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- Posted on Feb 25th 2010 5:10PM by Kelly Aspen
With kudos from rock royalty and fellow Athenians R.E.M, Modern Skirts have spent the last six years rocketing from rural Georgia to the ears of the masses. Their particular blend of guitar and piano lends a distinctive tone to their tunes and the thriving energy of their live shows recruits even the most reticent of observers. Keyboardist, guitarist, and vocalist JoJo Glidewell fills us in on the band's sound, inspirations, and survival at SXSW.
How do you describe your sound?
Well, we've always been inundated with piano pop references, which was kind of a starting place back when we were youngins'. I played a lot of notes on the piano back then, but now we have really put a lot of emphasis on percussion and orchestrations. Still strong melodies and song structure, but more obfuscated and tinkered-with production and arrangement wise.
How did you guys meet, get together, and form the band?
We were two pairs of musicians unbeknownst to each other in high school. Jay and I had been playing and writing songs together since we were teenagers, the same as John and Phillip. Some mutual friends threw a keg party specifically to introduce us. We kinda liked each other, I guess. We kept in touch and then when we played together the first time, it was obvious that we had some chemistry, so we kept playing together. We went under another name for something like two years, juts kinda playing for beer and girls. When we added the piano and became Modern Skirts, we started taking it more seriously.
Which musical influences inspire your songwriting?
I think at this point you can hear a lot of Beck and Britpop in our current catalogue.
When I first heard your band name, I knew I'd like your sound. How did you come up with it?
It was a pretty annoying, laborious process. Not unlike everything else we do, actually. We came up with a huge list of names, fifty or sixty of them, and had several rounds of voting, then took the final five or six and did some field research with our friends. Modern Skirts is from a Steve Malkmus [Pavement] solo album. It's from the opening line of a song called 'Old Jerry,' I think. Something like that. The name was no one's favorite, but the one we could agree the most on. The golden mean, if you will.
Have you been to SXSW before? What's in your festival survival kit?
This will be our fifth year, actually. Old pros at this point. It's important to bring food and beer with you. Makes the whole thing a lot cheaper. Find a friend to stay with. Sunscreen, Jesus, don't forget sunscreen. And pay your bills before you leave. I got our power cut off a few years back while we were gone. Save up some cash. It gets expensive and you don't usually make any money, and it's a long way out for almost everyone.
What's your biggest vice?
I've gotten rid of a lot of those. Not because I even want to, just because I'm getting too old to bounce back. The reward isn't worth the payback. This is going to sound lame, but my most common vice these days is fiscal irresponsibility. I struggle with that all the time, and I don't have a lot of money to start with. I've done much worse things to and with my body that I'm not going to talk about here, but you know, you act on some impulse, you feel guilty, maybe, you deal with the consequences, and that's that. But you mess up your money, and that's as miserable as you can be.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
If I get a little drunk, I will often secretly listen to Aerosmith on my iPod -- a throwback to when I first hit puberty. Aerosmith is music for hormone-ravaged thirteen-year-old boys. It's fun to feel like that again sometimes.
Beatles or Stones?
You kind of need both. We're split, I think, half and half. Jay and I have to lean towards the order and beauty of the Beatles. I think Phillip and John are Stones guys. I mean, they were a real fucking rock band. But you get kind of sick of hearing the Beatles, you know? I love them, but I could go without hearing a Beatles song for at least two years. And then there was Wings. That loses them some points. But Mick Jagger in that 'Dancing in the Street' video with Bowie? That's unforgivable to me. If anything would tip the scales to the Beatles, that video is the nail in the coffin.
Kelly Aspen is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.