Feature Interview: Jarrod Alonge

Other than showing up at Vans Warped Tour to make vlogs and making misheard lyric videos, the content from musician/comedian/YouTuber/living meme Jarrod Alonge all came in parody form. Canadian Softball shoved a tongue right through the cheek of classic and modern emo as well as skramz. Sunrise Skater Kids took the underlying corniness and shitty jokes aplenty of pop-punk and easycore and ran with it all like a deranged child in a candy store. Rectangles hilariously jacked prog/djent; Vermicide Violence messed with deathcore; Amidst The Grave’s Demons took aim at all things metalcore to a scarily accurate degree; and his cringey Chodezilla personality managed to take the already inflated and obviously put-on ego of Attila’s Chris “Fronz” Fronzak and made it somehow even more ridiculous. 

Besides the humour, parodies, memes, and the musical shitposting, a lot of hard work went into each of these projects from Alonge and teammate Johnny Franck (ex-Attack Attack) in terms of songwriting, recording, production and everything else that goes into making a record. Joke or otherwise. But eventually, the precedence for parodies became overlooked for more serious lyrics and a genuine attempt at making a real, straight-faced band work. This is where new band Crazy Eighty Eight enters the picture, with Lauren Babic from Red Handed Denial leading up vocals, As It Is frontman Patty Walters on bass, with guitars coming from the band’s mastermind, Mr Alonge himself. 

Speaking with us recently, the always self-aware Jarrod Alonge talks about where he and the band are at now moving into a Crazy Eighty Eight full-length, getting said debut LP fully crowd-funded, their covers, moving away from YouTube, and more. 

Crazy Eighty Eight beginning life as a band with a handful of covers locked and loaded was a very smart move, as everyone loves a good cover these days. The band’s range of covers too was solid, moving from takes on Slipknot, My Chemical Romance, Halsey, Lorde and The 1975. That being said, releasing a cover song can sometimes take over a band’s full identity. Much like I Prevail’sBlank Space’ or Bad Wolves and how they’ll probably be playing their ‘Zombie’ cover for the rest of their career, this could have been the case for CrazyEightyEight. Turns out, that wasn’t even an idea floating through the guitarist’s mind.

“It’s not something that crossed my mind”, admits Jarrod. “If we’re primarily known for our covers, that’s fine by me. It just means more people are exposed to the original music, which is a win in our book.”

While on the topic of their covers, it turns out the trickiest song to get “right” for Crazy Eighty Eight’s hooky post-hardcore sound was their rendition of Slipknot’sDuality’, as the guitarist informs us.

“Covering such a band is typically ill-advised, since no matter how good the cover is there will always be a strong “the original is better” crowd present. We’re obviously not trying to surpass the original composition, but yes, it was tricky.”

He adds, “We plan on making more cover EPs indefinitely. They’re really fun to make, and it prevents our creativity from stagnating between albums”.

And I’m totally okay with that. Especially with how good their covers of The 1975’sThe Sound‘ and The Killers‘ ‘When We Were Young‘ are.

However, while writing and album structuring has commenced, the band’s debut LP is still a while off. While a mid to late 2018 release is more than likely for Crazy Eighty  Eight, there’s still a long road ahead, especially without any labels or management behind them. Which is why in order to create this album, the trio to ensure they had all of the necessary funds lined up to have both the resources and the time to create an equally polished and great record. So Crazy Eighty Eight opted for the crowd-funding model, hitting their $50,000 goal (US) with just days to spare. And you can bet that that was a stressful, nerve-wracking time for all involved.

Or as Jarrod outright states: “VERY nervous”.

“It was definitely closer than I wanted it to be, but unfortunately I wouldn’t have been able to deliver on my initial promises with less funding. I think I would have paid off the rest if it were close enough. However, if it didn’t pass $40,000, we might’ve ditched it and tried another EP. I’d rather wait to make a high-stakes album like this one until there’s actually a big enough audience for it.”

And while there’s both safety and brains in how Jarrod and Crazy Eighty Eight are approaching this undertaking, one thing I really appreciate from the original pledge campaign was a full outline of their intended costs (including taxes). Which is something that not all artists properly outline when they use such platforms. According to Crazy Eighty Eight, this is whermoneye moey is going:

  1. Recording & editing: $5,000
  2. Mixing & mastering: $12,000
  3. Media (artwork, videos, etc.): $1,500 to $2,000
  4. Distribution & publishing: $250 to $400
  5. Travel (flights, lodging, etc.): $1,000 to $1,500
  6. Fulfilment (merchandise, shipping, etc.): $18,000*
  7. Kickstarter fee (5% total amount funded): $2,500*
  8. Processing fees (3% + $0.20 per pledge): $1,500*
  9. Taxes (20% estimated): $9,500*

But despite Crazy Eighty Eight putting forward a solid and honest foot about why they’ve gone down this pledge/pre-order path to help fund their first full-length, and how said funds will be used, Jarrod expected the move to get backlash.

“A very small, vocal minority will for sure. I’ve already experienced this with my last three albums” he answers, but also flips the argument, asking: “How do they think normal bands get their albums funded? Are record labels not “investors” too?”

Of course, while the guitarist cannot reveal too much yet on what will become this album’s real meat, he could give me some small hints about how the release is coming along so far.

“The overall structure of the album is in place. Right now, it’s just a matter of writing good riffs and melodies. As far as genre goes, it’s currently all over the place (happy songs in major key and darker songs with prog breakdowns) but the general “sound” should become more apparent in the coming months.”

We hope so. As you’ll notice from the promo photos used in this piece and from their film clips, Crazy Eighty Eight don’t have a full-time drummer locked down just yet.

“I’ll be writing and programming drums for the album, but if it’s in the budget I’d love to track live drums” mentions Jarrod.

Even though it was a scripted music video, I’d say that drummer Tyson Dang seemed like a really good fit based off of ‘Shinebox’. But as of right now, that’s not the plan for the band’s setup.

“Tyson will probably be the man for the job, but it depends on the studio I hire for mixing and mastering. We’ll think about adding a drummer once the opportunity presents itself.”

Crazy Eighty Eight, 2018. Left to Right: Jarrod Alonge, Lauren Babic, Patty Walters. 

Across their socials, Crazy Eighty Eight have been giving updates about how they wish to work with other creatives on this album (artists, videographers, audio engineers, etc.) to make it as good as it possibly can be. As Jarrod states, the point of hiring the right people for the right job hasn’t been reached just yet but his overall plan is to hopefully expose talented people to a wider audience via their work on this album.

“We’re still in early pre-production so we haven’t hired anyone just yet. Basically, my goal in that was to find professionals that I haven’t heard about or haven’t had the opportunity to shine in their respective careers.”

For some people out there, a boost in attention or a shout out from Jarrod and his bandmates for working on this album could be huge!

In an interview with Rock Sound last year, Jarrod mentioned that all of C88‘s songs are written from the perspective of characters from certain movies. So while ‘Shineboxmay seem more serious, angry and even more personal in tone, that’s actually not the case, as Jarrod himself explains.

“Shinebox” is actually straight from the 1990 mob film, GoodFellas. Some quotes from the characters are in the lyrics verbatim. The movie gimmick won’t end anytime soon, and I see it as one of the fun things that makes this project special.”

With popular Twitch streamers and YouTubers making headlines for saying and doing both idiotic shit, I’ve always thought there’d be a strong stigma surrounding new media and the individuals that come from such areas. But while Jarrod built his career with on YouTube with his video content, he doesn’t find there’s much negativity towards people like him who have now stepped away from the big red and white tube.

“Not at all. I stepped away from YouTube simply because YouTube is dumb and wasn’t really doing much to advance my career. I’d rather start working on film sets” he admits.

Regarding YouTube itself, the platform has had to deal with a handful of controversies this year (*cough* the Paul brothers), as well as the dreaded “Adpocalpyse” that hit last year, seeing many channels having to adapt their content to secure monetization on their videos or lose out entirely. Jarrod first began out on YouTube back in 2009 but wouldn’t take off until mid-2013 – it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be here today without his success on the site – in October 2017, he chose to leave YouTube behind.

Even with all of the BS surrounding the platform, he doesn’t feel bad for leaving it nor for also being apart of the platform over the years, saying that it’s “not something I ever really think about.”

“YouTube is pretty massive. It’s like feeling bad about making movies in Hollywood because Harvey Weinstein is an asshole. The “Adpocalypse” was annoying but most of my income is from music sales, so my personal finances are still pretty intact. YouTube can do as they please, but in my opinion, it’s in their best interest to remember what made their platform popular in the first place.”

On the topic of those finances, however, Jarrod actually does this all full-time now, but that stable position didn’t come without learning curves.

“I was definitely stuck in a “starving artist” phase for a few years, but it’s a necessary trial for any artist. It’s really not that bad if you’re wise with your finances and live below your means. As long as you do what you love and keep a positive attitude, you’ll always be happy. I’m incredibly lucky as a creator and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”

Some big news for CrazyEightyEight was that As It Is frontman Patty Walters had become a member. Obviously, Jarrod and Patty are no strangers to one another as they’ve worked together before on Sunrise Skater Kids material, but I wanted to know who contacted whom first and what happened that made it such a no-brainer for Patty to join up with C88.

“Patty just needed a creative outlet secondary to As It Is, so he reached out to me”, says Jarrod.

“I’m guessing something with our first few songs resonated with him. We have similar writing styles and he’s a great person to spend time with, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me. He has a massive amount of touring experience too, and his stage presence will definitely maximize what CrazyEightyEight has to offer in a live setting.”

Now, with having two strong but also two very distinct vocalists such as Patty and Lauren, and with Jarrod adding backing vocals occasionally, some might be expecting a three-way vocal interplay to come from their eventual debut record. Yet that probably won’t be the case; at the very least, the vocal writing heard in ‘Shinebox‘ is what might come to define this release.

“We’ll definitely feature Patty on the album as much as we can, but As It Is is still his full-time gig and it’s currently very difficult getting the three of us together (logistically-speaking). Lauren and I will definitely be singing on the album, regardless.”

Trickier still with the band is the fact that the three members are scattered across the globe; Alonge resides in America, Lauren is from Canada, and Patty is all the way out in the U.K. So rehearsing together in-person is a no-go right now and playing live shows would a logistical clusterfuck for the most. But it’s not entirely impossible.

“It has been discussed! And it’s in the works. But that’s a secret…”, he coyly teases.

From Crazy Eighty Eight’s music, it’s clear there’s a lot of 2000’s pop-punk, post-hardcore, metalcore and alternative rock in their mixing bowl, from bands like Saosin and especially the likes if Underoath. (If you couldn’t already tell, then I don’t know what to tell ya).

The funny thing about that for me is that Underoath’s first record in eight years, the newly released ‘Erase Me’, doesn’t sound anything like the Underoath from 2004-2006, with Crazy Eighty Eight themselves sounding more like old Underoath than what that band actually does now. Of course, if you read my review of that comeback record from last week, you’ll know that I’m all about ‘Erase Me‘ and Underoath’s current sound that sees them moving forward and not wallowing away in their past. Even with such comparisons to his own band, Jarrod is digging it too.

“‘Erase Me’ actually sounds more like their last album than their last album sounds like Define The Great line, so I would say that Underoath is progressing the way they should be progressing. I think people were hoping for ‘They’re Only Chasing Safety’ 2.0 or something, which is a ridiculous expectation. Personally, I think the new singles are very well-written.”

I’ve found Jarrod’s trajectory from YouTuber to parody musician over to serious musician to be an interesting one. So I prompted him on what advice he’d give his younger self before he dropped those “Every X Vocalist” clips some five years ago. Now, when I asked that question I – for some reason – expected a deep and serious response from the guy about his career in retrospect, but that’s not at all what I got.

“Invest all your liquid assets into Bitcoin and pull out on December 16th, 2017″ comes his answer.

Ah, classic Jarrod.

But in all seriousness, as this band’s creator and key songwriter, what is Jarrod’s hope for listeners who come completely fresh into CrazyEightyEight who have followed him over the years? As he puts it, his hope is for them to simply enjoy the “shitty scene music” that he and his friends put forward into the world.

“I don’t expect to be taken seriously as an artist and I honestly don’t have much of a desire to be taken seriously anyway. I mean, I’m 25 and I still write shitty scene music from my teen years. I just want my listeners to have fun and enjoy what I’m putting in their brains.”

Whether you think the guy’s writing garbage scene music or whether you don’t take him seriously won’t ever stop Jarrod and co. from taking Crazy Eighty Eight as far as it can go. And I’ll be watching on and waiting eagerly.

Keep up to date with Jarrod Alonge & Crazy Eighty Eight for more on the band’s debut record.

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