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Punchline Lead Singer Steve Soboslai on how to make your life easier as an indie musician
Written by:
Emily Plazek

 

“If you get really good by writing-writing-writing… it’ll make your life so much easier. ...but I feel like you have to get beaten down by it first before you can make anything real - anything that’s truly YOU.”

 

I got an email from Steve Soboslai, the lead singer and guitarist from the pop punk rock band Punchline, and the first thing I did was text my little brother, Joe. I thank Joeums for my live punk music upbringing by taking me to shows around Pittsburgh. He texted back asking something blunt and masculine like “woah cool what’re they up to now”.

I met up for coffee with Steve at Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square and found out that he had just moved back to Pittsburgh from Nashville and was reacquainting himself with the Pittsburgh music scene. He, the band, and their label Modern Short Stories were all kicking — in fact, they’re in the middle of a crowd fund to create a Netflix special (check it out here, it’s coming to a close tomorrow!)

Steve and a fox.

In MIC-research spirit, I whipped out a notebook at one point during our conversation because he was listing off a handful of local bands & artists I wanted to make sure I checked out — and then we landed on a topic I think most indie bands can relate to: the pressure to get signed to a label.

Before Punchline got signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2003, they self-recorded/released 2 albums and 2 EPs, indie music-style: How to Get Kicked Out of the Mall (1998), Punchline (1999), Major Motion Picture (2001), The Rewind EP (2002). They played shows around the Pittsburgh circuit, befriending promoters and garnering a very loyal local following. Steve describes that time in Pittsburgh music history as highly collaborative in the punk scene, and now that he’s back in the Burgh he’s building that community again.

Steve said Punchline can attribute a lot of its success to growing with that community — but the other gamechanger in Punchline’s success is how they got signed to a label.

“We were sending elaborate EPKs (electronic press kits) to all these labels…. And it was exhausting.” Steve explained that at one point he said, “We’re not doing this anymore, we’re going to wait for [the labels] to come to us.”

So Steve and the band focused on writing really, really high quality music while playing shows and appreciating their fans. This paid off beautifully and organically when a Punchline fan who happened to be on the Fueled by Ramen street team recommended them to the label. Some Fueled by Ramen reps attended Punchline’s show in Gainesville — and the rest is history.

I asked Steve if he had any supportive words of advice to indie bands/artists and he paused. He continued by recommending that you focus inward on your talent.

 

“Become a master of your craft… and focus on what you do until you create music that is unique to you. If you get really good by write-write-writing… it’ll make your life so much easier.”

 

Steve also emphasized how important it is to grow with your music community around you, if possible. He made me laugh when he added that it’s really about having patience, too: “I feel like you have to get beaten down by it till you can making anything real.”

This topic of music quality is one that arises often in my talks with indie artists & bands — and Steve hits a vital point with pointing out that the music needs to be “unique to you.” When people claim music is “good” or “bad”, I say poppycock. Although you do have to respect quality standards while recording music, writing “good” music doesn’t have to do with genres, “Mainstream vs. Lamestream”, current trends, or anything. It has to do with purpose.

What Steve is talking about is the type of music that comes from deep purpose and passion to keep working towards mastery. This isn’t something he or I have plucked from thin air, it’s an idea that artists have pursued forever — a very Malcolm Gladwell-esque idea that mastery of anything doesn’t come from sheer talent, but rather dedication to hours and hours of work (10,000 hours in Gladwell’s opinion).

It’s pretty simple: dedication for mastery of your craft arises from having purpose. If your need for music comes from deeply in your soul, whatever that means to you, then that’s some sustainable energy you can draw on for a long career — and listeners recognize (but maybe can’t put a finger on) passion/purpose in music while listening. It’s what ends up creating truly great music throughout history.

 

All of this echoes the “Product Development” laneway of the pyramid — keep chipping away, enjoying doing your music, because that’s why you’re doing it. It adds up significantly, so have patience.

 

For more on Punchline, go see their (super unique) Netflix special crowd fund before it ends next week, and follow them on Twitter @punchlion, Instagram, and Facebook!

 

Oh, and if you’re a Pittsburgh punk band who loves Punchline, I would probably reach out to Steve if I were you. Like the IMBM reminds: we musicians have heart, man, and we can be pretty magically supportive— insightful conversations and words of advice over cups of joe can turn into anything if you’ve got the initiative and open-mindedness to reach out and learn.

Punchline Lead Singer Steve Soboslai on how to make your life easier as an indie musician
Punchline Lead Singer Steve Soboslai on how to make your life easier as an indie musician
MIC is my baby.

 

“If you get really good by writing-writing-writing… it’ll make your life so much easier. ...but I feel like you have to get beaten down by it first before you can make anything real - anything that’s truly YOU.”

 

I got an email from Steve Soboslai, the lead singer and guitarist from the pop punk rock band Punchline, and the first thing I did was text my little brother, Joe. I thank Joeums for my live punk music upbringing by taking me to shows around Pittsburgh. He texted back asking something blunt and masculine like “woah cool what’re they up to now”.

I met up for coffee with Steve at Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square and found out that he had just moved back to Pittsburgh from Nashville and was reacquainting himself with the Pittsburgh music scene. He, the band, and their label Modern Short Stories were all kicking — in fact, they’re in the middle of a crowd fund to create a Netflix special (check it out here, it’s coming to a close tomorrow!)

Steve and a fox.

In MIC-research spirit, I whipped out a notebook at one point during our conversation because he was listing off a handful of local bands & artists I wanted to make sure I checked out — and then we landed on a topic I think most indie bands can relate to: the pressure to get signed to a label.

Before Punchline got signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2003, they self-recorded/released 2 albums and 2 EPs, indie music-style: How to Get Kicked Out of the Mall (1998), Punchline (1999), Major Motion Picture (2001), The Rewind EP (2002). They played shows around the Pittsburgh circuit, befriending promoters and garnering a very loyal local following. Steve describes that time in Pittsburgh music history as highly collaborative in the punk scene, and now that he’s back in the Burgh he’s building that community again.

Steve said Punchline can attribute a lot of its success to growing with that community — but the other gamechanger in Punchline’s success is how they got signed to a label.

“We were sending elaborate EPKs (electronic press kits) to all these labels…. And it was exhausting.” Steve explained that at one point he said, “We’re not doing this anymore, we’re going to wait for [the labels] to come to us.”

So Steve and the band focused on writing really, really high quality music while playing shows and appreciating their fans. This paid off beautifully and organically when a Punchline fan who happened to be on the Fueled by Ramen street team recommended them to the label. Some Fueled by Ramen reps attended Punchline’s show in Gainesville — and the rest is history.

I asked Steve if he had any supportive words of advice to indie bands/artists and he paused. He continued by recommending that you focus inward on your talent.

 

“Become a master of your craft… and focus on what you do until you create music that is unique to you. If you get really good by write-write-writing… it’ll make your life so much easier.”

 

Steve also emphasized how important it is to grow with your music community around you, if possible. He made me laugh when he added that it’s really about having patience, too: “I feel like you have to get beaten down by it till you can making anything real.”

This topic of music quality is one that arises often in my talks with indie artists & bands — and Steve hits a vital point with pointing out that the music needs to be “unique to you.” When people claim music is “good” or “bad”, I say poppycock. Although you do have to respect quality standards while recording music, writing “good” music doesn’t have to do with genres, “Mainstream vs. Lamestream”, current trends, or anything. It has to do with purpose.

What Steve is talking about is the type of music that comes from deep purpose and passion to keep working towards mastery. This isn’t something he or I have plucked from thin air, it’s an idea that artists have pursued forever — a very Malcolm Gladwell-esque idea that mastery of anything doesn’t come from sheer talent, but rather dedication to hours and hours of work (10,000 hours in Gladwell’s opinion).

It’s pretty simple: dedication for mastery of your craft arises from having purpose. If your need for music comes from deeply in your soul, whatever that means to you, then that’s some sustainable energy you can draw on for a long career — and listeners recognize (but maybe can’t put a finger on) passion/purpose in music while listening. It’s what ends up creating truly great music throughout history.

 

All of this echoes the “Product Development” laneway of the pyramid — keep chipping away, enjoying doing your music, because that’s why you’re doing it. It adds up significantly, so have patience.

 

For more on Punchline, go see their (super unique) Netflix special crowd fund before it ends next week, and follow them on Twitter @punchlion, Instagram, and Facebook!

 

Oh, and if you’re a Pittsburgh punk band who loves Punchline, I would probably reach out to Steve if I were you. Like the IMBM reminds: we musicians have heart, man, and we can be pretty magically supportive— insightful conversations and words of advice over cups of joe can turn into anything if you’ve got the initiative and open-mindedness to reach out and learn.

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