Michael Ian Cummings of Skaters needs all of 2.5 seconds to think of the most embarrassing show he’s played to date: it was a night at a gallery-type space in Gowanus that was barely promoted, and it resulted in an exploding amp, the band leaping off the stage after a couple of songs and a heated discussion with the pissed off promoter that nearly ended in fisticuffs.
Since then, Skaters have blown up a few more amps during their rousing live show (“We played three shows at South by Southwest and at every single one of them another amp died!”) both here and recently on tour in the UK, where they watched the British public grow increasingly fond of their most recent single “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How).” They’ve come a long way from that night of spitting insults and playing to empty Brooklyn spaces, and now, as they’re mastering their forthcoming debut–which was recorded in the newly refurbished upstairs spot at the iconic Electric Ladyland Studio–they’re playing to five-story clubs across the pond, and each balcony is brimming with kids shouting the chorus of that single back at them.
“That single, we could see it building as we were in the UK,” says Cummings, en route to a mastering session. “We would watch it get bigger and bigger and by the end of the tour all the kids knew it and shit. They could sing all the words back to us. There’s a break in the song and that’s the moment in the set where you know if people really know the tune, where we hold this really long break, and you can hear how many people know the song as we hold it. I never had that with any other band, like a song played on Radio 1.”
For Cummings, Skaters’ forthcoming record–which will include “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)”–is “the best thing [he’s] ever made” and one they’ve been unabashedly touring behind, even though Warner has yet to release the record’s official debut date. What started as a batch of 30 songs has been wittled down to 11 that’ve been perfected not in the storied studio underground at Electric Ladyland but the repurposed, light-strewn upstairs apartment that Hendrix treated as a crash pad. “It’s a bit of a test, you know what I mean?” Cummings says of the process. “You’re writing songs for such a long time, and then it’s like, you have to write your debut record. It was a gratifying challenge. The process has been super fun and new to me, because I never imagined that I was going to be able to record at Electric Ladyland or work with the producer of our choice. Just the little things. We’ve been doing it for so long and recording ourselves that it’s cool to finally make the record you want to make.
“This past year, all the really exciting shit was when it was happening to us–when we’d sell out shows and stuff like that, and we weren’t expecting to do that,” he continues. “We sold out the Mercury Lounge and turned away something like 200 people, and that was crazy to me. Musically and creatively, nothing struck me as a surprise because I’m too involved in it. All we do is work on this band everyday. We’re chipping away at something a lot bigger.”
Given their track record, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Skaters blew through an amp or two at the Bowery Ballroom tomorrow. That said, at least they’re doing so with the kind of determination and unbridled exuberance that comes from finally being handed the keys to the resources that’ll help you make the record of their dreams–and from the looks of things, they won’t be stopping soon.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2013