Since the dawn of major record labels, the music industry has been shaped and driven by the need to capitalize on the contemporary interests of listeners. Time and time again, we’ve heard new artists on the radio who sound like the others – oftentimes molded by the label they’re signed with to achieve a certain sound and attract a certain audience. Many artists aim to break the mold before falling victim to the monetarily-driven goals of large record labels – as a result coming out with a compromised and recycled sound.
Not all stories end this way, however. SomeKindaWonderful’s front-man Jordy Towers is a musician who has seen both the best and worst parts of the music industry and has lived to tell the tale. Before SomeKindaWonderful, Towers was signed to a solo deal that ultimately went south. Driven to be something he was not by controlling managers and record executives who were determined to control his image and musical output, Towers spent the better part of the last year and a half fighting a bloody battle to be free of his prior record label contract, a contract that had left him nearly penniless.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Jordy who was eager to share with us the experiences he had that have led him to where he is now, as well as the lessons learned from that time in his life. Free from the constraints of his previous label, and rejuvenated by SomeKindaWonderful, Jordy gave us his thoughts on the status of alternative music that after many thriving years now stands in the shadow of mainstream pop and hip-hop.
AltWire [Derek]: I wanted to start out by talking about your career leading up to the band. Before SomeKindaWonderful, you had been signed to a solo deal and had even released a few singles. But as I understand it, you weren’t really happy with what you were being made out to be. At what point did you realize “wow this isn’t really for me”?
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Even when I was [signed], I wanted to do something different. I was doing it because it was my job. I was supporting the decisions the record company was making, but in the back of my mind I was pretty much unhappy the whole time. But I guess I kind of had to build up the gall or maybe just the “balls” to just say “fuck you!” and walk away, you know what I mean? And that’s what I did. I had to leave, and I was homeless because the management company that I was under stole every penny that I had. I was living in my truck and I got a text from a family member who lives in Ohio, and I went out to visit her to get away. I was actually thinking of moving there because I just didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was living out of my truck, sleeping on different couches, and you know…spending the night at different girl’s houses, but I was running out on them a bit because I couldn’t commit to one of them. And then I ended up going in the Midwest and meeting up with some family that I never really met. We were basically friends on Facebook and MySpace for a couple of years but we never really actually met.
And then when I went out there, I went out with her one night to a bar and there was nobody in the bar – really there were about five people in there and two of them became my future bandmates. One of them (Matthew) was actually playing the guitar, and the guitar riff that he wrote is the same riff that is now on our top 20 single on Alternative Radio, which is called “Reverse”.
I had a couple of beers, so I was a little bit loose, you know? And this guy is playing the guitar at the back of this bar and I go over there and just start freestyle singing, and it was the melody that we ended up coming up with. We just kept playing it over and over again, and I’m like “Yo, this is catchy!” I’m like “What are you guys’ names? Yo, do you guys have a studio? Can we go to your house or something?” and they just look at me and they start laughing, and I’m like “what?” They say, “We have the biggest studio in Ohio; it’s right down the street.” And I’m like “Get the fuck out of here.” So we go to this studio and we end up recording “Reverse” that night, and 4 hours later the song is done.
At the time I guess I was really unhappy with everything that had happened to me, but I wouldn’t be here without those experiences. A lot of the things from my past lead me to be where I am now, so I wouldn’t change any of it. I wouldn’t change any of the adversity that has got me (and helped me build) the strength that I have now.
AW: How did the band come up with the name SomeKindaWonderful? Was there a story behind it?
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: We made a couple of songs that first time I was in Ohio. We made “Reverse”; and we made a couple of other records like this record called “Dawn” that nobody’s heard yet. We made this song called “Rhinestone Melodies” and some other songs that are not even on the album. We were kind of going in different directions trying to figure out who we were, but really at one point, we were making music just to make music. I wasn’t really trying to be anything or do anything, I was just like “let’s make something honest and real and organic and rock and roll,” you know? I’m in the Midwest; I’m thinking rock and roll. So we start making records, and the “Reverse” record just kind of stuck out. We were like “this is beautiful…this is wonderful music” and the first thing I did was text my manager Nima. I sent this dude some music and he was like “Man, this shit is incredible. This song is a hit.” And that was back in January or February of 2013. He’s like “this is a hit, we’ve got to get you out of your deal” and I’m like “dude I want you to manage this band” and he said, “I want to, and I will, but before we do anything we have to get you out of those contracts”. And so we fought for literally a year to a year and a half to get me out – to get me completely free to do SomeKindaWonderful legally, and the dude stuck by us the whole time.
We fought to be able to do this. There’s a song on the album called “In Chains” and it’s about the fact that the whole time we were making the album, we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to release any of it. The song is about feeling like you’re free, but regardless you’re still in chains. For the name “SomeKindaWonderful”, every time I heard the music I just heard the word ‘wonderful’ in my head. I wanted to call the album Wonderful, but when we looked it up we went “Oh there’s no SomeKindaWonderful name. Nobody has that as a band name, let’s get it!” and so we took it and it just stuck. The butterfly stuck because we were looking for something to symbolize who we were. We’ve kind of all been in our caterpillar stage for our whole career as musicians, and this music that we’ve created is our butterfly. We’ve bloomed and we’ve evolved.
“I wouldn’t change any of the adversity that has got me (and helped me build) the strength that I have now.”
AW: To be able to do of all of that on your own now, and be surrounded by people who support you, and who allow you to be free to control your own creative and visual output must be great as well.
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Ah, dude, it’s amazing. My manager, he’s like part of the band. And he’s not just a manager. He’s our art director, and he does everything with us. He’s our quality control and he keeps us focused and helps us make sure that everything we put out is quality. It’s great to have people around me who I trust as well, and who help me build the vision, because before it was just me. I had to fight off the label, and my [former] management was sucking the label’s dick the whole time and trying not to step on any toes. So anything the label wanted they got, and let’s just face it dude [major] labels are fucking stupid. They don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. All they know how to do is reproduce what’s already working. And everybody knows when you try to copycat another project. Everybody knows and they’re like “Aw it’s just another Lorde, aw shit it’s just another fucking Dirtyheads,” and that’s the last thing I would ever want to be. I want to be an individual. That’s why SomeKindaWonderful sounds like nothing else, and looks like nothing else. We’re not going to look like anything. It’s going to be different and every song is going to sound different.
But now I have a team of people I trust, and it really is a pleasure. It’s amazing because we all share the same tastes. We know what’s hot and we can look at something together and be like “Ugh, that shit’s whack” you know what I mean?
AW: Totally. And I get you. I hate listening to a new band and feeling like I’ve heard it before. And I feel your band is something different and I appreciate that.
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Thank you, brother! That’s such a big compliment because I like to call us a no-genre band. I’d almost like the album cover to have the word ‘Genre’ with like a circle with a line slashed through it…
AW: That would be an awesome album cover.
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Haha, I know, maybe later on. Maybe we’ll make a poster or something. But I can almost speak for everybody in this country and on this earth who’s a music fan: if you look on their iPod or if you look on their phone, they have all kinds of music on there. Everybody likes everything. Sure there are people who will be like, “Oh I’ll only stick to hip-hop dawg” but the days are over where it was dominant like that. Good music is good music and if you can bounce around and dip in different genres, and do it seamlessly…then why not? Nobody’s really done that since The Beatles, and I’m certainly not trying to compare ourselves to The Beatles but I love how every time they came out with an album, or even on certain albums, you could go from song to song and it’d sound completely different! They were dipping into everything, and why can’t somebody do that again? Why can’t music be that way? And that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to dip into everything that we love; we want to make each other happy and each one of the band members love all kinds of different shit. I love reggae, hip-hop and R&B. That’s my favorite shit…like that’s mine. But our guitarist, he’s a Blues guy. He likes Bob Dylan. He likes classic rock, you know? And then our producer and drummer Ben, he like grew up on Metal and 80’s rock like Tears for Fears and Phil Collins. And then Sara, our singer, and percussionist… we want to make her happy too so we throw that soul shit in, and then it all kind of blends perfectly man. Maybe not perfect yet, but we’re fuckin’ pretty damned close and we know it. It may be ambitious and I know at the end of the day it’s ambitious. The world wants to categorize everything and it makes it easier when you’re searching through your iPod, but we don’t give a fuck. We just do what we feel, and our fans respect us for it and hopefully, the rest of the music community does too.
AW: Do you think that’s kind of what’s missing from the alternative music scene nowadays? That everyone seems to ‘follow the leader’ and replicate what’s big on the radio?
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Of course man, I mean look at Lorde. Look at how many girls are coming out with that Lorde shit. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lorde! I think she’s an amazing artist and actually one of my best friends is the A&R on that project and I’m really proud of her. She got a plaque and all that shit and she’s been working really hard for it, and I respect that. But then I look at the radio (and I’m not going to name names) but literally two weeks later they’re putting these fucking girls out that sound like Lorde. They got these hip-hop beats behind them, and they’re all dreary and like weird. I think it’s a joke. Alternative music used to be number one! In the 90s when I was growing up as a kid, bands like Nirvana…that was the hottest shit on earth. But you know what the difference is? It wasn’t just a cool name and a cool song. You could put a face with it. You had Vedder, you had Kurt, and you had these people where I don’t even have to tell you their last names. You had stars, and that’s the difference, and that’s what we’re trying to show people. You come to our show; it’s not just the lead singer you’re watching. You’re watching the whole band. You’re watching all of us and we’re all characters, and it’s real and we all deserve it. It’s not just one guy who is the leader and you don’t even know who the guitarist is, or who the drummer is. No, we want people to know who we are. We want people to know who everybody in the band is, and I think that’s what’s missing in Alternative Music. That’s why Alternative Music is the fourth biggest radio format. It should be number one because it’s the most creative and it’s the coolest, and there’s so much good shit out there right now. Like, alternative music is killing it, but people don’t know cause they don’t know how to brand themselves.
“The lights are fucking blinking [on rock music]. It’s time to go back to the show.”
AW: I get the feeling that some musicians out there agree with you on that too. That rock music hasn’t really evolved in the same way that hip-hop, pop, and EDM have over the last 15 years, and that’s because rock artists seem afraid to collaborate with other artists to evolve and branch out their sound.
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Totally man. You’ve seen The Last Waltz right? You know, like what rock and roll were when everybody would perform on each other’s shit, like the songs with Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan…that’s when shit was beautiful, that’s when shit was great. And you know why pop and hip-hop are still on top? Because they collaborated with each other, they piggybacked off of each other. All of them do it. Rappers get on songs with another rapper, and then they have a career. Boom. You’re right, dude. Nobody collaborates. Everybody treats each other like shit in the alternative community. Nobody communicates, and I’m telling you…there’s going to be a big change coming, and you know what? We’re on an indie label and we want to evolve and be that change. That’s where we’re going.
Now we may not be as big of some of these other bands right now, but the only reason why that is happening is because we’re on an indie label and all of these other dudes have huge budgets. At the end of the day financially, we shouldn’t even be in the top 25. But we have support, and we have people who are hungry for what we have. And that’s what we want to do: bring that movement shit. But it’s got to be one movement. The Alternative radio scene should be one moment like the 60’s all over again. Like the early 90s, when Temple of A Dog went down and all of that COOL shit. Rock and Roll could be awesome again. It’s just…I don’t know, man. With the people that are on top…things have to change a little bit.
There are so many people who are unhappy with what’s playing on alternative radio right now. That’s why it’s [at] number four. We [SomeKindaWonderful] saw a void in alternative music. I’ve done every genre. I could’ve gone out there and told those guys, “let’s make a pop record,” “let’s make a hip-hop record,” or “let’s make an R&B record.” But then I looked at the landscape, and I said ‘I want to make a rock album’ but with all the elements of what’s good. [I want to] go across the board, and give people what they want again. If you listen to the album, it’s like [the track] ‘Cornbread’. That’s what Cornbread is. It’s supposed to symbolize ‘here’s that good shit again’. You can have all that nasty, sugar candy, fast food music if you want, but here’s some of that real shit. Here’s some homemade shit. Put that in your gullet.
I don’t want to be politically correct, because I never fucking liked politics anyway. Because fuck politics dude, and fuck being politically correct because that’s not what rock and roll is all about. And that’s one of the problems with rock and roll right now. Rock and roll has no fucking balls. And I don’t want to sound like a dick, but everyone’s so concerned about being politically correct and so corporate. That’s not what rock and roll was about.
AW: Rock and roll was supposed to rail against the corporate atmosphere and the establishment; it wasn’t meant to be going along with it.
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Always! And it did! And it made money doing that, and it was okay, and you know why? Because people need a release! The world’s gone fucking crazy [laughs]. We’re living in an insane world; we need a release more than ever. Just listen to music that allows you to let it out, like fucking Metallica. I was just watching this one movie, where the dude was like “Whenever I’m angry I go to the garage and listen to fuckin’ Metallica!” [laughs]. I think it was called Silver Linings Playbook or whatever, but it’s true man…people need that release. Where are you going to get a release with all of this weak-ass music, dude?
AW: It’s like in the 1950s with Elvis Presley. Parents freaked out when he came out and started shaking his hips, but for the younger generation, it was a release because it was such a contrast to the bubblegum artists of the time…
Jordy Towers [SomeKindaWonderful]: Exactly! It ended bullshit musicals, and shit like that…like ‘oh this is HOT!’ But it happens every time. Remember when Alternative music really hit in the beginning, with the Seattle movement back in the 90s? It was like C + C Music Factory, and like Marky Mark and The Fuckin’ Funky Bunch, you know what I mean? That was what was hot. These were the days when I was a little kid, but my ear was still to the ground. I knew what was going on. You look back through rock, and there are always movements every 20 years where there will just be shit music. I love EDM, and it’s served its purpose but right now I feel like music is in an intermission. You know when there’s an intermission, everybody is out there smoking in the lobby and the lights start blinking? Well, the lights are fucking blinking [on rock music]. It’s time to go back to the show.
SomeKindaWonderful are on tour this fall with New Politics and Bad Suns. Their debut record is now in stores and can also be purchased on iTunes or Amazon. To find out when they are on tour in your city, check out the dates below:
Tour With New Politics and Bad Suns:
October 14 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
October 15 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
October 16 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte
October 17 – Orlando, [email protected] Beacham Theater
October 19 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
October 22 – New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
October 24 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
October 29 – Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
October 30 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
October 31 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
November 1 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theater
November 4 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
November 7 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory Concert House
November 9 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
November 12 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant
November 13 – Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
November 14 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave / Eagles Club
November 15 – Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe at Old National Centre
November 16 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
November 18 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
November 19 – Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom
November 20 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
November 21 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
November 25 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
November 26 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
November 28 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom
November 29 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA
November 30 – Hartford, CT @ Webster Theater
Want more from Jordy Towers? Check out page 2 for some outtakes from the interview that weren’t included in the main article!