Photographer: Joe Calixto
Whether it be a particularly dramatic story moment or a punishing riff in a favorite song, encountering something “heavy” really gets the heart racing and the mind swirling. As one might imagine, this leads to a nice Venn diagram between the fandoms of anime and heavy music.
One band that sits at that center is SeeYouSpaceCowboy from San Diego, California. Their unique brand of genre-bending intensity has earned them recognition far and wide as a breath of fresh air in the hardcore/heavy music scene.
Naturally, the name piqued my interest, so I sat down with Connie and Ethan Sgarbossa from SeeYouSpaceCowboy to talk about the origins of the band name, life as a touring anime fan and how early experiences with the medium helped to shape their understanding of art.
Crunchyroll: Could you please give a brief intro of yourselves and the band?
Connie: I’m Connie Sgarbossa and I’m the singer of SeeYouSpaceCowboy.
Ethan: I’m Ethan Sgarbossa and I’m the guitarist of SeeYouSpaceCowboy.
Connie: SeeYouSpaceCowboy is a weird metalcore, post-hardcore amalgamation.
Ethan: Yeah, we make some weird and fun music. We make the music we want to make (laughs).
So let’s get straight into it because we’re here to talk about anime. Let’s talk about the band name. Where did it come from? Wanting to let the world know you’re Cowboy Bebop fans or did it just kind of happen?
Photographer: Krissy Marie
Connie: Cowboy Bebop is definitely one of my all-time favorites. It was one of the first anime I ever watched when I was a kid and didn’t care as much about watching full series. Then when I got older, I finally watched it front to back.
The name came from around the time when SeeYouSpaceCowboy started and I was rewatching Cowboy Bebop and I saw the end card and I was like “Hmmm… that’s cool, I like that.” And then we just took the spaces out of the sentence.
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Ethan: Yeah, obviously it’s an all-time classic, a favorite. We’re related, so we grew up watching the same exact stuff, so like, when Cowboy Bebop would come on Toonami, we’d watch that. And when Connie brought that to the table, I think there was another option for the band name, but we were like “…no that sucks. SeeYouSpaceCowboy is the way we should go.” We love the show so it was a fitting thing for us.
It’s definitely hard to beat the cool factor of the quote and the endslate overall.
Connie: Absolutely. It’s such a striking slate, plus I feel like even in the way that Cowboy Bebop combined all of these styles like western, jazz, sci-fi, etc. it also fit what we were trying to do with this band, which is combine dance-y, heavy, weird sasscore stuff, Three One G, and stuff like that. So it worked out just as a reference and stylistically as well.
Was watching Cowboy Bebop when you were younger the first inkling in your mind that you might want to be a musician?
Connie: Ironically, I never wanted to be a musician growing up. Even halfway through this band, I didn’t really have a goal to make it my career like it is now. But I feel like the mentality of combining things together, and liking things from punk to trip hop to indie rock to ‘80s new wave and not being in one particular scene, kind of reflects Cowboy Bebop in that way so I feel like it fits.
Growing up, I would exist in all these different types of scenes, like I’d be really into ‘80s hardcore but was also a huge nerd and was into manga and anime and PS2 RPGs. So it really fits for me and I’ve always loved that series and I’ve always loved how it can marry all those styles so well into this really unique, amazing package.
Ethan: I’m pretty much in the same boat. Music really never was something that I was like, “I want to pursue that.” Our parents tried to get specifically me to do music lessons and I just never really wanted to do it. So that came a long way down the line.
Being into anime like Cowboy Bebop, and our dad showed us Akira and Studio Ghibli and stuff back in the day, I feel like that formed who we are artistically. All of those things form this amalgamation of different styles. Those were definitely huge for us, growing up and bringing us into a different sphere of artwork, especially animation.
Connie: Seeing Spirited Away in theaters when it first came over was a really cool experience. And getting to watch the first 15 minutes of Akira on VHS when we were really young until our mom said “This is too violent!” and turned it off. And going outside to all forms of art, like graphic novels and Frank Miller and Mobius, all these things our dad introduced us to, like Ethan said, pushed us toward exploring the alternative.
Have you found any specific genres of anime that you’re more into now than when you first started watching?
Photographer: Krissy Marie
Connie: So I started with Toonami and Adult Swim and then went into stuff like Ghibli films, and then I switched to reading a lot of manga, because I really love the black-and-white art style and how it’s a little more raw than anime.
I always think back to Trigun, which was the first manga series I ever finished all the way through when I was 11 or 12. Then I watch the anime and it’s definitely cool and a classic. But that manga is gnarly and dives deeper and is more violent. So I mostly fixated on manga, but then I joined my after-school anime club in middle school and dived into the weirder side like Perfect Blue, Paprika, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain and got into my little niche of these weirdo existential philosophical ones for a while.
Until Attack on Titan came out. When I saw the trailer for that and I saw that art style with the really dark, heavy lines, it really resonated with me and pulled me back in and got me to check out more random anime again because they can be so cool. Music ironically is my second passion and visual art is my first, so anything with a cool art style that I can grab a hold of will really make me dive deeper into it.
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Ethan: Like Connie said, we grew up on all that stuff like Ghibli and Akira and Cowboy Bebop, and it was big in the formative years. After that, it was always there, just in the background a little bit. It all came back with Attack on Titan for me as well.
When that started airing, I started watching again, then all of those feelings started to come back and I started to check out new stuff. I went way crazy on all the genres and watched everything essentially. I was enjoying rom-coms like Toradora! and Clannad, all that stuff. Also the weird shit like Serial Experiments Lain, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill, I liked it all.
But as I have gone further and further, I’ve gone more away from the slice-of-life shows and I’ve found myself enjoying more and more of the philosophical, or the shows with heavily stylized artwork, plus manga. This is kind of crazy but I just read Berserk for the first time. I feel like that’s something everyone should read but after putting it off for so long it’s something I’m just now starting to dive more and more into, along with other manga. Berserk and Oyasumi PunPun are some of my favorite manga right now.
From that anime journey, do either of you have an all-time favorite?
Connie: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the greatest in my opinion. That and End of Evangelion. I haven’t given all the rebuilds a fair watch yet, but definitely the original series and the End of Evangelion movie are my favorite of all time.
Ethan: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I feel like Neon Genesis Evangelion would definitely be up there. There’s just so many to pick from it’s just so hard. Even coming from the Cowboy Bebop vibe, with Samurai Champloo, I watched that anime and was like “there’s nothing here that I don’t like.”
So you’ve called out Evangelion and others like Perfect Blue and Paprika, and I noticed that all of those titles were in the video loop that plays behind the band during shows. Were those intentional choices to fit with the themes of the music?
Photographer: Joe Calixto
Connie: Ethan made it, so he would know, but I remember we encountered our first video screen for a show and we went through a bunch of ideas to figure out what we wanted to put up there. Then I remembered that Ethan made that video and he used to make all of these chillwave beats and stuff and made that AMV to his beats and I remember it being really, really cool. So I wanted to put that on screen.
Ethan: I was making that music, and then I made a video out of Tumblr GIFs because I was into that back in the day. I thought that I could take those and piece them together in a weird way, so I tried to record verses and put scenes that correlated together.
The band, and Connie specifically, really latched onto them, so we did it for one show and then they wanted to do it for every show we’ve done that has a screen. But really there’s no significance, it’s just stuff that I enjoyed that was anime-related and I felt like all the vibes were there. Our media guy Jens even made a better version of it, where he put the band name up there and had lyrics flash, which was really cool.
It seems like a lot of bands in this scene really latch onto anime as something formative in their artistic interpretations. What do you think is the reason for that?
Photographer: Joe Calixto
Connie: I feel like a lot of people in the scene grew up watching anime and it has made such a big impact on people. People in our age group grew up when that stuff was coming over more and more and not just on VHS, like you could watch it on TV too. And as it grew even more, it really resonated with people and provided this big sense of community for people to dive deeper into nerdy stuff. And that sense of community is really cool. As you maybe move out of that and then go and join a new scene like hardcore and metalcore, and then you discover that all these other people liked anime too.
Also, it is a medium that has deeper things and more mature stuff than you would find in typical animation. I mean, as much we all loved Invader Zim growing up, like, we don’t really go back and watch it again. But you can go back to watch all the anime you enjoyed growing up.
Ethan: I think they’re both a kind of counterculture, anime less so nowadays, and I guess hardcore is kind of getting there too. Especially like, a decade back, it was not as common to be watching anime. I feel like that ties the two together, like if you’re doing something counterculture you’re going to latch onto another thing like that.
As you’ve mentioned, the music and the visuals really go well together. The AMV culture seemed to have a huge impact on the scene as well.
Connie: And that spread out from nü metal all the way to even the modern-day trap generation. They even have AMVs and stuff. It’s crazy to see anime tied into things as popular as that. As someone who loves trap as well, it’s cool to see that love come over into that realm as well.
Are you able to keep up with stuff that’s currently airing while on the road?
Connie: I can when I get home, usually. The most modern thing that I’ve been keeping up with and reading is BEASTARS and I’ve been keeping up with the anime and getting every manga volume as it gets localized. But for the most part, it’s really hard to keep up on the road because in the van on a long drive, you usually want to sleep because you didn’t sleep much the night before. It’s so hard to keep up though. Same with new music. I fail to listen to a lot of new music and will discover it a year later.
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Ethan: I’ve been trying to stay updated on recent stuff that’s airing, like Chainsaw Man. It started recently and I’ve been really wanting to watch it really badly. It’s hard though, because you don’t want to use up all your data on the road and want to find Wi-Fi. I find it harder and harder to keep up as I get older.
Is there an opening or ending that really sticks out to you as being special or formative? Always curious to hear a musician’s take on this question.
Ethan: I got one. Connie, do you?
Connie: I have a couple. You go first.
Ethan: I want to see if we’re going to say the exact same one.
Connie: Is it Tokyo Ghoul?
Ethan: TK rocks but I was going to say Serial Experiments Lain.
Connie: I was going to say that one too, in my [top] three! Serial Experiments Lain, the intro with “Duvet,” captured the vibe of that show perfectly. I feel like “Unravel” by TK fits the vibe of Season 1 of Tokyo Ghoul so perfectly. Even √A has an amazing opening that’s minimalistic and beautiful.
Ethan: All three of the Tokyo Ghoul openings are the best.
Connie: And “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” of course too.
Ethan: The new Attack on Titan opening was cool. It was heavy and fitting for how dark the show is now. It rocked.
I also want to add, for the Tokyo Ghoul openings, TK rocks and his band rocks as well. Their whole discography is awesome and has this whole post-hardcore/screamo-y vibe that is super cool. Definitely recommend a deep dive on that.
The second opening is incredible with the piano too. The third one too is by Cö shu Nie, an incredible band. So all those openings are honestly ridiculously good.
Connie: And I forget which anime it’s for but the opening that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas did.
Ethan: Oh yea, for Parasyte.
Connie: Yea that song is so crazy.
Ethan: “Let Me Hear.” That song is so crazy! I love it.
Connie: I love when openings have these cool little heavy parts in them, whether it be breakdowns or screaming because it’s like, oh, that’s for me. I get it. I want to do an opening so bad. I think it’d be so much fun. Because for an intro you don’t necessarily need to make it an entire song. In a way, you just have this little snippet that has to be the sickest thing you’re ever going to make.
If you love TK, you’ll definitely be excited when you see his ending for Chainsaw Man.
Ethan: I need to watch Chainsaw Man. I really do.
Finally, is there anything you wanted to let our readers know about what is coming up for SeeYouSpaceCowboy?
Connie: We have a lot of tours coming up. We’re going on tour in Europe and the United Kingdom with The Amity Affliction, and then we’re going on tour with Silverstein. We’re also working on some other stuff for the fall and the rest of spring and then working on some new music. We can’t announce a lot of it yet, but there is more stuff coming.
Ethan: We have a lot more, we can’t tell you about it just yet though. But we can’t wait for them all and hope people can come out to the shows.
SeeYouSpaceCowboy is currently on tour in EU/UK with The Amity Affliction and will be on tour with Silverstein in the US/CA later this year. For more information, please visit their website.
You can follow the band on Instagram and Twitter.
Connie can be found on Instagram and Twitter.
And Ethan can be found on Instagram and Twitter here.