Tag Archives: i don’t wanna grow up

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Motobunny

Motobunny

Making music babies one gig at a time, the L.A./Phoenix quartet, on their self-titled debut, combines hi-nrg rawk, distorted guitars and synth/keytar melodies. Co-vocalists Christa Collins and Nicole Laurenne explain.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

With two vocalists, a keytar and a shared love of classic Iggy Pop, MotoBunny have just turned in a truly original take on pop punk.

The group formed in 2013 by merging members of The Love Me Nots and The Wooly Bandits and just came out with their debut, Motobunny, on the Rusty Knuckles label. Combined, the group — co-frontwomen Christa Collins (synth) and Nicole Laurenne (keytar), plus Michael Johnny Walker (guitar) and Rik Collins (bass) — have shared stages with everyone from X and Nirvana to The Damned and Pearl Jam.

Christa and Laurenne spoke recently about how the band first came together, their shared love of Iggy and being a contestant on The X Factor. (Go HERE to read our review of the new album.)

BLURT: Let’s start out with an easy one first—how did the band first come together?

CHRISTA COLLINS: I think it was inevitable that Motobunny would happen! Nicole and Michael are in a band called The Love Me Nots and Rik and I are in a band called The Woolly Bandits. Both are garage rock in their own right. So after several years of sharing bills and dressing rooms, I don’t remember who said it first, but the general consensus was “we should do some music together”. Not too much longer after that The Woolly Bandits were asked to play the Ink & Iron Festival with Iggy Pop as the headliner, “YES Please!” Being that it was outdoors and a large stage we really wanted to fill out our sound, so we asked Nicole to play Farfisa and Michael to do a guest guitar spot. We pretty much wanted to be on stage together all the time after that! Rick and I trekked out to Phoenix one weekend and we pretty much had the entire album sketched out over the course of two weekends. Thus MotoBunny was born, and off to Detroit we went to record with Jim Diamond. There has been an ease about this band from the beginning where things seem to naturally fall into place. That’s a great feeling, like perhaps you’re on to something!

 

There aren’t a ton of bands out there nowadays with co-lead singers. Was there a discussion at first about who would handle the singing in the band?

COLLINS: I think Nicole was the one who brought it up? To be honest at first I wasn’t sure if it would work given that we had both been our own lead for so long, but I am a sucker for harmonies, and I had been plotting a girl side project for a while, so this was a perfect outlet for me. Nicole is the easiest person to get along with so that makes collaborating fruitful!

 

Christa, what’s the toughest perception you have had to overcome as a musician over the years, having started out with Disney?

COLLINS: I think I’ve had to overcome more perceptions as a petite female than I’ve had to as an ex- Disney artist. Not a lot of people know about my past or that I was a professional dancer. It feels like a separate lifetime ago in many ways. I was forced into retirement at 16 and there was such a large gap between then and when I had started singing again. I had completely different experiences, and in truth done some hard living. If anything it made me a better more well-rounded performer. I will forever be grateful to Rik Collins for finding me, putting me back on a stage, and giving me my voice back!

 

You also were on the first season on The X Factor. Musicians have said good things and bad things about shows like this and American Idol. Given your experience, do you ultimately think it’s a good thing for musicians getting started?

COLLINS: I don’t think it’s for me to answer that question for someone else. I suppose in part it just depends on what type and what level of artist you want to be? I will say that this business is brutal and heartless at times, so if you don’t have a burning desire to perform, and I mean you want it like air ‘cause life makes no sense when you try and do anything else, than I might not recommend it. For me there was very personal reasons why I did… Before my Aunt Judy passed from cancer she made me promise I would try out for American Idol. So I went and I was 10 days too old.

Years later, Rik’s dad comes bursting through the door touting “Simon Cowell’s got a new singing show and you have to try out”. Two thoughts crossed my mind as I looked into it: 1. I can honor my Aunt’s dying wish; 2. I got nothing to lose! So I auditioned, and did very well. I met some very talented people and made a couple friendships for life. I really got to test what I was made of as Boot Camp was brutal! Sleep deprivation, starvation, temptations, isolation, stress, emotional rollercoasters. I realized at that moment that my time in The Seeds and The Woolly Bandits was training. People around me were dropping like flies and some would ask me how I was staying so calm and focused. “It’s not that different from being on a DIY tour” – Oh the stories we can tell! I really got to see my resourcefulness, I gained new perspective on my performance. It was a cathartic experience for me and I’m personally glad I did it.

All that said the best thing about the arts is that it’s meant to be catharsis, to edify ones soul and spirit and evoke a change. You don’t have to be on TV, Broadway, or hanging in a museum to do that! You can find it in a garage playing instruments with your friends, or in a local theatre production, or coffee shop, on the street, whatever floats your boat? The best advice I can give someone is be open, be fearless, be experimental, be yourself.

 

Nicole, you started out as a classical musician, what started you on the path to being a punk-influenced pop /rock band?

NICOLE LAURENNE: At first, a love for the red grand piano that Jonathan Cain played in Journey – yes I admit it openly – but later I learned that keeping your classical chops up requires way more time and sweat and tears than rock chops. So there was a laziness element to it also I guess at first. When I met Michael, he introduced me to garage rock like The Animals and The Seeds, and that vintage Farfisa organ sound suddenly jolted me awake, in a musical sense. All laziness stopped at that point. I never looked back. I’ve gone from spinet to grand piano to farfisa organ to… keytar! Can’t wait to see what I get to play next.

Motobunny by Scott Evanesky via Facebook

All four of you have, combined, a ton of experience with so many different types of bands. Were there any shared influences that helped define MotoBunny’s sound?

COLLINS: there’s no question that Iggy Pop was what brought us together as a band. For me personally I’ll never forget the first time I saw a VHS tape of him walking across a crowd smearing peanut butter across his chest – Glorious! I wouldn’t say there was a specific band that influenced the album. We all have our personal favorite influences and we all have a “Fear No Music” diversity policy. You never know where you may find inspiration? Motown, Bowie, B-52’s, Led Zeppelin, Die Antwoord, Spice Girls (Michael Walker’s personal favorite) it’s all in there somewhere?

 

The album just came out. What’s next for the band?

COLLINS: Tour! Recording! More Touring!

 

Anything else you want to cover?

COLLINS: If I can speak for the band… We are so grateful to be able to share a stage with great friends, making music babies, and embarking on this great musical adventure. The crowd response and camaraderie has been palpable! Big thanks to #TeamMoto and Starry Management for seeing our vision and running hard! Who knows how long it will last or where this might take us- but we are sure having fun!

Live photo of MotoBunny by Scott Evanesky, via the band’s Facebook page.

John B. Moore is a longtime contributor to and blogger for BLURT, but please don’t hold that against him. Contact Moore HERE with your comments, gripes, compliments and promotional swag. Our resident expert in all things punk, his first Vans Warped tour came at the age of 4 years where he became the youngest-ever attendee to stage dive. Please kids, don’t try this at home – he is not a good role model!

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/The Moms

Mons

“We’re just getting started”: With a badass new punk album in stores and a high-profile trip to Japan, the Jersey boys are in the driver’s seat.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

So two pizza delivery guys and a plumber from Jersey decide to start a band… No punchline, that’s actually the origin story for the band The Moms, a trio inspired by punk that play a pretty inspired set of straight-ahead American rock.

With an EP already under their belt, the band caught the attention of Less Than Jake drummer/songwriter Vinnie Fiorello – a record label kingpin at this point, having co-founded and sold Fueled By Ramen before starting Paper + Plastick. Fiorello offered to put out the band’s debut full length, Buy American.

The trio, who may or may not like the booze… a lot, made the drive to New York to record the record over two weeks.

Drummer Donny Saraceno—who’s joined in the band by Jon Stolpe and Joey Nester—spoke recently about making the record, the group’s founding and what’s next.

BLURT: Let’s start out with how the band first got together?

SARACENO: We have been friends for quite some time now through one avenue or another and played together in another band prior to The Moms. In a lull of our personal engagements with other things, we hung out together on the weekends at Joey’s Rutgers apartment. Each weekend the partying kind of turned into making noise and at a certain point in that process we kicked it up a notch and decided we better hop back on that hobby horse. So we decided to put out the Viva! record, get in the van and be on the road as much as possible.

A couple off the songs on the full length were on the EP and 7″. Are most of the other songs on Buy American new or had you been working on them for a while?

It’s split pretty much down the middle between old and new. Some songs on Buy American are older than songs on Viva! (“VII,” “Dwyer’s in the Navy Now”) whereas songs such as “Back Pocket” or “Wasn’t Bothered” are quite fresh.

You guys are described in the press materials as being drunk punks and reveling in dark humor. So I expected just a bunch of goofy songs, but you touch on some deep political and social matters with this record. Do you guys feel closer to bands like The Ramones and Dead Milkmen or to political punks like The Clash? Or do you draw influences from both?

Yea, there’s nothing intended to be “goofy” here. I would never say that we draw inspiration from any of those bands. Those names have not crossed any of our minds. Also, the press might be taking some liberties with our drinking habits but I couldn’t deny the statements 100%.

How did you first connect with the guys at Paper + Plastick?

Vinnie (Fiorello, label founder) had heard that we were trying to make a badass American rock album that brought music back to and older phase of punk rock or grunge or post hardcore, whatever you want to call it. Going back and forth between us we realized that Vinnie really understood where the band is coming from and those are the people we really want and like to work with.

Moms CD

How much time did you have to record this one?

The recording process went down in a matter of two weeks and even some of those 14 days were only half days. We went back up maybe two or three times to tie up some loose ends like percussion or some vocal re-do’s.

Did you work with a producer?

We had John Collura producing the record at his studio in Pine Island, New York.

What was the experience like compared to working on the EP?

Recording Buy American was incredibly similar to recording the EP actually. We worked at the same studio with the same people, (John Collura, Mike Menocker). A few things were different though. Something I thought was awesome was that their friend makes these “Fink” tube preamps that we used on almost everything. I am a nerd though. And we did more camping and drinking in the studio. Viva! was done in four days whereas we took two weeks or more for Buy American.

You guys are about to start a 30-date tour later this month. Is it tough to find the time to tour or have you had to quit your jobs at this point?

Nah, I wish man. We all agreed in the beginning we were going to have to get shit jobs and make shit money so we can get through the shit tours. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we have the “luxury” of being able to take time off from work and return to our jobs. Jon (Stolpe) and I are pizza delivery boys, and Joey (Nester) is a plumber. We work 40-plus hour work weeks and rehearse a few times a week late at night. Sometimes ask the studio space to stay open later for us. Then we bail out for a few weeks and have the time of our lives.

Aside from the tour, what’s next for the band?

The Moms are headed to Japan in December for some shows with Alternative Medicine. After that our spring is wide open at the moment but we are hoping to start demos for a new record. We’re finally just getting started.

 

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Smith Street Band

Smith Street 2

Weathering the vicissitudes of a never-ending touring/recording cycle, the Aussie rockers wound up delivering the album of their lives with Throw Me in the River.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Don’t be fooled by the innocuous moniker. Australia’s Smith Street Band may just be the best thing going in punk music right now. Through blistering, distorted guitars and the thunder of heavy drumming, Wil Wagner somehow manages to make his striking, often personal lyrics heard over the noise, like a modern day Joe Strummer forcing a message of defiance and perseverance in sweaty basements and crammed theaters.

The band may have held down the opening slot on a recent run of Frank Turner shows across continents, but they managed to convert his crowd about two songs in, night after night, city after city. They seem to be on a never-ending touring and recording cycle, having put out three full lengths and an EP since 2011, and are just about to turn in their latest album, Throw Me in the River, arguably their finest moment in the studio yet.

The record was produced by friend, labelmate and longtime DIY punk staple Jeff Rosenstock (best known for Bomb the Music Industry). It also marks their move from Asian Man Records to SideOneDummy.

Wagner spoke recently about the new record, writing on the road and future plans for world takeover.

BLURT: How did the move from Asian Man to SideOneDummy happen?

WIL WAGNER: Before we came to the States with Frank Turner we looked around for someone to put out our record and all wanted Asian Man to do it. I still remember the first time I saw an Asian Man logo on one of our records as one of the proudest moments of my life! Mike [Park, founder] at Asian Man always said they’ll put out our stuff but would be 100 percent supportive if someone bigger came along. He still helps us out with lots of stuff and we ended up being able to release two albums and an EP through them which I’m so happy about. Him and Bob who do everything there are two of the most fucking amazing people. But we ended up speaking to a few other labels for Throw Me in the River and we’re all totally enamored with SideOneDummy already because so many bands we love have done stuff with them and it was a pretty easy decision.

You worked with Jeff Rosenstock for this record. Did you know him from Asian Man?

We had actually toured with Jeff twice in Australia, once with his iPod and once with Bomb The Music Industry, and became really close over that time. We all really love his music, especially the way he creates soundscapes and layers instruments. He also has an amazing sense of melody. It wasn’t really that we wanted someone to “produce” the album, if Jeff hadn’t have been able to do it we probably wouldn’t have got anyone, but we just wanted Jeff and his ideas around while we wrote and he had a massive influence on the record.

He’s done some very cool things for DIY punk over the years. Did you guys ever talk about the current state of the punk and music industries or discuss philosophies?

Not really. We both have similar morals and ideas but those conversations tend to happen at three in the morning after a show rather than in the studio. We just spoke about music pretty much constantly, we spent five weeks living together first at a house in a tiny town called Forrest outside of Melbourne where we recorded and then at Miner Street Studios where we mixed the album and we were always just playing each other bands and talking about the songs we were making. We did lots of 10-12 hour days so when we were finally done it would just be dumb jokes and beers.

What was he like to work with compared to your other times in the studio?

Really amazing. I didn’t even really know what a producer was until we started working with Jeff, but now I want him to be there for everything we record. His ideas for the songs were fantastic and we were all super comfortable with each other after touring together so much. He also wrote lots of the strings, piano and harmonies on the record, he’s a fucking genius really!

I saw you guys tour with Frank Turner in the U.S. earlier this year and then you headed back home and toured some more. Was it tough to find time to write and record for this album?

I basically do all of my writing on the road now. I tend to just find myself a corner in the band room and scribble stuff down, try and record little bits and pieces as much as I can so I can work on stuff in the van and then do a bunch of demos when there’s an acoustic guitar around for everyone to listen to. Even for the next record I think I have 12 new demos to play the other guys on this tour and even if we can’t practice at least have the songs in our heads. We normally do our writing in big chunks before we record, like work on songs at rehearsals and sound checks then all bunker down for a few weeks and jam every day and finely tune everything.

There was a pretty strong theme of perseverance in last year’s Don’t Fuck with Our Dreams. Is there a general theme that runs through the songs on Throw Me in the River?

It’s probably a bit more of a break up record than the last two and that theme runs pretty strong. I guess lots of stuff about missing people and being alone, a fair bit about touring. I think this album is maybe a bit more internal than the others if that makes sense? A bit less about partying and a bit more about self-reflection and watching yourself and other people change.

What’s next for the band?

We have just started a European tour with The Menzingers and the Holy Mess, then head to the states for Fest and a quick east coast run with Restorations, then back home for our Australian album launch tour with The Front Bottoms and Apologies, I Have None. We’re booking a long tour through February ‘til May-ish next year that will see us go pretty much everywhere as well.

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Masked Intruder

Masked Intruders crop

 

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP

“We just wanna play love songs for the nice people,” claim the Wisconsin pop-punks. That, and break into your house while you’re not home and take all your beer and cheese…

BY JOHN B. MOORE

If The Ramones and The Beach Boys were locked up in a high security prison with nothing to do but harmonize, write love songs and plan their escape, they would sound exactly like Masked Intruder.

The pop-punk ex-cons from Madison, WI, each sporting a different color ski mask ‘cos, well, figure it out yourself (I ain’t no snitch!), have just turned in M.I., their second full length; a brilliant collection of odes to unrequited love and crime sprees.

Though the origin story behind the group is murky, we got Intruder Blue (he’s the one in the blue mask, in case you were wondering) to answer a handful of questions via e-mail recently. He powered up a stolen lap top and covered everything from Pussy Riot sharing their love of anonymity to crossing borders with an arrest record.

BLURT: How did you guys come together? Your bio says you are all from the Midwest, but there definitely seems to be a strong Jersey accent in a lot of the vocals.

INTRUDER BLUE: It’s not a Jersey accent. Lots of people make that mistake. Our accent is actually from prison, which is where we met each other and honed our pop-punk crooning skills. After we, uh… were released, we moved to the Midwest ‘cause that seemed to make sense to us for some reason at the time. In retrospect we probably shoulda gone to Montana or something, since nobody lives there and so there are almost no cops. We are currently based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Lovely town. Do you realize how delicious beer and cheese are? People just keep that stuff in their houses here. And they hardly even lock their doors!

You guys recorded with Matt Allison again for this one. Did you have a decent rapport having already worked together in the past?

Absolutely. We entered into the process as friends. We knew what we could expect from each other and how to push each other to do our best. You just can’t beat that kinda chemistry when you’re cutting a record. It’s a lot of work, and if you want to get something really good out of the process, you have to know what you are going for and how to get there. We definitely had that going for us as we entered into the making of this record, and we worked like dogs to make it the best thing we could possibly make. We’re stoked on it. Matt is too.

What’s tougher, being in prison or being a touring indie punk band?

I mean, prison for sure. Some indie bands do pretty well with the ladies. In prison, you pretty much don’t get to make out with ladies ever, under any circumstances, no matter how deep your lyrics are. So, if you like the ladies, I would go band over prison any day. Now, on the other hand, if you are more into hanging out with dudes, making tooth brushes into makeshift knives, impromptu pillow fights and the occasional riot, prison may be for you. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

Who in the band has the longer rap sheet?

Probably Red. This one time, he was arrested for stealing the same motorcycle three times in one week. It was all a simple misunderstanding… The dude that owned it didn’t understand how much Red wanted it, and the cops didn’t understand how to stay out of it and mind their own business.

Seems like the ladies in Pussy Riot have copped your look or was it the other way around? Who wore the hats/masks first?

We actually started before Pussy Riot, but I doubt they were trying to copy us. They probably hadn’t even heard of us ‘cause our demo had only been out for about six months at the time they started. I guess it is possible, though, cause of the Internet and stuff like that. But, who knows. The thing is, we don’t have that much in common with them. I mean, they’re political, we’re not. They’re girls, we’re not. They have the word “pussy” in their name, we don’t. They’re Russian, we’re American. They’re a very serious, very important movement. We just wanna play love songs for the nice people. They’re cool by us, though. For the record, we would make out with them anytime, anywhere.

You guys have plans to hit up Europe, Australia and much of the U.S. this year. What’s the best and worst thing about touring?

The best thing about touring is all the cool people you get to meet and hang out with. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the musicians and criminals that we looked up to as kids and that we really respect. Also, another cool thing about tour: you get to eat a lot of snacks. The four tour food groups are Doritos, Cheetos, burritos and beer. The worst part is probably just the whole thing of having to look over your shoulder for the cops. But, that’s no different really than being home. So, there’s no real drawback. I guess that’s why we tour all the time. It’s awesome!

Given that you travel across borders with suitcases packed with four ski masks, do you ever have problems with the folks at customs?

Never been a problem. Here’s a little tip for getting through customs: sneak in. It’s not as hard as you think, seeing as how there are so many people going through every day. Plus, most of the people that work in customs are just bored out of their minds and don’t even care about their jobs. They basically want you to try and sneak something past them, even if they don’t know it. Just like prison guards. Sure, they pretend not to want to have to get into a tussle, but they love an opportunity to take their nightstick to some poor shlub’s dome piece. So, yeah, you gotta sneak in places. Trust me, it’s more fun than trying to get through by the book.

What’s next for the band?

We have a ton of tour dates in the US, Canada, the UK and mainland Europe. So, we will be pretty busy for a while making sure everybody gets a chance to see us. After that, who knows? I mean, we do, but we aren’t saying. Snitches get stitches.

Jumpin’ John B. Moore writes about all things punk for BLURT. He famously avoids the moshpit, however, claiming that “I might break my wrist and wouldn’t be able to type anymore.” We suspect that’s not the reason, however… Contact him via this magazine.

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Brett Newski

Brett Newski by Sweet Chucky B

Chicken feet, bicycle rides, tampon ads and, er, songwriting: the acoustic punk maestro talks about his American Folk Armageddon album as well as his ongoing love affair with Vietnam.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

From budding rock star to the Vagina King of Vietnam… and back to rock star. As Elton John and those animated lions once taught us, kids, that’s the Circle of Life.

Brett Newski is finally back in the U.S. after a stint of living the not-so-glamorous life of an expat in Asia penning tampon jingles and doing voice-over ads for Red Bull. He has shed his band and is going the solo route with his latest, the superb acoustic punk album American Folk Armageddon. Part Frank Turner, part Billy Bragg, the ten songs that make up this record are often witty and always charming.

Newski spoke recently about what caused him to flee the modern conveniences of life in America for a moped and outdoor sleeping in Thailand, going under the knife of a med school dropout and, of course, his brief rein as the King of Vaginas.

BLURT: So let’s start with what brought you to Bangkok in 2011.

BRETT NEWSKI: My band had split; my girlfriend and I had split; I left my job and just bought a one-way ticket to Asia. I’ve always been obsessed with that part of the world; the bizarre Far East. Great food, smiley people, strange smells, organized chaos, sensory overload. With the cost of living being so low, it’s a prime place to write and work on art. All the pressures of the western world go bye-bye and you can finally see the rat race from a third person perspective.

I bought a Chinese Honda motorbike for $100 upon arrival and drove it up the entire country of Vietnam. The seat was literally duct taped on. I went for days without seeing anyone who spoke English. I ate chicken feet, pig eats, cow heart. Would ride my bike along Highway 1 until the sun retreated. Then pull over and sleep in a dusty town I didn’t even know the name of. No phone, no GPS, just dirt and freedom. The cops would pull me over and I’d have to bribe them 10,000 Vietnam Dong ($10) to let me go.

So did you go there with the intention of writing and recording music?

Songwriting was my #2 objective. #1 was escape. Getting a fresh start.

I was playing a bunch of makeshift shows in Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and Hong Kong. We would throw DIY shows on rooftops, boats, corner cafes, small clubs. I even played a gig in the lobby of a happy ending massage parlor.

After traveling and getting burnt out from being by myself, I moved to Saigon, Vietnam. I had always wanted to live somewhere bizarre and foreign, so Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) seemed like the place. I found work making commercial music for tampon ads at Saatchi & Saatchi. It was like living on Mars you could say. Living in Vietnam is like a good mushroom trip. You see so many astonishing, wacky things; Locals cockfighting roosters in the street, 6-year-old kids herding water buffalo, old dudes taking dumps on the sidewalk.

What prompted the move to Vietnam?

Escapism. I just wanted to get lost and leave everything at home behind. Nothing was working out; my band, relationship with the girlfriend, and my best friend and I had a falling out. I was just being a mopey sad person and needed a change of scene. Distance from the negativity.

How did you hook up with the ad agency?

I went into Saatchi & Saatchi looking for copywriting work, because that’s what I did in the states. Creative director goes, “Hey we don’t need any copywriters but I saw your music Web site and we need music for this tampon ad. Can you do it?” I just said yes and drove my little shitty motorbike across town to a studio the next day and hammered out the music. They liked it, so more tampon ads started coming my way. Then music for other brands too. But tampon ads are my specialty, you know? As of a few months ago, they were still playing in the movie theatres before films, like James Bond and stuff. The creative director once called me “the Vagina King of Vietnam.” I peaked too soon. Now I’m back sleeping on strangers’ floors. The things we do for rock n roll.

Let’s talk tampons. Where do you go for inspiration to write a tampon ad?

You must dig deep into your soul in order to make quality tampon ads. I like to bust out the VCR and watch early Swartzenegger workout tapes, mute the audio, and play guitar left-handed. That usually yields a solid gold musical jingle within a few hours. It’s not hard to find VHS players in Nam. Also, going to the Vietnamese driving range is a good place for creative juices to flow. If the ball picker-upper guy is out on the range, I pretend I’m not aiming for him, but of course I do. We all do. Right after that I’ll usually write a tampon ad.

Any other ad music you wrote while you were there?

Did several voiceovers for Red Bull, Nestle, Laughing Cow cheese. There was a lack of tall gangly white dudes with American accents, so odd jobs came along all the time.

Is there a group of ex-pat American musicians living in Vietnam or were you pretty much it?

There is a strong ex-pat scene in Vietnam. Several Americans, but not an overabundance. The white devil hasn’t fully taken over yet. No McDonalds yet, and Starbucks had only moved in two days before I left. Every expat I met there was a total character with a couple of screws loose. I say that with love. You do have to be halfway fucking crazy to live in Nam.

One time I had a cyst in my leg. My American buddy Sweet Chucky B (who took the photo at the top of this page) had completed half of med school and convinced me he could cut the cyst out. I put my leg in the sink. He started numbing the spot with ice, sterilized it, then started cutting into my leg with a little razorblade. After five minutes he says “sorry dude, it’s too big. We gotta go to the hospital.” He puts me on the back of his bike and we drive five blocks to a very scary hospital. Total chaos, nobody seemed to know what’s going on. They send us to a little dingy back room where a Thai dude in jeans and a white T –shirt says “Hello, I Doctor.” He looked more like a mechanic, but he fixed my leg up and charged me only $8.

Were you releasing the albums you recorded there in the U.S. or Asia? Or did you wait to get back to the States?

I did two albums there, one solo and one band. I toured In Between Exits (solo record) for two years in the US, South Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.

The songs that made this new record, were most of them written when you were living overseas?

Most of them were written in Vietnam and while on tour in South Africa. I might have retired from music if it weren’t for South Africa. They’ve been massively supportive.

What’s next for you?

Keep chipping away. I’m really starting to understand how to tour relentlessly without killing myself. It’s a grind, but the lows are always followed by big highs. Whenever I have a tough show or I get food poisoning or I miss my bus, I just think “whoever survives the beatings the longest wins,” one of my favorite quotes from South African songwriter Matt Vend.

Anything else you want to cover?

Yes, if you ever go to Vietnam, try chicken feet, its good drunk food.

Brett

***

John B. Moore’s regular BLURT column on all things punk is titled “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” Get into the pit with him – such as this recent entry or this even more recent entry at your own risk ‘cos he is one tough-ass motherfucker.

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Andrew Jackson Jihad

Andrew Jackson Jihad

Ace guitarist Sean Bonnette on the Arizona band’s take on acoustic punk as well as achieving high profile status as the latest signing to venerable punk label SideOneDummy.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Acoustic punk rock is not exactly a new idea. Billy Bragg has been doing it for decades and folks like Chuck Ragan and Frank Turner have managed to completely remake their careers by simply pulling out the plug. So what does an acoustic punk band have to do to stand out in 2014? Writing bizarrely hysterical songs certainly helps, like Andrew Jackson Jihad’s “The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving.”

The Arizona band has enjoyed cult status since their first record in 2005 and playing on some high profile tours, like The Queers and Against Me!, helped bring the band to venues across the globe.

Now recently signed to SideOneDummy, the upper echelon of independent punk rock labels (with a roster that has included folks like Gaslight Anthem and Flogging Molly), and a fantastic new record, Christmas Island, the band is in for a big 2014.

Guitarist/singer Sean Bonnette took some time recently to answer a few questions about the new record, their new label and being taken seriously while still writing quirky songs.

BLURT: This year marks a decade that the band has been in existence – at least for two of you (Bonnette and Ben Gallaty, upright bass). Did you have any idea you guys would get this big and still be going after 10 years?

SEAN BONNETTE: Nope! We started this band with very low expectations, everything that has happened since has been amazing and rather unexpected.

 

Can you talk a little bit about writing this album? Did you do anything different? Did it take longer than previous records?

The answer to both of those questions is yes. It did take longer, and I think that’s because I was initially trying to write an album instead of trying to write songs. Things really got cooking after John reminded me to just write songs as they come and not think of them in terms of their place in an album. Writing an album is intimidating, whereas writing songs is fun.

 

When people talk about the band they always use terms like goofy and fun, but there are also some serious elements to your music, with this record in particular. Is that a conscious decision you made to try and balance the moods?

I wouldn’t say it’s a decision I am aware of because most of the times I consciously try to write something it turns out wrong. The best songs are the ones where I have the least amount of mental control, when I’m in the zone. That said, I think a sense of humor is a great thing to have, it allows one to broach uncomfortable subjects a lot easier. I think I learned that from my family.

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Can you talk about the inspiration behind “Linda Ronstadt” – probably my favorite song from the record? [Random Trivia Ed. note: while I lived in Tucson, the titular Ms. Ronstadt resided on the street behind the record store where I worked and was a regular customer there, as was a brother of hers.]

Thanks! That one’s probably my favorite too. That song is unique to the rest of our catalogue in the sense that the song is about the inspiration. I actually wrote it on the same day that it happened.

 

You guys spent a lot of time touring last year and put out the live record. This year seems to be just as busy. How do you manage to stay sane when you are constantly in a different place each day?

Rumors of our breakneck touring schedule are greatly exaggerated, we only toured for about three weeks last year, but we love that people think we tour more than we do. This year is going to be more intense, probably about three months of touring. Here is some free advice on how to stay sane on tour: drink lots of water, bring plenty of pillows, and reserve time to talk with loved ones on the phone.

 

Was this year first time recording with John Congleton?

This was our first time and hopefully not our last.

 

How was the experience?

John is amazing. He kept us on track and excited for the whole process, didn’t let anyone agonize over small details, and I think he made us a better band. His philosophy behind this record was to make the AJJ record he wanted to hear, to embolden the things about us that are unique, and I love that.

 

You guys have been on Asian Man Records for years. How did you connect with the folks at SideOne?

We’ve known people at SideOne for years. I first met Joe Sib when he invited me out to his California Calling show in Phoenix. We’ve known Matty B. (Matt Baldwin, who handles SideOne tours) for a long time as well. They are all amazing people. We started talking about putting out the record with them in November, when Kenny (Czadzeck, who handles digital marketing for the label) hit us up the day after we played VLHS in Pomona, California.

 

What’s next for the band?

We are touring the US and Canada this summer and going overseas in the fall, after that, who knows? All the while I plan on joyfully writing songs.

 

John B. Moore’s regular BLURT column on all things punk is titled “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” Get into the pit with him – such as this recent entry – at your own risk.

John B. Moore: Pale Angels – The Interview

Pale Angels

JBM checking in with his latest column on all things punk, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN B. MOORE

By John B. Moore

The Pale Angels is clearly not the first band to start off working Nirvana covers. Though, they are likely the first international group who got their start playing nothing but Nirvana covers on stage at punk rock utopia (aka The Fest, held in Gainesville, Florida every fall). Continue reading

John B. Moore: Beans on Toast – Interview

Beans on Toast

JBM checking in with his latest column on all things punk, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN B. MOORE

By John B. Moore

While not exactly a household name in the U.S. (yet), UK singer/songwriter, punk folk poet Beans on Toast (need any more proof that he’s British?) is about to take on the U.S. Tagging onto Frank Turner’s tour, armed with an acoustic guitar and a tight set list of brilliantly dry witty songs, Beans (given name Jay McAllister) will be playing America for the first time.

He was kind enough to trade some e-mails back and worth talking about his new album Fishing For a Thank You, touring with Turner and being a England’s lone Parrot Head.  


You’ve had Ben Lovett and Frank Turner each produce one of your records. Who produced this one?

It was produced again by musicians Lee (Smith) for the band Middleman and Jamie (Lockhart) from a band called Mye Mi. They have a wicked little studio up in Leeds where everything is recorded to tape.

What can you tell me about Fishing For a Thank You?
It’s my fourth studio album in four years, keeping with my promise of putting out a record on the same date every year (1st December). Last year for the festival season I put together a little band of merry men to help me keep in time with myself. At the end of the summer we went to the studio for a weekend and bashed out the record. So the record has trumpet, accordion and some fine beats.

Do you have any guests on this record?
Yes, Rosie Doonan (a great folk singer from a big musical family), happened to be passing through and sung on the song “Orange.” The song also has a The Zulu Traditional Choir who were rehearsing in the room upstairs so we coaxed them down to finish the record; That and some small interludes from a mate’s five-year-old boy. All of these were by the luck of the draw. Also, Dan who played trumpet in the band also plays trumpet for The Pogues, which is pretty impressive.

When you tour the U.S. next month, will it just be you on the stage or will you bring along a full band?
After the record was recorded I disbanded the band, and am again solo for this year, so I will be solo for the upcoming tour.

You’ll be touring the U.S. with Frank Turner throughout June. Do you know what to expect? Have you ever spent this much time on the road with him?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road with Frank, from very small early shows to big UK tours and even the Wembley show. So I’d say I know what to expect from Frank’s side, however these will be my first real shows in the U S of A. This, for me, is very exciting mainly because I’m not exactly sure what to expect.

Do you have any musical influences that would surprise people?
Probably quite a few. It may be worth mentioning that my Dad raised me on Jimmy Buffett records. Jimmy Buffett is pretty much unknown over here but I know it’s the opposite over there. Would it be a surprise that I’d say I’m a bit of a parrot head? I’m pretty varied in musical taste, though, and like to sample everything going down.

What’s next for you?
In a nutshell: USA / Festivals / Studio / Tour / Release album / Tour / Repeat….

Those are all the questions I have. Anything else you want to mention?
Not really, mate. If you’re happy then so am I.

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John B. Moorecan be found at : Blurt/New Music Magazine/InSite Atlanta Magazine (Music Editor)/Innocent Words/NeuFutur Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at his handle @Jbmoore00

 

John B. Moore: Frank Turner – Interview

Frank Turner

 

Longtime Blurt Blogger John B. Moore checks in with his latest column on all things punk, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”

By John B. Moore

It’s been about almost a decade since English punk Frank Tuner walked away from life in a hardcore band and swapped out the distorted guitars for an acoustic one.

In that time he’s turned in an impressive collection of albums, packed Wembley Arena, served as opening act for the London Olympics, and managed to help define the punk rock singer/songwriter genre. He’s known best for his injection of wit and humility into songs about growing up, growing old and politics, and even with an acoustic guitar, you still can’t hide the punk kid inside. Need proof? Listen to “Thatcher Fucked the Kids”—which, in light of The Iron Lady’s demise this week, seems uncanny in its anti-revisionist timeliness.

On the eve of releasing his latest album, Tape Deck Heart (due April 23), and first for Interscope Records, Turner spoke briefly about the label change, playing the opening ceremonies at the London Olympics and future plans with his hardcore side project Möngöl Hörd.(Below, check out “Recovery” from the new record.)

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First off, congrats on signing with Interscope. How did that come about?

In basic terms, they asked, (laughs). The opportunity was there for me to think about working with a different label in the USA, and Interscope seemed like the best place for me. They’re a great label.

When I last interviewed you England Keep My Bones was just coming out and you were going on your first tour with a full band. Has that changed the way you play at all having that full sound?

Well, it alters the live show, sure – actually I’ve been touring with a full band since 2007, on and off. It’s a bigger sound for the live show; it’s very much where my head is at right now musically. The line-up of the band is set. The Sleeping Souls are my guys.

You also played Wembley since we last talked. What was that experience like?

It was amazing, everything went to plan! It was a show that my team and I worked on very hard for a long time. It was also something of a risk – I wasn’t at all sure that I’d sell all the tickets, or that the music I make would work in that kind of live context. In the event it all went swimmingly.

Had you had a chance to meet Billy Bragg before asking him to play that show with you?

Yeah I’ve known Billy and played with him for a few years now. Great guy.

You also had the opportunity to play before the Olympics. Are you surprised by how many people can relate to your songs?

Yes, pleasantly so. The Olympics thing was pretty surreal. I mean, it was an amazing opportunity and a unique experience for sure, but it was certainly outside my comfort zone.

What can you tell me about the new album?

I’m very pleased with it; I think it’s a step up for me, musically and lyrically. The music is a little bigger, warmer, than before. Lyrically it’s a very raw, personal record.

What are your U.S. tour plans?

I’ll be in the USA a whole lot this year and next, (laughs). The Interscope team have big plans for my diary.

Do you have plans to do more with your side project Möngöl Hörd? Release an album maybe?

Yeah I definitely want to get a record together and a tour sometime. It’s a lot of fun, but the problem is that it’s not a main priority for me right now. It definitely has to sit back a bit while we work on Tape Deck Heart.

***

John B. Moorecan be found at : Blurt/New Music Magazine/InSite Atlanta Magazine (Music Editor)/Innocent Words/NeuFutur Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at his handle @Jbmoore00

Small Brown Bike: Interview by Blurt Blogger John B. Moore

Small Brown Bike

Our man in the moshpit checks in with his latest column on all things punk, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP / JOHN B. MOORE

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Small Brown Bike

By John B. Moore

You can’t say the guys in Michigan post-hardcore band Small Brown Bike aren’t doing their part to keep hope alive.

Comprising brothers Mike and Ben Reed, guitarist Travis Dopp and drummer Dan Jaquint, one of the best kept-secrets in punk rock called it quits in 2004 after playing together for more than a decade. They resurfaced for a handful of reunion shows in 2007 and decided to give it another shot with 2011’s Fell & Found.

While the band is not officially broken up now, they are all involved in a number of different projects and spread out across the country. The prospect for a new studio album from Small Brown Bike may be remote – at least for now – but the band is putting out a double LP retrospective on May 28 on Dopp’s own Old Point Light Records. Recollected is crammed with 17 demos, limited releases, covers, unreleased and alternate songs.

Dopp was kind enough to take a few minutes recently to talk about this new album, digging through old demos and the future of the band.

When did you start putting together the Recollected collection?

We started to talk about it after we finished The River Bed. We had an extra song from that record, that got us talking about how many songs/demos were never shared or were only put out on a very limited tape releases (40 copies… maybe). And when I decided to start up Old Point Light -my production company – I wanted to take on Recollected. Almost a year later and here we are. Putting out something that documents Small Brown Bike’s first 15 years as a band.

Did you come across any songs you had completely forgotten about or didn’t remember working on?

Yeah, there were some demos that I totally forgot about. It was more interesting how we arranged those demos and what they eventually became. Mostly the Dead Reckoning demos were very different from the album. The thing that weirded me out the most is when Dan mixed all of the songs – some of the jams I had no idea what it was, cause I’ve never heard the bass sound that way… or never heard them that clear.

Do you plan to do any shows around the release of this album?

As of right now, we don’t. We’re all so busy with our new projects, families, lives and we don’t live near each other. We talked about trying to do something. We’d hate to do something half assed so as of right now, no shows are planned for the release. But for Recollected I’m gonna be running some shows on the Old Point Light website called “The $3 Ticket Show”. This will be old shows that we’ve never shared. Right now I’m working on audio for it… it’ll be in the near future.

I last talked to you guys before the Harvest of Hope show a couple years ago and you were about to go into the studio to record Fell & Found. Have you been working on any new songs together since that album came out?

Unfortunately we haven’t. Mike (Reed) and Dan recorded an album for their new project The Fencemen. I’ve been recording a new record for my new thing Travis John and Dan also recorded another record with his other project White Gold Scorpio. Everyone’s so busy outside of Small Brown Bike.

So after Recollected comes out, what’s next for the band?

Not living in the same area or state makes the writing process or any plans of touring or recording very tough. We’ll be putting out music in our other projects… I feel like we’ll have a chat in the near future and decide what’s next for Small Brown Bike.

Those are all the questions I have. Anything else you want to add?

Recollected will only be available at www.oldpointlight.com. Before May 28th I’ll post the exclusive record stores in the states that will be caring it. Other than that, I’d like to share our appreciation to the friends and fans for sticking around and showing interest. Thank you always.

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John B. Moore can be found at : Blurt/New Music Magazine/InSite Atlanta Magazine (Music Editor)/Innocent Words/NeuFutur Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at his handle @Jbmoore00