You remember More To Monroe, right? They were on Warped Tour in 2016. They played the never-forgotten Skate Jam. They were on the road to legend … and then their singer decided to go to college. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just not rock and roll. Anyway, the rest of the band has found a new singer and reformed under the name “Goner.” Goner is going to headline October’s installment of Friday Night Fights at the Frederick Rock School and not only should you care, but you should also go to, you know, check it out. We recently caught up with Goner guitarist Sam Smisek to talk about the band’s new name, what they’re listening to nowadays and why Frederick is hard up to find and establish a music scene of its own. For more on Friday Night Fights and the Rock School, check out its website.
So, how did the band get together in the first place? Can you take us back to the beginning?
Jacob (Maughan, drums) and I were friends and neighbors since we were eight years old – Jacob was always playing drums ever since I’ve known him. Flash forward four years later, and I had received my first guitar from my parents. That same day, I went to jam with Jacob for the first time, fiddling as much as I could on the thing. Jacob was less than impressed (laughs). He actually told me years later that after that initial jam, there was no way he was going to be in a band with me, which we all still laugh about. Eventually, about two years later, after I had some experience under my belt, Jacob and I decided to start a legitimate band with our friend Chris D’aquino taking over vocal duties. We still needed a bassist and after having a couple guys in and out of the band briefly, we convinced our friend Johnny (Jamison, bass) to join the band, deciding to call ourselves “Blackout.” Our very first show was a talent show at our high school, at that time with a different bassist. Once Johnny joined, we had a full, consistent lineup, and as “Blackout” we began playing shows wherever we could – bars, clubs, churches, pizza shops, skate parks, you name it. We soon changed our name to “More To Monroe.” Our current and final name is “Goner” and it’s been Johnny, Jacob, and I since then. We have Andy (Cizek, vocals) joining as our vocalist about a year after Chris’s departure.
From what I understand, you guys are undergoing some changes right now. What brought about those changes and can you tell us about the current lineup? Who came in and how did the process go, finding another singer?
We parted ways with our old vocalist Chris when he decided to go to college. There were and still are no hard feelings whatsoever. Chris is still a great friend of ours. We had known he wanted to pursue his education for a while, and he knew that we wanted to keep the band going, so it was a mutual decision ultimately. Saying it was an easy transition would be a lie, though – it was actually a lot harder than we initially realized. What it took was hard work, writing, perseverance and dedication. Above all, though, it took just constant hard work. Writing and trying to constantly perfect our craft were the single most crucial factors in getting to where we wanted, and to where we are trying to go in the future. The current and hopefully final lineup is Andy (vocals), Johnny (bass), Jacob (drums), and me (guitar). Andy joined about a year ago. We had already known him through mutual friends and he had been in other bands we had played with at various times. After hitting him up to record just a demo at his basement studio, we convinced him to join forces and pursue this dream with us. It didn’t take long for him and the rest of us to become great friends, but It did take a few months of really figuring out how to gel our new music with Andy’s voice, though. It wasn’t easy for sure. Having a member who was with us for years just leave was kind of discouraging at first. For a while, I think we felt we had a good system going, so to speak. For instance, since we started the band, we’ve all contributed to songwriting, but it was definitely intense at first considering that we were down one member who wrote just as much as the rest of us. When Chris left, I began writing songs in my little room in my apartment, just constantly trying to find anything that sounded cool. I would show whatever I was writing to Jacob, and he and I would jam the songs and really get the song structure down. Then we would show Andy and Johnny and they would give their two cents. Between all of our contributions, we wrote a lot of songs we’re really, really happy with, many of which you’ll hear on our upcoming album.
You guys did a slew of Warped Tour dates last summer – how was that experience? You’ve kind of seemed quiet since then; what have you been up to?
Warped was amazing. Playing with so many great artists that we’ve looked up to and have been influenced by over the years is truly inspiring. All of us hadn’t seen too much of the West Coast, and Warped allowed us to see the whole thing basically. It was just really cool driving all over these beautiful states, seeing something new every day. Warped was the last thing we did under our old name. After that, we went through everything I had mentioned earlier and eventually became who we are now, “Goner.” Even though we did just change our name, we feel like this is a whole new band. We had to find a singer, we had to write songs, we had to start from scratch in a way. It was all necessary, though, and it was everything we knew we needed to do to continue to grow as a band. Starting over can be refreshing. From after Warped Tour up until just a few months ago we wrote an album we’re all super excited about, and we just can’t wait to show everyone!
Who are some of your major influences and why?
We all have varied influences and listen to different stuff all the time. More recently, we’ve been influenced by bands like Balance and Composure, Deftones and Basement, all of which I would say have had a major influence on our music. We are influenced by everything that is genuine, evoking music. Everything from Lana Del Rey to Dance Gavin Dance, to Nirvana and so on. A band called Underoath was a band we were very heavily influenced by in our early years. Nowadays we are really influenced by music and bands with ambient, atmospheric and indie/alternative elements for the most part and try to incorporate all of that into our own music.
What’s your perception of the local music scene here in Frederick?
There is an insane amount of talent in Frederick, but I really don’t know if there is a strong scene. There are incredibly talented bands and other artists in all genres – EDM, rap, indie, etc. – but no real platform for everyone to get together and create a “scene,” so to speak. Not to bag on the venues in Frederick, but a lot of them aren’t willing to even have a show with a band like us, let alone have shows multiple times a month with a bunch of these talented artists to create a “scene.” And obviously that would be crucial to create a scene, to get a bunch of people together to listen to this great music coming up right now in Frederick. I hope in the future though, that all these talented artists really start supporting each other.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
Sheesh. I have no idea. Maybe Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah.” That seems fitting (laughs). Or, “Yeah” by Usher and Lil jon. Probably that one. What more could you want from a song?
Can you give us names of some bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
These days, we’re listening to Balance and Composure, Deftones, The National, Basement, Knocked Loose, Highly Suspect, Athletics, The Neighbourhood and Twenty One Pilots. We are also listening to a bunch of random alternative, grungier and indie music, too. I could go on and on. All of those bands are sick and have been on repeat in our van for sure.
With 2017 winding down, what plans do you guys have, if any, for 2018?
Oh, we’ve got some plans. We’re releasing our new album we worked on for all this time, and we seriously could not be more excited. We actually finished recording earlier this summer, and we just shot the music video for our first single off the album this past weekend. The album is set to release early next year – probably like January or February. We truly can’t wait to see what everyone thinks. Then we’ll just be touring off that, doing whatever we need to promote the album. It’s all in the works.
What do you guys think of the Frederick Rock School? If I’m not mistaken, you guys came up through there. How important was it to you guys in terms of maturing as artists?
The Rock School is great. All of us (aside from Andy) were enrolled in the school at various times. I joined the rock school when I got my first guitar – before I could even hold the thing. I think I was 12 years old. Scott and all the teachers there have literally molded all of us into the musicians and band we are today, and for that, we’re eternally grateful. I would recommend it to anyone, really. Everyone there, teachers and students, really encourage and push you to constantly get better.
And finally, what can we expect from you set on Oct. 6?
A bunch of new music no one has heard before. We’ll be playing a bunch of our new songs, so it’ll be the first chance to get down to what we’re doing now. Also a lot of sweat, and bad smelling people by the end of it. We can’t wait. It’s gonna be a good time.