Since departing from Jacks Mannequin in 2010, Jon “Dr. J” Sullivan has decked music clubs, quaked basements, and shared a Colorado stage with the late, great, WEEN on New Year’s Eve 2011 while fronting the double-bass Dance-Punk juggernaut known as Kid Is Qual. A frequent visitor of the great Garden State, Chris Rotolo and Mike Mehalick caught up with Sullivan to discus parting ways with Andrew McMahon and company, performing alongside Gene, Dean, and the crew, and Qual’s recent collaboration with the classic Hip-Hop artist and Producer Schooly D.
Check out the interview below, stay tuned for more on the forthcoming release of Qual’s collaboration with Schooly D, and be sure to check out the Sullivan and the gang when the band headlines the upcoming SIMGE Showcase at Asbury Lanes on August 25th with Tango Machina, Senium, and more TBA.
1) Kid Is Qual’s sound is centered around the bass as lead instrument. What possible influences do you draw from when writing your parts?
Writing is such a weird process. You never know where inspiration will come from. In general for KIQ, I tend to lean on Roger Troutman, Death from Above 1979, Gapp Band, and Ernie Isley as a general starting point. But recently I have been laying into Metric, QOTSA, Ween, Mastodon, Lamb of God, and the Academy Is (Santi, in particular), and Beach House.
2) Your new EP, Ladies Choice, tightens up on the framework set down on Damn Son. How did the experience of recording each of those EP’s differ from the other?
Damn Son took a long time to record, mostly because I was so busy with my other band at the time. I would definitely say it was a lot more “laid back”. With Ladies Choice, I already had an idea of what i wanted us to achieve, but I was a lot more specific in the details of the recording. I also tried to move away from the talk box a little, just to switch it up.
3) You had to make the difficult choice of leaving Jack’s Mannequin. What was the turning point in deciding to focus on Kid Is Qual full time?
You know Chris, that was a really difficult time in my life. I loved what we were doing, and the fellas in JM are like my family. It really was a great 6 years. But Drew hired a new management company, and the dudes sucked. In my opinion, it’s peeps like them who are destroying the music industry. They are the kind of people who won’t even make eye contact with you, and they wouldn’t even watch us perform. They would just sit backstage and check their emails. Who does that? I learned a lot in that time dealing with music biz people like them who don’t love music. They love money.
4) Your full time use of a talk-box lends itself well to the swells of your bass grooves. What led you to it and do you envision us ever seeing a Kid Is Qual release that doesn’t feature it?
I always had an interest in the talk box, even before I knew what it was. As a little dude I would hear “Computer Love” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” by Roger Troutman and wonder what the hell was making that sweet sound! I started messing with it in 2007, and it even made an appearance on the JM tune “Suicide Blonde” (although it is WAY buried in the mix). By the way, Ladies Choice has a few songs where the talk box isn’t fully featured. I am experimenting with different combinations and such. We shall see.
5) You wrapped up 2011 with a New Year’s run of shows with the recently disbanded Ween in Denver. What were some of the best moments from those shows for you personally?
Oh man. What a good time yo! I really can’t thank Mickey enough for asking us to open for them. And as it stands, those may be the last Ween shows ever. I grew up a huge Ween fan, and for them to reach out like that and invite us out, especially since they never have openers… shit really was unreal. It was my first time seeing them live as well, and they rip it yo!
Those dudes are definitely brothers from another mother. They party like us, and we kicked it till 6 a.m. every night. The Filmore in Denver is a great venue, and the weather was in the 70’s the whole week. Ole was the case, my son. I really hope we can do it again.
6) As well as performing with Ween, you often perform at John & Peter’s when in the area. What is your relationship like with Michael and Aaron, and what are your thoughts on the group’s recent breakup?
John & Peter’s is the shit. It is my favorite small venue in the USA. We basically stalked Ween after we met their tech Gabe at a gig at the Court Tavern (RIP). And through the Tango Machina dudes, we secured our first gig there in 2011. Mickey is a sweetheart, and it was crazy to find out that he liked my band.
To be honest, when I heard they were breaking up, it really bummed me out. They are a killing live band, and they have a lot left in the tank. But they are a family, and have been playing together for over two decades. All I know is I really do hope they come back and rock some more, and take Qua; out so we can party and melt some more faces.
7) Speaking of losing a local musical legend, as you mentioned, we also recently lost The Court Tavern, another club you often performed within when playing New Jersey. What did you enjoy about playing their and what are your fondest memories of that crusty Punk basement?
That place was definitely a shit hole, but a cool ass shit hole. I would say my favorite memory of the Court Tavern would be the tantalizing odor (laughs). For real though, the crowds their were great and a lot of cool bands came up through that spot. If we hadn’t played there, we would have never met Ween. Nuff’ said.
8) What is your songwriting process like given that you restrict yourself to two basses and a set of drums?
I just try to write hooks and put together songs that I like. I know that sounds very general, but sometimes limitations can make things better. Mikey [Bryant – rhythm bass] is doing more writing as well, and his tunes sound way different than my mine.
9) Did your latest sessions for Ladies Choice inspire any more songs than the three that appear on the EP?
Yeah, we tracked 20 songs with drummer Jerry Roe (KD Lang) in Nashville for the LC session. We’re also heading to Claude Coleman’s (drummer for Ween) spot in New Hope, PA to track some more at the end of the month. We have been working on some tunes with guest vocalist including Danny Stevens (the Audition), Shane Henderson (Valencia), Bobby Raw (Jack’s Mannequin), Omar Ruiz (Crash Boom Bang), and of course, my son Trew.
10) After the late April release of Ladies Choice, what can we expect from Kid Is Qual in the coming months?
We are about to release our KIQ vs. Schoolly D version of “A.O.T.Y (Ass Of The Year)”, as well as a stop animation video for “Fat Boy, Easy On My Whiskey.” Besides that, more shows and more music, along with a “live in the studio” video set we are gonna film at the end of the month in New Hope.
11) How did you get hooked up with Schooly D and what was it like working with the Hip Hop legend?
Schoolly is the man, my son. I met him through my boy Jimmy Coleman (drummer for Eric Hutchinson). JM toured with Jimmy and Eric in 2008, and Qual played a gig with Schoolly last year. He really liked my band, and we kept in touch. He kept talking about his “booty watching shades” and I couldn’t stop thinking that he would be awesome on “Ass of the Year”. I grew up jamming “Gucci Time” and “No More Rock and Roll” in middle school, and I really can’t believe that it worked out!
12) What do you like most about Asbury Park?
Asbury Park reminds me of Richmond in a lot of ways. It’s urban, and it’s slightly grimy. Peeps seem to have mixed feelings about both places, but I think they both rule. Besides, Asbury Park was one of the first towns that showed us love.