Wes Pagano and Brian Carroll of soulful indie rock quintet Goodnight Kiss join us at Tarzana, CA hidden gem Yana’s Cafe to chat about encouraging trying new things in music, looking back on the growth of the music industry, and creating a family connection with your bandmates.
Goodnight Kiss is comprised of:
Wes Pagano – lead vocals and guitar
Brian Narvy – guitar and vocals
Rene Ponce – percussion
Brian “Boom” Carroll – bass
Eric Goldstein – drums
You guys are gearing up to release your new EP and we’re excited.
Wes Pagano: Yes!
Would you like to give us a little sneak peek as to what we should be expecting lyrically and instrumentally?
Wes: Absolutely! What you should be expecting of this new EP of ours that we’re releasing is that we kind of changed our format from before. Our first EP was more on the acoustic side and lighthearted, and for this one we wanted to vamp it up with a little more rock and a little more umph. Back in 2016, I think everybody felt a real big shift within our society in America, and there was a lot of anger and a lot of blame and pointing fingers on social media. It was really starting to feel suffocating in the sense of it anywhere I would turn there were opinions and opinions, and at some point the lyrics were really based around the fact that everyone has an opinion. There’s a song called “Easy Coyote” where the very first lyric is, “Point the finger and blame easy when you’re denying,” and it’s really focused on the way our society has been treating each other. I want to say that there is some lightening up because you can only talk about a certain topic for so long, especially in a very three second world. So as much as this is a new EP for us, we have honestly started working on a new double record, but that’s going to be a while before it comes out. For this record, I feel it was created at a quick time. It took a long time to record, and I think the killer for us with this EP was what we thought would be a nine months to a year process of recording actually took us about almost three years to finally release.
Brian Carroll: I think the difference is that with the EP that’s coming out, it was really kind of my influence and our drummer’s influence, but also us writing as a cohesive band, writing new material, and kind of finding who we are as musicians as a group. I think that first EP really solidifies the influences, and then just the experience of recording it at EastWest Studios was huge because that was where our heroes recorded. The Foo Fighters recorded there. Frank Sinatra recorded there.
Wes: My Morning Jacket, “Thriller,” The Beach Boys, just so many iconic records were recorded there.
Brian: Yeah, being in those walls you’re just, like, pinching yourself inside your soul. It’s like, ‘Am I really here? We don’t even have a record label. What are we doing here?’ *laughs*
Wes: Yeah, it was a real treat, and that experience really led to an awesome recording. The process took a long time because the engineer who was recording us, anytime we were recording he would also have to pull out to do other people’s records that, you know…
Brian: Had the funding? *all laugh*
Wes: Yes, they had the funding and had a big budget, so he’d have to stop and put our EP on hold. So it took some time, and going along with Boom’s point, we were able to really solidify who we were in our voice as a band for the first time, and it’s opened up a lot of doors for us. So we’re really excited.
And you guys had already started talking about the songwriting and recording differences, but did you have any other similarities or differences that you guys would like to touch base on between your works?
Wes: Yeah, we’re actually starting to get into a new realm. We’re kind of dipping into a new sound that we haven’t experienced as a band yet, and we’re using more using more space, if you will, when it comes to our writing process. We kinda joke about how there are three Geminis in the band, and the thing about Geminis is that they’re quick to have two types of personalities, so to have three Geminis, I mean, it really brings a new change, and I guess what I’m trying to say is we were ready for that change. We were playing a lot of shows, and I think that we’re ready to bring a new sound to the audience.
Brian: I think now we’re going to try to tap into recording ourselves. We’ve been doing this for so long that we have our own recording capabilities, and we kind of do tap into it a little bit, but I think it’s time now that we can just start doing what other people have been doing. Like, a kid can be by himself, fully recording a whole song and putting it on Spotify. We’re kind of trying to start not going to the big studios and spending all that money for them to do what we can pretty much do ourselves. So that’s gonna be kind of one of the shifts for us.
Yeah, it’s crazy to think about how much technology has evolved in a relatively short amount of time. I mean, if I decided that I wanted to sing, I can go ahead and record a song and put it out there pretty much right away. *laughs*
Brian: Right! And things are a lot more affordable now. Even for my own personal recording, it’s like a hundred bucks to get an interface, where ten years ago it would’ve been like two thousand bucks to do the same thing.
Wes: Yeah, definitely. And like you were saying, if you wanted to make an album, the technology’s there to literally set you up and then you just need to fill in the blanks or touch a button. The skill itself is what I feel has definitely been taken out. I do admire the parents out there now, because even though the kids might be rebelling, they don’t realize their parents were the musicians who had to figure out how to physically play it. They didn’t have a button that would trigger it and play it for you like the Sesame Street toys used to do.
Now there’s whole programs that do it for you!
Wes: Right! You don’t even need to sing! Just bring your computer in and you and your computer can be a band!
That’s true. I could be like T-Pain and just have my auto-tuned singing. *all laugh* I guess technically you still have to sing.
Wes: Yeah. *laughs* I really do appreciate the singing aspect though. I think growing up during different times of the music era has an effect on what defines ‘talent,’ you know? When American Idol first came out, I was kind of offended at first as a musician because to this day, I don’t think you should be giving awards out to actors and musicians. I don’t think that kind of work deserves an award, and I think people that deserve an award is someone that has actually or physically done something to change the world to make it a better place. My old group was signed with Sony back in the day, and we did publishing for movies and television shows, like corny MTV Road Rules, Made things like that, but my point is, when American Idol came out, I’m looking at these people competing to sing, and I’m going, ‘No, that’s not right.’ But now when you look at it, they actually did something right because, again, these people are singing. You mentioned T-Pain, and a lot of artists now just put that auto-tune on and you don’t know what they really sound like. It’s a masked society.
That’s probably why The Masked Singer is very popular.
Wes: Totally! You’ve got to move with the times. At the end of the day, the time that we’re in is a fast-paced, ever-changing world that’s not as steady as it used to be in a positive way, but you just got to move with it. I appreciate being in this band because we’ve stuck together as brothers and what we’ve wanted to do musically, but we’ve also felt the challenge of ‘What do we need to do to revamp ourselves or reinvent ourselves?’ It’s good to have that push too.
Yeah! And kind of going into a little bit about modern society and how everything is just very quick now and lack of attention span…
Wes: Yes! It’s all singles and no albums. We had albums and now it’s a singles world. Yes, you can still release the album, but if you have Spotify or Apple Music, it’s the thing to release a single weekly, and it’s pretty much like you’re releasing the album one week at a time.
Why do you think music consumers are kind of more into that type of release as opposed to looking forward to getting a full-length album?
Wes: I feel that streaming services have everything to do with it. Period.
Brian: Yeah. Playlists are so popular that they don’t really listen to albums as much anymore. I feel like they’re not really going to pay attention to who the band is unless it really clicks with them. It’s really up and down, but it’s great to get on playlists because you get heard, but then, do they have the patience to listen or try to find out who that artist is when they do hear it?
I have strong opinions about the Spotify playlists and how inaccurate most of them are. *laughs* I mean, if it’s our own personal playlist it’s fine, but auto-generated ones are a bit hit or miss sometimes.
Wes: But that’s just it, that’s the big money. Like, big labels, they have the money to do things like that. They have the money to pay for it, and that is where I feel that big money is preventing everything. That’s not good because when you have that Whole Foods mentality of people wanting to know where things come from, if it’s organic, how fresh it is and how it’s going to affect them later? People now have questions more than they did before.
Brian: I think it might be interesting to see if there’s a shift, you know? Even with podcasts and stuff like that, everyone is just sick of no discussion happening and everything being so sensationalized. It’s like, the news is really just a five minute news point where now people are shifting to a three hour long podcast to actually understand something instead of five minutes. Even with the candidates for elections now, they have, like, two seconds to make a big, stunning, rational decision whereas there should be a long discussion, and it’s the same thing with music. I think people are going to want albums and want something with actual content. It can only go so far with playlists because they’ll get old.
Wes: Like, for us, we bought the albums and we would open up the CD, looked at the booklet, look at the lyrics…
Brian: Yeah. Without those booklets how are we supposed to find lyrics?
Wes: Right?!? We’ve gotta listen to it a hundred times and try to write it out. Back then, the bands really didn’t need social media or anything, they literally just needed a book in their album and we were hooked. We wanted to be the band! We would dance in front of the mirror and play their music. They were awesome! There was mystery behind it, and I feel that has been taken out of the picture. I preferably enjoy bands like Tool or Flaming Lips, bands that don’t give me much but still enough so that when I go out to the show, they give me everything and then some. It makes me feel like a true fan, you know?
That’s why I spend so much money seeing the same bands all the time. *all laugh*
Wes: But you also know that these bands aren’t just playing their greatest hits, they know that they have real fans, so they’re going to play songs that normally wouldn’t. But going back to this three second mentality, I think there are certain fans that have that, but it’s 50/50. There’s people that remember the albums and there’s people that remember the singles, and for the people that remember the albums, the bands are hoping they’re playing to them.
Absolutely! And those are the people that matter!
So a fun little question for you guys, and you can totally have different answers if you want, but if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Wes: Flaming Lips!
Brian: Yeah! Probably Beck too.
Wes: And Foo Fighters! That’s three, right?
Yup! And what would you name your tour?
Wes: Oooooh, I don’t know, that’s a good question. *laughs* The ‘Razor Blades and Balloons Tour?’
I love that!
Brian: I think we’ve got it then, The ‘Razor Blades and Balloons Tour!’ *all laugh*
Wes: Ooooh! The ‘Laser Beam Karate Tour!’ *laughs*
Oh man, that’s a good one too! Definitely memorable!
Wes: Maybe The ‘Action Figures Tour’ sponsored by Tomahawk. *laughs*
Yes! And each band will have a set of action figures.
Wes: There you go!
You can buy the action figures as a set!
Wes: That’s perfect!
Brian: So awesome!
Merch ideas! Trademarked! *all laugh*
Wes: The ‘Each Sold Separately Tour!’
Oh my gosh, so good! You can buy one action figure separately if you want, but it’s always cheaper to buy the full set.
Wes: Or you buy the guitar player from ‘this’ band, the singer of ‘this’ band, and create your own band!
Ooooooh! The ‘Create Your Own Band Tour!’ *all laugh* I’m copyrighting that! Give me money, whoever decides to do that for a tour. *laughs*
Wes: That’ll be me, I owe you 10 bucks and a bag of jelly beans. *all laugh*
We were already discussing a little bit about our thoughts on social media and how much we love it. *Brian and Wes laugh* Do you think that it kind of adds on pressures for artists to constantly have things going on in order to share with their audience or even portray themselves in certain ways to their audience?
Brian: Yeah, definitely. I think you gotta figure out the balance of it. Everyone talks about how to be ‘relevant,’ and in order to be relevant, you have to be posting, like, one to three things a day and that kind of stuff. Everyone has a little algorithm.
And then the algorithms change every day, and everybody has a different opinion on them.
Brian: They do! I think just from our experimenting of what is going on, it doesn’t make sense for us to constantly have to post something just to post. It’s got to have some actual message behind it, and if there’s no message, then you’re just an Instagram model, and none of us look the part of an Instagram model. *all laugh*
Until the times change and everybody could be an Instagram model!
Brian: Yeah! It could possibly happen!
Wes: Probably by next week, like, next Thursday like 3:00 P.M. *all laugh*
I mean, I’m all for normal looking people getting the recognition they deserve!
Wes: I hate the filters. They drive me nuts.
Brian: It’s crazy when you see nineteen year olds getting Botox and all that stuff.
Ugh, I know!
Brian: It’s horrible! And it’s like, it can’t last, you know? Like, how about many of these Instagram models are going to actually make money from this to make it worthwhile, especially if they’re hurting themselves in the long run? Like what’s gonna happen when you turn 30?
Wes: I don’t think they know the repercussions because they’ve only known this. We’ve lived a life where that wasn’t there before.
And we’ve seen many botched plastic surgeries.
Wes: Exactly, but not only that, like my dad said to me growing up, ‘You be nice to everybody at school, because you have no idea when you’re going to see them outside when you graduate. You’re gonna see these people again and they’re going to remember everything you’ve done to them.’ I was nice to everybody in school, and sure enough, you will see some of those people. It’s kind of the same with social media because people will remember what you post, and I don’t think they’ll know the repercussions until later. But I feel like most people when they hire people for a job, they ask for their social media handles just to see how they handle themselves.
Brian: Oh yeah. It’s become a huge deal now.
Honestly, I think that’s really smart that employers have been doing that because people put up a facade online, and it’s like, do you really want that kind of energy or someone that believes in this thought process or mindset being the ‘correct’ way of living?
Wes: Yeah, it’s unbelievable, and I think it’s getting to the point within our band that it’s important to get back to the art of things and not allow the apps to take control of our thoughts and ideas and our process of how we are musicians and how we want to do it.
Brian: Yeah, the problem is when your social marketing takes more time than your artistic endeavor. We have to be spending our time on the actual art and spending our time trying getting people to shows.
Wes: We love playing live! But also to his point, it’s also about the audience, you know? We don’t want the same people that we constantly play to, we want to grow that, and we know part of that is not playing the same circuit, but packing our bags to do a little traveling here and there. This bubble of California is a very, very hard market, but the minute you step outside to play music, it’s really cool how receptive people are.
Brian: Because they’re not bombarded by it.
Wes: Yeah. I think our whole goal for the next two years would be to really find our fan base outside of the L.A. market.
And kind of going a little bit more into playing to different markets. So many people say that even going from L.A. to Orange County is a different audience receptibility.
Have you guys specifically had any of those experiences whether here in California or anywhere else that you’ve played?
Wes: Yeah, a hundred percent.
Brian: Especially in Ventura.
Wes: We did South by Southwest. We play Ventura all the time. We tour from L.A. to Seattle and back. Kind of like I said, right when you leave L.A., it’s just such a different experience. People in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, they’re all about the music and it’s very rewarding, and it’ll be nice to have Goodnight Kiss really dip into that area.
Brian: That’s definitely our goal. Out here, it’s very much like people will go to see the band, but they’ll be like, ‘When do you play?’ People don’t come out here to go see a show and go find new bands, they want to see their friend’s band and then leave the second they’re done. The mentality is a little different outside of L.A. where they’re like, ‘Oh, there’s bands playing? Let’s go hang out and find some new stuff!’
Wes: Yeah, they’re all about the music! And he brought up a good point because we live in Thousand Oaks, so we kind of bounce back and forth from all the Ventura market and the Los Angeles market. To be quite honest, we don’t really try as hard to play in L.A. because Ventura is just so awesome, but the problem is, it’s our same audience and we want to expand. But in Ventura, the culture is, like, you’re instantly family with these people. It’s a big scene and every band is different, and they want to play with each other because everybody’s so different. We don’t always want to play with the same type of styles and things like that because their fans become our fans and our fans become their fans. It’s really awesome. In L.A., it just seems like they don’t really grab onto that. Back in the day, bands used to want to play together and it was important for bands to act as a community. It wasn’t competitive, but now it’s very competitive. Even the audience is competitive where it’s like, ‘What time do you play?’ because they don’t want to interact with the other audience. I think that’s why we’ve spent a lot of time in Ventura because that lifestyle and attitude is just not there. It’s just a big party there!
So how do you guys balance your personal lives with your professional lives, especially when you’re planning to do more touring and stuff like that?
Brian: Hmm, I don’t know. We just find the time I guess. Family always comes first, and for me personally, everyone knows that I have specific time set aside during the week for the band, and we’ll just make sure that we make the time work. It’s not something that we fight over.
Wes: Yeah, we’re very supportive of it. We’re brothers, and it’s as much as we love our band we still know that family is first. As long as you take away the bullshit politics and the egos, it’s totally doable.
Brian: We do have three Geminis in the band though. *all laugh*
What advice would you give your younger selves in regards to what you’ve experienced so far in music or in life in general?
Wes: I would tell him, ‘You’re going to be playing in this awesome band called Goodnight Kiss so you need to chill the fuck out, bro.’ *all laugh* In my past, I had some really great experiences with music, like being signed with Sony, working with really awesome producers, the band 311 taking us under their wing for a long period of time, a lot of great experiences and a lot of good tours too, but nothing that I’ve gone through even compares to the fact that I’m able to play with *points to Brian* this guy and the rest of the band today. All of the things that I’ve gone through, none of that would have made sense because I wouldn’t have been what I could offer to these guys, or even just to take advice from somebody else, you know? Back in the day, it was always like, ‘You’re this and this is how you’re doing it,’ and I think that if I were to know then that I’d be playing with the group that I’m playing with now, I would have had a different approach and I wouldn’t have put certain things aside because I thought the band was more important. Because I had certain experiences, I felt that my career was going to continue to grow within that, but nobody knew where the industry was going. I didn’t know that the band members that I was playing with at the time, my high school friends, were gonna get into hardcore drugs, which wasn’t something that I wanted to get involved with. Things happen that are out of your control, but having these guys in this band of brothers changes everything, it truly does. It’s a family, and yeah, those other guys were great and it felt like they were my family, but this band that I have now truly is a lock and key that I have never experienced as a band before.
Brian is like, ‘Ditto! I love you man!’ *all laugh*
Brian: Seriously though! *laughs*
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Wes: Musicianship. We want our fans to take our music the way that we took music from bands that we liked. We want them to receive that same feeling and that same embrace.
Brian: Yeah, that was actually the exact word I was thinking about. We want to be a live band where people will hear something on the record and go, ‘Wow, they sound better live!’ I want to play just like the heroes that I had growing up where I would go to a show and hear the song completely different, you know? I want us to bring that kind of feeling back instead of just being a DJ where you push play and the computer makes the music for you.
Yeah, it’s always more impressive when you can bring your recorded work to the live setting and have it just blow you away.
Brian: Exactly! And then also, *points to Wes* his lyrics are very much about the good side of humanity and try to keep it positive and not being Debbie Downers or putting people down all the time.
Wes: I find it’s very easy to write a sad song, but it’s harder to write something positive. I like Björk because she is an amazing artist and she’s very abstract. I love abstract music, and for me, being able to push the envelope and not repeat yourself is important. If I’ve been there, done that, it’s time to prevent it from repeating. *turns to Brian* I really appreciate you saying that. I’ve gotten to challenge myself in ways that are fun and I’m glad that they’ve responded.
It’s amazing! And apart from new music coming our way, what other exciting things should we be expecting from you guys?
Wes: I know it’s surprising to say, but what to expect is new music and a brand new live show. What people have been seeing in the past is going to be dramatically changing, so don’t get used to what you think because now it’s time to change! I’ve decided to put the guitar down and pick up some keys, which again, the rest of the band is being really sweet and patient with me on, and just working on evolving. It’s a sound that’s keeping things simple on my end while also getting the band to bring some new elements, and it’s really fun and just getting me pumped!
Yeah! It’s getting us pumped too!
About Yana’s Cafe:
I’m a sucker for themed coffeeshops and Tarzana’s woodland critter themed Yana’s Cafe is certainly one to visit. Located in one of the many strip malls of the area, once you lay eyes upon the shop you will light up with joy. Bright blues and greens and light neutral counters and tables create a fun and welcoming atmosphere, and is spacious enough with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to fit any sized party that comes in to visit.
And speaking of visiting, a delicious and impressive menu for both food and beverage are offered. Sizable baked goods, fresh pancake stakes, and scrumptious paninis make up Yana’s food section while berry and floral themed coffee recipes are highlighted along with classic favorites. I was intrigued by the Bearlicious Latte, and was pleased that I went with my gut because it was the perfect blend of fruit elements and caffeinated goodness. Definitely can’t wait to try more of their house specials!