It’s been quite a long journey for Stevie Knipe to release their third album, Driver. After calling out royalty discrepancies and other issues with former label Tiny Engines and being granted the release from their contract, a pandemic shut down our world and further delayed the release of the album. But armed with a new perspective and a new label in Epitaph Records along with the support system of their partner (and drummer) Olivia Battell and guitarist Allegra Eidinger, Knipe is ready to unleash Driver to the masses – a record that elevates Adult Mom’s knack for infectious and poignant indie-rock to new levels. Here, Knipe and I discuss Driver’s sonic diversity, being a non-binary role model, and our favorite show Grey’s Anatomy.
So I really could just spend this whole hour talking to you about Grey’s Anatomy. That’s one of my favorite shows. What do you think of this season so far this year?
So I watched three episodes and then I just like couldn’t handle the weird COVID stuff – all the shows that are coming out now – like my partner Liv and I, we watch Shameless and now the new season was coming out and it’s so like cringe, like everything with masks and COVID stuff is just so cringe. Like I don’t want to see it on TV.
Oh absolutely. My wife is a big Shameless fan too and mentioned that. And we also watched This Is Us and they’ve also embraced the COVID storyline. It’s just like….we live it every day. I don’t need to be reminded.
It’s like too much, but Grey’s is so dear to me, so like, I don’t know. How many times have you watched it? A lot of times?
Oh yeah I’ve watched the entire series numerous times. It was one of my favorite shows.
Yes. When I feel like staying in – and it’s weird – but I feel like I am always watching it when I’m like spiraling into a depressive episode. And like, if my friends know that I’m rewatching Grey’s from the beginning, they’re like ‘Are you okay?’ (laughs).
I mean, season two is one of the best seasons of television of all time. I can watch that season over and over.
Yes. Art. It’s art.
And I was also just like scrolling through your Twitter timeline and I noticed that you mentioned RuPaul’s Drag Race. While we’ve been in quarantine, we’ve just indulged every single season over the last year and are obsessed with it.
See I’m like a weird … I’m like a bad weird gay because I have only watched a couple episodes or a couple of seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I really like drag and I really like Trixie and Katya’s show.
Yeah. Trixie is my favorite drag queen.
Trixie’s amazing. But it’s like, yeah, RuPaul also kind of sucks but I don’t know all the drama or like what’s going on.
I was doing research on the history of the show when I was really just getting into it. And I think recently they’ve gotten better at it – but RuPaul’s had a lot of issues with including transgender contestants until very recently. Like there’s this side of RuPaul where you’re like, ‘ugh that’s not good’ – like with the fracking. But on the other hand it’s tremendous that she’s been putting the spotlight on these queens and getting to hear these contestants stories and their lives and stuff is truly fantastic and needed. But then you read about the other stuff and I’m ‘but why?’
Trixie should just host (laughs).
Hard agree. So I guess I should ask some questions about your new album Driver. t’s an incredible record. I know you’re a big fan of Taylor Swift and this record kind of reminds me of her records. Maybe not like so much musically but more so during the moments on Driver is very diverse. It transcends a lot of indie pop or whatever you want to call it. “Sober” has like 808s programming, “Dancing” is a woozy folky type of number and the opener and the closer both feature the pedal steel. So was it a point of focus to make this record a little more sonically diverse than what you’ve released in the past?
Yeah, that was like the biggest thing for this record, because over the years with Soft Spots, I’ve been like fumbling around with my own production stuff and learning how to use different instruments in my own little home studio. Kyle (Pulley) who co-produced with me – he is amazing and like super talented. So we like spent like four months straight demoing the album. So I had all the songs – like a shit ton in this folder. And we would just send each other stuff back and forth. Liv would just come over with a Roland drum pad and would write drum parts on it. We spent like a shit ton of time demoing cause like four months is a long time. We wanted to focus on every nook and cranny. Because I think what I’m learning or what I know now about some of my work is that my songs have a lot of space in them. And I think like in ways that I didn’t ever really think about before. So then when we were making this record, Kyle and I were like ‘We can fill this space or we can like make this chorus more intense by adding this.’ And Allegra, who’s our guitarist, would come in with these amazing guitar licks and it would be like the second hook. There is so much diversity on the record but I think it was also a product of us having a lot of time to mess around.
Kyle in the past has worked with really exciting artists like Shamir, Diet Cig, and Kississippi. So it seems like he brought a lot of influence to the record’s direction as well, too.
We definitely collaborated on that and he was really good at using those trademark type of Adult Mom elements and mixing them in with different ideas together.
How has working with Epitaph been? Especially after everything that you went through over the last year or so. Was the record finished prior to working with the label?
It was. I feel like this is the longest I’ve had to sit on a record in my whole life because it’s weird. Cause I’ve been like trying to battle with talking about this or not. Cause it’s like whatever but essentially we finished recording it in April of 2019. Wow. Um, so it’s like almost two years ago and then, but then we also took an eon to go through mixes. Cause again we had all this time. So we were being like very maniacal about it. And so the record was done and mastered like September 2019 and we originally planned to release it on my manager Aaron’s label Lauren Records. He was gonna put it out and then literally like magic we got a call from Epitaph and they really wanted to do it. So then we like sat on it for a little bit of quarantine and we signed the contract over the summer and here we are.
The pandemic has effected everyone in different ways. How did it impact your mindset on releasing a record in the midst of this along with not being able to tour? Cause I’ve talked to a lot of artists who are just sitting on records until this thing’s over.
Initially we were like… well I think initially like before everyone kind of knew the weight of the pandemic and like how long it would last, we were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll just wait a little bit because then we can tour again.’ But as soon as like the pandemic started to last longer than four months, I was like, ‘I don’t even care. Like let’s just put it out.’ So I think that in a way – and I’m not trying to romanticize this era at all cause it’s horrible – but it’s put a lot of things into perspective. So I feel like I look at records differently. I know I always feel very precious about them, but this feels like the most precious because it’s less of a medium or content machine. Like you’re not putting out a record and then doing a whole giant tour. You’re putting out the record and that’s it. And people are going to listen to it if they want to and they can let it marinate and you know, see if it stays with them. The record offers a lot of space which is cool. I like it.
I relate so much to like the opening lyric on “Breathing” about hiding bills because I’ve done that before, like the out of mind out of sight type of thing.
Oh yeah. Like it doesn’t exist in a way.
I also really love the lyrical journey on “Adam.” Like it’s really funny, sad, and poignant all at once. Lyrically this record feels like you’re at your most confident and complete self ever.
Oh wow. Thank you. That’s great. I feel like lyrically – similar to the way that we were being really intentional about the sonic scope and production of this record – I feel like I definitely was trying to put as much care as I possibly could into the writing. So I’m glad that that comes across.
Your visibility has been an inspiration to a lot of people who have or who are coming to terms with their own non-binary identities. Does being that quote unquote role model ever get comfortable or easier for you? I know you’re very aware of the potential imbalance or hierarchies between artist and fan But is this a role you are still trying to embrace or do you just try to break down those barriers and do it as equals in a ‘we’re both human beings type of deal’?
I think it just depends. I feel like, like I personally don’t believe that anyone should hold like that type of icon-ship or power over anybody. And so that’s what’s hard for me, but I also understand that I also look up to so many people as well. It’s a hard balance of like wanting to, you know, like break down the wall of like…. I feel like the thing that concerns me is when people have this wall of praise about people. And so it’s hard for them to be humanized as a person. So I feel like as long as people are engaging with others in a way that your idolization or your fan feelings have room for boundaries and stuff, it can work. And so I feel like you can go with both. I can go so many ways, but I mean, I’ve always fucking hated it. I get so stressed out. I feel like I just get nervous about being perceived as a good person or something.
The putting artists on a pedestal thing is always really difficult, especially from like the scene of punk rock or indie or DIY. It’s important to let everyone be human. I’m sure it’s just really a tough thing to embrace. Like no one knows who I am or looks up to me. So like, I could not even imagine that pressure of someone looking up to me or wanting like, answers from me. I’m sure it’s super flattering to hear that, but it’s like you’re not like the beacon for it.
I mean, sometimes I get asked questions that I’m like, ‘Ooh, you should ask your therapist that.’ But also it’s like, I fucking get it. I understand. I’m literally in like a Taylor Swift fandom as a 26 year old (laughs). I definitely understand.
Like all of your Taylor Swift playlist theories. I love that.
So that’s a huge part of my day to day now (laughs).
Well there isn’t a whole lot to do anymore!
Exactly, exactly (laughs).
Photo: Daniel Dorsa