2016 is starting out with a full force of incredible shows coming up in Philadelphia and one of those shows you can’t miss is tonight at Milkboy! NYC rockers Controller are heading into town to start your weekend off right with a major dance party. The band is currently touring in support of their No Future EP. Uplifting, poppy, and downright catchy, the EP will have your body moving and songs that will get stuck in your head for days. Controller will be supporting Philly’s own Kiska tonight so make sure you get to the show on time to get your space on the dance floor for Controller and La Capitaña.
The show starts at 8:30 PM at Milkboy TONIGHT! Tickets are only $10 and you can get yours here or at the show.
Before getting our dance workout on tonight, we spoke with the Controller’s singer Jon about their new EP, touring, not-so-guilty pleasures, and the need to wear adult-diapers to their shows.
What made you get into playing and writing music? How did you meet and form the band?
This is gonna sound super earnest and lame, but its like, almost everyone tries to learn an instrument at some point, and early on I realized that I didn’t just want to learn other people’s songs. The only thing that was really fulfillign was coming up with my own material and right away, I had this deep desire to share it with people and make them feel what I felt when I came up with something original and new. It gets even stronger the first time you record something and hear it back. It’s almost overpowering. I think it was the same for everyone in the band. And then as you get older and form a band and start playing with other people, new layers get added that keep you excited and engaged–performing, being part of a gang, thinking about the business stuff. It’s the best job I can think of.
The band started with just Josh (guitar) and I. We met at a party and the next day I went back to his apartment with my guitar and we wrote like, 5 songs in an hour. It sort of took off from there, and we met everyone else at our day jobs in advertising. It’s like we uncovered the people working with us who were harboring secret dreams of being rock stars, and made a pact to make them real.
How long did it take you to write the new No Future EP? What was the writing process like?
It all came together so unbelievably fast, which was really unusual for us up to that point. The songwriting process used to be agonizingly drawn out, and it took us forever to write something new. But we tapped into something special last year and suddenly found ourselves with around 40 demos in just two months, mostly written on my laptop at my apartment. Sometimes it would start with a beat I programmed, or a chorus Josh wrote, or just a germ of an idea from a jam at practice- but it was like a flood. No idea was a bad idea, and we followed our weirdest impulses as long as there was a hook. We were writing like, 3 – 4 songs a week, and even though they were just demos, all the parts were there in some form, so it was just a matter of picking the ones that told the story we wanted to tell, and then finding a producer to help us realize the sound we wanted.
As a band, what’s it like living in NYC? Does the city have any influence on your music or writing process? What’s the best and worst part about living there as a band?
Oh man, this band wouldn’t exist without this city. I can’t imagine Controller being a band in like, Portland or something. Everything we do comes from channeling the crazy, weird, creepy energy of this town, and you can hear all the contractidtions of NYC in our sound: scummy and shiny, classy and louche, throwback and futuristic, all wrapped up in one weird mess. There’s also the fact that we grew up idolizing NYC bands and when we first moved to the city. The East Village and the Lower East Side, where we lived, were still hotbeds of exciting new things in rock. So we’re proudly trying to keep that flame burning, even though it’s getting harder and harder.
NYC is still a great place to play live, but it’s really hard to be a working band here given all the changes the city has undergone in the last decade. It seems like every week a rehearsal building or a venue has to close because of rising rents–we lost our long-time rehearsal space in Williamsburg last month–and everyone’s decamping to LA. It’s a real shame, because we love being an NYC band and don’t want that to change. Who knows, there are so many creative, hardworking people here, things will just evolve, but it’s hard to tell where it’s going and it can get pretty dispiriting at times.
Can you tell your fans what to expect from your live shows? Do you like playing live or writing more?
Bring adult diapers! Seriously though, we really work hard on our live expeience, and it’s tremendously important for what we do. Onstage is where the songs really come alive and we go really, really hard to make that happen. As the singer, I have an almost pathological need to make the audience feel what I’m feeling, so I’m jumping all over the place and out into the crowd and engaging people as much as possible. Josh (guitar) flips a switch and turns into an animal–he’s sweating like crazy and throwing himself all over the stage. We treat even tiny stages like stadiums, and it’s been so humbling to find that audiences reciprocate. Typically everyone is dancing and singing along, and it’s a really positive, cathartic evening of shredding.
“Midnight Man” from the EP has a pretty badass sax solo on it. Can we expect to see some epic sax solos on this tour? If not, when?
Haha thanks, we are super proud of that. There’s definitely not enough sax in rock these days, we’re trying to bring it back. There’s something incredibly visceral about hearing sax live with a rock band that most people don’t get to experience these days. You can literally feel the air being pushed at you and it triggers something right below your stomach, I can’t describe it. So yeah, wherever we can, we bring out the live sax–not just for “Midnight Man”, but also “Bright Light” and a song we haven’t recorded but that we’ve played live for years called “Old Man’s Money”. We can’t do it every night, but we have a far-flung network of closet sax players we rope into playing with us whenever we can.
And expect more sax in the future. It’s something I’m not ready to let go of yet.
Is there a particular song you like playing live over others? Based on the way it makes you feel or how the crowd reacts?
There’s a song we’ve been playing for years called “Old Man’s Money” that we typically close with, and it’s sort of the emotional high point of our set, for both us and audiences. It gets everyone dancing and joining in on the chorus, and I usually go out into the crowd for my guitar solo and a fan holds my mic and we all sing the last chorus together, so it’s always kind of a special moment.
And I like that we’ve never recorded that song, it’s sort of a special thing for fans who see us live.
What are some of the bands you love that you’ve played with so far? What are some bands you’d like to tour with?
Oh man, so many. We love Mainland and Dreamers, with whom we share a manager. Those guys are our baes, and so talented. We also love The Kickdrums, Diet Cig, Surf Rock is Dead, Pajama People….there are so many great bands in NYC right now.
What are you looking forward to most with this tour?
We already have SO much new material. Probably another 20 – 30 demos. Nothing is more illuminating than playing new material for a live audience. So we’re hoping to use these shows as proving grounds for our next batch of new material.
Also, since No Future came out, we have so many new fans and we’re so stoked to get out there and meet them in person and show them what we do live. It’s all well and good to find a band you like on Soundcloud, but it’s so rad to see a band you like live, and to hang out and create something more lasting.
Are you excited to play Philly? Will you get to hang out at all in the city or will you just pass through (no judgments)?
Fuck yeah, we’ve actually never played in Philly and it’s ridiculous because we’ve seen lots of shows there and have always wanted to. We are so stoked to come hang and bring the shred. We’re gonna hang for a bit–the party train leaves on Saturday but we’ll be around all Friday night!
What album do you own that you are too embarrassed to tell your friends about?
One of the things I love most about this band is how there is literally nothing too embarassing to listen to. Seriously, we are so fucking basic when it comes to music, we listen to everything and it’s all equally redeeming. We take inspiration from so many different kinds of music, it’s hard to keep track of it sometimes. Like, we are unabashed fans of top 40 pop music, and have the utmost respect for what those guys do. At the same time, the Sirius XM hair metal channel is basically always on when we’re traveling, and we love new wave and grew up listening to punk and hardcore and Nirvana and Alice in Chains and NIN. Yet, my first album was “Out of the Blue,” by Debbie Gibson.
I guess I’m sort of embarrassed that for a brief period in middle school I was into 311. That’s pretty bad.
What is the Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Lounge? Did they pay you in coffee and donuts? What’s your dream food sponsor for the tour? Or life in general?
Haha I’m still waiting for our gift cards!!! I don’t think they’re coming. It’s funny because when our publicist told us about it I thought it was like, one of those dorky pop up communal working spaces with free wifi or something. But when I got there to do the session it turns out it’s at iHeartRadio’s headquarters in like, their studios. So it’s actually an iHeartRadio live session that just happens to be sponsored by Dunkin Donuts. Good thing we practiced, those guys were pros. The coffee machine was broken though. Just sayin.
Dream food sponsor for tour would have to be Dippin Dots. It’s the fucking ice cream of the future, for god’s sake, why woudn’t we want to be a part of that?
Name one song you might have played on repeat a little too much.
Oh, when I was younger, I think for like an entire year I almost exclusively listened to White Zombie’s Astro-Creep: 2000 for like a year. That was a weird time in my life. But more recently, we’ve had Carly Rae Jepson’s new album on repeat, and Troye Sivan’s record. I told you, we have no pretenses when it comes to what we listen to. It’s just our process, I’m not gonna question it too closely 🙂
What can fans look forward to from Controller? Are you releasing a full length any time soon? Are you set to play any upcoming festivals?
We don’t currently have plans to put out an LP, but that would be an unbelievably extravagant luxury we’d love to have, if the right pieces fall into place. We’ve had some conversations with people who might be able to make that happen but nothing’s been totally right yet. In the meantime, we are just continuing to write the best songs we can, and will put out some new stuff in the next few months. I can say without hesitation that we’re sitting on the best material we’ve ever written, so we’re so stoked for people to hear these songs.
We’re not locked in for any festivals yet, but that’s something we’re focusing on in the new year–starting with SXSW. That, and getting in front of more audiences all over the place, in places we’ve never been to before. So stay tuned, it’s gonna be a big year for us, I can smell it!
Don’t miss Controller supporting Kiska at 8:30 PM at Milkboy TONIGHT! Tickets are only $10 and you can get yours here or at the show.