If you’re looking for a new favorite indie-pop band, you’ll find it in Violet Crime. The band can best be described as a group of classic music fans whose own genre is pop that gladly leans into jazz and soul influences. Proud Chicago natives, the members of Violet Crime also contribute back to their community through a social impact artist management company called Play Together (an organization co-founded by the band’s bassist Kasey Gandham) that invests a portion of profits into arts in music programs across the city. The five-piece outfit recently released their debut EP Paper Queen (produced by pop-punk heavyweights Sam Guainana of Silverstein with additional production from State Champs’s Derek DiScanio), and will be celebrating its release at the Bottom Lounge on June 29th.
Kevin Nagel and Kasey Gandham of Violet Crime chatted with The Young Folks about their new music and how they got involved with Play Together. Check out the full conversation below:
TYF: Where did your band name come from?
Kevin: This is a funny pretty funny topic among our band members. Thankfully, we have Jeff (our lead singer) to write the lyrics to our songs because as a group we are terrible at naming things. Before going by Violet Crime, we had some different ideas that upon a survey among our peers we found out had different meanings. Lets just say that if we used a different name, Urban Dictionary results would appear before our music in a Google search.
Kasey:Plus Jeff had an ex girlfriend that would make fun of the old name all the time. Since we knew we could count on her to be brutally honest, we changed it.
That aside, Violet Crime’s music is as sarcastic as the name. You’ll hear a lot of oo’s and ah’s, references, and vintage sounds that call back to older eras but the music is very modern and pop.
TYF: Your debut EP, Paper Queen just came out. What made you choose that song to title the EP?
Kasey: The theme of the EP is all about false perceptions and what we think versus what we feel. The paper narrative goes throughout the track, our music video for Heard You Like the Rolling Stones, and even some of the limited edition artwork we produced.
TYF: What was the songwriting process for this project?
Kevin: A lot of the ideas for the songs came out of little guitar ditties I would play in front of the band. Jeff would hear a little snippet of chords and be inspired to sing a melody. We would then have Tom (our lead guitar player) riff over the rough idea and give it some character. Our other band members, Kasey and Selina, would hear a demo of what was created thus far and have their own ideas to add as well. It was amazing seeing how such simple ideas evolved over time and how everyone in the band was inspired to add their own creative twists.
TYF: What was the creative process behind the music video for “Heard You Like The Rolling Stones”?
Kasey: Seeing this unfold was such an awesome experience to watch. Jessica Tenuta is our creative director from Play Together. She hand-designed and constructed the entire set of paper instruments and shirts.
Jess partnered with Alex Zarek who shot, edited and co-directed the video with her. Alex also did all the animation on the video by hand. Jess had never worked on a music video before and I don’t think Alex had collaborated with another illustrator/designer before. Seeing the two of them collaborate to make this surreal paper world was awesome.
And they nailed it on the vibe of just the right amount of sarcasm, surrealism, and pop throwbacks for the track. People have been saying that it reminds them of old MTV which was exactly what we were going for.
TYF: What was it like working with Derek DiScanio from State Champs? How did that relationship come about?
Kasey: Derek has one of the best voices in pop punk, but if you listen to his writing he has a lot of R&B influences and likes a wide range of music. We thought he could bring a good pop influence to our jazzy tracks.
We asked him on the basis of seeing if he’d be up for the challenge of working on a new genre because we respect his musicianship, and he accepted. He did some great writing on the chorus of Heard You Like the Rolling Stones for us, as well as a bit on Paper Queen and Young.
TYF: What artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
Kevin: Currently everyone in the band is obsessed with Vulfpeck and all of their side projects. The instrumental talent in the band is unreal and their live shows are full of personality. We’re so into Vulfpeck at the moment that we’re flying to New York City in September to see them play Madison Square Garden.
TYF: What was the first moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?
Kevin: My school district had a band program starting in fifth grade where you’d choose an instrument to play throughout middle school and high school. I remember not being too interested until they rolled out the TV and played a video of a drum line. That was the coolest thing I’d ever seen at that age and I’ve been playing the drums ever since.
Kasey:I would go to emo shows when I was 13, would hustle tshirts as a merch kid for bands and was always the youngest kid at shows. Eventually I started playing with those same bands, they trusted me and just told me to learn the songs, so one thing led to the next and that got me into playing shows. Playing guitar growing up was more of a means to be apart of a band that could emotionally connect with people than an attachment to the instrument.
TYF: Can you tell us more about Play Together? How did you guys get involved with the Intonation Music program?
Kasey: Play Together is a non-profit art/music label that strategically pairs a musician with a visual artist to make an audio/visual collaboration that is more powerful than each of them apart, with all profits of the release going to youth after-school art and music programs in Chicago. Each collaboration is deliberately paired. Intonation Music teaches kids how to play instruments by forming rock and pop bands. It was a perfect fit for Violet Crime, and over 500 students in Chicago are currently in bands through Intonation Music!
Not only do the profits of this release benefit their incredible program, we also play shows with their students and we’ve actually become good friends with the students too. The students are INSANELY talented and we learn a lot from them.
You can see students from Intonation Music play a set at our album release show at the Bottom Lounge Saturday 6/29! We may even have a few surprise collaborations in store for you too!
Check out Violet Crime’s debut EP, Paper Queen, below: