I recently sat down with Larry Kennedy (@Larrybrick) of The Jellybricks. The Jellybricks are a great, high-energy pop-rock band from Pennsylvania. This year they released their fifth studio album, Suckers, on the New Jersey label Pop Detective. The band has appeared on compilation CDs with the likes of The Smithereens, The Posies, Fountains of Wayne and Phil Keaggy.
We conducted a Skype video interview that, due to a plague of technical difficulties, took a few days and several connections to complete. In an effort to provide consistency and continuity Larry wore the same shirt and hat on the second day as he had on the first. Very considerate of him but what he didn’t know is that when we hooked up the second time I was in my living room rather than in my office as I was at first. Thanks for trying Larry.
The video hangs up here and there, changes resolution a few times and makes me appear and disappear but I think it came out pretty well. Larry is very enthusiastic and a good story teller so that makes up for the sometimes shoddy quality. His computer gave up the ghost before we were entirely finished so he answered my last few questions via email which can be read below:
MQ: I read that you were Music Director at WBWC FM. How long did you do that? Did you learn anything from that experience that helped your music career? Did you make any useful connections?
LK: I started attending classes at Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio (just outside of Cleveland) in the fall of 1991, and curiosity led me to a meeting of the radio station board, where I determined that I might be qualified to review records for airplay. My reviews impressed the Program Director, and little did I know that the Music Director position had just been vacated – so the PD invited me briskly to apply for the position. I remained in the position until Christmas of ’92, when I left school to join yet another rock ‘n’ roll band (ignore that part, you youngsters looking for life-direction). It was a wonderful time for me – maintaining the largest music library I’ve ever seen, helping to shape the sounds of the takeover of “alternative” rock – literally becoming Music Director just in time for the “coming of Nirvana,” and the Seattle scene. From where I sat, it was like a renaissance of rock music was taking place, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it.
What I learned was how important the college radio market was and is to independent artists, and that treating these kids with respect and regard is a good way to get them to listen to your music. College radio kids aren’t industry-jaded wanna-be’s, but rather, they are the unfettered, genuine music fans who want to be a part of making history. As a Music Director, I also learned to open my ears wider stylistically, which certainly expanded my own music tastes and understanding.
As far as connections go, I’m happy to say that some of the best friends of my life were made while I was in college radio, and that many of those friends still support my music. Indeed, every college radio station in Cleveland plays The Jellybricks, and I’d like to think that my history there is a small part of that.
MQ: How has it been being signed to Pop Detective? What do you think it means to be signed these days?
LK: Pop Detective has been a great label for us already. It’s a small operation based in New Jersey, run by a guy named Mark Hershberger, who is simply a passionate music fan, and a great guy. We believe strongly that being on the Pop Detective label was a great help in getting our music heard by “Little Steven” Van Zandt, in that he has already championed two other Pop Detective artists, The Dahlmanns from Norway, and The Deadbeat Poets from Youngstown, Ohio. Mark has worked well with our management, and has only been generous and supportive of us. In fact, when Little Steven named “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” his “Coolest Song in the World” back in March, we experienced a scene from “That Thing You Do,” when Mark surprised us by showing up at a show in Phoenixville, PA – just to congratulate us. That … is real hands-on label support.
So that’s what it’s like to be signed to a completely human-driven independent label – it’s a smaller budget, but it’s good people, with great intentions. I couldn’t say what it’s like to be signed to a larger label at this point. I still get the impression that the big dogs of the industry are so painfully money-oriented (not unlike what has happened in business and government across the board), that one’s career as an artist is brutally secondary to whatever business interests may come first. It’s easy to point fingers at major labels and the way they operate, but it’s only easy because they’ve shown their true colors for as long as there have been profits to be made off the backs of the creative hopefuls. There are stories upon stories about the money raked in by business while the people who wrote, recorded, and performed the “product” have nothing monetarily to show for their efforts. They used to call this “serfdom.” Having mentioned to you already that we’ve encountered some thoroughly cynical label folks who wondered if we were “sleeping with program directors,” and who urged us to “write more songs like (our already radio-proven regional hit), ‘Who Is God,'” I think we’re just grateful that the downside of the business was never enough to deter our progress as a band.
MQ: Do you have any advice for band just starting out?
LK: Do this because you love it. Do this because you wouldn’t be happy otherwise. Do this to feed your own soul by having a creative voice, and doing something that inspires others. Don’t do this to make money – the odds are against that entirely. Above all, enjoy the freedom that allows us to make music, do it well, don’t be afraid of what others might think, and remember that you’re creating an experience for yourselves, and for your audience. They could be at home watching some lame reality TV show after all, but if they’re into your music, they’re the coolest people in your world.