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The Weekly interview: STRFKR drummer (and former Las Vegan) Keil Corcoran

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Corcoran returns to town for STRFKR’s June 13 show at Beauty Bar.

Details

STRFKR
with Wampire, Feelings
June 13, 9 p.m., $12-$15
Beauty Bar, 598-3757

In an alternate universe, Keil Corcoran might have been Brandon Flowers … or maybe some bizarro version. For a moment in the mid-2000s, the Las Vegan was the singer for Flaspar, a dance-punk band on the verge of breaking. Instead, the group moved to Portland, changed styles and singers (Corcoran moved to drums) and ultimately splintered. But for Corcoran, the story had a happy ending: Since 2009 he’s been a member of STRFKR, a synthy indie band with a sizeable fanbase.

So how did you get hooked up with STRFKR? I actually met them when I was playing with Flaspar. We did a little tour through Washington with them, and we started talking and became pretty good friends. It was funny, because when I first moved to Portland I was looking to see if there were any bands that needed a drummer, and I looked at STRFKR’s Myspace page and all the live pictures had two drum sets onstage, so I kinda wrote that idea off and started playing with other bands. And then Josh [Hodges], the primary songwriter, gave me a call one day and asked if I wanted to play drums. It was really weird. The band that I wanted to play drums for but decided not to ask asked me. Crazy.

How far along were they when you joined? The self-titled record came out in September of 2008, and I joined the band in January of 2009. So it was about three months after the first record came out.

Reading up new album Miracle Mile, it sounds like you got to be far more involved in the songwriting this time. Yeah. We all write stuff on the side, but we’d all kinda stayed out of Josh’s way, ’cause he’s got a pretty distinct voice and creative way about him. It kinda started with [2009 album] Reptilians a little bit—Josh and I passed a lot of files back and forth, and I helped him structure some of the record. And then we got a new member before we wrote Miracle Mile, Patrick Morris. He writes a lot of stuff. I wrote a lot of stuff. And we had a couple of sessions. We met up in Astoria, Oregon, and then San Luis Obispo [California], and we sat there with our computers sharing ideas and adding stuff to each other’s ideas. And that’s kind of how the record came to be.

What do you think of the way it turned out? I’m pretty happy with it. We had it mixed by a friend of ours from Los Angeles, and I think he did a really good job. It’s a diverse record, which I like.

What has Josh been like to work with? He’s a good dude. We tour with a lot of bands that seem like they have pretty significant internal struggles, but we all get along really well. I think that’s the reason we’ve been able to sustain as long as we have, because we all get along really well.

You’re living in LA now. Are the rest of the guys still in Portland? No, I moved down here first, about a year ago, and then Shawn [Glassford] and Josh moved back about six months ago. Patrick, the newest guy, lives up in San Luis Obispo, which is about four hours away. That’s where we practice.

So you guys just get together when you’re recording or getting ready to tour? Yeah, but Patrick’s gonna be moving down here soon, so we’ll all be in LA, thankfully.

In terms of the live STRFKR experience, it sounds like you guys have a massive LED rig with you. Tell me about that. We had it built by some friends of ours in Portland ... and it can process the signal that it’s receiving to display it. It’s pretty much composed of a sh*t-ton of RGB LED strips, and they’re in these panels that are used to build greenhouses. Kinda weirdly engineered. We saw a lot of bands or DJs with crazy LED setups, and we tried to figure out a way to do it cheaply, and those guys helped us build it, which is cool. There’s some MIDI stuff, and then there’s some video stuff. It’s kind of a hybrid.

You primarily drum and sing live, right? Yeah, on the majority of the songs I sing and play drums. And there’s a couple of songs I sing and play keyboards.

You guys are a live band but your songs sound like they might fit in well with the EDM crowd. Have you considered trying to play things like Electric Daisy Carnival? If they would have us we’d probably play. We do have a lot of dancey stuff, but we also have a lot of mellow stuff, and I don’t know how well that would go over at a festival like that. We played a festival in New Orleans a little while ago that was primarily electronic dance music, and it seemed like it kinda baffled some of the kids ’cause It wasn’t all four-on-the-floor, 128 BPMs the whole time.

Does STRFKR have a goal beyond what it’s doing now? Our band has had a really weird metamorphosis. It’s been a really slow, steady thing. A lot of bands put out a hit song, and all of a sudden they’re huge as sh*t. That’s never really happened to us. We’ve been slowly building a fanbase over the last four years. So our goal is really just to keep touring a lot, getting larger and going to the places we really want to go. We really want to tour Japan, tour Australia and go back to Europe. And keep putting out records.

Obligatory name question: What’s it like being in a band called STRFKR [Starf*cker]? It’s been a pretty big hindrance, actually. Like, when the band was first starting out there were a lot of really good support tours on the plate, with bigger bands that are similar to us. And pretty much everybody in those bands’ camps was like, “We can’t be associated with this. We’re too large, and we’ve got families coming to our shows.” It’s also eliminated a lot of licensing opportunities. Some companies just don’t want to be associated with a band with “f*ck” in the name, you know?

But you guys had a song in a Target commercial … Yeah, but it pretty much had to be done under Josh’s name. If they knew that the band whose song it was was STRFKR, they probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. It took some maneuvering done to get that through.

It felt like Flaspar was on the verge of something big here when the band left town. Were you at all disappointed that you didn’t get to see that through? I was enjoying what we were doing, and it felt like it was a little premature to break up the band at the point that we did. But I think moving out of town was a good idea in the end.

Do you get back to Vegas much these days? Do you still have family here? I don’t really have any family there anymore—my parents moved back to Florida—but I have a lot of friends there. Most of my best friends still live in Vegas. And I make it back there probably, like, three times a year. It seems like the Downtown area is getting cooler. And more bands are coming to Vegas, it seems like. When I was younger I was always upset that bands would skip over Vegas, but it seems like that’s happening less and less.

You grew up in Vegas, you lived in Portland and now you’re based in LA. How would you compare the three music scenes? In Vegas, I always had a hard time getting paid, and I always had problems with promoters. For some reason, a lot of people treated me like they were doing me a favor by having me play at their venue. So when I moved to Portland, it was really eye-opening that they were like, “Hey, we’re really happy to have your band playing here. We’re gonna play you and give you beer.” LA ... I haven’t played a lot of shows here, honestly. But it seems like there’s a lot of really good bands here. There’s a lot of really good bands in Portland. And there’s a lot of good bands in Vegas.

I’m friends with the kids from Kid Meets Cougar. And I’m buddies with the dudes from Afghan Raiders, who broke up a while back. I’ve actually been messing around with Vince [Campillo], sending music back and forth. I saw him the last time we played San Francisco, and we were like, “We should make some music together,” so we started sending files back and forth.

Portland also has a lot of really cool venues. A big problem I had in growing up in Vegas was that there were no all-ages venues, and I think that definitely hinders the music scene, because the youngsters are the ones that are the most enthusiastic about music generally. But I really enjoyed growing up in the Las Vegas music scene. We would rent generators and play desert shows, and I haven’t really encountered that anywhere else. We always had to band together and come up with ways to entertain ourselves, and that was really cool. We used to play a lot of house shows, a lot of desert shows and I liked that. I don’t think there’s a lot of that in LA, which is probably their loss. Because venue shows are usually kinda boring. I don’t really have that much fun when I go to venue shows, unless I really like the band.

One of my all-time favorite Vegas shows was the Acid Mothers Temple gig at the house you were living in here in 2006. Oh yeah, totally, that was a crazy show. I think that came through at the last minute. I got off work and came home and there were like 100 people in my living room. I told one of my psych friends that story, and they couldn’t believe it. You know, that band comes to LA and plays to, like, 800 people.

Anything else you wanted to add? I’m excited for Vegas people to see [opener] Wampire. They’re from Portland, and they’re really, really f*cking cool.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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