The Detroit progressive pop duo of John Kay (lead vocals, guitar) and Steve Lupinski (bass, vocals) have dropped “So Fine,” a new upbeat, funky three-song EP, and released a new video for “So Fine” today.
“We were using a back catalog of songs I had written mostly on my own, and then we started writing collaborative songs,” Kay said. “Something we realized was that a lot of our tunes, while they have a message of inspiration and going through suffering but coming out on top, can be interpreted as being negative. We sat down specifically to write some songs with a positive message, that are more upbeat, don’t dwell on the negative so much and are a little bit lighter and happier.”
The EP’s title track opens with a soft acoustic guitar and quickly transitions into a dancy, optimistic jam focused on the present: “I don’t need to go gangster/I just need to be so fine/I don’t need to get angry/I just need to be so fine.” It’s a strong reminder about having integrity, living in the moment and following your own path.
“Being the entrepreneur that I am, I don’t want to be known as somebody who is a hustler in the negative sense,” said Kay, who releases a new song each month with Lupinski. “I just need to be the best person I can be and focus on my work and make it as undeniable as possible, and that’s what ‘I don’t need to go gangster, I just need to be so fine,’ is about. I just need to be a fine human being.”
John Kay & Who’s To Say also has included a “stuck-in-your-head” acoustic version of “So Fine,” the group’s first stripped-down track since “Bartender” from 2016’s “Dealing with People.” It also ties nicely into the band’s beach-flavored video for “So Fine” as well as their “Beach Sessions” video series that launched on YouTube earlier this month. They collaborated with videographers Joseph S. Quick and Bradford Clark to film the videos at Portage Lake near Jackson.
“Steve came up with the idea to do a beachy acoustic music video, and we set aside a day to do the filming,” Kay said. “We filmed all those Beach Sessions and the music video in about 3.5 hours. We didn’t really go too deep with it, we just wanted to keep it simple.”
The EP’s other track, “Get Up,” starts with a Spanish-flavored acoustic guitar solo that quickly morphs into an up-tempo, funky, toe-tappin’ beat: “You got to get up to get down/It’s time to get up to get down.” Meanwhile, a groovin’ Lupinski bassline erupts more than halfway through the track to carry it on home.
“‘Get Up’ started with a bassline Steve brought to the table. He said, ‘I like this funky bassline, let’s turn it into something,’ and from there, we sat down at the rehearsal spot and fleshed it out,” Kay said. “We were supposed to release it in July, but some of the audio files on the recording session got corrupted and were unsalvageable, but it ended up working out because we’re actually a lot more satisfied with how the new version of ‘Get Up’ came out versus the old version.”
Outside of their new EP, John Kay & Who’s To Say fans will quickly notice the duo’s unconventional approach to music. Together, they have identified seven core values known as SMARTER – sacrifice, measurable growth, accountability, a reputation for excellence, time, energy and respect – for their musical vision.
Kay developed the SMARTER musical vision after playing drums and guitar in several punk and metal bands, earning an audio engineering degree from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Ariz., consulting with several music industry and business strategy leaders, and writing and recording his own materials.
He also launched the band’s official fan club, Bullfighters, in 2017 through a subscription-based content service called Patreon. For $5 a month, fans receive the band’s music in a digital format, updates and happenings, free U.S. shipping and two concert tickets per year to local shows. They also have access to new song demos and are encouraged to provide feedback directly to the band.
With a solid musical vision and growing fan club support, John Kay & Who’s To Say will release their next single Sept. 20, which is inspired by the release of Nintendo’s new Switch video game, “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.”
They’ll also announce their next local live show Oct. 2 and include a short run of live dates in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina this November.
“It’s the first multi-song release that John Kay & Who’s To Say has done, and we are now a band who releases EPs and perhaps an album someday,” Kay said. “We’ve learned that through playing shows and getting feedback from whether it’s our fan club members, audience members or family and friends, the songs that get people dancing are the ones that are resonating most with people, so both of these songs are eminently danceable.”