LA-based indie band GUPPY have rolled out a new single called “I’m Your Daddy Now.” The track is somewhat of a departure from their previous style thanks to the band’s unique creative process, but their signature sound is still stamped all over. The band describes it as a “defiant lullaby,” and singer J says, “I initially began to write [the song] after going on a particularly bad first date with a man. It was one of those experiences where you tangibly feel someone projecting an entire identity onto you…For me, embodying the character of ‘Daddy’ was the salve I needed to soothe my ego in that moment. By the time I completed writing the lyrics and fleshing out the music, the song began to take on additional meanings. This song touches on themes of parenthood, feeling misunderstood, gender, projection, binaries, and Freudian motifs.”
I talked to GUPPY about the single and the band’s new direction for KNOCK in an interview that had all the classic hallmarks of a GUPPY performance.
Knock: To start off, I read that several members of the band went to the Emerson LA campus together. I’ve driven by that building; it looks like a spaceship landed on Sunset Blvd.
J: I would say your description is very accurate. It’s kind of like a hotel and a prison put together.
Marc: In space.
J: In space. It’s super concrete. The classes are in the same building as your dorms. Fortunately, it’s a one semester program, so you’re never going to be there for more than a six month period. There’s two sides of it, and in order to get to one side, you have to go to a specific floor and only one side has laundry on it, so…it was very interesting. My room faced the Arby’s sign — I found that to be very apocalyptic.
M: Excuse me, both of our rooms.
J: We both went together at the LA campus, that’s how Marc and I became friends. Ian was not at the Emerson program, but he came over the semester after we had graduated and moved into a house in Glendale.
Knock: It reminds me of that dorm at UCSB with no windows that an asshole billionaire designed and is making them build.
J: Here are some fun facts about the Emerson LA campus: You cannot run both heating and air conditioning in the entire building; it is one or the other, so they have chosen air conditioning and it’s cold as shit inside when it’s cold outside. They gave everyone personal heaters for their rooms. The other fun fact is that Kevin Bright, who created the LA Emerson program and was one of the creators of Friends — one of Emerson’s shining jewels — he designed the building to look like a TV, which I think is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Ian: What I heard about the building is that it was chosen out of a catalogue from an architect, and it was actually supposed to be designed for an art museum, which is why it’s not really liveable.
J: Ohhh. Maybe it was from a catalogue, but he picked this one out because it looked most like a TV.
Knock: I love this trivia about this very strange building. I’m going to start looking at it from the TV and art gallery angle. Are y’all still Glendale-based?
J: No, I moved out a year ago. The pandemic scattered all the roommates. Marc and Ian both lived in the house with me at one point or another, and when we were all there, that was when GUPPY became a thing. Because we had the garage space to put our instruments in and then decided we should make music! I’m in Lincoln Heights now.
I: I’m in Mid City, Marc’s in New York, and Kabir is in Echo Park.
Kabir: Los Feliz.
I: Los Feliz! I just thought somewhere east over there.
J: I thought you were in Silver Lake. [Laughs]
Knock: Are you involved with any local activism?
J: Yeah, Ian and I have been doing stuff with Los Angeles Community Fridges since pretty much the beginning of the pandemic. I’m really interested in food recovery and food justice.
K: J and I are doing a show for Albert Corado. We’re friends with him and really believe in the campaign and just getting rid of Mitch O’Farrell in general.
Knock: Tell me about the new single.
J: The new single is called “I’m Your Daddy Now,” to be released by Lauren Records, who released “Aliens,” our first single. It’s also produced by Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties. It’s a little slower. “Aliens” is a garage rock, surfy kind of thing, and this next song is kind of more like a country indie ballad, but it also has some punky-spunky elements to it as well.
Knock: I liked “Aliens” quite a bit. I’m curious to hear what it sounds like. To that point, how do you feel your sound has evolved from your first album to your second, and then to these new singles?
J: I definitely think it’s evolved a lot. I had never been in a band before, and I had never really written music until I moved to LA in 2016. I learned a lot more about how to put music together, and how to branch out into more complex directions since our origins, and I’ll let Marc and Ian speak to that as well.
M: I had played bass before but I was mainly a guitar player before GUPPY, so I was going down a new path of being a full-time bass player for the first time, writing bass parts, and writing music from that headspace. I think this new stuff has a lot more musicality than our earlier stuff just because we know more now; we’re hearing more than we used to. And being more comfortable with each other has allowed us to really open up doors and explore what we want to sonically. And as we’ve started working on new stuff, Kabir has added another level.
I: Yeah, when we started GUPPY I had never played music since piano lessons as a kid. I started playing drums because Marc and J had set up a drum kit in their garage and it was something I could get behind, bang around, and kind of feel it out. I’ve been able to feel it out better over time and to connect musically with what was going on with everyone else. I would say I was pretty insecure with my playing at first, but both J and Marc, as they have said, were also feeling their way out. If we’re jamming on something, I can try something crazy. And if it doesn’t sound good, I can just try something else and we’ll keep carrying on. It has felt like a comfortable, creative space to try stuff on. We all come from very different musical influences; I was very into emo and pop punk music growing up. Marc and J, not so much.
J: In my middle school years!
I: There was a rule when we were in college that I couldn’t play Fall Out Boy in the dorm.
J: But that’s only because you played SO MUCH Fall Out Boy in the dorm.
I: We all have our influences, and Kabir has brought his own influences, and we’ve been working with where our influences come together. He’ll say, “Oh, I have these other ideas outside of the realm I’m comfortable with.” So, it’s been a comfortable safe place to experiment, which is so sick.
Knock: Kabir, you’re the newest member of GUPPY. How did you get involved, and what do you feel you bring to the band?
K: I think the first time I met GUPPY, it was at a venue called The Dildo Factory in Berkeley. My band, Sun Kin, was opening for them, and immediately when I met them, I knew they were cool. They handed me a dragon bong.
K: So that was really cool. And then my band was releasing an album, so we came to LA in January 2020 and played with GUPPY at a venue called The Factory, which I don’t know if it still exists.
K: What’s funny about that is it was the last show I played before I played at Zebulon last month, opening for Illuminati Hotties. So there’s been a throughline of playing with GUPPY for the past two years. So it felt really natural when they asked me to join over Twitter. Going back to the last question, as a fan, I’ve seen GUPPY branching out even from what I heard in November 2019 to the new stuff. It does feel more colorful. The harmonies they were working with in [their 2019 album] In Heat just really bloomed and blossomed, and I personally love harmonies as well. I think that’s a really good fit; I think that’s something I bring. I also like a lot of electronic and ambient music, so I think I bring a textural feel. In GUPPY practices, I feel a big comfort, You can try things out. No one’s ever going to say, “That’s a dumb idea.” We just try everything, and if it works, we’re all really excited about it.
J: For sure.
Knock: Did you say they reached out to you on Twitter?
J: Yeah, we slid into Kabir’s DMs. [Laughs]
K: I posted a few months earlier that I was moving to LA, and they just hit me up and asked if I wanted to try out. I went for the first practice and it just worked immediately.
I: Yeah, we had another guitarist before Kabir who left, and we wondered if we should continue as a three-piece band, as we were originally. But then we decided for the Zebulon show, our new album has a lot of another guitar, so it would be really cool to have someone. And literally by the end of the first practice, we were like, “Yeah, you’re playing with us at Zebulon…and maybe all of our other shows moving forward.”
J: Yeah, pretty much.
M: Yep, that’s true.
J: I think with GUPPY, the biggest thing, like Ian said, is it’s about the energy that you bring into the room, like how you are at collaboration. That’s what it takes to be a part of GUPPY or not. And Kabir immediately had that. He was immediately like, “I have ideas I want to share, but also what are your ideas? I want to incorporate those into my ideas.” And that’s the energy I like, that’s what I want to keep around me, that’s what I feed off of.
M: Also, we bring a lot of energy to the stage, and when we practice, there’s a lot of moving and jumping around. It’s not a stiff room. That was the first thing I wondered about the fit. But Kabir showed up, and he was jumping up and down and going nuts. We had a moment afterwards where we were like, “Did we ask Kabir too soon?”
Knock: Your live shows are well known for being fun and silly. Greg Katz of Cheekface spoke highly of them specifically. How do you bring that energy to your live shows?
J: Before I had ever played live music, I did stand up. And it used to be that, between each song, I had to do a bit. I’ve moved away from that, but I still feel that it should be a performance. I’m not just there to play music. I’m there to entertain, and that has always felt very important to me. I know when I go to shows I can really like the music and still be bored. I have terrible ADHD, and I also don’t like being in crowds that much, so I want to feel like I’m part of a community and not stacked in a room with people I don’t know. So we want to take collaborative energy we feel when we make music and bring it to the whole group.
Knock: Especially before the pandemic, but even now, I see GUPPY playing all the time on show schedules around LA. You’re clearly a big part of the local scene. How did you manage that?
M: When we started playing, our big thing was “GUPPY is your friend,” and that has continued to be a theme for us. We’ve been lucky to meet some really great people, like Cheekface, early on who have been gracious enough to put us on bills and keep having us back. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of people, but there’s a handful of bands that were really kind to us. And I think that’s a really big part of our live shows, too. You want to feel like you’re hanging out with your friends, you know? There’s nothing worse than seeing a band that thinks they’re too cool for you. We went out to try to make friends and find good people who make good music, and I think we got lucky. We’re trying to be the people we want to see in the scene; being as friendly as we hope the people we interact with will be, too.
J: I think part of us all being people who hadn’t been in a band before… we kind of came into the scene naïve. Like, we didn’t get the memo to be standoffish. Not that everyone is that way, but especially in LA, it’s a very competitive scene and a lot of people are pretty guarded — probably with good reason. But we just didn’t have that guard up because we were so fresh, and I think that did help us. We were just so excited about our music and everyone else’s that it was an infectious, easy way to make friends with people. And pre-pandemic, we’d play any show that we were asked to, so we were playing so many shows and meeting so many people. It snowballed.
I: I feel like our practices have been oriented around, “How do we play this live?” Because I think that’s ultimately what we care about the most. We really love playing in a room with other people because it is genuinely just so fun. To refer back to the last question, there’s no effort for me to feel like I’m having fun and being playful on stage because I’m there with other genuine, really fun people. I get really caught up in what I’m doing because I’m trying to keep beat or whatever, but when I look up, I see Marc, J, and Kabir, and they’re all jumping around and having fun with each other. I’m like, oh yeah, we’re fucking rocking out, it’s so fun!
Knock: What other projects is GUPPY working on now?
J: We’re working on a new album. These singles we’re releasing are working up to a bigger piece of work that they are a part of.
M: Perhaps an NFT.
J: Perhaps we’re becoming an NFT. We don’t know what that means, but we’ll figure it out.
M: We’re about to be uploaded into the block chain.
J: Basically more music that we created with Sarah Tudzin is to come.
I: And to do a tour or two.
J: We’ll be looking out for tours in 2022. Get the GUPPY on the road. Get the fish out of the bowl.
Knock: One last question. If aliens came to earth, would you actually want to be the first to meet them?
J: Oh, absolutely.
I: I want to hot box the spaceship.
Knock: I’d be afraid they’d want to eat me. I’d let someone else check them out first to see if they were cool, and if someone I trusted were like, “Oh yeah, they hotboxed the spaceship,” I’d want to hang out with them.
I: We’ll set them up for you.
J: If there’s an apocalypse, I want to die first. Do you think I want to stay around and witness all this shit? No.
M: I just watched Mars Attacks. I don’t want to be like Natalie Portman at the end.
Knock: I think you’d be a great ambassador of Earth: “GUPPY is your friend.”
Parts of the interview were edited for length and clarity. “I’m Your Daddy Now” is available now on Bandcamp. GUPPY’s next performance is at Resident DTLA on December 12, 2021 with Cartalk and Punk Crush.