There are plenty of musicians out there who slaved away, practicing their instruments years before the though pf joining a band was even a possibility. For Pouyan Afkary
of Scary Kids Scaring Kids
, things worked out a little differently. The role of keyboardist was bestowed upon him by his friends after he had only really dabbled in the keys a bit. When other members of SKSK asked Afkary to join the band, that's when he decided it was probably a good idea to start taking some lessons. Luckily, the band chose a quick learner who has come up with some of its classic New Wave-styled intros.
has been taking that signature blend of heavy riffs and melodic keys on the road for the past year, with the band's latest venture being the Take Action! Tour. Afkary recently sat down with UG writer Amy Kelly
to discuss life on the road and the band's ever-changing lineup.
UG: How did you get involved with the Take Action! Tour? Is its message of suicide prevention a close one to you or the band?
To be honest, we have no special tendencies to represent ourselves as a band that specifically supports this cause over any other. I think the main reason we took it was just that the tour does support a cause. It's so rare just for any tour to support any cause aside from their own wallet. I think that it enough was motivation for us to be stoked on being on this tour, aside from the fact that all of the bands are great and aside from the fact that we know we love half of the people that we're going to be touring with already.
Did they give you a full rundown of the motivation and the organization behind the tour?
To an extent, yeah. They filled us in on a lot of it. We've got facts and exactly how much is going to who and how it helps.
When you're on a tour with several bands on the bill, is there ever a sense of competition?
Not really. I think you just work your hardest to get any exposure whatsoever on Warped Tour. Like if you see another band doing well, you'd be like, Oh, wow. They're doing it.
But you don't really feel any jealousy or anything like that I don't think. I don't think that you feel that they took fans from you. I think that everyone has their own appeal, so we just work our hardest to get our word out there. Take Action! is completely different from Warped Tour because there's just a lineup and the band that sold the most record goes in order I guess.
I heard that your drummer Justin Salter is out of commission right now.
Yeah. Our drummer got in a car crash years ago - years before he even joined the band. Through that, he has some natural health issues. What happened is essentially his sciatic nerve got pinched and caused him to be bedridden for a few weeks. Last night, we played in Arizona and saw him. He's walking around and he's feeling better. He's getting thousands of dollars in steroids shots, trying to get back up to par. So we hope that he gets better in time.
Who has taken over Justin's spot in the meantime?
Our good buddy, Craig, from Texas. Unfortunately from Texas, but he's still great! He's taken over and he's been amazing. He literally had 4 days to prepare for the tour with the drumming. So we flew him out to Arizona and practiced with him for 4 days, and immediately we shot out on the tour. We're really, really happy we found someone like him to do this.
There's been some confusion about whether you started with band or not from the very beginning.
Yeah, because I noticed some interviews say that I joined later! I'll lay it out from scratch. Basically, our old drummer, Peter, and Chad, our guitarist, they broke away to play a new style of music. All of us were buddies. I was buddies with Pete from elementary school. I knew Chad from high school. I'd go to all their shows because we were just all bros. There was this real community vibe. They were like, Dude, we want you in this band. We don't know what we want you to do. So far it's just me and Pete, but we want you to do something.
I was like, Well, let me get down on the keyboards. I love to play keyboards!
At the time, they weren't really a constant factor, but some hardcore bands were using them. But they were using little samples in the beginning of their tracks, and we really liked that. So I got into that and basically I just started taking piano lessons from there. I took a couple years of piano lessons.
So you were just beginning to learn the keyboards when you joined the band?
|"I'm really proud of some of the new keyboard stuff I've been doing on the new CD."|
Yeah. We actually had a friend who taught at the Russian Conservatory, so it just kind of fit. Every day I went and took lessons with him - like 4-hour lessons. They were really extreme. He really helped me with the piano. So that's how we met. Later on, Steve, our current guitarist, joined. That happened after we recorded the EP. Then shortly after, maybe a year into touring, Peter went on his mission and then we got Justin. Now Justin is out of commission temporarily.
What mission is Peter on right now?
Peter is on his mission in Argentina. We love him a lot, but he had his passion somewhere else. So he followed it, which is really cool.
What was the initial response to the band after first posting your EP on AbsolutePunk.net?
It was really cool. I think we got a lot of recognition in that sense. We started off and we'd have shows that we'd literally play to 10, 20 people on tours. But those 10 or 20 people that were out there would know all the words to our songs. That was like amazing. We were like, We just left Arizona. We're not expecting any of this.
Then every single tour, the numbers double and triple. It just got really cool.
Because the keyboards play an integral part in the songwriting, how does the songwriting process usually begin? Does it still start out with a guitar riff?
It's essentially the same. The only times it really changes up is if there's a piano ballad that we wrote or I'll create a part. I'll be like, Dude, we should really use this.
Even then, when I do create a part, we don't usually write songs around them. We just kind of incorporate those into a song that it feels applicable. If not, then we just throw it out. But yeah, nothing really changes up too much.
On My Darkest Hour, it begins with a very cool, almost New Wave-like keyboard intro. How did that come about?
That was actually a song we wrote inside the studio. We had days at a time where our producer was like, I'm going to go out. I'm going to go have a day to myself and you guys are going to stay here and write songs. When I come back, you're going to show me all the songs you wrote today.
We were like, That's cool.
So basically, that was a guitar riff that Steve was working with. We were like, Cool. I don't really know how that is really going to turn into a song. We're just going to mull around with it for a while.
Then I just played the exact same thing on keyboards and we just transferred it. It sounds sick on a keyboard! So it's actually something that Steve wrote that we decided would sound cooler on keys.
Is it true that The City Sleeps In Flames was inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks?
Not so much. People kind of pull from what they want to. It was just a take on structure in general. After we wrote the EP and were going out on the road, we really didn't have support of a label. Our manager had never managed a band in his life. We were literally going home and doing a car wash, getting enough money to go out on the road, and then going back out on the road. We did that for 6 months, eating horribly and sleeping horribly, but having the best time of our lives. It was kind of symbolic for leaving all the structure that we have, and having it being torn to the ground and then just kind of following a new future. As drab and as terrible as it can be, it's kind of nice to build on your own a new life that way you see it.
Do jam sessions produce most of your song ideas?
Yeah, totally. It's usually a collaborative jam. We write all our guitars into the structure and we get the whole song essentially knocked out. Then we bring drums. As we add parts, we just kind of reshape it. But I'm really proud of some of the new keyboard stuff I've been doing on the new CD. I'm trying to stay away from that cheese sound because I reuse it as a cop out. It just sounds so cool to me over and over! But I want to keep it fresh, so I try to stay away from it as often as I can. I always want to go back to that part. Sometimes it's just more fitting than anything else.
Are you writing songs for the next album while you're on tour right now?
|"It's so rare just for any tour to support any cause aside from their own wallet."|
We're close to being done with it. Basically we've got the whole record written, vocally and lyrically. We just have some kinks to work out. We're still going to be writing more songs on top of it. We have enough to fill a record, plus a couple songs, but we want enough to fill the record - plus another record and then scrap half of it, so we can make the best thing in the world. But we have trouble because we have so many members in the band. Everyone doesn't agree on some things. On top of that, we've got that perfectionist attitude. It's all got to be cool and it's all got to be perfect. Each song has to flow the best to its potential.
Have you had an opportunity to demo the songs in the studio?
We've written and demoed them. We haven't gone into an official studio. We actually got a really cool house in Desert Hot Springs! Tempur-Pedic beds, wine fridge, and a separate studio. It was totally in the middle of the mountains. We went hiking in the mornings, and all night we'd practice. We'd demo it in that studio and then listen back to it at the end of the night.
What can we expect from the new album?
You'll recognize that it's us, for sure. With the other record, we tried to have slow songs and we tried to have faster songs. They were so diverse. There wasn't really a middle ground. It was just kind of out of nowhere. But we really liked that whole idea of having a record in such an entirety and having such a range of songs in a record, to where you can really see all the moods of a band. No one can feel that furious at all times, and no one can feel that melancholy. Just like a person, you need a range of attitudes and I think we're really trying to cover that range on this album.
Have you previewed any of the songs in front of the Take Action! audiences?
Definitely! We're playing a couple of heavier songs, obviously. That's what people want to hear live. So we'll see how it turns out. The reaction has been amazing so far on the new songs, so I'm very excited.
What keyboards are you using right now?
I play a Motif ES6. I like the sound and I liked the samples when I went and tried it out at Guitar Center, so I picked it up! Not much more than that. I just kind of stuck with it. You can really edit your sounds to make them your own. I've got one patch that I've edited into like 5 or 6 different patches that I use in different parts of The City Sleeps. They've got all these different elements. I could show you one and the other, and you really couldn't tell the difference. It's really cool.
Did someone turn you on to the Motif?
Not really. It's so difficult. If you take classes, or I've bought the DVDs to try to like teach myself - it's crap! I can't learn a thing. It doesn't help that I have ADD, so it makes it twice as hard. I think you've just got to get into it.
Have you set a release date for the upcoming record yet?
Yeah. This summer. We want to get it out as soon as possible! We've waited very long to get this CD done.
Has the pace of the road gotten a bit tiring after all this time?
Totally. But I get more and more used to it. Warped Tour is the only one that I can really be like, I don't want to be here anymore. Yeah, Warped Tour is the only one I think people are really fed up with playing, but it's such a good thing for bands. I don't know for what reason, but it just seems to really help bands out a lot. So we love that festival tour!