NewMusicTen In Conversation with the Keystone Kids from Lehigh Valley, PA:
NM Ten:Would you like to introduce yourself to the nice people at home…the Keystone Kids are:
Ryan: And I am Ryan O’Donnell! I also make-a-the-music.
NM Ten: Fun. Individually you have unusual musical backgrounds, how does that sharpen and make Keystone Kids better?
Carly: Honestly, Ryan and I are very similar in our music backgrounds. We both thrive on the fact that we have good ears and can play many songs from memory. With “Things Get Shaky,” I wrote most of the songs prior to practice.
Then we’d go over the structure and lyrics together, and Ryan would fine tune the songs, and make the songs better. At first we thought that it might be a problem playing music together, since we’re both strong headed in our ideas, but we quickly learned that our ideas were incredibly similar. It helps that we knew what kind of music we wanted to write with the Keystone Kids, so we were on the same page from day one.
I was classically trained as a kid and trained in theory in college, so there are certain song structures I naturally adhere to; whereas Ryan can respect the structure of the song but also point out that it needs to be mixed up for the sake of excitement. We’re both pretty equal when it comes to the creativity of the songs. Even if I have an idea, and some lyrics, it’s with Ryan that the songs are really created.
Ryan: Carly described the process well. I’ve been in punk bands mostly all of my life, where I’m normally the main songwriter — so it’s incredible to work with someone like Carly who’s such an amazing composer. Following the structure of songwriting Carly just described, besides liking each other’s ideas, we even help each other out where the thing that I’d like to tweak is usually different from the thing Carly wants to tweak, and I think that’s why our songs usually do a good job at never having a lull.
NM Ten: When you’re songwriting do you start with an image or does music usually come first?
Carly: I wrote all of the songs on “Things Get Shaky” with a theme for each song in mind. For “Crumble,” I envisioned the relationship between Sammi Sweetheart and Ronnie Magro from The Jersey Shore. I literally took their relationship straight from the reality TV show and wrote a song from the point of view of Sammi.
Ryan:I think for the parts that I wrote, it literally went half and half. But in general, it’s usually the music. I’ll play a catchy riff over-and-over on my guitar until it annoys me, and then usually work out from there.
NM Ten: You’re located in Lehigh Valley, PA. Is there any pressure to move to a larger media center like LA or New York or can a band succeed where it is?
Carly: I just moved from NY and I’ve never been more musically active or inspired than I am in PA. NY was so overwhelming with artists, and I hate competition. I just never felt like doing anything because everyone was in a band, or doing something in the arts.
My practice space cost an arm and a leg for 3 hours of time a week. And when I was home, I just wanted to relax from working all of the shifts I had to work to pay rent. Now that I live in PA, I can work and have time to to music and not feel forced to practice. I can let the creative juices flow, essentially, whenever I want!
Ryan: I’ve always loved places like New York, but the Lehigh Valley has always had a strong scene — and even at times when it’s lacking in numbers, it rarely lacks in enthusiasm and creativity. And we can go to places like NY whenever we’d like to play. I also think “success” is different to each person, and Carly and I aren’t pushing super hard for its traditional definition. Finally — and most important — dear god, no Los Angeles. Dear god, no.
NM Ten: Speaking of LA…Carly: how did your music get on The Simpsons? And just as importantly did you meet Homer and/or Bart?
Carly: Ian Maxtone Graham (executive producer of The Simpsons) wrote me an email about using the song, and I thought it was a joke. We then talked on the phone and I was in awe when he told me that the writers listened to my music while writing for The Simpsons because they loved it. I couldn’t believe it! I was then shown the script for the scene in which they wanted to use my music and then, the rest is history. I am still shocked to this day that I’m part of The Simpsons. I didn’t meet Homer or Bart YET…
NM Ten: I like the yet. So then what was it like to win an Emmy? What kind of impact does winning an award like that do to you as an artist?
Carly: It is insane. I still can’t believe it. I framed the certificate and gave it to my parents to let them know that there is hope in being an artist. Playing music and writing music isn’t something all parents want their kids to do, especially knowing how hard it is financially. But this was my “Look, Mom!” moment, and I think that it helped them understand that this is what I want with my life. It doesn’t mean I stopped working as a waitress, though. 🙂
Ryan: …I would also like to point out that I am very important.
NM Ten: Oh yes sorry Ryan. Back to the Keystone Kids: you want this album, Things Get Shaky to make people feel happy…is that super cool goal finding success? How do people react when listening to this album?
Carly: I think it’s a pretty good goal! Life is hard. That’s why we have all of these funny mind-numbing apps and games that people get addicted to playing. You need something relaxing and not so serious after the craziness life throws at you. We were trying to write something playful, and at the same time, have some real honest feelings and stories, that digested easily with the listener. I think it seems to be working well!
Ryan: It seems to definitely make people happy! Which is obviously awesome. I think it’s different for a lot of our friends especially, because a lot of kids in our scene don’t usually go after a super universal pop sound — so hopefully it’s hard not to find the songs really catchy and make you happy.
NM Ten: I will lend you the NewMusic Time machine…you’ll travel back to the 80s so the Keystone Kids can open for one popular 80s synth band , which band do you pick and why?
Carly: I just want to be in the movie The Wedding Singer and play in Robbie Hart’s band!
Ryan: I don’t understand how Carly stole my answer before me. I think the more Carly and I talk, the more we should turn Keystone Kids into a wedding band. And our sometimes-drummer, Tom P, will sing ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ by Boy George. Be on the lookout!