You might think that naming a band “The Inevitable Breakups” would jinx it. And eventually, the Inevitable Breakups did break up. But they had a good run, playing together from 1999 to 2007. Their catchy, power pop sound endeared them to the New York City music scene, but eventually their time came to an end. Before the Inevitable Breakups, songwriter Daniel Stampfel had played with a ska band, the Skastafarians. And then in 2007, after a solid chunk of time always spent playing in a band, Stampfel was without one. And he took some time off.
But it turns out he couldn’t stay away from music, and eventually started writing again. Without a particular sound or genre in mind, Stampfel wrote the songs that he wanted to write. The resulting music may remind you a bit of his work with the Inevitable Breakups, but it’s a little lighter, and reminds us more of the Smiths. This is Stampfel’s new project At the Moment, which he says won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Read on for our interview with Daniel and his music video for “Make You Mad.”
Crushable: How did At the Moment come to be?
Daniel Stampfel: At the Moment really started as my solo project, a new avenue to get the songs that I’d been writing out there. I’d taken a few years off from writing after my old band, The Inevitable Breakups, broke up. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, and what kind of sound I wanted. But eventually everything kind of came together. I made home demos of the songs I had been writing, but I wanted to record them with a producer I knew before getting a band together. I wanted to keep the emotion of the songs that I had written the way they were, without other influences. I teamed up with a really great producer, Steve Schiltz, from Hurricane Bells and Longwave. We recorded three songs together with a friend of ours, Benjamin Cartel, on drums. He’s an amazing drummer. And then from there my goal was to bring the band alive. So I brought together musicians I had played with before to put together this band, and get out there and start playing again.
What was it like to work as a solo artist after having spent so much time in various bands? Did that change your writing process?
It didn’t change my writing process at all, except for the fact that normally I’d write songs and then I’d bring them to the band and get feedback from them. This time I wrote songs and put them away, and I didn’t quite know if they were good or not. I didn’t have anybody to play them for, so they just sat there. And I actually didn’t think they were good, just because they sounded different from what I had done. So when I finally pulled them out again and started sharing them with people, then I realized that they were good. And that I should continue on that progression I was on.
How do you decide which songs make the cut when you’re making an EP like “Monte Carlo”?
It’s hard to pull back and assess them all, because they all mean something to me. I’m probably too attached to each of the songs. So I kind of just trusted in Steve, and I gave him fifteen, and told him that whatever three he picked would be the ones that I would do. And it was kind of interesting, because the three that he picked were some of the earlier songs that I had written, so it was sort of like the beginning of that process. I was happy that they were songs that I was excited about recording, but also that they marked that beginning phase of writing.
When you’re writing, do you think of writing for a particular audience or genre?
I did with all my other bands, and with this one I didn’t. So that’s how this is different. Because I didn’t know what I was writing them for. If I had an idea, I would just write it. Whereas in my old band, The Inevitable Breakups, my brother was the bass player, and he always liked a little bit more of a punk rock edge. I mean I liked that, too, but he was a little bit more on the harder end of the spectrum. So I wanted to bring songs that he would like, or songs that would fit for the New York scene at the moment. Or in my old band before that, the ska band, obviously it had to be somewhat ska-influenced and fit a certain style. So this was kind of a nice change for me.
What’s some of your favorite music to listen to right now?
I’ve actually been listening to a lot of country, which is different for me. I never really liked it, and I’ve been listening to sort of a broad spectrum of country, from top 20 to old 50s country, or Roger Miller, or Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams. But new stuff as well, you know, Brad Paisley, and Eli Young Band. I still play with Michael T and the Vanities, and Michael T puts on these different event nights that have a theme or genre. So I spend a lot of time for those shows listening to all those songs that we have to play and I have to learn. So David Bowie, and Elvis Presley, and Roxy Music, and things like that. I’ve listened to Bowie before, but I’ve been introduced to different tracks that I maybe didn’t always pay attention to.
The name At the Moment suggests something that’s kind of fleeting. What sort of future do you see for this project?
It’s not a fleeting as the Inevitable Breakups! I think the reason why I liked At the Moment was just because I was writing songs about how I felt at the moment. I like thinking about not trying to write stuff that other people would like, but stuff that I would like. And that’s what I plan on continuing to do for a long time. So I’m excited about this project. There’s no next step beyond just trying to keep doing this and to grow as a songwriter.
Is At the Moment going to continue as a solo project, or are you planning to work more collaboratively with your band?
I think I’m leaning toward more of a collaborative effort. One of the reasons why I originally wanted to keep it with me and a producer was because I want some sort of finished product to say, ok, this is the sound I want to do, and to build off that. It’s a little bit more defined than maybe some of my demos were. And right now I’m really enjoying the guys I’m playing with, and they’re amazing musicians. So I’m looking forward to getting their input.
What’s coming up for At the Moment?
I’m definitely planning on playing more shows in New York. I’m kind of splitting full band shows with acoustic shows. And then I want to start branching out to doing shows in other cities. Boston. I’d like to add shows in Texas, actually, because I grew up there and I have friends there. And I had about a dozen other songs that we didn’t record, and I’d like to add to that list and build up again. I’d like to turn that EP into a full album.
For more on At the Moment, check out their website.