“It’s hard as hell,” Stacked Like Pancakes vocalist Kellen McKay says about being an independent band. The music industry has changed a lot of ways over the years. What once maybe was a formulaic path to success is no more — at the very least, it’s not as clear.
What is incredibly clear now in 2018, for many independent bands there is no rockstar lifestyle. A lot of people like to throw out the term “sell out,” as if there is much to sell out to anymore. This perception is something that McKay is aware of, and while it’s not the fans or music patrons fault for thinking this way, he wants to establish a fact about Stacked Like Pancakes. “The money that the band makes, the band members bring home a minuscule amount of that.” He goes on to highlight that the band all still work day-jobs when they get home from touring, to allow them to pay bills and ensure they have enough money to cover their bills while they are out on tour.
The long-term goal, McKay says, has always been to make being in a band their full-time job. It’s not an easy goal to achieve, and sometimes it can take its toll on you as a musician trying to fight your way into music being a full-time gig. “Depression hits, and I have felt like I wanted to give up and not do this anymore because money and everything starts to weigh you down. It makes you think about what life could be like if you took these different paths, just like anyone else. It is so hard to be a successful artist in the music industry. I’m doing the best that I can, and I would love to say by the end of this year, that I officially do music for a living and can quit my day job.”
McKay is hopeful that a big part of that can be achieved through Stacked Like Pancakes’ new Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming album, Strange Creatures (set to be released in September). If you go to their Kickstarter page, you will be greeted with the news that their goal is $100,000. When speaking with McKay about breaking down the $100,000 and where the money would go, he was hesitant on giving exact monetary amounts, but had no issue explaining where the money would be going. This is something I felt was sufficient enough, and quite frankly, perhaps the exact amount is moot in the grand scheme of things.
Strange Creatures is set to be produced by the incredible Matt Squire, who has previously worked with acts like Panic! at the Disco, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande and even the upcoming Underoath record. That’s where a lot of the money is going, but McKay seems to have no regrets about it. Almost every act who has worked with Squire have given him rave reviews on his work and personality, so sometimes it’s necessary to spend a little more money to have a good experience and create a wonderful record at the end. That is, however, simply only one factor of where that money will go, as McKay mentions: “we have had a demand to put the album on vinyl…we continue to defy what the music industry says about album sales, and we sell a hell of a lot of albums, so we’re gonna press a lot of albums. But then, there’s the album artwork, there’s marketing, there’s press, there’s promotions on social media.” One final and important note that he makes about where this money is going: Kickstarter takes about 10% for themselves.
This is all to simply say that, while the $100,000 goal might seem large, there’s not money that will be leftover for them to pocket and take home. This leads to a larger topic of: why chose Kickstarter? That platform has always been an all-or-nothing expectation, where either you achieve all of your goal or you walk away with no money at all. Other platforms, such as Indiegogo, have a similar set-up to Kickstarter, but allow you to take home whatever money you raise — even if you fall short of your goal. For the risk-taker in McKay, this was never an option, as he’s “sickeningly” obsessed with the pressure of all-or-nothing. “It’s a challenge and excitement that can propagate to our fan base. If we’re saying ‘this album will actually not happen if this kickstarter is not funded. It’s up to all of us.” McKay then diverts his attention to what would happen if they used another platform and didn’t reach their goal. “If we go with another platform and only make half of it, then we’re not really funding the album.” While the all-or-nothing goal can be a bit of a risk for bands, McKay and Stacked Like Pancakes seem like they are more than willing to take it.
“Hollow,” which you can stream directly above, is the first song officially released from the (hopefully) Kickstarter backed Strange Creatures. It follows the previously released “45,” which you can also find a little bit more towards the top of the post. While “45” is a great song that McKay and Stacked Like Pancakes are proud of, it doesn’t appear that it will wind up on the album. “45” is a song that McKay states came to the forefront of his mind and felt like they really needed to get it out there, but musically it does not represent the darker tone of Strange Creatures. This is where “Hollow” comes in, as it’s an upbeat song but still has a darker tone to it, and that better fits the direction that Strange Creatures has taken the self-described brass-rock band in. “‘Hollow’ is definitely, by far, a greater representation of the soundscape for Strange Creatures, where ’45’ isn’t,” McKay affirms.
It’s worth noting that if you donate to their kickstarter, what you are doing is essentially pre-ordering their album. Each pledge of $10 or more will come with at least one copy of Strange Creatures. It’s worth checking out the other options, if you can do so, because you can get a signed copy of the album, vinyl and some Kickstarter-exclusive merchandise.
While being an independent band is hard — and expensive — McKay and the rest of Stacked Like Pancakes still have their goals in line. There seems to be no backing down from his original statement of wanting to work in music full-time. They are not worried too much about the changing of the industry, and while a lot of people point to Spotify and Apple Music and say people don’t indulge full albums anymore, McKay will point you to Twenty One Pilots. There had been no album in the digital era where each song achieved a Gold certification by the RIAA — until Twenty One Pilots accomplished this with Blurryface. This is something that McKay references in explaining his goals for Strange Creatures, and while he is not expecting those kind of sales, it’s reassuring to see that people will still listen to full albums, if you make it worth their time. That, he explains, is a big goal: to create an album people want to listen to all the way through.
“We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” McKay begins as he explains their desire for crafting a full-length album, “we want people to fall in love with us, just because we fall in love with a lot of our fans. A lot of our fans are like our best friends on social media, and we love our relationship with them.” And on that note, Stacked Like Pancakes deserve your love and attention. This is a band that has grown and matured over the years and are gearing up for the next, big chapter of their career with Strange Creatures. The stage has been set, stakes have been made, and now it’s time for us all to join them on that journey.
Their Kickstarter can be found here, and you can check out all of the different pre-order options to see which fits you. Stacked Like Pancakes are set to begin recording Strange Creatures in May, with a release following in September.