Wow, my guests just keep getting better and better! Welcome to the fifth instalment to my little project and I’m very excited to have had the honour to speak with Alie Cotter and Jericho Tozer of the pop-rock band, SKIES. Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of their very charismatic, live performance in the past, and with a combination of their upbeat attitude and relatable lyrics, it is enough to make everyone sing-along and dance – I know I did.
Who are SKIES?
Made up of Alie Cotter, Lead singer/guitarist, and Jericho Tozer, Drummer/singer, they have burst onto the scene with their creative writing abilities to create their own innovative style of music. When asked the question, “Who are SKIES?”, I was given such a random combination of what they define their genre as. Alie: “I guess we try and call ourselves Indie-synth-rock-pop? Maybe a bit emo, maybe?” and Jericho backs up that statement by saying “They’re the categories that we have been put into anyways, ha-ha-ha”. We spoke of the label of a specific genre that comes with creating new music and it can be interpreted in so many ways. Alie: “You kind of end up in one. Some people think we’re a bit folky, which is quite funny. But, I think, in general we are pop-rock and that’s kind of what I’ve always thought we were”. Even though they have their own beliefs on what they are, they welcome others’ opinions and perspectives on their style.
As they are both as equally responsible for the creative direction of song-writing, I asked them both “What were your main goals when writing music?” – Alie passed the role of ‘first-up’ to Jericho who happily stepped-up to share his thoughts. “We just want to write songs that we really believe in, that we really enjoy writing and playing. There’s no intention of, like, we wanna make people think this… every project comes with its own inspiration. I don’t feel like there is [especially on my end] ever a specific goal behind it, just to create something we love.” Alie: “I think part of my goal is, I mean, a lot of things that I written down for myself. I used to have a paper diary, not so much now but I’ll write things in my notes; or little moments that mean something to me; or write things down that are my observations on existing, and I’d rather it be out, like, somewhere in the world rather than just stuck in my head. I question a lot of things about life and existence, and I find it somehow better just out of my head and in the world somewhere. As a personal goal, [song-writing] is just to express myself and I believe my thoughts are better out, than in.” Both different takes but both a credit to how they are so compatibly able to express themselves freely and create their own sound since their first official release in 2015.
With both members not having a previous diagnosis of any forms of mental health, they are fortunate enough to understand the differences between being diagnosed and self-diagnosed issues. Alie: “I definitely have had anxiety but nothing that I’ve ever had diagnosed, specifically.” Jericho: “We did get ourselves into a hole of eating junk food and binge watching tv… We felt pretty depressed as we were doing jobs that we didn’t like and, it obviously wasn’t clinical but, it was a point in our lives that made us say ‘I don’t like this’, you know?” This drew a level of inspiration to the band, and it began the switch to making the most of their talents and resources. It helped them get out there and start touring; releasing new music; and coming up with new ideas to assist them in being heard.
Developing an image can help create a major platform for a band and help connect with their audience, and that was the case when I first encountered SKIES. Sporting their unique hair styles and bright colours, Alie and Jericho both feel comfort in their appearance and I, personally, admire their confidence to show off who they truly are. I wanted to know if either Alie or Jericho have had any negative reactions to their image and what their experiences where from it. Jericho: “Growing up, yes. When I was younger, having curly hair. I even wanted dark hair at one point and, when I was fourteen, my mum got me this bottle of highlights. I was washing my hair with it and, when I dried it, I had red hair and the next day it was school photos… I looked like Ronald McDonald but that was the day when I had one of those mental switches were, I’m like, ‘this is how it is now’ I either go in like I’m going to have the worst day, trying to hide myself and cover my hair… Instead of that I was like yeah ‘this is what it is’ whatever anyone says I’m like, ‘yeah, I know it was an accident, but I don’t care’.” That point created a state of mentality where Jericho didn’t fixate on the ridicule of his peers but developed an attitude of happiness and when disbursing confidence about these differences, people tend to appear more positive around him. Alie on the other hand described herself as a “Tomboy” in her youth. Comparing societal views and the specifics that have previously surrounded the female gender, Alie told us the story of the compromise to her lifestyle: “I always wanted short hair, so I made a compromise with my mum that I wanted short hair at the front and sides. Because I was a girl, back then it’s kinda like ‘you should have long hair’ which I thankfully is different now and rightly so. So [With that compromise] I ended up with a mullet which is a bizarre compromise , ha!” Along with the mullet, Alie also had to equip herself with large-framed glasses and “podgy cheeks” to make an exciting fusion in her younger days.
“With the hair colour, if you’re going to have hair, it’s got to be a colour. So, it may as well be a colour that you actually like. If you decide to change your hair, then own it” – Alie Cotter inspiring others to express themselves.
I felt a sense of pride during our discussion in the fact that they both have utilised their previous experiences and adapted themselves to see the humorous side of their past. To be able to speak freely without worry on this subject is a credit to their personalities and down-to-earth attitudes.
Adjustments to the Pandemic:
Throughout the pandemic, SKIES have successfully been able to accomplish many … Releasing new music; music videos; and countless live streams; have helped them continue to interact with their fan-base. The frequency of their social media presence has assisted in further development and has given them the ability to evolve, even in the worst of times. Early 2020, both Alie and Jericho decided to sacrifice their current lifestyles to commit themselves to the band and creating music. Alie: “We were gonna do, like, living room shows, and we were obviously gonna do gigs, radio stations, and just spend at least a year just trying to promote an album that we demoed. That was the plan…” Then Jericho began speaking of their current schedule by saying, “[My sister] just got married in February, they’ve both got a place. So, this was the first date of out [Living room] tour, we booked up a few dates starting in March. We already booked, like, ‘cause we were going to start in the local area with people we know, move out and just, you know, film it so people could see what was going on, so we could promote it… We did one gig and then lockdown happened.” Alie: We bought an acoustic guitar specifically for this tour. Taped up our guitar for branding and stuff, at his sister’s house, ready for the show. Played the show and then that was it, then it was lockdown.”
Once lockdown commenced, a storm of people began messaging them to cancel their gigs, Facebook events began cancelling, living room gigs cancelled, and their hard work seemed to have collapsed. Jericho: It was at that moment… we set our mentality to ‘we are gonna do everything we can with what we’ve got. Like, we can make something work, regardless. There is so much more that we can do if we believe that’s available.”
That week, they sat down and devised a plan to adapt their situation. Alie: “We were just like ‘what can we do?’ so we literally just sat down in front of the webcam, [Jericho: “decided a time”]. Yeah, we decided ‘we were gonna stream at seven pm’ and I think this was at about six o’clock… we just felt like people need to hear some music. So, like doom and gloom; we streamed that Wednesday night at like seven pm; then we just kept doing it and we’ve ended up doing around two-hundred of those streams now.”
Jericho: “Then we had a tour booked for May” Which I replied with, “I had tickets to that, ha-ha!” as they were scheduled to play in my home-city. There highlights from last year included their Let’s Do It All Again tour and their innovative, Garden tour which was an extremely creative concept that took-off well. I spoke with Alie about their Garden tour and the innovation behind it’s creation: “We started, because we were doing regular streams, and then it got to summer, and we streamed out in our garden because it was just so hot. So, we sat in our garden and once the restrictions started to ease, we were able to allow to have a few neighbours over to watch us play in the garden whilst we were streaming... We realised that we could at least play to four people, or two households, I think? So, we also realised that there was nothing stopping us from going to anyone else’s garden, technically in doing this. So, we had someone who admin’s our fan-page, Dan, he’s a legend and he said, ‘if we want to guinea pig the Garden tour date and play in his garden, then we could’. So, we ended up drive up to his and playing in his garden and it felt like magic! It felt like the first time that we had played in front of anyone else and done a little gig.”
From the realisation of the decreased restrictions, SKIES put out a form to be signed up for garden appearances to make sure that complete protection of both the band and the householders were safe. This caused a successful reaction to the release and developed a month-long tour of fan’s gardens. Socially distanced, of course.
“How did you remain motivated during lockdown”:
Jericho: “We’ve had projects. We’ve done some recording; focused on selling merch; and obviously, the streams everyday have been, like, that is the thing that has kept up going. Having something every day for like, this is our first week off in I don’t know when?”
Alie: Well yeah, ‘cause even the times off we’ve had was time-off to do the Garden tour, but even then, we were doing it once a week. So, we literally, this is our first week off. Monday to Friday we didn’t stream this week. Which has been weird.”
One of their main accomplishments from the past year has been their newest collaboration on their latest single, Earth, with Shapes. When discussing the inspiration behind it, Alie had this to say, “I was just starting a band and I was working. I just felt like I needed to do more with my life then just what I was doing. So, it’s kind of the classic, like yeah, the Monday morning again thing. Just getting up, doing something that you don’t really want to do, and trying to figure that out. And I still think, even now, that we are trying to figure out that balance between doing the things that you think you have to do to survive and then realising that there is more to life than just surviving. So, yeah it’s still a very relevant song for me now.” – Ask yourself, don’t you all feel like this sometimes?
Alie is a free-lance graphic designer outside of the group which allows her to work from home, earn money, and dedicate more time to her passion. Being financially independent, SKIES must find other ways to find income to support their dream. Selling more merchandise than ever has been They have been blessed with generous fans who tip them for their livestreams. The profits received from the garden tours also went towards recording their new music.
Aspirations for post-lockdown:
Jericho: “We’ve got lots of music, almost too much! We’ve got lots of music coming out and we are excited to see what’s next, festival-wise. We’re gonna go out on a garden tour again. The Let’s Do It All Again, Again Garden tour because it was such a good experience and fun having that personal experience that we like to have around our tours anyway. We’ve obviously got lots of venues that we’ve previously booked, who want to have us back. Which is cool because it’s looking like we’ll have quite a large tour ahead.” So, it’s looking like the end of summer will be there time to shine on the stage and to be allowed back into venues. Alie: “We’re trying to not book too much stuff that could still be subject to being cancelled. You know, the Garden tour is probably the most likely thing for us to be able to do and to keep the streaming up… and then let venues happen. We came to Hull but there weren’t many people there that came to see us. We’re grateful that you did and to be able to play a garden in Hull then if you knew someone who could come to your house and build up a longer game. We played a garden in Mansfield and now there’s a chance that, if we play a venue in Mansfield, they might come. We’re just trying to naturally grow, and I think that’s our strategy. Just to see what happens until we can do it all.”
I’ve happily offered my garden to them; I urge you all to do the same wherever you may be. SKIES are a very talented duo, and it would be an honour to have them play in our area.
“Always try to be positive and always try to think about the good things you want - something we’re always trying to keep in mind” – SKIES.
Thank you to Alie and Jericho for giving me the time to talk and providing me the opportunity to write this for Daniel in the Lion’s Den. If you haven’t checked out SKIES yet, then I insist that you do. My favourite song of theirs is Green, so check that out. Also check out their newest singles: Earth; and It’s Alright. Available on all major streaming platforms. Also remember that they play a daily live stream on YouTube at 7pm, so check that out!
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Twitter:@ITLionsDen / @DjTwitchx98