Hailing from the deserts of Phoenix, AZ, acoustic singer-songwriter Gabe Kubanda meets up at Moby’s Coffee & Tea Company in North Hollywood, CA to chat about his never-ending adventures on the Epic Proportions Tour, being a part of the final Van’s Warped Tour, and the transition from being in a band to becoming a soloist.
So, you’re currently on your 23rd Epic Proportions Tour. How’s it been going?
Gabe Kubanda: It’s been fun! We’ve been hanging out going around the country, mostly the south-west, for I don’t know, a month and a half, almost two months. We’re having a good time!
Cool, do you have any exciting things that have happened yet?
Gabe: Let’s see, we are almost at the end of the tour and we’ve had a lot of crazy things happen *chuckle*. I don’t know, some of the things we can’t talk about. *laughs*
Oh, you can share!
Gabe: But we’ve been having a really good time on this tour, making so many new fans and friends, and having a blast!
So, you work with a bunch of other bands as well. How do you choose the band line ups that end up going on tour with you?
Gabe: Well, each year we get a bunch of submissions for the tour, and I feel like everyone has started to realize that we’re kind of the only tour that actually pays bands and takes care of all of their travel and arrangements and stuff. That’s a pretty big deal for an up-and-coming band that hasn’t toured before or even bands that have toured on their own. So, we get thousands of submissions and we go through those submissions. We also take recommendations from alumni artists that have already been on our tour as well as locals bands from the Phoenix area, where the tour is located.
Cool! And I see that you’ve brought someone from your tour!
James Mills: I’m James from People Who Could Fly, and we’re touring with EPT.
Cool! How’s it been?
James: Pretty fun! Thank you, thank you. It’s like the longest tour we’ve done so far. I usually did weekend shows and now we’re actually out playing every day. So learning to appreciate spots with Wi-Fi, spots with laundry machine there. And uh…
James: Rest and good food! Those are pretty hard to come across too. But it’s super fun and a great experience.
And would you prefer going back to smaller performances or would you rather continue doing this?
James: I really like that on this tour we always have an audience and new faces that we get to connect with. Because it’s at schools and military bases, we have a couple hundred kids there that it’s our job to make a connection with, and they’re already there. All we’ve got to do is get them into the music. Whereas as most tours, you’re driving like three hours to get to a bar to play to the employees and other bands, and not get paid. So, this is definitely an improvement.
Gabe: It’s rough though as well, because at every show basically you’re in front of new people that have never heard of you before. So it’s your job to really captivate them and get them excited and get them interested in your music as opposed to if you have a bunch of fans that already to see you at a venue show, something like that. Those people are paying a ticket price to come and see you, whereas on our tour for a lot of the time, these people are already here and you have to try a little bit harder to really capture those fans and make them your fans.
So when you go on the Epic Proportions Tour, you mentioned the fans and being able to engage with them. How different does it feel in terms of doing your own show and pretty much playing to strangers? How different is it from the Epic Proportions Tour because it’s still kind of the same thing?
Gabe: It is, but when you’re playing a venue show and your fans are there and your friends are there to support your music, they’re already excited for it. They’re ready to go. A lot of the high schools, military bases, and colleges that we play, these people have never heard of us before, so you’re winning them over for the first time. It may be a bunch of high schoolers or college students that are at lunch and you’re trying to win them over with what they’re doing. They’re interacting with their friends or studying or going to class, and then making them perk and go “Woah! That guy sounds actually kind of good! I wanna go out and find out more about them!” I feel like it’s a little more difficult, but I also feel like it’s really rewarding, because you’re winning over brand new people every single time.
And where do you guys decide to take the route for the tour?
Gabe: It’s kind of a first come first serve. So we’ll put out a big email blast throughout our contacts and all the venues, and say, “Hey EPT is coming out again! We’ve got myself. We’ve got People Who Can Fly on this tour. Who wants us?” And as the emails come back and say, “Oh we want you for this date, oh we want you for this date…” we’ll know if we’re going to New Jersey, or Washington or Texas, Colorado, or L.A. or whatever.
Cool! And you’ve been doing this for quite some time now?
Gabe: 6 years now.
Gabe: Almost 7! Almost 7!
Almost 7! What keeps you coming back for more?
Gabe: I like the fact that I’m always able to bring a different band each time out. And for a lot of the venues that we have played before at a college or military base or something, the fans and the people who book it always know that I bring amazing, really, good acts that their students are going to love or that the servicemen are going to love. It’s always good to be like, “Yeah! Hey! Yeah, I’m back in town! These guys are really cool. Come out and support them!” and these people start finding out these new bands that they love, because we’re sharing that with them. So I think that it’s really rewarding and fun. It’s just an exciting lifestyle to be touring all the time, it’s almost like a vacation, but you’re just working while you’re on vacation. Like yesterday, we did two shows in one day, we didn’t have much time to sleep, but we’re hanging out in L.A., we’re having a great time, and we couldn’t ask for anything better.
Since you’ve been doing it for so long, what are some of the best memories that you can think of right now at this very moment.
Gabe: My god, there’s like literally a million memories. We’ve been on the road, we’ve done over, maybe 650 shows at this point. So each band has got a special place in my heart because I’ve gotten to know them as people and as friends and as family. Because you’re on the road together, you’re kind of squashed together in a bus or in a van or in a hotel or an Airbnb. And you just have some really memorable moments *laughs* all the way around. *turns to James* What are some memorable moments on this tour?
James: We stayed at this placed called ‘The Adventure Hotel’ *laughs*.
Gabe: It turned out to be a hostel.
Ah, so you read it wrong!
James: Well, I don’t want to put the hostel down too much because we’re on the air.
Gabe: Well we expected it, let’s put it at that!
James: Not what we paid for!
Doesn’t that always happen?
Gabe: Or breakdowns on the road, or getting in accidents.
James: Oh! There’s another story we can’t tell either about the van.
Gabe: Sure! Why not? Go for it!
James: *turns to Gabe* Could we tell that story?
Gabe: Hopefully they won’t be listening to us.
James: They’re going to find it, and we’re going to get in trouble. *Gabe laughs* I don’t know if you can see, but we have a big ‘ol trailer out there, it’s just over 7 1/2 feet probably.
Gabe: It’s like 8 feet or something.
James: We’re driving through this parking garage, to find parking at an Airbnb that we have reserved, and we hit this little sign that says, ‘Don’t go above this.’ You can see it shaking, like this *waves his hands*, and we thought, “Well, we’ll just keep going and see what happens.” So we’re going, and it’s just a wind-y parking garage and we hear *crash sounds* We looked back and there’s so much water pouring on the top of the ceiling, on top of the van, we were all like, “Oh god, we fucked up!” So now we have to back this van up and we thought we broke a pipe, but we actually just set off a fire alarm.
Gabe: And hit a sprinkler.
James: So we had our bass player jump out just guiding the van back, reversing it into the parking garage. And as we’re doing that we hear all the alarms and all of the floors of the apartment are going off. So we’ve got “beep, beep, beep!” on all the floors…
Gabe: Waters gushing…you can’t see anything…
James: Everyone’s staring at usLike, oh no we’re gonna get in trouble! And then firemen came. *laughs*
Gabe: Humiliating! *laughs*
So, it’s safe to say that the person who rented that Airbnb from probably doesn’t live there anymore. *all laugh*
James: They did not tell us about it.
Gabe: Hey, they said that there was adequate parking for a trailer. *Heather laughs* There was not, they lied!
James: That was fun.
Gabe: But like, I think *laughs* those kinds of crazy moments happen on tour because we can always expect the unexpected to happen. But like, showing up to a high school in Bakersfield and having hundreds of kids singing your lyrics back to you, where they never even heard your music before.,I think that’s a really, really, amazing thing. It’s just like, “Ah wow, that’s why we do it.” Talking with a kid who’s contemplating suicide, or you know, being like talking him out of it. Or talking with the music kids and kind of advising them on career paths and telling them to go for their passion. You know, I think that’s really important as well.
I agree. They way of the future is in these kids.
Gabe: The children are our future!
The children are the future though, for reals.
Gabe: For reals.
So, speaking of tours, you’re going on the last Warped Tour ever. #sobbing.
Gabe: *laughs* Was that #sobbing?
Yeah, #sobbing! It’s sad!
Gabe: You’re right, it’s sad, it’s really sad. I’m really, really grateful that Kevin Lyman was gracious enough to give me one of the dates on Warped Tour, I’m playing the Phoenix date, I’ll be on the Full Sail’s Stage. So, that’s going to be really fun. The cool thing too is that bands that were on EPT first are now on Warped Tour as well, and they’re getting to play the last date on Warped Tour too. Not only do I get to play Warped, but all of these bands that I’ve been touring with on my tour, they’ve kind of been able to get up there as well and get to play on Warped. It was great to have a little part in that.
Cool! So it’s almost like full circle!
Gabe: Yeah! A little bit!
Well one is better than nothing, it’s still an impression.
Gabe: Oh yeah! And just to be included in the last full Warped ever is going to be super, super fun. And I hope you all come out to support!
For sure! So apart from your set, on your day obviously, are you planning on seeing any of the other artists?
Gabe: Oh yeah. I need to check on the lineup, but I know that there’s a lot of bands that I definitely want to see.
It’s a good lineup this year, definitely check it out. And you’ve been on Warped Tour before!
So, how will this experience be different from the past times that you’ve been on Warped Tour?
Gabe: Well, so the first two times was with my older band in L.A., Letters Burning. We had won the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands twice, so we played on the Ernie Ball Stage where we met Kevin Lyman. We always made it a point to thank Kevin Lyman and Ernie Ball to let unsigned bands play Warped. And when I went solo Kevin remembered that and we hit him up about doing Warped by myself and some of the EPT bands. I was like “Hell yeah! Come on, do some dates!” So we did the Kevin Says Stage for about ten dates, that was a few years ago, and I wasn’t really prepared to be a solo artist on the Warped Tour competing against all of the heavy bands. There was one time I was doing sound check, and the bass player’s wireless for his bass was coming through my amp *laughs* and coming through my patch and going through my stage. And so, hearing all of this really heavy-like, August Burns Red this kind of metal, screamo, bass tones on my guitar *laughs* that was a little adjustment to kind of just hold your own as a solo artist with all the amazing Warped Tour bands. This year it’s gonna be amazing! We’re going to bring out a full band so we’re really gonna hit it hard and have a good time.
Cool! So still staying on the tour train here, if you could pick three artists to go on your personal world tour, who would they be, and what would your tour be named?
And you can’t use Epic Proportions.
So don’t cheat! *laughs*
Gabe: Well, it’s kind of weird because they wouldn’t be my style of music. But Coheed and Cambria or Muse. Or, I don’t know, Justin Timberlake. You know, Usher, Paramore.
Just a whole blend!
Gabe: Yeah! I don’t know who would be the best bands to have on tour, but man, I love so many bands and so many artists! It would be really, really, difficult to choose, but yeah.
And what would you name your tour?
Gabe: I don’t know. Wake and Bake? *both laugh* Just kidding. The Mezcla! How about The Mezcla? I think it means “mix” in Spanish? I could be wrong. I could be way wrong.
We’ll have to Google Translate.
Gabe: If I’m wrong, please call me out. School me. *Heather laughs*
We’ll send someone to teach you some Spanish.
Gabe: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
You’ve done a bunch of different kinds of shows. Do you prefer smaller shows? Do you like the Epic Proportions ones? Do you like the Warped Tour crazy ones?
Gabe: I really like intimate venues. I did a Sofar Sounds session where only 20 or 30 people can be in the room, and it’s very quiet. You have to turn your cell phones off and really listen to the music. I really like those because I can talk, I can share stories in-between sets, I could do improv, kind of weird looper things that are just random, whatever I’m thinking of at the time. I could just lay stuff down, kind of impromptu stuff. But I also love doing big festivals and summer tours. We’re going over to France to play over there soon. We’re doing Denmark soon. Touring in Australia with Epic Proportions was amazing. The Aussies really just loved American music and that’s really cool.
Cool! Just get into little personal questions about yourself and your music and stuff. Who are some personal influences in regards to your style of music, your songwriting, etc.?
Gabe: When I left the bands that I was working with and I started my solo career, I just started writing songs by myself, which I had never done before. But when I was writing them, I really wanted to keep in mind to not only keep the songs short and catchy, but have unique parts in them. I also love bands that have a lot of head voice and falsetto and stuff in them, so, utilizing those strengths as well. So artists like Justin Timberlake, or Matt Bellamy from Muse, Coheed and Cambria, obviously those are some big influences of mine. Ed Sheeran is another big influence of mine. He’s amazing, I guess he’s the most closely related to my sound.
Gabe: But also Stevie Wonder, and James Brown, all those kind of influences kind of came out in my music.
Right, and you mentioned that Ed Sheeran is one of your biggest influencers right now. What three artists, apart from Ed Sheeran and stuff like that, would you say that your music is most like and why?
Gabe: It’s hard to categorize I guess. I think I just sound like me, but other people think I sound like a blend of Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5, or The Black Keys, or City and Colour, which I also really, really love. I really love Dallas Green’s vocals and his songwriting style. But I’m just trying to do me and if people like what I’m putting out there then that’s great! But if not, that’s great too.
And who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Gabe: I’d like to collaborate with The Weeknd. I’d love to collaborate with Beyoncé. Ed Sheeran, of course. Craig Owens from Chiodos. Anthony Green. Yeah, I could go on and on.
Cool list! Alright. What is one word that defines you as an artist?
Gabe: Driven. And I say that because I’m kind of doggedly pursuing my passion throughout, ever since I was in my teens, my music is coming in all sorts of forms. I’ve been in 7 or 8 bands that have gone nowhere, but I’ve always kept that in my mind. I always wanted to do something with music. I always wanted to own my own company. I always wanted to be my own boss. And that’s what I think the Epic Proportions Tour does for me, it allows me to kind of take control of my own destiny as well as my own musical destiny.
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Gabe: I hope the audience really takes away a sense of hope and positivity for the world and the future. I know that the world is kind of a dark place right now, and people are suffering in anguish, but I think we all need to hope for something better and not get drowned in our sorrow, and not go down that path of despair. I’ve seen people go down that path or end up dead because of it. I really want to communicate with my fans, especially my younger fans, that there is hope out there and you have to bring it for yourself. You can’t rely on other people for that. You’ve got to man up and use the opportunities that come to you. Use your talents and your skills, whatever you’re good at, to make a difference to the world.
Alright last question, are you ready?
You don’t look ready.
Gabe: I’m ready!
What big plans should we be looking forward to from you in the near future? Music, touring, etc.
Gabe: Well, I got tours plans for this year. We’ve got Europe, we’ve got another fall tour coming up, that’s going to be really fun, I’m releasing some new music this year so that’s really exciting. I haven’t released an album in a while so I’m going to release an album this year. Those should be coming out in 2018, so I’m really excited about that. So, new music, new tours, and new music videos as well.
Gabe: And we’ll be expanding the EduMusication series, which we’ll talk with the music students in high schools and colleges to talk to them about what they want to do with their musical careers and if they want to have a career in music. Just advising them and giving them some opportunities on how to succeed.
Well it looks like you’ve been doing a bunch of awesome shit, and you’re going to be doing a bunch more awesome shit!
Gabe: Can’t stop! Won’t stop!
About Moby’s Coffee & Tea Company:
Moby’s Coffee & Tea is a quirky, hidden gem in an off the beaten path strip mall. Even though it’s not located directly in the illustrious NOHO Arts District, you will still get your fill of funky, colorful (presumably local) artwork and a menu mixed with classic and kookily named specialty coffees. Cute bistro tables line the outside while worn in, vintage-y type leather couches inside give you the perfect shop where you can play a board game for two in the warm sun or hole up all day with a good book and Cup of Joe.
A blended coffee drink called the Shiny Squirrel is a must try when you’re blindingly choosing a beverage purely based on its name. It’s thick, it’s sweet, it’s pretty much a sugar rush in a glass (well, in this case Mason jar). However, don’t let your cup of whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate syrup, cookie bits, and who knows what else intimidate you. It still very much tastes like coffee, just a sugar-coated (pun intended) gimmicky version that tastes waaay better than the regrettable sugar overload PR stunts Starbucks will offer you. *shudders at the thought of trying the Unicorn Latte of 2017*