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DS Exclusive: Check out Dutch skate punk band Question Mark’s music video for “Bloated Clown” off their new record “Desolation”

Dutch skate punks Question Mark just released a new record called Desolation last month. If you’re a fan of fast, melodic punk like Belvedere, A Wilhelm Scream, Satanic Surfers, etc. I highly recommend checking these guys out and the song we’re premiering the music video today is a good place to start. Check out “Bloated […]

Dutch skate punks Question Mark just released a new record called Desolation last month. If you’re a fan of fast, melodic punk like Belvedere, A Wilhelm Scream, Satanic Surfers, etc. I highly recommend checking these guys out and the song we’re premiering the music video today is a good place to start. Check out “Bloated Clown” below!

Desolation is Question Mark’s 2nd full-length album, following 2019’s Inner Call. Head over to their Bandcamp to listen to both records and get them on CD / digital download.

This premiere is brought to you in part by Punk Rock Radar. If you’d like your band’s music video to be premiered by Dying Scene and Punk Rock Radar, go here and follow these instructions. You’ll be on your way to previously unimagined levels of fame and fortune in no time.


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DS Exclusive: Listen to new songs by the McRackins & more from upcoming Ramonescore Brigade Vol. 3 vinyl compilation

The newly announced Ramonescore Brigade Volume Three compilation LP features songs from 20 leather jacket clad pop-punk bands, including The Putz, McRackins, Rimmingtons, Hawaiians & many others. The comp is due out December 1st on Mom’s Basement Records, Council Pop & Insipid Records. It’s a vinyl-only release (check out those bitchin’ color variants!), but your […]

The newly announced Ramonescore Brigade Volume Three compilation LP features songs from 20 leather jacket clad pop-punk bands, including The Putz, McRackins, Rimmingtons, Hawaiians & many others. The comp is due out December 1st on Mom’s Basement Records, Council Pop & Insipid Records. It’s a vinyl-only release (check out those bitchin’ color variants!), but your pals at Dying Scene are hooking you up with this exclusive premiere of three tracks from the record! Check ’em out:


Here’s what Mom’s Basement Records ringleader John Proffitt Jr. had to say about the third entry in the Ramonescore Brigade series:

“The Ramonescore Brigade series is a DIY project with the primary purpose of getting newer bands released on vinyl who may not otherwise get the opportunity. We’ve had a great response on Volumes One and Two, and Volume Three is just as exciting as the first two. We’ve gotten support from some record labels to get more of these out there, Mom’s Cellar Dwellers in the USA, Council-Pop in the UK and Insipid Records in Canada. 20 great Ramonescore bands you either love already, or soon will.”


Ramonescore Brigade Volume Three tracklist:

1. The Putz – Teenage Hand Grenade
2. Marky Murphy & the Meds – Bees & Honey
3. The Crash Mats – They’ve Just Won a Speedboat
4. McRackins – Welly Boy
5. Rimmingtons – Every Night & Every Day / Just In
6. The Hawaiians – Jingle of 1 Million Eyes
7. The Chick Magnets – A Simple Question
8. The Hallingtons – Back to Berlin
9. Mr. Plow – SDF
10. The Atoms – Hi Mum, It’s Me (I’m in Jail)
11. W.O.R.M. – Gammonoid
12. Noodle Brain – My Girl Needs Rehab
13. Los Fatso Libres – Jobbing Out
14. Space Age Zeros – Ali With an Eye
15. Manarovs – Left Behind
16. Lily Livers – I Don’t Wanna Wait 4 Luck No More
17. The Lousekateers – Fanny Pack
18. Guitar Army – Drop the Gloves
19. Bad Worms – Sobriety
20. FLKS – Go Out

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DS Exclusive: Riverboat Gamblers on the Re-Release of “Something To Crow About,” the Band’s Roots and its Legacy.

The Riverboat Gamblers are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its 2003 Something to Crow About. The band decided it was a good time to reflect on the significance of the record. I asked the below questions of two of The Riverboat Gamblers’ band members, singer Mike Wiebe (MW) and guitar player Ian MacDougall (IM). I also […]

The Riverboat Gamblers are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its 2003 Something to Crow About.

The band decided it was a good time to reflect on the significance of the record. I asked the below questions of two of The Riverboat Gamblers’ band members, singer Mike Wiebe (MW) and guitar player Ian MacDougall (IM). I also spoke to the pair about how the Riverboat Gamblers came to be and where it is now. Along with Wiebe and MacDougall, the band also includes Fadi El-Assad on lead guitar, Rob Marchant on bass, and Sam Keir on drums.

On Something to Crow About:

(NOTE: The Q&A below has been edited and condensed for content/clarity’s sake.)

MG: How did the decision to re-release the record come about?

IM: “We’ve been wanting to have all of our releases available and we wanted to start with the one that’s been unavailable the longest.

MG: Was it simply a matter of 20 years being a milestone amount of time? 

IM: “This record is really special to all of us and to have it back is awesome. 20 years just happened to be how long it had been when we got it back. It sort of lined up perfectly.”

MG: How long have been planning/working on the re-issue?

 IM: “I had met this great dude John Kastner over the years touring in other bands and he helped facilitate this so we that we could re-release this ourselves and have it distributed properly. Everything has been pretty in house here now which is at the time great.

MG: What went into the decision-making as far as the artwork and presentation of the re-release?

IM:As far as artwork etc. We brought in original bass player Pat Lillard that recorded on this album, to help update some things. We added a quote from producer Tim Kerr and changed some fonts around that had always bugged some of us.

McDougall summed it up with:

We got a great remaster from Jack over at Enormous Door here in Austin. He really woke this thing up and gave it a shower, shave and a hot pot of coffee.

Mike Wiebe (vocals) “Long story short- after Gearhead went under it was tied up for a bit…

MG: Reflecting on the album now, were you aware or did you have a sense of how special it was at the time and how important in might become in the future (and now history) of The Riverboat Gamblers?

MW:I knew we worked really hard on it we were happy with it but no, I didn’t really know how special it was and that it would be such an important factor in our lives 20 years later. I knew people liked it at the time but it’s kind of hard to see or feel that stuff when you have nothing to compare it to. ”

MG: Was it simply a matter of 20 years being a milestone amount of time? 

MW: “In editing the video for “Rattle Me Bones” a few weeks ago and looking at all the old footage of us playing I really started to feel the weight of all of it. I think for the most part I/we are always kind of moving forward and thinking about the next record or the next project and I don’t really take a lot of time to reflect on that stuff. So it was nice to look back and really appreciate how lucky it is to have the experience of a little magical pocket where everything kind of clicked at the same time.”  

On the Past, Present, and Future of The Riverboat Gamblers

MG: How have things changed since you started the band? Have your goals been met and are there new goals?

MW: “I mean it’s you know it’s completely different. I mean we were little babies when we started. I know the band’s over like 25 years old I think. The band can rent a car. You know, the (band) living on its own, can vote and drink and everything.

Honestly my goal is just like I just want to see the band name on a screen-printed poster. I want to have a 7-inch out like that was that was the big goal or whatever.”

MG: What was scene like back when you started?

MW: “So, (back) then you know, we were in Denton, TX. It was really just like playing these house shows mostly, and the scene was really big and booming then. Right when Green Day was like blowing up and Rancid and all these bands. 

My friend calls it the “Gilman Gold Rush.” It was something to sign all these punk bands. It was just this really exciting fun time to be a band in Denton Texas because Denton, this little suburb outside of Dallas where there was like one or two clubs. 

So, there’s all these old houses that everybody lived in kind of, you know, just college kids and we were just throwing these house shows, and it became this really kind of like underground famous place to play a show at the time for touring bands. Touring bands, a lot of times, they would skip Dallas. They would skip a club show in Dallas to play Denton because – especially punk bands would do that – because that was such a popular place. It was just kind of like this known fact that like if you come, you do a show in Denton. A lot of times like this you’re like, you know, a smaller touring punk band. It’s going to be the best show of your whole tour and the word kind of got out.”

MW: “So, between all the houses we were living at, there was there was just plenty of opportunities to play and like kind of cut chops as it were. And so, we were just kind of like playing shows all the time and setting up shows and kind of making connections for when we were going to go out, ultimately later.

I would say, I mean, I would think this started up when I was like 20-ish, you know? Probably 20, like 19, 20… This is, this is before Something to Crow About. But yeah, this is maybe even before the Gamblers, like when the scene was just kind of getting started. But we were all in different bands and you know? Fadi and I were in a band together and then some of the other guys, we all, everybody kind of just started playing in multiple bands. And sometime, you know, over the course of a couple years, we all started Gamblers together.” 

MG: I have always had an interest in the origin of band names. How did you come up with the name The Riverboat Gamblers?

MW: “I don’t remember exactly all except for kind of It was at the time, band names were really, and felt like, you know, our purview that, like a lot of bands were…there’s a lot of very…emo at the same time. The emo movement was like, really kind of up-and-coming. It was kind of like the pre, before emo kind of became what it is like now. Or what it would become. 

But the emo movement was very like pretentious long-winded names, you know? I mean you know you name your band after some obscure French poets. Then there’s like a band called something like – and they might have been great, I don’t mean to disparage them – but their name was Fall into the Seer and the Yellow Leaf, and there was always very like very and on the flipside of that, the pop punk bands would kind of be like The Veronicas! or you know, the Choppy Boys or whatever. And so we were, The Riverboat Gamblers seemed like it stuck out in a weird way. At the time I think we liked it kind of sounded like a little bit more like oh this could be like a country band or like a classic rock band.

Yeah, it kind of fits there. Texas swagger to it which ultimately, it’s fine, but there was a period where it kind of bit us in the ass, because it was like everybody just assumed because we were from Texas and called The Riverboat Gamblers that we were like a stand-up bass rockabilly band. And everywhere we go it would be like ‘what rockabilly band in town are you going to play with?’ Rockabilly can be great and all, but at some point it was it was like…it was a little bit of effort in like no, that’s not, you know, that’s not what we want to do. We’re not in that world you know, and that was what it felt like and can’t accept it, that people the world kept trying to put us into that universe and was a little bit of effort to not stay in there. 

But there was a lot of that in the Dallas area. There was at that time, especially.

IM: Yeah, Dallas had the Rockabilly thing. I feel like Dallas has like a huge skinhead thing too here as well but…Because there’s also less of a line between. But it was. It was. I remember being a kid and being freaked out going out to shows for sure for a while there. It was kind of a mix. I feel like there was. I feel like with any of that stuff, there’s always going to be some sort of, you know, people coming out of the woodwork. 

MG: Ian how did you get involved with the Gamblers?

IM: “I met the guys when I was probably like, the guys in Gamblers. I met them when I was probably about 15 and I caught the tail end of what Mike was talking about. Like the house shows, and the Gamblers were already a band. They were kind of playing around and yeah, I would go and see them. And then eventually, like, go up to them and I met all the guys. There was a record store across the street from my school [in Carrolton, TX, where MacDougall lived at the time] called CD Addict. And I’d go there after school and I bought a Buzzcocks record from, you know, it’s just like, oh, I’ve always wanted to check this out and I bought a Buzzcocks record and the guy behind the counter was like, oh man, well if you like this, you might really love my brother’s band. And that band was The Marked Men. And it was Jeff Burke’s brother. [Jeff Burke plays bass player for The Marked Men. His brother, Mark Burke, opened CD Addict in Carrollton, and now owns Mad World Record Shop in Denton] And so, I came back, and I was like, I love this. He was like, well, they’re actually playing this weekend. He gave me a flyer and I got my buddy to give me a ride and we both went up to the show and saw The Marked Men. And I don’t remember who else was on the show. It might have been The Marked Men and The Dirty Sweets.

For me, when I was a kid going there like Mike, I had a little bit different of an experience with it because I didn’t live there and so I would come up. [Carrolton is just under 25 miles southeast of Denton] I mean, I spent like all of my time up here though and it was really cool to come up. And we had a really cool little group. I would come up whenever I got out of school, and everybody else is still working jobs or not working, and we would just all hang out at somebody’s house and then there would be a show there or something like that at night. And because it was a college town, every house would be having some party or something and so we would just like walk around and go in just like party hop and then eventually go to some show and then you end up back in somebody’s house staying the night or hanging out staying up listening to records and stuff.”

MG: Mike, what was Ian like, with him being much younger? Do you recall what you thought of the kid at time?

MB: “I was 10 years, yeah, about 10 years older. You could say who you know who you are. Again, kind of game meet game as far as like somebody that’s into the same type of music. It’s still, you know, even though that was defined as a cool Bohemian (place), Denton it wasn’t like this is the sort of specific style of punk music style of. Punk music and stuff that we were into was a little bit more obscure. So, you know, Ian kind of came in and like kind of had the same background of genres of rock and roll and punk music and stuff like that. So, it was really easy. Old soul too. And I’m very immature. So it was easy to kind of meet there and then when we recorded Something To Crow About and he didn’t play on that but right after, right after we recorded it, we started touring a whole bunch. He hopped in the van with us and our guitar player couldn’t do it because it was looking like an extensive amount of touring, and it was more than he could do for work and stuff. That’s when the band kind of went from being a weekend warrior band to kind of like a full-time deal. Ian was just graduating high school.

MG: Ian, what was it like to tour so young, and being too young for some of the venues?

IM: “That was around was in the mid -90s. Around the first tour that I did with Gamblers, you know I was pretty young. I wasn’t 21. We toured with this band Burning Brides for the first tour that we did together and Burning Brides they had that advance money where they got money. We were still in the van and trailer but they had a bus on this tour. And so, there were a lot of shows where I couldn’t go in. I could go in and do sound checks, play the show, but I couldn’t hang out. And so they would let me come and hang out on the bus. I just watched TV in the back with Dimitri [Coats] the singer in Burning Brides. It was, you know, just hanging out.

MG: So now you both are in the band. How long before you starting hitting the goals, like you had the 7 inch and next…

MW: “It felt pretty natural, but there was definitely some huge buzz surrounding Something To Crow About. We toured and toured on that record for a long time and shortly thereafter it was time for the next record. And so around then it’s when things really started changing because, you know, we wanted to do something bigger scope and to get out there. I don’t know, there were demos that were floating around that we had done and then there were, you know, we started working on songs and so we actually were talking about working with all these different producers and labels and you know, the people that really came out and really went above and beyond to show us that they cared were Volcom. Volcom Entertainment. They had a really great team of people, and you know we were kind of like gonna be their first dance. They were kind of basically treating us like it was going to be their first real big like “we’re going to go all in on this” (thing).

And that’s really where it started to feel like things were changing because all of a sudden we’re living in an apartment at the Oakwoods (Apartments in Los Angeles), which like actors and other bands and were there for like a month and we have an allowance and where So, all of a sudden we’re in LA for like, you know, for a month or more. I feel like it feels like so long that we were out there, but we all lived in an apartment together and we were out there, you know. It wasn’t uncommon. This was, like, a super common thing for bands to go out there and live at this giant apartment complex, that was for like entertainment industry folks. So, there was a lot of actors there. Here was I remember like being in a swimming pool with Pat, our old bass player and like all the kids from Malcolm (In The Middle) on the grounds.

IM: “Like that, like sort of that thing where, yeah, like we go to the gym and there would be like Garrett Morris from Saturday Night Live. It’s crazy, but around then you know, and then afterwards, we were working on a record with this guy Andrew Murdock. Same things, as he went above and beyond to really prove that he wanted to do this record and because of that, we knew that we wanted to spend more time on Confusion. You know this is my first experience. I had recorded stuff in the past, (but this was) my first experience like, you know, working with the guys and Gamblers in the studio and it was a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun working on that record.

MW: “During that was that was that during a time it was a cool experience. Not that I thought like oh it’s going to be like this every time. I think I knew it was kind of special but now in retrospect like wow what a unique experience.” 

IM: “Cool, weird, lucky thing that we got to do that. A lot of bands maybe don’t get to do that. And you know, we didn’t really get to do it yet. But it was, yeah, it was what years were those? That’s when there was still money in the music industry. Remember that one, 2005 maybe? [Mike adds: “yeah something like that “].”

MG: When did you notice the crowds getting bigger. When the floors where you were earlier on the bill were filling up? Was out slow or all of a sudden?

IM: “It was at around the time that we started this touring constantly and there was headlining stuff, and also a lot of like support act stuff. But for big bands, where we were actually playing, we went from playing little clubs to getting to open up for bigger bands in really big rooms. And noticing the people were staying for the early acts and I think that was just like from touring.”

MW: “It took a really long time to get to get used to that. I think maybe it was everybody else acquiesced easier. But for me, it took a long time to get used to, like figuring out the animal of those big stages far away from the crowd. There’s like less people to try and figure out how to translate that. To do what we had been doing, what I had been doing in those little clubs, and to try and translate that to giant things. Well, it was slow. Like you notice here and there in some towns, I mean there’d be little pockets of like ohh wow we just kind of leveled up in this one area.

For us was really slow. We never really had an overnight kind of thing you know and never any like real…umm… navigating all of it was pretty confusing and weird and still is just the business side of music. The business part is something we’re still kind of, you know…I mean I think we’re more aware of it now but now of course it’s changed so much but back then it was, like, confusing. Really confusing.

MG: How soon did you get out of Texas and start doing national tours, criss-crossing the country?

IM: “That was like immediately. I mean like the first tour that I did with Gamblers like we, it was a full U.S. tour and all of these things that we did when they were all like we would go out like everywhere. And that’s one thing. It’s like getting out of Texas. I remember that always being like, oh, we got to start this tour in New York. So, we would drive 24 hours from Austin or Denton and go straight to go and meet some tour out in like. New York or like Morongo, California…that’s where we started the X and Rollins tour. And these things would go all over the place  We would go all over the place and then we’d hop over to Europe and play everywhere you possibly could over there too.

MG: What was the first huge tour and was there any nervousness or sense of starstruckness?

IM: “I think you know like we the the one of the like one of the bigger ones that we went on early on like we toured with Flogging Molly and that was like that was a pretty big one…but there was no like starstruckness with that. I think when we had when we toured with X and the Rollins Band. That was when it was like, like, holy shit, there’s that dude from Black Flag. And then that’s X Oh my God. 

And then it was cool to the eventually like befriend these people. Like, I remember an experience in DC and being at the 9:30 Club and sitting there and talking with Ian McKaye and Henry Rollins, like about about Eater. You know, this old 70s punk band. I was wearing an Eater T-shirt and they were like, “Can you believe that there’s kids wearing an Eater T-shirt?” We were talking about that. And I was like, Oh my God, this is so crazy. I got pictures from that still from that night and I look like I’m a child. And then we toured with Joan Jett and that was another very like, wow.

MG: And were they all pretty cool with you?

IM: “Yeah, everybody, we got along with pretty much everybody we’ve toured with. Yeah, yeah, for the most part. That’s the cool thing with this band and its experiences. Not only are you meeting all of these band people, but you’re meeting the crew as well that worked for these folks. And like the world is so, so small, you know. Because I mean, like eventually, I started working in in crew stuff, doing tour management stuff. And you know, lifer types, you’re going to run into these people like 10 years from now. And it’s been pretty neat because it’s all been from, you know, our time with Gamblers. And I’ve worked with some of these crew members that we met in the early days when I was a teenager and, you know, worked with them like, you know, 10 or 15 years later.

MG: Looking back have your views on the scene changed? Are you still as eager?

MW: “Yeah, well, I mean like I think for me it’s, you know, getting older and still doing it and still feeling like there is no room and stuff to say. And the goals are a lot different, like all that hype and stuff is not…you know we’re not young anymore. So, the only reason to keep doing it, not that we were doing it for any other reason before, but the only reason to do it really when you’re older is because you still really love it, and it’s you like creating music and performing it and stuff like that.

I mean, you know, it’s less about like, well let’s get out there and conquer the world, touring and stuff. It’s more like let’s keep it real pure, like let’s just make some cool shit because there’s not any pressure of like being super, super full-time with it in that way. There’s not any you know…we’re kind of on our own right now. There’s just not that like vice-like pressure of like, well, we gotta tour six months out of the year and we have to, you know, fulfill this record, by this date, by this time for these people. It’s more just like, no, we wanna do it. So, no time limit. It’s just, it’s just for the for the love of the game.

IM: As we got older, people go off and do other things and start families, but we’ve always been writing music together. We had all this time, like our last record came out in 2012. And I mean, we have songs from back then that didn’t get released, that only for the sheer fact that they didn’t really fit kind of the vibe of the record. It wasn’t like they were kind of throwaway things.

So, we’re kind of revisiting a lot of stuff and we’re also. I mean Mike and I and Fadi and Rob, you know, like we constantly have these ideas that we’re in little song demos and stuff that we’re shooting each other. It’s a cool thing.

Everyone’s like, you know, the guys with kids, the kids are old enough now that that, you know, they can kind of get away for a little bit to hop in the studio and knock out some stuff or we can go and do these weekends. And so right now it’s sort of like, you know, picking up the pieces a lot. For things, you know, because all of our labels that we had releases on, they’ve all dissolved.

So going back and getting these records back available for everybody that want them and making sure that you know…like Something To Crow About was out of print for, you know, over 15, close to 20 years. And you know, it’s kind of like a shame that nobody could buy it at the merch table, because it’s still like 80% of our set are those songs.

And so we got that back together and we’re going to rerelease Confusion as well, or repress it. And we’re also just like we did a 7-inch last year. Over this last year for the songs, one of them is super old, but you know, nobody heard it, so it’s brand new. There’s that new generation and hopefully you know hopefully also reading Dying Scene will help our little tiny bit but just getting out there and yeah word of mouth.

MW: You know, like what is? I’m just excited to make new stuff. You know it’s always…this band has been around for so long and there’s like a core of what we are, what we keep. We’ve always kind of evolved and tried to do a little bit different stuff and you know now being so old and like it’s kind of like I said like I feel this real…there’s no… I don’t really feel a lot of pressure that I might have even like 10 years ago of what a record should or shouldn’t be. Like I have in my head some stuff that I want, some parameters that I think that we should kind of be, that the Riverboat Gamblers are in my opinion. But it’s still it’s still really open and it’s really like the thought not that we were ever like, you know, overthinking like well what what are people going to like? But now the thought doesn’t really necessarily cross my mind so much. It’s more just like, man, let’s just get in there and make some cool stuff and that feels pretty good.”

MG: Mike, I was incredibly impressed with your energy level at the show at Reggies [late 2022). Are you finding more aches after a show and are you more careful now about that type of thing?

MW: “I find aches and I’m 48 and I find aches without playing a show. Like, I’m definitely stretching. I’m stretching as we’re talking right now because I’m about to go into the studio and just knowing that I’m going to be on my feet for a long time, I’m making sure I get my stretches in.  

I’m just a little bit more careful. I think, when the mood strikes me, I’ll do whatever I feel like. here’s a little bit more like, let me look and see where I’m going to fall. Well, there’s a little voice in my head that says, like, how we can’t recover like we used to. Yeah, you know, the Wolverine’s healing factor. And now? Not so much.

The Riverboat Gamblers recently announced its Inaugural “AC Hell Festival” set for October 14, 2023. The band will be playing Something to Crow About in its entirety. The bill also features, amongst others, The Starving Wolves, The Get Lows and User Uauthorized. Further information on the event and tickets can be found here.

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DS Festival Review: Copenhell Day 2 – Deathbyromy, Mr. Bungle, Limp Bizkit, and many more!

Day 2, let’s go. That is what I told myself when I woke up at 6 am, after four hours of sleep. But screw it, you want to know why? Because it’s LIMP BIZKIT DAY!! For months on our Discord channel, I have been waiting and waiting for this day. I have zero shame if […]

Day 2, let’s go. That is what I told myself when I woke up at 6 am, after four hours of sleep. But screw it, you want to know why? Because it’s LIMP BIZKIT DAY!! For months on our Discord channel, I have been waiting and waiting for this day. I have zero shame if we need to dissect my music taste. I cherish Limp Bizkit and how silly they can be. But it wasn’t just Limp Bizkit that was showing up on the sunny and warm Thursday. Haha, no, no – Mr. Bungle found their way to Copenhagen, Thy Art Is Murder served up on hell of a pit, and The Hives proved they could play the main stage at Copenhell.

But let’s get into it!

DeathByRomy shows No Mercy.

DeathByRomy at Hades
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

Usually, I’m good at time management; I know how long it takes me from my home in Lyngby to Refshaløen, where Copenhell takes place. However, I am not in control of public transport, so while my busses were delayed, our group chat was going off about how DeathByRomy was about to start. I think it’s an understatement when I say I was annoyed. Having missed a few songs, I arrived at the end of “Hellhound”. Romy Flores has brought a band with her, and wow, this was the perfect way to kick off Thursday. “This song is about crashing my car,” Flores tells us before kicking off the song “Crash.” on record, it’s already an intense song, but hearing it live had the hairs on my neck rise.

“No Mercy” got the energy flowing on stage and in the crowd. DeathByRomy usually is a one-piece, but seeing a band accompany her on stage, bringing a well-rehearsed ping pong between each member, just showed how this was one of the best bookings Copenhell gave us this year. And when it all ended with “Day I Die”, you are left wanting more; that high you are on from the set is a wholly different drug. Next up, I hit Helviti right next to the stage for Thy Art is Murder. [Karina Rae Selvig]

The audience at Thy Art Is Murder has the cure to deal with hangovers.

Thy Art Is Murder at Helviti
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

Sometimes, I get tired of my friends going to shows in genres I have zero interest in because our group chats are constantly filled with praise or funny stories about what the bands did or said. Now Thy Art Is Murder is one of these bands that I have found to be highlighted constantly, followed by the phrase, “Karina, you need to see them.” And being as curious as I tend to find myself at festivals, I did indeed head over to Helviti with my trusty pal Sebastian to see what the hype with this band was about.
Finding ourselves in the pit, I was not mentally prepared for the hell that was about to be unleashed upon me. Advice: if you are going to see Thy Art Is Murder, do not go into an area where a pit might erupt. Because that’s what we did, and I need to admit, I felt very claustrophobic being pressed up against people, but at the same time… Oh, I wanted to be in the pit, but due to an unlucky episode a few weeks prior, my pit days are over until the dentist says so.

But let’s talk about Thy Art Is Murder; before hitting the stage, “We Like To Party” by Vengaboys was playing from the stage, and as soon as the band took the stage, we needed to prepare to step the hell back. Because as the first riff came out of the speakers, the pit was getting going. The band indeed ate up the energy that was coming from the crowd, but clearly not enough to get the band moving on stage. Maybe I’m too used to punk bands that go flying off the wall at shows; it was a bit of a disappointment. Did I maybe expect a lead singer to jump from speaker to speaker? Yeah, actually. They had the main stage, which proved to be too big for them in the end. Indeed, the audience was the highlight of this show. From a circle pit that was never-ending to people on the ground rowing, you would be amazed by how the audience lifted the band, while the interaction between the band and the audience felt limited. But honestly, I would see them again; it was cool, scary, and overwhelming. [Karina Rae Selvig]

The Baboon Show

Starting my day off with iced coffee and Swedish punk was a brilliant idea. The energy from four piece, The Baboon Show, was radiant. The songs were short, groovy, and filled with conviction. And the band celebrated oddballs that cursed out sexism, racism, and capitalism to joyful crowd surfing and compelled the crowd to join in a “middle fingers in the air-morning gymnastics”. Adding kazoo to the song “You Got a Problem Without Knowing It” really got the party going. As did the Pyro during “Playing with Fire”. The Baboon Show pretty much left everything on stage, confetti on the ground and hundreds of smiling faces ready to continue their day at Copenhell. [Sabina Hvass]

Mr. Bungle was here.

Mr. Bungle at Hades
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

I actually don’t know how to review Mr. Bungle. My first time seeing Mr. Bungle, and I actually didn’t hate it. Mr. Bungle is an odd band; they are funny and have some titles that make you go “ok…” but overall, you cannot deny that the stage presence that they have is intoxicating. Because what the fuck did I witness.

Starting their set with “Grizzly Adams”, Mike Patton came dressed for the event, from the cool braids to the word “Neck” written on his neck. Nothing could divert my attention from what I had signed up for. I’d say that they sounded good; they played some of their popular songs, which we probably won’t write the titles to, but if you are a Mr. Bungle fan, you know which ones I’m talking about. And they did some covers, actually a lot of covers, to the point where I questioned why. They have such an impressive back catalog; it just got too much. But whatever, they sounded amazing, and judging by the crowd, I wasn’t the only one thinking that! Would I see them again? Fuck yes. [Karina Rae Selvig]

The Hives

The Hives at Helviti
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

The Hives presented high kicks, high energy, and a friendly, neighborly feud between the Danes and the Swedes on the Helviti stage late this Thursday afternoon. With confidence reaching far back on the concrete floor, The Hives busted the myth that garage rock does not fit a vast Copenhell stage. With a surplus of humor and charm, the band delivered a tight set, with swinging fan favorites like “Walk, Idiot Walk”, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” and finale, “Tick Tick Boom”! [Sabina Hvass]

Tom Morello

Tom Morello at Helviti
Photo by Philip Onyx

Legendary guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, kicked off on the Helviti stage performing his songs like “Soldier in the Army of Love” and medleys of RATM tracks to scenes of people joyfully crying, jumping, and pleading for revolution. A touching version of Audioslaves “Like A Stone,” was beautifully placed mid-set. With the addition of Måneskin, MC5, and eventually a Bruce Springsteen cover, “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, tension was clearly building. Morello and his band played an improvised track, “Copenhell Rocks,” leading up to the powerful release of energy during “Killing in the Name of”. To close the set, Morello guided an attempt to get the audience registered on the Richter scale as we jumped to John Lennon’s “Power to the People”. I’ll finish as I started: Legendary! [Sabina Hvass]

Now Zulu Are Through With Me

Back in 2019, I fell in love with an EP called “Our Day Will Come”, and that became a part of my hardcore journey. When they released “A New Tomorrow” last year, it came in as my number 21 best album of the year, which, in hindsight, I regret to this day today. However, once I saw that the hardcore/power violence band was making their appearance at Copenhell, it felt like a dream come true.

Once again, we head towards Gehenna, and I find myself a bit on edge since Wednesday’s continual failure to secure proper sound for the artists throughout the day. Zulu took the stage and five right into “For Sista Humphrey”, but not long after, they were forced to stop their performance since they were experiencing some technical difficulties, which wasn’t their fault. As the show went on, they managed to get the crowd going, playing some of their biggest bangers from the album “A New Tomorrow”, and managed to get me dancing and screaming along. While I may have had the time of my life, it was an unfulfilled experience, but you know what? That’s how it is sometimes. But I’m still fangirling over seeing Zulu kicking ass at Copenhell. [Karina Rae Selvig]


Lack at Gehenna
Photo by Philip Onyx

Wrapping up the day with Danish post-hardcore band Lack – the band that delivered the soundtrack to angsty train rides in my college years. Recently resurfaced from a long hiatus, their new songs were performed with precision, intensity, and emotive strength that I could only have dreamed of. The punchy drums placed some really powerful and dynamic details onto hard riffs that were handed back and forth. Bass, guitar, and vocals ripped through the chilly summer air with lyrics leaning into the accompanying genre-bending music – call it emo, screamo, noise rock, or hardcore – this band is still gallantly spreading out in punk territory with guts and heart spilled and spewed over the crowd. Lack dove into their back catalog with the biting “Hund”, bisexual anthem ” Deserters,” and swinging “5 p.m.” standing out as highlights as I moved further and further toward the stage. As lead singer and guitarist Thomas Burø bravely proclaimed that ‘The future is female” and called out the half-hearted crowd surfing in the front rows, some of my fellow female audience members were also motivated to take a surfer view over the show as it concluded. A beaming performance by this band on the big stage, they always deserved. [Sabina Hvass]

Get The Fuck Up, Limp Bizkit

Limp Bizkit at Helviti
Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have waited for a chance to see Limp Bizkit. As a matter of fact, I know they’ve been to Denmark a few times, but I never really had anyone to go with. But at a festival, everyone is there. This was one of those that I call a mandatory meet-up gig. The one where you expect everyone you know to make an appearance and have the best time with you, even if they don’t like the band that much, or as much as me.

As the song “Sweet Home Alabama” was playing from the speakers, my friends and I were making our way through the sea of people there to see Limp Bizkit in action when we found our other friends and the band came on stage; they dove right into “Full Nelson”. From then on, it was every person for themselves. I had told my friends earlier that I wanted to go to the pit for Limp Bizkit, and those who weren’t feeling it could stay back and chill. So, into the pit I went with two friends, and that’s where I discovered what I liked about the band. See, they actually sound good live. There is no doubt that Fred Durst & Co. still has a lot to offer. In between their songs, they did give us some covers, and that gave us some minutes of downtime before they started playing their hits like “My Way”, “Break Stuff”, and so on. The moment I heard the first notes to “Boiler”, I think my mouth dropped. What a pleasant surprise that came from Helviti, I swear – The delivery, the atmosphere, and every moment felt terrific, actually, throughout their whole show, which flew by in a blink of an eye. They can come back anytime, and it’s fair if you don’t like Limp Bizkit, but don’t be shit and hate on others that do. [Karina Rae Selvig]

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DS Gallery: Muddy Roots Music Festival 2023

Muddy Roots 2023 is officially in the books, and with this being my first trip out to Cookeville, TN for MRMF, man was it a hell of an introduction. If you aren’t familiar with what the Muddy Roots crew has brewing in the middle of rural Tennessee, think of a DIY version of Bonaroo, but […]

Muddy Roots 2023 is officially in the books, and with this being my first trip out to Cookeville, TN for MRMF, man was it a hell of an introduction.

If you aren’t familiar with what the Muddy Roots crew has brewing in the middle of rural Tennessee, think of a DIY version of Bonaroo, but way sicker and way more affordable. Free camping virtually anywhere on the premises and a wide-open BYOB policy have helped build a reputation valuing the music and community over large profits, something I appreciated just as much as the huge headliners they’ve attracted in recent years.

The huge headliners in question for this year’s installment were GWAR, Suicidal Tendencies, and Cro Mags, all of which were live firsts for myself. There wasn’t a drop-off in big names either after the top 3, with Amigo the Devil and DRI also playing. And, with the exception of Daikaiju and Night Talkers, almost all artists were, at least personally, live firsts.

The atmosphere was perfect, the music was perfect, everything was perfect. Whatever they’re doing out in Cookeville surely seems to be working. The shuttles to a nearby private waterfall help folks truly appreciate the gorgeous and unique scenery of Eastern Tennessee, while the music starts early and continues late into the night. From bluegrass to sludge-metal, punk rock to rockabilly, local act to international touring musician, Muddy Roots did as good a job as any in bringing people together from all over to celebrate the music we all love.

With the festival lineup growing larger and more diverse each year, I felt coverage of Muddy Roots would be most productive in highlighting some of the weekend favorites, rather than each individual performer. Below you’ll find the eight artists I most enjoyed seeing.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Night Talkers a handful of times, most recently opening for The Last Gang at Music City’s best punk bar, the Cobra. And when local ska-punk legends Stuck Lucky were a last minute Covid scratch, onlookers were graced with the Night Talkers signature style of shredding guitar solos and fast, in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll. Although it was a disappointment missing the always entertaining Stuck Lucky, Night Talkers very much filled their shoes, much to the pleasure of the packed-out Wood Stage crowd.

Unless I’m mistaken (which is always a possibility), this was Night Talkers’ Muddy Roots debut. They’ve recently, as of the last year and a half or so, emerged as a local favorite of mine and I’ve been glad to see some local dudes garner interest both around town and out of state.

Hans Gruber and the Die Hards was one of those pesky touring bands that has somehow alluded my radar for several years now. I’ve known who they were for a while, but it wasn’t until the Muddy Roots lineup was announced that I hopped on board with these guys. It sucks to think that I’ve missed out for this long on probably the most entertaining band of the weekend.

Between every song, it seemed someone was switching instruments, whether it was lead-singer Rosey Armstrong switching from saxophone to some sort of handheld percussion instrument, or her husband Kurt dropping the bass and grabbing the traffic cone trombone, these dudes were all over the place, both musically and literally. I couldn’t take my eyes off their set, not only for the fast, hard-hitting punk rock, but for the stage antics that I only managed to capture a fraction of in my shots.

I’ve found the band whose duty it is to fill the Masked Intruder void that was left with the hiatus of everyone’s favorite masked punkers. The Jasons have emerged, assless chaps and all, with their own unique blend of villanous attire and Ramones-core punk rock. Humorous, sexy, terrifying, they’ve got the look figured out, and the music is in no way lacking.

Their closing came in the form of a sort of response to the Menzingers‘ ‘I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore’ titled ‘I Wanna Be an Asshole’. And it sent the crowd into nothing short of a frenzy.

Waxed was a band I decided to break my punk-rock-only policy for, and it was probably the best decision I could have made. The experience that’s been gained in their 10+ year history really presented itself with their mastery of stage performance. The crowd was as rowdy as any I’d seen all weekend, even keeping up with the obvious contenders in Suicidal Tendencies and GWAR (although I’ve gotta rank it behind Cro Mags saying as an actual ambulance had to rush to the pit during their set).

Trending more towards modern hardcore than the skatepunk I normally fancy, I did see shades of Turnstile in both sound and performance from these guys. It was obvious from the packed mob of onlookers that a group of fan-favorites was about to take the stage.

Not much else really needs to be said here other than Tim Barry did what Tim Barry does. He put on a hell of a fuckin’ show, split pretty evenly between being up on stage and down on ground level with the rest of the crowd. The sentiment and storytelling were there, giving meaning and insight to the ever-attentive crowd. All the favorites were heard, at least all my favorites, including ‘Fine Foods Market’ much of Rivanna Junction, all culminating with the obvious closer, ‘Avoiding Catatonic Surrender’.

If were going off of technicality here, I guess I had already previously seen Tim Barry’s Fest 20 set last October, but the view sucked and I was rushing off to another set before Barry was halfway through his. This was my first real Tim Barry show and it satisfied every live-show craving I had to see my favorite Americana writer.

I’ve covered multiple Daikaiju attacks, being that they aren’t merely live performances, but attacks. Prior to each show, I seem to forget why they are my favorite band to photograph, and maybe favorite live band overall. Fire always holds a prominent place in performances, almost as prominent as crowd interaction.

Every crowd interaction possibility that I can devise occurred at the Wood Stage, during the late hours of Muddy Roots night one. Lead guitarist Secret Man led the crowd onslaught, riding the shoulders of one crowd member, recruiting others to play instruments, and surfing the remaining spectators, all while playing seemingly neverending surf-punk riffs. The tattered remains of each member’s Hawaiian stage uniform makes a whole lot more sense post-attack. The only antic I had yet to witness (until this performance that is) was their ritualistic tour van arson, which was done almost ceremonially to close their performance.

Having lived in Tennessee for much of my adult life, Suicidal Tendencies and Cro Mags have been bands of legend, with my only hope of seeing live performances being out-of-state travel. So I was beyond stoked seeing the lineup announcement featuring two of the founders of Hardcore. What I was unaware of, however, was the amount of talent and musical experience that would grace the main stage late during the first night.

Beginning with Mike Muir and Dean Pleasants, Muir being the only original member and Pleasants’ now outlasting that of former guitarist Rocky George. The two veterans recruited their asses off, bringing in the next generation of great musicians in Ben Weinman, Tye Trujillo, and Greyson Nekrutman. Weinman, formerly of Dillinger Escape Plan, Trujillo, whose last name may be recognizable as son of RnR Hall of Fame Metallica member Robert Trujillo, and Nekrutman, a worthy replacement for current Offspring drummer Brandon Pertzborn.

During the show, Muir’s years did not show a bit, while Trujillo portrayed a musicianship that didn’t seem to align with the mere 18 years he’s lived. Trujillo boasted some of the fastest, yet cleanest bass playing I’ve witnessed, while Weinman and Nekrutman’s speed was equally impressive. The current Suicidal lineup was, in many ways, the epitome of punk: a group from different backgrounds, genres, and even generations, producing genre-mending music.

While Suicidal Tendencies had gone through an evolution, Cro Mags appeared to be the fast, wreckless, fuckin’ insane punk band that I had pictured from 40 years prior. As was the case with Mike Muir, Harley Flanagan’s age was not a factor in his ability to utilize the entirety of the stage within a matter of seconds.

What was immediately obvious was these guys were veterans, they knew exactly what they were doing up there. The crowd excitement gave this the feel of a small-club East coast show rather than an outdoor festival in rural Tennessee.

There you have it, a pretty good wrap-up of my Muddy Roots experience in a nutshell. However, only so much can be portrayed through word and photograph. The community atmosphere was just as enjoyable as the big headliners, but don’t get me wrong, the music was as rad as ever, making me proud to live so close to something so special.

I feel it to be a punishable offense that the Nashville Dying Scene branch has failed to cover Muddy Roots in the past. I hope to have the privilege to cover MRMF far more frequently in the future because it really is as special as I hope I’ve portrayed. Scroll on down for a bunch of shots from the weekend. As always, thanks for checking out the site. Cheers!

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DS Interview: Chris Estrada on growing up punk in South Central, “This Fool,” the Punk Rock Museum and more!

I’m not what you would call a “Big TV Guy.” If I’m being honest, I could count all of the combined episodes of cultural landmark shows like Game Of Thrones and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and The Big Bang Theory and CSI that I’ve ever seen on one hand and […]

I’m not what you would call a “Big TV Guy.” If I’m being honest, I could count all of the combined episodes of cultural landmark shows like Game Of Thrones and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and The Big Bang Theory and CSI that I’ve ever seen on one hand and still have a majority of my fingers left over. Sure I’ll watch baseball nightly and the occasional West Coast NHL or NBA game in the MLB offseason. But otherwise, aside from absurdist-but-grounded-in-reality comedies like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, it takes a lot to get me to care about a TV show and so the remote is better served in someone else’s hands.

And so maybe a year-and-a-half ago, probably while waiting for yet another rewatching of Letterkenny, the Hulu default screen showed the trailer for an upcoming show called This Fool. There was a graffiti tag of something called “Hugs Not Thugs,” followed by a slow pan across a group of tough-looking, face-tatted Latino guys sitting in front of a wall sign that said the same. There was Michael Imperioli lecturing the group about regaining their lives over a breathy soundtrack that I think was Enya but might have been Sade, I’m not sure. There was yoga and there was a clean-cut counselor-type informing a mustachioed ex-con about legal counseling and rehabilitation and job development courses and dental insurance plans, and so of course this was the makings of yet another feel-good docuseries. And then the mustachioed fella asked the counselor fella why, if he had dental insurance, were his teeth still fucked up. From there, the true nature of the series was revealed. 

For the uninitiated, This Fool centers itself on the life of the aforementioned counselor-type – portrayed by comedian Chris Estrada – and his life in and around Los Angeles’ hardscrabble South Central neighborhood. Estrada’s character, Julio, works at the ex-offender rehabilitation program Hugs Not Thugs under the tutelage of flawed white savior Imperioli, where one of the “thugs” is none other than Julio’s cousin Luis (portrayed here in pitch-perfect fashion by Estrada’s friend and fellow comic Frankie Quinones), who was fresh out of an eight-year stint in prison. It’s brilliant and funny and it’s done with a sense of heart and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s also somehow both absurd and super real, both of which I can attest to as someone who spent many years working in a correctional reentry-type program in an overwhelmingly Latino community, albeit with 100% less cupcake. 

Oh, and did I mention it’s funny? I did, right? Because it’s hilarious. In addition to occupying the starring role, Chris Estrada – a standup comic for the last decade – also serves as creator and writer, loosely inspiring the narrative arc after his own life and upbringing. Why am I telling you all of this on a punk rock website, you might ask? Astute observers of This Fool will notice that Estrada’s Julio character doesn’t seem to be a follower of the hip-hop culture that his neighborhood has so long symbolized. Instead, as evidenced by his wardrobe, it seems Julio is a bit of a punk. It’s evidenced not in cheesy, over-the-top, too-pristine-to-be-real placement of a Green Day or Good Charlotte poster. Instead it’s his wardrobe, with subtle nods to Strummer and Television and Love And Rockets and wait, was that a Channel 3 shirt? Yeah, that was a Channel 3 shirt. Holy cow.

And so it’s no surprise that Estrada himself is a punk rock fan. Like, a HUGE punk rock fan. While he’s never played an instrument or sang in a punk band or put on underground shows, Estrada has lived and breathed punk rock since his formative years. He’s a huge enough fan that next month, he’s hosting not only a weekend of tours at the critically-acclaimed Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas, but a comedy show (featuring Fat Mike!?!?) and a screening of a few episodes of This Fool. He’s a huge enough punk fan that visiting Ian MacKaye and the Dischord House on a trip to DC was as at least as monumental an experience as his first appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Yes, really. 

I caught up with Estrada over Zoom last weekend for a lengthy and far-ranging conversation and almost immediately found in him a kindred spirit, inspired and informed by the very ethos and music and words that influenced my own upbringing, despite our growing up not only more than 3000 miles apart as the crow flies, but in cultures that, in some ways, could not be more polar opposite. Estrada was a first-generation immigrant from a non-native-English-speaking family, whereas…well let’s just say that the Stones departed England 388 years ago bound for the greater Boston area and, yeah, we’re still there. 

Photo of Chris Estrada in a Los Angeles-themed tee shirt. He's standing in front of a pink background. Photo taken by Mindy Tucker.

If you were alive and aware in the 1990s, you’re not doubt familiar with Estrada’s old stomping grounds of South Central and Inglewood not as synonymous with punk rock but with hip-hop and, unfortunately, of gang violence. The community was largely African-American and had been for generations, through was also seeing an influx of first-generation Mexican and Central American immigrants. And while the music and the rhythms sounded different, Estrada points out the similarities in the overlapping themes contained within punk rock and hip-hop. “For a lot of Latino kids growing up in LA, if they’re first-generation immigrants, I think there’s this weird thing of trying to find yourself, so you don’t want to love your parents’ music, because you’re trying to assimilate. And then, at the time, rap felt like something that was for and by black kids, and so you’re kinda looking for your own thing. For me, I found punk rock.” He adds “what’s funny is that the way that rap music and hip-hop spoke to them and their anger, I felt like punk rock did the same thing for me.”

Like many others who found entry to the punk rock community in the mid-90s was through the two-headed beast that was the “EpiFat” sound. “It was the tail end of the compilation era,” Estrada explains. “I remember Punk-O-Rama volumes 1 and 2 were really big for me.” It was also the days when FM radio A) still existed in a meaningful sense and B) still played punk and underground music, especially in Los Angeles. “The big radio station out here, KROQ, had Rodney On the ROQ on Saturday or Sunday nights, and he was a guy who broke the LA punk scene – The Germs, The Adolescents, The Screamers, he played the Ramones early on. And by the time I was listening to him, he would still play those bands and newer bands. That was definitely an entry point for me.

As you might imagine, Estrada was a bit of an outlier growing up a punk rock kid in South Central and, later, Inglewood. “I could be playing The Clash or whatever on my headphones, but if I took them off, I could hear people playing hip-hop or people playing Mexican music or Central American music. There was always a sense that all of that music was always around me informing me, you know?” Estrada explains. I’ve said a few times on these pages that at my high school, despite being one of the largest in New England at the time I was going there, there were only a handful of kids in each grade who were really “punk rock kids.” For Estrada, it was no different. “I went to high school in Inglewood, and I think if you lined us all up, there were maybe like 20 kids? Maybe?

Little-by-slow, however, the scene would grow, though in a metropolis as sprawling and diverse as the City Of Angels, this meant different scenes comprised of different cross-sections of participants. “There were two types of scenes, really,” states Estrada. “If you went to go see a show in Hollywood, where a bigger band was playing, there would be a few Latinos there, but not a lot. But if you saw a local show in South Central or in Inglewood or in Compton, it was mostly Latinos with a few black kids there. I remember going to see NOFX very early on. I was like fourteen. There were a couple Latino kids there, but it was mostly white. Maybe a few black kids or Asian kids sprinkled in. But it wasn’t really until a lot of garage punk bands started popping up that it started becoming a thing.

Even though he didn’t play in a band or contribute to the scene in that manner, Estrada carried the flag for punk rock in a meaningful way. “I really loved it and I was just a nerd about it,” he explains. “Getting into Japanese stuff and all that. I literally got a job pretty early on just to buy CDs, you know? I saved up and bought a record and started buying 12-inches and 7-inches.” That behavior carried through the years, even when regular show-going took a backseat to working two or three jobs in order to afford to eventually live on his own. “It was also tough though because as I was getting older, and as I was having to pay rent and have more stability, it seemed like the scene was flourishing more. I wasn’t necessarily a participant in it, but I was definitely an advocate of it. I felt so excited by it, and if I had a chance I would go see shows. Or I’d go buy a 7-inch or find the band on Bandcamp. So as I got older, I wasn’t there at every show, but I was just so excited that I could advocate for it.” 

As time progressed, Estrada felt stuck in the rut of working regular jobs – labor jobs and warehouse jobs and the like. “I was really vicariously living through musicians, seeing these men and women doing whatever they wanted and taking their lives into their own hands,” he states. “I was miserable that I couldn’t do that, and that I wasn’t doing that.” And so eventually that brought a dedication to trying something different; stand-up comedy. And while that didn’t involve punk rock in a musical sense, it certainly involved a punk rock ethos and work ethic. “I remember that I saw that Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo…and I was so inspired by that. I said ‘I’ve just gotta do what they did’.”

Estrada began his comedy career as many do; on the open mic circuit. “I remember my first open mic, I had a really good set, and then my second mic, I bombed my dick off. It was humiliating, but at the same time, I knew when I said ‘okay, I’ll try it again tomorrow,’ that I could get over it. That actually made me feel more like a comic than having a good set.” One set a night turned into two and three and four sets a night, sometimes spread out across the city. Again, the roots found themselves in punk rock. “Like, if you read Get In The Van, the (Henry) Rollins book, Black Flag would constantly practice. So I started viewing my practice as getting up at open mics two or three or four times a night if I could. It was really cool to apply that; that this was my version of it, so I would apply that Minutemen/We Jam Econo work ethic to it.”

The more he kept honing his craft, the more he realized he was part of his own version of a punk rock scene. “I remember when I started doing comedy,” he states, “there was a scene there, and I felt excited because I found my version of punk rock to actively participate in. So then I started going to shows and doing open mics and hosting open mics and throwing shows and really being part of the scene. It felt really exciting.

The story of how, after a decade or so of plying his wares in standup while working at least one day job, Estrada got the seemingly unlikely call that someone was interested in him writing and starring in a TV show based on his life has been told other places so we don’t have to rehash it here. It involves the guys that created the Comedy Central show Corporate and eventually fellow unsuspecting punk rock aficionado Fred Armisen and then eventually Hulu. And as I mentioned above, even though (or maybe because?) the show is loosely based on his life, Estrada made it a point to make nods to his punk rock roots. “I just wanted to casually put punk stuff in there without being try-hardy about it and not making it a big deal,” he explains. “My character in the show casually just wears punk rock shirts; not every episode, but you try to make it in a way that it counts when you do it…I think that sometimes you do those things and it feels forced, you know?” In addition to the visual nods, the show’s soundtrack pays constant homage to the more underground bands that inspired Estrada’s upbringing. “We got music from bands that I knew in LA. Latino punk rock bands, like this band called Generacion Suicida from South Central Los Angeles. This other band called Tozcos, we used some of their music. We also used like a D.O.A. song, so we try to mix it up.” 

I can’t find who made this, but I think it rules. The featured image above of Chris on a couch is by Jakob Layman. The image of Chris in the LA RESPECT shirt is by Mindy Tucker. The picture of Chris in the Love & Rockets shirt is by Mandee Johnson.

There’s no official word on a Season Three of This Fool yet; get your shit together, Hulu! If/when it does officially find its release, it’ll no doubt be as funny and pitch-perfect and full of punk rock Easter eggs as ever. Maybe we’ll even see a Dying Scene shirt. Wait…that’s actually a good idea…we should send Chris a Dying Scene shirt! In the meantime, you can check Chris out at the Punk Rock Museum next month (12/15 – 12/17) and you can especially keep scrolling and read our full chat, where we bond over mutual admiration for Ian MacKaye and Joe Strummer and Mike Watt and about how punk rock is about more than just fashion and so much more.

The conversation below has been edited and condensed for content and clarity. Yes, really.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): I was just looking at my list. I’m closing in on 200 interviews that I’ve done over the years, and I’m pretty sure this is the first one I’ve done with someone known more for acting and comedy than for music. So this is pretty awesome!

Chris Estrada: Yeah, I’m not even a musician, I just love punk! (*both laugh*)

And you never were, huh? Never played in bands in high school or whatever?

Nope, nothing. I don’t know how to play a lick of an instrument. Never sang, never anything. I just loved it. When I started getting into punk, I had no inkling to want to play. I just loved watching it. I wanted to be an observer and to participate in whatever way I could, whether that was by going to shows and buying albums and things like that. I just loved it. Sometimes I think that I should have participated more. Maybe what I did was enough, I don’t know. I just love it. 

Yeah, but you carry the flag for it, and we need that. That’s ultimately what I do. I don’t play guitar outside my dining room most of the time – I think much to my wife’s chagrin because I probably have too many guitars for somebody who doesn’t play guitar – but we need people carrying the flag; taking pictures, telling stories, so that people know that the scene is more than just Green Day and The Offspring. Those bands were awesome, and they were a lot of people’s entry points to punk rock, but the scene is so much bigger and more diverse than that. 

Yeah! I have a show and in the show, I just wanted to casually put punk stuff in there without being try-hardy about it and not making it a big deal. My character in the show casually just wears punk rock shirts; not every episode, but you try to make it in a way that it counts when you do it. It’s not a thing that we make a big deal out of, we just kind of let it be. I think that sometimes you do those things and it feels forced, you know? But I also like to wear band shirts of bands that I like, and who I grew up loving, and contemporary bands. On the show, we got music from bands that I knew in LA. Latino punk rock bands, like this band called Generacion Suicida from South Central Los Angeles. This other band called Tozcos, we used some of their music. We also used like a D.O.A. song, so we try to mix it up. 

Let’s not gloss something over; you said you have “a show” – your show is amazing. 

Oh thank you, man!

I love This Fool. My wife and I binged both seasons when they came out.

That really means a lot, thank you!

It’s different, it’s honest, it’s funny. It’s done with heart, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. You mentioned the ‘try-hard’ thing before; there are a lot of boxes in the show that you could check that could be try-hardy if you didn’t get them right. The fact that you base it in your neighborhood, South Central, there’s your culture, there’s the music tie-in…it could seem like it’s checking boxes, but it’s so real and it’s so authentic and relatable and I say that as somebody who is obviously from the complete opposite side of the country in every way you could be. 

Thanks so much, man. That really means a lot. I just try to make it feel really casual. In my mind, when I was growing up, it was a big deal to me but…I think when you grow up in certain areas and maybe a lot of people aren’t into what you’re into, you kinda learn how to just be friends with anybody.


So you might throw on a Clash t-shirt or a Spazz t-shirt or whatever and some of the people in your neighborhood are like “oh, that’s what he’s into” and you find other ways to relate to them, you know?

You grew up rather famously in South Central, and Inglewood, and you were doing so in a time – the 90s – where that neighborhood and that part of the world were in the midst of being memorialized in history through hip-hop. 

Yeah, totally!

It was sort of ground zero for “gangsta rap” as the media referred to it. But that area and that scene were right in the middle of this cultural moment. What was your experience growing up through that time? I grew up in New Hampshire listening to all of that music – in addition to punk rock – but what was your experience actually growing up there?

My experience is that it was very working class. There was a lot of gang violence in LA. I know there still is, but at that time, it felt very big. But it was definitely very working class. It’s kind of interesting to me because the world was very black and Latino to me. That part of the city is a historically black neighborhood, and then you started getting a bigger Latino population and at some point, it was more of a 50/50 split. My experience was knowing the world as a very black and Latino place, and sometimes there’s racial tension, sometimes there’s gang tension. Sometimes there’s not, though, you know? Sometimes it’s not that sensational, and it’s just as mundane as any other neighborhood. But then sometimes there’s a lot of shit going on, like NO other neighborhoods, you know? So it was interesting in that sense. I always used to say that I grew up liking hip-hop, but the thing I gravitated toward passionately was punk rock. I illustrate it like I could be playing The Clash or whatever on my headphones, but if I took them off, I could hear people playing hip-hop or people playing Mexican music or Central American music. There was always a sense that all of that music was always around me informing me, you know? And trying to be a square kid, you know? I wasn’t a cool kid, I wasn’t a nerdy kid, you know? I was more of a stoner kid. I liked smoking weed and listening to records. And listening to punk, there weren’t that many of us, you know? 

I was going to ask that…how big a punk rock community was there in South Central?

There was a handful at the time. I went to high school in Inglewood, and I think if you lined us all up, there were maybe like 20 kids? Maybe?

How big a high school are we talking about?

Maybe 2000? So there were always a handful of (punk rock) kids throughout the different grades. Some of us were friendly with each other. Some of us were tighter with each other. I remember there was this punk rock kid who got his ass kicked by some gang members because they didn’t like it. They didn’t like that he had piercings and he had green hair. It probably didn’t feel masculine to them or something, you know? And because there was racial tension, we had race riots sometimes at our high school. But what’s funny is that the way that rap music and hip-hop spoke to them and their anger, I felt like punk rock did the same thing for me. And I remember when I was in high school, I found out that there was a powerviolence band from Inglewood. 

Oh really?

Yeah, Despise You. It was a big deal to find out that they were from Inglewood. At the time, it was probably a little weird. Sometimes you might be mocked for liking that kind of music, people would call it “white boy music” or whatever. But you had to stand your ground, you know, and say like “Rage Against The Machine is diverse,” or “what about Bad Brains?!” or you’d find out that like Chavo from Black Flag was Puerto Rican. I think finding those people in the scene helped you realize, okay, this is for everyone. 

Of the twenty kids at your school who listened to punk rock, how diverse was that crew?

Majority Latino. I’m sure there’s a lot more black kids now who are into rock music and into punk, but back then it was a majority Latino. I think for a lot of Latino kids growing up in LA, if they’re first-generation immigrants, I think there’s this weird thing of trying to find yourself, so you don’t want to love your parents’ music, because you’re trying to assimilate. And then, at the time, rap felt like something that was for and by black kids, and so you’re kinda looking for your own thing. For me, I found punk rock, and even if I was listening to English bands, I don’t know that I necessarily thought about it as white (music), but it was the emotion of it that I really gravitated towards, you know?

Who was your entry point? Who was your first band that made you go “oh, this isn’t just cool music, this is who I am and what I am”? 

You know what? It was the tail end of the compilation era. I remember Punk-O-Rama volumes 1 and 2 were really big for me. That mid-to-late 90s Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords sound was an entry point for me. I was also listening to the big radio station out here, KROQ. They had Rodney On the ROQ on Saturday or Sunday nights, and he was a guy who broke the LA punk scene – The Germs, The Adolescents, The Screamers, he played the Ramones early on. And by the time I was listening to him, he would still play those bands and newer bands. That was definitely an entry point for me. But when I listened to that Punk-O-Rama, I remember the weirder stuff standing out to me. Like, I remember The Cramps were on one of those Punk-O-Rama comps, and I was really taken back by them. Even stuff that was like maybe not the traditional Epitaph sound, like DFL. They had a song on there, and they sounded like an 80s hardcore band. Things that sounded a little different, like “Coffee Mug” by the Descendents was on one of them, and that really informed me. And obviously things like Rancid and Social Distortion. And then I started digging deeper. And The Clash. They were a big deal for me, and still are. 

Oh for sure. I am a couple years older than you, I think, but I think for our generation, Joe Strummer has become almost a mythical person. I think he and The Clash are probably more important now than they were in 1983 or whatever. I certainly think they’re more important to me now than they ever have been. I never saw The Clash – I was six when they broke up or whatever, but they’re more important to me in my early 40s than they were even when I was in my 20s.

They really informed me so much. When I was 15, a buddy played an album for me, and I remember listening to “Janie Jones,” and “White Riot” and “Complete Control” and all that stuff and I was completely blown away. And I remember as I got more into them and bought albums, I would think “oh, I remember this song! This really cool song I used to hear on the radio is also them!” And then, like “oh ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ is them too!” But they also informed me so much because they knew how to take a photo! There was something iconic about looking at them. There was something so great about the imagery around them. About their album covers.

But it also seemed so authentic, too. 

Yeah! And by the time I was getting into London Calling and Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Sandinista! and seeing the cover art. Like opening the liner notes to Sandinista! and they had a map of Central America and realizing they named that album after a left-wing revolutionary party in Nicaragua, all that stuff really informed me a lot. I just loved them. That was another entry point, for sure. But also the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and then a lot of independent stuff that was going on in California. There was this label called Ebullition Records here in California – in Goleta – and they were putting out a lot of great records, like this band Los Crudos who I got into through them.

From Chicago, yeah? 

Yeah, from Chicago! They had a split with this Bay Area band called Spitboy, an all-female band. Getting into those independent hardcore 90s bands was super influential for me. I really loved it and I was just a nerd about it. Fucking getting into Japanese stuff and all that. I literally got a job pretty early on just to buy CDs, you know? I saved up and bought a record and started buying 12-inches and 7-inches. Getting into bands like PiL and even at the same time getting into mainstream stuff. Like, I loved At The Drive-In when they broke. I saw them early on at an independent venue out here called the PCH Club, and I would go see bands like The Locust and At The Drive-In and all these cool bands. 

At what point did people stop sorta teasing or making fun of you for being “the punk kid” because you just got so into it, so they were just like “well, that’s Chris…”

Nobody really made fun of me. Maybe my cousins – my older cousins – they were like gang members so they were like “What is this stuff?”. And you know what? When I was growing up, I didn’t really dress punk. Maybe I had a band t-shirt, but then I would just wear like a jacket and jeans, but it was like one of those windbreaker jackets. You could tell I was into something, but I didn’t look like I was in Rancid, you know? And also, very early on, I got into Minor Threat and Fugazi and all of that Washington DC stuff, and I saw that they didn’t have mohawks or dress like that, and I thought that was dope, like “oh cool, you can just be a regular dude, a regular fool, and just rock whatever you want to rock.” That really informed me a lot; that it didn’t have to be about fashion.

You mentioned Fugazi…I’ve tried to think about this a lot in recent years to figure out what the first band I really got into that was a punk band was, and it was either Bad Religion or Fugazi. And you’re right, neither of them dressed “punk rock.” Jay and Greg from Bad Religion had leather jackets for a while, but that was about it. And I got into both of them through Pearl Jam, oddly enough. I was a super big Pearl Jam fan right when they broke, and in those days you would read interviews and read liner notes and see who your favorite bands mentioned, and Eddie Vedder always talked about Fugazi and Ian Mackaye. So it became “well, if Eddie likes them, I must like them.” And then, I forget if I heard Repeater first or In On The Kill Taker, but thinking “holy shit, what is this music!?” It was unlike anything I’d really ever heard at that point. 

Yeah, for me it was kind of the same way. Songs like “Public Witness Program” or “Facet Squared.” I remember Rage Against The Machine’s first album, looking in the liner notes to see who they thanked, and I remember them thanking Joe Strummer and Ian Mackaye and wanting to learn more. Or then sometimes buying things based off a cover. I remember when I was a kid, I went to this record store and I saw a Reagan Youth CD where they were dressed like Klansmen. And I remember it taking a second for me to wrap my mind around it. The album was called A Collection Of Pop Classics, and when I looked at the back, the titles of the songs sounded kind of leftist. And so I went “okay, I think they’re playing with imagery and they’re being ironic on the cover. I think I could buy this.” (*both laugh*)

And that was really before you could Google it. I mean now if you go to the record store, you can Google it or you can just take a picture of the cover and search that and it pulls up everything you wanted to know. But back then, yeah, you had to kinda do a little research on your own. 

Yeah! Like, I would go to Tower Records or whatever record store I could take the bus to when I was a kid and buy like Punk Planet or of course Maximumrocknroll. Or even the popular magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone would cover punk bands sometimes. I would find other ‘zines, like there was this zine out here called HeartattaCK Zine that I would buy and find out about these independent bands and learn more about their scenes. 

So let’s fast forward to Punk Rock Museum opening up. I’ve not been yet; I’ve never set foot in Vegas, and honestly I haven’t really wanted to at many points over the years until Punk Rock Museum became a real thing. And not like a cheesy thing, but a real and cool and authentic thing. Where did your involvement with them come from?

I remember I was following them on Instagram when they put up their Instagram page and I was like “yo, this is cool!”  I wasn’t ever skeptical, but I was definitely like “how’s this going to be?” I was so curious. And when they opened up, I kept following them, and they had reached out to me and told me that they were fans of This Fool and whatnot. I was planning to go out there, and then what ended up happening was they invited me out to do a live podcast with Damian (Abraham) from Fucked Up. 

Oh I’ve heard it! It’s great!

Yeah! We did the live podcast. It was Damian from Fucked Up, and then Fred Armisen was going to be there doing tours and he did a cover set, where he played lots of punk rock covers in the bar that they have called the Triple Down Bar. That was really the start of my involvement when they asked me to come. I was really blown away. It’s such a real museum and at the same time, it’s interactive. It’s curated so well, and people that I’m a fan of helped curate it. People like Brian Ray Turcotte who did that book Punk Is Dead, Punk Is Everything, and he did Fucked Up + Photocopied. There was another guy who I follow on Instagram @AncientArtifax whose name is Brian too, he’s a really sweet guy. He and Bryan Ray Turcotte I think leant some of their collections of memorabilia. But also, a lot of musicians lend them their stuff. So I went there the first time and I had a blast. I had a great time. They asked me if I would be willing to do tours and maybe even a comedy show, and I said “yeah man, I’d love to!” I think it’s such a great place and I’m so happy it exists. And I’m not a Vegas fan. I grew up in California, and Vegas is only four hours from us. People often drive there for the weekend. So not being a real fan of Vegas, this gives me an excuse to go. I’m really excited to give tours there. They have a really impressive Clash and Joe Strummer collection.

Yeah, I saw that his family was just out there. 

Yeah! I’m really excited. I got to walk the museum when Fred Armisen was giving a tour…

What a brilliant musician, by the way. Wildly underrated as a musician, I think.

Yeah! Totally! 

His brain works on a different plain, I think.

Yeah, it’s crazy. He played in this great band called Trenchmouth who opened for Fugazi. 

Oh sure!

They put out a few great records. He brought punk to SNL. Those great sketches on SNL with Ian Rubbish and Crisis of Conformity. 

Yeah, and the wedding band!

Yeah! I’m really excited to give tours. I think I’m going to get there a day early, because I want to have a game plan.

I was going to ask, is that overwhelming or intimidating?

It is but in a good way.

Obviously you’re a fan of the music, but to know what you want to highlight and how to tell the story…

Yeah, that’s a big thing! I want to have an idea of what I want to highlight, and I want to make it fun and interactive. I want people to have some fun with it, and I’ll be funny if I can. I’m really excited because it’s such an amazing place. And then we’re going to do a comedy show. It’s going to be me, this comedian named Bryan Vokey who used to play in punk bands. He used to play in a band called Neon Piss. And then this other comedian whose name is Nicole Becannon. She’s really funny. She doesn’t come from the punk world, but I just think people would love seeing her. She’s going to be a part of it. And then Fat Mike’s going to be there. 

I heard that!

Yeah, it’s going to be pretty funny.

I heard your podcast with Damian and Fat Mike, especially the second part, where it was just over Zoom or whatever…and I have to say that you’re a phenomenal interviewer, for what that’s worth. 

Oh thank you!

And even the Pete Holmes podcast from last year, where the two of you are just sitting on his couch, where you weren’t necessarily the interviewer, I still think that you’re a phenomenal interviewer. The way that you ask questions and the thought that you give to how you process questions and how to follow up, you do a really really good job. 

Thank you! Yeah, I try to be thoughtful about it. When we did that podcast, me and Damian, it’s called Killed By Punk, and we just thought “let’s be a little more introspective and a little more critical, without being annoying.” Just the idea of having an introspective conversation on punk, it’s a thing I’m always thinking about. 

And Mike especially is an interesting to get your feet wet at interviewing. He can be tough to wrangle sometimes, having talked to him a few times. 

Yeah, he’s such a personality, and he’s not an asshole, but he’s an abrasive person in a sense. It’s in a joking way, but if you don’t know he’s joking than it can be a lot. But also, he has a lot of ethics and a strong belief system about what he’s doing. He’s a really interesting guy. 

I think in a lot of conversations he does, he’s always in charge. Mike steers the ship, even if he’s the subject and not the interviewer, and I think a lot of that is by design to still keep a little bit of a wall up. Like, he’ll be really forthcoming, almost uncomfortably so, and exposes so much of himself so that you don’t pull back the curtain of what’s behind that sometimes, but I think you did a great job of sort of disarming him and you could tell he was really thinking.

Yeah, yeah! He was so interesting. So he’s going to do the comedy show with us, and then I’m going to screen two episodes of This Fool and do like a Q&A. 

That’s awesome!

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such an awesome place. It’s curated so well, and at the same time, it’s a work in progress. The way you see the museum is not the way it’s going to be forever. 

It’s a living thing, yeah.

Yeah! They are doing an exhibit now with James Spooner who did the AfroPunk Festival

Oh yeah, one of our contributors just did a little spotlight piece on him

I think that’s so cool! I heard him on NPR and he plugged the museum. He said the most brilliant thing – he wasn’t showing necessarily pictures of black punk bands, but they were showing photos of black punk audiences. And he was showing that it wasn’t just bands, there were black kids going to shows as audience members. I thought it was brilliant. Such a brilliant take on that.  

I want to go back to something you were talking about earlier, and that was the idea of racial tensions, particularly in South Central and Inglewood in the 90s when you were growing up. What was the scene like when you started going to shows? Was it mixed race or did you kinda stick out as being non-white?

There were two types of scenes, really. If you went to go see a show in Hollywood, where a bigger band was playing, there would be a few Latinos there, but not a lot. But if you saw a local show in South Central or in Inglewood or in Compton, it was mostly Latinos with a few black kids there. I remember going to see NOFX very early on. I was like fourteen. There were a couple Latino kids there, but it was mostly white. Maybe a few black kids or Asian kids sprinkled in. But it wasn’t really until a lot of garage punk bands started popping up that it started becoming a thing. When I got older, there was a band called Hit Me Back that was these young Latino kids from South Central Los Angeles playing really fast hardcore. That was really exciting! Or I’d find out about these bands from East LA, like Alice Bag and The Bags, and I found out about the Stains and other bands like that. And I’m not from East LA, but then you’d find out that there were other bands out there so you’d start going out there. It was a pretty majority Latino scene but you would have other kids mixed in. There was a big backyard scene, a big independent scene that felt like it was flourishing more as I was getting older and I was having to go to work so I had less time to go. But it made me happy to see it. I was so excited by it. I remember going to see Fugazi. There weren’t a lot of Latino kids, but there were a couple of us there. I went to the Palace to see Fugazi on the Argument tour, and I just loved it. 

What was your first show? 

My first punk show that I remember was …oh, man, I’m trying to think. I could be wrong, but I think it was either NOFX or The Vandals. One or the other. I saw them both around the same time. It was maybe like ‘99? ‘98 or ‘99, somewhere around there? Yeah, I think it was 1998. And then there was a band that I saw pretty early on that was a hardcore band that would mix hip-hop into it, and they were called Downset.

Oh yeah! I remember them. I feel like maybe I remember them playing with like Shootyz Groove or Primer 55 or something. 

Yeah! I think I saw them open for Sick Of It All. My buddy was a big Sick Of It All Fan, so we went to see them and they opened and then I think maybe Vision Of Disorder played too? (Downset) came out of the LA hardcore scene. There was a venue out here called the Macondo that they came out of. And they were pretty diverse. The singer, Rey, was from South Central Los Angeles, and some of the other members were from different parts of LA, but they all came from a graffiti background. They were in some pretty established graffiti crews out here. They had a hip-hop element to it, but they also came from hardcore. The singer would have like a Crass or an Agnostic Front patch on. 

And if that was late 90s, that was sort of when that crossover between hip-hop and rock and metal were all really flourishing. 

Yeah, and Downset. blew us away because they were pretty diverse. So yeah, it felt like if you went to see bands in Hollywood it was a little more white, but if you went in your neighborhood when there were a lot of backyard shows going on, those felt mostly Latino.

Would those shows be musically diverse as well? Like if the punk scene was smaller in Inglewood or Compton, would there be more variety of bands on one of those shows? 

Sometimes, they could be. Like, you would have a street punk-sounding band play with like a ska band. Or maybe a metal band would be on a show, or a more new wavy band. Yeah, I think you’re right. Not every show, but some shows definitely felt a little more diverse musically.

Did going to shows change what the music meant for you? Like did you have that moment where it went from just music you liked listening to to really feeling like it was a scene you were now a part of?

Yeah, it felt that way. It felt exciting. It was also tough though because as I was getting older, and as I was having to pay rent and have more stability, it seemed like the scene was flourishing more. I wasn’t necessarily a participant in it, but I was definitely an advocate of it. I felt so excited by it, and if I had a chance I would go see shows. Or I’d go buy a 7-inch or find the band on Bandcamp. So as I got older, I wasn’t there at every show, but I was just so excited that I could advocate for it. 

Yeah, because you do have to work, at some point. Or you have a kid. In my case, I knew pretty early on that I was going to be on the “go to college, get a real job” route versus trying to play in bands forever, so at least I can help run a website, you know? Or teach yourself concert photography so you can feel like you’re contributing. 

Yeah! Totally! And I think with punk sometimes, and with music in general, you can let it be a soundtrack to your life. That can be good or it can be bad. I think sometimes when I Was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life, I was vicariously living through other people. But it wasn’t until I decided to do something that was “my thing,” because I didn’t want to just work at my job anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with just having a job, but I just wanted to do something else. I think when I started in comedy, that felt like part of a scene.   Through punk, I was more of an advocate because I was buying records and going to shows, but I wasn’t necessarily taking photos or throwing shows, and I didn’t play any instruments, so I was really more of an advocate of it. But I remember when I started doing comedy, there was a scene there, and I felt excited because I found my version of punk rock to actively participate in. So then I started going to shows and doing open mics and hosting open mics and throwing shows and really being part of the scene. It felt really exciting. 

Yeah, so then that was your way of doing the same thing that the punk rock kids were doing. 

Yeah, it felt that way! I also felt so frustrated; like I was really vicariously living through musicians, seeing these men and women doing whatever they wanted and taking their lives into their own hands. I was miserable that I couldn’t do that, and that I wasn’t doing that, so when I finally did, I remember that I saw that Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, and I was – and am – such a big Minutemen fan and a big Mike Watt fan, and I was so inspired by that. I said “I’ve just gotta do what they did. As much as I love it, I’m not a musician, so I’m not gonna go up and play music, but I always loved comedy and always wanted to try it, so I would go to open mics and just apply that approach. That documentary – and punk rock in general – were really influential to my approach because it helped to have a work ethic. To get up every night and go to two or three mics a night. Like, if you read Get In The Van, the (Henry) Rollins book, Black Flag would constantly practice. So I started viewing my practice as getting up at open mics two or three or four times a night if I could. It was really cool to apply that; that this was my version of it, so I would apply that Minutemen/We Jam Econo work ethic to it. 

I got to talk to Watt once for one of his projects – he’s got so many that I don’t even remember which one it was – and it was just such a touchstone moment for me. That band and Watt himself as a solo musician in the 90s were such a barometer of, like, the cool people – the cool music fans and the cool punk fans, they were Mike Watt fans. And so to get to pick his brain for an hour or so and meet him and shake his hand was just amazing. 

Yeah, that documentary was so instrumental to me. Around that time, I just remember being so bummed out, because I truly was just living vicariously through other people, and I was almost doing that thing that you shouldn’t do and looking at these people as idols. Because they’re telling you “look, anybody can do it!” 

Especially in punk rock, yeah!

Yeah! Like whether it was Martin Sorrendeguy of Los Crudos and Limp Wrist or Ian Mackaye or Mike Watt, or even like Patti Smith – I realized that I was living so vicariously through them that I was putting them on the idol pedestal and I was looking at them like “oh, I can’t do that…they’re special.” But the whole thing is they’re telling you anybody can do it! (*both laugh*) So I thought to myself that I always wanted to do standup, so let me just do it. And if I didn’t like it, or I didn’t like the feeling, that’s okay. At least I tried it. And then I started doing it and I liked the feeling. I mean, there were nights where I didn’t like the feeling, but I chopped it up to like “well, I’m sure these bands had bad nights, you know?” 

Did you get that feeling right off the bat? Like, that first open mic, especially after you said “okay, even if I’m still working at a warehouse, I’m a stand up comic”?

Yeah! Because with so much of comedy, you can be a comic and still have a regular job. I remember my first open mic, I had a really good set, and then my second mic, I bombed my dick off. It was humiliating, but at the same time, I knew when I said “okay, I’ll try it again tomorrow,” that I could get over it. That actually made me feel more like a comic than having a good set.

Oh sure! Part of the honesty in comedy is the struggle.

Yeah! So I just thought that if I could bomb my dick off and then wake up tomorrow and go alright, we’ll try it again” I think that’s really what comedy is. Good sets are amazing, but it’s when you can survive a bad set. 

When did you get to the point where you could be a full-time comic and leave the rest of it behind? Was that once This Fool started? 

There is something about having a profession that pays you to just keep doing that that makes you feel validated. But also, at the same time, the idea that I was working a regular job at a warehouse and I was getting up every night and doing open mics and getting booked at bar shows or produced shows at clubs – even though I wasn’t a professional comedian, I still felt like a comedian. I was living that lifestyle. I might have a real job, but that’s okay.

People in punk bands have real jobs too, right?

Yeah! Absolutely. Just because somebody is a math teacher when they’re not touring doesn’t mean they’re not a musician. And that’s what standup felt like. It consumed my life. I was getting up every night and going out every night. But I also wanted to make sure I worked with a purpose. The thing about comedy is that it can give you a Peter Pan syndrome, which I’m assuming music can too, in that if you don’t take it seriously and you’re just enjoying the hang, before you know it, ten years have passed and you’re still just hanging out. You’re not really working towards anything. So even early on, I said to myself “have fun, but make sure you’re working. Make sure you’re putting in the work and writing new jokes and asking to be on shows, and when you’re on those shows, make it count. Try your best to do good so you can get on the next show and you can build more time. It was validating once I got the show, because I considered myself a writer – I always wanted to be a writer – and I was inspired by movies and TV and I wanted to make things. So getting to make the show felt like that next level, where I got to start making things. 

Was standup a mechanism to get in the door of the writing world? Was writing more the long-term goal?

A little bit. It was funny because I was trying to become a writer but I didn’t know a way in. And so when I wanted to do standup, somebody said “well, if you want to try standup, just do standup, because if someone sees you out, you might be valuable to them, because you can write and also do jokes. But then my life became so consumed with standup that I was just always working on standup, and I felt like it was informing my writing. It also had an immediacy to it. When you write a script, sometimes before you are comfortable enough to show it to a friend to give you notes, it might be a month or two. As opposed to with standup, you write something and you go up that night and try it and it’s immediate, whether it’s funny or it bombs. That immediacy to it, so I got into writing, and the habit of writing made me write scripts more, because I was always thinking about jokes and stories. It definitely informed my writing. 

Do you find it easier to write a joke that’s going to work well in a standup set versus to write a situation that’s going to be funny on a TV show? Are they two different things?

It comes from the same brain, but it’s a different thing, yeah. A joke lives in the moment. With a script, you have to get notes passed, and then sometimes something might get lost in translation. But it’s still fun.

We talked about of your musical keystone people, but who were they in comedy for you? Who are the people you looked up to, especially once you became a comic?

Oh man. Even before I got into comedy, there were comedians that I enjoyed listening to. Like Maria Bamford. She was a big one. 

She’s a riot!

Yeah, she’s great. Dave Attell was somebody I really liked. Colin Quinn. This guy named Patrice O’Neal

Rest in peace.

Yeah, rest in peace! He was from Boston. There was another guy named Greg Giraldo that I really liked.

Rest in peace as well. He was a big Clash fan too, I think.

Yeah! Yeah he was! People like that, people like Patton Oswalt, Felipe Esparza. They’re all people I enjoyed. It’s funny because they never really inspired me to do standup, because they were so funny that it was intimidating. What was really inspiring to me was going to open mics and seeing people who were still trying to figure it out. Because I was like “well, if they’re still figuring it out, it’s okay for me to go up there and try to figure it out.” But now, I feel so inspired not just by comedians who are older than me, but I feel inspired by my friends. People who I started with and who are still doing it and starting to get careers. I feel inspired by them and their minds and how they view the world and how they view the world. Like my friend Ramsey Badawi, my friend Opie, Bryan Vokey, Paige Weldon. All these people that I started with and we’ve been in the trenches for like ten years now, they’re exciting to watch. 

I think Frankie Quinones from your show is a riot!

Yeah, yeah, Frankie! That’s my buddy! I love Frankie. 

He is so funny. And so, one of the things that is really I guess special to me about This Fool is that most of my professional career was spent working in like correctional reentry settings, working with people on probation and parole and getting out of prison. That’s what I did for fifteen years or so. So part of the Hugs Not Thugs thing is near and dear to my heart. And most of my time was spent in a community that was overwhelmingly Latino. Lawrence, Massachusetts, is an old mill city, so it’s always been an immigrant city; it was French Canadian and then Irish and then Italian and then starting in the 70s Puerto Rican and more recently it’s majority Dominican. That’s where I worked and who I worked with for a long time, and Frankie’s character and the way he plays it on that show is pitch-perfect. It’s so spot-on. I know it’s a different side of the country and different cultures, but there’s a lot of overlap.

Yeah, it resonates! Truly. And that character is based off of my cousins. But also, what he brought to it was his own upbringing. Even though he wasn’t a gang member himself, he had family just like I did who came from that world, so he brought a lot of that to the role. He’s a guy who took me on the road with him years before we had the show. He saw me and he was like “come open up for me!” so I would open for him a lot. He’s a great friend. He’s hilarious.

To bring things full circle to punk rock, obviously one of the big things that everybody holds in the highest regard in the punk rock community is authenticity, and the whole idea of “what is punk rock” and selling out and all of that. Now, I think a lot of it is bullshit, but there is some validity to part of it, and I think that a punk rock thing that your show gets is the authenticity of the experience. Not playing those people as caricatures. Not using the neighborhood or the people as “the joke,” but portraying them in such an authentic way that’s still fun. 

That was such the goal. Showing the world and letting the world and the characters be. Don’t glorify them and don’t dehumanize them, just let them be.

That’s a tough needle to thread, I imagine. 

Yeah! Yeah, it was tough. It’s a tough needle to thread sometimes because it’s tough to write. I come from that world and I know what it’s like to not glorify it and not demonize it, to just let it be. It’s tricky, but (Frankie) did a good job of humanizing that character. Even the fact that I’m bigger than him is funny. (*both laugh*) The idea is that not all these guys are over six feet with tattoos on their faces. We always joke around that he brought not just a vulnerability but like a Joe Pesci kind of bravado to it.

Oh totally!

That’s the idea. To humanize it, and to not be didactic either. We’re not trying to change anybody’s minds, and not trying to justify anybody’s humanity. Just show the world as it is and as I know it, and let people make up their minds. Give the show heart without being saccharine. Without being corny or too sentimental. 

Do you get feedback from people in the old community about that? About how well you got the tone? Or are there people who were critical of it?

Yeah! There are people who were critical until they watched it. And I get that. If I thought something was about my experience, or close to my experience, or about where I grew up, I would come in with a sense of skepticism. But most people have been really nice. I’ve had people give me compliments and say “man, you really nailed down not just the culture, but the idea of working-class people, of that specific part of LA.” I’ve had Latino people and black people from that neighborhood tell me that they liked it. I think the goal is I always try to write something that resonates with working-class people, but also might resonate with academics, and doesn’t pander to either/or. And that also puts funny first. There are a lot of shows now that are comedies but they ride the line of being “dramedies.”They skew a little more dramatic than funny. Our idea was to ride the line of being incredibly funny but also telling real stories. We can make a show as funny as Workaholics or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but we can ground it in reality. 

That rooster story has to be real, right? It’s so absurd that it had to be real.

Oh yeah! Yeah! 

That’s what I kept thinking in watching that whole narrative arc, that “oh man, this is obviously a thing that happened.”

Yeah, that was a real story that happened to me a number of times throughout the years in whatever neighborhood I lived in. My black neighbors would complain about the Latino neighbors having roosters. That was a real thing. I remember when I took my friends who I created the show with out and drove around the neighborhood – because they’re not from there – and we passed by a house that had roosters and chickens out. And we’re in the city, right? It was a thing that really cracked them up. I was put in those situations where a neighbor would be like “you gotta talk to Don Emilio … that thing has to go!” (*both laugh*) That was totally based off a lot of real situations that happened. 

Now that you’ve seen a modicum of success with the show and you’ve been opened to a wider audience and had new experiences like getting to do Jimmy Kimmel and things on that level, and getting to meet whoever you’ve met since having the show…do you get more star struck in situations like that, or did you get more star struck about things like going to the Dischord House

Oh man…(*pauses*) going to the Dischord House. I went there and I was pretty awestruck in the sense that it just meant so much to me. Fugazi is one of my favorite bands, and they just meant the world to me. And also that label, and growing up and reading about that scene as a kid, and being into bands like Nation Of Ulysses and Slant 6 and those types of bands. But at the same time, I do get it like…so Michael Imperioli is on the show, and when I first met him and he came to set – I had only met him over Zoom – but when he first came to set, it was intimidating not necessarily in the sense that I was starstruck by his sense of fame, but I was intimidated by his talent. Because I’m not a seasoned actor by any means and he is, and I’m going to have to act alongside him. That was incredibly intimidating. 

Also a musician, though!

Yeah, also a musician, right!

Our good pal Jared runs the record label that put out Zopa’s record.

It’s Mount Crushmore, right?

Yeah, Mount Crushmore! Jerry is a friend of my wife and I. We have a little crew down there in New Jersey that we try to go visit and go to shows with a couple times a year. And for him to put out that record, for what it meant to that little crew, was super rad. 

That was super exciting. I love his band. 

Totally. And you don’t expect it from Christopher Moltisanti.


Although I have to confess – I have seen one episode of The Sopranos in my life. I never had HBO, and I also have a thing about not wanting to start a show when I’m so far behind – eight or ten seasons or whatever. It seems like so much work to get into. 

I understand that. But you should watch it. It’s one that you’ll enjoy because it’s actually a very funny show. And it’s a show that you’ll enjoy because if you watch a season, you can kinda take that season in…it’s serialized, but it’s not as serialized as other shows. Sometimes it’s slightly episodic. But yeah, getting to work with him, and then we had Bill Pullman on an episode. I wasn’t necessarily star-struck with him either, but I was intimidated by his talent. It was like “wow…this guy is a very talented actor who has been on his game for decades…” I do remember one time I got star-struck, and that’s when I saw Joe Strummer before he passed away. I saw him three times; one at the Hootenanny, which was a festival out here in southern California. It was mostly roots and rockabilly-type music, but on this one, they had Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros and they had X there, and maybe Chuck Berry played? It was pretty exciting. So, I saw Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros there, and then I also went to go see them at the Roxy, and then at the Tower Records they did a signing. I’ll never forget the tie I saw him at that outdoor festival. I was up front, and I yelled out “Janie Jones” and they went into it. Now, I don’t necessarily think they went into it because I yelled it out, but because I had been yelling it out, he looked over at me and pointed at me and winked and then they went into the song. I was starstruck by that. The Clash were so important to me as a band. Just the way they progressed. You can listen to them playing the most raw punk, like “1977,” “Janie Jones,” “White Riot,” “Cheat,” “Hate & War,” and then you can listen to them play songs like “Safe European Home” and “Tommy Gun” and then you can listen to them playing these amazing songs off of Sandinista! that sound nothing like the rest of them. And then came songs like “Know Your Rights” and “Car Jamming” and “Sean Flynn” that sound like nothing else. I just love how they progressed and I love their story. I always tell people “even their worst album is better than most peoples’ best albums.” Even if you don’t love Sandinista!, you have to love the story of it. The idea that they would put out three records for the price of one, and then they said “we went far on London Calling, let’s go even farther. Let’s name this album after a left-wing revolutionary militia in Nicaragua.” 

Exactly. Like, “in case you still didn’t know where we stood…” 

Yeah! Exactly! You don’t have to love all the sides of that album. It has its imperfections, but even the imperfections on that album are phenomenal. As an art and as a story, I loved it.

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DS Interview: Cory Branan on his epic first studio album in more than five years, “When I Go, I Ghost”

At least from a new music perspective, it’s been a bit since we’ve heard from Cory Branan. The criminally-underrated Memphian singer-songwriter-guitar-virtuoso released his last studio record, Adios, on Bloodshot Records back in April 2017. For most artists who’ve found themselves making anything resembling a career in the music industry, the cycle typically goes a little […]

At least from a new music perspective, it’s been a bit since we’ve heard from Cory Branan. The criminally-underrated Memphian singer-songwriter-guitar-virtuoso released his last studio record, Adios, on Bloodshot Records back in April 2017. For most artists who’ve found themselves making anything resembling a career in the music industry, the cycle typically goes a little something like this: write an album, record an album, tour an album, lather, rinse, repeat every couple of years ad infinitum. Branan made it through at least two of three stages on the Adios cycle but then, well, then life got in the way. That’s not to say that he was holed up in Tennessee twiddling his thumbs for the last half-decade; far from it, in fact. It’s just that there was the whole thing about the demise of his former label (Google it…or don’t), the demise of his marriage, the ongoing responsibility of parenting a couple of kids…oh, and there was that whole thing with the plague.

And so fast-forward to the present day and we find Branan awaiting the imminent release of his sixth studio album. It’s called When I Go, I Ghost and it’s due out this Friday (October 14th) on a brand new label (Blue Elan Records) and it’s good. Real good. Overwhelmingly good. And I say that as someone that was familiar with more than half of the record through a combination of live performances and streaming events and digital-only compilations put together during the quarantiniest days of the pandemic. It’s got all of the hallmarks of classic Branan: detailed storytelling filled with his patented razor-sharp, quick-witted evil streak, varied sonic feels and textures that invoke the best parts of 70s (and, I suppose, 90s) album radio, massive, death-defying guitar riffs and a level of musicality that somehow takes more twists and turns than the lyrics they provide the soundscape for. It’s just that the highs are higher and the lows are lower and the textures are…texturier.

When I Go, I Ghost is comprised largely of songs written prior to the Covid pandemic. The years immediately prior to the shutdown found Branan changing up the way he had worked for the first decade-plus of his career. More specifically, he worked himself into the habit of writing increasingly while he was on the road in the years leading up to the plague breakout. It was not, at first, a skill that came naturally. “I would normally write when I got home off the road because I’d be restless,” Branan explains. Having young kids, however, allows a different outlet for that restlessness. “When I had kids, and especially when Clem came along…I’d want to get off the road and just catch up. Like “who’s this kid? He’s a completely different kid than he was when I left three weeks ago!

Eventually, Branan forced himself to change his routine. “I find that if I get up in the morning, before I start the car, if I just start making connections and looking at things around me and actually seeing, you know, instead of just driving down the road, then I can write.” The new methodology worked well, to the extent that in the lead-up to the pandemic, Branan was especially prolific. “I had a good year…I wrote like fifty songs, which is how I wrote when I first started writing (music). I hadn’t written like that in a long time.” 

That prolific tour-based writing period obviously came to a screeching halt along with the rest of the music industry and, frankly, the rest of real life in early 2020 with the dawn of the COVID pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that Branan sat idly by waiting for things to reopen. In addition to hosting a weekly Instagram Live-based chat show called UMM… that found him chatting with songwriting buddies like Brian Fallon and Ben Nichols and Amanda Shires, Branan also put out a series of five B-sides/glorified demos/oddities compilations called Quarantunes: Now That’s What I Call Isolation, taught online guitar lessons (to people like my brother), worked on his drum machine/synth skills, and set up his own home-based recording rig. 

Skip ahead a bit and it was time to hit the actual studio with a virtual treasure trove of material to pick from. As mentioned above, Branan had already been playing a handful of the new tracks live, and if you’ve ever caught the Cory Branan live show more than, say, once, you’re no doubt aware that each song continues to take on a life of its own the more it gets played, and it’s probable that you’ve never heard the same song played the same way twice. “You know me,” says Branan, “I’ve gotta keep myself interested on stage, so I tend to take ‘em out and play ‘em.

And so even if you’ve gotten familiar with a newer song like “Oh, Charlene” or “Pocket Of God,” that doesn’t mean you really know the song until you hear it on When I Go, I Ghost, complete with the full scope of sonic textures and layers of instrumentation. As an aside or an editor’s note or whatever you want to call it, even though you’ve maybe heard his Quarantunes track “Stepping Outside” – a damn-near perfect tune about a literal ghost who is leaving his own funeral – and expected that it would obviously be on an album called When I Go, I Ghost, you’d be wrong. Probably too on-the-nose, but that’s why I don’t pretend I’m a songwriter.

Though he might play most songs live accompanied only by a guitar, they tend to be written with a much larger sound in mind. “Usually as I’m writing, I hear them a certain way, and it’s almost always more fleshed out,” Branan explains, adding in a way that’s both charmingly sweet and hauntingly morbid (which, I guess, sums up a lot of his songwriting), “when I’m dead and gone, I would like for the songs to live on in the form that I hear them in my head.” While getting in the studio might open up a song to added creativity when it comes to instrumentation and overall feel of a song, the song itself already exists, at least in Branan’s brain. “I don’t just want a skeleton, I want all the clothes and the flesh on it, and I want it to be able to tell a story musically, rhythmically, lyrically (when) stripped down to just a guitar and me, then when we take it to the studio it’s just fun.” 

While Branan obviously had a lot of personal experience to pull from during the ongoing songwriting process, divorce namely, a cursory listen to When I Go, I Ghost will reveal that, as is par for the course with much of his catalog, many of the songs are not outwardly personal. Some writers have that thing where they’re very clearly writing about their own experiences, but they do so in a way that it’s relatable to the listener. A personal favorite of mine in that area who travels in many of the same circles as Branan is Dave Hause. Branan, for his part, tends to agree. “He derails mystique, you know? Dave’s music is great because it goes outward and it’s useful. “He’s like ‘here’s an example of my thing, but it’s really for all of us; it’s all of our thing.” Branan has a habit of building characters and putting them in sometimes compromising or less-than-desirable positions, almost creating mini four-minute sonic movies. “I’m not a confessional writer,” he states, adding “I think only one song, “That Look I Lost,” deals with (divorce) pretty straight, but even then, I made the music undercut the sadness of the song. I wanted that Motown thing where it’s kind of a triumphant sadness.”

When pushed a little more on the topic, Branan explains somewhat coyly that “I just don’t interest myself very much,” adding “I’m as narcissistic as the next person that stands on the stage with a microphone, but I just don’t find my life or whatever else to be that extraordinary.” Instead of writing confessional-type narratives, Branan is able to turn his experiences into something constructive nonetheless; it’s just in a different form. “I do find that if I make something out of my emotions or construct something out of it and form it…into a shape that’s outside myself, I can pour all of that into it.” 

Much of that character-building and storytelling traces its way back a number of years, although not in a typical songwriting way, as the forty-seven-year-old Branan is quick to point out that while he has been playing guitar since he was thirteen, he didn’t write his first song until he was almost twenty-five. Instead, he shouts out one particular teacher who helped pave the way for the raconteur he became. “I had a really great creative writing teacher in high school, Miss Evelyn Sims,” he explains. “I was just fucking off in school and she was like “here, I know you’re not interested in what we’re doing, so here’s some Henry Miller.” She sorta steered me into stuff she knew I’d be interested in.

Branan hits the road later this week for the first of the When I Go, I Ghost tour, a run that’ll take him pretty much through the end of the year. And strange as it might be to think about on the eve of the release of his first studio album in more than five years, he’s looking forward to the long drives and the time they’ll give him to start crafting new characters and stories to help make sense of the last few years in a new and different way that might be beneficial to people in his own unique way. “I personally use music like that. It’s gotten me through a lot,” he explains. “That’s my highest goal, to have these little things that are useful.

Pre-order bundles for When I Go, I Ghost in a variety of different options are still available here; get ’em while they’re hot! You can also find the latest on Cory’s tour schedule (including a bunch of solo dates and a run with American Aquarium) right here. Scroll a little further and you can read our full Q&A. Unlike the first time Cory and I spoke for an interview story, I actually didn’t forget to hit “record” this time!

Photo credit: Jamie Harmon –

(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake. Also I tried to find the eight-year-old story that I wrote around the release of Cory’s The No-Hit Wonder album based on an interview we did at an Irish bar he was playing in New Hampshire, but it seems to be lost to the annals of internet history.)

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So how are you? It’s good to chat with you again. I have to say congratulations on the new record. I’ve been a fan for a long time obviously and I’ve known probably half the record already, whether through Quarantunes or from seeing you live a few times the last couple of years, and even still, I was floored by how the album came out. It is REALLY good.

Cory Branan: Yeah it was fun! The songs have been around a piece, I had a bunch of other ones too, but this just sort of felt like a batch that was kind of kin to each other. But you know me, as soon as I write them I start playing them, so people know them by the time they come out. I don’t know another way to do it, you know? I’ve gotta keep myself interested on stage, so I tend to take ‘em out and play ‘em. 

Yeah, but they tend to find a new life. I think it’s fair to say that if someone has seen you more than twice, not only have you heard a different set but every song doesn’t sound the same every time you do it. You tend to chase them a bit. Like, there’s a couple on this record that I feel like I’ve heard a bunch from Quarantunes – because those were such fun records – maybe “Room 101” and “Angels In The Details” that are such different songs that it took me a bit to recognize them. When you’re writing a song, do you have in your head “okay, I know I’m going to have to play it like this, but ultimately I know what I want it to sound like in a bigger format, or does some of that difference come out of chasing the song while you’re performing?

Usually as I’m writing I hear them a certain way, and it’s almost always more fleshed out. I play solo out of necessity, you know? Fiscal necessity. And so, when I’m dead and gone, I would like for the songs to live on in the form that I sort of hear them in my head. But then again, I go in the studio and I try to stay interested in the music. I’ve heard these songs (*both laugh*). So that one in particular, “Angels In the Details,” I wrote a nice little melody finger-picked on the guitar, and on this record, some of those finger-picking things I gave to other things. There’s a synth part there, there’s strings…to me it’s like, well, I wrote the melody, who gives a shit what instrument it’s on. (*both laugh*) To me, it’s more interesting and engaging in the song if that gets switched over to a synth or this or that. I approach it more as a musician rather than as a ‘singer-songwriter.’ I have ambitions a little bit beyond strumming the old acoustic guitar (*both laugh*).

Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite things are people standing there delivering stripped-down songs. But that’s how I know I have a song. If I went in and built these songs in layers and layers and stacked stuff on each other and added some lyrics and went out there with an acoustic guitar, I’d be playing and it would be like “oh shit, there’s not a song under here.” (*both laugh*) I don’t just want a skeleton, I want all the clothes and the flesh on it and I want it to be able to tell a story musically, rhythmically, lyrically, stripped down to just a guitar and me, and then it the studio, it’s just fun. 

I feel like sometimes it changes the context of the song too. I feel like “Angels In the Details” especially, I (think) I heard it differently because of all the instrumentation. It paints a bit of a different picture when it’s just you and an acoustic guitar. Or even an electric? I feel like you’ve done that one solo on the Telecaster when you’ve played it live.

Yeah, I do ‘em all on different nights on different instruments. I might bring this piano out too this time and just sorta move around. I just have to stay interested in them. They do work their way into new iterations on the road and I find different things about them. Even once they’re done, like, I’m learning all these songs on piano and I’m just like “AWWW! I blew it!” Like “Pocket of God” (*plays riff on keyboard*) it’s like “oh crap!” All I’m doing is the guitar riff in the song and it’s really low, I’ve got the strings accenting it, I’m like “oh man, that would have been such a good little thing on piano, I should have accentuated it.”

See but that sorta changes the image that you have of the narrator in that song too if it’s just you and a guitar versus just you and that little synth riff. Like, I feel like I tend to see a lot of your songs visually because of the way that you build imagery into the song…

Thank you!

…so you start to put together a picture of the guy that’s singing that song, because obviously it’s not you. Or maybe it is…

No, that one’s not me. I’m a piece of shit, but not like that piece of shit (*both laugh*).

And that’s a thing we can get into later – not the being a piece of shit part, but the sort of thing that we do as listeners where we make the narrator of the song the writer of the song, where we don’t do that for, say, filmmakers necessarily

Or almost any other art. 

And it’s sort of unfair that we do that to musicians that we do that.

Unless…so many musicians use that mythos for mystique and stuff. That’s never interested me personally, but some people make whole careers out of that, and their songs being them, that whole thing. 

You mean Springsteen? (*both laugh*) I love Bruce Springsteen, I really do, but…

He works in stories, He came to represent things that were bigger than himself, yeah. But he works in stories. But your Joni Mitchell’s and people like that…some people come to expect a confessional…

And some guys, well, not just guys, but some songwriters do that. They are writing their lived experience and sort of explaining it to you in a way you can relate to. I think Dave Hause does that super well. A lot of Dave Hause’s material is about his life, he doesn’t necessarily create a lot of characters, but he’s really good at tapping into that “thing.” 

Yeah, and it’s great. He’s good too because he derails mystique, you know? I like it when people write about their life but they make it outward facing to where it’s useful for everybody else. To me that’s a dead end, when you’re writing about your life but you’re only pointing it back at yourself. Dave’s music is great because it goes out and it’s useful. He’s like “here’s an example of my thing, but it’s really for all of us, it’s all of our ‘thing,” you know? I like that. I don’t do that very much personally, but I can appreciate that. 

Do you think that’s a…I don’t want to say a “skill” thing because “skill” isn’t the right word to use there…but do you think that’s just a thing that some people do better? Like, they have that “thing” where they can write about personal things that way where some people are better at creating characters and telling stories…

I don’t know, I think it’s just that sometimes you have your natural dispositions, you know? Your inclinations. I haven’t thought about it a whole lot and when I start to think about things like that (*both laugh*) it’s detrimental to creating, I find. I just try to not think. And honestly, for me, I try to not exist. I’ve said it before, but I just don’t interest myself that much, you know? And I’m as narcissistic as the next person that stands on the stage with a microphone, but I just don’t find my life or whatever else to be that extraordinary, you know? But I do find that if I make something out of my emotions or construct something out of it and form it into a shape – into art, really – into a shape that’s outside of myself, I can pour all of that into it, and then it’s in a shape that it’s hard to knock over. It’s something that can be taken and, ideally, used. Because I personally used music like that. It got me through a lot, you know? Five times a week I sing that Petty line “most things I worry about never happen anyway”! I might as well have it tattooed on my forehead. That’s my highest goal, to have these little things that are useful.

When did you realize that that part was a thing that you did particularly well? I think it’s one thing to be a guitar player and to come up as a kid learning how to play guitar and to understand that you’ve been building skills and that you’re a pretty good player. But when did you realize that you could write like that pretty well, and that you could create those sorts of characters and narrative things, did that come from writing music, or did that come from writing in general in school?

Probably writing in general, but I didn’t write a song til I was almost 25, and I’ve played guitar since I was thirteen. But yeah…I had a really great creative writing teacher in high school, Miss Evelyn Sims, she was wonderful. I was just fucking off in school and she was like “here, I know you’re not interested in what we’re doing, (*both laugh*) here’s Henry Miller…” She sorta steered me into stuff she knew I’d be interested in. I loved to read, I’ve always loved poetry. I love the conciseness of poetry, and when I started seeing writers that could do that, your Guy Clarks or your Leonard Cohens, their songs are like Yates poems or something, you know? I always enjoyed that. It might be because I did it relatively late in my youth, so I don’t have a lot of embarrassing solipsistic things. I mean, not that I had my shit straightened out at twenty-five (*both laugh*).

Yeah, you might be in a different place if you wrote songs when you were fifteen. That’s a different trajectory.

Exactly. They would have been much more self-absorbed and much less usable and user-friendly.

I know you sorta got into the habit of writing a lot on the road.

Yeah, I had to sorta train myself to do that, because I never did it at first. 

I don’t remember if that’s a thing that we’ve talked about before or if I’ve just seen you talk about it, but was that the last few years before the pandemic that that started? And is that where a lot of these songs came from?

Yeah, absolutely. I have talked about it before, but I used to not write on the road because I’ve mostly toured solo, so it’s just work getting from place to place. I would normally write when I got home off the road because I’d be restless, but when I had kids, and especially when Clem came along – because my daughter from a previous relationship is in Tulsa – when we had Clem, I’d want to get off the road and just catch up. Like “who’s this kid? He’s a completely different kid than he was when I left three weeks ago!” So I had to teach myself to write on the road. I would systematically; I find that if I get up in the morning, before I start the car, if I just start making connections and looking at things around me and actually seeing, you know, instead of just driving down the road. If I start connecting separate things in that mind-frame, then I can write. I had a good year (before the pandemic); I wrote like 50 songs, which is how I wrote when I first started writing. I hadn’t written like that in a long time. That turned out to be good because the plague happened (*both laugh*) and I was too busy learning how to mix and record at home so I could do those Quarantunes records and so I could pay the bills and shit. So fortunately I had a good run! I went in to demo those songs up; I did a batch of like thirty of them and I trickled some of those demos out on those Quarantunes records. 

Were those things you were demoing just with your setup or did you go into the studio?

No, that was before I even had my setup. I went in before quarantine to the old Sam Phillips studio with Matt Ross-Spang, before he moved into his own place there. 

I’ve heard really good things about the new place he built.

Oh man, it is world-class. It’s so gorgeous. It’s amazing. I dropped in when Ben and his daughter came in to do that synth record. I dropped in when she was singing on it, and it is so good. 

I’m really looking forward to hearing that.

It’s really good! When I did that tour with Ben, we were drunk back at the hotel and he was like “listen to this!” We listened to the whole thing twice. It’s not mixed or anything, but man, it was fun. 

It’s interesting that for a guy who rather notoriously says he cannot be harmonized with…although maybe that’s just a matter of not wanting Brian and John C. singing. (*both laugh*)

She sings some in unison a lot too. Their voices are different registers, but man she can really sing. It’s great. It’s so cool, and I’m just so jealous of it. I’ve tried to get Clem to make music with me…like, I’ve got my whole room tricked out, and he likes to dance and stuff, so I’ve got a drum machine and I’ve got all these hue lights set up and I turned it into fun town room and nope…I can’t get him to hang and make music with me. He’s got his own world with Pokemon and tae kwon do now, which is great. But Ben getting to make music with his daughter, I’m just like “oh I am so jealous!” (*both laugh*)

And I wonder if that’s an age thing too.

It probably is. Clem’s too young. 

Yeah, and they’re always going to not like what their parents like for a while. 

Well, what his dad likes. (*both laugh*) He likes everything his mom likes for now. I’m sure it’ll flip-flop in his teens, but we’ll see.

There are actually a couple of songs that I know either from the live show or from Quarantunes that I’m surprised weren’t on the record. “Steppin Outside” I think is chief among them. I think that song is brilliant from start to finish. I think the whole perspective of the song and the way that you tell the story, and musically as well, I think it’s perfect. So I’m surprised that song wasn’t on the record. There are others like “Teeny Says” is a cool song, “Me and Your Mom n’Em” is a fun song but I can see where maybe those don’t fit. What went into the math of what made the final eleven?

Well, there’s actually fourteen. There’s three we pulled just because they don’t fit on the vinyl so they’ll come out on the deluxe thing. They’ll just go right up on the internet, it’s not like I’m trying to charge people twice for anything. You know, I never write records that fit sonically, but thematically, they’re all in one way or another dealing with a sort of restlessness and stasis – and I wrote the bulk of them before the plague, you know? But leading up to the old lady and I getting a divorce, that might have informed it a bit. Again, I’m not a confessional writer, I think only one song, “That Look I Lost,” deals with it pretty straight, but even then, I made the music undercut the sadness of the song. I wanted that Motown thing where it’s kind of a triumphant sadness. But in general there’s some things I was dealing with, and some stories just resonated with me. Yeah, that “Steppin’ Outside” song is an okay song. One of these days, I’ll probably do a record with sort of those types of songs; relatively traditional songs with fresher angles. I have some other songs like that. That particular song was just odd man out. There were a lot of those.

Well, when you have fifty songs to choose from…

Well, that was just that batch, I have some old ones laying around too. That batch was all over the place, and I just sort of found the ones that were kin. And the ones that we pulled, I think the record is better with them, but they are reiterations of themes. There’s one that Adam Lazzara sings on and it’s one of the darker ones, but it’s sort of a reiteration of not so much the vitriol of a “When I Leave Here” but it’s sort of a psychotic song, and I was like “well, I’ve already covered that area.” And then the other two, I put “Son Of Mine” on there and I put “Gatlinburg” on there, and we cut them relatively roots. “Gatlingburg” is like a fucking Glen Campbell kind of thing. And “Son of Mine” is like The Beatles doing country music. They were fun, and I think they came out great, but they were pretty jarring.

And I like jarring from song to song, but they were going to have to be placed right on the album, and I found that since I was going to have to pull some for vinyl anyway, I would just do the eleven. And actually, I was going to just do ten but it needed a breather right towards the end, so I put that “Come On If You Wanna Come” on there which is a lighter one. Some of the themes are still there in the verses and stuff like that, but the record itself is like “I’m going out, come on if you wanna come.” It’s a very, very simple tune, and I was just thought the record is very dense, like I tend to do, and it needed a little bit of an opening thing right before it got to the closer.

I’m really curious to listen to it with the three additional songs now. I’ve listened to the eleven-song version more in the last week than I’ve listened to most albums in most weeks, so now I have this image of the album in my head and now it’s going to completely change when the three extra songs get added on. 

I like that! (*both laugh*) And I think that most people that form an opinion of the record before the deluxe thing comes out will understand why I chose those songs to hold back.

I tend to be a bit of a brat about that sort of stuff. When people put out B-sides and I think “this is a really great song, why wasn’t this on the record,” but then because I’m not an artist or a musician, I don’t think of the 10,000-foot view of it sometimes and how things actually fit.

That’s how I’ve always done it before. All my previous records, except for The No-Hit Wonder where I was trying to make a thirty-minute record, all the other ones are like an hour long so I’ve always had to take tracks off for the vinyl, where you can’t go over thirty-eight or forty minutes. So I’ve always just taken them off but put them out on the CDs or put them out (digitally) with the initial release. Nowadays you’ve got to fool the algorithm gods, because the record is DOA. Everything is pre-ordered, all the press is right before it comes out, then six months later nobody talks about a record anymore; there’s no longevity. So you see more people putting deluxe things out. Originally I was just going to be like “well, I’ll just put out some of those demos that nobody’s heard, throw some acoustic demos on.” And then I was just like “no, let’s just make a tight thirty-eight or forty-minute record and then add those songs as a deluxe thing to fool our algorithm lords.  

When does tour kick-off for this particular run? Next week, yeah?

I leave the thirteenth and the album comes out the fourteenth. I’ll be out for the rest of the year with little breaks here and there. I take January off and then I think I go back out in February. 

What was the longest that you went during the plague without playing in front of people? 

All of it until we got that first false “all clear,” so I guess June of last year. I started touring a bit then, and I’ve done like three or four tours almost with like every new strain.

Has it been good getting back out there, and I say that knowing obviously that it’s good because that’s why people do it, but was it nervous at first getting back out?

Nope, it’s great. I love it. I need it. I mean, it’s a fiscal necessity, but I enjoy it. Everything between getting off stage one night and getting back on stage the next night in the next town is a pain in the ass, but those two hours on stage is the only therapy I get. It’s great. Things changed obviously, a lot of clubs didn’t hang on, the road is really competitive because everyone is trying to tour. The paradigm shifts a little bit here and there, but honestly this whole business has changed out from under me three times since I started. I started right around the time of Napster (*both laugh*) so now we’re in the Spotify era and that genie’s not going back in the bottle. It’s not like people are going to say “oh I can have all of those songs for only ten dollars, let me start buying records again!” 

I really miscalculated that, because I thought that people would still buy records. People still bought records when the radio was free and when cassette tapes existed.

Everything gets more niche, you know? So you have your fans and they have to, unfortunately, be more supportive. They come to the shows and they buy the records on vinyl even though they maybe have the record digitally already. But it’s great. I’m not hanging sheetrock, so it beats that. 

I was reading that interview we did eight years ago and we talked about how it seemed like there are a lot of little clubs that weren’t hanging on so the market was becoming more competitive for the smaller, 90 to 200-capacity clubs, and I thought “boy, if we only knew!” 

Yeah! “It’s gonna get a lot worse!” It’s all gonna be LiveNation eventually and all the radio is going to be ClearChannel. But again, music is always going to come from the ground up and the interesting stuff will exist in pockets of isolation and as a reaction to that stuff. It’s not going to stop, it just makes it harder for the average music fan to be exposed to things. It’s like trying to dip a glass in the ocean to get a glass of fresh water, you know? Good luck! It’s just all out there in the thinnest layer of pixels. I mean, I had to search growing up in Mississippi, but I had to search because it literally wasn’t there. Maybe you had a Sam Goody in the mall or some shit, but you’d get subscriptions to the magazines that covered the bands you liked, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t want to be trying to discover new music as a young kid right now. I don’t even know where you’d start, it’s just a bombardment of information.

It’s TikTok, which is weird to say.

Yeah, and it’s sort of a race to the bottom for our attention span. It’s like “look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” And that’s the thing now, people expect you to be an artist, but they also expect you to be a full-time self-promoter. I do the social media things now and then when I want to just put a picture of my kid up now and then or say something stupid on Twitter, but I also don’t want to be promoting myself 24/7. I don’t feel good about that. But I also have a work aesthetic and I have a job, and so I try to balance that with what I’m interested in.

This may be a weird question to ask when the new album isn’t out yet, but as someone who was writing primarily on the road and then had to stop for a couple years, are you looking forward to writing again as well?

Absolutely! Absolutely, yeah. I found that last tour where I wrote a lot, I think that’s a nice balance for me. There are only so many damn audiobooks you can listen to. I’m looking forward to the long drives.

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DS Interview: Dave Hause on “Drive It Like It’s Stolen,” the Sing Us Home Festival, and much more in our lengthiest interview to date

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly, but late April marked the official street release of Drive It Like It’s Stolen, Dave Hause’s sixth solo studio album. I say street release because anyone who ordered the physical album from him, whether in the States or abroad, got the album well in advance, meaning folks with […]

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly, but late April marked the official street release of Drive It Like It’s Stolen, Dave Hause’s sixth solo studio album. I say street release because anyone who ordered the physical album from him, whether in the States or abroad, got the album well in advance, meaning folks with access to record players got to hear the album and fall in love with it well before their digital-only counterparts did the same. It’s not unlike how Pearl Jam released Vitalogy back in 1994, only that was a matter of the vinyl coming out maybe two weeks earlier not several months earlier, and that was also not a matter of Pearl Jam owning their own record label as Dave and his brother Tim do (Blood Harmony Records). But I digress…

I say “I’m not sure how it happened” because it seems like it wasn’t long ago that Dave and I caught up before a show at Boston’s House Of Blues, where he was slated to open for Flogging Molly later in the evening. It was the first real sit-down interview of my Dying Scene “career.” Back then, one of the topics of conversation was that he was about to rent a car and drive solo for the rest of that tour because he was experiencing a few stuck points in finishing the writing for the album that he was slated to record once that tour was over. It was an album – Devour – that would eventually cement Hause’s position as a bona fide solo artist and not just “Dave from The Loved Ones.”

And now here we are, more than a decade later. To say that Dave has grown and matured and progressed as both an artist and a human is to worldly understate things. Much of that growth and maturation has been laid bare over the course of the now half-dozen albums that form the Dave Hause solo oeuvre. Six albums is a long enough time into a career for an artist to have not only established themselves as a lasting artist but to have started to branch out and explore new stylistic and creative directions. Think 1372 Overton Park or Rubber Soul or Aladdin Sane or Nebraska or Highway 61 Revisited

If you’ve heard Drive It Like It’s Stolen at this point, you’re no doubt aware that Hause took the opportunity to lean into some new and different sounds and tones and textures, resulting in what is – at least musically – his most ambitious and artistic record to date. That is not only by design, we can probably expect more of it going forward. “There is a lot of new ground being covered, and there is a certain ferocity with which I’m trying to do that,” explains Hause. “I think going forward, I’m going to lean further into that. I’m not really looking to repeat myself.” While there were hints at newer musical directions on past records, some of the vigor that he applied to the writing process this time stemmed from a decision that his brother and longtime songwriting partner Tim made earlier in the year. While the brothers Hause had been a dynamic creative duo for closing in on a decade at that point – at least since parts of Dave’s 2017 release Bury Me In Philly – Tim decided it was time to put his own creative stamp under an album of his own. (Here’s our interview from back in January about that very release.)

Dave Hause press photo by Jesse DeFlorio

“Once he did that and made all of the creative decisions that needed to be made,” states the elder Hause, “he did that with a ferocity that didn’t so much have me in mind.” While they continued to remain co-writing partners, once the initial sting of not being involved in the studio when Tim went back to Nashville to work with Will Hoge on the album that would become TIM wore off – “I would never give myself the night off (like that)” Dave jokes – big brother was left with the realization that he, too, could exert a little more one-sided creative control over his own future projects.

It doesn’t take much more than one cursory listen through Drive It Like It’s Stolen to realize that while there are definitely some “Dave Hause songs” on it – that four-on-the-floor, punk-adjacent rock and roll thing that seems to be the core of his wheelhouse, there are more than a few curveballs (or sweepers or whatever we’re supposed to call off-speed pitches nowadays) in the mix. Perhaps the most jarring stylistic departure is the coda at the end of “lashingout.” The song deals with the uniquely American and primarily male phenomenon of creating physical chaos, escalating with the narrator expressing the school shooter-esque desire to play God and wreak havoc on those around you…set to a piece of music that transitions from finger-picked acoustic to distorted banjo to piano-driven Wild West saloon ragtime. “Everyone kind of looked at me like I was crazy” says Hause of the end of that song. “Everyone was like “What the fuck is he doing?” And then it worked. It clicked, and everyone was like “Oh this is so dark and so demented, and it adds a gravity to the song that wasn’t there before.”

At first listen, “lashingout” and its equally curiously-named “chainsaweyes” – the latter with its musical bed that consists of a synth loop and dark, haunting strings –  are two songs that are stylistically different enough that it would have been understandable to have left them to appear on a B-sides collection some Bandcamp Friday years from now. And there were a few other songs that, while not quite finished, certainly could have been rushed into completion once Hause arrived back at the studio in Nashville, and that may have resulted in an album that fits some preconceived notion of what a Dave Hause album sounds like. But Hause and Will Hoge – back for his third stint in the producer’s chair on a Hause family album –  decided that that which was not quite finished should remain that way, at least for now, as it probably pointed toward a different direction anyway, and it doesn’t makes sense to move on to what comes next if you haven’t yet finished what’s in front of you.

It’s a bit of an interesting needle to try to thread; leaning into whatever weirdness or different textures a song may need while being careful to not just be weird for the sake of being weird. “I don’t want to make reckless artistic decisions for the sake of recklessness, but I do want to be fearless in the way I go forward,” Hause explains, adding “I don’t want to do things in a self-destructive way, like “I’m going to make this super weird record to see if I can fool people!” It would be more “Hey, this is what I’m hearing in my head and I want to bring it to bear and surprise myself and surprise the people around me and give people what they didn’t know they needed.”

Those of us that exist in the center of the Venn diagram that has “pretend music critics” on one side and “actual music fans” on the other give artists like Hause props for making the music that he wants to create and not rolling out the same boilerplate album every couple of years. It’s an idea that’s not lost on Hause himself, albeit more than a tad self-depricatingly: “I may end up accidentally getting more credit than I deserve for that,” he jokes. “Like ‘Oh Dave just does whatever the fuck he wants‘ and that sort of thing. It’s like, no, I just don’t have any hits!” It’s a sentiment that’s also reflected in Drive It Like It’s Stolen’s penultimate track, “Tarnish”: “I found a golden goose here and I’m squeezing it for songs / I never got a golden record, I guess the melodies were wrong.” The song serves as a sort of love letter to his twin boys and the hope that as they grow and learn about some of their dad’s trials and tribulations, they don’t lose the glimmer and child-like adoration that kids should have for their old man.

“Tarnish” leads into Drive It Like Its Stolen‘s closing track “The Vulture,” combining for a brilliant – if incredibly heavy – one-two punch that closes out the album as a sort of micro-level companion to the macro-level post-apocalyptic openers of “Cheap Seats (New Years Day, NYC, 2042)” and “Pedal Down.” “The Vulture” deals with the harrowing realization that you may have passed on some of your own negative behaviors and conditions to your children and how best to help them succeed where you might not have. While Hause is a hopeful and positive type in person, he’s at his creative best when he’s grappling with some of the complex and pessimistic realities of American life circa present-day. “That’s the weird thing,” he explains. “I want joy in my music, I want celebration, I want those up moments to be represented, but that’s not what’s constantly on my mind as a person, so it’s a fight! It’s a fight to determine where you’re at, how stable you are, how steady you are, and that’s what comes out in the writing every now and again. In this instance, it’s really in there.” 

While the financial payout from having a bona fide hit or two in his arsenal would certainly help, what with a wife and four-year-old twin boys to consider, Hause seems more than happen to trade that financial windfall for an artistic one, particularly one that grapples with some weighty issues in a personal and yet fulfilling way. “I know friends of mine who are tempted (to continue chasing a particular sound after producing a hit). That’s not that appealing to me. The financial stability that would come along with having a couple of hits would be great. But what that does to an artistic career can be troublesome if you don’t handle it right.” 

The Brothers’ Hause started their own label, Blood Harmony Records, a handful of years ago. Not an offshoot or subsidiary of a larger, corporate behemoth; it’s their very own boutique if you will. As such, they’ve figured out a way to maximize the economic payout when someone buys an album or a t-shirt or a snowglobe bearing the family name. Hause is also quick to point out that the collection of fans he’s got in his corner – affectionately called the Rankers and/or the Rankers & Rotters in some corners of the interweb – make it not only possible, but play their own part in keeping the pedal down. “For whatever reason, maybe because it’s a smaller career, but I do think that the audience and I have been good to each other. I think everybody is kind of okay with going on the journey.” As a result, the Hauses have also figured out a way to maintain a fairly steady albeit intimate manner of touring that keeps the personal and professional lights on. “On the East Coast we can have a band, in Europe we can have a band, on the West Coast we can have a band, lots of other places we can just go Tim and I, or maybe Tim and me and Mark (Masefield) or something.” 

Hause and the Mermaid from Faces in Malden, MA, April 2023

That band, The Mermaid, has had a variety of interchangeable parts over the years, anchored by Dave and Tim Hause and generally longtime collaborator and fellow former East Coaster living in Southern California Kevin Conroy behind the drumkit. Hause emphatically calls the current iteration of The Mermaid, which features the multi-talented, multi-instrumental Mark Masefield on keys and sometimes accordion and whatever else the brothers throw into the mix, and bona fide songwriter in his own right Luke Preston on bass, “the best band I’ve ever played in,” and with them at his side, Dave and Tim decided this year would be the ideal time to bring idea that could very reasonably have been referred to as a pipe-dream-at-best into fruition: their very own music festival.

Taking its name from a song on Dave’s first solo record, 2011’s Resolutions, the first annual installment of the Sing Us Home Festival was held last month and marked a number of different milestones for the Hause brothers. After a successful Mermaid show at their hometown’s Union Transfer in April 2022, the brothers thought it would be a good idea to go bigger, in this case, to throw a two-day outdoor festival in their ancestral homeland, Philadelphia (Tim and his wife still live there, Dave moved to California a decade ago). But not in Center City or in the South Philly wasteland sporting complex area. Rather, they decided to have it in their old Lower Northwest neighborhood of Manayunk, a less-traveled, almost small town part of the big city on the banks of the Schuylkill River.

What could have been an admittedly hair-brained idea was taken seriously from the outset by the brothers’ manager, Alex Fang. “He was really excited about the idea and really saw the potential in it,” Hause explains, adding, “what that really means is you’re having meetings with the Manayunk Development Corporation and you’re meeting with the city and you’re filling out permits…the very unsexy stuff.” Unsexy, sure, but no doubt necessary if you’re trying to build an event from scratch in an area that isn’t used to having such events. “We wanted to put our stamp on the city, and we wanted to do it in our old neighborhood,” states Hause. “It takes over a year to make it happen, and if it rains, you’re fucked. If L & I (Department of Licensure and Inspections) shuts you down, you’re doomed. There’s just so much risk involved.” 

The risk paid off. By all accounts, the two-day festival which, in addition to Dave and Tim solo and with the Mermaid, featured appearances from Lydia Loveless, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Kathleen Edwards, Catbite, Drive-By Truckers, and more. “We had a successful one…I didn’t move in with my dad afterwards!” he jokes. “Everyone from 3 years old to 83 years old had a great time. People just had a blast, and that’s such a joyful thing to know that we had a hand in. If it never happens again – which it will, we’re going to do it again (hold the dates of May 3-5 open on your 2024 calendars, comrades) – but if that was it, I feel like those are two days that I’ll remember for the rest of my life as being just spectacular.”

You can head below to read our most sprawling Q&A with Dave Hause to date. Lots of info about the new album and about Tim’s record and about the newest additions to The Mermaid and about Sing Us Home and about therapy and sobriety and his always-evolving roles as a husband and a parent. Do yourself a favor and pick up Drive It Like It’s Stolen here or at least hit the ol’ play button on the Spotify thingy below while you read!

The following has been edited and condensed and reformatted from two separate conversations for content and clarity’s sake.

Yes, really.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): I was looking at my list recently, and it’s ten years now that we’ve been doing this.

Dave Hause: Terrific, man! That’s awesome. 

Drive It Like It’s Stolen is album number six. First off, congratulations. Second off, I totally ripped this off, but do you listen to Craig Finn’s podcast (That’s How I Remember It)?

I have heard it. I haven’t made it to every one, but I have listened to some of them. 

I certainly haven’t listened to all of them either, but I’ve listened to a bunch, and he just did a live episode to finish the second season…

Yeah, the one with The Hold Steady. I did hear that one.

Yeah! Their new record, The Price Of Progress, is their ninth record, so he asked everyone in the band what their favorite ninth record of all time was – and he had a list. So I thought, out of curiosity, I wonder what exists in that realm for sixth records…

Oh, good question!

So there are certainly a bunch that were way outside my wheelhouse so I didn’t write them down, but these are a combination of some big ones and then some of both of our overlapping musical tastes. R.E.M. – Green, which the hipsters say is like their last “good album.” White Stripes – Icky Thump. The Doors – L.A. Woman. The Cure’s The Head On The Door, and The Beatles Rubber Soul, which to me is an interesting one. Pearl Jam’s Binaural, The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams, and the Bouncing Souls’ Anchors Aweigh. So that’s where Drive It Like It’s Stolen falls in terms of career arc. Are any of those things that you listen to regularly now?

I’m familiar with all of those records, but the only theme that is scary that has emerged as you named them all is they are all precipice records. Certainly Rubber Soul gave way to a lot of really cool music. I love that period. I think everybody kind of loves that Rubber Soul and Revolver period. Icky Thump, I love that record. But I do think that for all of those records, you have most of those at maybe their artistic high points? After that, there is obviously tons of greatness that came from every one of them. But you also named all bands, right? 

That’s true, you’re right. No solo artists. And I think that’s because I accidentally skipped David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. That was his sixth record and it was when he had killed off… 

Ziggy Stardust! 

Yes! And so also obviously a transition record for him. 

So maybe that’s the best theme from the ones you named is that they’re all transition records. Bands were sort of wrapping up a phase and moving into a new phase. But then, I’m not a band. And the way (Tim and I) create is peculiar. One thing for me is that I’ve embraced the peculiarities in my career. If you look at it more from the objective point of record-making, I made kind of five records – the Paint It Black record, two Loved Ones records and Resolutions and Devour – all in a ten-year period. And then I took a break. It was a three-and-a-half-year break. I moved to California and all that stuff, so there was a weird space in there. And then my record-making career resumed in 2017 and it hasn’t really stopped. It’s been between eighteen and twenty-four months ever since, and sometimes even less than that. There’s also a cover record in there. So I don’t know, those parallels to draw between other artists are fun, but I remember sitting down and doing this with Bury Me In Philly, and that’s part of what took me so long to finish it. I was looking at what other artists did with their third records. Those were big records for my heroes. That’s Damn The Torpedoes and Born To Run and all that kind of jazz. (But in some ways) that wasn’t my third record, it was my fifth because I had done the two Loved Ones records. So it’s all confusing. But I would say for those, the one thing that could be true is that this could be transitional. I think just in terms of bringing creative songs to bear, going from the germ of the idea, sussing it out, recording it, and then bringing it to people, I want to try significantly new things, and I think you can hear that on this record.

Oh definitely!

There is a lot of new ground being covered, and there is a certain ferocity with which I’m trying to do that. I think going forward, I’m going to lean further into that. I’m not really looking to repeat myself. I never really have, but I do think I’m just less and less concerned with like, okay, “do we have an up-tempo song? Do we have a quiet song?” Those little checklists that you sometimes find yourself making as you near the studio, I’m not making as many. I just don’t care as much. I’m more interested in what we’re going to etch onto the door, to mark where we are at that year. Because I plan to make a bunch more records. A lot of what’s going now is that I’ve made a bunch of records, depending on who you ask it’s six or eight or ten…and at that point, I kind of at least know how to get them done. I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing (*both laugh*), but I know how to get a record completed and then into people’s hands. Knowing that much is exciting and looking back and going “oh wow, we’ve done this much work!” – that emboldens me to do more work. If that’s any kind of suitable answer! (*both laugh*)

Dave and Tim from Faces in Malden, MA – 4/2023

Oh it definitely is, and I think it invites a bunch more questions! I think Tim tipped me off to you leaning into that new direction in the studio. I’m trying to remember the timeline, but it was either when he and I talked for his record or when he was here on that run with Will Hoge. He was like “Dave really went for it and embraced some weirdness in the studio this time.” He was super proud of you sort of trusting that instinct to go for it and to not worry about things so much. “Weird” is obviously oversimplifying things quite a bit, but did that come from the writing process in your home lab making music, or did that come from being in the studio and figuring out how to translate the songs as they started out into what ended up being on the record?

It’s interesting that you bring up Tim, because I think when he made his record, we hit another crossroads in our writing life, where he wanted to make a record of his own, and he went and did it without me to sort of avoid the shadow that I would cast on it. And then as he sort of rolled it out…

Not to interrupt, but was that a mutual idea or was that a Tim idea, and if it was a Tim idea, how did that land when he brought it up?

It was certainly his idea. I would never give myself the night off (*both laugh*). I would never opt to not be in the studio, but I did think it was wise. I thought it was an interesting choice. I mean, I wanted to go, but I also respected the decision and I thought “This will be interesting.” I think he was really just trying to distinguish himself, as you do when you make a record of your own. Once he did that and made all of the creative decisions that needed to be made from then on in, whether it was mixing or what it looks like, or deciding how it is going to come out, etc. etc., he did that with a ferocity that didn’t so much have me in mind, which I really liked. I found it a little bit peculiar because I felt like I had made a lot of room for Tim on Blood Harmony and Kick – not as much on Bury Me In Philly, but that was sort of his initial brush with record-making. Especially on Kick, it was really almost a duo presentation. We’re both in the pictures in the liner notes…

And the album just says “Hause” on the cover

Right! That was another thing we were toying with was a potential rebrand. Because he brought “The Ditch” to that record and that was a major song for it. And so, I was trying to make as much room for him as I could, and really at some points considering rebranding as a duo. And we did an interview with Benny (Horowitz) from Gaslight (Anthem) and he was sort of off-handedly suggesting “Why don’t you guys rebrand as a duo and only come out with the best ten songs that you guys write every time you want to make a record, and then you’ll have the strongest material?” I feel like that’s kind of what we were toying with in the first place, so to have him suggest it was a bit of a mirror. But, as he said it out loud, I thought “That’s a commercial decision.” That, again, is sort of not embracing what we actually have, and what we actually have is this strange, developing story. If people take a second and want to learn about it, it’s really cool and it’s enriching. It’s certainly enriched both of our lives. And we both like to write lots of songs, so why would we do less of that? I love Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan and people who make a lot of work. I don’t always follow all of it, but I like that they’re doing it. I like the act of creation, and I think for me, when (Tim) went and did (made his record), I thought “Well, that gives me license to do the same thing.” I don’t need to make AS MUCH room for him if we’re carving out a niche here for him on the record label and in terms of our presentation; there’s the Tim record, and there will be another Tim record.

So that was really an accidental giving tree. It was like, “Well, I’m not going to ask the question as much as I did before.” Like, when you’re singing a vocal and the producer says “Well, what is it that you want to say there? Are you sure about that?” I would often defer to Tim and ask what he thinks, or Tim would jump in with a syntax issue or an “I don’t really like that guitar tone.” It wasn’t always critical, but when it came to critical decisions, I would defer a lot. In this instance, I was like, “Well, you’ve got your record. (*both laugh*) I know what I’m doing and what I like to hear at least with my own songs, so I’m going to just make the call.” So I think in certain instances, like at the end of “lashingout” everyone kind of looked at me like I was crazy. When that saloon idea came about and that weird banjo, everyone was like “What the fuck is he doing?” And then it worked. It clicked, and everyone was like “Oh this is so dark and so demented, and it adds a gravity to the song that wasn’t there before.” So it was cool to take sort of full lead control again and then see it blossom into something new. Some of that is just recklessness from boredom (*both laugh*). I’ve made records where there was a simple, quiet song with finger-picked guitar. Lots of those. And it just wasn’t the reading that I wanted on that song, you know?

That’s a really interesting song, and we can talk about that more later. But man, that’s a really interesting song.

Thanks man! I think it wasn’t before it got that treatment and before it got that coda at the end, and I also was pretty reckless in terms of not being precious. Once you get six albums in, you’ve seen songs live and die, you’ve seen songs come back, you’ve seen songs that surprised you and that had lives of their own, that you didn’t think were going to be anything that would poke their head up. So I kind of was ready to delete certain songs or to rearrange the order, or just lean a little bit more into whatever the best artistic decision was. I was just looking for that, I wasn’t really looking for “what song is going to have the best commercial impact” or anything. I felt like a guy in a painting studio just painting whatever he wanted. 

Was that from the actual songwriting process before you went into the studio with Will, or was that like once you got in there and started playing around? Because you were only in the studio recording for what, a week or so? So I feel like a lot of that must have been hammered out ahead of time.

There was a lot, yeah. And there were a lot of songs. There are more songs that we didn’t even get into.

That’s always the case with you though, isn’t it? (*laughs*) I feel like every time we talk about a record you’re like “There’s this whole other EP that might never see the light of day…” 

It is, yeah! There was also this interesting thing that happened when I was showing Will the material. There were a couple of songs I hadn’t finished that I thought were really good starts, and I played I think two or three of them for him and I said “Well, I could finish these and they would maybe bump off these other ones I’m not sure about,” and he said, “well, you could, but those songs sound like whatever you’re going to do next.” Like, well, I could work hard over the next night or two and finish them up and he very wisely said that they have sort of a different disposition to them. Thematically, he thought “chainsaweyes” I had to do, and he thought “lashingout” was really good and I should put that on, and that the other ones were maybe really promising, but they weren’t done and that they were part of a different batch. When we had those ten or eleven that we initially recorded that each shared a theme and a vibe, then he thought I should run all the way down that road. Once I had that, I knew what the parameters were and we could just let each song have its own identity from a recording perspective.

There’s that thing in “lashingout” – yes, there’s sort of that saloon sound at the end, which is probably the biggest thing that catches peoples’ ears, but as much as I like to pretend I’m an audiophile sometimes, I usually tend to listen to music on my laptop while I’m at work. With the job I have now, I’m not in the car all the time, so I usually just throw it on when I’m at work. But I had headphones on the other day, and I hadn’t caught it probably the first hundred times I heard the song, but there’s that double-tracked vocal in the chorus, and one of them is almost whispered, and that changed the entire song when I finally heard it. It was really jarring A) because I felt dumb for not picking up on it the first hundred times, but B) it really changes the meaning and the tone of the song. That’s an evil sort of thing. The lead vocal is not sweet…that’s the wrong word…but it’s almost considerate. It’s almost like a therapist and you’re trying to talk to a child who might feel like lashing out…but then there’s this whisper voice inside your headphones going “do you feel like lashing out?” like it’s trying to talk you into it. That changed the entirety of the song for me.

That’s essentially the duality of how I view that statement. There’s a bit of a fear that those of us who are raising kids, are you going to raise the next school shooter? That’s a person that obviously at some point has something go really haywire, and I do think the adult urge at 40 to feel like lashing out is not where we want to be. When I’m around my European friends and I’m having dinner with them on tour, they don’t feel like lashing out. I think part of that is the way that their society is structured, and the values that have been cultivated. Whereas here in America, everyone has had their moments where they want to lash out. It’s a really frustrating place to live. That was a tweet of Laura Jane Grace’s, “I feel like lashing out.” And I texted her to see if I could write a song about that, because it was really the duality of it that I was tapped into. I wasn’t looking at it like “This would be a great chorus for a punk rock song.” I mean, partially, yeah, I feel that with her. I feel like lashing out. But I was also concerned about, like, why? Like, please don’t! I hope you don’t lash out and hurt someone or hurt someone else. As I age, there is that thing like “Well, we don’t want to be lashing out. Lashing out is how we got here, you know?” That’s what I’m working on in therapy, so yes I get that a person would be feeling that way, but also, hey, we need to work on that! We need to examine that! (*both laugh*) I think all of that is built into the song, because the song also didn’t have the coda. Once it had the coda on it, then I had a finished product, because I had “I want to be God for a day.” That’s further into the feeling of “I want to lash out.” It’s much more into that mentality, not only do I feel like lashing out, but I want to be God for a day. I want to reign down judgment and make things the way I want them to be. 

I think I’ve even heard you talk about it – I think you mentioned it when you were up here in Malden last month, about the sort of duality that exists in that song, but that was the first time I physically heard and felt it because of the way the two vocals are layered on top of each other. 

I’m surprised you didn’t hear it because I kept fighting to have it louder! (*both laugh*) I was like “Turn the whisper up so loud that it becomes a prominent thing!” 

Well and now it becomes a thing where every time I hear it I’m like “Oh my God, of course, it was right there the whole time.” Anyway, so you went back to Nashville and worked with Will again, but you worked with a whole different lineup this time. Was that by choice or by circumstance? You’ve got some cool people on this record too. That Jack Lawrence has been on some amazing records. 

Yeah, he has! It was by choice. We had more of a batch of songs based in American roots music on the last record, and we wanted to make an old-fashioned record where everyone plays together in a nice-sounding studio. It was incumbent upon him to put together that kind of a cast; a cast that would be able to knock it out. With this (record), I was less concerned with that because I was trying to make more of a layered statement. It wasn’t just “go in and cut in a really nice studio with the best players you can find.” It was, like, get what’s best for these songs by any means necessary. We compiled a lot of that on our own and then added people. It was also just me being more comfortable with how Nashville works and knowing that “I’m not worried about getting a trombone player, we’ll find one.” You can’t swing a cat without hitting some incredible musicians. So there’s a confidence in knowing that you can just make this be whatever it needs to be and you can find whoever the players that you need to do that based on the way that the songs are coming.

Whereas, I think for Blood Harmony, that was an exciting and fun way to do that record, based on how those songs felt. They felt more lush and family oriented so it made sense to cut them that way. For this, it was more that we left some stuff unfinished (going into the studio) and said well, we need some strings here, or we need 40 seconds of a band here, let’s find those people. We played the “live band” – in quotes – as almost another fader on the board. Some of that was by virtue of having built loops of my own and mapping things out, and then either rebuilding those loops in the studio or using some of those same loops in the songs you hear. It was just a different process, which, now that I’ve had this new chapter of Nashville recording – we’ve made three studio records and then we cut a bunch more songs there that may or may not see the light of day – but having worked that much there, you just get a feel for it and so it’ll be interesting to go forward from here just knowing more about how that process works. It’s good to have all these experiences and to allow them to kind of build on each other. 

You mentioned the sort of “live band” in quotes…sometimes on Blood Harmony, there were a lot of songs that could definitely be played either just you or you and Tim together, but there are some songs on this record that really sound like they were meant for the full band. The first two songs, “Cheap Seats” and “Pedal Down,” are not four-on-the-floor rock and roll songs, but they sound like they’re really built for a band. Does that become a thing you take into account when you are writing – what version of the Dave and Tim touring experience is going to be able to do the most justice to these songs? 

No, I just try to make whatever is most compelling and then worry about that stuff later. Hopefully, if we made a sturdy enough song, there’s a way to play it on an acoustic guitar or a piano that will translate. Sometimes we even beat those full-band rock versions. So, no I don’t really think about that. I may end up accidentally getting more credit than I deserve for that, like “Oh Dave just does whatever the fuck he wants” and that sort of thing. It’s like, “No, I just don’t have any hits.” (*both laugh*) If I had a couple hits, they would haunt me…

Because then you’d be trying to recreate them every time you make new music?

I would think that you’d naturally be tempted to, you know? I know friends of mine who are tempted. That’s not that appealing to me. I mean, the financial stability that would come along with having a couple of hits would be great. But what that does to an artistic career can be troublesome if you don’t handle it right. My mother-in-law paints. She just paints and paints and paints and paints. Some paintings sell and some sit on the shelf, and there’s not one that was clearly her best and that was selected by the Smithsonian or something and she has to beat that. It’s more like “Hey, I have a long life of painting.” That’s more of the artistic life that I’ve been given, so I think worrying about how to bring those songs to people is just not something I really worry about. Also, I think there are just too many songs now. So, like, if we’re pulling into a town to play, if we can’t play “Cheap Seats” that night because we don’t have a version ready or we don’t feel compelled by the version we have or we don’t have drums or a sampler or whatever would make the song work the way we did it, we’ll just play a different song. (*laughs*) So no, it’s not as much of a concern. 

Does having a wife and kids change that math a little bit? I mean, do you feel like you could go full Tom Waits’ Mule Variations when you have a wife and twins to think about? 

I think that’s the kind of thing that compels me! That’s the kind of inspiration that I’m drawing from as I move forward! That’s the bargain that you’re trying to strike up with the world. If there’s a record like that, a Mule Variations, and it doesn’t do what it did for him, where it got him a Grammy, and people don’t like it, I still feel like I’m going to be okay. I don’t think I’d be putting my kids or my wife at risk. Ultimately, I think that the conversation that I’m having with the audience would allow for that. Because I’m not playing that game, you know? I’m not doing that “am I on the radio” thing. I mean, we do that – we do push songs to radio, but it’s not what we live and die by. We own the record label, so people who take a shot on what we’re doing, we get the biggest economic impact from that, and then we tour in a way that is sustainable and smart for the places that we’re at. Like, on the East Coast we can have a band, in Europe we can have a band, on the West Coast we can have a band, lots of other places we can just go Tim and I, or maybe Tim and me and Mark (Masefield) or something. So I’m looking to push into those realms of pure creative inspiration, more than I am about worrying about my wife and kids, because I don’t think those things cancel each other out. 

So I guess the other side of that then is that if it doesn’t put your wife and kids at risk financially, maybe it puts dad at risk to not be doing the things he thinks are fulfilling creatively. Not to bridge into the therapy part of the conversation, but if dad is doing the things that he wants to be doing artistically, then maybe he’s less at risk of swan-diving off the Golden Gate Bridge, right? (*laughs*)

Yeah, I think so! I think it’s important to try to balance all of that. I mean, I don’t want to make reckless artistic decisions for the sake of recklessness, but I do want to be fearless in the way I go forward. That’s the needle I’m trying to thread. I don’t want to do things in a self-destructive way, like “I’m going to make this super weird record to see if I can fool people!” It wouldn’t be that. It would be more “Hey, this is what I’m hearing in my head and I want to bring it to bear and surprise myself and surprise the people around me and give people what they didn’t know they needed.”

So, I haven’t commented too much on the record yet because I wanted to wait until we talked, but even from the first listen on crappy laptop speakers, I thought that this was my favorite Dave Hause record since Devour, and you know the regard that I hold for that album. And I will tell you, that I’ve had a few conversations with friends who are also longtime fans of yours and they’ve sort of said that “it’s like a grown-up Devour.” And those weren’t people who know each other, necessarily. But I thought that was interesting. I think thematically the albums are worlds apart, except that there is a sort of processing thing that you’re doing on this record that you were also sort of doing with all that went into Devour. The stakes have changed now because you’ve got a wife and kids obviously, but some of that challenge and struggle is still there. Even though in the press for this album it talks about the sort of post-apocalyptic vibe to the album – and I understand that part of it – but it also seems like it’s really honest and personal. 

If you look at it now, there’s six (solo records). You can see that “well, Dave’s feeling pretty good on Resolutions” but then there’s Devour. (*both laugh*) And then “Oh, Dave moved to California for Bury Me In Philly and things are good!” and then “Oh, here comes Kick” That title is about the struggle of just trying to keep your head above water. The same thing happened with Blood Harmony and this one. They aren’t intended that way, I think there’s just a cycle of how I’m processing the world and sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m not, and on this one, I was not up! I was starting to feel kind of terrified about the world around me and what I was bringing my kids into, you know? The first couple years, I was just at home quiet with them, because we were all shut down. But in this eagerness to get back and keep the pedal down, all of a sudden we’re faced with a lot of those problems that have worsened since 2020. It’s definitely processing the world around. That’s the weird thing: I want joy in my music, I want celebration, I want those up moments to be represented, but that’s not what’s constantly on my mind as a person, so it’s a fight! It’s a fight to determine where you’re at, how stable you are, how steady you are, and that’s what comes out in the writing every now and again. In this instance, it’s really in there. 

“Pedal Down” specifically – first off, I love that song. I love the sonic build to that song. I think there’s something about that you can want joy and harmony and all those things and I think we should probably be striving for those things, but that last third of “Pedal Down” where’s the big full-band chorus…there’s something unifying about that. Even though the situation that’s laid out in the build-up to that is sort of bleak, I think there’s a collective thing that “it sucks for all of us right now, but we’re all doing it together.” 

Yeah, I think there’s an ambivalence to that. The “we can grieve it later, keep the pedal down” line isn’t just a negative thing, you know? It might seem that way and a lot of times I think that’s a terrible way to move forward. But there’s also a sort of “no way out but through” a lot of times, and maybe there is celebration in that. Like, we’ll grieve it later, keep the pedal down for now, let’s go. Let’s fucking go!

Exactly, it’s like keep your warpaint on, keep the pedal down, we’ll sort of get granular in looking back on it afterward but for now let’s keep fighting.

Right, yeah! That’s interesting. I think that definitely went into the subconscious of making a big mosh part at the end with trombones, you know? (*both laugh*) There’s something really big at the end and you have to at least have something in mind. I think in the previous song, “Cheap Seats,” there’s this nod to “American Girl,” when we’re off to the races with the rock band. There’s a celebration there too – “Take one last bite of this old rotten apple and ride off to the country with me.” That’s a little bit more deliberate of what you described, like “Alright, let’s start up the van and let’s get the fuck out of here!” I think that weaves its way in and out of the record and I guess a lot of my records if I’m forced to think about it. (*laugh*)

How often do you think about that, and is that a thing…I’m trying to figure out the best way to phrase it…but you’ve talked pretty openly in the past about being in therapy and whatnot; how often do you think your songwriting works its way into therapy, whether it’s because you are talking to your therapist or therapists about what you’re working on or what themes you seem to be coming back or a rut that you might be in that producing a certain kind of material. 

I would say it’s the other way around. Realizations and conversations from therapy make their way into songs, because I kind of view therapy as a mirror, you know? If you were going to try to do your own facial, you would try to get the best mirror that you can in order to do that. I think that’s the goal of therapy; find the best mirror that you can find in order to then do the work yourself. You have to do the work yourself…

How many mirrors have you had to go through before you realized it was working? Did you find the right therapist or the right sort of style the first time you tried it?

Yes and no. I’ve got a good guy, but also, my expectations for that guy were different when I walked in versus where they are now. I had these lofty expectations for him that were totally unfair, and I was looking more for an advisor or someone to tell me what to do. That’s not what therapy really is. So I had to learn that it’s what you put into it that you might get out of it. It’s peculiar. And part of that is being married to a therapist. If one of her clients had the attitude that I did going into it, I certainly wouldn’t think that was a fair expectation to have of my wife. Part of that helped. Like “We’ve got an hour here and I’ve got a full day booked, I’m not going to solve all of your problems, and it’s really not my job to solve all your problems. It’s my job to help you see them and guide you.” So I think the work you do both inside therapy and outside it that ends up hopefully informing the songs. 

How old were you when you started going to therapy and, I suppose in hindsight, how old do you wish you were when you started going? Like, now that you know what you know, do you wish you had started earlier? 

Maybe? I would say that the main regret with sobriety would be that I didn’t go (to therapy) right away. But I try not to look at things that way because you kinda only know what you know when you know it. I’ve had a good life, so it’s not like I can cite this spot where “Man, if I had only gone to therapy then, things would have turned out differently.” Maybe you could do that but I’m not so sure I’d want it any differently. But how old was I…it was years ago, but it wasn’t right when I got sober, and I wish I would have done that. I think when those wounds are really exposed and those nerves are raw, that’s a good time to start working on them and I should have started working on them then. I think it took me two or three more years to go into proper therapy. I got sober in 2015.

Right, that was that big tour with Rocky Votolato and Chris Farren. I feel like maybe we’ve had this conversation even back then, but did you view it as “getting sober” in quotes back then, or was it more of “let me see if I can do this without imbibing”?

Yeah, the goal was to try to do a tour without boozing and drugging. That was my initial goal. And that was a long tour. That was an eight-week run, so there was something about the length of it that even subconsciously I was like “I wonder if I can do this…” Then, like with a lot of things in my life, I sort of fell backwards into things, you know? Like “Let me try being sober for eight weeks and then if it’s working for me, I’ll keep going.” “Let me roadie for a popular band and if I like that lifestyle, I’ll continue.” (*both laugh*) The thing with sobriety is that the one thing I wonder about is that had I gone in sooner, would I be as black and white about it? Would I be “sober guy” where I don’t drink at all or do drugs at all, or would I have a more balanced take on it, which I think in my objective brain, I do. I can sort of see the benefit of psilocybin or THC or having a ballgame beer. I can make those distinctions intellectually and the reason I don’t go back to it is, like, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze. I’ve got four-year-olds, I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a career, I don’t want to fuck things up.

But I do think that in terms of being a more balanced human, it would be great to have some of that in my life. Like, I don’t bang the drum for sobriety as much as some people do. Once you’ve been sober for a while, people come to you and say “Can we talk about this?” I usually say “Don’t do it unless you feel like you have to.” Like, if you can have balance and drink a glass of wine with your significant other at a wedding or whatever, do that. Don’t cut it out completely if you can help it, which is often a weird thing to say. I think if you’re in the program, that’s kind of forbidden. So ultimately, that would be my only therapeutic wish, is that I would have gotten to the sobriety stuff sooner when it was more acutely presenting itself.

There are people who talk about artists who either got sober or got “sane” or started therapy and taking medications and all that, and that their songwriting changed. Do you subscribe to that idea, that your songwriting changes or is better or worse when you’re on meds and in therapy versus not, or sober versus not? 

No, I don’t buy that, because I think it’s a discipline. I think you can find plenty of other instances in other types of writing…for example, for you to write a novel, it takes work. It takes sitting down and working at it. Over the course of how long it would take you to write a novel, you do have good days and bad days, mentally. You’d have days where you were hungover and days where you weren’t. You’d have days where you had a hold on your anxiety and days where you didn’t. And all of that would seep its way into your work. I just think that that’s part of writing. That’s the beauty of it. And I want it to change! Maybe that’s because there’s no big hit, where it’s like “Oh, I’ve got to get back to that mountaintop!” I’m still climbing the mountain. I’m not in that position where a lot of my peers are in the position where you know what they’re going to play last at a show. For whatever reason, maybe because it’s a smaller career, but I do think that the audience and I have been good to each other. I think everybody is kind of okay with going on the journey. There are certainly going to be nights where we end on a weird song or we don’t play some of the favorites. In that sense, I want the writing to change. I want to see what’s next and to see what Tim and I are capable of. I’m not looking for a former high or a former mountaintop that I’m trying to get back on.

That’s an interesting way to look at it, really. If you haven’t been on the mountaintop, you end up – not to make an addiction reference, but if you get that first high, you end up chasing it forever. If you don’t feel like you’ve reached the mountaintop, then you’re not chasing “it,” you’re just chasing what feels right at the time.

Yeah, and I’ve got to say, my hat goes off to a band like The Killers. They haven’t reached the heights of their first record, and I think of (Brandon Flowers) as someone who is still writing amazing, really compelling work. I think that’s rare. I think sometimes people fold up the tent if they can’t get back to a certain height again. That doesn’t appeal to me. I really like the act of creating. It’s where I’m most engaged and where I feel the best. That’s the feeling I’m chasing. I mean, it’s great when you put something out and people respond to it. That’s terrific. But it’s the act of bringing it into the world that’s so spectacular. That feeling of “Oh man, I really want to get this to people! I really want to get this recorded!” That’s the high, if there is one, that I’m chasing. You can get that every time you write a song.

Is it a different high when it’s a different type of song? Meaning that if you write a song like “Hazard Lights,” which has – maybe not a ‘classic Dave Hause sound’ because I don’t necessarily know what that means, but it sounds like thing that you do really well. That feel and that tempo and that style of song. It also might be the kind of song that the bulk of the listeners gravitate towards. So when you write a song like that, is it a different sort of high than when you write a song like “Cheap Seats” or “lashingout,” where at the end it’s like “Wow, this is really cool and really different and I can’t wait for people to hear it”?

That’s a great question. I don’t know! Maybe? Maybe it’s a little different? To answer your question honestly, it’s not lost on me that a song like “Damn Personal” or “Hazard Lights” sound like they would fit nicely in a Mermaid set. A Friday night Mermaid set in London or Boston, you know? I know that, but they weren’t intended that way. No, I guess to answer your question, getting that all done and having it all rhyme and feel good, THAT’s the feeling. Not that “Oh, I know we got one that the tried and true fans are going to love.” I wonder if the tried and true fans are going to love “Pedal Down” more BECAUSE it’s something different. But maybe this far in, I’m less concerned with all that stuff? Like, no matter what’s on there, I’m going to be anxious about bringing it into the market and I’m going to be excited. And so, the purest part of it is long before any of that. It’s when it’s Tim and I, and I’m like “This is done, let me play it for you,” or where we could play it for the band, or I can show it to another songwriter and have them go “Oh cool!” That is the purest part of the whole endeavor to me and the part of it that I’m most seeking, which is part of what’s funny talking to you now, because I have so little of that in my life now! (*both laugh*) Like, we finished this one and it just came out and we’re touring on it, and I don’t have a ton of song irons in the fire right now. I mean, I could. I guess I could look at the whiteboard full of ideas that I could pick at…

Yeah, that actually sounds sort of surprising given what I know of how you work. Every time I feel like I talk to you or Tim, it seems like there’s always this other thing cooking. I think when we talked for your last record, Tim was going in to record his, and then when I talked to Tim he mentioned “Dave’s got his next record all done!” so it seems sort of surprising that there aren’t that many irons in the fire.

Yeah, I mean I’m looking at maybe 10…well no, I guess it’s 15 unfinished songs. Some of those are the ones I was describing before. But we’ve just been in a different mode with the festival and getting the record out and touring. I’ve been so busy with all of that that I just haven’t had the clarity. Then when I get home from those endeavors, I try to spend as much time with the kids as possible. That’s its own potentially full-time job. (*both laugh*)

Or two of them. (*both laugh*)

Luke Preston at the Dave Hause and the Mermaid Show at Faces in Malden, MA – 4/2023

So “Hazard Lights” is another song I wanted to talk about, specifically, because you wrote that with Luke (Preston), the idea of co-writing with somebody who doesn’t share your last name. Walking through that process and how it was sort of stepping out of the comfort zone you’ve got working either by yourself or just you and Tim, and is that a different sort of vulnerability? Does it feel different presenting a song or an idea to someone else versus your normal comfort zone with Tim?

It predates that, is the preamble answer. In the whole pandemic thing, I think a lot of songwriters were willing to do other stuff because we were so worried about never playing again. So, I wrote a song with Fallon, I wrote two songs with Brian Koppleman, Dan Andriano and I were working on material. Somewhere in there, the song “Surfboard” had been started. Heather Morgan, who’s an amazing songwriter, a really successful songwriter in Nashville though I think she lives in Austin now. She’s written big country hits. She and I worked on “Surfboard,” and Tim and I had written with her in Nashville. We had a song called “Sunshine Blues” that we sat down and wrote with her when we were in Nashville in like 2018 or 2019. I was really nervous, because I only knew our process. I didn’t know shit about Nashville, I didn’t know shit about the songwriting world and that whole country music bubble. She was amazing, because we sat down, and she just did it very similarly to the way we did. And by that, I mean in her own incredible, indelible way. And she turned to Tim and I and was like “Why are you writing with me, you guys know what you’re doing?” (*both laugh*) She was like “You don’t need me, you guys are firing.” Some comment like that. And we were like “No! So much of this comes from what’s happening right here in the room, and your ideas are awesome!” We ended up with this song, and I don’t even know what happened to it, it’s on a hard drive somewhere.

But then in the pandemic, I called her and said “Heather, I loved writing with you, do you want to write some more?” I had “Surfboard” pretty far along. She ended up sort of like a backboard on that song. I wouldn’t have gotten as many of the points as I got on that song so to speak without having her being the person to help me get the ball in the hoop. (When we were writing), I was like “Is ‘dear Lord, I need a surfboard’ any good?” And she said “Yeah, it’s fucking awesome!” I said “Yeah, but it sounds like a joke” and she said “Yeah, but that’s funny. That’s good.” She really helped love it to life. She had a couple more or less pointers. So that had happened and it was heartening. She was encouraging on the first session, and then on “Surfboard” she just helped me love the work that Tim and I had done on it to life. So, there was another person who had entered the (songwriting) fray. I mean, I had written with The Loved Ones guys, I had written with the Paint It Black guys, I had written songs with the Souls. I had done all kinds of collaboration, but not much of it in the early parts of the solo career.

So it wasn’t that foreign, but the vulnerability you tapped into, that part of the question is a really good one, because if it hadn’t been a vulnerable situation with Luke, I don’t think that we would have gotten “Hazard Lights.” And then, once we had “Hazard Lights,” I was more open to co-writing. He helped write on “lashingout” too. The vulnerability was key because he was pretty freshly sober, and he was familiar enough with us and what I do. Maybe he was a Loved Ones fan, I forget exactly. But he was like “Hey, so I’m newly sober,” and I just kind of delved into that. That’s a really vulnerable way to start a songwriting session, and then we were off to the races. But here’s the funny thing: I’m so into that vulnerability and that exchange, and that I think the problem that I have with the whole songwriting thing in Nashville is that I can’t just leave it at the write. Like, Luke’s in our band now! We wrote a couple songs with Heather and I’ll probably always be like “Should Heather open these shows?!” I really like a long conversation with people. That sort of hit-and-run songwriting style is tough because I’ll want more from that person, because you do get so vulnerable if you do it right. 

It does seem like a weird process. I’ve talked to Will (Hoge) a little about that and Sammy Kay did some songwriting in LA for a while and I’ve picked his brain about that, but that whole process is so, so foreign. That you can write songs and just leave them, and sometimes they get picked up or sold to someone and sometimes they don’t but you just keep writing them, and they aren’t for you. It seems so foreign and I don’t want to waive the “punk rock” flag, but it seems so different than the way that punk rock works. I can get why, if you find someone that if you really drive with, you’d want to keep them around.

Yeah, exactly. That’s the thing: if you really assess The Mermaid, Luke is the main songwriter in the band. He doesn’t write on many of the songs for the band, but that’s his job. He writes dozens and dozens and dozens of songs. Tim and I write dozens, you know? 


He writes more songs, and gets paid to do so. But I think one of the things that he helped delineate for me – you start to pick up on some of these terms when you spend enough time around those Nashville people – but he was like “You guys are on the artist path. You’re in artist careers. For me to bite that off at any point is going to be a massive undertaking, because it involves touring and an aesthetic, and a point of view that’s really specific.” Once he sort of put it that way, I was like “Oh right…” I only know what I know. I know there’s Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift and Beyonce and Rancid and Bad Religion – I have my limited scope of what music-making is. And he’s like “For artists, yeah, if you’ve chosen the artist path. But there are people who just play keyboards and there are people who just play drums and there are people who write songs.” And so, in some ways, it’s even more vulnerable to be a songwriter, because you never get the release of performing the song. You’re in these acutely vulnerable situations and then you’re done, so you’re kind of like an actor in a sense. Actors have to tap into this really big reservoir of emotion for a concentrated period of time, and then they move on. It has a little bit of that one-night-stand feel to it. To me, it’s like the artistic or aesthetic cousin to a one-night-stand, and I think in that realm, I’m like “Oh wow…this feels weird!” So yeah, I loved writing with Luke. I look forward to writing with him more. And for me, for lack of a better word, being on the “artist path” for this long, I’m always looking for whatever is next, and for whatever will inspire and help me sculpt and deliver my point of view. Right now, with me being in the best band that I’ve ever been in, I’m super into tapping all of those guys for their input and seeing where that steers the songs in the next batch of creativity. 

This is really probably a question for Luke, but I would have to imagine that for him, to work on a song like “Hazard Lights” and then actually be in the band that gets to play it every night must be a little different than the sort of normal songwriter “thing,” and so maybe gives him a little more satisfaction getting to see it sung back at you every night. That’s gotta be a cool feeling.

Yeah, he has said as much! He’s pretty measured in how much he talks about all of that. A lot of it is just we’re having fun, and we’re talking shit “Did you hear this song? What about that production? Oh, that lyric is terrible! Holy shit, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard!” A lot of that is what we’re usually talking about. But in those moments of introspection or reflection, he’s definitely said what you just said. He’s also helped my perspective. He goes out and plays bass or guitar with country artists and does that circuit a bit. He writes songs, and he hustles most of the different aspects of the music industry to stay paid. And he was like, “Well, from where I’m standing as kind of a mercenary, you’re living the dream!” I was kind of startled, because there are bigger artists that he plays with. He’ll play bass for some country artist that plays to like 5,000 people on a weekend at some festival. And he filled in a lot of the blanks for me, because he was like “Look, it’s cool to play to that many people, but everybody on that stage including the artist knows it’s fleeting. They may not be able to do that the following summer. You pull into a town and there’s a given amount of people at every show. It’s not the biggest thing, but it’s certainly not the smallest, and then you have these hot zones where you can play for a couple nights in Boston, you can play a fairly big rock show in Boston, or you can go to Europe! None of these artists that I play with can go to Europe. You have a worldwide conversation with a small audience that keeps you afloat. That’s the dream. If I could do that, I wouldn’t to any of the other shit!” (*both laugh*) I assumed that this was something that helped him make his annual fee or whatever, but he was like “No, I love this. This is the dream. And I also get it – I’m the bass player in your band, you’ve built an artist’s career.” So his perspective is really interesting, as is Mark’s. Mark is a guy who, at different points, has struggled to get out on the road with the same act and have it click despite being uber-talented and super eager and professional. Also, he’s voiced some of the same thing, that this is the dream. Like, “You play in London and lots of people come! This is your living and you play me a proper wage to come play keyboards. This is fucking awesome!” So having those two guys there and having their professionalism and their passion and their perspective has been really helpful to me. And just their creativity. There are so many good ideas that come from those guys, which has been true of Kevin the whole time, but now we have two newer guys that bring that to the table.

Did Mark maybe not catch on with somebody else because he brings too many shirts when he goes on tour? That was a riot.

The only thing that Mark’s got going against him is that everything is too much! (*both laugh*) There are too many shirts, there are too many ideas, too many keyboard notes. You just have to remind him “No, no, no Mark…less! Less! Benmont Tench!” And then he’s like “Oh yeah, okay!” 

Mark Masefield and Dave Hause probably talking about cricket lollipops

Yeah, he seems like he has a good sense of humour about that stuff, which you have to, because the road will eat you alive. 

Yeah, he’s great. We always say he’s the zestiest member of the band. He’s the first one up and ready to go out and he’s the last one to bed. We try to ride that zest as much as we can. He’s the guy that’s like “We can rent these bikes and we can drive around and we can take an architecture tour in the middle of the Chicago River and we can still be back in time for load-in.” And sometimes you’re like “Are you fucking crazy? I”m going to sit here on my phone until load-in.” But then there are other times where you take him up on it and you’re like “Wow, I just had the most fun day on tour that I’ve had in years.” He’s such a great add in that regard.

One of the reasons that I think Drive It Like It’s Stolen is my favorite post-Devour record (of yours) is how pitch-perfect some of the sentiment on the album is. You know my thoughts on Devour, and that “Autism Vaccine Blues” is one of the very few songs that I can vividly remember the very first time I heard it because of the effect that it had, and then as years go on and life progresses, it actually became even more poignant to me. We’ve talked about the one-two punch at the beginning of this album with “Cheap Seats” and “Pedal Down,” but I think the one-two punch at the end – “Tarnish” into “The Vulture” is just about perfect. How they support each other thematically – “Tarnish” with that idea that you hope your kids never lose the glimmer they have in their eyes for their dad, and then “The Vulture” being that thing that happens when you start to see some of your own tendencies and idiosyncrasies passed down to your kids and how sobering that is…as the parent of a teenager (*both laugh*) I can attest to seeing your kid and think “oh, I know exactly why she’s doing this, because I did it or still do it.” I think really though, that idea of flipping the hourglass on its head and dancing on the sand takes what is a heavy song and still makes it hopeful. Sort of like the turn that comes in “Bearing Down,” on Kick, where there’s eventually some hope and optimism in it by the end. 

Yeah, there’s a Father John Misty lyric from a few years back (“Pure Comedy”) where he basically lists the ails of mankind in a really articulate way. He gets into all of it; he gives you every reason to believe that we’re doomed and he intelligently and artfully does so. But at the end, there’s a simple and heart-breaking resolve that “but this is all we have.” It’s always helpful when somebody comes along and helps calcify what you were sort of getting at. That song did it. That sentiment that “Yeah, this is fucked up, but it’s all we have, so what are you gonna do?” I mean, “Bearing Down” gets into that from a much more fatalistic standpoint. But “The Vulture” is struggling, at that point, with having a three-year-old and the idea that none of this went away when I had kids, at least not entirely. But, on some level, I’m kind of out of options when it comes to hope. I HAVE to have hope. There are seeds of this in “Pray For Tucson,” with “They’re unaware of modern science/They may be wrong but I don’t care.” There’s a lot of that where you go “This thing is probably doomed…

However, maybe that’s just the way everybody has thought about it forever. And maybe it is!? So then, if that’s true, what are you going to do with that? Are you going to walk out into the ocean and drown, or are you going to dance on the sand with the people that you do have? Because there is joy to be had. There is fun to be had. There is wonderment. There’s Sing Us Home, you know? Pure elation for me, and so many people who were there. It was like “Wow, we did a thing that’s bigger than us! We’re all here having a great time and it’s a beautiful day!” So if you tap out, whether that’s suicidal ideation or just the slow, suicidal thing of just throwing in the towel, then you miss out on so much joy. I was convinced “Oh, I’m not going to have kids…” but then I had them and my life is so much richer. It’s so much more complicated and so much more terrifying at points. Like, you’ve got a teenager, I’ve got four-year-old twins, you’re constantly worried about them. It’s just part of the equation, you know? That’s the whole thing of “The Vulture” and the line “I’ll stay worried / You’ll stay worried.” Like, that’s probably just the way it’s going to be. But there’s also the idea that “I’ll stay worried THAT you’ll stay worried…

I was just going to say, that line is a huge double meaning.

Right! “I’ll stay worried THAT you’ll stay worried,” or “We’re both just going to stay worried.” (*Both laugh*) But at the end of it all, “row your leaky boat, life is just a dream.” Like, it’s over quick. Not in the sense of “Let’s live it up without any responsibility.” It’s not a bacchanal or whatever. But think about your family life and how much joy is in that. I think that’s what is swirling around “Tarnish” and “The Vulture.” Maybe looking at it like we’re all just doomed is silly; yeah there’s climate change and there’s all this worry and there’s war and there are all kinds of reasons to believe that things are going south or the ship is going down or whatever, but that’s A perspective. There’s different ways to frame it. I hope that my kids can frame it a little bit more like their mom does and less like I do.

I think part of what “The Vulture” does especially well is that it is mindful of how you maybe processed the world at one point and then if you start to see things in your children, who better to help them through than someone who has navigated those waters already. 

Maybe so, yeah. Maybe so. And it’s funny…we talked about the ferocity of creativity once Tim made his record and how much more I was like “Look, this is how it’s gotta go” on this one. But there was a question with that one, and that was at the end, what are we going to repeat, “Life is but a dream” on the way out? Or what I kinda wanted which was to go back to the vulture being in the tree. “Row row row your leaky boat /The vulture is in the tree” and Tim was like “No…No…it’s ‘Life is but a dream’.” And so live, I volley back and forth because I do think that is kind of the difference between Tim and I…I’m likely to say “row the leaky boat, the vulture is in the tree…death is coming” and he’s more likely to say “row the leaky boat, life is but a dream.” They’re different existential principles. I’m glad we left it in, but I’m glad I sometimes get the opportunity to change it live. 

I wonder if part of that is parenthood versus non-parenthood. I mean, obviously, Tim’s got nephews and nieces and whatever and so he’s not totally oblivious to the responsibilities and the weight of parenthood, but I wonder if some of that is having kids versus not having kids of your own. 

I would tend to argue that his perspective is the more healthy one.

Oh it definitely might be. Absolutely. 

You know, like, to bring the listener back at the end of the record to the idea that “the vulture is in the tree! They’re coming for you! They’re coming for your carcass!” is pretty dark. It’s pretty bleak. It’s a pretty bleak thing to say to your kids. To me, it’s kind of funny. But I do think it’s a little more hopeful to end on “life is but a dream.” It’s over so quick. Trying to hover above some of it and think of it like this ethereal thing is healthy sometime, as opposed to thinking “Oh, when is this going to end.” It’s a weird thing. But I like that song. I like playing it. It’s a weird one.

It is, and I love that. I think I’ve said this about most of the album at this point through our conversations, but I think that’s part of what I love about this record. Not that there haven’t been artistic high points since Devour, obviously, but I think it’s pitch-perfect for where we are right now, and you went for it. 

I think I’m at a point now where I can hear that and not be worried. I mean, there’s been times when I’ve put out records, and even talking to you and knowing how much Devour meant to you and how large that record loomed, because we recorded it in a fancy studio with all these amazing players and it was such a big step up. I was able to start headlining shows around then, and so it does loom large. But there are different people over time who feel that way about the other records. And part of that lesson is to just keep making stuff, because there will be records that really resonate with Jay Stone in 2013 or 2023 and then, there might be another song on another record that does that for you, or half a record, but the point is that everyone’s going to be tapping in and tapping out at different points, as I have done with a lot of artists who have put out a lot of work, and that’s cool. That’s what makes for a richness in the setlist, and it’s what makes the conversation fun.

I try to look at it more that way, versus looking at it like “Oh shit, am I trying to beat my last work?” Alex (Fang, the Hause’s manager) is really helpful in that regard too, because he helps remind me that this is a job. Like, I’ll tell him I was talking to such-and-such and they’re writing songs and they aren’t sure if this batch of songs is as good as whatever their major record was, and he’s like “you know, no one in I.T. does that. No one in insurance sales does that. No one in therapy does that. They don’t go “Oh man, that session that I did with that person struggling with depression in 2014, I wonder if that was my peak.” No one thinks about shit like that in regular jobs, so he’s like “Why would you? You’re just responding to an ecosystem that has to do with critics and what is the best and all that. Who cares what the best is, because the best is all subjective anyway, so keep making stuff!” 

Those songs that are a little weightier, do you ever get moments where your therapist wife or your therapist therapist hear something and say “Hey, you alright there, bud?” 

Bearing Down” was certainly something to discuss. 

I could see that. Do you discuss that before a person you’d be discussing it with has heard it? Like, “Hey, so there’s going to be this song and it’s pretty heavy so we should probably talk about this?” Or do you wait til they hear it and respond?

In the case of “Bearing Down,” I played that for Natasha. I was struggling with that, because we were having mixing issues on that record. We were having a big struggle until it went to Andrew Alekel. He mixed it beautifully and got it where I needed it to be. But that meant that I had to listen to that song a lot; a lot more than I would ordinarily listen to it. So I was listening and listening and listening and I think it was just wearing me out. It was a snapshot of a place I’ve been, but it’s not a place that I’m in every day. It started to wear a groove in me and I said “Man, I should probably play this for Tasha and at least just make her aware.” Because she’s asked at certain points “Where are we at with suicidal ideations? How much of that is in your history?”

Well yeah, I mean there are multiple references to swan diving off the Golden Gate Bridge, so…

Yeah! So it was a tender moment to play that for her, and she was like “I feel for you. That sucks that that’s part of what you’re wrestling against.” 

Did you play an album version of it for her or did you sit down with a guitar and play it for her?

I played the mix for her. 

That probably makes sense.

I rarely do that acoustic guitar thing and play stuff for her that way. I don’t know why. 

I feel like you can maybe be a little more objective about it when you’re listening to it on the stereo or on an iPhone versus if you’re actually physically playing it. Maybe that would make it a little too raw in that moment.

Yeah. This is also a weird thing that I don’t really think I’ve ever said in an interview, but I have a weird thing about sharing the work with Natasha in general. I think it might just stem from … I don’t know what it is. Because I also, in the same breath, believe the more vulnerable you are, the more successful your relationship will be. But I think at different points, I don’t know what exactly I’m looking for when I share a song with her. And I don’t think she knows what I’m looking for. So if I don’t know, I certainly don’t think she would know. Am I looking for affirmation? Am I looking for a bigger conversation about my interior emotional life? Like…what’s my goal? So as we’ve gotten older and we’ve gotten busier with the children and she’s gotten busier with her practice and stuff, I kind of just do my work and she hears it whenever she wants to. She’s complimentary about it, but I don’t need compliments from my wife. My wife is my teammate in life, she’s rooting for me no matter what record I make. So it’s a weird thing. Whereas, with Tim, he’s much more willing to sit down with a half-baked idea and play it for his wife and they’ll talk about it and have a whole big exchange on it. That’s where they’re at in life though. I was like that with Devour; I was sharing those songs with Natasha, but we had just met. We didn’t have kids and we were free as birds, so it was like “Hey, check this out!” I guess over time, I’m like “This is the work, I hope you like it, but I’m not going to change it if you don’t.” (*both laugh*) I don’t know. It’s a very peculiar thing to even admit or to interface with and then to say in an interview…

Well I mean at some level, a lot of us don’t do that anyway with whatever our jobs are, right? Like, at some point, the longer that you’re married and the longer you successfully keep your kids alive, the more your job becomes your “job” and you start to compartmentalize things. Just that you guys who are in the creative fields, whether it’s songwriting or screenwriting or book writing, the “job” in quotes is different, so the result might weigh different on the spouse than a therapy session would for Natasha, or getting somebody’s taxes done successfully because you’re a CPA or whatever.

That’s all true! The only wrinkle to that is that these are deeply meaningful things, and they are deeply emotionally intertwined with who I am as a person. It is tricky business. Did you see that Isbell documentary?

I haven’t yet, because I don’t have HBO.

There’s a lot of exchange about the creative process between the two of them as spouses and as songwriters that is SO bizarre to me. That’s not a critique of them; do whatever makes you happy in life. But it was so foreign to me. Like, they were arguing over participle tenses and things in the movie…

Yeah, she’s got a Masters in poetry, so she KNOWS that stuff.

So there’s this whole creative thing that causes friction in the movie. That’s not spoiling anything, that’s one of the driving conflicts in the movie. But it just seemed about as far from how we roll as a married couple. I don’t do that with her therapy, either, you know? Like, we will talk about work, and she’ll tell me about what’s going on, but I wouldn’t say “Well, you should this with that client instead.” Although I don’t have a degree in therapy, but either way. We have what’s currently working for us, and that’s that I write batches of songs and I record them and I work really hard on them and I put a lot of myself into them, and we sort of have this careful truce about how to share them. I’m like “Whenever you want to hear them, you can hear them,” but I’m not the guy with the guitar going “Hey look what I just made up!” Because I guess I just don’t trust what my intention is. Do I want to have this really beautiful woman tell me that I’m cool? Because that’s not useful to either of us. 

One can see where it would have been useful ten years ago when you were showing her Devour songs…

Yes! Yes, exactly! But that’s not the nature of where we’re at now. We’re teammates, and sure you want to impress her, but I think what would really impress her is if I did the fucking dishes. (*both laugh*) Or if I kept my cool when the boys are tantruming. She knows I can rhyme and come up with emotionally compelling ways to sing songs. She knows that already. And that’s also kind of a weird part of the job, like how much did this all start off when you’re craving affirmation and you’re craving attention. And now, I just try to be dignified in that, and not make that the whole point, you know? The goalposts are different. Let me make something that’s compelling and useful to people who are going through a difficult life. That’s different than “Hey look at me!!” There’s a more dignified way of doing it than a booze-soaked ego trip.

I just go back to this analogy over and over that there’s pure water running through a creek and a stream. Then it goes out to brackish water, and then it goes out to the sea. And Tim’s goal and my goal when we’re writing songs is to get as fresh water as we can and not taint it. The sea is the music industry, where there’s sharks and sharp coral and you can get sucked down. The brackish water is where you’re deciding how much touring you’re going to do and are you going to pay for a radio guy, is “Hazard Lights” going to go to Adult Contemporary radio or Rock radio? But that sort of includes mastering and what order you’re going to put the songs in. You’re in brackish water there. It’s not fully the ocean, but you’re not in real pure water. I try to think about it from that perspective. The goal is to keep it as pure as possible to the last possible second, and have as little brackish water as possible. Once it’s out in the sea, who knows. It might just float out, it might come back at you, who knows. There’s so little control that you have at that point. But what I’m kind of yearning for the older I get is to stay as close to the river as possible. The rest of that process is the job. You put the newsletter out and get them out to the fans to let them know what’s going on and keep the conversation going, but there is an element of commercialism to that. You have to keep the lights on. But even in that, you want to stay as close to that pure, creative force as possible. The job comes with learning to navigate the rest of the water. 

Even the festival you put on, you did it down by the river, not on the waterfront!

(*both laugh*) That’s right! We could have done it on the ocean! We even did that on the river!

Sing Us Home Festival – Year One

So speaking of the festival…obviously people know at this point that you put on Sing Us Home in Philadelphia a couple weekends ago. Where did that idea come from, and how far back was the seed planted to do something like that in Philly?

The germ of that was well over a year old. We started to conceive of it I think before we played our last Philly headline show at Union Transfer, and that was last April. How did it come to be? That’s such a long time ago…

Well, it sounds like an idea that you could be tossing around after a big headline show, like “Oh, this was fun, we should do a festival!” but that it’s something you could just say in passing and then it never goes anywhere because it seems like…

It’s such a behemoth, yeah! That’s where our manager Alex (Fang) comes into play. I think he took it seriously and I think he was really excited about the idea and really saw the potential in it. He started chasing it, and what that really means is you’re having meetings with the Manayunk Development Corporation and you’re meeting with the city and you’re filling out permits. The very unsexy stuff. It’s certainly not picking the lineup! (*both laugh*) That’s almost the last thing you do. I mean I was bugging him about the lineup the whole time, and he was like “Hey man, if we don’t get permits, your lineup could be awesome and it just won’t happen.” There are a lot of logistics, and I thankfully we partnered up with Rising Sun Presents, which was a new partnership for me. I’ve been working with R5 Productions for most of my career in Philly and they’re kind of the punks, you know? It all started in a church basement for them, and now they pretty much run Union Transfer and they have their reach and they do their thing. In this instance, Rising Sun work a little bit more out in the suburbs and they have a lot of history of putting on like the folk festival at different points, the Concerts Under The Star series and things like that, so they knew what they were doing in a different way for this. Alex and they were super pivotal in basically making our dream idea into a reality. And, you know, friends of ours do festivals. Frank Turner has a festival that he does and that we’ve played at. It’s incredible. It’s a different kind of model.

For us, it was like “We want to put our stamp on the city, and we want to do it in our old neighborhood.” I didn’t want to do it downtown. I knew of a place that I thought was super cool and worked with my friend who runs the record store that I used to buy my records at as a teenager. He’s still down there on Main Street, so he’s tied in with the business bureau and all that, so he helped us out. But all of that is inside baseball and boring. Ultimately it was this great idea that was put into practice by an incredible team. It was funny, Alex was getting emails from other managers when we announced it saying “Hey, thanks a lot…five different artists of mine have emailed me saying ‘hey, why don’t we do something like this?” (*both laugh*) I think the reason people don’t do things like this is that it’s so cumbersome. It takes over a year to make it happen, and if it rains, you’re fucked. If L & I (Department of Licensing and Inspections) shuts you down, you’re doomed. There’s just so much risk involved. And we had a successful one. I didn’t move in with my dad afterwards (*laughs*). It worked. And still, I see what could have gone wrong and it’s got me even more nervous for year two. Like it was amazing. So now we have proof of concept and we can do it again, which is cool. We also have our eyes a lot wider about what could go wrong, and those risks do worry you. But it was amazing, man. It’s very rare at 45 years old to have a career high-water mark, and that’s what we had. It was incredible. 

The venue that you did it at – the outdoor space there – was that a place that they normally do events or whatever? I didn’t necessarily get that sense. It’s not like you were just putting your event in a place where they do events and yours was just the one that week…

No. They’ve been desperately been trying to get that place on the map for events like this, and our guy at the Manayunk Development Corporation, which is the neighborhood entity down there, he said “You guys did in 48 hours what we couldn’t do in eight years.” They did one other event I think, a blues festival I think, but I don’t know what it looked like or what went wrong. Some people tried to tell me about that and I just blocked it out, because it just felt like bad mojo. But this was not bad. This was a family event. Everyone from 3 years old to 83 years old had a great time. People just had a blast, and that’s such a joyful thing to know that we had a hand in. It was great, man. If it never happens again – which it will, we’re going to do it again – but if that was it, I feel like those are two days that I’ll remember for the rest of my life as being just spectacular. 

Obviously you’ve been involved in the business side of the industry, especially with owning your own label, but does it give you a newfound sort of respect for things like ticket pricing and booking of opening acts and merch cuts and all of that stuff? It’s the inside baseball stuff like you said, except that that’s the gears that make the whole scene turn.

Totally! Absolutely! It definitely makes me simultaneously more willing to play other peoples’ festivals so that I could help (*both laugh*) and at the same time, it also makes me understand why in certain instances we don’t get invited to play. You really key into this idea that there are headliners and then there are direct support bands to a bill, and then there’s everybody else. Now, I don’t think this way because I’m sort of an old-school, kumbaya kind of guy, but you can see where people go “Oh, it’s just mix-and-match, you just make it work.” I don’t want that, and I think that’s kind of what set us apart, that we want to cultivate a specific type of experience. I wanted to make a festival that I wanted to go to, and I don’t really like going to festivals.

That’s a very good way to put it. 

It occurred to me that when we were kids, we had this May Fair in our neighborhood, and people would sell little toys and there was pizza and cotton candy and all that, and I LOVED IT. I looked forward to the May Fair every year. It probably just raised money for our Christian school or whatever, but I was talking about this with my sister and I said “We just threw our own little May Fair” (*both laugh*) and she just laughed and was like “Yeah, I think it’s a little different.” (*laughs*) But I wanted it to feel just as much or more like a family reunion than I do like Reading or Leads. I want it to feel like you know that we care about you, that we want you to have a good time, and that there’s plenty to eat and that there’s not too much music or too much of this or too much taking your money just because you decided to have kids here, you know? (*both laugh*) We don’t want it to be this crass, commercial thing. We want it to feel good, and to know that it did feels great. Alex is just getting back from his honeymoon, and I’m so excited to start talking about next year. I mean a lot of the shit is out of the way, like we have the signs, we have the website, we have the protocol, we have the permits. So much of the logistic stuff has already been done so to know that we can start to jump into the planning and the lineup is exciting. 

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DS Interview: Dr. Daryl Wilson on “Essential,” the first Bollweevils record in over a decade (and John Wick and Ayn Rand and Dragon Ball Z and more)

Friday, May 5th, marks the release of what may be realistically referred to as the longest awaited release in the baker’s-dozen-year history of your favorite little online punk rock website. (This one, obviously.) The album is called Essential, and it’s the latest release from beloved Chicago punkers The Bollweevils.  That’s the cover art up there. […]

Friday, May 5th, marks the release of what may be realistically referred to as the longest awaited release in the baker’s-dozen-year history of your favorite little online punk rock website. (This one, obviously.) The album is called Essential, and it’s the latest release from beloved Chicago punkers The Bollweevils

That’s the cover art up there. Fun, right? The album is noteworthy for a variety of reasons. Not only is it the Bollweevils first full-length album in practically a generation (and definitely their first since Dying Scene has existed), it’s their first proper release on Red Scare Industries, and their first release mixed at the legendary Blasting Room in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Perhaps more importantly, however, it’s noteworthy in the way that it plants a battle flag that symbolizes that not only can some of the old guard, who have long-since moved past the days of trying to make a living solely from punk rock wages, can not only put out an album that’s super poignant and super energetic and super fun, they do so in a way that raises the bar for the younger bands that have been following in their collective wake.

Due to the way that both the music industry and the media technology sector have changed since the early days of the Bollweevils, we caught up with the band’s enigmatic frontman Daryl Wilson in the throes of what you can probably safely say is the first semblance of a press junket of his music career. When last Dr. Daryl and I spoke in the context of conducting an interview (watch it here if you missed it), it was that first summer of Covid and it was in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and it was through the lenses of Wilson’s roles not only as an emergency department physician but as a person of color living through probably the most public time of racial unrest that this country had seen since the 1960s. Thankfully, we’ve solved both coronavirus-related public health crises AND systemic racism in the almost three years since that conversation, so this time we could devote our energies to punk rock!

Check out our admittedly wide-ranging chat below. Plenty of insight on the recording of the album, the process of getting it mixed at the Blasting Room, the coolness of existing on Red Scare in the time of bands like No Trigger and Broadway Calls, the dynamite new material being put out by other long-time scene vets like Samiam and Bouncing Souls, avoiding the woulda, shoulda, couldas when looking at their legacy, and much more!

Surprisingly enough, the conversation below is condensed for content and clarity reasons.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So how are you? It’s good to chat with you again!

Daryl Wilson: It’s been a minute, man, hasn’t it? I’m doing pretty good! It’s been a pretty interesting past three or four years to say the least, but I’ve come out on the other end still kicking! Getting older and I think a little bit wiser and I have a better worldview of things. The priority list is more tailored to true priorities. It’s kind of good. It’s refreshing to not have anxiety about stuff! (*both laugh*)

Does it feel like we’re officially on the other side at least of the pandemic part? I know some of the other social and political stuff we probably won’t be on the other side of for a long time, but does it seem like at least pandemic-wise, we’re just back to “normal,” whatever that means nowadays?

Yeah, I mean, lessons learned, right? That’s the natural progression of the disease process. The virus becomes less and less apt to kill its host. It becomes easy to spread, but it’s not really good for a virus to kill off its hosts, because then it doesn’t propagate. Coronaviruses do that anyway. The long-term immunity versus coronaviruses is so minuscule. Since antiquity people would get coronaviruses and they’d mutate so rapidly that you’d have lower conveyed immunity. It would spike and then it would drop and you’d get the same coronavirus a few months later. You might get the same coronavirus nine times in a year. They weren’t novel viruses. This was a novel virus, so it was something that our immune systems had never seen before, so of course the response was “oh my god!” Now we’re at a different point where there’s individuals vaccinated, natural immunity that’s occurred over time, the virus changing…we don’t know if there are any other long-term residual things yet. Finding out that, you know, exposure to Epstein-Barr virus might have lead to individuals having a propensity for MS is kind of crazy. We’ve learned that over time, and we don’t know what the long-term stuff will be with this. We don’t know if it’s affecting our T-cells in some way where we have a different long-term immunity to things. I’m not saying this for certain, I haven’t done research or studies on this, but is there some rationale where this is why we had such a bad set of viral illnesses in children during this past winter? Most kids getting RSV don’t get THAT sick, historically, but we had a bunch that got sick, so is there some issue with the way our immune systems have been affected by these bouts of Covid? I don’t know. I’m not saying that to start some controversy or “oh my god, this physician said…” (*both laugh*). Anything I say is not representing my hospital, this is just me talking. But human beings throughout all of our history and existence have come out on the other end of things that have been as bad as what we’ve (just) walked through. We’re a pretty scrappy species in some sense. To sit back and worry about “is this the end?” I mean…you’ve had people preaching on corners of streets from the times of Rome up to today where they’ve said “The End Is Nigh” and guess what? We’re still here! (*both laugh*) So let’s not put too much of a doom spin on everything and we’ll keep on kicking.

There’s a guy in the Boston area who I first encountered I think when I was a freshman in college. You’d see him outside sporting events and I know I saw him in Salem, Massachusetts, for Halloween because that’s what you do…and I remember him having this big sandwich board on it saying like “The End Is Nigh” and “Repent” and it had like a burning cross on it…and he’s still out there doing it, twenty-five-plus years later. It’s like…how “nigh” is it? (*both laugh*)

One day he’ll be right! (*both laugh*) And he’ll be able to say “see I told you so!” (*both laugh*) Let’s just spend all our time with that sandwich board on and continue preaching that until it happens. Why not just live your life? You’re already walking around dead with a sandwich board on. You’re not “living.” Just go live! In all reality, every day is your first or last day, right? You have no idea when the ticker over your head is going to go “TIME’S UP!” That should spur you on into “maybe I should just live as best as I can for today because I’m not guaranteed any moment. I could talk to you today, Jason, and that could be it! It’s always good to talk to someone that is cool and that you can talk to and say ‘this is a great connection,” and if this is the last conversation I ever have, let’s make it good, right? Why make it horrible? Why start your day with that sort of a horrible situation? Listen, I’m no sage, and I know I make situations really uncomfortable for people (*both laugh*) and I can be just a retch of a human being, but the good thing is, I woke up and I have an opportunity today to make up for that. That’s a good thing. I can try and do better. And that’s all you can do, right?

Okay so there’s no real natural segue here, but let’s bulldog into talking about the new record! It feels like it’s time. It’s obviously been a LONG time since the last Bollweevils record…

Fourteen years!

Yeah, and I think Dying Scene is officially thirteen years old, so I think this is the first Bollweevils release of the Dying Scene era!

Wow! Yeah, it’s been a long time. Nothing’s good or bad, it just is…and it’s 14 years now, and for me right now and the guys in the band – we’ve talked about it – it’s something that feels like it’s full. It feels like it’s something that took the time and it was the proper time to make it come out. There are probably a lot of reasons as to why it took so long. A part of it is that the band had some changes in members and we were in flux. We’d written some of these songs and we’d been playing them and we recorded a couple of them for a 7-inch for Underground Communique that came out – the Attack Scene 7-inch – and they were going to be on our next LP, which we thought was going to be out in the next three years after that 7-inch was put out. But no, that didn’t happen. We had members change prior to us even recording that. Our original bass player Bob had quit the band. We didn’t know for a while if we were going to be a band. That was the biggest question, “do we want to keep doing this?” And I think when we finally had the addition of Pete Mittler to the band as our bass player, that kind of made us who we are. I think we gelled, and we became The Bollweevils as we envisioned ourselves to be. It made it easier for us to buckle down and say “we need to put these songs out. We need to record these things, we need to have the new songs put out.” So we did! We finally got our schedules together, which is always a logistical nightmare! It is a whiteboard with so many pins in the wall with red yarn coming from all of these connections and somehow in the middle John Wick is there somehow! (*both laugh*) So it is a culmination of this ripening. We finally got the seeds planted and the tree grew and then fruit finally came from it. We had the right soil mixture with everybody as members of the band. The pandemic in some ways helped to kind of foster us pushing forward and doing this because we knew we might never get a chance to do something like this, so let’s get it done. And as we got older, the maturity of the band kind of seeps into it. We took our time – we had the time and we took our time instead of just “here’s what it is, we’re all done, one shot, let it play.” And so I think that it took a long time, but I think that it was warranted and it shows in the record. The record itself is so full and it’s one of the best things I think that we’ve ever put out.

Yeah, it’s really good! And I don’t just say that. It’s really good. 

Yes! And I think it’s good on so many different levels. Sonically – how it sounds – I’m getting chills just thinking about it, but it sounds really, really good! Then, it’s like, the songs themselves, you listen to them and you’re like “wow, that’s got a hook, that’s a catch!” and then you listen to the lyrics and you’re like “oh my god, these lyrics! Wow, you’re saying this right now?!?” It’s complex but simple, it says things in a concise manner, it’s not like you’re just gassing on forever. It’s really a good record! (*both laugh*) I don’t usually do that, I’m not one to talk it up and say “oh this is so great,” but it is! I think because we put in all the time, you can sense that when you listen to the record.

How long a process was the writing? It wasn’t written all in one batch, obviously. Like you said you had the 7-inch come out and other songs you’ve played live. But how regularly were you writing in the let’s say decade between the last album and the gears being in motion for this one to be finalized?

It’s funny, because there are songs that we didn’t record for this. We had ideas for songs that we were working on that didn’t make the cut, and I think that’s part of it. Sometimes you force it and try to make things work. Sometimes you can tell a band throws on a record just to put on there. We didn’t do that. We made sure we have quality instead of quantity. We could have a quantity of songs and riffs that Ken was writing that we would put something down for, but they just didn’t work. We were woking on them in rehearsal and we’d try to do them and they just didn’t feel right. These songs we did that felt right, we could work on them more and more. Even when we had them initially worked out, we kept working on them over the years before they were put out in this final iteration for the record. We were able to criticize each other and our performances, and that’s a thing that we couldn’t do in our early years.

Yeah, I was going to say, that’s a tough thing to do as a young band when there’s ego involved and whatever else. 

Absolutely! Everything’s personal. “Oh, you don’t like the way I’m singing this? I’m the singer! I’m the guy that writes the lyrics! Screw you, this is what it’s going to be!” That’s not the way to do it. We are a unit. I could take the criticism that Ken could say to me, or Pete or Pete would say. Like “we know what you should sound like on this, and I don’t like what you’re doing right now. It doesn’t sound complete.” And I’d be like “well, this is how I heard the song in my head, this is how I’m writing…” and they’d say “no, you can do better. Maybe change the cadence on that or that word seems wrong…” Or Ken would play a riff and Pete or I would say “can you change that riff a little bit?” It was definitely all of us collaborating together. We all have our roles in the band of what we do, but we can take what somebody said and say “we can do this better.” Playing the song live, you get to say “hey, that sounded okay, but maybe we can work on it a little bit more and make it sound better” and then we’d find nuanced things with the songs in rehearsals as we played them more and more. The ability for us to use constructive criticism and not destructive criticism like it used to be is a part that helped to make the sound sound so good. The mixing of it too…we had it mixed by Chris Beeble at The Blasting Room. That was due to Joe Principe. I gave him some of the demos early on – and in fact, it goes back further than that – when we actually presented the record to Red Scare and Toby had heard it and Brendan had heard it, Brendan came back and he said “I want to do your record, it’s great, but you know what? You’ve got to get this mixed again.” And Ken was like “Whaaaaat?” And Brendan said “it doesn’t sound like you. I remember seeing you guys when I was a kid and you guys were Chicago punk rock how it’s supposed to be, but this doesn’t sound like you’re supposed to sound. You’ve got to get it remixed.” And we were like “ooookay…that was a hit.” And Joe had kinda hinted at sending it to The Blasting Room, and I said “what, get it mixed where Rise Against gets their stuff done? We can’t afford that. We’re the Bollweevils, we’re working every day.” He hinted at it, but didn’t say “do it.” So we took a chance, we ponied up the money for it, and the mix came back and it was like “BOOM!” Beeble worked so closely with us on it, he was like “here’s what I need on this, here’s what’s going on…” He made it sound awesome!

You didn’t re-record anything after the initial thing was done, right?

No! I swear, I’ve said this before and I will say it again every time, the only person that can mix our stuff now is Chris Beeble. That is it. He knows us, he set the bar, he is the gold standard. So as it was mixed. Jeff Dean, who we recorded with here at the Echo Mill in Chicago, he also was really instrumental in forcing us to do things more than once. We’ve prided ourselves on coming in, laying it down, getting it done and getting out, but it was like “replay that again, replay that again, resing that again, do the lyrics this way, change that…” while we’re recording. It’s like “you’re killing us, man, there’s no way that we’re going to redo this multiple times.” I’d be like “this take was really good!” And he’d say “yeah, it was good, but it wasn’t great, do it again.” It was making sure that everything that we did was done to the best of our ability. That comes out on the record. I mean, you’ve heard it. What’s your favorite song on the record?

You know what? I made notes when I listened to the album the first time, which is a thing I try to still do a lot. Obviously “Liniment and Tonic” is great because that’s a super fun song, especially as a person who’s now in his mid-forties. It seems very appropriate. I really like “Galt’s Gulch.” That’s a cool song and it’s a little bit of a different song. I kept coming back to that in my notes. I like that sort of acoustic intro that builds and becomes this BIG sound. I like “Theme Song.” (*both laugh*) I like that “we are the Bollweevils” chant. It’s so fun and goofy and it’s very honest and self-deprecating too. I really appreciate that. “Bottomless Pit” is pretty cool. 

Which is a throwback, because we re-recorded that. It was on Stick Your Neck Out! and we initially thought that our masters for all of those records were gone. It turns out that they’re not, so we were thinking we could re-record some of those songs, because we want them to sound how we sound now. The iteration of who we are now is who we are as a band. This is the Bollweevils. This is who we’ve grown to be and this is our final form, or if you’re looking at a Dragon Ball Z our final Frieza or whatever. (*both laugh*) We definitely wanted to put these songs down as who we are now. We play our instruments better, I sing stronger than I did. It’s the old song, but it sounds new. We did that one and we did “Disrespected Peggy Sue.” We did them now because this is who we are. It’s not the old-school recordings. Sorry, I cut you off! I just think “Bottomless Pit” is a great song. Go on, I like hearing about your favorite songs from the record!

I really like the guitar riff from “Our Glass.” That’s a really cool song too. But I keep coming back to “Galt’s Gulch” if I had to pick. So let’s talk about that song a little more if we can. Where did that one come from? It’s a little bit of a different song from the rest of the album. I know you’ve played that live, but what is the origin of that song? How far back in the writing process?

That was one of the ones written back early in like post-2015. We’d been working on that one for a long time. Initially, that song was a song that Ken was persistent in bringing to rehearsal. We’d play it, and we wrote some stuff for it, and we were like “it’s okay…” and he was like “no, this song is great!” I just didn’t know what I was going to do for it, and what I was going to sing. I started thinking about some topics that I wanted to delve into. I read a bunch of stuff, I’d read a lot. In my days, I’ve read some Ayn Rand. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The funny thing about those books is that they are works of fiction. (*both laugh*) To try to adopt objectivist viewpoints in some sense to live by is kind of counter to what humans do. I understand the idea of groupthink and the fear of what collectivism would be, but I don’t think of collectivism in that sense. I’m talking about trying to take a community and break a community apart. I think, yes, the idea of individuals existing and being an individual is super important. Individuals have skills that they can offer to a community to allow that community to continue to thrive. My skills as a physician are necessary to make sure the community can thrive because not everybody can do what I do. If somebody has the skill to make sure that water is clean so we can drink it, I can’t do that. I’m glad that there’s clean water that will allow me to go on. I think we have to live together as human beings and lift each other up so that we all can strive to survive against the elements and a universe that doesn’t really care about us. So individualism and being an individual is super important. I agree with that 1000%. In The Fountainhead, Roark being who Roark was and the individual that he was standing up against the idea that we all have to do things this way, that this is the only way you build buildings and all that, that is kind of horseshit. You’re going to be who you are. To have Toohey and those folks say “we’re going to slow you down and break you up and you all have to think the same way,” that’s horseshit too. But to take that into life, and to philosophically say “I’m not going to follow your rules because I’m going to be such an individual that I’m going to hunt on my own and kill things on my own and you have to do it your own way too.” Like, sometimes you need to help people. Maybe helping that person means helping the person that’s going to be the physician that saves you later on, because he can’t cultivate food on his own. So that’s why, I think, the whole idea of “who’s John Galt?” and everyone shrugging their shoulders and walking away and creating your own society that’s outside of society because “we’re all individuals and you guys are all drones so screw you,” that’s not the way we function. So if you just shrug your shoulders and go “who’s John Galt?” the world actually falls apart around you. It really does. Oh and Ayn Rand took handouts, we all know that and let’s not forget that! (*both laugh*)

Yeah, I remember Atlas Shrugged sort of blowing my mind as a ninth grader reading it and you think “oh yes, this is brilliant! It’s perfect!” And then you hit, like, senior year in high school and realize “oh, wait a minute…”

Right! You realize “oh, you know, some people are dependent! Children are dependent people, it’s okay!” 


So I wrote that as a perspective of the individual who’s like “I’m going to walk around and keep shrugging my shoulders and ignore everything and say “who’s John Galt?” That’s all I’m going to say to you! Understand what that means and walk away.” That’s just a horseshit excuse for not wanting to do anything, and not wanting to help. 

Wasn’t that around the time, too, that there was like a hedgefund guy that tried to start a Galt’s Gulch community somewhere, like some unincorporated area somewhere? 

Yes, there was! I remember that vaguely, yes! And where are they now? (*both laugh*)

Oh I’m pretty sure he got indicted and he’s in prison. It was essentially a Ponzi scheme and…honestly…like you couldn’t have seen that coming?

Haha, yeah! You know, I’m not trying to disparage if anyone has a belief that way, but I don’t think it is realistic to function that way in a community. In a society, it doesn’t work, and in a community, it doesn’t work. We have to work together to overcome things. Yeah, if somebody says “I want you to produce less in your company because I’m not doing really well so slow down to let me catch up,” you’re not going to do that. You’re going to say “no, I’m going to do this still, you had your opportunity…” and you help them understand how best practice works. But we live in a world of competition, right? That’s how we got about things. I mean, baking cakes is a competition for Christ’s sake. It gets really ridiculous. But, if it makes you strive to do better, sure! But if you’re just going to “give me all the answers to something!” I don’t believe that either. You can’t give everyone all the answers, but if someone doesn’t know for sure and I’m the expert, I’m going to say “yes, I’m here to help you out because you don’t know.” 

How long ago did you actually record the album, and have you still been writing since it was all sent off to Red Scare?

So let’s see. The total time recording, if you took that in days is probably like six days. That was in two sessions, like three days in each session, and that doesn’t include mixing and things, that’s just the recording part. It took us probably two years to get it all completed. It was during the pandemic that we did it all. In the early part, we got together and laid down these songs. If you’re talking about the whole recording process beforehand, a lot of these songs have been worked on since 2015 and up. And after that, yes, we’ve been writing other songs. Ken brought riffs to practice the other day and actually, our stand-in bass player Joe Mizzi brought some riffs too.

Oh nice! 

The idea is that were all supposed to bring a song. Now, I can’t play an instrument (*both laugh*) but we are in the process of trying to write other songs. We can’t just sit on this and “we’ve got it, we’ve hit the pinnacle, we’re done.” 

Well, you can. And bands do. There’s the very real thing of becoming a legacy band, particularly when it’s not everybody’s day job. Nobody’s making a living on The Bollweevils. Some bands do do that. You play a couple dozen shows a year in your best markets and be a legacy band. Sometimes you lose the drive to keep writing and coming up with no ideas, so to me it’s cool that not only is there a new album, but that you’re still writing more and those wheels are still turning. 

Yeah, there’s always something that spurs on the want to write. Whether it’s something that I’m dealing with in healthcare, whether it’s something you see because of the state of politics or the general miasma of people existing. Or something philosophical that you see pertains to day-to-day life. Sometimes that spurs on that creative juice. I could write lyrics all day but I don’t have the tune in my head that it goes to. And that’s hard. We don’t usually write that way. I don’t usually write lyrics and say “Hey Ken, write a riff for this.” Usually Ken is playing a riff and I have this idea what I should be singing to the riff. I may have a theme based upon something I’ve written at some point and I might have to modify my lyrics because that’s not really going to be, but the theme still exists for the song. So, Ken sent some riffs to me the other day, and I’ve been listening to them, and it’s like “okay, I can see where this goes.” And then I have lyrics, but sometimes that isn’t what the song is going to be about or the theme is going to change, so now that’s in the process of being fleshed out, and having that creative fire. There’s days where I just don’t have it. I’m just exhausted from a day with the kids or my wife and I are doing something, so I don’t have that. But then, I might wake up in the middle of the night and have this idea and have to write it down, so I have a pad of paper next to the bed and I have to write them down, or I use my phone to record a melody for something. We still have some things to work on, so it won’t be fourteen years before the next record! (*both laugh*)

Everybody says that, but then life happens…

I know! We said that back in 2015, like “oh, we have a new record coming out!” “Oh yeah? When’s it coming out?” “Well, some day!” Just like “The End Is Nigh” sign, right? We told you it was coming out! (*both laugh*)

One of the first interviews that I did for Dying Scene back in 2011 was with Sergie from Samiam about what was then the new record, Trips. And then maybe five years later, it was the fifth anniversary of that record and they’d been doing an album every five years or whatever, so I think I messaged Sergie like “must be new album time, right?” and he was just like “uh, no.” 

And finally, that new album is awesome!

It’s SO good.

It’s awesome. I was waiting for that to come out. I saw them at Fest, and they were playing the new songs and they sounded so good. Samiam is one of my favorite bands ever, and I just have that new record on repeat. I was just listening to it this morning again. I just love it. 

I’ve asked a bunch of people similar things, but thirty-ish years since Stick Your Neck Out, do you still have that same feeling when you put an album out? Do you get that same sort of feeling when May 5th comes and it’s now available to the world? 

I guess it’s been so long that I forgot what that feels like! (*both laugh*) 

Fair enough.

I guess it feels new to me. I’m excited about it because I can’t believe that I have this work of art that we put together and that’s going to be out in the world in less than a month. That’s crazy to me. It’s exciting. I guess the feeling I had previously was nervousness at some point when I was younger. Now, I don’t feel that anxiety. Listening to this and putting this record together and everything we did for it, it’s complete. It’s full, and I feel really proud of it. It’s really, really good. At least, I believe that, and the guys in the band believe that. Somebody else could think it’s complete garbage, and that’s their opinion, but I’m not worried about that. We put Stick Your Neck Out, and it was like “okay, this is us on Dr. Strange. We’re putting this record out and people will get it.” And they did. People still talk about it and say “oh that record’s awesome, you’re such an underrated band.” 

How does that land when people say that?

That we’re underrated?

Yeah, because I feel like I’m guilty of doing the same thing, but then I worry that it’s a backhanded compliment when we say “oh, you guys were great, you were my favorite band, you should have been huge!” 

I guess maybe? But it’s our own doing, right? I kind of limited us. We couldn’t do certain things. We had opportunities to, like, tour Japan, tour Europe, all these things, but I was in medical school. I was going to be a doctor. I limited our exposure. Could we have been bigger than that? Yeah, but it would be short-lived. We’re not paying the bills with punk rock. “Punk rock doesn’t pay the bills,” so says Milo. I mean, for them it does, but for the rest of us… (*both laugh*) I get to be a doc and play in a band. It’s still fulfilling in a visceral and spiritual way. Once again, it doesn’t pay the bills, but that’s not what this is about. I have a profession that does that, but I have these opportunities! I got to meet you and we became buddies through this world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people that I would have never believed as a kid that I’d get the chance to meet. I’ve met some of my heroes. To meet some of the guys from Descendents. To go on tour with Dead Kennedys for a short run. To play with Bad Brains during Riot Fest. If you told me as a teenageer that “hey, you’re going to play a show with Bad Brains,” like…I would have told you you’ve been smoking ganja! (*both laugh*) But that happens. Those experiences are what brings about this existence and these life experiences. No matter whatever money you have and whatever material things you have, they’re all going to break. That’s kind of what “Our Glass” is about. The material things you have are going to break, but the real important things that you have and establish and the relationships with people and the places that you’ve been and the experiences you have, that’s going to be the things you have on your deathbed. Your big-screen TV isn’t going be there when you die. Your iPhone or whatever is not going to be there. Nothing material is going to matter. So, going back to the whole thing of it being a backhanded compliment of “hey, you were underrated,” it’s maybe a backhanded compliment, but it’s also kind of cool that when people hear that stuff, they go “man, you guys shoulda been…coulda been.” Yeah, maybe, but I was limiting us because of my professional choices. So back to the original question does it feel different or does it feel like it did releasing records before? No, it feels brand new to me because we haven’t done this in such a long time.

That’s really cool! I feel like there’s some buzz about it, and that’s not always the case when bands put out albums nowadays. It can be easy to get lost in the sauce, but I feel like there’s buzz around the new Bollweevils record. I can say that as a fan, that’s pretty fulfilling. Like “hey, people still care about this band I like!” Because you never REALLY know…

Right, and for some people it’s going to be their brand-new introduction to us.

As I said, the first Bollweevils record of the Dying Scene era, so it’s the first one we get to cover!

Yeah, and since we were underrated, we were under the radar, so some people didn’t see us or hear us, so it’s like “oh, that’s who they were! Now I can explore some of the old stuff!” I remember we did a thing in California seven or eight years ago, something like that, and I remember being on a radio show, on the phone, and I remember being told that someone had heard “Bottomless Pit” and said “yeah that’s a great song!” and they’d never heard it before. They said “that’s such a great song, it sounds like you just recorded it recently” and I was like yeah, I don’t think we had a sound that was dated. We were a 90s punk band, obviously, but I think our sound translates to today and to yesteryear. That was the greatest compliment to hear, that somebody had heard that and was blown away by it. I was like “yeah, that was recorded way back when, we were sloppy…” (*both laugh*) Now, hearing this record today, using that song from thirty years ago that we rerecorded and reimagined the way that it is, we’re like a whole different band, even though we’re the same band. So people will get to experience this for the first time as we are, and people who have experienced us before will experience us again and go “oh my god, look at them, they’re still out there doing this!” I’m being so prideful right now, it’s horrible. But it is a new experience for me. Though I’ve had the experience before, it feels like a new experience for me, and it’s really exciting. 

I think that one of the takeaways from the record, I feel like the older I’ve gotten and the greyer my beard has gotten, I’ve gotten away from some of the 90s punk rock thing. “Liniment and Tonic,” right? My back hurts, my knees hurt. (*both laugh*) I think that sometimes there can be a shelf life to a sound like that, but I think there are some moments on this record that eclipse all of that. It’s very much in the vein of a 90s punk rock record, but it sort of transcends that. 

Thank you! And we were talking about that as a band. At our core, we are a punk rock band. Whatever we write is going to be a Bollweevils song. And that’s one of the things that would happen sometimes. A criticism would come out that members of the band would say “that song that you wrote is good, but that’s not a Bollweevils song.” Some of those songs never saw the light of day. 

Is that because they’d be stylistically wrong? 

It wasn’t true to ourselves. It was like “just write what we know. Write our stuff and just play it and be done with it and don’t try to do something that’s not us.” It’s ridiculous when you’re trying to be something that you’re not. At the core, we’re still just a punk rock band from Chicago, and that’s what we’re going to play. I think that part of it too is that I don’t think we know how to play anything slow. That could be a problem in and of itself, because as you get older it’s harder to keep up in some sense. We pride ourselves in trying to keep up with what we do. Like, I worked out this morning. This is my trying to fight against the inevitability of entropy! (*both laugh*) We only know how to play like we play, so even if there’s a song that sounds almost kitsch, like “Liniment and Tonic” or “Theme,” it’s still us. You’re like “that’s still punk, it’s still hard. It’s got a hook, but it’s still them!” We pride ourselves in saying “there’s no reason for a song to be over two minutes and thirty seconds. It doesn’t make any sense. Why not just say your peace and be done. Hit them in the face and be done. Knock them out and be done with the fight. You can’t go twelve rounds, knock them out in three! Come on, Tyson, take them down!

In looking at my notes, I think the songs that we talked about as my favorite…

Are the longest ones! (*both laugh*) Well, sometimes you gotta box a little bit. Sometimes you gotta box a little bit. 

You gotta keep your arms down and let them tire themselves out, like Muhammed Ali, right? 

It’s all good! Exactly!

Is there fear in songs like that that they risk not being “Bollweevils songs” because they aren’t ninety seconds of four-on-the-floor, punch-you-in-the-throat “punk rock”?

No, I think if you even go back out to Stick Your Neck Out, “Failure of Bill Dozer” is a longer song and that’s a great song. We’ve added that back into our sets. That’s one of the songs that we brought back. That song is one of my favorite songs too. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner and say every song has to be a minute and thirty seconds or two minutes. Songs evolve into what they need to be, but they still have to be “us.” All the songs that are on there, if they are more than two minutes, it’s because that’s what the song had to be. They are still us. You can listen to them and say “wow, this is different, but that’s still a Bollweevils song.” It’s not like you listen to “Galt’s Gulch” and think, “wow, that’s weird.”

Yeah, I mean, it’s not a Rush song. 

Even “Our Glass” is different but it’s still us. It’s a Bollweevils song still. Somebody asked me once what I would say to younger me if I could go back in time, or to a younger band you’re playing with that asks what you do to have this longevity in punk rock, I say “just be yourself and do the things that you enjoy.” Play what you want to play. Don’t fall into some kind of trap where you have to trend it up or do something different. Play what you love. If you happen to write a record that’s some experimental noise thing and that’s who you want to be and that’s who you are, do that and be good with that. Make sure you’re good with it. With this record, with Essential, everything about it, we are so good with. That’s just the bottom line. No matter what anybody says about it, they can sit back and go “how do you feel about the record?” I think it’s great, and if you don’t, I wouldn’t do anything different. It would have been that way no matter what. It’s perfect for us. 

Are there people for whom you get nervous about what their feedback is going to be? People that you look up to as pillars, like the Descendents guys or whoever? 

Yeah, if they heard it and they said “that sounds great!” I’d think “well, I can die now!” 

Do you get back to that sort of childhood fanboy thing?

Oh god yeah! A person that makes me overly giddy and ridiculous and the worst punisher over is J. Robbins. I told him that recently. Denis Buckley, my good friend Denis, always reminds me that “dude, you punished him so hard when they came to Chicago way back in the day.” I couldn’t talk, I was stumbling and fumbling and J. Robbins was like “is he okay?” I couldn’t talk to him. I saw him at Riot Fest recently and I told him that and I said “I’m just letting you know, I fall apart when I see you. I do. I’m just such a fanboy of yours.” And he was like “no, it’s good, let’s take a picture.” And then he Friended me on Facebook and I was like “AHH!” (*both laugh*) But like, if the guys in (Naked) Raygun heard this and they were like “well this is horrible,” it would hit me a bit, but I would still have to just accept that, but I’d still think it’s good. I would take it to heart in some sense. If my best friend Paul says something sounds bad, I’d listen to those words. He can criticize me all the time, he does all the time anyway (*both laugh*) and I take his word. He actually was critical about some things when I was working on songs for this. But he loves the record, so that makes me think that it’s going to be good. Our friend CJ is a good friend of ours, and he would tell us if this sucked, and we would take his word to heart. But he’s like “this record is great, man. This record is great.” That makes us feel confident as well, but again, real confidence comes from within. If we didn’t feel like it was good…it’s done, we can’t change that, and we feel good about it. We feel really good about it. I think that is kind of pervasive with the buzz. People are hearing it and going “wow, this is good!” I’m glad that that is being reaffirmed in some senses. But yeah, if someone I idolized since I was a kid said this was trash, it might sting for a bit, but then again, you can’t please everyone, you know? An 80% is a B, so if I can get 80% of people to like it, that’s a passing grade. I’m still in the mix. I’m confident in (the record), I feel great about it. We put out the best that we could do right now…until the next thing comes out! 

It made me go “oh wow, I still like punk rock!” 

See Jason, that makes me feel good! 

I’m not going to try skateboarding, but I can still like punk rock! 

Then I’d see you in the hospital!

Hey, thanks for chatting. This was fun. Instead of doing it podcast-style like the last time we talked, the site is back up and running so I get to go back to pretending to be a writer. It was hard to be away from for a while, because if you don’t do it enough, that muscle atrophies. I’m sure that if you had gone fourteen full years without writing a song and then tried to jump back into it, that would be even worse.

Oh it’s definitely atrophy. It’d be ridiculous. It is one of those things where…think about the past three years of things that have happened, and the proliferation of bands having records come out. You’ve got the OFF! record, you’ve got the Samiam record out there, Drug Church’s record is out there…bands are just writing stuff that’s so good, and older bands are writing stuff that’s so good. We’ve had this time to think and reflect and meditate on our existences and what’s going on around us, and a few summers ago, the tragedies that would happen with the violence inflicted upon individuals, the unrest in the world, the upheaval of things and the change, and election season, and all of this stuff that swirls around you, and then realizing once again that we as human beings are going to survive this like we survived anything else. Plagues have happened, there’s been social upheaval before. All of these things have happened, we’ve seen these things before, and we’ve survived. That anxiety that comes with that, you have to find an outlet, and a lot of that is sitting down and writing out how you feel and writing about these things and getting rid of that. A part of that with this record, by the way, was that everybody had tragedies that they were having and anxieties that they were having and we all got to have this catharsis and put it out there and it came together. Art is emotional, and there’s a lot of emotion put into it, and when it comes out, you go “oh, this expresses exactly what I was concerned about.” Other people probably have the same feeling, and when art hits, it invokes an emotional response and people latch on to it and it makes you feel comfortable. I think that’s what this record has. You listen to it and you go “there’s something that’s hitting me about it that’s good. It’s hitting me right here.” 

And I think it does so in an interesting way. That’s a difficult needle to thread. Coming out of the last three years and being inspired by the last three years but without overtly talking about the last three years, and without making an album that’s overtly political and directly takes on the social upheaval and the political upheaval of the last three years. It’s an interesting needle to thread, to be able to do an album like that, that reinforces the good that came out of the last three years without being a constant, fist-shaking. There’s certainly a place for that…

That song “Resistance” is on there!


But the whole of the record is what it is…it’s a whole thing. Everything has a place and it all fits together. Not that it was written as a rock opera, but the songs do have almost a sense that they’re puzzle pieces that make up the whole as a piece of work.

I’m really excited for people to hear it. The fact that some of my favorite albums of this year are from people like Bollweevils, Samiam, Bouncing Souls…bands that have been staples for a long time and that are still putting out records that are so good. Sometimes, I try to step back from it and say “okay, do I like the new Souls record because it’s a new Souls record, or do I like it because it’s a really good record.” And it is a really good record. The new Samiam record, irrespective of if you’ve liked Samiam for years, is a really good record. 

Yes, that new Bouncing Souls record is so good! It’s awesome to see bands like us putting this stuff out there that’s so good. The time is just right. … It’s fun, I’m doing this whole circuit, I guess, of talking to people…

Did you do that twenty, thirty years ago? I mean the internet wasn’t what it is now, but…

It was a little internet, but ‘zines would come around here and there. But it wasn’t like this. This is probably the biggest media tour (for the Bollweevils) ever, and it’s easier to do because fo the internet. It’s really easy to do this. Rather than set up a time to have somebody come out and sit down…now I can do a couple phone things, do this, it’s cool. There are a lot of things to organize and fit into the “so open” schedule that I have (*both laugh*). (But) this whole experience has been amazing. There’s something really new about it, and it just feels exciting. It feels like there’s some kind of electricity around it, and it’s amazing. 

And I think with it coming out on Red Scare, Toby and Brendan have a pretty cool thing going on.

Yes! And Pouzza is coming up, and there are a bunch of Red Scare bands playing that. Like No Trigger…I’ve loved that band for the longest time. I love those guys. Broadway Calls is another one. They’ve got so many cool bands on there. We were the old school, OG guys on there now. It’s cool to be on a label with a lot of younger bands, some of whom had never seen us, some of us who had never heard of us, and we get to play with them and they’re like “how old are you guys again?” “Oh we’re in our fifties!” “What?! No way!” “Yeah, you young bucks better up your game, because we’re still coming for you!” (*both laugh*) It’s cool to be in this band and on this label. Toby and Brendan are really supportive and the bands on the label are just amazing. 

Yes! That new No Trigger record is so good. And it’s so weird, but it’s so awesome that they just kind of went for it.

It’s so cool. It’s not another Canyoneer. I love Canyoneer as a record, but they definitely let you know on this one that they can write a song that you’re going to have to think about, I’m letting you know about these fascists and everything else, and you’re going to be singing along with it. Tom (Rheault) from that band is such a smart guy and John is a grat guitar player. I love them, I really do. I was fanboying out about them when they came on the label. Thinking about this youth movement of bands, and how good they are, it makes me feel rejuvenated sometimes. I’m proud that we still can play and keep up with them and sometimes surpass some of them. I’m like “god, I can’t believe I can still do this at 52,” but then I look over and see Keith Morris and seeing Circle Jerks play and seeing OFF! play, it’s like..that’s who I want to be. That’s what I want to grow up to be. That’s amazing. Seeing Descendents, too, it’s like…that’s what I want to have. The longevity that these guys show is way inspiring. Keith though is totally inspiring. The Circle Jerks are amazing. OFF! is just awesome. They just bring it every day, and I want to do that when I’m sixty. Will I be in my mid-sixties doing this? Of course I will. 

Well, in fourteen years, for the next record…

(*both laugh*) Exactly!! 

We’re not going to get the folk punk record next time, huh?

No, it’ll still be hard and fast. I won’t be able to jump as high, but it’ll still be a part of the whole schtick. My knee will be in a brace, but here we go!

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