A Conversation with Kopps

Kopps is a band from Rochester, NY, whose genre lands somewhere between pop, electronic and alternative rock. Made up of Patricia Patrón (vocals), Travis Johansen (guitar), Kyle O’Hara (bass), Andrew York (drums) and produced by Daniel Armbruster of fellow Rochester band, Joywave. Their sexy yet humorous persona has been portrayed through a number of EPs, singles and bizarre music videos over the last few years. They recently signed to Hollywood Records and just wrapped up opening for Joywave on leg two of the “Thanks. Thanks for Coming” tour, where they brought their energetic, choreographed live set to over 15 cities. I sat down with the band before their show in Carrboro, NC to talk about their history, creative process and what the future holds.

Callista: How did you get into playing music with other people and each other?

Patricia: Well, my family are musicians, that’s what they do for a living, so I was just always around it from the time I was little. I had really bad stage fright when I was little, though, and didn’t get over it until probably, like, the tail end of high school. So I started performing live around then.

Travis: I had a musical father, my dad played bass and guitar and stuff, so I picked it up when I was like 12. And then I played in a lot of local bands, like I used to play alongside Dan’s [Armbruster] old bands in high school, and I bought his sister’s old guitar, so we go way back.

Kyle: No one in my immediate family plays an instrument, so it just kind of happened through friends and interest.

CM: So do you [Patricia] do most of the writing?

PP: No, it’s really collaborative. We definitely all write, and it’s a process for sure. Anybody can come up with a concept, and if everybody likes it, great, we run with it. I do top line stuff though; my parts are vocals, melodies, lyrics, but everybody helps with editing.

TJ: Somewhat production too. We can be like “oh no, don’t do that, do that.”

PP: I guess we all kind of have a say in everything, to be honest.

CM: So obviously, you collaborate a lot with Joywave, [particularly] Daniel… How did the new single, “Hott,” come about, what’s the origin?

PP: He [Daniel Armbruster] produces everything that we do, so we work with him always, in some capacity. He, up to this point, has been our main producer. Thinking about “Hott,” I think it started with the awful trumpet line, it was like “I have this clip of this thing that this guy did in the studio, and it’s awful, we have to use it for a Kopps song,” and that’s kind of how “Hott” was born.

CM: Congrats on getting signed…how do you think that’s going to change the dynamic now, producing-wise, things like that?

PP: I think we’ll have a lot more opportunities, to get in rooms with lots of different musicians. That’s kind of what happens. I think our core writing will remain how it’s been, but I do think that this is just gonna give us a lot more exposure.

KO: Exposure is probably the coolest thing about it. That’s been the toughest part, getting people to listen to your music.

TJ: And it’s nice because every meeting we’ve had [with the label], it’s just been like an echo chamber of “yeah, yeah, that’s awesome,” so it’s really positive. It’s nice to have that help getting to that next level, and getting beyond your current reach, and like, having someone to help champion that.

PP: It’s kind of weird now, with how Spotify dominates everything, which they’ve helped us out a lot, as we’ve been doing things. But I think because it’s so popular now, obviously the best playlists are dominated by artists that are bigger artists. I think now, having a label, it’s gonna be really helpful for us to get placed where we need to get placed. The blog world isn’t completely dead, but I don’t think it’s the primary place where people go to find new music anymore… That used to be the avenue we would take, but we have to figure out what’s working.

CM: What’s different about this tour than the last tour you had with Joywave?

PP: I think that more people come to the shows having checked us out, I hear that from a lot of people which is cool. I think Joywave’s fans always receive us very well because we work so closely together anyway. This tour is nice because we had a little bit bigger of a budget to do, like, wardrobe, and we had a lot of time to prepare. We have more music out now than we did, we’re pushing a new single, which I don’t know if we’ve done it so close to tour in the past, but we literally dropped the single the day we were leaving for tour, so it’s really great to have those two things going on simultaneously.

TJ: I definitely notice a distinct difference in the crowd too. Looking in the first couple rows in the crowd and people are singing along – they know the words. I’ve seen a couple of our shirts in the crowd which is really cool… People are starting to pay attention.

CM: Speaking of that… What’s the inspiration for your stage presence? It’s very different, but it’s great.

PP: So dancing is a big part of who I am as a person, I would say. When I was younger I did a lot as far as that goes. Being able to do it as an adult is really, really cool because like, when you’re a girl growing up and you do choreography and stuff, you don’t think you’re going to get to do it on a professional level, and this has given me the opportunity to do that which is really fun. And it’s humorous, obviously, we don’t take it super seriously, but I think my personal favorite performers have just been crazy people on stage and I think I always loved to sing, and that was my primary thing growing up… but as I grew as a musician I knew I wanted to make the whole performance a part of things. So, I just keep developing that. I think I still have a long way to go, honestly, you can always keep getting better.

Patricia Patrón of Kopps in Carrboro, NC

CM: When you’re creating a song, do you ever have the live aspect in mind?

PP: Yes, sometimes we’ll have a weird bridge part, or something lyrically or even beat-wise, we’ll think to ourselves, like, “oh, this would be great to do this stupid thing live too.” They influence one another.

KO: For one of our newer songs we added an extended instrumental part, just to add choreography.

TJ: I’m a pretty laid back dude in real life, but my stage presence is totally amplified, and I love to use Kopps as a platform to be really weird and be a different person. It’s cool. I think about people like David Bowie and Prince who were totally doing weird stuff on stage, that’s a great inspiration.

PP: Prince is like my #1.

TJ: It’s interesting talking to people after the show because I don’t think they expect to talk to the person they’re talking to after watching us. It’s like “oh, you’re like a real person!” Like, “yeah!”

CM: Can you explain Cultco to me? Like it’s origin, how it came to be.

KO: Cultco is essentially a brand and a label that Kopps and Joywave fall under. It’s kind of like our crew.

TJ: I think it evolves into whatever we want it to be.

KO: It hasn’t really turned into anything yet, we just kind of see where it goes, I guess.

PP: We do merch, we used to do these parties where we would all DJ. Like “Oh, we’re always hanging out together, we should just brand it.”

TJ: That was a way Dan and I reconnected, through DJing in Rochester.

KO: That’s how we connected with [Travis].

TJ: Yeah, that’s how I met Kyle and Patricia.

PP: Me and Kyle went to high school together, him and I worked on music together, and then I was like oh, we should record with Dan, he recorded us, and then…

TJ: The rest is history.

CM: Up until this point, have you had day jobs, like things you do other than music?

TJ: Yeah, we all still have to work and make money when we aren’t on the road. This is our first tour being signed. We all have creative endeavors we do outside of this. Kyle and I are designers.

PP: I’m actually a therapist, so I have a private practice. Which is getting more interesting, balancing that. But, obviously music is primary. It’s just waiting for things to get big enough.

TJ: We’re still in a really early stage.

PP: I think it’s important to recognize that it’s not like it used to be, where you got signed and you get like a million dollar record deal and suddenly you’re off to the races; it’s not like that anymore. So you have to kind of like balance and do what you have to do until it is like that. Those two things are the things I’m most passionate about, and I think for me connecting with fans on a personal level is important and I will certainly use what I have done with therapy as I am able to connect with more people and send the message of taking care of yourself.

TJ: I think on a lighter note, being designers, we’re all creative…  we’re basically a one-stop shop, we can do everything internally, which is super cool. We do all of our own merch, all of our own album design, we’re super self-reliant in terms of our creative output. I think the label is excited about that too. Like, “you mean we don’t have to hold your hand through everything?”

PP: I think in a world where a lot of artists are “created” once they get signed, we’re kind of not a pain in the butt. We have a thing already, we have an image, we write our own music, which a lot of people don’t. And we do our own design! And hopefully we’ll keep doing that until we can’t, and that would be a good problem to have… We would still have a say in everything, that would be very important.

KO: Conceptual stuff is really important to us.


Let the record show: Kopps is Hollywood Records’ “Hott”est new band. You can stay up-to-date via the band’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “Hott” feat. Joywave can be streamed on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music and Youtube. You can also hear Kopps played on Listen Local with Callista every Wednesday from 6-7pm on Cistern Yard Radio.

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Callista Milligan, music editor, is a Senior arts management major from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In her free time, you can find her in Second State Coffee with a cold brew in hand.

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