When I saw The Greeting Committee for the first time in 2018, I had never heard of them before. Even with the restrictions of an opening slot, by the end of their set, I knew they were one of the most entertaining and energetic live bands in the indie rock scene and beyond. Sincere and spirited, singer Addie Sartino is exceptional at making a crowd feel less like a random mass of people and more like a singular wave she can command and surf upon as effortlessly as Poseidon. It’s spectacular.
If you don’t know The Greeting Committee from physically being at one of their shows, you may know them from their rooftop cameo and soundtrack contribution in Netflix’s To All The Boys: Always and Forever. If you’re only discovering them now, no need to worry – they are currently putting out their best music to date. Which is saying a lot: their high school demos released at age 15 were already good enough to make the Kansas City quartet into viral indie-rock sensations, and their debut album This Is It established their place as ones-to-watch in the indie-rock scene. Because The Greeting Committee are continuously growing and pushing themselves, they are always just about to put out their next best song. In this case, their latest album Dandelion (out September 24) is where their vibrant indie rock is reaching new levels of vulnerability, depth, and all-around greatness.
Singer Addie Sartino is just as thoughtful, open, and bright in conversation as she is on stage, so it was an absolute pleasure to catch up with her over Zoom. Read on to discover what it’s like to stage dive in a hazmat suit, learn about band therapy, and go behind the scenes on their new album Dandelion!
Melodic Magazine: You started your career pretty young – Do you think that gave you a unique perspective on the music industry?
Addie Sartino: Yeah, I think for sure it’s given me a unique perspective. I would say that there’s a level of like… I was growing, and I think this happens for every artist, but when you’re 15 your music is going to sound very different than when you’re 23 and I would say that there’s parts of that that I like and then parts of that that I cringe at for sure. But I think ultimately it’s given a sense of vulnerability to our fans, we’ve really gotten to grow up with our fans and I think that’s pretty special.
MM: I feel like The Greeting Committee is known for your concerts. I’ve seen you live 3 times and every show your energy is spectacular. Did you always have such confidence and energy?
Addie: No actually, I think the Jukebox The Ghost tour in 2018 is where I saw a big shift, and the boys (Band members Pierce Turcotte, Brandon Yangmi, and Austin Fraser) and a family friend pointed out that there had been a shift. I think the Jukebox tour was where I really got comfortable and confident and really learned what it meant to be a front woman. Ben (Thornewill), the lead singer of Jukebox The Ghost, was actually pretty helpful. I had him watch a few of our sets and told him that I would really love notes from him on what he thought I could do better. And he really helped me find the balance with being energetic– being energetic shouldn’t come at the cost of my performance, I need to pick and choose when that happens because I can’t throw around my body for 90 minutes or even just 30 minutes and expect for myself the sound as good as if I hadn’t done that. So kind of just picking which songs I need to calm down for and how I can balance that. I would say that developed on that Jukebox tour.
MM: Connection is such a core part of your mission as The Greeting Committee. Since we’re in a time where everything is so disconnected, I want to know how you’ve been adapting. Has either your mission as a band or how you see yourself as a musician changed at all?
Addie: I really love that you asked me that and that that’s something you’ve gathered because connection is definitely what I would say is the biggest word that comes to mind. I think connecting during the time of not being able to physically be with one another has been really difficult, but I would say that it was sort of a reminder of why music is so important I think when you’re isolated. For me I found music through isolation growing up, so it was a chance to go back to that.
I wouldn’t say that has changed, but it has taken different forms. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of feel like the internet is sort of fading in a way, and I think it’s switching around platforms. I noticed really heavily when people aren’t as active on Instagram or Twitter because so much of our interaction with people is through those platforms. That being said, Tik Tok’s booming and other platforms for sure. I don’t really use Snapchat but I know my siblings that are younger than me definitely use snapchat a lot so I don’t know, it’s definitely interesting. I’m happy to be back playing shows for sure, but I do feel like that’s kind of… I don’t feel safe in that yet. I don’t want it to go away again, but it definitely could. So everyone get vaccinated please so this will go away!
MM: Vaccinations have an official endorsement from The Greeting Committee!
Addie: Oh that they do! We had our first show back recently in Kansas city and I stage dove in a hazmat suit and very loudly declared please get vaccinated, so we’re definitely endorsing vaccinations in this band.
MM: Wow you’re right back in it! Stage diving and everything?
Addie: I wore a mask, and I wore a hazmat suit, I did not want to- one big things during lockdown was I didn’t want this… half connection? I was pretty stubborn that either you’re not gonna see us or you’re going to see us virtually, but I’m not going to do like- I don’t want to drive in shows, I really think that would’ve felt really lonely to me and I wanted to protect myself from that. But yeah I prepared with the suit to hop in the crowd.
MM: I remember you mentioning that these new songs have been harder to prepare to play live because there’s a lot going on sonically. How have you been overcoming that challenge?
Addie: I am really lucky that I don’t have to do a ton of the grunt work for that, the boys really get stuck kind of doing that for me, but I obviously give my opinion and we definitely went back and forth a lot. Specifically I would say Can I Leave Me Too was pretty hard to transfer live just because so much of our sound in the beginning was just the 4 of us, and us basically being in your face as much as we could. An element of that makes for really good live music even if it’s not the best studio music. I think we’re seeing a shift, leaning more into the studio side of things.
But how do we transfer that into live…. The forefront for me is really, let’s abandon whatever we knew about this song and just make it entertaining to play and watch. Our last EP I’m Afraid I’m Not Angry was not as enjoyable to perform for us because we were so stuck on making it sound how the record was. I think for this that’s why I don’t want that. I don’t want to have a song that you guys aren’t being able to be a part of, even if that means sacrificing certain sounds. And so specifically for the outro of Can I Leave Me Too Brandon kept wanting to play something where it basically made him stuck in one place on stage and I was like I want to see you on your guitar going crazy though, I think that it’s more important to me than listening to something when it already exists in the recording. So we definitely found a balance and I appreciate that he wants to keep the integrity of the song so much. Everything The Greeting Committee does is born out of one of us feeling very strongly this way and another person very strongly another way, w hich is so frustrating but also pretty cool that we somehow continue to make that work
MM: It’s inspirational that you guys are still a band because I’ve heard you say that before, but you manage to make it work.
Addie: The compromise makes it work. And also I guess this is an important thing to say because I haven’t really shared this: one thing that came out of this album, or more so the fact that we’ve been together for 7 years, is that the band is starting to do band therapy and really working together to make sure that we are all as happy as we can be with one another. I think that’s really important to share with the world because I just saw The Head and the Heart tweet about their band therapy and I messaged them to say thank you so much for being transparent about this! I don’t think a lot of listeners know the difficulty that comes with caring so highly about a project or something but also having so many individuals be a part of it.
MM: Can you explain more about how you got into band therapy? Are a lot of bands doing this but just not talking about it?
Addie: I would probably guess that there are more bands doing band therapy than who share. I can’t think of them off the top of my head, but if I saw that The Head and the Heart was doing it and we’re doing it then I have to think that more people are doing it.
Basically, being isolated and in the pandemic and creating a piece of work, and it gets harder to create for every body of work that we do I would say, mostly because we just increase our expectations of ourselves. And what I love about the boys and myself is that when it comes to creating we really care about what we put out. But with that comes natural disagreement and natural… like we’re all very different people. I think an interesting fact is I’m the oldest child of my family and they’re all the youngest boys of their families and I think that’s huge. And then on top of that everyone’s a different level of vocal, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s a different level of how they feel about things though.
MM: Can’t make music if you’re not vibing on an emotional level. It’s like having bad coworkers I’d imagine.
Addie: Yeah, it’s so sad to do something so intimate if you’re not happy to be in the room with each other. I would say that the process for Dandelion was actually one of the best work flows we’ve had. I think we all took a step back and made sure to make sure everyone felt really cared for during that time. A lot of it is reflecting on, you know we started at 15 and now we’re 23-24, a lot of growth has happened but there’s also a lot to catch up from. I did stupid stuff when I was 16 and 17, I didn’t have the empathy that I have now or maybe even the self awareness, and so it’s like how do I patch this up and also how do we move forward in a way that makes everyone feel good. I actually wasn’t the one that pushed for group therapy, Brandon was really a champion of it and I was really proud of that because I see my own therapist, most of the boys have their therapists as well, and I think therapy is so important. And I think if The Head and the Heart tweeting about this made me feel less alone then again, here’s another way to have a sort of connection is us talking about this and what we go through.
MM: I really want to get into the making of the record Dandelion. Did you discover anything new while making a second record?
Addie: Brandon was pretty apathetic towards guitar music which was really hard for me because I notice most alternative bands go through the same thing where they sort of have these guitar based records and all of a sudden whip out synthesizers and you’re like what the hell just happened? Which we did. We tried to find a balance though, and I’m happy we did that because I think there’s a level of leaning towards new listeners but also acknowledging the people who have been there with you through the whole journey so I would say just that we were more intentional than we’ve ever been with this record.
MM: What was your intention?
Addie: Pushing ourselves. I would say trying to make something that wasn’t going to feel so far removed from who we’ve been but that also felt genuine to where we’re at currently. And that’s tricky because again, four different individual people who all feel very different things, but I do think we all kind of felt like we want to do something fresh and new so it’s good we were all on that page.
MM: I really love the new singles, and I also love the album art. Does the art connect thematically to the album at all?
Addie: I would say that it does. The single art leading into the album art was basically just supposed to be that she goes from being very physically and emotionally disoriented to slowly becoming a more whole, healthy person. But there’s these lips for eyes, so there’s still something kind of funky about her because that’s what growth and healing and life is. You’re never fully arrived into this amazing utopia of yourself or fully at peace, there’s always gonna be something happening.
MM: I want to get into the singles that have come out so far. In Can I Leave Me Too you’re revisiting an older break up. What was it like to revisit those old emotions after you’ve had some distance from them?
Addie: When I was going through my break up I was so sad that I didn’t listen to music and I didn’t write, I just couldn’t… It was too much. I wasn’t letting myself feel certain emotions as well. I couldn’t really feel anger, I couldn’t feel joy, most of it was just being stuck in the sadness part of grief. I guess this album follows my journey of being in that position to not being okay completely, and by the last song you see a glimmer of hope and you know that it’s going to be okay. That last song is called 10, it’s very reflective of Can I Leave Me Too because it takes you to that last moment and that’s actually very personal because that song is about the moment that Elise called me wanting to get back together. And so we never get fully back together in this album, but in real life we did and I wrote almost all of it after we were back together because that was when I felt safe enough to fully grieve. Which is a really hard thing, it was very difficult for her and myself because it’s like, do we want to keep rehashing these things? But for me I’m an external processor. I have to work through it by talking about it and singing about it. It’s like I can’t get it out of me until it literally goes forever.
MM: Float Away also has that sort of melancholy, so is the whole album exploring and revisiting that past sort of trauma that you couldn’t address at the time?
Addie: Yeah I’d say so. I think the whole album is definitely a window in time. Whereas This Is It was more reflective of like 20 years of life this is very much a snapshot of like 6 months of life. And Can I Leave Me Too and Float Away, the reason that they’re the more melancholic songs is because they’re the first 2 songs of the album. So there’s very much a story to Dandelion and you’re going to see that we’re lowest of the low at Can I Leave Me Too and then we kind of do a rollercoaster ride until the end up higher.
MM: I want to ask about the new track Ada. I know you met Ada because she worked handling the merch, but where did the friendship form?
Addie: You know it really subtly happened. I think I really enjoyed having her work on our merch team, I just valued her opinion a lot and gravitated towards her, and then for some reason it came up that I was down to walk her dog. And her dog’s name is Cowboy and he’s huge and it’s hilarious. She was going out of town so I watched him for a couple of days and walked him and let him out and what not. From there it developed into a friendship.
MM: Where did the song start then?
Addie: So the song started with Pierce having brought in a demo and it had this four or five part sax harmony. I liked it, but where it was at the time wasn’t where it needed to be necessarily, or it just kind of felt like Pierce had taken it where he could. And Brandon decided to take the pieces of that and put it into this piece of technology/instrument called an OP1 and just started chopping it up and that’s where you get the like main melody of the song. And then Brandon had a vision of these specific drums which I think a lot of influence came from a Tyler The Creator song that I’m blanking on right now. I kind of feel like Ada is one of the most dancey things we’ve ever done unless I’m blanking on something. But that’s where the instrumentation came from.
I was really stuck on what to do with the lyrics, and Pierce comes out with this robust story about this woman who is in a sexy club and feels good about herself and walks out and is dancing at the gas station. It made no sense but I was like cool, authenticity is the biggest thing I’m getting here. So I don’t know how that led to me thinking of my friend Ada but that’s where I went to. It was actually my friend Ada and another friend Dakota and both of their stories as members of the LGBTQ+ community, but they’re on a different spectrum than where I live in the LGBTQ+ community so I was like, this is not my story to tell but I want to write it because I think it’s important. I asked Ada, so can we hop on the phone/can we walk together and talk about this? Can you give me your life story, are you okay with me doing that? And from there it transferred into this mostly true story, but obviously dressing it up with metaphors and making it fit into a song. Basically with most of that coming from Ada but some of it pulling from Dakota and pulling from myself is how that became the lyrics of the song.
MM: How did your conversations with Ada change your approach to the song?
Addie: I would say just sort of surrendering to like, this is not my story to tell, so don’t put too much of my personal spin on it, just try to stick to what’s provided and do that as best I can while giving it justice. Because I think for me to come in as a bisexual woman is very different than if I were to come in as a transgender woman, so I wanted to be really respectful of the fact that it’s not mine to speak on. But I do have a platform where I can amplify a story that’s been shared with me with permission.
MM: Did she say anything specific in that conversation that really stuck with you?
Addie: I would say something that stuck with me was probably… I turned it into the line pray on pennies to awake in my body from her sharing that when she was growing up she would wish that she would just wake up in the body that she felt was really for her and I felt like that was so visual for me. I don’t know why that really stuck with me in what she had shared. Just being able to hear her talk about where she grew up in a small town and how now she’s here in Kansas city. And just so much of the craziness that has gone on in her life simply just to be her 100% authentic self, it’s like god that’s so exhausting and not fair honestly, but you’re here now and I’m so happy you’re here now. That’s why it was really important to me and to Ada that the song Ada ended in a bit of joy or a bit of peace, because I don’t want to just write about the queer narrative as this difficult journey. While that’s great, that’s what it’s so focused on all the time is the hardship. And I want us to get somewhere, I want people to know that you can find your crew of people that support you and love you and welcome you.
MM: You’re going back on tour soon, and you already mentioned you wore a hazmat suit which fits into what I was going to ask… first it was jumpsuits, and then it was blazers, so are hazmat suits the next look for The Greeting Committee?
Addie: I hope I don’t have to keep that, that thing is hot! It was just locking and all the sweat and steam! But we’re still sticking with pant suits, I got all new pant suits. You know I don’t have that Harry Styles money where I can just take the Gucci suits, but I tried to go a little bit more in that fun vibrant direction more so than I did before with my pant suits.