Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Andrew Cunningham/Mike Salerno/Elliot Leach Of Ticker Tape

Photo credit – Hayley Langan. Courtesy of Ticker Tape Facebook page.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Formed in 2018, Brooklyn, N.Y. based punk band Ticker Tape consists of Andrew Cunningham, Mike Salerno, Elliot Leach and Julian Maultsby.

They’ve played multiple shows throughout the Tri-State area, with highlights that included opening for acts like The Spill Canvas and Vinnie Caruana, as well as a sold-out record release show at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn, N.Y.. They are set to release their new record entitled ‘Leap Year,’ which comes out April 24, 2020. It’ll follow up their 2018 debut album ‘Shift Breaks.’

The record, referred to by the band as a “desperately optimistic release,” will take listeners on a month-by-month journey through the calendar. The songs will contribute energy that fluctuates in the way of general seasons and the typical highs and lows that can happen in life as a year progresses.

The Music Bugle recently had the opportunity to chat with Cunningham, Salerno and Leach about the upcoming release and more.

Music Bugle – You guys come from Brooklyn, N.Y., which has been in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Has the virus affected the band directly in any way? 

Mike Salerno – Thankfully, not on a personal level. My family and friends so far are all safe and I still have work, but on a band level, yeah, it’s killed a couple gigs we were really looking forward to and we’re hoping people can latch onto the new release when they’re in quarantine! 

Andrew Cunningham – Same. Luckily, my family and friends are all staying healthy and safe. Unfortunately, this pandemic has me put out of work since I work in live-music production, but with our own shows getting canceled, I’ve been able to use the time to brainstorm some creative ways to market the record ahead of release day. 

 

Music Bugle – What drove your interest in wanting to play punk music? 

Andrew Cunningham – To me, the only thing more cathartic than writing music is being linked arm-and-arm in a crowd full of strangers, screaming songs that make you really “feel” something. It’s hard to explain that energy to those who’ve never experienced the environment. I want to write and play music that helps people have a temporary escape of whatever they’re going through and punk music has done for me that for me time and time again. 

Mike Salerno – I guess for me, at the time, I was listening to a ton of Menzingers and Gaslight Anthem. Especially with The Menzingers, I just really loved that guitar-and-good-lyrics driven sound. Their dual guitar play is really fun and I wanted to do something in that vein. Andrew’s songwriting really spoke to me and I figured we could develop that sound really well. 

Elliot Leach – Green Day, Blink 182 and Sum 41, almost entirely. I loved those bands and I would get goosebumps almost every time I heard one of their popular songs as a kid. I never knew music could sound like that, so melodic and energetic at the same time. 

 

Music Bugle – What inspired the name Ticker Tape itself? 

Mike Salerno – We wanted something that gave a feeling of triumph and of overcoming challenges since that’s what our first record and especially this new album are about thematically and being from N.Y., it’s hard to ignore the greatest triumph in a Ticker Tape parade, so we went with that. 

Andrew Cunningham – We tossed around a bunch of names before finally landing on Ticker Tape. I think finding a name before the first release was the hardest part of the process (Laughs) and as Mike said, the concept behind the name felt so appropriate. We want to be proud of every song we release as a band. 

 

Music Bugle – Could you describe what the process of putting together your upcoming record ‘Leap Year’ was like? Given recent events, does it change the meaning of the record for you guys at all? 

Andrew Cunningham – Last New Year’s Eve, I was sitting on my couch alone thinking about where I wish I was instead. I thought it’d be interesting to have a record start from that very second, which led to “NYE” kicking off the record. We further expanded the concept to telling one story that takes listeners through the entire calendar year. 12 songs, one representing each month and we wanted songs to bring listeners into the appropriate season. 2020 being a Leap Year worked out, as our narrator hopes to make progress on where they are in life and it gave us a nice title. This year certainly hasn’t been an easy year. It’s been pretty rough so far. Being that the record represents hardships and personal growth, I think it can resonate with those who are struggling during these uncertain times.

Mike Salerno – Oh man, I could talk for days about the writing and recording process. I feel like the songs on ‘Leap Year’ are much more of a collaborative effort among the four of us. Some of these songs were truly pieced together by multiple different ideas that Andrew and I had that happened to work really well together and Elliot and Julian brought a foundation that really tied it all together. 

Elliot Leach – Practicing these songs live while writing was a big part in what made them as good as they are. There were multiple parts that were written during a practice session. The most memorable for me was the unmistakable drum intro to “Westport.” Andrew was playing the main riff that you first hear in the song on a loop and I just kept trying different patterns until I found something that stuck. That pattern is so unique and unmistakable, that the second you hear it, you instantly know what song you’re listening to. 

 

Music Bugle – How would you compare your new music to your earlier work? 

Mike Salerno – In a word, better. From the writing to the recording quality, I feel that we took a huge step forward with this album. The songs are so much more dynamic and I find them to be deeper and have more character than our first record, ‘Shift Breaks.’ I also just have so much fun playing the new songs and showing them to people. I really think they can leave a mark when people hear them. 

Elliot Leach – It’s more unique. I felt as if the first record was a collection of songs that had been kicking around in Andrew and Mike’s head for some time and it was their chance to finally have them fleshed out fully, whereas this record was really its own project from beginning to end. 

Andrew Cunningham – This was a much more collaborative record, which definitely led to it being again, better. Not knocking the first release, but Mike and I wrote that alone in my apartment. I brought in Elliot to drum/produce because he’s the best drummer I know and when we needed a bassist to play live, I immediately knew we had to get Julian on board. ‘Leap Year’ is the product of us getting familiar with one another and figuring out which direction we should take the project. We all pushed ourselves to the best of our abilities and we didn’t settle for anything. Our good friend Josh Welshman is an incredible mixer and he took these songs to the next level. He was so creative in finding opportunities to make these songs sparkle. 

 

Music Bugle – Which of your musical influences do you feel shine the most in your songs? 

Andrew Cunningham – At the time, I was listening to a lot of The Wonder Years, PUP, and Vinnie Caruana, but also a lot of folk artists like Caamp, RKS and The Lumineers. Their use of narrative definitely comes through the record. We’re all influenced by a wide array of genres, which led to a bunch of interesting textures and arrangements. In “Westport,” I had my friend Lawrence play violin and my friend Amanda to sing in the last hook. In “Song No. 6,” my buddy Andrew Hochler laid down flugelhorn, which I’ve never heard on a punk record before. 

Mike Salerno – This is a tough one for me, because as strange is it may sound, I drew influence from an extremely eclectic group of artists – Vivaldi with “Spring,” Vulfpeck with “Anything//Everything,” Brand New with “Song No. 6,” The Beatles with any background vocals, Streetlight Manifesto with the bridge in “Spring,” etc. in addition to the aforementioned punk groups. I think it led to a really well-rounded record that isn’t static and takes things in interesting directions. Our bassist, Julian, is the most eligible musician alive. This dude is in like, six different bands and still has time to actively participate in crafting our songs, not just play on them.

Andrew Cunningham – I don’t think any bass take he did on the record was alike. All crafted from improvising and his use of melodic bass was so unique. Definitely different from what bassists typically play in punk/alternative music. 

Elliot Leach – Honestly, it’s hard to have an answer for this one, because I never really look at things this way. I never go into writing drums thinking about what influences I can pull from to make a part sound great. My mentality has always been trying to figure out what I can come up with to give a song a musical “signature.” In addition to “Westport,” like I mentioned, another example is the descending fill on the toms in “Calendar Year.” I wanted that fill to be a “theme” of sorts throughout the song and I know that every time I think of “Calendar Year,” that drum fill sticks out in my mind as being a trademark piece of that song, but hey, Green Day is my favorite band of all time, so let’s go with Green Day. 

 

Music Bugle – Is it harder or easier to stand out these days as a band with social media? 

Mike Salerno – I’m not on a ton of social media, so I do feel like it’s hard to get people to care just through Facebook posts. I mostly share stuff to my friends directly to get people on board. I know Andrew is constantly trying to create content to drum up interest, but there are so many bands and just media in general for people to choose from, so I do find it difficult to stand out in the crowd. 

Andrew Cunningham – I’ve spent more time than I’m willing to admit about scheduling Instagram/Facebook posts. As much as I see the benefits of what social media can do for a small band, I think it can take away from the actual art that the band creates. I think people write off bands that don’t have thousands of ‘likes’ and followers, which is a shame. I do think it’s been helpful in networking with other bands and finding shows though! 

Elliot Leach – I think it’s absolutely harder. Every single platform is just so flooded with different bands of differing abilities, all clamoring over each other, trying to get their voices to stand out above the crowd. Promotion and fan interaction on social media will always be important to growing and maintaining an audience, but I’ve always been of the belief that the content you create will bring the type of fans that will stick with you for your entire career. That’s where my focus has always been. 

 

Music Bugle – What has been your favorite show to play? 

Mike Salerno – We played a show out in Amityville opening for The Spill Canvas some time last year that was packed and it was our first time playing “Calendar Year” live and you could really tell people were moved by the song. There was just a vibe in the room that changed once the song built up and I knew we had something special on our hands. You could tell it just resonated in a way our older songs hadn’t. 

Elliot Leach – Nobody knew us there and by the end of our set, we had so many people coming up to us, asking about our social media accounts, asking questions about certain parts of the songs and telling me in particular that I looked like I was having such a blast playing on stage. We had never had that kind of reception before and the fact that it came from a crowd larger than we had ever played to and a crowd that had no idea who we were, made it even sweeter. 

Andrew Cunningham – That was definitely the show we looked at each other after like “Oh yeah, we’re on to something.” The release show for the first record was also a ton of fun. The bill was filled with great bands, the room was filled with friends and the bar ran out of beer. It just felt like a celebration. I can’t wait to throw the release show for ‘Leap Year.’ 

 

Music Bugle – What do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet? 

Mike Salerno – Does playing Madison Square Garden count? (Laughs) I’d love to just play a show where people who we don’t know are real fans and get super into it. I had that once years ago with another band and it was just the absolute best feeling in the world. 

Andrew Cunningham – I agree with that and I think this is the record that starts to bring those better shows. I’d like to tour a little. I want to play Philly so bad. Richmond is high on the list too. Down the line, I’d love to write a record that’s worthy of a 10-year tour. Maybe it’s this one, who knows? (Laughs) This is a tough one to answer, but I just want to keep getting better. 

Elliot Leach – I consider myself a person with a multitude of interests. I like building computers, I like video games, I like audio engineering, but my ultimate dream above all those other disciplines has always been to make money playing music. I’d drop all those other aspects of my life in a heartbeat if it meant that I could make a living wage playing music. 

 

Music Bugle – What do you feel people should know about the band? 

Mike Salerno – Andrew, Julian and I are the biggest baseball fans this side of 35 (if you couldn’t tell from “Dog Days”) and desperately waiting for Opening Day to finally come! 

Andrew Cunningham – We wrote that song on Opening Day a year prior and we wanted to release it on Opening Day 2020 so badly. Ugh, when the season was postponed, it threw us for a loop! I feel people should know that we enjoyed the hell out of making this record. 

Elliot Leach – We put on a damn good show, we’re all multitalented. Andrew is a hell of a lyricist, Mike can rip any solo you feed him, Julian slaps the everliving daylights out of a bass guitar and I am also capable of playing drums from time to time. If you’re a fan of honest songwriting and some damn fine music, please give us a listen. Not everyone will be impressed, but I’m confident nobody will be disappointed. 

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