On The Line with Joey Secchiaroli of The Reign of Kindo

Joey Secchiaroli is the frontman, guitarist and the “recorder of albums” for The Reign of Kindo, a band that is sophisticated, skilled and fun. Influenced by Jeff Buckley, Joey always brings his A-game to the table and is as humble as he is talented. We had a great and highly engaging conversation about topics such as living in New York City, vocal influences, Warped Tour, the Grammys and more!

Alex Obert: Who do you consider your vocal influences to be?

Joey Secchiaroli: It changes over the years, but whether I think I mean to or not, I’m always trying to emulate the different vocalists I listen to at any given point. I started out being really influenced by Jeff Buckley and people in that school of singing. Then I got a little bit more interested in soul and Motown. From a young age, Michael Jackson’s always been a huge influence on me. I really enjoy the energy that his vocals create. And now, I don’t feel there’s a set person that I look to in regards to who I want to sound like. I want to sound like me, but I’m just a mishmash hodgepodge of all the people I’ve listened throughout my life and all the vocalists I’m going to listen to. I can’t say there’s a particular person that I’m exceptionally inspired by. There’s so many wonderful singers. Whenever I hear a great singer, I might not know who they are, but I’m always inspired and influenced.

Alex Obert: What was it like when you heard Jeff Buckley for the first time?

Joey Secchiaroli: I was very haunted by his voice. And I think that’s a common reaction, he just has this quality in his voice that makes your hairs stand on end. I definitely paid attention when I first heard him. It was exciting to hear a voice like that. I never heard a voice like that before. And I don’t think a lot of the world had heard a voice like that. I think it really ignited an excitement in me. Nowadays, there are so many singers that are heavily influenced by him. It’s sad that we don’t have him around anymore.

Alex Obert: Though your influences are always changing, how do you discover new music?

Joey Secchiaroli: A lot of times, I’ll make Spotify playlists. I won’t necessarily seek out to listen to a particular artist, I’ll just be looking for a certain kind of vibe. Sometimes I’ll discover artists that way. I’ve been going to a lot of shows since I moved to New York and discovered so many amazing artists here in the city. Half of them maybe don’t see much further outside the city, but the music’s incredible and what they do is incredible. I’m a big fan of a lot of artists that are just here in New York. I hope they’ll eventually extend their reach beyond. All my friends are musicians, so they’ll always turn me onto stuff to listen to. It’s exciting to find somebody new. I had a friend who just introduced me to Emily King from here in New York. I just heard one of her tracks and I was like, “Wow, that’s special!” It’s similar to that whole Buckley experience in different way.

Alex Obert: What have you taken out of New York City since moving there?

Joey Secchiaroli: I didn’t know what to expect when I moved here. I was following the ideal that if I want to make a career as a musician, then this was the place to go. I describe it as a playground for musicians. You’ll find the right company. You’ll find people who are just in love with what they do. I’ll often tell my friends and family that since I moved here, my heroes are my friends and people that I’ve gotten to play with and go and see. I guess that’s the biggest difference for me about living in New York compared to anywhere else. I can look around me and see my peers, they’re all just like you and me. It’s not like they’re celebrities or well-known artists, but they’re my heroes because the art they’re creating is so exciting. In a big city like this, there’s a lot of money to support the arts. That’s great, that’s why the music and the arts can flourish in a big town. It’s not that they don’t appreciate art in a small town, but there’s not as much money to go around and arts are usually the first thing to get cut when it comes to spending. There’s amazing venues here and so many musicians that are trying to leave their mark. There’s so much talent around here, you can’t walk around here like you’re special because you realize that you are amongst greatness. It’s been really exciting to be in the environment. And I prefer that because it makes me want to be sharp and continue to refine what I do. I’m always inspired, I’m never short on that. I love it here.

Alex Obert: When you think of the musicians on streets of New York and in the subway stations?

Joey Secchiaroli: It’s always hit or miss. You can go and have some guy just barking around on a keyboard and panhandling, but then you walk down to the subway station and you’ll just hear these guys killin’ it. Those guys are just enjoying themselves and people appreciate it. People stop and listen to it. I love it, it makes waiting for the train much easier when you have a really talented performer. It’s fun. That’s the playground I’m referring to. You’re waiting for a train and then there’s just some performer that shows up and just wants to do their thing. They obviously want to make some money to pay the rent and eat, nothing wrong with that. It’s very entertaining, I love it.

Alex Obert: What are some of your favorite places to see music in the city?

Joey Secchiaroli: There’s Rockwood Music Hall, that’s one of my favorite places to go. I think it tends to be more of a listener’s room. The acoustics are great and you’re really close to the performer. You feel a cool connection with whoever is playing. The Mercury Lounge is really cool. I just saw Cory Henry at Drom with this project that he’s putting together. It was super awesome. The 55 Bar down in the Village, you can always go there and find an amazing musician. I went to Blue Note for the first time this year. I saw Hiromi play with a trio there, that was really cool. You’re right up there with them. Those are my favorite environments to see music. I don’t really care for larger theaters. Nothing against a big show and a big spectacle, but music is most appreciated in an intimate setting without all the bells and whistles.

Alex Obert: Have you ever played in a bizarre setting?

Joey Secchiaroli: We played some venue in Pittsburgh once and it just seemed like this guy had a bunch of stuff and he put it in the storefront. And he happened to have an old PA system. It was just this store full of stuff and he had shows there. (laughs) That was weird. It definitely wasn’t the first time I walked into a venue we were gonna play at and was perplexed. There’s no shortage of those.

Alex Obert: How about playing outside?

Joey Secchiaroli: Playing outside is always kind of weird. Unless you have an awesome sound system and a really, really awesome sound guy and a great monitor guy who knows how to make the stage feel nice, it’s tough. The majority of your playing is inside, you’re used to the way indoor acoustics behave. You feel like you’re supposed to sound a certain way, then you go outside and there’s absolutely no reverberation anywhere. The sound just kind of slides out and it doesn’t come back to you. That can feel kind of weird. It’s not my favorite thing to do. I played bass for Gin Wigmore on Warped Tour last year. They were smaller stages, but the monitor guy’s really great. I love playing with that band, that band’s awesome. Great energy. So that was fun. It was my first Warped Tour, I was christened.

Alex Obert: Did you do a lot of people watching on the tour?

Joey Secchiaroli: Absolutely. It was a fascinating subculture. I recognize that it’s marketed to mostly adolescents. I was once an adolescent and I remember going to a Warped Tour in the nineties, it was just such a different experience. Musically, it’s changed. There used to be a lot of ska and punk. And even rock bands such as Our Lady Peace played, some of these nineties bands. It felt like a circus this time with all these screamo bands, tons of metal bands, some DJs. It was just really kind of bizarre. It felt like a lot of misguided kids just running around while screaming and moshing. They were trying to cling to whatever there was to cling to. They’re sweet kids, but you can see it’s where they go to be cool. (laughs) People were really nice and we got to befriend a lot of the bands. But we were a little bit older, so there was definitely a gap between how you could relate to certain bands on life experience. We were in our thirties. (laughs) We ended up hanging out with the bands like Reel Big Fish and Big D and the Kids Table, bands that have years under their belt. They’ve got it dialed in and they know how to have good time at a festival like that. I’ll admit that I was kind of losing my mind by the end of it. It felt like Groundhog Day. We were very fortunate because we got to ride in a bus, but then we would wake up and be in a different parking lot in a different city. But you didn’t feel like you were in any different city, just a different parking lot. You were usually far away from the metropolitan area, so it wasn’t like you were taking in the culture of the area. It was just the same Warped Tour culture everyday in a different city.

Alex Obert: What do take out of practice and jam sessions with your bandmates in The Reign of Kindo?

Joey Secchiaroli: It’s different every time. Sometimes it’s very dull. (laughs) But sometimes it’s really exciting when you walk out really amped and excited about an idea someone brought or how an idea came together. It just totally depends. It’s usually more exciting than not.

Alex Obert: What was your first band like?

Joey Secchiaroli: I think I was thirteen or fourteen. It was my first rock band. I played saxophone since I was in fourth grade. I was always in a jazz ensemble or concert bands, stuff like that. Some friends of mine had started this Nirvana cover band in middle school and I just bought those the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to learn bass, so I borrowed my dad’s and learned some really simple basslines. I then started jamming with some of my other friends. Eventually I was going to this church youth group and there were some other musicians there. We started to get together and jam some ideas, it was just so exciting. There’s nothing I can compare that to, that feeling of being young and discovering making music with your friends. It’s such a cool thing. Our band name was The McClurg Family Singers. It was kind of a goofy name. We took it as a tribute to the two singers who were brothers. Their parents used to travel in a gospel band called The McClurg Family Singers. For them, it was straight up folk gospel. We were more influenced by nineties alternative and grunge, bands like Smashing Pumpkins. We thought it was funny, although I’m sure no one else thought it was funny. So we entered into a battle of the bands. It was our first show ever and we actually won. We got free recording time and we recorded an EP. We ended up putting out a couple more EPs and then an actual record. We got to work with a producer named Armand Petri. This was years later. I was probably eighteen or nineteen at that point. Armand Petri produced the Goo Goo Dolls, he produced Sixpence None the Richer, and 10,000 Maniacs. We learned a lot. We were really just shitty teenagers at the time, so we butt heads or we’d insist that he didn’t know what he was talking about. But he was bringing in a lot of experience. He was a strong personality too, so it was a lot of clashing. In hindsight, after we did the record, we realized how much we learned about songwriting and arrangement from him. It was a really, really awesome experience. It also shaped me as an engineer. I started engineering when I was about seventeen or eighteen. I was taking classes at the studio.

Alex Obert: What year was it when you started that band?

Joey Secchiaroli: It was in ’96 or ’97.

Alex Obert: So that’s around the time that the grunge scene was transitioning into alternative.

Joey Secchiaroli: Right, exactly. The Smashing Pumpkins were a big influence on us. Loved Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming, it was exciting and explosive. It was just cool, energizing music. It’s perfect for teenagers. (laughs) But it was also sophisticated, they also had that depth to them. I think I enjoyed the dynamics too. They would do cool spacey tunes as well. And with Radiohead, when OK Computer dropped, that changed all our lives. We were super influenced by that.

Alex Obert: As a musician who has been influenced and influenced others, what advice do you have for musicians to stay humble and genuine?

Joey Secchiaroli: We’re reminded every day that we can’t do what we do without our fans. If people don’t buy our music or go to our shows, then there’s no money to make music or get to the shows. It’s clear to see that without the people who support us, there is no band. A lot of times, I’ll say on our social media site that I just want to thank our fans and that they are just as much a part of this as we are. And I don’t mean in a cliché way. If they don’t buy the music and if they don’t buy merch and they don’t go to shows, there’s no band. We can’t do what we do without them. As far as I’m concerned, we’re one in the same. We might be creating this stuff and maybe they’re enjoying the music we are making, but we’re enjoying making it. And we’re enjoying that we’re able to continue making it because others enjoy listening to it. It’s easy to stay humble because you see you can’t do it without the people that support you.

Alex Obert: When you’re playing with other bands on tours and shows, how do you treat them?

Joey Secchiaroli: Just with mutual respect. Human dignity. We understand that everyone’s trying to make music. I know that people come from different backgrounds with different priorities, but that’s their prerogative. We’re just trying to have a good time and keep things positive. Whether we enjoy the music of bands that we play with or not, we’re gonna be respectful. Just cause I don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean it’s not good for someone else doesn’t enjoy it. We just want to treat people with respect and make friends. And be friendly people. (laughs)

Alex Obert: How did the idea develop for The Reign of Kindo to do 8-bit albums of your own music?

Joey Secchiaroli: That was very much Steve and Mike’s idea. We were excited about it, but they really took the bull by the horns with it and executed it. They both remixed all the songs. It was part of an expression to show how much Nintendo and video game music meant to us and influenced us growing up. And it still does. It very much was their baby, they conceived it and gave birth to it. (laughs)

Alex Obert: When did the direction change from you being in an alternative rock band to being in Reign of Kindo and taking that approach?

Joey Secchiaroli: It’s just a natural shift of interest for us. We started listening to jazz music and film scores and movie soundtracks. I think The Reign of Kindo is really just the manifestation of a mutual interest we have. It’s a little more sophisticated and a very challenging endeavor that was definitely above our skill set. But that was also the exciting part of it because we felt it would stretch us as players and as music listeners and students of music in general. It was just a natural evolution. It was the next chapter for us. We’ve seen some of our favorite bands evolve into different, more sophisticated versions of themselves. I think as artists, we always want to be challenged. We go where that challenge is and where that excitement is and follow that.

Alex Obert: I notice that you have been vocal about the Grammys as of late. I’d love for readers to find out why.

Joey Secchiaroli: The only thing that perturbs me about the Grammys is the way they’re presented is people not really respecting the art form and value of recorded music and what goes into it. I think people have nothing but misconceptions and Hollywood has definitely contributed to reinforcing those misconceptions. You’ll watch the Oscars and there’s awards given for “Best Sound Engineering”, “Best Director of Photography”, “Best Costume Design”, “Best Choreography” because there’s all these moving parts that make a film. Not just the actors are being rewarded. But in music, only the performing artist of the song is given the award. It’s as though no one else had anything to do with it. Whether people consciously know it or not, it creates this image in people’s minds where it’s like, “Oh, look! Taylor Swift won another Grammy. She just sits on a cloud and farts and her song comes out. And that’s it, no one else is involved. And that’s what I’m listening to, her fart. It’s beautiful.” I’m not saying it to hate on her in any way, I just used her as an example because she’s a public figure. There’s teams of songwriters, engineers, producers, marketing people, all the people who go into making the music videos and people who present her image a certain way, teams of skilled people behind what makes the product Taylor Swift that are invisible to the public eye. It immortalizes these artists and gives people the idea that if you are successful, then you were just lucky and born with this imortal power to fart out great recordings. So it devalues all the skilled people involved in making recordings and all the time it takes to make the recordings. That whole process is not celebrated. Whereas with the Oscars, the process of filmmaking is very much celebrated and acknowledged. That’s my main grievance with the Grammys, it doesn’t celebrate everyone involved in the creation of a thing that everyone is talking about. It only celebrates the icon that has been put up to represent that product. I don’t really care about the accolades, that really means nothing to me. All I care about is that people value recorded music, the skill and the art of it all. I hope they can appreciate it more deeply and to not feel so entitled to it, as though it required no effort, energy, or money to make it.

Alex Obert: It’s definitely a lot to think about. And very interesting at that. Before we wrap up, what are your plans in 2015 for music?

Joey Secchiaroli: I’m going to try and finish my first solo record, that will be one thing on the plate. The next thing on the plate is that Kindo will go back to writing and preparing to put out another set of recordings. That will probably occupy most of our creative musicmaking year. Me and the drummer for Kindo, we play for Gin Wigmore. Her record’s coming out soon, so we’ll probably tour with her. And Jeff, our bass player, he is also the bass player for Vertical Horizon. They do a lot of touring and recording as well. Between all those things is when we get together and do our music stuff for Kindo and all that other jazz. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Do you have any websites for readers to check out?

Joey Secchiaroli: TheReignofKindo.com. And the Facebook is just facebook.com/thereignofkindo. You can like us and we won’t swarm your newsfeed with garbage, just some soapboxes that I hop on from time to time and some funny or stupid videos that we like.

Alex Obert: Awesome stuff! I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.

Joey Secchiaroli: Oh, of course! I appreciate your time.

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