Last Friday, I arrived at the Donato’s Pizza Basement on High Street. Naturally, I was early, so it was only me, the bartender, and his lo-fi hip hop playlist on the speakers. I was waiting for Jim Vest, who is the front man of What If When We Die, We Scatter? Quite a mouthful, right? Later in the evening, drummer Kelson Copas told me it was originally going to be a song title.
The band sound like a late 1990’s alternative band (in the vein of Foo Fighters, as described by the bartender). Eventually, a bearded man walks in with a tie-die shirt and a Nickelodeon slime time-esque hat (later revealed to have been painted by his kids), and talks to the bartender about his band for about five minutes, then leaves.
I realize afterword this was Jim, and I was staring at the mole on my wrist when I should’ve introduced myself. When he returned I acted more like a normal human and got the ball rolling on the interview.
MIMC: You guys have been together for about a year, so how did you get together?
Jim: Kelson and I were friends for a long time
Kelson: Yeah, he would do solo acoustic stuff and I would go with him.
Kyle: Right, and he had a bass player who kept getting “stomach aches” and I never really played bass before I played guitar, but he asked if I wanted to fill in. I was like, “Dude I just want it to be the four of us.”
Jim: So basically, we were friends already.
MIMC: Does this go back to high school?
Kris: No, well… Kyle is my brother and I met Jim at coffee shops where we both played open mics and stuff.
Kelson: Where we live, man, it’s very small. It’s almost like an island chain, you know what I mean? Like, he’s from Jackson and I’m from Wellston, and they’re right next to each other.
Kris: And there aren’t many musicians. So, when you stumble upon someone who’s a musician or artist you kind of cling to them.
Kelson: It such a poor area, too. I remember one time we just needed some cash and rounded up a bunch of guitars and like sold them to pawn shops. But, every shop said, “No, I don’t take guitars… nobody buys guitars.”
MIMC: Wow! In Columbus, every pawn shop you go into has used instruments everywhere.
Kelson: Right? Like the idea was he couldn’t afford to keep them because nobody was gonna want it there.
MIMC: So, it seems like things clicked fast for you guys, because you already have an album out. How long did it take to put that together?
Kyle: Well, it was totally self-recorded and mixed, so we just worked around our work schedules. The first recording started in November and it was released in December (2017). Then we had another single in February (2018). Then, we re-recorded those, because my engineering skills got better. The first ones sounded so much worse. So, as a whole it was probably around four months.
Jim: And we all work full time jobs and on top of that, our schedule last year we played a couple shows a week. It was crazy.
MIMC: Have you had a tour for this album or anything?
Jim: We actually just finished a tour. We did a week-long run in support of our album. We played our hometown, Indiana, and Chicago. Then our band broke down (laughter), so we missed a show that was supposed to be here. We just stayed in a hotel and got our fuel pump fixed, then we had a few other spots and played Columbus. (Scheduled to make up for the missed one in Columbus.)
Kelson: And where we broke down it was completely flat, like nothing to do.
Jim: Yeah, it was maddening to come off the road, full of adrenaline from playing a show and then be stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do. Like, we would get irate about the smallest things. Like, Kristyn was asking if she could take a nap and if it was cool… over and over. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, but I was just like I cannot listen to her talk about naps anymore [all chuckle].
Kyle: So, he just left for like two hours then came back. We were trying to find somewhere to get beer and pass the time, but we couldn’t find any.
Jim: But I will say the mechanic that fixed our van was super cool.
Kyle: Yeah, his daughter’s a fan now. She does roller derby and we have her sticker on our van.
Kelson: Yeah, roller derby’s sweet! It’s like wrestling and hockey put together. A tornado of floor violence.
MIMC: How does it work? Last team standing wins?
Kyle: I think it’s points-based, but I have no clue how it’s scored.
Kelson: Really, it’s just a cyclone of feminine destruction.
MIMC: Is there a second album coming soon?
Jim: Yep! We’re actually starting on that soon. We just need to replace some equipment we broke on tour [chuckles].
Kris: We don’t even have cases for a lot of it, like the drums.
I then notice a very battered drum set sitting off to the side in pieces.
Kris: Like, that is how we load the drum set. So, we plan on fixing stuff, then going from there.
Kyle: Yeah, and I’m paying my ex-girlfriends’ bass right now.
Jim: We have a reputation of being reckless on stage.
Kyle: I couldn’t walk for a couple days from our tour, because I jumped off my amp and first time I ever landed, it I messed up my heel really bad.
Jim: And, we played a skate park tour last March and developed a reputation for breaking things.
Kyle: Yeah, Kelson’s drum set was falling apart on the last song one night, I hit a cymbal with my bass and the edge cut an extension cord in half… and it just caused a big explosion. It cut a black chunk out of the cymbal, too.
MIMC: Well, you guys set the standard pretty high for tonight, then…
Kelson: I need to know you’re expecting it, so I can feel justified doing it [everyone laughs].
MIMC: So, you call yourselves an alt band. What are your influences, since alt can mean so many different things now?
Jim: I would say it’s mostly steamed from 90’s rock more than anything. And then, the emo aspect also comes into play.
Kelson: For me personally, it’s Coheed And Cambria.
Jim: Yeah, honestly, it’s just a big mish-mash of things.
Kyle: I just started playing bass, so I don’t really have an influence there. But as far as production… Butch Vig is a huge influence on me. Our story is similar too. He was in Garbage and just started recording them, and that’s what I’m doing here.
Later that night, they got ready to go on and ran into technical difficulties with Kristyn’s guitar. The darn thing wouldn’t hold tune. Eventually, they said screw it and played on anyway.
From the audience perspective, I think the consensus was it worked just fine, too. Along with this, Copas was losing his mind on the drums. Someone said in my ear during the set, “I don’t know if he’s on anything, but he’s a good drummer.” The way he contorted his body looked like he was having a seizure. And people liked it.
What If When We Die, We Scatter? is band with definite potential. They have great stage presence and wonderful chemistry with each other off stage, as well.