Archive for the ‘Small Talk’ Category

Based out of Northern California, Asian Man Records has been running since 1996 (with Mike putting out records as early as 1991) and has been one of the shining lights of DIY punk ever since, releasing records from diverse artists such as Alkaline Trio, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Lemuria, Joyce Manor and Laura Stevenson (I’ll stop or I could go on a while). Head of the label Mike Park continues to run Asian Man out of his parent’s garage and at the same time has been engaging in a multitude of music projects, these days including The Bruce Lee Band, The Kitty Kat Fan Club and Ogibuko Station. The latter, a musical collaboration between Mike and Maura Weaver (previously of Mixtapes), recently released a new 7” ‘Okinawan Love Songs’ (reviewed here: I chatted with Mike about this, forming Ogibuko Station and running Asian Man records.


Dave Brown: Firstly, how do you feel about the release of ‘Okinawan Love Songs’ and how do you feel it built on the previous LP ‘We Pretend Like’?

Mike Park: I love it.  I’ve always loved 7 inches growing up.  It’s a quick listen—you flip side A to side B, nobody gets hurt; it’s a win win.  But honestly, I love the 2 original songs.  I like the way the band kept building from the “We Can Pretend Like” LP.  I think the progression is nice and I’m looking forward to what we do next. 

DB: What was the writing and recording process like for this EP? How does the collaborative process work and how do you manage living in a different state to Maura?

MP: We had started playing the “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You ” song live on the Alkaline Trio tour we did in August of last year, and then I started showing Maura the other new song on that tour, so we had the general chords and melodies down.  Maura added a lot of depth with harmonies and counter melodies in the studio, and while it was definitely a collaborative process it’s hard to compare a 7inch with a full length record.  With only 3 songs (2 originals and a cover song), it didn’t take much time, so Maura came to California and we were able to do this face to face vs Skyping in ideas. 

DB: How did the band form?

MP: I had wanted to put out Maura’s solo album, but after 2 years of pestering her to finish, I finally said “We’re gonna start a band” and she came to California and we got to work.  It was initially just going to be an acoustic project, but we’ve ended up using a full band the last 2 releases.  We will probably do more acoustic stuff in the future. 

DB: I understand you sometimes tour with a full band and sometimes as a duo. What do you prefer and how do you see things panning out in the future?

MP: I really like the full band dynamic. It’s also a lot less stressful.  Playing acoustic always gives me nightmares in terms of stage fright, but I’d like to combat that lifelong fear more in the future.  Mostly to make myself crazy haha.

DB: Dan Andriano plays bass on this EP and Jeff Rosenstock played synthesiser on the previous record. Do you have plans for further collaborations on Ogibuko Station records? And more broadly, to what extent do you seek and encourage collaboration among Asian Man records?

MP: Heck yes! I want to always include my friends on various projects that I’m involved with.  I’d love for all the AM bands to do this too, but it’s nothing forced.

DB: You seem a busy guy what with running a record label and being involved in a number of active musical projects. How do you manage your time and prioritise with so much going on?

MP: Oh my.  This has been a problem lately.  I’m actually going to start slowing down, cause I can’t keep up any longer.  My mind has turned to mush as I try to juggle everything.  Music is always a priority, but I need to keep family at the top of the list.

DB: Honing in on Asian Man records specifically, what was your inspiration for starting the record label? Were there any other particular record labels that inspired you?

MP: I wanted to be able to dictate my own path and not rely on anybody else for my own success or failure.  If I failed, at least I knew I tried.  But in particular I’ve always been a fan of Ian Mackaye and his DIY ethics and outlook on life.  I’ve often tried to emulate those ethics in my day to day. 

DB: What’s the main difference between the label now and when you first started it? And more broadly, the DIY punk scene. 

MP: I’ll go back even further.  Before Asian Man, the band I was in (Skankin’ Pickle) released our first demo tape in 1989.  We used the name DILL RECORDS.  We printed up 100 tapes and sold them almost immediately.  In that first year, we sold nearly 2,000 cassette tapes.  I’ll stop there.  Cause that’s the big difference.  Physical sales were the only way to hear music in the early days.  So obviously that’s the reason for the drop in music sales the past 20 years, but I’m not one to say “it was better back in my day”.  I think that’s bullshit.  I’m a fan of streaming.  It’s good for the environment, it’s good for indie artists to do it themselves, and it’s progress.  That’s life.  Things change.  As for DIY/PUNK, I’m trying to think of the big difference and I’d have to say the safety aspect of punk in the early days was not so safe.  Lots of violence at shows in the 80’s.  Skinheads vs punks vs mods vs anyone who had long hair.  And while it was part of the excitement not knowing what the fuck was gonna happen at the shows, I’ll take the friendliness of today’s culture over the past anytime. 

DB: You continue to run the label out of your parent’s garage and only have one employee; what have been the challenges in remaining truly DIY over the years? In particular, how have things changed in regards to record distribution and sales?

MP: I covered a bit of the physical sales aspect earlier, but everything depends on what you want out of your company.  I want to stay small. I like doing things myself and seeing what I can accomplish without joining the elites.  My biggest challenge or guilt rather is not being able to do more for my bands, but I am very open about the limits of Asian Man.  Open dialogue and honesty is something I do have, so it’s never a matter of me breaking promises. 

DB: Have you had any moral or ethical conflicts in running Asian Man records?

MP: Nothing that would put me in a position that I felt compromised.  At the end of the day, I’m really proud of what I’ve done and continue to do. 

DB: Are there are any bands that you wished you had signed?

MP: Of course, but that’s life.  There are bands I wish I hadn’t signed, but I’m gonna keep names out and say again: you live with your decisions or you die bitter and old. 

DB: Finally, what is your personal favorite record you have put out? Or favorites if it is hard to narrow it down to one!

MP: That is actually an easy one.  Alkaline Trio “GODDMANIT” – by far my fav release of all time. 

Check out Asian Man records here:

And check out the latest Ogibuko Station release here:


Interview: Fraser Murderburger

Posted: April 14, 2018 in Small Talk

Fraser muddabugga

I caught up with Fraser, the frontman of Scottish pop-punk tour-de-force The Murderburgers. They are probably my favourite pop-punk band right now. If their sheer fucking excellence wasn’t already apparent on 2012’s How to Ruin Your Life or 2014’s These Are Only Problems, then the LP they dropped a couple years ago, The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, absolutely confirmed it. One of my favourite records of the last few years. If you don’t yet know them, the links at the bottom of this thing require your immediate attention!

So, I chatted with Fraser about what’s next for The Murderburgers, his other projects (including FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!),  declining mental health, Scotland’s simultaneous beauty and bleakness and Fraser’s ‘punk rock son’!


Dave: Hey Fraser! I hear you have been recording for a new Murderburgers release. Can you tell us any details?

Fraser: Hello! Yeah, we’ve just finished recording 4 songs for a new EP. It’s called Shitty People & Toothache and is all about when I lived with a couple of maniacs in Edinburgh that ripped me off, lied about me to the police and got me arrested in 2016. I ended up homeless and jobless because of it, and got dragged through court as well. It was a right laugh. It all worked out in the end though, and at least I got some new songs out of it. We’ll be announcing the details of it soon. The songs have just been sent off for mixing.

Dave: What has the recording process been like? What is the current Murderburgers line-up?

Fraser: Recording has been really easy going this time, and a lot quicker than I expected. We pretty much did everything over a couple of weekends with James from Elk Gang/Paper Rifles and it’s been great. Kev from Elk Gang/Paper Rifles and Jon from Paper Rifles have been doing backing vocals on the new stuff as well. They are the Scottish harmony dream team.

The current line-up is me, Alex from Bike Notes on bass and Alex from Alien8 on drums. I only have people called Alex in the band these days. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Noelle from Rational Anthem has also been playing bass for us on tour and will again a couple of times this year, and so will Kieron from Don Blake.

Dave: Following The 12 Habits of Highly Defective People, where are the Murderburgers going next?

Fraser: As well as the new EP, I’m booked in to demo our new album at the end of April with a view to us recording it properly at some point during the summer. I’m just piecing together the last of the songs now. The past couple of years have been pretty brutal, with the later part of last year almost doing me in completely, so now that I’ve spent a lot of time getting my shit together and have been actively trying not to be a sad sack of shit, I’ve been writing like crazy. Whenever I get out of a mental slump of sorts it feels like my brain has been rewired in a totally different way, and this time it’s been rewired to go ridiculously fast for most of the day, and writing new stuff helps calm it down. It makes me feel pretty terrible and exhausted at times, but at least I’m getting a lot more new stuff done at the same time as finding ways to control it and use it to my advantage. I’m really happy with the new songs anyway. After doing the last album with Matt Allison in Chicago, I’m way more confident when it comes to writing songs and also when it comes to singing, so I’m pretty much just writing whatever I want now without thinking too much about what people will think or sticking to a template or whatever. Thankfully playing in a band with such a dumb name stops me from getting too far up my own arse or taking myself too seriously, so it’ll still be a bleak sounding pop punk record, just not the exact same as the last one.

Oh yeah, as well as our new album, I’m genuinely going to do a country album under the name MacDaddy Mudderbang & The Goddamn Sex Cowards. Tim Loud and Freddy Fudd Pucker are going to be my sex cowards. I at least want to do the one album and play live a few times for the fun of it. You only live once, may as well make a country album called He’s First Mudderbang Baby.

Dave: Are there any plans to record again with Yellow and Red from Masked Intruder?

Fraser: No, not really. That was one of those awesome things where everything just lined up really well with everyone’s schedules, and I’m still amazed and really thankful that it actually happened. I stood in on guitar for MI in the UK on tour last year when Green couldn’t make it, and Red played drums for us at Fest in Gainesville last year too, so it’s been cool playing together since recording 12 Habits.

Dave: You recently released the Fuck! (It’s Pronounced Shit!) EP collection. What line-up did you record with?

Fraser: On the first couple of EPs Tom from The Kimberly Steaks/Lemonaids played bass and did backing vocals, and I did lead vocals, guitar and drums. On the latest EP I just did everything myself, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered having to teach the songs to anyone else.

Dave: How did the Against Me! song title puns begin?

Fraser: I can’t actually remember. I think I just thought “You Look Like I Need A Wank” would look funny on a t-shirt, then decided to use it as a song title. Just for the record, Against Me! are one of my favourite bands and have been since I was a teenager. I just find putting the word “wank” in their song titles really funny for some reason.

Dave: How do you approach writing the FIPS songs differently to the Murderburgers?

Fraser: I spend a lot less time on FIPS songs, which probably/definitely shows. These days I like to write Murderburgers albums like one big long mental breakdown where hopefully no one dies at the end, whereas FIPS stuff is more like horrible little anxiety attacks where you black out and come to again to find that you’ve trashed all of your stuff, and then you die.

Dave: Are there plans to continue with the FIPS stuff? Any further releases in the pipeline? How often have you played live as FIPS?

Fraser: I wasn’t going to bother, but I really enjoyed doing the latest EP, so I want to do more. Also, Scott at Brassneck Records putting it out on vinyl and doing an insert with all the lyrics and loads of photos made it feel like a real thing for the first time ever. Massive thanks to Scott for doing that. When he sent me the insert I didn’t expect it at all and it blew my tiny mind.

James recorded the last FIPS EP as well and had the idea to record, mix and release the next one in the same day, so that’s the plan. I want to do FUCK! (It’s Pronounced FULL LENGTH!), so maybe we’ll do that next. We’ve only played live a few times in Scotland, once at Fest in Gainesville, once at Bloated Saturday Festival in Iowa City, and once at Summer In October Fest in Belgium. I only really do it when I can be bothered. We’re playing at the Hamburg Booze Cruise Festival in June, but apart from that I don’t see that band suddenly starting to play live regularly. It’s hard to take a band called FUCK! (It’s Pronounced SHIT!) that seriously. I still get people asking why I don’t change that band name and also change Murderburgers to something less awful so that more people check them out, but I really don’t care. Every band just needs a name, and as I said before, it stops me from taking myself too seriously. Everything I do seems to be a slow burner anyway, so I’m pretty happy continuing to limp along like I have been for years. Having dumb band names has also taught me not to instantly dismiss other bands with dumb names, too. You ever listened to Fartbarf or Diarrhea Planet? Awful band names, but that shit rules.

Dave: What happened to Rat Toilet? The song you put on Bandcamp a while ago “Bohemian Rhapsody Part 2” is a song you previously wrote for Rat Toilet. Are there any other Rat Toilet songs you plan to release as a Murderburgers track? Did the band ever release anything except the 3 song ‘water closet rammy sessions’ you put on bandcamp?

Fraser: Rat Toilet was just for fun, really. My brother used to call me that because his pet rat used to piss and shit on me all the time, and Brad thought it was really funny and said we should do something under that name. After hearing the mixes Brad and I talked about putting the songs out under a less awful name since they actually turned out sounding really good, but then we just put them out under the name Rat Toilet anyway, and that’s all we really did. Murderburgers actually just properly re-recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody Part 2” for a 4-way split, but there are no plans to re-record any of the other songs at the moment.

Dave: You also play drums for a band from Edinburgh called Bike Notes- how did that come about?

Fraser: Max and Alex both used to play in a band from Edinburgh called The Walking Targets who were fucking amazing, and were also the first release on Round Dog Records. I became good friends with them after we took them on tour a couple of times, but the band broke up a couple of years ago and then their drummer moved away. I started playing drums for Turtle Lamone & The Prohibitions not long after that and Alex and Max both played in that band too, so the three of us started practicing the new songs they had been writing as well as playing in together in TLATP. That’s pretty much it. We only have that Sun Dances EP out at the moment, but we’ve been talking about getting an album done this year when we can all find the time to do it.

Dave: How are things going with Round Dog?

Fraser: Going good! Getting back on track again after a bit of a shitter of a year last year thanks to losing a bunch of money. We put out a 45 song benefit compilation at the start of the year called Round Dog’s Choice Nugs Vol.1, then we put out Paper Rifles from Edinburgh’s debut album The State Of It All and my acoustic Trash Sessions EP last month. We’ve got a couple more things coming out in May and June that I’m really excited about. We’ll be announcing the details of those soon.

Dave: Going back to The Murderburgers, how do you think your songwriting has evolved over the years and what have been your main sources of lyrical inspiration?

Fraser: I like writing more weird structures, a lot more lyrics and a lot less choruses these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good chorus, but there’s definitely a talent to writing one that doesn’t get boring or incredibly annoying when repeated a few times, and I think I lack that, so I try to write a strong melody for the whole song instead. I also have a short attention span, so I guess the weird song structures come from having a short attention span but writing longer songs. I just like seeing where the songs end up instead of sticking to the whole verse-chorus-verse chorus thing. Plus, writing songs like that drives the other members of the band insane when they have to learn them, which is pretty entertaining for me.

My ever decaying mental health, general lack of understanding of how anything works and my terrible luck have been the main sources of lyrical inspiration over the past few years, and were sources that I was occasionally tapping into even back in the really early years of the band. That’s when I was taking time out from unsuccessfully trying to re-write Screeching Weasel and Queers songs. As I mentioned earlier, mental health problems like depression and anxiety can be so fucking exhausting and confusing at times. I find that whenever I get a grip on one thing that’s causing problems, another one comes out of nowhere and I have to try and find ways to figure that out as well. It can be relentless. Writing and recording songs about all of that shit then having fun playing them live is a good way to get something positive and productive out of all the exhaustion and confusion. I remember watching an interview with Legs McNeil where he talks about how Joey Ramone always took the shitty things about life and celebrated them and turned them into something good. That’s something I always try to keep in mind.

Dave: A bit of a deeper one here. As a Scottish punk band, to what extent do you think that a sense of Scotland is evoked in your lyrics?

Fraser: Scotland is a beautiful place, but I find I always get a lot more writing done during the winter which tends to be more depressing and crushing than anything else, so I guess there’s a sense of the not so finer points of Scotland evoked. It seems to be a common theme in a lot of Scottish band’s songs. We definitely have more grey days than sunny ones. I lived in Edinburgh for 5 years which is hands down my favourite place on earth. I wrote both These Are Only Problems and 12 Habits when I lived there, hence all the references to parts of the city on both albums. I actually decided to change things up a bit and moved to Manchester when I got back from tour last September, but don’t worry. It turns out moving a couple hundred miles south doesn’t mean that it’s not still bleak as shit most of the time, so the songs will keep coming.

Dave: I love the video for “December Ruined Everything”. Where did the idea for that come from?

Fraser: Jim from Pizzatramp became my punk rock son like a year ago. Every now and then I’d send him things in the mail like cards or little presents. Admittedly, the whole thing was and still is kind of weird, and I don’t think his actual dad is that big a fan of it. We joked around about going for a father/son day out, then figured shooting a father/son day out video would really up the weirdness. The depressing ending was shot right at the last minute on the day and wasn’t originally intended, but it definitely ties the whole thing together, otherwise it would make even less sense

Dave: So, finally, what are The Murderburgers’ tour plans for the rest of the year?

Fraser: We’re touring Europe in May with Wonk Unit around some festivals, then we fly straight to Canada after that to tour with City Mouse leading up to Pouzza Fest. After that we’re touring the UK in July leading up to Wonkfest, then in August we’re playing Rebellion Festival and Punk Rock Holiday, both for the first time. Then we’re touring the UK and Europe in September/October with City Mouse for like 33 days or something. So much for a quieter year this year. All fun stuff though!


Check out the Murderburgers here:

Check out FUCK! (It’s Pronounced Shit!) here:

Check out Fraser’s acoustic EP and the rest of the Round Dog catalogue here:


Interview: Max, Taco Hell

Posted: January 3, 2018 in Small Talk

t. hell

Taco Hell are (about to be ‘were’) an awesome emo/punk band from Nottingham, ffo Tiger’s Jaw and Joyce Manor. I spoke to drummer Max (Qayyum) on the week that the band play their final shows and after just having released their first and only full-length ‘Bad at Being Average’ (check out a review of this in the coming days; spoiler: it’s fucking awesome):

Dave: Hey, Taco Hell! Could you introduce the band to readers?

Max: We’re a sad punk band from Nottingham right about to split up!

D: So, you have just released your first and final full-length? What is behind the decision to call it a day and how do you think the record has turned out?

M: One of our members is moving halfway across the world, so the decision was basically out of our hands because we didn’t want it to be anything other than just the four of us. We’re really proud of how the album turned out, it was kinda weird doing it knowing that we were about to split up but that also took a ton of pressure off!

D: What’s behind the album cover? Where was it taken?

M: Connor took this near his house in Liverpool, it’s a nice shot and we liked how kinda bleak it was.

D: What was the recording process like?

M: It was really, really nice and laid back. I think we thought it would be harder because we had to do it on weekends (due to none of us apart from Joe still living in Nottingham, and jobs, etc). We did it with Joni from Autumn Diet Plans and he was just really easy to work with, never stressed us out about anything. It was really fun and we got to do everything we wanted, and mess around with a bunch of new things.

D: There is a great song on the album called “Twin Peaks References and Depression”. Is the whole band fans of the show?

M: Twin Peaks is one of my favourite shows, spent all year obsessing over the new season. Me and Eleanor are dead into it, I think that Connor has watched a bit. We wanted Joe to write about it but he’d never seen it. The lyrics just make me laugh cos he sounds like he’s a superfan.

D: You began Taco Hell in 2016. How did the band come together? Had you been in bands previously?

M: Me and Joe had been friends about 3 years before, we met Connor at a pub quiz and I met Eleanor at an Anti-Flag show. It all just kinda came together easily. Joe and Connor had been in other bands but it was mine and Eleanor’s first.

D: What were the band’s main influences and how do you think the band’s sound has evolved over the 3 years?

M: When we first started we played I Saw Water by Tigers Jaw and the Obituaries by the Menzingers which kinda set the tone for the band. I think we definitely had a lot of room to develop our sound over the years. Joe started shouting more, and Eleanor started singing a hell of a lot more. I think that we all got better as musicians and writing Bad at Being Average came together really fast. But since we were splitting up there was no real pressure to have it sound any particular way, which I think led us to experiment a bit more.

D: The ‘Tacos, not Tories’ t-shirts are cool! How did that start?

M: I think I just said it once, and then drew up the thing to post as a little joke on Facebook. When the election rolled around they seemed perfect!

D: What’s been the coolest experience of being part of Taco Hell since you formed?

M: Getting to support bands like Dowsing, Ratboys, Pity Sex, and play in cities across the country. Washed Out in Brighton was amazing. I think the coolest though was the Retainer release show at JT Soar. It sold out and everybody was singing along to every word, it was pretty amazing to us.

D: Any special plans for that final gig in Nottingham in January?

M: Play as many songs as we physically can!

D: Finally, what’s next for Taco Hell band members?

M: Joe has been doing some solo stuff as Quesadilla and starting some new bands, we also play in a band together called L’Escargot. Connor is starting up some new projects and works with Hail Hail Records in Liverpool. Eleanor is co-running Circle House Records. I put shows on as Seeing Your Scene and hopefully starting some new bands!

Check out Taco Hell’s new album here:


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’….

Image result for jon lewis dopamines

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:

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:

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 ( 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…


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:




Interview: Greig, Kimberly Steaks

Posted: October 25, 2016 in Small Talk


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:


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:

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


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.


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.


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: 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.


Check out the new Bangers album here:

Check out the Specialist Subject:


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:

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.


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.

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: