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March 9, 2011 / punkcakes

Jon Sandler, an Interview!

Jon Sandler and the Fancy Band seem to be popping up a lot these days. Jon Sandler, a Brooklyn resident, musician and songwriter, is infectious with his quirky personality and diverse songwriting abilities. Him and his band recently recorded and released The Fancy Band EP, which prove it’s only the beginning. I recently chatted with Jon about his music and life in Brooklyn – check out the exclusive interview below!

Q: Jon, did you grow up in Brooklyn? Does Brooklyn and your life here influence your music?

A: Actually, I grew up in a small town in upstate NY called Niskayuna, but I have called Brooklyn my home now for 6 years and have written most of my songs here.  Growing up in the suburbs and now living in Brooklyn has definitely affected the way I look at the world, and I am constantly inspired by the city in a way that only someone who grew up in a small town could be.   One of the first songs that I wrote after moving here is called ‘Hooked on Brooklyn’ because simply, I am.

Q: What is your musical background? What made you fall in love with playing music?

A: I have been playing guitar, singing and writing songs since I was very young.  My parents say I was singing before I could talk.  It came naturally to me and I didn’t think much of it.  When I started to record and perform at age 13, I knew it was not only something that I needed to do for myself, but also something I loved to share.   I have been writing and performing every since, forming bands in high school, college and in NYC where I have the best band ever.   I would say that I officially fell in love with performing music at one of my first shows upstate at The Empire State Plaza in Albany. Backstage there was a green room with a bathroom!

Q: Who and what influence your songwriting?

A: I am inspired and influenced by everything and everyone in my life.  Everything from Coconut Water and my cat Judy, to deeper topics like love and death.   Almost every person who is close to me either has a full song about them, or at least a mention or shout-out in a song.   Ex-girlfriends definitely win the prize for most influence and songs.

Q: I love the diversity of your songs, between the folk sound of Nowhere Bound and Me, then the more poppy Down On My Luck, to the reggae beat in Broken Rubberband – (which is so good). Growing up, did you listen to wide array of music that lead you to be so diverse? Who was the first band you really fell in love with?

A: First off, Thank you!  Yes, I have always listened to very wide range of music and genres; I think I am the only huge Phish fan who also loves Boys II Men.   Growing up I listened to a TON of Beatles, Ben Folds, Elton John, Annie Lennox, James Taylor, Bob Marley– I love aspects of every style. When I write I don’t think about genre, I write the lyrics and melody and the song will naturally take shape in whatever style and genre it gravitates towards, which is why every song seems to be a slightly different style.  I love to sing a reggae tune right into a hip-hop/soul number right into a straight pop ballad.  Makes life interesting.

Q: Do you have a favorite place (in Brooklyn?) you like to write music?

A: When I first moved to Brooklyn I used to sneak into the Brooklyn – Queens Conservatory of Music down the street from my apartment, go into one of the many practice rooms and write songs on their grand pianos.  That used to be my favorite spot to write; it just smelled like creativity in that place. When they caught on and started kicking me out and locking the back entrances that I used to shimmy through, I was forced to buy an electric piano for my room.  That is where I do most of my writing now, usually late at night.  I like the idea and the feeling of writing when most people are sleeping.

Q: You opened for Jimmy Buffett – that’s so rad. Do you have a favorite or most memorable show that you’ve played so far?

A: This is a tough one since we have recently played so many awesome shows.  I am so excited about our chemistry and vibe lately that I feel like after every show I say “THAT was definitely our best show!”  Last month we played for over 2 hours at Union College for an amazing dancing crowd. That might take the cake- we were all in the zone and played our asses off.  Also, for the first time ever we were able to take a set break, which was amazingly refreshing! On top of that, it was in my hometown, so a lot of close friends and family were there, making it especially special.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about playing live music?

A: I explained to someone recently that when I am onstage about to start playing, everything all set up, sound checked and ready to go, I feel like I am in a Jacuzzi.  It is when I am the happiest and most comfortable in my life. Then when I am in it, sweating, lost in the music, giving and taking with the audience – that energy you feel…there is nothing like it. Those feelings are my favorite things about playing live music.

Q: I read that you are writing original music for television and movies, where are we going to see this? What else is in the future for you and the Fancy Band?

A: I have written music for a bunch of independent films, all of which are really awesome, but most of which you’d have to search pretty hard to find. I wrote the song “Alabama”, which is on The Fancy Band EP, for a documentary that will be out soon, and I recently wrote the theme song for a new television pilot.  It’s fun to separate myself from the music once in a while.

Q: If you could give any piece of advice to young musicians trying to make it in this industry, what would it be?

A: GO TO LAW SCHOOL!!  Jk, I would say to enjoy every second of the journey and appreciate every different stage of the ride, and realize that it is not the outcome or end that matters, in fact, there is no end.   Always strive to think outside the box and be unique to hopefully add something new and exciting to the world.  Lastly, make sure your intentions are good and there is nothing else in life you’d rather be doing because it can be a very painful, frustrating adventure, but it can also be the most beautiful.

Q: If you could get any message across to your fans, what would it be? What would you want them to know about you and your music?

A: My fans are absolutely amazing and have incredible taste in music.   Hopefully they already know this, but I will never stop striving for excellence and never give them anything that I don’t think is new, refreshing and awesome.  They should also know that while I can be silly and love to perform (not just perform, but PERFORM) I take music and songwriting extremely seriously and have a lot of respect for those who are listening.  To reference question #9, I have been doing this long enough to know that there is absolutely nothing else I’d rather be doing and I am slowly learning to appreciate every second.

Q: The inevitable punkcakes question – a favorite dessert or recipe you’d like to share?

A: I don’t have a recipe because I don’t fashion myself a cook, but I LOVE rhubarb pie.  Throw a little ice cream on there…forget about it.   I also love key lime pie.  It’s tough to find a good one, but if you do…amazing.  Also my mom’s crème de menthe brownies are insane.

Catch Jon and the Fancy Band at a show!

March 26 – The Living Room (New York, NY)

April 12 – The Bowery Electric (East Village, NY)

April 26 – Sullivan Hall (New York, NY)


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