Kellin Quinn is one busy musician. Besides fronting Sleeping With Sirens, he’s also working with the future of alternative/punk music with the likes of Point North, Loveless and Australia’s very own Patient Sixty-Seven. And when he’s not inspiring the future of music, Kellin’s busy being a family man, making sure his kids grow up to be kind, respectable human beings in this tough world.
Enter Downer Inc, Kellin’s latest musical project born out of the effects of COVID-19 and becoming a family project, with his son even starring in the music video for ‘Generation Z’.
I had the incredible opportunity to catch up with the man himself about the birth of Downer Inc, teaching his kids arts and creative expression, working with other bands and whenever he gets stuck, well, his label mate and friend Benji Madden is literally a call away…
First up… how are you doing during these times? Amidst COVID-19 and now those US wildfires burning across the west coast?
I’m doing good thank you. Yeah, the smoke’s really bad where I’m at here in Oregon.
Mental Health’s an ever so prevalent topic to keep in mind this year that’s for sure. Is that kinda why you chose to release ‘Talking To Myself’ alongside the Deluxe Edition of How It Feels To Be Lost just recently?
Yeah, it’s something that I’ve struggled with my whole life with anxiety and for touring for 10 years. It’s a struggle that has either become my reality or I’ve kept it at bay. The time I wrote ‘Talking To Myself’ was an interesting time because we were playing these sold out shows but I was still dealing with all these mental issues. I wanted to write a song because I know a lot of people struggle with it too, and we actually wrote in the middle of touring.
I’ve come to realise that taking a serious amount of breaks is definitely something that I’m going to focus more on, especially realising what I’m capable of accomplishing at home without having to tour. I’m definitely going to be more wary of what I’m feeling mentally on the road, making sure that when I’m out there, I’m the best performer and the best musician I can be, without letting it cripple me.
A song I enjoyed on the last Sleeping With Sirens album was ‘Never Enough’, which also featured Benji Madden. Do you guys get mate rates when it comes to appearing on each other’s projects, being under the same management company, MDDN?
Benji’s a fan of our band, I’m a fan of his work and I know how amazing he is as a songwriter, him and Joel. Whenever I get stuck, I always bounce ideas off of those guys. I was struggling with that bridge on ‘Never Enough’, so I asked him to come in and lend me some of his knowledge in the writing department. He went in and laid down this bridge and was just doing it to kinda help me write it, but when he was done I was like “well, you made the album, I’m not going to go in there to try touch that, you just killed it!”
It’s fun working together because we get excited. When he comes in the room and hears a song, he gets excited too. It’s fun being able to work with Benji and Joel, they’re incredibly talented. Anytime we have anything to discuss, Benji’s kinda like a Little League coach dad. It’s always nice to have his wisdom around.
What was the inspiration behind your newest musical project, Downer Inc?
I was trying to just think of ways to keep the year going as far as writing music, and my longtime friend and producer Cameron Mizell who did our first album, With Ears To See And Eyes To Hear and also our album Feel. He and I got on the phone and started discussing music stuff, and he began sending me these amazing instrumentals and I was able to create music about what I was going through. It was a journal of thoughts about what I was seeing on the news, and what I was feeling at home.
It’s cool because it became almost a family home project. My wife did all the promo photos and we shot the music video for ‘Generation Z’ together and my step son is the main character in the video.
It’s been really cool to include everybody. I know a lot of people who struggle and don’t have the opportunity to continue creating. So I just wanted to set the bar and show people that you can really do anything you want, no matter what the circumstances, and we don’t have to give up just because of the negative stuff going on in the world.
I saw you mentioned to a fan on social media that ‘Generation Z’ was written for your kids and their generation. Has your step son shown any interest in a music career yet?
You know, he’s gone on tour with me a few times, done Warped Tour with me and he really enjoys being around music. I’m not sure if he’s going to utilise it in some way, but I know he has a talent for it. My daughter loves to sing and dance, and she’s constantly involved in doing music stuff. I would show her my demos and I can tell whether they’re going to be good songs or not by her reactions. It’s pretty funny, she’ll say something like, “Oh Dad! This song should totally be on the radio” or “This is not good”. My family’s really influential in what we create, with Sleeping With Sirens and what I do on a solo level.
If your daughter told you she wanted to get into music as a career, would you be all for it? And would you mentor her yourself, or manage her career?
Ummm, I don’t know if she’d listen to me! *laughs* She’s more into like, playing Minecraft and watching Youtubers right now. She says that she’s going to be a Youtuber when she gets older. I try to encourage any sort of artistic and creative expression. She has a private youtube channel which my family members and band members can see, but I’m not letting her go public because I’m not ready for her to deal with that yet!
Yeaaah, that’s a very good idea. Hopefully she hasn’t come across TikTok yet…
She wants a TikTok but we’re keeping it at Youtube right now!
You are certainly one busy man even in these times! Mentoring and working with bands like Point North, Loveless and even upcoming Australian band, Patient Sixty-Seven – what’s the one lesson you taught all these upcoming artists?
The biggest lesson I try to teach all these artists is just to make sure that the art is there, the words and the lyrics and that it creates that feeling for listeners when they hear the music. I think a lot of younger artists, they look to the accomplishments first. I try to tell them to enjoy the work part of it, which is really the best part. The reward is awesome, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that you are saying everything that you can and that it makes an emotional connection, and that’s something Patient Sixty-Seven has really taken to heart.
One of their songs they sent me, at first the singer was like, “this is about my dad going through cancer”. I was reading through the lyrics and I was like, “dude I think you need to kinda revisit this and I know it can be hard to write about, but really write something that really gives the listener to take to heart” because people are going through the same thing. You’re expressing something that a lot of people aren’t able to express, and so they get to listen to it. That’s something I try to get across to everyone I work with.
Are there any other bands you’d be keen on working with?
I’d be open to working with anyone. I really enjoy being in the studio and listening to other artists’ music and seeing where I can let my voice shine on their stuff. It’s a real pleasure and a blast. I just started partnering with this company called FeaturedX and did a thing with them this month where I worked with 7 artists and did guest vocals with them. It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve been keeping really busy with that as well as writing 6 demos for new Sleeping With Sirens stuff that we’re really proud of. I’m working hard, you know, just staying as busy as possible, so that when we get back out on the road we have new and fresh material and can play shows bigger and better than ever.
Speaking of, Sleeping With Sirens going on tour again, are you guys looking to take on Matty Best as a full time drummer?
He’s the best drummer and he’s also the best person. We love having him being a part of Sleeping With Sirens and I think that there’s no one else I’d be able to replace that sweet, kind, amazing boy on the drums. So I think he’s got the spot, for sure!
As well as music, you’ve also recently taken up a new interest – acting! How many acting lessons did you have to take to land your role in Paradise City?
That was kind of a freebie because I work with the label. Sumerian and Ash Avildsen wanted to give me an opportunity to give it a chance. I was pretty wary about you know, acting. It’s a lot different than playing music and I know that I’ve had a lot of chances to be in front of the camera when it comes to music videos.
Acting in Paradise City really was a learning experience to memorise lines and make it seem like you’re that character, and I feel like I’ve got a long way to go still but I learnt a lot, just standing there in the background. I would show up when I wasn’t working, and just watch all the other amazing actors and actresses doing what they do best, and learning a lot. It’s something that I’d love to continue exploring, for sure.
What’s more challenging – pleasing the OG SWS fans with new music, making a solo record/EP or acting?
They all have their challenges. I think the challenge with the solo music is not taking to heart what some of the OG Sleeping With Sirens fans are saying. Even though it’s a solo project and I’ve made it abundantly clear that it’s going to sound different from Sleeping With Sirens, it’s a chance for me to expand my horizons and play with different soundscapes because I’m not able to do that with my band.
Not taking to heart some of those negative comments and stuff like that and just being confident in the things that I’m creating, making badass new music for Sleeping With Sirens. As far as Paradise City, that has its challenges just because it’s something new, but I love trying new things. I love exploring what I’m capable of and I always am down to rise to the occasion.
Finally, who would you choose to play you in a movie about your life?
That’s a really tough question because there’s so many amazing actors, but I’d say… probably Timothee Chalamet. He’s got the same locks, he’s got like the figure. I feel like he would do a great job!
I can definitely see that on the horizon. Thanks so much for an insight into your life, Kellin! Stay safe, and we’ll see you in Australia soon hopefully!
Interview By Tamara May (@citylightstam)
Downer Inc – Whatever This Is EP tracklisting
1. Ground Zero
2. Generation Z
3. Work Of Art
5. Truth or Dare
6. Whatever This Is