I sat down with Joey Secchiaroli, singer and guitarist for The Reign of Kindo, last week as they were in town with Stolas and Jason Richardson/Luke Holland.
Joey had some fascinating insight into what its like to be an independent artist in 2017, how streaming has turned the music business upside down for smaller acts, and why they are going to release a record a year.
Jake: Please introduce yourself and your role in the band.
Joey: My name is Joey Secchiaroli. I’m the singer and guitarist. I also mix all the records as well.
Jake: How has the tour been so far – anything stand out?
Joey: You know, it’s been amazing meeting the Kindo fans and it’s just been a great showing of support from people who have listened to us anywhere from three years to since the beginning and it’s really neat meeting everyone. That’s been a really cool experience. It is every time, but you know we’re coming off a season of not having toured as much. And so who knows, maybe ask me like after we’re doing tour number five, you know? But right now it feels great! And we’re really enjoying meeting new people and playing in front of some new faces as well. So I’m very happy so far.
Jake: Awesome. Now how did the how did the name of the band come about? I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that.
Joey: So the actual origin of the band probably isn’t that interesting, but I’ll try and make the story of it a little more interesting. So we were we were sitting at a Chinese restaurant called Cheng’s Garden in Buffalo and our previous band had just broken up, called This Day and Age. The first thing we were going to release was a Christmas song, I think we were doing a cover of Oh Holy Night and we needed to release it under a name. We didn’t know what name we were going to release it under but we had it done. It was time to put it out, so the last step was picking the band name. So we’re sitting there eating Chinese food and our guitarist, Mike, who is notorious for coming up and stringing together all kinds of creative words and phrases. And so it defaults to him – what’s what’s our band name or whatever? And he just said “Kindo”. And so I can’t remember if it was me who added the obnoxious addition of “The Reign of” – our friends didn’t like it. They really didn’t like it at all. And I think that made us dig our heels in that much more. And so then, thenceforth we were christened The Reign of Kindo. And that’s that story.
Jake: Nice. That was one thing that I don’t know if I’ve ever heard where that came from. Thanks for telling that story for us. So you guys have a unique approach to the business side of music…could you talk a little bit about that? I’m talking in regards to the beard oil I saw for sale (at the merch table), how you’re doing Patreon to release your music. Can you talk about some of those things?
Joey: Sure! I think that since the landscape of the music industry is in constant upheaval, you know, we tried initially doing things just the way you do them – you know, the conventional way. We got frustrated pretty quickly with that. And part of it is, you know, I think we’ve really enjoyed being creative and business seemed to be a bit of a drag. You know it seemed a bit of a doldrum to just do it as usual. So, more lately than not, we’re kind of late bloomers here. We decided that why not invest the same kind of creative energy into our business ideas as we do our music? And so you know maybe the start that was Patreon. You know this is the Wild West for a lot of industries, but especially the music industry, and for a band trying to make a sustainable living. You know, you kind of just have to consider all options. So my buddy Lewis, the drummer from the band Jolly actually, was the one who told me about Patreon. He was like “you guys should totally do that, it would be great for you guys!” So I owe him a lot of credit. So it started with Patreon. And then since we saw this really cool unique relationship with our deepest of fans, that really excited us and encouraged us to continue being creative. So with our merch, we’re like hey, it should be an experience when you come to the show, you know, it shouldn’t just be like your standard merch presentation. Let’s make some really cool things from the heart. You know, really pour our creative energy into that. I wrote a ‘zine, it was kind of on a whim, you know, Jeff’s like “you should just write a ‘zine!” and I’m like yeah, I’ve always wanted to write something! And as goofy and stupid as it is, it’s like, it feels good to like, make stuff. And then to sell that stuff and kind of add to the culture of what the band is. You know, it’s an extension of what we do. And I hope we can enjoy continuing to be creative with our business and hopefully those creative business decisions will be successful and not, you know, blow up in our face.
Jake: That’s awesome. I love the creativity with that. You guys have been around for a while…how is the music business different today than say, ten years ago?
Joey: Well, one of the most glaring upheavals has been the introduction of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Music. And it’s a very bittersweet thing because the royalties that are paid out through that pale in comparison to what you would make if you were to record, produce and sell your own records. Now, I think a lot of people get away with it because most artists that are on there (streaming services) are on labels, and the labels just kind of sort it all for them and are providing tour support. And so the artists don’t ask a lot of questions, they’re just like “well, I wasn’t going to see that money anyways, its going to increase our chances for exposure” but we were actually selling records and people were buying them and it was generating some revenue. And as soon as those platforms came out, like, it cannibalized all of our record sales. So literally one of our main revenue streams just disappeared. And so now we’re faced with like, okay, well if we’re going to keep doing this, we have to find another way to fund it. And so things like crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter…those things are new. They’re part of the new landscape – the new marketplace is kind of wide open. So before you kind of had to color inside the lines, to a degree, now I think whoever can be more creative and, you know, find a way to secure enough resources to market themselves properly, they’ll be able to get the attention of, sort of, the neutral fan.
Jake: That is so interesting. So right now you are completely on your own, right?
Joey: Yes, at the moment we’re entirely independent.
Jake: And so what are the challenges of being an independent band in 2017?
Joey: You have to just learn how to be good at so many different things. And it’s sad to say but I spend more time doing the things that have nothing to do with making music. More time doing administrative things…errands, logistical problems, you know…planning tours, booking hotels, ordering merch, all that stuff. We spend much more time pouring into that end of it, the business end of it, than we get to spend into the creative part, which breaks our hearts. One of our main goals, or at least one of my personal goals, is to be able amass more resources so we can hire a team that can do more of the business stuff, so that we can then more fully devote ourselves to our main craft, which is music making. You know, that’s why we got into this! We have this conversation all the time in this van. I mean, its hard to accept sometimes. But if we want to continue doing this, it’s a necessary component to being in the music marketplace.
Jake: Makes sense. So we talked about the challenges…what are some of the benefits of being an independent band in 2017?
Joey: Getting to do whatever you want! You know, what I was describing before – being able to be really creative with your business. I know a lot of our ideas we’ve done, I’m sure if we were on a label and said “hey, we want to do beard oil!” They’d be like “what are you doing?” Like “we want to do Patreon!” like, I don’t think we could do Patreon if we were on a label, it would really be a conflict of interest, unless the label was buying the finished product from us and we had a distro deal or something. That’s not the traditional relationship, right? So the great thing is being able to be as creative as you want to, you don’t have to answer to anyone except your fans. And you have this very pure relationship with your fans. It’s not going through the filter of like, you know, “this marketing team” or whatever. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with marketing, but if you’re going to market your product you should market it in a way that is genuine to who you are. Your marketing should also be an extension of your person. You know? We struggle with this all the time. Trying to find our marketing voice. We hate it! Because on one end it feels so non-artistic, but on the other hand, you can actually be quite artistic with marketing. So we’re trying to discover that kind of creativity as well. All benefits of being independent.
Jake: Awesome. What would you say is the best part about being in a band?
Joey: The Brotherhood. You just like live with these guys or girls and become thick as thieves. You develop bizarrely long-lasting relationships with people. I’ve known Jeff (Jeff Jarvis) since high school. I’m now 36. So like there’s not a lot of people who keep in touch with the same people or have such a close relationship with the same people most of their lives, which I have. Anyone I’ve played in a band with I have an eternal bond with, til you die. You know, it’s nothing written – it just happens. It’s a bizarre environmen to live in, you know, doing this for a living. And I would by no means dare compare it to like being in a platoon or something like that where you’re doing much more serious and life threatening. But they even show people who are soldiers who, you know, their platoon, you develop chemically they’ve shown, you develop way more intense, deep bonds with those people in the face of that of that level of adversity in sort of survival. And it’s really difficult. I was listening to Joe Rogan and he’s talking to an embedded journalist. He was talking about how like, yeah, a lot of soldiers get depressed because they lack the opportunity to have such strong bonds once they’re back home in a safe, domestic environment. It’s almost like once you experience that deep intensity everything else just seems bland and dead. Now touring in a band, I don’t even want to compare the two, but the only things that are similar is you’re spending a lot of time with the same people and you’re facing the same problems together and you’re struggling in your own way together. That again pales in comparison to any military. But you come home and you’re just like “wow, what do I do now?” It’s a really unique experience that I’m really grateful to have.
Jake: Very cool. How would you say your music has changed from your very first EP to now, in your mind?
Joey: I think it’s just grown with us. I think we’ve always made it an important point to be genuine whenever we create. And so whenever we’re making a song, it’s like, we live in that moment. That’s the song we really want to make. And so, if anything, our catalog just documents our journey musically. Of what we’ve been exploring. So you know, we’ve gotten older, we’ve lived life a little bit. We’ve been exposed to more music. We’ve traveled, we’ve played all different kinds of music, we’ve studied more kinds of music. We’re always growing our vocabulary and as we amass more skills and more musical vocabulary we like to implement them and use them in music. You know, just another color on your palette, I guess.
Jake: Talk about what your songwriting process is like.
Joey: This one is tricky because it changes from song to song, and depending on who’s bringing ideas. So sometimes I’m going to bring a really rough idea and the band will jam on it and we’ll kind of have the sort of a directed songwriting session where we’ll work on a section and alright, what if it goes here, or some other idea. It flows organically, sometimes. Sometimes someone has almost the completed idea and we just kind of like learn and then arrange it to our liking collectively. Yeah it really varies. We don’t have this set songwriting formula. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, to be honest with you, because sometimes I think if we settled into something that was a good method, we could become more efficient and prolific. Right now I’m kind of set on writing, from now on, until I get sick of it, all my vocal melodies on a keyboard. You know, where before I’m just singing over the tune. And I think that will lead to more coherent melodies. If I can make the keyboard melody over it sing nicely, then I know once I put lyrics to it and can emote, then it will be that much more impactful. But it’s just an experiment I’m trying. I’m going to keep trying it til I don’t think it’s good anymore.
Jake: Very interesting. What was the inspiration behind doing 8-bit versions of your songs?
Joey: So we’ve always been big Nintendo fans. I grew up with Nintendo, Steve grew up with Nintendo. We play Mario Kart – its been part of our upbringing. So there’s this nostalgia factor for 8-bit music and Steve and Mike, our founding guitarist, are actually the ones who took the initiative to start doing that. It was their idea and we’re like hey, run with it. And people responded really well. We’re just going to keep doing it now.
Jake: If you could pick three other bands or artists from any time ever to tour with, the ultimate tour for you, who would it be and why?
Joey: It’s so tough. That’s a tough question because some of those bands, I don’t know that I’d want to share the stage with, because I just intrinsically don’t feel as worthy. Gosh, all time? Well…yeah it’s tough because when I think of that question my mind kind of shifts to business. Like who would be good for the band to tour with? And that’s a bit different than what I personally would love to be on the road with. So yeah, I’m having trouble breaking out of the business end of it and going into the personal. Personally, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson. You know, it wouldn’t make sense at all for them to ever have us on their bills but I would love to just be on the road with these people. To see them, study at their feet. Stevie Wonder. I mean there’s so many bands and artists that…the list goes on, man. Anyone who’s ever inspired me, I would love to just sit at their feet, you know? But yeah man, the list is literally too broad and long to really do it justice. But from a business standpoint? The Dear Hunter. I’ve gotten nothing but constant feedback from fans that think it would be great. Mutemath, I just think they’re really amazing. I mean it would be fun to tour with Snarky Puppy, we’re friends with some of those guys. It would just be really fun. Theyre a great band. Yeah man, I don’t know. You could ask me this every week and it will change.
Jake: I like it. Favorite place you’ve ever played a show?
Joey: I played a winery, a vineyard, with this other artist I play for, Gin Wigmore, down in New Zealand. It was just beautiful. The stage was set up at the bottom of this amphitheater, but you’re surrounded by rolling hills, vines, grapes. It was a great experience.
Jake: Awesome. When can we expect new music from the band?.
Joey: So right now we’re releasing a song a month. We’re writing, recording, and releasing a song every month. And that was initially to just get a record done but as it turns out, I think we’re just going to do this until we can’t do it anymore. So, public, we’re expecting an early 2018 release for this next record. But by then our patrons will already have the full record and half of the next record pretty much. So we’re trying to incentivize our more hardcore fans who want the music first and want some exclusive songs as well, as not all the songs will make the record. To join Patreon and just be in the trenches with us. You get to, you know, depending on how involved you want to be, like we do live streams of writing sessions and recording sessions. You really can be a fly on the wall and see us getting into the nitty gritty of our process, which has been really cool. But other than that, if you’re very patient, early 2018, and we’re trying to set a course now because of Patreon where we have to do a record a year. So that’s the hope, thats the plan.
Jake: That’s awesome. That’s an aggressive timetable too.
Joey: It’s very aggressive but I’m not getting any younger, man. I’m really not. The wife wife and I are talking about having kids soon and it’s like, this band needs to be able to put some food on the table. And you know, we’re just not there! So we’re going to work really hard. And then with the help of our patrons and all of our fans who support us, coming to the shows, you know, I believe we have a chance.
Jake: That’s great. In conclusion, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Joey: Just thanks for being here, thanks for the conversation and listening to me talk.
Jake: Happy to do it. Very nice to meet you. Thank you so much for the time!
Joey: Of course man!