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Good Kid: “We’re a very square band. We just like playing video games or board games with each other.”

Guitarist Jacob Tsafatinos on how the indie band crossed into the world of content creation and how they are just nerds at heart…

Good Kid, press photo



Looking back as far as pre-2000, rock and indie bands have had a connection with the world of video games. You only have to take a look at the likes of FIFA and Tony Hawks to see how well the collaboration can work for both parties.

Over the past two to three years, there has been a huge boom in content creation as more and more tech-savvy creator turn to producing their own content. For those who get it right, that content can be consumed by millions of fans. One band who has tapped into this market is Ontario indie band Good Kid. Not only have they had their music used by some of the biggest content creators on the planet, but they’ve even had it used on hit video game Fortnite.

For our latest cover story, we spoke to guitarist Jacob Tsafatinos about their foray into the world of content creation, the fights they had to make their entire discography content-ID free and how he sees the relationship between the music industry and the content creation world developing. Oh… and who the best video gamer in the band is…

I wanted to start with your current single “Summer”, it feels like a very nostalgic song. Could you just talk us through what inspired it?

“I think it’s an interesting question for a GOOD Kid because we write songs in a bit of an atypical way. So I’m the guitarist and I wrote the guitars for that song. So, for me, the inspiration started in a very different direction. For me, I get inspired by a bunch of different things. Like if I consume certain media or go to a concert or see an awesome movie or read a great book, that often inspires me, or sometimes just like personal experiences.

I’m not a poet. I’m honestly really, really garbage at lyrics so the way I express those feelings is through like melody and the guitar work. “Summer” for me, I don’t exactly remember what my inspiration was at the time, I was writing “Summer” while I was Twitch streaming, and I think I was just in a particularly good mood. The irony is that Nick, our singer/lyricist ended up writing it about existential dread and thinking the world is going to end.

There are themes of self-acceptance and giving away too much. I would say, in some sense, thematically, and lyrically, the song is inspired probably by Nick’s experiences within that. For me personally, I was trying to write an upbeat banger, a happy song about the feeling of going to the beach with your friends and hanging out and having, having a good time. Very different inspirations and the product ends up being, being the final song.”

“I was writing “Summer” while I was Twitch streaming, and I think I was just in a particularly good mood. The irony is that Nick, our singer/lyricist ended up writing it about existential dread and thinking the world is going to end.”

In terms of the rest of the EP, Dave has described it as the product of the last two years. I think people outside the industry think touring is glamorous and one big party. What’s your experience of life on the road?

“The road for us has honestly always been fairly fun. It’s work. It’s hard. You’re in a new city every day, sometimes in different time zones. You don’t get to sleep a lot. It’s not particularly comfortable sleeping. You have essentially two options when you’re on the road, you either do a tour in a van where you’re waking up at the crack of dawn to do like crazy long drives or, if you hit a certain scale, you can get a bus where you’re sleeping on the bus overnight, but then you’re on this like rickety boat, essentially, so either, either situation results in very little sleep. That’s the cost of doing it, right?

It’s worth it and it’s still a lot of fun. You get a lot of energy being on tour. It’s a very exciting thing. It’s not just like the band, you work with the whole crew and team and everyone gets to share in that excitement. It’s tough. Not the hardest thing we’ve ever done as individuals or as a band. I know it gets glamorized a lot, but I think the truth is somewhere probably in the middle.”

I’ve toured around the UK in December and it’s certainly not glamorous.

“The shows themselves are incredible and those experiences, to me, that’s the glamorisation of touring. I don’t think Good kid identifies too much with the partying aspect of touring. Honestly, we’re very lame. We’re a very square band. We just like playing video games or board games with each other. We’ll go out for a drink or something after a show, but we’re not too rowdy.”

That sounds like my perfect night…

“Absolutely. Come to our show and hang out”

I think you’re playing in Leeds in September which is my local venue. So I’ll, I’ll be down for that…

“Oh amazing. Honestly, we’re pretty tame as a band. We’re very low key and we just enjoy each other’s company and the company of whatever bands we’re hanging out with. So, in terms of glamorization, the things that I think are glamorized in my mind are still true for us which is the shows being amazing. Meeting fans. Those types of scenarios are awesome.”

“Honestly, we’re very lame. We’re a very square band. We just like playing video games or board games with each other.”

I was going to ask what your favourite and least favourite things about touring are, but I think lack of sleep and the shows and meeting fans would probably cover both of those.

“One more thing my favourite thing is getting to experience new cities I wouldn’t get to experience. I love travel and I think a lot of us do so just going to different towns even if we only get to go to a coffee shop and just getting to see how different places operate and different cultures. Especially in the UK and Europe, there’s so much.

It’s something that maybe in the UK you might even take for granted because it’s just there but Canada is only like 150 years old so in contrast, it’s so cool to get to go and see these places that have so much rich history. Every day you’re in a new place where this church was built by some crazy person that you’ve heard about from like 600 years ago or this building was built by this particular person. We kind of nerd out about that kind of stuff.”

No, I appreciate that. One thing you mentioned earlier on is that you’re inspired by a book a concert or a movie. Could you talk us through some of your inspirations?

“We get inspired by a lot of different things. Personally, honestly, there’s a lot of anime. I want to consume a ton of anime and read a lot of Manga, which is essentially Japanese comic books that most anime are based on. They hit me pretty deep and I get inspired by that.

One of our songs, called “Mimi’s Delivery Service” is inspired by my girlfriend. That one’s kind of interesting because in the same vein as “Summer”, I wrote it about something and then Nick wrote about something different. This one, we were able to align better where I wrote it about my girlfriend, but she shares a lot of themes personally with the character Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service.

I told Nick to go and watch Kiki’s Delivery Service and then write the song about that because he can’t share my experience necessarily about how I relate with my girlfriend but I told him she shares a lot of themes. So, if you go watch that movie and you, you have that in mind when you’re writing the lyrics, they’ll kind of converge and it did in a cool, interesting way.

Nick has written songs about books he’s read. I think there are some other inspirations around experiences with friends. Relationships ending. We have the songs come from all over the place, to be honest. So, for me, there’s a lot of anime, relationships, friendships, books and things like that.”

I wanted to talk about the business side of the band but, before we go into that, I watched the video for “Summer” and there were a ton of comments underneath it. In one of the comments, someone said “Good Kid helps me through my lowest times”. As a band and a writer, you look at the streaming figures and how you get these astonishing figures, but how do you feel about something like that when something connects with the music like that?

“Honestly that’s a really meaningful comment for us. It helps to humble us in a way. I don’t think any one of us or I don’t think a lot of people set out to make music with that specific goal in mind. Some people want to play shows. They want to release the music they want. Maybe they want to express themselves through their music. I think very few people end up doing that with the express goal of wanting to change other people’s lives.

It’s a product, if people consume your stuff and they connect with it, that’s just what happens which is interesting because, as a songwriter/fan of music, I’ve related to songs in a similar way as those comments, but you never really think about it. That’s just to say that it’s incredibly meaningful, but also unexpected at the same time because you never really expect to get those kinds of comments because you’re not actively thinking about that when you’re putting out your music, but it’s cool.

It’s validating in a lot of ways as well. It’s this extra special thing knowing that your music and your art mean so much to someone else to wear it like helps them out of a situation. It’s really hard to put into words, but it’s a great feeling.”

V13 - Cover Story - Issue53 - GoodKid

V13 – Cover Story – Issue53 – GoodKid

As a writer, it must be incredible when your music connects with somebody but again, on a kind of less emotional side, you’ve connected with a whole range of different audiences from gamers and that side of it. How did you get involved in that world? In terms of content creation, a lot of bands stick to Instagram or Twitter, but you opened your music up to a whole different audience. Is that something you were interested in before the band?

“I don’t know if it specifically interested me before the band, it was more just enjoying making things creatively. I think content creation goes hand in hand with that though. I’m surprised that a lot of bands fight against that idea of making content or that they should make content. To me, I think there’s always a bit of a disconnect there because most musicians I know love making art and they love making things creatively and they like making things outside of just music as well.

For us, I will say that it came somewhat naturally, but also intentionally. We used to bicker a lot more internally about stuff so it took us a long time before we got our footing with this stuff and a lot of it stemmed from us. We’d always assign one person responsible for social media and what would end up happening is they just wouldn’t do it because they wouldn’t have fun with it maybe they would do a couple of posts or a picture or something and then they would just kind of fall off. Then, at some point, the onus became on me to do our social media and it made me realize this sucks, it’s boring and what we’re doing is boring. I’m not surprised that every time we assign someone different to this task, they fall off after like a week. It’s because it’s just not fun.

“At some point, the onus became on me to do our social media and it made me realize this sucks, it’s boring and what we’re doing is boring.”

So, for me, it was just about like, how do I make this fun personally, so that I keep doing it. The solution to that was honestly just to make weird shit that we enjoy making, that we would like to consume but also like having fun with. Yes, you have to sometimes promote shows and things like that but you don’t necessarily want it to always be advertising. But, if you can do it in a way that you’re having a good time with it and that your fans can then also have a good time with it, then I think it becomes a lot more authentic and interesting. That’s how our dip into content creation happened.

We have a lot to learn and grow in that space. I don’t think we’re particularly the best storytellers on social media, but we’ve gotten certain things down so it’s just honestly been from our interests and then figuring out how can we explore our interests through those like social media channels that we have to engage with, that’s a big part of it.

On engaging with gaming and things like that, that’s also natural to us. Like I said, we’re pretty square. Our idea of a good time is just playing Baldur’s Gate 3 with each other or hanging out and playing video games in general. We play a lot of Smash Bros when we’re together or Magic: The Gathering and other things like that. So it was a natural fit where, whether intentionally or not, we like those themes, the things that we consume and the art we consume seeps into our music, whether it’s like stylistically that happens happened to have resonated within the group that we identify with, which is like the gamer kid type, I guess.

As we saw our music grow more organically within those communities it was pretty easy and natural for us to encourage it more. That’s then where we do things like the content ID-free stuff where we can empathize with these people who are making content with our music. We listen to them and we hear their complaints when a lot of content creators are complaining about not being able to use music. The natural next step for us is to see how we make it so that they can use our music.

There’s no reason we shouldn’t be hiding our music from these kids. They’re not Coca-Cola trying to make a commercial and use our music for free. It’s usually like some 16-year-old kid making a highlight reel of their best trick shots in Fortnite and wanting to use our music for that purpose. For me, that’s a very authentic way to engage with our music. They like lining up their shots with the beats of our song. They put a lot of attention and care into it and I think we have that organic energy that we bring to it and it just works out.”

I was going to say it has worked out for you looking at your numbers but, as you mentioned earlier, a lot of bands are stuck in their ways with social media and don’t like the content creation side of it. When you approach management or labels and say something about making your Music content-ID free what’s the reaction been like, have you had to fight a lot of battles to get that?

“Yeah. A lot of, and I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything, but the music industry operates, in a lot of ways, very modern but, in most ways, very archaic, in that they are very stuck to their ways. One of those things is content ID. I think the label put a lot of effort over time to make sure that artists get paid for certain things and they fought a lot of good fights but I think the practical reality of it is that, in my opinion, a lot of the fights they’re fighting are for the likes of Taylor Swift. Labels are not fighting for like your average indie band or artists at our scale.

I think we just hit 2 million monthly listeners today. Even at our scale, the amount of money we would make off content ID is not even worth the effort. We get way more value from the marketing, the free marketing, if some kid uploads a YouTube video that gets a hundred thousand views with our music in it, that’s worth so much more than our content ID. We ended up having to fight a lot of battles. We’re all programmers. I don’t know if you know this, but we’re all programmers outside of being musicians. We love data. We are very well versed in data points, proving points with data and backing it up at some point.

“A lot of the fights they’re fighting are for the likes of Taylor Swift. Labels are not fighting for like your average indie band or artists at our scale.”

We pressured our team to just give us the exact numbers. How much money do we make from content ID? This was as a strategy to convince them and they came back to something like three to five hundred a month or something. Right, how much money will it cost us to pay an influencer or a creator content creator who gets these numbers? How much do we have to pay to get them to use our music in a video? The answer would be ten thousand. It would take multiple years of monetizing our content ID to pay back one video. When we make our music free to use, we get put into hundreds of videos. The marketing that we’re getting from this and you can argue that we’re paying for it by not monetizing on content ID, but the scale of that is so disproportionately favoured towards like making it available.

The things that are important to us personally, which aren’t always about money, are things like how many people will come to shows. We’re about to do a sold-out tour in the States, which is wild for us in big venues and listenership is going up, which is always great. It means that our music is getting in front of more people, but, for us, on the metrics that we care about, it pays off to do it this way. It’s hard because you have to convince people where it’s not immediately clear to them, where the value comes from. Even if we have to convince a team to give up this 500 a month that they take 20 per cent off or however much they take, it’s nothing, is it? Then, if we grow the pie way bigger as a result of it, you’re going to make way more than that 500 in the long run.”

You’ve talked about kids using your songs in videos but you’ve also collaborated with some huge content creators. How does that work? Do they approach you or do you approach them?

“I don’t know if we’ve ever approached another content creator explicitly. Maybe there, there’s this one group Trash Taste that we technically approached because they were part of the same touring company that we were. I think I was a big fan of theirs, so I asked for tickets to their show and then was able to meet them through that and that led to some things.

Outside of that, it’s usually just, again, pretty authentic, organic relationships where, because we make our stuff free to use for content creators, it’s usually their editors, not even the people themselves who are excited about it. Their editors are constantly looking for music to use and it’s very hard for them to get music with vocals in at all.

For example, we were in a Mr. Beast video because one of their editors was a fan and just reached out and said like, Hey, they were a fan, we told him all our music is content ID free if they wanted to use it. He ended up using seven of our instrumentals and one of our main songs in a video that got like a couple of hundred million views. That’s typically how it goes. We find out that someone is a fan, we try to make it as clear as possible that our music is free to use and then it just comes about organically like that.”

You said about the attitude of the music industry towards content creation. Do you see a different attitude when you deal with, say, the Esports industry? Is that a completely different attitude?

“In some ways for sure. For example, the way we got on Fortnite was very chill compared to what it would take to get into a movie placement or something like that. I think a lot of people think these things are a lot more gated than they are, but I think one day we just tweeted out, asking how could we get in Fortnite because a lot of our fans were playing it and making Fortnite videos with our stuff. I think enough fans had harassed Fortnite by just tagging them.

Not an insane amount… I wouldn’t even say that 100 people did it… I would say maybe 15 people. Then the person who programs their music just reached out to us on a DM and told us if we want our music in the game, just submit it here and we’ll consider it. It was so easy. We have a direct line to a guy who programmed their music just from a tweet, whereas I think a lot of other things you can never get into.

Like the next Dune movie, you couldn’t get into it just by tweeting at them. That’s not really how that works, there are multiple layers in front of it. I think the e-sports industry is still young enough to where those obstructions don’t exist yet so it’s a lot easier to break in.”

One of the things I saw recently was Bring Me The Horizon on their arena tour in the UK. Between bands, every screen was showing video game footage, new video games coming up and all that kind of thing. Do you think more and more the two worlds will cross over?

“I think so. I think it always has. Music has always been a big part of video games for decades now. A lot of bands broke just from being included in certain soundtracks, like Tony Hawk, and NBA 2K. All these games had these awesome soundtracks which broke a lot of indie rock bands, like Bloc Party. I’m pretty sure “Helicopter” blew up because of being included in FIFA. I think we’re just going to see more of it as video games and the industry just grows where there are more and more games that integrate music into their content or their games.

We’re seeing it in different games like Valorant for example which does a really good job of including music even though there’s no real in-game music, collaborating with artists for trailers, character announcements, a new season trailer, stuff like that. They’ll create original music just for that trailer. I just see the trend going more and more towards video game companies being interested in it and artists are interested in it.”

“I think we’re just going to see more of it as video games and the industry just grows where there are more and more games that integrate music into their content or their games.”

Flipping that on its head, do you think that could be incorporated into live shows and is that something you would like to do?

“I think if there was a way to do it that was fun I could see us doing it for sure. In general, I do think that there will be overlap. I think we’ll start seeing more artists, in big e-sports events as half-time shows similar to Superbowl. I think for the artists though, the only problem with that is the practicalities of doing it as an independent artist.

Until you hit a certain scale it’s very expensive to put on any sort of production for a show. So the idea that a venue would have a projector so that everyone could see whatever it is you’re integrating into the show is actually like. We’re doing a big tour and I think the smallest venue we’re playing is like five to seven hundred people, half of our venues don’t have any sort of projection set up or ability to accommodate one so you’d have to hit a particular big scale before you could even think about starting to integrate that stuff.”

You’ve worked with some big names in and outside the music industry. What have you learned about the music business or the content creation business?

“The biggest thing we’ve learned as a band is just to be good to each other, I think we see a lot of bands we love to break up or just stop being able to do it for one reason or another and I think it’s probably a lot to do with them not prioritizing the unit that is the band, and making sure that people are happy, fulfilled, and that there’s strong communication. That resonates with us deeply. We want to make sure that we can do this for a very long time. That’s our biggest takeaway when we look at other bands we’ve toured with or that have gone through member changes or we’ve seen fights or whatever breakout. I think we want to make sure that we prioritize our friendships.”

Just to wrap up then I’ll cause a bit of trouble and ask who’s the best video gamer in the band?

“Honestly, probably me. I’m not just being arrogant, I just play a lot of video games and I have a particularly competitive spirit, depending on the game. One member might be better at this specific game or that specific game but I think if you were to give the five of us a new game and ask us to get as good as we can, as fast as we can, and then compete, I would probably win.”

“We want to make sure that we can do this for a very long time. That’s our biggest takeaway when we look at other bands we’ve toured with or that have gone through member changes or we’ve seen fights or whatever breakout. I think we want to make sure that we prioritize our friendships.”

I’m going to put that to the rest of the band when you come over on tour. On that note, you’ve got a busy few months looking further ahead, what does the future hold in store for Good Kid?

“I don’t know if we have anything planned, we’re pretty open right now. We’re going to release the EP, I guess we’ll see how that goes and how that impacts any other plans. We’re a much bigger band than we were when we even started booking these tours so I have no idea what that future will look like. I think we’re just going to be open to whatever opportunities either come our way or we’ll start strategizing based on the new current state of things of what we want to do going forward. I think we got a lot of time though to cook up some fun stuff.”

For more information on Good Kid and all their upcoming tour dates, head over to their Official Website here

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.