Experimental New Yorker, BAD PENNY joins us for the first of our autumn showcases. Growling vocals and thumping synths drive through BAD PENNY's confident sound from track to colourful track. Here, we talk to the synth punk afficionado about career highs and the musical inspirations found in NYC.
BOT: Tell us a little about your band. What’s your sound?
Bad Penny: Hi! I’m BAD PENNY from NYC/NJ. This is my solo project, and my sound is a mix of minimal wave, synthpunk, and Italo. I really really really love Italo music, so I try to add arpeggio patterns whenever it sounds good. So I guess if I am honest, my sound is an italo rip-off by someone who listens to a lot of punk and minimalwave music.
BOT: How do you go about songwriting?
BP: I start recording immediately. It’s maybe the most crucial aspect of my songwriting process. Even if I don’t know whether what I am about to mess around with will lead to a good song or not, I still always record. So, I have a lot of weird abandoned project files, but I like looking back in the folder a few months later once I forget about the frustration I was probably experiencing in that first moment. Sometimes I pick back up old projects I thought were trash and find I really like them a few months later, and then create a full song.
Anyway, I write the drums first. I wish I had more patience for writing drum patterns, but I don’t, so I quickly move on to the bass synth or arpeggio lines, and then leave that on a loop for a good while, while I see what sticks in terms of additional synth melody layers. Then I refine... I’m a minimalist in many aspects of my life, but especially in how I approach making music. I will often get rid of additional layers if I feel like it’s not adding very much to the song overall. Always last is writing the words and singing them while listening to the song.
BOT: Who are your biggest influences?
BP: Oh, so many. Strawberry Switchblade, Big Black (after who 'Bad Penny' is named), Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Gary Numan, Screamers, Flipper, D.Y.S., YMO, Kraftwerk, Electric Deads, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Christian Death, Negative Approach, Honey Bane, GAUZE, Billy Idol, Oppenheimer Analysis, B.W.H., Elisa Waut, Björk, Adolescents, United Mutation, No Trend, Patsy Cline... I could go on, but I think I’ve said too many already!
BOT: What’s been your lowest and highest point as a band/project?
BP: I’m not sure about any lows yet, besides some of the anxiety and sadness that fuelled many of the songs, but that’s just life… so I will mention some highs:
Once I had a couple songs finished, I thought, oh whatever, I’ll upload on soundcloud for a few spambots to enjoy. Instead, the very nice people of Ortloff, Till & Julius, sent me a message asking if I would like to do a 7” (XXL02) on their singles sub-label, Ortloff XXL from Leipzig. Connecting with them was beyond anything I could have expected or imagined, and I am really grateful when I find myself in situations where I meet others who are as passionate about music as I am. They really put in a lot of support, effort, labor, etc, into each of their releases, which are all really fantastic. I encourage you, dear reader, to check them out.
So, that, and also just being able to play a show, let alone one in another country. That is insanely cool to me and I can’t express my gratitude enough for that!
BOT: What’s your ultimate aim?
BP: To express myself and hopefully connect with people the way my favourite musicians have connected with me. And to always get better, evolve my sound, and broaden my perspective about music and the world.
BOT: You have the chance to play one song for a legend of your choice. What do you play?
BP: I would play 'Operator' by Tres and ask Steven Greenberg/Lipps Inc. if they think it sounds like their hit, 'Funkytown'. I love the song 'Operator', and I listen to it at least twice a day, minimum. But everyone only talks about how it sounds like 'Funkytown' in the YouTube comments. I can vaguely hear the similarity, but it’s not at all what I think about when I listen to it. So it would be amusing, and a good comment reply.
BOT: What does NYC do for you musically?
BP: NYC is a very relentless, unforgiving place. It continues with or without you. It owes you nothing, but your successes are yours. Your failures are yours. That kind of accountability and independence creates a lot of constant personal growth, at least for me. It’s a place where you can be you, and where you can grow and discover a lot of cool shit about anything; art, music, culture, other people, and yourself. It inspires my overall sound for sure, and the low vocal tones I sing in, the topics I sing about, and some of the yells/growls. Ha!
BOT: Who are some up and coming New York based artists we should know about?
BOT: What do we have to look forward to in the coming months from you?
BP: As I mentioned above, I will have a 7” out soon with Ortloff, XXL02. And I will be playing in Leipzig Oct. 7th at Pracht. And after that, I hope to play a bit more in and around NYC, make more songs, etc.!
BOT: Donald Trump has invited you to play a private party for him. He’ll pay you $1,000,000. Nobody ever has to know. Do you play?
BP: Hmm, no. If my primary aim of making music was to make money, I would probably be playing a very different sound. And, no matter the payout, the cost of engaging with men like that will always be greater than the payment is worth.