Interview by: Gimpleg
In his debut interview, Gimpleg had the pleasure of speaking with Holy Schnike’s Mike Alvarez. Together they discussed Mike’s musical instruments, band names, Ska Punk International, and shared some breaking news regarding a future release from Holy Schnikes!
1. Hello and welcome to Music Shelf, how are you doing today?
I am doing well! Thanks!
2. You are one half of Holy Schnikes, but you are in other bands as well, and you play multiple instruments. What bands are you in, and what instruments do you play on each band?
I am the writer, singer, and guitarist for Good Luck, Ugly! And The Toy Yodas!, I play drums for a cover band, and I am everything in the solo project Sounds Like Mike!
Apparently I’m really into exclamation marks.
3. What was the first instrument you learned to play, and what is your favorite instrument to play?
I started playing Alto-Sax in 6th grade. I really enjoyed being in band. I wanted to move to Bari Sax my 7th grade year but my band director tricked me into playing the tuba. Even though I started on Sax, Tuba I think was my first real instrument. I got pretty good on it.
My favorite instrument is tough. I write most every song on guitar but I do enjoy playing drums and bass a lot. It’s a three way tie.
4. Who are your biggest musical influences?
This is really hard. I have a lot. The easy ones to choose are Blink-182, Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, Suburban Legends, The Toasters, Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything. I have songs that I can pinpoint what songs influenced which song I wrote. But I think I’ve had a bit of new influence in a lot of the Bad Time Records groups like We Are The Union, Kill Lincoln, JER, Omnigone, and some other newer bands like Flying Raccoon Suit and my friends in Young Costello.
5. What is your songwriting process like?
I have ADHD or something so I get hyper fixated on an idea. Most of my songs are written in an hour. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But I get an idea and I will get my guitar and do a sound recording on my phone. I’ll put the idea to a progression and then I’ll just kinda improvise the whole song based on what I did in the first section. Then when I get home I get on my computer and record a scratch track, put the drums and bass on, and then finish with the vocals. I’ll have a pretty decent demo in an hour. And nine times out of ten the demo version is what the final version is. Rarely, I have an idea that I can’t get around. The song “I’m Waiting” on GLU’s first album was a song that I wrote the lick for, like, ten years before but could never finish. I’m glad it took that long because I really like how “I’m Waiting” turned out.
6. Good Luck, Ugly’s most recent album came out in December 2020, and was inspired, in large part, by the pandemic and living in a pandemic influenced world. What was writing and releasing that album like?
That one was tough. I wrote some of my best songs – and some of my worst. We had just parted ways with our drummer right before the pandemic started. Then it hit big. Couldn’t really sit down with my bass player, Chris, but I was writing a lot. I think I needed to write. I needed to get my ideas out, even if they were irreverent. We had moved and I finally got a space where I could record and produce a whole album. It was my first attempt at producing a full length on my own. That album is just me. I play everything. My buddy Jeff did some screaming on a couple tracks but otherwise it’s just me in my garage. I learned a lot about mixing, mastering, and song writing. I can listen to maybe six songs on that album and feel really proud. The rest are a testament to “learning as you go” and they’re pretty cringe, haha.
7. In 2021 the Toy Yodas remastered and re-released their 2009 LP. Is there anything on the horizon as far as new material for the Toy Yodas?
This one was fun. We were able to come back a little bit and record a couple songs. We recorded a new version of “Hate You” and we did a cover of MU330’s “La.” I got my buddy Alfredo on trumpet, who was the Yodas’ original trumpet player, and we got David Robledo and Matt Rodarte who were in Skamakazi and Matt’s brother John. We played shows together back in the day and they were stoked to join. But Alfredo is in the Steady 45s and the other guys have their own projects, so it was really hard to maintain. Maybe in the future but for right now, it’s on hiatus.
8. Your bands have great names, how did you come up with the names?
I like memorable, easy, and dumb. There’s something very funny to me about a band that may have serious songs that have a ludicrously dumb name. The Toy Yodas was easy because Alfredo and I started the band when I posted a sign up at Citrus College and he answered. I think both of us being Mexican-American gave us a connection and Toy Yodas is how our parents pronounce Toyota. So it’s a play on that and our love for Star Wars.
Good Luck, Ugly! Was just something I found very funny. To have merch, having an MC announce, or seeing it on a poster is very funny to me. But I guess the heart behind it is that I wanted to take something like an insult and make it the foundation of a band that had fun.
Holy Schnikes! Is because I’m a big Chris Farley fan. Growing up as a big kid, Tommy Boy was a hefty part of my media diet. Felt like a good name for two big guys making music.
And as far as Sounds Like Mike – I’ve had that name since high school but never made anything substantial. Hopefully, I will be changing that this year.
9. Last year Holy Schnikes released Born Under Power Lines, a collection of cover songs, but you’ve said before that Holy Schnikes is not just a cover band. What’s next for the band?
We are aiming to release an original album in the early 2023(hopefully before March). It’ll be title “Greeting Ghosts” – which I’m really excited about.
10. If Holy Schnikes is you and Jacob Guerrero, how do you perform live shows? Is it just the two of you?
We’ve added some more fire power to the arsenal. We have Leo from Young Costello playing Sax and Javi from The Third Rates playing trombone. As far as live, we add Nick Valdez from Young Costello on drums.
11. How did Holy Schnikes end up on Ska Punk International and what was that process like?
I think it was Jacob that connected with Chris. Chris has been super supportive and a great label. I’m not entirely sure what the catalyst was but I think once we started showing Chris songs, he was stoked to let us jump in.
The music industry has been severely impacted by COVID, with live entertainment grinding to a halt for 2 years, but you seem to have stayed pretty engaged by creating music. How has the pandemic impacted your career as a musician?
Oddly enough, it’s allowed me to collaborate more. I think the pandemic forced everyone to be internet bands. And I was able to connect with so many people from Jacob, to Megawave, to Flying Raccoon Suit. It’s also forced me to get better at my mixing and producing skills.
I’m still hoping to connect with a local band to play more live shows, but if anything, I’ve been more busy in these pandemic times than prior.
12. You have another project coming up that hasn’t really been that public. What is that, and what led to the start of this project?
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s called Sounds Like Mike. It’s a solo project. I am aiming to produce a whole album. The music from it is probably some of the most raw but catchiest songs I’ve ever written. My mom died in July of 2022 and I’ve really been reeling from that. I’ve used music to try to process some of that grief and it really comes through in some of the songs.
13. You wear Dodgers gear and have Dodgers memorabilia in a lot of your pictures. Do you ever go to games, and if so, what is your favorite ballpark food?
Oh! Thanks for noticing. I try to go to a few games a year. I live in Orange County so I’m about 45 minutes from Dodger Stadium. So when I can I make it out there. But it’s funny, I love the team but I wear it all to remember my dad. He was a big fan and somehow was pretty connected to them in the 80s. There’s a story that everyone tells about before I was born that my dad came home(we live in LA, like 10 minutes from Dodger Stadium), and he asked everyone to the door to meet someone and it was Fernando Valenzuela, who my dad had picked up from the airport or something and was dropping him off. As far as memorabilia, I have tickets from the 88 world series. I’ve got a baseball signed by Manny Mota and one signed by Kiké Hernandez. I got a letter that my grandma received from Tommy Lasorda.
As far as food, a Dodger dog is classic but they’ve got some carne asada fries that are excellent.