While all of Brooklyn is seemingly lining up for 80s dance parties, one Brooklyn-based band is cranking out the synth pop hits of 2017. Under the moniker Great Good Fine Ok, vocalist Jon Sandler and producer Luke Moellman have been releasing shimmering 80s-inspired tracks for the past three years, and already boast collaborations with the Chainsmokers and St. Lucia. Brooklyn Magazine recently sat down with the duo to discuss ‘80s nostalgia, creativity in Brooklyn, and their forthcoming EP.
Brooklyn Magazine: How did you two meet?
Jon Sandler: I had a project before this that was more of a singer-songwriter thing, and my partner in that project was this guy Dominic. So I had been going over to his apartment a lot to work on our music, and Luke was his roommate. So I met Luke that way, and then we talked about wanting to work together on something for a while, and then one day we ran into each other and we were like ‘Let’s do this,’ and he sent me the music to a song and I wrote the lyrics and the melody, and it ended up being our first song, “You’re the One for Me.” And then after that, we just kept writing and things kept happening, and a band was formed.
Where did the name —Great Good Fine Ok—come from?
Jon: (Laughs) We obviously get that question a lot, and I wish It was a better story. But it’s just a name that I thought of a long time ago—I don’t even remember how—but I was kind of saving it for the right thing. It was like the cool band name I had in my head. So when It was time for us to figure out a band name I told Luke and he was like, ‘Hmm, maybe…’
Luke Moellman: I didn’t know if we were cool enough for that.
Jon: We marinated on it for a while and it just kind of stuck.
Has living in Brooklyn inspired you to be more creative as musicians?
Jon: When we write other places, other than Brooklyn, sometimes our best stuff comes out. So I don’t know if we’re necessarily influenced by Brooklyn, but the one thing I will say we’ve thought about a little is how there’s such a big music scene in Brooklyn, so there’s a vibe of musicians working really hard and being really creative. There are people working really hard all around you, and it kind of makes you feel like you have to work really hard. It’s a motivation thing, more than a creative inspiration thing.
Luke: There is something creative about so many people being packed in so tightly.
Jon: Yeah, now that I’m thinking about it, everything is kind of heightened in the city. If you feel alone, you’ll feel extra alone, or if you’re in love you’ll feel extra in love, so that is good for writing songs.
You mentioned getting writing done outside of Brooklyn—do you take writing trips often?
Jon: Yeah, we’ve taken a few trips solely for the purpose of writing.
Luke: I think when we do that what happens is it takes away any levels of anxiousness that might be coming across from trying to write stuff in New York.
Jon: A lot of times, the best stuff comes out when you’re not really trying to write something good, when you just try to do what you love.
You’ve collaborated with a lot of Brooklyn-based bands like St. Lucia and Panama Wedding—would you say there’s a good relationship among the artist community here?
Jon: Definitely, it’s a tight-knit community. If there’s like a Brooklyn musician party, we’d know 90% of the people there. And everybody is close, everyone’s really nice. The guys in St. Lucia are the nicest guys, Peter in Panama Wedding is the nicest guy. You get to know these people and you collaborate and it’s like a big happy family.
What have been some of your favorite collaborations?
Luke: “Easy Lover” with Panama Wedding.
Jon: When we asked Jean from St. Lucia to work with us on that song (“Something to Believe In”) that was pretty cool, because we were just starting out and we were big fans of St. Lucia. One of the coolest things for me was that song we collaborated with the Chainsmokers (“Let You Go”), because obviously they’ve become one of the biggest bands in the world. When we did that they were big, but not that big, and the coolest thing about that is that we got to perform that song with them at some big shows, like Firefly a couple years ago, and it was just a trip for me to do anything in front of 15,000 people. And it’s just been exciting to see what’s happening with them since then. On tour, we get asked so often, ‘Are they nice guys?’ and they are! They’re nice guys, and they’re good at what they do.
Your sound has been described as “Nostalgic for the Future.” How do you feel about that descriptor?
Luke: That’s just kind of what happens when you’re using synths, it’s kind of going to sound like that.
Jon: It’s funny because we haven’t been around for that long, and talking about our “older stuff” feels funny. The last couple EPs we did feel more nostalgic than what we’re doing now. The last few singles we’ve released are a little more modern sounding. But we do get told that a lot, that we have a bit of a nostalgic sound.
Luke: We’re big fans of [80s pop and R&B] so that’s definitely going to come across.
Who are some of your biggest influences musically?
Luke: Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston… anything from that kind of 80s R&B thing. So also Zapp, Chaka Khan, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis.
And who are you listening to right now?
Jon: I feel a little like an 18-year-old girl because I’ve been listening to a lot of The 1975… I’ve been trying to listen to a lot of the stuff in our genre. We actually just played a show in Nashville and The 1975 was there the same night, and it did affect ticket sales [LAUGHS]. Because I would say like 90% of our fans are fans of theirs, and we still had a decent crowd, but we got cursed by that a couple times on this tour.
How are you feeling abut your upcoming EP release?
Jon: We’ve been enjoying releasing the singles. It’s kind of fun to just release songs whenever we want, and release them more often than a band would release an album. But we decided to change it up this time and release four new songs at once. The EP also has three singles we’ve already released – we decided to put those on, but we’re really proud of the new songs.
Below, check out the Northside Media Group sessions with Great Good Fine OK: