Interview: The Greeting Committee on Being Featured in Netflix's "To All the Boys: Always and Forever"
The band's vocalist Addie Sartino talks to Popdust about appearing in the third and final installment of Netflix's beloved teen romcom series.
For most bands, being approached for a movie means one of your songs might be featured on the soundtrack.
But for Kansas City indie rock band the Greeting Committee, a call from their manager about contributing to a film soundtrack quickly spiraled into a much larger opportunity: being asked to actually appear in To All the Boys: Always and Forever, the third installment in Netflix's film series based on the novels by Jenny Han.
Speaking over Zoom, vocalist Addie Sartino keeps humbly reiterating how wild the experience was for her and her bandmates, shooting overnight in the summer of 2019. They contributed not one, but four songs to the film — three of which ("17," "Gold Star," "Run For Your Money") had already appeared on the band's 2018 debut album, This Is It. In the film, the Greeting Committee are performing at a rooftop party in New York City, as the film's protagonist, Lara Jean Covey, is visiting the city to tour NYU.
"A lot of our fans were people who prefaced that they wouldn't have watched the movie if we hadn't been in it," Sartino says. "So even though we don't have a humongous audience by any means, I think it's cool to pull from our fanbase as well as people who loved the first two To All the Boys movies."
Below, read more about the Greeting Committee's experience watching themselves in To All the Boys: Always and Forever, new music on the horizon, and more.
Beginning Middle End (From The Netflix Film "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" / Lyr... www.youtube.com
Popdust: Just for some background, how did the Greeting Committee form?
Addie Sartino: I made music on my own, and when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I went around school selling a CD of four songs I had made in my friend's basement. I met Brandon [Yangmi, guitar] because my stepmom and his mom tried to set us up. I remember my stepmom was like, "He plays guitar, and he models!" But then we met and hit it off as friends, and he would come with me to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City. They did an open mic night, and he would play with me, and it just made me feel so much more comfortable and confident having someone next to me.
Then I remember going to a concert, and it was a female performer in the band with a bunch of guys on stage. And I was like, "That's cool. I want to make a band." So I called Brandon because I knew right away that I wanted him to be a part of it. Brandon is unbelievably talented. A lot of our songs stem from his ideas.
Our drummer Austin [Fraser] is actually his childhood best friend, so they've known each other forever, and then Pierce [Turcotte, bass] was in the marching band with Brandon and Austin, so it's kind of this ragtag group of people that mixed together. We were all, like, 15 and 16 when we started, and we just played our school's talent show. From there, the band just kept getting a good reaction, so we kept going. I knew that I wanted to be in music no matter what, and I think Brandon was on the same page. We actually got signed right around the time Pierce would have gone to college. Thankfully, he stuck around with us.
Congratulations on being in the film. Can you walk me through how that happened logistically on your end?
Thank you! It happened really fast. Our manager called us and basically told us that we really needed to get this cover submitted quickly — just a voice memo version. At first, I was supposed to cover "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson, and I love that song. And then I was asked to cover "Beginning Middle End" by Leah Nobel, which is Lara Jean and Peter's "song" in the movie.
It was kind of a scary thing of, like, you're being asked to send something, and you're gonna know that they don't want to pick you if they don't keep asking for more. But they kept asking for more, and it just kind of got scarier and scarier! But it all happened within like, a week or two. Then we were told that we were going to be in the movie, and they flew us out to New York. We were there for, like, 36 hours max. We filmed from like 10PM at night to like five or six in the morning, because to capture the nighttime they have to take advantage of it all the way.
It was just very surreal. I remember telling my parents about it, and then I was terrified that we were gonna get cut from the movie. But we were told by Capitol Records that we had "prominent screen time," but we didn't know what that meant until we watched it. I was like, "Oh my God, that's like my face right there!"
The Greeting Committee - 17 www.youtube.com
It's so common to just pick a band for a movie's soundtrack, but it's so cool to me that they decided to actually feature you.
I don't know why they chose that! That doesn't happen a ton — there's not a band in every movie, but there's a soundtrack for every movie. All of our fans really love Taylor Swift, and Taylor Swift drops Easter eggs left and right for people to discover. So I was just trying to kind of mess with our fans in that regard.
A few of your original songs were featured in the movie. How does it feel to have these songs of yours that are a few years old take on a new meaning in the context of the film?
It's just super interesting. Like, this is kind of to be expected, but our Spotify top five tracks changed to all the songs that were in the movie. We released our last album in 2018, and we've released new music since, so I think it's just interesting to see how much can change just from having more exposure. We're really grateful for that.
But I think having our songs in the movie made me like "Run for Your Money" more, because I love the scene that it's in. I had my best friends over to watch the premiere of the movie, and they started jumping around the way that the characters were, and singing and jumping in a circle. It was just very cool and heartwarming. I have more of an attachment to "Run for Your Money" now.
The Greeting Committee - Run For Your Money (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
Since you didn't know how prominently you'd be featured, what was the group reaction when you saw yourselves on screen?
My parents and my friends made us rewind it, like, four times. My cheeks hurt from smiling. It's so awesome, but it's also very weird. Pierce and I were talking about this the other day — how cool the success is and how close it can feel, but also very far away. Most of the reactions are online right now, so our daily lives haven't changed much. We still get up every morning and go to the studio and try to write and try to record, but then if you get on Twitter or Instagram, it's like, "Oh, yeah, I forgot that this happened."
Not to rub salt in the wound, but how does it feel to have this milestone moment during a time when you can't play live shows?
It's definitely tough. We weren't even supposed to play a ton of shows in 2020 just because we've been on track to write our second record; but now that it's 2021, I'm starting to get a bit of an edge where I really want to go play a show. But I also want everyone to be safe, and I don't want to play a show if I can't play our show. Our shows are very invasive and up in your face and sweating on top of each other.
I really hope the movie brings new people to our concerts. I kind of think that's the way the Greeting Committee has always functioned — and I don't mean this to rag on our music — but I don't feel like our thing is our studio performances or our recordings. I think what attracts people to us, typically, is our live performance. I think something I can say confidently is that we do a good job putting on a show. So to have so many new people come to us is reassuring in some regards, but I also need them to see us live.
How did you feel about the way your live performance was portrayed in the movie?
It's different. Like, the drums were actually really quiet, and Austin really couldn't hit them. It's weird — how do you get [a concert] to translate well into a movie? And the scene of us performing: I don't really know a band that would perform and nobody's looking at them except for one person.
I remember when they were shooting the scene where Lara Jean's filming me, I didn't realize that that was a scene. I thought the actress, Lana [Condor], was just filming us for fun. We had done so many takes at that point, and we were just being told to run it over and over again. If it had been a real NYU rooftop party, I probably would have started a mosh pit.
Do you have any favorite moments from shooting?
Brandon normally performs barefoot, so he kept trying to take his shoes off, and the styling ladies kept coming back and being like, "Honey, you have to put your shoes on," while he's trying to sneak them off in-between takes. Finally, he had to end up wearing them. Since I normally perform in suits, all of our fans were like, "Why aren't you wearing a suit in the movie?" And I'm like, "Guys, let's just be happy. We're in the movie."
What surprised you the most about being on a movie set?
How much waiting there is, but also watching how the actors get in the zone was really interesting. Like, since it was so late at night, Lana would be kind of to herself and looking really tired. And then it was like a light switch that would go on when it was time for her to film. I can relate to that as a performer. It's also interesting to watch teen romcom acting, because it's such a specific thing that they're going for. It doesn't feel unnatural watching it in a movie, but watching it in person felt super unnatural, where I was like, "Who says that?"
When we were hanging out with the cast, it was mostly with the extras. But Madeleine Arthur, who plays Chris, was especially nice to us. Not that everyone else wasn't nice, but she just took a special step to make us feel welcome, and I thought that was really cool. As a band, we always try to put kindness at the forefront of what we do.
A funny question: Do you have a favorite fake band from a movie?
Have you ever seen LOL with Miley Cyrus? The band in that is so good. Their song that's in the movie ended up on Spotify, but I don't think they had other songs, and I remember being so bummed. First of all, I don't think I realized until around last year that you can be just a commercial band or a TV show band. I just assumed that if anyone was in a band, then that's that, and you do what we all do. Also — the marching band in Spongebob where they're playing in that megadome.
I think the bubble could be great for social distancing concerts.
Exactly! I'd go to that show in a heartbeat.
I know you're working on new music at the moment. What can you share about it?
It's been exactly a year of writing, and I think we've had the hardest time [making music] that we've ever had, but I think that's because we've raised our standards of what we allow from ourselves. I want to get new music out so badly — so definitely this year, there will be new music.
As for the concept, I just kept coming back to this theme of feeling like I'm watching my life instead of living it, whether it was a good moment or a bad moment. Like with the movie coming out, you almost have to detach from things that are so surreal. And I think a lot of people probably feel that way right now, being like, "Oh my God, how is it March again?" And how does time go by so fast, but also so slow? I would say that's the theme of it.
The Greeting Committee - Gold Star (Official Audio) www.youtube.com