Poindexter - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Poindexter. We discussed how they became interested in music and formed the band, their upcoming cover of “Rudie Can’t Fail” by The Clash, potential for new music, the context behind their song “Purgatory”, songwriting, thoughts about the ska scene, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

Of course!

Can you tell me how you formed the project for those who may be unfamiliar? How did you initially become interested in music?

Originally, we wanted to start a thrash metal ska band with some friends from various other Michigan bands and we had a few rehearsals for that. The vision was to sound like Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic record with fast upstrokes and crazy horn lines. That idea quickly became too much to manage, and some of us from that initial project decided to start a melodic pop punk and ska band.

Nick (bass), Kenny (trombone), Gracie (vocals, guitar) all used to play in a ska punk band together and we wanted to play music together again with Gracie on lead vocals instead of Kenny this time around. From there, we asked some long-time and some new friends (Josh, Jake, Merlin, Justin) to join the original lineup. Nick (bass) asked Kiera (trumpet) to go to a Mustard Plug and Planet Smashers show around this time and that night after the show, we asked her to join the band and they started dating as well! Right after we released our first EP, Gracie moved to Burbank, CA from Michigan and then the pandemic hit. So, that’s how we became a California and Michigan band.

Most of us had all played in various bands through high school and college as well. I think we were drawn to things like marching band, ska and punk shows, and music in general because we all deal with different levels of anxiety/mood disorders. Music gave us a place to belong as a bunch of restless nerds who wanted to connect with others.

You’ve added some new members recently. Tell us more about that.

Yes! Unfortunately, the pandemic was hard on all of us and a few members had to step away because of stress and mental health, work, having kids, pursuing other projects, amongst other things. Recently, we welcomed Steve Brewer (he/him) on drums. He plays in a couple of other bands: Bike Tuff, Distants, Pack Sounds and formerly The Happy Accidents. Kevin Hawthorne (they/them) will be taking over lead guitar duties. They used to play in a band called the Radiotypes and a couple of us went to college with Kevin. Nate Phung (he/him) will be playing keys and some trombone with us as well. Nate plays with Odd Robot, The Maxies, Nate Funk, and formerly, The Two-Tone Boners!

You’re currently working on a cover of “Rudie Can’t Fail” by The Clash. Can you tell me more about that?

Yes! It’s a collaboration with some old and dear friends of ours who play in a mariachi punk rock band called Pancho Villa’s Skull. That’s all we can say for now. It will be out early this spring!

Can we expect to hear more new music this year? Is there any chance that you’re working on an EP or album?

Definitely! Our goal right now is an album, but there’s a chance it might end up being an EP. Like everyone else in America right now, we all have extremely busy lives and we’ll just have to see how this year plays out as we continue to write more. Regardless, we’re writing new songs and we’re aiming to have them out this year. We’ll be releasing some singles too!

I really like “Purgatory” from your self-titled EP. Can you tell me more about writing that song specifically?

Thank you! Gracie (vocals, guitar) and Nick (bass) had that song demoed from a previous project of theirs. I believe it was a pretty straight-forward pop punk song originally, and we decided to take that demo and put some upstrokes in there. After that, we practiced it and as a band we made changes to it gradually over time. Kenny (trombone) wrote the lyrics while teaching high school right before the pandemic hit, during their prep periods while going through some pretty rough mental health struggles. The song is mostly about feeling like societal and personal collapse is/was coming and feeling helpless to stop it. It’s sort of eerie to reflect on that now!

What’s your overall songwriting process like?

Previously, Nick (bass) and Gracie (vocals, guitar) would have a song demoed out and then the rest of the band would help practice it and shape it. Everyone sort of played their own role in adding their stuff to the song and that was really cathartic to be a part of. We would add ska where it felt appropriate and Josh (trumpet), Gracie (vocals, guitar) and Kenny (trombone) would work to fit some of Kenny’s lyrics to the songs and shape them into a melody. These days, we’re based out of California and Michigan, so a lot of the writing consists of people sending files back and forth. So far with our new material, our guitarist Kevin will record a song idea and then the Michigan crew (Kiera, Kenny, Steve, Kevin, Nick + sometimes others) will practice it as a group and send files to the Cali crew (Nate and Gracie).

Ska has been having a really nice revival. There has been a lot of great bands getting a ton of interest. What are your thoughts about the scene? How do you think you fit into it?

Life has become even more stressful for everyone between the pandemic, work, shared mental health struggles and climate change, so ska can provide a place for people to find community-orientated music performed by an often diverse set of people that’s unpretentious and fun. We see the embodiment of this in the new tone ska community, with bands like Bad Operation, Skatune Network & JER, Catbite, The Best of the Worst, among many others making really rad music. New tone bands seem focused on what matters: anti-racism, anti-sexism, queer positivity, amongst other things. Ska takes itself seriously when it needs to and provides some reprieve from the relentless negativity of our daily lives, and I think that’s why we see more people drawn to new tone bands and ska from all over the world right now. More people are seeing what people have valued about ska since it started in Jamaica as the precursor to reggae music, which is that it’s highly danceable music that speaks to your heart about important social issues, the struggles of life and the joys of life as well!

As for us, we wanted to bring something fresh, but not totally out of left field like our original idea to be a thrash metal ska band, haha. We wanted to play fun and accessible music that touched on serious topics (mental health, especially) in a way that wasn’t contributing more to the negativity and nihilism surrounding us.

The difference now is that people who have been dedicated to the scene for years now are finally getting a chance to connect with a wider audience and it’s great. This inspires younger folks to start bands and that’s great to see as well. I think we have a vibrant scene that prioritizes equity and inclusiveness and that will continue to grow. It’s certainly not perfect and not without its shortcomings, especially with ska punk being white and suburban in a lot of cases, which we’re obviously a part of. However, the ska scene has always been diverse and prioritizes being inclusive more than other music scenes, in my opinion. We owe a lot to bands like Hepcat, the Skatalites, Sonic Boom Six, Fishbone, Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Selecter, Oreskaband, Kemuri, etc for paving the way for that and maintaining that throughout the decades.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Thanks to everyone for all the support the last two years! We released a cover on this Skario Kart Compilation back in December if you’re interested in checking that out. We can’t wait to share some new music with you this year!

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