Interview: Jon Sandler & Luke Moellman Are in a State of Existence That’s Great Good Fine Ok With Them

Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez
Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez
Great Good Fine Ok’s lead singer Jon Sandler talks about the earth-rattling changes that inspired their new EP ‘EXIST,’ and the sounds that brought it all to life.
Stream: ‘EXIST’ – Great Good Fine Ok

If your ZIP code changed, how would you?

That is the formula for Great Good Fine Ok, a magnificent two-piece dance synth-pop band formed in Brooklyn when Jon Sandler and Luke Moellman crossed paths in 2013, over a decade ago now. The duo put out their first hit song “You’re the One for Me,” an anthem that made walls and souls vibrate, going to #1 on Hype Machine twice in one month. Sandler is the vocalist, who’s voice holds multitudes of smoothness and adrenaline – whichever the mood calls for, he’s got it. Moellman is the mixer and producer, painting with every sonic thing that inspires him.

Less than three weeks ago, they put out their new EP EXIST, chronicling their move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and all the motions that come with a change of space, mind, noise, and heart. They begin touring the west coast later this month. In a discussion with Atwood Magazine, singer/songwriter Jon Sandler talks about their latest single “Led Me to You,” it’s fun yet metaphor-laden music video, and maybe even a tour update exclusive.

— —

:: stream/purchase EXIST here ::
:: connect with Great Good Fine Ok here ::


EXIST - Great Good Fine Ok

Atwood Magazine: I feel like your music tends to put listeners on a sort of musical voyage. I was wondering where you would say that EXIST puts your listeners on that trip?

Jon Sandler: I love that you put it that way. We do try to make music that feels more like an experience than your average song. As far as EXIST as a whole goes, it really includes a full spectrum of the Great Good Fine Ok experience that we’ve been trying to give people for the last ten years, but it is different for us, and also feels the most like us. There are songs that are more yacht-rock, which is Luke’s (Moellman) favorite style of music, he loves Steely Dan; he was trying to lean into the stuff he loves most.

This has stuff that is more like Bruno Mars, like the last song we just released, “Led Me to You.” And then the song, you know, “When We Make It,” it’s kind of a stretch into the pop world for us, more Charli. So, we really tried to spread our wings a little bit to make this journey even more exciting than we’ve done in the past.

I really like what you said about how EXIST means to live, especially under adverse conditions and how that summarized your move from Brooklyn to LA. Is there a moment on the EP that best summarizes that?

Sandler: If you go song by song, like “Breathing” is kind of about the world ending, which we all experienced in 2020, and just had to deal with that. The best way to do it is to breathe and let. ‘Led Me to You’ is about how, even though all these terrible things happen, you never know how it’s gonna turn out. It’s impossible to know, in the moment, whether any one thing that happens is actually good or bad. All the bad things could actually lead you to the person you love. “Will We Make It?” is sort of this desperate plea, while in a relationship of like, ‘Is this going to last?’, and that feeling that we’ve all experienced.

It’s interesting because we didn’t really think about this until we had completed the five. They all are absolutely about the idea of surviving and living within this world that we’re all in that can be so difficult.

Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez
Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez

How do you feel that EXIST is inspired by your move to LA?

Sandler: Moving to L.A. was a huge step for me. I had been living in Brooklyn for 18 years and I’m a cancer, so I like having a nest and home and I don’t love change. I appreciate change in the sense that I think all great things happen from it. But it definitely makes me feel more uncomfortable than most people. So yes, moving to LA was a big deal. Whenever you change environments as an artist, it is inspiring in a million different ways.

Do you know about the cultural adjustment curve?

Sandler: No, I don’t.

It's this chart with these waves that mark points in your life as you’re adjusting to a new life. It starts very high, like, ‘This is the best and smartest thing I've ever done. Why didn't I come here sooner?’ And then it's like, ‘This is a horrible idea. I’m terrified.’ And then you kind of settle, and it goes high again, but not as high. Then after you've been there for two or three months, it’s like, ‘Yeah, this is alright.’ And you sort of just bob up and down as you go through the natural motions of your day-to-day.

Sandler: That makes total sense. Definitely, what you’re saying resonates with me as well. I think that that graph is pretty accurate. I like to think, though, that the bobbing keeps going up until you are happy again, in the place where you are.

Why did you choose “Breathing” as the opener and the lead single for this project?

Sandler: From the very beginning, that was the song that both Luke and me and our label and management team all gravitated towards the most. I couldn’t pick a favorite; I probably still can’t pick a favorite because they all are like my babies. That song encapsulates what we’re trying to do in this next chapter. It felt like the right lead off.

You just put out the music video to “Led Me to You.” That song has some really fun lyrics and vocal harmonies — what was the process like for crafting the song?

Sandler: We started that one a long time ago. We then had a writing session with our buddy, Toby McDonough. We’ve written a bunch of songs with him and his brothers. Over the years, some of our more popular ones, we did “Find Yourself” with them. Toby is part of the group Before You Exit, which we’ve done collaborations with, and so we got together with him, and we just started writing this song.

We just took it from there, and then we just kept building on it. It took form in this, you know, throwback, R&B vibe, Bruno Mars exotic vibe, and we leaned into that. A lot of our fans are really psyched about it and have made comments online like, “Thanks for bringing the sound back.” I feel like we have done stuff like that before, but not in a minute. I’m glad to see people happy about it.

When you said it earlier that it felt like Bruno Mars vibes, that felt very accurate. It's so fun, but also very profound.

Sandler: I appreciate that. That’s so what we’re about; having fun and also being meaningful. That’s what I’m all about with my songwriting. Thank you.

I was wondering when I watched the music video… Have you ever acted before?

Sandler: I have not done any official acting, only in music videos for the last 15 years. I love acting. Living in LA now, it’s something I’ve been thinking more and more about. I do enjoy it. We’ll see. (laughs) Maybe I’ll dabble in it more.

How did the concept for the video kind of come about?

Sandler: Veronica (Zin), who directed the “Blame” video, we had such a good time working with her that we invited her back to direct “Led Me to You”. It kind of started with us all brainstorming on the phone about different concepts, and I forget exactly how it happened, but we just landed on this idea where we’re all in this rehearsal space and the band’s having a bad day, and I come in and transform them all. If you watch the video, and you think about it at all, it was a pretty good metaphor for what the song is about. And so, yeah, we were excited to be able to kind of simplify that and boil it down as much as we could and have fun video.

We writers all probably try to force metaphors on things that aren't actually there.

Sandler: I know! I am constantly thinking metaphorically, so if you think it’s a metaphor, it probably is.

Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez
Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez

What are you listening to right now?

Sandler: I’m actually knee deep in the new Beyoncé album, COWBOY CARTER. I absolutely love it.

You guys are doing a tour in April, the end of this month. What are you most looking forward to performing from EXIST?

Sandler: We haven’t toured in about two years, so we’re really excited about these four shows. I’ve been calling it a tour, but our fans get mad at us because it’s only four shows, so I’m starting to call it a ‘stint’. (laughs) There are shows in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco in LA.

(I’m most excited to play) probably the new stuff. We haven’t even started rehearsing or anything like that, but it’s just going to be really fun to see a song like “Blame” take shape live. I think that all those songs on this new EP are such a party.

Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez
Great Good Fine Ok © Shervin Lainez

Do you have plans to bring your stint to the East Coast?

Sandler: We do, and you’re hearing it here first. We’re marinating on September for a similar east coast tour.

If you have a favorite music mag that you need anyone to interview with in person, keep us in mind!

Sandler: Absolutely. Once we announce it and everything is solid, definitely reach out and we’ll do something else.

— —

:: stream/purchase EXIST here ::
:: connect with Great Good Fine Ok here ::

— — — —

EXIST - Great Good Fine Ok

Connect to Great Good Fine Ok on
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Shervin Lainez

:: Stream Great Good Fine Ok ::

Written By
More from Blake McMillan
Live: sombr Brings His Indie Rock Sound Home to Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right
Online, he’s the rising indie prince of heartbreak. But in person for...
Read More