Gig Review :: Cancer Bats – The Cockpit, Leeds – 31/10/2010

Cancer Bats was always going to be a treat, so I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to see them on Halloween.

Vera Cruz emerge looking like stereotypical Frenchmen (striped white and black t-shirts and mustaches). Very fitting, seeing as they’re French. I really liked them, but they seemed to have trouble getting the crowd going. Hardly surprising really when your playing in a room when there’s only one band on everyone’s mind. Be sure to check out their EP. It’s available from their website.

While watching Trashtalk was fun for fans of extreme stage acrobatics, the sound quality was poor and seemed to be lower quality than their albums. This wasn’t helped by the previously mentioned acrobatics that the cockpit is renowned for. Even the presence of Michael Jackson on drums didn’t perk up this performance for me.

The Cancer Bats took to the stage in Halloween spirit, with a variety of costumes ranging from the grim reaper to the devil. A good range of songs from all of their albums were played, classics and new songs alike. As expected, here’s where the crowd really got going. They were, without doubt, the highlight of the night. Saving ‘Hail Destroyer’ till the end, was the cherry on top of the set.

Interview :: Oli Wood (Above Them)

“I’m not going to lie, I can’t feel my hands.”

Refuse To Lose is always a drunken affair. That kind of debauchery is what makes people want to come back, and Saturday was no different. The tiny basement club at Retro Bar (Manchester) played host to three of the finest punk bands in the UK at the minute: Above Them, Bangers and The Arteries. We managed to catch up with, a rather drunk, Oli Wood from Above Them and ask him a few questions. Or was he interviewing us?

Oli Wood: I reckon you’re gonna be shitter than me.

Ian Critchley: Probably yeah, you’ll be alright.

Anthony Barlow: We’re shit interviewers, don’t worry about that. We’re fucking terrible.

OW: Thing is, you’ve interviewed the wrong guy out of Above Them because I have not got a clue what’s going on. Ever.

AB: Well then, I guess the first question is, how’s it going?

OW: Really… Really great. Yeah this is really, I think I’m the most drunk I’ve been in a while like.

IC: Well one of the questions was, you were drunk at the Southsea fest and you still did that without a hitch.

AB: That was a brilliant set.

OW: Tonight is a different level of drunk.

IC: Was that before or is that now? You didn’t seem too pissed on stage.

OW: On stage was, decent. Like now… I’m not gonna lie. I can’t feel my hands.

IC: I hadn’t realised until the other, but you’ve got a video for one of your songs. Has that been received well? Any major play?

OW: Nah, to be honest, it wasn’t something we did to like, we didn’t think we’re gonna do this video and we’re gonna take it out there and everyone’s gonna love it. We did it through a friend, everything about it was really relaxed. We turned up, it was a Saturday night, it was through a guy from inhaler records, he worked at an airport so we had like an old aircraft hanger…

At this point a girl came over and said she was going to join us as her friend had gone to the toilet, then apologised profusely when she had realised she’d interrupted an interview. We told her it was fine and she hung about for the rest of it.

OW: ….yeah, we played that aircraft hanger?

That Girl: The what?

OW: You play in Above Them as well!

TG: Yes. I play the recorder on the secret tracks on the album.

IC: Yeah, it’s like, REALLY in the background so you’ve gotta turn it up a lot.

TG: Turn it up really loud and I’m the music in between the track, and the extra track.

IC: You just hear a little, Doodeleedoo. It’s like when you level up on Pokémon or some shit.

TG: I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet now.

OW: So basically, we didn’t have a clue what we we’re doing.

IC: Well it looks really professional.

OW: I think they paid like £70 for it to get put out on MTV and shit, but I don’t think we ever got played.

IC: Maybe once?

OW: Not even that.

AB: We heard talk of a new album coming out next year. Any details on that?

OW: I dunno, maybe like January, it’s gonna be all recorded and out there. We’re close to it. It’s not fully done, we’re only ten songs in, we want like 12? At least.

IC: The songs you’ve played are sounding good.

OW: Aww. You guys. You guys.

IC: Shucks.

AB: You said that you were pretty much on the bill too late at Southsea, do you still feel that way?

OW: Yeah. Definitely. We were far too drunk and far too rubbish to follow Attack! Vipers!

IC: There’s always a crazy crowd atmosphere when you’re playing. Does it ever aggravate you when people rob the mic or basically just knock shit over?

OW: No. No. Not at all.

TG: Oh! Can I ask a question? Do you remember at ManchFESTer when someone kept shouting in your face and you were like, “Fuck off, you’re not my manager” or something?

OW: I don’t know.

IC: That wasn’t me, don’t worry.

OW: Aww, was I a dick head?

TG: No, no. This guy was the dick head!

AB: Have you anything in the pipeline before the new album then? You said you were doing a split?

OW: I think we’re doing a few splits. After the (first) album we had the Amistad split. We had err… I’m the worst person to be doing this.

AB: Who’s the new split with?

OW: Cheap Girls. Such an awesome band. If you haven’t heard Cheap Girls…fucking.

AB: Have you noticed at your gigs, there’s some guy who always shouts “get your dick out!”

OW: Errr…

IC: It’s okay if you haven’t, but it’s me.

OW: Thing is, if I heard ya, I’d probably go “oh, good idea. Great idea! Why didn’t we think of that before?” But, I haven’t noticed.

IC: I’ll shout louder.

OW: Yeah, you should shout louder. Can I ask you a question?

AB: Yeah, do it!

OW: Have you noticed that, I haven’t done this a right lot?

IC: It’s alright!

AB: Drunk interviews are the best ones.

OW: I am so useless at everything.

AB: Our final question is, if Henry Rollins, Chuck Ragan and a shark had a fight. Who would win?

OW: Not Above Them. So we’ve got Henry Rollins, Church Ragan and a shark?

IC: Just any general shark, probably a Great White, maybe Jaws?

OW: That’s the hardest question you’ve asked so far. None of them. I reckon the bar guy would come out and behave and they’d be like “yeah, okay, sorry.” But to be honest, it’s gotta be Chuck hasn’t it

IC: Yeah.

OW: I’m gonna sound so stupid on this.

Interview :: Jason Black (Hot Water Music)

Jason Black – a man of very few words.

Just before the gig at the lovely Leeds Irish Centre, situated in the middle of fucking no-where, we got to have a wicked cool chin-wag with How Water Music bass player Jason Black. We asked him about touring, Against Me! and, Ian’s new best friend, George Rebelo.

Ian Critchley: First of all, how’s it going?

Jason Black: Good, well.

IC: Is the tour going good so far?

JB: Yeah!

IC: Is it good to be back in the U.K?

JB: Yeah, absolutely. It’s been a long time. So we’re happy we could over here, we’ve been trying the last couple of times we came over to the mainland, but it just didn’t happen so it’s nice we could fit it in. For sure.

IC: Is there anything happening with the Draft?

JB: No.

IC: So that’s all done and dusted?

JB: Yeah.

IC: We spoke to George on the Against Me! tour, and he told us to say hi to you.

JB: Cool.

IC: Are you totally pissed off that he sold you guys out for AM?

JB: No, because we’ve all been doing other stuff for longer than he has, so it’s kinda like, you know.

IC: That’s actually one of our other questions, what are you doing at the moment, other than HWM?

JB: Oh, I play in this other band called Senses Fail.

IC: Oh! Do you play is Senses Fail?

JB: Yeah!

IC: Aww, no way, I never knew that! I read an article saying that you and George came up with the original style for HWM?

JB: Err, not really, I think it’s different for every song. It’s a pretty organic process, it just kinda depends on the song really. It could start anywhere or end up end where, it just depends on a whole number of things really. Kinda whoever has a good idea, we just take it and run with it.

Anthony Barlow: Speaking of song writing, how do you write the lyrics? Is it collectively?

JB: Nah, Chris and Chuck just handle that. I mean, they work together on stuff to make sure that it makes sense for both of them but I kinda leave that to them.

AB: Do you consider this a full HWM reunion or are you focussing on other projects more?

JB: Both ya know? I think everyone’s gonna keep doing as much other stuff as possible, but we’re gonna keep doing this too, so as much as we can. It’s complicated to get everyone’s schedules worked out but the more we’re doing, it’s starting to get a bit easier. I think we’re making a little bit of headway in figuring out how to do a few more things in the future hopefully.

IC: Are we going to have a new HWM record soon?

JB: Yeah for sure.

IC: Is there any material so far?

JB: There’s a little bit. Nothing that’s very far a long.

IC: So there’s nothing being played tonight?

JB: Oh no, no, no, no. No way. No way. We just really, in the past couple of months, decided we were going to make that happen and now were just in the stages of trying to figure out how to schedule that with everyone too.

AB: You’re playing the Irish Centre, but you were originally playing a different venue in Leeds, why was the venue changed?

JB: I think for size. We needed a bigger place I guess.

IC: How come there isn’t a Manchester date?

JB: We only had time for, originally three shows, then we added the Portsmouth gig on at the end because we were going back down into Europe.

IC: We spoke to Chuck last time, when he was on the tour with Frank Turner, and he said about a collaboration album with Brain Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem, how come you guys didn’t tour together, seeing as your tour schedules are pretty similar?

JB: We just kinda wanted to do our own shows, because we haven’t been over here yet. I think going out with other bands is something we’ll do more off when we get a new record out. Because right now, we’re not promoting anything new, we just kind of playing shows for the people who want songs.

AB: It just came out of the fact that, Chuck said he wanted to do a tour with Brian to promote their thing and then, when we found out you two were touring.

JB: We saw a couple of guys at the show in London, we’ve run into them a bunch of times so far.

AB: Frank was at the show last night wasn’t he?

JB: Yeah.

AB: Thought so.

IC: Has George officially left?

JB: No, no. He’s still 100% in the band.

IC: Is it the drummer out of Lagwagon whose playing with you?

JB: Yeah. Dave’s playing with us, he has been doing as far as we have it planned now, because Lagwagon doesn’t tour a whole awful lot.

IC: I think the last time they did a U.K tour was about four years ago.

JB: Yeah. I know they’re coming back over in July, but I don’t know if they’re coming up here or not. So he’s in a bunch of bands that don’t tour a ton, so it works out. So far it’s worked out well to where he’ll be able to do what George can’t do for the time.

IC: Is he better than George on drums?

JB: They’re both good. They’re both awesome and they’re both different so it’s been cool to play with a different drummer and I mean he’s definitely doing an awesome job and killing it. Everyone whose seen the show has said it’s totally awesome, no ones said that’s been weird or feels different.

IC: Leatherface (though I actually said Leatherhead like a fucking moron) are kinda like a major influence, is that the main influence for Hot Water Music?

JB: No, I think, we came into even a few years after we started the band. I mean, everyone listens to drastically different stuff. I think the whole kind of deal with our sound is that everyone’s coming from pretty different worlds, as far as our “go to” stuff is to listen to.

AB: A lot of bands say that Hot Water Music are an influence, how does that feel?

JB: It’s cool!

IC: There’s a band from near us that must be about 10, 20 years older than you but are totally influence by you. They’re called the Great St. Louis. Does it now feel weird influencing people older than you?

JB: Yeah, that’s a first I think!

AB: A lot of people say that your version of Radio is better than the Alkaline Trio version?

JB: I don’t know about that. I think their version is pretty good.

IC: Why was Till The Wheels Fall Off released on No idea and not Epitaph?

JB: We’re out of contract with Epitaph and we’d put most of that stuff out on No Idea over the course of the years so it was easier to kinda throw it together.

IC: Who does the artwork for Hot Water Music?

JB: Our friend Scott Sinclairs done all of them.

IC: Even on The New What Next because that’s kind of a different style

JB: Yeah, it’s the same guy though.

IC: Is he a just a friend of yours, is that how it came about?

JB: Yeah, we’ve known him for for a long time and he’s a super killer artist so it’s works out really well.

IC: Finally, we’ve got kind of like, a joke question.

JB: Okay!

IC: We ask everyone.

AB: It kind of ties in with what’s going on actually.

IC: If Chuck Ragan, Henry Rollins and shark had a fight, who would win?

JB: I think I’m gonna have to go with Rollins on that one.

IC: Really?!

JB: He’s straight edge! He’s definitely got the edge on everyone else.

AB: Is this some kind of Hot Water Music backlash on Chuck? You and George both said Rollins!

IC: This is mutiny!

JB: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s be a nasty fight, but I’m gonna to go with Rollins on that.

AB: You all secretly hate Chuck is what it is.

All: *Laughs*

IC: We’ve got two readers questions as well and then we’re done, a guy called Ralph said, what do you feel about Georges drumming on the new Against Me! record? Do you like it?

JB: I think it works really well with the songs. If he played that for us, I’d kill him! Like dude, spice it up a little bit! But I think that’s the nature of their band. It sounds great and it works really well with the songs and I know he worked really hard on it. I think they made a really good record and I’m stoked for him!

IC: A guy called Dan asks, are you playing any covers tonight?

JB: I don’t know. I haven’t seen the setlist yet, we do a little bit different every night.

IC: Well thank you very much!

JB: Yeah yeah! No problem!

Interview :: Austin Lucas

Why this man was playing in a pub cellar is beyond us.

© Al Overdrive 2010

It seems Austin Lucas is an unknown commodity on these shores. The, Indiana-born, singer/songwriter has yet to be recognised by UK audiences and it’s a crying shame. We sat down in Leeds’ Royal Park pub (the venue for the night) to have a chat with Austin about his life: Why he moved from the US to Prague (and back again), his ‘double life’ in a crust punk band and missing Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. This is probably the most honest interview we’ve ever done, with the most humble of people. As an added bonus, there’s even brief cameos from El Morgan and a bloke called Sam.

Anthony Barlow: Hey Austin, how’s it going?

Austin Lucas: Good, how y’all doing, alright?

Ian Critchley: We’re good. It’s been a bit hard to get here, but we got here.

AL: Good, good.

IC:  First of all, we found out you’d moved from the US to Prague and you’ve moved back again now. What was the decision behind that?

AL: Which part?

IC: Well, the move to Prague and then…I guess both

AL: *laughs* My brother, he moved to Prague about two years before I got there, he opened a bar and, at the time, I was playing in this band called K10 Prospect. I’d been doing it for about three years, nobody cared. I was getting really bored living in Indiana and, basically, my brother was like “man, I really could use somebody I can trust, because bartenders keep ripping me off, and if you could come here I’d really appreciate it”. So I said “okay” and I went. I was gonna go for, like, eight months and just help him set everything up and I got there and loved it. Eight months turned into five years and then, basically, I was playing a lot of music and touring all the way throughout that. My career started to pick up a little bit and I realised I needed to move back to the states for that kinda sake. You know what I mean? It’s like the place where roots music is traditionally made. So, yeah, I just kinda went ahead, picked up and went back to America and that’s all it is.

AB: Did you join Guided Cradle whilst you were over there or…

AL: I formed Guided Cradle with everyone else. They were a band called, there’s this crust band from Sweeden called Anti Cimex, and they were playing in a cover band called Anti Climax. They were an Anti Cimex tribute band. This was like a side-band, the guitar player/singer was in another band called Dread 101 and the bass player and drummer were in this other band called VIR. Ethan’s band, Dread 1010, kinda folded and I had been living in Prague for about a year and it was just kinda like “hey man, do you wanna play in another band with me” ad I was like “yeah, let’s do it”. That was actually the reason I ended up staying so long, because I started doing that. In Check it took off immediately and, slowly but surely, Europe started taking notice of it too, then America and Asia, South America so it kinda got to the point where, if you’re playing in a crust band, if you’re not paying to play you’ve fucking succeeded. It got to the point where people were flying us places and people were interested. We were playing shows and people were at them *laughs*. People knew who we were so, we just decided to keep on doing it. We’re still doing it.

IC: Is it hard to keep doing it now you’ve moved back?

AL: It’s a little bit more difficult, because we’re not rehearsing every weekend. We still do stuff, we get together. We were living in the same place for four years and rehearsing every week, at least, once a week. After a while the songs are second nature. The only thing that’s suffered as a result is writing new stuff, but we’re starting to write a new full length and it’s meant to be coming out by the end of the year, or we’re gonna record it by the end of the year. Next year maybe.

AB: Is that the reason you’re touring the UK when you are, because Guided Cradle have got a gig in London later this month?

AL: We were meant to play at Scumfest, yeah, but unfortunately, about two or three weeks ago, our drummer was diagnosed with a tumor in his testicles and, really luckily, it turns out it wasn’t malignant. He had the operation to remove it and he can’t play drums for two months, so we had to cancel that. Actually that show was a bi-product of this tour, because I was already going to Finland and when I realised I was going to Finland I thought I should come to the UK too. I’ve only toured here once before, so I figured I might as well try it again, because I’m touring the whole of Europe again in October and November. But I kinda wanted to work it in, so I worked it in and then we got the call about doing Scumfest and we realised it could work out, but unfortunately it’s not going to work out.

IC: Musically, Guided Cradle is a lot different from your solo stuff. Do you like having that ‘other side’?

AL: Well, It definitely speaks to both sides of my personality. The truth is, I’m a country singer because that’s what I’m supposed to do, that’s what I have the voice to do. Being a folk musician or an americana artist or whatever is really what my family is…that’s what my dad did and I come from a family of singers. It’s kinda like the thing I was born into. Playing in a crust band is like the thing that I love, becuase I’ve been involved in the hardcore punk scene since I was seventeen. I been involved in the punk scene since I was twelve. It’s just kinda the thing that I’ve always been into or have been for fourteen/fifteen years and I just never really got out of it. The majority of my friends are all in that circle. In a lot of ways, if I quit playing with Guided Cradle or quit playing that kind of music, it would be like cutting off a limb. It gives me the opportunity to go and see all of my friends. Playing a festival, like Scumfest or, like last year, we did Play Fast Or Don’t, there’s all these people that I know. Some of them come and see me when I play solo, but not all of them, not the majority. So it allows me to actually visit friends. That’s actually one of the biggest things about playing in Guided Cradle, I get to play with these friends of mine that I love playing music with. Then I go on trips and see my friends that I wouldn’t normally get to see. I get to see my friends doing this [playing solo], but it’s a different group of friends. I mean, they’re both really important and they do both allow me to have a different kind of outlet. It’s always fun to fucking rock *laughs*. My favorite thing in the world is to sing. People always ask me what my favorite thing to do is and I always say singing. Whilst I’m singing I’m never happier.

IC: So which do you prefer then? Singing or…

AL: Well, like I said, my favorite thing to do is to sing *laughs*. Playing solo allows me to sing, but there’s something to be said about being able to fucking rock. Just going out and having a full stack and loud distorted guitars. That aggression is something that I’ve always gotten off on and I always will.

AB: You talked about your background and having a musical family, what was it like having your dad and sister work with you on the last album?

AL: A lot like working with them on the other albums *laughs*.

IC: We didn’t realise they worked on all the albums

AL: Yeah, they were involved with Bristle Ridge. Putting The Hammer Down was recorded at my father’s house. Common Cold was mostly recorded in Prague, but my father and my sister both came to do sessions on the recording. I mean, since I started doing this, I’ve been working with them. I’ve been working with them since I was born. A recording with my family is like, we all get together and we play and we sing and we talk shit.

IC: *laughs* good times.

AL: But, that’s what my life with my family is like anyway so it’s not especially different from any other familial gathering, except we have microphones up and we’re specifically focused on certain pieces of music instead of just kind of playing.

AB: So you don’t find it hard to me more personal on a song with your family around then?

AL: Do I think it’s hard to do that? I take for granted that me and my family are really close, so, in a lot of ways, it’s easier to do that. Some of the songs I feel uncomfortable around my mother, but I don’t record around my mother. My parents separated when I was five, so it’s two different familial bodies. There’s my mother and my stepfather and my two stepsisters over there and then, like, my father, my stepmother, my stepsister Chloe and my stepbrother Zach. Two seperate family entities, so if me and my brother go and spend time with either one, both experiences are vastly different. If I go and hang out with my dad’s side of the family, we’re just hanging out, we’re friends. Some people complain about how their father or their mother is their best friend and it’s not like that. My dad is very much my dad. We just get along really well and we really click. It’s not like this appalling experience to go and hang out with your family. Some people really hate their families or they love them, but they can’t handle them. That’s not how it is, going to work my dad. It’s absolutely awesome. It’s something that I look forward to. Just like I look forward to going out on tour and hanging out with my friends. I’m particularly excited about that, because it’s something particularly special that we get to share. It’s something that’s really comfortable. It’s sweet, y’know?

AB: Yeah, definitely.

IC: You said your favorite thing was singing, you actually joined a choir when you were younger…

AL: Yeah, that was totally against my will.

IC: The question was, is that any kind of religious thing?

AL: No, it was the Indiana University Choir.

IC: Oh right, okay.

AL: The Indiana School Of Music is a very prestigious school of music. It’s ranked almost the same as Julliard. It’s not as high, but it’s very high up there, their program is incredible. It was absolutely free of religion. Some of the songs were religion-based, but that’s a different subject all together. But, like I said, that was absolutely forced upon me. My father, he learned how to sing in the church. His whole family are god-fearing Christians. They learned how to sing from hymns and singing gospel music. My dad realised that, if I was going to learn how to sing, I needed to sing in a choir and since he’s not especially religious he was like ‘what can I do, I’m not gonna force my son to go the church and listen to all that hellfire and brimstone. I’m gonna send him to this’. Which is awesome, it was great that we had that option where I lived. That being said, I missed saturday morning cartoons for all my childhood life. That sucked, it was awful.

IC: *laughs* Do you try and catch up on it now?

AL: I think I’m pretty much beyond it. Not to say that I don’t like watching cartoons. I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy nerd, so there’s definitely things, that I’m making up for now, that I missed during my childhood. For me it’s like, I’m so glad that my dad made me do that and I’m so glad I got that opportunity to sing in choirs and do opera and stuff like that. But, at th time, I was going to school on Monday and my friends were like “did you see what happened on He-Man?!” and I’m like “no, I did not see what happened on He-Man, becuase I was stuck in this fucking choir”. Yeah, it was a huge bummer, it sucked, but I’m very happy that I did it. I don’t know if I’d make my children do it. Actually, I would as a matter of fact. Just out of spite.

All: *laughs*

AL: Anybody who knows me knows I have a very big love for an inside joke, and I think that would be the biggest inside joke for me. Also a very black, evil thing to do. “I had to do it, so so do you. Little bastard, get in there!”

All: *laughs*

AB: There’s definitely a large country and western influence in your music. Do you think this has this lead to you having a wider appeal than most ‘folk punk’ artists?

AL: I think marginally. There’s definitely americana and folk fans that come to my shows that no idea what folk punk is, or anything like that. Honestly, the majority of my fans are still punks. That’s something I would like to change. It’s something I’m working on changing and trying to get into a broader audience. I have nothing against punks. I love punk obviously, but this is my career. This is the only skill I have. A lot of the guys I know, a lot of guys I tour with, guys like Chuck Ragan and Mike Hale, for example, they’re master carpenters. Mike Hale can make stairs!

IC: *laughs*

AL: That’s a really hard skill for someone who’s a carpenter. He can make beautiful stairs. He’s got that to fall back on. Not to say that he wants to, because his passion lies in music, but he’s got that. Chuck’s the same, he’s a master carpenter. They’ve got skill sets. I have no fucking skill sets. My whole, entire life has, basically, brought me to here. The only thing I’ve really ever got any formal education in, aside from grammar school and high school, was in music and singing. I have to work this really, really, really hard. That’s why I tour more than any of those other guys do. I work ten months out of the year, a lot of the time with one week/two week breaks in between. The only time I ever really have a large amount of time off is from December to January. I tour up to Christmas, almost, and then I start again in February. So that’s like the only time I ever have a big block of time off. A lot of people, if they’re this or they’re that, that’s what they work at. A lot of people go for years to become doctors or lawyers. What I’ve done is basically dedicate my life for years and years and years to become a singer.

IC: That’s not a bad thing to do though, is it?

AL: No, it’s a great thing to do, but there’s no guarantees. It doesn’t matter how good a musician you are, how good of a singer, how good of a songwriter. Some of the best songwriters I can think of, died in complete and utter obscurity and nobody gives a shit. A lot of the time, they didn’t give a shit until those people died. Those people were scraping by their whole entire lives. I mean, my father, when I was growing up, he didn’t have any real success in music. He had a bunch of near misses. He was almost famous all through the late 60’s and through the 70’s. He kept getting these development deals and almost getting discovered, but nothing ever really happened. He didn’t have any real success until he was in his 40’s and well into his 40’s too. So he was bar-tending, he was doing construction and he was doing anything he could do, just to feed the family. That being said, I have to work really, really, really hard, even without a family, just to keep myself going and there’s no guarantees so I could do all this build up just to end up bar-tending again. In January and February, I was living in Gainsville, Florida and I was bar-backing, not even bar-tending. I was bar-backing and working the door, because I needed money and I needed some shifts, and that’s what I did. That’s what I’m saying, no matter how hard I work, I could end up completely on my ass. If you go and get a medical degree, you’re gonna have a job at the end of that. Whereas, with what I’m doing, there’s nothing. Fans can wain and go away completely and I could end up playing to the same 30 or 40 people that I play to almost everywhere I go. Sometimes I have a lot more people. There’s certain towns where I do really well, certain towns where I do really badly. It’s easy for people to lose interest and kinda start trickling away. I see it all the time, with other bands and musicians. You start getting someplace and start moving forward, the next thing you know, nobody cares.

IC: Yeah, I know what you mean. You did the split, Bristle Ridge, with Chuck Ragan, have you got anything else like that coming up?

AL: It was more of a collaboration with him. I did a split with Frank Turner, a split with The Takers. I’m doing a split with Yarko Markakainen – (sorry, that’s definitely not spelt right) – from Finland. He sings in Finnish. He’s a very successful folk singer in Finland and we’re doing a split seven inch together. Me and Mike Hale are always talking about doing a collaboration record. We’ll see. It’s really, really hard. I know a lot of people…Like Chuck is writing songs and writing songs all the time. My friend Jon Snodgrass writes, like, a song a day. It takes me months to write a song. I recorded Somebody Loves You in December of 2008 and I’ve written seven songs since then. Part of that is because of how much I tour, but part of it is that I’m a really big perfectionist, I don’t leave a song until I’m absolutely happy with it. Also, I’m not as creative as other people are, it takes me a lot. It’s sometimes like pounding a hammer against a board, without a nail or anything like that, and hoping it’ll stick to the wall *laughs*. I do everything I can, and try and make it happen. A lot of the time I have to wait until I’m actually inspired, and sometimes I’m not inspired. It takes me, sometimes, six months before something inspires me. Especially because I write a lot of sad songs. That’s where I really want to write songs, is in those sad moments, because my favorite songs are sad songs. I have a pretty good life and, mostly, I’m really happy. So, sometimes, I have to wait for a serious trauma to put something out there.

IC: Are you wishing for one?

AL: No, I’m not wishing for one actually. Sometimes, when I’m trying to write, I’m like “oh, if my dog could just die, it’d be ok”. I’m thinking about getting a goldfish, because they’re fragile. If I get a new one every month…*laughs*. I don’t think anyone would buy an album that was dedicated to twelve different dead goldfish.

AB & IC: *laughs*

AL: So, no, I’m not looking forward to those things. I don’t want trauma in my life. I’m thinking about going into hypnosis, because there’s probably a bunch of stuff buried in my past that, maybe, I could write about. But that’s only gonna go so far too. I don’t know. Sam, punch me so I can write a song.

Sam: I could drive us off a cliff.

AL: Oh, I could write a song about that if I survived. Someone else would have to write it if I died.

El Morgan: I’ll get out and write the song.

AL: Ok, that’s a good idea. Are you sure that you couldn’t die though and I can write the song?

EM: No, I’d have to write it.

AL: Dammit!

AB: Well you’re releasing The Collection this year, aren’t you?

AL: Yep.

AB: What’s the reason behind putting that together?

AL: To have new merch to go on tour with *laughs*. What? That’s an honest answer. I mean, I live off of selling merchandise. I don’t get paid that much for shows, I mostly just make money off of selling stuff. There’s only so far you can get with one release, before all of your fans have that release and, basically, I wanted to have something new to sell. The other reason, the sweeter, nicer reason is, a lot of those songs are really rare and hard to get hold of. Especially the At War With Freak Folk ten inch, there was only 500 of those and a lot of people haven’t even heard those tracks before so I figured it would be good to put that stuff together.

IC: Who designed the cover art for that album?

AL: Of At War With Freak Folk?

IC: No, The Collection.

AL: Oh, the face. That was my friend Jeremy Clark, Hush is his art name. He did the cover of Somebody Loves You. I also have a live record coming out, Live At The Little Rock Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas and he did the cover for that. He’s gonna be doing my next full length too.

AB: Were you on The Revival Tour in Little Rock?

AL: No, I was on the tour, just not on those particular dates for either year.

AB: What’s it like doing a tour like that?

AL: Awesome…do you want me to elaborate? *laughs*.

IC: Any tales? Any good stories?

AL: A lot of good stories. Well, first off, it’s the best tour that I’ve ever been on. Emotionally and, I guess that covers spiritually I’ll leave that one out. Everything, like the amount of camaraderie on the bus is absolutely incredible. Plus, it’s on a bus, which is pretty cool. I mean, everyone’s collaborating, so you actually get a chance to get to know people. Like, sometimes you can go on tour and it can take weeks before you warm up to people. If you even warm up to people. I was on tour with, this guy, Langhorn Slim and, this other band, Dawes in November and it wasn’t until the last three days of the tour that we started being like “what’s up!” and really getting along. The Revival Tour, like, I met Tim Barry and Ben Nichols on the first day of The Revival Tour, for the first time, along with Todd Beene the pedal steel [guitar] player for Ben Nichols and Lucero and, the first day, I became friends with them. We just got together and were like ‘alright, let’s play some songs together. what’ve you got?’. Everyone starts joking and drinking together. So, litterally, from the first moment we’re all buddies and we’re all hanging out as equals. It’s a lot different than the: headliner, main support, second support kinda tour. In that way, it’s the best package tour that was ever invented. At least, in the world of punk.

IC: It’s supposed to be coming over to the UK soon, isn’t it?

AL: Well…there’s been a lot of talk about the UK and Europe. I mean, they just did Australia. I actually asked Chuck, because me and Drag The River and Corey Branner are coming over in October and November and the talk was that Revival Tour was gonna be happening around October or November time. I wrote Chuck and I was like ‘hey, is The Revival Tour happening in Europe’ and he wrote me back and was like ‘no, it’s not happening this year’ so maybe next year. I know that it’ll come, it’s just a matter of time.

IC: I hope so, yeah. Finally, it’s been said that you learnt to sing before you could talk, how does that make you feel as a vocalist?

AL: That’s what my mother says. It makes me feel like I cried a lot as a baby *laughs*. I don’t know, it makes me feel good. Mother’s always have the thing that they say about their child. ‘Oh, you were always doing this’, and that’s the thing that my mom says about me. So, it kinda makes me feel warm and the fact it got used in the press release, that’s pretty sweet. I think that it’s kinda true. My dad always tells me that I was singing songs almost before I could even speak, and I don’t know if that helped me develop my language skills as a child, but, if so, because my first love was The Beatles, it means that The Beatles are responsible for me learning how to speak English *laughs*.

AB: *laughs* Well, thank you very much Austin. That was great.

AL: No, thank you. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Interview :: Brendan Kelly – The Lawrence Arms

Insert drunken interview here…

Brendan (alongside Chris) during our interview - Joe Brownridge©

As Joe pointed out in his review, The Lawrence Arms grabbed the Leeds crowd by the balls and blew the roof off The Cockpit. However, unlike Mr. Brownridge, we have a bit more of a story to tell. A story that lead to the funniest, most confusing interview we have ever done. We arrived in Leeds with no idea what was going on. We didn’t even know if we even had this interview. We were doubting it would happen and it almost didn’t. After some persistence (persistence that didn’t seem to go down too well) we finally managed to snag 10 minutes in a corridor with, lead singer/bassist of The Lawrence Arms, Brendan Kelly. One problem…the guy had just come off stage, he’d been drinking pints of vodka (he told us in the pub afterwards) and was drunk. To make matters worse, we were ‘on our way’ too and security were trying to kick us out. Awesome!

Anthony Barlow: Hello Brendan, how’s it going?

Brendan Kelly: Umm…it’s going really, really well.

AB: Good stuff. Did you really know about this interview?

BK: Yeah

AB: No, I mean, when we showed up outside before did you know?

BK: No, but that’s not standard policy that, like, a band knows what interviews they’ve got. A band assumes that there’s always possible interviews.

AB: Oh, ok.

BK: You know what I mean?

Ian Critchley: Yeah, it could happen but you never know. You guys, The Lawrence Arms as a whole, but particularly you, have been, quote unquote, notorious for speaking out against other bands. Has anyone challenged you for anything you’ve said?

BK: Speaking out against other bands? I don’t know if I think that’s true, man.

IC: I don’t mean in a negative way, but more a humorous way. I can see some people taking it the wrong way though.

BK: Fuck. I don’t know, like exactly, what you’re even referring to. Like me saying the The Broken Side is terrible? It’s because they’re terrible. I don’t think I’m the only one saying Broken Side is terrible.

AB: You’re just being a genuine, honest person.

BK: I’m not out here to talk shit about anything or anyone. I’ve said this before and I will say it again because I think it’s relevant and important, the notion that an industry, and it is an industry, that’s know as punk rock is supposed to stand for idiosyncratic rebellion. The notion that when I see a band that stinks and I can say that they stink, that brands me as a shit talker is absolutely ridiculous. Y’know, I don’t say anything more than…Here’s the thing, in the world of music we all work and me talking shit about Broken Side, that’s industry jargon. It’s like, what’s your job?

AB: I’m a journalist

BK: You’re a journalist. Really? Great. So, you read other publications and you look at them and you critique them. You go ‘this guys good and this guy sucks’ and among your friends you’re like ‘this fucking one dildo who writes fucking op ed pieces that’re like financially based in the Leeds daily he doesn’t know his ass from a hat’. You say that to your friends and that’s fine because it’s your forte. It’s the business you’re in. Cool. I really like that. It just so happens that the business I’m in involves, like, publicity and people that arrange for things like this to happen and the result is that my views kinda get broadcast, but it’s like why aren’t everyone’s views a little more broadcast? The reason? Because people are afraid to do anything. What I’m saying is, the notion that an insurgent genre has people that are shittalkers and people that aren’t.

Here’s the point in our tale where security rudely interrupts us. Apparently we need to leave on managers orders. So Brendan goes off to speak to the manager. Upon his return he looks confused, but we can now continue as we now have passes to be upstairs.

BK: I, don’t have any memory of what the last question was about.

IC: You were talking about the whole punk rock scene.

BK: Oh yeah. The world in which there’s a punk rocker that is singled out for talking shit about other people is a bizarre and sad world indeed because that is the genre of punk rock. So it doesn’t make any sense. That’s like a turd that’s singled out for being brown and coming out of someone’s ass, you know what I mean? It’s in the definition.

IC: Yeah definitely. I was reading your blog and you had a big rant about the, quote unquote, old Against Me! fans and overly dumb anarchistic views. I’m not saying anarchism’s dumb in any sense, but this was over the top. Do you feel that a lot of bands get labelled ‘sell outs’ just for developing?

BK: It’s not a question of it. It’s like, the thing is, journalists, no offense to you guys personally but…

Once again, security took umbridge with us and we had to venture further upstairs.

IC: Leeds has an attitude, doesn’t it?

BK: No, it’s fine. It’s like bureaucracy, there’s no boundaries and I’ve worked both with and without it and it’s hard. Like, that guy personally doesn’t give a fuck and that chick personally doesn’t give a fuck, but there’s rules and it sucks. Anyway, point being…ummm what was the question? Oh, Against Me! Say the question again, because I knew what I was gonna say and now I don’t know.

IC: You had the rant on your blog about old Against Me! fans and over the top, dumb anarchistic views and within the punk rock genre a lot of bands get labelled ‘sell outs’ just for developing.

BK: Right, yeah. Exactly. The notion of selling out, and I’ve been saying this in interviews ever since I wrote that fucking blog for fuck’s sakes. It’s like no one ever read my blog until I fucking wrote about Tom Gabel and all of a sudden it’s a big deal. The fact is, the notion that a label influences you to change your sound is so naive. It’s a notion that’s held by fans. It does not exist in the industry. Like in the same way fans of pornography believe that the women getting fucked are enjoying it.

All: *laughs*

BK: You know what I mean? That is like what it is. If a band signs to a major label, they’re desire is to attract more people. They made that desire clear and public and explicit when they signed to a major label. When their next album sounds more polished and more major, it’s a result of their desire and their intentions as a band not the label. Let me tell you something, man. Fat Mike says things like ‘these songs suck, they don’t belong on the record’ and that’s a very helpful thing. He never says something like ‘what you need to do is write big, humongous choruses’. I mean, he works under the exact same fucking model that any other label head works under, any other A&R person. There is no such thing. I’m telling you right now. It does not exist, that you sign an unkown band and go ‘I’m gonna need you to change your sound’. The reason you signed the band is because you don’t want them to change their sound. Y’know? The band. It’s the people in the fucking band that go ‘you know what I want to broaden our appeal. We’ll sign to a major label, because that’s an opportunity we have, and we are going to write songs that are more populist as a result of our new found ambitions’. That’s great, that’s fine. How do I say this the right way? The motivation for making art is always an issue, but it’s the most irrelevant issue in the whole universe. I don’t care what Dostoevsky meant when he wrote Crime And Punishment. I don’t care that he meant it as a, sort of, Christian parable. That’s not what it means to me. In the same way, the new Against Me! record doesn’t mean what Tom meant it when he wrote it. Art is art. It’s not beholden to it’s creator.

IC: Are you saying “the new Against Me! record” meaning White Crosses?

BK: Yeah.

IC: The thing is, when New Wave came out, a lot of people were saying to me ‘Against Me! have sold out’ and I was like ‘at the end of the day, it’s the same fucking chord progression and the same lyrical subjects. It’s just in a studio, not in a fucking garage or some shit’. People getting pissed off because it’s clean.

BK: The guy who just walked through, his name is Jim. Tom expressively spoke out about hating what he’s become. To that, I would rejoin, listen to Screeching Weasel ‘When We Become What We Hate’. Because, we do and you will  and everybody will and it sucks and, yeah it’s not good, you don’t have to love it, but it fucking happens, man. It’s like, you’re a kid and then you get to be a man and there’s nothing creepier than a man acting like a kid. You have no choice, but to act like a man.

Once again security shoo us away and we end up in a ‘green room’ of sorts and are met by Mr. Brownridge. Also: listening to this back me and Ian are reffered to as “fucking dorks” by Toby. I take umbridge with that.

BK: Knock out the big questions that you really want to ask because it doesn’t look like there’s too much time. Sorry, I’m the verbose dick I know it ruined everything, but…

IC: You’re latest EP is Buttsweat & Tears. It was meant to be the band’s first release. Why wasn’t it?

BK: It’s not like we wrote it back then. It’s like, back then the CD industry was huge and it was easier for us to write a CD than do a seven inch, that’s why. That’s not a good last question. Is there something that you really wanna know?

IC: I really wanna know, on more of a personal than professional level, what actually happened at Tom Gabel’s wedding? Who was the best man? There was a fight? Creepy things were said?

BK: No, no no. I’ve actually talked about this before. It’s actually in the liner notes of my acoustic CD with Joe McMahon, but like the song is about our old roadie Sean Nader. He’s a visual artist, a painter. He’s a genius for sure.

Chris McCaughan: He’s a genius, that’s for sure.

BK: He really is a genius. He’s also like the biggest, most messy, awesome, unexplainable, uncaterorizable, unboxable human being that you’ll ever meet in your life and he went to a good friend of his’ wedding and when he showed up at the reception he was

IC: Too fucked?

BK: No, no no. There was like half an hour between the wedding and the reception and by the time everybody else showed up at the reception he was shirtless and prancing around and just being like ‘yo, what’s up man? Sean Nader, in the house!’, which is totally his style. The thing is, that’s a beautiful example of living life to it’s absolute god damn fullest and he does it. I don’t have the nuts to do something like that, you know what I mean? Tom Gabel’s wedding. Everybody said it was about Tom Gabel’s wedding, because I played that song and said ‘I got pretty drunk at Tom Gabel’s wedding so this song is about you tonight’, but in truth I got drunk at Tom Gabel’s wedding and I passed out at 11:45 and everyone else hung out until 4 in the morning.

IC: One other really super quick question, is Heather taller than Tom Gabel?

BK: That’s a good question.

So there you have it, the best drunken interview ever. We did eventually find out that Tom is taller than Heather, along with a bunch of other stuff in the pub after the gig. I’d like to thank everyone for making this happen. Especially Toby because we pissed him off all night and he still helped us out.

Gig Review :: The Lawrence Arms @ The Cockpit, Leeds, 31/03/10

Chicago punk trio, the Lawrence Arms, aren’t exactly known for their excessive touring, so their recent short UK tour was welcomed with open arms by fans.

‘Recovering The Opposable Thumb’ set the tone for the evening with the crowd singing along with front man and bassist Brendan Kelly and guitarist/ vocalist Chris McCaughan. The set list followed a general trend of fast paced, frantic songs interspersed with some of the band’s slower material. ‘Rambling Boys Of Pleasure’ and‘Chapter 13: The Hero Appears’ are both prime examples. The majority of material was mostly taken from, the 2006 album, ‘Oh Calcutta’. The most memorable tracks being ‘Lose Your Illusion 1’, ‘Like A Record Player’ (which, fellow Moon & Back-er Anthony wants to point out, was an awesome set closer) and ‘The Devils Taking Names’. All of which had the crowd on their feet and in full voice.‘The Slowest Drink At The Saddest Bar On The Snowiest Day In The Greatest City’ is the only song performed from their new ‘Buttsweat and tears’ EP. It’s a catchy song and follows the tried and tested formula that fans of the Lawrence arms will be used to.

The banter between Brendan and the crowd was memorable.  It broke down the barrier between audience and band and added to the whole gig experience. The only criticism that can be made is the lack of favourites such as ‘100 Resolutions’, ‘The Disaster March’ and ‘A Toast’, however this hardly seems like an issue at all when the set list is strong and performed with so much vigour that sweeps you off your feet.

The Lawrence arms might not tour as much as other bands, but its safe to say that they make up for it when they do.

Gig Review :: Frank Turner @ Birmingham 02 Academy, 21/03/10

It was one of those weeks, or more so, it turned out to be…

Okay, so this is meant to be a gig review, but I thought I’d make a more of a three date diary thing, as I wasn’t actually meant to be in Birmingham at all. It began with fellow Moon and Back-er/Frank Turner botherer, Anthony Barlow, planning on seeing the Frank man in Manchester on the Wednesday, then hitting the Leeds date the following day. The Manchester day went great, we did the interviews with Crazy Arm, Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner and they went really well. The gig itself was awesome. Unfortunately, the following day, I was DEAD. I’m not sure exactly why, I didn’t drink THAT much, but illness was a wash over me, my stomach felt like it was being eaten from the inside, and the anxiety that enjoys me so much was at an all time high, so Leeds, for me, was canceled. Barlow went, and said it was great, Chuck doing an extended set which included his cover of the Alkaline Trio hit, Bleeder.

So what was I to do? I couldn’t go a Frank Turner tour with only one installment, plus the lovely folk involved with Crazy Arm were super nice and I wanted to see them again, so here’s what happened.

The hugest thanks has to go out to, Xtra Mile’s very own Wonder Woman, Anthea, who has helped us, and Moon and Back in general, so friggin’ much. Once again she saved the day, hooking me up with a guestlist spot for the Birmingham show. But how the fuck am I gonna get there?! Alan Grundy is my dad, an old punker dude, and a God send. I bought him a ticket and around 5pm on Sunday, we were on our way. Once again, the impossible was pulled off with a little help from my friends (fuck off Beatles.)

Now onto the gig. First of all, we’ll get rid of all the negative points, Birmingham’s O2 Academy isn’t a great venue, Crazy Arm once again had a really short set, which is a shame, because they’re awesome, and people would not shut the fuck up during Chuck Ragan.

It has to be said that the Crazy Arm are thieves of the highest calibre, taking our insults from the interview and incorporating them into their set! GREEN ARMY! Plus, the guest vocals by Chuck on Crazy Arm’s International Front, frankly, gave me a music chubby.

Frankie baby takes the stage with a Bob Dylan backing soundtrack before bombing into Photosynthesis, one of my personal favourites, and by the sounds of things, one of the majority of Brummies too.

It seems that every gig, Turner gets a little more confident and his on-stage banter becomes a lot more transient, adding stories, jokes and politics seemingly in-between and even during songs. My personal best for the evening has to be before the song Sons of Liberty, where Turner asks the crowd politely to smash up any CCTV camera’s in their area, an example of just how much Frank hates this new Big Brother government horse-shit that seems to be coming more into effect with each day.

Musically, it’s a good mix from the FT catalogue, a good blend of new and old, with the usual acoustic/Frank solo installation about mid way through, with the full band Long Live the Queen we were treated to last time being scrapped and returning to its roots.

The set closed up with The Road, another of the new Turner tunes that seem to be putting his name up in lights. I can’t help but feel that a lot of the people at the gig were only there for this song specifically seeing as an otherwise stoic crowd seemed to erupt for this one, if only a little. There were no circle pits, but there was some sing-a-longs, with Turner and his band of merry men, as always, on top form.

On a trip to the bar I bumped into some of the Crazy Arm folk, and as the night continued I got to see them all, got a pint of cider in with Bassist Tim, and singer Darren even mentioned him stealing GREEN ARMY as soon as he saw me, damn I’m cool. After that, it was time to head home, filled with beer and cider, many service stops were made.

This turned out more like a blog-post than a gig review…….shit. If you enjoyed it though, you should check out my blog.