On the night of May 6th, a sold out Baby’s All Right witnessed both the triumphant return of and what may also very well have been our sweaty and raucous goodbye to New York favorites, SKATERS. SKATERS soundtracked my college years in the city and produced many of my favorite shows—and least favorite hangovers—of my early 20’s. The band is now sadly taking a bow after self-releasing their second album, Rock and Roll Bye Bye. The misleadingly named SKATERS (who can’t skate) have been at it since 2011 releasing two albums of New York-bred and inspired post-punk for audiences that always seem to come to their shows ready to get messy and dance. The band played their first hometown show in over a year to an eager and packed-in crowd to promote their new album whose title we all hoped wasn’t alluding to any actual finality for the band. After parting with the label that released their first record, SKATERS took some time off to recoup and self-released their sophomore album in March. I caught up with guitarist Joshua Hubbard after recovering from the show to see how the band is feeling post-release, what it’s like being an artist in New York these days, and just how serious this dreaded “Bye Bye” may be.
——————— THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE ON MONDAY, MAY 8TH
FW: How are you guys feeling post gig?
JH: Uh, well, kind of just a little bit, you know, tired. We had a busy week leading up to the show and we rehearsed a lot because we hadn’t seen each other in a while and hadn’t played a show in a year. A lot of stuff’s been going on, but yeah it’s good. Just kind of feel like I am recovering from surgery [laughs].
FW: Well, despite it being a year since you played, a lot of people still turned out. It was a great crowd Saturday.
JH: Yeah they did—it was good. We were trying to get some tickets for some friends and we kind of left it to the last minute because we didn’t think it would sell out. We’d been so quiet and it turned out it had sold out like weeks ago and none of our friends could get in so that was kind of good I guess.
FW: Yeah that’s a good problem to have.
JH: Yeah, good problem.
FW: So being that it has been a year since you played, and New York audiences haven’t really heard your new material live, were there any new songs you played Saturday that felt the best to finally get a reaction from?
JH: We toured the UK in May last year and played a few of the tracks we’d already released. Because we’ve done this on our own and taken our time and our own money, we got the tracks in phases. I remember “In Your Head,” “Mental Case,” “Rock and Roll Bye Bye,” and “Head on to Nowhere” were mixed first really soon after we recorded the record—and so that was like two years ago now—and we got them kind of drip fed to us. So we released “Mental Case” first and “Save Her Something Special,” which is another one we did during the album sessions, then we did the Rock and Roll Bye Bye EP. So we played them as we were getting them. We played them on the UK tour and it was so much fun. This new record is a lot more us now than Manhattan was when we released that, you know?
FW: Yeah I was going to ask you about that. Lyrically this one feels a lot more personal and intimate. Was that intentional or just the product of spending so much time making it and experiencing a lot more as a band?
JH: Well they’re both super personal. The stories from the songs in Manhattan were all about us and what was happening to us in New York and the inception of SKATERS and just before I guess, but the packaging was a little bit designed, not preconceived in like a cheesy way but it was definitely like an art project where we were aiming to do something and a little less natural, I guess, do you know what I mean? So it felt a lot more comfortable playing these songs now at our ages and at this time in our lives.
FW: Seeing as you named your first album Manhattan and hearing the clear influence this city has had on your music, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on being an artist in New York today. I’m not sure if you heard this interview Patti Smith did a few years ago, but she made comments about New York having closed itself off to artists and New York no longer being a receptive city to young people trying to make art. How do you respond to comments like that as someone who is currently working as an artist in this city?
JH: You know, old people are generally wrong (Laughs). If you wanna make it work—that’s funny coming from her she’s probably a millionaire as well—you can make anywhere work. New York’s a huge inspiration for me, not just in art and life but you can be inspired by so many different aspects of this city and I use it constantly in many different walks in my life. She’s a little bit…well, yeah, I think that’s wrong.
FW: I imagine holding your debut album as a band in your hands must’ve been an incredible feeling, but how did this album compare after doing everything yourselves? Was it more exciting, satisfying, or just a bit relieving at the end of all that work?
JH: Uh yeah I reckon all of them things. Very satisfying. This one nearly wasn’t released and one of the only reasons it was released is because we decided to take a break post-Noah’s baby and Michael went to Portugal to write some songs and I needed surgery on my ear and we didn’t have any money to be honest to finish the record and to finish mixing it. It just wasn’t coming together and I kind of still believed in the record, but we was all a little bit tired of it in terms of all the back and forth; the mixing process and finding a mixer, trying to get money together to finish paying the studio time, and mixing. When I went back to the UK we spoke to some more contacts and we finally finished the record before I left—like literally I think we got the final mixes in like two days before I left for the UK and I basically said to Noah and Michael that I was going to go back, sort out the record label, and we are going to release the record. [I said] I’ll deal with the videos and I’ll deal with everything basically and they were like “good” because they both at that time had kind of had enough of trying to deal with it mentally. I went back and I had the surgery and reached out to some people and set up the label, got a distribution deal, then crowd sourced like 20 young kids to make videos, made a few videos myself, and I got everything ready and then organized the release date and waited ‘til my ear got better and then came back and we played the show. So yeah, it was a process [laughs] it was a long one.
FW: Wow. A long road, but well worth it I’d say after hearing this new record all finished.
JH: Then I had some time alone and then the other night the show was super nice. It was great to be back on stage with Dan too because Dan went off and did his own thing for a bit as well. We said this was the last show, but we might play a few shows in the UK if we can do like a farewell tour in the UK, but I really think and hope that me and Michael will continue to work together in some capacity.
FW: I hate the sound of farewell tour! I hope you do too, that would be fantastic. So you guys aren’t planning on any more touring in the US for the new album at all?
JH: There’s a show to be had, but I don’t think it’ll be in the US. I think it’ll be in the UK. We did pretty well over there and it would be nice to say goodbye to the fans out there and play the Rock and Roll Bye Bye album, give it a few more run outs considering we’ve never really played it live. But it’s just got to make sense unfortunately financially which isn’t really romantic, but independent artists have got to look after themselves and if that means not doing art and doing something else for a little bit then that’s just what it is. We’ll see what comes. I reckon there will be a few shows, that’s what I reckon. But we haven’t spoken about it yet. I don’t think anything can happen if I don’t make it happen so I’ll let you know if it does.
FW: Please do, yeah. fingers crossed on that and I know many people would love to see that. You said you made some of the videos and had people help you out with that in the UK. They’re all very different but very visually interesting and a lot of fun (I love the “Northern Soul” video myself), but how did all of those ideas kind of come together?
JH: The “Northern Soul” and “In Your Head” videos are the ones I directed and then all the other ones are just Facebook contacts—the band’s friends and fans. I just reached out on Facebook and was like, “ I need videos, get in touch” and obviously like a lot of young hungry video makers got in touch which was amazing and I think like 50 kids got in touch and we narrowed it down to like 20 and then I think like maybe 8 of them ended up making official videos so that was really good.
FW: This is a Williamsburg-based magazine so I was wondering, are there any up and coming Brooklyn or New York based bands that you’re recently getting into or excited about?
JH: I don’t think they’re a new band, but I recently installed some art and there was a kid from that band So So Glos, Ryan from So So Glos, and we were both working together installing some art and he had his boombox on and he was playing a Staten Island band called Bueno. I’m pretty sure they’re called Bueno, but they’ve got a show coming up soon, I don’t know when it is, but I’m gonna go to it. Ryan said he’d let me know and he’d take me. So yeah, I am pretty positive it’s Bueno. That’s a cool name. They sound a lot like Pavement. What else? I think I am going to try to do a fundraiser show, like a fundraiser show with Oasis tunes and get our friends in New York bands to play so maybe you’ll see that. I kind of want to book a bigger venue and get like Dirty Fences, Drowners, Bass Drum Of Death, like a big crew of local bands together and just destroy Oasis songs.
FW: That’s sounds incredible and I am so there if that happens.
JH: We will see if that comes off though, it’s kind of one of my pipe dreams. I feel like I already said it, but I feel like there will be something coming from this camp in terms of what SKATERS was as an idea and ethos. I can see something new coming from it within a year.
FW: Oh, that’s great I am glad to hear that. I was getting nervous with all this goodbye talk. But I agree with what you said earlier about taking time off because you can tell on both sides when it is feeling kind of forced and bands are running themselves ragged. You can’t produce the best work that way and I think the time you guys took off to make this new record really shows in some really positive ways.
JH: Yes, exactly—because then you’re just trying to get stuff out to stay on top of the curve. But really the way people take music in nowadays, it’s not like how it used to be. The way an album cycles, people don’t really listen to albums so much anymore, fans don’t get as involved in bands anymore. I don’t know, it’s strange because I’ve been doing it for 15 years and it has changed dramatically.
FW: You started with The Paddingtons, right? That was your first band?
JH: Yeah, I was 16 when we started The Paddingtons and I think at 17 we released our first single and got signed to Universal by the time I was 18 so it was actually quite a quick transition.
FW: And I am sure, especially within that scene and the music culture at that point in the UK back then must’ve felt pretty different from the way people consume music today.
JH: Yeah, definitely. It was weird actually the first single that The Paddington’s released was #4 in the midweek charts and it was the 1st week that the iTunes digital chart was related to the actual UK chart positions. So the weird dance and pop music that was bought over the weekend that wouldn’t have really affected the UK charts, that knocked us out of the top 10 and that meant that we didn’t get on TV and all the shows and [just one week’s difference] and it would have been a completely different story for that band so it is weird how technology and that affects bands nowadays.
FW: Wow that is insane you really came in on the precipice of all that and it has only gotten stranger since. I’ll end with a final question that’s difficult for me to answer, but let’s see if you can narrow it down. After such an unbelievably high energy and incredible live show you guys put on last weekend (in my personal opinion as someone in attendance), what’s the best live show you’ve seen?
JH: Uhhh I saw the Book of Mormon last weekend…it’s definitely in my mind still. It’s a musical that counts, right?
FW: Sure, why not. I’ll take that.