Hey Patrick, how’s the tour going?
It’s been a great tour, probably the most enjoyable on of England yet. We’ve had some bigger audiences than we’re generally used to over here and we’ve had the hospitality from a lot of nice people that have invited us over to their houses afterwards. We’ve made a ton of nice friends. So yeah, it’s been really nice… apart from the cold. This has also being the coldest tour we’ve ever done.
Even colder than back in the US?
Dude, it’s cold. I think it’s colder. I don’t even remember any other weather.
You mentioned sleeping on people’s floors, how’s that been going?
It’s nice. Most of the time we end up staying up till some obscene hour, talking, laughing and learning about English culture. I’ve learned the most valuable lesson though is that people are all the same wherever you go … all assholes.. . JOKE.
You sound like a really positive guy Patrick, but your lyrics are sometimes really bleak.
Well you know, if I didn’t have the outlet for the bleakness, how could I maintain positivity?
So it’s some sort of catharsis then?
Well I dunno. There are good days and bad, as with anyone. Walt Whitman says that “contain multitudes” right? So you can try and find good in the world even though you know there’s great evil. You’ve got to try and take the bad with the good. Though the bad is usually worse than the good is good. Also, how could I not be feeling up right now when the seminal UK punk band Television Personalities are supporting us?
How did that come about?
Well I would never have thought of it. In my mind they should be headlining stadiums. But Texas Bob, their guitar player, friended me on facebook and asked if they could support at our London show. It’s really happening, it’s surreal. It was kinda fortunate cos we were meant to be doing this tour with Let’s Wrestle, but they had to pull out.
How about Mazes, do you know them at all?
Yeah, they were supposed to support us in Manchester but they pulled out as well! We actually met their singer the first time we played in Manchester 2 years ago, and he gave us their cassette and we’ve treasured it ever since. Sadly, they couldn’t make it, for one reason or another.
You’ve got them here at least?
THEY’RE PLAYING TONIGHT?! Oh shit. That’s great news. Wow, what a great show. Sweet.
Sure. Can we just talk about your latest record, The Monitor. What’s the back-story to it?
Well it’s about the theme of disunion and organisations, communities and relationships that are supposed to have a certain amount of solidarity but actually don’t. We just end up pitting one against another. It all just seems to me that it’s just people trying pass the buck for their own happiness or unhappiness, trying to define themselves in relation to one another rather than trying to define yourself, positively. From that, the Civil War is an extended metaphor, seen as that was the largest occurrence of that in American history. The confederacy vs. the Union, that was pretty disharmonious. Though it’s pretty much just a different set of clothes on the set of problems we have today. You know what I’m saying? It’s also about me moving to Boston, which I did a couple of years ago, but then having to move back. It’s about all these things and more.
What sort of musical influences did you have whilst making the record?
Well, The Television Personalities, you know. Big Country was another big one. They’re a Scottish band from the 80s. We listened to a lot of Trail Of Dead and Fucked Up in the studio.
But you seem to get lumped into a lot of indie-type stuff on sites like Pitchfork. Do you feel like you identify with any of that really?
Well I identify with plenty of it, and listen to it, but nobody likes being put in a box. It’s cool though. I guess we’re an indie rock band, to the extent that there is such a thing.
How about on the tour, what do you think of the bands that are supporting you?
There’s been some awesome bands. In Bristol we had Bravo Brave Bats, they were really an awesome band. They kinda sounded like McClucsky or something. The other night in Newcastle we played with this band called Oh Messy Life, they were really great too. They kinda sounded like The Mekons or Neutral Milk Hotel, but more 90s alt rock or something.
How about in the US?
Well we just did a tour with Free Energy and we really liked those guys. You should also check out a band called Spider Bags, they’re pretty much the best American band. There’s also this great Baltimore band called Double Dagger. They’re a cool 3 piece punk band. Also check out my man Andrew Cedermark who used to play guitar in Titus Andronicus. He just put out his own record that’s really awesome. Me, Andrew and Martin from Real Estate used to be in a band called Library of Congress at college, but at the end of first year they both transferred to other colleges. Thusly, Titus Andronicus was born.
Talking of sleeping on floors, you seem to be quite into the DIY ethos as a band. Is that true?
Yeah, sure. I mean, we have to be reluctant to say yes, because there are a lot of things we don’t do ourselves, and there are lots of bands that are more DIY than we are. However it is important for us to break the fourth wall a little bit and demonstrate that we’re regular folks, who just happen to be in a band. We did one tour over here where we just stayed in hotels cos we were scared. It was just really depressing, everyday just felt the same. It was just too sterile and inhuman. And you know we have to keep the overhead down cos it’s expensive to come over here. We can barely afford the plane tickets let alone the hotels without going into debt. I will say that these English are notoriously cheap with their fees… Like really stingy motherfuckers most of the time. Compared to mainland Europe, you guys are real tightwads… FYI. But it’s cool, it’s just funny money. I reckon we might just break even on this tour for the first time.
What’s the plan for after the tour finishes, what are you up to then?
Not really any real plans. We won’t be going out on the road again till springtime. Probably just rehearse and learn some new songs, hang out and kinda take it easy. Mostly just refamiliarise ourselves with our civilian lives, spend time with loved ones, sleep in, eat food that’s not from a gas station.
You’re missing Thanksgiving today.
Yeah, that’s true. I’ve still got a lot to be thankful for though, like the Television Personalities! Definitely better than a turkey.
We were wondering whether the band has any sort of philosophy? You’ve mentioned about the positive/negative balance and you’ve referenced writers such as Albert Camus in songs.
Yes, we are a punk band. Sure, we’ve got plenty of philosophies, but I guess the big one is that life in an absurd universe causes people to be mean, and people being mean makes me sad.
We were looking at [guitarist] Amy’s blog the other day and saw that she used to be in Riot Grrl bands. Do you guys still stand for those causes?
Sure, she’s still a feminist, I hope she never gives up. Caring about people, that’s all that is. Just treating people decently, that’s the only ideology worth its salt. Just treat them like how you’d like to be treated. I mean it’s an old line but it’s still the truth. Old and cliché as it is, we humans still haven’t figured out how to implement it on any useful scale. But hey, what are you gonna do?
What are your feelings about US politics in general?
I don’t concern myself with that stuff. They’re all a bunch of liars and swindlers what ever side of the stupid aisle they’re on. I’m much more concerned with the stuff that’s going on on the ground. People that I can relate to, from one human to another. That’s where I think where people can do the most good.
Sure. In the UK at the moment many people have become disillusioned over the Liberal Democrats [Explains tuition fees and university story]. A group of students at our university UCL, have occupied one of the main rooms in protest. Do you have any messages for them?
I’m always happy to see the kids getting excited, but it sucks that it’s about money. There are a lot more important things in this world than money. It’s a good start though. I dunno, money… fuck it, but I like that they’re excited and standing up for themselves. It is bad that they’re trying to take all your money, that does suck. If it was about something other than money, I could be a little more excited, but I’m still pretty excited. Usually in America, you couldn’t get students to protest fucking anything, unless you took their Twitter away. It’s sad, but that’s the world in which we live in; ain’t that right boys? I say good luck to those students and get what they’re after, remember how good it felt to stand up for themselves and maybe they can continue to stand up for what they believe in in the future. Hopefully they won’t just get their money back and go on to being fat and lazy like the people who used to protest all the time in America. We’ll see. It’s not for me to judge even though I just did.
Finally, on a lighter note, I saw you had a little funny video about Kanye West on your blog. Did you guys make that yourselves?
Oh, thank you. Yeah, me and Eric, the drummer made that. We were just staying up one night thinking about Kanye and we just hopped on the computer in a couple hours. We all really like the new record and have been listening to it a lot. He’s funny, and always keeping things interesting. He believes in himself, a lot, which is a rare thing. He dares to be great. It’s always nice to see.
Thanks Patrick, good luck with the gig.
Edwin Shaw & Dasal Abayaratne