Straight out of Philly, IKE evolved from a solo project into a local favorite. With the release of two CDs and a DVD, fans are eagerly anticipating their next move. John Faye (lead vocals and guitar) talked with me about songwriting, their summer plans, bumper stickers and soap operas…
So, first how about a little introduction of the members of IKE to the rest of the world for those that may not know you…Who does what and where’s everyone from?
John Faye – lead vocals, guitar – Elkins Park, PA. Cliff Hillis – lead guitar, vocals – Phoenixville, PA. Dave Anthony – drums – Philadelphia, PA. Joann Schmidt – bass – Philadelphia, PA.
Dave, Cliff, and I all grew up in Delaware; Joann grew up in NE Philly.
How did IKE come about–and how’d you get the name?
When the four of us first began playing together, it was for a solo album I had done after my old band, The Caulfields, had broken up. So we were called the John Faye Power Trip at that point. I didn’t necessarily know if the musical relationship would last beyond that one album, but once we realized we actually had great chemistry and decided to stay together, we thought we should name the band. So IKE seemed like as good a name as any. Plus, we liked the fact that it lent itself so well to acronyms, like “It Keeps Evolving” and a bunch of others that are sorta dirty!
I was watching your “Deathbed (NaNaNa)” video. It was pretty awesome–and unique. Whose concept was that?
The video came about when the director, Glenn Mobley, who we’d never met before, was in Philly visiting his family (he lives in LA) and heard “Deathbed” on the radio. The song was in rotation on WSTW and Y-100 at the time and he actually loved the song so much,he decided to contact us completely out of the blue. I was kind of skeptical at first and just said, “Send us a concept and we’ll talk.” Months went by and I had forgotten about him, when he sent this amazing treatment for a video that would basically pay homage to Citizen Kane. So we decided to go ahead with it and raised about $11,000 in fan donations to get it done. We’re really proud of it, especially the hotel room scene where we trash everything. I don’t think people thought we were violent people, but i guess they didn’t know us very well.
IKE released Parallel Universe in 2003, then In Real Life in 2005… how did they compare and contrast to one another? Do you have a favorite?
I love both albums; it’s almost impossible, as the songwriter, to be objective anyway. But they were recorded completely differently. Parallel Universe was done completely in ProTools on computers, whereas In Real Life was done completely on 24-track tape, without any ProTools at all. We actually went through the experience of having most of Parallel erased, due to a computer crash when the record was halfway done, so I think we felt like tape was a safe way to go for the new CD!
I had heard about this concept of ‘living room’ shows, which is by far one of the best things I’ve ever heard of. Any reason you guys decide to do such small shows in fans’ homes?
Being an indie band means you have to use any means necessary to get to people and if it means coming right to their houses, so be it! I had actually heard of several artists doing similar shows back around 2000 and thought we could make it work, because we’re very adaptable in the sense that our music doesn’t lose its intensity if we lower the volume and play it more acoustically. Some bands “have to” be at full volume for their material to work, but i think most of our stuff works both ways.
How does one get a “living room show” in their house? Do you guys have certain prerequisites, like size, for these shows? Have you ever shown up and the space is a lot smaller than expected?
We just tell people to e-mail us with what they’re looking for. The only prerequisite we have is that we don’t book these shows to be background music. But audience size doesn’t really matter. We’ve played for 75 people crammed into a living room and we’ve played a couple where we outnumber the audience. That’s a little weird, so I do generally ask how many people the host is inviting, but there’s no real minimum number, because it doesn’t really affect our fee, it just affects how many potential CD buyers there are in the house.
I’m sorry to hear that the Bon Jovi thing didn’t work out. How did you guys get involved in that in the first place?
Well, I have to say that I don’t look at it as not having worked out. We didn’t win the stadium gig, but we got to open for them once (in Atlantic City) and that was an amazing experience. The thing is, we got the AC gig basically because WMMR recommended us for it. We didn’t have to “win” the slot like most of the other bands in the contest did, and to be honest, it’s not a thing I would have entered in the first place because I’m really not into the whole “battle of the bands” culture we seem to live in now. So really all of the publicity and new fans we got from playing with Bon Jovi in AC was like found money, because we weren’t expecting it in the first place.
So you guys released In Real Life back in 2005–any plans for the next album that you can share?
I have half the new record written and it’s really going to be some of our strongest stuff ever. I mean, people always say that but I really believe it to be true. I’ve played the new songs solo a bunch of times and the response has been great.
IKE released Bumper Sticker Wisdomback in 2004. Why call the DVD that?
Bumper Sticker Wisdom is a line from our song “Trojan Horse” and it refers to people who reduce their level of thought down to crap you can find on a bumper sticker – that’s how complex they are. But for the DVD, it seemed like a cool title in the sense that we’ve traveled so much and picked up a lot of wisdom along the way.
What’s the wisest advice you’ve seen on a bumper sticker?
Honk if you’re horny.
I read that you guys had some songs placed on ABC’s All My Children. How did you guys feel about that? Does anyone even watch soap operas?
When I got the royalty checks I felt damn good about it! I don’t think any of us watch soaps much, although I do have a long-term love/hate relationship with General Hospital.
If the members of IKE were starring in a soap opera, what would you call it and who would fit what stereotypical character?
HAHA. Well, first of all, any casting director would be a fool to hire us – we’re a nightmare on a soundstage, just ask our video director! I’d like to have a cameo on a soap though, like being the house band at the Port Charles Hotel or something ludicrous. We’d all wear bad tuxes.
Speaking of soap operas, what’s the band’s guilty pleasures? Any must-haves while touring?
Well, suffice it to say that, while some bands suffer from the vices of heavy partying on the road, our biggest demon is carbohydrates and high-fat foods. Take IKE to a Waffle House in the deep south and watch the carnage! We also like our comedy in the van. Perennial faves are old Jerky Boys recordings and stuff like David Cross and Chris Rock.
I also saw something that mentioned that you were teaching at Drexel for songwriting… how’d you wind up doing that?
They asked me and I said yes! Actually, the head of the Music Industry major, Marcy Wagman, has helped me with some song placements in the past (that’s how the All My Children stuff came about) and i saw her out at a show a couple years ago and she offered me the job. I’d never taught anything before in my life and I’m still not sure how good I am at it, but I try hard to let the kids into my thought processes and I think most of them respect that.
How does one teach songwriting–is there a formula that you guys follow?
It’s very tough to be honest. We’re in the middle of the term right now and it’s a constant struggle for me in terms of time. I basically have ten weeks each term to teach people how to write songs and it’s something that took me years and years to even get good at. So I feel like it’s a little seat-of-the-pants at times but like I said, I try really hard to let the students see how I go about it; I play them a lot of my own songs and try and describe how they came about, etc.
So who would be the ultimate dream band to tour with?
A band that can afford good catering! Actually, I’ve had the opportunity in my career to play with a lot of my favorite artists. I’ve been on stages with people like the Ramones, REM, Butch Walker, Matthew Sweet and a bunch of others. I don’t know that we think in terms of who we’d love to open for anymore. Frankly, we like it when people open for US!
How is IKE going to spend their summer?
We’re pretty busy in terms of shows; we plan to do a road trip to Atlanta, which we do every year and we also hope to get back into the studio asap!
I just wanted to say thanks again! Is there any info you would like to include that is a “must-know” about IKE?
We’re getting better with age 🙂