So, what’s up for Saturday night? It’s a week before Valentine’s Day. It’s the first weekend in February. The weather might get up to 50 degrees! And, most importantly, the fine dudes in New God are bringing their self-described Wizard Pop to Cafe Nola along with Philly band Seagulls. It’s going to be better than great, this much we know for sure.
We know it so much, in fact, that we recently caught up with Kenny Tompkins of New God to see what’s up with his band, what we can expect from Saturday’s performance, Yellow K Records (who put out their most recent effort), and who some of his biggest musical influences are. Below is the transcript of our recent email exchange. Enjoy!
How did New God come about? I’ve read a lot of stuff online and I’ve seen how much you get out to tour (and how frequent and far you go) and it’s impressive. Can you give us a mini history of the band?
We are just your typical wizard-pop two-piece brother-band. We formed in Frostburg in 2012. My brother, Curt, and I are the core of the band and have toured recently as a two-piece, but in the past we have brought friends in to play on specific tours and records. We’ve released two albums and an EP. We have been very lucky to tour the U.S. and have some great adventures with our weird friends. We make hip digital computer videos for the dot-com generation.
What’s your perception of the music scene in Frederick? What are some differences between here and other places, like Frostburg, or say, even Baltimore? Do you see it growing?
Frederick feels like home to me. Good people. Low ratio of riff-raff. I don’t really feel qualified to speak on the scene because I’m fairly new to it, but my impression is that, like every other scene in the country, it ebbs and flows in Frederick. I will say that right now it REALLY feels like it’s flowing and a lot of bands and people are working hard to bring something real to the table. It’s all a matter of what you do with it when it’s flowing. How will the venues respond to the support of new audiences? Will more unique or eclectic bands be booked less as there is a larger more generalized audience? Will people take chances and open larger spaces to allow for growth in the size and quality of the shows? Can we keep it weird enough? The difference between Frederick and my old stomping grounds, Frostburg in Western Maryland, is really that Frederick has far more reach. Frostburg has great people and a great venue, but it is too remote to regularly rely on crowds from downstate. Frederick could be a contender and pull in more national touring bands if things keep going well. I definitely see potential for Frederick to become more widely known as a hot spot for art and music, but it is already doing pretty well.
Your latest record, “Firework,” is on Yellow K records. What can you tell us about Yellow K? From what I understand, it’s a local imprint, but how did the relationship between New God and Yellow K come about?
Yellow K is based in Maryland and will release sugary-sweet indie-pop and wizard-pop records from now until the end of time. I wouldn’t call it a local imprint though because we plan to release records by artists from all over the country. We are very old friends with Josh Grapes, who owns Yellow K. “Firework” was the first record to come out on the label and we had so much fun working on it together that now I am officially involved as a partner. The origins of the label and its name are actually all very tender and earnest.
How well has the record done in your eyes and have you met the goals you established for it? More specifically, what were/are your goals?
That is an interesting question because there are two types of goals with this music stuff: artistic and professional. We have reached all of our artistic goals with the record with the help of the label. We were able to release it in a nice vinyl package with a ton of fun things to go along with it, like a limited edition coloring book. It feels like success just to take those ideas and make them come to life. The fact that it gets any support from an audience is a nice bonus. We have sold a modest amount of the records, but I don’t really think that means much in terms of a record’s success now. You got all the dot-coms click-a-fying your songs and you just don’t really know who is listening because they aren’t always buying it. I see people connecting with the songs at our shows and that is my real measure of success. My initial goal for the record was to make sure that it was presented with wizardly style and I think we accomplished that. We were also hoping that it would be discussed in a Frederick-based news publication and I can now add that to the list of our successes.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
The Beatles for the melodies. The Beach Boys for the harmonies. Neutral Milk Hotel for the magic-glow. RZA for the edges and the grit. Sprinkle on some vague reverb-y guitar pop and vintage Hawaiian records.
Where are some of your favorite places to play (cities/venues) and why?
Cafe Nola is really great for putting you directly in the same space as the audience. It makes things nice and intimate. I am a fan of that type of thing. Otherwise, my favorite venue we’ve played recently was Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon. It is this beautiful haunted old space with a balcony and fantastic sound crew. The best part is the listening. The crowd listened so quietly when we were being quiet and then they genuinely freaked out when we were freaking out and getting loud. It was the best. I love crowds that really listen to the music.
Could you give us some names of some great local original artists we might not already know? Who are you a fan of locally and who should we keep an eye on?
I love every Frederick band I have played with. Heavy Lights, Seaknuckle, Dead Monks, Ghost Hotel — all really great in my opinion. I bet you know all of those, though. I would pay attention to Ashli Cheshire. She has a great voice and a ton of potential. Outside of local-ish stuff, you should really keep your eye on Jon Felton from Frostburg and Canary Records from Baltimore. Also Lower Dens from Baltimore.
And finally what can we expect from your show here at Cafe Nola?
We will have our friend, Todd, playing cello with us at this show. That will be new. Other than that, definitely wizardry and possibly cake.