An Interview With THE PENNY SERFS About New Music, Favorite Artists and More!
Posted On 13 Dec 2018
Meet The Penny Serfs! Founded sometime in late 2012, The Penny Serfs are back with the emotionally charged LP Politics in the Time of Heroin, the follow up to Like Eating Glass. Politics in the Time of Heroin was released on January 26th, 2018, and can be found on Spotify and Apple Music.
After five years of cultivating the lean energy necessary for the stage, members Mikey Loy, Stu Tenold, Kyle Lewis, and Aiden Landman faced the ultimate fight: singer Mikey received life threatening injuries that jeopardized the bands very existence. After a long recovery, Mikey and the band is back stronger than ever.
Facing mortality, the band has chosen to push through the struggle and create what makes them complete: music. Music that sings of pain with loud guitars. Music that brings catharsis. The future is bright for The Penny Serfs as they stare into the darkness.
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Learn more about The Penny Serfs in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
KYLE- Hey not a problem! Well right now 3/4 of us are together in NYC for some work related projects. We are packed in a Chrysler mini van rental full of another band’s gear heading out of town for a show. Mikey is pretty intense behind the wheel so I’m white knuckling my cell phone currently
Since we are at the end of 2018, how has this year treated this band? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year? How close are you to reaching it?
KYLE- Honestly its been a really good year for us all things considered. It was a rough start though with Mikey’s fall. Thankfully he has made a full recovery and we were able to continue this band and meet a lot of the goals we had set for ourselves. Mikey’s accident took place just a couple weeks after we had released Politics which put a hold on a lot of our plans rightfully so. We had been sitting on this record for almost a year at this point and 2018 was planned for “go time” to push it. Obviously once he fell all of our focus and attention was on Mikey’s recovery. Once he was all healed up we got right back to playing shows and are now back to focusing on Politics.
A major goal we’ve set to wrap up 18’ is to have another EP’s worth of songs written and ready to push for 19’. I’m happy to say we have already reached our goal and ready for next year
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on?
STU: There was a definite moment for me. Mikey and Kyle had already been playing together for a bit and had invited me to come out and play a couple shows with them. We rehearsed for a couple of days and it became clear we had something. We played our first show together, they asked me to be in the band, and the rest is history. The name was all Mikey, but it speaks to all of our experience so there was no debate.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
Mikey: growing up Midwest for aiden kyle and I has given us an interesting take on life and music in general. I grew up in rural Illinois in the 90s and it was a different time. I thought of myself as punk rock. It wasn’t until I moved west with starry eyes I realized I didn’t know anything. It really made us strive and try to be the best we can be.
How has your various musical backgrounds helped shape the sound of this band?
KYLE- I think one cool thing is that we all come from the same generation and have relatively the same musical taste from our youth. 90’s rock and grunge and hip hop. I may be a millennial (the only one in this band depending on who you ask) but I grew up listening to Nirvana, Green Day, Dr Dre. Our common taste in music has a major impact on our sound today in my opinion. So you take that and mix in the fact that we have all been working for indie rock bands for the last 8 years, we have a wide range of influences. Basically if you could take The Beatles and Nirvana and smash them together, that’s where we would like to land musically and strive for.
How do you think that you have grown as a band since forming in 2012? What has remained the same?
STU: Musically, I feel like we’ve really found our footing. We all have a lot of different influences, but now, more than ever, we are combining those cohesively into something more than just the sum of it’s parts. As people, we’re all still mentally 15 year olds, but maybe with a little more perspective.
What was it like creating your new album, “Politics in The Time Of Heroin”? How will you celebrate the release?
STU: Politics has been a long project for us. The songwriting was a combination of organic evolution from jamming and playing together and the realization of songs that were living in our heads. Most of the recording was done over 10 cold days in Atlanta in the winter at Rick Beatos studio. We have a very collaborative process that I think accentuates all of our influences. We’ll celebrate this release just like anything else… We’ll get hammered.
What do you think was the biggest lesson you learned from the life-threatening injuries you (Mikey) faced? What’s different about your live stage shows now?
Mikey: obviously the biggest one would be to not take life for granted. I personally have really taken advantage of my body and life choices and now that I’m lucky enough to still be breathing and healed. All of my healing has been a blessing in disguise pushing me to try new things. My right wrist and hand is now permanently a little “off” and sometimes it’s hard to play guitar. Sometimes I just throw the guitar down and start dancing and I grew to really enjoy that. It’s becoming a thing I like to do even when my hand is pain free and mobile
While it’s difficult, can you pick a few of your favorite tracks on the new album and talk about how they came to be on this collection? What inspired them?
Don’t hug me I’m scared-
I wrote this while on tour working in a hotel in Brooklyn. Growing up in a rural setting I’ve been called a ton of slurs and have felt self conscious for years, and this was me firing back. I want to dance. I want to party. And I don’t care what other people have to say about me if they’re judging. Fuck em.
Religious Republicans- This song is me dealing with depression, my adolescent experience growing up and trying to understand who I am as an adult. My mother absolutely loves country music and I wanted to show her that I could jam a few Americana chords 🙂
Generally, how do you all go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately?
KYLE- It’s a pretty good mixture of both. A lot of it depends on our availability to actually get together and have writing sessions. As of lately we have made it more of a point to have writing sessions in the same room. In the past we’ve had to get creative with our writing and recording sessions. Luckily technology helps with this. Basically when Mikey is feeling inspired he will stay up late in his kitchen with a guitar and use his iPhone to roughly record some guitar licks, melodies, and get basic song structures together. From there he well send them to the rest of us so that we can get a feel and try to map out what we want to do with our instruments once we are able to get together and have a proper writing/recording session. Sometimes songs are formed right in the studio somewhat on the fly. When each member of this band lives in completely different states, we try to make the most of the time we actual do spend together.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
KYLE- I feel we all reach different kind of excitement in each place but there’s no better feeling than playing a good show in front of a good crowd. Honestly even if no one is at the show but we fucking nailed our set, all 4 of us are high with excitement and positivity. Playing a great show gives a rush of accomplishment and reminds us why we are in a band. Pre show we are all usually pacing backstage trying not to puke. That being said, ending a show and feeling like it was a complete bomb really sucks. Personally for me at that point I start to question my parts and playing ability. I start picking apart the songs thinking of ways we can play it differently. It’s an endless rabbit hole that is so unnecessary and hard to get out of. Either way, we feel most like a band when we are playing a show. I love every part of it.
Can you talk about your wildly theatrical live performances? What inspires these shows and the way that you entertain crowds?
Mikey-We like to party. We like to be emotional. Depending on the day we may sit there and pout and get really inside ourselves and jam. Other days it’s a break guitar punk rock night. I think one of the most enjoyable parts of our show is that you don’t know what’s going to happen. Will I melt down? Will I be sad? Hopefully I’ll be happy dancing like I’m in the Pointer Sisters.
Do you find that all of social media and keeping up with your fans has gotten so overwhelming? Or do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?
KYLE- Our band may just be the worst band at social media haha I wouldn’t say that social media is overwhelming. It’s more the fact that it’s a MUST if your in a band. I completely understand that it’s a very useful tool and a great way to connect with fans and for that I can appreciate it. It’s more the constant need for content. Half of the year we are at our own homes in different states so trying to come up with band content can get a little difficult if we’re on long stints away from each other.
Instagram would be my personal favorite. I’m not a photographer by any means but I like to think I at least have somewhat of an eye for photos. The editing process is something I enjoy as well. It seems to be the best way for us to connect with fans right now. We really try to be on top of our replies back to comments and questions.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
STU: Music has always been an escape, and a coping method. Listening to it and playing it allows you to be in another place and feel differently. Writing and playing music is a huge release… It kind of lets you just spew out of all of the frustration and disappointment that the world is currently piling on and put it into something productive. Catharsis and self introspection.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
I would love to work with Migos, Pharrel, Sufjan Stevens and Thomas Bartlett. Each record we make I want to challenge our sound and expectations. I believe that any of these wonderful people could push us to something magical.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
STU: Honestly, we say a lot of things. We hide some of it in metaphor and satire, and some of it we state explicitly. But none of what we say matters. We hope that our listeners will inform themselves about what is going on, not only in our own country, but around the world. We hope that our listeners will educate themselves. We hope that our listeners will not sit quietly, but will speak up when they see inequality and injustice. And we hope our listeners will listen. Right now it seems like everyone has their own platform on social media, but no was is listening to each other, just shouting into the void of the internet.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about this group?
Reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook and let us know what city you are in and we will come play there. We are now releasing a numbered 12” of this record and will be touring extensively in 2019 to share our songs. And always remember to dance!!