SKATERS sound exactly like you’d hope they would. The New York quartet writes songs that are loud, fast, and inescapably catchy, but even when they turn the BPMs down, the vibe is still recklessly youthful. For Manhattan, bandmates Michael Ian Cummings, Noah Rubin, Joshua Hubbard, and Dan Burke didn’t need to look far for inspiration. The album, which dropped in February, pulls directly from the place SKATERS call home, and it’s filled with sloshy little vignettes about the girls, bars, and late nights that define what it’s like, as one track says, “to be young in New York City.” This Wednesday, May 28, SKATERS make their Santa Barbara debut at Velvet Jones in support of Manhattan. Earlier this week, we caught up with frontman Michael Ian Cummings to talk about the band’s image, origin story, and wild live show.
How are you? Where are you? Good. We’re pulling into a carwash in Austin, Texas. Gonna wash the van. [Laughs.]
How was your drive through the South? Did you guys stop in New Orleans? Nah. We decided to stay in St. Petersburg and go jet skiing. We got free tickets to Busch Gardens, so we figured we should just hang out. It was like Kenny Powers’s Day Off.
How have the shows been going? They’ve been really good. For most of these shows it’s our first time coming through these cities, and we’ve been pretty fucking pleasantly surprised, I gotta say. You never know about Florida; people don’t think of it as a rocking spot, but it was.
I read that you guys formed SKATERS over the span of a day. Yeah. I was in a band that was kind of winding down, and that’s how I met Josh, on tour. But honestly, just moving back to New York, we knew that we wanted to start another project once we were there. So when Josh showed up in New York, it was pretty much locked in.
Who came up with the band name? I guess my sister kind of did. Whenever she hung up the phone she’s say,“Later, skater,” and it just kind of clicked. We came to find out way later that there’s another band called Skater out there, but they haven’t contacted us yet, so …
Given that you guys don’t actually skate, what do you think drew you to the name? Well, when we were kids in high school, we would get out of school and just fuck about, and the name reminded us of that — when you have nothing to do and you just want to skate with your friends and get stoned or whatever. That’s pretty much it. It’s no expectations — that’s kind of the vibe. It’s also how we started the band. We didn’t really know what we were getting into. It kind of started as an art project [see the band’s ‘zine, Yonks] and then just took on a life of its own.
Similarly, calling the record Manhattan conjures up a whole lot of images. What led you guys to title the album so, um, boldly? We identified with the city in that it was where we started the band, but also all the songs we wrote were about our experiences there and our first year there. It’s also where we recorded the whole record. It all sort of happened right there.
Coming off the success of the EP, did you have some pretty concrete ideas about what you wanted the full-length to sound like? Yeah. We had recorded one EP, and then another that never got released, so we had a bunch of songs. We knew we wanted to make a record that was a little more produced than our previous stuff, and that we wanted to incorporate different elements from different types of music. That’s kind of the reason we wanted to work with [producer] John Hill. He had done a bunch of hip-hop stuff, a bunch of pop stuff, and he was pretty well-versed in all sorts of music, and that was important sonically to me. It sounds like a record from the ‘90s, you know? It doesn’t just sound like a throwback record with a bunch of reverb on it.
Speaking of genre hopping, both “Band Breaker” and “Fear of the Knife” have this heavy dub feel to them. Were those written around the same time? Those were actually really spread out. [Laughs.] “Fear the Knife” was on the first EP, and “Band Breaker” I wrote right before we started recording. It’s just kind of indicative of how much pot I’ve been smoking if I’m writing chill songs or aggressive songs. [Laughs.]
How would you describe the state of the live show currently? Has it been getting pretty crazy? Yeah, it’s been really fun. You never know, depending on where you are, how crazy it’s going to get, but we found that the younger kids go a little more wild. England was great for raucousness, too. In America you get it for sure on the West Coast and in some East Coast cities, but you never know. Every night is different.
SKATERS play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Wednesday, May 28, at 8 p.m. For tickets and info, call (805) 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com.