Gabe Simon of Kopecky shares stories behind new album, prepares for SXSW show

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Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for length and clarity.

The indie rock group Kopecky, formerly known as the Kopecky Family Band, will perform at a South By Southwest showcase Wednesday at The Majestic. The band is set to release a new album, Drug for the Modern Age, on May 19. Kopecky began in 2007 when the two co-founders, Gabe Simon and Kelsey Kopecky, met in college. Simon never thought he’d pursue a career in music, but a trip to a bike shop in 2007 changed everything. He met Kopecky, who later invited him over to play music. Before long, the two formed the now six-member band. 

The Daily Texan spoke with Simon, a vocalist and guitarist, about the new album and upcoming SXSW performance.

The Daily Texan: How did you all record the new album?

Gabe Simon: We recorded it in this big mansion called EastSide Manor here in Nashville. It looks like an old English countryside — like “Downton Abbey”-style — manor with this big room with 35-foot ceilings. We’d be in there, and, while we were playing, the people that live there would have massive parties. People would be raging all night long. People would walk in while we were recording, and they’d start dancing, and they’d look at us like, “This is my jam.”

DT: Can you talk about some of the stories behind the new album?

GS: The reason we called our record Drug for the Modern Age is because, in August, when we started tracking the record, our guitarist missed the first two weeks in the studio because he had to go back to South Carolina to go to drug rehab. He sent us the lyrics for the second and third verse of the song “Drug for the Modern Age,” which is a song that we had kind of thrown away, but he had fallen in love with and brought it back and was like, “This is our anthem for the record.” 

We try to find all of these things that fix our lives, whether it’s technology or actual drugs or relationships or anything that will help us see beyond what is currently our crisis situation. We can be our own drug. I’ve seen clearly being in love with my wife. 

DT: How will this album differ from your last album, Kids Raising Kids?

GS: I think this album will be more cohesive. There are classic moments of real rock on there, and there are classic moments of real vibe. There’s a moment on this record that I really love we were able to capture for the song called “Burnin’.” When we recorded, we were in Virginia, and everyone was asleep. It was nine in the morning, and I had woken up by myself. I was sitting in the tracking room playing keyboard. Our producer walks in and hits record. I had no idea it was happening. Then, an hour later, he played the song and said it needs to be on the record. On that song, I literally made up lyrics for the second verse. I had made up a lyric that was just like “la da da da dee.”

DT: How would you describe your sound?

GS: It’s big without being distracting. There are six of us, and we can make a lot of things happen, but we’re playing intentionally. It’s not about how much noise you can make. It’s about how much you can help the person to your left and your right enhance what they are doing.

DT: What can audience members expect from your upcoming SXSW performance?

GS: Interaction. They will definitely be involved. There is a lot of energy, but, at the same time, it’s contained. There are moments when you just want to chill and get lost, and then there are times when you just want to rip the top off a beer bottle and just go wild.