Some bands concern themselves with the heavier things in life: depression, mental illness, inner demons. Slimfit, the Columbus pop-punk trio of Josh Davis, Regina Squeri and Daniel Seibert, prefers a radically different approach. Their music is high-spirited, up-tempo, and covers lighter subjects like wrestling, the Cleveland Browns, and pineapples on pizza.
Over the past few years, Slimfit has built a local reputation as a goofy, gregarious, high-energy live act. They’ve also grown from Josh’s solo project into a full band. They’ve been working hard in the studio on their upcoming EP There’s Never a Reason Not to Party; the first to be written and performed by all three members of the band, and they’re ready to take the group to the next level.
As you can imagine, the members of Slimfit are as fun and high-energy in an interview setting as they are at a show. Music in Motion Columbus was delighted to sit down with the band for an off-the-wall online interview, rife with pop-culture references and laughter, in typical Slimfit style. We had a wide-ranging and often hilarious discussion on many topics, including the band’s goals and ambitions, the challenges of living (and writing) with positivity, Josh’s fondness for weird pizza toppings and flavor combinations, and whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich (as of press time, we remain unsure).
How’s everyone’s quarantine going?
Josh Davis (guitar, vocals): I’m OK, actually. I’m super social, and not seeing my friends has been a bummer, but I’ve had a lot of projects to keep me busy. Songwriting, music video editing… I teach high school, so there’s a bunch of stuff I gotta do with that. And I watched, and finished, all of Peaky fookin’ Blinders.
Regina Squeri (bass, vocals): Well, I’m unemployed, which is no fun, but doing all right and counting my blessings. Trying to cook more and read and stuff.
JD: Cooking! That shit is tight! My girlfriend is a killer cook, and I’ve been a loyal sous-chef.
RS: Thankfully, Dan is still gainfully employed.
Daniel Seibert (drums): Let’s swap recipes!
JD: Deal. I made a mean pasta with choo choo wheels last night [*chef’s kiss*].
DS: What are choo choo wheels?
JD: They’re just pasta shaped like wheels, but it says “choo choo wheels” on the box. I got to act like a train the whole time.
All of you seem very inspired by joy and fun and the things that make you happy. The cliché, of course, is that a lot of artists write about their demons, or their sadness. What’s it like to write with joy?
JD: We do our fair share of [writing about sadness] as well, but I think it’s almost more challenging to write about happiness or excitement. It’s much harder to put into words. When you’re bummed out, there’s usually something specific that you can conceptualize, but sometimes you can just be in a good mood for no particular reason. I kinda wanted to challenge myself to write a good-mood-dude type of song without sounding cheesy.
And it feels very genuine too – to your interests, to your general demeanor.
DS: For me, I play a lot of “serious” music with other bands, so it feels good to have this music as a catharsis. And it’s great playing with my partner, and one of my best friends.
JD: Daniel is a seasoned vet, but for Gina and I, this is our first band we’ve ever been in! So we try to put out the best songs we can, while also not taking ourselves too seriously.
RS: Yeah, for sure! And I would say that it’s definitely Josh’s nature to find the positive in darker or less-than-ideal situations.
JD: Yeah, I’d say that’s fair.
RS: For example, the title of our upcoming EP is There’s Never a Reason Not to Party.
*Ed. ~ We believe that Andrew W.K. would approve of this title.
Right! And there truly never is.
JD: Party on, Wayne!
RS: So, Josh definitely has some sadder lyrics, but they’re almost always paired with jubilant chords and uplifting melodies.
Certainly. You acknowledge sadness as a part of life, but you do so musically in a way that feels very positive. Like, even if you’re not happy right now, you’ve got to try...
DS: I definitely try to be an optimist, but I also never want to deny or stifle my emotions. All feelings are valid!
RS: I absolutely struggle with this a bit (especially recently), but I think I’m getting better at doing something positive when I feel down, even if it’s just listening to a good pop album or something, instead of wallowing.
Right! It’s really important to do that, even if it feels silly.
JD: Definitely! I can’t change anything that’s wrong or bad in my life by sitting on my couch feeling sorry for myself. I’ve taken that approach to music as well. We’ve been playing shows for [about] three years now, pretty consistently, with our third release coming up. But it always felt like we weren’t getting billed with the punk bands. [BravoArtists] wouldn’t book us. The younger DIY scene was accepting, but [to them] we were just the loud weirdos that played with the indie bands. And the older, more established bands didn’t want any part of us.
We didn’t fit in anywhere, which kinda pissed me off, because, to me, we put on a very good, very fun, high-energy show. We all bust our asses to put out an entertaining performance every time we play, and it was very frustrating to see other bands, who I felt were not providing that same energy to the table, get opportunities that we weren’t afforded. That could just be sour grapes, but so be it.
So I just decided to keep going all-out until people noticed. We play almost every show we’re asked to, regardless of the bill, as a kind of “fuck you” to people who didn’t want us on their shows in the first place. And I know that I’m not the most talented musician on the block, but I’ll go out of my way to make sure that our shows sound tight and the audience is entertained while doing so.
I think a lot of folks in Columbus like art that appears to be very labored-over, and very self-serious. Whereas, with you guys, it’s very from-the-hip, and incredibly unpretentious. You’re not trying to be the saddest, coolest band on the block; you’re trying to sing about pizza, and wrestling, and the Cleveland Browns.
DS: Like I said, all feelings are valid! Even feelings like wanting pizza and partying with your friends. Josh just sent us a [demo] called The Buttshaker.
JD: The Buttshaker is a banger! But exactly, I’m not going to pretend to be this or that or make our music sound a certain way so that the “in” crowd will wanna book shows with us.
Why do you guys think people seem to gravitate towards these other types of artists? Why wouldn’t everyone want to sing about pizza and partying?
JD: Well, for starters, I think the style of music we play is very rooted in influences from the early 2000s, a la Blink-182, which a lot of people really enjoyed at the time, but for whatever reason grew out of [it]. I am not one of those people.
RS: Sometimes I think it’s because we are loud, fast and happy, and I guess people just aren’t sure where we fit in? I don’t know.
JD: Even Dan and Gina would admit that punk & pop-punk is not at the forefront of their musical favorites.
RS: I guess you’re right. At least, not that era.
Not to pit you guys against everyone else, unless that’s what you want, of course! But, is it Slimfit vs. the world?
JD: I’d say so!
Josh, when you contacted me about interviewing you and the gang, you said that this would be your “heel turn.” To me, though, it feels a lot more like you’re all being open and honest about what you want.
JD: We’re not out to prove anything to anyone, except that we definitely belong right up there in your musical publications and TUNED UP articles and year-end lists.
DS: I don’t think we’re quite as antagonistic as a heel [would be].
JD: We’ve applied for Comfest, Independents’ Day, tried to get written up in Columbus Alive and (614) Magazine… and, for whatever reason, we’re not there yet. So when we’re finally there, I’m gonna be there throwing up the birds! Not really, but that’s kinda the mentality I have right now. I think you have to, if you want to push yourself.
DS: It’s less like “Give us validation!” and more like “Our shit is great, take it or leave it. We’ll be here doing it when you’re ready.”
RS: I would like to add, playing shows with these dudes is always a pleasure, whether or not we get recognition.
JD: Exactly! I’m not trying to throw shade on anyone who has helped us along the way. We wouldn’t be where we are now without support from many folks in Columbus, and we’re eternally grateful for all the help we’ve received. It’s just time for phase two!
You guys have made a lot of growth over the past few years. Josh, I remember the early days, where it was just you and a guitar in my living room.
JD: Goooood times!
But, of course, there are more of you now, and a lot has changed! Has that changed your perspective on writing and performing?
JD: Writing songs and performing was always something I wanted to do but never really pursued, or even knew how to pursue, for that matter. So I was building the airplane as I flew it. For our first record, I had 10 songs that I just brought to these two and said “Learn these so we can play shows.” They had creative liberties, of course, but we just wanted to get out and play. For this upcoming EP, we took a little more time to collaborate on songs we were proud of, which is a little more time-consuming but ultimately results in a much better outcome.
DS: The songs on this EP are the first where I actually wrote and recorded all the drum parts myself!
RS: For me, I for sure owe all of my (limited) bass skills to being in this band and playing regularly. I’ve gotten way more comfortable performing and singing live as well.
What’s it been like, changing your writing process up a bit? It’s got to be a bit different when you have other folks to bounce ideas around with.
JD: It’s amazing! Daniel is a genius on drums, so I can just play a guitar part, or even describe an idea in my head, and he can make it happen. To me, Gina’s limited experience is actually an asset, because she is willing to just experiment and get funky with it until we stumble on something cool, sometimes totally by accident. That keeps it fun for me.
RS: There are definitely happy accidents.
JD: Bob Ross-core!
Hey, who was your engineer on the new EP? They did a great job!
JD: Maddy Ciampa of WYD, Classical Baby, Steven King, etc., did the recording and mixing, and Adam Boose did the mastering.
Maddy’s fantastic; she played cello on a film score I did a few years ago.
JD: She’s such a gem, especially because recording a punk band is not something necessarily in her wheelhouse, but she knocked it out of the park.
And she’s worked with you before on your LP “Sorry About That,” right?
JD: Yeah, but, honestly, I screwed that up. I just wanted to finish the recordings and get them out, so we’d programmed drums, and then I did all the guitar and bass parts. So she was sort of limited with what she could do to make it sound authentic, when it totally wasn’t. You live and learn.
Did you get more of the studio experience you wanted this time around?
JD: Yep! We all got in the studio together and worked on it, which was infinitely better.
Was your writing process at all tied to the recording process? Did you guys develop anything in the studio more so than you’d expected?
JD: I’d say so. There weren’t any “a ha!” moments, but we’d do three takes, and on the third one there’d be a slightly different drum beat or strum pattern, and we’d all go, “Oh, that’s fun! Let’s do that!”
DS: Getting to mess around on the massive amount of gear Maddy has was inspiring too!
RS: It was one of the first times I’d recorded bass, and it was just a great experience. I was very nervous.
Regina, you’ve obviously made leaps and bounds, from joining the live band to tracking and writing parts and singing live. And this is your first band, too! What’s it been like to dive into all this? Has it felt natural? Growing pains, perhaps?
RS: Thankfully, Josh is a very patient person who also writes songs on the simpler side. There have been so many times where Josh shows me a bass part he wants me to do – some of them are parts that Maddy has shown him, which is really intimidating, and I think I’ll never get the hang of it. But, I will say, I’ve surprised myself sometimes.
JD: Gina is a very capable musician who sometimes just needs a little encouragement! Don’t we all?
RS: Both Dan and Josh have been so supportive, and make me feel all right to make mistakes and work through them. I started teaching myself bass in college, but almost all of my technical progress has been made during my time in Slimfit. Honestly, the hardest part was getting me to play and sing live. But even that isn’t so scary anymore!
JD: Next step: get you to cut loose onstage!
RS: Yeah, I’m the Serious Girl Bassist.
DS: I think her stage presence really grounds us and balances things out.
JD: It’s a good dichotomy for when I’m rolling around on the ground and spitting beer into the air.
All right, gang, now we’re going to broach a difficult, sensitive, and controversial topic…
JD: Hit me.
Pineapples on pizza. With your upcoming song “Pineapples,” you’ve drawn lines in the sand!
JD: Hard support.
RS: Steadfastly against!
Whoa! Intrigue! Inner conflict! Let’s unpack it…
DS: Two-thirds of the band are pro-pineapple. one-third of the band does not have a refined palette.
RS: I do love a pineapple-on-pizza lover; they are not monsters.
JD: Yeah, that was a major bummer when I brought that song to practice and discovered this. I love fruit, I love pizza. It just saves time.
Is pizza a fruit? Or, like… a fruit sandwich?
JD: Once you throw some pineapple on there, sure!
RS: I will say, I have tried to like it, to no avail. I’m generally not a sweet-with-savory person, though.
JD: I’m the one with the shitty palette, full disclosure. If I like any two flavors separately, I will like them together. This has been battle-tested by friends many times. There’s footage somewhere of me snacking on some ketchup and mustard Oreos.
DS: I’ve recently heard about pickle on pizza. That’s where I draw the line.
JD: Hot chicken pizza with pickle is fucking awesome.
I do agree with that. The Mikey’s Late Night Slice/Hot Chicken Takeover pizza has pickles, and it’s mean.
DS: I’ll have to try that. I’ve also seen corn on pizza.
JD: We made our own pizzas in home economics in middle school, and I thought it’d be tight to make an Oreo and gummy worm pizza. But I put the toppings on before I cooked it. So it all melted, and was… not good.
While we’re at it, let’s put another debate to rest: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
RS: …Yes? I think it depends.
JD: I’ve put a lot of time into this thought, and I still have no fucking idea.
RS: Like, a dog with all the works and stuff… [does] being on a bun disqualify it from being a sandwich? It depends on where you think a sandwich starts.
JD: If you say yes, then that opens the Pandora’s Box of gyros, tacos, waffle sandwiches, etc. But if you say no, then it has to be its own category, right?
Not trying to change your answers or anything, but… some sandwiches are open-faced. AND… what is a hot dog if not an open-faced sandwich?
JD: Get out of my brain, Satan!
DS: There are already so many variations on a hot dog; chili dog, Chicago-style, etc… I feel like it’s already its own category.
RS: A fair point!
Let’s pivot to the other half of the proverbial sandwich (whatever form it may take). What are some influences that have really inspired each of you and the way you write?
DS: Atom Willard (from Against Me!, Angels and Airwaves, etc.) is one of my favorite drummers. I try to channel him a lot in my playing. As far as bands, I think about The Weakerthans, The Thermals, Titus Andronicus, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and some other slightly left-of-center bands like that.
JD: My obvious influences are the punk bands with poppier angles, Blink-182, Descendents, Spraynard, etc. I’m really into the songwriting structure of Modest Mouse and White Stripes. Teenage Bottlerocket, from Wyoming, they’re a straightforward punk band that writes songs about Minecraft and skateboarding and bear puns, and I think they’re just fucking lovely. There’s a London band called Calvinball that I think was the greatest band ever, and there’s hardly anything you can even find about them on the Internet.
RS: I honestly don’t know if I have influences in my playing, I truly just try to hit the notes. I would, however, say that I probably am still trying to emulate Heartless Bastards, and a super obscure punk band called Be Your Own Pet.
JD: And, honestly, the people I’ve met in Columbus have really inspired me in terms of writing lyrics. Jesse Chessire and Andrew Marczak of The Roof Dogs [a former Columbus band now based in Chicago] and Steven King have really pushed me to write in an interesting way, even if the subject matter is basic.
I relate to that a lot; many of my most influential artists are folks I’ve met in my times playing. How have they shaped your writing?
JD: They all have this quality of taking an idea and approaching it from a different angle. Steven’s song Water starts off with the line “The water at the bottom of the bottom of the lake,” which is a much more interesting way than just saying “water” or “the lake floor” or something. And Andrew has said “I sold my car for a parking pass and then cried for hours when I was out of gas,” instead of saying “I did something dumb.” It’s cool! And I think we blend interesting points of view with very up-front, literal ideas.
Josh, I know you’re inspired quite a bit by wrestling, and as a fellow fan, I know how easily it can seep into my art. What inspires you about it?
JD: The characters have personalities; when you get invested, it’s in a character. And when your favorite character triumphs or fails, you feel those emotions, because you’ve invested so much. I’ve definitely cried watching wrestling more times than I’d like to admit. Also, the physical accomplishments they can do are impressive in their own right.
Regina and Daniel, do you guys feel a similar inspiration? Or do you feel inspired by something else non-musical, sort of in the same way that wrestling inspires Josh?
DS: I don’t follow wrestling as closely as Josh, but I did grow up around a lot of theatre and musicals, and wrestling is basically theatre for middle America. I like to think about playing characters onstage, having bits, and being very physical and theatrical while performing.
RS: Hmm… I would say I try my best to channel, like, powerful or badass women while I’m onstage – in the music field or not. Carrie Brownstein comes to mind, but so do, like, makeup people I follow on social media. Makeup is how I get, like, geared up for shows.
DS: It’s true! She has some lewks.
JD: I’m fascinated by people who make me confused, or, like, stop me in my tracks. Some people would use the word “freaks.” I have some freaky qualities, and try to emulate that energy onstage. “Is that guy OK?”-type vibes.
DS: Josh, who are your top five freaks?
I would also like to know this.
JD: Mick Foley, Milo [Aukerman] from Descendents, Fat Mike [from NOFX], the lead singer of The Distillers [Brody Dalle], and Jim Carrey.
What a good and freaky list!
DS: I’ve never connected you and Jim Carrey before, but it really makes sense.
JD: Allllllllrighty then.
I haven’t yet seen the Sonic movie, but when I do, it will be for Jim Carrey.
JD: I heard he killed it!
DS: I think my favorite Jim Carrey is probably The Cable Guy.
JD: I could probably, with 94 percent accuracy, recite the script for Dumb and Dumber word-for-word.
Shifting gears a bit… I love that you’ve been very forthright about what you want out of music and out of a local audience. With that in mind: what is the future you want for Slimfit? Concrete or abstract; what do you want out of yourselves and the folks around you?
DS: I just want to play shows again.
Really and truly!
JD: Everything that we achieve is one more thing that I would never have expected, so I try to remember that! I want to tour badly; I have the perfect schedule for it. And really, I just want to make an impression on anyone who hears our music or sees our shows. As long as they keep coming, we’ll keep playing.
RS: Second to everything Dan and Josh said. I personally want to continue to sing more in general, and keep trying things on bass that seem really hard or scary at first. I dream of coming to the band with a song, but I have to write one first.
JD: Please! Writing is hard!
What should folks expect from this next set of songs?
JD: It’s four songs, and each one is different. Serious and silly, fast and slow, Gina vocals and Josh vocals. There’s something for everyone, but we hope it’ll get ya movin’!
OK! One final question for the gang: If there’s one thing you want to communicate about Slimfit to someone who’s never heard you before, what would it be? How do you want to introduce yourselves, and what do you want to tell them?
RS: We just wanna rock and have a good time!
JD: Start a band! Or whatever endeavor you’ve been curious about. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can. I would want people to be introduced to us as a band you can rock the fuck out to, and still feel like you can approach us afterwards and just have a chat. We’re just people like everyone else, and I don’t ever want to forget that.
DS: In spite of everything, you can still have fun and be positive. We’ll show you how, as loud and as fast as we can.
Slimfit – Harry Houdini