New Jersey Music Spotlight: Latchkey Kids

by Jack Oliver

It’s been an absolute joy for me to write about bands that are staying productive and releasing new work during quarantine. Despite tours being canceled, shows being taken away or studio time being lost, the unfaltering nature of the New Jersey DIY scene remains intact, and the Latchkey Kids perfectly embody the spirit of this hardworking community.

The Latchkey Kids are a relatively new group, blossoming in the New Brunswick scene in just a little over a year’s time. Lead vocalist and songwriter Hanny Ramadan told me about the band’s humble beginnings: “Our drummer Cyle Morris and I used to be in other bands together when I was first dipping my feet in songwriting and playing in bands. Eventually we both outgrew what we were doing and put together some demos in my Momma’s basement, just the two of us,” Ramadan told me. “About a year ago, we got a live band together for a string of New Brunswick shows and put out those demos as our first EP.”

Lead singer and guitarist Hanny Ramadan. Photo courtesy of Mike McClellan.

Within six months of their initial EP’s release, “Bury My Promises,” the band launched a nine-show tour with brother-band Jack & the Me Offs, concluding with an explosive return show at The Meatlocker in Montclair on January 16th. The show sold out, packed with hometown fans eager to welcome home two of the most beloved bands in the community. “We’ve never had such a crowd,” Morris recalled. “People actually came out a good distance rather than just walking to a house show, and I think that meant a lot to all of us. We were all one big soul groovin’ together.” 

The band documented their experience on the road from this tour, which you can check out below.

Despite the obstacles of schoolwork and a drummer living a few states over, the band steadied its momentum, headlining a March 18th show at The Clubhouse of Tom’s River. Only after tickets had officially sold out would the nationwide pandemic cancel the show altogether. While some bands have gone dormant during the lockdown, Ramadan and the Latchkey Kids remain committed to creating new music.

Part of their productivity includes multiple live sessions on the band’s Instagram, as well as a performance at the virtual Rutgers Day show and upcoming digital shows with other New Jersey bands such as Skylar Pocket and Razor Braids

Ramadan described the unorthodox experience of producing music during a quarantine: “Playing live sessions feels like what I imagine high school reunions feel like, a bloated re-enactment of long lost dynamics. Brooding jokes aside, it’s not ideal but it felt rewarding to come together and make live sessions. I was very grateful for that. But mostly, I’ve tried to focus on writing because it feels like I have all the time in the world. I’m finding out I’m not the only musician/songwriter that has made this ‘all the time in the world’ promise.”

During quarantine, the band produced a “live” session of their most popular song, “Running Late,” which you can view below.

Ramadan even hinted at a potential album in the works, saying that he has “a lot of decent scraps right now,” which will all go into “the process of creating something potentially full length.” He hopes to share this with the community “sooner rather than later.” 

This announcement came ahead of the band’s third official EP, titled “Alone with Athena.” When speaking on the band’s new project, lead guitarist Joey Grzybowski described it as a “great stepping stone for Latchkey Kids to grow as a creative force.” In comparison to the band’s previous work, he believes that “the same intentions of spreading a message are there, but they’re produced in an evolved and more well-rounded way.” With this new EP, the group has now released 14 songs over four projects since last June. 

Lead Guitarist Joey Grzybowski. Photo courtesy of Mike McClellan.

I once again wrapped up our interview by asking the Latchkey Kids what NJ musicians, bands, or organizations they idolize and wish success towards. Here were some of the responses:

“My favorite local songwriting comes from Matthew Smith of the bands Hodera & Bravely. I kind of sense that there is a community of young New Jersey writers that are influenced by his blend of folk & emo (a blend that’s a little more directly earnest than Pinegrove). He also has a real rich quality to his voice that makes his work and storytelling believable. My friend Mihir of Sunbowl told me to listen to Bravely’s “Where We Began” last summer, and I think their influence on me has grown considerably since. That song, specifically, has one of the best opening verses I’ve ever heard. Delicately troubling lyrical storytelling.” – Hanny Ramadan (Lead Vocalist/Rhythm Guitar/Songwriter)

“I hope everyone can succeed! Being in the New Brunswick scene has shown me so many great artists and creatives that I would have never experienced in the small town where I come from. The wave that is in our community was so different than anything I’ve ever experienced before so it hit me like a truck. Everybody I’ve met is so talented and unique, and I wish them all success in their creative endeavors.” – Joey Grzybowski (Lead Guitarist)

“I would definitely say Tula Vera from Montclair (check out The Digest’s article on the band here). They work their asses off and it’s such an inspiration. One of the first bands I have seen that is truly putting in the time and effort into making a name for themselves.” – Cyle Morris (Drums)

For frequent updates on the band’s upcoming work, be sure to follow them on their Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp (where you can see my face on the right!)

About the Author/s

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Jack Oliver is an aspiring writer, and is so thrilled to be part of The Digest's team. He also works as an editor at GenZ Publishing. Previous accolades include a published play by Lazy Bee Scripts ("Coming of Age").

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