LIKEYOUSAID recently had to chance to speak with mutant pop band Billy Changer shortly before the band’s performance at The Smell in Los Angeles. During this interview, the band talks about the “Billy Changer” persona in its many forms, the release of their debut self-titled album, and how social media is impacting the music industry. Read the interview with the boys of Billy Changer below.
Hello. This is Jessica Stein of LIKEYOUSAID and I’m here with Billy Changer. Can you each introduce yourself and what you do for the interview?
Robert Cifuentes: I’m Robert, and I play guitar.
Louis Filliger: I’m Louis, I play bass.
Sergio Garrieo: I’m Sergio, and I play drums.
Thanks guys. So, where does a name like Billy Changer come from?
Louis: Billy Changer is kind of like a persona that comes through our music when we play. It’s like a fifth member.
Robert: Whenever we get together to play music, he comes out.
Sergio: We don’t know him. There’s no imagery.
Robert: He’s just there. He’s a presence.
What has influenced you growing up, musically?
Louis: I’d say skater punk and spazz, Screamers, really thrashy punk rock and pop, punk rock music, and the 31G scene from San Diego.
Robert: At The Drive-In for me, I love their guitar work. I heard that band and knew I wanted to play guitar.
Sergio: Rx Bandits for me, 311 at the beginning.
Louis: You know, I was even really influenced by the radio, too, the radio that your mom and dad listened to. Just the hits, Led Zeppelin, Lynard Skynard. Madonna, Phil Collins, Genesis, all that stuff! I’m really serious about that.
Radio’s inevitable. So it’s great when you’re able to cultivate your own influences from it.
Louis: We all ultimately want to be on the radio, you know? So you do have to pay attention to what makes it onto the radio, as a musician, I think.
You guys mostly play in California, or have you expanded?
Robert: We are just expanding now. We are taking it slow. I wanted the record to come out, to kind of say, “This is the beginning,” you know? And now that we have that, now I want to start branching out. By the time this interview comes out, we’ll be playing Arizona.
Louis: We’ll be dead.
Robert: Yeah, we’ll be dead.
Louis: We’ll be dead by the time this comes out.
Robert: This band might not even exist.
Louis: Maybe. We’re volatile.
Robert: Very volatile. Changing, you know? Billy Changer comes out, and likes to fuck with our heads a lot, bringing out all these weird feelings and stuff.
He’s kind of a dark guy?
Robert: He’s self-revealing, unfortunately.
Louis: We bring the heads when we play; that means we bring out personas and spirits and energy and weird people.
Let’s talk about Burger Records. They don’t necessarily sign you. They distribute you, is that right?
Robert: They’re starting to sign bands, their bands are getting bigger, and they’re probably realizing there’s stuff to gain from signing a band. Not necessarily, “Oh, you want to own the band,” but just forming a good bond. Anything that you do in this kind of business, it’s so small. If you’re going to engage with something, you definitely want to have a contract or bond between two parties, and then at least you’re focused and you can do what you want to do.
And a few months ago you released your debut album through Lolipop Records?
Robert: That’s right. It’s a self-titled release. We all met at Lolipop and Louis still volunteers most of his time there!
You all grew up with music being a really prevalent part of your life, so how people acquire music, how people hear about bands, it’s definitely evolved.
Robert: Yeah, we’re an interesting generation because we’ve seen the transformation from only being able to hear music on a CD or tape, to it exploding on my computer.
Right? I used to depend on buying a CD and looking in the liner notes and seeing what bands they mention to get a feel for what I should maybe go listen to.
Louis: Yeah! And then you had to download all your music on bit torrents.
Robert: Or when you had to buy a CD just for like, one song, right? And then you didn’t like the rest of the album.
Louis: I didn’t have the Internet until I was 14, so I’m part of that old, last medieval generation.
Robert: Yeah, me too. I mean, I had a pager growing up.
Louis: I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 16.
How old do you think you should actually be when you own a cell phone for the first time, anyway?
Robert: I wish I never had a cell phone. That would be really interesting. Just a computer, I think, is fine. I don’t know, as long as I can reach a computer, I feel good.
Well, I think technology builds the need for itself, so before you own something like a smartphone, you’re fine. But once you get one, you can no longer imagine not having it.
Louis: Yeah, seeing your email whenever you want is probably…
Robert: It’s kind of interesting now, actually, I realize that there are a lot of bands in our scene right now that I feel like the better they are at social media, the better they do at their shows in terms of turnout.
Do you feel like bands like yourself benefit from using social media to form a more personal connection with fans, or do you prefer to treat social media as just a way for people to get information about you?
Robert: It’s definitely a one-on-one connection with our fans who love music, and that’s what Billy Changer is all about for me. When we make music, we’re not trying to say, “Okay, impress as many people as we can,” or, “Okay, now we have this huge goal where a thousand people are going to show up,” and this and that. It really is just as long as we’re pushing ourselves, and we feel really good about it, if we’re writing about things that affect us, I feel like someone else can relate to that. What I love about social media is yeah, you can connect directly with somebody. Yeah, you feel like you’re reaching the masses but really, every single person is a one-on-one connection. It’s like a thousand handshakes, you know?
Yeah. And people love just seeing you ‘Like’ something they say about you. Just that little step can end up meaning so much to people.
Sergio: Especially when people use it to tag us. You find pictures and it’s always like, “That’s cool, I have to save that.” I get joy when people do that.
Robert: Yeah, Sergio loves the videos and pictures. He’s building a little photo book.
Sergio: Oh my God, thanks dude. Thanks for killing it.
Hypothetical question. Someone approaches you, and says, “We would love for you to write the soundtrack to our movie.” What director, or genre would most excite you to hear that from? What’s your movie?
Louis: My old band used to be in a lot of horror TV shows. Like American Horror Story, and Banshee and Bates Motel… So, probably horror.
Robert: I’d love to do be in a Tim Burton film, or animation, even a stop-motion film would be really cool. Something weird, kind of out-of-this-world, where you could jump off your seat and enjoy your imagination.
Sergio: Carebears. I don’t really watch a lot of movies.
Robert: I would love to do Carebears, that would be really cool.
Sergio: You like the Carebears?
Robert: I love the Carebears.
Louis: So good, dude. That was my jam.
Robert: You know what, actually? If I wanted to do one movie, it’d be Captain America, oh no, not Captain America. It was the one with that guy… it was Captain Planet! I want the Captain Planet movie. So, Captain Planet by Billy Changer. That’s the movie I want.
Well… this interview will be up online in March. Is there anything you’d like to tell your future self?
Robert: We’d be very proud just to make it this long.
Louis: “Are we still a band?”
Robert: Yeah, “Are we still a band?” is probably the biggest question.
You seem to tolerate each other, and that’s the first step, right?
Louis: Well, starting a band, the most important part is getting along, rather than the musicianship, I think.
Robert: Yeah, getting along as people. I mean, Billy Changer started as a whole different lineup, essentially. They’re all in different bands now, Adult Books, Froth, they’re all great guys but there were differences at one point. We’re all really happy, as a band, right now. Things change, and that’s the beauty about this band. It’s a really revealing band. When we practice, things come out, you know? And Billy is saying, “Wow…”
Louis: “Sergio is playing too fast.”
Robert: There are revealing things about what everyone’s playing, and how we’re sounding.
Louis: If it’s too fast…
Robert: If it’s not dynamic enough, or if it’s too slow, or even he’s like “Damn, man, we need to write something like this.” Billy will be like “Damn, Robert, you need to get more into it,” you know? And if there’s ever bad blood, everyone’s been really chill. They’ve kind of just moved on. And now I feel like this band, this group, is here to stay.
Billy Changer’s self-titled record is currently available on their Bandcamp page. Keep up with the band on Instagram: @BillyChanger and look out for more releases from Billy Changer, including a flexi with Psycho Magic, which will be released through Lolipop Records.
UPDATE: Earlier today Billy Changer released a new song titled “It’s Good To Hear From You Johnny”