Friday, May 5th, marks the release of what may be realistically referred to as the longest awaited release in the baker’s-dozen-year history of your favorite little online punk rock website. (This one, obviously.) The album is called Essential, and it’s the latest release from beloved Chicago punkers The Bollweevils.
That’s the cover art up there. Fun, right? The album is noteworthy for a variety of reasons. Not only is it the Bollweevils first full-length album in practically a generation (and definitely their first since Dying Scene has existed), it’s their first proper release on Red Scare Industries, and their first release mixed at the legendary Blasting Room in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Perhaps more importantly, however, it’s noteworthy in the way that it plants a battle flag that symbolizes that not only can some of the old guard, who have long-since moved past the days of trying to make a living solely from punk rock wages, can not only put out an album that’s super poignant and super energetic and super fun, they do so in a way that raises the bar for the younger bands that have been following in their collective wake.
Due to the way that both the music industry and the media technology sector have changed since the early days of the Bollweevils, we caught up with the band’s enigmatic frontman Daryl Wilson in the throes of what you can probably safely say is the first semblance of a press junket of his music career. When last Dr. Daryl and I spoke in the context of conducting an interview (watch it here if you missed it), it was that first summer of Covid and it was in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and it was through the lenses of Wilson’s roles not only as an emergency department physician but as a person of color living through probably the most public time of racial unrest that this country had seen since the 1960s. Thankfully, we’ve solved both coronavirus-related public health crises AND systemic racism in the almost three years since that conversation, so this time we could devote our energies to punk rock!
Check out our admittedly wide-ranging chat below. Plenty of insight on the recording of the album, the process of getting it mixed at the Blasting Room, the coolness of existing on Red Scare in the time of bands like No Trigger and Broadway Calls, the dynamite new material being put out by other long-time scene vets like Samiam and Bouncing Souls, avoiding the woulda, shoulda, couldas when looking at their legacy, and much more!
Surprisingly enough, the conversation below is condensed for content and clarity reasons.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So how are you? It’s good to chat with you again!
Daryl Wilson: It’s been a minute, man, hasn’t it? I’m doing pretty good! It’s been a pretty interesting past three or four years to say the least, but I’ve come out on the other end still kicking! Getting older and I think a little bit wiser and I have a better worldview of things. The priority list is more tailored to true priorities. It’s kind of good. It’s refreshing to not have anxiety about stuff! (*both laugh*)
Does it feel like we’re officially on the other side at least of the pandemic part? I know some of the other social and political stuff we probably won’t be on the other side of for a long time, but does it seem like at least pandemic-wise, we’re just back to “normal,” whatever that means nowadays?
Yeah, I mean, lessons learned, right? That’s the natural progression of the disease process. The virus becomes less and less apt to kill its host. It becomes easy to spread, but it’s not really good for a virus to kill off its hosts, because then it doesn’t propagate. Coronaviruses do that anyway. The long-term immunity versus coronaviruses is so minuscule. Since antiquity people would get coronaviruses and they’d mutate so rapidly that you’d have lower conveyed immunity. It would spike and then it would drop and you’d get the same coronavirus a few months later. You might get the same coronavirus nine times in a year. They weren’t novel viruses. This was a novel virus, so it was something that our immune systems had never seen before, so of course the response was “oh my god!” Now we’re at a different point where there’s individuals vaccinated, natural immunity that’s occurred over time, the virus changing…we don’t know if there are any other long-term residual things yet. Finding out that, you know, exposure to Epstein-Barr virus might have lead to individuals having a propensity for MS is kind of crazy. We’ve learned that over time, and we don’t know what the long-term stuff will be with this. We don’t know if it’s affecting our T-cells in some way where we have a different long-term immunity to things. I’m not saying this for certain, I haven’t done research or studies on this, but is there some rationale where this is why we had such a bad set of viral illnesses in children during this past winter? Most kids getting RSV don’t get THAT sick, historically, but we had a bunch that got sick, so is there some issue with the way our immune systems have been affected by these bouts of Covid? I don’t know. I’m not saying that to start some controversy or “oh my god, this physician said…” (*both laugh*). Anything I say is not representing my hospital, this is just me talking. But human beings throughout all of our history and existence have come out on the other end of things that have been as bad as what we’ve (just) walked through. We’re a pretty scrappy species in some sense. To sit back and worry about “is this the end?” I mean…you’ve had people preaching on corners of streets from the times of Rome up to today where they’ve said “The End Is Nigh” and guess what? We’re still here! (*both laugh*) So let’s not put too much of a doom spin on everything and we’ll keep on kicking.
There’s a guy in the Boston area who I first encountered I think when I was a freshman in college. You’d see him outside sporting events and I know I saw him in Salem, Massachusetts, for Halloween because that’s what you do…and I remember him having this big sandwich board on it saying like “The End Is Nigh” and “Repent” and it had like a burning cross on it…and he’s still out there doing it, twenty-five-plus years later. It’s like…how “nigh” is it? (*both laugh*)
One day he’ll be right! (*both laugh*) And he’ll be able to say “see I told you so!” (*both laugh*) Let’s just spend all our time with that sandwich board on and continue preaching that until it happens. Why not just live your life? You’re already walking around dead with a sandwich board on. You’re not “living.” Just go live! In all reality, every day is your first or last day, right? You have no idea when the ticker over your head is going to go “TIME’S UP!” That should spur you on into “maybe I should just live as best as I can for today because I’m not guaranteed any moment. I could talk to you today, Jason, and that could be it! It’s always good to talk to someone that is cool and that you can talk to and say ‘this is a great connection,” and if this is the last conversation I ever have, let’s make it good, right? Why make it horrible? Why start your day with that sort of a horrible situation? Listen, I’m no sage, and I know I make situations really uncomfortable for people (*both laugh*) and I can be just a retch of a human being, but the good thing is, I woke up and I have an opportunity today to make up for that. That’s a good thing. I can try and do better. And that’s all you can do, right?
Okay so there’s no real natural segue here, but let’s bulldog into talking about the new record! It feels like it’s time. It’s obviously been a LONG time since the last Bollweevils record…
Yeah, and I think Dying Scene is officially thirteen years old, so I think this is the first Bollweevils release of the Dying Scene era!
Wow! Yeah, it’s been a long time. Nothing’s good or bad, it just is…and it’s 14 years now, and for me right now and the guys in the band – we’ve talked about it – it’s something that feels like it’s full. It feels like it’s something that took the time and it was the proper time to make it come out. There are probably a lot of reasons as to why it took so long. A part of it is that the band had some changes in members and we were in flux. We’d written some of these songs and we’d been playing them and we recorded a couple of them for a 7-inch for Underground Communique that came out – the Attack Scene 7-inch – and they were going to be on our next LP, which we thought was going to be out in the next three years after that 7-inch was put out. But no, that didn’t happen. We had members change prior to us even recording that. Our original bass player Bob had quit the band. We didn’t know for a while if we were going to be a band. That was the biggest question, “do we want to keep doing this?” And I think when we finally had the addition of Pete Mittler to the band as our bass player, that kind of made us who we are. I think we gelled, and we became The Bollweevils as we envisioned ourselves to be. It made it easier for us to buckle down and say “we need to put these songs out. We need to record these things, we need to have the new songs put out.” So we did! We finally got our schedules together, which is always a logistical nightmare! It is a whiteboard with so many pins in the wall with red yarn coming from all of these connections and somehow in the middle John Wick is there somehow! (*both laugh*) So it is a culmination of this ripening. We finally got the seeds planted and the tree grew and then fruit finally came from it. We had the right soil mixture with everybody as members of the band. The pandemic in some ways helped to kind of foster us pushing forward and doing this because we knew we might never get a chance to do something like this, so let’s get it done. And as we got older, the maturity of the band kind of seeps into it. We took our time – we had the time and we took our time instead of just “here’s what it is, we’re all done, one shot, let it play.” And so I think that it took a long time, but I think that it was warranted and it shows in the record. The record itself is so full and it’s one of the best things I think that we’ve ever put out.
Yeah, it’s really good! And I don’t just say that. It’s really good.
Yes! And I think it’s good on so many different levels. Sonically – how it sounds – I’m getting chills just thinking about it, but it sounds really, really good! Then, it’s like, the songs themselves, you listen to them and you’re like “wow, that’s got a hook, that’s a catch!” and then you listen to the lyrics and you’re like “oh my god, these lyrics! Wow, you’re saying this right now?!?” It’s complex but simple, it says things in a concise manner, it’s not like you’re just gassing on forever. It’s really a good record! (*both laugh*) I don’t usually do that, I’m not one to talk it up and say “oh this is so great,” but it is! I think because we put in all the time, you can sense that when you listen to the record.
How long a process was the writing? It wasn’t written all in one batch, obviously. Like you said you had the 7-inch come out and other songs you’ve played live. But how regularly were you writing in the let’s say decade between the last album and the gears being in motion for this one to be finalized?
It’s funny, because there are songs that we didn’t record for this. We had ideas for songs that we were working on that didn’t make the cut, and I think that’s part of it. Sometimes you force it and try to make things work. Sometimes you can tell a band throws on a record just to put on there. We didn’t do that. We made sure we have quality instead of quantity. We could have a quantity of songs and riffs that Ken was writing that we would put something down for, but they just didn’t work. We were woking on them in rehearsal and we’d try to do them and they just didn’t feel right. These songs we did that felt right, we could work on them more and more. Even when we had them initially worked out, we kept working on them over the years before they were put out in this final iteration for the record. We were able to criticize each other and our performances, and that’s a thing that we couldn’t do in our early years.
Yeah, I was going to say, that’s a tough thing to do as a young band when there’s ego involved and whatever else.
Absolutely! Everything’s personal. “Oh, you don’t like the way I’m singing this? I’m the singer! I’m the guy that writes the lyrics! Screw you, this is what it’s going to be!” That’s not the way to do it. We are a unit. I could take the criticism that Ken could say to me, or Pete or Pete would say. Like “we know what you should sound like on this, and I don’t like what you’re doing right now. It doesn’t sound complete.” And I’d be like “well, this is how I heard the song in my head, this is how I’m writing…” and they’d say “no, you can do better. Maybe change the cadence on that or that word seems wrong…” Or Ken would play a riff and Pete or I would say “can you change that riff a little bit?” It was definitely all of us collaborating together. We all have our roles in the band of what we do, but we can take what somebody said and say “we can do this better.” Playing the song live, you get to say “hey, that sounded okay, but maybe we can work on it a little bit more and make it sound better” and then we’d find nuanced things with the songs in rehearsals as we played them more and more. The ability for us to use constructive criticism and not destructive criticism like it used to be is a part that helped to make the sound sound so good. The mixing of it too…we had it mixed by Chris Beeble at The Blasting Room. That was due to Joe Principe. I gave him some of the demos early on – and in fact, it goes back further than that – when we actually presented the record to Red Scare and Toby had heard it and Brendan had heard it, Brendan came back and he said “I want to do your record, it’s great, but you know what? You’ve got to get this mixed again.” And Ken was like “Whaaaaat?” And Brendan said “it doesn’t sound like you. I remember seeing you guys when I was a kid and you guys were Chicago punk rock how it’s supposed to be, but this doesn’t sound like you’re supposed to sound. You’ve got to get it remixed.” And we were like “ooookay…that was a hit.” And Joe had kinda hinted at sending it to The Blasting Room, and I said “what, get it mixed where Rise Against gets their stuff done? We can’t afford that. We’re the Bollweevils, we’re working every day.” He hinted at it, but didn’t say “do it.” So we took a chance, we ponied up the money for it, and the mix came back and it was like “BOOM!” Beeble worked so closely with us on it, he was like “here’s what I need on this, here’s what’s going on…” He made it sound awesome!
You didn’t re-record anything after the initial thing was done, right?
No! I swear, I’ve said this before and I will say it again every time, the only person that can mix our stuff now is Chris Beeble. That is it. He knows us, he set the bar, he is the gold standard. So as it was mixed. Jeff Dean, who we recorded with here at the Echo Mill in Chicago, he also was really instrumental in forcing us to do things more than once. We’ve prided ourselves on coming in, laying it down, getting it done and getting out, but it was like “replay that again, replay that again, resing that again, do the lyrics this way, change that…” while we’re recording. It’s like “you’re killing us, man, there’s no way that we’re going to redo this multiple times.” I’d be like “this take was really good!” And he’d say “yeah, it was good, but it wasn’t great, do it again.” It was making sure that everything that we did was done to the best of our ability. That comes out on the record. I mean, you’ve heard it. What’s your favorite song on the record?
You know what? I made notes when I listened to the album the first time, which is a thing I try to still do a lot. Obviously “Liniment and Tonic” is great because that’s a super fun song, especially as a person who’s now in his mid-forties. It seems very appropriate. I really like “Galt’s Gulch.” That’s a cool song and it’s a little bit of a different song. I kept coming back to that in my notes. I like that sort of acoustic intro that builds and becomes this BIG sound. I like “Theme Song.” (*both laugh*) I like that “we are the Bollweevils” chant. It’s so fun and goofy and it’s very honest and self-deprecating too. I really appreciate that. “Bottomless Pit” is pretty cool.
Which is a throwback, because we re-recorded that. It was on Stick Your Neck Out! and we initially thought that our masters for all of those records were gone. It turns out that they’re not, so we were thinking we could re-record some of those songs, because we want them to sound how we sound now. The iteration of who we are now is who we are as a band. This is the Bollweevils. This is who we’ve grown to be and this is our final form, or if you’re looking at a Dragon Ball Z our final Frieza or whatever. (*both laugh*) We definitely wanted to put these songs down as who we are now. We play our instruments better, I sing stronger than I did. It’s the old song, but it sounds new. We did that one and we did “Disrespected Peggy Sue.” We did them now because this is who we are. It’s not the old-school recordings. Sorry, I cut you off! I just think “Bottomless Pit” is a great song. Go on, I like hearing about your favorite songs from the record!
I really like the guitar riff from “Our Glass.” That’s a really cool song too. But I keep coming back to “Galt’s Gulch” if I had to pick. So let’s talk about that song a little more if we can. Where did that one come from? It’s a little bit of a different song from the rest of the album. I know you’ve played that live, but what is the origin of that song? How far back in the writing process?
That was one of the ones written back early in like post-2015. We’d been working on that one for a long time. Initially, that song was a song that Ken was persistent in bringing to rehearsal. We’d play it, and we wrote some stuff for it, and we were like “it’s okay…” and he was like “no, this song is great!” I just didn’t know what I was going to do for it, and what I was going to sing. I started thinking about some topics that I wanted to delve into. I read a bunch of stuff, I’d read a lot. In my days, I’ve read some Ayn Rand. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The funny thing about those books is that they are works of fiction. (*both laugh*) To try to adopt objectivist viewpoints in some sense to live by is kind of counter to what humans do. I understand the idea of groupthink and the fear of what collectivism would be, but I don’t think of collectivism in that sense. I’m talking about trying to take a community and break a community apart. I think, yes, the idea of individuals existing and being an individual is super important. Individuals have skills that they can offer to a community to allow that community to continue to thrive. My skills as a physician are necessary to make sure the community can thrive because not everybody can do what I do. If somebody has the skill to make sure that water is clean so we can drink it, I can’t do that. I’m glad that there’s clean water that will allow me to go on. I think we have to live together as human beings and lift each other up so that we all can strive to survive against the elements and a universe that doesn’t really care about us. So individualism and being an individual is super important. I agree with that 1000%. In The Fountainhead, Roark being who Roark was and the individual that he was standing up against the idea that we all have to do things this way, that this is the only way you build buildings and all that, that is kind of horseshit. You’re going to be who you are. To have Toohey and those folks say “we’re going to slow you down and break you up and you all have to think the same way,” that’s horseshit too. But to take that into life, and to philosophically say “I’m not going to follow your rules because I’m going to be such an individual that I’m going to hunt on my own and kill things on my own and you have to do it your own way too.” Like, sometimes you need to help people. Maybe helping that person means helping the person that’s going to be the physician that saves you later on, because he can’t cultivate food on his own. So that’s why, I think, the whole idea of “who’s John Galt?” and everyone shrugging their shoulders and walking away and creating your own society that’s outside of society because “we’re all individuals and you guys are all drones so screw you,” that’s not the way we function. So if you just shrug your shoulders and go “who’s John Galt?” the world actually falls apart around you. It really does. Oh and Ayn Rand took handouts, we all know that and let’s not forget that! (*both laugh*)
Yeah, I remember Atlas Shrugged sort of blowing my mind as a ninth grader reading it and you think “oh yes, this is brilliant! It’s perfect!” And then you hit, like, senior year in high school and realize “oh, wait a minute…”
Right! You realize “oh, you know, some people are dependent! Children are dependent people, it’s okay!”
So I wrote that as a perspective of the individual who’s like “I’m going to walk around and keep shrugging my shoulders and ignore everything and say “who’s John Galt?” That’s all I’m going to say to you! Understand what that means and walk away.” That’s just a horseshit excuse for not wanting to do anything, and not wanting to help.
Wasn’t that around the time, too, that there was like a hedgefund guy that tried to start a Galt’s Gulch community somewhere, like some unincorporated area somewhere?
Yes, there was! I remember that vaguely, yes! And where are they now? (*both laugh*)
Oh I’m pretty sure he got indicted and he’s in prison. It was essentially a Ponzi scheme and…honestly…like you couldn’t have seen that coming?
Haha, yeah! You know, I’m not trying to disparage if anyone has a belief that way, but I don’t think it is realistic to function that way in a community. In a society, it doesn’t work, and in a community, it doesn’t work. We have to work together to overcome things. Yeah, if somebody says “I want you to produce less in your company because I’m not doing really well so slow down to let me catch up,” you’re not going to do that. You’re going to say “no, I’m going to do this still, you had your opportunity…” and you help them understand how best practice works. But we live in a world of competition, right? That’s how we got about things. I mean, baking cakes is a competition for Christ’s sake. It gets really ridiculous. But, if it makes you strive to do better, sure! But if you’re just going to “give me all the answers to something!” I don’t believe that either. You can’t give everyone all the answers, but if someone doesn’t know for sure and I’m the expert, I’m going to say “yes, I’m here to help you out because you don’t know.”
How long ago did you actually record the album, and have you still been writing since it was all sent off to Red Scare?
So let’s see. The total time recording, if you took that in days is probably like six days. That was in two sessions, like three days in each session, and that doesn’t include mixing and things, that’s just the recording part. It took us probably two years to get it all completed. It was during the pandemic that we did it all. In the early part, we got together and laid down these songs. If you’re talking about the whole recording process beforehand, a lot of these songs have been worked on since 2015 and up. And after that, yes, we’ve been writing other songs. Ken brought riffs to practice the other day and actually, our stand-in bass player Joe Mizzi brought some riffs too.
The idea is that were all supposed to bring a song. Now, I can’t play an instrument (*both laugh*) but we are in the process of trying to write other songs. We can’t just sit on this and “we’ve got it, we’ve hit the pinnacle, we’re done.”
Well, you can. And bands do. There’s the very real thing of becoming a legacy band, particularly when it’s not everybody’s day job. Nobody’s making a living on The Bollweevils. Some bands do do that. You play a couple dozen shows a year in your best markets and be a legacy band. Sometimes you lose the drive to keep writing and coming up with no ideas, so to me it’s cool that not only is there a new album, but that you’re still writing more and those wheels are still turning.
Yeah, there’s always something that spurs on the want to write. Whether it’s something that I’m dealing with in healthcare, whether it’s something you see because of the state of politics or the general miasma of people existing. Or something philosophical that you see pertains to day-to-day life. Sometimes that spurs on that creative juice. I could write lyrics all day but I don’t have the tune in my head that it goes to. And that’s hard. We don’t usually write that way. I don’t usually write lyrics and say “Hey Ken, write a riff for this.” Usually Ken is playing a riff and I have this idea what I should be singing to the riff. I may have a theme based upon something I’ve written at some point and I might have to modify my lyrics because that’s not really going to be, but the theme still exists for the song. So, Ken sent some riffs to me the other day, and I’ve been listening to them, and it’s like “okay, I can see where this goes.” And then I have lyrics, but sometimes that isn’t what the song is going to be about or the theme is going to change, so now that’s in the process of being fleshed out, and having that creative fire. There’s days where I just don’t have it. I’m just exhausted from a day with the kids or my wife and I are doing something, so I don’t have that. But then, I might wake up in the middle of the night and have this idea and have to write it down, so I have a pad of paper next to the bed and I have to write them down, or I use my phone to record a melody for something. We still have some things to work on, so it won’t be fourteen years before the next record! (*both laugh*)
Everybody says that, but then life happens…
I know! We said that back in 2015, like “oh, we have a new record coming out!” “Oh yeah? When’s it coming out?” “Well, some day!” Just like “The End Is Nigh” sign, right? We told you it was coming out! (*both laugh*)
One of the first interviews that I did for Dying Scene back in 2011 was with Sergie from Samiam about what was then the new record, Trips. And then maybe five years later, it was the fifth anniversary of that record and they’d been doing an album every five years or whatever, so I think I messaged Sergie like “must be new album time, right?” and he was just like “uh, no.”
And finally, that new album is awesome!
It’s SO good.
It’s awesome. I was waiting for that to come out. I saw them at Fest, and they were playing the new songs and they sounded so good. Samiam is one of my favorite bands ever, and I just have that new record on repeat. I was just listening to it this morning again. I just love it.
I’ve asked a bunch of people similar things, but thirty-ish years since Stick Your Neck Out, do you still have that same feeling when you put an album out? Do you get that same sort of feeling when May 5th comes and it’s now available to the world?
I guess it’s been so long that I forgot what that feels like! (*both laugh*)
I guess it feels new to me. I’m excited about it because I can’t believe that I have this work of art that we put together and that’s going to be out in the world in less than a month. That’s crazy to me. It’s exciting. I guess the feeling I had previously was nervousness at some point when I was younger. Now, I don’t feel that anxiety. Listening to this and putting this record together and everything we did for it, it’s complete. It’s full, and I feel really proud of it. It’s really, really good. At least, I believe that, and the guys in the band believe that. Somebody else could think it’s complete garbage, and that’s their opinion, but I’m not worried about that. We put Stick Your Neck Out, and it was like “okay, this is us on Dr. Strange. We’re putting this record out and people will get it.” And they did. People still talk about it and say “oh that record’s awesome, you’re such an underrated band.”
How does that land when people say that?
That we’re underrated?
Yeah, because I feel like I’m guilty of doing the same thing, but then I worry that it’s a backhanded compliment when we say “oh, you guys were great, you were my favorite band, you should have been huge!”
I guess maybe? But it’s our own doing, right? I kind of limited us. We couldn’t do certain things. We had opportunities to, like, tour Japan, tour Europe, all these things, but I was in medical school. I was going to be a doctor. I limited our exposure. Could we have been bigger than that? Yeah, but it would be short-lived. We’re not paying the bills with punk rock. “Punk rock doesn’t pay the bills,” so says Milo. I mean, for them it does, but for the rest of us… (*both laugh*) I get to be a doc and play in a band. It’s still fulfilling in a visceral and spiritual way. Once again, it doesn’t pay the bills, but that’s not what this is about. I have a profession that does that, but I have these opportunities! I got to meet you and we became buddies through this world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people that I would have never believed as a kid that I’d get the chance to meet. I’ve met some of my heroes. To meet some of the guys from Descendents. To go on tour with Dead Kennedys for a short run. To play with Bad Brains during Riot Fest. If you told me as a teenageer that “hey, you’re going to play a show with Bad Brains,” like…I would have told you you’ve been smoking ganja! (*both laugh*) But that happens. Those experiences are what brings about this existence and these life experiences. No matter whatever money you have and whatever material things you have, they’re all going to break. That’s kind of what “Our Glass” is about. The material things you have are going to break, but the real important things that you have and establish and the relationships with people and the places that you’ve been and the experiences you have, that’s going to be the things you have on your deathbed. Your big-screen TV isn’t going be there when you die. Your iPhone or whatever is not going to be there. Nothing material is going to matter. So, going back to the whole thing of it being a backhanded compliment of “hey, you were underrated,” it’s maybe a backhanded compliment, but it’s also kind of cool that when people hear that stuff, they go “man, you guys shoulda been…coulda been.” Yeah, maybe, but I was limiting us because of my professional choices. So back to the original question does it feel different or does it feel like it did releasing records before? No, it feels brand new to me because we haven’t done this in such a long time.
That’s really cool! I feel like there’s some buzz about it, and that’s not always the case when bands put out albums nowadays. It can be easy to get lost in the sauce, but I feel like there’s buzz around the new Bollweevils record. I can say that as a fan, that’s pretty fulfilling. Like “hey, people still care about this band I like!” Because you never REALLY know…
Right, and for some people it’s going to be their brand-new introduction to us.
As I said, the first Bollweevils record of the Dying Scene era, so it’s the first one we get to cover!
Yeah, and since we were underrated, we were under the radar, so some people didn’t see us or hear us, so it’s like “oh, that’s who they were! Now I can explore some of the old stuff!” I remember we did a thing in California seven or eight years ago, something like that, and I remember being on a radio show, on the phone, and I remember being told that someone had heard “Bottomless Pit” and said “yeah that’s a great song!” and they’d never heard it before. They said “that’s such a great song, it sounds like you just recorded it recently” and I was like yeah, I don’t think we had a sound that was dated. We were a 90s punk band, obviously, but I think our sound translates to today and to yesteryear. That was the greatest compliment to hear, that somebody had heard that and was blown away by it. I was like “yeah, that was recorded way back when, we were sloppy…” (*both laugh*) Now, hearing this record today, using that song from thirty years ago that we rerecorded and reimagined the way that it is, we’re like a whole different band, even though we’re the same band. So people will get to experience this for the first time as we are, and people who have experienced us before will experience us again and go “oh my god, look at them, they’re still out there doing this!” I’m being so prideful right now, it’s horrible. But it is a new experience for me. Though I’ve had the experience before, it feels like a new experience for me, and it’s really exciting.
I think that one of the takeaways from the record, I feel like the older I’ve gotten and the greyer my beard has gotten, I’ve gotten away from some of the 90s punk rock thing. “Liniment and Tonic,” right? My back hurts, my knees hurt. (*both laugh*) I think that sometimes there can be a shelf life to a sound like that, but I think there are some moments on this record that eclipse all of that. It’s very much in the vein of a 90s punk rock record, but it sort of transcends that.
Thank you! And we were talking about that as a band. At our core, we are a punk rock band. Whatever we write is going to be a Bollweevils song. And that’s one of the things that would happen sometimes. A criticism would come out that members of the band would say “that song that you wrote is good, but that’s not a Bollweevils song.” Some of those songs never saw the light of day.
Is that because they’d be stylistically wrong?
It wasn’t true to ourselves. It was like “just write what we know. Write our stuff and just play it and be done with it and don’t try to do something that’s not us.” It’s ridiculous when you’re trying to be something that you’re not. At the core, we’re still just a punk rock band from Chicago, and that’s what we’re going to play. I think that part of it too is that I don’t think we know how to play anything slow. That could be a problem in and of itself, because as you get older it’s harder to keep up in some sense. We pride ourselves in trying to keep up with what we do. Like, I worked out this morning. This is my trying to fight against the inevitability of entropy! (*both laugh*) We only know how to play like we play, so even if there’s a song that sounds almost kitsch, like “Liniment and Tonic” or “Theme,” it’s still us. You’re like “that’s still punk, it’s still hard. It’s got a hook, but it’s still them!” We pride ourselves in saying “there’s no reason for a song to be over two minutes and thirty seconds. It doesn’t make any sense. Why not just say your peace and be done. Hit them in the face and be done. Knock them out and be done with the fight. You can’t go twelve rounds, knock them out in three! Come on, Tyson, take them down!
In looking at my notes, I think the songs that we talked about as my favorite…
Are the longest ones! (*both laugh*) Well, sometimes you gotta box a little bit. Sometimes you gotta box a little bit.
You gotta keep your arms down and let them tire themselves out, like Muhammed Ali, right?
It’s all good! Exactly!
Is there fear in songs like that that they risk not being “Bollweevils songs” because they aren’t ninety seconds of four-on-the-floor, punch-you-in-the-throat “punk rock”?
No, I think if you even go back out to Stick Your Neck Out, “Failure of Bill Dozer” is a longer song and that’s a great song. We’ve added that back into our sets. That’s one of the songs that we brought back. That song is one of my favorite songs too. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner and say every song has to be a minute and thirty seconds or two minutes. Songs evolve into what they need to be, but they still have to be “us.” All the songs that are on there, if they are more than two minutes, it’s because that’s what the song had to be. They are still us. You can listen to them and say “wow, this is different, but that’s still a Bollweevils song.” It’s not like you listen to “Galt’s Gulch” and think, “wow, that’s weird.”
Yeah, I mean, it’s not a Rush song.
Even “Our Glass” is different but it’s still us. It’s a Bollweevils song still. Somebody asked me once what I would say to younger me if I could go back in time, or to a younger band you’re playing with that asks what you do to have this longevity in punk rock, I say “just be yourself and do the things that you enjoy.” Play what you want to play. Don’t fall into some kind of trap where you have to trend it up or do something different. Play what you love. If you happen to write a record that’s some experimental noise thing and that’s who you want to be and that’s who you are, do that and be good with that. Make sure you’re good with it. With this record, with Essential, everything about it, we are so good with. That’s just the bottom line. No matter what anybody says about it, they can sit back and go “how do you feel about the record?” I think it’s great, and if you don’t, I wouldn’t do anything different. It would have been that way no matter what. It’s perfect for us.
Are there people for whom you get nervous about what their feedback is going to be? People that you look up to as pillars, like the Descendents guys or whoever?
Yeah, if they heard it and they said “that sounds great!” I’d think “well, I can die now!”
Do you get back to that sort of childhood fanboy thing?
Oh god yeah! A person that makes me overly giddy and ridiculous and the worst punisher over is J. Robbins. I told him that recently. Denis Buckley, my good friend Denis, always reminds me that “dude, you punished him so hard when they came to Chicago way back in the day.” I couldn’t talk, I was stumbling and fumbling and J. Robbins was like “is he okay?” I couldn’t talk to him. I saw him at Riot Fest recently and I told him that and I said “I’m just letting you know, I fall apart when I see you. I do. I’m just such a fanboy of yours.” And he was like “no, it’s good, let’s take a picture.” And then he Friended me on Facebook and I was like “AHH!” (*both laugh*) But like, if the guys in (Naked) Raygun heard this and they were like “well this is horrible,” it would hit me a bit, but I would still have to just accept that, but I’d still think it’s good. I would take it to heart in some sense. If my best friend Paul says something sounds bad, I’d listen to those words. He can criticize me all the time, he does all the time anyway (*both laugh*) and I take his word. He actually was critical about some things when I was working on songs for this. But he loves the record, so that makes me think that it’s going to be good. Our friend CJ is a good friend of ours, and he would tell us if this sucked, and we would take his word to heart. But he’s like “this record is great, man. This record is great.” That makes us feel confident as well, but again, real confidence comes from within. If we didn’t feel like it was good…it’s done, we can’t change that, and we feel good about it. We feel really good about it. I think that is kind of pervasive with the buzz. People are hearing it and going “wow, this is good!” I’m glad that that is being reaffirmed in some senses. But yeah, if someone I idolized since I was a kid said this was trash, it might sting for a bit, but then again, you can’t please everyone, you know? An 80% is a B, so if I can get 80% of people to like it, that’s a passing grade. I’m still in the mix. I’m confident in (the record), I feel great about it. We put out the best that we could do right now…until the next thing comes out!
It made me go “oh wow, I still like punk rock!”
See Jason, that makes me feel good!
I’m not going to try skateboarding, but I can still like punk rock!
Then I’d see you in the hospital!
Hey, thanks for chatting. This was fun. Instead of doing it podcast-style like the last time we talked, the site is back up and running so I get to go back to pretending to be a writer. It was hard to be away from for a while, because if you don’t do it enough, that muscle atrophies. I’m sure that if you had gone fourteen full years without writing a song and then tried to jump back into it, that would be even worse.
Oh it’s definitely atrophy. It’d be ridiculous. It is one of those things where…think about the past three years of things that have happened, and the proliferation of bands having records come out. You’ve got the OFF! record, you’ve got the Samiam record out there, Drug Church’s record is out there…bands are just writing stuff that’s so good, and older bands are writing stuff that’s so good. We’ve had this time to think and reflect and meditate on our existences and what’s going on around us, and a few summers ago, the tragedies that would happen with the violence inflicted upon individuals, the unrest in the world, the upheaval of things and the change, and election season, and all of this stuff that swirls around you, and then realizing once again that we as human beings are going to survive this like we survived anything else. Plagues have happened, there’s been social upheaval before. All of these things have happened, we’ve seen these things before, and we’ve survived. That anxiety that comes with that, you have to find an outlet, and a lot of that is sitting down and writing out how you feel and writing about these things and getting rid of that. A part of that with this record, by the way, was that everybody had tragedies that they were having and anxieties that they were having and we all got to have this catharsis and put it out there and it came together. Art is emotional, and there’s a lot of emotion put into it, and when it comes out, you go “oh, this expresses exactly what I was concerned about.” Other people probably have the same feeling, and when art hits, it invokes an emotional response and people latch on to it and it makes you feel comfortable. I think that’s what this record has. You listen to it and you go “there’s something that’s hitting me about it that’s good. It’s hitting me right here.”
And I think it does so in an interesting way. That’s a difficult needle to thread. Coming out of the last three years and being inspired by the last three years but without overtly talking about the last three years, and without making an album that’s overtly political and directly takes on the social upheaval and the political upheaval of the last three years. It’s an interesting needle to thread, to be able to do an album like that, that reinforces the good that came out of the last three years without being a constant, fist-shaking. There’s certainly a place for that…
That song “Resistance” is on there!
But the whole of the record is what it is…it’s a whole thing. Everything has a place and it all fits together. Not that it was written as a rock opera, but the songs do have almost a sense that they’re puzzle pieces that make up the whole as a piece of work.
I’m really excited for people to hear it. The fact that some of my favorite albums of this year are from people like Bollweevils, Samiam, Bouncing Souls…bands that have been staples for a long time and that are still putting out records that are so good. Sometimes, I try to step back from it and say “okay, do I like the new Souls record because it’s a new Souls record, or do I like it because it’s a really good record.” And it is a really good record. The new Samiam record, irrespective of if you’ve liked Samiam for years, is a really good record.
Yes, that new Bouncing Souls record is so good! It’s awesome to see bands like us putting this stuff out there that’s so good. The time is just right. … It’s fun, I’m doing this whole circuit, I guess, of talking to people…
Did you do that twenty, thirty years ago? I mean the internet wasn’t what it is now, but…
It was a little internet, but ‘zines would come around here and there. But it wasn’t like this. This is probably the biggest media tour (for the Bollweevils) ever, and it’s easier to do because fo the internet. It’s really easy to do this. Rather than set up a time to have somebody come out and sit down…now I can do a couple phone things, do this, it’s cool. There are a lot of things to organize and fit into the “so open” schedule that I have (*both laugh*). (But) this whole experience has been amazing. There’s something really new about it, and it just feels exciting. It feels like there’s some kind of electricity around it, and it’s amazing.
And I think with it coming out on Red Scare, Toby and Brendan have a pretty cool thing going on.
Yes! And Pouzza is coming up, and there are a bunch of Red Scare bands playing that. Like No Trigger…I’ve loved that band for the longest time. I love those guys. Broadway Calls is another one. They’ve got so many cool bands on there. We were the old school, OG guys on there now. It’s cool to be on a label with a lot of younger bands, some of whom had never seen us, some of us who had never heard of us, and we get to play with them and they’re like “how old are you guys again?” “Oh we’re in our fifties!” “What?! No way!” “Yeah, you young bucks better up your game, because we’re still coming for you!” (*both laugh*) It’s cool to be in this band and on this label. Toby and Brendan are really supportive and the bands on the label are just amazing.
Yes! That new No Trigger record is so good. And it’s so weird, but it’s so awesome that they just kind of went for it.
It’s so cool. It’s not another Canyoneer. I love Canyoneer as a record, but they definitely let you know on this one that they can write a song that you’re going to have to think about, I’m letting you know about these fascists and everything else, and you’re going to be singing along with it. Tom (Rheault) from that band is such a smart guy and John is a grat guitar player. I love them, I really do. I was fanboying out about them when they came on the label. Thinking about this youth movement of bands, and how good they are, it makes me feel rejuvenated sometimes. I’m proud that we still can play and keep up with them and sometimes surpass some of them. I’m like “god, I can’t believe I can still do this at 52,” but then I look over and see Keith Morris and seeing Circle Jerks play and seeing OFF! play, it’s like..that’s who I want to be. That’s what I want to grow up to be. That’s amazing. Seeing Descendents, too, it’s like…that’s what I want to have. The longevity that these guys show is way inspiring. Keith though is totally inspiring. The Circle Jerks are amazing. OFF! is just awesome. They just bring it every day, and I want to do that when I’m sixty. Will I be in my mid-sixties doing this? Of course I will.
Well, in fourteen years, for the next record…
(*both laugh*) Exactly!!
We’re not going to get the folk punk record next time, huh?
No, it’ll still be hard and fast. I won’t be able to jump as high, but it’ll still be a part of the whole schtick. My knee will be in a brace, but here we go!
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