The following interview is reprinted with permission from www.lessthanjake.com.
V: Hi Buddy.
B: Hola Chiquita.
V: So, why did you pick up the trombone? Why did you start playing it?
B: Oh wow. That’s actually kind of weird. My sister is the reason, to tell you the truth. I used to play clarinet when I was in seventh grade. I was first chair clarinet. I was rocking it. She sat down with me in her room one day, and said, “You know, it might be a good idea for you to switch instruments before you get to high school…” I was planning on being in marching band and all the dorky stuff that I ended up doing and a) she didn’t want me to be in her section, which I think was the main motivator and b) she was like, “Well, it would be cool if you played a brass instrument where all the dudes hang out instead of clarinet.” So, I took her words of wisdom, the one time I took her advice, and switched to the trombone which is where 3 of my other friends were playing too. Then I ended up just liking it, so here I am.
V: It’s pretty unorthodox. It’s just the general sense of…
B: Well, the reason I went into band to begin with was because you either had to take the wheel, which is wood shop and all that other kind of crap and home ec and things like that, or you took band. My sister was already taking band and she already knew how to play the clarinet. So, it kind of helped me a little bit and I was like, “I’ll just do that because it will be fun.” I kind of was into music too, so I was like, “Well this might be cool to learn how to play an instrument.” So, I started on the clarinet, and then realized that it was kind of entirely too similar to doing several other oral exercises. The trombone is definitely a weirder instrument of choice. I didn’t really know though, because I was in eighth grade when I started playing trombone so I was just like, “Whatever. I’ll play the trombone.” I picked it up and it was neat to do the thing. If you start learning then, it makes more sense because someone is kind of teaching you. If you try to pick up the trombone now, as a 28 year old, it would be this weird event and you don’t know where to start, because you have to do a lot with your lips and your hands. It’s just weird stuff.
V: So at that point, you didn’t really have any influence on who was influencing you to play trombone because it was band. Your teacher would be like, “This is how you play it.” But now after playing it for x amount of time in high school and then picking it back up for Less Than Jake, who out of anyone is your influence on the trombone? I know other people who play trombone who say, “Oh yeah, Vinnie Nobile in Bim Skala Bim, he’s a huge influence on me.” And I talk to some kids who I get e-mail from going, “Well Buddy, I like the way he plays trombone, so he’s an influence.” So, who’s your influence on the trombone if you’re listening to it, or do you even have one?
B: Well, I definitely do now. Even when I started Less Than Jake, I didn’t really listen to that much stuff. I listened to other jazz stuff like Miles Davis, but he played trumpet. I didn’t really know anyone that was a famous trombone player except for Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller. The total white boy big band era which my mom liked. I used to listen to Tommy Dorsey when I was playing in eighth grade and in high school and trying to mimic him, but he played way too high. But nowadays I actually found, through listening to Miles Davis, one of the trombone players that played with him through a lot of his stuff, was this guy named JJ Johnson who’s amazing on the trombone. So any of you losers who think that I’m your influence should go out there and buy any JJ Johnson album that you can get. And Fred Wesley who plays trombone for James Brown. You get the funk vibe from him, like the little splatty kind of tone, and then JJ Johnson is the really quick, jazzy, amazing…That’s all there is to say about him. Amazing.
V: So what kind of trombone do you play? I mean that’s definitely a question.
B: Yes, I get that all the time too. Well at this point I’ve gone through the gamut of different horns. I started on the student model King in high school, which is still actually sitting in my living room right now, on display with all the dings and imperfections, but the one I play now is a Getzen 1050 with a light weight nickel slide. What do you think of that?
V: It’s pretty hot.
B: It’s actually a kind of smaller bore horn…Pete plays a gigantic 42B horn which is really about as big a bore you can get before you get to a bass trombone and then I play kind of a smaller one which isn’t. It’s not the smallest you can get, but it’s a medium size to a small bore horn so it makes it easier for me to get a little bit higher since I have trouble with that.
V: So a lot of kids go, “I wanna have horn tabs,” and things like that and I write back to them and say, “You know what, it’s really something that we don’t do.” We don’t tab out our music or anything like that, but if someone asks you and they do, like put tabs up for specific songs…Why not do that?
B: Well, I’ll give you three different answers for that. The first answer, my usual cop out to kids, is that if we ever get really big, we’ll make some book about it. Like we’ll make one of those little books that you can follow along like they have for Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the Beatles and all that kind of stuff, but since that’s never going to happen…
V: Well since that trombone just is not that cool of an instrument to make a book…
B: No, well we would make a Less Than Jake book and it would have the trombone lines in there. So, the second lame reason that that’s not going to happen is because, with the gamut of horn players we’ve gone through, I always have to tab out different charts and I have to figure out the parts, like the bari sax parts, and then try and transpose it to tenor sax and I’ve done it so many times for just little bits of songs and it’s just such a pain in the butt since a) we never write any of our stuff down anyways. I come up with it in my head and remember it, and we never chart out our music, and there’s a lot of bands that do that, like Royal Crown Revue. I know that they used to chart out their stuff and one person would write out the whole song. Then the whole band comes in and does it. So, since we’ve never done it for ourselves, I figure that, if I could figure it out, someone better be able to figure it out. Our stuff is not that hard. I don’t get the charts for JJ Johnson. I just play it back and forth. I hit rewind. My rewind button on my CD player is almost broken just from going back and trying to figure it out yourself. That’s the best way to learn anyway, by just sitting there reading the notes and then learning it. That’s one way to learn how to read music and stuff. But if you already know how to do that, going back and just listening by ear is the best way to do things.
V: Well, listening by ear though, wouldn’t it be easier to do it on a guitar than a trombone?
B: If you can play guitar, which is what I do sometimes. But sometimes it is a lot harder to do that. Well, if you’re proficient enough on the guitar or the trombone you can just do it by ear, but whichever one you are better at it’s easier to just go back and figure out. It’d be easier to figure out on the bass guitar because it’s in bass clef, as far as notes are concerned.
V: So, with the background in trombone that you have…
B: You’re going to sucker me into tabbing stuff out aren’t you?
V: No. What part of what song are you the most proud of writing, that you sit back and go, “You know what? That’s an interesting horn line that made a part of a song better, or that made a song what it is.” So, what song?
B: Wow…well, since I’m just going from the top of the head right now because you’re going to ask me this question later probably like, “What’s my favorite song to play?” Last One Out of Liberty City. I think the horn part on that has a lot going on during the chorus. There’s just different vibes going on throughout that whole song. It has a lot of cool little horn parts there. It’s not something that stands out as far as the melody of the song.
V: Are you most proud of that though?
B: I’m trying to think through all the songs in my head. Automatic is one that I’m really proud of. The chords for that.
V: That’s cool.
B: The little horn parts in the middle of it.
V: So you just said Last One out of Liberty City. That’s what you like to play?
B: Right. That’s one of my favorite songs to play. All the anthem songs, if you want to go through the years we’ll go with My Very Own Flag off of Pezore. I’d say Automatic off of [Losing Streak], and then Last One out of Liberty City off of [Hello] Rockview, and then Suburban Myth off of the new one, Borders and Boundaries, for those of you who don’t know what the new one is.
V: So going from that, what’s your favorite Less Than Jake song?
B: Wow…Now favorite song versus favorite ones to play might be a little different answer.
V: Yeah. We’ll do the favorite songs.
B: I also like playing [All My Best Friends Are] Metalheads, by the way. I like playing all our songs. This is really hard. Every time someone asks this question in an interview it’s really hard to say because every song gives you that kind of charge…Those ones definitely, because of the anthematic theme to them. Lyrically, as well as…just the intensity that those songs have. I think those are the best to play for sure. I really don’t know how to pick one. That’s just a really hard answer. I don’t think I could pinpoint one. Even three, I couldn’t pinpoint. People ask that question all the time, “Do you guys listen to your own music?” Before I was ever really a musician, I would be like, “I wonder if bands, when they get their CDs, do they listen to them? Do they ever listen to their own music?” I would never just go home put in a Less Than Jake CD. But when it’s on, I sit back, especially if it just comes on a whim. If I hear it on the radio or something weird like that, or at some kid’s house, or just anywhere where it comes on, I’m kind of like, “Whoa.” It takes me back and makes me think, “Oh, we’re actually not that bad.”
B: So, I’m quickly evading the answer. I like a lot of stuff off the new one. I don’t want to pick and then have it be a stereotype, “That’s my new favorite type of song.” It changes too. That’s what my problem is. I’m really fickle with things. I’ll have a favorite band one week, and then it’s not the next week.
V: You’re proud of a lot of the songs.
B: Yeah, I really am. And the most thing I’m proud of is [that] they don’t get old. A lot of people ask that too. People are like, “God, you play every night and you guys tour so much, don’t playing your songs get really old?” I think that’s what makes me proud is that every time we get up there and play our songs, it’s like playing them for the first time. There’s off nights where you’re kind of “blah,” but it really still happens. Something about these songs and us playing them together makes some sort of energy happen within me. I don’t know how to describe it. And just the writing of those songs I think has a lot to do with that.
V: Well, how about this question then? Being that you’re not necessarily the original horn player, because Jessica was the first one in the band…
B: Yeah, for three months.
V: But, being the one player in the horn section that’s been with the band for pretty much the duration of the band…Now that we’ve had Jessica and lost Jessica, had Derron, lost Derron, and then got Pete and J.R…When a new person comes in, do you think that it changes the dynamics of the horn section? I’m not saying about a player’s ability.
B: Uh huh, I know what you mean. Just stylistically.
V: Do you think that it affects you, as well as the section?
B: Yes. Definitely.
V: In what way?
B: I can go through with each one individually if you want. But with Jessica it was when the band was starting out and I didn’t really know how to be in a punk rock band and play a horn. I had only been in stuff where I read music and stuff like that and I had been in other bands though too. I had started playing guitar and bass and stuff, so I was into writing parts, and I hadn’t really grown up enough as a musician to play with bands. A lot of times, between Jessica and I, we would just write our own parts that would go together because it was in the same key, but it would really rub against each other a lot, and we didn’t know enough to take the time to really try and work things out. We weren’t working together as a band. We would write a horn part that would go with the stuff and a lot of times it would rub against. Now, we work a lot more together. When Derron came in the band he kind of integrated his way in, so Jessica was already there and I was already there and we had this way of doing things and he just kind of snuck in underneath, and filled things out and he would add his part to it too. We didn’t really start discussing the parts as much until Jessica left and then Derron and I would start going back and working things out and occasionally we would find stuff that was kind of weird and we would change it and make things work together so that was where we kind of started. Derron and I started work together a little bit more, but then Pete came into the band and he just kind of started playing. I taught him all my parts for early stuff, and then when we started writing new stuff, we had to write for 3 horns. We were writing together as opposed to writing really separately. I’d come up with something and we’d work it all out as a group so that it’d made sense a lot more. So I think that’s basically how it’s changed. Now that J.R. is here, he knows a lot more theory and stuff like that. I think he’s going to be a big help in writing. He came in and learned these parts really easily and came up with his part that fit perfectly, but it fits within the section. We’re writing more as a section now than as just random horn players that are having their own parts. I guess that’s how it’s grown over the years, basically. I could have answered that in 5 seconds.
V: So, with the trombone question sort of out of the way, what are your favorite bands? A lot of people always ask that question of “What do you listen to?” and I know that you listen to a lot of eclectic stuff from what you just said. You listen to some James Brown and then you also listen to some of that jazzier stuff…trombone stuff.
B: The jazz stuff, I’ll go through my different phases, like the different styles.
V: Give me your favorite of each style.
B: So, if you’re talking about jazz I would pick, as opposed to the transcendental, like John Coltrane jazz that’s just a bunch of weird stuff that doesn’t go together…I like the melodic jazz like Louis Armstrong. A lot of ragtime or bebop, and then Miles Davis, like early Miles Davis, like 40’s and 50’s jazz like bebop that has a lot of melody but it’s still really busy. That’s the kind of jazz I listen to. So, Miles Davis, JJ Johnson, Jerry Mulligan, that kind of stuff and then James Brown is just the ultimate of funk and I don’t even bother putting anything else on. James Brown just carries the groove. The bass player is just playing this rad bass part for the whole song and there’s just solos going as far as horns go for that stuff. The solo stuff within funk music is probably having a subliminal influence on what I do, because it is really short bursty kind of stuff and a lot of weird counter melody stuff that isn’t really going with the melody. Lets see, and then a few other kinds of music…You said eclectic kinds too…I have the whole Thrill Jockey, Chicago side of music like Tortoise, and those kind of bands like that. I listened to those a little bit more a few years ago. I kind of moved out of that since Andre listens to a lot more of that stuff now. But, I still listen to that kind of stuff. It’s like going to bed music, the Sea and Cake, stuff like that…It’s kind of mellow as opposed to putting in the Descendants or All or Cringer or J Church or something like that right before you go to bed. It’s kind of hard to do because I’ll just sit there and listen to it and want to get up and hang out instead of going to sleep. But, [during] my punk rock days I went through Operation Ivy, Snuff, Green Day, Jawbreaker, Samiam, all those kind of bands. Now getting into the present day, I think I’ve started moving into stuff that you’ve been listening to like Dillinger Four and Kid Dynamite. There’s a lot of bands that we tour with that I pick up their stuff and I start listening to that a lot more. I listen to Frenzal Rhomb. I listened to One Man Army when I woke up this morning. I listen to a lot of music which is the problem with this kind of question. But, it’s definitely a wide array of things too. I don’t have just one. I don’t listen to just Blink, like a lot of people today do. They’ll have their favorite 4 bands.
V: Why do you think it’s good to listen to more than one specific style?
B: Well, since you’re a musician…Listening to a lot of different things, you don’t get stuck in a rut. Just having different influences from all the different areas to help stimulate your creativity a little bit more than just getting stuck in one kind of thing. It makes you write a little more differently. But, it also helps you…There’s a different kind of music for every kind of mood you’re in. It depends on the mood or what you’re doing during the day. It’s good to have different kinds of music as a background or as a focus.
V: With that said, I’ll move into a different category. What is your proudest moment of being in the band? If you look back on something when you’re 55, and would you have one defining thing that you’d say, “You know what, I could say that I’ve done that.” Not necessarily an accomplishment or anything, I’m just after something that you are most proud of.
B: You know what it is? I already know. It’s going to seem really low on the scale at this point for a lot of the things we’ve done as a band. But, I remember just being in the band for 3 years before. I remember when we first had things on record, on vinyl and stuff, but when we first came out with a CD, where our music was on a CD, and I was playing horn on that and I knew that I would have that for the rest of my life and that was our first tour. We got Pezcore, we were at the show and it was supposed to be the biggest show of that tour, the ska fest at the Metro where the power was out and we never got to play. But we got our CDs that day and I was like, “Yes!” You know, that’s us…it’s got the artwork, it’s this whole thing that is Less Than Jake and that was a thing I was part of, and I’ll have that when I’m 80 and now I’ll have a bunch of those. So, I achieved my biggest goal in the band really early on, and even before that I remember going to the Hardback before I was even in a band. I was playing guitar and wanted to start a band with Steve-o and stuff and I went to the Hardback and saw Spoke and Radon, and there were 200 people there or something, and I was just sitting and I was with someone and was like, “Man, if I could do this someday, if I could play to this many people at the Hardback that would be the best thing in the world,” and then we did that before we got that CD out. So I keep having these little goals I guess, that were huge at the time, and that was a huge goal for me at the time. As far as being in a band was concerned, I could barely play guitar and was like, “Man, I would really love to do that.”
V: Yeah, I know that you play guitar and I also know that you were in bands before, but a lot of people don’t. Why don’t you say a band that you were in before?
B: Well, I was actually in 3 bands before I was in this band. I was in the Hebrew Love Waffles in high school where I sang, with me and my friend Mike Bell. Mike Bell played bass and we wrote songs together in our calculus class first period where he would usually sleep through half the class if we weren’t writing down stupid lyrics to songs like M&M racism which was about the fact that there was no white M&M and, let’s see, Defective Pinto was one of the good songs. That was our hit song, we would play at people’s birthday parties. We were like, “Defective pinto!” That was the 10 people who knew who we were. And then I moved out. When I moved to college I put down the trombone for a year and a half and started to learn how to play guitar and bass and stuff and when my friend Steve-o moved up into town we started a band called Dig Dug which I played bass and he played guitar and we had a guy that sang and played drums. Then that kind of fell apart about the same time I ended up joining Less Than Jake and I started a band called When Puberty Strikes with Steve-o. So, I was in that for a year and a half or 2 years and then we did our first and only U.S. tour with Less Than Jake which was their first U.S. tour and then that kind of became defunct and crumbled as we came back and Less Than Jake got too big for our own britches.
V: So with the touring thing…In the United States, if you could pinpoint the place that you enjoy most…Not in the general sense…It could be the place that you like to play the most. What city do you look forward to…or [what are the] cities that you like?
B: I think I’d have to say I really like playing San Francisco and the city itself. I just really like San Francisco. I feel that it would be too expensive to live there, like to just move there and have to start up a thing. But I really like San Francisco because it’s got the city, that’s kind of a mellow city. It’s not too high paced. It’s got the college town right there, and you’ve got nature and the beach and mountains all in one little area. That’s a really cool place to go and the weather is usually pretty decent. I like Denver a lot, because of the mountains and you can go skiing there and one of my best friends in the world lives there, so it’s really fun to go there too. And there’s always kickass shows for us there so I always look forward on the tour to being in Denver. And Chicago I really like a lot too because we’ve always had amazing shows in Chicago. The first few times I’ve been around the U.S. was with this band. I hadn’t really traveled that much and I just remember the first time I went to all the big cities and what I got from those cities. I remember New York was always too fast and too high paced. It’s really fun to visit for a couple days, but I don’t know if I could hang with that because I’d get way too stressed out there. I’m already too high strung, but I thought Philadelphia and Chicago had that old gangster feel to them. I remember the first time we went there. I remember just walking around feeling like I was in a gangster movie. You could just tell it’s really blue collar. It’s got this union vibe to it. Something about it seems real old. Plus, it’s got Michigan right there, and there’s cool stuff in Chicago.
V: So, why Gainesville?
B: I didn’t say Gainesville.
V: No…Why stay in Gainesville?
B: Why stay in Gainesville? Well at this point I’m staying in Gainesville because of the band.
V: In the general sense, why do you like Gainesville?
B: I like Gainesville in the sense that it too is a college town, like San Francisco has that college town part to it. The bummer about Gainesville is that it doesn’t have a lot of the stuff you get from a big city which is the cultural side of things like more museums, more this and that, but that’s the only downside. I think Gainesville, as far as college towns go too, it’s just a really nice peaceful place to go to…A lot of trees, a lot of nature around. It’s a small enough town, that you kind of know everybody when you go out to a show or something like that, but it’s also big enough that you don’t know everything about everybody. It’s not so small that it’s gossip central. It’s also big enough that you can kind of get away if you want but you can also do things with people. I’ve lived in Florida my whole life so the weather I’m so used to. It’s summer year round except for the 4 days of winter.
V: So what about Europe? Favorite places in Europe?
B: There are no favorite places in Europe. I hate Europe. No, I like Europe. I’ve visited Europe and I’ve toured in Europe. Touring in Europe is a little bit harder because you’re in a different country every day and there’s different currency every day. It kind of becomes a pain in the butt. You immediately know you’re someplace old when you are in Europe. They have all the modern conveniences of running water and that sort of thing, but just all the buildings…every building has got cobblestone roads. Just looking around, you know you’re some place that’s been there for a long time. It’s not like that in the states. It’s really hard to pick Europe, because Europe is so diverse. It’s all different. Southern Europe is totally different from northern Europe. England wants to be separate from Europe completely. They don’t even want to be claimed to be part of Europe…I think I like going to Germany because I can practice my German because I took that in college and I can play around and pretend to talk to people. I like going north…like Denmark and Holland. That whole area, it’s really pretty, especially if you go at the right time of the year. I don’t know how to describe what’s neat about it, but it’s just a neat area. And the southern area is just good for the weather and the casual vibe. Like Italy, everyone is “Hey Ciao! Ciao!” It seems real casual, whereas the northern part everyone is a little more stern. And Germany is exactly what you think from German people: very punctual, opinionated, and staunch. Down in the south, everyone is hanging out, laying around on the beach. They don’t have toilet seats. That’s a bummer. That’s my Europe rant.
V: So a lot of people always ask, and I’m just trying to cover things that people always ask. When you tour as much as we do…and we went through the things that are good, and cities that are good…but what about the downsides? There always downsides to everything. What’s the downside to it?
B: The touring in general?
V: The touring in general. There’s just specific things that are downsides. There’s always downsides.
B: Well, one of the biggest downsides, which didn’t really bother me the first couple years we were touring, but now it’s become this thing that it’s a ritual everyday. The first thing you have to do when you wake up during the day is find the place where you are going to the bathroom during the day. Most people wake up and they have their bathroom. That’s not something they have to think about. They just go to the bathroom. They get up, they do their thing. When you’re on tour and you tour for a living and you are gone all the time, my first reaction when I wake up is having to get clothes, whether they are dry from last night, and having to find a place to go to the bathroom that is clean and respectable, as opposed to some of the places that I’ve been. And the Warped tour is the worst for that. When we get on Warped tour this summer, I’m dreading being in the 115 degree port-o-potties and you have to get up early enough that you get there before everyone else, because there’s usually no where else to go. But that’s a pretty lame first choice, on the downside of touring. I think one of the biggest things for me, obviously, at this point, is that I’m married. Being away from my wife tends to make it not seem such a positive…You can’t be wholeheartedly, “I’m so stoked on going away for tour.” Sometimes I get really excited before I’m leaving, especially if we’ve been home for a couple of months and I’m getting antsy. But, there’s always something dragging me back from somewhere. No matter how excited I get about going, I’m always half pulled back. That is one thing that hinders the whole touring side of things for me. Because I know that if I wasn’t married, I would probably be non stop. You’d [still] get burned out…You want to come home and sit in your couch, play with your things. You’re never in the same city. That’s another problem…It’s also a good thing except a lot of people are like, “Man, you must be stoked. You travel all the time, and see different stuff.” But after doing it for so long, you want to wake up in the same city once, and put on your TV, put on your CDs, and have all your stuff around you, that’s your house and some sort of stability. I’m on tour for Christ sake. I want stability! It makes it really hard to be in a rut like the 9 to 5, where you get up and do the same thing everyday. That never happens to us. So, it’s definitely a good thing for a certain amount of time. At some point you get burned out. You can tell when all of us have been on the road for like two months. You’ll come up to the bus, kids will be like, “Hey, what’s going on?” None of us wants to talk. Everyone wants to go home. Everyone is ready to slit everybody else’s throat. You just get burned out on being on the road. It’s hard.
V: So with that said…How’s it like to work with five other people? As far as, not only in creating songs and parts, but also in guiding the way the band is. Because Less Than Jake is a band, always in my opinion, that sort of always remains Less Than Jake. Even if we do something a little bit different, you can always say, “Yeah, that’s Less Than Jake,” in music and anything. How is it working with 5 other people? Because that’s a lot of people to work with.
B: It’s definitely something that we got really lucky with, and we’ve actually gotten lucky consecutive times. Because like you’ve said, we’ve gone through all the different horn players, and we’ve added people and it always seems to mesh really well. And that’s something I talk to when bands are asking, “What do we do about this?” And if bands are having problems and they’ve only been together only a couple of months, and they are talking about other members of the band, and it’s like this big problem. Well, it’s not going to work. To be a band that has any kind of longevity you have to get along with the people in your band. It’s a relationship, like you said. It’s not just being able to write with a band or write with other people in the band. You have to be able to do everything. It’s like having 5 boyfriends.
V: So, it’s a compromise.
B: Yeah it’s definitely a compromise. There’s definitely lots of compromise going on. Not only do you work together like you are in a relationship. You have to a) share the same goals when you get in the band. You guys have to all sit down and figure out what it is you want to accomplish as a band. You have to do that 6 months down the road too, because people change over the course of time, and you have to make sure you are on same page all the time. We’ve gotten lucky in the sense that we do talk about things, and we’ve gone through rough waters where people are having problems with these things. We’re trying to figure it out but we always come together since we’re such good friends. Everbody in the band is like a brother so when there is a problem everyone talks to everyone else about it and it usually works out. But we are all really lucky in the sense that we do have the same ideals and the same goals as a band, so things do tend to work themselves out really easily if there is a problem because we’re usually not too far off base with each other. And that’s definitely the key to being a successful band or a band that is going to stay together for a long time. If you get in a band and you’re having problems in the first 3 months…If you don’t sit down and talk about it and get along and have the same ideas it’s really hard for that band to stay together.
V: So, what do you think about Capitol? Everyone always asks about Capitol. What did you take away from being on Capitol? Here Less Than Jake released a bunch of indie releases. We got onto a major label. Now we bought our contract back from Capitol, and now we are on Fat, and who knows what the future is, because the future is the future. But, people always ask, “Well how was it being on Capitol?” If you knew somebody, a band that was getting ready to sign to a major label, what would you say? From being on Capitol, what do you think are the good parts and the bad parts from your experiences, from our experiences as a band?
B: The major label has to want you really bad for it to be worth it for you to be on a major label. The only way for it to be wise is if the major label really wants you, and they are willing to put in a lot of money into you to promote you and make your band happen. Otherwise, you are just another band on their list. Especially if you are where we were, kind of in limbo, where you are making them enough money that it’s worth it for them to keep you around, but you’re not a huge hit and they aren’t really willing to put enough money in to make you a huge hit. Then you are kind of sitting there giving them all your money that is rightfully yours, to a certain degree, and they are not really putting a lot of back into your band, but they can string you along. But if they really want you, then they have the power. That’s the good thing about major labels, they have the power to feed the public whatever they want. They can pay whoever, and do whatever and if they are behind you they can make your band huge if you are Dingle Fruit Soup or whatever the hell you are called…You would be a huge band. They have that power…If the major label wants you bad enough, and if you have enough hand in the relationship…Still it’s another working relationship just like being in the band is. Another thing about major labels is that the difference between them and indies is that there are definitely way more people working for a major labels usually. In order to get something done, you have to go through a series of commands, like lots of red tape and hierarchy before you get anything done. There’s definitely different departments for everything that you have a question for and you have to go through the chain of command, which is a good thing. Well, it’s good thing and a bad thing, because sometimes it takes a lot longer for something to get done because it has to go through the chain of command…but if there is a department set up for these kind of different things, which a lot of times at an indie label they don’t even have the department for that…like on an indie label you’re going to be working a lot closer with a smaller amount of people, but you aren’t to go as far as a band, because of the limited resources…the lack of money, and the lack of man power to actually have a radio department, or whatever department that you need [like] a promotions department, a publicity department. You have all these different levels of a major label that aren’t involved in an indie label. If you are a band that is trying to get signed, or if there’s a major label that is interested in you, you have make sure from the get go that they are really interested in you and want to really do something with your band because you don’t want to get stuck on a major label where no one gives a shit about you at all. Because then you are just stuck there, in limbo, and you probably could be doing as well on an independent label if the independent label is backing you. The main thing [to do] is to tour and have a fan base. That’s the only way they are really going to do anything for a band anyways.
V: So if you are saying something to a band that is starting out, because we also get a lot of those questions. If you are going to say something to a band starting out, what would it be? What would your advice be to them?
B: Well, definitely don’t just immediately try to get on a major label because you have no fan base and nothing to work with to offer a major label. Looking for a label is probably the last on your list. What you want to do is a) when you are first starting, play as many shows as you can around town and practice a lot and get good as a band and get to know the people in your band. That gets back to the earlier question. You have to be really good friends with everyone for your band to have any kind of lasting relationship…Then the next thing to do is after you have played shows enough around your town and made a little bit money, you go record as fast as you can. Once you are capable players and you can play the songs, you record something and you make a demo tape, or you put out a 7″ or put out something, or get on as many compilations. If you have something recorded you can put it on a compilation CD. If someone asks you to be on their comp, definitely do it because there’s 30 other bands on there that someone might buy the CD for and they’ll hear your song and when you come to that town when you finally do start touring then they’ll know that one song. It’s about getting your music out to as many people as you can, as quickly as you can…not sacrificing quality, but you want to do things one step at a time. You don’t want to jump too far ahead of yourself. There’s just so much to do if you’re going to be in a band but you definitely need to tour as much as you can too, once you get enough money to record. Send out your stuff to either booking agents, or if you have any kind of capabilities yourself, try and book your own tour and send your demos to different clubs and try and get shows. If you know a underground community that has different shows in peoples backyards or any kind of touring network get involved in that, and just tour as much as you can and build up your fan base…No labels are going to really look at you anyways if you are just a band that just started and nobody knows who you are unless you have these amazing songs that you just happen to have by chance.
V: Ok, with that said lets go onto, “Yeah, Less Than Jake and all this Pez collecting.” Do you collect anything?
B: Unfortunately, I have to say yes to the fans I know. Chris and I used to be the 2 guys in the band who hated collecting the most because, when we were in the van touring around, we would pull over the side of the road all the time for the Pez geeks in the band and have to go to every antique store, and every different thing that there is that there could possible be a score at. We never got to go to the Triscuit factory for Chris. We never got to go on a beer tour for me, even though we stopped at every Toys R Us there was, along the road. But now I am sorry to say I have been caught by the collecting bug and I have almost entirely too much Simpsons stuff that’s spilling over the side of one of the rooms of my house, and I am a complete Simpsons fanatic. I was already a Simpsons fanatic. I started collecting a little bit of stuff but now they have the interactive action figures, and I’ve got every one of those, and now I’ve just been to Europe where they have entirely too much Simpsons stuff so I’ve got every little knick-knack you can think of that has Simpsons on it and I am now a complete nerd like you guys
V: Favorite movies? Give me a couple.
B: Woah…wow. Brain Candy we watched a lot on tour. That’s a Kids in the Hall movie. That’s definitely a good movie. Any John Hughes movie. Any 80’s movie is top of the list, like all of the Weird Science, 16 Candles, those type movies are all good ones. Goonies was a great movie when I was a kid. I thought that was amazing. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I’m a big action flick movie fan as well. Anything with Arnold Schwarzenegger is good. Anything with Sylvester [Stallone]. I just saw Cliffhanger last night. Amazing movie
V: How about books?
B: Anything by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve been into actually Carl Sagan, and lots of weird physics books lately. Trying to learn about our outer space and our inner space, all the stuff around us. I’m a real big fan of Kurt Vonnegut. I haven’t read anything by him recently but I went through the gamut. I usually pick an author and read a bunch of their books in a row and get sick of it. I read a lot of Herman Hesse for a while, like Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund. Orson Scott Card is a good science fiction writer.
V: How about if you had to pick a few songs that would sort of move you in the right way? Some of stuff that you’d be into?
V: Give me a few songs, that sort of evokes whatever emotions all the time. There’s always some song.
B: There’s song by Seam called Rafael, the second song on the Problem With Me. Good song. Actually, the first song is pretty moving as well. On the new Frenzal Rhomb album, song 6. I’ve been listening to that. Any song that you can put on and you listen to 6 or 7 times in a row that doesn’t get old yet. Those are songs that are doing that. A lot of All songs that do that for me. Pretty much that whole greatest hits CD that they came out with had songs like that. She’s right or whatever it’s called. That song is amazing.
V: Favorite bands to tour with? You mentioned All.
B: Yeah that would definitely be one of them. All. It’s like touring with a favorite band to tour with and touring with your idols at the same time. We first toured with them as the Descendents. We kind of got to know them a little bit, they were on a bus we didn’t get to know them as well as thought we did until we toured with them as All twice. Those guys are kind of friends with us now which is a kind of surreal event to us. I was listening to them as this band that was something not related to me at all and now I know them as people as well. They definitely lived up to everything that I expected from them. It was weird going on tour with them. The first time it was kind of scary. I have all these ideals I hold as the Descendents, I hope that they don’t mess it up for me…But being able to do what they do still, and do it with the same intensity and the same passion that I did when I was 20, is just inspiring. They are definitely inspiring. Snuff was really cool going with them because we always use them as one of our main influences, and meeting those guys was kind of the same thing. It was like, “Whoa, that’s Duncan I can’t believe this!” He’s a really cool guy and jokes and laughs around with us. It was like bonding with someone who is an idol, to a certain degree. The Suicide Machines are fun to tour with. We’ve played with them enough. They are really good friends of ours. It’s weird because there’s a point where you are just an acquaintance with someone. It’s weird that I have so many friends around the country now that are in other bands. When you first start touring you would just go on tour and play with a lot of different openers every night. We maybe do 2 weeks with a band, throughout a tour, like different bands would do 2 weeks. Now we go on tours where we do the whole tour with 2 or 3 bands. It becomes a big family unit that everyone kind of hangs out together and you get really close with these people, and then you leave and split ways, and then you see them again. “Ah, you’re my friend from when we went on that tour.” It’s really weird because I almost feel like I have more friends like that than I have at home because we tour so much. When I go home you have a lot of acquaintances.
V: Everyone knows that we all met in Gainesville, and Gainesville is a college town. You went to college for what?
B: For psychology. I have a degree. I have a Bachelors in psychology.
V: So when is your birthday?
B: My birthday is April 29, 1973. I’m 28 years old as of 3 weeks ago. I’m ancient. 4 times 7. When I was 7, I still had 21 years to be as old as I am now. I thought I was old when I hit 25 years old. I hit 25 and I was like, “God, I’m a quarter of a century old.” Now, 3 years later, I wake up with back pain. I’m ancient. Hold on to 16 as long as you can, in the ancient words of John Cougar.
V: Do you have any pets?
B: Actually I do. Funny you ask. I’ve actually had a dog, which started out as being the dog in the house of 4 men. Well, I guess we weren’t men at the time. We thought we were men. We were early college dudes, who decided it was a great idea to get a dog and the dog became mine after everyone else neglected it too much, and I didn’t know anything about owning a dog. But now she is my loved 8 year old dog Cringer. I also have a cat which came to me when my wife came to me. Her name is Cosmo and she is the best cat in the world. She’s run the gamut too. She started out as the wild cat. I used to call her a boy all the time. I was like, “That’s a boy. Cosmo is a boy”, because it would run around the house all the time. It was always bringing back dead birds because it was an outside cat for a while. But then she got pregnant, and I was like, “I guess it’s a girl,” and she had babies, and we got her spayed. She’s been a mother. She’s done the active outdoor life, but now she’s an inside cat and she lays around and she gives us all kinds of love. She’s the kind of cat where you can grab her and hold onto her and she doesn’t even struggle to get away. She never claws me. She never tries to bite. She’s just the most amazing cat. And as of now, I am pet sitting a dog named Sonic which grew up with my dog Cringer. My friend Joel, who was one of the original owners of Cringer that neglected her until she was mine, got a dog at some point named Sonic and now I am watching him while he is in med school in the Caribbean. Those are my pets. It’s kind of like wild kingdom at my house. And if you add the wildlife that is around my house, I see bunny rabbits. I saw a fox run across the road the other day. I see turtles and snakes. We have owls in the backyard, and bats that fly down. Living in Florida is great. You have all kinds of different crazy animals running around. The owls sound like baboons in the middle of the night. I wake up at 4 in the morning sometimes and you hear “ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh.” Those are my pets too. That’s it.
V: So, my last question would be…
B: Why don’t you own a llama?
V: Yes…No, my question actually is…Why do you think there’s such a difference between what we do live and how we feel live, to how we feel when we are in a studio? I know everyone’s opinion in the band. Everyone likes playing live and it has that chemistry vibe to it. In a studio it gets really temperamental at times. There’s a lot of pressure to make it right or whatever. But how did we become a live band and do you think that we’ve ever transferred it onto a record?
B: Well that’s always been the goal. I think we’ve been coming closer to it as time went along. I think Borders and Boundaries actually strayed a little bit further than Rockview did from the live feel live, because it became a little more stale the longer we worked on it. We were just trying to make it sound really good and sound like a studio album. We wanted to go in the studio and come back and be like, “Wow, that sounds amazing,” as opposed to going in and really trying to capture what we do live and failing miserably, because it’s really hard to do. But I think the reason that getting up and feeling the way we feel, and there’s such a connection once we get on stage, is because we’ve gone through that whole process. The songs already written and once its done, and we all agree on it, there’s a solid opinion about the song and we’re all just playing it from the heart. But when we are in a studio and like prior to the studio when we are writing, it’s 6 different opinions trying to meld together into one opinion. Chris and Roger will have this thing they are working on. It’s a shell, and we are all trying to pound at the shell from different sides. You’re writing lyrics and they are all getting shoved in there. It’s this melting pot that’s really volatile. It’s like boiling and you are adding things to it. Shit’s spitting out of it. All the grease fires are happening. The creative process is a lot more touchy and volatile, is the only word I can use to describe it because it’s a really heated thing going on. There’s a lot of really heavy opinions that aren’t involved in the live side of things. The opinions side of things are done. We’re just getting up there and playing and we all have the same opinion. We’re all just going to rock to our fans. And that’s way more fun for us. It’s fun to be in the creative process as well, but it’s way more tense for us for sure, getting in the studio and melding. A lot of bands will have one guy who’s the writer and he writes everything and no one really has an opinion. So it’s not as much of a process. It’s more so for him. Everyone else is kind of bored, but when we’re in there, everyone is kind of a musician, everyone has an opinion and we all have suggestions. Sometimes the suggestion is for the better, but the person who has to change something is staunch against it. It’s clashes of opinions and that’s why it becomes really hard and at some point we mold all these opinions together it becomes this song that we are all really proud of, because we all had compromised to some sort of agreed opinion and then when we go play it its like, “Yeah! That’s what we did.” So it makes it seem a lot easier to play live. It’s a lot easier for us to play live.
V: Do you have any last things that you missed that you want to mention? Anything?
B: Keep looking up because you never know when there will be rings around Uranus.
V: Ok, I won’t ever put that. Thank you very much.
B: No, I have no last words.