Bad Cop Bad Cop has done angry. The band’s 2017 full-length, Warriors, was recorded in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. The Los Angeles quartet’s new full-length, The Ride (Fat Wreck Chords, June 19th), shows what happens when you come out the other side of that anger.
“It’s not that I am just stoked or blind to suffering,” says singer-guitarist Jennie Cotterill. “I think anger is a legitimate and understandable reaction to injustice and wrongdoing. It’s just that for myself, I am trying to move past ‘reaction’ into productive ‘response.’”
The message BCBC is sending this time around is less about wagging your finger at others, or giving the middle one to the Man, than it is about self-love and acceptance. As Cotterill puts it, “Love is a more powerful truth than anger.” That positivity fuels many of The Ride’s tracks: “Originators,” “Simple Girl,” “Community,” “I Choose,” “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “The Mirage” exude confidence, gratitude, and compassion. In 2020, such things qualify as contrarian.
“These are political statements—self-love is a huge fucking statement,” affirms singer-guitarist Stacey Dee. “Self-love means putting a fix on the problems at home before trying to fix everything in the world. It’s asking people to find it in themselves to create the life that they really want to have so they’re not in turmoil, so they’re not in a place of stress and sickness.”
Dee speaks from experience. In 2018 she was hospitalized twice for different ailments, then discovered she had stage one breast cancer at the end of the year. Fortunately it was highly treatable, but the experience was life-altering. Dee captures it with brutal frankness on “Breastless,” whose bright melodies belie the struggle described in the lyrics.
“Certain Kind of Monster” and “Pursuit of Liberty”—both written and sung by bassist Linh Le—are blistering repudiations of the current administration’s treatment of immigrants.
The former is an imagined conversation with an ICE agent, and the latter juxtaposes her family’s immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 to current events, something she’s never explored musically.
The perspective behind The Ride lends it an undeniable maturity, without losing its power. Recorded throughout much of 2018 and 2019 by Johnny Carey and Fat Mike of production team the D-Composers, the album boasts all of the elements of BCBC’s sound: big guitars, lock-step bass and drums (the latter by powerhouse drummer Myra Gallarza), intricate vocal harmonies, and plenty of attitude.
It’s just that this time, the attitude is encouraging, not raging. Nowhere is that more apparent than lilting album closer “Sing With Me.” Built around acoustic guitar, piano, and Cotterill’s voice, it’s an exhortation to “sing with me / or sing your own song / I don’t mind, just as long as you find / a voice.”
Dee adds, “If people are listening to our songs and they’re going to sing along to them, they’re going to start owning some of those words. And in owning some of those words that gives them some strength and power going forward. That’s really the biggest gift that I could give to anybody.” “Stronger in every way” aptly describes Bad Cop Bad Cop in 2020. The anger may have taken a back seat on The Ride, but what’s taken its place is even more powerful.
If ever there was a band that exemplified how the changes in the music business since the dawn of the Covid pandemic both giveth and taketh away, you could reasonably make the argument that that band is UltraBomb. Since the band is still in its relative infancy with a grand total of one live show […]
If ever there was a band that exemplified how the changes in the music business since the dawn of the Covid pandemic both giveth and taketh away, you could reasonably make the argument that that band is UltraBomb. Since the band is still in its relative infancy with a grand total of one live show and one album that is almost officially released in all the current formats of the day, we’ll give you the so-called twenty-five-cent version first.
UltraBomb is a three-piece international supergroup, and I know the term supergroup gets thrown around somewhat liberally from time to time, but this one checks whatever boxes you need it to check for that term to apply. The band consists of Dublin-by-way-of-Canada based Mahones frontman Finny McConnell on vocal and guitar duties, Jamie Oliver (the one from UK Subs and SNFU, not the chef, though they’re both based in the UK so you can’t be 100% sure of that I suppose) on the drums and none other than Minnesota icon Greg Norton of Husker Du fame holding down the low-end.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Norton for a super fun phone call about how the project came together, and the story is an interesting combination of a sign of the 21st century digital times and good, old-fashioned punk rock. After about a decade-and-a-half away from the music world altogether post-Husker Du, Norton dipped his toes in the water and eventually started playing in Minneapolis-based three piece band Porcupine. Eventually, Porcupine’s bandleader decided to change direction, leaving Norton again without an active band. Enter: the magic of Facebook. “Finny and I had been Facebook friends for quite a while. (He) is a huge Husker fan,” Norton explains. Once Finny saw that Norton was bandless, “he sent me a message and he’s like “well, I’ve got this idea. I know the greatest punk rock drummer on the planet, Jamie Oliver. He drums for the UK Subs, and I think we should put a band together.”
As it turns out, this may have been news to none other than Jamie Oliver, save for a little behind-the-scenes finagling. “At the same time (he was messaging me,” Norton explains, “Finny messaged Jamie and said “hey, let’s put a band together with Greg Norton!” And Jamie’s like “I’m in!” With step one – the lineup – now set, the band got to work on the other important early band decisions. “We were trying to figure out a name for the band, and a friend of Jamie’s suggested UltraBomb.” Boom, step two: complete. “I had a photo of my daughter Coco with the lollipop and sunglasses, and a friend of mine locally here in Red Wing took that photo and put the atomic bomb in the background, and I’m like “holy crap, I’ve got the album cover!” I slapped “UltraBomb” on that picture and sent it over to Jamie and Finny and they’re like “That’s it!”
With a band lineup and name and album cover all squared away in relatively short order in August 2021, there came the came somewhat superfluous next steps of A) actually meeting each other and B) actually working on music. Turns out, Finny had a plan for that too. The following month, the Mahones frontman was playing a series of solo shows in Europe, and just so happened to have some time booked at a studio in Berlin. Jamie, as fate would have it, was also going to be in Berlin. All they needed was Greg. As he tells it, “Finny mentions to me that he’s got four days booked in a studio, and all of a sudden it’s like “well, I should go to Berlin…” I had never met these guys. I book a flight, fly to Berlin, Jamie picks me up at the airport, and that’s the first time we meet face-to-face. The next morning, we’re in the studio getting set up, and Finny shows up, and that’s the first time we had ever met face to face too. It was the first time the three of us had been in a room together. We get set up, Finny had been writing riffs for the band, and that first day we wrote four songs. The second day we wrote the following six.”
The result of that whirlwind, four-day session, is Time To Burn. It’s ten originals plus a Norton-fronted cover of the Dead Boys’ classic “Sonic Reducer,” all banged out in less time than it took me to transcribe our conversation (below). It’s got a raw, throwback vibe, as you might expect from an album that was essentially written on the fly in the studio and grew out of a collection of basic riffs Finny had stored up and a volume of lyrics that Norton just happened to have with him that weren’t initially set to any real music. And while the band essentially got together over Facebook Messenger and the album essentially came together over the course of a long weekend, getting to the point where there was a physical album available for the general public to get its respective grubby little mitts on AND getting to the point where the multi-national trio could play shows together has been a grind of epic proportions.
There were tour dates canceled due to the waxes and wanes of Covid restrictions. There were production hold-ups because, as you might have heard, Adele and Taylor Swift and Beyonce released albums on vinyl and gummed up the works. And then, last summer, there was the most serious hold-up yet, when Norton was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Routine bloodwork revealed a possible diagnosis and a referral to a urologist, and from there, things escalated quickly. “They do an MRI, they do a biopsy, they kind of map out everything that they want to look at, and then you get on the surgery schedule,” says Norton. While the band did have to cancel a run of England tour dates as a result, they were able to squeeze in a one-off show – their first ever – in Minneapolis last July. Four days later, Norton was on the operating table. “I was in the hospital for one night,” Norton explains. “They want you to get up and walk around and be active and get back to your regular normal life as quick as possible.”
Norton is quick to point out that his follow-up appointments and his margins after the operation are all A-OK, so he can finally get back to that “regular normal life” of a touring musician. Not only are physical copies of the record FINALLY just about available (with a little help from DC-Jam Records) tonight, May 11th, UltraBomb will play not only their second-ever show when they hit the stage at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, but it’ll mark the beginning of a tour that’ll keep them on the road for the rest of the month. They’re teaming up with Bar Stool Preachers for a run of eighteen shows in twenty days – the longest run Norton will have been on since the last real Husker run decades ago. It’s a run that Norton and the crew are excited to finally be undertaking. “I’m sure nostalgically I look back on those (lengthy van-based Husker Du tour) days and remember them fondly. But the reality is I’m sure we’ll be in the van and going like “how many more hours do we have to go? I have to pee!”
The UltraBomb/Bar Stool Preachers “It’s Got Legs Tour” runs from May 11th in St. Paul to May 31st in Denver, making stops in places like Memphis and St. Louis and Phoenix and LA and, of course, Punk Rock Bowling, along the way. Check out the full rundown here! You can stream Time To Burn below on Spotify and, most importantly, scroll down for our full chat, complete with lots of goodies about the Husker Du days, his fourteen-year-absence from even touching a bass, his entries into the free jazz movement, and much more!
Oddly enough, yes, the following Q&A is condensed for clarity and content purposes.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Thanks for doing this! I consider this an honor and a privilege, man. As a fan for a long, long time, it’s really cool to be able to get to chat with you, so thanks!
Greg Norton: You bet! So you’re in Massachusetts?
Yeah, I live just north of Boston.
Ok! I loved playing Boston back in the day. Some epic, epic fun times.
So, I’m in my mid-40s and that makes me the right age to have not been old enough to see Husker Du live…where would Husker have played in Boston? I’m trying to think of what was around for venues back in the day…The Channel probably? Or The Rat?
We played The Rat several times, we played The Channel several times. I can’t recall the venue that we played there towards the end, after The Channel (Editor’s note: it was Paradise in 1986 with Soul Asylum opening or it was The Orpheum Theater in 1987 with The Feelies opening. I know, right? Here’s a link to a sweet Husker database I found after we spoke.) Boston was on our very first trip East, and I remember coming into town and we were thinking that we were going to have to rebuild a fanbase and grow it from the ground up like we did out West. And we got to Boston, and the show was packed, and it’s like “oh, there’s this thing called college radio now, and there’s a lot of colleges in Boston!”
And a lot of music colleges specifically!
Right! For sure! Probably a year and a half after that (editor’s note: 3/22/84), REM called and asked us if we wanted to open for them at the Harvard Fieldhouse. We were like “hell yeah!” So we tacked on a couple extra shows and drove out there. Playing with Mission of Burma out there was great. A lot of really great memories of Boston.
As someone who was born at the very end of the 70…
So you were just a wee lad during the Husker years!
I know! I’ve been in and around the scene in this area for a long time now. I grew up in New Hampshire, but we were close enough to Boston that depending on the conversation, you could call yourself part of the Boston scene. But the scene was so different in the mid-80s than it was in the mid-90s and it’s almost unrecognizable now from either of those times, but that’s a scene that I wish I had been born a little bit earlier into.
Yup, that was a great one.
So anyway, yeah, thanks for chatting about this new UltraBomb record. It’s super fun, and I have to say that when I first read the press release maybe a year-and-a-half ago now, during that initial announcement that you and Finny and Jamie were putting a band together, I remember thinking “wow, that seems like something born out of Quarantine.” Where you guys are all physically located and the way it came together, that just sounds like it would be a perfect project for a bunch of guys who had nothing to do for nine months or whatever so they put a band together. Is that at all close to accurate?
Well, the getting it together over the internet part is accurate. Finny and I had been Facebook friends for quite a while. Finny is a huge Husker fan. Mahones covered a Husker tune. I had been playing with a band in Minneapolis called Porcupine. That just didn’t ultimately work out. I loved playing with those guys, but the guy that was the band leader – it was his band and he decided he wanted to change directions, so then I was no longer playing with Porcupine. Finny saw that and sent me a message and he’s like “well, I’ve got this idea. I know the greatest punk rock drummer on the planet, Jamie Oliver. He drums for the UK Subs, and I think we should put a band together.” At the same time, he messaged Jamie and said “hey, let’s put a band together with Greg Norton!” (*both laugh*) And Jamie’s like “I’m in!”
That’s really how UltraBomb became a thing. Then we were trying to figure out a name for the band, and a friend of Jamie’s suggested UltraBomb. I had a photo of my daughter Coco with the lollipop and sunglasses, and a friend of mine locally here in Red Wing, when that was first up as a family Facebook post, took that photo and put the atomic bomb in the background, and I’m like “holy crap, I’ve got the album cover!” I slapped “UltraBomb” on that picture and sent it over to Jamie and Finny and they’re like “That’s it!” This is all in August of 2021. Skip forward a month and Finny is in Berlin doing a solo tour and Jamie just happens to be in Berlin. Finny mentions to me that he’s got four days booked in a studio, and all of a sudden it’s like “well, I should go to Berlin…” I had never met these guys. I book a flight, fly to Berlin, Jamie picks me up at the airport, and that’s the first time we meet face-to-face. The next morning, we’re in the studio getting set up, and Finny shows up, and that’s the first time we had ever met face to face too. It was the first time the three of us had been in a room together. We get set up, Finny had been writing riffs for the band, and that first day we wrote four songs. The second day we wrote the following six…
So wait, you guys weren’t trading ideas over Zoom or whatever in this whole process? It was really like “pick the lineup and the name and the cover art and then go write a record in the studio?” That’s fascinating!
Yeah pretty much! We wrote in the studio. Finny would play us a riff and we’d be like “okay, let’s do that” and we’d hammer it into an arrangement. Once we were comfortable with it, we’d tell the engineer “hit record on this one!” Almost everything at that point was recorded either on the first or second take. Jamie had to leave the third day, because he had to play a gig, so that day, Finny and I were in the studio just cleaning up some guitar parts, adding rhythm guitar parts, stuff like that. And I said “well, I’ve got all these lyrics…” so I pulled out like 2000 sets of lyrics. Finny sits down and looks at them and he’s like “well, I’ve got the whole record figured out.” The next morning, Sunday morning, Jamie is back with us. Finny goes in and sings the entire record. We did some on-the-fly pencil edits on the lyrics just to make them flow a little bit better, but I was blown away with how well Finny took my lyrics – which weren’t written to his music – and made them fit perfectly.
That’s really wild.
We got done and Finny’s like “there it is, bruvs. We created a masterpiece!” At dinner on the second night, we talked about covering something just for fun. We decided on “Sonic Reducer,” so at the end of recording all the vocals on Sunday, the three of us knocked out “Sonic Reducer.” It was the first time Finny and I had ever played “Sonic Reducer” with a band, and I sang it! That’s the one song that I sing on the record. It just turned out so fantastic. Jamie did the mix in London, and it just turned out so awesome. I love it.
I think that “Sonic Reducer” is the first song that I remember hearing as a kid that I identified as being a ‘punk rock’ song. Moreso than The Ramones – I mean, I knew who the Ramones were obviously as a kid, but there’s a different feel obviously about “Sonic Reducer,” there’s a different feel about Dead Boys than there is about the Ramones. That’s the first song I remember hearing and going “THAT’s a punk rock song. I need to know more about what this is!”
There’s a ferocity and an urgency to that song, right from the downbeat.
It’s really sort of wild to me that, aside from meeting over Facebook and getting to know each other over social media, this is otherwise a throwback, “punk rock” record, and I mean that in like the most ideal way. That’s not necessarily what I was expecting because of the way that so many people were writing music over Zoom and trading song parts and files over Dropbox. It’s really sort of refreshing that even though the band came together on social media, the album was written with just three guys in the studiofor four days. That doesn’t happen enough in this scene anymore.
Yeah, I would agree with that. It was written in the moment. It came together so naturally. It felt like the three of us had been playing together for years. Finny and Jamie are such great guys that I feel like they’ve been my best buds for decades. The engineer couldn’t believe that we were writing these on the spot, but it’s that urgent, in-the-moment feel. The record captures the feel of what went down in the studio and obviously, we all have our backgrounds in punk, and there is somewhat of a nostalgic feel to it, but it also is fresh and sounds like it’s made for today.
Yeah, it doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s a rock trio so it’s got that sort of “thing,” and it’s very raw. It sounds like you recorded it live and all in the same room together, which I like and appreciate, but it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there now. Did you guys even trade ideas about what direction you wanted or what kind of thing Finny had in mind or whatever, or was it really just “let’s put a band together”?
It’s funny, so when Finny first contacted me, he’s like “hey, you know, this will just be a lot of fun. Let’s play some Husker Du, let’s play some Mahones, we’ll through in some UK Subs, maybe some SNFU, and we’ll just get together and have a laugh, and maybe we’ll play some festivals. People will fuckn’ love it.” And then we were like “well, maybe we should write some of our own music too,” and then when it happened in the studio, it was like “holy crap, we just wrote an album!” We’re getting ready now to go out on this tour. Jamie is already here in Red Wing with me, Finny comes in Sunday (May 7th) and we’re getting ready. We want to start writing new material right away, and we might even try to get some recording done while we’re on the road. It’s kind of the nature of what UltraBomb is!
You’ve got what, a grand total of one show together under your belts at this point?
Yeah, one gig! Last July, in Minneapolis, after another stumble to get the band out on the road, I got diagnosed with prostate cancer. We canceled dates in England, but we had this offer from the Hook + Ladder in Minneapolis to headline a summer festival that they do, so Finny and Jamie fly in for that, we play one show, it was a total blast – the crowd went wild, there were people losing their minds, there were people crying, it was so incredible. And then five days after that, I had my prostate removed. We took the rest of last year off so I could recover. My diagnosis is good, my margins are clean, and the doctors say I should be yammering on for a few more decades here.
So that’s how we get to the It’s Got Legs tour, which starts Thursday (May 11th) in St. Paul. We’ve got eighteen shows through the end of May – we’re playing 18 shows in 21 days, and Punk Rock Bowling is the crowning moment of the tour. We’re doing two shows in Vegas, one club show where we’re going to open for The Dickies, which I’m really looking forward to. That’s a band that Husker absolutely loved back in the day. I’ve seen them numerous times. And then we’re on the main stage mid-afternoon on Monday, the last day. It’s us and then L7 and then Suicidal Tendencies and then Dropkick Murphys, so…
That’s all killer, no filler right there.
Yeah, jumping right into the deep end! (*both laugh*)
And you’re going out with Bar Stool Preachers on this run too, right?
Yup! They’re doing the entire tour with us up to Punk Rock Bowling. I think they’ve got their own shows set up for Punk Rock Bowling, and then the last tour of our run is in Denver on our way home. That’ll be without Bar Stool Preachers. Their new record is great by the way.
They’re such a fun band. They’re such a fun group to see live too. They put on a great show.
I’m looking forward to playing with them.
They can sort of play with a lot of different bands because they float between styles a little bit so they fit on a lot of different bills. I think I saw them with Bouncing Souls, and I feel like they were here with The Business and maybe Swingin Utters. Super fun band. Are you excited to get back out on the road finally?
Yeah, really excited! Porcupine did a few runs, usually just four or five shows. We did a support run with The Flesh Eaters, and that was great. Dave Alvin and John Doe and DJ Bonebrake. They were super nice guys, and it was great hanging with them for the week. We did a run of shows with Flipper with David Yow on vocals. And then Mudhoney and Built To Spill. Those were all short tours though, so this is my first full-blown tour probably since the last long Husker tour.
That’s pretty wild. Do you miss that part of the music industry? Being in a van and hitting the road for weeks at a time?
Yeah! Well, I’m sure nostalgically I look back on those days and remember them fondly. But the reality is I’m sure we’ll be in the van and going like “how many more hours do we have to go? I have to pee!” (*both laugh*)
Did that happen before, where someone would just hit you up about starting a band or joining their project? Was that a common occurrence for someone in your situation? I ask because I was just listening to your spiel with Mike Watt the other day. I don’t always listen to other shows or podcasts or things, but I love Watt and I’ve been blessed to talk to him a few times, so I used that as part of my research for talking with you, but I know he gets sent music all the time by people saying “hey, can you write with us?” or “hey, can you put bass riffs down under these tracks?” and whatnot, so was that a common occurrence where people would hit you up and ask about playing, and this time it just worked out? And I suppose, if so, why now and why Finny, because on paper it sounds like an interesting match…
You know, I dove into the restaurant world and became a chef and ran a place in Red Wing for seven years before I started my own restaurant. I went fourteen years without even picking up the bass. I thought “Well, that phase of my life is in the past now” and I just concentrated on the restaurant. It was probably early 2000s, there’s a jazz trio called The Bad Plus. Two of them are from Minneapolis, and they were playing a show and they had just released a record on Sony, These Are The Vistas, and they did a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” A friend of mine who was a regular customer and a huge music guy gave me a copy of the CD and said “hey, you should listen to this, I think you’d like it.” Right after that, they did an interview in a Minneapolis paper where Dave (King) and Reid (Anderson) were asked what their influences were. These are jazz guys, and they were like “growing up, Husker Du was a big influence on us,” and I was like “wow! That’s crazy!” I went to see them and loved the show. I wanted to introduce myself and say “hey, I really dig what you guys are doing!” and Dave immediately says “I have an idea for a band and you’d be the perfect bass player for it. So that became The Gang Font, which took maybe three years before we actually got together to play, but that was the impetus for me to get a bass amp again. I didn’t have any gear, so I bought a bass.
Had you gotten so far out of music that you even sold all your equipment?
I still had my electric basses that I played with Husker, but they hadn’t been played in a lot of years and they needed to be cleaned up and tuned up and all that. I bought a cheapy Fender ¾ acoustic bass to play on and actually that’s still a bass that I’ll take with me to go camping and stuff like that. It’s a beater bass, but it works. It sounds good. That’s what got me back into playing bass. The Gang Font is sort of a hard group to nail down as far as what we are…
That is entirely accurate. I’ve spent a little time with The Gang Font stuff on Spotify. It’s definitely tough to nail down.
We actually have another album that we recorded thirteen years ago, in 2010, and I just saw Dave a couple weeks ago and we’re FINALLY going to try to get that released. After that, Casey Virock calling up and asking if I wanted to take over the bass spot in Porcupine is the only other thing really. Although recently, I have been in the studio and recorded a long improv kind of piece with Charlie Parr. He’s on the Smithsonian label, and he is a national treasure. He’s an acoustic player, but he’s also a guy who I met and was like “oh yeah, Husker Du had a huge impact on me.” That was fun playing with Charlie too.
He’s from your area, right? He’s a Minnesota guy.
Yeah, he’s originally from Duluth I believe.
I don’t remember when the official album release date was, because it feels like a lot of that stuff has become sort of a moving target since Covid, between digital releases and then physical CD releases and then vinyl releases. It seems for a lot of bands like there are always different release dates…but does it feel different now than it did releasing a Husker album forty years ago?
Yeah, it does. And this has been frustrating. We put this record out ourselves. We ordered 500 or 600 copies, and it’s a small order. There are so many pressing plants that have closed over the last couple of decades that a small order is not a priority for a lot of plants. Then you get people like Adele putting out an album or Taylor Swift or Beyonce, and all of a sudden everybody gets put on hold so they can press up three million copies or whatever. There kept being all of these delays in getting the vinyl. The vinyl is now finally on its way to the distributor. Here in Red Wing, I just got the box of record sleeves for the pre-sale so that I can autograph them! Finny will sign them on Sunday, then we’ll get those back over to London with the guy that is collating everything together, and then he’ll get the pre-orders all shipped out. So if you pre-ordered the vinyl, it’s coming! (*both laugh*) Hold tight, I promise this is for real this time! That’s been frustrating, and then the other goofy thing is that we wanted to have the record available, so we did release it digitally last year, so now we’re trying to get people excited and press excited, and they’re like “well this record came out last year…” and we’re like “yeah but the vinyl is coming! And we’re going on our first tour!” Back in the day, when the record came out, it came out! There was a drop date and you hit it. Hopefully for our next record, things will go a lot smoother. We’re working with DC-Jam Records here in the States and they’ll put out our next album, and they’ll also be distributing this one when it finally arrives at the distributor. They also made some CDs for us, so the stuff is coming!
For a band that started, met each other and wrote and recorded an album in four days, for it to take a year-and-a-half to finally exist physically has got to be mind-numbing!
Yeah! It came together so quickly and then it was just all of these delays and it was like “oh man, this is killing us!”
If everything got pushed back because people ordered two million pressings of that Adele record, you know that 1.5 million of those are just sitting in thrift stores or the shelves at Target or Wal-Mart at this point. That was the wrong target market.
That drives me nuts…and I don’t have a physical product that I’m trying to release into the world. I just get mad for all of you people who are creating the art and doing the work. I really applaud people who still put out music and stick to it.
Yeah, I mean we had a lot of people who paid money on the pre-sale, and they’re still waiting…it’s crazy.
And plus, you had the whole cancer bomb dropped right in the middle of all that…
Makes for an interesting last couple of years, to say the least! (*both laugh*)
How are you now health-wise? You said before that things are good, all clear?
Yeah! Things are good. When they removed the prostate, the doctors said that it appeared that everything was contained, all of my margins were clean, all of my tests since then have come back clean, and that’s good. Actually, going down that journey, all of a sudden you start meeting all of these people that you know who go “oh yeah, I had that procedure done” or “oh I know somebody” or “oh, my dad had it done twenty years ago.” Prostate cancer is the number two cancer killer, and only because people usually don’t know they have it until it’s too late. I was lucky that something popped up on a regular blood test and it was like “you should go see a urologist.” So go out and get your prostate checked, all you men out there! (*both laugh*)
Seriously! Go to your doctor’s appointments, go to your physicals, get your bloodwork done…
Right! Get the finger stuck up your bum. It’s all good! (*both laugh*) It only takes just a couple of seconds!
For someone who hasn’t gone through that yet, how long a process is it between when something pops up in your bloodwork and when you’re on the operating table and they’re taking out your prostate?
You know, the diagnosis happened pretty quick. They do an MRI, they do a biopsy, they confirm that it’s there. They kind of map out everything that they want to look at. Getting on the surgery schedule, then, actually took some time. That was a longer wait, but then the procedure itself, I was in the hospital for one night. They want you to get up and walk around and be active and get back to your regular normal life as quick as possible.
That’s amazing. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad you got checked out because like you said, too many people don’t until it’s too late.
Since putting UltraBomb together and writing in the studio, has that prompted you to keep writing, whether it’s lyrics or other music? Do you have a lot of ideas to flesh out once you get on the road and start working together?
Oh yeah, sure. I keep writing lyrics all the time. Finny has been writing riffs for UltraBomb, so there’s a good chance that we’ll be able to get a record out – or get one recorded at least – most likely by the Fall. We’re going to even track some stuff on the road. The idea is that we might have a new single ready by the end of the tour, which is fantastic.
Well if you have twenty-one days together, that’s like a quadruple album based on the way Time To Burn came together…
Right, exactly! Jamie last night was like “what if, for each show, we came up with a new song? Then at the end of the tour, we’d have 18 songs, and that’s a double album! Let’s do it!”
That’s old school, Husker/Minutemen style!
Yeah, Watt and I were talking about Double Nickels (On The Dime)…that was going to be a single album. They had it ready to go, and then we dropped Zen Arcade and they’re like “oh, they did a double album! WE better do a double album!” (*both laugh*) They went into overdrive to write the rest of that record. Even Joe Carducci from SST wrote lyrics for that record. He wrote “Jesus & Tequila.” It was just a fun back-and-forth between us and The Minutemen. We love those guys. Miss you D. Boon!
When a guy like Watt says “we were inspired by your band to raise the bar” because Zen Arcade was obviously an iconic album and then it lead to Double Nickels… which is a legendary album…does that still feel cool to know that it was that sort of competition between you created something like that?
It is, yeah. The SST camp back then was us, the Meat Puppets, Minutemen, then Saccharine Trust and of course Black Flag. But Meat Puppets, Minutemen and Husker, the three of us, I think that was the nucleus of SST at the time and of the stamp that they left on the world. Meat Puppets are still out and playing and it’s great that Derrick (Bostrom) is back in the band. I’m excited to hopefully see them out on the road. They aren’t on the road right now – Curt (Kirkwood) lives in Austin, I think Chris and Elmo (Kirkwood) live in Phoenix – so I hope they all come out and check us out. I’d love to see those guys. And of course Watt never stops.
He’s unreal. He really kinda is. I don’t understand how he just keeps going. And he does that show all the time on top of making music, and he always puts like three hours of music on each show…
Oh yeah, yup. He said he’s been doing that show for twenty-two years. Man…that is awesome.
He’s one of a kind. They definitely broke the mold with that one.
Yeah, when you talk about going on the road, he’s like “well when ya shoving off?” and “where are you dropping anchor?”
Yeah, you really have to pay attention when he talks because he’s got so many Wattisms that take a minute to process sometimes…
Oh yeah, he’s his own pirate! (*both laugh*)
Thanks for doing this! I don’t want to take up too much of your afternoon and I try to be mindful of folks’ time. I really appreciate getting the chance to pick your brain even a little bit. As someone who grew up wanting to be a bass player for a while – and has long-since put that aside – but it was guys like you and Watt leading into guys like Ament in the “grunge” era who sorta revitalized your era’s sound, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I really enjoy getting to pick your brain!
Well thanks, I appreciate that!
And good luck on the road! I’m really excited for you guys to be able to be out there and I hope people show out for you. It’s a really good run, and a really good bill!
Yeah, I think they will! People are listening to it. If we’re coming through your town, go get your tickets! If we’re not coming through your town, follow us on Spotify or subscribe to our YouTube channel! We’re going to do a lot of content tor YouTube for this tour, maybe do some live streams, maybe do an UltraBomb travel log. Hopefully, the record will come out in stores while we’re on the road, and we’ll have copies of it on the road so people can come get it signed!
It’s got to be a pretty cool thing still to have a physical copy of it when it finally shows up, yeah?
Oh I can’t wait to put it on the turntable! Being able to hold it is super exciting.
Everybody go pick it up. Listen to UltraBomb. Like I said before, it is very much a quintessential “punk rock” record, and I mean that in the truest, most idealist sense of that term. My interest was piqued just by the original announcement…like “how are Greg Norton and Finny going to sound together…” It really does fit well. It’s really cool and really fun and hopefully you make your way to the Northeast some day.
Oh yeah, definitely. We’re planning on a lot of US tours next year. East Coast, West Coast, all over. Finny got turned on to Husker Du when he was 18. He had just moved to London and he had just missed our show and he wanted to basically try to make his way in the London music scene, and then he heard Husker Du and he was like “oh shit, maybe Minneapolis is where it’s at!” The very first song that he sang (on this record) was “Time To Burn,” and it was funny, I had to tell him “Finny, stop trying to channel Bob (Mould). You’re not Bob. Just be Finny!” He couldn’t contain himself; it was like “oh man, here I am in a band with one of my childhood idols,” you know? He’s a great guy and a fantastic writer and musician and his sense of composition is awesome. And Jamie is just fucking amazing, that’s all I can say.
He’s playing with Mahones now too, right?
Yeah, he was just out with the Mahones in France, and he’ll be doing another tour in I think mid-June or July. He’s also drumming with Anti-Nowhere League right now, so he actually is going to fly home to London from Denver because he has Anti-Nowhere League stuff coming up that first weekend in June. I plan on coming home and relaxing a little bit, and he’s going to go home and go out on another punk rock tour.
And yeah, speaking about Mahones covering “Makes No Sense At All” before, I could see that there are some hints of Husker on this record that I think people will enjoy. Not just because it’s a power rock trio, but there’s some of that feel.
It’s funny, I think a lot of that is just the way I play bass. Somebody commented after hearing it that it was like “wow, it’s cool hearing all those Husker basslines…” and it’s like, “well, no, those are Greg Norton basslines.” I play how I play, and I don’t really have a particular thing.
Did that change after fourteen years or whatever it was of not playing bass? Or was it just muscle memory when you went back to it?
There was some muscle memory. I think Gang Font was a good project for me to get back into it, because Dave’s idea was to just let me play whatever I wanted to play, or to play however I heard the music. Erik Fratzke and Dave would write the music and a lot of times they would just start playing something and I would just start playing along however I felt like. I loved it. I’ve always been a big avant-garde jazz fan, so that was fun.
The list of things that can get in the way of a band releasing new music out into the world is a long and winding one. Band member changes, creative lulls, global pandemics, Adele misreading the market and pressing like 500,000 copies of an album that’s destined for thrift store shelves, national social and political […]
The list of things that can get in the way of a band releasing new music out into the world is a long and winding one. Band member changes, creative lulls, global pandemics, Adele misreading the market and pressing like 500,000 copies of an album that’s destined for thrift store shelves, national social and political unrest, record labels going belly-up at the last minute due to the indiscretions of someone in their orbit, etc. Or, if you’re Boston punks Rebuilder, some combination of all of the above.
In what I guess is the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known and been friendly with the foursome (Sal Ellington and Craig Stanton -vocals/guitar, Daniel Carswell – bass, and Brandon Phillips – drums) that is the core of Rebuilder for just about as long as Rebuilder have existed as a band. Their 2015 debut full-length, Rock And Roll In America, is one of my favorite albums that has come out of this area since I started writing for Dying Scene a dozen years ago, and their follow-up EP, 2017’s Sounds From The Massachusetts Turnpike, is even better.
And yet, as wonderful and honest as those records were and as formidable and authentic a live band as Rebuilder have been, there is also the sense that that could have – probably should have – been more successful if not for being seemingly snake-bitten at many turns. The music industry being what it is, the economics involved with being in a band that takes off when you’re closer to 30 than 20 are different now than they were a generation ago, and so when label support is either lackluster or never materializes, or pre-Covid tours fall apart (looking at you, Europe circa 2017), it can test the intestinal fortitude of band members with growing responsibilities and wavering desires to continue the “grind” well into their thirties.
With some of that as a backdrop, Rebuilder set to work on the follow up to …Mass Turnpike several years ago. What eventually turned into Local Support – which was officially released on August 11th on Iodine Recordings – became a labor of love and devotion in the very truest senses of those words. After years of false starts and working through both internal and external issues, the band reconvened and put out what sounds like their most focused collection of songs yet; eleven tracks that are about as honest and soul-bearing as you could ask for, with myriad influences woven through the mix, creating increased color and texture that broaden the scope of their pop punk infused roots. Panic State Records, which released their first two records, has folded, so after an extended period of shopping the record, they finally landed with a new label home, associated with a certain Pittsburgh political punk band. And we all know how that turned out. At what was seemingly the 11:59 hour mark, Iodine Recordings swooped in and saved the proverbial day and the album came out – at least digitally – as expected on August 11th.
Rebuilder plays their long-awaited album release show tonight – September 1st – at the Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, and they’re playing alongside a powerhouse lineup that includes No Trigger, Choke Up, and Trash Rabbit. Tickets are still available. Keep scrolling here, not only to listen to Local Support (seriously, you should do that…it’s great!) but to check out our long and far-reaching interview with Sal Ellington, the band’s one-of-a-kind co-frontman. Sal has been in and around the music industry for most of his adult life – hell he’s even got a degree in music business – and he’s got a very unique take on the state of the industry that he delves into in his periodic #TheBiz Instagram feed. He’s also better known in some circles for his “Salfies,” which grew out of a crude tour joke and ended up becoming a mechanism for helping to tackle years of fear and doubt and insecurity. This was a fun and compelling one…we talk a lot about the various starts and stops that went into the writing and recording process, the state of the band’s various members and their renewed commitment to the cause, the use of songwriting as a way to process mental health struggles, and obviously the snafu with their previous label and trying to find a new one at the very last of possible minutes. Enjoy!
(The following has been edited and condensed for content and clarity’s sake. Yes, really. It also picks up semi-midstream but you’ll catch up pretty quickly.)
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Well Iodine Recordings is putting the record out. How did that come about so quickly? Obviously, this whole situation has been shitty for everyone involved for the last few weeks.
Sal Ellington (Rebuilder): It has been a fucking nightmare.
So that’s an interesting place to start, and I wasn’t sure how comfortable you were talking about some or all of that…
You can ask me about whatever. Part of (Iodine) taking it over, was for the record to come out on the 11th. I wanted the record to be out before the record release show weekend. The set for that show is heavy on new stuff, and it doesn’t make any sense for us to go out and play a whole bunch of new songs if nobody knows them. When we were originally in talks with A-F, they wanted it to come out on September 1st and I said we needed to move it back a couple weeks so that people have a chance to hear the songs and get to know the songs before the show. So that’s still the plan with Iodine taking over. However, I think the delay will be in getting the pre-orders out for people. The pre-orders were involved in this snafu. The record plant reached out to me and were cool. They said “Hey, we saw everything that happened. Is anything changing with this release?” And we said, “Yeah, is there any way you can take the (A-F Records) logo off?” And they could, so they took the logo off and kept pressing the record, which was awesome. I’m stoked that they did that. However, it delayed when it was going to get in the hands of either A-F or us.
With the logo now off of the record itself, because A-F used to do things piecemeal, we now had to talk to whoever was doing the jackets, and I think the jackets are too late to be redone. I think the jackets are already on their way to us, and I think that I just connected with the people who did the jackets this morning and they said “Send us the new artwork, we’ll see what we can do.” Literally an hour ago I got a notification that said something like “The jackets are being shipped to you, look at your shipping times.” So, we might be too late for that part now. So I said to Iodine, if we need to do new jackets, if that’s the one thing we have left, then we need to find someone to rush order new jackets because we have a tour that we haven’t really announced yet that’s happening in September, so I need records for our release show and I need records for the tour. That’s basically where we’re at for now; trying to make sure that we have records for both of those things, which we will, it’s just a matter of are they going to have an Iodine Recordings logo, or are they going to have a Rebuilder sticker covering up an A-F Records logo…
I was going to say, can’t they print out Iodine stickers that match the same color and slap them over there? I mean, it’s a pain in the ass, but I feel like that’s not super uncommon and it’s less of a pain in the ass than printing all new jackets.
Yeah, I ordered the stickers already, and I think they’ll actually be at my house today, so I have to have my roommate ship those to A-F because there are pre-orders that need to go out. But it’s one of those things where Iodine was like “You’ve worked so hard on this record, we don’t want you to have to put the record out with a sticker over it, making it look haphazard and unprofessional, so if all we have to do is order new sleeves, then let’s just do that.
What a shitty situation but at least you’re rolling with it and making the best of it.
Yeah, I think we’re trying to make the best of it and I think it’s one of those things where none of us wanted to deal with this. This is not what I had planned for the release of something that I’ve spent so long working on. I think that Chris Stowe, who runs A-F Records, certainly never wanted this to happen either, as well as anyone else who is attached to any fallout from Anti-Flag, from the victims to the people who work for the band. There are people who have lost their careers due to this. We didn’t lose our career, so I feel like what we have to go through is annoying for us, but it’s not this life-changing thing.
Oh for sure, you have to compartmentalize that stuff. And it seems like A-F was just gearing up to put out a whole bunch of new things between now and the rest of the year, and so there are a handful of bands who are in similar situations where the gears are already turning and things are too far along.
It would have been one of those things had it just been an announcement that we had signed to A-F and there would be an album in the Fall. We could have just made an announcement like “We’re just not on A-F anymore, we’re going to take some time to figure out who is going to put it out,” and that’s it. Or if it had been a year after our record came out, we could have been like “It’s terrible what happened. We’re not on A-F anymore, any copies that we make going forward from this are just going to be on our own.” Instead, we’re right in the middle. (*both laugh*) Things are literally shipping now, and every single hour of the day for me is spent trying my hardest to basically do chaos control on this thing as well as doing my actual job, and trying to finish doing this tour, and all the stuff that comes with it. Yeah, it’s not what I envisioned for this record.
Seriously, first full-length record in eight years or whatever it is and this is the hand your dealt.
Yeah. I know it’s our second full-length, but I always felt like (Sounds From The) Massachusetts Turnpike was our second real record. It’s not as many songs, but I do always think about that when I think about that record. So then this is our third record, for sure. I think it’s our strongest, and I do really, really love this record a lot, and I hope people do too, which is why I don’t want anything distracting from this record or taking away from it. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of things distracting from this record and it’s like…thank god I don’t post every single minute of every single day what’s going on with it, because I can get mentally fried with it. But I just want people to know that the record is coming out, it’s going to be a bit delayed getting to you, but it will still be out digitally on all the streaming sites anyway. You’ll just have to give it a bit til you get your copy in the mail. I hope that people understand that the delay in getting their copies in the mail is that we now have to deal with all the bullshit that came along with this. What the customer has to deal with is getting the record a little bit later than they would have They’ve had to deal with that with records that didn’t go through anything problematic, they had to go with it just because Taylor Swift put out a record and bumped other people’s.
Oh for sure, everyone is used to that since Covid. I can’t remember a record coming on time. Except maybe the Dave Hause record because I don’t think he announced the record until he had the physical copies or something like that, so that when people pre-ordered it they were just sending it out from Tim’s garage. But that’s a different way of doing it.
It’s funny because Dave was one of the people who early on called me about this record. He knew I was trying to find a home for this record so I sent it to a ton of friends and asked what they thought about it and who should put it out…all those questions you go through every time you put our a record. It’s almost half a year or a year of pitching it to people when you don’t have a home for your record. And I sent it to Dave and he said “Well, what do you want to happen with this record, man? Where do you want it to go?” And I said “Well, these are the labels I was thinking of. This is where I think it should go because I want the most eyes on it, because I think it’s important.” And he was like “Yeah, man, but why don’t you just release it yourself? That’s what I do with my records?” And I was like “Yeah man, but you have a huge audience, you know?” And he was like “Well, how many records did you sell when you did it on your own for the live record.” So I told him and amount, and he was like “Alright, I do probably the same number, just scaled up by X amount. It’s all a matter of how you scale it. I think that you guys could do the same thing. Put out the record on your own, it’s going the mean the most to you anyway. Pay for the PR and do it that way.” And I would have done it that way, for sure. It’s nice to know that we can do that. I just think that we went with A-F because they have a great presence at FEST, and we always do really well at FEST, and Chris Stowe who ran the label is a great friend and has always supported bands who have been on it. We’ve had friends who have been on their label and they did well. It wasn’t going to blow us up, but it’s people that believe in the record, so that’s why we decided to go with them. I think Dave was right, we could put it out ourselves, but having it in the hands of people who believe in it was the way to go. That’s why now, working with Iodine is working with people who believe in it and believe in our band.
Did they reach out to you after the A-F thing or did you hit them up?
They did. They reached out to us.
That’s got to be a good feeling.
For sure. I was like “I’m not going to start reaching out to labels when this is supposed to be out in less than a month.” Like, how do you sell that to anyone? (*both laugh*) Hi! I have this record coming out and now it’s attached to this controversy, do you want to put it out now?”
Right! “Hey, do you want to wade into this shitstorm?”
For sure. But I know that Iodine has worked with Jay Maas who recorded this record, and they talked to him about it and asked if he thought Rebuilder would be interested in having them help put the record out. And the thing is, nobody HAD to come to us to help with our record, so the fact that they did come to us and say “Here’s what we can do, let’s jump on a call immediately and try to make this happen,” I really appreciated that.
Had they heard it at that point?
I think they had. I think Jay had sent it over when we were looking for a label, but I don’t think that we ever had the conversation because I think once they saw that we were talking to A-F, they were like “Yeah, that makes sense.” There are more bands already on that label with our sort of poppier punk sound than there were on Iodine. But I’m glad they had seen a position to help and that’s what they jumped on. So I think they had heard it already, I just didn’t know if they liked it (*both laugh*). I never really know. You always hear things like “Iodine liked your record” and it’s always like, “Well, what does that mean? Does that mean they think it’s a cool thing that we’re creating, or does it mean that they want to be a part of it?” I remember early on, someone was like “Oh, so-and-so at SideOneDummy really likes what you’re doing.” And I was like “Wow, that’s cool!” And then that was the end of the conversation. (*both laugh*) I was like, “Okay, so what do I do with this information?” (*both laugh*) Like, “Oh good, another thing to think about…” I’m pretty sure I did think about it for a solid month straight before I just finally stopped.
I’m really excited for people to hear this record. I’ve finally had a chance to dig into it the last couple of days, and it’s really good. I don’t just say that because I’ve known you guys forever; it’s really a good record. I know that it’s super cliche to say that you hit another level or whatever, but I feel like you really pushed yourselves. It’s really good.
Thanks! Yeah, I do feel like it’s our most diverse record in terms of what we were trying to accomplish on it. I just never know if that’s going to mean anything to an audience or in general. I always feel like we’re a band that’s still growing. We can’t just announce a show and have it sell out right away. And because I think we’re still growing, I get concerned with, like, “Are we allowed to do this? Are we allowed to be weird and different?” I think a band like Turnstile can do that and it’s a home run, you know what I mean?
Yeah, but it wasn’t a home run until they did it. They took some chances and it worked. I like when people do that. Obviously, it’s fine to have a sound or something that keeps you grounded, but I like that people continue to grow. You’re not 20 or 30 anymore, you know?
I think it’s cool when bands take chances. There are definitely times when bands take chances though and you’re like “Well, I wish they hadn’t done that” and I don’t want to be on that side of it, you know?
That last song especially, “Disco Loadout,” it’s got pedal steel on it so obviously it’s an Americana song, and yet it’s got horns on it so obviously it’s a ska song, and yet, it’s very much a Rebuilder song. For some reason, those things fit contextually with that song, but it doesn’t sound like any other Rebuilder song.
What’s funny is we had probably played that song a couple of songs live back when …Mass Turnpike came out. Around that time, anyway. When we were looking at what songs would be on …Mass Turnpike, that was a song we liked a lot, but you need the journey to get to that song. To end an EP on it feels like you didn’t give people enough time to get there and to understand it. In the Rebuilder Venn diagram, it doesn’t fall smack in the middle. But I always had the ambition for how the song should go, with the pedal steel and the horns and everything. It really needed to be recorded and heard for people to listen to it and get it. Craig (Stanton) was like that too. He said, “I really didn’t see this song coming to be the way that it was, and I’m glad that you followed through on it.” I’m super happy with how that song came out. I think it’s super cool. I think it’s a really ambitious song but at the same time, I think that the skeleton of the song is still a good song. I’ve always thought that you know that a song is a good song if you can listen to it as a country version or a punk rock version or a ska version, it’ll sound good however you do it because the songwriting stands up. That’s how I view that song.
Between that one and “Look Down Club,” I think I might have a couple of new favorite Rebuilder songs. That “Look Down Club” is a cool song.
I like that song a lot. I think that was an older one too. I think we at least had the idea of that song around during …Mass Turnpike and it was in the column of “this could be on a full length.” But we didn’t have the key parts written until the end. We always add keys at the very, very end, and I think the keys made that song sound so cool. I think it’s a very cool song to open up Side B.
Yeah, that big intro to it…if it wasn’t going to kick off Side A, it makes sense to have it kick off Side B. Or to kick off a show. Starting that side of the record with “Look Down Club” and ending it with “Disco Loadout” is pretty gnarly.
Yeah, and I think Side A has, I think, so many bangers and so many hooks that we needed Side B to have its own weight, and I think it has its own weight in a different way, for sure. That song could open a set, but I think you could also close a set with it too. It fits so many things. It’s super cool. I like a lot of the guitar work we do on it. In the studio, you cn adjust add more stuff on top of it and keep adding, which is what I love to do. Then it just kinda takes on its own thing.
At least vocally, this is a very “Sal” record. It’s much more you than Craig out in front; I feel like Craig has maybe two that are essentially his, at least vocally.
One of the things that happened with this record was, I think it was right before the pandemic, the end of the year before, we kinda had the idea to record maybe seven of the songs that we had? I think we had been doing a lot and we basically got to a point where everyone in the band was kinda burnt out from having to grind really hard and maybe sometimes not have a lot of reward for it. You can only grind so hard and not get anything for so long before you think “why do I keep doing this?” But I think we’re all friends who love playing with each other and it’s fun for us to do. As much as I wish we made enough money from this band where this was everyone’s full-time job, and then we can focus on this and, yes, life happens but we’re able to provide for our lives because of this…we can’t do that.
So when life is happening, like, for example, around the time that Daniel (Carswell, bass) was newly sober and he wasn’t really super in love with having to be on tour and go into clubs and be around people who are drinking all the time, because he was still trying to figure out how to be sober. And Brandon (Phillips, drums) had taken on a new job and he and his wife had already had talks about having a kid. And then Craig I think around then joined a local hockey thing that he started being a part of and he didn’t really have a lot more songs to contribute to this, and he wanted to do something else. My goal was that I wanted to keep doing Rebuilder and I wanted to do this record, and I was about to have a complete mental breakdown from everyone being like “This is where we are in life, and maybe where we are in life isn’t aligning with where you want things to be with Rebuilder right now.” I was like “Well, let’s go into the studio and record what we have,” and that got cut down from like seven songs to I think five songs. No, it got cut down from eight to five, and I think there were three songs that Craig thought needed more time to develop, but he thought the other five were strong. We did go in and record those five and we got them down and we did that whole session and then the pandemic happened. The record got put on the back burner because we aren’t practicing, we aren’t seeing each other. Everything else takes on precedence ahead of making a record.
So then me and Daniel are living together still at the time and in my mind I still want to finish this record, whatever that means. I don’t even know who we can play with or anything. It was a solid year of making more demos in the house with Daniel and then when the riots happened with Black Lives Matter, after George Floyd, I was like “Well, I don’t want to work on demos for this record anymore because I’m too caught up in what’s happening socially.” So I wrote “Monuments,” and we went in the studio and recorded that. Brandon couldn’t play on that because he was still living in his in-law at the time and we couldn’t really get together, but Harley from Choke Up was free and he had been playing with us at times anyway, so he came in and we recorded it and we put it out and we raised money for Black Lives Matter. Then, during that time, months later, we went back in the studio, and I had some demos of me, Harley and Daniel, and it was kind of the first time I had written songs that I wasn’t bouncing off of Craig, and I didn’t know if I was confident enough in my songwriting ability to just depend on myself. But, at the same time, I kinda had to be, you know? So “Telephone,” “Hold On,” Brokedowns,” those were all songs that came from that session with Harley. So we went in and recorded those, and I think we only recorded basic drums, guitar and bass. I don’t even think we did vocals yet. But then, me, Daniel and Brandon got together months later and worked on the other three that we had cut out of that original five-song session. We worked on those and then went and recorded those.
At this point, it’s like two years later. I had run into Craig and he talked about “Monuments” and how he thought it was a cool song and how he wishes he could have played on that song, and I said “Well, I thought that you didn’t want to” and he felt like time had passed and he felt different about things, and I think by that point we had done that livestream that we did. I had texted everyone like “Hey, me and Daniel want to do this, we don’t know who’s around and it’s pretty ambitious to do, but me and Daniel will do a lot of the heavy lifting but if you want to do it, it could be cool.” Everyone was obviously very into doing it, and I think going forward from that, I think it makes sense to keep running it that way. If there are things that come up that seem cool, whoever is in is in, and whoever has things going on, that’s fine. We’ll either have someone else come help us or we just won’t do it, but we’ll have other cool opportunities for us to do. I think by establishing that idea into the band, it makes people feel like they can participate but they don’t have to make it their whole entire life.
So, once we did that, I told Craig “Well, we’ve gone in and pretty much recorded the basics for the second half of the record and I have these new songs that you haven’t heard yet, so if you want to be on it I would love to have you, because I love your guitar work and I love your ideas and I love what you can bring to the table.” I love Craig’s vocals in the band. I think me and him complement each other well, and I always want him to be there at all times. I can’t force people to be there, and life is always going to happen, especially if this isn’t your full-time job and there is no money to be made on this. You can’t drop things to do this all the time. So we went back in the studio and showed him the skeletons of the songs and told him to add in the parts that he thought were good and he did backup vocals. The result is this record. It’s a weird record in terms of how it got made, but I think how it got made is what makes this record so important to us. So many things have gone on for us to make this happen.
On a lot of different levels, yeah.
On a lot of levels, right. So many! And Harley jumping in and playing drums, JR from Less Than Jake and Chris from Bosstones jumping in and playing horns on it
Or for some of us, it will always be Chris and Pete from Spring Heeled Jack (*both laugh*)
And then Casey Prestwood from Hot Rod Circuit plays lap steel guitar on that track. I remember him from a Drag The River show that I saw over ten years ago, and I was like “He’s so good, I wonder if he still plays…” so I was like “Hey, we don’t really know each other, but I saw you play this legendary show in my mind…do you still play lap steel?” and he was like “Yeah, man, I can do that for you, no problem.” Kailynn West sings on “Wedding Day.” So we reached out to a lot of friends to really make this record happen. I had to trust myself on a lot of decisions and push myself to finish this record, and I’m happy that at the end of it, it’s still the four of us here making this record and contributing however we could. And I feel like Harley is an extension of our band at this point because he has helped us out so much and I love having him there. So the reason there are only two lead-vocal Craig songs on the record is because he wasn’t there for some of the writing on it. So it was important to me that once he was back in the mix, that he sang a lot of the backups on it. I think live, there will be a lot more shared vocal stuff, because live, I can’s sing all those songs all in a row the way they’re written and have a voice by the end of the night. (*both laugh*)
I made note a couple times that you really push your voice on this one.
I’ve been taking vocal lessons for the last two years now. I do a vocal lesson every two weeks, and I started that because I knew that Craig wouldn’t be able to be there for some of the shows and I would have to sing a majority of the songs, because we didn’t have someone else who could sing his parts. And that would be a lot for my voice to take on, especially if the songs weren’t written with the intention of one person singing them. Even a song like “Get Up” or “Anchoring” has some back-and-forth spots that, when we’ve done it live without Criag for the couple of shows that he hasn’t been able to be at, it’s been difficult. So, I reached out to a vocal coach and every two weeks we FaceTime. I still do them, because it’s good to have. But I do remember Jay (Maas) saying when we were recording that “I think your vocals sound better than I’ve ever heard them, and I think the lessons helped a lot.” I was really appreciative of that.
I think I would agree with that. I think with a song like “Hold On,” which is obviously an important song for a lot of reasons, it being the first single from the new record sets that bar, and you really push it in that song especially, to the high end of the register for you. Even though that song is drop-tuned, right?
So that’s the trick! This is so stupid…(*both laugh*)
No, I love this shit!
When we learned the Blink self-titled record, there are a couple songs that are tuned in C#. I think “Violence” is one of them, and I think “Stockholm Syndrome” might be. I remember how cool I thought it sounded, so I thought “Well, maybe I’ll copy Tom DeLonge and write a couple of songs in C#.” Also, “Wrestle Yu to Husker Du” by The Dirty Nil is also tuned down to C#, and I was like “This is why the singer of Dirty Nil can sing so high on that song, because he’s playing drop-tuned, so it’s giving you more of a range to sing over it.” So I was like “Oh, that’s the trick! That’s why it sounds like he’s belting the song out!” So with “Telephone” and “Hold On,” those are the two songs that I wrote in that tuning for that reason.
Oh “Telephone” I don’t think I knew, but “Hold On,” for sure – that big riff at the beginning of it. Is that fun? It seems like you were obviously pretty inspired to write during everything that was going on anyway, but did trying out new tunings like that open up any creative parts of your brain and, like, “Oh, there’s a whole new register of songs I can write!”
Oh yeah, it’s so fun. Everyone knows the Drop-D trick, for sure, but when I tuned down to C#, I retuned the whole entire guitar down a step-and-a-half. I think it sounds really cool
And now you can play Korn covers!
(*both laugh*) For sure! It gets my creative juices flowing a lot more, for sure, to get to think of things in a different way. The cool thing is that Craig bought a guitar pedal that you just hit and it down-tunes you to whatever semi tone you want to. He tried it and didn’t love it, but he thought it would be cool for me because I do a lot of big, open chords. So I tried it and I was like “Damn, for a live setting, this is fucking fine with me!” So when we play live, I have that pedal and I use it for those songs. I don’t have to retune, I just hit the pedal and what you hear from there is drop tuned. Then I can still just have my backup guitar as a backup, because that was the fear. What if you break a string and then you have to go to your back-up guitar, and then you have to figure out how to…
…capo punk rock songs at the third fret or whatever.
Yeah, exactly. It’s a super cool pedal. I think there’s definitely some give-and-take with the tone a little bit, but it’s so negligible that I’m fine with it.
I think the last time we talked like this was maybe right around the George Floyd events. I don’t remember if we talked specifically for “Monuments” or anything like that. But did you stay pretty creative, or did the not really knowing what was going to happen with the band make so that you didn’t even bother writing during that time?
I want to say that I was super creative throughout the whole thing but a lot of it was just very depressing for me, especially around the George Floyd time. I would sit there and try to write something, but I was forcing myself to write when I wasn’t feeling inspired. All I was thinking about was “Do I have a career anymore? Maybe I don’t have a career anymore! Did I make all the wrong choices that led me to this point where I don’t own a career or own a house? Did I set myself up for complete failure? That’s how I felt throughout all of it. And then, when the George Floyd thing happened, I wrote “Monuments” faster than I’ve ever written any other song, and we recorded it faster than we’ve recorded any other song. From inception to recording it, it took about two weeks, which is the fastest Rebuilder has ever done anything! That snapped me back into doing something, because I felt like I wrote because I didn’t know how to…there’s only so many posts you can make (on social media). I don’t know what to say, and I don’t ever know the right things to say at all, really. All I really know is how I feel, and I don’t know if that’s the correct thing. Writing “Monuments” helped me put all of my feelings into one thing and try to do something good with it. I can’t fix it and I can’t make it go away, but I can contribute in some way to making it better. That was when I got a little bit more creative, and then when we went in with Alex-Garcia Rivera to record a Mavis Beacon song for Jeff Poot, because he had a brain aneurysm, we thought it would be fun to cover his song and send him some money. That was another thing where these things seemed so pressing and so much more important than what our band is, that that was when I was like “Oh, I feel like I can be creative now because there’s a purpose.” That made me start doing things again, because otherwise, it didn’t feel like there was ever going to be a purpose other than just being less bored.
I think that if you look at it from 10,000 feet though, I think that a lot of the songs that tackle mental health issues are also a way of sort of doing the same thing. Those songs are written for a purpose and people hear them and hopefully they resonate with them and identify with things in them, and that helps them either call somebody and get help or realize they aren’t alone. And so I feel like some of the more mental health-related songs sort of accomplish the same sort of purpose, at least for me as a listener.
Yeah, I hope so! There was still a record to be worked on and finished, so once I was in the mode of “We’re going to go record and we’re getting in a room together,” even if it was just me and Daniel and Harley, if felt like there were things going on. Especially with tracks like “Wedding Day” and “Staying Alive” that take on a lot of the mental health things. I always say that when you hear songs like “Staying Alive,” you’re like “Is this a big, desperate cry for help?” But Rebuilder takes so long to get anything out into the world (*both laugh*) that whatever was going on, by the time you hear it, that is years and years and years removed. “Staying Alive” is a song that was written on a reflection of a time where I had another complete mental breakdown a little after college, when I was probably 24 or 25. I’m 38 now, so whatever was going on at that time, I’m thankful is way behind me, where I can write a song like “Staying Alive” and have it be really heavy and serious, but it’s not a thing where I can’t play that song because it’s too new or too painful. Like, I can write the song because I can talk about what I was feeling at that time, and what I still sometimes feel now, and have it not be so reactionary to my life at that moment. I can guarantee you that there’s a book somewhere with the lyrics to that song written over and over and over again until I felt it was what it should be.
There are times where I look back on lyrics from my first band where I’m like “Oh my god, I wish this person didn’t put this song out. I wish he thought of different words to put in because it’s so cringy.” I just don’t want it to be that anymore (*both laugh*). So it’s a good thing that it takes a while for this stuff to come out, since it allows me to sit with things even for a year and say “Eh, I don’t know if that’s right.” I’m happy with how “Staying Alive” came out because after revising it so many times, it doesn’t read as corny. I didn’t want it to be too corny or too much like an emo song. I wanted it to be a serious song dealing with serious matters but also feel like by the end of the song you don’t feel like “Oh this situation is terrible.”
When people who know you from Salfies or from #TheBiz or from that side of things hear those songs filled with references to the more mental health-heavy stuff, does that strike them as weird because you don’t always present to them that way publicly?
No one brings it up. I’ve never had anyone be like “that’s weird that you would write this song when you do all these really fucking dumb things on the internet.” I just think that they must think “This is wild. This kid must be the most bipolar kid in the fucking world.” (*both laugh*) I always imagine that they think that. But I have also thought that the funny thing is that it also goes very hand-in-hand. There is a lot of crossover (“Staying Alive”) and Salfies than you would ever, ever imagine.
Yeah. The way that I felt in a song like “Staying Alive” and everything I felt in it and all the anxieties and all the times where I just did not want to be alive, is because I had no confidence in myself and I always was very, very concerned with what people think about me. And I still have that. I don’t think that ever goes away. But I remember when I first took a dumb Salfie in a bathroom and sent it on Snapchat to my band members while we were on a tour and thinking it was so funny and seeing the reactions from everybody being like “Oh, what the fuck!?” All it took was somebody saying “I hope you don’t do this the whole tour” for me to be like “Well now I have to.” I was doing it and thinking it was funny but it was still an internal thing and no one knew about. I remember a girl I was dating at the time I had shown that picture to, and they weer so disgusted. It made me feel really bad. They were disgusted in a bad way, like “Please don’t ever take pictures like this, and don’t show anybody this, this is so embarrassing for me and I don’t know why you would do something like this.” I remember thinking to myself “Well, note to self, don’t show your girlfriend these pictures…”
I kept doing them obviously, and during a Bosstones tour, Adam Shaw, the tour manager, had asked about Rebuilder and I sent him that picture and I was like “We just finished a tour, here’s a picture from tour!” and he thought it was hilarious and sent it to all the guys in that band, and they thought it was funny or some of them were disgusted. Dicky was one of the people who loved it. He coined the term. He texted me and was like “No Salfies this weekend, please!” and he was like “You’ve gotta make a Salendar calendar, that would be so funny!” That encouraged me to get more creative with it, because I thought it was so funny. More and more people started finding out about it and bringing it up to me. I remember I was at a restaurant with the girl I was dating at the time and I remember a friend of mine came up to me and said “Oh you must be so proud of the Salfies” and they got fucking pissed! They were so bullshit! They were like “Why do people know about this?! Why is this becoming a thing?!” After we broke up, I think one of the things I did was like “Well, fuck it – now I don’t have anyone standing over me and making me feel self-conscious about doing this, I’m just going to post it on Instagram.” I think I posted the archives that I had on my phone on Instagram like the day after we broke up, and people being like “OH MY FUCKING GOD!”
I remember people seeing it and it becoming a “thing,” like “we need more Salfies!” and thinking it was so funny, to the point that Jimmy Kimmel had seen them. Due to “circumstances,” after a Bosstones show I was out at a dinner with Bob Saget and Jimmy Kimmel. Someone introduced me to Bob Saget and he was like “Who’s this?” and someone said “This is Sal” and Jimmy goes “Yeah, let me show you a picture of him,” and he had a Salfie on his phone and showed it to Saget and he laughed and said “This is amazing, I want to show this to Mary-Kate (Olsen)!” I was sitting there thinking “What the fuck is my life right now?!?” (*both laugh*)
It blew my mind completely, and from that point, I hadn’t felt like I’d described in “Staying Alive.” I hadn’t felt that way in a long time and I remember not feeling that way and thinking “I don’t give a fuck anymore. I don’t care, and I can’t believe that this is the outcome that came from me posting dumb pictures of me naked behind things on Instagram.” But then, the person who felt that way could never post pictures like that, you know? Now it’s a whole thing and I think it’s so stupid, but even now, there’s times when I meet people and they’re like “Oh my god, you have to look at Sal’s Instagram, it’s a whole thing.” I’ve had people say to me “I wish I could do that, I don’t have the fucking balls to do it. That’s crazy.” And I’m just, like, yeah, I don’t know how I got to this point, but I’m glad I did, because I don’t ever want to feel the way I did before. Ever! I never want to feel the way I did in “Staying Alive.” It’s a terrible feeling and you feel like you have no hope and you have nowhere to go and you’re not good enough and you have so much self-doubt. Now, I feel like that isn’t as aggressive in my life anymore, and some of that is thankfully due to thinking it’s fucking hilarious to put a Santa Claus in front of me and stand behind it naked, you know? (*both laugh*)
I think even with #TheBiz stuff, the way that you present to people is that “This kid is smart, and he’s funny, but he also doesn’t really give a fuck and he’ll tell you exactly how things actually work and he’s super confident.” So to know that some of that comes from the place of a person who has overcome so much fear and doubt and insecurity and anxiety is pretty awesome, I think.
I’m glad it comes off that way. With The Biz stuff, I think that the music business is just hte most ridiculous business in the world. It’s such a fucking joke. As someone who has been in it my whole life – who literally has a fucking degree in it – I think it’s funny to point out this stuff. It’s always crazy to me how much the general public doesn’t know about things. When we signed to A-F Records, people were like “Congratulations on A-F!” I got those texts a lot and I didn’t really know how to respond to them. In my head, I was like “Well, it’s not Warner Brothers, you know? What are these congratulations for? It’s not Sony Music, you know? It’s a small label. I’m happy for it, but it’s a small label.” So I responded to a lot of people “Thank you! They gave us a million-dollar advance.” I think nine out of ten people believed it every single time. They were like “Whoa, that’s crazy!” And I’m thinking “Fuck…they really don’t know how this thing works.” I think things like that are funny, and it means so many different things. One, people have no idea what a million-dollar advance means. So let’s say it were true: that would mean that I now owe the record label a million dollars before I ever see any money ever again.
Right, you have to sell a million dollars worth of records.
Yeah, to get that back, or to make any profit after that. And let’s say we did start making that back. Now you have to split it among all of these people. So it would be a nice cushion for a while, but it won’t be forever. So even that statement, there’s so much weight that comes with what it actually means, and people have no idea at all. So it was funny to say and have people say “Wow, that’s crazy!!” (*both laugh*) I love always posting about The Biz with different artists and having them be in on the joke too, or when it comes to merch and a lot of people talk about merch cuts and how they’re bad, and I think that you can’t have “Save Our Stages” and “Fuck The Venues” all at the same time, you know? (*both laugh*) People are like “I don’t want to pay the merch cut, but let’s make sure this venue doesn’t go away!” It’s so contradictory. And I’m not even saying that I think merch cuts are necessarily a good thing. All I’m saying is that they exist and they go to keep the venue open, so maybe you’ve got to think about what you’re arguing for.
I do think there’s a difference when it happens at what’s seen to be an independent venue versus what is seen to be a corporate, LiveNation venue, where it seems like the corporate overlords have their hands in everything and realistically LiveNation could do without your five dollars on that t-shirt and they’re collecting it in the name of profit. Whereas with a locally run place or a smaller venue might not be able to keep the lights on without it. So to me it seems like there’s a distinction to be made.
Oh for sure. Absolutely. I’m all for there not being merch cuts, and I say that as somebody who makes money off there being a merch cut. I literally run a merch vending business where the money I make for a living sometimes is because of a merch cut. I get it, and I would happily give that up for there to just be no merch cuts across the board, because I don’t think a venue should share in 20% of merch sales. People get really emotional about it because it has to do with music, whereas if you just thought about it like a business thing, then it’s totally different. If you go to set up at the flea market, you’ve got to pay a flat fee to have your table set up or sometimes you have to pay a percentage to have your things set up, so for me, it’s the cost of doing business. And for me, if you’re a band that agrees to it and you sign a contract that says you agree to hand over that money to the venue, you shouldn’t put up a fight at the end of the night with the person who is still in college and is an hourly, paid employee who is just going to you to settle up. Don’t be a dickhead to that person. That’s basically you being a dickhead to your Amazon driver because you don’t like Jeff Bezos, you know? Why are you yelling at the Amazon driver, he’s not the one getting the Jeff Bezos money, he’s just getting his hourly rate and doing his fucking job. Go yell at your agent who said “yeah, that fee is fine.” Go yell at him!
I think you have to look out for your fans above all. Take a look at a band like Dropkick Murphys. They have always kept prices of t-shirts relatively affordable for people going to a show. Dropkick have played small clubs and they have played huge arenas. Their cost of a shirt is usually between $20 at the cheapest and $30-35 at the most expensive. I think if you went and saw them at Fenway Park opening up for the Foo Fighters or whatever, the price of a t-shirt was still a $30 t-shirt, rather than them being like “Well, it’s Fenway Park, and Fenway Park is going to take a lot, and we don’t even get to sell it, and the cut is like 25-75 or 30-70. It sucks. It definitely sucks. But at the end of the day, you have to worry about your customer. You shouldn’t give a fuck about the venue. It sucks that they’re taking that much, but you have to think about your fan. It sucks as a fan, when your only option of seeing you where you are is at a big place because that’s the only place you’re playing, and I have to pay $50 to buy a shirt when the kid in the next state that saw you at a smaller place got to pay $20 when it’s the same exact fucking shirt and I didn’t have the option of seeing them at the smaller place. I have no idea what a merch cut even is. All I know is that Rebuilder got a million dollar advance and now I’m paying fifty dollars for a t-shirt (*both laugh*).” People don’t know. You’ve got to care about your fanbase and do what’s best for them, because at the end of the day, you’re the one that is going to look like a dickhead and create more of a problem.”
I’m going to tell you the only time I’ve used my degree. (*both laugh*) I went to Berklee College of Music for this moment right here. This is what the college set me up for. I was selling merch for Dinosaur Jr. at Roadrunner. This guy came up to me and said “Do you work for the band or the venue?” And I said “Both, why?” And he was like “I just want to know.” So I said Okay, I’m going to entertain this for now. Both.” And he was like “How does that work?” And I said “Well, the band hired me. Sometimes you work for the band. I tour for a living working for acts. But I also live here and I need a place to work when I’m home. This is a venue I work at. And sometimes, both of those things happen at the same time.” And he goes “Well, you know, I’m just asking because venues really screw over artists all the time!” And I was like “Excuse me?!” And he goes “You know, the venues just take money from bands now, and they don’t let bands make money.” I’m like this guy read a post from his favorite band saying “fuck these venues taking merch cuts” or whatever and doesn’t even understand what that means.
So I said “That’s such a general statement and it’s not exactly true.” And he goes, “Yeah it is, I know! I’ve been going to shows for twenty years.” And I said “I have a music business degree, and this is how I make all my money and I literally went to school for this.” And he’s like “You went to school for this? Where did you go?” And I said “Berklee. Years ago. I’m fucking 38.” And he’s like “Oh, well, you have a degree in it, so I guess you know. Sorry.” And he walked away. And I was like “Well, that’s the one moment, that one guy right there, is the one time I’ve used this degree.” And yes, there are things that suck for bands. If you’re a small band on an opening tour, you’re getting paid $100 to $200 a night for that opening slot and then you have to pay the merch cut on top of that, it sucks for you. I suggest you lie to the venue, but be extremely nice and kind and respectful and like “Well, this is what we made tonight. We made $100.” I hope that they feel bad for you and don’t take anything, and I hope that you can do a good job playing that part every night to do what you need to do as a band. That’s just the way I look at it.
If you came to me a year and a half ago and told me that a decent handful of Americana/country artists would occupy some of the top spots on my Spotify “most played”, I’d point you to the nearest mental institution. But here we are, thanks almost solely to an equal combination of Jason Isbell […]
If you came to me a year and a half ago and told me that a decent handful of Americana/country artists would occupy some of the top spots on my Spotify “most played”, I’d point you to the nearest mental institution. But here we are, thanks almost solely to an equal combination of Jason Isbell and Roger Harvey.
I’m pretty close-minded when it comes to my music choice; I know what I like and I rarely deviate. Guys like Isbell and Harvey, and others like Austin Lucas and Northcote have scratched a musical itch of mine that completely blindsided me. Harvey’s one of those artists whose songwriting I was totally enamored by, and after randomly seeing him open for Gregor Barnett of the Menzingers one night, I bordered on obsession and found all the music I could from the guy. So I was thrilled, to say the least, when I started seeing posts around the New Year hinting at new music.
I’ve pretty well exhausted Harvey’s catalog up to this point, so I was anxious to get my hands on more of the honest, hopeful, simplistic, yet captivating music that drew me in in the first place. Well Roger Harvey’s new EP Cowtown lived up to, and succeeded, the anticipation I had for it. I think the man himself described this new release best in one of his monthly newsletters titled Rog Sez: “On March 17th, I’m releasing new music. Cowtown, 3-songs about where I come from and the possibility of a better world. I’ve been writing a lot about this lately.”
Getting to do this interview was extremely fulfilling. I had been eager to pick the mind of Harvey, whose lyrics are poetic in nature, and are able to convey powerful stances on current issues, but in a simplistic way that embodies hope and positivity. After exchanging a handful of emails, I’ve concluded that Harvey is wise beyond his years. I envy the hell out of both his hopeful outlook on the world, as well as his ability to embody that through word and song.
We talk about all kinds of great stuff, and on more than one occasion I had to stop and process his responses because of how wise and well-versed my questions were answered. Although this one was done over email rather than Zoom, I can still confirm that I had a blast doing this. Below you’ll find links to the new release, links to a couple other notable songs mentioned in our interview, as well as tour dates and whatever else can help get you acquainted with one of my current favorite artists. As always, thanks so much for reading this far. Cheers!
Featured image credit: @Cowtownchad
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sakebecause a good chunk of this interview was just two guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): Tell me a little about the three songs you’re releasing Friday. I know with “Two Coyotes,” one of my personal favorites of yours, featured Rozwell kid guitarist Adam Meisterhans, of whom I’m a huge fan of. Are there any guests featured on these new ones?
Roger Harvey: I recorded these 3 songs outside of Philly at a studio called Gradwell House and then passed them down to Justin Francis in Nashville for finalizing. My friend Mike ‘Slo-Mo’ Brenner pushed me towards and led this session. We had been playing these songs live on the road at shows last year and he wanted to get them down together. Mike is best known for his work with Jason Molina but has been a part of so much great music. I admire his attitude and work ethic and love collaborating with him. Working as a solo artist can be trying and having good people in your corner to push you in the right direction is essential. I’m lucky to have so many good people in mine. I asked Mike once on a long drive what kept him going in music through all the years and he responded: “Striving towards excellence. It’s the one thing that never goes out of style.” I think of that often.
In our emails you mentioned these being a part of a couple records hopefully coming out later this year. Any details on those that you’re ready to reveal? Possible release dates? Are those going to include what’s on your most recent release, Last Prisoner, as well as this upcoming one?
I recently finished a 14-song record in Fort Worth, Texas with my friend Simon Flory of traditional folk songs. We rewrote many of them to modernize & convey the lasting meaning of the songs in our current context. We’re finalizing the masters and other conceptual pieces and working to release it later this year. Additionally, I have a record of songs about where I grew up in Pennsylvania that I’ll be recording this spring. Many of the singles I’ve released fit in with that narrative and I’ve been on the fence of wanting to re-introduce singles I’ve released on that record or if I just want to move forward with new songs. I’m sitting on so many songs after the past few years of slowness and have been reckoning with a lot of big change in my personal life that has kept me writing. I’d like to get them all down regardless just need to conclude what tells the story I’m after the most effectively.
Starting with the opening track Cowtown, the message you’re conveying seems pretty clear, and I find my understanding of the song to be pretty relatable to the 5 years I spent living in a small East Tennessee town. Coming from your end, what message are you conveying or what story are you telling with this one? Is there one particular town or experience you’re referring to when you sing “nothing to do here but drink and fight”?
Like most things I write, it is about a specific place to me but I also recognize that it could be relatable to really anywhere. To me, it’s about where I was raised but I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life, through music, to have gotten out and seen a lot of the world and with that comes the understanding that our struggles and experiences as people are often more similar than different. I hope people can relate to the feeling in the song no matter where they came from. You’re only trapped here, if you choose to be.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but “Talkin’ Hard Line” seems less like a story you’re telling and more like ideal circumstances where love brings us together, and the song seems hopeful in that this can be achieved. In a time when people seem so divided and harboring so much hatred, whether it be politically or otherwise, is that the direction you had in mind for listeners to perceive this?
That’s exactly what I’m talking about in this song. It’s a hard subject in today’s world, specifically in today’s America, because of how polarized everything has become. Hate doesn’t deserve a pass, but empathy is important and love is the only way out. Figuring out what that looks like in practice when our own families & friends get so divided and people’s ideas get coopted by grifters who play on their deepest fears is something else completely, but if we can learn to lead with love I think that that’s a start.
Walk me through how you arrived at choosing to cover Susanna Clark’s “Come From the Heart.” Even though I’ve been in Nashville a while, I’m still not super familiar with country music, so I didn’t immediately realize this was a cover. I think that’s interesting though because you made the song your own and the song couldn’t be more fitting for you based on your prior releases. Although the original sounds in no way like punk, I think the lyrical content and its focus upon honesty makes it very similar. Reminds me a lot of Tim Barry’s “40 Miler” when he sings “music should sound like escape not rent”.
There are so many songs that say what “Come From The Heart” says. I love the simplicity of it. I struggle with that as a songwriter and often have to remind myself that simple songs are often the best ones. Conveying a message like people talk and feel is what gives music power. Things don’t have to be complex to be deep and to resonate. I love this song & specifically fell in love with Guy Clark’s version on Old Friends. Susanna Clark was an incredible artist and had such a unique impact on the world around her through living the way she did. From writing songs like this to painting the cover of Willie Nelson’s “Stardust.” I admire her creativity.
Although it’s not on this upcoming EP, I did want to talk about “Weird Hill to Die On” because it seems more applicable than ever in today’s climate. I saw you in Nashville when you played with Gregor Barnett and you explained it specifically referencing the incident at the Capitol, but could you kind of reiterate its connection to that event, as well as its overall meaning? It seemed like you changed it up a bit with this one and sang from the point of view of somebody who’s bought into that nonsense, was there reasoning behind that?
I wrote “Weird Hill To Die On” in the aftermath of January 6th as a way of processing what was and is going on in our country. It strange to have conspiratorial thinking move from the fringes to the mainstream and it seems that we haven’t really figured out a way to reckon with it as a society. It can be tiring to navigate a divided world, but our fatigue of that doesn’t change the fact that this is our world. I’m often at odds with how to move through it all. “Talkin’ Hard Line” is about that too but “Weird Hill” attempts to bend the perspective from the other side.
I wanna talk some about influences because at times, I feel like I can pick out a few key ones that I think heavily influence your sound, and other times I feel like I have no idea. Such storytellers as Woody Guthrie and John Prine, and even Springsteen seem to be some obvious ones. Feel free to correct me on those if I’m wrong, but who else would you cite as strongly influencing you? One of the things I love about listening to your music is your lyrics develop in a way that a writer’s or poet’s might. Are there any non-musician writers that influenced you in terms of storytelling?
I have a lot of heroes. I love music & words. The things I’ve always been most drawn to are ideas and actions. People I can look to as I attempt to draw my roadmap to get to how I’m trying to grow. I like people that write like people talk. Woody Guthrie was my first songwriting hero. I’m a huge Willie Nelson fan too. I love Carl Sandberg’s writing. [Sandberg’s Poem] The People, Yes.
I know you’ve done some work with Tim Barry, I kind of put you two in the same category of elite storytellers through song. Musicians of that nature seem to be a dying breed, did the lyrical storytelling come naturally for you from the beginning or did you strive towards writing in that way? Do you think there are any similarities in either influences or upbringing between you and a guy like Tim Barry that fostered that type of songwriting?
Thank you! I’ve always been drawn towards the kind of music that reflects the way I think and process the world around me. I’m a deep dude and the circumstances of my upbringing are likely responsible for that way of thinking from an early age. I think that’s what drew me towards folk music when I was younger. Tim has played a big role in my life as a friend and songwriting mentor. Tim and I have spent a lot of time together on and off the road and I do think there are similarities and reasons why we connected and continue to relate to one another the way we do. We share a similar mindset on a lot of things. I love storytelling through song and think the most important thing is that it’s told truthfully from its perspective, no matter where it comes from. There are so many important stories being told all the time and it’s important to listen to as many as you can.
How did you get connected with the punk rock audience? Your sound is more country and Americana than punk, while your lyrics fit right in. Were you a punk fan growing up and made the shift to this genre later on, or was it your lyrics that drew in a punk-leaning fan base, or was it something else? I always find the answer to this question interesting, Cory Branan and Ben Nichols are two that I think fall into the same realm.
I grew up as an outsider in a small town and fell in with a small group of punk rockers. At that time punk rock was the most tangible way to express what I was feeling and experiencing. It empowered me. I started touring selling t-shirts for a punk band before I was a teenager and that connected me with life on the road and to so many good people that I still keep close today. I learned a lot from punk rock that I’ll always carry with me, but always felt more drawn to folk songs. I discovered folk singers like Woody Guthrie through punk rock. I connect with the ideals of punk rock and the expression of folk music. I think they have a lot in common.
Country and punk seem on the surface to be two very different genres. And by country I mean traditional country, not that mainstream pop bullshit that’s popular now. What would you say are some similarities between the two? For me, honest lyrics seems to be the biggest one.
Struggle and progress. There is a struggle in it all. That’s what I wrote about in “Cowtown.” Being somewhere, going nowhere and keeping the faith that progress can be made. Punk rock to me has always embodied hope. There is a longing to it for something better. My favorite country music is about people’s struggle. Acknowledging hardship and moving through it. A lot of songs I love are just an acknowledgment of the struggles we experience as people. The power of music is when we share in the acknowledgment of the hardship. Recognizing that we aren’t alone through sharing stories is where we find hope. Finding hope is where we get a chance to try.
May 06 in Cambridge, MA at The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub (Dying Scene will be there – come say hi!)
May 19 in Atlanta, GA at 529 w/ Tim Barry, Lee Bains and the Glory Fires
May 20 in Carrboro, NC at Cat’s Cradle w/ Tim Barry, Lee Bains and the Glory Fires
Earlier this year, East Bay pop punks Sarchasm announced that after twelve years of releasing nothing but certified bangers, they were calling it quits and we felt personally attacked by this. In that same announcement, they also said that they would be releasing one final album, which we’d like to think they did in an […]
Earlier this year, East Bay pop punks Sarchasm announced that after twelve years of releasing nothing but certified bangers, they were calling it quits and we felt personally attacked by this. In that same announcement, they also said that they would be releasing one final album, which we’d like to think they did in an attempt to help soften the blow. Well, it worked….kinda. Conditional Love is out today and while we’re still not 100% healed from the near pain they’ve inflicted upon us, we do feel slightly better because it’s such an incredible album. We decided that the only thing that could provide the closure we needed to fully remedy our sorrow was to speak with the band themselves. So, we rang up the tremendous trio of Alex (bass/vocals), Stevie (drums/vocals) and Mateo (guitar/vocals) and had them talk us off the ledge.
Dying Scene: How did you decide that Conditional Love would be your final album? Was it an actual decision that you made as a group or was it more of an organic process (obligations to work, family, etc)?
Mateo: It was a mix of both. The decision to end the band and the decision to record one final album came about over a series of conversations in late 2021 and early 2022.
Stevie: Mateo was no longer in a place where he could tour and do as much stuff, and Alex and I wanted to continue actively touring, and it didn’t feel right to keep doing Sarchasm without Mateo.
Alex: I touched on this in a post, but I’ve admired bands like REM who were able to walk away cordially and in a way that felt meaningful. We reached that point, and I’m happy we were able to send it off with something we felt proud of.
DS: I know that you all have been playing since your mid-teens. Are you thinking it’s now time for a little break or will there be other projects you’re going to start either together or individually?
Stevie: Excuse me, I was a tween! (Stevie was 11). Nevertheless, I’m going to continue playing with my band Crush Material, and occasionally I have a solo project called Pool Jock that I’ve been recording an album with Mateo since 2020. One day it will come out I hope! Perhaps in 2023 but we shall see.
Alex: Stevie and I, along with Amy (our second guitarist) and Becket (Mateo’s summer tour stand-in) started a new band called STARTLE!, and Stevie and I are also continuing to be active with 924 Gilman.
Mateo: I plan to continue to make music, and I know this isn’t our last time playing onstage together, even if Sarchasm the band is not continuing. I’m also still active as a recording engineer, which I guess is also a scene-related jam.
DS: What are your biggest takeaways from the past decade+ playing with Sarchasm?
Alex: I think I used to worry I wasn’t doing the right things to make us popular or mesh with the East Bay scene, but the longer we did it the more it felt best to embrace your own oddities and how you operate musically. Make sure you’re doing it for yourself, above everything. Don’t just force yourself to do a thing just because it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to do or what’s expected of you.
DS: Conditional Love sounds like it was produced with a theme of closure in mind. Was that intentional or are we just being extra emo and reading too much into it?
All: It was absolutely intentional. We knew that Conditional Love was going to be a last album in some fashion – whether before a long break between releases or the band’s swansong. Once we made the decision to end the band in 2022, we decided to lean all the way into the album’s theme of endings and new beginnings. We also all graduated college and went through a lot of change since our previous album, so there was closure in a lot of life elements happening around us. But maybe writing an album centered around your band ending is the most emo move.
DS: In 2021 you released They Might Be Covers was a pretty awesome lil album, covering a bunch of fantastic They Might Be Giants tunes. Was that a side effect of ‘Pandemic Boredom’ or was it something you had thought of doing for awhile? How did that group discussion go?
Alex: Shannon from awakebutstillinbed and I were on tour together, and we both realized that we have a deep love and appreciation for the band They Might Be Giants. The original plan was to do a They Might Be Giants cover set with Shannon guesting at Fest 2020, but the pandemic obviously had other plans. It felt like a fun way to collaborate with another musician and friend from the scene. Plus, one of our favorite things as a band to do is play covers, so it was a no-brainer. They Might Be Giants has been one of my biggest musical influences, and I would encourage anyone when given the chance to attempt to do a cover set or something like this with one of your favorite bands. It really makes you appreciate their music on a totally different level. Nothing like the realization that TMBG songs are relentlessly complex to ground you in your abilities!
DS: You describe yourselves as “Anxious indie punk”. Was that the sound you were aiming for when starting the band or is that just how it turned out?
Stevie: We kinda just fell into the label anxious indie punk. For a while we didn’t really feel like we fit into any genre option we’d been provided, particularly pop punk which is what we’ve gotten labeled as most frequently over the years.
Alex: I think we all came from different musical backgrounds. I didn’t find bands like MCR or the Warped Tour acts that other 2010s East Bay groups would have been listening to and instead came into Sarchasm obsessed with new wave acts like Talking Heads and Elvis Costello. Stevie and Mateo each had their own separate tastes from me, and the blending never created something that felt typical to “pop punk” despite our collective Green Day love. Indie punk just made more sense to us with our sound and who we are as people.
DS: You’ve listed Talking Heads, the aforementioned Green Day and Rancid as bands who have influenced the band but what about lesser known/local bands. Any of those smaller bands provide inspiration through the years?
All: Smaller local bands have always provided just as much inspiration to us as the big heads (including the Talking ones), both in a community inspiration sense as well as a musical sense. There are too many to list; so a small sample is: Waterfly Spigot, Pseudo, Local Hero, CAMPY, Under 15 Seconds, The Matches, Jabber, Corrupt Vision, Polkadot, Worriers, Like Roses, Grumpster, the Lookout Records back catalog, the Asian Man Records back catalog…
DS: If you could change/improve one thing about the punk scene, what would it be?
Mateo: Less entitlement. More community focus and involvement.
Stevie: I’d love for punk scenes everywhere to be more welcoming to black and brown folks and marginalized groups more generally.
DS: Stevie, I was reading another interview where you said you had done some time as a “Quaker Bouncer” when you were in PA but there were nowhere near enough deets given in that article. Spill!!
Stevie: Oh wow, what a throwback! I went to a Quaker college in PA called Haverford College for two years, and they had a thing where people could host parties with alcohol on campus so long as they had a “Quaker bouncer” who basically made sure no one got too sick or hurt. I’m pretty sure I did one shift of being a Quaker bouncer and then never did it again, so that’s pretty funny that I had mentioned that in an interview…
DS: Now that you are hanging it up, give us a few bands we can listen to to get our ‘Sarchasm Fix’.
All: Teenage Halloween, Like Roses, Little Low, Grumpster, Sweet Gloom, can we say STARTLE? Is that allowed? Play Mountain Goats on one speaker and Green Day at the same time. That might do it.
DS: And now, the most important question – When will Conditional Love be available on vinyl?????
That we will, comrades. That we will. And we suggest you buy the album as well, dear reader (even if not on vinyl) because it is definitely an AoTY contender. Still don’t believe us? Stream it below and try to tell us we’re wrong!
Wes Hoffman was a name I hadn’t heard in years, at least since I left the Lou in 2013. It was during an interview with the American Thrills guys last month where Hoffman’s name was mentioned, and that spurred me going down a rabbit hole and researching just about everything there was to know about […]
Wes Hoffman was a name I hadn’t heard in years, at least since I left the Lou in 2013. It was during an interview with the American Thrills guys last month where Hoffman’s name was mentioned, and that spurred me going down a rabbit hole and researching just about everything there was to know about the guy, including the significant hiatus he took up until 2017.
For years Hoffman was well known in the St. Louis punk community, and although he wasn’t too active around the time I was discovering the local punk that STL had to offer, his name was one I was fairly familiar with. But time marched on. I moved to Nashville and fell out of touch with the local bands of my former residence … until now. Come to find out, Hoffman has emerged from hiatus and has a shit-load of killer pop-punk anthems released under the moniker Wes Hoffman and Friends.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the man himself Wes Hoffman, along with bassist extraordinaire Jacob Boyd and we covered a ton of ground, everything from what spurred the hiatus, what to expect from their debut-full-length due out later this year, and a whole bunch more. Attached below are the two singles from their debut record, and if I’m being honest, they’ve been playing nonstop on my Spotify. There’s no concrete date for the record yet, but these two tracks both intrigue and excite the hell out of me. Thanks again to the guys for sitting down with me, and be sure to check them out at one of their upcoming dates in a city near you. Cheers!
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sakebecause a good chunk of this interview was just three guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): I appreciate you guys taking the time. Yeah I heard your name [Wes] from the American Thrills guys, I did an interview with them last week, week before and they mentioned you guys. And your name was one I hadn’t heard in a long time, I used to live in St. Louis about 10 years ago. So I was looking through your profile and I saw you had a record coming out, I thought it’d be a cool interview to do.
Wes Hoffman: Hell yeah man well we’re excited to be here. Yeah Jacob and I have been playing music together for almost 23 years now, it’s 22 1/2 years no 21 1/2 years so I really wanted like incorporate the other guys that are in the band and have them do interviews and stuff like that so this is the first one.
I’m always pumped to have more guys on the interviews. I think the last few I’ve done it’s been like more than just one guy and I like doing it, the more guys the better I think. So yeah kind of the first thing I want to talk about, I know Wes you kind of took a hiatus from the music scene in St. Louis. I wanted to see if you could walk me through kind of your music career I guess from beginning to end. I know you had a pretty good presence starting out and then you took this hiatus and I wanted to see if you could just walk through, beginning to end, what groups you played with, what everything looks like?
Wes: Well you know I was in high school, I grew up like an hour away in Vandalia IL, about an hour away from St. Louis. I actually met Jacob our senior year in high school after we graduated. We both played a show, it’s really silly *laughs*, but it’s the County Fair in Fayette County, Illinois. Both of our bands were playing and we both kind like recognized each other, like you know when you see a person and just they have a vibe or like the way that they’re dressed or something, you’re like “oh man I kind of want to talk to that person, like I have something in common”. And so we became friends and both of our bands that we were in in high school just dissolved because we moved on. And then we had a band called, we started out as Samus, like Samus from Metroid *laughs*. That’s what it was called the first like few months. Then changed it to the Livingston project and this probably would have been late 2001, early 2002. Then I moved to Texas for a little while, but Jacob stayed in the band and they kind of changed the sound a little bit. At the time bands like Thursday were really coming up, like kind of that melodic hardcore, metal core sound with like screaming and singing you know. So then I kind of came back in 2003 or 2004 and I had a band called the Citation and we played around off and on until about 2006. And then, at the time, I met my ex-wife and I kind of put music on the back burner for a while. I kind of went through that whole phase of when you’re in your like mid 20s of “Okay well I have a job and I bought a house”. And you know we ended up getting married and everything and I was like “well I don’t really have time for music anymore”, which I think a lot of people that play in bands go through that. And, sadly, maybe they just lose passion for it and they don’t stick with it. But it was like 2015, I came back and started playing again; played in a band called Why Not. And then my buddy at the time he was like “hey, let’s get a practice space”. He played drums and so we started playing, and then Why Not, it was kind of like winding down a little bit. I really caught the spark again to play music and I wanted to keep this going, no matter what, so I’ll just name this Wes Hoffman Hoffman. For a long time it was Wes Hoffman Positive Punk, now it’s Wes Hoffman and Friends. I just kind of thought, no matter how I do this, I know I’ll always wanna keep playing music so I’ll just use my own name with it. So shortly after that, we brought in Jacob and we’ve been going pretty strong now for over five years, since 2017.
Okay cool. Yeah so I really wanted to kind of hammer on the St. Louis punk scene because I don’t feel like it gets enough credit sometimes. Like I know you’ve got like Dan Vapid, the Methadones, and I’m big fan of the Fuck off and Dies; I love those guys man. But I don’t feel that some of those bands get enough credit from anywhere outside St. Louis. I want to know what some of your favorite local bands are, tell me a little about the St. Louis scene, how it’s doing. I know you’ve got 314 punk which I wanna talk about a little bit later too, but I wanna get your guys’ take on the scene itself.
Wes: I definitely agree man, there are some pretty good bands here right now. There are a lot of good bands and there are a lot of shows happening. I think post Covid everybody was like “alright we wanna play some shows, we wanna get our names out there and start doing stuff”. I would say some of the bands that we really like, that we play with a lot are the Chandelier Swing, kind of a newer band, they’ve been around for about a year. But a lot of those guys have been in other bands and they kind of remind me of like Four Year Strong, like that early 2000s pop punk.
Jacob Boyd: Yeah literally I was gonna say Chandelier Swing, they’re so good. What’re some of the other bands we’ve played with? Dialogue is fantastic. Like Wes and I pretty much like all the same bands so whatever he says, I’m gonna say
Wes: There’s a band, we haven’t played with them yet, they’re called Inner City Witches and they kind of have a little bit of like progressive, a little bit of a little bit heavier sound. They sound a little bit like Turnstile. So yeah there’s a lot happening right now and it’s really kind of an exciting time. I feel like the St. Louis music scene kind of ups and downs. We’re definitely on an upswing right now. There are a lot of people coming out to shows and there are a lot of bands that are doing a lot of stuff. Some of the bands here are starting to go out of town, ourselves included, so I’m really excited about it.
That sounds a lot like Nashville too. Some bands are starting to go out of town and we were kind of on an upswing right before Covid. Then Covid killed it with some of the local bands and some of the local shows, but it’s finally starting to come back. It’s real nice seeing some of the local bands start to gain some more momentum and they’re starting to tour out of town.
So yeah, I wanna hit hard too on the new record, try to kind of promote it a little bit. So what’s the background on the new record, is this kind of like a compilation of songs you just collected over time or did you kind of set out like “alright let’s come up with a new record, let’s write enough songs for new record”? Are these songs that you’ve compiled over your career are they all brand new?
Wes: These are all pretty much brand new. It’s gonna be called ‘How it Should Be”. I have two of the songs that are gonna be on the record out on Spotify right now, two singles, ‘Where Summer Never Ends’ and ‘A Second Too Soon’. And yeah I mean we put out this EP, it’s been almost a year now, ‘Rewrite the Story’ and I wanted to put out a full-length and take my time with it. So over the course of, I mean it’s been over a year now that I’ve been working on this record, finally next week it’s gonna be starting to get mixed and mastered. So I’m really excited about it; the tough thing is you know, like I said, I’ve been working on this for like a year now and I’ve continued writing. So now the new stuff that I’ve been writing I feel like is so much better than that. I mean the record is already gonna be great, you know what I mean, but I feel like the new stuff I’m writing is already better *laughs*.
Jacob: Yeah totally. The songwriting progression it’s really hit a pace now and like even the stuff that we’ve had around for like 7-8 months that Wes wrote and we recorded for this new record, it’s like Wes has already written 10 more tracks that are so phenomenal; it’s like “wait can we sneak one of these on to the record”, like they’re just getting better and better and better. And it’s like we already wanna release another EP after this record, but obviously you gotta pace things a little bit. But like the songwriting is just really hitting a new level and it’s really fun to be a part of.
Wes: Yeah man it’s kind of like the more you do something, the better you get at it, you know. I have tons of songs that will never seen the light, that no one will ever see except for probably me and Jacob because I send him usually most of the stuff [I write]. And I think it’s just that the syncing has helped me become so much better of a songwriter I’ve just written so many songs, not all of them are good, but now I’m at the point where like most of what I’m churning out is pretty good
Then is most of the songwriting primarily you Wes or is it a like collaboration type thing with all the guys you’re playing with?
Wes: Yeah so most of it has been me up until this point. Especially with the EP, I really wanted to put out something that really had my fingerprint on it all the way around. But I can’t play drums so everything on the EP and on the upcoming record, I played all the guitars and bass and our drummer did all the drums. Then we did have the guys come in and do like some vocals and some other stuff too. Like I’m just one of those people, I wanna be prolific and I’m constantly writing and trying to throw stuff out there and constantly trying to better myself. At this point, being at our age, it’s hard enough to get all the guys in the room for practice for an upcoming tour or something like that; we all have girlfriends or wives and careers and other things that are happening in our lives. I almost have another like five songs for an EP demoed out. But I really would like to, who knows when this will be because the new record hasn’t came out yet, but I really would like to do a few songs where everybody kind of collaborates a little bit. Maybe go away for a weekend and kind of figure out “hey how do we wanna write these songs”. Everybody in the band is super talented at what they do, it would be really interesting to kind of see what we could come out with as a collective effort.
I wanted to ask about ‘Where Summer Never Ends’. What’s kind of the meaning behind that song, walk me through the writing process; just kind of background on that songbecause that’s a killer track.
Wes: Yeah so with that one I kind of wanted to have more of an aggressive Hot Water Music kind of feel to it. And the song itself is about like you know if you’re ever in a situation that you don’t want to be in, do you hold out to try to see if it’s gonna work out or do you just take the easy way out and move on. That song, it’s probably one of my favorite songs to play live. We just had a really big show here in St. Louis and when we played that everybody just went ape shit, it was awesome *laughs*.
Jacob: Yeah when Wes first sent me the demo for that song, I was like “holy crap, this is a single”. Like that song had me more excited than almost any other song we’ve done and I love most of our songs. But like that song just blew me away; I was like “that has to go on the new album”. So that’s the lead track on the new album
That’s one I’ve been hooked on and then I’ve also kind of been hooked on ‘Far From Yesterday’, so I really wanna talk about that one too, see what the meaning behind that one was too because that’s been one I’ve kind of had playing nonstop.
Wes: Oh dude, thank you man. Yeah you know, that’s a really high-energy track too. We usually play that second and people are usually jumping around; that’s one that I feel like a lot of people know the words to as well. I wrote that song in the summer of 2020 so even though people are just now discovering these songs, they’re kind of old you know, a couple of years old. But that song specifically was about me going through a pretty major life transition. I moved out of my house, I closed my business, I started a new job, just kind of the anxieties and the feelings of like “hey this is a whole new thing”, and I’m basically rewriting my story.
Do you kind of have a timetable like “we might do another single in two months, six months, maybe try and have the full length out in a year”, what’s that look like?
Wes: ‘Thunder’ I think will actually be the next single off of it and we’ll probably put that up with like a lyric video or something as soon as it’s mixed and mastered. So I would say maybe a safe estimate would be early March. And then I wanna put out one more, ‘Paper Hearts’, with a video as well and that might not be, I like to space things out a little bit, maybe May or the middle of May, something like. Then hopefully we’ll put out the album either in the summer or the fall depending on how everything shakes out.We’re talking to a few labels about possibly partnering to put it out, but nothing solid yet.
This is kind of a question for both of you guys. So in what I’ve heard from you guys, I kind of hear the melodic side, I know you did a show with A Wilhelm Scream, I kind of hear that melodic side. But then I also hear the pop-punk side, like you said with Four Year Strong, I kind of hear that too. I want to hear what both of you guys think, what are your influences?
Jacob: I kind of grew up on like the Get Up Kids, like pop punk, kind of safe pop punk because you know my parents weren’t cool with anything too out there; like MXPX and all that stuff. I was in a punk band in high school and I grew up around a lot of like indie punk, early 2000s pop punk. And that’s like a lot of what I even still listen to. Like that time period, like early 2000s punk, pop punk specifically, is a huge influence for us I think. The older you get, you’re exposed to more and more influences, but there’s something about those early bands you listened to, you know, they really stick with you, whether you like it or not. They really kind of shape the way you look at music.
Wes: Yeah I couldn’t agree more. I think the bands that you really embrace in formative years when you’re like 13 through early 20s, those are the bands that really leave their mark on me. Yeah MXPX, the Get Up Kids were another one that people compare us to quite a bit recently, not knowing that that’s like one of our favorite bands *laughs*. But also, I mean I love A Wilhelm scream, I love like fast, technical punk. I’m definitely nowhere near the guitar level of those guys, but we try to throw little flashy riffs into our songs and stuff like that; that’s always fun for me. Face to Face is another big one for me.
Wes: And No Use for a Name, I think he was doing No Use for a Name also. Yeah I mean No Use for a Name and Face to Face, they just kind of had more of that melodic sensibility. Then I would say like more modern bands, the Menzingers, I’m a huge fan of the Menzingers. They kind of have that like Midwest style, that kind of Bruce Springsteen songwriter-type feel. I like them a lot and Bayside, I know Bayside’s been around forever, but they just put out an EP and a new single and their new stuff is some of the best stuff that they’ve ever put out.
So how was that show with A Wilhelm Scream over at, where was it, the Ready Room?
Wes: It was supposed to be at the Ready Room, but it was at the old Rock House. It got moved, the Ready Room has not quite opened yet. They’ve done a few shows there, but I think there have been like some issues with like permits and things like that. But it was awesome man, we’d never played there before. I wanna say it maybe holds 200 people and there were probably around 100 people there. It’s a Tuesday night in St. Louis and Four Year Strong was also playing in town that night too. And In Flames. St. Louis, the tough thing about our city is we’re a big city, but we’re not like Chicago; if there are a couple big shows happening in the city like A Wilhelm Scream, Four Year Strong, and In Flames, like they don’t all succeed. We’re just not big enough; whereas that happens in Chicago, it’s fine because there are like several million more people there to go to all those shows. Here it’s just a little bit different. But it was great, those guys ripped and they’ve been one of our favorite bands for years, for decades.
Yeah I finally got to see them a few years ago here in Nashville at the End actually and there were maybe 75 people there, it was unbelievable. But we ran into that same problem the other day where we’re not a huge city, but we had a bunch of shows going on the same night. I think we had like Counterpunch and A Vulture Wake which is Chad Price from All, Lagwagon was playing the night before so everyone was there, and then we had I think Clutch, so like nobody showed up for A Vulture Wake which kind of sucked but it was such a killer show.
Jacob: Oh it was a lot of fun, yeah. It was a dope event, we were really lucky to play there and get a good time slot, never played Chicago before. We got to meet a lot of bands…
How many bands played that show?
Jacob: There were two days and probably like 12 to 15 bands each day, maybe that’s too many…
Wes: The first night I think there were maybe like 7, but the second day there were definitely like around 15. It started at noon and it goes, I think we were there until midnight. So really like 20-plus bands probably. But it was really cool, Much the Same was another one that was kind of lumped in with A Wilhelm Scream back in the day, like that fast, technical punk. And then the Bollweevils were awesome, and Bumsy and the Moochers, a ska band, they were a lot of fun too. We had a good crowd and I think we gained some new fans. It’s always nice to make connections. Actually one of the bands that played the night before us are from Chicago, Bad Planning, and we’re gonna go on a little like four-day run with them coming up here in February. We were just really thankful for the opportunity, it was a lot of fun and we’re excited to go back to Chicago now.
What day are you guys playing up there, do you know the date for that?
Wes: February 17th, it’s a Friday at Subterranean.
So what’s your guys’s upcoming show schedule look like, I know you said you’re doing an out-of-town run?
Jacob: Yeah it’s like February 16th through 19th, we’re doing Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and then back in St. Louis again. And then the very end of March, early April, we’ve got another three-day run with our buddies from Stay the Course from Wichita. We’re doing a three-day run with them, the 31st of March and 1st and 2nd of April, KC, Lincoln, Nebraska, and then Columbia, Missouri Columbia
Wes: Yeah so with both of those tours, of course we’re going out with like awesome bands on the road, but at all of those shows, the Bad Planning run and the Stay the Course run, we picked all the local bands that are playing those shows. So, in the past, we maybe went to a city and a promoter has found locals or you know the venue has maybe found a couple locals to play; we’ve researched and found all the locals bands in those cities that we thought would be a really good fit for us, stylistically but also feel like they’re into it, they wanna get people out to the shows, where it’s not just “oh, we hopped on the show four days ago”. On the Stay the Course run, Kansas City, Lincoln, and Columbia, I booked all of those myself as well, so I really liked the behind the scenes part of it also. Like I like the booking and the the business side of being in a band too. And with those guys, we did like a little three day run with them earlier this year in April of 2022 and we just like hit it off with them as like friends. Of course we like each other’s music, but they were so much fun just hanging out with and we just had like an instant connection with them. If we could have it our way, we’d probably do a little weekend run with them every year just because there our guys
So the last thing I really wanted to hit on was 314punk, the group you started Wes. And I did some research, but can you kind of tell me about it, I don’t really know a lot about it.
Wes: Yeah man, absolutely. So actually I sent Jacob when we first started releasing music in 2021 the songs that are on the the EP ‘Rewrite the Story’. I was doing a lot of interviews with places covering the underground pop punk scene as a whole, but there was nothing in St. Louis that I could see that was like “oh hey if you wanna get your music out to people in St. Louis, here’s where you do it”. So at the time, Covid was kind of still in full swing and people weren’t going to a lot of shows, there was like limited capacity and all that. So I went on a really long walk, during Covid I’d go on these really long walks and just kind of think and talk and I sent Jacob a really long message about like …
Jacob: Yeah it was like 30 minutes long *laughs*
Wes: I was like “we need to start something that showcases punk rock in St. Louis”, partly so that when we have songs out people know about them. But if we’re in a band and we’re wanting something like this, then other bands are probably wanting some centralized place where people can go to see what’s happening in the St. Louis punk scene. So I started an Instagram account and I started just reaching out to bands that I knew and said “hey can I feature you on this page”. That was April of 2021 and so I’ve been doing it for like a year and a half now and then I started having bands from out of town come to me because you know they’re probably going on Instagram searching punk in St. Louis or something and 314punk is maybe the first thing that comes up. So I’ve had a lot of experience in booking shows for my own band, but also bands in the past and I was like I can start booking shows here. The first show that I booked, they’re called You Vandal, they were coming through and they had actually just gone on tour with Bad Planning and they were like “hey one of our shows dropped, can you get us a show?” And I have a pretty good relationship with a small venue here called the Sinkhole and I sent them a message and got a bunch of local bands on it, we probably had close to 100 people show up to the show on a Wednesday night, it was a really decent show. I want people to come out and see shows here, I really just wanna help showcase like punk in St. Louis. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot of work, I’ve taken a little bit of time off here around the holidays. I don’t think people realize it’s a lot of work booking the shows, promoting the shows, posting stuff online. I’m not in this to make a profit, I’m just doing it because I want people to know about punk rock in St. Louis.
Okay, let’s just dive right into this one, comrades! The lineup for 1234Fest was announced seemingly from out of nowhere today, and we’re here to tell you that it rules. If you’re unaware of 1234Fest – as many of us here at DSHQ were until this afternoon – it’s a two-day festival that is slated […]
Okay, let’s just dive right into this one, comrades! The lineup for 1234Fest was announced seemingly from out of nowhere today, and we’re here to tell you that it rules.
If you’re unaware of 1234Fest – as many of us here at DSHQ were until this afternoon – it’s a two-day festival that is slated to take place in September. The first installment is in at an old auto salvage yard in Denver at The JunkYard on September 9th, and day two is going down September 23rd across the country at Philadelphia’s Freedom Mortgage Pavilion (which is actually in Camden, New Jersey, which is kind of if an old auto salvage yard was a city, but it’s right across the river from Philly so I guess it counts). The lineup for both days appears to be the same, and it’s a pretty great one.
Greetings, and welcome to the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is the weekly* column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. Kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold […]
Greetings, and welcome to the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is the weekly* column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. Kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!
Check out the video edition of this week’s Record Radar, presented by our friends at Punk Rock Radar:
All? NO! ALL! ALL’s latest album, 2000’s Problematic, is back in print! Four snazzy new color variants: yellow w/ red splatter (1,000 copies, buy here), blue w/ yellow splatter (300 copies, buy here), red in neon yellow (300 copies, buy here), and neon yellow (? copies, EU indie variant). If you don’t care about color variants, you can get this on black wax for $10(!!!) on Amazon right now. Yes, you’re reading that right, 10 bucks for an LP in 2023!
Here’s a weird one… AFI’s Crash Love hasn’t gotten an official repress since its original release in 2009 (I can already hear you crying “b-b-but AFI isn’t punk!!!!!” – save your breath, nobody fucking cares). Recently, a bunch of e-tailers launched pre-orders for a new pressing. Some bill it as an official release, others say it’s an Import, which is basically a nicer way to say “this shit’s counterfeit”. There were a lot of places to buy this last week, but not it seems Loud Pizza (US) and Le Noise (Canada) are the only stores with it still listed.
The Suicide Machines 2xLP rarities compilation On The Eve Of Destruction 1991-1995 is getting a new pressing from Asbestos Records. There are 500 copies spread across two color variants: blue/black split and red/black split. Get it here. There’s a few copies of the last pressing still available here as well.
Two cool new represses from Pirates Press Records this week. Up first is Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards’ 2004 LP Viking. 500 copies on black and blood red striped colored vinyl. Get it here.
Also from Pirates Press: A sweet new color variant for The Slackers’ Wasted Days! 1,000 copies on beautiful neon green w/ black splatter colored wax. Get it here.
Alright, let’s take a lil break from all the represses and reissues, and talk about some new records! Have you heard about Snuff’s new album Come On If You Think You’re Rachmaininoff? No? Well, it’s an acoustic album, and it’s due out June 9th on SBÄM Records. Check out the new acoustic version of “One of those Days” below, and pre-order the LP on one of two very colorful splatter variants here (EU) / here (AUS).
Here’s a new release that seemingly came out of nowhere. Step aside “The Decline”, Italian melodic punks LineOut’s new album Andromeda is one continuous 52-minute long song, and it’s fucking bad ass. Check that shit out below and grab the record here. These guys are killer – highly recommended listening!
Mama mia! It’s another new release from an awesome Italian punk band! All Coasted’s new EP Never Ending Puppet Show releases June 9th (that’s next Friday!) on Striped Records. Check out the latest single & pre-order the record here.
And while you’re on Striped Records’ webstore pre-ordering that All Coasted record, grab this new pressing of The Manges & The QueersAcid Beaters split LP. Limited to 500 copies on red wax, just in time for its 20th anniversary. Get it here.
In case you haven’t already heard, Rancid has a new album out; it’s called Tomorrow Never Comes. Anywho, Epitaph’s ever-creative marketing department has found a way to offload some black wax onto you sick variant addicts. How? By screen printing a bunch of jackets with an alternate cover to house 2,000 black vinyl copies. And somehow these are worth 12 bucks more than a standard black copy! I don’t play this game, but maybe you do. Fork over your cash here, suckers.
We’ll get back to some more new releases in a bit, here’s some more new pressings of old shit. Dischord Records has repressed Fugazi’s Red Medicine on an undisclosed number of pieces of red vinyl. Get it here.
Dischord has also repressed Minor Threat’s Out of Step on an undisclosed number of white colored LPs. Very cool! Get it here.
DustyWax Records gave Pulley‘s Matters and Together Again for the First Time their first-ever vinyl releases in 2020 (that dreaded year seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it?). Those sold out pretty fast, so they’ve issued a second pressing. There are three color variants for both LPs, each limited to 100 copies. The DustyWax webstore has its own exclusive variants, as well as Thousand Islands Records and Bearded Punk Records‘ respective online stores.
Australian punk veterans Bodjyar‘s 1998 album No Touch Red is getting a 25th Anniversary reissue, with 150 copies on translucent red vinyl and another 150 copies on “ultra clear” colored vinyl. Get ’em here.
Back in print for the first time in 17 years, Avail’s 4AM Friday is getting reissued as a Double LP with the second LP featuring a 15-song live set recorded at San Fransisco’s Bottom of the Hill in 1997. The orange w/ black splatter variant is limited to 488 copies and is available here. You can also get it on black vinyl here.
Pennywise’s From the Ashes turns 20 this year, and it’s getting reissued for the first time ever! There are 500 copies on “spring green w/ tangerine splatter” colored wax (Epitaph US store), as well as 300 copies on clear w/ black and orange splatter (Epitaph EU store), and you know our buddies at Newbury Comics had to get in on the action with their own $34 variant. Also available on black vinyl on Amazon for the more frugal minded (shoutout to my dawg Jeffy B).
Let’s wrap things up with some new releases, shall we? TV Cult is a relatively new band from Cologne, Germany that plays “80s Infused Brutal Post-Punk” (their words, not mine). Their debut album Colony is due out November 24th on Flight 13 Records. Check out the lead single “Party’s Over” below and pre-order the LP on “transparent petrol” colored vinyl here.
And last but not least, we have a new band with some familiar faces. Lektron is fronted by Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba, who is joined by drummer Atom Willard (Rocket from the Crypt, Against Me!, Angels & Airwaves, etc.) and AFI’s Hunter Burgan. Their debut 2-song 12″ is out now on Asian Man Records, and it’s already sold out. Listen below and lookout for a full-length album at some point.
Well, that’s all, folks. Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, leave us a comment below, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs (or do, I’m not your father). See ya next week!
Wanna catch up on all of our Record Radar posts? Click here and you’ll be taken to a page with all the past entries in the column. Magic!
Welcome back to the Dying Scene Record Radar, folks! We’re a day late (two days actually) and a dollar short this week, but hopefully you won’t hold that against us. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new […]
Welcome back to the Dying Scene Record Radar, folks! We’re a day late (two days actually) and a dollar short this week, but hopefully you won’t hold that against us. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. There was a lot of cool shit announced this week and this is one of the biggest Record Radars yet! So kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!
Kung Fu Records has issued a new pressing of the Circle Jerks‘ Live at the House of Blues. They finally got rid of that ghastly cover art and replaced it with this much more basic, yet tasteful image of the band’s classic Skanking Man logo. Grab the 2xLP on yellow vinyl here.
Pretty sure this 20th Anniversary reissue of Blackout by the Dropkick Murphys was already announced months ago… and we covered it… but I guess these are some new color variants or something? The blue one w/ black hazy shit going on is available here. Red looks like it’s the indie exclusive variant, so that will probably start popping up in record stores soon.
Bridge The Gap is a new skate punk band releasing their debut album Secret Kombinations this March on People of Punk Rock Records. It was recorded with Bill Stevenson at the Blasting Room, so it should be good! Check out the first single below and pre-order it on red, white, and grey colored wax here.
The recently revived Drive-Thru Records continues to crank out reissues. The Movielife‘s 2001 EP The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem is getting repressed on a few new color variants. If you’re into paying 25 bucks for a 5-song EP, you can grab a copy here.
Our friends at Something To Do Records have an interesting record coming soon. It’s a long-lost LP from a Dallas pop-punk band called Ed Banky’s Car. This was originally supposed to release in 1996 but, due to some very unfortunate circumstances, it hasn’t seen the light of day until now. Check out one of the tracks below and pre-order Meanwhile in Grand Prairie, Texashere.
Radiation Records‘ pop-punk imprint Hey Suburbia has two brand new reissues up on their webstore. The first one’s a 7″ from Wimpy and Medallions, originally released in 2012. This is Wimpy from The Queers with a backing band featuring members of The Nobodys, The Leftovers, and The Connection. Pre-order here.
Hey Suburbia’s other release comes from Spanish pop-punk band Depressing Claim. It’s their 1995 LP Radio Surf, which I guess Ben Weasel gave a good review in Maximum RocknRoll if the hype sticker is to be believed. Pre-order here.
And that’s all, folks! Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, leave us a comment below, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs. See ya next week!
Wanna catch up on all of our Record Radar posts? Click here and you’ll be taken to a page with all the past entries in the column. Magic!
Chop Shop, in Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, was the site of The Bollweevils‘ release show for its long-awaited new record, “Essential.” Heavy duty support was provided by Reaganomics, The Dopamines, Rad Payoff, and Butchered. The Bollweevils just released their first new record in almost a decade and a half to high praise from multiple outlets. […]
Chop Shop, in Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, was the site of The Bollweevils‘ release show for its long-awaited new record, “Essential.” Heavy duty support was provided by Reaganomics, The Dopamines, Rad Payoff, and Butchered.
The Bollweevils just released their first new record in almost a decade and a half to high praise from multiple outlets. Essential hit the public in May. (Disclaimer: I contributed to the record’s inside photography.) I assure you I am not cutting and pasting past The Bollweevils reviews when I describe the band’s performance as wonderfully raucous. It’s just that I have yet to experience a disappointing show put on by these men. It starts with the charismatic lead singer in Dr. Daryl Wilson, M.D. A.K.A. the Punk Rock Doc, jumping well above his nearly 6’5″ frame, and providing the numerous shooters in the makeshift photo-pit ample opportunities to catch air in the form of cool images. But The Bollweevils are far from a one-tall-man show. Bass duties are performed by the red-headed Pete (“Publish only in black and white!”) Mittler or the 5th Bollweevil, Joe Mizzi, from the Mizzerables. The split bass player situation is due to Mittler, also of The Methadones, moving to Florida a few years back for personal reasons. On this night Mittler flew back from the Sunshine State to perform, and Mizzi, who provides vocals on Essential flew back from attending Punk Rock Bowling to provide support to his friends and bandmates. Mittler showed support for Mizzi as well, forgoing his most well-known “Smoke Crack and Steal” top (which he once wore on a popular local morning new programs) and instead sporting a The Mizzerables t-shirt.
Mittler has a well-known affinity for sleeveless shirts. But with his “guns,” many in the crowd appreciated them too. I write that respectfully for the hard work he puts in. Most importantly his playing was just as muscular as his upper arms.
Throttling through the set in conjunction with Mittler to make a dynamic backline was the other Pete, Pete Mumford. The double Petes provided a powerful backline to fuel a firecracker of a show.
Mumford, a charming, self-effacing personality with a sharp sense of humor, is also a fantastic drummer. Witnessing his jubilance behind his kit is always a delight.
Ken Fitzner, a Chicago Public School teacher, and former principal in the CPS, when not displaying his deft and blazing guitar skills rounds out the group. Fitzner, a founding member of the group, along with Wilson, has provided a crucial solidity to The Bollweevils. His near life-long deep friendship with the band’s singer is apparent both on and off-stage. They define “brothers from other mothers,” and it is a joy to observe. PBS agreed apparently. Actually, The Bollweevils can be described in whole, with apologies to Stephen E. Ambrose, as a band of brothers.
On this night, The Bollweevils’ hard-driving set included the highly liked, “Bottomless Pit,” “Galt’s Gulch,” (from the new album), and “The Failure of Bill Dozer.” But the top crowd pleasers had the crowd magnificently joining in “The Bollweevils Anthem.”
“Liniment and Tonic,” also (featured on Essential) and “999-Stoney.” That latter song, one of my favorites of this band, played as a part of the set’s finale, has perhaps my very favorite The Bollweevils lyric as its chorus. A simply stated, yet stinging, retort to those with a privileged view of the world,
“Things seem so different when you’ve got your rose-colored glasses on.“
In fact, the song itself seems to be an indictment of people who are apathetic to or willfully ignorant of so many sad states of the world. I loved it, as did the crowd, who sang along in glorious unity.
I’ll also say this every time I write about The Bollweevils: if you have yet to see them live, get on it as soon as the next chance arises. In the interim, pick up the new record, and as much of its discography you can get your hands on.
Next up for The Bollweevils takes place in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The guys will sharing a stage with another legendary band, The Adolescents on August 12, 2023 at Haven City Market.
When you have such a beloved, forceful, and legendary headliner, on its record release show, it is essential (yes, I meant to do that) that the supporting bands can honor that with superb sets. Boy, did the show’s organizers deliver big time.
I like The Reaganomics name quite a bit but not the fiscal policies, upon first hearing the band name, are easy to misconstrue as the inspiration for said name. In reality, per Cantu,
“I think the band name is a joke, one of the guys old landlords looking like Reagan and some rules they had at their apt. Or something to that effect.”
Red Scare label mates with The Bollweevils, the band self-describes as “4 sweaty dads playing punk rock with constant pummeling banter mostly pertaining to collective soul.” It did indeed pummel the audience in the very best way. Roaring through “STFU,” “Meth Gator,” “The Four Cliches,” “Grown Ass Man,” “Worth A Damn” all from its 2019 release, The Aging Punk, The Reaganomics, comprised of Terry Morrow, Greg Alltop, Nick Mclenighan, and Eddie Cantu, granted the crowd a more positive experience in one night than the similarly named former screen actor did in 8 years as President of the United States. Well, the exception being Ronald Reagan’s effect on punk rock.
The Dopamines, out of Cincinnati OH, put on a fun and rollicking performance, tearing through its set list, which included “Business Papers,” “Night Vision,” “Ire,” and “Cincinnati Harmony.” However, bass player and vocalist Jon Weiner never did get the answer to his burning query. The same question he asked during the band’s set at the War on Christmas show this past December. The question being, “what it is that Congress does?” Having studied politics, law, and journalism, I suppose I could have provided a somewhat complex though admittedly somewhat convoluted explanation. However, I prefer to let my friend Bill take charge of answering it, at least partially. Still, I have a feeling the band will still search for the answer, at least until an audience member elects, pun intended, to step up and speak out. It will be an entertaining moment on top of an already very entertaining band.
This was not the first time I’ve documented Butchered, from Chicago, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The band, composed of Nick Cvijovic, Louis Steimel, Derek Barberini, and Vinnie Dinwiddie, gave a boisterous performance, grinding through its set which opened with “Half-Assed” and closed with “Born to Run With Scissors.”
Cvijovic, who informed me his surname is pronounced “svi-oh-vich,” gave me his reaction, via direct message, to the night a few days after the show,
“Room was packed when we played, it felt real good. The whole show was insane and awesome and made us feel really great and [he inserted the 100% emoji here.]”
Your next chance to check out Butchered, or check them out again will be on July 2, 2023, at GMan Tavern in Chicago, They will be sharing a bill with Nowhere Fast, out of Kentucky, and another Windy City punk group Dying Scene has covered at least a couple of times, Torch The Hive. That should be a terrific show and a good time.
The one band new to me was Rad Payoff. The group has been a part of the Chicago punk scene for a while, but as far as I can recall, I had yet to see them live. I could say something like getting images of this band had a rad payoff, but that would be silly. In any case, the band, comprised of Jason Smith, Jon Olson, Zack Hjelmstad, and Mike Oberlin, whipped up the crowd as it ripped through a set list including, “It’s Pronounced Mogue,” “Sunglasses,” and “The Gender of My Animals.” The band also performed its single, “A Series of Excuses,” a song whose proceeds were donated to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Please check out more photos from this really cool night! Thanks & Cheers!