Hello! Welcome to “Under 1000”, a new column highlighting artists with under 1000 likes on their official Facebook pages. Each piece will profile and interview an artist we feel is worthy of your “like”, with the hope of spreading their sound and getting them that all important fourth digit. Thanks for checking it out!
Artist: God Tiny
Facebook likes (at the time this was written): 868
Rock is dead.
We’ve all grown quite accustomed to hearing this phrase, a sprawling exaggeration intruding on music-based conversations for the last several decades. People will claim that the young bands of today lack the edge, the innovation, and the honesty of rock artists past; rock and roll’s golden days are far gone, and no amount of talent or ignition of spirit can bring them back into our grasp – unless, of course, you have two ears and know what Bandcamp is.
Rock continues to evolve, maturing and redefining itself every time someone picks up a guitar – or in some cases, even when they don’t. Classic ideals and modern innovations keep the life-breath of rock music pumping steadily, with no end in sight, no cap to this iconic bottle.
For every collective of rockers fawned over for keeping the genre intact, dozens of other scrappy, energetic folks are doing their own due diligence in protecting this sacred ground. One band wearing this badge is God Tiny, a Brooklyn-based 5-piece fronted by rockstar incarnate Jeremy Kolker. The band expertly tosses elements of pop and soul into their sonic repertoire, but make no mistake – they are a rock band, true and true.
Take “Sadhu”, the first track off their upcoming LP, due out this spring. The track bursts into the room with a jangly riff not far from the classic rock playbook, but quickly transform it into something new, showing off the band’s full confidence in where they are and their right to be there. Kolker’s friendly tenor croons a melody that wouldn’t be out of place if stripped of the instrumental and placed over a classic soul jam, while the final refrain resounds the track in what is essentially a big, gospel singalong.
For this week’s Under 1000, I spoke to Kolker and guitarist Pete Spengeman about their influences, the recording process, and the weirdest show they’ve ever played. Find our conversation below.
MEB: First and foremost – why do you make music?
Jeremy Kolker: Music is my therapy, my medication, my coping mechanism for navigating through the painfully chaotic world we live in. As cliché as it is, I make music because I have to. I’d almost certainly be institutionalized without it. Also, as a singular human being fighting for positive change, I feel that music is the most powerful tool I have to offer.
Pete Spengeman: I guess it’s cliché to say that I make music because I have to, but I really can’t see myself in a place in life where that wouldn’t be true. That’s the selfish reason – that despite working a full time job and doing my best to skate by with bills and rent, music is my best outlet to escape from everything. It’s an ongoing hobby and labor of love. But I also make music because I think it’s the best way to connect to people. It lets you become a part of a community, and it’s led me to meet some really amazing people. Honestly, playing music is the coolest thing a person can do in my opinion.
MEB: Your lyrics often delve into the concept of spirituality – what does spirituality mean to you and how does it affect your songwriting process?
JK: I’m trying to create music that promotes higher consciousness, spiritual enlightenment, or whatever uplifting state of being one may find themselves yearning for. Music that rips the listener from their normality and forces them to confront physical and psychological restrictions. It’s spiritual music in that it hopefully enables one’s spirit to take control. We leaded such spiritually confined, emotionally suppressed existences. To me spirituality is the triumph of the unabashed wildness we’re forced to restrict in our daily living. I’m not trying to promote any God except that tiny God within you, telling you to be free to be your freaky self.
MEB: How does your recorded music translate to a live setting?
JK: Our live shows are generally a full blown rock the f*ck out high energy explosive release. You never really know what you’re gonna get. We tend to turn certain songs on their head and adapt them to the live setting. The recorded album has a lot of sonic dynamic, a more orchestral approach to the songs. For us recording is its own art form, as is performing. I think if you see us live, you can tell we grew up in punk scenes. If you listen to the recordings, you can tell we are all in love with The Beatles’ studio work.
MEB: Pete, who would you say is the biggest “classic” influence on your guitar-playing? Who would you say is the biggest modern influence?
PS: As far as classic influences go, Jimmy Page has to be number one. I can’t deny that he’s shaped the way I attack guitar solos, and it’s intrinsic in a lot of the riffs I play. Another “classic” influence that I’m into recently is Richard Lloyd of Television. Both him and Tom Verlaine have crazy chemistry and the way the interweave guitar parts is something I think God Tiny tries to incorporate in our arrangements. The album Marquee Moon is one of the best guitar albums ever, and it’s been a really big influence for me in the past year or so.
As far as a modern influence, I would say that Annie Clark is probably the biggest. The way she plays the guitar is unlike anyone else, and now that rock n’ roll has been around for decades it’s really refreshing to hear someone play the instrument in a new way. The way she can play heavy in a pop setting is admirable to me, and her songwriting is incredible.
MEB: Tell me about the weirdest show you’ve ever played.
JK: Oh man, we’ve played too many weird shows to pick a clear winner. The one that comes to mind for me – we somehow got booked to play a metal bar in Austin, Texas nearly 6 years ago, when I was fresh out of high school and God Tiny was on our first cross-country tour. I had lost my voice the day before so we decided to just have an improvisational, total far out jam. We stroll into this tough guy stronghold looking like lovey supersonic hippie motherf*ckers, no one had any idea what to expect.
We set up, started to jam, our photographer friend ended up getting manhandled out of the bar for underage drinking during the first song. We went on to space jam for the next 45 minutes while this hardcore caricature of a muscled dive bar bouncer glares at us with more hatred than I thought possible to transmit by one’s eyeballs. They really didn’t like us.
PS: Oh man. Last June we got invited to play the annual Bushwick Block Party, sort of last minute. We were the first band to play, so that meant we started at 11:30 am, which is vastly different from what we’re used to. I don’t know if we ever have or ever will again play in the morning. It was weird drinking coffee onstage instead of beer. It was awesome though, to be playing in that setting with people walking by, being part of the background. It was also wild because way later in the day, Jadakiss was performing as the headliner. We all thought it was really funny and random that we got on the bill. It was great to see the flyer with Jadakiss’ name at the top and then at the very bottom there was “God Tiny”. So yeah – playing in the morning again? Very unlikely. Playing with Jadakiss again? That’s probably not going to happen.
JK: Another one I’m now remembering – played a show at this now extinct DIY venue by Bard College, the stage was in the kitchen of this house, amp right in front of the fridge. Every song there were four to five kids squeezing behind me to grab a beer. I don’t know, we also went through a kind of dark period, where something always went wrong, someone was too f*cked up, and there was always some sort of catastrophe. I think I’ve probably blocked out the memory of our truly weirdest show.
MEB: What’s your ultimate rockstar fantasy?
JK: I mean, for any musical kid who grew up near NYC, selling out MSG, yet alone playing there, would be the pinnacle, the tippy top. That would be a dream come true. I fantasize about moving God Tiny over to Asia for a while, would love to do a proper, in depth tour of Japan, China, Indonesia, Korea, etc. that would totally be a dream come true. And I think they’d really like us over there.
PS: As a humble response, my rockstar fantasy is just being able to tour the country and beyond. I would love to travel and I would love for music to be my vehicle in doing so. Even if just for a few years, it would be great to make this my job. Playing rock music to make a modest living and to have that experience for the rest of your life, regardless of whether or not it lasts forever. I would just like to be able to survive off of this, to take a break from the nine-to-five lifestyle, and to play our music for as many people as possible.
MEB: What’s the one thing you hope people take away from your music?
PS: I think that all of us in God Tiny hope that whoever is listening to our music feels it in a genuine way. We consider ourselves rock n’ roll, which admittedly is a very broad term. But I think that we want to pick up the torch for all the incredible rock n roll musicians that came before us and carry it alongside the incredible rock n rollers of today.
We want the music to be accessible to my 52-year-old aunt and my 8-year-old cousin and everyone in between. I’m not saying that the music has to be simple, because I don’t think it necessarily is. But I am saying that for people to get into it, the gateway should be simple. We’re the ones communicating the music, and if we’re not projecting openness, love, and good energy for all those listening, then I think it’s hard for the audience to reciprocate that feeling.
JK: To love a little more. Be kinder to yourself and the world around you. Be a force for lightness. Embrace the terrible, wonderful weight of existence. All of that jazz. None of us are alone, yet we’re all isolated in our insecure minds, in our money-obsessed culture. Fly your damn freak flag and confront what’s holding you back. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but simply loving in the immediate, all encompassing sense is a revolutionary act. Let’s revolt!
Stream “Sadhu” below, and look out for their debut LP this spring. Of course, if you like what you hear, give God Tiny a fancy ol’ “Like” on Facebook HERE.
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