I first saw May Weather at a Rock the Forge concert in the vast, aimless countryside outside of Hagerstown, MD, right around my first year of college. A lot of local bands and singers were on the roster, and I had a great time watching them all, but something about these guys was special. They didn't just play--they performed. They had enthusiasm that shone, and when they played, people got up and danced. Even I got into it, and I dance like an elephant with a broken foot.
A few years have passed since that show, but I was happy to learn that May Weather hasn't slowed their roll, and their enthusiasm is fully intact. When I got in touch with them for this interview, they arranged a photo shoot, just for the story (and don't they look dashing in their Route One gear?). Despite their busy schedule of bringing their ska sound to the people, my emails were always returned promptly and with well-thought answers. I only had to give the slightest prompt, and I got so much great information in return. They make working their butts off look like tremendous fun.
Here's my interview with Jon Koch, the band's trumpet player (oh yes, they have a trumpet player. Can your band say that?) on his introduction to ska, what he finds truly rewarding as a member of the band, and where the name May Weather came from.
Route One: Who's in May Weather, and what instrument(s) do they play?
Jon Koch: Starting off easy! May Weather's full roster is as follows:
Ross Semler - Lead Guitar/Vocals
Tallon Reazin - Bass/Vocals
Brian Kough - Guitar
Bailey Kercheval - Drums
Kris Nigh - Trombone
Wayne Hawkins - Bari Sax
Jon Koch - Trumpet
R1: Where did the name May Weather come from?
JK: Ross and Tallon had been playing in bands together for a while but wanted to start something a little different. This was in the month of May. Go figure. This particular May, however was brutal. Nothing but rain every day. We wanted the true, warm May weather back. So, we brought it back in the music. As the weather in May is pretty unpredictable, so is this band. We draw influences and ideas from all kinds of genres and inspirations and roads of life. With that said, we figured that May Weather was a well suited title to stick to.
via May Weather's Facebook
R1: Describe your early days. What was the biggest struggle for you guys as a band? What encouraged you to keep going?
We still think we are in our "early days!" We've made enormous strides in these past 4 years as a band, but we have a long way to go. Thinking way back to the beginnings of May Weather, the first obstacle we hit was finding a direction for the band. We knew we wanted to play rock/punk music and we wanted to add horns into the mix, but at first weren't exactly sure how to make them blend well. When I joined May Weather, I had never even heard of ska! So it definitely took some time to find a healthy mix of the two worlds.
Booking shows never seemed to be a problem for us. People loved our music from the start so getting small church gigs or backyard gigs was easy. The hard part was getting people to come out, and it still is! (sometimes) But, it's all a process. Once we started gaining a little recognition in the area, we got more and more shows. Until people from as far as New Hampshire started hearing about us and begged us to come out. We did fundraisers, benefit shows, got some merch, and tried to start funding tours which is primarily what we do now. The big problems we had back then are still problems now. Things like gaining internet presence, getting kids to come see live music, and MONEY! It's just slightly easier now!
The thing that kept us going and I think will always keep us going is just the pure joy we get from doing this. We all want May Weather to be our careers and we work night and day to keep that dream alive. But every obstacle and moment of frustration can never take away the feeling we get when we're on stage and seeing people connecting with our music, dancing like maniacs, smiling and having the time of their lives. We want our music to be a positive influence on youth and adults. When someone contacts us after a show or randomly sends us an email saying something like "Just saw you guys play at my local club. I loved your music so much it made my day" it's so rewarding to us. I've had many conversations with members of the band that say they don't truly feel at home until we're all crammed into the suburban and driving to our next gig.
R1: Are you all Marylanders? What's your favorite thing about playing music at Maryland venues?
JK: All of us except Wayne are Marylanders! Wayne is from Culpepper, VA. Ross and Kris met him at Shepherd University where they all study Music. Our favorite part about playing in Maryland would definitely be the huge fan base we have here. We've had a lot of luck in our hometown, Frederick, and the Baltimore area as well. We've played many shows at Chapala's in Burtonsville, Fish Head Cantina in Halethorpe, the 8x10 and Soundstage downtown, and one of our biggest shows ever was at the Recher Theater in Towson (before they turned it into a nightclub) with Ballyhoo and fellow Maryland ska band, Stacked Like Pancakes. The show sold out with nearly 800 people in attendance!
Recently, we've also been working with the Baltimore Office of Promotion of the Arts who had us play main stage at Artscape 2014 as well as the Baltimore Book Fair in the Inner Harbor. Aside from our fan base, we really just enjoy the people of MD. Most venues in MD are very easy to work with, and usually very accommodating. Not to mention, the people that come out to shows in MD are also usually very open minded to our music. They see a horn line on stage and are immediately intrigued and stick around to watch.
via May Weather's Facebook
R1: What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to you guys at a show?
JK: One time we were on our way home and the GPS took us through the Bronx at 3 in the morning, when we decided to do a Chinese fire drill from the drivers seat at a stoplight. We then passed a man hunched over, walking to a deli where a bunch of people were sitting outside. That night our drummer wrote a little blues diddy titled "Goin' to the Deli".
Another time, a venue owner told us about his experiences falling down a mountain. He told us he had just opened the venue. It had been open for six years. He was out of his mind. He showed us his shed full of storage wooden antiques and went on for hours about his enlightening experiences with PCP and his 7 separate deaths.
R1: What makes your sound unique?
As one person said after listening to “Good Riddance to Greater Things” for the first time…”This isn’t ska. It’s good!” Don’t get me wrong, I love ska music, and so do most of our members, but we feel our sound could use some extra “oomf.” What actually makes our sound unique is probably our members themselves. May Weather is the combination of a prog-rock guitarist and jazz saxophone player, a funk/gospel bassist, a classic rock guitarist, a metal head/reggae drummer, and three classical and jazz horn players. We all bring to the table different styles of playing, different influences on music, and all around different ideas.
At heart we are a ska band, but you won’t hear many back beats and silly songs from us. Our music as a whole is much heavier and complex than most ska bands. A lot of us are also music theory nerds and we utilize chord progressions and dense harmonic structures that are generally uncommon in the world of "Rock N' Roll". It's been said by the fans that no one is doing what we're doing, and that's what any and every band should shoot for. Make it new. Make it modest. Make it honest.
R1: Where is your favorite place in Maryland to play, and why?
I think our answer to this will always be the same. Right Choice Ministries on 20204 Old Forge Road, right here in Hagerstown, MD. This is a small venue, run out of a barn, by Susan Herbst. This is where we got started. The culture that exists at RCM is amazing. Kids coming from all over the county to see their favorite local bands perform. Over the past few years, RCM has made some great strides booking nationally touring bands as far away as Oregon! This is our hometown venue, and it’s where we hold all of our personal big shows. For example, we held our CD release show for “Your Life on Optimism” here and we brought out over 250 kids to this tiny little barn. Every year they also put on a warped tour type even called Rock the Forge (mentioned earlier), where they book as many bands and acoustic acts as they can fit in one day and have them perform on their indoor and outdoor stage. This year was the 4th year we’ve headlined Rock the Forge. It’s always a great time. Susan is one of the nicest people we’ve ever done shows with and she is always very accommodating to us and the bands we bring in. RCM is a fun, safe environment where kids don’t have to worry about drugs/alcohol or getting into trouble. RCM has impacted our community and our youth far more than I think they’ll ever know. If you’re touring through MD, give Susan a call!
via May Weather's Facebook
R1: What does the future hold for May Weather? Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Nashville. Atlanta. Seattle. Berlin. The Budokan. Australia. Where don't we see ourselves in 5 years? Dream big right? It's a long road ahead, but we're extremely fuel efficient! This summer alone, we played over 20 shows including shows with our best buds in the ska world, Survay Says!, as well as legends such as The Pietasters, The Toasters, Dan P. (MU330), The Snails, and members of the Slackers, and Catch 22. Our summer tours took us up and down the east coast, playing for thousands of new and familiar faces. This summer we also played a handful of festivals including The Apple Stomp Festival in NYC, Artscape in Baltimore, MD, Rock the Forge here in our hometown, Celebrate Frederick in Frederick MD, and the Baltimore Book Fair. Each year, it seems our progress is doubling from the last, which is a very good thing!
As for the immediate future, we are so happy to announce that we are well on our way to producing a brand new album, that we are hoping to release early next year. We have already released a new single entitled "The Cage" from the upcoming album. It is available for download right now at www.may-weather.com. We are so excited for this record, especially since we are being bold and recording it by ourselves. Ross has been taking music production and engineering classes and the sounds we are already getting are phenomenal. If all goes well, we are also trying to put together several extended tours next year in promotion of the new album. Stay up to date with our Facebook and Twitter to learn more!
May Weather fans! Get 15% off your Route One Apparel purchase with coupon code MAYWEATHER.
This post was written by Route One Apparel blogger, Eva Niessner.