Great Good Fine Ok ’s Lead Singer Speaks On The Band’s Rapid Assent


New York – Great Good Fine Ok is a magnanimous duo out of Brooklyn that’s been making waves in the blogosphere at breakneck speed. The act is Jon Sandler and Luke Moellman and, together, the two draw on the R&B savants of yesteryear to concoct a singular spin on synth pop. Put simply, this band’s work is infectious, and they’ve got a steeply mounting listener base to back that claim.

After releasing their debut single, “You’re The One For Me,” the pop-laced track racked up 500,000 Soundcloud plays and 50,000 YouTube spins in no time. And armed with the backing of infamous tastemakers Neon Gold, Great Good Fine Ok shows no signs of slowing.

The band is about to take off on a mini tour, hosted by Communion Records, with shows scheduled in New York, DC and Philadelphia in early February. Signed to The Windish Agency, the act is also gearing up to release a second EP, in anticipation of a full-length endeavor on the horizon.

Lead singer Jon Sandler spoke to Best New Bands.

LIZ ROWLEY: What was the genesis of Great Good Fine Ok?

JON SANDLER: Luke and I were both doing separate music projects before this. He was doing production work with a lot of other bands and working on his own stuff, and I was pursuing a solo project. We met because he was the roommate of the piano player of my old band, so I was constantly over there working. Luke and I became friends and I had him mix one of my songs, and we worked together on a couple projects as business partners. But, all along, we kept thinking we should collaborate and do something together.

After a spell of not seeing each other, we ran into one another on the street and decided to go for it. That same night he sent me the music to “You’re The One For Me,” and I wrote the melody and the lyrics. We sent it to a few people who sort of freaked out. That’s when we realized we were on to something. We wrote a few more songs, formed a band and built a team around it.

It sounds like the songwriting process was collaborative for that track. Would you say that’s typical?

There have been some exceptions, but for the most part, it’s very collaborative. Luke will come up with the music and a basic blueprint of the track. I write the lyrics and the melodies. We like keeping it separate like that, because we both get to do what we feel we’re best at and what we love doing. That’s been our formula from the start.

What informs your lyricism?

The lyrics depend on the music that Luke sends me. Usually the vibe of it, or the tone of it, inspires something inside of me. His music has uniquely unlocked words and melodies for me. The lyrics come fluidly once I hear his work, so I don’t really worry too much about writing anything before I hear his stuff.

It’s totally an organic way to do it. And it’s a different approach for me, because my whole life I’ve written everything on my own. When Luke sends me something, I accept that’s what the music is, and that informs the kind of melody and the kind of lyrics I’ll write.

The lyrics I write are all drawn from personal experiences. Some of them are very specific. For some songs, I could tell you specifics, like the girl it’s about. But some of them are more general ideas about love and universal experiences. The songs are all inspired by my life, things I’m thinking about or feeling, or about life in general.

You mentioned “You’re The One For Me,” which was your breakout track. What was it like seeing that single rack up such excellent engagement?

We were totally floored, humbled and shocked by the excitement that it was stirring up. It was that excitement that inspired us to turn what was going to be a one-song collaboration into a full-blown band.

We released that track and Neon Gold premiered it. Then a heap of other blogs picked it up and within a month we had 300,000 plays on Soundcloud. It was just insane! We were super excited, and realized that we were tapping into something that people wanted.

How did you come up with the creative for that video?

We actually released two videos for that song. The first video was with a girl making a ridiculous sandwich, and months later, after signing on to our label, we released a second video. The Wild Honey Pie produced both of the videos, and Luke and I were both really involved in conceiving the creative concepts. I’ve actually have worked in film before, so I really enjoy being involved in the making of music videos.

Who are some of your biggest sonic influences?

For this band, some of our biggest influences are Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and all the R&B legends and divas. We’re both huge fans of disco, so we draw a lot of creative inspiration from that type of music as well. But Luke and I are both fans of all sorts of music, and that lends to us creating different parts of each song.

Your work often draws comparisons to groups like Passion Pit, M83 and How To Dress Well. How would you position GGFO within the contemporary indie R&B soundscape?

What makes our sound a little different than some of those bands, and what makes it sound a little more R&B, is that my lyrics are really personal, heartfelt and honest. I take that really seriously. And in a lot of synth-pop songs, the lyrics aren’t as important. In that space, the melodic vibe often feels more important. But for us, and for the songs I’m writing, I think it’s really important to connect with people on an emotional level. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B, and I like those kinds of melodies. Luke’s writing synth-pop tracks, and I’m putting R&B melodies and honest lyrics on top of that.

What’s the biggest challenge as a new band that’s climbing fast?

We were fortunate enough to gain momentum right off the bat. Years ago I thought that getting signed to a major label meant you’d made it. What I’ve come to learn is that you almost have farther to go from being signed to attaining real peace of mind than the mental jump that occurs from being unsigned to being picked up by a label. Even though everything is really great and exciting for us, we’re always focused on the next thing.

It’s hard to sit back and smell the roses when you need to keep putting out tracks that drum up interest and when you need to keep touring. You still hear more no’s than yes’s when you’re in our position, and it’s still a constant hustle. Even though we’re signed, we still have to fight just as hard for opportunities.

What’s your take on the music scene in Brooklyn?

I’ve been living in Brooklyn for ten years now, so I feel I know it pretty well. I’ve found Brooklyn to be a great scene for music. There are a lot of really talented musicians working really hard, and the level of passion coming from a lot of those groups is truly inspiring. Particularly in the arena of synth pop, a lot of bands are excelling. Everybody kind of knows everybody within that scene. It leads to a lot of collaboration, and it has made me a lot more open to collaborating overall.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you like to be?

I went to college for film, so I would probably like to work in film in some capacity. But I would probably still want to write, because that’s what I love.

But it’s weird to even think about not being a musician. I only went to school for something else because I was already a musician and I wanted to learn something new. I can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t a musician, especially now that I’ve dedicated everything to it and focused on it 100 percent. But sure, I could still be really happy working in a different creative medium.

Has GGFO delivered any standout performances as of late?

Our last show in New York, we sold out Brooklyn Bowl. That was a huge milestone for us. When we booked that show months before, I was like ‘Oh, God, I don’t know if we can fill that place up!’ I’ve been there when that venue was half empty, and I know what that scene can feel like if it’s empty.

And what’s more, we were headlining, so we went on really late. Our show wasn’t until 1:30 in the morning. I expected it to be an unmitigated disaster. But it ended up being packed. To play in Brooklyn for that kind of crowd felt exceedingly special.

What’s next for GGFO?

We are constantly writing and recording. We’ve amassed a lot of songs that we’re really proud of. We’re not quite ready to release a full album, so what we’ve decided to do is release another EP with the next four songs that we’re most proud of.

We expect that EP will surface within the next two months. But within the next few weeks we’ll be releasing a single that will be the first song of that EP, and we’ll release a music video with it.

One other thing I’ll tell you and I’ll be vague to keep some mystery about it, but one of the songs on that forthcoming EP will include a really special guest, which we’re super pumped about.

What new bands have impressed you as of late?

Luke and my answers might be slightly different on this one. But we’re both huge fans of Tove Lo. We actually opened for her a couple times, months ago, before her hit single exploded. We really liked her work a lot right from the beginning, so we’re pumped for her and all the exposure she’s getting.

Liz Rowley

Liz Rowley

Born in Mexico and raised in Toronto, Jerusalem and Chicago by a pair of journalists, Liz comes to with an inherited love of writing. After discovering a niche for herself in music journalism and radio while at Bates College in Maine, she always keeps a running playlist of new music to soundtrack her place in the world. Liz is passionate about helping dedicated, talented musicians gain the exposure they deserve. A recent transplant to Brooklyn from Hawaii, she is plagued by an incurable case of wanderlust and cursed with an affinity for old maps and old things like typewriters and vintage books. She adores photography and running and is very good with plants. Having come of age in Chicago, Wilco speaks to her soul. If she could be anything, she would be a cat in a Murakami novel.
Liz Rowley

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