Interview with vocalist and guitarist Zak Kaplan (ZK) and drummer Jamie Goldfarb (JG)
By Morgan Y. Evans
You released two short EPs in quick succession. Why didn’t you release them as one larger work?
ZK: Had we done a proper LP, we would have had to put some songs on the B-side. We don’t really write B-side material, so we have to keep doing single-sided 12” EPs to keep everything on the A-side where they belong. We can’t help it; the songs are just that good.
JG: The idea is to keep releasing short EPs this year, of well-crafted stuff, just because it feels fan-fucking-tastic.
ZK: And I don’t think they are that short. Three songs clock in at like 14 or 15 minutes. I’ve released full-length punk records that aren’t much longer than that.
What has been the most invigorating thing about writing for this band? How did you gravitate towards this sound versus your music prior to Smalltalk?
JG: For me, this is a continuation of what I personally do. Being interested in all types of music, anything I do is a continuation of my sound, so I didn’t gravitate, it’s a slice of the same pie. And it’s not invigorating; it’s a lot of work.
ZK: I don’t think Smalltalk should be viewed in contrast to what we’ve done in the past. Some people were shocked by this direction, I even had friends ask me if this band is a joke or something, but it feels very natural to be doing this as the next step of a very long and ill-fated musical career. I’ve never shied away from writing pop songs, and that’s what this is. It’s the way I’ve always written. I don’t sing as gruff, there aren’t as many Chuck Berry riffs, I’m not singing about politics or socio-economics or whatever, but doing this feels right in this time and place.
“People Only Die of Love in the Movies” has this romantic, slow intro. It almost has the controlled emotion of U2’s “With or Without You.”
ZK: It’s interesting, you’re not the first to make a U2 comparison, and not just that song. They aren’t a band that I’ve ever wanted to sound like, not that I don’t like them, it just wouldn’t occur to [me to] cite a band like that as a reference. But I think [guitarist] Pete [Steinkopf] is a pretty big U2 guy. [Vocalist and percussionist] Tara [Jones] and [bassist] John [Chladniek] probably too. Jamie?
JG: I hate U2.
ZK: Well, there you go, let the record show that Jamie hates U2.
“Holding Out” has a real Smiths feel, a raw story. And then “The Last Ones” has a dance-y feel, very pop, but in a street way. It feels lived, like rude boy shit. There’s also emo, indie, and punk scene influences.
ZK: Thanks. I bet you didn’t know that Jamie basically invented “emo.” True story.
JG: Never say “rude boy shit” to me.
ZK: You see, he’s Colombian, plucked straight from the streets. He gets very emotional, his people are very passionate, they like dance beats.
The band feels very in synch, a true chemistry. Each song is like a page from a photo album…
ZK: I am drawn to songs that are conversational. I think our songs have that quality, albeit one sided. But the songs are honest, sometimes embarrassingly so. Some friends have gone so far as to call them cringeworthy. But I like that, I think they feel intimate. It almost feels like you’re eavesdropping, or as you said, it’s like looking through a photo album of someone you don’t know. It’s a challenge, it’s a vulnerable place to put oneself, but Jamie and I have been stockpiling this stuff for years, so it’s good to finally have an outlet for it.
JG: Uhhhh, it’s more like each song is a Garfield panel.
How did you find this collection of wonderful people? You’d make great ‘80s music videos.
ZK: We’ve all known each other for a really long time. Jamie is one of my oldest friends. Well, we didn’t really like each other the first few years we knew each other, but I like him enough now. Known John forever now too. I think John introduced me to Pete way back in the day, which sorta led me to working with The Bouncing Souls and Chunksaah Records for almost 15 years now. Tara is like the wildcard, we’ve only known her for a few years, but she has a reputation in these parts as the nicest lady in the world. So yeah, great bunch of friends, neighbors, wonderful people, talented musicians. But I dunno, Jamie seems like he has a little poopie in his pants today.
JG: We built robots, get futuristic, fuck the ‘80s, I am a robot.
ZK: It’s not true, I don’t think a robot would drop their drum sticks as often.
How is Pirate Press going?
ZK: It’s good, it’s a good job. Between the manufacturing side, and the record label, it keeps me pretty busy. Can’t comment much on the music we release. Sometimes I like it. I have a lot of Cock Sparrer t-shirts now, so I got that going for me.
Thanks a lot!
ZK: Thank you, Morgan. I’m sure next time we talk, you’ll be interviewing us for the cover of Rolling Stone.