Handcrafted Toys: Interview with Psymon Spine
Written and Photographed by Rick Perez
The House of PSYMON SPINE was a big one for New York City standards; it had two floors and small balconies attached to the rooms. The apartment was littered with belongings, and the living room was occupied by an unfolded futon, where someone had likely passed out the night before. I noticed that each bedroom possessed either instruments or some other form of artistic tool, giving the house a free flowing creative energy.
Nate Coffey, Devon Kilburn, Noah Prebish, and Peter Spears, residents of the apartment and members of the band PSYMON SPINE, welcomed me in. After catching up for a few, we filled our gatorade bottles with tequila, piled into Nate’s car, and headed to our shoot location at Fort Tilden beach.
I met PSYMON SPINE in May, when I was shooting their show at Shea Stadium for another publication. Their music was fun and weird, and when I introduced myself after their set I learned that they were visiting from Skidmore College, but were planning on moving to Brooklyn in the Fall. I had been following them ever since.
Little did I know that come fall I would be on an adventure with these guys, snuggled in between Noah and Devon in the backseat of Nate’s car. They had no qualms about traveling an hour for a photo shoot, or riding with a random journalist. These guys seemed eager for a new experience, and were glad to tell their story as a band.
PSYMON SPINE started off as a collaboration between Peter and Noah, a project that was inspired after the duo toured Europe during their freshman year of college. Devon joined that next year, and after going through a few drummers, Nate joined the band. What they found in each other at Skidmore College was more than just another college band.
“Psymon Spine has become this creative sphere that couldn’t have happened with any other group of people,” explains Noah, “This thing couldn’t have come from anyone of us individually.”
During graduation, when everyone has to figure out their next step in life, the four Skidmore students knew that their creative sphere was so special that it would be impossible to move on without it. They decided that their next step was to move to Brooklyn, as PSYMON SPINE.
“We have a Psymon Spine or Die gang mentality.” Nate said as he drove, explaining to me through the rear view mirror. “We are in this together and we are willing to go the extra mile”
They knew that it was now or never. Encouraged by their families and loyal fans, PSYMON SPINE relocated to Brooklyn, getting the apartment that I was just in.
I inquired about their decision to live under one roof. I have always had reservations about living with close friends, knowing full well that even though I may be close friends with someone, I can’t necessarily live with them. I worry that if there are problems within the house, those frustrations would effect the friendship. If the members had issues within their living situation, would that carry over into the music? How would they deal with that?
Their secret is good communication. “We address things right away, almost to a fault,’ says Noah.
Living together can also add to the bond of a band. According to Devon, “Getting sweaty, dancing around, and making music with people you like all the time, even outside of music, it is easier to do and easier to get into.”
My tequila infused gatorade was already half way gone as we headed southeast on Pennsylvania Ave in East New York. As we continued the conversation, I could gather that Noah, Peter, Devon, and Nate have a strong sense in who they are, what they want to accomplish as a band, and how they want to accomplish it. They are extremely confident in the music they are making, and take pride that they don’t belong to one genre.
“If we put out music that sounds like many different things at once, even if it doesn’t catch on right away, it gives us the space that we need to be creative,” explains Noah. “No one will be able to pigeon hole us.”
“We are our own pigeons,” Peter tacked on.
We discussed the saturation of the music industry, and how difficult it is for a band to make a living off their music right now. So many bands try and fail. What makes some bands fail while others succeed?
“Luck, connections,” answers Peter. “There’s a lot of great music that’s not heard by anyone. It’s important for a band to maintain interest and accessibility so a wide range of people can like it. “
There’s also a difference between bands that shoot up the charts quickly and burn out just as fast, and the ones that experience slower, more sustainable success. When the listener hears a band, he or she can gage the connection the members have with the music. It’s important for bands to create music that they believe in.
‘The pop consumer is fickle,” explains Noah.”It’s like the difference between a mass produced McDonald’s toy and a handcrafted, wooden toy. One feels like higher quality than the other.”
As we neared Fort Tilden beach, I inquired about the one word that every artist fears: failure. At the end of the day, if you don’t believe you will make it, you won’t. The fear is that all this effort will become nothing. But the fear of failure is driving PSYMON SPINE.
“We’re hungry,” stated Devon.
The air was warm and the daylight shined brightly on Fort Tilden Beach. We paid homage to the sky and worshiped the sun on one of the last pleasant days of the year, filled with the certainty that we would bask in its glory again soon. Looking back, I can’t help but see that day as a metaphor for PSYMON SPINE’s journey: hopeful, bright, and inspiring. Their odyssey may be long at first, but like every wonderful thing, it will be worth the trek. I’m looking forward to seeing how these guys progress, and how much the masses will appreciate the quality of these handcrafted toys.