By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Don’t you threaten us with a Great Time.
Philadelphia-based trio Great Time are known to stretch the limits of genre boundaries – their sound caught somewhere between synth-pop, electronic, jazz, punk, rock and R&B – and recognize that catchy music is catchy music, no matter what conveys the notes.
They actually welcome the idea that their songs contain a familiar sound, their recent releases being a three-EP “Mad Libs”-esque series called ‘Sounds Like ____’,’ where each EP intentionally plays off a different sound. The group is set to drop a live full-length before year’s end that’ll feature the new material, the aptly-titled ‘Live In Philadelphia.’
The outfit continues their momentum with a new single, a cover of “Feather” by Little Dragon, a band from Gothenburg, Sweden who they collectively deem a huge musical influence. This track follows up the previous “80z Slo Jam (Live In Philadelphia).”
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with members Jill Ryan (singer/multi-instrumentalist) and Zack Hartmann about their upcoming music and more.
Music Bugle – What made you decide on the name “Great Time”?
Zack Hartmann – In college, we made a silly poster for an upcoming show using generic “inspirational” words like “courage,” “respect,” etc. with Microsoft Wordart presets. Up at the top in the middle was a big “Great Time” and I was at the drinking fountain right next to one of these posters and overheard somebody go, “Who’s Great Time?” It made sense at that point to use it as our name.
Music Bugle – What inspired your latest single?
Jill Ryan – Our latest single is a cover of “Feather” by the Swedish band Little Dragon. We love the music they make and I’d say they’re probably our biggest collective inspiration. We all saw Little Dragon play at Underground Arts in Philadelphia before the pandemic hit and then again this past August opening for Leon Bridges at The Mann. Seeing your favorite band live is one of the best feelings ever. The fact that we share a similar instrumentation, they’ve been together for many years, lived together in their studio, produced themselves for so long – it all feels so similar to our experience. Honestly, our dream is to open for them one day. I’d love to know how their audience might respond to us. It’s kinda wild, actually – we met them after their show back in 2018 and we gave them a little bag of goodies and honestly, I’m a little embarrassed thinking back on that. What weirdo gives a band a goodie bag with their own merch and a handwritten letter sharing how they’re a huge inspiration…?! I cringe! Would I do that again? Most definitely not. (Laughs) But I guess it was pretty cool when Yukimi walked out of the venue wearing our hat and then years later, Erik wore our shirt in their music video for “Where You Belong” and while performing at Outside Lands Music Festival!
Music Bugle – What do you enjoy the most about playing live shows?
Zack Hartmann – Turning my amp up. It’s also fun to add subtle variation/improv from show to show. Most of the main bass parts are composed, but there’s always a little room to explore new tones/ideas in the moment.
Jill Ryan – Connecting with the audience! My friend Bets recently described playing shows being like “playing catch with some vibes” and I loved that. It’s a give and take during a show, each one different from the last. You never know what you’re gonna get… but when it’s good, it’s so good!
Music Bugle – What would you consider to be the next step for the band?
Zack Hartmann – We have some specific goals in mind, but in general, we want to keep growing our fanbase and book some larger tours.
Jill Ryan – I just want to play! I want to travel and play places we haven’t been to yet. We’re also working on a new record and I’m excited to dive into that whole process again.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Zack Hartmann – Anything classical, reggae and reggaeton.
Jill Ryan – I’m always listening to music new and old, so what I listen to changes day to day, for sure. Let me look at my latest “Liked Songs” on Spotify… hold on… Okay, here we go – “Defeat” by Macie Stewart, “Surgeon” by St. Vincent, “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker, “When Will We Know” by Elliott Skinner, “Frisco” by Little Dragon, “The Now” by Anna Wise. I could go on and on!
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep going?
Zack Hartmann – “So like, what’s your real job, though?”
Jill Ryan – To quote my IFS therapist, “Get curious about all your parts: the anger, sadness, embarrassment, excitement, shame. Don’t brush them off or try and push them away, welcome them as they are probably there for a reason; to help you, to protect you. Get curious.”
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Zack Hartmann – I’ll always feel refreshed after visiting the Pacific Northwest. Or anywhere outside.
Jill Ryan – For something quick… a walk outdoors, a drive on the back roads. For something a bit longer, a trip home to California or Portland to visit family.
Music Bugle – What do you look forward to the most about 2023?
Jill Ryan – I am most excited about making new music and collaborating with friends. We’ve had so many experiences over the last several years, so much has happened, I feel like. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to write new music when we’re in the middle of playing shows or just dealing with life. We’re making some changes in 2023 and I look forward to having the space to reflect and focus on just writing and recording.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the band’s sound to someone who has never heard of you before?
Zack Hartmann – A mix of everything we like. Accessible on first listen, but with enough depth to keep you coming back.
Jill Ryan – This question gives me a lot of anxiety, but I also get it… I wanna be able to describe our sound to potential new listeners, for sure. I think I usually say something like, “It’s a mix of different genres like electronic, RnB, alternative, rock, indie, folk, punk, indie-pop … ” (Laughs) and if that doesn’t satisfy them… which it usually doesn’t… I’ll say something like, “If you like Little Dragon, Hiatus Kaiyote, Paramore, Moonchild, Louis Cole, Caroline Polachek, Caroline Rose or Incubus, you might like us.”
Music Bugle – What does today’s music industry need more of?
Zack Hartmann – An actual artist-centric economy. Everything feels like an uphill battle against corporations and non-musician gatekeepers.
Jill Ryan – Everything is connected… So, in thinking about the music industry, I also think about how shitty and inequitable and corrupt our capitalist society is overall. We just need a total overhaul of how things work in this country.