If you aren’t yet familiar with Chicago’s premiere celt-punk band Flatfoot 56 its time to pull your head out of your arse and perk up your ears. The band released their latest full-length album Black Thorn this week on Old Shoe Records (US), Stomp (Canada) and we were able to take advantage of the calm before the storm to catch up with Tobin (lead vocals, guitars). He was kind enough to put aside time and answer some questions we had for the band and you can check it out right here.
Tobin, you play with two of your brothers (Justin and Kyle) in Flatfoot 56. What’s the best/worst part about playing in the same band as your brothers?
The best part is that we can pretty much guess what the other person is thinking, and we have camaraderie. We can all play off of each other and go with the flow of each other. We never stick to set lists, instead we can just do hand signals and everyone will know what song we want to play. Just being able to deal with each other. We grew up together, so we have the same the standards.
The worst part would again be how close we are because its difficult to get out our way of thinking for new guys. New guys struggle in the beginning because they have to figure out to communicate with us.
If you weren’t a member of Flatfoot 56, where do you think you would be today career wise?
I have a degree to teach high school history, so that’s probably what I would be doing. I substitute sometimes now. I like it, but it isn’t my passion.
At what point in your career did you know that you had made it as a band?
In 2003 at The Cornerstone Festival we came and set up and played a set to about 50 kids. The next day we played again and there was 150 kids and the show kept growing. It was a madhouse by the end of the week. Word spread and we became a band everyone wanted to see. I remember vividly seeing a kid in one of our shirts but he ripped the sleeves off. It was cool to see a cool looking kid wearing our shirt.
So there has been a lot of time and work put into this album you have coming up.
How do you think your album, “Black Thorn” will do in comparison to your other albums? Why is this one different?
There’s a much larger maturity to this one. It’s still us and who we are but its neat because the last 3 records have been a slow and steady rise. Just the way we sound and quality of how we play is much better. There’s more time and energy put into this one. We are having a great time with it, it’s neat to see a lot of energy put into this particular record. More heads have turned for this album; getting on Warped Tour this year was a big deal. Having people notice and enjoy the record is a blessing.
You reportedly had a lot of different label offers for your upcoming album, what ultimately led you to go with Old Shoe Records to release in the US?
We were really excited about the idea of releasing different labels to different countries. We wanted to find a label that would put out a record in the US alone and allow us to put out records on different labels that were the best in different areas. Josh and the guys at Old Shoe Records have been really good to us, they are really good dudes; they have good hearts and a good work ethic. Those are the guys that are really just giving a lot of heart to music in a world where some of the heart has been lost, from the business label standpoint. They invest in bands they like and work hard on their own with their own money to put records out they love.
You guys had quite a show at The Cornerstone Festival in July, so would you say that is one of the best places you’ve played?
Cornerstone every year is something we put a lot of energy into. It’s a blast, but it can a drain. We’ve played it 4 or 5 years in a row, and this year they are moving us to a bigger stage because its getting dangerous; the tent we are in isn’t big enough anymore.
We also did an awesome tour last spring with Street Dogs. That was a blessing to us; we would much rather have a a willing crowd instead of a big crowd.
I know your song “That’s OK” is a crowd favorite, but what song do you like playing the most?
We have a new one “We Grow Stronger” thats really good, its on “Black Thorn”. One of our classic’s “Knuckles Up” always gets the crowd going. But as for “We Grow Stronger”, our bass player sings it, and it has a different groove for Flatfoot; more of a hardcore feel, but cool beat to it.
Do you still love playing every show? Or has it become more like a job than a passion?
I still love playing shows, but the new guys are definitely a breath of fresh air for the band, it really helps. For years we would take different guys out on tour because we would feed off their enthusiasm. Now there are two new guys on the stage that are excited to play and be there.
There’s a certain kind of rush that hits you, and takes you out of your element. You get one chance to really challenge someone’s life if they allow you to. It’s an opportunity or experience they will never forget. You can give someone a memory they will never forget. I’ve seen shows I’ve forgotten and shows that have really impacted me. I love having the chance to be a part of it.
Do you guys have any rituals you do before every show?
Ya, before the show we get together and go over what we think we will do that night, because like I said, we don’t do set lists. We don’t do set lists because we go with the crowd mood, if they are rowdy, we will play faster songs. Then we huddle and pray together and then we all put our hands in the middle and for some reason chant “oofta”. It’s a Swedish thing, it means “oh boy” in Sweden. My mom is swedish so is my grandma.
What’s the very first thing you do when you get home after being on the road?
Usually I go over and see my fiance and say hey to her, or I go to sleep or I take a shower…or eat.
When you’re out on tour, name your top three favorite places to eat.
1.A place in Omaha, Nebraska called “The Crescent Moon”
2. A place in Hawaii called “Puka Dog”–I get the Hawaiin style hot dog. It’s amazing, not what you think at all.
3.In Pittsburgh, either Fat Heads or Primanti Bros.
None of us are big drinkers or party-ers, but we are masters of the best places to eat. We try to experience the best thing every city has to offer.
What’s the best prank someone in the band has pulled?
When our bagpiper first joined the band in 2000 we grabbed a buddy of ours who spoke spanish (so does our bagpiper) and we snuck over to his house the night before his birthday. We kidnapped him, threw in a bag, blindfold him, and put him in the back of our van. We all had masks on and our friend only spoke spanish to him so he wouldn’t know it was us. We took him to the ghetto in Chicago and brought him into the basement of a friends house and put him in a chair. It was in the middle of February so he was cold but wasn’t going to be hurt. Then we tied him to the chair and had our friend go down to mess with him. Then we brought a cake down and sang happy birthday. Later we wrote a song about it. He had no idea, but he took it very well. We felt kinda bad..it was nuts.
You guys have been a band for 10 years now..knowing what you do now, would you have changed anything back then band wise?
I probably would when it comes the label things. I would have been wiser when it comes to the business side; you learn it over the years. I probably wouldn’t change anything though because learning from experience is part of the journey. If you pass them up you’ll be lesser for it, there’s a lot of things you take with you for the rest of your life. Doing this, I really wouldn’t take for granted the impact I have on people. I take it very seriously. I’m amazed how deeply little things we do impact people; there’s a lot of crazy stories of our impact on people. It’s really a cool thing to do that and I want to make the most of it as possible.
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