By Billy Owens
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are remembered as being ground-breaking bands that transcended multiple genres of music over their periods of existence. They each experimented with different musical styles such as rock, folk, blues, jazz, and even psychedelia, fusing them together to create one cohesive sound that defies a singular genre label.
Stacked Like Pancakes (SLP), a Baltimore-based ska punk band founded in 2007 by lead vocalist, songwriter and instrumentalist Kellen McKay, hasn’t shied away from mixing different musical styles over the years, either.
They’ve gone a step further and given themselves their own genre label, however, as their official Facebook page states that they’re “the greatest brass-rock band to ever exist, because we made that genre up.”
Their most recent album, the fan-funded and self-produced sophomore record This Is Us, was released in December of 2015 and marked a departure from the Jamaican ska-based punk rock sound that many bands before them had sworn by.
“It’s an album of discoveries for me as a creator and songwriter,” McKay said. “It’s not a ska album — it’s hip hop inspired, jazz inspired, but there’s some ska and some straight-up rock music in there.”
The only thing that’s evolved over the years more than the band’s style — which is hallmarked by its loud, energetic and animated live performances — is its lineup, as McKay is the only remaining founding member of SLP.
“For many years, there was a very high turnover of musicians coming and going in the band,” McKay said. “There was a two to three-year struggle between high school and college where it took us a while to find some ground and get things going.”
The band’s current lineup, which features McKay, bass trombonist Zach Foote, trumpeter Alec Leventis, trombonist Andy Dawson, guitarist Michael Busch, drummer Kevin Goren and bassist Will Lopez, consists mostly of Towson University alumni that McKay met while studying classical percussion at the school.
Leventis and Dawson are also former members of the Towson University Marching Band, and have stated that the similarly high-energy shows they performed with the marching band directly influenced their musicianship and performance abilities while playing their respective horns in SLP.
“The energy from the marching band comes from raw power, the huge group and huge sound, and playing as loud as you can,” Leventis said.
“In SLP, we’re jumping around, dancing, and having a fun time,” Dawson said. “It’s a lot more of a relaxed energy.”
In 2012, while McKay was at Towson, the band performed at the annual Tigerfest festival as an opening act for Kid Cudi. Two years later, SLP was invited to appear on the Vans Warped Tour, a nationwide annual traveling music festival, and toured over the summer for the first time.
Upon learning last week that the 2018 Warped Tour will be the tour’s final run, McKay was understandably upset but remained hopeful that SLP would be invited to be part of the tour’s last hurrah.
“Going to the Warped Tour when I was in middle and high school contributed to my drive to start a band and get on a stage myself,” McKay said. “It’s saddening to know that many other kids won’t be able to have the worthwhile experience in the years to follow.”
SLP returned to Warped Tour in 2015 and 2017, and in 2015 it also toured in support of one of their ska inspirations, Reel Big Fish. Its latest tour, the month-long, 14-show V.I.Pancake Tour, started Nov. 5 in Las Vegas and culminates this Wednesday at Rams Head Live in Baltimore.
McKay believes that this tour, which has featured the band sticking around after each show to make pancakes for the first 30 fans that bought tickets to that show, has helped them grow closer to their fans who are collectively known as the Pancake Nation.
“We want our fans to be our friends,” McKay said. “A lot of our fans are feeling that.”
The band’s latest single, “45,” is a President Trump-inspired tune that was released Nov. 8 (exactly a year after Trump was elected) as an animated music video depicting a stylized caricature of the president. McKay wrote the song in the wake of the 2016 presidential election result and the various controversies surrounding the Trump administration that have followed.
“Songwriting is how I cope with things and come to terms with my surroundings and what’s happening around me in the world,” McKay said. “In that way, [‘45’ is] personal, but all my bandmates identify with it, too.”
The song is the first release from SLP’s upcoming 2018 album, which is being produced by multi-platinum record producer Matt Squire. Squire has previously worked with artists such as Panic! at the Disco, Ariana Grande and fellow Baltimore natives All Time Low.
Before they take a short break from touring in 2018 to finish up the album, SLP wants to end their V.I.Pancake Tour with a bang Wednesday evening at their hometown venue, which they last played at in July of 2015.
“It’s a big venue — it may be too big for us, even though we’re expecting an awesome turnout — but it’s still great,” McKay said. “What better way to end a tour with a hometown show in front of our friends and fans?”