Super Whatevr in Portland by Harper King / Sick Snaps
Earlier this month, Super Whatevr wrapped up their first full US tour opening for Movements, Can’t Swim and Gleemer, and before the Portland date last month, I talked to vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Skyler McKee about the band and how much it has evolved in a short period of time.
Super Whatevr is an alternative rock band from Costa Mesa, California, and at its core is the project of Skyler McKee. “I think I was 9 or 10, and my dad bought a bass because his friend played bass, and he never played it, so I just took it. I never thought I’d be a musician. I wrote words a lot,” he explained. At school he began to learn piano, but when that class went away he decided to teach himself. “I just started watching a lot of YouTube and practicing for like 8 hours a day. Come to find out people now say that’s how you become good—you just practice 8 hours a day, and I just did it because I fell in love with it.” It wasn’t until about four years ago that he put focus into learning guitar. “I knew the simple chords, but my old lead singer taught me how to play in open tuning, DADGAD, it’s a version of open tuning and it makes the shapes easier because I didn’t know how to play, so I can’t really play in standard, but I can play in that tuning really well. That’s what every Super Whatevr song is in.”
As is the case with a lot of musicians, McKee was in a handful of other bands before the creation of Super Whatevr. He started out playing keyboard in a blink-182 cover band, but didn’t really know much about blink before going into it. “My friend at the time was like, ‘Do you like blink-182?’ and I didn’t grow up listening to blink-182, but I just lied because I wanted friends. I was like, ‘Yeah they’re my favorite band!’” McKee didn’t like the music, but still enjoyed being part of it. “I got kicked out of that band; that was the first and only band I’ve been kicked out of because I was too emotionally unstable—that was what they said, and that was a big theme of my childhood was that I was emotionally unstable, but it was hard because I was raised that way.” After being kicked out of the cover band, he moved onto punk, joined a Christian hardcore band, and later a pop band before giving up on music. He was working a job that made him miserable, so his girlfriend at the time suggested he pick back up on playing music, so he did and at that point was writing his own material.
“I started this writing poems. I didn’t write songs, but then songs were just the easiest way to get the poems into people’s faces via their ears,” he explained. From there Super Whatevr grew a full band lineup, and started playing shows in their area. They played a residency at The Wayfarer every Monday, and Movements’ vocalist Pat Miranda made it out to one of their shows and helped get the ball rolling for them. “[He] talked a little bit about it to his friends, and his friends are bigger than my friends in the industry, and so they got us to start playing with the Emo Nite crew.” Soon after, Super Whatevr connected with Hopeless Records and within a very short period of time there was a meeting, a showcase, and then paperwork to make things official.
Following the signing, they did a small run of shows with Drug Church. Then, last winter they opened for a leg of The Spill Canvas’ tour, but due to winter weather conditions and van issues, they missed some shows. Opening for Movements was their first chance to play a full US tour. It was off to a rocky start as their transmission went out on their way to Seattle, but McKee seemed unphased by this as he was just so happy to be doing what he’s doing. Earlier this year, he decided to make some lineup changes to surround himself with healthier people which made a hard situation much easier to cope with. “I’m traveling with some of my best friends, and they’re so talented and so loving and respectful,” he said. “We’re frickin’ on tour with Movements, Can’t Swim and Gleemer, and I don’t care, I’ll figure [the van situation] out later. I’m very happy.”
Super Whatevr by Harper King / Sick Snaps
It took a few tries to lock down the perfect lineup. “[Bassist] Josiah is married and [lead guitarist] Nate is married too. They were both working at a megachurch and they were solid, like they didn’t need a band, but then both of them were questioning what they wanted to do in life and all these things, and I offered them to join the band and they both said no.” A few months passed and things progressively grew more unhealthy with the previous lineup, but at the same time the Super Whatevr team was growing and getting more serious, so he asked Josiah and Nate again, and they were all in. “If I get what I want, this is who stays, these are my friends, these are people I love.” Now that McKee is surrounded by good people who are invested in his band, he gets to focus on playing his songs and sharing his story with listeners who, to his amazement, are already singing along, even to the new songs.
Many of the band’s lyrics revolve around mental health, and both times that I’ve seen Super Whatevr, McKee has taken a moment to acknowledge this during their set. He says something to the effect of: if your friends are happy, make sure that they’re really happy, and if they’re sad, make sure you’re there for them, typically before “Someone Somewhere Somehow.”
“In its roots, Super Whatevr is a suicide awareness and prevention project and outreach. I don’t label the band as that, that’s not something that I push, but the inner workings of the whole thing is to help people through their process and get people out of dysfunctional mental states and things like that. I’m getting out of it, so I’m just writing as I go, and I hope that helps people.”
His desire to connect with people through his music is happening quite naturally as the band has developed a loyal following that I’ve seen on social media. McKee is great at communication on Twitter and Instagram, and it appears to be a very supportive and uplifting community that’s formed out of love for the band’s music.
Although Never Nothing was just released a few months ago, McKee is always writing and looking toward the future. He spends a lot of time listening to albums from his influences to prepare for the writing process, and plays the albums in the van for the rest of the band, so they can begin to understand the direction in which he wants to take their sound. He said the records that he channeled for Never Nothing were Thank You, Happy Birthday by Cage The Elephant, Cope by Manchester Orchestra, and Paranoid by Black Sabbath.
Now for the answer to a question we have all likely wondered about Super Whatevr at some point… Where’s the other ‘e’ in ‘Whatevr?’. The answer isn’t anything close to what I guessed prior to this interview. McKee explained, “I have OCD and I like when things fit together, and I’ve had the idea for Never Nothing, for years and Super Whatever was one letter more than Never Nothing, and in my head, they’ll never be put right next to each other, but in my head, I was like that’d be so nice if they fit in, so I took an ‘e’ out. That’s why. They’re both 12 letters.” It also worked out that 12 songs felt like the right amount for the album. I think it’s safe to say that we can expect a recurrence of the number 12 in the future of Super Whatevr. I also have a feeling we can expect a lot more shows, and many more fun and impactful tunes from them.
Speaking of shows, Super Whatevr just announced that they’re opening for Sum 41 and Seaway on another big US tour from April 27 – May 26. Find dates and tickets at superwhatevr.com/shows!