Archive for the ‘Small Talk’ Category

Interview: Jon Lewis, The Dopamines

Posted: October 26, 2017 in Small Talk

No introduction to the band really required here. The Dopamines are a fucking ace Midwest punk band. Listen to the new one ‘Tales of Interest’ if you haven’t already. Here’s me having a chat guitarist/vocalist Jon Lewis about the new record, Futurama and ‘Cold Duck’….

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Dave: So, the new Dopamines album, ‘Tales of Interest’, did it turn out as you imagined? I heard recently (on the Angry and Anxious podcast) that it is the album you always wanted to make- what do you mean by that specifically?

Jon: I think what I mean by the “record I’ve always wanted to make” is that this was the first time I didn’t really hold back on ideas I had, no matter how far-fetched they seemed at the time. I mean, the record doesn’t have anything wacky on it. There’s nothing too far outside the box we’ve created based on our previous records. But we didn’t hold any ideas or criticism back. And the reception from Michael, Jon and Josh on everything I had to bring to the table was awesome. Everyone was honest about what worked and what didn’t. Everyone understood the vibe of the material. Everyone made it their own. And that’s how all our records were made for the most part, but this one was different in that nothing felt like, “this song might have been better if…”. At least not to me. Everything from the inception of each song to the finished recording felt natural. It was a blast to make. 

D: How do you think that ‘Tales of Interest’ differs from the other Dopamines releases? How has the band’s sound/songwriting evolved over the years?

J: It doesn’t stray too far from the reservation in terms of how it sits in our catalog, but it’s definitely darker. The songwriting hasn’t changed much at all. We just write what we want. If it doesn’t fit whatever standards we set for ourselves at that point in time, we tweak it to see if we can reign it in. If we can, great, use it. If not, well then lets write something else. We don’t set very high standards, we just kind of process what’s brought to the table, and see if it comes out a ripper. As far as lyrically? I had a blast. I’m much happier these days, so it was fun to kinda dig around and see what’s been bothering me that I forgot about. 

D: How does the songwriting process work in the band?

J: For this one it was very different. We usually write as a team. and by write, I mean music. Lyrics are just Jon or I taking it home and coming back with some shit. Anyway for this record I did a lot of demoing alone. I would write 3 or 4 songs, do some demos at home, and then bring them in to practice for everyone to hear and tear apart. about 1/2 of the record was written that way. Which isn’t really normal for us. From 2012-2015, we didn’t get together much to work on new shit. We used to always write together. Someone would come in with like a hook or half a song, and we’d piece it together, together. It was a foreign concept to write shit the way we did for this record, and I didn’t like it at all at first. But eventually we got into a groove of getting together consistently and all this shit I felt like I was writing alone started to feel more like a joint effort, like it used to. I mean the end result couldn’t have happened without an equal effort from everyone, so ultimately it ended up feeling like I thought it should in the end, a team effort. 

D: I heard that ‘Tales of Interest’ was recorded in like four and half (booze-fuelled) days. How does that compare to other Dopamines LPs?

J: Pretty much par for the course. I think the first LP was mostly whiskey and beer, Expect the Worst was a lot of five star pizza and Weird Al DVDs, Vices was a lot of Andre Brut Champagne and Tales of Interest was Space Bags and Cold Duck. You gotta prioritize these things.

D: What is the album cover about?

J: That photo is of a junkyard I frequent in Cincinnati, when I need parts for my car. I’ve always hated spending money on cars, so if it’s feasible I try to work on shit myself. Anyway this particular junkyard is a “pull-n-pay”. You literally check to see if a car that matches yours is “in stock”, and you go pull parts from it. All the cars are setup in aisles, like in the photo. I don’t know, I mean it looks pretty ominous in the photo, which was the intent. But in reality, that place kinda puts me at ease. Plus there’s all walks of life there, it can get pretty hilarious. I took that particular shot years ago when I was there looking for a turn signal lever. I was giving a friend a ride home and he was fucking really wasted, and we were listening to metal and he kind of got out of control and kicked my steering wheel while i was driving, and completely snapped the turn signal lever off. The photo actually wasn’t hi res enough to use for the cover, so I just went back and took the same shot with a slightly better camera. I dunno, just thought it looked kinda neat. 

D: What was the thinking behind the decision to re-record “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (and re-name it) and “Business Papers”?

J: “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (Hot Rod reference. Go watch it) was re-recorded because we love that song and wanted it to get proper exposure. It fit the vibe of the record and I always wanted the bridge to be more outer space-y. So we threw it on and renamed it “Expect the Worst”. Michael thought that was a good name for it because it made it seem more mysterious, naming it the title of a previous record. Like when NOFX did “Pump up the Valuum” and didn’t put the title track on the record. I mean, it looks better on the back of the jacket than “Douglas Bubbletrousers”. we didn’t want to write this serious as fuck record and then you’re taken out by a WTF song name.  

“Business Papers” was the first song written after Vices was done. It is by far my favorite Dopamines song. I so badly wanted to hold on to it for a full length, but when Larry Livermore calls you and asks if you want to put a song on a comp that he is curating, you fucking give Larry the best you got. I thought we would have had a new record out way sooner than 2017, so when it came time to start putting Tales of Interest together we were like fuck it. Put it in there. Honestly, Business Papers is the song that kicked the door in for every song I wrote after that. That’s why I wrote a reprise of it for the end of the record. I would have written a 30 minute version of that song and put it out as a record if someone asked for it. Love that song. Everyone fucking killed it on Business Papers. Hopefully Adeline doesn’t get miffed that we re-recorded it. The Thing that Ate Larry Livermore was an incredible comp to be a part of. Maybe that song should have lived and died there. Oh well. Also, we stole that song title from our friend Jonathan Pool (Brickfight, F.Y.I.). Sorry dude. 

D: Titling the record ‘Tales of Interest’ is the second Futurama reference I’ve found The Dopamines have made along with the clip that was played at the end of “Dick Simmons” on Expect the Worst. Are there any other Futurama references that I am missing?

J: There’s the song “Try This Kids at Home.” On the copyrights split. Bender says it during the episode “Bender Should not be Allowed on TV”. It was the pain in the ass to get that as the song title; everyone thought I meant “Try This at Home, Kids.” and I kept having to correct everybody. I think that’s it. I wanted to do something Futurama-y on every record, but I get vetoed constantly with all my stupid ideas. I actually wanted to put the sound clip from “Anthology of Interest” on the new record, to close out side A, and right before the last song on the record. But it was too goofy.   

D: What do ‘Kalte Ente’ and ‘Kaltes Ende’ refer to?

J: They both mean “Cold Duck”, which is a flavored champagne we drank a lot during recording, because it’s fucking called “Cold Duck” so why not drink it? We wanted to call a song Cold Duck on the record, but because the record is kind of dark we thought it might take away from the vibe which is weird because we usually don’t care about that shit. So I jumped on Wikipedia to learn more about Cold Duck, because why the fuck not? Turns out the original names for it come off really cryptic and dark when you make them song titles, so in they went! And another happy coincidence, the German name for Cold Duck translates to “cold end”, and the song “Kaltes Ende” on the record is about a family member who died of an overdose. So what started as a joke ended up actually fitting.  

D: What inspired the decision to cover the High Hats song “Heartbeaten by The Police”? How does it fit in with the rest of ‘Tales of Interest’?

J: Well we toured Europe in 2015, and the band Priceduifkes toured with us. It was an amazing tour for many reasons, one of which came in the form of a mix CD. The dudes in Priceduifkes made a couple tour CDs, with a mishmash of different bands, genres, etc. One particular song was “Heartbeaten by the police” By The High Hats. They’re a pop punk band from Sweden and I’m genuinely shocked that they’re relatively unknown in the states. Both records (that I know about) are total rippers.  Anyway we immediately fell in love with the song, and then decided to do a cover of it. I’m not sure we were always committed to putting it on our full-length but as our material began to develop, that song really started to reflect the vibe of the record. So we were like “fuck it, lets cover it for Tales of Interest”. I actually asked permission from them to cover it. Jonk, the guy who put out both High Hats LPs (Alleycat Records) gave me the go ahead, but as I understand it some of the guys in The High Hats don’t really communicate regularly via the internet, so I don’t know if the band is ACTUALLY fine with our cover. 

D: You covered Guided by Voices for a 7” recently too. Are there any future plans to record any more covers?

J: We just kinda record covers at random. We actually did a cover of “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News. We did it for Josh’s wedding, his wedding favor was a real limited 7″. It’s kinda awesome, except I slowly got real drunk while recording it, and by the time I finished my vocals, some of them are REAL bad, but we kept them in because it was kind of funny. It’s floating around the internet, I submitted it as our song for the Fest 16 comp and I think you can hear it on Rad Girlfriend Records’ bandcamp page.

D: So, more broadly, what is going on with the band right now? You had a hiatus of sorts for a while, but you are going back on tour in the summer, is that right?

J: Yeah we’re doing a tour starting on June 18th in Baltimore, and hitting up all the upper east and Canada, dipping back down through the Midwest. Just check our Facebook. It’s been ages since we’ve hit up a lot of these places, and honestly, I don’t think this is the beginning of serious activity for us, so come out!

D: I understand that you recently had to cancel the planned European tour. Are there any plans to come back over here at some point?

J: Oh absolutely. 2018 definitely. We’re really bummed that we had to scrap the tour, but there were some circumstances that got in our way. But rest assured we’re going to get back there! 

Check out the new record here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

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Interview: Iona, Shit Present

Posted: February 14, 2017 in Small Talk

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It is my firm belief that Shit Present are probably the most intriguing band to come out of the punk underground in the last couple of years. Both of their two EPs have been nothing short of fantastic. If you were unaware, this is Iona Cairns from Great Cynics new band, where her songwriting and vocal abilities have really come into their own. I caught up with Iona for a quick chat to see what was going on…

DB: Hi Iona! Later this year, you are set to put out your second release Misery and Disaster. How do you think it turned out and how does it align with your previous S/T EP?

Iona: Hi!! I think it turned out pretty well in the end considering we did it pretty loosely, ha. I’d say it’s more of the same as the first EP, savage white woman melodrama.

DB: How was the recording process?

Iona: It was cool! My brother does our recordings cause I’m really nervous about that stuff so I feel real comfortable with him and it’s cool, he’s just doing it for fun.

DB: What’s the artwork for the EP about?

Iona: My grandma was visiting at the time and was talking about how she would like to have the option of getting high without tobacco or a pipe and we suggested an apple. We made her one and got a photo of it. It was while we were recording. I liked the spirit of what she was saying essentially that she’s in her seventies and what if one day she wants to get high using an apple?? Well now she knows!!

DB: As you have been playing as a full band for a while now, do you think that you were more ‘in tune’ in recording Misery and Disaster than the first EP?

Iona: Yes, for sure. We weren’t a band at the time when we made that last EP. Nic didn’t play on it either. It’s been really cool getting better at the songs over time and getting used to playing a new instrument too.

DB: Indeed, you started Shit Present as a solo project. What was the reasoning behind the move to add the rest of the band? And how did that come about?

Iona: It actually started as a two piece with Ben on drums. We did a few shows and made a demo. Specialist subject wanted to put it out and we added bass and second guitar after and formed the band around it I guess! It was cool it coming together through email by Thom and Fitzy adding their guitars.

DB: Please tell me, what is the origin of the band name?!

Iona: The thing about the name yeah, is that it’s a double entendre and I don’t want to talk about it!

DB: What would say are your main lyrical and musical inspirations in Shit Present?

Iona: Osker & Shakira

DB: You recently went on tour with PUP! How did that go?

Iona: I had a really sick time. I think we all did. Really nice bunch of people and really fun sold out shows!

Check out Shit Present here:https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/shit-present

Interview: Hallie Unlovable

Posted: November 22, 2016 in Small Talk

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The Unlovables were one of the core bands of the underground pop-punk scene in New York in the early to mid 2000s, alongside The Ergs, The Steinways and Dirt Bike Annie. They played a super poppy, harmony-led brand of pop-punk that is among the best of its kind. Crushboyfriendheartbreak remains one of my favourite pop-punk releases ever. They are a band that has really stood the test of time, too. The Unlovables have had a reunion of sorts recently: releasing a split LP with Dirt Bike Annie, that I gushed over a month or two ago (https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/review-the-unlovables-dirt-bike-annie-reunion-show-woah-oh/) and then going on their first tour in 9 years, following their appearance at this year’s Fest. I spoke to Hallie, the lead singer, about the nature of this reunion, the New York pop-punk scene, nostalgia and her new band Hiccup…

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KTOTT: So, I’ll just kick off by asking, how did the recent tour go?

Hallie: It was really fun. I didn’t think we would ever tour again because, you know, we are not really a band anymore. You know, we never felt the need to break up or anything dramatic like that because we are still friends and we love each other and we see each other all the time, whether socially or just seeing each other at shows, or you know some of us are still involved in projects together like you know Mikey, the drummer for the Unlovables. He and I are in the house band for a tv show called The Chris Gethard show. So, you know, Mikey and I still collaborate all the time on another project. We still love making music together as The Unlovables and, while we don’t need to do it all the time or be a totally active band or put out records all the time, it is still just really, really fun to just do something together. So, we’re in this funny stage of being a band where we’re not quite a band, but we’re also not not a band [laughter].

I didn’t think we’d ever tour again. I didn’t think we’d ever release new music, and we released half of an album this year because we did a split LP with our friends Dirt Bike Annie, who you probably know if you’re into the pop-punk scene from the 2000s, but it felt really fun to just play music again and this was tour was just like a part two to that. I love that we couldn’t commit to doing a whole new record because we are all busy doing other things, but half a record, that we could do! It was so gratifying to do and we’re so proud of it. Then on this tour, we got to finally play those new songs in front of a lot of different audiences which felt great and it was really sweet and touching to see both old fans come out and then to also realise that we have all these new fans! That’s just funny, that’s just the internet. You know, when you put your music online, you can not really be actively working on your band or your music, but your music is still out there for people to check and discover and listen to. So, it was really cool- on this tour, we got to play to people who came up to us after the shows and said, ‘I never thought I would see you guys live, I cannot believe…I discovered you after you went into hibernation and I didn’t know if I would be able to catch a live show and I’m so excited that I did’. So, it was great. Sorry that’s a really long answer to your question, but the tour was really, really great!

KTOTT: It was your first tour in 9 years, is that right?

Hallie: Yeah, we hadn’t toured since 2007.

KTOTT: So was it a bit of a struggle to get back into the swing of things?

Hallie: Yeah, and we also made a funny decision in that we decided to tour a part of the United States that we had never toured to begin with. We had toured a lot back in the day. We had toured a lot in the Midwest. We had gone up and down the West Coast a bunch. Back in that period we were active- you know, we started the band back in 2001 and like I said that last tour was in 2007- there wasn’t a great scene for pop-punk in the South and the South-East, so we had just never really toured there, so it was really funny and challenging to book this tour, because I didn’t have any connections in these cities to begin with and now I really don’t! [laughter] I really had to figure out who are the bands that have popped up in these cities in Florida, in North Carolina, in Georgia, that are holding a torch for this kind of music? Who are still trying to keep it alive and still playing, you know, Lookout-style pop-punk. We were able to find promoters and bands and punkhouses. We played a lot of punkhouses on this tour. So fun, with kids just singing along. So, yeah, it definitely presented its challenges, but it was well worth it.

KTOTT: So, your tour was along the East coast, was it?

Hallie: Well yeah, we were playing this beautiful, fun festival that we have played on and off over the years called The Fest, which is held in Gainesville, Florida every fall. It’s normally the same weekend as Halloween. So, we played The Fest in Gainesville over the Halloween weekend and then we toured back up over the Eastern seaboard of the United States back up to New York. So, I think we played about eight shows on our way back up. It was fun.

KTOTT: Yeah, I’ve wanted to go to Fest for a while now. I see the line-up every year and it always looks great.

Hallie: This year was particularly great because it was the 15 year anniversary. It feels a bit like a family reunion every year because everyone who cares about this kind of music basically migrates to Florida every fall and it is just an incredible chance to re-connect with bands that you love or loved, to re-connect with bands that you met on tour at some point, to re-connect with friends in the music scene that don’t necessarily live in the same city that you live in. It just seems like everyone gathers and hangs out for that weekend and it’s normally pretty magical. Then because it was the 15 year anniversary this year, it was just particularly fantastic.

KTOTT: Do you have any particular standout highlights from this year’s Fest?

Hallie: Yeah, it is difficult to say because there were so many. People were really excited that The Ergs! were reuniting. They hadn’t played in quite a long time and because I’ve made music with Mikey Erg! for so many years, that was really cool to see that band reunite. We had been friends with them since they first started being a band and we both did our first West Coast tour together, The Unlovables and The Ergs! and we played to- I’m serious- we sometimes played to like 5 people on that tour. We loved it, because it was our first tour and the whole thing just seemed crazy and fantastic, but to see them play this year at Fest to- I mean, I’m not good with large numbers, but I’m guessing it was at least 1000 people, it may have been more. So that really moved me. Not to get too sappy about it, but it was really cool to see my friends play in front of that big a crowd where everyone was flipping out.

KTOTT: So, going back to what you were just saying, what were those shows like back in the early days? Did you often play to very small crowds?

Hallie: At the start, yeah. Because pop-punk was much more popular back then but with any band when you are starting out, you are always going to have to kind of ‘eat shit’ for the first year! [laughter] What felt really good was to go to a city for the first time and play to almost no-one and then you’d find that you would go back the second time and there were more people and then you would go back the third time, and there would be like a lot of people. It felt like you would plant little seeds in a city and then you would go back a while later and see what had grown. There was always growth. When you checked back in on a city, word had spread and the people that had seen you had told their friends. It was a very rewarding model of doing something. Like a clear result to your efforts that felt really good.

KTOTT: So, how have the crowd sizes been on this tour then?

Hallie: At Fest, our crowd sizes are always big because like I said, it is a gathering of lots of people who are into this kind of music. Our crowds on this tour, I would say were small but mighty. I don’t know if we did the best job of promoting it. We were just kind of doing it for ourselves and doing it for fun. I think were probably Unlovables fans in all of those cities that didn’t even know we were there, but it was cool. Like I said, we would see young people who were probably in middle school or high school when we were first playing shows or maybe even people who used to be in Elementary school when we used to be a real band and we would see people who had discovered the music and were so excited to see us live. So we weren’t playing to huge crowds but the people that we played to, it really meant something to them, so it was really fun.

KTOTT: Those can be the best kinds of shows, right?

Hallie: Yeah, and we played Washington DC on Tuesday and we had a fan there from Colorado and we had a fan there that had driven from Conneticut. I mean, those places are not near. It was like people had seen that we were playing again and everyone knows that we do things so rarely that people thought, ‘well I better just take this opportunity to see them live because I don’t know when and if it is going to come again’ and so it was cool. We had that at a number of shows where people had travelled like significant distances to see us. So yeah, you could see that it meant something to people.

KTOTT: And then that’s so cool that you managed to get some new fans as well!

Hallie: Yeah, that is just crazy to me! That we could have put so little effort into this band for the last 9 years but that people have continued to discover the music. It’s cool.

KTOTT: You mentioned that you put out the split LP last year with Dirt Bike Annie. How did that come about? And why did you decide to come back and release something new?

Hallie: We had a few songs that we had been playing right at the end of the years when we were active. That we had recorded. And we really liked them. So, I think we had some regret that these songs had just never had a chance to like live, you know. We had been playing them live on that last tour we did and people responded well to them and we were really proud of them, but then we had all kind of got busy with other things and the band had kind of got put on hold. I think we had in the back of our minds regret over never doing anything with these two songs, which was “Skip a Stone” and “Worthwhile”. We sort of felt that they were good songs and it’s a shame that no-one has recordings of those. And I have a new band called Hiccup, that is like my primary music project right now. I had written a couple of songs that I had tried to do with Hiccup and Hiccup has kind of a different sound and when I tried to play the songs with those guys, I was like, ‘this is not a Hiccup song, this is an Unlovables song!’ Even though I wasn’t playing with The Unlovables anymore, somehow those kinds of songs were still popping out of me. I had written a couple of songs- and this is really funny, because this is how the Unlovables started. The Unlovables started because I would just write songs for my friends. I wrote a song for an ex-boyfriend about our going on vacation, which is The Unlovables song “Vacation”. That was how we started because I would write these goofy songs that were just sort of meant to exist in my personal life but when people heard them, they got excited about them and they said you should do something with those. Like you should share with them more than the 3 people you played them for, in person. Yeah, so the new Unlovables record was those two songs that we had been playing back in like 2007, it was a couple of songs that I had tried to play with Hiccup that just weren’t genre-appropriate and a couple of songs that I had written for my husband that also seemed like they would make great Unlovables songs.

We just missed playing together and it just seemed the time. You know, I think there is a little bit of nostalgia for that era for that sort of music and we have seen a lot of our old friends reunite or tour or put out a new album. I think we were just feeling inspired, like ‘hey, that would be so fun, I wanna do that too!’

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KTOTT: So, is that split LP considered to be a one-off or do you think you may release something else in the future?

Hallie: I don’t think we’ll release something else in the future, but it’s so funny because now I think life has just taught me now to ‘never say never’. It’s really fun to have a band like that. We just truly do it on our own terms. We are not trying to ‘get bigger’. We are not trying to really do anything with it. The only reason for us to get together to make music or tour or any of the things that we have been doing is because we want to spend time together, we want to see old friends and old fans, we wanna make music together. If we don’t feel like doing it, we don’t have to and if we feel like doing it, we can and I think that’s rare. You can get caught up in being a band and feeling like ‘oh, what’s the next show’? ‘oh, what’s the next release’? It’s absolutely freeing to just have a musical project that is just on our own terms.

KTOTT: Quite liberating, yeah.

Hallie: Very!

KTOTT: You just mentioned earlier your main project Hiccup. So, when did you start doing that, who is in the band and how did it come about?

Hallie: Hiccup started probably unofficially about two years ago. Alex Klute, who I play with on the Chris Gethard show, he is just an incredible guitarist and vocalist. You know we are in the house band for this little TV show in a way that you normally see that for a talk show, you know the way The Roots are playing for Fallon. We play a lot of music but it’s just generally only seen by the viewers for 5 to 10 seconds going in or out of commericals. We play tiny little short ditties to introduce a segment or sketch or interviewee. Alex and I were having so much fun doing these tiny little bursts of music on this TV show that I think we just thought ‘what would happen if we had a real band where we could write full-length songs that people would get to hear from beginning to end? [laughter] He has such a nice voice and people have always said they like the way our voices sound together. It was a fruitful collaboration from the first time we started writing songs together for the show, so Hiccup was just an exploration of what else we could come up with. I’d say it has more of a ‘90s sound, maybe more of garage feel because Alex listens to a lot of Ty Seagall, that kind of stuff. We share songwriting responsibilities and we also trade off who is doing lead vocals, so it’s not like The Unlovables where I was just trapped at the microphone the whole time. Now, with Hiccup, I have whole songs where I just get to bounce around and play bass and it is the most fun. I can just let Alex take over vocal responsibilities for a second. I think it gives the band a really nice and interesting sound. It sort of reminds me of when I would be listening to a Pixies record and all of a sudden there would be a song where Kim Deal would be doing more of the vocals and that is so fun to just get a new voice in the middle of the record.

So, Hiccup is cool and I’m really proud of what we do. We have our first full-length record coming out on Father-Daughter records which is an incredible label on the West Coast. That label is putting out our full-length at the beginning of next year. So, that is going to be the first time that people are actually going to get a sense of what our sound is. Right now, we only really have two songs that we put out on a cassette. So we can’t wait to get the full-length out and for people to hear the songs.

KTOTT: So how active is the band?

Hallie: Pretty active! We actually toured down to The Fest in Gainesville this year. So we did like a week long tour in October. We play shows in New York city at least once a month and we’ll be playing South by Southwest later this year which we’re really excited about, which will be right on the heels of the album coming out. So yeah, that band is pretty active.

KTOTT: Yeah, so this acts as your main, active project and then you may do the odd show with The Unlovables here and there, dormant in the background.

Hallie: Exactly!

KTOTT: So yeah, going back to what you were saying before about the pop-punk scene back then, you were saying that there is a bit of nostalgia for that period now. Why do you think that is? Is it because there is less going on now or is it that kind of nostalgia people have for when they were younger?

Hallie: I think everything in pop culture just comes and goes in waves. There was so much enthusiasm for pop-punk, in the early nighties in an underground way when a lot of that Lookout records stuff was happening on the West Coast. That obviously all got huge in 1995 with Green Day and pop-punk making more of a jump into the mainstream. Then it was able to maintain people’s focus and enthusiasm for another maybe 6 or 7 years after that and then there was definitely a time when pop-punk was just sort of embarrassing and everyone was into indie rock and no-one wanted to admit that they used to listen to Weezer. I think just that some of the people that came of age listening to pop-punk are older now and enough time has passed that maybe it seems cool or vintage or just in an ironic way- I can’t tell exactly how people are thinking about it! I know, for me, I just needed my palette cleansed. I love pop-punk as much as anybody and I put out so many albums and I devoted my life to that sort of music and that scene for so long that I just definitely hit a wall with it. Man, there is only so much Ramonescore I can listen to! Even I went through a phase when I just did not want to listen to that stuff. I just needed a break. Again, the beauty of The Unlovables is that I allowed myself to take that break. I didn’t keep beating a dead horse. I just felt that I had my fill of that thing or felt that I said everything I wanted to say in that particular format. How great to be able to take a break and then find that all these years later, now that I have allowed myself to step away from it, I do still have enough love for this thing and that I do have a bit more to say in this format.

KTOTT: Yeah, you just needed to step away from it a little bit to re-appreciate it again.

Hallie: Yeah, and I think that maybe collectively as music lovers, we all did. It really feels great to have a refreshed enthusiasm for this stuff now, and to see that other people are feeling the same way.

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KTOTT: So, when The Unlovables decided to take a break, was there any particular reason for this, or did it just come down to the band wanting to get away from that scene and kind of music for a while?

Hallie: Well, I used to work in the theatre for a long time as a professional dancer and in the years when The Unlovables had been active, I was performing in shows where my performance show had a little bit of flexibility. So, I was still able to request nights off or performances off, so that I could go and play a show with the Unlovables or I was able to request time off so that I could do a tour. In 2007, I got cast in a show where I was performing eight shows a week and I just didn’t have any nights free to play punk rock shows. Mikey was touring a lot with a lot of other bands. He was doing tours with Star Fucking Hipsters and The Copyrights and who knows what else. If you know the career of Mikey Erg! at all, you’ll know that you can’t really keep track of that guy. He plays in like sixty different bands. So between my being busy and our guitarist Matt, who had played on our second release Heartsickle , he had moved to Colorado. So, it just seemed like everyone suddenly got busy with other things and it felt like a great time to be busy with other things. I think we all felt lucky and it felt like a great and interesting development, rather than like ‘oh shoot! We can’t do The Unlovables any more’. It felt like a natural time to put The Unlovables on pause.

KTOTT: Cool. I just wanted to ask more about the pop-punk scene in New York. What kinds of changes do you see in today’s scene from back then? Either musically or in the scene more broadly.

Hallie: Yeah, well, I think that the first big obvious thing is that the music scene when we were playing was still very much based in Manhattan, which is like- if you don’t know New York very well, if you write a letter and send it to New York, New York, it goes to Manhattan. Then we had outer boroughs like Brooklyn and The Bronx and Statton Island and Queens that are also part of New York City, but they’re considered outside of the city centre. When The Unlovables were playing in the 2000s, Manhattan, the East Village, CBGBs, the Knitting Factory, all of these music venues which were the heart of the music scene, most of them were still based in Manhattan. Then there has just been the most unbelievable shift, you know just crazy gentrification in Lower Manhattan. There are almost no music venues left there. Almost none. Everything is in Brooklyn now. Not only is everything in Brooklyn but things in Brooklyn are slowly shifting to further and further away from Manhattan. Maybe five years ago, the venues were just across the river from Manhattan and now it’s going further and further as things get more expensive and music venues lose their leases.

I’ll say that the thing that I have learnt and the thing that I find the most inspiring is that no matter what happens and no matter how many venues close, no matter how much things change and neighbourhoods change, something always pops up! Someone always picks up the slack. We had this huge blow last year where the publication Vice took over a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and there were three really vibrant music venues because of it and we all thought, ‘oh, this is terrible, where are we going to have shows now?’ Within six months, there were more venues, like I said, just further from Manhattan. So, that has been really interesting to see. It has been kind of interesting to see this migration of where the music scene is focused.

There are a lot of younger bands who seem to have developed a passion for this kind of music and they are putting their own spin on it. I’d say it’s been really interesting to see because garage has been so big there and it still kind of is, it has been cool to see that a lot of the younger bands like Fidlar or other younger pop-punk bands seem to have more of an angry garage-y influence as opposed to the super poppy pop-punk, but I like that stuff just as well, maybe more.

KTOTT: Yeah, things go in waves don’t they? Maybe in a few years, the super poppy stuff might come back in again or something else might pop up.

Hallie: Yeah, totally. The thing I’ve learnt is just not to be sad about it. The one thing you can bank on is that the city and the music scene is going to change constantly. You can’t get too attached to things being a certain way. I loved the way New York City was when I moved here in 1995 and I loved the venues that I went to when I first arrived and I loved the bands that played. From that, I have the most nostalgia. I actually write a lot about it in the song “1996” that’s on our new release. Just a nostalgia for- I think this is probably true for anyone who moves to any big city- how it is when you first move there is always the best to you, but then you talk to people who got there before you and they are like ‘oh no, you missed it when it was really good’. That is one thing I have really come to terms with, just that you can’t get attached to it being a particular way. It’s gonna change and it’s gonna be just as great. It’s just gonna be different.

KTOTT: Yeah, and you just need to go with the flow…

Hallie: Yeah, and adapt and see the beauty in the new stuff!

KTOTT: So, you just going back to that split release you did with Dirt Bike Annie. Just wanted to ask two things about that. Firstly, what is your relationship with Dirt Bike Annie?

Hallie: Yeah, I would say they were sort of like our brother or sister band back in the day. Going back to what I said that I had just been writing songs sort of for myself or for my friends or just for fun. Dirt Bike Adam and Dirt Bike Dan and Dirt Bike Deannie, those guys were really critical in me deciding to get my music out there in a more public way. They really, really encouraged me. I would go to see them play and they were having such a good time. They would be playing little house shows where they had just sort of grown their own scene. They made playing music seem so achievable in a really fun way. It was maybe I think the first time that I had seen that you didn’t have to be like a rock star or filling out Madison Square garden to have a band and have fans show up to shows and sing along to every single one of your songs. So between the model that they presented me with of how to be a punk rock band and the actual encouragement that they gave me, on a personal level, they are much of why I got into playing music.

So, it really felt like things had come full circle in such a cool way for us to release this split together, because we had never collaborated on anything when all of our bands were playing all the same shows and shared all the same fans, so I’m glad we got around to it eventually! [laughter] Even if it was years and years after the fact. We talked about it but just didn’t get around to it. So, I’m so glad we did it eventually.

KTOTT: Because it was their reunion release as well, wasn’t it? They hadn’t been active for a good while either?

Hallie: Yeah, for about the same amount of time. There was just this feeling starting around 2005 that people had had their fill of pop-punk, including the people playing pop-punk [laughter]! There was just this sense that, ‘oh God, I think we have said all we have to say on this topic’. If you look at it, Dirt Bike Annie, The Unlovables, The Ergs!, The Steinways- although The Steinways kept going for a bit longer, but we all basically stopped playing at around the same time.

KTOTT: On that split LP, do you think that your own songwriting style has changed at all over the years? I know you said that some of the songs were older that you wrote back in the day.

Hallie: Yeah, two of them were written in about 2007. Yeah, my song writing style…I don’t know if you have ever listened to that Descendents record that came out around 2005?

KTOTT: Yeah, Cool to be you?

Hallie: Yeah, they put out this gorgeous record that was still pop-punk but instead of being about crushes, or like having differences with a friend or girlfriends, suddenly the record was about divorce and all of these grown up things. I really appreciated when they did that, because there are definitely pop-punk bands that keep just writing songs about like ‘hey do you want to go to the dance with me?’ when the band members are well into their thirties. You just feel like calling bullshit. I don’t believe that you actually care about that anymore. I don’t really need to be a perpetual teenager. I don’t really think that’s cool [laughter] I don’t know if I was really trying to or just because I was growing up but I think the new record is kind of a cool combination of still keeping in that pop-punk genre but I like to think that the lyrics are more grown-up or reflect a little bit life experiences or have a little bit more depth at actually wanting to look back at life. I love that I wrote a bunch of songs when all I had to care about was whether I had a date or not [laughter] but I have deeper concerns in life now, and I definitely tried to write about them and draw upon them on this record. I’m pretty proud of it. Not to toot my own horn, but I think it worked well. Did you watch the new Rocky movie that came out recently?

KTOTT: No, I didn’t.

Hallie: So, it was fine, it was pretty good. But I thought it was so cool that we were all introduced to this character Rocky Balboa back when Sylvester Stallone was in his like late twenties or early thirties and then when they released this new movie, whenever it was, where you got to see him as an old man. That’s so cool! You almost never get that. You almost never get to see a character grow up or be in a totally different phase of their life. I’m not like a senior citizen or anything, but…I’m kind of glad for people that were into The Unlovables back in the day that they get to kind of catch up with me and where I’m at now.

KTOTT: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s generally a thing with pop-punk right, where the majority of bands tend to keep singing about the same kind of stuff. For years and years. There is not much growth really.

Hallie: Yeah, I get why people would do it. If you are going to look at that genre and distil it down to its purest form, it did pop out of The Ramones when they were young and dumb and angry. So, I get why people think that is a defining thing about the genre but I would rather write songs that are true to where I’m at.

KTOTT: Yeah, it can feel like a fake if not, like, as you said when you hear older bands singing about going to the prom…

Hallie: Yes, exactly! I don’t judge any other people about the art they make- you know, put stuff into the world, no matter what it is- but it would feel to me like wearing a straightjacket. To have to keep writing songs on the same subjects forever.

KTOTT: Yeah, I was actually particularly thinking of the song “Worthwhile” from the new split LP. In that that is kind of a more mature or grown-up song than you had written in the past, but you were saying that that was one of the older songs, right?

Hallie: Yeah, but by older, it was still in 2007, so it was still a good six years after the songs I had written that appeared on Crushboyfriendheartbreak.

KTOTT: Ok, so it was still one of the later songs really. I just wanted to ask you a couple of small things. So, I read somewhere that your band name was inspired by The Smiths, is that right?

Hallie: Oh yeah! Because I always loved that song “Unlovable”. It’s one of my favourites and it’s one of the first Smiths songs that I got into. I don’t know, I am a pretty positive and cheerful person if you meet me in person but you know, I’m still a human being. Like everyone has that part of them that feels like, you know, you are hanging out in a group of people and you think that everyone likes each other better than they like you. You know the darker, sadder parts of your personality and you feel like if anyone actually got to know those, that they would just shun you. Both that Smiths song and that word ‘Unlovable’ spoke to a part of me that was really important, but that people wouldn’t necessarily see if they met me because I do give off a very sunny vibe when you see me in person. I am that way, that’s not a façade, but I am a human being. I have other parts of me. And it’s really funny because my husband has Morrissey tattooed on his arm and he has a Smiths lyric tattooed also on his arm, so it is funny that we had that in common, that the Smiths had been really important to us during our affirmative years.

KTOTT: I like that the name is linked with that song, but that it sounds like a very typical pop-punk band name at the same time! Final question: I assume that there is zero chance of this, but is there any chance that you would ever tour in Europe?

Hallie: It’s funny, people ask us from time to time. We would love to. I think we just worry that we have been inactive as a band for so long that we would be rolling up into cities in Europe and it would be like four sad guys in their thirties standing around getting really excited to see The Unlovables [laughter]. So, while we would love to do it, and while none of us has a crystal ball to look into the future to see whether that would be a successful and rewarding thing, it definitely feels like it would be a big risk to do it. So, yeah, probably not. Much more likely that Hiccup will get there at some point.

KTOTT: I’ll have to come to Fest some year then!

Hallie: Yeah, we’ll definitely continue playing Fest each year. We like the band too much to bury it permanently and Fest is the gathering of so many people and bands that matter or mattered to me. I can’t see a reason why we would stop playing Fest. It is so fun to dust off these songs once a year and play them for people who wanna hear them.

Check out the Unlovables/ Dirt Bike Annie split LP here: https://theunlovables.bandcamp.com/album/reunion-show

 

 

 

Interview: Greig, Kimberly Steaks

Posted: October 25, 2016 in Small Talk

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Kimberly Steaks are an exciting, high-energy, catchy-as-hell punk rock band from Scotland, who have a clear ‘90s Lookout influence. After a full-length and an incredible 7” (Chemical Imbalance), they recently released as split 7” with Dead Bars for the All in Vinyl record series. I chatted with Greig, lead singer of the ‘Steaks…

Hello, Kimberly Steaks! You have just released a split 7” with Seattle band Dead Bars, as part of the All in Vinyl record series. How did that come about?

Hello, Keep Track of the Time! All in Vinyl have been one of our favourite UK labels for years, and were nice enough to put out our album even though not many people had heard of us. Their split 7” series are always great, especially in introducing people to bands that they might not check out otherwise, so when they asked us to be a part of the third series we instantly agreed.

 It’s a cool idea to pair bands up from different sides of the Atlantic for the series. Did All in Vinyl do the pairing themselves, or did you have any control over who the other band would be on your split 7”?

All in Vinyl did the pairing. At the time we hadn’t heard of Dead Bars, but when Dave (AIV) told us they had members of Big Eyes we were sold! Their side of the record is great. Both bands are quite different sounding but I think it works.

So, what are the plans in the near future for The Kimberly Steaks? Any further 7”s or possibly an album in the pipeline?

We’re writing a new album at the moment. Everything takes a while for us because we’re all busy with work and uni, plus Ross is a dad now so we can’t really practice a whole lot. We’re hoping to demo most, if not all of the new songs at the end of the year and record it sometime in 2017. It’s going to be a bit different from the last one, louder with more of a live sound to it. We’ve played a few of the songs live and people seem to really like them which is encouraging!

How has touring been this year for you guys?

We’ve not done a whole lot this year, but what we’ve done has been great. Manchester Punk Festival back in April was a highlight, we played a tiny sweaty club after the main stage finished and it was full to capacity, those kinds of gigs are always the best. We did a two-week UK tour last month which was also great fun. We did a lot of touristy stuff during the day like exploring caves and castles, and went down a big pit in Wales which was amazing.

So, taking a step back, how and when did the band form?

The band actually started around 2005, but sounded very different than it does today. It’s probably for the best that we didn’t record much back then, because we sounded like a really bad Screeching Weasel cover band. We called it quits around 2007 after self-releasing our first EP, ‘Big in Dundee’ (which you can still find online if you feel so inclined, just don’t expect too much). When we reformed in 2012, it was essentially a different band but regrettably, we decided to keep the same stupid name.

 I’m interested, where does the band’s name come from?

We get asked that a lot. It’s a terrible name and the story behind it is equally as bad. It was on a camping trip in the north of Scotland and someone claimed to have a girlfriend but wouldn’t tell anyone her name. The closest thing to hand was a packet of steak & onion crisps, so our drummer Graeme’s younger brother concluded that her name was Kimberly Steak. Makes perfect sense, I’m sure you’ll agree. At the very least, we’ll never need to worry about anyone with the same band name trying to sue us.

What are your musical influences as a band? I hear a lot of 90s Lookout in the Kimberly Steaks sound.

We get the Lookout comparison a lot, especially in gig listings that describe us as some variation of “The Scottish Green Day”. We all love old Green Day so we just embrace it. As a band, the music is probably most influenced by bands like The Mr T Experience, Smoking Popes, Sicko and The Queers. We all listen to a lot of different music but simple fast pop-punk is by far the most fun to play.

How do you think that the band’s sound has changed, from the ‘To Live and Die…’ LP to this split 7” you have recently put out?

Hopefully it hasn’t changed too much. We always focus on having a good vocal melody, some nice harmonies and keeping it short and to the point. The lyrics on the album all centred around life in a small town, but there’s only so much you can write about watching TV and drinking too much. Writing lyrics is by far the hardest part of our songwriting process, and having a theme makes it a bit easier, but there isn’t much space on one side of a 7”. The newer stuff is more about dealing with being an adult (or trying and failing to do so). We’ll see how that develops for the next album.

A bit more broadly, can you describe the state of the Scottish punk scene at the moment? From what I can gather, it seems like there’s something great going on there right now.

The punk scene in Scotland is really strong right now, but it definitely didn’t happen overnight. A lot of people like Boab (of No One Knows Records), Deeker (Make That A Take Records), Fraser Murderburger and far too many more to name, have put in a lot of work in promoting gigs, putting out records and getting great bands to play in Scotland. This year marks the 10th Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee, which has grown every year since its inception and attracts bands and punters from all over the world. It definitely helps that there are so many great bands in Scotland right now too. Long may it continue!!

Check out the new Kimberly Steaks 7″ here: https://thekimberlysteaks.bandcamp.com/album/all-in-vinyl-single-series

DB

Interview: Kait, Big Eyes

Posted: September 6, 2016 in Small Talk

 

Big Eyes third album Stake My Claim recently came out and it is pretty fucking awesome. Definitely their best so far. Read my review of it here: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/review-big-eyes-stake-my-claim-don-giovanni/

I spoke to Kait, the lead singer and founding member of Big Eyes about the new record, touring, line-up changes and more!

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DB: So, the latest album Stake My Claim, are you happy with how that has turned out, and how do you think that fits in with your previous two albums?

KE: Oh, well yeah, I’m really happy with how it came out. I think it’s definitely got the best production and is maybe the most cohesive record that we put out so far and I think it definitely fits in line with the other two records, because the first one was maybe like a thinner sounding record. Like, it was the first one and we didn’t really know, so I feel like there was less of a- I dunno, I feel like I was less hard on myself with what I was putting out at that point, and the second one we recorded on tape, and we did it live so I think that one definitely sounded a lot better and fuller than the first one, but I feel like the third one is kind of just taking the best of all of the albums and also now that my singing and guitar playing has gotten better, it’s kind of accelerating and amping everything up.

DB: Yeah, so did the recording process take a bit longer for this record than the previous two?

KE: Yeah, well, we recorded this LP piece by piece, which we actually did on the first one as well. Well, the second one was completely live, except for singing, but on the first one, we had to really rush to get it done, because there was only a handful of days we could work on it, and we had to keep going back and forth to New Jersey, and it was just kind of a pain, so we were just trying to get that one done as quick as possible, but this third one, we recorded it in bits and pieces, and the only thing we had to get done, that we had a specific amount to do, was the drums. So, we got the drums done in one day. Very happy with how they came out, and then everything else, we were just able to take our time on. So, you know, I would record guitars one day, and I could kind of jump around, I could move to vocals and then we could go back. If there was a bass part that needed to be replaced, we could do that, so it was nice to just kind of sit back. Then we could take a week or two off and be like, oh this song needs tambourine or something!

DB: Yeah, so you had more time to consider the songs and the different elements.

KE: Exactly, it is nice to have some breathing room.

DB: Yeah. How long was the process in all?

KE: We recorded the drums mid-October and then we finished everything else by mid-December, so it took two months to track. Then it was mixed in- it took pretty much all of January to mix, which was a few mixes.

DB: So, was it recorded in New York?

KE: Yes, the whole thing was recorded in New York.

DB: Yeah, so I understand that you were based in Seattle for a while, is that right?

KE: Yeah, I had the band out there for a few years, from 2011 to 2014. Then I moved back home in 2014, back to Brooklyn and had to get like a whole new line-up of people.

DB: Did you change line-up when you were out in Seattle, or did the old band come with you then?

KE: Well, the original drummer that I had, CJ, he moved me out to Seattle, in 2011, we moved out there. We had gotten a new bass player, but eventually CJ couldn’t play in that band any longer, so we ended up with two different drummers. So, it was kind of a completely different line-up from the New York one when we were out in Seattle and moving back here, a completely new line-up as well.

DB: So, for this record then, it was a totally different line-up to previously. Do you feel the new line-up impacted upon the band’s sound at all?

KE: Yeah, well actually right after we finished recording this record, we moved Paul over from the bass to the guitar, and now we are a four piece band with two dualling guitarists. So, I feel like it has given us a much heavier sound and there is a lot more room for local melodies and back-up harmonies and all that kind of stuff and dual guitar leads and room for more solos.

DB: So, do you feel that when you lived out in Seattle, did the music scene there have any influence on the band’s sound?

KE: Well, I feel like we never really fit in in Seattle, but we went down to Portland a lot and up to Vancouver a lot and I feel like we fit in those two cities a lot better. I dunno, I feel like we always kind of had our own vibe, we never really 100% fit into any scene anywhere, but it would be probably foolish to say we weren’t influenced by our peers or something, but there was no conscious effort to change our sound or anything like that, but I’m sure that the rainy weather and the lack of sunshine out in Seattle probably made the band do more minor chord sad kind of songs. The second album, compared to the first album, there is a lot more poppy, major key songs on the first album, and on the second one, there is a lot more minor key kind of stuff. That’s when we started getting more ‘hard rock’.

DB: Do you feel more like you fit in now that you are back in New York then?

KE: I definitely feel I can relate more to people in New York than I could in Seattle, just because I am from out here and I know that people say New Yorkers are this way and that way, and moving back, I have definitely realised that they are more up-front and forward with things. You don’t have to guess what someone is thinking about you in New York. You can just ask them or they’ll tell you, if you wanna hear it or not. In Seattle, it’s a lot trickier. People are just weird. You would think that you are making friends with someone and then they would be very weird or stand-offish or something. People just seemed a lot more passive-aggressive in Seattle, at least to me. But yeah, I think we fit in better out in New York for sure.

DB: In terms of the music scene?

KE: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of cool punk bands out here and more rock ‘n’ roll kind of stuff.

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DB: I feel Big Eyes straddles quite a few different genres. So I was wondering, how do you see Big Eyes as a band? Do you see yourselves as a punk band, a rock band, or a powerpop band? Or wouldn’t you really define yourself in that way?

KE: I think first and foremost- I guess ideally, we are a punk band. Like our ideals and all that kind of stuff, but musically, I’d say we are more of a rock ‘n’ roll band. I think we play rock ‘n’ roll music but with a kind of punk edge to it, but I also love power-pop and the Beatles and that kind of stuff, so I feel there are a lot of poppy song structures going on in the band.

DB: I can certainly here that on the latest record particularly.

KE: Oh yeah, definitely got really poppy on this one.

DB: Have your musical influences changed over the years?

KE: Umm, not majorly. I think mostly in the last few years, I was into maybe less punk music and more like 70s/80s classic rock kind of stuff, but I still listen to a good amount of punk and pop-punk. Not like Blink 182 kind of pop-punk, more like Mr. T Experience and The Muffs and that kind of pop-punk.

DB: Yeah, the good stuff! So, yeah, in terms of you touring, in the US, would it likely to be with other punk bands?

KE: Yeah, I’d say we mostly play with punk bands. Sometimes we’ll play a show and it will be with a bar rock band or something. I kind of get the feeling that the promoter didn’t get the memo that we are not a bar rock band or something! So, we’re just a band, we just play rock ‘n’ roll music.

DB: And then it’s not maybe your crowd in the same way?

KE: It depends because you know the bar rock people, they can get down with all the guitar solos and that kind of stuff, but I feel like it tends to be a bit more like macho.

DB: So how has the reception to the latest album been so far?

KE: It’s been great. We’ve been getting way more reviews than ever before and every single review I’ve seen has been positive. So, that’s really nice. Then, yeah it’s really cool to just kind of watch your rankings go up on Spotify and all that kind of stuff. I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about it, because it’s taboo or tacky or something, but as someone who has been doing this band for six years, it’s nice to finally see some major improvements, you know. We’ve definitely been playing to bigger crowds on our tours and all that kind of stuff. Selling more records. So, yeah, it feels good!

DB: What kind of size of venues would you play normally?

KE: Yeah, we are still playing fairly small places. Usually, the capacity will be maybe 150-200 people and depending on where it is, we’ll either fill it out, or it might be more like half full or something. Depending on if it’s a city we played once or twice, there might only be 40 people there, but if it’s a place like Milwaukee or Chicago, there might be more like 100-150 people there. Still, a good amount of bars and smaller sized clubs.

DB: You went on tour with Against Me!, is that right?

KE: Yeah, it’s true, about two years ago. A little over two years ago.

DB: So, yeah, in that case, you must have been playing fairly sizeable venues then?

KE: Oh yeah, those are the biggest I’ve ever played in my life! We played at Webster Hall in New York City and that was nuts. I grew up on Long Island and that was always the place; I would come into the city and go to see bigger bands. I think I saw maybe The Weakerthans or something. I think I saw Andrew WK there.

DB: So, that was bizarre for you to be playing that venue then…

KE: Yeah, it was definitely pretty nerve-wracking, but I’m glad that I got that tour under my belt because I feel like it made me a lot more comfortable on stage.

DB: Are you playing many festivals this year? I know you are playing The Fest.

KE: Yeah, we are playing at The Fest in Florida. That’s next month, in October and then about, I guess two weeks yesterday, we are playing a festival in Asbury park, which our label Don Giovanni put together and it’s called The New Alternative Music Festival. There are no like really huge major acts, but what’s really cool about this festival is there is no sponsoring, nothing like that. So, it’s just all the label and the bands supporting it and I think it’s going to be really good. I think some of the bigger bands playing are Mira and The Hotelier and P.S. Eliot’s re-uniting for that show and a few other shows. I think those are the bigger bands. Screaming Females are playing. It’s at a pretty huge venue in Asbury, so hopefully we can fill that place out, all combining our efforts.

DB: Is it mainly Don Giovanni bands then on the bill?

KE: Yeah, I’d say, it’s a good amount, maybe 50/50, maybe even more like 60/40.

DB: So, your first record came out on Don Giovannia and then your second, you released on Grave Mistake. Was that just because of being in Seattle you changed over to Grave Mistake?

KE: Umm, yeah. So, pretty much, at that point, when we put out that record on Don Giovanni, they were more of a New York/New Jersey based label. We put that record out and then pretty much immediately moved. So, then we were all the way out in Seattle and I dunno, it was just more difficult, because we weren’t out in the North-east anymore. So, then we decided to switch it up and try a more punk and hardcore based label and see how that fanbase kind of thought of us and yeah, Alex from Grave Mistake, he kind of dealt with bands from all over the place, maybe even some international bands. It was definitely more of a country-wide label. It was a really good fit and then by the time this third record was coming out, Grave Mistake had definitely scaled back, and Don Giovanni had scaled up, so it seemed like kind of a no-brainer to move back to Don Giovanni, because he had gotten you know so many cool bands throughout the years and it seemed like his ideals were in line with mine as well. There’s a lot of bands with women in them and bands with trans people in them and bands with queer people in them, and it was just something we got behind.

DB: Yeah, it’s such a cool label. In terms of the music styles, it’s so eclectic, but there are so many different cool bands on there.

KE: Yeah, I agree. I think that what is really cool about Don Giovanni is that a lot of labels have one specific kind of band that they are going to have, like a garage band or whatever or a Ramonescore pop-punk band, or just like a certain type of specific band and so it’s cool to be on a label which has all these kinds of different bands which somehow all make sense together.

DB: So, in terms of touring then, do you have any plans to come over to Europe at any time?

KE: Yeah, we’re hoping to sometime next year. Nothing specific planned yet, but we have pretty much got to start saving up for some plane tickets, but I have a couple of different contacts out there, so I’m sure we’d be able to pull something together next year. Last time, we were out in Europe and England, it was October 2013. So, it has been a good couple of years at this point, so we would love to come back.

DB: Yeah, that’s right, so you did a European tour back in 2013. Who did you tour with?

KE: Oh, we just toured by ourselves.

DB: So, how did you find touring in Europe?

KE: Oh man, it was awesome. I think the nicest thing about Europe is that pretty much every place you play, more so in Mainland Europe- in England, we ended up staying with people at their apartments or their houses- but in Mainland Europe, there were so many different squats or venues that had rooms for the bands to stay in, and then pretty much every place you played in, there was a big kind of family meal for you guys, so it was so nice, because sometimes, it can be a burden to have on your shoulders, like, oh we don’t know where we are going to stay tonight so we will get a motel. You know being in a foreign country, in Germany, we don’t speak German, how on earth are we going to get a hotel room or something? So we ended up saving a lot of money. It was a really smooth tour and really enjoyable.

DB: So, quite a different touring experience to the US, then!

KE: Yeah! The tours in the US definitely get easier over the years, because you meet more people, you have more contacts, you are playing to more people and making more money, so you know, getting motel rooms regularly is not that big of a deal. But when you’re first touring and you’re making 40 dollars at a show, that’s not much of an option.

DB: It’s more sleeping on couches, I guess?

KE: Yeah, exactly! But the ideal tour for me is usually a combination of both, because you get to stay with a lot of your friends and all that kind of stuff, but you also get to go to a motel and go to bed early and you know, everyone gets a clean towel and all that kind of good stuff.

DB: So, was there any particular favourite stop on the European tour?

KE: I’m trying to think. We played 10 shows in Germany and pretty much all of them were really amazing. A show in Paris was really great. We played with that band Youth Avoiders. I’m trying to remember. I would say, definitely Germany and Paris. Oh, and Amsterdam was really amazing, too. We played like, it wasn’t like a really big festival, but it was like a small festival in this building. It was one of the bigger shows we played. There were like 100s of people there and I remember they paid us really well. Oh, it was so fun.

DB: Yeah, from what I understand, Germany has got quite a good underground punk scene going on and they usually get a good turnout from bands who come over from the US.

KE: Yeah, Germany was so cool. Berlin was really cool. We played with Boom Boom Kid. They are from South America. I forget which country. They have been around for years and years and I remember we were both randomly playing that show, so it was really cool.

DB: So, just changing topic a little bit, would you say the latest album has got more of a personal, introspective feel to it?

KE: Yeah, I would definitely say so. I think on the earlier two albums, I was writing more like, putting the blame on other people, or being angry at other people. On this one, I am more focusing on myself and just talking about personal change and things that I used to be ok with but I’m now putting my foot down, that kind of thing. Not letting people take advantage of me and trying to overcome anxiety and all that kind of stuff.

DB: Is that what the album title itself is referring to?

KE: Yeah, definitely, because pretty much I’ve written every single Big Eyes song, so it has always been my band. I’m the only band member that has been in the band the entire time, but I feel like I was always scared to step forward. On the first two albums, there are the full band photos on each one and on this one, it’s just me, so that is kind of the point I wanted to make. This is my band and hope that people are into it.

DB: So, the sound on the third album, is that kind of the sound that you always wanted for the band?

KE: Yeah, it definitely is. I think every record is getting closer and closer to what I wanted, because I have been so lucky to be playing with so many talented musicians over the years, and everyone just keeps getting better and better and I keep better at singing and guitar playing and song structure and all that kind of stuff. So, who knows if it will be ever exactly what I am thinking in my head, but it’s definitely getting closer to that, you know.

DB: So, apart from what you have already mentioned, do Big Eyes have any plans for the rest of the year?

KE: Well, just those two festivals that I mentioned, the one in Asbury Park and the one in Gainesville, and we will be doing a little tour around that, I think it is a 9 or 10 day tour, just up and down the east coast. Then, other than that, I think we’ll be mainly playing local shows for the rest of the year, because you know, the winter comes and it is not too great to travel for a few months. We will hopefully play some colleges, with the younger kids, you know.

DB: During the summer months then, do you tour fairly regularly?

KE: Yeah, I would definitely say the Spring through the fall is the busiest time for us to tour and then usually November through February. I mean, this year we did a tour in January, like a 3 week tour, and even when you go south, you are still hitting snow storms. So, I don’t know if we would be doing anything like that this year. We were hoping to do like a fly-out West Coast tour, just because we were all the way out in New York, so you either have to do a full US tour to get out to the west coast, or you have to fly, but it can be expensive to get 4 people plane tickets so we have to got to see if that it is a going to be a feasible option or if we are just going to save it for like next Spring or something and do a full US tour then. But who knows, if we can pull it together, we will try to get out of the east coast in January or February for a West Coast tour, because the West Coast is always so much nicer in the Winter, you know.

DB: And a full US tour would take like a month or something?

KE: Yeah, at least. Most of the full US tours I have done have been like 5 or 6 weeks. You can do it in like 4 weeks, but you have got a lot of long drives and hardly any days off, if any. I mean, this last tour we did, it was 2 weeks, but I would have loved to have made it a little bit longer and had a couple of days off.

 

Andrew Horne is the head honcho at Specialist Subject Records, based in Exeter, probably the most consistently good UK-based punk rock record label. Particularly over the last 12 months. Awesome releases from Bangers, Shit Present and Great Cynics stand out in 2015, but I’m pretty sure they have all been good. It is one of those labels where I always keep my eyes peeled for the next releases they have planned (FYI, I believe it’s a new album from Muncie Girls coming up next). If you don’t know this label at all, they have put a free downloadable compilation of the 2015 releases online to give you a taster (link at the bottom of the page).

Andrew is also bassist/vocalist in Bangers, that modern punk rock institution who never disappoint. They just released their new album Bird, which definitely demonstrates an experimental progression, but is also still definitely a Bangers album. Probably my favourite current UK-based punk band.

I chatted to Andrew about both of these things. Enjoy.

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Talk us through a brief history of Specialist Subject Records! How did you form?

It properly started around 2009, I’d just finished working at a classical label in Cornwall which taught me a bunch and we needed a platform for self releasing some Bangers records and records by a few friends (like Caves and The Arteries). It’s just slowly progressed from then on.

What made you want to run an independent punk rock record label?

I never really set out to run a real record label, in the early years it was just something I did to help out friends whose music I liked. There weren’t many active labels at the time that would have been interested so I was just trying to do my bit, I didn’t really have a plan. But as things went on the label got busier, I started doing more releases, setting the sights a bit higher each time, it’s just grown in to what it is now, which I think is somewhere near a “real record label”.

How did you find setting up Specialist Subject Records initially? Were there any particular challenges in the early days?

I wouldn’t say there were too many challenges early on, I’d learnt enough from working at a label and doing various self released projects before to know the basics and working with friends expectations were realistic. It was just fun really, I was touring a lot, playing music a lot and it was just an exciting time. Things have got more challenging as time’s gone on I think!

 

Specialist Subject records is based in Exeter. What are the links between the record label and the punk scene in the South-West? How has being based there impacted on SS?

Well I grew up not too far from here in North / East Cornwall, and used to go to gigs and play in bands in Plymouth and Exeter so I’ve known and had some involvement in the music scene round here for a while.  The first release for the label came out when I was living in Leeds, the next few when I was living in Falmouth and then spent a couple of years in Birmingham before moving back to the South West a few years ago. So the label’s never really been defined by its location

Since being in Exeter the past few years we have been releasing more things by bands from round here though and it’s cool. We’ve got an office right in the centre of the city and we get to see people from Muncie Girls, Shit Present, Great Cynics, The Fairweather Band on pretty much a daily basis and it’s a really nice way to work with bands, when it’s not an email based relationship.

What do you make of the punk scene in general in the UK right now?

The punk scene’s as good as ever, I think it’s always been consistent, just depends what you’re into. At certain times trends shift and different sub genres get more attention than others but there are always other bands if you don’t like what’s ‘in’!

I turned 30 this year so 2015’s punk scene probably isn’t going to be a definitive time in music for me personally but I’m still regularly finding new UK bands that really excite me. I guess when I don’t then it’s time to call it a day!

 

As an independent label selling cassettes and vinyl, how do you find the state of the record industry at the moment? How long do you think the vinyl revival will last?

Hard question, the state of the music industry is one of constant flux, the goal posts are constantly moving and no one really knows what the fuck’s going to happen. Really all physical formats are “unnecessary” but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still buying them. What we’re really talking about is a piece of art so if seeing, touching, reading lyrics and liner notes as well as listening to an album improves the experience for people then people will continue to buy physical products. How long that will last though is anyone’s guess.

To be honest I hope the ‘vinyl revival’ doesn’t last, it’s getting pretty tedious. For punk rock (and dance music / hip hop) vinyl never went anywhere, when the mainstream music industry turned its back on the format small independent punk rock and indie labels never did. So to have a situation now where pressing plants (which may well have shut down in the quieter years if it weren’t for those punk releases?) are backed up with major label represses and needless Record Store Day Releases, with small punk labels getting pushed to the back of the queue, absolutely sucks.

Many bands and labels have already moved to cassettes as a cheap and quick alternative to vinyl as it’s getting more and more difficult to press records. Hopefully when the vinyl bubble does burst it isn’t too late that small labels have all moved on out of necessity.

How has 2015 treated Specialist Subject?

2015 has been nuts, by far the busiest year we’ve ever had and I’m super proud of every release we’ve done (I was going to list some but you could just listen to this sampler we did: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/specialist-subject-records-2015). It’s been pretty stressful at times but it’s a constant learning process, as with any growing endeavour we’re constantly trying to do things we’ve never done before, so hopefully this year we’ve learnt some lessons for the future or maybe they won’t even be relevant for next year’s challenges!

How successful has the Subscription Service been?

The subscription service (or Season Ticket as we’re calling it – I thought it sounded more British) has been great, when we decided to try it at the end of last year I had no idea if anyone would sign up for it and we put it together on the basis that if 5 people signed up we could pull it off. In the end we had 30 people sign up, which surpassed all my expectations and financially it’s a huge help for the label. It wasn’t actually that hard to stay on top of either, I think all the releases went out on time (Kay’s very organised, not sure I could pull it off without her!), and it seems like people really enjoyed it.

We’ve already had more people sign up for next year and we haven’t even announced much of what we’re going to be putting out yet, so it’s super humbling for people to have that much faith in us!

What does the future hold for Specialist Subject? What are the plans for next year?

Now that we’ve decided to run the Season Ticket again next year means at least another 10 releases! I was kind of scared about that for a minute but we’ve actually got a really good few releases lined up already. The Muncie Girls album is coming out in March which is super exciting, they’re planning to tour loads next year and getting a bunch of good attention from press so it should be a good year for them hopefully.

Ok, a few questions about Bangers now and the new record. You just released your fourth LP Bird earlier this year. How do you feel the album turned out?

It’s actually our third, or maybe fifth depending on how you define it, sorry we’re annoying! I’m super proud of how Bird turned out, I honestly think it’s our best record yet.

How was the recording process?

I really enjoyed the recording it, we’ve never really been to a real studio before all the other records were done on the cheap in various sketchy situations with the help from talented friends (like Oli Wood from Above Them) to make it sound okay.

But this time round we thought we’d try something new so booked into Greenmount in Leeds for a week and it was great, the guys that work there, Jamie and Lee totally got what we were after from the very start and nailed it! It was great to go in and focus on it completely while we were there and come out with a finished record a week later.

Bird cover art

How do you think Bangers have developed over the last few years? I have developed noticed a musical and lyrical progression in the last album or two, particularly on songs such as “I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever be Clean” or “Trousers of Time”.

We’ve definitely developed, I’m not sure exactly how, I think as time goes on we’ve become more aware that we can do different things and because it’s still us, it’s still the same instrumentation, even the ideas we think are a bit too far out there still end up sounding recognisable as Bangers.

And I guess it’s just different influences creeping is as we get older, none of us really listen to the kind of music that we did when we started the band or any gruff / punk rock / org punk bands that we get associated with so I think it’s different influences creeping their way into what we’ve previously defined as our sound.

I also wanted to ask you about the Mysterious Ways 12”, which came out this year. You recorded the whole thing in 48 hours. What is the story behind that? How did the idea come about?

It’s basically a dumb idea we had on a long drive, we have lots of those that never come to fruition but this one did. We were about half way through writing Bird and we were basically discussing getting together for a weekend with some recording gear and trying to write another 8-10 songs as an experiment, see what came out and then salvage what we could to use on the album. Then that somehow turned into actually releasing what we came up with no matter what!

I’m really proud of how it turned out and I really think it helped with writing the rest of Bird, for the previous album Crazy Fucking Dreams I think at times we overthought things and doing Mysterious Ways just kind of reaffirmed that sometimes it is cool to just do the more obvious thing or the first idea that pops into your head.

Ok, final question. I won’t be mean and include things you released yourself, but what is your favourite non-Specialist Subject records release of 2015?

I was thinking about this the other day and I thought it would be hard to pick one record, then I looked at my Spotify your 2015 in music thing and there’s one band that I’ve listened to over 1000 songs by this year so I think that’s does it.

Tenement – Predatory Headlights

It’s so rare to hear a band pull off something original that still sits within the realm of punk music and a 25 song, 80 minute, double album would be a risky move for most bands but I totally love every second of it. Some of the best 3 minute pop songs, with added strings, jazz parts, even a 9 minute percussion interlude. Loved everything that they’ve done before but this record is even better than I’d hoped it’d be.

DB

Check out the new Bangers album here: http://bangersbangers.bandcamp.com/album/bird

Check out the Specialist Subject: https://specialistsubject.bandcamp.com/album/specialist-subject-records-2015

 

Interview: John Allen

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Small Talk

John Allen is a German folk singer, who just released his second album Sophomore at the end of 2014. Read Hard already reviewed that here if you missed it: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/john-allen-sophomore-gunner-records/

He has recently shared the stage with Frank Turner, Lucero and Chuck Ragan, too, among others.

I had a Skype chat with John about the new album, his tour with Frank Turner in 2013  and his worst New Year’s Eve memory.

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DB: Your new album Sophomore just came out at the end of last year. How do you think it turned out and how does it differ from your first album (Sounds of Soul and Sin)?

JA: Well, you know, I think it turned out pretty well, but I think I am supposed to say that. I really hate my album (laughs).

DB: Yeah, maybe that could be an alternative approach for the promo, to say you hate the album!

JA: Don’t buy it, it’s shit…no, seriously, I really do think that it turned out great. We had only five days in the studio to record it, and I recorded it with a couple of great musicians, but I had never met them before. So, we only met in the studio on the Monday morning and got started straight away, and we got finished by the Friday afternoon. Because I couldn’t afford any more studio time, so, you know, to make an album in such a short space of time with musicians you have never spoken to before…I think, considering this, it turned out remarkably well. I mean, it’s edgy; I wanted it to be edgy and raw and stuff. I’m pretty happy with it. And it’s also the first time I did a full band recording, ever! The first album, that came out two years ago, was basically only me on acoustic guitar and vocals, or on piano and vocals…so much, much more reduced in the sound, much darker in a way. Huge difference between the two!

DB: I noticed that you are going on tour next month with a full band, right?

JA: Absolutely, yeah. It’s the first time. I’m pretty excited about that.

DB: Is that going to be an ongoing thing now, or is it just for this tour?

JA: Well, the ways it is planned is that it’s only for this tour, but, you know, if it’s a success, I would love it to be a regular thing, because I believe that it’s much more interesting for the people, right? If you are on stage for two hours with just an acoustic guitar, you either have to be an extremely good guitar player, which I am not, or at some point, it’s going to get maybe boring for the people. But with a band, there are much more dynamics in it and you can go into many more styles, and I find that challenging for myself, because, you know, I cannot do what I want on stage now without fucking it up for the band; at the same time, I can give my songs a new sound, a new angle to them. And I kind of like that.
DB: So, how has the album been received so far?

JA: It got absolutely great reviews. From the UK, I’ve had a couple of reviews and they were both stunning. You know, it’s beyond belief, really. I get emails saying check out these reviews that just came out on the album, and then I’m reading it and I cannot even believe that they are talking about my music. I’m serious. It’s absolutely stunning. In Germany, it’s also been pretty good. I’ve had a review in the Rolling Stone magazine, which is completely unbelievable! Tom Petty on the cover and my review inside. It’s mind-blowing, really. Germany hasn’t been quite so ecstatic about the album, as England has, but still, pretty, pretty good. I would say an average of around 7 out of 10. I’m very happy with that.

DB: So, would you say that your main fanbase is still in Germany?

JA: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I’ve never really toured the UK. I played a couple of shows in England in Autumn 2013. I played London, Manchester; I played two shows in Lancaster. And I’ve toured Germany up and downwards, basically everywhere. I toured Germany with Frank Turner, so that obviously exposed many, many people to my music, so I’m doing pretty ok in Germany. I’m hitting the UK in October this year for two weeks, so lets see how that goes!

DB: Do you know who you are touring with yet?

JA: I’m touring with a friend of mine, Joe McCorriston. He’s from Lancaster, or that sort of area. We got to know each other about two years and have kept in touch. We’ve always wanted to do something together. So, he’s coming over to do his first shows in Germany in May. And we’re going to do the same tour in England in October.
DB: So, how was it that you got into playing folk music? And when was it that you started?

JA: I have basically played music all my life. I received piano lessons, classical piano lessons, when I was 6, and, at some point, I realised that you cannot carry a piano to a campfire, so I needed something else. So, I bought a guitar when I was 18, 19 maybe, and I just basically started strumming chords and learning it, and ever since then, I have wanted to express my own ideas and my own values. So I started writing songs when I was 20-23, and if you learn to play the acoustic guitar, folk music is basically the way into it. So, I listened to Bob Dylan a lot, and to old blues kind of stuff. Then, friends of mine introduced me to The Gaslight Anthem, to a couple of acoustic videos of The Gaslight Anthem, and through them, I got into punk rock. I like to think that my music is somewhere in between the two extremes; between classic folk music and some of these former punk rock stars having gone acoustic.

DB: You toured with Frank Turner in 2013. How did you get involved with him?

JA: He played a show in Hamburg in May 2013, and I had tickets to the show because I’m a huge fan. A friend of mine said, “we have been queuing here for so long because we want to get to the front row; why don’t you bring your guitar and play for the queue while we are waiting?” To shorten the time. So, I did. I brought my guitar and I started to play to a couple of friends, and it started to rain and we are playing under this tin roof and it is very loud. So, I can only play songs where I strum hard. And at one point, I am running out of my own songs and I start covering and I play “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows. What I did not know was that that is one of Frank’s favourite songs, apparently. Usually, when I’m singing I have my eyes closed. So, I’m playing and my eyes are closed, and I open them and I stare at like 15 mobile phone cameras. Wow, how did that happen? What’s going on here? And I turn my head to the right and there’s Frank there with his harmonica and he just started to play along to me singing. And that was brilliant. He’s one of my heroes and all of a sudden, he’s standing next to me playing. So, after the show when he came out to sign autographs, to sell some merch, I walked up to him just to say thank you, because it did mean the world to me, and he said “cool, yeah, no worries, we should do something together, send me an email!” So, I emailed him the next day and after a couple of weeks, his booking office, or touring manager got back to me saying that Frank wants you on the tour and here are dates, just confirm what you can play. So, there I was, on the bill with Frank and Lucero.

DB: With Lucero, too! That’s a great story, how you met.

JA: Yeah, it’s almost surreal to me these days, but because I have told the story so often that it’s almost unreal, that I’m not the guy from the story. I’ve developed almost a third person perspective on the story.

DB: Also, regarding Frank Turner…he contributed some vocals to a song on your album Sophomore, called “Home; did he write the song with you or did he just contribute the vocals? How did it work?

JA: I wrote the song, and when he came back to tour Germany early last year, we met for a drink and I downright asked him, “would you care to sing on my album?” He was like “yeah, sure, whatever you want; I cannot make it to the studio, but record a rough cut and send it over; send me the lyrics and I will sing whatever you want me to sing!” We recorded acoustic guitar and vocals and drums and then sent it over to Frank, and he got back to us within a day or two and came up with those backing vocals.

DB: Great. It really works on the song, too.

JA: Yeah, people tell me that the song does have a Frank Turner kinda vibe in it. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I know it does work on the song.

DB: Do you have any plans to record anything else with him, or is it just a one-off?

JA: I think it is just a one-off to be fair, because he has done so much for me and I don’t want to ring his doorbell every time I need something. I think it’s a great thing, because, as I said he is one of my heroes and this is one thing that no-one can ever take away from me, the fact that he is on one of my albums, but if people get used to this, it is gonna be problematic in developing your own musical identity. Because, if in two or three years, if I am still ‘the guy who played with Frank Turner’, or ‘the guy whom Frank recorded a song with’, then I have made a couple of mistakes and a couple of bad choices. I feel a certain amount of distance is necessary over time in order for people to recognise you as an artist in your own right. ‘The guy who is being pulled into the limelight by Frank Turner’, I don’t wanna be that one…I’m super grateful for everything he has done, and I’ve told him a million times how I feel, but at one point, enough is just enough, right?

DB: So, are your lyrics written from a personal point of view?

JA: Yeah, I guess. Most of them, in a way. It’s hard to say. They are not all autobiographical; it’s not always 100% me, but there’s always a big part of me somewhere in the lyrics. I like to make up stories in a way; I like to make up stories that I can relate to and that people can relate to, but it’s not always 100% me. I don’t have to be in love to write a love song; I don’t have to be lovesick to write a very, very sad song, but whenever I write something there is always a part of me that goes into the song.

DB: I wanted to ask you about one particular lyric actually. There is a song (“Rock ‘n’ roll Romeos”), with ‘stuck between stations’ as a line in the lyrics; was it influenced by the Hold Steady song of the same name?

JA: Absolutely, yeah! I love “Stuck Between Stations”, by The Hold Steady. It’s probably my favourite song of theirs. I think the whole album, Boys and Girls in America, is a masterpiece, an absolute masterpiece. I love the song “Stuck Between Stations” and I always kinda wanted to use that image; I mean, you can call it stealing if you want, but I think it’s such a great image. Yeah, I used it for “Rock ‘n’ roll Romeos”, because it resembled what I was feeling at the time when I was writing it: this not knowing where you belong. It’s like, you wanna go somewhere, but you are always kinda stuck between, because you never get to the point where you feel home, where you feel satisfied, and I love that. And I couldn’t find a better way to put it into a couple of words, so I just used theirs.

DB: It is the perfect phrasing, isn’t it?

JA: Absolutely. Actually congratulations, because you’re the very first one to spot this.

DB: Ha. I just spotted it the other day, and though, I wonder if…?

JA: Absolutely, yeah. I have to be honest about that, because, Bob Dylan once said “songwriters are like sponges”; you take up everything you know and hear, and sometimes you absorb it into your own music. I feel like that is what I am doing….you just take it and turn it into part of what is yours.

http://www.mentionedreviews.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/JAS.png

DB: And the last quesion is inspired by your song “New year’s Eve”, the first song on your new record. What is your worst New Year’s eve memory, considering the anti- New Years sentiment of the song?

JA: (laughs) Ok…usually, when I play it live, I say that my last three New Year’s Eves are in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the three worst New Year’s Eves of all time. So…ok, here’s my favourite, worst New Year’s Eve memory ever. So, it was many years ago, 5/6 years ago, I don’t know. So, I just split up from my girlfriend at the time, or she split up from me, I don’t remember, a couple of days prior to New year’s Eve. And I was invited to a mate’s party, but the party turned out to be not his party, but his girlfriend’s party and it was an Abba/ Mamma Mia themed party. And everyone had dressed up in kinda crappy Abba costumes and everyone was trying to sing to some Abba songs. And I wasn’t in the mood at all. I was glad my mate was there, but when I arrived, he was already dead drunk, basically spending his New Year’s Eve over the toilet bowl. And I was sitting on the sofa, missing my girlfriend at the time, and got drunk on my own, basically (laughs). At some point, I think about 9pm, I tried to ring her up, ringing her mobile around 21 times, but she didn’t answer. And then at 11.30pm, I was fed up and got a taxi and went to bed. I woke up the next morning with a huge, huge hangover! And hangovers are cool if you have a good party the night before, but if the party was shit…not totally worth it. I think that is one of the fondest, worst New Year’s Eves I can remember….if we are talking about lyrics that are personal, that song (“New Year’s Eve”) is 100% true!

Check John out here: http://john-allen.de/

Interview: Larry Livermore

Posted: October 23, 2014 in Small Talk

I’m going to keep this short, because I’m pretty sure you all know this, but Lookout (without an exclamation point) records co-founder Larry Livermore released an incredible book Spy Rock Memories last year, detailing the time he spent in the early-to-mid ’80s in the wilderness of California’s Emerald Triangle and the formation of Lookout Records. It’s an affecting, personal and entertaining read that I cannot recommend enough. Larry answered questions about the book, as well as his future projects and looking back on Lookout records.

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Hello Larry! How are you on this fine Autumn day? What have you been up to during the last few months?

I am at least as fine as this autumn day, sunny, breezy, and a little cool. I have been cooped up in one room or another for the past several months editing my new book. I kind of wish it were done, but it isn’t, not quite yet.

It has been over a year now since Spy Rock Memories was released. How do you feel looking back on it now? Did it turn out like you imagined?

I’m very happy with Spy Rock Memories all around. It’s one of the first things I’ve ever done where I didn’t feel the need to do a lot of second-guessing after the fact. Of course it’s not perfect; nothing ever is. But it told the story I wanted to tell, it looks and feels beautiful, and it’s a great feeling to know it’s in print and out there for people to read should they so choose.

Since its release, what has the feedback been like from the punk community? And more specifically, those from Spy Rock who feature in the book?

Feedback has been mostly positive. In fact, to my surprise there hasn’t been a single (at least that I’ve seen) wholly negative review. The comments I’ve gotten haven’t been specifically “from the punk community,” probably because the book’s subject matter, while periodically intersecting with punk themes, isn’t specifically punk. I think at least half my readers have been more interested in the “back to the land” aspect, or have a direct personal knowledge of or interest in rural Northern California, where the story is set. Nobody who’s portrayed in the book has had any complaints, at least not that I’ve heard of. I recently had the pleasure of attending a wedding where a number of the main characters were present, and they all spoke highly of the book

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According to your blog, you have been working on another book for a while. Can you tell us any more about it? Do you have a release date in mind?

The new book has been “in the works” for some years now, but I actually started writing it on August 29, 2013, and was hoping to have it done within a year. As my calendar dolefully reminds me, I’m already a month and a half past that deadline. It’s essentially about what comes next, after Spy Rock Memories, but there’s some considerable overlap, since “what came next” was Lookout Records, which was already well underway before I left Spy Rock. I was hoping for a December release, but it looks more like spring 2015 now.

In regards to writing about “what comes next” post- Spyrock, am I right in thinking that this includes your time living in London? What time frame are we dealing with in the new book?

No, actually, the third book will deal with London. So although a certain number of Lookout-related events took place in the UK, I’ve kept discussion of them to a minimum in this book.

Aside from the book writing, are you still writing any new music?

I wrote and recorded a couple new songs with the Potatomen a year or two ago (actually, more like finished a couple songs that had been in progress for some time already), but nothing much ever came of it. I think they might be released someday, or maybe not. Other than that, no. I noodle around on the guitar or piano from time to time, but that’s about it.

A couple of years ago, you released a compilation showcasing all the hot young stuff in pop-punk today on Adeline Records- The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore. Do you think it helped increase exposure of said bands? And do you have any plans to do another compilation in the future, or was it a one-off?

They’ve asked me a couple of times to do a follow-up to The Thing That Ate Larry Liverrmore, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I’m sure it helped the bands involved to some extent, but as I said in response to a related question just the other day, I think most of those bands, regardless of how great they are – and they are great – are not likely to get the kind of exposure they would have if they’d been around in the 1980s or 90s. The specific question I was asked (this was at a book reading, actually) was which of today’s bands I would sign if I were still running Lookout, and I pointed to that compilation as being a pretty good illustration. But I followed up by noting that if Lookout had issued that same identical compilation in 1994, it probably would have sold 50 times as many copies as it would today. Not because of any fault on Adeline’s part – they did an excellent job all the way around with it – but because the demand for that style of music just doesn’t exist on the level it once did. At Lookout, we sold most of our records to kids – teenagers and young 20-somethings. People of that age nowadays are, for the most part, simply not interested in pop-punk.

Looking back in time, what is the part you miss the most about running Lookout Records?

Well, it’s nice to have a little excitement in one’s life from time to time, and there was certainly no shortage of that during the Lookout days. Also, it was nice getting in to almost any show I wanted for free, and having complete strangers treat me as if I were “somebody.” But seriously, I think perhaps one thing I miss the most is having the ability to make a difference in people’s lives. For example, today if I see a great band who really have something to offer the world, I’m limited to wishing them luck, whereas back then, I could say, “Hey, do you want to make a record?”

The Lookout Roster included such pop-punk greats as Screeching Weasel, Green Day and MTX, but is there a band you regret not having signed, or missed out on?

Well, it depends on what you mean by “missed out.” There are bands we could have worked with that would have made us millions of dollars, but weren’t necessarily Lookout-sounding bands. Or who might have fit in at Lookout at first, but later went on to evolve into very different bands. AFI, for example; their first record was standard East Bay pop-punk, and they really needed a label to take a chance on them, so it would have benefited both them and us. Maybe if they’d been on Lookout they wouldn’t have wound up going goth, you never know! But as it was, they released their first album on a label that went bust, and it was at least a temporary setback to their career. They did well in the end, though! I recently ran into Davey AFI at an event and apologized for dropping the ball on that occasion. He was cool about it. The Offspring, too. In 1992 they’d been a band eight or nine years and were going nowhere, so I thought Lookout might be able to help them, but in the end Epitaph was able to pull them out of the doldrums, so to speak! And Rancid, I really do regret them leaving for Epitaph, because they were an East Bay band with a Lookout pedigree. Once again, though, they did rather well for themselves the way things worked out. You know who else I think we could have done well for? Jawbreaker.

Did you find much of a similarity between the punk scene you were involved with in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and the scene you part of in the ‘60s?

In terms of energy and excitement, maybe, although it’s important to bear in mind that the 60s scene was far larger, and perhaps more driven by a quixotic idealism that rather quickly turned to cynicism when young people realized that all their fantasies of a more perfect world were not about to materialize. At the same time, there was not nearly as much of a DIY spirit, at least when it came to music – there were many other independent enterprises: underground newspapers, food co-ops, political movements, etc. – but the music was largely marketed by corporate entities and the masses of fans tended to see themselves as consumers rather than producers.

Final question. As I’m asking you these questions for a blog, and you are a blog-writer yourself, do you think that blogs are now more relevant than print fanzines (as you used to write for in the ‘80s/’90s) for today’s generation? Do print zines still have a place in punk rock?

Print will always have a place in many aspects of culture, including punk, but I think they’ll be more of a boutique/specialty item, much as vinyl records have become. Both print and vinyl are wildly impractical and inefficient, as well as being far more expensive means of transmitting information, but obviously they have a strong appeal to a certain sort of connoisseur, and will always be with us to some degree. But I suspect upwards of 90% of all information will ultimately be conveyed digitally, until or unless space aliens or a nuclear war or some massive solar storm wipes out the entire electronic data base, at which point print and vinyl will prove to be highly useful artifacts after all.

 DB

Buy Spy Rock Memories here: http://dongiovannirecords.com/product/90-spy-rock-memories

Read Larry’s blog here: http://larrylivermore.com/

“The Creeps are going, going to the gas chamber!” But before that, Skottie Lobotomy lead singer of Ottowa punk rock band The Creeps answered a few questions about his time in the band so far, which is pertinent since they are about to play a local show celebrating 15 years as a band. I will refrain from rambling on about the band and their latest LP Eulogies (I did that enough already here: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/review-the-creeps-eulogies-its-alive-records/), but safe to say I rate The Creeps up there with the best in contemporary pop-punk.

Hello Skottie! Can you introduce The Creeps to Keep Track of the Time readers?

Hi Dave. Sure. We’re a three-piece band from Ottawa, Ontario. We started playing together in 1999. This month is our 15th year anniversary as a band, which is kinda wild. I guess we play dark, melodic punk music. We grew up playing and listening to classic pop-punk, so there are elements of that sound in our songs but smarter people than me have noted that we’ve kinda shifted away from our roots to forge our own ‘sound’ in recent years, which is nice of them to say and I tend to agree.

Your new album Eulogies came out in July on It’s Alive Records. Are you pleased with how it turned out?

Yeah, we’re extremely pleased and pretty proud of this one. We hadn’t released a full-length since 2007 and I kinda wondered if we even had it in us anymore. All three of us play in a bunch of different bands now and the Creeps is less of a priority than maybe it once was, but once the songs started churning out it became an easy process. And there’s definitely something to be said for the ease of writing songs with people you’ve been doing it with for so long. We fell really easily back into things.

Eulogies cover art

It has been six years since your last LP Lakeside Cabin. We have had multiple 7”s during that time, but why did it take so long for an album to appear?

Part of it is the multiple bands thing and not practicing as religiously as we used to, part of it is being busier in our personal lives and part of it is just my songwriting process. I tend to like to write pretty compartmentalized records from a lyrical standpoint – not necessarily ‘concept’ records, though we’ve done some of those, but at least records with a consistent theme – and I’d kinda exhausted some of the old stories I liked to write songs around. It just took me a while to figure out what I wanted to sing about this time around.

How was the recording process for Eulogies?

It was pretty typical for us. We’ve been recording with our friend Paul ‘Yogi’ Granger at his Meatlocker studio here in Ottawa for the past few recordings we’ve done and we’re always happy with the results. He’s got a great ear for melody and is definitely a valuable fourth voice in the room when we’re working with him.

You also released the vinyl for Lakeside Cabin through It’s Alive Recs, as well as the Follow You Home 7”. How did you get involved with It’s Alive?

We did a split with our friends FEAR OF LIPSTICK from Moncton, NB, who put out some records on It’s Alive and I think that’s how we probably ended up on Adam’s radar. I think it was a mutual admiration thing after that – we liked his label and he liked our band, so it was an easy fit. He’s such an awesome dude to work with and such a positive supporter of our music that it’s been a no-brainer to keep working with him on subsequent releases.

Looking back on your early releases, it was 2003 that you put out your first album Gamma Gamma Ray. How do you feel looking back on that album now?

I think all three of us feel strangely proud..? I mean, it’s a juvenile effort in every sense. We could barely play our instruments and fell into the obvious “pop-punk” tropes of the time, but so what? We came by it honestly and loved what we were doing then and that’s the attitude we’ve taken towards the band ever since. Most people our age still playing in bands have the luxury of no longer being attached to the songs they wrote when they were 19. We just never broke up our band when everyone else did and at this point, I think that’s kinda cool.

How was it that The Creeps formed as a band?

We met in University. I was in first year and Ian was one of my frosh leaders (a role which he performed horribly). One day he came into my room and embarrassingly caught me wistfully listening to my old band’s CD and figured out that I played guitar and asked if I wanted to start a band with a “drummer” he knew (Jordy’s drumming qualifications were that he had access to a drum kit, more or less). The next week, the three of us met in Ian’s basement and learned a MOPES song together. That was almost exactly 15 years ago today.

Considering the early stuff, how do you think you have developed as a band over the years? For me, Lakeside Cabin seemed a pretty significant shift in sound.

I’ll leave it to others to try to describe the way our sound has changed, but I think you’re right that ‘Lakeside’ represented a sort of shift away from what we were doing originally. By that point, I’d become a much more confident songwriter and lyricist and we’d at least graduated from ‘comically ill-equipped’ to ‘not horrible’ at playing our instruments, so that helped. I’d like to think that those trends have continued since 2008, when that record originally came out.

Song-writing wise, the change seems to have been from a straight up sci-fi Lillingtons-esque style to recurring themes of murder and serial killers. How did these ideas/themes develop in your songwriting?

It was actually on ‘Back to the ‘Bin’ that I feel like I started writing lyrics based around stories I had kicking around in my head, rather than just regurgitating the lyrical content of our favourite bands at the time – the Lillingtons being an obvious one, local legends the Riptides being another. I can’t really describe why I write what I do, except to say that I find the subjects titillating, and sometimes genuinely frightening. Most people find it weird that I am legitimately terrified of horror movies and never watch them. I guess one of the things that I’ve always been aware of when swimming in those lyrical waters is how easy it is to fall into the realm of schlock and it’s something I’ve tried to avoid. All of this said, I think the lyrical bent on ‘Eulogies’ is a different beast altogether and kinda represents another shift for me.

What is like to be a part of the Ottawa punk rock scene? There seems to have been a ton of good stuff coming from there in recent years.

It’s been an incredibly exciting time to be writing and playing music in Ottawa over the past 5-6 years. There’s been a friendly competitiveness that I think has forced everyone involved to raise the bar for their own bands in terms of effort and quality-control that’s been amazing to witness and to be a part of. That, coupled with the genuine support that bands in this city show for one another and the small group of committed individuals, many of whom we count as great friends, who promote shows regularly, who run affordable rehearsal spaces, who manage awesome labels and distros, who operate awesome little recording studios and who organize incredible annual music festivals like the GAGA Weekend and its older brother OTTAWA EXPLOSION – it all makes for a pretty cool time and place to be in a band.

As well as The Creeps, you are also involved in The Visitors and Crusades. How do you manage to fit it all in? Do you tour regularly or semi-regularly with any of the bands?

We’re all involved in multiple bands – I’m also in CRUSADES and BLACK TOWER, with Erin from the VISITORS and Dave from CRUSADES on drums, Jordy also plays drums in CRUSADES and Ian also plays bass in a new band called the STEADY SHAKES, who are awesome. None of our bands tour with any regularity as we all hold down full-time jobs, but we treat the bands as more than just hobbies, with regular band practices and playing shows as much as we’re willing and able.

Finally then, what do The Creeps have planned for the rest of 2014?

First, we have our local record release/15th anniversary show coming up on October 24th at an incredible new venue in Ottawa called the HOUSE OF TARG, which is operated in part by Yogi, who recorded a bunch of our records and by Kevin from the VISITORS. We’ll probably play some release shows in Toronto, Montreal and other surrounding areas in the coming months and then after that, who knows. We tend not to plan too far ahead these days, which suits us fine.

Check out The Creeps latest release here: http://thecreeps.bandcamp.com/album/eulogies

Interview: Fraser Murderburger

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Small Talk

The Murderburgers are one of the best current pop-punk bands going. This is undeniable. I have obsessed over their last couple of records during the last six months or so. I go back and forth on which one is better, but it doesn’t really matter: they’re both brilliant in their own ways. It will be pretty exciting to hear what comes next from The Murderburgers. So, I caught up with Fraser Murderburger to hear about that, as well as well as embarrassing first albums and near-death tour experiences. It’s burger time!

Hello Fraser! Can you introduce The Murderburgers for us?

Hey, Dave! Sure. We are a three piece pop punk band from Scotland. I sing and play guitar, Steve plays bass and does backing vocals, and our drummer Stuart just left so we currently have people standing in for us until we find a permanent replacement.

The Murderburgers formed in 2007. How did you guys meet/form as a band? Where are you from in Scotland?

When the band started I lived in a small town on the west coast of Scotland called Alexandria, which is right next to Renton, the place where I grew up. I started the band right before finishing up at college when I was 20. The original line-up is pretty different than it is today. I was singing and playing guitar, my brother was on 2nd guitar, my friend Brian was on bass and my friend Sean was on drums. Obviously me and my brother had been introduced a long ago, and I grew up with Brian and Sean so we all know each other really well already. Since then the line-up has changed about 15 times or something ridiculous like that. Before Steve joined the band I knew him already through our old bands crossing paths over the years and from hanging out at shows, so before he joined we had already been friends for 6 or 7 years. That seems to be what’s happening nowadays, or at least it seems to be happening in the Scottish punk scene. The people that are still working away at playing in bands all end up in bands with each other.

Your first release was “Bitches, Blunts and Pop Punk”, back in early 2008. How do you feel about that album looking back on it now?

Personally, I think it sucks. Like, really sucks. But hey, most bands start out shitty. It’s cool having a history to look back on and see how much the band has progressed over the years though. I never thought back then that this much would have changed. At the end of the day, back then it was just 3 drunk morons trying to be offensive and play as fast as possible, so I guess we got the job done.

Bitches, Blunts And Pop-Punk cover art

There is a gulf of difference musically and lyrically between your first two releases and last year’s “These are only problems”. How do you think you have changed as a band since the early years?

We’ve changed a lot since back then. I kind of view “How to Ruin Your Life” as our first proper album, really. That’s when we finally had a solid line-up, got our shit together, recorded properly and actually spent time and money on it. All of the stuff we recorded before that album is all pretty much demo quality and not as much time was spent on the song writing process as there has been in recent years. In the early years we had more of a mix of stupid songs about nothing and serious songs about anxiety and depression, but we don’t really do the stupid shit anymore, simply because we weren’t that good at it. Lyrically our last couple of albums have been mainly about life, death, depression, mental illness, poverty, all that sort of shit. I feel way better getting it out of my system and getting it off my chest, even if it does make people think that I’m a psychopath.

After having three albums on Monster Zero, you released “These are only problems” with Asian Man records in the US. That’s pretty cool. How did it come about?

We played with Joyce Manor at King Tut’s in Glasgow in September 2013. It was a great show and we got on well with the guys, so we kept in touch. I mentioned to Barry that we were recording a new album, and he offered to talk to Mike at Asian Man about it. Mike was into the record and wanted to put it out, and the rest is history. We grew up listening to Asian Man bands, so being one now is pretty insane.

These Are Only Problems cover art

Are you pleased with how the new album turned out?

Yeah, really pleased with it. That’s the longest we’ve ever spent working on an album, so we are glad that it was worth it. People seem to be into it as well. Steve designed the album art and took all the photos that ended up on there. I was keen on the album art relating to the song content and Steve did a great job. Jamie Ward, Matt Allison and Collin Jordan all did a great job with making it sound awesome well.

So, you have just been on tour supporting Alkaline Trio in the UK, how the hell was that? And how did it come about in the first place?

I emailed Mike Park towards the end of 2013 saying it was probably a longshot but wondering if he knew if Alkaline Trio would need another support band on their UK tour dates in April this year as we were touring around then as well, so Mike said he would ask them for us. Not thinking it would happen, I went ahead and booked some dates in Germany and Austria around then as part of our 2 month Euro tour. Then when we were in France in March I got an email from Mike saying Alkaline Trio would have us along on the UK dates, so we rescheduled most of our German shows for September. Luckily everyone was really nice about it and understood how big a deal if was for us. The tour was amazing. Bit of a change of pace going from playing to like 30 or 40 people a night to playing to sold out crowds of a couple thousand for a couple of weeks. We weren’t too sure how well we would go down in front of an Alkaline Trio crowd but every night was great. The guys in Alkaline Trio and Bayside as well as their crew looked after us and made sure we had everything we needed. Hopefully we’ll get to tour together again at some point.

And before that, you did a huge Euro tour. What was your favourite stop on the tour?

We played a lot of places in France and Italy that we had never been to before, so we’ve discovered a bunch of new favourite stops really. We did 3 shows with our good friends I Was A Teenage Alien from Toulouse when we were in France, so that was awesome. We had a great time hanging out and drinking whiskey at Will from Lunch/Panda Records’ place in Aix-en-Provence. He’s one of our new favourite people now. The whole Italian run was great this time. Played some familiar places again like Milan and Genova, as well as a bunch of new places. We did a few shows with Dan Vapid & The Cheats while we were there, which was amazing. We are massive fans of all of Dan’s previous bands and love the Dan Vapid & The Cheats records, so we were really happy we got to spend a few days hanging out and getting drunk with them. We’ve been talking about doing some more shows together in the future, which is something we really hope comes together.

Outside of that tour, what’s your favourite ever gig you have done?

We’ve done a lot of great gigs that I could talk about to no end, but there’s one that will always sticks out in my mind. I had a really shitty time towards the end of 2011 with depression, anxiety, all that head frying shit. I’m doing pretty good now, but back then I was having a really rough time of it. Around summer 2011 was when it started kicking in real bad, right before 3 months of touring. Having dealt with anxiety and depression since I was 17, I figured I would just continue to deal with it on my own again. Huge mistake. To cut a lot story short, it all blew up in my face and everything turned to shit. I ended up getting so bad that my girlfriend at the time couldn’t deal with it and kicked me out, so I end up without a place to stay and no job, and I was pretty much losing my mind. We had to cancel our upcoming shows until I got my shit together. After finding a place to stay in Edinburgh and after a few weeks of therapy I started feeling way better, so when we were asked to open for our good friends The Queers in March 2012 as warm up show before hitting Europe with The Copyrights a month later, we figured it would be a great way to start things up again. It still sticks out as one of the best nights of my life. Playing live again and seeing so many friends in the same room was exactly what I needed, and then seeing The Queers play was the perfect way to top things off. That night really did restore my faith in pretty much everything.

It’s written on your website about a “near-death experience” when touring in 2012. What’s the story behind this?

We actually had two that year. When we were on tour in Europe with The Copyrights in April 2012 our old drummer Stuart wasn’t feeling so good the morning after a show in Germany. We just assumed that he was hungover, but after a while it was clear that he was genuinely ill. We took him to a hospital and it turned out his appendix was about to blow up, so he got it removed there and then. He had to fly home afterwards so Luke from The Copyrights ended up drumming for us for the rest of the tour. Stuart had already been to a doctor in the UK about his appendix but they told him he didn’t need to have it removed even though he was in pain. We pretty much got to the hospital just in time. The other near-death experience happened when we were on tour in the US with Dear Landlord a couple of months after that. After a really shitty sleep I wanted something to keep me awake during the drive from Denver to Salt Lake City since it’s meant to be a really nice drive, so I picked up some stuff at a gas station which I assumed would be like caffeine pills or something. To cut a really long and horrible story short, they were more like capsules of speed for truckers and taking all four of them at the one time was a really bad idea. I spent the next ten and a half hours sweating, puking, coughing up blood, having nosebleeds, my veins were popping out and hands were cramping up, I couldn’t breathe properly and I spent the whole time trying not to pass out. The general consensus was that I was going to die. Luckily that didn’t happen, but it was definitely the worst ten and a half hours of my life. Never again.

You appear to tour an awful lot. What do you like to do when not touring?

When I’m at home I spend a lot of the time dealing with the band as well, booking and writing mainly. I thought for a while there that doing absolutely nothing between tours was the best thing ever, but after a while I started thinking I could be making better use of my time when I’m at home, so I started a record label called Round Dog Records in May this year. I’ve always loved the idea of putting out records for other bands and running a distro, and now seems to be a good time to do it. I put out The Walking Targets’ debut album in June, I’ve got Roboter’s debut E.P coming out in late August, then The Lemonaids’ new album in mid-September, then Black Volvo’s debut album in late October. I’ve got 4 more releases coming out this year that I can’t really talk too much about yet since I’m still working out the details with the bands but it’s looking like it’ll be a pretty productive first year for Round Dog. I see a lot of good bands when I’m on tour, so it’s pretty cool now to be able to work with them as well as be friends with them. It’s a lot of fun. Apart from that I put on the odd show here and there and work whatever job I can get so that I can still afford to be a moron in a punk band.

Moving back to home, how would you describe the Scottish punk scene these days? The Kimberly Steaks are another awesome band from around your way.

The Scottish punk scene is amazing right now. So many great bands and people involved and everyone is pushing in the same direction. We’ve got great bands and solo artists like The Kimberly Steaks, Walking Targets, UNIFORMS, Black Cop, Clocked Out, Lachance, Billy Liar, The Lemonaids and Mark McCabe to name a few. We have great promoters and collectives like Punk/Rock Rammy, Struggletown, Make That A Take, House Of Crust, Walk The Plank and Anti-Manifesto that put out records and put on shows. We get a lot more touring bands actually wanting to come to Scotland now. It really is exciting times and things keep getting better and better. We’ve all got a really good thing going here and I’m proud to be part of it.

I remember when we started out how different it was. Trying to book Scottish shows was a nightmare, and so was getting anyone to come along to them. A lot of touring bands missed out Scotland because it didn’t seem worth the drive, and back then no one could blame them. There was a lot more of this pay-to-play bullshit as well, so you were getting ripped off by promoters all the time and every other band that played those things saw everyone else as competition, so it was difficult to make friends with other bands. Thankfully things have changed drastically since then. I actually met The Kimberly Steaks at a pay-to-play gig about 10 years ago. They did a cover of “Ashtray” by Screeching Weasel and I thought “Shit! Someone else in Glasgow likes Screeching Weasel! We should probably be friends!”. That’s probably the only good thing that’s ever happened by doing a pay-to-play gig.

Finally, what plans do The Murderburgers have for the rest of 2014? Is there a new album in the works?

We’re opening the main stage at Hevy Fest in Port Lympne this coming Saturday (16th Aug) which should be awesome. Then we’re touring Europe from Aug 25th to Sept 16th. The first week of that tour is with our lovely criminal friends Masked Intruder, then we have a few days on our own, then a week or so in Germany/Czech Rep with States and Empires. We are playing Fest in Gainesville again at the end of October, so we are currently booking October/November US dates around that. Then we are finishing off the year with Book Yer Ane Fest in Dundee in late November and probably an Edinburgh show in December as well. Our split with Billy Liar should be out before the end of the year, just need to put the finishing touches to the songs. We started working on a new E.P for Bloated Kat Records earlier this year, but due to the fact we haven’t had time to finish the vocals I’m guessing it won’t come out until next year now.

We haven’t started properly working on a new album yet but we’ve been talking about doing one at the start of next year. We’re most likely going to take a break from touring from the start of next year until March/April to get it done, unless we get offered a ridiculously good tour that we’d be stupid to turn down, then we’ll probably just have to stress out and do them both. But yeah, we’re going to record a new album at the start of next year.

Cheers, Fraser! Any final words?

Thanks for your time, and sorry for taking so long to get my answers to you!

Listen here: http://themurderburgers.bandcamp.com/