I sat down last week with musician (and friend) Melodie Knight from Campfire OK to talk about the band’s show this Friday at The Crocodile. I partnered up with Morgen and we captured the inside scoop on the band, their upcoming show, why Melodie thinks conversations are an essential part of the concert going experience and round it out with some great shots of Ms. Knight herself.
A special thank you to the Fremont Abbey Arts Center for the use of their building during the interview and grabbing photos.
Tell me a little bit about your band. What role does each member have?
I’m the Mother Bear, the head Hen, one might say. I like to shepherd the ideas and visions of Campfire OK (CFOK), to oversee its direction and make sure that it’s cohesive and use that knowledge and information to continue to be better—the band as a whole. Mychal [is] the main songwriter and composer for everything and does most of the song arrangements and brings them to the band. So he’ll take care of all of the musical/creative side of it all and I’ll handle more of the band management. And then Brandon is very IT savvy, so he’ll take care of a lot of our audio and recording. Then he’s a killer drummer and plays guitar awesomely and bass. Andrew plays the trumpet, the banjo and the guitar and he can also play bass, and also Mychal used to be a bass player, so bass stuff is kind of written in between everybody. And our bass player Aaron is our newest addition and he used to play in Harvey Danger. He’s also the Art Director at The Stranger, and has a wife and a little baby. He’s the family man.
Are there any clowns or goofballs in the band?
They are all clowns. Even Aaron’s a clown, which is really exciting. He’ll send us the funniest text messages. [One] time, we were at a school campus, and Mychal sent out a text message saying, “Where is everybody?”…and Aaron said, “I’m in the green room destroying it with graffiti.” He’s always very quiet, but the one thing he says is just really…
The zinger, exactly, and gets us all rolling. They’re all clowns.
CFOK recently finished recording a second album, When You Have Arrived; is this album much different from the first?
Yeah, that’s a really great question… It is different and it’s not different. How it’s not different is that Mychal still wrote everything. [He] did the first record ultimately by himself…he played most of the instruments and did the arrangements and composing and getting that all structured and made and done.
The second record he [wrote] everything…so it’s still his songs and his feelings…and he’s still the one who makes the calls. What’s different with this record is that he brought it to the band; so now he has a band with thoughts and ideas that are now going to be playing parts they come up with, in conjunction with the melodies that he writes and, in the end, hopefully creating a cohesive sound that still complements and works with what he brought. This record sounds more full—only because there [are] more people’s intentions behind it.
Will we hear it anytime soon?
We don’t have an idea. The record is finished but we have recently gotten some management, which is very exciting…
Can you share with us who the management is?
It’s kind of convoluted in the way that there [are] three managers and they’re all kind of … combining into a team. Our main contact [also] manages Anberlin. Mychal just got back from a 3-week long tour with Anberlin through the mid-west and east coast and just had his guitar and opened up. They did an acoustic set. Usually they’re a rock band and they’ve been around for about 10 years so they have quite a large following.
Did Mychal get a good response?
Yeah, he did and [I read] a lot of reviews and [saw] photos, tweets and stuff about it and the response was really good. He played for about 500 people a night for 14 shows. He was playing all Campfire OK songs, talking about the band and selling the album. So it [wasn’t] a solo Mychal Cohen tour as much as it [was] Mychal Cohen presenting CFOK.
CFOK hasn’t played a big show in Seattle, besides the Family 4th of July at South Lake Union, since December’s show with Pickwick and Deep Sea Diver at The Neptune. Was there a reason for that pause?
I think it was that we were working on the album, trying to decide whether or not we wanted to release on our own. In the middle of that, [we] got management and their jobs right now are to shop the record to labels and agents, and [develop] more of a team behind the band. And [we were] also just trying to figure out good timing between the smaller shows and planning time to make the big show. There’s a bit of wanting to make sure that every show is really awesome, with having time to plan, and then also not overdoing it. There’s so much music that we don’t want to expect everyone to have to come to everything all of the time. And if you keep doing it then it starts to lose it’s value and so we want to stay a valuable band.
Why is this upcoming show such a big deal?
I think that my history in production leading up to it is the history into the show. I get really bored with a lot of shows very easily and the way [they] are structured: the three band bill, the mold, the traditions of music viewing. I can always predict how it’s going to go. As a concert goer, I started just realizing I’m tired of standing on my feet for four hours a night and with a bunch of drunk people making lots of noise. Then having some guy in a flannel [on stage] just rocking out to his tunes. That’s very Pacific Northwest-centered, [and] maybe I just need to go to a new city and experience new music and different communities of music, but here it just needed more.
So I sat down with my friend. Started talking about experiences and hospitality and how, if you’re going to make a show happen, why not go the extra mile for the people so that it makes a true experience that’s memorable and that feels good to them? We were feeling bad about being on our feet [through an entire show] and feeling bad about listening to the tunes we wanted, but not being entertained.
Bringing entertainment is something that is huge to me. I want to create conversation, whether that be before, during [or] after. Before, I like to stir things up and have some something peak someone’s interest before a show. I want to create an experience to where, while you’re there, you’re experiencing with the people around you and it’s something that’s new. So, at this show in particular I have a DJ, a solo artist and then a big band. I think that experience just shakes it up a tiny bit, enough for different people to run into each at different times than the normal [and] they’ll have different conversations about each of the acts than just normal.
Jacob is a DJ and he’s in the band Ships. I thought having a DJ would be something to start the night, get people to listen up. Then having our friend Garett introduce his new solo set [Prism Tats]; then having a big show that’s still all shorter than normal. [It fosters] a conversation after [they leave the show] where people are still talking about it—it’s memorable. People can talk about the conversations they had while they were there, the people that they might have met while there and so that environment is translated into the future too. [So it’s about the] experience for people while they’re there, but also a conversation before, during and after. I also know from the history of my shows that I’ve done in the past, people still talk about them and they live on. So the intention that I’ve put behind it seems to have a history of working.
So, besides the music, how are you going to entertain us at the Crocodile?
[My] friend, Jackie Moulton, was building a brain for the [Fremont] solstice parade, and while I was watching her build this brain [it] started really making me think about science. And also Mychal is a science nerd—just loves physics and reads books about time. So with that I wanted to bring what I was experiencing with my friend through her art and what Mychal loves and translate that into a theme for the show. So, then I invited a set builder and designer to take that concept and make a show more of an experience—he calls himself an experience builder.
What’s his name?
His name is Ben Stull and I met him at my coffee shop one day. He [said he] was building confetti canons. I was like, “Who are you? Please tell me more!” So we just kept in contact and this was finally the project that I could bring him in on. Our ideas have changed a lot in the last couple of months of planning this—things like the antics of smoke and lights and how they communicate, and then just other crowd pleasing interactive things. I can’t give them all away. But a visual experience, and little bit of a sensory experience, is definitely to be expected in a scientific way.
Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this. We’re curious, how many cumulative hours have accrued for the production of this show? 100 hours? 200 hours? 50 hours?
I have a web developer and a graphic designer working together for the poster and the website. I have five videographers and I have a set designer and I don’t know how big his team is. I also have two other musicians and their lifetime of hours. And then my hours are uncounted because I’m always thinking about it. So… one hundred thousand million.
Any more shows coming up this summer and fall?
Not right now.
So tomorrow’s show is going to be it for while.
Any final thoughts?
Final thoughts would be that the show’s going to be exciting. We’re excited to be at The Crocodile.
I, too, am excited to be at The Crocodile this Friday. Come see CFOK perform and have a different conversation than the normal.
Check out their performance at South Lake Union 4th of July celebration