Great Good Fine OK is a synthpop duo from Brooklyn, New York. They started out five years ago and have been hustling and hard at work. They are starting up a tour with Tigertown and coming through to the Canopy Club on Thursday, November 9th. They are always looking for new elements on try out in their music and release it on their terms. No full lengths are in the works, but they do prefer to release singles and EPs. We sat down to talk with Jon Sandler about their past, present, future and everything in between.
Smile Politely: Can you tell me what you do in GGFO?
Jon Sandler: I am the singer and co-songwriter.
SP: How did you and Luke start making music together?
Sandler: Long story short, Luke and I have been making music separately for our whole lives. I have had my own projects and he has been making music for a lot of other people. He was my piano player’s, at the time, roommate and I met him by going over there and working We decided to try and write a song together, we didn’t plan on starting a band or anything. We ended up writing “You’re the one for me” and it kind of took off in a crazy way.
SP: It was just a chance meeting that you met with him and you wrote that one song?
Sandler: Yeah! We ran into each other on the street one night and we were saying we should write a song together and that night he sent me the music for that song. It was random.
SP: How did the name come to be?
Sandler: We get asked that a lot, obviously and I wish there was a better story, but basically I just came up with that name years ago. I don’t remember how, but it just popped into my head and it was just one of those things that was like ‘This would be a great band name’. Years later when Luke and I met and started writing together we needed a name and I just threw it out there. He didn’t hate it and we sort of lived with it and it just stuck.
SP: Was the process something like ‘What do you think about the name? It’s great good okay fine.’
Sandler: [laughs] Not from him, but ever since we named the band that it’s a pretty common joke.
SP: What does Luke do in the band?
Sandler: He is my partner in crime and he is the producer/engineer. The way our partnership works is he creates a blueprint of the music, the tracks and I do the top line which is lyrics and melody. We go back and forth contributing to both parts, he also plays keys and keytar and millions of other instruments during our live shows.
SP: So, you focus mostly on the singing?
Sandler: During most of our shows I sing and dance a lot, sometimes I’ll play a little bit of guitar, but we have a guitar player and drummer in the band, so it’s kind of fun to just sing.
SP: You talked a bit about your song writing process and it reminded me of the 1975’s writing process. The drummer usually writes something on logic and then sends it over to the band.
Sandler: I didn’t know that, but we love the 1975!
SP: What do you think has given a resurgence to synthesizers in popular music lately?
Sandler: That’s a good question, it’s been going on for a long time now. I feel like it’s been popular for a few years now in pop-music. I don’t even know where to start answering this question, but in the 80’s and Daft Punk and all that stuff, synthesizers were prevalent and included in pop-music. There was this kind of thing 4 or 5 years ago, like synth pop where songs were using these elements, but a bit more ethereal a bit dreamier. In the past year or two those elements have made their way into basically everything you hear on the radio, as far as top 40 stuff goes.
Why that is? I think people have become used to hearing that mathematically perfect sounding gridded, sort of vibe and it has become the popular sound. Why that happens? Who knows.
SP: Maybe it was influenced from the dubstep and EDM underground that was popping up years ago.
Sandler: That’s the thing too, that reggae beat is big and so is that trap drum style, you hear it all over the place. Right now, I think that pop music right now is this fusion of genres and different sounds. That’s cool to see what becomes popular for a second, what lasts and what people are responding to. It ends up being these things that were popular and exciting years ago, but maybe the youth of today didn’t know the stuff then and it becomes new and exciting to them.
SP: You’ve noticed that too? That popular music is difficult to categorize into a genre, but you can talk about all the elements of it.
Sandler: Totally, I think that is what pop music is about right now. Even some of our songs — we’re using different elements that are commonly used in country songs, but for some reason it works in the electro pop thing.
It’s fun to combine genres and I am glad it’s happening.
SP: What are some of these elements that you’re applying from country music to your songs right now?
Sandler: Well for example, we have this brand-new song that we haven’t released yet and we have a lap steel [guitar] in it. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s this twangy sound that is in most country songs.
SP: So, it’s about exploring all the different instrumentation you can use in your music?
Sandler: It’s about not limiting yourself. If you feel like a song would be cool with this kind of thing or this kind of instrument, just do it. Usually that’s when the best things are made, when you do something that is unexpected. A little out of the ordinary and those things usually end up being when you combine genres or different elements of the genres.
SP: How did you end up working with the Chainsmokers?
Sandler: That was soon after GGFO started, the Chainsmokers became fans of that song “You’re the One for Me” — I think they heard it on Hypemachine and they reached out to us and see if we wanted to topline one of their songs, you know write the lyrics and the melodies. They sent us the rough kind of music for let you go and I wrote the lyrics and the melody and send it back to them.
They were big at the time, but nothing like they are now. Anyway, I sent it back to them and didn’t expect anything. I do things like that all the time you know write for other bands, but you don’t expect much, but then a year later they got back to us and said they were going to release it as a single.
SP: Shortly after that you guys started to get big, right?
Sandler: Well we’ve had a pretty good trajectory for the past three years just from hustling, releasing songs and touring all the time.
SP: Your music videos have a very human element to them, kind of like you’re reliving a memory or experiencing something. What’s the idea behind music videos?
Sandler: Well both of us are really picky about music videos and don’t ever want to make one unless we’re both excited about the idea, which is why we usually don’t release very many and all the ones we have released are just us feeling like it’s the perfect concept and visual representation of the song, but there is no general thought behind the process. We treat them each separately.
SP: What’s in the future for GGFO?
Sandler: Just more touring and more songs. Hopefully, some new stuff that people will be excited about. Some surprises and you know keep doing what we’re doing.
SP: Are there going to be any future album releases?
Sandler: We enjoy releasing smaller batches of songs so singles and EP’s are what we’re into. People always ask us when we’re going to release a full length and it’s funny, because we have 16 songs out so burn them all on a CD and you have a full length.
But what I can say is that if we ever feel inspired or feel like it’s the right time to release a full-length album, we’re going to keep releasing songs and EP’s and you know people will keep getting music.
SP: What are some of the influences you guys draw from?
Sandler: Well you know we’re both huge fans of so many people like: Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston you know those kinds of things from the past are things people say we remind them of, and what we’re inspired by.
We’re also big fans of so many other bands like the 1975 and Francis and the Lights.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell where we draw our inspiration from as far as who inspires us and it’s more about what we’re listening to at the time and what inspires us. There is also an element of we just try and be honest and write what comes naturally to us. Whatever our style is.
SP: Francis and the Lights, I think he just released that new music video with Chance the Rapper and another one with Bon Iver and Kanye West.
Sandler: Yeah, yeah!
SP: You think there will ever a collaboration in the future with Francis and the Lights?
Sandler: Hah! I would love to, so maybe. We will keep our fingers crossed.
SP: Anything else you’d like to say?
Sandler: We’re excited about this tour; we haven’t toured in six months so we’re all ready to go and playing some of our favorite cities.
SP: Is the Canopy Club the start of the tour?
Sandler: We start in Canada. We do Montreal and Toronto, then Detroit and then Urbana. We have never played in Urbana before; we’re excited about that. We have played in Chicago a lot, but never outside of it, so we’re excited about that.
SP: Look forward to dancing a bit at that show.
Sandler: Heck yeah, I expect you to.
SP: I’ll bring my Nikes and my best denim.
Sandler: Heck yeah, I’ll look out for ya!
Great Good Fine OK will be performing at the Canopy Club November 9th, check out the event page here.
All photos from their Facebook page.