A conversation with Anton Kellner


    Chris Lambert spoke with Anton Kellner about inauthentic Chinese food, leporine anxiety, Shazam, his most treasured belongings and disregarding the common boundaries of EPs and LPs.

    As the cake was being cut, I just surged and clenched my fists and bit down with my teeth, and started trembling with excitement.


    Chris Lambert

    What is your go-to coffee shop and your go-to order there?

    Anton Kellner

    There’s a drive-thru coffee shop in Atascadero called Brew-It. It’s a drive-thru only, and it’s super small. They barely have a little patio with one table, but that’s my spot. Now, what I order, that’s the hard part. I’ve been liking dirty chais lately. I could drink coffee any way, though.


    Please tell me about a day from your childhood that stands out to you, in as much specific detail as possible.

    I don’t remember a lot about my childhood. The one that stands out: I don’t remember how old I was, but I was pretty young, and it was one of my birthday parties. My parents invited some of my friends over, and I remember that they got this huge cake, that had some superhero on it. As it was being cut, I guess I suddenly found some excitement in that. It was like an oncoming “I’m about to crush this cake.” So as it was being cut, I just surged and clenched my fists and bit down with my teeth, and started trembling with excitement. It was just a great moment, like, “Everyone is here, and that cake is awesome!”


    The fires last month got uncomfortably close to where we live. If you had to evacuate at a moment’s notice and could only fill a shoebox full of items to save, what would you put in it?

    I’m weird with possessions. I don’t own too many things that I find incredibly important, but I have a little memory stick full of all of my music, photos, tax information. I would for sure throw that in. Probably my MacBook Air, and the few family photos that I keep. I do have a rabbit, and I might be able to fit him in a shoebox, but he’d probably have a panic attack. He’s an albino lop-ear with red eyes, and we named him Byron, after Lord Byron.


    Meditation has played a big part in the music I’ve been writing lately. Please take a moment to close your eyes and slow your breathing, and describe the first thing you visualize once your mind is clear.

    This is embarrassing, but the very first thing that popped up was food. I only had a smoothie today, and right now I’m visualizing some Chinese food, and that’s weird because I haven’t had Chinese food in a really long time. And I kind of want it to be crappy Chinese food, not something you’d get at a really nice five-star restaurant. I’m picturing that stereotypical Americanized Chinese food that you can get at any place called like Dragon Palace or something.

    I don’t know music theory or anything, so I’ll actually forget how to play my songs sometimes. When I listen back, I have to try to learn them all over again.


    It’s interesting that you and I both put out our last albums in February 2016, and we’re both now in the studio working on our follow-up records. Please give a descriptive name to the exact part of the album-making process that you’re in right now.

    It’s not very descriptive, but I would generally just call it “The Scheduling.” Every song is finalized, and I’m about to go into pre-production with my friend Nolan Perry, but the first step is just scheduling time for us to start that pre-production. I don’t know how you write songs, but I’ll write a new song and then record a demo, but I don’t know music theory or anything, so I’ll actually forget how to play them sometimes.

    So when I listen back, I have to try to learn it all over again before I go into the studio. I should probably play them more, so I know what I’m doing, but then I start to hate them before I even get to the studio. I try to stay hands-off, and then right when I’m about to go in, I scurry and try to lock everything down.


    I’ve been reconsidering the appropriate length of a record lately, and somewhere along the way, I decided that I want only nine tracks on my next album. Your last LP had only seven. What was the reason for that?

    I don’t like to constantly put out full-length after full-length. I started with an 11-track album, and it just felt like too much to then put out another one right after that. I never really know what defines an EP, though, because I’ve seen bands put out 7 or 8-track records and call them EPs. So I did seven, and I was like, ‘Is this an EP? Is it an LP?’ I don’t know. But also, I only wrote those seven songs. I didn’t have any extra demos or anything. I just wrote those seven, and I was like, ‘Done!’


    Tell me about the last time you got angry at a stranger.

    I try not to do that too much anymore, but whenever I leave work, I hit this really slow traffic. I leave work earlier than the average person, so I hit, like, the retired older people traffic, and sometimes I’m in a rush to get home and I get stuck behind someone doing ten under the speed limit. I don’t honk or flip them off or anything like that, but I’ll still just be in my car going, “Come on!”


    Something I’ve come to understand in life is that everything people say to you, good and bad, is something they’re actually trying to say to themselves, using you as a filter. What is the meanest thing that someone has ever said to you, and what do you think that person was trying to work out for themselves?

    There was this guy I was doing music stuff with, and I feel like he might have been bipolar, but I don’t really know. He just had a very skewed idea of reality, and any time he would recap things that went down, it would be completely different than what had actually happened.

    There was a time when we got into it over some song, and it ended with him leaving, and as a parting gift he said, “I don’t want to work with a self-absorbed asshole with a bruised ego!” And for a while I thought, “Is that really me? I don’t want to be that. That’s horrible.” I think he was just kind of nutty, honestly.

    In the past, every time I wanted to reinvent my music, I would try to completely erase my old stuff from the Internet, but my bandmates would always find out.


    Tell me about an app that has made your life easier.

    Shazam! Oh my god, I love Shazam. I’ve discovered so many artists that I would never have found otherwise. Any time I would hear a song playing that I liked, I would try to memorize the lyrics and go home to look them up, but now I grab my phone and Shazam it. I would be so bummed if it went away.


    You released a song called “Pyrrhic” last summer, which was featured on a bunch of websites, but has now been completely wiped from the internet. Why did that song disappear?

    I had the idea to release a single every month to generate buzz, and I was trying to create this genre that was some kind of ambient electronic soul. That was the first song I had ever self-produced at home, and I just submitted it to a bunch of music blogs. Pretty soon, my Soundcloud had like 43,000 plays, and I started to worry, like, “This isn’t even very representative of the album I’m going to put out. Let me just remove all traces of this, so nobody can find this attached to my name.” In the past, every time I wanted to reinvent my music, I would try to completely erase my old stuff from the Internet, but my bandmates would always find out, and be like, “Dude, I was playing my Spotify playlist at work, and I didn’t hear any of our songs.”


    I read that your song “Rockets” was inspired by the closing scene of Blue Valentine. I only saw the movie once, but that scene is burned into my head. If you had to write a new song about a scene in a movie you recently saw, what would it be?

    I can’t remember the name of the film, but it was a horror movie that I found on Netflix. I would love to try to write something different for it. Like a death metal song. I don’t know if I even can, but I would try my best.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 120
    Curated by: Chris Lambert
    Conducted by: In-person conversation
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: February 1, 2018
    Total questions: 11
    Word count: 1391
    Reading time: Five minutes
    Hyperlinks: 2


    Fist: Clenched
    Reality: Skewed
    Shoebox: Panic
    Theory: Forgotten
    Scheduling: Impetus
    Ego: Unbruised
    Internet: Erased


    About the subject

    Anton Kellner is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and leader of The Lone Stars. He lives in San Luis Obispo, California.

    About the curator

    Chris Lambert is a singer-songwriter and recording engineer from Orcutt, CA. Since 2016, he has hosted a weekly podcast called Are We Okay? where he has conversations about creativity, positivity, and the meaning of life with a new artist every Tuesday.


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