Brooklyn based synth pop band Great Good Fine Ok aren’t great, good, fine or ok. They’re pretty spectacular! Their dreamy soundscape and catchy dance tunes are something you don’t get tired of. Their latest EP, 2M2H, released earlier this year is exactly what the title is. It’s too much to handle because every single song on it is fire. I had a chance to chat with the lead singer Jon Sandler about his love for music, kimonos, and the “Body Diamond Lifestyle” before their show at Baby’s All Right on June 25th.
How did you and Luke start making music together as GGFO?
I met Luke a bunch of times and we became friends. We actually worked together on a couple of things- he co-produced and mixed one of my songs. We always said that along the way we should do something together and collaborate. A period of time went by, and we ran into each other on the street randomly and we said “let’s do this.” That night he sent me the music for “You’re The One For Me.” We went back and forth to perfect it and then sent it to some people and realized it was something special, so we kept writing songs and that was that.
So you were in a different band before?
Yeah- pretty much my whole life I’ve been pursuing my solo music career. The stuff I was doing before was singer-songwriter, me with and a guitar which I’ve been doing since I was a kid. When Luke sent me the music for “You’re The One For Me,” it was a very synth-poppy sound and I’ve never sung falsetto before for a full song. I don’t know what inspired me, but I felt like that song needed a falsetto voice on top of it and so thats what I recorded. Not thinking that eventually it would turn into a band recording falsetto every song. Luke was kind of doing the same except he was producing for other bands and was a drummer in a band. We were both doing a lot and very busy when we started GGFO so we didn’t expect to even necessarily design it to turn into a huge thing. But obviously we were excited when it did.
I saw you at Brooklyn Bowl last year with a flashy golden robe. Where do you get your clothes from?
Most of the stuff I get are from thrift stores, but that piece I actually had it custom made. I went to the garment district in manhattan for the material I wanted and I found a girl who could help me organize making that happen, so that one’s a one of a kind. I like any thrift store that would present me with a perfect kimono or a sequined jacket! I’ve almost gotten all of them in New York City (laughs). Whenever I walk in a thrift store in New York, I feel like I already bought everything cool. When we were on tour and we were in Seattle, every thrift store there was the best thing ever. I think thrift stores in the west coast are better. I thrift shop in New York a lot obviously and I find out that they carry more conservative and wearable clothes, and not many jackets with sequins all over it, which is exactly what I’m looking for. So I think I need to go elsewhere.
Do you ever wear your outfits off-stage as well?
I have certain jackets that I only wear on stage. I think my off stage outfits are cool in their own way. My manager once told me that I never look normal(laughs). But I don’t wear the stage kimonos in real life though, just because they’re sacred for the stage if you know what I mean. It’s not that I would be embarrassed, but those are special. I’ve accumulated about 40 different kimonos, so I have quite a selection of them I can choose from.
I’ve heard that you’re a big fan of Prince. If you had one whole day to spend with him, what would you do?
Probably for half of the day I’d want to walk around and talk and just ask him questions about life. Walking, sitting, getting tea. I would want to do A LOT of talking. I’d ask him questions about the music industry. I’d also use him as my therapist- I think Prince is the kind of guy who has it figured out, and if I told him about something that was stressing me out, he would have a really good way of making me feel more comfortable. After that I’d definitely want to write music with him for several hours…Maybe even create an entire album! Then I’d probably want to go thrift shopping with him, or maybe just fabric shopping and we can go get some stuff custom made.
Do you feel that living in NYC has had an impact on your views of the music scene?
New York is so packed with musicians and artists. People that are hustling and focused. That’s definitely inspiring to be around everyday. Everywhere I look, there’s someone working their asses off, so it makes you want to work your ass off too. I’ve been here for so long, I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 10 years, so most of the songs I’ve ever written have been here. It almost feels like I don’t even remember what it was like, writing or being inspired anywhere else.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve been to?
Oh my god I have no idea! I’ve probably been to a thousand shows in my life. The only reason I know is that I have a ticket collection stored into 5 different books, so thats really tough. I used to go to a lot of Phish shows and some of those were really memorable. One of the best live bands ever.
What do you consider a ‘good’ show?
I guess its a combination of things. When you’re surprised by certain things and when the show ends and you wished that it continued for another 10 hours. Obviously there are certain shows where, musically, it’s more special than other shows. I like concerts to be a show, and not just a concert. I take that seriously. Not just getting on stage and singing songs but actually being an entertainer. If I can walk away and say “wow that was a fun show” then I’d think it was successful. But it’s weird because the last show I went to was Rhye, and they’re amazing! Actually our drummer that started with us, Zach is their current drummer. They’re just so nonchalant, sort of what the opposite of what I was talking about being showmen, but the guy’s voice is so mesmerizing and so unbelievable. Just the music itself made it one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time, so it could go either way. Theres no formula to what makes it a good show. Sometimes its magic, and sometimes it’s not, you know?
I heard you do a “Body Diamond” dance move on stage and a pre-show ritual called the “Body Deesh Deesh Deesh Deesh Diamond.” What is this Body Diamond lifestyle that you guys live?
I’m going to be completely honest with you. The body diamond just started as a dance move that we kind of did, then we thought it was cool to implement it into the band. And since, it has been thrown into a lifestyle where Body Diamond can really be a metaphor of so much stuff- of your heart, your soul, your mind and everything around you and the universe. It’s become this symbol of life and something bigger than us. Its almost like we can’t control them, they just pop-up where they pop-up. One of the most exciting Body Diamond moments was right at the beginning of the band when we were just starting out playing our first few shows at SXSW that Tove Lo was also playing at. I guess she saw us and got so excited about the Diamond that she tweeted and introduced the Body Diamond on Swedish radio. There’s an amazing picture of her doing the body diamond. And the “Body Deesh Deesh Deesh Deesh Diamond” – the drummer that used to play with us, his name was Zach Morello and we used to call him Modeesh, so that actually came from him and turned it into Deesh. And that just became our pre-show ritual.
Could you talk about something thats great, good, fine, and ok in your life right now?
That’s hard because generally right now, I’m pretty happy because I’m doing what I love. I love this band, I love writing songs, and things are really exciting right now. I guess great would be GGFO. What’s ‘okay’ is my living situation. I’m in this situation where I’ve been living in the same apartment for 10 years. It’s not the nicest apartment in the world but the rent’s really good, so I would say that that’s okay. Good and fine are tough – lets put everything else into good and fine.