Updated: Aug 3
(EDITOR’S NOTE — We’ve been wanting to catch up with Skamagotchi since seeing them play back in May. That particular night, the five-piece ska band was forced somewhat last minute into taking the stage as an acoustic trio, sans bass and drums. Still, they killed it. The band just dropped an excellent new EP (available on all the streams including HERE), and the release gave us the perfect opportunity to reach out to them. Guitarist/Vocalist Philip Stephen was nice enough to talk to us about the EP and everything else happening with the band, and we’re grateful for his time. Skamagotchi is: Phil Sivecz (aka Philip Stephen) - guitar and vocals; David Hamilton – bass; Nick Borgosz – drums; Matt Zubrzycki – trumpet,
and Laura Anderson – saxophone. — Photo by Meredith Snow)
1120 PRESS: Thank you for speaking with us. Congratulations on the new EP! How do you guys feel now that it’s been put out into the universe?
Philip Stephen: It feels really good. The reception has been more positive than I was ready for. We’re hearing from a lot of our friends that they are listening to it repeatedly. I think we’re all in a good head space and ready to go record some more.
1120: Preceding the release of the EP was the drop of the single F.R.I.E.N.D.S., which was accompanied by a cool animated lyric video. Can you talk about what you’re exploring in that song and the video’s production/concept?
PS: F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was the first song I wrote for this band that was intended to be a ska song. I’m a sober guy and I was going through a bout of loneliness at the time. It’s about realizing you’re the toxic person in a relationship and having clarity about why but not being willing to change. I guess I was looking back on friendships that fell apart and admitting “yeah, that was my bad.” We had the idea of doing a lyric video and our friend Jessa Hawke offered to create something for us. She was looking to broaden her portfolio and start working with bands. We gave Jessa free rein to do whatever she thought was cool, none of us saw the video until it was done and we are really happy with how it came out.
1120: The song ‘No Money/No Shows’ on the EP stands out to us. Besides being a great song, it seems like one that all bands on the scene will be able to relate to. Can you tell us what inspired that song and the collaboration with Grosh’s Megan Brown, who delivers a killer vocal on the track?
PS: Equitable pay for working musicians is a very sore subject among the Buffalo music community. Being a professional musician is fun, but it’s also very hard work. Most of us are not making enough to live comfortably by solely doing this. The rate for live music hasn’t gone up in decades, and our friends are all running themselves into the ground with different gigs, side jobs, and hustles. It feels like this conversation only occurs in circles of musicians; so you’ve got people who aren’t getting paid enough arguing with each other about what to do or who to blame. We want to encourage audiences to see live music as added value to their night out. People are starting to recognize that Buffalo is a Music City with remarkable talent. There’s live music happening every day of the week at multiple places. It’s super normal to hop around different bars and see numerous acts perform in a single night. Luckily there are a ton of local music supporters in Buffalo who are already aware of this, and go out of their way to support us, so we are hopeful that things could turn around someday soon. As for Megan, we are big fans of features and we wanted to do it locally. We'd like to keep doing that because it builds bridges between genres and in the community. We had a few people in mind but when Megan said yes we knew she’d crush it. She’s been a working musician for a long time and she’s certainly seen the sketchy stuff along the way. Adding a singer as adored and accomplished as her...hearing her sing about how playing for free drinks is a bullshit gig…it just elevated the tune and made the message that much more powerful.
1120: You guys are just coming off the first-ever Buffalo Ska Fest which sold out during presale. What was that gig like for you guys and what are your thoughts on the way that event was embraced by people? Seems Ska is alive and well in Buffalo.
PS: Ska Fest was an absolute blast for us, and everyone there really. It was super cool to see how many people are down with ska music in Western New York. Every band had a different vibe too, there was something for everyone. We made new friends with the other bands and with the crowd, we’ve now got some viable out of town opportunities. All the credit goes to Riot Squad Media for that. They’ve grown a really warm and supportive community around them, and it’s great to have a promoter who cares as much as they do. Their region is pretty vast compared to the promoters we are used to working with, and when they like your band they’ll really go all out and get shit done for you. We wanna say thanks again to that team, we love working with them and hope it lasts a long time. I hope there’s 1,000 more Buffalo Ska Fests.
1120: So, what’s next for Skamagotchi?
PS: We’ve got a few gigs lined up for the rest of the summer, one a month for the next couple months. We are also getting back in the studio to record more songs. We plan to release those as singles starting around the holidays. Catch us on August 15 at Mohawk Place with Keep Flying, and make sure to come to Music is Art on September 9 and see all the rad stuff going on, we’ll be playing the Skate Stage at 8:30pm.
1120: Anything else you’d like to add?
PS: I asked Jessa what her approach was for the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. video…
JESSA HAWKE: I focused on the themes of the song, about how friends come and go from our lives and memories and felt this was best captured by images of Polaroids. I tried to get some of the emotive quality of the music in the animation of the text. Of course the imagery is focused around the band themselves, to capture the friendship that they have, in the hope that perhaps in the future they will look back on this video with the same feelings portrayed by Phil’s thoughtful lyricism.