Interview with Big Eye’s Kate Eldridge

This is an email interview I did with Kate from Big Eyes after a total fail with MP3 Skype Recorder failed a couple days prior when I actually got to talk to the entire band.  Taking this opportunity to say FUCK YOU MP3 SKYPE RECORDER. DO NOT RELY ON THIS PRODUCT.  You should see the error reports on this fucking thing.  This was the first time I did a phone/ skype interview that didn’t actually record.  I’ve had some irresponsible moments, and that was a big one for me.  
Anyway, Kate was nice enough to do an email interview with me. Yay!  Find it on punknews soon!


Your new album Almost Famous is out this month – How are you feeling? 
Very excited and slightly anxious for it to come out!  We recorded it back in October (at Red Lantern Studios in Portland, OR with Adam Becker) and I wish we could’ve gotten it out a little sooner, but we really took our time with every little detail on the album so we would be completely happy with it.  

How do you think it turned out?  
I think it turned out awesome.  I really like all the photos, the whole layout.  It comes with a double sided poster, which I’ve never had in any release I’ve been involved with.  We really put lots of thought and effort into the whole layout.  

What was the inspiration for the album title?  
The movie!  We all love that movie and thought it was a funny title.  Our first LP title Hard Life was also a joke.  We’re definitely not a joke band but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  

I’ve listened to the new album and to me it’s a little heavier and rock ‘n’ roll than Hard Life.   In fact it’s been said that the darkness of the northwest has left its mark on you.  Would you agree? Were you trying to take the sound in a particular direction?  
I’ve definitely been listening to a lot of 70s and 80s hard rock lately.  The weather out here also affects your mood, so I could see it affecting our sound a bit.  People in Seattle like a lot of super heavy music, so we have probably also been affected by the other bands we play with and get to see while living out here.  I wasn’t planning on taking the new album in any specific direction, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I also play an SG now instead of a Mustang, and a Marshall cab instead of a Fender cab.  Definitely adds a thicker tone to my guitar sound.  

I saw pictures from your recent video shoot.  Can you tell us about that experience and which song it’s for?  Didn’t you shoot some scenes from Kate’s recent birthday party?  
The video is for our song “Back From The Moon” that came out as a 7″ single on Grave Mistake last year.  It was so fun filming!  Most of it was super relaxed.  The first day was us running around Portland (literally and figuratively, haha), nothing too wild and crazy, but still super fun.  The second day we filmed us actually playing the song, in this giant warehouse that Chris works in.  That was pretty trying on my patience because we had to play the same song like 30 times, but I know it was worth it!  The third day of filming was at my birthday show.  Mean Jeans came up for it and we sold out the Comet Tavern – what a great night!  

How was the recent west coast tour with Criminal Code, Audacity, and Mean Jeans?  
Last August we hit the road with Mean Jeans for ten days down to San Diego for Awesome Fest.  The shows ruled and we all had a good time, even decided to put out a split afterwards on Dirtnap Records!  In November/December we toured to the east coast with Audacity for about five weeks.  It’s harder to tour in the winter because people get lazy and depressed when the weather sucks so turnouts aren’t always as good, but it was still a good tour nonetheless.  We got to have Thanksgiving at my mom’s house on Long Island…mmmmm!!  Last month we did a ten day tour with Criminal Code and it ruled!  The shows were really good and the weather was amazing the whole time.  Taiga got peed on one night.  That was ridiculous. 

You guys really tour relentlessly – what summer tours do you have planned?  
We just announced our May/June tour, which starts in [a couple] weeks. [I put the dates and links at the bottom of the interview]  We are headed east again and have some killer shows lined up!  In D.C. and Richmond we are playing with our good buddies (and labelmates!) Night Birds.  In Springfield, IL we are playing a fest with Tenement and The Copyrights.  We just got added to Sled Island in Calgary.  Hitting some cities I’ve never been to as well!   

When are you coming to Europe this year?  What are most looking forward to seeing and doing when you get here?  
We are headed out to Europe in October.  We are going to be there for four or five weeks.  I’ve never been there so I’m looking forward to just about everywhere!  We are going to be in Warsaw on Halloween so I’m curious to see what that will bring.  Very excited to go to Italy, Dillan and I both took Italian in school.  I’m hoping we have time to hit Scandinavia too, it looks wild up there.  Also, England!  I watch a lot of movies and TV shows based there, ha ha.  And Spain, to meet you!  Hehe 

Amongst the touring do you all have time for jobs or is Big Eyes pretty much your full time job?  
Big Eyes takes up more of our time than anything else but it doesn’t pay very well, haha.  I babysit, Chris works as a cook at Linda’s Tavern and as a construction worker at this badass warehouse.  We filmed that music video at that warehouse!  Dillan is “unemployed” right now but he goes to school sometimes.  

I read that you just turned 25.  So you’ve pretty much been in bands for the entirety of your adulthood.  Has this always been a goal of yours or do you have other career goals that you imagine you’ll aim for at some point?  
I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13.  My high school bands played a few cool shows but we never toured or anything.  I’ve been touring since I was 19 and I have no plans on stopping, haha.  Besides playing in bands, I’ve worked with children since I was 13 (babysitting, being a camp counselor, subbed at a preschool a few times).  I’m sure whenever I get burnt out on this shit I’ll just go back to school to be a preschool teacher or something.   

I read that you’ve always been drawn to Seattle and finally made the move in early 2011.  What was it that drew you to Seattle and has it lived up to your expectations?  
Seattle’s a beautiful city.  I’ve been almost everywhere in the United States and it was the only place I could see myself actually living for an extended period of time.  The weather isn’t as extreme as New York, but it still has changing seasons which I appreciate.  I couldn’t ever live in California where the weather is pretty much the same all year round, I need change in my life.  The folks I babysat for in NY moved out here in 2009 and I would come out and visit them and always be super bummed when I had to leave.  I finally decided to move out here in 2011.  But I’m kind of slow with making new friends here, I still feel like a bit of an outsider.  I don’t think everybody gets my sense of humor or something.  

As you’ve grown up playing in different bands, how do you think you have you changed as a musician and bandmate?  
I think once I realized I needed to be in a band where I wrote all the songs, I was a lot easier going and easier to work with.  I used to have power struggles being in bands where everybody contributed material.  I can be bossy and I like to have my way.  What can I say?  I’m an Aries, ha ha 

How has your lyrical inspiration progressed over time as a songwriter?  
I used to try to keep things vague so nobody could tell when songs were written about them.  I don’t really care anymore about hiding things.  I’ve been trying to get more specific with my lyrics to draw a better picture, and if somebody thinks a song is about them, they may be right.  

Kate, I read that you are sometimes treated differently or as a novelty because you’re a woman.  What is a message you’d like to get out to those with these narrow-minded attitudes?  
Ha ha this question always comes up.  I never understand when people see me as “different” for being female and playing the guitar, but I don’t understand a lot of things people think.  I never viewed myself as any different from the dudes I grew up hanging out with and playing music with, I was just always one of the group of music nerd kids.  It’s just something I started doing when I was 12 and I practiced my ass off.  I guess that’s mostly a dude’s thing to do.  Whatever.  I’d rather be compared to ALL GUITARISTS and not just female guitarists.  Free your mind.  

Did anything make you second guess performing in a traditionally male-dominated genre?  Has the response been what you expected?  
I never thought about it, I just always loved music growing up and decided I wanted to play.  I wasn’t looking for a response from anybody.  

I think you guys are a great inspiration for any young girl who might be feeling a little unwelcome or self-conscious about their involvement with punk.  What hopes do you have for young girls discovering punk these days?  
I hope that they don’t think they are any different from any young boys discovering punk because they aren’t.  It’s 2013 and the internet makes everything accessible to anybody.  If somebody blows you off then screw them, find other people to talk to and hang with.  Don’t smoke weed at shows if you get awkward, because I used to do that and then I wouldn’t talk to anybody and had a hard time meeting new people.  It was mostly because I was young and stoned and awkward, not because I was a young girl.  Good luck!  Don’t take people too seriously.  There’s a lot of morons out there.  

While you’re celebrating your recent release, what other goals do you have for Big Eyes? Short or long-term.  
It’d be nice to have the band pay for our rent.  It’d be a lot easier to stay focused if we all didn’t have to worry about paying rent.  Regardless, we will keep playing, writing and recording.  It’d be cool to go on tour in a big ass tour bus one day, ha ha.  Like in the movie “Almost Famous”!  We are hoping to go to Japan sometime in 2014 too.  

“ALMOST FAMOUS” tour dates May/June 2013

29 Weds – Portland, OR @ The Know
30 Thurs – Boise, ID @ The Crux
31 Fri – Salt Lake City, UT @ Blue Star Cafe

1 Sat – Denver, CO @ Rhinoceropolis
2 Sun – Omaha, NE @ Middle House
3 Mon – Iowa City, IA @ Public Space One
4 Tues – Chicago, IL @ 86 Mets
5 Weds – Pittsburgh, PA @ Roboto Project
6 Thurs – Philly, PA @ The Great Indoors
7 Fri – Washington, DC @ Casa Fiesta (*w/ Night Birds)
8 Sat – Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5 (*w/ Night Birds)
9 Sun – Brooklyn, NY @ Death By Audio
10 Mon – Boston, MA @ Charlie’s Kitchen
11 Tues – Montreal, QC @ TRH Bar
12 Weds – Ottawa, ON @ Pressed
13 Thurs – Toronto, ON @ Skramden Yards
14 Fri – Detroit, MI @ Trumbullplex
15 Sat – Springfield, IL @ Black Sheep (Dumb Fest)
16 Sun – Milwaukee, WI @ Linneman’s (RRRC Episode 5 Premiere)
17 Mon – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
18 Tues – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
19 Weds – Winnipeg, MB, Canada @ The Windsor Hotel
20 Thurs – Regina, SK, Canada @ The Mercury Cafe
21 Fri – Calgary, AB, Canada @ Bamboo (Sled Island)
22 Sat – Calgary, AB, Canada @ The Palomino (Sled Island)



Interview with Jeffrey Ziga of Armalite


Philly’s Armalite has recently blessed us all with a new 7”, Humongous after a five-year break. A bit of an all-star group, Armalite combines the best of all four members’ worlds to create a sound unlike any other. Punknews intervieeer Stephanie Thornton recently had a few questions for drummer Jeffrey Ziga. Jeffrey questions the term “supergroup”, praises Philly’s scene, and is reluctant to scope out reviews of the new release for a slightly awkward but hilarious reason – read on to find it!

So you guys are a supergroup from Philly. Philly has been an awesome hub for punk music. What makes you proudest to claim Philly as your hometown?

Well if we could start for a minute and talk about the use of the term “supergroup”. My biggest claim to fame is this band, Armalite. People often cite that I was in Affirmative Action Jackson but I am willing to bet that none of those people have ever seen that particular band or could accurately describe it. And if they had, maybe they would re-think their use of that previously mentioned term.

Philadelphia is great and has a wonderful thriving tradition of diy music ever since before I cared about it and will hopefully exist far beyond my ability to participate in it. So I’m proud of that. Many of us have basements in our homes, so punk things breed in those places.

In 2009 you stirred up some online fans with a fake Obama protest song that you eventually had to explain as a joke. You listed the reasons for the joke including that the song was written only a few hours after his inauguration and that this song was publicized by Armalite’s personal publicist. Since then, what thoughts have you developed about politics in our country and would that ever truly be a theme in Armalite’s songs?

The more important theme here is: troublemaking. Starting trouble is, as far as I can tell, one of the best parts about punk culture. So an online hoax is just one manifestation of that. For a more involved and snooze-worthy discussion of politics, interview one of the other members of this band. They will give you earnest answers and I appreciate them for that.

What type of lyrical themes do you all tend to stick with and what would you say they are on the new album?

Adam and Mike write all the lyrics. I read them later on after they’re recorded, around the time that they’re being sent to the printshop for the insert, so there’s a lot of trust going on there. I think they are both smart and well spoken. They sing about a variety of topics both in the political and personal spheres. Mostly I think the lyrics are great, except that song “Metastic!”. I think Adam outsourced that one to Sam, his son.

By the way, congratulations on the new album, Humongous. How do you feel about the way it turned out and the response so far?

It’s a 3-song 7” and I think it is great. I have no idea what the response has been to it as a release. I haven’t trolled any messageboards to see what people are saying about it. I also haven’t googled the search terms “humungous 7 inch” because, well, just because.

Armalite has a super unique, recognizable sound. With five years in between albums, how would you describe the progression of your sound between the self titled and Humongous?

Here’s the secret to Armalite’s sound: sort of mid-west-y power guitar punk + DC noodle guitar punk + the greatest punk drumming in the world + atom and mike’s vocals. That progression has been a straight line right on through both releases.

Your music is released super sporadically. I know you are all in other projects, and Dan Yemin is a child psychologist and a father. What other grown-up jobs and responsibilities do you all maintain and where is Armalite on your priorities list?

Actually, no. It’s not sporadic. We release our music regularly, at five-year intervals. That being said, Adam is a teacher and father of two; Mike lives 2800 miles away and is a Scuba diving instructor; and, as you mentioned, Dan Yemin has a psychology practice and is the father of one. I started an ice cream company called Little Baby’s Ice Cream and we are based out of the Philadelphia area.

(Note: interview hijacked by interviewee here, that’s what I get for sometimes opting for e-mail interviews): Oh really? That’s SUPER interesting!

Yeah, and I’d totally love to keep talking about it, but enough about me but you can post it on your site if you want (

I heard Atom quit Atom and his Package because being on stage alone was too awkward. Is this true and how does he like the group dynamic that Armalite offers?

That’s an interesting theory, that he got lonely. Maybe he just got tired of having to do all the work himself. I mean, he can’t blame anything on a machine, but if a band sounds crappy, he can always just point at someone else and blame them! Is it true? Probably not.

You played the Fest this year. How was that?

It felt like summer in October. Should I recount all the zany things I did? I’m not going to. What we do is secret. But I do hope to be back next year in some capacity.

What is next for Armalite?

A long inactive period.

Interview: Jeff Pezatti of The Bomb, Naked Raygun

Get it here before punknews!!

Chicago’s The Bomb, of Jeff Pezzati fame, have been keeping it fairly low-key the past couple years due to a lot of work in other musical projects.  Still they managed to satisfy Bomb fans with some newly released material through No Idea records, The Challenger  11”.  Earlier this year they finished aUK tour, in which Jeff got a live Morrisey overdose and worked on his Scottish accent, before their mini-tour and Fest date last October .  While various outside musical projects keep them busy, we can still expect more from The Bomb.  Jeff Pezzati was kind enough to discuss a lot with punknews interviewer Stephanie Thornton including recent tours, songwriting, the Fest, and what pisses Dan Yemin off.

Congratulations on the new album.  What did you all get up to for those two years in between?

Well it sure doesn’t seem like 2 years have gone by….. I’ve been part of the homeless problem for the past year at least – switching between living in Florida and Chicago. Naked Raygun played a few more shows during that time and released 3 – 7” singles. That kept me pretty busy…. And I got to see Morrisey twice and we toured England and Scotland and I spent a coupla weeks in Ireland after that and I was involved (grounded in the Icelandic natural disaster of that volcano thing). And I got 16 ½ hours of sleep too.  Oh yea – I learned how to make a nice ‘snakebite’ the Irish way….cheers.

Your new album, The Challenger, came out about a month ago.  How do you feel the response been so far?

I haven’t heard much feedback at all except from other band members, who all love it. It has one side (in the vinyl version) of studio tracks and the other side is recorded ‘live’ in the studio,…. ya know with everyone playing at the same time….. we did that side inLondonwhilst on tour.

While Speed is Everything took a slower turn compared to previous releases, I feel it really saw The Bomb breakthrough into a more unique sound of your own.  How would you say your sound has evolved further on The Challenger?

Well the song writing has remained essentially the same as the last 2 albums.  That is Jeff Dean writing all the music and I write the vocal melody and lyrics. Additionally Mike Soucy (drummer) wrote half of ‘The Challenger” lyrics and came up with the name. Jeff Dean did some lyric work on ‘Man Atlanta’.  Our sound – to me – remains the same as always…… we have the freedom to expand our sound to the furthest reaches of the world, nay the universe itself.

What influenced your decision when choosing the alternate songs to re-record for The Challenger?

If you’re talking about the ‘live in the studio tracks’ then we kind of took some of our favorites from each of the albums…… if you’re talking about the four studio tracks – then that was all we had that was new at the time.

J Robbins produced both Indecision and Speed is Everything, and now he’s got guest vocals on the new record.  What is it that keeps The Bomb and J. Robbins so tightly bonded?

Secretly we have the same mom. Also I think that him and Jeff Dean went to different high schools together.  Jay Robbins does our music justice. It turns out like we picture it.

You have guest vocals by Vic Bondi and J. Robbins on the new album; this continues the guest vocals trend that you set on Speed is Everything.  Of course Jeff has appeared as a guest on others’ albums as well.  What do enjoy most about doing and receiving guest vocals?

When you’re brought in to do guest vocal spots the pressure is off of you because let’s face it… if it sucks they won’t use it and if the song stinks- well you didn’t write it after-all, now did you. And when you have a guest vocalist you should make sure that the singer can perform the part that you want them to sing. One of the most pleasant surprises was when we asked Elizabeth Elmore (Sarge) to sing the Naked Raygun song – Trio. She nailed it on the first take and we had to have her sing it again a couple of times just because we felt bad that she drove all that way for one take. She’s that good. The same with Dan Yemin (Paint It Black, etc.)  on Speed is Everything LP. The song Integrity needed a screamer part and Dan drove for 3 hours to get to the studio inBaltimore to do it. When he got there he said to me ‘You know, I can’t sing.’ And I replied ‘I know, I wrote this part for you. All you have to do is scream.’ He also did the entire song on the first pass and we had HIM sing it again too. When asked what got him in the pissed-off sounding mood that perfectly fit the part he simply said, ‘I just thought of Reagan.’

Your lyrics seem to consistently have an insightful, personal tone.  What kind of lyrical theme have you all traditionally held up and how does that compare to the new album?  

Let’s just say that I have a lot of personal issues I’m working through. The last zillion songs that I wrote are an attempt at helping me find an outlet for some of them.

Whether or not you mind, The Bomb can’t shake Naked Raygun comparisons.  What steps do you take, if any, to avoid those comparisons while recording?  

No one sounds or plays guitar like Jeff Dean. His style is as unique as it gets. So the guitar work in each of the bands is very different. Jeff writes a lot of dissident, crashing chords (and non-chords) and Bill Stephens keeps it meticulously flawless sounding and primarily straight major and minor chords. Recording-wise both bands go for all out – mike-it-six-times-on-3-tracks for the hugest sound possible.

You all played the Fest again this year.  You’ve actually been on the Fest line-up a couple times.  Throughout the years of attending and playing The Fest, how do you feel it has grown and changed and what keeps you coming back whether it’s to play or just to attend?

The Fest is great because its only punk bands and because of that everyone who attends is geared up to play, listen to and watch punk music for 3 days. There are no surprises and we’ve all made friends of a lot of the other band members – it’s always good to see them again.
What other musical projects are you each involved in?

Jeff Dean works as a recording guru at Million Yen studio inChicago. He just did a Vic Bondi recording and an Amusement Parks on Fire solo project. He also is in a bunch of bands, – Explode and Make-up, All Eyes West, Noise by Numbers, and Four Star Alarm. Mike Soucy plays with Dan Schaeffer and the Cheats,

And Pete no longer plays with the defunct Methadones but is filling in on bass for Naked Raygun while Pierre Kezdy convalesces. Pete also plays in the band Neutron Bombs who sound like a very good English 2nd wave punk band. I have been threatening to record and release a solo album of songs that after you hear it all you will be able to say (in a Scottish accent) is ‘Ya doosent have to cry aboooot it.’

With a fresh new album under your belt, what is next for The Bomb in the short term and what kind of long term goals do you have?

To keep doing what we do until we don’t feel that it needs to be done any more.

New Luck, No Hesitation

I seem to have fallen out of the music journalism passion that so entrapped me before my English-teaching stint in Prague. The passion must’ve been dorment until two coffees in a row today and the discovery of the new Good Luck album streaming at Alternative Press. Well whether coffee- or passion- fueled, I had no hesitation to start reviewing.
I hope I can continue to fan the flame of music journalism passion after today’s spark.
Here is my review:

As someone who has overplayed Into Lake Griffy, it’s hard to be blown away by the new Good Luck album, Without Hesitation. That is not, however, to deny the explosiveness of this album; new backtracking listeners will easily be doubly blown away. Into Lake Griffy is an A-plus album and therefore tricky to follow. Since we were all left in a difficult position as eagerly expecting fans, Without Hesitation is a major sigh of relief. Good Luck hasn’t exactly brought anything surprising or new to the table, and in this rare occasion that is meant admiringly rather than unimpressed or insulting. Good Luck continues to preserve their spot at a creative intersection of pop-punk, folk-punk, indie, and metaly guitar riffs.
In comparison to Into Lake Griffy, the first couple tracks, “All Good People” and “Our Mess, Our Mark”, are a bit watered down – slower and smoothed over – conjuring a grungier Dinosaur Jr. feel at times.
The whole album might be considered diluted in comparison the debut, but Good Luck allowed room for that. Upon hitting track three, “The Others”, the album powers through quick-paced, loud, and poppy. Still present are the noodly guitars, high-pitched harmonizing, upbeat and poppy riffs, and fairly unconventional punk instrumentation (clarinet, piano). They’ve taken it a step further on this album with the addition of a euphonium (google it) on tracks two and seven, and the help of two more musicians – Justin Hubler(piano) and Toby Foster(euphonium) . Throughout the album lyrics remain honest, personal, fun, relatable and spirit-lifting.
As a band with one of the most unique sounds out there, that undoubtedly realized how hard their debut would be to follow, Good Luck has taken what they created and sprinted.

Chat with Erik Ohlsson (guitar) of Millencolin

I spoke to Eric Ohlsson on skype the other day. Here it is – long and a bit awkward. Story on Millencolin for the Prague Post is up next.

U.K. Subs Visit CR

I interviewed Alvin of U.K. Subs recently to get a story done for The Prague Post.  Check it out here:

What’s the key to longevity in the music business? A healthy dose of punk, according to UK Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs.

These British punk pioneers have been performing and recording since 1976, and show no signs of stopping. Their latest album – their 23rd – was released earlier this year to widely positive reviews. Work in Progress coincides with UK Subs’ tradition of ordering their album titles alphabetically. Once they get to “Z,” they plan to start over. But even with such a scheme for guidance, it’s no easy task to keep a band going for three decades. Gibbs tells The Prague Post UK Subs simply want to continue.

“Necessity, the love of playing music, the understanding that we are very privileged to be able to travel and live the life we do,” have been the band’s motivations, he says.

Along with The Damned and the Sex Pistols, UK Subs helped establish punk rock in Britain, earning seven consecutive UK top 30 hits between 1979 and 1981. The band is also credited with paving the way for the more outlandish sub-genre of “street punk.” Gibbs says that times have changed, and today’s punk bands “cannot achieve the same impact as The Ramones or the Sex Pistols did when they emerged back in the halcyon days of punk.”

“Seeing The Ramones play in London in 1976 changed the course of my life. Due to that experience, I’m the person I’ve become today,” he says. “For me, it wasn’t just about the bands in the 1970s but also about the atmosphere of the times, the excitement of seeing a new and direct form of rock music being conceived.”

UK Subs’ longevity sets them apart from other legendary punk bands like The Clash, who stayed together from 1976 to 1986, and the Sex Pistols, who lasted only three years, from 1975 to 1978. Believing that “being a musician really can be a great way to spend a life,” as Gibbs says, UK Subs have literally taken punk rock around the world.

The band has performed throughout Europe, South America, North America, Australia and Japan, and not just the major cities. UK Subs make it a point to perform at venues off the beaten track. In 1983, for example, the band toured Poland for two weeks, becoming “the first punk band to play behind the Iron Curtain,” Gibbs says.

“Our last gig [in 1983] in Warsaw saw us playing in front of 20,000 people in a massive ice-hockey stadium. Martial law had been lifted in order to let us play, but as soon we left the country, it was reinstated. We must have been perceived as some kind of decadent threat to the moral fiber of Poland’s youth,” he says.

UK Subs comes to the Czech Republic on a European tour that will continue through the summer. The band will play shows in Prague, České Budějovice and Olomouc. With such an intense tour schedule – kept up for more than 30 years – how does the band keep from burning out?

“Nothing actually stops us from becoming exhausted. You really need to conserve all your energy for the shows,” Gibbs says. “We seem to be able somehow to connect to people via our music and the performance energy we put into our shows.”


Get it before Punknews!!!

Awkward, but not terrible.  I’m a rusty in-person interviewer these days!  Enjoy.

With 20 years under their belt, Samiam have recently released their rarities collection <i>Orphan Works</i> on No Idea.  The album contains outtakes, B-sides, and live recordings  from the <i>Clumsy</i> and <You are Freaking Me Out</i> years.  The band recently finished a handful of dates in central Europe supported by The Casting Oout and A Death in the Family.   Stephanie Thornton sat down with the guys after their show in Prague early in their tour last month.  They discussed the differentiation of audiences world-wide, the secrets to keeping a band together for two decades, closing The Fest ’09, and anagrams. <br/><br/>

<b>How is the tour going so far? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei Loobkoff:  It’s been really, extremely fun, I would say.  Wouldn’t you say? <br/><br/>

Sean Kennerly:  I would agree, yeah, it’s been one of our best tours so far, I mean it’s just beginning, but we’ve had a lot of fun shows.  <br/><br/>

Sergei:  Like seven shows in, it’s always gonna seem pretty fun . . . catch us on that 164th and see how we’re liking it.  <br/><br/>

<b> <b><i>Laughs</i> Yeah, so you’ve been supported by The Casting Out and A Death in the Family, I know you’ve at least toured with ADITF before; how are you all getting along? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Oh, super good.  Did you see that DITF played a little song with Jason in their little encore? <br/><br/>

<b>No, actually I got here after that</b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Well DITF took us to Australia last year, so we’re like old friends now, and The Casting Out guys are really nice.  You, know we share all the same equipment and we’re all just hanging out – a bunch of dudes. <br/><br/>

<b>Right.  So, what about touring Europe have you been looking forward to most and what sort of differences do you notice between American and European audiences? </b><br/><br/>

Sean:  Those are two really distinct questions. <br/><br/>

Sergei:  Maybe you should get two different guys to answer them…<br/><br/>

<b>Ok, I could’ve probably set them apart.  Ok so, what about touring Europe have you been looking forward to most? </b><br/><br/>

Sean:  Well it’s funny ‘cause it’s usually super fun to go to Berlin, and we played there, and that was probably, only for technical and logistical reasons one of our worst shows.  And here, we showed up here and we were like, ‘aw man, we gotta play one of these little dumpy college bar things or whatever, and it was actually the best show, energy-wise, it was really fun and the crowd was really great. <br/><br/>

Sergei:  It’s definitely proved that you don’t have to play in front of a giant group of people with a giant PA.  It’s just the energy from like 300 people all flippin’ out.  Cuz in Berlin, there were four or five hundred people – a lot more people.  <br/><br/>

<b>But the energy wasn’t there. </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  The energy was actually there, but it wasn’t like tonight where people were trying to break each other’s arms <br/><br/>

<b>Yeah, a little more intense.  So do you notice many differences between the American and the European audiences? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:   I would say that New Brunswick, New Jersey must be a Czech audience.  <br/><br/>

Sean:  They’re so drunk<br/><br/>

Sergei:  Seriously…I can differentiate because we go to like Japan, and South America and Europe and America, I can differentiate between cities, but you can’t say certain countries are know? <br/><br/>

<b>Yeah. </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  And also it’s different nights – when the magic is in the air. <br/><br/>

Sean:  We’ve had shows in Berlin that are like this, when everyone is stage diving and floating around.  You never know how much alcohol is gonna go through people’s systems and make them do things that they’ll regret in the morning<br/><br/>

<b>So would you say you have a favorite place to play in Europe, after your many visits to the continent? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Well I would say our best shows are usually in Munster and Cologne, like biggest, which I guess, as we were saying isn’t necessarily the best.  We’ve had some really fun ones here, you know?  But there’s two different questions in that one two because it’s what’s the place you want to be at, and what’s the place you want to play a show at?  You can be in a rad-ass place, and people don’t give a shit about your band.  Like, on tour you sorta go, ‘oh, I want to be in a place where people like my band’, but then there’s places where it’s hella fun to hang out.  But we love most places in Europe because every time we come everyone is like, ‘Yay!,’ and they’re nice , and there’s more cheese and bread than we could ever ask for. <br/><br/>

<b>Oh, definitely.  The pastries are really good here, too.  </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Yeah. Well, I dunno.  It’s just really hard to single places out.  <br/><br/>

<b>Yeah.  Alright, so the rarities collection <i>(Orphan Works</i>) came out last month.  How do you feel about the response so far? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Well we don’t really gauge the response because they take it home and listen to it, so.  If we had like a little robot with a little camera on it, so we could sneak it into people’s homes and see their reactions, and they go, ‘This sucks!’ <br/><br/>

Sean: It’s also different because we’ve already played the songs, it’s not like they’re new, like we have a new album coming out or anything.  I mean, we’ve already played most of these songs.  <br/><br/>

<b>Alright, so with the recent release of the rarities and a self-proclaimed tendency to romanticize Samiam’s past, what is the likelihood that you’ll be taking inspiration from your older material on newer work? </b><br/><br/>

Sean:  I think at this point in time,  we’ve sort of reached this phase where we don’t  – we’re sort of working on new material, but we’ve reached a point where we don’t really have to think about what era we’re drawing from or whatever.  We can just do whatever we want.  Maybe it’s good or maybe It’s terrible, but we’re not really confined to, ‘Oh, we have to do the old thing’ or ‘We have to reinvent ourselves…’ <br/><br/>

Sergei: but like, you formulated that question for us, so do you think there’s a big distinction between old and new Samiam? <br/><br/>

<b>Oh, no, no I’m just wondering what the mindset is . . . </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Oh, no.  We don’t think about nothin’.  <br/><br/>

<b> (Laughs)</b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  The better answer is like ‘I dunno . . . we’re just gonna put some songs together.. <br/><br/>

<b>We do what we want. </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Yeah. <br/><br/>

<b>Ok, cool. Cool.  So   When can fans expect new material? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  We have fans? <br/><br/>

<b>I think so. </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Oh, I thought drunk people just happened to show up at the same time we were playing . . . uh, no one can expect anything.  We don’t know.  Real soon – how’s that sound?  <br/><br/>

Sean:  Hopefully. <br/><br/>

Sergei:  In all seriousness, we are a rag-tag group.  The fact that we’ve been around for 20 years means that we go on tour and a lot of people come and see us, but we’re basically a garage band, you know? In every way.  We’re not serious enough about it to have anything planned, as much as maybe we’d like to.  It’s complicated, we don’t live in the same city. <br/><br/> 

Sean:  We’ve also been playing with our new drummer, Charlie Walker – it’s been really fun.  (points to Charlie) He changes things – he makes it reinvigorating.  <br/><br/>

<b>Right, so you’ve been on a handful of labels in your time, and <i>Orphan Works</i> is the first one out on No Idea, what inspired the switch to No Idea and how have they been treating you so far? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Well we played the Fest last year, you know?  And I’ve known Var for about a century.  We were talking to him and he came out with the idea to get those two records – <i>Clumsy</i> and <i>You are Freaking Me Out</i> – to re-release them.  That’s why we did this <i>Orphan Works</i> record.  We just wanted to get it out and try to spark some interest in this old band of weirdos, you know?  It’s not like we signed to No Idea – they’re not that kind of label or anything.  It’s really neat to be on a label with a bunch of guys that we’re all friends with.  <br/><br/>

<b>You guys closed the Fest last year – how was that? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  It was an insane show because our bass player didn’t make it so we had to teach two guys how to play our songs – to go stand out in front of a couple thousand people and play, and that was really nerve-wracking.  Then we played the show and it was packed and people were jumping around and it was very gratifying.  But the whole entire time I couldn’t relax because I thought at any second it was going to fall apart – the bass player’s gonna go ‘I don’t remember this anymore!’, you know?  So it was one of those ‘Hold your breath – it’s gonna be over soon – I hope it turns out – I can’t believe it’s still going good! – wow it’s not fucking up completely!’ and then it ended, and we went ‘whew! That went real super well!’  But honestly, I wasn’t feeling loosey-goosey like tonight, I was really worried.  <br/><br/>

Sean:  I think in some ways though that show was sort of a pivotal show especially with the energy of the band coming back because we were sort of like, ‘what? What? Are we gonna keep doing this?’ or whatever and there were so many people that were so enthusiastic about it and we thought it was awesome.  It was really great. <br/><br/>

Sergei:  ‘Cause the Fest is just like a little group of people from around the country that might – at least for our band – a group of people that wouldn’t normally see us ‘cause we don’t normally tour.  There’s people from Chicago, and people from wherever…<br/><br/>

<b>Yeah there was a big international crowd there, as well</b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So it was a real monster trying to wrap ourselves around not having our bass player and then to do it.  It came out really great.  We all – well everyone except our bass player was there – all walked away from it saying ‘Wow, that was really neat.’ ‘Cause you know the band that played right before us – it was like half as full, and to be really honest I was going ‘Holy shit we’re the last band of the whole festival – 150 bands and we’re the last band.  I guess Sunday night everyone wants to take their plane back or drive home’.  So the band right before us played and it was half full so I was going, ‘Oh, shit.  I guess this whole trip was a giant disaster’.    And you know, I face my amp when I tune, and after we did the sound check, I turned, and I was like ‘Holy shit, this room is packed!’.    So then when the show went off, I personally felt like ‘Yeah, the whole 19 years of doing this shit wasn’t a complete waste of time!’ <br/><br/>

<b><i>Laughs</i>  Right, yeah.  Yeah, so speaking of that, you guys have been together for over two decades, what have been some of your most proud accomplishments? </b><br/><br/>

Sergei:  I think that being an old fart and not being fat right now and being able to not pass out after running around playing the songs and having the people  in the audience, no matter if it is like 200 people that really love it…Like, – you get a band that’s on the radio in 1994, like we were.  A band way more popular in 1994, and they haven’t made anything in 10 years – put them in a little club in Prague, and how many people will come?  No one.  And then you get a little garage band kinda, a little punk band – quote unquote punk band, whatever we are – and we come here, and everywhere we play – we played eight shows – every show we played has been packed.  People love our stupid songs and it’s like, wow, we’re like total failures in the music industry, but we’re actually really successful as humans. <br/><br/>

Sean:  Plus he smoked a really killer joint earlier so…<br/><br/>

Sergei:  So that might have something to do with what Sergei says.  <br/><br/>

<b><i>Laughs</i>  Right.  So do you have any goals right now as a band beside the whole ‘we do what we want’ kinda thing?  </b><br><br>

Sergei:  I really honestly think we don’t have any goals.   We have a goal to make a record right now, but we have very modest goals as far as exceeding what we’ve done in the past.  As far as like, oh, it’d be nicer if 800 people came, but only 400 people came…I don’t think we’re that hung up on it.  <br/><br/>

Sean: Pretty much just having fun.  We get to have fun now.  It’s not about making money off of it.  It’s just fun to play the shows. <br/><br/>

<b>Yeah, yeah.  So most punk bands don’t make it for this long – what do you think has set Samiam apart and kept you all going? </b><br/><br/>

Sean:  We’re very forgetful . . . we get along pretty well.  We’ve been friends for a long time, and we also put up walls so we don’t really have to emotionally interact.  <br/><br/>

<i>All laugh</i><br/><br/>

Sergei:  Yeah I think the text messaging and IMing have really kept this band tight . . . when is a band that’s a serious band that puts out records every year, every other year, and tours 10 months out of the year, and really puts their lives into their band – their entire lives – anything they can fail at- monetarily or relationship-wise, and they take breaks and it’s monumental – they get mad at each other and stuff.  But the fact that we reverted in 2000 back to a garage band, and I think that keeps us together in this mentality that it’s not for anything except for fun.  It’s kept the band together, but it hasn’t kept people from leaving.  We’ve had a couple drummers in the last 10 years and a couple bass players, you know?  I think after your 25 and you’re playing music, to keep a group of five people together, unified while they’re fucking up other things in their lives . . . I think one thing that keeps us together is this willingness- as horrible as it sounds – to lose a member that we’ve been with and toured with for years, Johnny – our last drummer.  We have enough interest and love of doing what we do to actually continue and go on even without him.  Other bands do it because they make money,  they’re like ‘I can’t leave this, I’ve got a mortgage payment’ and stuff .  Well, we can’t pay our mortgage on our band, so we’re actually pretty much doing it because we love it.  <br/><br/>

<b>One last just for fun question –  Considering your name can form a few different anagrams…between “I am Sam” and “Miasma”, which one do you like better?  Or is there another one that I haven’t thought of? </b><br><br>

Sergei:  Well if anyone is gonna answer this question humorously and also truthfully, it’s Sean. <br/><br/>

<b>Oh good, well I’m glad you’re here! </b><br><br>

Sean:  We had the 10,000 person facebook Samiam anagram contest – there were no other anagrams other than “Miasma”, but one guy submitted the anagram from “Storm Clouds” of, I can’t remember exactly, something like “Old Crumbs”  . . . anyway, that was the best one.   Anyway, there are no other anagrams. <br/><br/>

Sergei:  Or we’re not intelligent enough to find them.  <br/><br/>

<b>Yeah and which one did you prefer from those two? If you had to change your band name-</b><br/><br/>

Sean:  Wait there was two of them? <br/><br/>

Sergei: “Sam I am” and “Miasma” <br/><br/>

<b>No, between “I am Sam” and “Miasma” </b><br/><br/>

Sean:  Oh, “miasma” is way better! <br/><br/>

Sergei:  Well I like “I am Sam,” but there was that movie, and that movie was really offensive…<br/><br/>

<b>Oh, yeah!</b><br/><br/>

Sean:  But I liked the title of our first little thing,<i> I am</i>.  Samiam –<i> I am</i>.  <br/><br/>

Sergei:  That was a tricky little number we pulled. <br/><br/>