Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Massachusetts’s Robbie Stokes. Together we discussed their home state, their influences, their latest EP “Mixed Signals”, and so much more! Check it out below!
1. Hello! Mustard is thankful to have you join them. How are you doing today?
What’s happening, Mustard? It’s a pleasure to be here! I’m doing well, super excited to be doing my first interview… and with my favorite condiment to boot. It’s pretty sick.
2. Mustard has observed that you are from Massachusetts. What are some of your favorite things to do in this state? Is there any truth behind Massachusetts drivers being massholes?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to appreciate Massachusetts, and the coast in general, a lot more. It truly is a beautiful place when it’s not snowing… the beaches are incredible and my favorite part of living here by far. So, when I’m NOT hibernating, you can catch me by the shore, baby. Oh, and we have great seafood here. If you ever stop by, I’ll treat you to a lobster roll. As for the drivers? It’s chaos. I swear, some of these people don’t know what a blinker is. I’ll be honest though, I try to avoid the road as much as possible. I have this little battery-powered scooter that I’ve been getting around on. It’s quick, and since I’m on the lighter side, I can pick up speed like a champion. Check mate, Massholes.
3. Massachusetts is a beautiful state. Where do you like to go for inspiration? Where do you recommend all humans check out in Massachusetts? Have you had the pleasure of checking out Massachusetts artists such as Honey Eyes or ambrosial?
I agree completely. I used to take it for granted until I opened my eyes. You know, there was a point in my life where I wanted to dip to Los Angeles… and while I’m not completely against that idea, I think I’d miss the seasons too much, if that makes sense. As for inspiration? I love spending time by the water; watching, listening, taking in the sea breeze. It’s hypnotic. It allows me to clear my head a bit. It’s good. Oh, and shout out to both Honey Eyes and Shannon (ambrosial). I heard the new Honey Eyes single a day or two ago and really jived with their sound. And Shannon, she’s extremely talented. We’ve been following each other for a bit now and I consider myself a fan and a friend of hers… we may or may not be planning a collaboration. You’ll have to stay tuned. Aw, yeah.
4. You’re influenced by early sixties pop music. Who are some of your influences?
Oh yeah, I’m all about that bouncy, sixties pop music, baby. I think the love songs of that era are works of art… my absolute favorites are the songs that tell a sweet story, but have this repetitive, four-chord progression running behind ‘em…catchy as hell. As weird as this sounds, the cheesier the lyrics and melodies, the better. I guess you can call that a guilty pleasure. Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vinton, Frankie Valli, Brian Hyland, and Dion were and still are huge influences of mine. Brian Hyland did the Yellow Polka Dot Bikini song, which is a bop and a half.
I wanted to make a “modernized” sixties pop record with “LOVER BOY” in an attempt to breathe a bit of life back into the “cheesy love songs of the sixties” genre, so you might be able to hear a bit of the influence in the lyrics and progressions. “Mixed Signals” sees more of the same in terms of the songwriting, but I allowed myself to experiment a bit more with the melodies and progressions – a natural evolution of my sound, if you will. It’s cool.
5. What is your creative process?
So, I’m basically a one-man show. I write, record, mix, master – the whole lot. It’s been that way since the beginning. I do it all in this little corner of this bedroom I share with my girlfriend. It’s got a vaulted ceiling. I have vinyl records, VHS tapes, all of my instruments, and equipment neatly arranged, but it’s a bit tight. It’s kind of charming I think. I think being surrounded by all this junk is inspiring, scarily enough. Anyhoo, when I was first getting started, I did everything on acoustic guitar. It was very limiting, as my chord knowledge isn’t great… that’s why most of the progressions on “LOVER BOY” are very similar. It wasn’t until “Mixed Signals” that I decided to put the guitar down for a second and try my hand at the keys. I found doing it this way gave me a lot more freedom, as I know my way around a keyboard a bit better.
When putting a track together, I’ll always start with my instrumental. I’ll start by laying down a progression, then a melody. When I’m satisfied with my tune, I’ll listen back however many times I need to until I get a feeling for what kind of song it’s going to be… THEN come the lyrics. It sounds a bit convoluted I know, but hey – it works for me.
6. You began making music in 2020 during the nationwide lockdown. How did this abundance of time spark your desire to make music? Had you been wanting to make music before this?
Like you said, I had a LOT of free time during this period. I think we all picked up some sort of strange, new hobby – like the bread thing. Remember that? 2020 as a whole was an absolute disaster, but if anything good came out of it, it was for sure the music thing. I found myself cooped up in the bedroom that entire year and left the house very sparingly. I became a bit of an agoraphobiac. If I didn’t start writing, I would’ve lost my mind. I wanted to distract myself, so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I recorded a good chunk of the “LOVER BOY” demos in 2020. It was a struggle for all of us, but it was great to have the music as an outlet, a way to be creative and keep busy.
I’ve always liked the idea of making music at home, but hadn’t even picked up a guitar until a week before the pandemic began, seriously. I think the desire to create music was always there, but was never really a focus until now. In a way, I’m grateful not for the pandemic itself, but for the time I had to discover this passion of mine.
7. If you could have your music played in any diner, what diner would it be? What would be on the menu to compliment your music?
Interestingly enough, diners are still somewhat relevant in my area. I live near a good chunk of diners that are shaped like trains. I think they’re called lunch cars. You ever step into one of those? It’s like stepping back in time. I dig it. I can’t think of a specific diner I’d want my music played in, but eggs over easy would have to be on the TOP of the menu.
I would like to believe that “LOVER BOY” is a nice record to dip your toast in yolk to. “Mixed Signals” you can top off with some bacon and one of those heavy milkshakes. God, now I want breakfast for dinner.
8. Your music gets added a jukebox. What number selection is your song? Who else is in the jukebox with you?
I’d definitely want my music placed towards the back of the jukebox, only to play at closing time. Maybe #25. I can have one of those super secret tracks nobody knows about and never gets played. I’d put all the greats up front like Connie, Ricky, maybe some early Beatles, then hopefully have some heads turning by the end when someone finally chooses the Robbie special.
9. 2021 saw the release of your debut album “LOVER BOY.” Could you share more about putting this album together? Have you had any interactions with UFOs? Has the government been in contact with you?
In hindsight, “LOVER BOY” was so much fun to put together… super fulfilling too. I don’t think I did too bad with her either, being my big debut and all. I’ll admit, my mental health was trash during the production of this record, but being able to get it out there and share it with the world made it all worthwhile.
I recorded all of the demos on my iPad Pro with a pair of those stock Apple headphones acting as a microphone. It was super screwy, but ya gotta start somewhere right? I spent the spring and summer of 2021 recording the final versions with proper equipment… looking back, navigating this goofy recording process and finding my way was my favorite aspect of the “LOVER BOY” sessions. It was an awesome learning experience and a great way to get the feet wet.
And as of now, I have had no alien contact. No word from the government either. Bummer. Maybe they just haven’t heard the record yet. Give it time.
10. NASA allows you the chance to have a relationship with an alien on the planet of your choice. What planet do you go too?
Mustard, have you seen ALF? I’m sure you have. If any of you readers out there aren’t familiar with ALF, Gordon Shumway, he’s from an eighties sitcom of the same name. It’s about this hairy alien who crash lands on Earth and moves in with the Tanner family.
ALF is from the planet Melmac, so I can see myself going there to hang out. I can see ALF and I getting along, but I could never eat a cat. I’m sure we could work something out though. Do you think ALF will see this? Hi, Gordon!
11. You recently released the follow up of “LOVER BOY” with “Mixed Signals.” Are these two albums connected through a shared narrative?
Awesome question. So, “LOVER BOY” is kind of like a concept album, though not officially. It’s a collection of those kitschy sixties-inspired love songs, like I mentioned before. However, I didn’t really have a narrative in mind when crafting this one – while there is some truth to some of those songs, it’s mostly pretty generalized. I just wanted to write some silly love songs and have some fun!
With “Mixed Signals”, I was a bit more focused on what I wanted to achieve. I had written and demoed two new love songs and two new break-up songs by complete accident. I realized four tracks wouldn’t pass for a full-length record, but I was extremely eager to share these songs… then it hit me. I’ll put out a shorter record, and EP, and split it down the middle; the first half being all about love, the second half covering the break-ups. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to cover both sides of a relationship in an even way… thus, my little “Mixed Signals” was born.
So, to answer your question, Mustard – definitely more of a narrative this time around. Hehe!
12. Mixed signals are something humans sometimes give each other. What are some examples of mixed signals?
I think a lot of mixed signals come from a place of uncertainty, specifically in a relationship. If your feelings are very touch and go with your sweetheart, you might give them mixed signals – for example, you express feelings of love one day, but those feelings fade the next. Or, you say one thing to your lover, but your actions are completely different. It’s like “Hey, things aren’t adding up. What’s going on? How do you REALLY feel about me?” That’s why I felt “Mixed Signals” was a wonderfully suitable title, you get both sides.
13. What’s next for Robbie Stokes?
Well, I’m definitely gonna take a bit of time off from recording to enjoy the rest of the summer. I want to hit up the beach a few more times before it starts cooling down over here. As for my next record, I’ve been juggling a few ideas already.
I’m not sure if I want to expand on this newer sound a bit more, or take things in a completely new direction. I’ve always wanted to do a Jimmy Buffet record, something tropical with a lot of lap steel… but another part of me wants to go in a Dean Martin direction. How cool would that be? Robbie the Crooner? I doubt I could pull it off, but you never know. But, that’s where my mind’s at right now. What I can promise is that I’m far from done with music. I’m just getting started, captain. So, stick around.
14. Where can readers listen to your music?
I’m on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Pandora, YouTube? Hm… I think that’s it. I feel like there might be more, but just about anywhere! Feel free to check out the tunes. They don’t take themselves too seriously, but will welcome you with open arms. It’s cute. Thank ya so much for taking the time, readers – and Mustard, you’re a champion. Gotta fly. Robbie out.