Keith Interviewed by Jason Clayton at Columbusmusic.com (January 2000)
Columbusmusic.com: What has been the biggest pain in the ass about getting your band together?
Keith: The biggest pain was finding a drummer. We got a lot of calls but it was mainly from guys who were in cover bands and were looking for something extra on the side. That obviously wasn't what we were looking for.
CM.com: Why Columbus? Why move here....
K: Jason, Tim and Myself were all finishing college at the same time and there were a lot of options on where we wanted to go. The only thing we knew was that we wanted to stay together and keep making music. It didn't really matter where we went. Columbus just sort of ended up being where we all found the best opportunities in our professional lives. Somehow it all worked out. Columbus is small enough that it's easy for a new band to get off the ground quickly. Originally being from Cleveland I know there may not be as many places to play here as in Cleveland but it seems to be a better scene overall. The scene in Cleveland is very spread out and you see a lot of the same bands that have been around forever. So far we really feel like we made the right choice in moving here.
CM.com: If you had to pigeon hole your music how would you describe it? Who are some of you influences... both locally and nationally?
K: This is an easy question. We are a rock band. Big guitars, big drums, and catchy hooks to grab people and shake them a little. One band that was a huge influence on us locally and nationally was Howlin' Maggie. I wasn't living in Columbus when they broke but I had their record. In fact everyone in our band did. We'd go see them in Toledo or Cleveland or where ever we were. To this day Honey Suckle Strange is still one of my favorite albums. It's weird to see them here now that we live here. Down here they're just like another local band but to us they were icons. Another major local influence was Pretty Mighty Mighty. You can hear the job those guys did on our record for one and secondly they're a great band. On the national level other bands that are huge influences on what we do are The Afghan Whigs, Catherine Wheel, The Cult, Smashing Pumpkins, The Rolling Stones, and Jeff Buckley.
CM.com: What inspired you and the other band members to play music? What cd's has each member been listening to this week in your cd players?
K: I think the main thing that inspired all of us to play music was that we all listened to it so much. Everyone in this band has an extensive and diverse music collection. I still remember bringing home Van Halen's 5150 and realizing a guitar was something I had to have.
Keith-- Shawn Smith: Let It All Begin
Jay-- Blinker The Star: August Everywhere
Tim-- Wilco: Summerteeth
Mark-- Failure: Fantastic Planet
CM.com: What was the hardest thing to deal with in the studio? Pre production, actual recordings, mixdown, mastering? Enlighten me. How long did it take? How did you get the money together?
K: The hardest thing was getting all our basic tracks down. Our drummer was new to the studio and the rest of the band had limited studio experience as well so we had to get used to using the click track and making sure that everything we do live really fits together. In some cases we had to change a lot of the songs to make them flow better on the cd.
Once we got the actual basic tracks down in was all fun from there. Neal and Jon (Pretty Mighty Mighty) had a lot of great ideas to and really pushed us to get the most out of what we were laying down. Then when we were done we let Tim go in an add some sound effects and keyboard parts for flavoring. Examples would be the synth in Contact Illusion or the bells in Overcoming Eve. He always has some really good ideas so we just let him go for a day. We kept most of it. I think overall it took us four months from recording to the final mastering of the cd. Keep in mind we weren't in there every day. Usually one day on the weekends and a night during the week. Money is a tough issue for most bands. Most of us have full time jobs to help out w/ that sort of thing. Luckily we paid as we went so it didn't make too much of a dent at one time. The final pressing did that. Any money we made from gigs went right back into the recording.
CM.com: How do you see columbusmusic.com helping your band? How does technology affect your band?
K: Columbus Music has been a great resource for our band. Even before we were the featured artist, it was a great place for us to post gigs or see what else was going on in the scene. It was especially resourceful in helping us find other bands that were similar to us. Since we've been up on the site it's been a great way for us to get people to listen to our music. With the MP3's and Real Audio up there anyone can come in and check us out.
Technology has definitely been our friend. Jay's computer design skills have been a great vehicle for our promotional campaign. Our flyers and website are a huge reflection of that. Plus the internet has always been a great tool for us. We can post our music, find other bands to gig with, check out venues, promote our cd. You name it, it can be done with the internet. We also use computers for one of our weekly practices. Since renting rehearsal space is sort of costly and our landlords would throw us out if we plugged in our half stacks at home we use a digital drum kit and run everything line into a computer via a mixer. This way we can hear everything through headphones and no one else can. It's also a good way to record fast demos.
CM.com: Describe how you write your songs? From start to finish? Who writes them? What's the evolution from idea to finished song?
K: We write in a few different ways. I write most of the lyrics although Jay and Tim have written a few of the songs. Usually when I write I bring in a song start to finish w/ lyrics music the whole deal. Everyone else just jumps on board from there. Jay writes a lot of the music on his own and usually Tim will come in and help w/ transitions or adding other parts to make the songs more dynamic.
Overall it's total band effort. The four of us get in a room and bang it out until it's right regardless of who wrote what.
CM.com: What is your goal with your new album? Do you have distribution, are you going to tour it outside of Columbus and Ohio? How are you going to sell your records? How many cd's did you press?
K: We're starting with 500 cds. About a hundred or so will go out to local and national media. Radio stations, newspapers, magazines you name it. Plus some will go out to smaller labels who take open submissions. We've done a lot of research to find the "right" places to send them to. We're not just aimlessly sending stuff out to record labels hoping we'll get signed. We all know it doesn't work that way. The goal is to sell all of this pressing and hopefully be able to do another run. For the most part we'll be selling the cds through local music stores and our website. So far none of the local labels have showed any interest in us so it looks like we're on our own for now.
CM.com: How does Columbus compare in band scenes compared to other scenes pros and cons?
K: pros: Columbus is small enough that a new band can get off the ground relatively fast. But it's big enough that there are plenty of places to play at and a lot of great local talent. It's a great location for traveling purposes. If you draw a four hour circle around Columbus you can hit a lot of cities. Also Columbus has great a great supporter of local music w/ CD101. I've never been in any city that plays as much local music as they do. You won't hear any local bands on the radio in Cleveland.
cons: Overall there's a lot of apathy in Columbus. You will hear a lot of people say, "this is Columbus, no one cares." I hear that so much. I think it's up to the bands to make people care about coming out to the shows. If you put on a good show and look like you care about what you're doing, people will recognize it and come back. Whether it's for your band or someone else's. Unfortunately a lot of them just breed more of this sour attitude.
CM.com: What are the bands aspirations in the next 6 months? If you know it? lol
K: The main goal is to get as much music out there to people as we can however we have to do it. We're really hoping to get CD101 behind the cd and play it for us. I think the power they have down here is amazing and it would be great to get their help getting this music out to people. The second goal is to get the band playing out of town as much as possible. We've done a little traveling already but nothing consistent. We've been down to Wheeling and the college scenes in Bowling Green and Athens. We'll start next w/ Cleveland and Cincinnati and hopefully work our way out to Pittsburgh, Detroit from there.
Mark Interviewed by Modern Drummer Magazine: Up And Coming Drummers Volume 25 Number 3
"I don't feel that my value as a drummer lies in my chops or technical merit," says Columbus, Ohio's Mark Kovitya. "It's in the uniqueness of my part. In the same vein as Terry Bozzio, I think a drum part should be as 'composed' and distinguishable as any guitar or keyboard part. I strive to create a drum part that anyone can listen to and know what song is being played."
Deep thoughts for a twenty-two-year-old drummer. But Mark is a very focused young player. He's dedicated to his band, The Stepford Five, whose debut album, Mesh, displays the drum characteristics that Mark describes. While it has tinges of Smashing Pumpkins and Collective Soul in its sound, the group offers a fresh approach to contemporary rock - what one music critic has called "experimenting with the underbelly of rhythm and melody." The group gigs throughout the Midwest, and info on them can be found at www.stepfordfive.com.
Influences like Jimmy Chamberlin, Danny Carey and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate) seem natural for Mark, given the musical nature of the band. But he also cites Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Mike Portnoy, and Keith Moon among his favorites. He plays on a Pearl Export kit with Zildjian cymbals. His major music goal is simple: "As with any struggling drummer," he says, "it's my hope that one day I can make a living playing music."
Interview: "The Kids Are Alright - The Stepford Five" by Brian Duff of Now It's Dark (August 2002)
(Note: This is the full interview, some of it was edited for space considerations in the magazine)
Underneath the rumbling guitars and manic rhythms that define The Stepford Five, beat the hearts of four bohemian intellectuals, unafraid to claw at the system. Sporting a "MTV rapes children" t-shirt, drummer Mark Kovitya said it best: "People don't want to be bothered to look for music, so they eat whatever MTV is serving up." It is this rebellious, underground spirit that fuels the Stepford's fire. Add to the mix the palpable sonic relationship between singer/guitarist Keith Jenkins and guitarist/singer Jason Dziak; the weird thickness of bassist Tim Minneci's sound, and the maniacal drumming of Kovitya, you have a potent combination of skill and idealism. And despite their anti-corporate leanings, they are truly nice guys - just don't get them started on Creed...
NID: What are your general feelings on "rock" music today? Is this a constructive or reductive direction for music?
Jason Dziak: I hate to sound like a cynical prick but I just don't see any value in most of the current "successful" rock bands. There is nothing fun about Creed, their music is 3rd generation grunge polished up with digital guitar tones and the singer thinks he's Jesus Christ himself yet has nothing to say other than he loves his son. I think what irritates me most is that they've been deemed the band that represents the current state of rock.
Tim Minneci: Agreed, I think that in some ways, a band like Creed, Nickleback or Staind is even less genuine that Britney Spears or NSYNC. I mean, you know that Britney is a manufactured pop star, designed to sell products, and if you accept that, you can be at peace with it and even enjoy the stupidity of it. Nobody who actually respects rock music or has a shred of integrity would ever play the radio-driven crap...
Keith Jenkins: Bands like Creed are just regurgitating something that happened ten years ago with bands like Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains. The sad part is they aren't expanding on it, they're just imitating it...badly! Thankfully we're seeing the decline of the rap-metal. But I'm tired of all these angst-ridden suburban white gangsters playing drop tuned metal riffs over some idiot screaming with nothing to say!
NID: So Creed sucks. And MTV sucks. Who or What doesn't suck?
Keith: The Afghan Whigs, Catherine Wheel or the Cult. I would have loved to be on the Cult reunion tour a few years ago. The energy from those audiences was amazing. And then there are great new artists like Pete Yorn and Elbow that make me want to run home and plug in my guitar.
Tim: I love Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Wilco and that alt.country thing they do - although that will never come out directly in this band.
Mark: I heard that a pretty good time was had by all when Motley Crue toured for Shout at the Devil in 1983.
J: I'm with Keith, plus Cursive and Hey Mercedes. I find that it's not hard to pick up a little something from every band.
NID: The Cult and the Whigs both gained some level of popular success in a modern music market. Do you believe that it is a reasonable goal for a young band such as yourself to be both musically credible and also financially successful?
Mark: Obviously it is more important to be credible than successful but plenty of bands exist that are both. Surely none of them have their own gold-plated toilet seats, but probably [enjoy] some modicum of happiness and financial stability. And, frankly, if you can't feed yourself, creating music looses credibility.
Tim: There are lots of bands that are successful because they are selling records while making the music they want to make...
NID: Like whom?
Tim: Like REM and U2. Van Halen with Dave, KISS in the seventies, the Rolling Stones - I would love to have been a part of that over-the-top rock excess - we've never experienced that.
Keith: Look at the Who, those guys still rock in my book. I think rock supercedes age.
NID: So you don't believe that "rock" is a youth phenomena.
Tim: The generation that preceded us is really the first to be teenagers when rock 'n roll was a part of mainstream culture, so it seems like it's not that big a deal with them. If you think about it, someone who was eighteen when they might have stumbled upon the Ramones or Sex Pistols in the late '70s would be around forty years old now, and there is no reason they couldn't pick up a new record from the Hives or Black Halos and hear something that takes them back to being a kid again. In relation to music and generations, we're really just one, maybe two into this "rock as cross-generational" thing.
Keith: [I agree], the parents of kids who are in high school now grew up on good rock radio. Maybe you'll see rock music bring families closer together.
Mark: Although I think old people can rock, kids may have more in common with what musicians write about because I've found that most musicians are just big kids anyway.
J: I don't think it's a solely youth oriented concept anymore. I think now that it's more about a certain energy that the music conveys that either you get or you don't and it has nothing to do with age.
NID: Obviously no band "makes it" without hard work and a lot of help. Who are your friends on the local music scene and what bars/clubs have been goodto you? Who has helped you along the way?
J: Well, we go way back with the kids in Miranda Sound...um, Jon and Neal from Pretty Mighty Mighty/Workbook Studio have always been kind to us and have helped us make two records that we're really proud of.
Keith: Miranda Sound sort of came from the same place we did and hold a similar spot on the outside of the Columbus music clique. Fetch are a great bunch of guys and Ben Kemp of the Honeys/Templeton has always been a great friend to TS5.
J: In terms of venues, Dan Dougan gave us our first show at Little Brothers and we've always had a good time playing there. It's actually tough right now because it's about the only reliable place in town for us to gig anymore. Anywhere else is a crap shoot in terms of everything from turn-out, to promotion, to sound, to actually getting paid at the end of the night.
Keith: Dan gave us our first break there on a Wednesday night. We did well and he kept having us back eventually giving us weekends. I think that bar appreciates the effort and promotion we put into each of our shows. From what I'm told a lot of bands have a hard time getting into Little Brothers and for their support we are thankful. To me it's the premier place to play in Columbus.
I saw The Stepford Five April 27th at the Northberg Tavern, touring for their newest EP, "The Art of Self Defense." Despite nasty weather, a late start and the siren song of campus area riots, the Northberg was (nearly) filled with enthusiastic fans that hung onto every note, and stayed until the end. The band reciprocated with a strong, daring set that included five unreleased tracks. While current "hits," "Continental Drift" and "Foot Soldier" (both from "Self Defense") proved the Five's rock credentials, it was the lesser known songs, such as "Aquarium Blues" (Self Defense) and "Fair is Fair" (from the newly released Cringe.com/pilation Volume Two disk) that made the show. The Five are thoughtful, energetic and talented, and play an entertaining live show, to boot.
The Stepford Five: The Art of Self-Defense
The opening and title track of the Stepford Five's second full length EP sucks the listener in with aggressive guitars and a sophisticated hook. From there this disk develops as a guitar driven, stream of consciousness rock album, along the lines of the Afghan Whigs and early Smashing Pumpkins. The most polished tracks (Foot Soldier, Art of Self Defense, Expectations) are demonstrative of TS5's rock radio possibilities, if not their creative limits. My personal favorites include "Mend," a melodic and sad ballad, and "Aquarium Blues," which features intricate and creative guitar play. Keith Jenkins' rustic but friendly voice is a nice compliment to guitars that are alternatively glossy and raw; and all melodies flow over a mound of noise created by bassist Tim Minneci and Mark Kovitya on drums. This is a well crafted and optimistic exhibition of The Stepford Five's future, on the local and national scene.
Interview: "Columbus Music Scene Close-Up: The Stepford Five: Dig The New Breed" by John Austin of Entertainment Columbus (December 2001)
For years now I have put up with folks who think Columbus is just a cowtown. Every time the clerk at the video store tells people the obscure foreign film they want to rent is not available at that location, they begin a rant about the absence of good entertainment in Columbus. This sort of thing is understandable when it comes from people who have not spent much time here. What do they know? However, when citizens of the city start to sing this ditty, it brings me pain. A lot of talented people live and work in this area. Some of them are as good as, or better than, nationally known performers.
This month's featured band, The Stepford Five, is an example of an exceptional local band that is not getting enough recognition. The group has released two CD's worth of good songs and has demonstrated itself to be a powerful live act but, unfortunately, these facts are not known. This situation should change now that their second CD, The Art of Self-Defense, has hit the stores. On this release, the band, which is made up of Jason Dziak on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Keith Jenkins on guitar and lead vocals, Tim Minneci on bass, and Mark Kovitya on drums, has surpassed itself by recording (with the help of producer Neal Schmitt) a CD that is even better than its fine debut album Mesh.
Mesh, which Tim describes, somewhat unfairly, as a rather "basic" rock CD, is a collection of songs that should appeal to listeners who enjoy a number of different types of music. This CD includes a short acoustic number called Misplaced You, a funky song entitled Get Yourself Together which features some especially good guitar work, and several mid-tempo riff-driven rockers like Contact Illusion. There are cuts like Overcoming Eve and Need To Know that would not sound out of place on a Matthew Sweet album. Even though the band's influences are sometimes too evident, especially their love for the Afghan Whigs, Mesh showcases a band that had already begun to develop a unique sound. This process of individualization has accelerated with The Art of Self-Defense.
The band manages to play in different styles without really sounding too much like anybody else. Both of the main songwriters, Keith and Jason, have contributed strong selections. All of the members perform with passion and skill. However, the most important components of their sound are probably Keith's soulful vocals and Mark's terrific drumming. Mark is a highly trained, jazz-influenced musician who, like Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins, comes up with a real part rather than just playing a beat. Even more than Mesh, The Art of Self-Defense greatly benefits from his contributions.
On the new disc, The Stepford Five tackle an even wider variety of tempos and moods than they did on their first release. There are hard rock songs like Pretty Exit, Foot Soldier, and The Fall. [Tim does not think the comparisons between his band and the Foo Fighters is particularly valid, but the last song in this list is similar, both sonically and lyrically, to some of Dave Grohl's more serious work.] The CD also includes keyboard driven tracks like Mend, which features a little section revolving around a drum loop. My favorite selection, Expectations, begins with a guitar part this is somewhat like the intro to Yellow by Coldplay and gradually builds to the wall-of-sound characteristic of bands like Catherine Wheel.
This eclecticism befits a group whose influences range from Swedish punk bands like The Backyard Babies [one of Jason's favorites] to "obscure indie rock stuff like Death Cab for Cutie of Hum" to eighties metal acts like L.A. Guns. According to Tim, Brit-pop groups like the Manic Street Preachers influenced much of The Art of Self-Defense. "More so for their political outspokenness than musically...They simply say what they want, do what they want, and, if anybody gets in their way, you know, fuck off." Even now, The Stepford Five do not "ask for anything, except maybe honest feedback." So although they are friendly and helpful towards other area musicians, even to the extent of putting useful information on their website, they do not belong to any particular scene.
And yet, as diverse as the songs are on the new CD, there are thematic links between them. In Tim's opinion, the title points to these lyrical connections. "Most of the underlying...vibe of all of the songs is...[about] a person who puts up defenses in various aspects of their life to protect themselves from having their feelings hurt, to protect themselves from physical or psychological pain...In a way, it's critical of...not allowing experiences , no allowing open-mindedness." He pointed to Continental Drift, the chorus of which includes the lines "If there's a God above/Why do we do it? If we believe in love/Why do we do it?," as a particularly good example of this lyrical stance.
The band members do not just pay lip service to the idea of being open to new experiences. Some of their new songs, especially Showing Through, show a willingness to experiment. While Tim was quick to note that The Stepford Five "is not a jam band," he said they like to improvise a bit when they perform this song in concert. He also promised the group's third album will be better and more complex then the current work.
So come on out to the Scarlet and Grey Cafe on December 8th and help support this talented band. Their CD's are available at the Virgin Megastore or at their website www.stepfordfive.com. If you cannot attend the December show, be sure to check out the Calendar of Events in Entertainment Columbus each moth for concert updates.