The Lippies – a band that hails from Grand Rapids, MI – got their start in 2014 via a Facebook post written by Tonia Broucek. After independently releasing a couple of EPs, including one in 2014 which was self-titled along with 2015’s World Happiness Dancer, the band signed to Red Scare Industries and released their self-titled full length in 2016.
Unfortunately all bands come to an end, and so did The Lippies in 2016, just a month after the release of their LP. They stated that being a band no longer felt right. However, after playing a slot on The Lawrence Arms‘ Annual War on Xmas event in Chicago, it seemed like a reunion may be in the works.
I was able to chat with the band recently about their music, their plans, and their lives beyond The Lippies.
First off, for anybody not familiar with The Lippies, can you tell me your names and your positions in the band?
Kole: I play bass, handle social media, and herd cats.
David: I pound the tubs and also herd cats with Kole. Literally. We operate a 300-head cat farm North of Grand Rapids.
Taylor: I’m Taylor. I play guitar. Well… I want to… I actually just hang out and drive the van. A tag along…
Tonia: I sing and give sass.
The band originally started in 2014 via a Facebook post. Can you tell me how that came about?
Kole: Tonia had a nice solo thing going and wanted to start a punk band. Out of the 30-40 people who responded, she chose us for some reason. Dumb. We’re a weird mix of ding dongs, but we work VERY well together!
David: I actually wasn’t acquainted at all with the music scene at the time of this Facebook post. After Tonia pared interested people down to Kole and Taylor, Taylor took to Craigslist to find a drummer. And that’s where I came in! There’s a popular misconception that Taylor and I met on eHarmony, but I am setting the record straight that it was, in fact, Craigslist.
Taylor: I knew Tonia through working at an art supply factory. I saw her at parties during college. She made the Facebook post at a time where I was out of the scene entirely. I indeed did meet David on eHarmony at Bitter End coffee shop, and conned him into playing drums in a “90s sounding punk band.” We got together in the basement of a pizza shop where I met my other half, Kole. We were kind of fucking around until we found “the sound.” Kole, through years in the scene, started booking us shows and putting us through band bootcamp and off we went.
Tonia: What they said. I was opening up for a lot of my friends’ bands with my solo ukulele project and I was tired of being the opener. So, I made the post and there you have it!
The band went silent for a few years. What was the reason for silence?
Kole: Well, we broke up. We were on our way up the Punk Rock ranks and things were moving pretty fast for us. The pressure to be “the next big thing” got to be a bit much and it kinda threw some of our mental health into a state of chaos. So we shut it down and kinda went our separate ways for a few years. Life can be heavy at times.
David: We bit off more than we could chew, committing to some ambitious touring that burned us out and magnified any tensions in the band. I shared a toothpaste tube with Kole on that last tour, and he REFUSED to squeeze it from the back end. My blood still boils just thinking about it. Anyhow, the break and time apart to reflect was helpful. This time around, we are overall closer, more understanding, and better with communicating.
Kole: That wasn’t me. That had to be Taylor. Everyone knows I don’t brush my teeth while out on tour!
Taylor: Mainly… I broke vegan on our last tour because David said I was too skinny and jammed a chicken strip in my mouth. I lost my vegan powers and went into hiding at the local Popeye’s after obsessively brushing my teeth with David’s… I mean my… toothpaste. In all honesty though… the pressure to do something great broke a handful of people who had never imagined going anywhere in life. My wildest dreams had all come true. Bittersweet.
Tonia: Dear lord these responses are ridiculous! Oh my gosh. Anyway. I was a 24-year old mess. The guys were holding strong while I was pretending to do the same. My vocal health was as unstable and unpredictable as my moods at the end of our first run there. I needed to step back and clean up my act for a while because throwing an unstable person into an unstable lifestyle is just… not sustainable.
What brought about the “reunion?”
Kole: Toby from Red Scare reached out to us about playing The Lawrence Arms Annual War on Xmas in Chicago. That got us all talking again. It was just the right time.
David: Yep, Toby would make the occasional friendly prod here and there after our breakup hinting at getting back together. These may or may not have included some 3AM “You up?” texts to the band thread. We’re really grateful for his persistence and believing in us despite being the runaway bride of bands.
Taylor: A nice summer day with a handful of drinks and a long winded “I miss You”… why the fuck not?! Wasting a chance to do something bigger than ourselves… it was time.
Tonia: Not to get all hippy dippy but I was seeing signs all over the place that it was time to at LEAST squash the “beef.” It was a perfectly-timed email from Toby that really set the gears in motion. I will admit, I was resistant at first… I mean I deleted our Facebook for Christ’s sake! How do you return to something that doesn’t even have a Facebook page anymore?
You recently contributed a song to the Red Scare compilation 15 Years of Tears and Beers. How did that association come about?
Kole: Toby was the guy who put out our first full-length years ago, so we are a Red Scare band. He hit us up to contribute a song to the 15 year comp. We still had a couple of songs left over from the recording of our first full-length that didn’t make that record, but we really wanted to put something new out since we decided to be a band again. Our creative flow has been on overdrive since we started playing together again.
David: Yeah, that comp was a nice way to be able to offer some new material to fans to chew on in the meantime. Albums can take awhile to bust out, so we were excited to be able to release a snippet of our new material.
Taylor: Toby saw us in Vegas at our fist big show out of town and essentially signed us on spot. Handshake deal. He wined and dined us. Promised us an airplane. Your typical Mötley Crüe tale.
Tonia: Toby said we looked like hicks at a show in Las Vegas but then complimented our band a whole bunch. Then he bought us sushi and signed us. I was pretty much always drunk at this point and had no idea who this man was but Kole assured me it was okay. Fast forward a few years and he’s still willing to help us get our music out there. Pretty sweet deal!
Is there a story behind the name of the band?
Kole: The original name of the band was World Happiness Dance. It was a reference to the TV show “My So Called Life.” Fun name, but it didn’t really fit. If I recall correctly, Tonia and I were walking away from our practice space one day and I was giving her shit about finding a new name. As she was walking away, she turned and said “The Lippies”! It was perfect, just fucking perfect. Well, better than Lazer Cats. Definitely better than Bong Mountain!
David: I’m actually still blurry on the exact origin of the name. I do remember at one point suggesting The Poppy Seeds and wonder if that in any way inspired the phonically similar Lippies coming about.
Taylor: I was thinking the band should be called “Greed” but apparently that is too close to “Creed”? That said… I’m an idiot and don’t get to make decisions.
Tonia: My memory is so bad that I wouldn’t have remembered if I didn’t just read Kole’s response!! Oh, that’s wonderful. I so badly wanted to be called “The Harpies” but the name was taken. I just wanted something that was cute and mean at the same time; “The Lippies” sort of covered that.
When did you all begin to gain an interest in playing music? Were there any specific musicians that triggered your interest in writing and performing?
Kole: When I was 16, a friend turned to me and said, “Hey, go buy a guitar. We’re starting a band.” I had zero musical training. He taught me some very basic shit and I kinda just learned on my own after that. As far as influences on writing and performing, I could list a million of them. I’ll try to stop at five – Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Undertones, Buzzcocks, and cheap whiskey.
David: I listened to a ton of radio from a young age, and by high school, I started dabbling with guitar and drums and had a couple groups of friends I would jam with and play little parties with. By that time, rock was largely off Top 40 radio, so I turned to Classic Rock and ’80s/’90s at-work stations and would simply try to learn how to play whatever my favorite song at the time was. Bands like U2, R.E.M., and Tom Petty were some of my favorites around that time. Once I went off to college and finally had internet that wasn’t dial-up, I discovered a bunch more ’90s Alt stuff that I hadn’t been exposed to through radio, as well as modern indie acts of the time like The Strokes and Kings of Leon. Musically, my core influence is easily the whole Nirvana/Foo Fighters/Dave Grohl scene.
Taylor: I was raised in a small church, and in vocal choir for most of my youth/teens. Early high school, listening to the typical teenage angst Punk Rock playlist. I bought my first guitar and amp at the 28th St. Flea Market and learned by ear playing along to Punk albums. I joined a punk band in high school playing bass. I am largely influenced by old Country, Rockabilly, 80s Punk, and Pop… there’s an atmosphere to old music that I find lacking in most modern stuff. I love The Cars, Pretenders, and Green Day. Honestly I think Billie Joe Armstrong takes a lot of flack and is a big influence.
Tonia: I was starting “bands” with my girlfriends all the time when I was a kid. I’ve always been low-key obsessed with music. I used to watch American Idol with my parents and almost cry because I wanted to be confident enough to sing in front of people… funny enough, American Idol also contributed significantly to my anxiety about singing in front of people. I didn’t want to be one of those contestants whose parents told them they were great singers but then embarrassed themselves on television.
While I enjoyed pretty much anything my mom played growing up (Queen, Hall and Oats, Billy Joel, Elton John, etc.). It was singers like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Alanis Morissette, and Pink that really got me excited about singing. There are so many different ways to sing! Then I got my period and was mad about it, so came Green Day, System of a Down, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, and Weezer. Then I got depressed, so came the Billie Holiday, Leslie Gore, Violent Femmes, Bright Eyes (I know, right?) etc. THEN I got fucking smart and finally found what I had always been searching for in Hole, Bikini Kill, X-Ray Spex, The Muffs, The Slits, and Bratmobile.
To wrap it up neatly, Paramore made me want to sing and Bikini Kill made me want to write. They both made me want to express myself. Ugh. I just love those bands.
How is the overall music scene in Grand Rapids?
Kole: It’s pretty great. Very diverse, very supportive, and lots of fun. The strength of the scene fluctuates every year, but there is a new crop of young blood coming up that are doing exciting things. While no scene is perfect, ours is pretty great.
David: I love it. It’s like a big family, and we have the Pyramid Scheme which is all-around great place for artists and local concertgoers.
Taylor: It is very Indie-centric. There are a ton of terrific bands and musicians, and Pyramid Scheme is an amazing venue with the best staff ever!
Tonia: I don’t know how to answer this question. I think it’s good to the people it’s good to. Whatever!
Do you have any favorite eateries in Grand Rapids? Is there any food that you would consider to be Grand Rapid cuisine?
Kole: San Chez. They do tapas. Cuban food. Also China City. They have my favorite generic Chinese food. I think the closest thing we have to a signature GR cuisine would be Yesterdog. Those hot dogs are killer after stumbling out of the bar! And they taste totally different at noon when you’re sober!
David: Well, if you looked at my credit card statement, my favorite Grand Rapids eateries are Arby’s, Burger King, Subway, and McDonald’s. And the occasional Qdoba or Noodles & Company if I’m feeling fancy.
Kole: Dude, that french dip at Arby’s is tight! Probably the best french dip I’ve ever had!
Taylor: My favorite place to eat in GR is a Mediterranean place called Sheshco. You always see huge Middle Eastern families there. The table offering is brick oven baked bread pockets with whipped garlic sauce. I guess the wet burrito was invented here?
Tonia: The only thing I can think of is Yesterdog. I know it’s just hot dogs but everyone knows about them and wants them for some reason. They are pretty delicious.
What places in Grand Rapids would you consider to be essential visits for someone coming to the area?
Kole: Just walk around downtown. I personally think it’s pretty scenic and there’s lots of fun places to people-watch! Also go to Vertigo if you love records. Herm and his staff are amazing! And the jail. I love it there! They feed you, give you a bed, and shelter you and all you have to do to get there is fail to outrun the cops!
David: Frederik Meijer Gardens is a popular attraction. And there’s the Meyer May House, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that you can tour. Why is everything called Meijer in Grand Rapids!?
Taylor: Riverside Park in Summer/Fall. It is beautiful scenery and just outside downtown. Also, Belknap Lookout! Best view in the city!
Tonia: The Pyramid Scheme, the giant tire swing (if that still exists??), the downtown public library (their graphic novel selection is prime), look-out hill (for making-out of course), and the NOMAD gallery— place is dope: it’s got art, live music sometimes and an old ass bank vault in the basement?? So cool.
What sort of things do you like to do outside of music?
Kole: Drinking, drawing gigposters, patio-hangs with friends, booking shows, roofing, trying to stay alive, cooking… the usual stuff!
David: I’m a commercial photographer, so I get to see a variety of cool people, places, and things through that. Working for myself gives me the flexibility to play drums in another band, Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts. I like to claim that I drum for the two best front-people out there.
Taylor: Hide at tiny bars. Take walks. See my family. Card games. Pool. Getting head injuries? I’m kind of an old soul. I need to take up golf.
Tonia: Work currently takes up a lot of my time and energy. Luckily, I love my job! I watch a lot of cartoons and try to read in my down time. Other than that, I mostly chill with my dude and my cats. It’s the best.
What is your favorite movie, book, and/or TV show?
Kole: I’ve been digging anything comic book related as far as TV stuff. And I love my Claremont era X-Men comics to read. And Youtube videos about street food. I can watch that shit for hours. It’s the main reason I want to travel outside the US.
David: Favorite movies are Little Miss Sunshine and Napoleon Dynamite. Some of my favorite shows of all time are The Office, Late Show with David Letterman, The Weird Al Show, and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Taylor: I love the movie The Aviator. Actually… Scorsese in general. X-Files hands down. I honestly don’t read much, but I do enjoy Philip Pullman’s work and similar Sci/Fi Fiction work.
Tonia: Favorite movies- Pan’s Labyrinth, The Labyrinth, anything with labyrinths, Scott Pilgrim. Favorite books- IT, Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, and to keep this short I will finish with Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Favorite TV Shows- Ugly Americans, King of the Hill, Adventure Time, Craig of the Creek, any bullshit on Adult Swim, Ghost Adventures. Mindhunter and Castlerock are some of my more serious follows though. So good.
Getting back to music, you are planning to release another full-length. Can you tell me a little bit about the writing and recording process for the record?
Kole: We’re putting out a new full-length this year. I think we currently have ten to twelve songs in various states of being recorded and we’re looking to record an additional ten to fifteen.
For the first full-length, we recorded the bones of it over the course of a week and then spent a few days doing vocals and backups and stuff. This time we’ve been going in and recording a few songs at a time and just kind of finishing them up as time allows. We all have full time jobs and lives, so finding time can be tricky, but we make it work.
As far as the writing process, we’ve all become better writers and musicians in the time we were apart. Everything we’ve written to this point for the new record has exceeded our expectations. We’re all really excited to get these songs out into the world. We’ve even been playing a few of them at our shows lately.
Taylor: We tend to bring in a hook/riff etc. and jam on it. If it takes off, we flush most of it out on spot. We write well together. We don’t have any big ego bullshit. Punk Rock isn’t complicated. We aren’t trying to show off our skills. We write catchy, relatable songs for other people… not to circle jerk our musical dicks off.
Tonia: Tay or Kole will bring a riff, David adds the booms, and then I pace around singing to myself until I come up with lyrics. It’s the closest to “playing with my friends” as I’ve gotten as an adult. We’re in our own little world (storage unit) just grooving and creating. There’s no judgement and it’s just really fun for me. At the moment we have a nice handful of new songs that we’ve slowly been chipping away at in the studio. Not sure when we’ll be done right off the top of my head, but I’m stoked to share it!
Did the current American political climate help or hinder the writing process?
Taylor: It helps in the sense of wanting to create something positive in a world of negative bullshit. I just think there’s more subtle, beautiful thing in life to write about.
Tonia: I wouldn’t say that’s helped, but it’s definitely fueled the writing of some lyrics. I think I’d write better music if shit wasn’t so fucked honestly.
Are there any plans to tour in support of the new record?
Kole: I think we’re definitely going to be playing more shows once the new record comes out. We’ve been planning a few weekenders lately, but we really want to take a week or so on each coast. We were going to hit the West Coast this winter, but it just didn’t really work out. The ultimate goal is to play in Taylor’s parent’s garage. His family has like fourteen kids, so it’s like having a built-in audience!
David: I sure hope so!
Taylor: We are building back up to touring more, for sure! Baby steps. Long weekends are ideal currently, but you have to tour in this scene. There are actual thriving punk scenes in other cities!