Green Knuckle Material is an independent pop-punk quartet with a set of singles out this summer. Formed in 2016 and once featuring rap and saxophone, their post-pandemic lineup has Dan Kee on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Brandon Alvaro on lead guitar, Anthony Gallardo-Vega on drums and Dan Ravenda on bass.
NBT music reporter Ben Kelly caught up with Ravenda by phone in late August and discussed the band’s summer singles, upcoming music, release strategies, gigs, vans, cheeseburgers, chihuahuas and more.
Ben Kelly: First up, I think you formed about 2016, but when and where was your first New Brunswick performance?
Dan Ravenda: I could probably look that up for you. It was a really good bill, too. Let’s see what the name of the house was… It was at a place called The Bunker, April 14, 2017. We played with Hodera, dollys, Offkey Lifestyle and Secret Mountain. Hodera and dollys were like the biggest New Brunswick bands at the time.
BK: How’d you get involved with New Brunswick? Did one of you go to school there?
DR: Well, two of my members went to school there, but they really didn’t do any booking there. I kind of just started going to the shows myself, meeting the people. Because you couldn’t get on the house shows if you just submitted yourself, you had to go and meet the people who were running the houses or lived in the houses. I would do that, and then I would say, Hey, I’d like to put together a show here. And they would just let me put on shows.
So we only originally only really started playing shows in New Brunswick because we were putting them on. We don’t really put on house shows anymore, but there’s a couple of really good houses there now that we’ve played at, like The Crypt, The Laundromat, Teacher’s Lounge. Those are really good house venues that we know the people who are running them now just because we’ve been around for a while. But initially I had to start booking those shows myself, just meeting the people who lived at the houses that wanted to throw shows and putting bills together.
BK: And I think you guys had a bigger lineup back then, right? When did your current foursome lineup get arranged?
DR: This was pretty much post-pandemic. The saxophone player stuck around for a little bit when we came out of the pandemic, but that didn’t last very long. We had a third guitar player, but he was really the second guitar player because Dan [Kee] played acoustic, and then Dan moved to electric. The second guitar player kind of just moved on with his life. He didn’t want to do the band anymore. Same with the sax player, the rapper, just before the pandemic. It was really kind of like post-pandemic that we decided to go with this.
BK: Gotcha. [Lots of noises in the background]. Are you shucking oysters over there?
DR: I am grilling burgers.
BK: Let me ask about the new EP. You’ve got three kind of, powerhouse singles with “Julia,” “Walk Away” and “Blue.” I think they’re all standalone singles, and then you combined them into an EP. Is that a focus for the band, to focus on crafting singles as opposed to say a bigger project at the moment?
DR: Well, we’re working it into a bigger project. So the singles are all, technically they’re all singles. It’s not really an EP. It’s just released as an EP so you could package them all together. It’s called a waterfall release strategy. It lets you continuously push out the new songs. And basically it’s an advertising strategy so that as you’re pushing traffic to your new song, the song that plays directly after it and directly after that is your other new song.
And we have four more singles that we just finished recording this summer. We did two weeks of pre-production and then recording. We worked with Greg Shields from Kash’d Out. He has been producing us. He produced the last song we did, “Blue,” as well, so we really like working with him.
So we’ve got four more songs left that we just did. We’re not sure when exactly we’re going to release them or what our timetable is for that, but it definitely won’t be until 2024 because now we’re hitting up the holidays time. And that’s pretty much, you don’t release music during the holidays.
BK: Maybe another Christmas song?
DR: Yeah. We did one. I would do it again. I love Christmas music.
BK: Here’s a question about the songwriting process. Because they’re all pretty complex, and you have really nice production on these songs. I’m curious how they start. Do you write them altogether or does someone bring one acoustic riff or melody forward and then you go from there?
DR: Each of those songs was actually written a little bit differently. And then the four we just did were also kind of written a little bit differently. With “Julia,” Dan had a song idea, a melody and lyrics. And then he came over my house and we were hanging out with my dad, and my dad was just helping us put the music together on that, and we kind of just took it from there. And that was the first song where we started working with Kyle Black as our mixing engineer. Kyle mixed all three of these songs. He’s mixed for bands like Paramore, State Champs. He produced a lot of the State Champs albums, Point North, Pierce the Veil, Neck Deep, bands like that. He’s kind of like a pop-punk guy, which is the direction we wanted to go in with these new songs.
“Julia” was kind of our debut with him. It did really well. Still doing really well. Then “Walk Away,” that was actually a song that musically, I started writing, I wrote the song. It sounded completely different before Dan was even in the band. And then I always liked the bass line, and one day I was just showing it to him, and he started playing the little guitar riff that he plays. That kind of overtook the original bass line, which was more, standing out in the song. And we put up a video when we were in the studio years ago of just jamming on that. And this guy, Kevin Healy, he sent us some lyrics, and the lyrics actually went really well with the concept and the chorus that I originally had of the song. So that first verse lyrics was actually written by a fan, and that was pretty cool. We worked on the music with that with my dad, too.
“Blue” was completely done differently. So we had an idea for a song. We were kind of just joking around about, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the band Ballyhoo?
BK: Yeah. Didn’t they play with you at Bayville Fest?
DR: Bayville Fest, yeah. A few years ago, I was on Howie’s podcast, so I had his phone number. So I always would jokingly say, Yeah, it’s no big deal, I have Howie’s phone number. We text, and then Brandon would always say, Yeah, it’s a lot of blue. Meaning like, I would text him and he wouldn’t text back, it was like a joke. So then I was like, Oh, we should write a song like that. And we started writing just an idea, and there was a riff, and the song sounded completely different. And Dan hated the song. He was like, This is terrible. The song is awful.
So I was on vacation last summer, and Greg Shields from Kash’d Out posted something on Facebook. He was home from tour, he was looking for someone to work with for features or production. So I hit him up and was like Hey, I’d like to work on a song with you, I like your music. And I told Dan, What if I send him “Blue?” And Dan said Well that’s perfect, because I hate that song.
So I sent him that song, and I’m telling you, it was completely different. What he sent us back was the demo of the song that you have listened to. So we were blown away by just that demo. And then we went and tracked everything.
And we knew we wanted, because even when we originally wrote the song, we knew we wanted a female vocalist feature because it went with the storyline of the song. We had asked a couple different vocalists, it wasn’t really working out. And then Madhavi Devi enters the picture. Her bass player Scott had, we were putting together a show in Asbury Lanes and I asked them if their band Malibu wanted to play. They said, we’re not really available, but Ray and I just started working with Madhavi and we’re kind of playing a three piece with her. So we threw her on the show. And then I was listening to her music and showing it to Dan and Brandon and we were like, Wow, she’s really good, why don’t we just ask her to do this track? So Dan reached out to her and they went to the studio, did a couple of sessions together and it just really came out fantastic. And that’s how that song was written.
And then the next four songs, we just spent two weeks at a shorehouse in Bayville right on the water. We did about six days of pre production with Greg. We flew him out from Florida and we basically just lived with him for six days and started writing. We had some songs that we already started, and then there were a couple ones that Dan had from a while ago that were ideas that we ended up doing. And we weren’t really planning on doing those songs, but he really liked them.
And then there was a fourth song, which, this is a great story of how this song was written. It’s called “Sleeping On a Good Time.” I think it might be our next single. We’re not 100% sure yet, but it’s like a pop-punk, kind of like Jonas Brothers type, call-and-response song. And we were working on a couple of other demos and we’re working on a song. It was going nowhere. Then we were like, all right, let’s try a different song. And it wasn’t going anywhere. It was like 2 a.m. It was very late and Dan and I were like, all right, let’s just go to bed.
We’re tired, we’re not really getting anywhere. And Greg wanted to keep working. And then my dad, he went to bed earlier because he was there with us writing. He walks out, no shirt on, in his underwear, and I just hand him the bass and I say, Here, sit down with Greg and you guys are going to write a song. And we went to bed. And when we woke up, the music for that song, like the bass of that song, was all completely written and done. And then Dan and I woke up and we listened to it and we started writing lyrics and we started writing the melody and we came out with.
I think it’s probably our favorite song of the four that we just recorded. So it’s a different process for every song that we do. I think in the future, we’ll probably just work with our producer and do like we did and spend a week, six days just working on writing and putting great songs together.
BK: And you just had your release show in Asbury this past Saturday night, I think. How do you like these songs live? Do you have a favorite from playing them live? Of the three recent ones.
DR: I know Anthony, our drummer, probably likes “Walk Away” the most to play live. That is a fun one. My personal preference is “Julia.” “Blue” was cool because we got to do it with Madhavi at the release show. That was a really cool moment. We filmed it as like a live music video. It was great to have her on stage with us and that energy was really good. But I would say my personal favorite to play live is “Julia.” It’s a little more upbeat and driving. It’s cool because that’s the one that the people who are coming to see us play or the people who discovered the band, they always find the band through “Julia” and they’re always singing along. So it’s cool to see that song where people are always singing along or it’s that song that’s bringing people out to shows. So it’s a special song to me because it’s done a lot for us and it’s helping us a lot.
BK: Yeah, I think that one hit over 100,000 on Spotify. How do you go about that? Is that random, or targeted?
DR: Well, it’s actually coming on 150 now. Getting pretty close to 150. With all our songs, we have an advertising budget. With that song, we had an advertising budget and then we went through our advertising budget in about two months and it was doing really well. And then Spotify’s algorithm just kind of lifts it up, and that’s what it’s been doing. We’ll still run a smaller budget on that song in the downtime. Right now our budget is all going towards “Blue.” But we started just by running global ads just to try to get the song out to as many people as possible and also find the ads that are working the best. And it’s cheaper to go globally, so you could do more testing. So once I figured out, Okay, this is the ad that works best, this is the audience target that works best, then we started just targeting regionally. So, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, basically the places that are in our region that we’re gonna go play, the markets that we play in right now. And that has worked out really well. There was a guy who came out to the show Saturday. He’s like, I just want you to know that this was like the best live show I’ve ever seen, and I found you guys on an ad. And I thought it was the ad that I ran for the show, but it wasn’t. It was the ad for “Julia.”
BK: I think I saw some ads in Facebook, a sponsored ad from GKM recently. I was wondering how that happened because I already follow, but that explains it.
DR: We’re always running something, because we budget to have an advertising budget.
BK: We spoke in 2021, in March around the one year anniversary of Covid, because you and GKM had been doing a ton of streaming shows that whole Covid year. So I was wondering if there were any lasting impacts of that whole year on how the band operates. Are you more determined to play live? Do you have a different online presence? Do you go out and see fans in different parts that you might not have visited?
DR: I feel like we have fans now in different parts of the country because of those live streams, and we haven’t really got to go out and see them yet. It’s funny that you said that. Do we play live more? Do we have more of an online presence? That’s something that we’re kind of trying to figure out. Where do we want the bulk of our efforts to go? Is it touring and playing live? Is it the online presence? So that’s the struggle of any band that’s kind of in between. Where you’re going with it. Sophie? Come on, girl. Sorry, my dog.
We’re still trying to navigate which one of those routes we want to go. Right now we’ll do occasional weekend trips where we’ll play New York, Philly, and then Jersey at the most. And then sometimes we try to get down to DC or that area. Maryland, we’re starting to play Maryland a lot. There’s a venue in Columbia called the Reckless Shepherd that I started booking out of. It’s a really nice, 750 cap room. We just did a show with Kash’d Out there in July. We’re playing with Ballyhoo there in December. That hasn’t been announced yet. So we’re breaking news here.
BK: Oh, nice. I love breaking news.
DR: But I won’t give any more, just that.
BK: We’re at twenty minutes, but I’ve got some more questions for you. Talking about some shows, Bayville Fest is a festival that you guys all founded and you hit seven years this year? Is it your whole thing, all produced by you and the band?
DR: Yep, yeah and it actually started as… This was the 7th one. The first two were just like parties. So we usually just call it Bayville. So it was Bayville One, Bayville Two. And they were just kind of parties. The first one was really good. Second one was definitely out of hand, like [party movie] Project X out of hand. The third one was the first time we did it as a music festival, and that was really nice.
Then this was the first year that we did it as a music festival with national touring acts. And we sold over 700 tickets. It was a really successful event. We’re hoping to duplicate that next year. But yeah, it’s something that we started just kind of in my backyard at my shore house. And next year is going to be number eight. And we already have a date set for that. Which I will not reveal yet.
BK: And I think you guys also had some cool residencies… Nardi’s down in LBI on Monday nights?
DR: We did Nardi’s last two years on Mondays. I think we’re going to want to do it again next year, but maybe a different day of the week.
BK: How long of the summer was that? Like two months?
DR: It starts at the end of June, so about two and a half months.
BK: Oh did you have one last night? [This phone call was on a Tuesday.]
DR: Yes, we actually did the last one of the summer last night. There’s some really good Mondays with really good crowds. We had the Monday of the third of July, so the day before the fourth. And that was like, I think, 500 people. It was just a madhouse. It was like playing a weekend. And the unfortunate thing that happened this year was, last summer we only had the Mondays, we didn’t have any weekend dates. This summer they gave us a Saturday in August, but we all had Covid that weekend, so we had to cancel our only Saturday at Nardi’s. So that kinda sucked.
BK: What are the after-shows like down there? What do you guys do? Do you hang around?
DR: Well, especially that it’s a Monday night and we usually finish about 1:30 a.m, we kind of just pack up the van. And for most of the summer I was staying at the house I have in Bayville. The last two weeks I’ve been coming home, but Dan and I would go down together in the van and then we come home together. He usually does the late night drive because he’s a little better at staying up late than I am. But it’s not as much fun as you think because it’s just late and you want to go home and go to bed.
BK: How about Xfinity Live [in Philly]? You’ve had recurring gigs there as well.
DR: Oh, yeah, we played there a bunch of times. The indoor bar is cool. There’s been some really good nights at the Victory Bar inside. It gets weird in there, people dancing on tables. But the Victory Bar is always, some nights it’s really good, some nights it’s not. You’re also competing with, right across the hall at the other bar in Xfinity, there’s go-go dancers and a bull. It’s the go-go and bull riding, so that’s tough to compete with.
But when we do the outdoor stage, it’s always a good time. It’s a huge production. Their production is amazing there. You’re on a big outdoor stage, like the same stage that national touring acts sometimes play there. The radio puts on concerts there sometimes, so it’s a huge stage. Great sound. The crowd is always good. And usually when we’re doing it, it’s for some sort of Temple [University] event. We’ve done Temple Homecoming, we just did a Temple bar crawl this last spring, and it’s always a great crowd of young college kids trying to have a good time.
BK: This one is kind of an influences question. If Green Knuckle Material could share the stage with any band in the world, who would you want it to be?
DR: Any band in the world? Hmm. We would all have different answers. I know Dan would say Ed Sheeran, which I think there would be nothing bad about that. Brandon would probably say John Mayer. Anthony, I don’t know what he would say, but there’s a lot of things he might say. I don’t know what I would say myself. We’ve definitely shared the stage with some awesome acts. But I don’t know if I could say one, that would be hard for me to answer. But I could definitely tell you what the other guys would say.
BK: Yeah, fair enough. GKM would definitely cross over well, opening for those acts. And then my last question is about your van. Actually, I saw you at Princeton Porchfest, and I saw your van that day too. But how did that gig come about?
DR: We played Princeton. They used to do, before Porchfest, they used to do an arts festival and we played it one year. They really liked us. One of the girls who books the bands is friends with my old guitar player Mike. So she knew us. She’d seen us play before. So that’s how we kind of got in there. And then the year before that, we did the Princeton Community Festival for the summer. So they would do it on the green by the shops. And then this year we did the Porchfest. It’s actually funny, I got confused. We double booked for two Porchfests that day, for the Princeton and the Penske Porchfest. So for the first time ever I double booked us and had to cancel a gig, because I just was so confused with the P’s that I just thought they were all the same thing. So that was the first time I really made a blunder like that. But, yeah, that was a fun gig, and we had our van there. His name is Lucky.
BK: Lucky. Which is it, Passaic or Raritan Community College on the side of it?
DR: Passaic Community College.
BK: And I mean no disrespect, but it’s kinda beat. The one thing that’s funny to me is you guys have a lot of great logos that would look really good on that side, but do you prefer the more rugged look?
DR: A lot of people have offered to paint it, and there’s a couple of reasons we don’t want to paint it. I mean, it’s in really good shape. I do a good job getting the oil changed and everything when I have to. It’s only got about 60,000 miles on it. It had about 44 when I bought it, so we’ve done a good job taking care of it. We don’t want to draw attention when we’re out on the road for anything that says, like, This is a van, there’s band equipment, because that’s how you get robbed.
BK: Ahh yeah.
DR: I don’t know. Personally, I like the piece of shit look that it has. We named it Lucky after my late chihuahua, who, he died at 17. And right after he died, Brandon was like, We should name the van Lucky because it’s rotting from the inside just like he was. So that’s how we named the van. Also, my first car was a 1989 Chevy, baby blue Chevy pickup with rust, and there was like, a cab on the back, and it was just a real shitty looking pickup truck. So I always have a soft spot in my heart for shitty large vehicles.
BK: Nice. Definitely a rock and roll van.
DR: It actually leaks when it rains, so we have to keep a pot between the two front seats to catch the rain water. I fixed it once and then it started leaking again. I don’t really know how to fix it. I probably should take care of that or get it taken care of. Come on, Sophie.
BK: I’ll try to think of a good metaphor about the rain for that. For post-production edits.
DR: If you think of one, just add it in.
BK: Yeah. All right, great. So that’s my whole questions. The last thing I would just ask is, is there anything you’d want your fans to know about your upcoming schedule or anything going on that you want to mention?
DR: I guess I will give you an inside scoop. Our next big show is going to be December 8th at Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck. That’s our Santa Palooza. It’s an ugly sweater party, and we’re playing that with Ballyhoo. And then we’re doing a Santa Palooza in Maryland with Ballyhoo the day after, the 9th.
And there may be, to be announced, a full Santa Palooza tour that week, other Santa Paloozas on the East Coast. I can’t say yes or no because I don’t have the final confirmation from venues yet, but those two dates are fully confirmed and in the books. The Ballyhoo camp has not wanted to announce them yet because they’re still putting together some other dates. But we can, for our purposes, let people know that that is our next show.
BK: Okay, great. So December 8th and 9th. I can throw those in there.
DR: Yep in Teaneck and Columbia, Maryland.
BK: Cool. Alright great. Well thank you again for your time. Hopefully you have a burger that you’re ready to sink into about now.
DR: I have two of them, actually. And thanks, we appreciate it, Ben.
Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He has twice won the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the music scene in 2022 and 2023.