Interview with Kevin Day (aka Graduation Speech) | By Renaldo Matadeen
Graduation Speech is the solo endeavor of Kevin Day, vocalist and guitarist for New Jersey pop punkers, Aspiga. It’s his affirmation of the aches and woes of life in one’s late 20s and early 30s, but—as his debut EP, Quiet & Calm, indicates—the bruises painted on our portraits make us stronger, and, in his case, what emerges is a brighter Day.
Quiet & Calm—released June 30 via Black Numbers—is an acoustic novel that can be compared to acts like John K. Samson, Sufjan Stevens, and Elliott Smith. “Now that I’m answering these questions and thinking about it, I really feel like love is a huge theme on this EP,” Day says. “The music is very stripped-down, and the lyrics are honest. The entire thing feels vulnerable. I usually don’t shy away from making my lyrics a little more dark and depressing, but ultimately, the lyrics all seem to mention or circle back to loving yourself, your family, or your significant other.”
This is apparent on “Chances,” which talks about risk and reward. “[It] was the first song that I wrote for this EP, and it was a Christmas present for my girlfriend,” Day says. “The original version is actually full-band, and I had a friend of mine cut a lathe of the song for her. I really just wanted to talk about the beginning of our relationship and how far we’ve come along. You meet someone for the first time, and there’s just so much uncertainty. In our case, we were very much strangers, and to her credit, she did a great job peeling back a lot of layers from me, because I had closed a lot of doors mentally. It’s been the best decision of my life, and I’m not even sure that I would have recorded this EP without her support.”
The challenges Day has faced in love and life weren’t easily overcome, and he elaborates on these via another key track, “Distractions.” “It’s about taking a pretty long look at yourself in the mirror,” he explains. “It’s about feeling the weight of school loans and not really applying any of that knowledge in your daily life. It’s that feeling you get when the walls really seem to be closing in on you. There is some hope, though. At the end of the day, you know you’re not the only person to feel this way, and if you focus that energy on the positive aspects of your life, you can find a way to keep moving.”
Day lists acts like Sundowner, The New Amsterdams, and Conor Oberst as influences. His gravelly voice also harks back to Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, which he admits he gets a lot.
What keeps this sentimental side of him from influencing his work in Aspiga? “I’m sure if I sat down with [drummer] Ray [Solowij] and [bassist] Alec [McVey], we could make these songs fit right in with the Aspiga catalog,” Day asserts. “Aspiga started as just me with an acoustic guitar, so there are some similarities. Aspiga allows me to channel a little more frustration, and that’s what I love about it. To me, Aspiga has always felt like watching a natural disaster from far away. You can admire a tornado because it’s this crazy beautiful work of nature, but it’s absolutely destructive. Graduation Speech still has very similar lyrical content, but it feels peaceful. There’s some resolution.”
Photo by Julie Wackerle