Heard BackStage
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Fri February 8, 2013

Domestic Problems - Interview for BackStage Pass

Domestic Problems debuts Sunday, February 17 at 7 p.m. on WKAR-TV. Here’s an extended excerpt from the BackStage Pass Interview.

Band performing on stage
Domestic Problems at East Lansing Hannah Community Center
Credit w.r. richards / WKAR-MSU

Domestic Problems
interview with band members Andy Holtgreive, Billy Kenny
Interviewed by WKAR producer Mike Mihalus
Date June 2012

How did the band get together?

ANDY: By accident. It was a talent show at Aquinas College and a buddy of ours, Christian Houser, suggested that Billy, Christian, and I get together and play a song that I wrote called "Ernie's Tragic Love Triangle" as part of the show. And we're big fans of the "Blues Brothers," so we kind of did a spoof off the "Blues Brothers" and made it more of a theatrical event in performing the song.

And the original name came from the "Blues Brothers." It was when Jake and Elwood would go and get Matt 'Guitar' Murphy and Blue Lou Marini. And they say "ma'am this is bigger than any domestic problem you may be experiencing." Aretha Franklin busts into the "Respect" number.

So that was the name of our band originally and that is what we put on the flyers. A buddy of ours, Josh Newman, actually helped promote the talent show with our name saying, "Bigger than any domestic problem you may be experiencing." We did the show, had a lot of good friend and fan response from it and decided "hey, let's turn it into a band," and shortened the name up to "Domestic Problems."

How has the band lasted twenty years?

BILLY: We'll you know, I think it was kind of fine tuning the person, fine tuning the members, getting what we considered a really good mix of people. You know, talent aside, i think it's just the members that we have are like family members and I think that is really what keeps it together. So, you have your ups and downs just like any other family. You don't kick a family member out.

So what we have right now is just so cohesive as the personalities really mix well and we're all just really good friends and we're family, like I said. So I think that's really why it stays together. The band itself has existed for as long as it has because the music, the songwriting is really good. The music's really inspiring. So, it makes those of us who have stayed with it the whole time really want to be in it.

ANDY: I think part of what keeps the band together as well is that we all recognize that we're part of something bigger than some of the parts. When we get together, we have this unique opportunity to experience it and be a part of it and to share it and to in exchange it with, people would want to come out and hear us play.....It can't be duplicated anywhere else. I have yet to find some opportunity to do that and it's what drives us to come back together and say "Hey, as long as you’re willing to keep coming out, we'll keep coming out and playing." We just can't take ourselves too seriously or else then all the fun goes away.

Personality of the Band

It's laid back, it's fun. We really, really go on the edge of poking too much fun at each other sometimes, but it's fun.

BILLY: From a fan's perspective, it's very accepting, it's very open and free. I think that's what brings people out sometimes, because they can feel comfortable with Domestic Problems playing.

ANDY: If I were to describe Domestic Problems as a personality, I would say it's a silly, sensitive, reflective, somewhat deep person that just wants to go out and appreciate and experience the joy of life. Without sounding too cheesy about it, we just want to have fun. And I think Billy alluded to the fact that our fans come out and that's what they want to have too. When they walk away from a show, they appreciate it, maybe they forgot about their domestic problems for a little bit to enjoy a show and just sort of let loose.

About Job Grotsky

ANDY: Job brings a lot of that sprit and a lot of that passion. Job just wants to play. Job just wants to be up and having a good time, and a lot of that passion is driven by Job. It's some ways, it's very endless and he just, he loves it and he appreciates it. And he values it. And I think, as Billy talked about us being a family, you know, this is, he's like the little brother that just so excited to be together.

About John Niedzielski

ANDY: Ned sort of brings a calming influence over the band, in all aspects. Just as the dynamic in all of us interacting with each other. Even on the stage during shows, he's sort of the calm guy that is always sort of level-headed – until you talk to him a little bit more, then he's just as much as a goofball as anyone else. But he's just a very calming and talented family member.

About Matt Fouts

ANDY: Matt is foundational. He's calming, he helps kind of keep things solid. Again, Matt's very unflappable.  Ned and Matt are very similar in that regard and I think Matt grounds the band musically and personally in a way that allows some of us to kind of go out on a limb a little bit and come back to a foundation that's solid. And Matt can get just as crazy too don't get me wrong, and same with Ned. I think if, again, in context of their personalities, there's a grounding aspect to Matt that I really appreciate.

About R.J. Ness

BILLY: Reggie, you know, he's a super solid musician even though he is a drummer. He's sort of similar to Joe in the regard that he's sort of like a kid in a candy store. Whenever we're setting up a show or getting up on stage, that enthusiasm is infectious. You get excited too. Even if you’re maybe not having the best day, or you don't feel that great, or you’re not super excited about a show, if you hang out with Reggie, for a couple minutes beforehand, you're all of a sudden, on top of the world, ready to go. It's refreshing. It's kind of nice.

About Andy

BILLY: He's sort of just there. (laughter). No, Andy's my brother, I've known him forever. The two of us have been doing this together since day one. We play every show together. You know, he's my brother. He's my big brother, he's my little brother. You know, at the same time. You know, I love him and I can't imagine playing music without him. I wouldn't be playing music without him and you know, he's the reason why I'm doing it. There's not really a personality or a word that I can say, I love him, so...

About Billy

ANDY: Yeah, brother. We started this thing over 20 years ago and there's no way that Domestic Problems could exist without Billy. Everything that we've described, the whole grounding aspect of it, the silliness, the energy, the laid back, it's all Bill. And it's a good check and balance. I would say that if you're kind of grouping the band into two sections, I might fall with Reggie and Joe a little bit more, where I just kind of get a little out of control. And Billy kind of falls more with Matt and Ned, where again, everybody adds a great sense of humor to the band but there's a grounding aspect that kind of allows, there's a balance. I've said to Billy that if he wasn't doing this, there's no way that this could exist and it's a relationship, a brotherhood, that it's hard to describe and put into words, but Billy brings the counterbalance to the entire band that couldn't exist without him.

If you were putting a label on the kind of music you play, what would call it?

ANDY: "Unique blues and fun rock."

BILLY: When we first got started, that was an interview question that someone had asked us to describe, and I paid dearly for it. I can't believe I said that.

ANDY: "Unique blues and fun rock."

BILLY: So, go ahead, answer the question then, what is it?

ANDY: It's original rock and roll.

BILLY: So unique.

ANDY: It's original. I've always described it, we like to eat from all sides of the musical banquet table. We've got mandolin, we've got trombone, we've got sax, we've got flute, acoustic, electric. And that probably was a hindrance to us really in the long run, from a major label perspective, but in the end, I think that the un-categorizing of our music is one of our strengths.

BILLY: Yeah I agree. You know, we like to eat from all sides of the musical table.

ANDY: We kind of like to eat.

BILLY: But it's definitely the kids' table witch is just as important at the Thanksgiving meal. But you know...

ANDY: a lot of desert at the kids' table.

BILLY: We're not super polished musicians, but I think together, it's a fun thing?

What makes a successful performance?

What makes a successful performance is fun. Any time we've gone out and taken ourselves too seriously, which we have in the past, it doesn't work. If we go out and just say "Hey, we're here, these people are here, they want to have fun, we want to have fun, let's just enjoy it." We make a mistake, we just drag on and you just keep going. That's what it takes and you kind of just got to roll with it.

Domestic Problems and musical influences?

BILLY: All over the place. And they change. We have musical influences that do that, they'll change over time too. It's not there's just one type of artist or one artist that we have. I know I've listened to Dave Mathews in the past and the Police and Duran Duran, all sorts of artists and I'll go through phases where I've liked the blues, unique blues.

How does a song get into your performance?

ANDY: Sometimes it just sneaks in unintentionally. And again, you kind of roll with it, but I think if you're asking a question – what's the creative process to kind of bring it to that point. I've been the primary songwriter, Billy's been writing more in the last 10 years and it's really, I think an idea. Here's something and I've got it to a point and I want to share it with everybody and see what the response is and do we like it or do we not like it? Sometimes songs just sort of show up. Sometimes they don't show up, but they're still there.

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