Frontman Dean Schimmelpfennig of Shiny Penny is a native of Kokomo setting unconventional goals for his band. While making hits is a priority, the band believes that ultimate success comes from building a community of love, unity, and peace.
Aubrey Smith: How did everyone meet?
Dean Schimmelpfennig: Stix (drummer) and I met in church around seven or eight years ago, and Eric (bassist) and I met around the same time (both long before either of them joined the band). Brad (guitarist) and I met in a senior economics high school class in the winter season of 2009, when we were grouped together with a couple of other classmates to write a song based on government and taxes. During Christmas break, Brad and I formed what we then called ‘Shiny Penny and the Critical Shoes’ with another high school friend. After changing our name to ‘Shiny Penny’ in the earlier part of 2013, Eric joined the band later that year in August. Stix joined in January of 2014.
AS: What were past music projects like? Did they have similar sounds?
DS: I was only in one project before starting the band, as was Brad. Both Eric and Stix had been in various projects prior to joining the band. Our experiences in those past projects totally helped to influence and shape our sound now.
AS: How did you decide on the sound for Shiny Penny?
DS: In the beginning, we were kids who didn’t really quite know what we were doing, or for that matter, why we wanted to play music. The music we brought to the table then was a product of the several bands and artists that influenced us at the time. We don’t really know how to clearly describe the way our sound has developed from that point until now. The music we’ve released so far has been the result of a never-ending learning process, and both our music and our identity as a band is still continuing to grow daily.
AS: When did you transition from a cover band to playing original songs?
DS: Within our first few rehearsals as a band, we began to toy around with playing our own songs that we had individually written. At the time, both Brad and I had songs in the works outside of the band. As time went by, we slowly incorporated them into the mix of cover songs that we had learned to play. By the time we performed our first show, half of our set were covers and half were original songs. This was before we had released any recordings, as we were still babies at everything.
AS: What was the band’s first big break?
DS: That depends on what you would define as a ‘big break.’ I think it might look a bit different for all of us as individuals. But for me, it was the moment that I realized that people outside of our circle of family and friends were beginning to listen to our recordings (somewhere during the fall season of 2011). That was definitely a milestone for me. We naturally began to attach more legitimacy to what we were doing after that point.
AS: How was it playing at Warped?
DS: Both times we played Warped in Indianapolis were neat. It was hot, humid, and physically exhausting, but neat. We got to meet a lot of cool people, and performed at Klipsch Music Center, which excited us a great deal at the time.
AS: Tell me about the Indiegogo campaign.
DS: We launched an Indiegogo campaign in the winter season of 2014. At the time, we had a new EP ready to record (later to become ‘Open Out’), but lacked funds to keep things rolling at the pace we wanted to go with it. We set a goal of $2000, and raised the full amount by the time the campaign came to a close. Along with the first copies of the new record, we rewarded contributors with signed handwritten lyrics, piano keys, and shoutouts on our social media pages.
AS: Are you involved in any current event movements?
DS: We aren’t involved with anything specific at the moment, but we’re always promoting love. And unity. And peace. And community. Community is a big thing for us – definitely something we place at the forefront of our identity as a band. We’re always striving to bridge the gap between the ‘stage’ we’re on and the ‘stage’ that our followers are on. We don’t want to stay separated from others on our own ‘platform,’ but rather remain on the same level with all who come in contact with us. We try to accomplish this by engaging with everyone at our shows, both on and off the stage. I’ll often make sure to tell everyone not to leave after our shows without coming to talk to us first. We also get opportunities to pray for our fans, which is pretty cool. Building real relationships with those who come to our shows is an important thing to us (and that doesn’t exclude the venue owners/staff). We’re not perfect at this yet by any means, but we try the best we can.
AS: What’s on your current playlist?
DS: Colony House. And the new stuff that John Mayer is releasing. We like to listen to other bands that we play shows with, too. Whosah from Minneapolis are great. The New Schematics from Nashville are neat, as well. If it’s good music, we’re listening.
AS: What’s the plan for Shiny Penny in 2017?
DS: We’re looking forward to doing more of what we’re currently doing now. Creating music and performing shows the best we know how, along with continuing to build more relationships with people, are among our top priorities. There will likely be a healthy amount of touring and new music surfacing this year, Lord willing.
Photography by Edrece Stansberry.