Q&A w/ Koyo on their new EP ‘Drives Out East,’ upcoming shows, future full-length & more
Pick up Koyo's new EP on clear blue 7" vinyl.
Long Island emo is back. It's not that emo bands haven't existed on Long Island, but when you think of the "Long Island emo" sound, you're probably thinking of the sound that bands like Koyo (and peers like Stand Still) have been reviving lately. Koyo -- who formed last year with members of SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Typecaste, Rain of Salvation, Hangman, and Adrenaline -- hearken back to the sounds of Silent Majority, The Movielife, and early Taking Back Sunday, and they do a ton of justice to that style of music. When they released their debut EP Painting Words Into Lines last year, it seemed like a side project to give members of those five aforementioned hardcore bands a chance to pay homage to some of their formative influences, but Koyo is shaping up to be much more than that. Drives Out East is even better than Painting, and it doesn't feel like homage; Koyo are taking their influences and twisting them into something they call their own.
To get an even better feel for the new EP, I caught up with vocalist Joey Chiaramonte over email to discuss the new songs, the return of live music, an eventual full-length, incorporating some Goo Goo Dolls influence, and more. Here's our chat...
When the first Koyo EP came out last year, it seemed like a way for you all to explore some other influences on the side of your "main" bands, but it seems to be quickly turning into much more than that. You've already got a second EP out, you signed to a notable label, and the music seems to really be resonating with people. Did you expect any of this when you were writing the first EP?
Truthfully, not so much. But I suppose that's often how it goes with this stuff, happy accidents. The mission statement was to play some shows on the weekends when we had the time. Two years and a life-altering pandemic later, we have plans lining up well into the end of next year. It's been wild, and the beauty is we're just getting started.
How'd you link up with Triple B, and how has the experience with the label been so far?
That was thanks to my buddy Scanlon, who books most of the hardcore shows on Long Island and also plays bass in The Fight. He's close with [Triple B owner] Sam [Yarmuth] and put us on his radar. We've had a dope experience working with Sam. He's held it down for us and looked out, very appreciative of everything he's been doing for the band with his platform.
You released the first EP right before lockdown hit, and by the time you released the second, it was like we were living in an entirely different world. To what extent did the pandemic influence the creation of the new EP?
Well, for one thing, it gave us a lot of time to work on it. Cumulatively, I'd say we put about an LP's worth of time and work into the four songs on the record, or at least it felt that way. We spent so much time fine-tuning and crafting those songs until they were exactly what we wanted. We may have not had the time to do that in a functional world state. Almost none of us were working, most everyone had been laid off in some capacity. And above all else, there were no expectations to correct that. The world was (and still is) notably fucked. So we used that free time to our advantage. Additionally, it put a little extra angst into my system which fueled a lot of the lyrics for the record. No songs on Drives Out East are explicitly about the pandemic, but for sure are discussions of feelings that were a byproduct of in a lot of ways.
How did the writing/recording process of the second EP differ from the first?
Aside from the aforementioned fine-tuning, I'd say inclusion. Our guitar player TJ and I did most of the jamming for the first EP. Drives Out East was more of a group effort to get the record straight and was jammed on in the company of the whole band countless times. The first EP also came together way quicker and was more spontaneous, whereas Drives Out East was a more calculated effort in a lot of ways.
What were you looking to get across lyrically with the new songs?
Don't waste the short life you have living for others' expectations. Do near exclusively what feels good in life, or regret it.
The new EP goes in a few different directions than the first EP, brings in acoustic guitar, strings, etc. Can you talk about the decision to incorporate stuff like that? As a band with strong ties to the hardcore scene, was there any hesitation to include those softer sounds?
So part of what makes Koyo so fun for us is being able to explore a little more than we would with other bands. We're free to do whatever we want really as long as the final product still cuts through as a Koyo track. So we went and did that, particularly with "Since You Asked" and "The World We Claim." Frankly, there was no hesitation. As long as we're producing something real, we know it'll translate to people. Shoutout Glassjaw for being the kings of doing exactly that.
Can you talk about the decision to bring Abby Rhine in to sing on "Diamond One"?
So I decided I wanted Abby on the song at practice when I was writing the verse she sang. I was spacing out while they were jamming on the song and heard that melody in my head, but I very quickly began to hear it in a girl's voice, and the idea of having Abby sing it clicked instantly. She and Life's Question are all close with the band, we all have prior touring experience together, it just made sense.
Obviously, Koyo pulls from the late '90s / early 2000s Long Island emo bands, but were there any musical influences on the new EP that we might not expect?
I think there were, but it was more in nuanced and layered decisions finishing the record. A lot of references to various artists from all different lanes of music helped shape the finishing touches on the record. If I had to pick one particular new influence, it'd be Harold trying to channel some Goo Goo Dolls ballad energy when writing "The World We Claim."
You've finally got live shows lined up again. How are you feeling about finally playing these songs for people?
A little anxious, but very excited. It's been a long time coming. We played one show with no music out in January of 2020. It's been a year and 8 months of just daydreaming, dwelling on, and obsessing over eventually playing again.
Any chance of a Koyo full-length in the future?
Absolutely, we've been working on it for some time. Just don't wanna rush the process. Gotta support these first two EPs as if they were one big record. They deserve their collective "album cycle".
Pick up Drives Out East on clear blue 7" vinyl and stream it below...