Sexbruise? Discusses New EP 'COVID-69' February 25, 2021 13:58

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photo via Sexbruise? 

Live & Listen's core purpose has always been to serve as a platform for unique, up-and-coming acts, and that's exactly what we have for you today. In case you were wondering, Sexbruise? is a satirical desktoptronica/pop band from Charleston, SC that combines elements of improvisation, electronic music, poppy hooks, and audience participation to create an unforgettable live experience. Just two weeks ago, the band released their second full length EP, COVID-69, which is available on all major streaming platforms. We recently sat down with band members John Pope and Julie Slonecki to learn more about one of the more fascinating groups we've discovered in recent memory.

It's great to have a chance to chat with y'all today. I've spent some time listening to the new EP this week, and I'm loving every minute of it.

John: Yeah, it's a subtle nod to the time that we're living in. So like, COVID-69 is just a reference to this virus that was really big in 2020. It was called COVID-19. A lot of people don't catch that. It's kind of subtle. 

No kidding. I didn't catch that until now. So, I was hoping we could start off with some general background on Sexbruise? How did you guys get started on this wondrous journey?

John: The band started as a joke, primarily. It was just a name on a flyer, right? Our friend, Stratton, has this birthday party every year. He put "Sexbruise?" on the flyer. He was like, "It's a cool band name. It has a question mark. We'll just get a bunch of laptops and act like we're doing stuff." So that was our first show. We wrote about six or seven songs in one day. We played those songs and decided to keep rolling with it. 

Amazing. So, the band came together for this birthday party, and all of the sudden, you're working with a handful of originals and a little momentum. How did things progress from there?

Julie: Well, not long after that first show, we actually nominated ourselves for Electronic Band of the Year. We had only played that one show, and maybe one more, and somehow, we actually won that award. At this time, it was hysterical. But yeah, I think we noticed how well everyone responded to it, and how much fun we had doing it. It was just one of the most fun and ridiculous things any of us had been a part of, so we just decided to keep going and see where we ended up with it. 

That's amazing to get that type of recognition early on. That had to be reassuring. 

Julie: Yeah, absolutely. At the time, I think we didn't really know what to make of it, except that it was perfect for our whole "schtick." But yeah, it really just took off from there.

John: So since then, we got very popular very quickly. Overnight, we had around 7000 likes on our Facebook page, which were all real. We stand by that. We started getting more offers to play festivals over the last few years. Rooster Walk last year. Obviously, all of the festivals in 2020 were cancelled. We're hoping for the best for this summer.

No kidding. How is y'all's calendar shaping up thus far? I know there is obviously so much that remains to be seen. 

John: Well, we had to cancel our Madison Square Garden run, which was a bummer. Red Rocks, also cancelled. We had a couple of dates with Phish opening for us, but those bigger shows just can't really happen yet. We're more confined to small spaces like the Charleston Pour House and Safe Sounds, which is part of Firefly Distillery. So, you know, we're staying kind of busy on a local level, but some of those bigger shows, that were totally real, are not happening anymore.

Julie: We are slated for FloydFest, if that is able to happen this summer. Like you said, a lot remains to be seen in the coming months.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We're all hoping for a return to normalcy, especially when it comes to live music. I know it's been especially brutal on the music industry. Something's got to give. Hopefully as these vaccinations continue to roll out, we'll be in a better position to get back to it.

John: Yeah, that's kind of the message of our new EP, COVID-69. Number one, we want to bring everyone together. We want to get everyone in a headspace of, "This is a tough time that we're in, but we can still have fun." 

I'm glad you said that. I wanted to transition over to the EP, which was just released a few weeks ago (January 29th). As you've mentioned, there is a bit of a common theme with these five tracks. How did this concept come together? 

John: I think from a creative standpoint, it was very hard to think about anything else for a long time. Or talk about anything else, for that matter. 

Julie: We actually got together for what would have been more of a rehearsal. As usual, we got completely sidetracked and started writing some songs. Before we knew it, we probably wrote four out of the five tracks in just a few hours. This kind of our "m.o." where we have these big spurts of creativity. We just got on a roll, and you know, I think we thought these would be really relatable tunes. We weren't really thinking about anything else.

Stream the new EP, COVID-69, via Spotify here:

That's amazing. I'm always blown away when I hear musicians talk about these writing sessions, or rehearsals turned writing sessions, where five to ten songs are written in one day. How does the writing process work for you guys? I'm sure it's a unique and entertaining experience.

Julie: I'd say that the idea usually just comes from us goofing around and talking. Someone will say something that's pretty funny, and one of us will just run with it and start improvising it. Everyone follows that lead, and before you know it, we've written a song called "We Don't Have The Virus."

John: I think that we were just chanting "We Don't Have The Virus." This was the first time that we had really seen each other in person for a month or two. We felt like anyone who didn't have the virus should be excited. 

I'd say that's fair game for celebration.

Julie: The song also, I think, works when the virus does magically go away. Whenever that is, I think this will be a great celebratory song for everyone. At long last, we do not have the virus.

John: I agree with you, Julie.

Hopefully this EP will be a reminder of what it was like living through this strange and concerning time. Something we can put behind us before too long.

Julie: I am hoping that we get featured maybe in history books or Wikipedia articles, just as a memento to the virus. You know, kind of use our whole themed EP here for sort of a guide for what happened in 2020. How people were handling it, and I think if anything, that would be a great legacy.

John: Julie, I can guarantee that we can get on Wikipedia. It's just a matter of how long before people remove our entries.

Julie: This is true.

John: Because that has happened very quickly whenever I add Sexbruise? to Wikipedia articles.

Tell me about when it came time to get in the studio and nail all of this down. I know you've released quite a few singles over the years. Was this the first multi-track release?

Julie: We've released one other full-length EP that went platinum. That was exciting. It's called Real Gold, and that was about two years ago. We got a lot of success from that, and we're now working with our sophomore album, if you will. We've also released singles throughout the years, as well. 

John: We're sort of hoping that this one doesn't blow up as much. Just because it's a hassle having a bunch of fans, fame, and money. It's just not for us, you know? We've kind of been there, done that. We're going low key with this one... putting it out on Spotify.

Julie: Just trying to stay humble. But yeah, the recording process is unique. We do all of our own recording in house. We all tag team it. John and I both do arranging and recording in our home studios. I did a lot of the mixing and mastering for this one. We've done all of our previous releases in house as a team effort. We're really lucky that we're multi-talented like that. But you know, like anything, life and motivation can delay things. We did still get this album out while the album was relevant. We were concerned about that.

John: Yeah. We were really hoping that the virus would stick around long enough for us to get this album out. 

Julie: There was some worry that it would disappear and be over, and no one would care about the virus anymore. 

Watch Sexbruise?'s new music video "WDHTV" here:

That's incredible to have the ability to do all of the recording, mixing, and mastering in house. I know you guys did not have too many opportunities to work, sell tickets, generate revenue in 2020. The expenses of studio time, engineering, and releasing a new album add up quickly. I'm sure it is even more rewarding to produce everything yourselves. 

Julie: It's good. It's slightly maddening. You write the songs, and you have to do all of the work to them. By the end of it, you really know the songs. Very intimately acquainted. We're very lucky in that regard. 

John: Actually Julie, I would say luck has nothing to do with it.

Julie: That's true. We definitely are not lucky. 

John: Well put, Julie.

Julie: Thank you. I thought I had more there, but I didn't come up with anything.

Well, before we wrap this up, I wanted to hear more about the live Sexbruise? experience. Just through following you guys on social media and hearing from friends in Charleston, I've picked up on the fact that it's a show like no other. Not your typical concert experience. I was hoping you could elaborate on what people can expect. 

John: So, we try to push the boundaries on what bands can do in a live setting. We prepare a lot of food on stage. We make pancakes, but we've also made plenty of grilled cheeses and tuna melts. We throw snacks at the crowd. We've served champagne and pina coladas. I know it sounds like I'm just describing a lot of different types of food, but there's also music, as well. We do a lot of crowd participation. Pull people out of the crowd and make up a song about them on the spot. Plenty of improvisation. 

Julie: In the pre-COVID days, there was a lot of crowd interaction, which has forced us to readjust how we do things, for the time being. In times past, we did a lot of things off stage. Dancing with the crowd, creating dance-offs, handing out snacks personally. All kinds of shenanigans. We're definitely aching to get back to that, whenever it's deemed safe. We're still coming up with all new, inventive ways to handle that. We have a snack launcher, a snack drone, a snack pole. Most of these are snack related, but I think you get the idea.

John: We also incorporate a lot of live visuals into the show. We have projections by our friend Joel Schooling. I'll plug Joel real quick. Why not? So, that adds a lot to the show, from a visual standpoint. 

Julie: We just try to come up with new shenanigans every time. Keep things fresh, so people never see the same show twice. That's a huge part of it for us. We just brainstorm on these ideas, and we don't put any type of limitations on what we can do with that. No bad ideas, you know?

I think it's safe to say that you're providing a unique experience for anyone in attendance. Engaging the crowds like few, if any others, have in the past. It's been a blast chatting with both of y'all today. I appreciate your time, and I sure hope to have an opportunity to have a proper Sexbruise? experience in the near future.

John: Absolutely. We enjoyed it too. Thank you, Jordan!

Julie: Thanks, Jordan!