Michael Cantor, also known as The Goodbye Party, is a UX designer by day, and a talented, self-taught musician by night. Although growing up in Montgomery County, Maryland, he is now a Philadelphia-based artist. Cantor dabbled with many genres, but since acquiring a sampler (a glorified tape recorder often used for electronic music) over quarantine, his sound has shifted into pop ballads, atmospheric soundscapes, cassette tape noise and synth sounds. His most recent tape, “Stray Sparks,” is an experimental collage of old musical archives woven together like a “kaleidoscope of sound,” as Cantor describes.
Ahead of his show at Quarry House Tavern this Saturday, March 11, we spoke with Cantor about his music journey, influences, and memories in D.C.
District Fray: How did you get into music?
Michael Cantor: I didn’t really play growing up, I just listened to the radio a lot. It wasn’t until I went to college that I ended up filling in for somebody in their band. Slowly over the next couple of years, I got more interested in songwriting and built up my own confidence. I started playing in hardcore and punk bands in my late teens/early twenties, that was kind of my foray into playing music. From there, I started writing my own music and got quieter, more melodic, and more intricate. It’s only been in the past five years I’ve tried to really teach myself more principles of traditional songwriting and music theory.
Where does the name The Goodbye Party come from?
Around the time I moved to Philly, I had been writing and recording under my own name. I wanted an artistic banner to hide behind and I thought it would be weird aesthetically if I had other people playing with me [under my first and last name]. I was trying to think of the phrase “Going Away Party,” but for whatever reason, “Goodbye Party” came out. There’s something kind of funny about it. The word party is plural, but the word goodbye is a sad idea. I really liked the mixture of something that had a communal and solitary nature. That is what the band is about, too. There are different modes where it’s just me writing and recording by myself, and other times it’s me collaborating with two or three other people. At this point, it’s just a band name and I don’t think about what the words are anymore.
Who are your musical influences?
I feel like that changes a lot. Somebody that I always think about and admire is Arthur Russel. He was a songwriter, musician and composer from the ’70s and ’80s and was involved in all sorts of genres. He had a folk songwriter era, avant-garde classical work, disco, and then experimental minimal albums. I love all of his different time periods. Seeing a singular artist traverse different genres and be great at all of them is very inspiring to me. I have a broad taste in music, and I like to explore different things. It’s been very inspiring to know that I have the option to sound like whoever or whatever I want, but can still sound like me.
How would you describe your sound?
Early on it was very guitar-based, indie rock. The last couple of years I’ve been playing with a lot more electronic and synth sounds, but I’m still keeping that traditional songwriter core. I just think of it as pop music. That’s obviously a huge umbrella term, but I’m trying to do what most general pop songwriters are trying to do which is create memorable emotional songs. I’m doing it on a very small scale and with that comes the charm of being scrappy and having lo-fi elements.
Why did you record “Stray Sparks” on cassette tapes?
I really missed making things with my own hands and being more involved in that process. With “Stray Sparks,” I recorded everything at home very quickly, and I wanted to have something I made that I could give to somebody at a show. I thought the way the music sounded really fit with that format. My friends at the label I worked with made a couple of hundred copies of it. It’s a tangible thing to have, and it was more like a little experiment. It’s low stakes, but it requires some sort of commitment to sit down and press play. And I just think tapes are cool.
What is your favorite memory of playing in D.C.?
The first that comes to mind is when I got to play Fort Reno in 2009 or 2010. It’s this free outdoor music series that happens in Northwest, D.C. Every Monday and Thursday three local bands would play. Oftentimes it would be a small band you’ve never heard of, but other times it would be [bigger] bands that were involved in Dischord. It was a really fun event you could go and see hundreds of people, and run into friends that you hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a really nice thing that I grew up going to, so being able to play that with my old band felt like a full-circle bucket list thing to do.
What’s next for you?
We’re going [on tour] to D.C., New York, then out through Pennsylvania and Ohio, and then Michigan and Chicago; a fun little eight-day tour. I’m having a baby in May, so this is my last tour for a little bit. I’m [also] writing a record, but I don’t have plans for when that’s going to come out into the world. I have a bunch of new songs that are sample-based and loop-based, but still pop songs that have different textures to them. Still coming along, we’ll see.
The Goodbye Party will kick off their tour this Saturday, March 11 at Quarry House Tavern. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. Cantor is accompanied by long-time friends, Joey Doubek (drums) and Sam Cook-Parrott (bass). Moon by Moon and Emotional World will also be performing. Tickets are still available and can be found here. To learn more about Cantor and his music follow him on Instagram at @thegoodbyeparty.
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