Interview: Kyle Morris Reflects On The Unexpected Success And The Future Of The Unlikely Candidates

GID: Was this thought of being able to explore these new sounds and not trying to stick with any particular genre applied to the new album?

KM: Yeah, totally. The whole album is all over the place. There’s a 90s Marcy’s Playground type song on there, there’s one that’s got a bit of a 90s hip hop influence, got one that sounds like an 80s power pop song mixed with some trap stuff. It’s all over the place. I really was into that whole Soundcloud rap thing for a while. They mix a bit of rock with a bit of hip hop and I never heard anyone really do that. I mixed that Soundcloud rap sound with 90s rock on one of the songs too. It’s kind of a hybrid that doesn’t exist as much in the world. Yeah, we tried everything.

GID: I can’t wait to hear more, especially the hip-hop one.

KM: It’s cool! It was really hard because there wasn’t a good template for it in the world, so we kind of had to push a new sound forward. There are songs that sound kind of similar but there hasn’t been anything that’s been super 90s mixed with that Soundcloud hip hop stuff, so we had to figure that out, which was exciting and really annoying and frustrating, but I think we got there.

GID: Experimenting with new sounds can be a challenge, but it can also be freeing and just fun to play around with things.

KM: Yeah! It’s something I wanted to do for so long. I just knew it was something to do if we had a chance. We had this song we wrote called “Crybaby” and it’s this garage rock, 90s kind of aggressive thing. Whenever I was doing it, I was thinking Juice Wrld on the verses. Then it opens up to this big Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana-like chorus and somehow, it’s a song. I’m glad we got it to work together.

GID: That sounds awesome! So, can you give us any updates on the new album?

KM: It is done! So glad that it’s done. We worked on it the entire quarantine. I was at home with literally had nothing else to do, none of us did. We did sessions with our producer Derek Fuhrmann over FaceTime and then wrote in our own little rehearsal space and put it together over the months. Now we’re finally tying up the last bit.

GID: Are you able to say whether we’ll get to hear the album sometime this year?

KM: I’m hoping in October, but we’re never the best with deadlines. In fact, we’ve been telling people we’re gonna put out this album every year for the past seven years. I’m just glad it’s gonna happen this year, I’ll say that. Hopefully, October.

GID: Fingers crossed we hear it then. With the pandemic, it’s easy to focus on the negative – because there’s a lot of negatives with COVID – but people did use that time for positive changes, like picking up new hobbies, reconnecting with people, or even finding causes to support. What’s something positive that you took away from the pandemic?

KM: I mean I would never have had this amount of time to write. Our single “Novocaine” hit number one and we were about to tour all year off that and finally come into stride and make some money and have that rock n roll dream kind of realized. So, when it all kind of went away we were all left with nothing but time and we made the best use of it that we could. It was actually a solid silver lining because we wrote all of these songs. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have existed. As far as other stuff, I watched a lot of TV that I hadn’t watched. That’s great for me personally. I’m not sure if that aided my development as a human but it was entertaining.

GID: It’s important to have that time to catch on TV because it’s so hard to keep up with that stuff, especially when you’re out on the road all the time.

KM: Yeah, it was great. I became an encyclopedia for anything on any streaming site, so I got that part of history locked for sure.

GID: What was your favorite thing that you watched during lockdown?

KM: I had never watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. Somebody recommended that to me and I fell in love with it. It became one of my comfort shows. I also watched The Witcher a bunch. I just like weird sci-fi fantasy stuff, so I watched a lot of that.

GID: A few years ago, you guys released “Novocaine,” which did insanely well and even beat Billie Eilish on the charts. Looking back at that, what did it feel like to get that mainstream recognition after performing together as a band for over 10 years and building such a strong following?

KM: I don’t know probably relief! It’s like cool, we haven’t just been out here doing this thing and swinging at the fence and missing for all these years. We finally got a hit and a home run at that. I think we were all just very proud and stoked and [thinking about] what it was going to mean for us because you get a song like that, you can tour off of it and get a fan base. There’s so much that comes with that. Plus, it was a big thing for everyone that we worked with. It’s extremely validating for anyone who’s put their time into us as well, like okay I knew I saw something in these guys. It felt like a big win-win. It was great and it was cool to make something that people really liked and enjoyed. It’s awesome that the song connected with a bunch of people even if it is just about me being a slacker.

GID: The Unlikely Candidates have been going strong for about 15 years now and when you’ve been a band for that long, it’s easy to get complacent either with your place in the industry or your sound. So how do you guys challenge yourselves to keep evolving as a band?

KM: Just stay confused basically. Never know what’s going to happen next. Just stay on our toes. There’s always some sort of opportunity or crisis we’re moving towards or away from, so we keep things pretty interesting. I think a big part of it is just music. As more music comes out, we find new influences. That’s one of the best things about not being tied to specific sounds. It’s probably the only good thing about it because it makes us harder to market. But as new stuff comes out, we just do whatever we want so everything goes through the filter of The Unlikely Candidates. We just keep writing songs that are interesting and cool. We’re always leaving the creative door open for us to do whatever so that really keeps things interesting.

GID: It’s important as an artist to make sure you’re also loving the music and having a good time with it.

KM: Yeah, I guess the way we do it is we’re always writing songs we think are catchy and that other people will like because those are the type of songs we like, but we’re always self-indulgent. The fact that we’re just doing whatever comes out of our heads is the easiest for us. So, we’re self-indulgent but our hearts are in the right place. It’s for everyone even though we’re just doing whatever we want.

GID: I know it’s hard to say with the looming uncertainty of COVID, but what’s on the docket for the rest of 2021 once the tour wraps up?

KM: I don’t know. Honestly, I’m going week by week right now. No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow let alone a week from now. We’re playing Bonnaroo and it’s at the end of a leg of our dates and we’re all like everyone just stay in your rooms. Don’t touch anything or talk to anyone. We gotta make it to Bonnaroo!

Otherwise, I would love to put out this album and for people to get into it and connect with it and go on the road to play a set of songs that everyone’s stoked about. Basically, just showing those new songs off and [seeing] what they look like live. We’re pretty theatric live. Every time I play a new song it’s like opening up a new world of performance for people. It’s just fun getting to explore that with people.

The Unlikely Candidates are (luckily) still on tour. See where they’ll be next here. Aside from touring, the band is also wrapping their new album. Stay updated by following their Twitter and Instagram.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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