Always make friends with the sound guy: Whenever you play live, no matter what, you’ll only sound good if the sound guy likes you and gets what you’re going for. The more we played in venues and got to know our techs, the better we ended up sounding, and we can’t do it without those guys.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Alex Ganes of Shiffley.
Brooklyn’s Shiffley has made a name for itself by delivering instantly catchy synth-pop melodies and electric live performances. Their first full-length album, Paper Cranes (2018), quickly exceeded a million listens, and the band has opened for acts such as Twenty One Pilots, Night Riots, Plain White T’s, and Donna Missal. On TV, their music has been heard in the background of Teen Mom, Dash Dolls, Bravo!, and more. With their music featured on Spotify’s “Feel-Good Indie Rock,” “All New Rock,” and “Friday Cratediggers” playlists, Shiffley knows how to have fun, whether it’s on stage, in your living room, or in your headphones.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/67905afb1b396c69b5a95f95307d4bc2
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me! I grew up on Long Island, and both of my parents were art teachers. When he wasn’t at school, my dad was always in his studio, blasting The Beatles, Paul Simon, or Crosby, Stills & Nash while working on his art. My parents definitely fostered the creative side in me, and I got really into music through my grandpa. He was a violinist, and I started by playing with him. From there, I got really into composing and writing songs with my friends, and haven’t really stopped since.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I ended up being a lot more interested in writing music than in playing other people’s and went to school to major in music composition. While I was there, I wrote contemporary classical music for my degree program but ended up writing a lot of songs about my personal experience. Those songs are what we’ve developed together and recorded as Shiffley. By the end of my undergrad, I realized that for my musical career, I could either keep going in academia or put my energy into the band, and I enjoyed making that music with my close friends Bryan, Alex and Shaune a lot more.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think the most interesting story would have to be early on when we recorded the music video for our song “Cry” during our junior year of college. It was meant to be set at a college party, so we decided to host (what we thought would be) a small gathering at a friend’s off-campus house. A few hours and several (dozen) word-of-mouth invites later, we had 200 people crammed into the second and third floor of a very old bungalow! We promised to play a set after finishing filming, so we set up in the attic, which ended up crammed full. As we were playing, the floor began to buckle, with parts of the ceiling giving out on the floor below. It’s honestly a miracle that the house survived, but the video turned out quite well!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my senior year of college, we got the opportunity to play at a music festival in Austin, TX, that ran concurrently to SxSW. We were obviously excited to be able to say we could go, but we made a LOT of mistakes that week. The toughest (aside from not springing for SxSW passes) was definitely the night of the first show. Parking was a nightmare, and the nearest garage to our venue was about a mile away, and we couldn’t bring our van up to the venue to unload. That ended up being a long, hot walk with all of our gear, and we barely made it in time for soundcheck! The biggest lesson learned there — always double-check the loading situation, and ALWAYS budget time for parking.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We recently released an EP called Aperitif, which is a selection of songs from a larger collection we started working on right before the pandemic. We’re excited to finally be able to share that music and can’t wait to release the full project over the course of the coming months. After that, the pandemic gave us a lot of opportunities to write, and we’ve got another few albums’ worth of music in demo form, just waiting to be recorded.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
The most important reason is that the culture we present is the culture we’ll have. Diverse opinions and backgrounds make for a much more interesting experience. I’m grateful to live in New York City, where we have so many different people living together and sharing their experiences. I’m also grateful that within the band we are from completely different backgrounds. I think it’s just as important for people to have someone who looks like them be the main character of a story, as it is for people to see the story of someone who is totally different from them. From having the inspiration to challenging one’s own assumptions, this can only serve to enrich our collective cultural experience.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Always make friends with the sound guy: Whenever you play live, no matter what, you’ll only sound good if the sound guy likes you and gets what you’re going for. The more we played in venues and got to know our techs, the better we ended up sounding, and we can’t do it without those guys.
- Stay for a drink: Even if it’s water, making sure you hang back after a set is huge. The other bands appreciate it (especially if they’re from out of town), and you get some time with the staff, your fans, and industry folks who may just happen to be out.
- Write all the time: Write or record all of your ideas, whether they are lyrics, a melody, or an idea for a bassline. It’s huge to have that resource if you’re struggling to find a line later on, and those moments when you can match a hook up with a lyric you wrote down months ago is gold.
- Collaborate: You never know who might be working on something, and what that something might turn into. If you can add value to their project with your talents, it will only give you a positive return later on down the line.
- Don’t stop learning: There is so much more to being a professional musician than just being a great player or writer (though that is very important!). Think of every day as another opportunity to get a little wiser in the industry, and seek out new opportunities to learn
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Always work with people you like to work with, whether that’s playing, recording, writing, you name it. We’re all in the trenches together, but the important thing is that we’re together.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think we need to normalize buying local food. None of us are too far from a farmer, and it’s a great way to support not only local businesses but your local community!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Part of our music is the level of detail we reach in the production of our music. For that, we have our producer, Alexander Almgren of Freshly Baked Studios in Brooklyn, NY, to thank. He saw us play in a now-closed venue in Brooklyn and offered us to come meet him at his apartment/studio. We talked for hours about great records and artists we like and had him mix Systems, which was our first single off our last full-length release, Paper Cranes. As soon as we heard his first mix we knew he’s the one we wanted to work with. As of now, Systems has over one million streams on Spotify and we have worked with him ever since.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandfather always said, “Whatever you do, do your best.” It’s inspired me not only to dive into the things that interest me and work to understand them as well as I can but it’s taught me to be judicious of how I spend my time. If it’s not something I care about particularly and I don’t have to do it, I’d much rather use the time for something I love, like music, so I can keep getting better.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
If it could be absolutely anyone, it would be Brian Wilson. His mind not just for songwriting, but also for arranging, is absolutely unparalleled. Not everyone gets the honor of having written just about every classic rock musician’s favorite album.
How can our readers follow you online?
We’re on all of the Social Media:
- Facebook: Shiffley
- YouTube: just search Shiffley!
- Instagram: @shiffleymusic
- Twitter: @shiffleymusic
- TikTok: @shiffley
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you! Same to you and Performer Magazine!