Monday, October 17, 2011

Bomb The Music Industry!

Photo Credit: Holly Morrison

Bomb The Music Industry! is a band that definitely lives up to their name. They take DIY to a whole new level by writing, recording, producing, and distributing their own music. To top it all off, they offer downloads of their albums for free on their website here. Aside from bombing the music industry with their own approach, it’s also hard to categorize the band. With elements of punk, ska, hardcore, and even indie, BTMI! creates their own unique style that other bands can’t compare to. I had a chance to talk to the mastermind behind BTMI!, singer/guitarist Jeff Rosenstock, as he discussed the band’s new album Vacation, what it’s like to be vulnerable through music, and what BTMI! is all about.
You got to experience the Long Island ska scene. In what ways did that scene influence the music you make today?

Jeff: There was a show every weekend and a really great community around it. I wasn’t Mr. Cool Guy or anything in high school, but I had a great group of friends that I could play music with or I could go watch my friends play music. I had something fun to do every weekend with a bunch of people who were really nice and all had the same ideals, which was just treat each other good. We play shows now and people get really pushy and stuff like that sometimes, and it’s strange because in Long Island that didn’t happen at shows I went to as a kid. And I went to probably 200 shows. That influenced us in the way that we would like our shows to be a place where people who were not cool people could just go and everything is okay. You can not be the nerd or the weirdo for a second and be with a bunch of people who are also like you.
BTMI! has put out a lot of records, and people are bound to have their opinion about your music. Did the opinions of others affect the way you approached writing Vacation?

J: Yeah, a little. I think the fact that everybody doesn’t like us or that a lot of people just hate us makes me want to make a better record. It makes me want to try and do something that I think, “Alright, maybe we can make something that these people will like.” A lot of my singing on this record, I don’t know if it’s any better, but I tried really hard to sing a lot better. I tried different stuff this time around and I’m gonna keep doing that. I’m gonna try to make something interesting and make something better than the last thing we’ve done. So I think it affects it like that. We’ve never been the band that everybody likes. We’ve always been the band that the handful of people that like us really like us and the people that hate us really hate us. I guess it’s always about trying to write something that maybe the people that hate us that aren’t racist, homophobic assholes can get into.

BTMI! is a highly influential band. How does it feel to know you impact so many people through your music?

J: It’s weird. I usually just get freaked out by it because I don’t know what to ever say. As dorky as this is gonna sound, I express a lot of stuff through writing music, so when people come up to me and they’re like, “Hey man, I feel this way about this, too,” I don’t know what to say. Cool! That was really hard for me to say even once, I don’t know how to have this conversation. There was a kid in Oklahoma City who asked me point blank if I’ve ever tried to kill myself. It’s just like, dude, I don’t know you. I don’t talk to my fiancé, my parents, or my friends about that shit. I guess when you have really personal songs that will happen. So the next record we write is just gonna be all about animals. It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be an animal record. Then people will be like, “Oh yeah man, I really like sea otters!” And I’ll be like “I really like sea otters too, we can talk about this. I’m plenty comfortable talking about sea otters with you.”

Do you think Vacation is completely different from other BTMI! records?

J: I think it’s more hopeful than the last few records. I think that the dark stuff on Vacation is really, really dark. The stuff that’s negative is stuff that I’ve been trying to think of a way to exorcise from my head for the past 10 years. A lot of that stuff hasn’t been in songs and are things that I needed to get out. At the same time, I think it’s being looked at from a different lens then, say, Goodbye Cool World or Scrambles. Both of those records are kind of like, “Ahhh, fuuuck, ahhh,” and this one is kind of like, “Okay, that happened. That shit’s crazy, it sucks, but okay let’s deal with it.” I think it’s more positive because of that. It’s very upbeat for a BTMI! record, but I don’t think any of our records are gonna be upbeat lyrically compared to anybody else’s records.

What’s your writing process like?

J: A lot of it is just kind of humming stuff. I used to just write shit down on my hand, then run home, try and play it on guitar, then record a quick demo. Like staff music on my hands and write out notes, and I still do that while I’m driving, which is insane. Now that I have a phone I can sing into when I come up with something—I just do that. And usually it’s at inopportune times, like “Hurricane Waves” for example, I wrote that while I was at the beach. I was actually really sick at the beach and hanging out with people doubled over on a blanket, and was just like, “I gotta go walk over there for a second guys,” (starts humming melody for “Hurricane Waves”). And they’re just like, “What are you doing?” That’s how a lot of stuff has been written, things just pop into my head. Sometimes I’ll write something down in my phone, or in a book, or on my hand, or something that’s sitting around in the van, and I’ll try to remember it. Like the song “Everybody That Loves You” (starts humming the song), I was on the beach again. A lot of these records were written on different beaches into a small phone. I was in California and that just came to me—I ran over to the side, sang it into my phone, and wrote down the words. Then it’s arranging it until it’s a wall of noise.

Is it weird that BTMI! seems to be a band that’s all about having a good time and making good music, yet people think your lyrics are rather dark and depressing?

J: I think all the bands I always liked have kind of dark lyrics, but they’re kind of upbeat. I think it’s good. I like playing those songs, because when we play and get that out it feels good. I think that people who come to shows who are feeling those things, when they’re singing along, they’re getting something out. And that’s cool, that’s really awesome. Like Against Me!, their record Searching For A Former Clarity, that record is dark and it’s awesome! Ted Leo is kind of like that, too, and bands like Future of the Left and They Might Be Giants. There’s a lot of bands that sing dark shit, but it just makes you feel good to sing along.

What’s your favorite song to play live?

J: My favorite songs to play live, we’re not very good at. I really like playing “Everybody That Loves You.” I think that ended up being my favorite song on the record, which is weird because it’s buried towards the end. I really like playing that one, but I can’t play the guitar part very well, so that’s that. I really like playing “Felt Just Like Vacation,” because there’s a lot more dynamic to it when we play it live, and we have a really fun build that we play at the end now. I like that, we’ve never really done anything like that before. I like that we kind of jam, which I can’t imagine anyone else likes because who wants to see a band jamming? Nobody but the band! So those are my two favorite songs to play live, the two songs that can’t be enjoyable for anybody.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mikey Erg Photos

Explosions in the Sky

This is my Explosions in the Sky cover story
Explosions in the Sky. Yes, their music is as earth-shattering as their name sounds. This Texas based instrumental rock band is here to blow your expectations out of this world. EITS is formed by guitarist Mark Smith, guitarist Munaf Rayani, guitarist/bassist Michael James, and drummer Chris Hrasky. Their trademark to fame is the Friday Night Lights film soundtrack, but with a new hard-hitting album out, these guys are proving there is more to offer. I had a chance to converse with drummer Chris Hrasky about the struggles of music writing, their new album leaking early, and the unique venues on their current tour.

How did you guys start playing together and what were your expectations at the start?

Chris: I moved to Austin from Illinois in January of ‘99 and met these three guys that are fans of similar music and movies. We had a very similar sense of humor and a way of looking at the world. It was immediately very striking that we had this very close connection so quickly. We started playing music really out of boredom. In terms of expectations, it was like maybe we’ll do a couple shows in Austin at some point. That was really it. We never really had some sort of ambitious plan or vision that 12 years later this would be our career and we’d be touring the world.

After over a decade together, what’s the most challenging part of keeping the band together? 

We’re very slow at writing music and most of the stuff we write we just end up throwing away because we don't like it. That’s the biggest challenge—keeping ourselves interested in what we’re doing and putting out stuff that we think is worth putting out. That’s always been a challenge for us to push ourselves to do something that all four of us feel strongly about. We’ve never just put a record out because it’s like “Oh, it’s about time we should have new record.” Unless it’s something we love, I think the four of us would just rather stop playing music together as opposed to us putting out something we’re not all proud of. 

EITS gets many genre labels from American instrumental to post rock to indie rock. How would you describe your sound?

Chris: One of the guys came up with a funny term called expeditionary rock. Where it’s like music going on this journey. The song is this little adventure with peaks, and valleys, and dynamics. I guess we consider ourselves a rock band. Only in the sense that it’s mostly the traditional rock setup; it’s four guys with guitars and drums. The music obviously doesn't sound like typical rock music, but that’s kind of what we all grew up on. We all grew up listening to punk bands and before that metal bands, so we kind of came from that high school rock band mentality. Why it turned into what it is now, I have no idea.  [laughs]

The new album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, came out April 26. How does it differ from past albums?

Chris: The songs were just written and recorded in a very different way. All of the other records were recorded live, basically the four of us in a room playing. This record is way more dense and layered and it’s not as much of just a live recording, it’s much more of a studio record. That was very different for us, we’ve never done anything like that before. And we’re working on ways to implicate that live because there are songs with three drum sets going at once, and eight different guitar track samples, and all this stuff. So we’ve kind of been messing around with how to pull it off live. To us it feels different, the music feels a little more mysterious and less melodramatic than what we’ve been known for. There’s maybe a little more subtly as opposed to the sort of in your face emotion that has dominated the first four records.

How do you guys feel about the album leaking early?

It sucks. You know bands hate that, it’s awful. It’s weird because we’ll check our Facebook page or email and there will be messages from people like “Hey man, downloaded your record last night. Great Job!” It’s very different for us because we’re older now (in our thirties) and our experience growing up listening to music is very different from what it is now. I think younger people now, that’s just how they listen to music. They get an illegal download, and it’s not really that it’s illegal that bothers us. It just seems that more and more it doesn’t even occur to people that the band is actually not cool with you just downloading their album. And not just because we’re not getting paid for it. The way we grew up listening to music was like “Oh man, the new Dinosaur Jr. record comes out on this day!” Then we go get it and all hang out at someone’s house and listen to it. And now it’s like that whole thing is ruined, it’s just like “Oh, it’s out already even though the record doesn’t come out for another month.” It ruins the anticipation and the specialness of it. It’s just a generational thing. Music is consumed so differently now.

I noticed vocals on the track “Trembling Hands.” Are you planning on experimenting more with vocals now?

Chris: I don’t know, maybe. I don’t foresee us ever having lyrics or anything like that. We just sort of look at our voices as just another instrument that we can use and if it works on a song then we’ll try it. It’s not like we gotta have vocals now because we’ve done it once so we have to do it again. We don’t feel that way. It’ll probably be a while before we start working on new music and it’ll either be more vocals or none at all. We’ll see.

Your last album All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone was released in 2007. Was it hard to get back into the process of writing an album? 

Chris: Yeah, definitely. I mean we toured for two years after that record and toured basically all of 2009. We just tried to write stuff in-between, but we went through a lot of times where we would just not come up with anything good. I mean months where we would try to write stuff and none of us liked it. It’s always kind of hard for us and it’s never been easy. Maybe the first couple of records were because we were a little less critical of ourselves and there weren’t any expectations either. It just takes us a while and times when you’re not able to come up with stuff, it’s discouraging. You start worrying like “Oh god, is this it? Are we done? We had a good run, we put out some good records, but let’s stop now.” But then usually something will happen where we’ll come up with a song that we love and then the dam kind of opens and things come pretty quickly. I expect the same thing will happen when we try to write another record, it’ll be really difficult at first and then hopefully some spark will happen. There is just no guarantee. You just try to think of stuff out of thin air and most of the time it’s not very good. You have to fight through that despair, and the nice thing about a band is that you don’t feel like you’re alone in the struggle. It’s not like we’re fighting in a war, we’re just playing music. It’s not really that big of a struggle, but it’s nice to have a team working together on it. 

What’s your favorite song off of Take Care, Take Care, Take Care?

Chris: I would say the first song “Last Known Surrounding” is my favorite song on the record just because everything worked out how we had hoped with that song. I think we all find that to be our favorite song. To me, the textures of it are really interesting. It sounds like us, but there are just certain parts where there’s like thirty different things going on at the same time. It’s not so much like there’s Mark’s guitar part or there’s Mike’s guitar part, it’s more of this wall of sound that we really wanted to get for that song and it worked really well.

What’s the best part about touring?

Chris: Just the shows, just playing shows is still exciting for us. It’s still a surprise, like “God, there’s a lot of people here, this is crazy. We can’t believe people are actually responding to us.” It’s exciting to get that feedback and to see that people are into and excited about the stuff we work on. It’s always very nice, and definitely not something we will ever take for granted.  

EITS has a show scheduled at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. How exciting or creepy is it to be playing at a cemetery?

Chris: It’s kind of creepy. When it was first proposed to us, we were kind of like, “What does that entail, like we’re not gonna be playing on people’s graves or something are we?!” Then we found out more about the cemetery and how they have shows. I think it’ll be pretty cool and interesting, we don’t really know what to expect of it. It’s certainly more interesting than just playing in the normal theater or club. We definitely like playing places that are a little strange, not just normal rock venues. It’s just a little bit more interesting and inspiring to play weird places like that.
EITS tour starts tomorrow with a show at Radio City Music Hall. How are you feeling about playing such a prestigious venue?

Chris: It’s a little overwhelming. I think we’re almost looking forward to it being over with. It’s kind of intimidating and very strange to be doing it. I mean we’re excited and it’ll hopefully be a beautiful night, but we definitely feel a little pressure. It’ll be a relief when it’s done. Although we’re completely honored to be doing it and it’s kind of a dream come true. Even though we’ve been doing this for so long, we still get fairly nervous at shows and particularly a show like this. I’m sure we’ll all be terrified.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Less Than Jake

Photo Credit: Dennis Ho
This interview can also be found on the National Underground website HERE.

I could go on forever about the wonders of the ska/punk band Less Than Jake.  These guys have been making a name for themselves ever since their first full length Pezcore came out in 1995, and they're still going strong.  LTJ is still dedicated to their music, they still put on an amazing show, and their music still sends a nostalgic chill down your spine.  Check out this interview with saxophonist JR Wasilewski as he discusses the dynamic of the band, record labels, and what it's really like to be a part of a legendary band.

LTJ has been together for almost two decades now, how has the band managed to stay together?

JR: Number one, Jägermeister.  Number two, communication.  Like with any relationship, if you can’t talk and say what’s on your mind or feel like you’re able to say what’s on your mind, then you’re gonna fail.  Communication is maybe a little bit more important than Jägermeister, but it’s definitely up there.  Then, just trusting in each other.  There’s four other dudes I can totally look at and they’ll have my back.  We trust in each other, have good communication skills most of the time, and we drink a lot of Jägermeister. 

Bands like We Are The Union have stated that ska bands seem to be more popular overseas now than in the States.  Would you agree with this and what are your thoughts about the current state of ska music?

JR: Ska music was always underground and then at some point, as major labels did what they always do: They find something that seems profitable and grab it up, they put it through their machine, they knock it through the ringer, they squeeze every bit of life out of it that they can, and then they just throw it back into the garbage pile.  Ska music never really went anywhere.  In the United States, yes it’s not as big as it once was.  There’s also a lot of competition in the United States, it’s the entertainment capital of the world so people’s entertainment dollar is pretty stretched to begin with.  I think this year will be our 19th year in existence, to be able to be shy two decades and continue doing what we do and have people continue to come see us play, is pretty mind boggling.  I don’t think ska went anywhere, it was just removed by the mainstream.  So, what’s the state of ska right now?  I couldn’t tell you.  I do know there are a number of bands like WATU, The Flatliners, and other bands that are playing ska and ska/punk, and people still go to underground venues to see these bands play and they enjoy it.  The reason ska music has survived and will continue to survive is because people like to have a good time, and that’s what it provides.  It provides a fun soundtrack.

LTJ’s most recent work is the TV/EP, which received some mixed reactions where people loved it but thought it was too short, or they wanted more.  What were the band’s expectations with the TV/EP?

JR: Our expectation was that we had talked about doing it for four years and we just wanted to fucking do it!  We just wanted to make our conversation become a reality.  I think people put more thought into trying to figure out what we were trying to do than we actually put into doing it.  All we wanted to do was something that was different.  Everybody releases cover records and does cover songs, but nobody that I know of has released an EP of all TV songs.  We wanted to see how far we could take the idea so we put it out on CD, we put it out on vinyl, we made a viral video of all the intros of television shows and commercials we found on YouTube.  I think our expectation was to just do something that was fun, and it was.  People are going to say what they’re going to say regardless.  If we came out with a full length record of original material they would probably say “Oh, well it doesn’t sound like their old material,” so we’d still get mixed reviews.  My father once told me opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and everyone thinks that everyone else's stinks.  I just let everyone have their opinion and appreciate the fact that people are still talking about my band.  And there’s always some dude who will come up to me and be like “So dude, I really like that Spongebob Squarepants song.”  Of course you do!  It’s a guilty pleasure just like anything else.  When you have a forty-year-old man come up to you with tattoos on his neck and say that to you, it makes it all worth it. 

LTJ is reissuing Losing Streak and Hello Rockview in March, what would you say are the benefits of a reissue for the fans?

JR: We’ve always been a little cautious on reissuing things because both of these records are considered our classic records, but we wanted to add a little bit to it.  What we did is back in 2007 we recorded six live shows, and during those shows we played each one of our records in order.  So what comes with this new record is the artwork, a DVD of us playing the entire record live, plus little extra add-on clips.  There’s a little extra value added to what it already is.  The reason that made me feel so weird about releasing things is that you’re asking somebody to  re-buy what they’ve already purchased.  Or maybe they’ve already stole it, or downloaded it, or whatever.  So we’re just giving the option for people who maybe didn’t get that record or wanted that record because some people still collect CDs or vinyl records.  But we don’t care, it doesn’t matter.  Go take all of our music for free, and come out to a show and buy a shirt.  People get so caught up in what it is.  For us the reissue was just to make it available to our fans because it’s really hard to find in stores. 

Sleep It Off Records is LTJ’s own record label, has the band considered releasing other band’s work on the label? 

JR: We’ve talked about it, but it’s a lot of work just to do our band.  To be a label is tough, because bands have expectations of what they can use and what they deserve.  A lot of times the labels don’t have the kind of capital that bands would think that they have.  In other instances the label might have the capital, but they want to spend it on bands that are building a profit.  Then, it would have to be a band that we all agree on.  We’re five pretty different personalities, so to find one band that we all agree on that’s still together, is tough.  So at this point we don’t want to be a label to anybody but ourselves because who the hell do I want to work for as hard as I work for my own band, that’s what it boils down to. 

Vinnie runs Paper + Plastick, did LTJ ever consider releasing records off of his label?

JR: We’re doing something with P+P in the future, but we keep that separate.  That's Vinnie’s thing, we all support the bands that he signs just like when he started Fueled by Ramen and we supported him and took the bands out on tour.  We’ll still do that, we still take bands out if they’re on P+P and it’s totally cool.  He’s got a great staple of bands that he put on there, but we do try to keep it separate.  It should be its own entity, kind of like Fueled by Ramen became.  You know people forget that Fueled by Ramen was started by us, by Vinnie.  And it’s cool, just start another one.    

When you consider doing a full length album, does the huge success of past album’s like Pezcore and Losing Streak ever add pressure? 

No, of course not.  You just write a record.  People put pressure on themselves, but in reality a record is an aural meaning, like an aural photograph of where you are at the time being recorded.  You’re not going to look the same in a picture when you’re 19 as you do when you’re 35.  So musically speaking, it’s not going to be the same thing either.  The only expectations we have are the ones we put on ourselves and they’re pretty high to begin with.  We just write songs and record them.  That’s what we’ve done for as many years as we’ve been a band, and that’s what we’re gonna continue to do. 

So many bands from WATU to the Dopamines list LTJ as an influence for their music, what’s your reaction to being such a huge influence to these newer bands?

JR: I don’t think any of us think about it, because we have those bands that are influences to us.  And as we’ve grown up now we’ve met a lot of those influences, and those influences have become friends.  We try to just not think about it too much, we just continue to do our own thing.  It’s very humbling and it’s a little embarrassing, you don’t really know what to say a lot of times.  ‘Thank you’ is a good thing to say, I say ‘thank you’ a lot.  I would just rather we hang out and be friends.  It’s not awkward, I just know what it’s like to be on the giving end of something like that and a lot of times you’re just speaking from your heart.  Then to have the person on the receiving end just walk away and not even acknowledge it, that’s tough.  That’s a shitty thing especially from someone that you put on a pedestal.  So sometimes it’s just better to knock yourself off of the pedestal. 

LTJ still creates this fun-loving and carefree vibe, but I think sometimes people forget the sacrifice and hard-work that goes into a band.  Would you say that being in a successful band is like having a full-time job?  

JR: It’s weird, I was talking to one of the guys in Off With Their Heads and he goes, “You know we were talking in the van the other day how difficult it must be to be in LTJ.  Sometimes you gotta get on stage when you’re bummed and you gotta fucking play Animaniacs or whatever.”  I never really thought about it that way, so I just kind of thought about what he said.  And yeah, it sucks.  Everyday is not a great day and life continues even though when you’re in a band you live in some kind of weird bubble.  Some days are just not good days and creep into the bubble and ruin your day, and you still gotta get on stage and play.  If you’re sick with a 102 fever, there’s no calling in, you still gotta get on stage and play.  I think the perception from a fan is that it’s a party 24/7.  They don’t tell you about the loneliness, they don’t tell you about the fucking fear, and they don’t tell you about the questioning that you do.  So unless you live it and experience it, it’s hard to explain it.  There’s always sacrifices, but if you don’t sacrifice then you don’t gain any reward and you just stay in limbo.  You stay very static.  We’ve never been a band that just stays static, we like to push forward and not look back.  We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, but you know, if you’re not failing then you’re not trying. 

I know this might be hard, but if you HAD to choose, what’s your favorite LTJ song?

JR: Probably “P.S. Shock the World”, the last song on In with the Out Crowd, for a couple of reasons.  One because it’s the last song on the record that a majority of our fans think is our worst record.  Also, it says probably the most potent things that we’ve ever said as a band.  And again, a lot of times people don’t look beyond their own nose to dig deep enough to find a tact like that.  That’s probably my favorite song that we’ve created as a band, it really encompasses how we feel after almost two decades of being in a band, lyrically speaking.

What’s the most common misconception people have about LTJ?

JR: To be honest, I don’t really read any press.  I try to stay away from it because people make judgments about someone without knowing the person.  I think the misconception is that maybe we’re stupid or we don’t know what’s going on.  Or that we don’t care and we just write a bunch of shitty songs.  That’s the stuff that we care about, we care about the music probably more than most of these bands that “care about the music.”  And honestly, I don’t think I even give a shit what other people think whether it’s positive or negative.  I appreciate it if it’s positive and I could give a fuck if it’s negative, but that’s not going to make or break me.  I used to have this misconception when I was a kid that I had to be nice to everybody all the time and not speak my mind because it’ll ruin my career.  And now almost two decades later, the only person that can ruin my career is me.  I’m not afraid of anybody and I think that’s the whole thing, we’re not afraid.  We’re not afraid to make mistakes, we’re not afraid to fuck-up, we’re not afraid to speak what’s on our mind, and we’re definitely not afraid of the repercussions.  We’re just us.  We’re not gonna put on tight jeans, comb our hair over, and start fucking screaming.  We’re still LTJ, we’re still gonna be LTJ tomorrow when we wake up.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mighty Mighty Bosstones Photos

Girl Talk

Picture this: A concert with 372 of your favorite artists collaborating and killing it on stage. I know what you’re thinking, this would be impossible even in your most jaw-dropping fantasy. Think again. Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, makes dreams come true from his fingertips by emitting fresh mixes of music from his top choice of musical instruments, his laptop. This Pittsburgh native is more than just a hometown hero; he’s out to take over the music world and bring our favorite artists along with him.

Gillis is breaking the mold of music, starting with his stage name Girl Talk. “It wasn’t a reference to anything specifically, but it was somewhat calculated in an effort to not sound like a male laptop artist. I wanted something very pop culture.” Not only is Girl Talk breaking misconceptions with his name, but he is reinventing the music scene altogether.  

Girl Talk’s latest release All Day consists of 372 overlapping samples of music, a number sure to overwhelm anyone. “It’s a huge project to really put together an album,” Gillis confesses. “It’s a slow process too. A lot of the work I do with the samples goes with just cataloging them in a system I can understand and having documents that reference where I can find things.” Organization is key for Girl Talk, since pulling song samples isn’t as simple as some people might think. “Going into the album it is kind of overwhelming, also in terms that there is 372 samples on the record, but there may have been a few 1,000 samples laying around on my computer. It’s just a matter of taking it slow, I try to be as calculated as possible.”

There are still bound to be some skeptics regarding Girl Talk's unique take on music. “I think a lot of people hear it and they say ‘Oh, he just layered together a bunch of pop songs and that must have been fun for him to do and it’s fun to listen to, that’s it.’ So when people think that, it’s a compliment in a lot of ways, because it actually is very detailed.” Girl Talk takes pride in producing a clean-cut album that sounds effortless. “I think a part of it for me is to put something together that’s really complicated, but ideally when people hear it, it just flows smoothly and sounds like a cohesive piece of work.”

Another thing that helps Girl Talk create a cohesive album is using a combination of the material he’s already made. “On All Day at the beginning with the Black Sabbath and Ludacris bit, that’s something I had played live many times, so I do which parts fit together and how it’s gonna work.” It doesn’t end there though. Girl Talk's final edits can easily turn into a ten hour workday of intricate transitions and minute details. “I don’t expect anyone to hear that and ever imagine the level of detail that goes into it.”

Being made from such an abundance of music, it’s clear that Girl Talk’s work is a reflection of his musical obsession. “I’m a pop music enthusiast and I think the albums reflect that to a certain degree.” You might be thinking Girl Talk is just your average music listener, what makes him so different from the rest of the world who obsesses over music? Well, think about your typical night and compare it to Girl Talk. “Last night I was just sitting around listening to CDs and jumping around on YouTube checking out different tracks. Going through the Billboard Top 100 from 1989 and just looking at those lists, finding songs I might be interested in hearing. I really enjoy going through all that pop music.”

It’s been two years since Girl Talk’s former release Feed The Animals, and he felt the added pressure when making All Day to prove himself as an artist. Pressure that he’d been feeling awhile now. “Going into Feed The Animals I really wanted to prove to people that I wasn’t a one-hit wonder or a novelty, this is something I’ve been working on my whole life. For a while, maybe a year after Feed the Animals, I honestly didn’t think I’d make another record in that style because I thought Feed The Animals sounded the way I wanted it to sound and I didn’t think I could top that.”

Girl Talk admits that it’s hard to avoid criticism in an age with tweets and blogs that share people’s opinion with the world. The added pressure didn't distract him from making a new record, though. “You never want to end on a sour note, that’s why it’s like every record goes further and further. Going into the new record I was focused on doing something that would be better than the last one, and that was the goal.”

How has Girl Talk managed to push himself further on every record? Well, he feels his level of detail in production has gone up from album to album. “When I listen to Night Ripper, it’s a record that I still love a lot and is still a lot of people’s favorite record from me. I just think the production on it is a lot more raw and a lot less thought out and put together. I think the stuff on All Day is a lot more calculated and I had a lot more source material that I could pick and choose from.” He also focused on not cramming every possible sample into the album, giving the samples some breathing room. “I feel like it’s a level of detail to really sweat over every bit and piece of it to the point that it sounds smooth enough where it doesn’t sound so disjointed and technically challenging.”  

Then there is the issue of controversy, which Girl Talk has been familiar with since he first began making music. “I think when Night Ripper came out a lot of people had never really heard a record like that before, so it was a novelty to people and they were really quick to dismiss it based on that. A lot of people were really waiting for that record to die off and never hear from me again.” There have been issues of copyright laws and infringement used against Girl Talk, however there has never been any legal action filed against him. “The way the majority of the public views it is: If you use unauthorized samples it’s illegal, end of story. But actually it’s a grey area.” Girl Talk is unsure about why he has never been challenged, yet he likes to think that artists and record labels are thinking along the same lines as him. “I think a lot of the bands now are excited about being included on an album, they see in no way am I taking sales away from them and it’s potentially turning a new generation and different demographic onto styles of music.”

There are people who are openly on the same page as Girl Talk, most being his beloved fans who turn his shows into blissful mayhem. Although Girl Talk is all about interacting with the audience, he does admit that as his shows have gotten bigger he has incorporated other elements such as flashing lights, onstage dancers, and a toilet paper launcher to help engage the audience. “I do truly have to concentrate on playing the laptop 95% of the show,” he admits, “but outside of that I like to just take my body to the limits. I like to go nuts. When I get up there, I wanna just work myself until I’m ready to puke.”

Despite controversy, Girl Talk still reaches a variety of fans, from college students to congressmen. “I feel like my lifespan in the music world is maybe longer than people expected.” Perhaps what has kept Girl Talk alive is the unique ability to stitch different styles of music together while also opening up the demographic of listeners. “I definitely want to make the sort of music that a 15 year old can get down to, a college kid can dissect conceptually, and a 50 year old can get nostalgic over.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hold Tight!

Photo Credit: Hold Tight! Facebook 
This interview can also be found on the National Underground website HERE.

Hold Tight! is the packaged deal of bassist/vocalist James Goodson, guitarist/vocalist Jake Guralnik, guitarist Eric Kelly, and drummer Alex Wilhelm.  With their song "Virginia Is Beautiful, Wish You Were Here", you'll be wishing you were in Virginia too after listening to Hold Tight!  These Richmond, VA natives are proving the DIY scene is still alive with their constant touring and fresh pop punk tunes.  Check out my interview with Alex as he reveals how the band got started, their love for Lifetime, and what's next for Hold Tight!  Then, make sure you check out the band's Facebook and download their songs for free HERE!

Lets do a quick history lesson on Hold Tight!: When did you guys start playing together and how did you get together as a band?  

ALEX: We had our first practice in May of 2009, I think.  It was really slow at first because Jake and James both lived in Northern Virginia at the time.  I’m not sure what their intentions were when first starting, but I didn’t really have any plans to be in a band that tours and records.  A mutual friend showed me some demos they had and I thought it sounded cool.  Then I wound up on tour with a record. [laughs]  We played our first show in October of that year.

You guys play a lot of shows in your hometown, what’s the scene like in Richmond?  

ALEX: The Richmond music scene is great.  It’s the thing that drew me to the city.  The kids here are really supportive and resilient to the city’s seemingly never-ending quest to end DIY music in its borders (most recently, people who ran house venues were charged with not paying entertainment taxes on donations).  We get a lot of really great touring bands coming through, which gives local bands a lot of decent opportunities to play.  Any success we have, I attribute it to living here!

Hold Tight! songs are so damn catchy, does one person write the songs or are they a collaborated group effort?  

ALEX: Jake and James demo out songs on Garage Band and send them to everyone else.  Once we know the skeletons, we get together and work on the little things.  So, a little bit of both I guess?  I think most of it is just trying to have fun and play the kind of music we all grew up on.  Free drinks on tour, too.

Lifetime is listed as a huge influence for the band.  We all know Lifetime rules, but what personally makes them so inspiring for Hold Tight!?  

ALEX: I just love them for doing something different at the time.  They played hardcore, but they chose a more personal and positive lyrical approach than what was going on with the area’s hardcore at the time.  They played pop punk, but they didn’t sing about skateboarding.  They found a good medium between the two genres and executed it perfectly.  And plus, they released a new record after a decade and it’s awesome.  I think that rules.  

Who are some newly formed bands that have been inspiring you lately?  

ALEX: We all listen to a bunch of different stuff, and obviously everything we like inspires us.  So, the best “new” bands I’ve been listening to lately are Joyce Manor, Mixtapes, Direct Hit!, Go Rydell, and Spraynard.

Obviously catchy songs are a huge part of pop punk bands, what else do you think makes a pop punk band successful?

ALEX: Honestly, with how many bands are around and touring these days, I think a lot of what helps is being involved with the scene in your hometown.  Obviously having good songs is the most important thing, but I’ve found that setting up shows, running a house venue, letting bands stay at your house, etc. ends up helping you a lot, especially early on.  It’s a lot easier to get shows out of town (and consequently, your name out there) when you are into helping out other
people and bands as well.  Then, if your songs are good, it just starts to fall in line.

It’s definitely a technological age with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.  Do you think these medias are contributing to the success of DIY bands? 

ALEX: Definitely.  It’s pretty damn easy to be in a band.  As weird as it is sometimes to keep up with all these social networking sites, keeping an online presence rarely doesn’t work in the band’s favor, at least in my experiences.  I can complain about Facebook all day, but it’s half the 
reason I know when a band I like is coming to my town or recording.

In what direction do you see the band going in, whether it’s touring more, staying in the DIY scene, or just trying to keep the band alive?  

ALEX: We’re just going to keep touring and writing songs.  As long as we’re still having fun, we’ll be on the road.  We’ve encountered our fair share of tour hardships, but there’s never been a time that we would rather be at home delivering pizza and bagging groceries.

If you had to choose just one song for a new listener to hear, what would it be and why?

ALEX: I’ll say “Can’t Take This Away”, just because that’s my favorite song of ours.  [laughs]  I also think that it’s a pretty good representation of what we do, both musically and lyrically.  It’s short, fast, and positive.

What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about Hold Tight!, but that it should? 

ALEX: Half of us are straight edge, and half of us get completely drunk all the time.  It’s an interesting dynamic, and somehow it works.

What else can we expect from Hold Tight!? 

ALEX: We’ve got a pretty fair amount of touring planned in the spring/summer.  I’m from the Midwest so, even though I feel like a lot of people look over it, my favorite shows are out there.  Especially in Nebraska/Missouri.  We are recording an EP next month of a bunch of shorter songs that we didn’t put on the record for flow purposes (seven songs in less than six minutes, no joke).  “Can’t Take This Away” is coming out on Animal Style Records in the spring, and we are recording a new full length this fall.