Artists and Bands

There and Back Again – The 88’s Journey from Independence to Major Label and Back to Independence Again

from L to R: Adam Merrin, Anthony Zimmitti, Todd O'Keefe, Keith Slettedahl (photo by Piper Ferguson)

The 88 is a Los Angeles-based pop rock group consisting of Keith Slettedahl (vocals & guitar), Adam Merrin (piano), Anthony Zimmitti (drums), and Todd O’Keefe (bass).  They’ve been releasing independent albums since 2002, and attracted major label interest for their 2008 record, “Not Only…But Also”.

The 88 has had countless songs placed in movies, television, and even video games, so odds are you’ve already heard music from this band.  Recently Adam talked to us about their new EP, “No One Here”, and much more.

Q:  Hello there and thanks for taking the time for an interview!  I really dug the new EP, “No One Here”.  What was the motivation to do the EP versus a full-length record?

A:  We recorded these songs in 2006, and actually did record a full length album, but the project got put on hold once we signed with Island Records.  One of the reasons we released this as an EP was because a lot of the songs were re-recorded for “Not Only…But Also” (2008, Island Records release), and we wanted to put out songs that people haven’t heard yet.

Q: Your previous record, “Not Only…But Also” from 2008 was terrific – and your first major label release.  Describe the transition from an independent artist to major label artist.

A:  It was a great learning experience, and I’m glad we took the opportunity.  What I learned from all of it, was that in this day and age, the major label route is not the right fit for The 88.  We do much better on our own.

Q: Now that you are independent again, are there advantages (or disadvantages) when it comes to making new music?

A: Definitely a huge difference.  We just finished working on a new record, and the process was so much easier.  Not only did it go a lot quicker, but we are all so much happier with the results.  We found a great engineer and mixer, Andrew Alekel, at Grandmaster Recorders, who was on the same page as us, and has the same taste in music, so it was by far, one of the best recording experiences I’ve ever had.

Q: Is there a single song on the new EP that stands out as your favorite?  Why?

A:  I like the way all of the songs came out.  I particularly like, “No One Here,” which was a live take of Keith singing and playing the piano.  It’s a beautiful song, and a really emotional take.  I’m really happy we were able to capture that moment.

Q: You recently recorded a song (“Love Is The Thing”) completely on the iPHONE.  Tell us more about that experience.

A: I never thought our band would be recording a song on a phone and releasing it to iTunes, but that’s the wonderful thing about the advances in technology.  It was a fun process, and the application, FourTrack that we used to record the song is extremely simple – anyone can figure it out.  All the instruments were recorded individually, but were done live in one take, and I transferred everything into Pro Tools to mix it.  I was very impressed with the sound of the built-in microphone on the iPhone.

Q: I really respect that you guys ground all of your songs with a strong melodic hook – this is sorely missing from a lot of music these days.  Tell us more about your songwriting philosophy and the process.

A:  For this latest album that we just finished recording and mixing, most of the songs came about by us just getting together and playing.  There was no pressure to write and record an album, which is maybe why it worked so well.  A lot times, we just start playing something with no plan in mind, and that’s usually when the best material comes about.  I record every rehearsal, and then make CDs for the guys the next day. There are usually a lot great ideas on those recordings, which we then start working on arrangements for and hashing out all the parts.

Q: You are currently wrapping up a tour with Ray Davies – tell us how that was.

A:  It was a dream come true. We got to play some really cool theatres all around the US, and the audiences were fantastic.  It was the perfect crowd to be playing in front of.  Ray Davies is one of our favorite songwriters of all time, so it was definitely an honor, to say the least.  We leave tomorrow to do a week of shows with him in England, including the Royal Albert Hall.  We still can’t believe it.

Q: “No One Here” is going to whet the appetite for a new full-length release.  When might fans get to hear that?

A:   As I mentioned earlier, we just finished recording and mixing a new record.  So we’re very excited to release that.  We’ll let you know as soon as we get a release date in place.

On behalf of Rock and Roll Report, thanks again for your time and best of luck with the new release!