know that song “Hanging on the Telephone” by the Nerves? That’s a go-to. That’s like our bar go-to. Once a night you can hear that at the bars we go to. I always like that song. I could loop that shit. You know what other song I could loop? “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” I could loop that shit, too. Totally. It’s highly loopable.
BB: What are you up to when you’re not making music?
MC: Well, there is no other up to. Right now I’m doing laundry, so that’s pretty much the extent of my life. It’s very boring.
BB: Laundry and music…
MC: Yeah, it feels like it’s all you ever fucking do. “Eh, my clothes are dirty, let’s go play a show.” You know, that kind of thing. Or like, “My clothes are dirty, I’m going to go write a song.” Really, really fucking repetitive. What a bore. What an unexciting bore.
BB: Do you hang on the Lower East Side a lot?
MC: Yeah, we usually hang out in the East Village or Lower East Side. Mostly Chinatown, or 6th and Avenue A is kind of our jam. We used to all bartend on that corner, so we all kind of still hang out there.
BB: Favorite spots?
MC: I’m not going to give those away, but pretty much if you go to that corner, in one of those bars you’ll find us. It’s not too hard. We usually run in a pack.
BB: Favorite kosher deli in the ‘hood?
MC: I think Russ & Daughters is the best one. A lot of the old Jewish delis are now closed, you know? They’re not there anymore. Ever since 2nd Ave. closed [Ed. Note: moved to 33rd and 3rd], they all just kind of fell off the face of the earth and stopped existing. I’ll tell you what I’m not a fan of – I’m not a fan of Katz’s. That place sucks. I hate that place. It’s just the worst. People pay, like – people end up losing their tickets and paying like $20 for like, nothing – for a shitty sandwich the size of your fucking head. You eat a fucking cow and you want to leave, and you’ve lost your ticket. But, hey, at least you’ve been to where Harry met Sally. Really. So cool. Fuck Katz’s.
BB: So how do you feel about what’s been going on on Ludlow, with the bar closures lately?
MC: Oh, they’re closing? Why?
BB: Skyrocketing rents, gentrification…
MC: Really, what’s closing?
MC: No way! I didn’t realize that Motor City closed, I was just there. That’s really sad. There are no scary places left in New York City. Oh well, what can you do. But I’ll tell you something – I’m kind of sad for the way it was. What’s sad is to see Ludlow get eaten up by a bunch of fucking yuppies – it’s out of control. Like going there on the weekend is a nightmare. Ludlow Street, on a Saturday night, at like, 11:30pm – I think that is my worst nightmare. A bunch of dudes with blue-collared dress shirts that look like they’ve raided dad’s business attire – 23 year old kids dressing up like daddy to go out with mommy on Ludlow Street. They probably dress like that because they use daddy’s credit card to pay their bar tab.
BB: So you think the untapped bars, the ones that haven’t gone the way that Ludlow Street is going, are the ones to keep a secret?
MC: Yeah. There’s honestly no secrets in the city; everything’s fucking tapped. But you can try to keep it out of the press, if you can; there are still a couple of spots where people won’t bug you. Hard to find, but they’re there.
BB: Beer of choice?
MC: Budweiser out of a bottle. A bottle of Budweiser. Fucking super classy.
BB: When can we expect a full length?
MC: Early September, I think it’s supposed to come out.
BB: Is punk rock dead?
MC: Punk rock died the day the first kid said, “punk’s not dead” – you know, the David Berman quote? That’s the way it goes. If you say it, it’s dead. If you ask the question, it’s dead. And it’s time for something new. Punk has left it’s mark – it has influenced the way bands have been playing since… forever. It changed music. So is it really dead? It’s alive in it’s influence. Is punk rock what it used to be? No, but it fucking shouldn’t be. And who wants to keep everything the same forever? It’s boring.
BB: What is the one characteristic that you want to be known for?
MC: We’re fans of the fans. We like our fans and we want more of them. Tell them we will make out with all of them if they come to our shows. You get free kisses at our shows – Josh the guitar player gives out free kisses to all of the girls who come to our shows.
BB: We’ll have to review your gig at the Bowery Ballroom on July 19, then.
MC: Alright cool. You get a free kiss from Josh. You heard it first.
Many thanks to Michael Ian Cummings for taking the time to chat with us. Check them out at the Bowery Ballroom on July 19.