Zack Kantor Is Touring With A Full-Time Job — And Avoiding Motion Sickness
As a guitarist in two touring bands and head of platform design at Giphy, Zack Kantor offers some tips for working while on the road.
In the unyielding pulse of New York City, one finds layers of identity stacked on top of each other like two kids in a trench coat. Every corner echoes with tall tales of individuals who seamlessly maneuver through their multifaceted lives. This isn’t merely the city where dreams are made but where duality is the norm. And in the relentless pursuit of said dreams, one must wear as many hats (or coats) as possible. In the wrinkles of time and busy schedules, Zack Kantor performs his two-step groove.
As Head of Platform Design at Giphy, and guitarist in both Rebounder and Loose Buttons, Zack demonstrates a sharp intuition for the contemporary while also navigating the complexities of being a musician on the road. In a city where your Uber driver might just be the next indie filmmaker, and the face behind the weekend farmers market stall is a published poet, Zack’s maneuvering of visual and auditory artistry fits right in, yet remains distinctively noteworthy.
As you enter into the world of Zack Kantor, you’ll find a testament to New York’s ever-evolving tapestry of talent. The city's duality isn't just a trait but a driving force, and Zack, one individual amid the millions, crafts a harmony all his own.
GG: You’re in a band but also a designer — where do these two things intersect for you? Are there any similarities between the two practices?
Zack Kantor: There are certainly similarities, but less than you might think. I currently head the platform design at GIPHY (the gif company!) and simultaneously play guitar in two touring bands. It goes down kinda how you’d expect — rolling calls & pushing pixels from a mobile hotspot in the back of a noisy van in Des Moines, Iowa. But for how entangled the two are in my life, I’ve actually found that keeping them separate usually creates better outcomes. For example, while I do some design work for the bands, I usually prefer to have someone less close to the music take on the bigger visuals. Both practices are ultimately about knowing your audience and delivering the right experience at the right time. A song has to reach the listener at an emotional level in order to make an impact, and the same is true for design.
GG: How do you make time for work while being on the road? How do you make time for being on the road while you have work?
Zack Kantor: There’s only one hour each day that you’re actually on stage; no one is talking about #theother23 where you’re bored in a van, kinda high, with a sore lower back for hours on end. There is a lot of dead time, and I feel like more and more touring musicians I speak to are working second or alternate hustles in the age of remote work. Of course, the work settings aren’t ideal, but I always find the time to get it in, occasionally making my sweet bandmates stop at the local Starbucks to sip a Pumpkin Spice for 30 while I do a presentation. I also do a good amount of designing post-show, working often twisted but peaceful hours without distraction.
GG: Have you always wanted to be a musician? What’s the origin story here?
Zack Kantor: Kind of, yeah. Like many New York City indie white boys in the mid-2000s, I was a victim of the Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ (listened once and became addicted to a life of pretending to be misunderstood and thinking cigarettes are cool). But I also fell victim to liking really nice things... Even the biggest indie acts make relatively modest salaries - I know I will always be pursuing other things to feed me both creatively and financially.
GG: Do you have a secret recipe for getting it all done?
Zack Kantor: Not having motion sickness - I cannot imagine working from a van every day if I did. Being overly communicative about work and my situation with those I trust also helps, as annoying as it can be. I find myself rescheduling calls in anticipation of a low-service zone and rescheduling soundchecks in anticipation of important calls. I think the chaos fuels me a little, I’m deeply afraid of mundane routine.
GG: What are your tricks to making touring feel more like home, or at the very least, feel better?
Zack Kantor: When you get to the hotel:
- Wrap the pillows in the Tekla
- Set the vibe with Phillips Hue (tropical twilight settings only)
- Swirl the Palo Santo (Le Labo Palo Santo #14 works in the case of a fire hazard)
- Drop two or three San Pellegrino tall boys in the mini-fridge (you’re gonna thank me later)
GG: If you had to pick a third hustle, what would it be?
Zack Kantor: Architecture or Interior Design. I’ve always thought that an Architect was the hottest profession one can be, maybe in my next life.
GG: What can we expect coming from you soon?
Zack Kantor: A lot on both fronts! Rebounder has a long-awaited Sundress Songs EP on the horizon, and look out for more shows in NYC at the end of this year. My other band, Loose Buttons, is also gearing up four new songs, starting with one about seeing Jon Hamm at the beach.
On the design front, I’ve been taking on more fashion and music projects (merch, posters, artwork, etc.) and would love to work with you! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org