Written by Meghan Ianiro
Indie rock band Been Stellar, consisting of Sam Slocum, Skyler Knapp, Dominic Gould, Michael Lynch, and Miles Camiener, originally hails from Birmingham, MI. Upon relocating to NYC for college, core members Sam and Skyler grouped up with Nando Dale, Laila Wayans, and Nico Brunstein to form a live band and continue Been Stellar’s music in the big city. Just this past year, Been Stellar has released their first full-length album Sells Out which the band wrote, recorded, and released all within Sam’s attic back home in Michigan. Sells Out follows the band’s two previous EPs: Kenna (2016) and Completely Serious (2014). This past December, they released their latest single ‘Midwestern Holiday,’ a nostalgia-inspired holiday song that’s just as cold and melancholy as it is warm and cozy. Citing The Strokes, Spoon, and Interpol as major influences, Been Stellar’s poetic, honest lyricism, emotive vocals, catchy riffs, and angsty energy would certainly make Julian Casablancas proud.
Megazine had the chance to talk with Sam (Vocals + Synth) and Skyler (Guitar) about music, life, and growing up. Check out our interview below!
"You said your latest single, 'Midwestern Holiday', is an outlier to your previously released music and can be viewed as a transition. Is it safe to say that your future releases will be headed in this direction as far as sound goes?"
SKY: "I wouldn’t say that’s the case in terms of songwriting. Yes, in terms of production, however. The direction we’re headed is different than our past releases, but not unique to the style of 'Midwestern Holiday'."
"Did you go into 'Midwestern Holiday' wanting to try something different, or did it kind of just happen organically?"
SAM: "I wrote the initial riff in the same way we did while working on our last album. I wasn’t trying to get poppier or anything, but as the song progressed we definitely started to focus on sonics. By the end, we were really focused on making the production cleaner than how it was on our album."
"All of this holiday talk has me wondering - how did you spend your holiday?!"
SKY: "We spent it back home in Michigan, chilling with the bros, hanging with the fam, snowboarding,"
SKY: "We spent it working on new music, too!"
"What was it like relocating from Michigan to New York City? How do the two locations differ for you when it comes to your musical career?"
SKY: "Relocating was crazy, but in the best way possible. Being in NYC is like being in indie rock heaven. Everything is closer together so drawing an audience is a lot easier..."
SAM: "...Whereas in Michigan, kids don’t want to go see a gig on the weekend, it just isn’t a part of the culture there. There is a scene, it was just way less accessible for a high school band."
"Please tell me your band name is a play on words of 'Ben Stiller'. Amazing."
SAM: "Yeah, Skyler came up with it when we had just started making music together Freshman year."
SKY: "I really liked how it’s both a play on the name and like… a mantra. It sounds lukewarm but still dramatic."
"I love that you wrote, recorded, and released Sells Out on your own in Sam's attic. What were some of the challenging and rewarding aspects of that?"
SKY: "I guess it was sort of like a sanctuary for Sam and I, ‘cause that’s what we did for fun. Going out on a Friday night for us was making music in his attic."
SAM: "It’s really rewarding now, to look back and say we did that. But there were some seriously difficult moments, both in writing and recording. Definition of a learning experience."
"Your music has strong themes of growing up, getting out, and moving on. If you could go back 5 years and give advice to your younger self, what would it be?"
SKY: "I would say, 'You don’t need a record label or a studio to be able to make music. You can do it by yourself, don’t wait. And maintain the energy of your youth.'"
SAM: "I would say something like, 'Don’t shut down your ideas so quickly, ‘cause that idea could be the next 'Strawberry Fields Forever' or something.'"
"Now let's go forward 5 years - where do you see yourself?"
SKY: "I see us doing this as a living. Spending 100% of our time making music and touring."
SAM: "I’m gonna go to medical school."
"What's next for Been Stellar?"
SAM: "We’re focusing on a really solid batch of songs right now. Not sure if they’ll turn into an EP or an album, or just be singles… But yeah, they are coming along nicely."
SKY: "We are playing a ton of shows in NY this year, hopefully some dates in other cities along the east coast. We’d like to do a more extensive tour this summer."
SAM: "We’ll see what happens."