The first time I had even heard of Keep Flying was at a Real Friends gig earlier this year. While waiting outside the Amityville Music Hall, some guy approached me. I later found out that this was Chuck Bernard, the bassist for the band.
He said to me, “Hey Birdman, nice shirt. Can you do me a favor?”
He was speaking about my Philadelphia Eagles shirt, which took me way too long to realize that I was wearing. The favor involved us doing the Eagles-arm-flap-thing on video. Being a massive Philly fan, I did it. Before I had even heard the band, I was already on their Instagram account. But then I did get to hear them play.
I can’t quite explain what happened an hour later when they opened the show, but I fucking loved it. It was loud, spontaneous, and fun. I knew I would remember that night for a long time. Between the variety of the band members themselves to their combination of brass and pop punk, I’ve been obsessed ever since.
One of these personalities, John James Ryan, who serves as not only the saxophonist for the band, but as their manager too, offered me the chance to speak with him on the current state of Keep Flying amidst the rest of the world.
“As far as we go, you know the band is based in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, so we are in the heart of this. I’ve been working on the KF timeline to be ready to adjust it to whenever we think we’ll be allowed to get our asses back out there. The guys love to squad up and play Fortnite. I’ve been re-watching LOST this time with my mother. Though we are stunted from this current situation, we are busy getting ready to just commit to dumping a bunch of content out.”
The young band’s discography, which can be knocked out in about an hour, is addicting; but what makes the band most brilliant may lie in the lyrical work of lead singer, Henry Menzel.
While one may gloss over Menzel’s lyrics during their first listen, it’s important to note how much they complement the music and vice versa. Defiantly optimistic yet brutally honest, KF’s music is unapologetic to themselves. While this might mean asking the questions no one wants to ask:
“Can you give me a cogent reason why I gravitate to things that no one likes?
And do I really want to be this way?
The band also can reflect on the most beautiful feelings, like being in love:
“Life is the monster.
It leaves me weak at the knees.
I feel like I’m blind and there’s no good to be seen
But when I see you smile it gives me a reason to breathe.”
But to reemphasize, this band is not just a collaboration of great lyrical efforts — the music is brilliant too. Full of life and energy, it’s a sound that makes you want to move in all the right ways. Combine all of this with the seemingly nicest group of people and you have a winning formula.
Being on the road constantly (COVID-19 pandemic aside), Keep Flying is a textbook example of D.I.Y. ethics in music today. While their performances are currently on pause, Ryan ensured that their hard work hasn’t stopped, “I’m looking at photos and video clips from the last run, just waiting to hit it again. I’ve been rehearsing the new EP and jumping around just to loosen up. We will try more live streams with the band to get some familiarity. I’m ready to book some shows the second we know it’s safe, and you know we will.”
While many can claim that constant work stifles creativity, this hasn’t been a factor for KF, as seen by their excellently named, Keep Flying Cinematic Universe (KFCU). Taking place throughout three of their music videos, “Candy Cane Forest,” “High Cholesterol,” and recently, “Bargaining,” the stories not only tie into the music itself, but add just another layer to a band that has an endless amount of creativity. Luckily for fans, Ryan confirmed a continuation of the KFCU moving forward.
On that note, it’s impossible to speak about Keep Flying without mentioning their insanely passionate fanbase.
“We spend a lot of time with the people who love our music because it feels extra welcoming. All the band members have had previous bands that have done the punk rock thing, and we started this band with a genuine sense of hope for what was to come. The name of the band speaks for itself, and we uphold that as much as possible.”
As later explained by Ryan, this connects to the greater idea of what it means to “keep flying.” To him, it’s a lifestyle; something that, despite our difficult days, needs to be remembered.
“I’ll be honest, when Keep Flying started, it straight up saved my life. It brought me right to where I needed to be. And now we are here. Anytime someone comes up after a set and says how badly they needed it, I am reminded of how badly I also needed it. Every night. Keep Flying to me is therapy. It heals me.”
The humor in all of this lies with their stage presence. Despite their complex and thorough reflections of life, this is still a punk band. Not just any punk band, I should add, but one with brass.
“Honestly, I think we all have a bit of pent up energy built inside us. Not just us, but all humans. Our band is a group of people that have that same psychotic energy. I know when I see my guys rocking hard, I just want to rock even harder. And when the crowd is feeding it back, it just refuels the tank.”
Keep Flying still has their eyes set on what’s ahead — this includes the upcoming release of their next EP.
Ryan has high expectations for the new music, “It has the best lyrics Henry has come up with and the best horn lines I’ve ever hatched in my career. The songs span a wide range and we are eager to get this rolled out to everyone.”
Even though the coronavirus has delayed the process, it’s expected to drop within the year.
But as mentioned before, what makes Keep Flying so amazing is how genuine they are. Four months after discovering this, I attended the release show for their new “Unbreakable” EP at the Amityville Music Hall (again).
After watching them perform, I walked up to Chuck Bernard as he put away his bass, to thank him for the great show. Before I even got the chance to speak, he looked up at me and happily shouted: