Monthly Archives: May 2010

An interview with Bafabegiya

COLLECTIVE: Greetings, Bafabegiya. Kindly let us know who you are, let us know what part you play in the band and anything else about yourselves that you think we may be interested to learn. How did the band start and how has it evolved over time?

B: Bafabegiya consists of Tim Osipenko on bass, Jawsh Hageman on drums, Justin Morales on guitar, and Joe Ferguson does the vocals. We are all very different and passionate individuals who have a lot of love for DIY culture. We have all been in and are a part of several other musical projects in the Reno DIY scene including Crucial Attack, Dog Assassin, Rad Times, Disconnect, This Computer Kills, Both Blind, No Gods No Girlfriends, and a handful of others. The band started about 3 or 4 years ago after This Computer Kills (Jawsh) broke up, and Crucial Attack (Joe) went on a long hiatus. I (Joe) asked Jawsh if he wanted to start a HC punk band and he was into it and he asked Justin if he wanted to play some tunes. We asked our friend James to play bass in the band, and he did so for the first few shows, and I think he may even be on the split demo tape with Dog Assassin that we did. James quit and we asked Tim (Dog Assassin) to join. That has been the lineup ever since. The sound I think has changed quite a bit since we began writing music. We started out playing some fairly straight forward HC punk tunes akin to Minor Threat or 7 Seconds, but we progressed quickly and started writing some more intricate and different stuff pretty soon thereafter.

COLLECTIVE: What the heck is a Bafabegiya? It sounds like something that might’ve crawled out of some Norse folktale or something…

B: Bafabegiya literally means “Those Who Die Dancing” in Xhosa, a language from South Africa. During the reign of white apartheid in South Africa, non-white folks and their supporters began to rebel in many significant ways. The main organization of resistance in South Africa during apartheid was the ANC (African National Congress), who continue to have significant political power there today. During the beginning of the resistance, there was a group of radicals who wanted to take a more direct-action style approach to dismantling the racist power structure that existed there at the time. They were called Bafabegiya, and they advocated for sabotage and bombings while the ANC staged boycotts and walk-outs. While both types of actions were important in taking out the racist regime (at least symbolically) in South Africa, it should be noted that the course of action that a person or group takes to rectify social injustice should be appropriate for the situation. Today I see a lot of people burning candles and singing songs in front of federal buildings to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, or maybe once in a while they will march in the streets and make a symbolic gesture through art to “stop the war” or something of that nature. They take this course of action while literally thousands of innocent men and women and children are ravaged by the weapons of mass destruction that their tax dollars go to purchase. I unfortunately don’t see a lot of people taking real direct action to stop and injustices in the world. There are some, and they are those who die dancing.

COLLECTIVE: You guys have a somewhat odd sound (for this day and age, anyway…) that I always end up describing somewhat hamfistedly. There seems to be a crust influence at work but also something more akin to what a lot of early-to-mid 90s hardcore bands (like, say, Born Against or Iconoclast) were doing. Is there any particular “sound” you’re aiming for? How do you think the band fits in with the current hardcore topography?

B: As a band, I don’t think we have ever really tried to fit into any specific musical genre box or tried to categorize ourselves. We have never thought “hey lets try to sound like this or that.” We just write the music that we write, and it comes out however it does. We have a lot of very different musical interests and influences, and I think that our sound reflects a lot of that diversity. So, I would say that we are not trying to aim for any specific sound, per se, we are just a band playing heartfelt music with passion and drive. People have compared us to bands like Econochrist, Born Against, and even Tragedy, but I think we maintain a pretty unique sound. As for the current HC topography, I’m not really sure that we fit in at all. There aren’t many bands out there that sound like us, and we don’t really fit in, at least musically, to current HC trends, as far as I see it. We have played with a lot of different bands and in a lot of different scenes, and we get different reactions everywhere we go. It just depends. We like playing and touring with bands that we get along with, and we have toured with a lot of Spacement Records bands like Arabella, Disconnect, Greyskull, and Acts of Sedition. I think we get the best response in the more active and politically concerned scenes because we talk a lot about issues that our lyrics deal with. I like to talk in between songs about what the different songs are about and engage the crowd in discourse before and after we play. We always bring a zine distro and usually have books for sale in addition to the records and things that we sell. So, that is one thing about us that in a lot of ways, sets us apart from a lot of other bands touring in the DIY circuit, we always have info and are always willing to talk about things that are going on in our lives. It’s important to us to make sure that DIY HC punk is more than just music. It’s community building, communication, and friendship. Meeting kids, and making sure that we are supporting each other in our struggles.

COLLECTIVE: Like the music, Bafabegiya’s lyrics are smart and to the point. However, they tend to veer schizophrenically between notes on personal empowerment or making life better for oneself and more bitter tirades on politics or the various stupidities of humankind. How do you balance these two perspectives and not let one override the other? Does the type of song you write depend on what side of the bed you get out of in the morning?

B: The lyrics that I write usually deal with something that I have been thinking about recently or that I have been learning about or reading about or talking about in my daily life. I don’t come to practice with lyrics or anything like that or even decide what a song is going to be about ahead of time. I’ll usually listen to a song that the rest of the band is writing and practicing and then start thinking about what I want to write about based on how the music is making me feel and what I’ve been thinking about recently or what has been going on in my life. I have never really given much thought to balancing personal lyrics with more political lyrics or anything like that as the lyrics have always just sorta come based on the circumstances at the time. They’re all personal for me as they’re all topics that I feel are important and have direct relevance to my life. They are also political because those are usually just the things that I am thinking about and discussing with friends and family and colleagues. I think that in a lot of ways people here have really lost the ability to engage in civil discourse and communicate with one another. Our society is almost completely obsessed with the spectacle that the media has become and we’ve lost a lot of what makes us human. This goes across the board, from the corporate media convincing us that we should purchase unnecessary things through to kids spending all their time on Myspace worrying about how many virtual friends they have, rather than thinking about building real relationships with real people, be it within the scene, their communities or elsewhere. I think that if more of that discourse or those ideas come across through music in a DIY type environment, that we can begin to transform society into something that is a bit more conducive to a real community.

COLLECTIVE: The split with Acts of Sedition seems to be heavier than your previous releases – is this the kind of avenue you’ll be pursuing in the future or just the result of a weightier production? Also, what’s the deal with that Spanish-sounding arpeggio that ends one side of the 7” and kicks off your side of the LP?

B: The songs that we have written since the split with Acts of Sedition have been a bit heavier than our other releases, but the songs are also becoming longer, more complex, and stemming from even more diverse influences. We don’t have many solid future plans right now, but I would imagine that we will be looking for a better production with some of our new songs. We have never really focused on being a “heavy” band, but some of our newer songs definitely have heavier parts as well as more dynamic structures. As for that “Spanish-sounding arpeggio,” I think that we just really liked the outro from our “Those Who Die Dancing” EP and it fit well with the first song on our split with AOS, so we just put it there as well. We often play “Better Dead than Domestic” and “Molded” together live, so it makes for a pretty epic bridge between the two songs.

COLLECTIVE: All the releases I’ve seen from you folks thus far have this rather distinctive artwork going on that’s heavily stylized and also rather creepy (particularly, it has to be said, the split LP, what with its skull-faced-monk-thing billowing smoke and shot full of arrows…). How does it tie in with what you’re all about and why have you plumped for the imagery you have?

B: Our good friend Jeremy Forson (www.jeremyforson.com) has done all of our artwork. He grew up in the Reno scene and moved away to Oakland to go to art school at CCA (California College of Arts) to hone his skills, though he’s kept really involved in the Reno scene. Jeremy has done all of our record covers, inserts, t-shirts, stickers, buttons, etc. For the artwork, we send Jeremy the lyrics and music and he puts together the art based on how he feels the music should be depicted – we don’t give him any direction or tell him what we want, we pretty much just leave it up to him. Then we usually have the covers screened locally and put together the inserts and stuff ourselves. It’s a DIY fair all around with many members of the Reno scene contributing.

COLLECTIVE: Additionally, all the releases are super DIY and a whole lot of love seems to have gone into them. How important to is the concept of “DIY” to you as a band? What’s your take on the direction a lot of supposed hardcore bands/labels seem to be taking, almost tripping over themselves to affect a gloss of corporate schtick or at least employing similar tactics to the majors?

B: The DIY ethic is everything to this band. We started Spacement Records as a collectively run, band-centered label to put out ours and our friends records. We do as much as we can ourselves and have tried to make sure that our releases are more than just the music; we want them to be solid with artwork, lyrics, explanations, production, and plenty of contact info if kids want to get in touch and talk or ask questions. What we can’t do ourselves, we ask for help from friends and local businesses to give us a hand. We are very fortunate to live in an amazing community full of caring individuals who are willing to help each other out when the time comes. We want kids to grow and learn from the DIY experience that they have through attending our shows or picking up our records or whatever. We want to make sure that kids know that we are not any different than them and that they can start bands, write zines, start a record label, distro books that they like, put on shows, make a stencil, or do whatever their hearts desire. To us, DIY is what we do, there is no other way.

As for the direction that other HC bands / labels have been taking, in the way of creating a more mainstream audience, or going for a more glossy production, that’s fine for them. If their goal is to sell a bunch of records and have a booking agent and have six t-shirt designs and three hoodie designs, then that is fine with me. If they want to make their version of HC watered-down, unthreatening, and more “entertaining” in order to appeal to a wider audience, then that is great for them. It’s just not HC anymore though – it might be some good tunes, but that’s about all. They can sell their CDs at Best Buy or whatever other corporate chain that they want. It’s not for us. We want HC to be first and foremost, sincere, heartfelt, passionate, and a direct threat to the status quo. We will never compromise our ideals or our passion for the record industry or for capitalism. We make the music and art that we love, and if other people want to check it out, then that’s great. We never got into the DIY HC scene to become popular or to make money – we just want to stay true to what we believe and make music, art, friends, and have a good time doing it.

COLLECTIVE: Could you tell us a bit about the scene you move within? For some reason I get the impression that the Spacement bands and their associates must be part of some neat close-knit little family – is this the case or am I way off with my idealistic assumptions? Who do you recommend we keep our eyes peeled for in the future?

B: The Reno scene is a pretty unique place to have grown up in and to be in right now. There is a rich history of DIY HC punk starting back with bands from the early 80’s like Jack Shit and 7 Seconds. Bands that influenced us more directly were from the more recent line of local HC bands such like Gob, Fall Silent, and Iron Lung. So, as you can tell, the Reno scene has never really had a distinct sound or genre that it’s famous for or anything like that, but there has been a long tradition of really good bands that have come from this small town. Most recently, Reno has seen a lot of really good bands get together, write some great tunes and record a bit, maybe tour a bit, and then call it quits. There have just been so many bands start out strong and break up. I think that there are a lot of kids in this scene that aren’t really willing to work really hard to keep a band going for an extended period of time. It’s really unfortunate too, because there is really a lot of talent here. Most of the Spacement bands and people associated with the record label and venue make up a pretty close-knit family. Many of us work on the same projects in the community, attend shows together, host vegan potlucks, volunteer at Sound and Fury Records, go on tour together, help out with Food Not Bombs, and just try to keep the scene a positive place for all kinds of kids to become a part of. Really awesome stuff is happening in Reno right now, and a lot of kids in the scene have really stepped up and become involved in their community. Right now kids here are working on a lot of projects such as Holland Reno (www.hollandreno.blogspot.com), The Reno Bike Project (www.renobikeproject.blogspot.com/), Reno Food Not Bombs (www.fnb.spacementreno.com/), The Great Basin Community Food Co-Op (www.greatbasinfood.coop/), The Bridge Center (www.thebridgecenter.net), Rainshadow Community Charter High School (www.rainshadowcchs.org), Spacement Records (www.spacementreno.com), and Sound and Fury Records (www.soundandfuryreno.com). Some kids help out the scene in other ways by helping book shows, recording bands, hosting info nights or skillshares, silkscreening shirts and patches, writing zines, opening their homes for use as venues, etc. Of course, there are a lot of kids in the scene who don’t do much in the way of community activism or really become involved in the scene much at all aside from attending shows and the like. I think you’ll find that kind of thing in pretty much every scene that you come into contact with. As for who to watch for in the future, in the extended network of the Spacement family, I would say keep an eye on Acts of Sedition (Oakland, CA – www.actsofsedition.com), Greykull (Tacoma, WA – www.crimethinc.net/urbanpirates/bands/greyskull), and any bands that form from the breakup of Parallax (Provo, UT – www.goldenspikemusic.com). In Reno, it looks like Fatality (www.spacementreno.com/artists/index.php?ID=13) is really trying to get out there and tour a lot, X-Wing (www.spacementreno.com/artists/index.php?ID=17) is still hanging on even though members have relocated to Southern California, and various Bafabegiya member projects are forming. Members of Bafabegiya, Acts of Sedition, Greyskull, Burial Year (www.alonerecords.com), Bullets*In (www.bullets-in.tk), and The Coma Recovery (www.failedexperimentrecords.com) are currently starting a regional band that has a lot of potential. Who knows what the future holds?

COLLECTIVE: What plans does Bafabegiya have for the future? Do you have any specific goals or objectives for the band and, if so, how are you going to go about accomplishing them?

B: We have no concrete plans for the future. Things are pretty much up in the air right now. We have been on somewhat of a hiatus since we got back from our summer tour and haven’t done much in the way of future planning. In the past we have talked about touring in Europe and doing a lot more in the way of touring the world, but things have yet to unfold.

COLLECTIVE: Ok. I guess that’s it – thanks a heap for your time and patience! Please feel free to add any final words of wisdom in the blank space below…

B: I think I’d just like to end by encouraging anyone reading this interview to really think about making punk a threat to society by becoming involved in things that are going on in your local community. Instead of keeping our passion and our ideas locked up in basements and garage venues, let’s bring what we have taken from the HC punk scene and integrate it into our daily existence in the community. Talk to your friends and families who might not be associated with the punk scene about things that are important to you. Become informed, read books, zines, check out the news, see what’s going on in the world. Knowledge is power. Go!

Thanks for the interview. Feel free to get in touch with any further inquiries… bafabegiya
269 Wonder St.
Reno, NV 89502
bafabegiya@riseup.net

INterview by Alex Deller.

an interview with snuffy smile

alex deller interviews a very jaded seeming yoichi, several years ago…

Snuffy Smile is a great little punk label from Japan that’s been around for a good few years now and released records by bands like the Urchin, I Excuse, Minority Blues Band and plenty more besides. It’s run by Yoichi, who was kind enough to tap out some responses to a few questions I had about what keeps Snuffy Smile ticking…

C: Give us a brief history of the label – how long have you been running it and what made you start? What significant obstacles and difficulties have you faced, and how have you overcome them (starting to sound like a job interview there…). Do you still see running Snuffy Smile as a learning process, or is it all “second nature” to you now?

Y: I started the label in 1993 and I really can’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I just started it to release the bands I thought should have records out as there were no good labels to release stuff by the bands I loved. Before I started the label, I had many favourite labels like Rugger Bugger in the UK or Allied in the US and I wanted to do something like them, though they were still much better than mine.

I got a lot of backstabbing by many people about the things I did as a label, and I still don’t know why so many people seemed to hate me. I think Japanese people dislike those who do their own thing. I received a lot of help from the bands themselves, but basically made my own decisions and had my own opinions as to how things should be done. Some people didn’t like that and preferred useless negotiation. But all those people seem to have gone away and nobody pays me that much attention, so it seems like a waste of time to complain about them.

The label is everything to me and I’ve never done anything I like besides it, except for drinking, reading or travelling. I can’t say exactly what it is – it’s like a learning process but at the same time it’s all second nature to me too.

C: What advice would you give to anyone setting up their own label or putting out a record?

Y: I can’t see why anyone would want to start a punk rock label nowadays – nobody needs it anymore. I still am because I don’t have anything to do besides it. If you are enjoying your life in other ways I’d say don’t have any such a stupid ideas. You won’t get any new ideas for a punk rock label from me. It’s dying but I still love it.

C: What has been the most positive aspect of running Snuffy Smile? Is there anything about it that you don’t like?

Y: The most positive aspect is definitely meeting great people. I’m fuckin’ old but I still love to sleep anywhere and live in a way not many other people would want to. I can do it because I’m q guy involved in this punk scene and I’m proud of that. But it also makes me depressed – I’ve been losing friends along the way. There seem to be very few people who want to carry on the punk way of life for any length of time in Japan.

C: Let’s talk about the Snuffy Smile “sound” – often gruff, usually melodic, always punk. Do you go out of your way to seek these bands out, or do they gravitate towards you? Were there many bands like this in Japan already, or has the label itself led to more bands adopting a certain style?

Y: I don’t think about such a thing. All the bands are just ones I love and they’re playing the music I like. I listen to many kinds of music, but my favourite stuff is always like Leatherface, Jawbreaker, Stiff Little Fingers… so you know my taste.

I just meet the bands when I go to shows or when I’m touring. I’ve been doing the label for over 12 years, so some of the oldest bands influenced younger bands and they influenced other bands… and so on and on…

C: How do you feel about the term “pop punk”? Nowadays it seems almost synonymous with bad, vacuous Blink 182-type bands and Vans-sponsored tours – do you think this leads to a lot of good bands going unnoticed because of the stigma this genre has?

Y: I don’t care. I’m always doing my thing in the underground and I don’t know what’s going on in the “proper” music scene. Punk was pretty much dead a long time ago now it’s living a living death. The whole music business is of no concern to me anymore. All the good bands go unnoticed by ordinary people in Japan, but that’s okay because I’m not interested in mainstream culture at all. If someone doesn’t listen to the bands on my label because it’s “pop punk” then that’s not a problem – I don’t have any responsibility for saving people from being victims of media control or anything like that. In my opinion it’s better to build the wall and keep them out.

C: Boring question: which new bands would you recommend we check out?

Y: Blotto is definitely the best band in Japan at the moment. The Because are great too.

C: How has Snuffy Smile built its relationships with overseas bands? Do they contact you, or vice versa? Are you usually friends with them beforehand? Does the distance ever prove to be a problem?

Y: Once you get one friend in punk scene it’s just a beginning – soon enough you have a hundred friends. It’s easy. I always wrote letters to the bands I loved and asked them “hey, are you interested in doing a split 7inch?”.Basically I pretty much know who can do it and who can’t, though a few times it didn’t work so well.

C: What’s in the pipeline for the label – do you have any significant plans or schemes? Are there any bands you’d particularly like to work with?

Y: There are never any future plans for the label. I’m just doing what I want to do right now. But if the Tone get back together I’d want to release something with them again, for sure.

C: If you had the chance, which band would you most like to have put a record out by?

Y: Dillinger Four. I tried but it didn’t happen. Also, the Strike and Hellbender.

C: Any last words or requests?

Y: Life is a waste of time, so let’s waste the time on the things you enjoy. Thanks a lot for the interview.

An interview with Tubers

by alex deller. i interviewed 12 hour turn quite some time ago. here alex catches up with tubers. quite some time ago.

Another oldie. This one was pieced together sometime after that first awesome Tubers LP but before the second one. At least they’re still having at it…

Let’s put this in simple terms: Tubers are fucking great. A splendidly fluff-free punk rock act just kicking back and playing the kind of songs you’d kill to have written yourself. Bastards. Jeff and Rich were kind enough to answer a few of my questions via email, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Collective: Hey there, Tubers. Herein you will kindly do the “standard” punk zine thing and tell us all just who you are and what you do. Unless, of course, you have any better suggestions for starting the interview?

Jeff: I’d say this is a fine way to start an interview. My interpretation is that we are three buds that like to play the rock-and-roll together. We all do many other things, however. I tend to serve food to people at a fancy restaurant in a fancy hotel, go to school, surf or kite-surf when I can (which is not often enough), and play the kicker in my living room. I also try to grow vegetables.

Rich: I’m a teacher for trainable mentally handicapped in the public school system of St Augustine, Bakery Outlet labeler, Tubers, Solid Pony and Verde bands, runner, gardener, perpetually learning “surfer.”

Collective: So, how was the (now not-so-recent) European tour? Any harrowing tales of woe or entertaining hi-jinx? Was it odd to be playing something like Trashfest with bands and in front of crowds who might not necessarily be kindred spirits musically? What / who are you particularly looking forward to on this year’s bill?

Jeff: The not-so-recent European tour was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and luckily not too heavy on the woe. Lenny head-butted me over a game of kicker. I almost did not get in to England because the officers did not like my ‘story,’ nor my lack of plane ticket back home, which resulted in a missed show in Brighton. Our big van breakdown occurred on our drive to London, resulting in interesting night sleeping five inside the van in a weird industrial part of some weird city, as well as a missed show and a quite misplaced 400 pounds (about 750 dollars for us). Lenny and I also got dick-milched right in the strasse, as Rich put it. Hi-jinx? Well, I’m pretty sure we played with Keanu Reeves’ band in Newcastle.

Rich: Europe was fantastic. I had been telling my bandmates how great it was to be there with my previous band 12 Hour Turn and Ingo (of The Company With the Golden Arm) who arranged tour. Ingo offered to set up a tour for Tubers / Solid Pony and it turned out to be all I remembered. How we would ideally like to tour DIY in a mostly organized fashion, meeting lovely people and seeing beautiful places. Receiving acts of generosity like meals and places to sleep and inspiring us to do the same at home. 12 Hour Turn played Trashfest and it was chaotic as was this time around… We were unfamiliar with it otherwise but had a great time and look forward to it this time also.

Collective: As I understand it at least one of you guys had already been over to Europe with other bands. What did you learn from your previous experiences, and did this familiarity help ease your passage? What do you like best about playing over here as opposed to playing gigs in the States?

Jeff: It was actually everyone except for Rich’s first time touring in Europe, though a couple of us had been over there before just to travel around. As to the second question, I can pretty well answer with a resounding “everything.” Show-goers and promoters are hospitable, enthusiastic, attentive, and just generally excited. Breakfast and dinner were the norm and not just the exception, as it usually works the other way around here. Delicious and nutritious to boot. It made me feel (whether it was true or not) that we were genuinely appreciated, musically and otherwise. That’s a nice feeling.

Rich: What I learned was that Ingo, our driver, their friends and the venues etc. really take care of us. It’s unreal how much generosity there is.

Collective: I think you may have explained this self-same issue at some of the UK shows, but as you weren’t able to make the London gig I couldn’t get to hear the tale for myself. Could shed some light on why you decided to call yourself “Tubers”?

Jeff: Our name was actually a difficult process – we all had other ideas but nothing that jumped out enough at all of us to the extent that we could agree on it. I put Tubers on the table, and it was actually a sort of settling, though of course now we are all very happy about it. The three main Tubers interpretations we encourage and usually explain include Tubers as rooted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, ginger, and the like); Tubers as those who float down rivers on inflatable inner-tubes, which we very much enjoy; and Tubers as those who get tubed in the ocean while they are surfing, otherwise known as getting “barrelled” or “shacked,” which is one of the heights of the surfing experience.

Collective: The LP has this really great sound to it that I just can’t stop harping on about. It seems really spacious and “booming” – was this a particular sound you were gunning for, or merely a happy coincidence? How was it achieved? This all kinda ties in with what I take to be a homespun and communal feel to the record – I don’t know if I’m being way off the mark here, but hey…

Jeff: I am the worst person to talk to about sound and the most aloof during the recording process. As far as the sound on that record, however, I guess I’d attribute it to Rob McGregor’s knowledge and expertise, as well as Rich’s meticulous and perfectionist nature. Rob has been recording bands in Gainesville for decades, including some of my favourite bands and records of all time.

Rich: It’s a sound I think we all like, but we just went to Rob McGregor since we’d all worked with him in the past and that is what came out without very much suggestion about it. Rob just did an amazing job with it and he’s always getting better and better. We’re all stoked on how it came out.

Collective: Some of your songs sound like they’re really aimed at specific individuals (e.g. the line “I’ve seen you age enough to know where I don’t want to be”) and the shadow of alcoholism looms over much of the album. At certain points it really seems like you’re letting all and sundry read your private mail. Was this not awkward for you at all?

Jeff: Rich wrote the lyrics for all but two songs on that record, so I must give recourse to however he answers the question.

Rich: Some of the lyrics are pretty vulnerable. I write songs at home where I don’t think about sharing them with anyone, so when they’re done there is no hiding. It’s nice this way I think, though sometimes maybe they’re melodramatic. Lyrics for me always start with a specific subject but hopefully can translate to more general terms. And yes, alcohol is something to cope with for me – you can’t escape its presence. It’s part of a destructive lifestyle our culture participates in with addictive fervor, but I can’t condemn it. Although I seldom do it anymore, I’ve definitely had some great times with it, and also taken some years off my life because of the trouble I’ve caused. I love many people who love the bottle.

Collective: There seem to have been a nice little crop of simpler, rootsier (for want of a better word…) bands popping up over the last few years (like, say, Reactionary 3 (RIP…), Tiny Hawks, Sinaloa…) playing a swell, no-nonsense brand of emoish punk rock, and I guess it’s convenient to bracket you guys in with them. Was there anything you wanted to sidestep, avoid or specifically achieve with Tubers? What were you initially aiming for with the band sound-wise? Are there any up-and-coming bands you’d like to recommend who follow a similar blueprint?

Jeff: I’m with you on the appreciation of the no-nonsense, simpler brand of punk rock, what with all the over-production and pretentiousness (both in sound and on-stage) that tends to abound these days. I’ll actually take it as quite a compliment to be bracketed with some of those bands. Not to drift, but I’d like to just say that my favourite bands have always been the bands my friends are in – or, at the very least, bands that you can go see without a stage and have real conversations with afterwards. Twelve Hour Turn (Rich’s old band) is actually still one of my favourites. I think if I just had to listen to bands from Richmond, Virginia and Gainesville for the rest of my life I’d be just fine. True North (and everything else those guys have been or are involved in) will always stand out, as will Stop It! and their new creations, like Brainworms and Pink Razors. I must also recommend Jacob’s other band, Environmental Youth Crunch, who will be touring with us the first two weeks when we return to Europe. Also, pretty much everything Rich puts out on Bakery Outlet will be most radical – I can guarantee that.

Rich: We didn’t have any specific agenda with Tubers – just to write what comes to us as a band. So far I think we’re all very happy with what comes out and I’d perhaps feel uncomfortable if we did aim for something else.
Bands. . .. hmmm. .. .well I’d have to say Bakery bands past releases and future (future = R3, Matty Pop Chart, Emperor X, Environmental Youth Crunch, Alligator [I hope], Twelve Hour Turn…) I’m elated that all these great people have wanted to work with me. They truly are my favourite recent / recently-deceased bands, along with other friends’ bands as Jeff has mentioned.

Collective: What’s on the horizon for Tubers? The LP seemed to arrive out of nowhere and it’s all been rather quiet since. Any new releases planned?

Jeff: We finally got our act together again and recorded a new album just a couple of months ago, and we should have copies of the CD when we come over. We did indeed have a lull, owing in part to separation but also a slight creative slump. I guess with all the other things going on in our lives – be it other bands, work or school – we tend not to be a “full-time” band. Although I believe we would love that, I don’t see it happening any time in the near future. Oh yeah, let’s go ahead and say we’re shooting for an Australia tour / surf trip summer 2008.

Rich: Well, we return to Europe in June / July, though unfortunately no UK this time around. Lenny (Solid Pony and Bakery Outlet partner) built a studio in his house a short time ago, and we recently finished recording the new Tubers album there, so the CD should be ready for tour. Bakery Outlet / The Company With the Golden Arm will release it. There’s also talk of a split something or other with Brainworms from Richmond, VA.

Collective: Anything else you’d like to add, say or recommend?

Jeff: Thank you very much for your interest. When I read interviews, the last thing I want to be is bored, so hopefully we’re not boring. I also recommend reading books and going outside as much as possible. That’s about it.

Rich: Thanks!

An interview with Tiny Hawks

This interview is from a long ol’  time back, roundabouts the time ‘Fingers Become Bridges’ came out. Lawks.

Collective: Generic introduction: herein you will give a brief, insightful run-down of the band that is Tiny Hawks – roles, reasons and rationale.

Gus: I’m Gus. I play the drum kit, and electric bass. Recordings have some upright bass on them. Art and I befriended about four years ago when I moved to Providence. Our interests in life, politics, and music brought us to the idea of playing together. At that point, it had been quite some time since I had played music with people, and it worked so well with just the two of us. Our differing personalities really bring us together. I think we compliment each other in our approaches to songwriting. I mean, we are both generally happy people, Art is a bit more outgoing than I am, which is most apparent at shows. We both have a genuine love of the music we make and the friendship therein. I appreciate the opportunity to do Tiny Hawks and hope it brings real inspiration to those who listen. It must be said, we are just a band. But music is the great motivator, and if it keeps motivating you, why stop?

Collective: Tiny Hawks have a pretty original sound, especially in a day and age where you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across a clutch of bands tilling the same soil. What would you say has helped shape the band’s sound? How has what you’ve done in the past shaped what you’re doing now? Did you set out to achieve any specific goals with this band?

Gus: Thanks! I think it’s kind of a bummer how marketed genres have become. Even in DIY/punk/hardcore, whatever you want to call it. There is an obvious divide. I mean, people like what they like., but when you start to feel uncomfortable and judged at a show or walking down the street because you don’t have a certain sound or aesthetic it’s a bit unsettling. I think back to stories I’ve heard from late 70s early 80s when punk had no real guidelines – it gave people the freedom to really voice what they were about, for better or worse. I think at first, we just wanted to rock out? Now, having so many influences and a couple of years behind us, it’s morphed what we are. We just write, musically, what feels satisfying to us and evokes what we are trying to get across. We are not trying to mimic a sound or appeal to any certain person. I wouldn’t say we have a clear direction as to where we are going as a band and I really enjoy that.

Art: In thinking about shaping sound, I think we bring similar inspirations and motivations from bands and music we’ve both loved and I think we try to play what comes naturally rather than try to mold songs into some formula or pattern. I haven’t really played in a formal band before this aside from a band in high school (albeit meaningful!), and I have been playing guitar alone for a long time, some songs that ended up being some of these songs. I think we pay attention to feel rather than approach, assessing what viscerally feels right rather than what sounds “good”.

Collective: Am I right in thinking one/some of you were in Spirit Assembly? What would you say have been the major changes in the emo/hardcore landscape since then? Which have been for the better, and which for the worse?

Gus: Yes, I used to play bass in that band and it still blows me away when it gets mentioned. It was an exciting time then, 93-95ish. A true movement that I was completely enamoured with. It shaped so much of who I am, but, I took what I experienced/learned from that and moved on. It’s real unhealthy to live in the past, to idealize those days as being better than what you have now. You have to push for growth and change. If you don’t, things get stagnant.

Collective: A lot of the folks who would’ve been your contemporaries in the 90s emo scene have either upped and left music entirely or moved onto less traditionally punk pastures – (e.g. country, indie, electronica…). What has made you stick with punk rock – what’s the lasting appeal? Could you see yourselves ever just jacking it all in and forgetting this particular piece of your past?

Art: Punk rock. The lasting appeal continues to be in how people stretch it, what we do with it when the song is over, and what those songs did to bring us to where we are. The connections and people I have met over the years through punk circles (zines, music, politics, fests etc.) continue to inspire and enrich my life and I feel very lucky to be a part of it all. Punk has made and ruined and confused a whole lot of people it seems. It’s a positive signifier as much as a way to alienate. I don’t really see myself losing the drive to be participating in or playing music that would be considered punk. There is a lot of hope left in it, a lot of fearlessness, and a lot of room for it to keep changing and keep it challenging.

Gus: Punk has an energy. That word alone has so much weight behind what it has stood for… and still does for a lot of us. We both listen to such a vast collection of styles of music, and all have had their little part in what we are. But the statement punk has made (of course, I’m not talking about big money “punk”) will have a lasting effect on my life’s decisions and philosophies.

Collective: Are you still as pissed off about things as you were when you first started making music, or have your focuses changed?

Art: Are we still pissed off? I think anger can be a pretty amazing force if used the right way. We’re pretty much overwhelmed with enough things in the world today to level us on a minute by minute schedule – so how to deal with it all, how to use the anger there or frustration to make something or be something more than that, to turn that adrenalin into something positive? Phil Ochs said, “you must protest, you must protest, it if your diamond duty, ah, but in such an ugly time, the true protest is beauty.” Sure, anger is there, but I think anger implies negative reactions. Remaining critical and open and responsive and resolute and with a certain amount of courage seem to be stronger impulses.

Gus: As you get older – I will be 30 this year – I think you find ways of bringing your ideals into everyday life, how you live it. Simple things like how I treat other people, knowing your neighbours, trying to stay informed on what the hell is going on. Yes. I am pissed off about the US occupation of Iraq, I am pissed off about South Dakota deeming abortion illegal! There are so many incredibly frightening actions by government and power figures… most of which are against what the people want. It’s all so overwhelming sometimes, you start to wonder if we can bring change. It’s an anger with hope that we need more of, and I say that as much for myself as much as I do others.

Collective: Tell us about your relationship with Moganono – how did it come about? It seems to be one of those reliable, understated labels standing out like a beacon in a sea of shit. Does the label guy cherrypick all these great bands (Anton Bordman, Kolya, Ettil Vrye…) or is he just lucky enough to have found himself sitting amongst a slew of neat acts with broadly similar ideas and ethics? What is the hardcore scene like where you hail from and what kind of bands do you generally play with?

Art: My personal relationship with Moganono goes back a long time to me being 14 and living in the Merrimack Valley and going to shows featuring bands whose members would later be in Moganono bands, and whose brother team were very open and friendly to me. I grew a lot through knowing Peter and Mike, through their examples in how they made genuine efforts in punk circles and their own lives. They used to book a fest every year as a breast cancer research benefit called “tin can full of dreams”, whose overarching value and richness was not wasted on me. It was a family thing, the Zetlans representing behind the refreshment table, the brothers making things work, and bands and people growing ever tighter over the years, finding each other at these events, and building relationships that would last. I am inspired by the memory and the people, and as a label, am always impressed. Peter keeps putting effort and love into bands of friends and releases that are timeless and hand done with care, and I feel so honoured to be a part of that history. He is a great person, and his friends and the music they create can speak to that fact. I don’t think I could generalize about the music scene here in Providence, there are many bands I love, who continue to push boundaries and experiment, and there is an earnest dedication to creating something personal and unique and honest that is awesome to see/hear. We’ve been lucky enough to play all different kinds of shows with bands playing all different kinds of music, so it’s nice to be a part of a community of music/art makers that continue to challenge us in that way – to not settle.

Gus: Pete is a wonderful, wonderful person. I met him through Art, when we started playing shows. He always struck me as genuine. He’s extremely dedicated and cares about what he is doing. It’s kind of like he’s the keystone in creating this little family of New England bands with similar views, for no other reason than a genuine interest. There is so much music going on in Providence. It’s a very diverse scene that has been through many hardships the past couple of years. Losing warehouse spaces (living and otherwise) and increasing rents are forcing people to keep things on the DL. There are now a handful of show/art spaces and only two or three are DIY. I think there is an underlying fear of those spaces being taken away.

Collective: Your lyrics are often kind of oblique, though can be picked apart for a sense of meaning. Is there anything in particular you’re looking to impart or are your songs more an opportunity to vent or try to understand particular situations for yourselves? Would you mind going into any detail as to what “Four Days After Ariel Was Shot” is about?

Gus: Not to discredit myself but Art is much better versed than I. He writes most of the lyrics where I write more straight forward words like “Daniel Striped Tiger”. I guess for me it’s a venting of sorts, trying to tell a story or put across and idea. That song, in particular, was at root a motivational. As is my part in “Whenzy”.

Art: The songs lyrics aren’t oblique on purpose, I think in the lyrics I write I just end up being a little indirect. Less venting, more trying to understand particular situations, think around things, pay attention. “Four Days…” was about living in Lawrence, Massachusetts after a killing had occurred in my neighbourhood and walking home from work through the park one night when a cop pulled up to me, not to arrest me, but to offer me a ride home because it wasn’t safe for me there. I think it was a critical moment in me thinking about privilege and whiteness, and the power of those things, their hidden meaning and weight. I loved my neighbourhood, met many of my neighbours and worked in a local charter school with kids living down the street from me, and was part of a small dysfunctional collective there. I felt part of a community and was not blind to certain aspects of it that made it “dangerous”, but tried to accept them as things that exist in a society that sets them up to be there in such a way. Killing or mugging or stealing were not exclusive events, like in most cities, and how you interpret or deal with those things ends up marking how you live within them. Are they constants or negotiable? Can you stop them? When does a neighbourhood start turning into a gated community? Many easy answers are found when someone can throw out “gang related” after a killing rather than looking at the root of these kinds of conflicts or issues. And I am no better prepared at handling those issues than anyone else, and so, the song is about that, being hit by all of it kind of profoundly and still coming up with not many answers. And no, I did not take the ride home.

Collective: What does the term “Fingers Become Bridges” mean to you? Why choose it for the name of your record?

Gus: I’ll let Art carry the torch on that one.

Art: “Fingers become bridges”. I like the thought of bridging things, finding connections and meaning and relatedness between disparate ideas and worlds, and personalizing it, seeing yourself as integrated, part of a web, connected and capable of building bridges, seems pretty empowering to me. You make what you want to see.

Collective: What are your plans for the band, both immediate and long-term? Is there much on the horizon by way of gigs, releases or grand schemes?

Gus: just want to play music and feel good about what we are doing. My hope for the band is that we keep progressing and stay true to ourselves… maybe inspire people outside of music too. We are planning a US tour in May/June to the West and back. Our new record “People Without End” will be out in May on Corleone records. We may be heading to Europe in the fall if all goes well and we can pull ourselves away from personal obligations to work we love.

Art: Plans include getting the new record out, going on an almost month long tour out to the west coast, hopefully going to Europe within the year, playing more guitar and bass songs, feeling less stressed out and more in control, recording a split with Fiya, figuring out how to use the fourtrack, having an updated and cohesive website, being better about lyric sheets, keeping it punctual when talking between songs, learning new ways to play music, trying trying trying.

Collective: Any last words or snappy closing comments? Use this space…

Art: Thank you very much for your thoughtful questions! I hope these weren’t too long winded for answers! Please write if you’d like: po box 1652/Providence/RI.02901. Thank you!

Gus: thanks so much for the opportunity and intelligent questions!

By Alex Deller