(From left: Steve Lupinski, Brandon McNall, John Kay, Tamara Marla LaFlin, & Jason Rauschenberger of John Kay & Who’s to Say; photo by @adamjustinbarnett)
Tonight at 7pm, doors will open at El Club to welcome fans to see John Kay & Who’s to Say, an emerging local outfit whose attention to detail and commitment to shared values has laid the foundation for a solid and ever-progressing presence in Detroit and beyond (you can meet the group and watch profiles of each member by visiting their website here).
Celebrating the approximate one year anniversary of their first ever live show together, a sold-out night at Corktown’s PJ’s Lager House, as well as the premiere of their heartfelt and provocative video for their song, Maybe,” the night promises to be a special chance to experience art and music with a good group of people, featuring additional performances by Nina & the Buffalo Riders as well as Funksmanship.
We spoke with the group’s founder John Kay about the show tonight and what makes it so special, read below and be sure to catch them at 7pm tonight at El Club!
B: Tell us about the journey from your first show, which was almost exactly a year ago today, up until tonight at El Club
J: That’s right, the show tonight is significant because it’s essentially our one year anniversary of performing live together, and we’re also premiering a music video for one of our fan favorite songs, “Maybe.”
“Maybe,” draws inspiration from a pretty difficult place; I decided to write it on the day of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day of 2018. It was on a Wednesday, which is usually my day for songwriting, and I had the news on in the background like I often do. When I heard the news I just had to stop, my jaw dropped, and I was so struck by the faces of the kids exiting the school, because mixed with the horror for some was also the routine of it all, having been trained for active shooter situations due to the gross prevalence of gun violence in our country. The song just poured out of me in about 5 minutes, and after that it was just about putting different treatments on it. So much of what we do is about speaking truth to power, and bringing attention and awareness to things that are important in our culture right now, and I think artists don’t do that enough today, because they’re so concerned about their brand, or alienating a portion of their fanbase, and I think that’s a shame.
So that’s quite possibly the biggest thing, because yes, it is a show, but really we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the music video premiere. It’s the first conceptual music video that I’ve ever been involved with, which is kind of sad but also exciting, which is also a first for our head of video development, Joseph S. Quick, and his team at Icarus Imaging. And it’s kind of crazy, because Joe actually attended our first show ever at PJ’s Lager House about a year ago, and he ended up joining our team because he was so impressed with us, and from getting to know him better after that I recognized that he also shared a lot of our core values, so it was a great fit.
On top of that, being that the subject matter is so important but also very sensitive, we’ve got pre-teens to teens in this video that are participating in some rather gruesome performances, and for both them and their parents to be cool with participating in a project that centers around such a difficult subject is pretty remarkable, and we are so thankful to the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center allows us to use their space and engage with the community that they’ve cultivated. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of such a team effort, that done for next to nothing, for the sole purpose of making a great piece of art. Most people have such a “what’s in it for me?” mentality, with ego and everything else getting in the way, but this was not that at all. It was a team of people who saw a vision of what could be, and decided to make it happen. We’re very proud to be releasing this, and we’re happy to be able to give our biggest fans the first chance to see it when we premiere it tonight at the show. And to get to share the stage with some incredible musicians like Nina & the Buffalo Riders and Funksmanship, it’s really just a special opportunity.
Last, but certainly not least, having been around for about a year in the public eye, we’ve had the privilege of building up a fanbase of people that we lovingly call “Bullfighters,” meaning people committed to fighting the bullshit. We use a platform called Patreon, so everyone that supports us and our mission was given an opportunity to attend the show tonight for free, meaning that this event and everything that comes with it is really a gesture of appreciation for those that have supported us in our progression up to this point, and to hopefully reach the eyes and ears of some new fans that are still learning what we’re all about.