• Anthony Elder

From drum sticks to guitar picks; an interview with Skeleton Drive

ANTHONY: So let’s start with your history with music. Where did it begin as far as the first instrument you picked up, and when did you first start learning to play?

SKELETON DRIVE: It kind of started with joining band in high school honestly, or middle school. In 5th grade I became a percussionist in concert band and I was a percussionist all the way through when I graduated high school in 12th grade. And then that kind of taught me to learn to play the drums as well. I got my first drum set when I was 15 or 16 and that was the first instrument that I really learned how to play well, and not too long after I got my drumset I joined a band with a friend of mine and we basically just did covers of classic rock songs, but that was the first band that I was in for a couple years. So yeah, kind of started with playing drums.

ANTHONY: When did the transition to guitar happen?

SKELETON DRIVE: Well first, after when I was in that first band I joined another band with that same friend that we started. I was just singing. I just sang and wrote lyrics and that was my first experience with writing song lyrics and stuff. And then it wasn't until a little bit after that band broke up that I decided to pick up guitar so I've really only been playing guitar for maybe like 4 years now.

ANTHONY: Do you feel like the age you started playing guitar has been a factor in the music? So many people say they would’ve played guitar if they could’ve picked it up when they were something like 3 years old. How does it feel having only played for four years?

SKELETON DRIVE: I mean I'm definitely more of a percussionist. Like I could say I actually play the drums pretty well, but I usually don't even say that I'm like a super good guitarist. I can fool people into thinking that I know what I'm doing, but it doesn't matter. You can start learning anything at any time in life, I think. I don't think it’s going to be a factor in how well you do something. Never too late to pick up an art or something like that.

ANTHONY: Who were some of your early inspirations, musically. Who were you listening to?

SKELETON DRIVE: When I was in high school and everything I was the emo kid. So I listen to a lot of Like, My Chemical Romance and like pop punk, and all that kind of stuff. My favorite bands’ always been Green Day, so they’re a huge inspiration to me. And then when I started Skeleton drive it was really … I still like all those bands that I used to, but I think the biggest inspiration to Skeleton Drive specifically is a band called The Mountain Goats. Because I started listening to them and the guy from The Mountain Goats showed me simple chord structures to write songs and stuff, and this was before I picked up guitar really, and I had all these poems that I had written down and all these lyrical ideas for songs that I had but I just didn't really know how to get them out. And then yeah, I was listening to the mountain goats and I realized like, I could do this.

ANTHONY: So that brings us to where we are now. First off, I’m curious about the moniker of Skeleton Drive. Where did that name come from?

SKELETON DRIVE: It kind of came out of thin air. There's not really a huge lore behind it or anything. The one thing is that there's a Street in Akron called Skelton Road, and when I was a little kid I thought it looked like ‘skeleton.’ And I was always into like, Halloween-y stuff. Then at some point in life I said “If I ever start any sort of artistic project by myself I’m gonna call it Skeleton Drive.”

ANTHONY: So you went on to be Skeleton Drive. What was it like going from being in a band, to going solo?

SKELETON DRIVE: Well I hadn’t started going solo until after the band broke up. My other bandmates just didn't really have the same ‘vision’ I guess you could say. So there was a gap where I wasn't doing anything and it was honestly kind of the gap of not doing anything that was a big driving factor because I was like, I really want to start creating again.

ANTHONY: So I wanted to talk about your more recent EP that you dropped, ‘Rest Land’. Did you go into that knowing what you wanted to do, or did it just sort of fall together?

SKELETON DRIVE: The first one I did, ‘Crepuscular,’ those songs I didn't really know what I was doing with them as I was writing the songs for my first EP. It was kind of me writing songs as I was learning how to write songs and play guitar and stuff. So after I had enough songs for at least that one I pretty much immediately was like, I want to do another EP so I started writing more songs. So the structure of ‘Rest Land’ is a lot more planned out than the first one because all the songs I wrote with the idea to have them on this EP with a theme in mind.

ANTHONY: What are the themes you were trying to nail down with ‘Rest Land’?

SKELETON DRIVE: Back to the first EP, after it was all kind of finished and stuff, I guess I noticed a theme going on. And, I don't know if you know this but crepuscular, the name of the first, it's basically what nocturnal is to nighttime, is what crepuscular is like to twilight. Like lightning bugs are crepuscular animals because they come out around twilight. So I kind of wanted to have a darker theme and have, not really a story but sort of a loose narrative about going out and night and to the cemetery and all that stuff. … I wanted to continue this sort of gimmicky theme of going through the processes of a day. So we start with twilight and ‘Rest Land’ was the nighttime.

ANTHONY: Do we have any plans to wake up in the morning then?

SKELETON DRIVE: Oh yeah. I'm writing a full-length album right now and it's kind of continuing that [theme] kind of. I already have the themes planned out. I know what the album artworks’ going to look like. This is like we're going into the daytime, or like the hangover of all that stuff that happened before.

ANTHONY: So, you certainly fit the bill of a DIY artist, and I want to know, what does it mean to you to be a DIY artist?

SKELETON DRIVE: When you’re a DIY artist it's obviously all about the music, and just creating art is very important to me. But being a DIY musician adds this level of community with people around you who are also local. It's a different culture, the DIY, since I’ve made friends with these people around me who are also musicians in this scene.

ANTHONY: What is your process like with recording, being a DIY artist? Are you doing every single thing yourself?

SKELETON DRIVE: I play all the instruments myself but I have a friend, actually he was the bass player in my last band, he's one of my best friends. His name is James Tims. He actually went to Kent Stark for music tech so he has a music tech degree and has a lot of equipment of his own. The first one [EP] I recorded at his house in his bedroom, and then the second we recorded at my apartment. So we kind of created our own DIY makeshift studio wherever we were doing it.

ANTHONY: Do you ever see yourself ever going back to a band format and having other people involved musically?

SKELETON DRIVE: I have a hard time writing with other people. I get kind of defensive of my artistic ideas when it comes to writing stuff, like if people don’t like it or want to add their own stuff. Skeleton Drive as a whole I think will always be me. I would like to incorporate some live touring musicians in the future if I ever get to that point. I want to add some bass to the first full-length I do so it sounds more full or like a “proper band.” So I think after that I'd like to get some friends or some other musicians I know together so that I can have live shows that better portray the sound of the records.

ANTHONY: Speaking of playing live, lately you’ve done a couple of virtual events. Have you been doing many virtual events during COVID, or did things grind to a halt for a while? What’s that been like for you?

SKELETON DRIVE: Things definitely grinded to a halt. I was planning my first tour last year before COVID hit. I had a couple of dates booked in Columbus and Cincinnati and I was going to book more so I could go around in a circle around some states. Obviously that didn’t work out because everything shit down, so things came to a grinding halt. I started to do some of my own live streams from my bedroom with Facebook live and stuff, but there’s only so much you can do.

ANTHONY: Hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel finally with COVID. Do you have any future plans for the pandemic? Will you try to get a tour going again?

SKELETON DRIVE: Just got my vaccine. So, I'm hoping when things calm down, maybe by the end of this year, I will start playing some shows again. … Hopefully I’ll try to plan a small tour like I was going to do before this all happened, because it [the pandemic] happened right after I released ‘Rest Land,’ so I had all these plans. I was like I’m going to play all these shows, I’m going to promote it, I have merch, I’m going to sell it. None of that happened. So I think I’m going to try to pick up where I left off and try to promote this music that I made already before I start releasing more.

ANTHONY: Do you have a plan or idea of when we might finally get that morning album?

SKELETON DRIVE: Oh boy. First I’m doing a split EP with one of my friends. So that'll come out before. I'll just have a couple of songs on there, just me and my friend Joanna. She goes by Mystery Girl, she's another solo artist. We are doing a split EP together so it's just a couple random songs I wrote that don't really have a place for specifically in the theme of what I've been doing so far but I wanted to get out there. And then she has a couple songs she wants released so we're going to get a split together really soon. And then I couldn't tell you when the full-length will come out. I'm hoping within the next couple years though. I'm about halfway through the writing process of it.

ANTHONY: Is there anything you want to end off on? Is there anything you want people to know about Skeleton Drive?

SKELETON DRIVE:! All my handles are just @skeletondrive, so if anyone wants to follow me. Listen to me on Apple music, … Amazon, Spotify. Please follow me! *Chuckles*

Skeleton Drive music can be found on all major streaming platforms, and followed on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @skeletondrive.

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