Interview :: French Exit

So, before I said that these dudes were super nice guys, and I really mean it. I didn’t just get an generic press release and an album download. Nope, I got some emails and a chance to ask the band a few questions about punk rock, their writing process, and of course, themselves.

Enjoy!

First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start off with introductions, who are you guys and what is your role in the band?
Anthony – Guitar/Vocals, Bobb – Guitar/Vocals, Duke – Drums, Tim, Bass/Vocals

How long have you been together?
This past November makes it four years.

Why make music with these people?
The strengths and weakness we have balance each other out. And we have become really good friends, and everything is more enjoyable when you do it with friends, right?

Why are you doing this whole playing music thing, why punk rock?
It is very fulfilling to express one’s self creatively. Music, like all art, can help you process and deal with good and bad parts of your life; punk rock showed us how to do that on an individual level and what introduced us to each other.

As a writer, I am always curious about a band’s writing process. The lyrics on Guts & Black Stuff are poignant and identifiable and real. I really connected with them immediately. They are very cohesive moments of strength within heartbreak.  Is there a primary song writer or lyricist? Is it a collaborative effort?
Tim and Bobb are the primary songwriters and anthony writes a lot of lyrics – sometimes numerous verses that go unused – and whoever’s singing will edit everything that exists into something cohesive that also sings well.

Speaking of poignancy, how does your song writing process work? The lyrics and the music really play off one another to make the other more powerful. Does one element usually come before the other?
The music comes before the lyrics. Most of the time the song is presented to the band with the basic structure, chords, and melody, in place. Then together it is added to tweaked, and adjusted as needed. Some songs have lyrical themes already attached to them when Bobb or Tim introduces them. Sometimes it is a whole chorus, sometimes a line or a repeated word. Most of the time the lyrics will be written by one person, and then edited by who is singing to fit their phrasing or personal idea preference.

Throughout Guts & Black stuff you play with a lot of different sounds and elements of different punk genre, sub-genres, or closely related genres. There are elements of metal, punk, rock, indie, emo all combined in really interesting ways. First, are you influenced by a wide variety of bands and styles? And was the varied sound something you consciously explored or was it something that manifested itself naturally?
The spectrum of music we listen to is very wide. And that influences us all in different ways. The sound is a healthy mixture conscious decisions, natural expression and four people writing together.

Was Guts & Black Stuff conceived to have a distinct flow and order or was it simply as a collection of songs?
Some of the songs on the record or much older than others. But we knew that they fit together in a certain way. There was about a week of us exchanging multiple ideas on the order and then we got together one night at Tim’s house and listened to a few different orders till we found the right one. We wanted the whole album to flow. And if you listen to it on vinyl, each side of the record has a flow as well.

Do you have a favorite track on Guts & Black Stuff? (And if you do, why is it your favorite?)
Can’t Win. Don’t Try. is one of our favorites to play live lately.

And for the fun questions….

Dream line up for a show that you are playing?
Anthony – 
with a time machine: the Guns N Roses / Metallica show in Montreal in 92 that turned into a riot after James Hetfield got burned and Axl left the stage mid set, because that would be crazy. Or Hot Water Music, Jets to Brazil and our friends Horror Squad.

As a fan, what is the best show you have been to?
Tim
 – years ago it was The Gadjits, at the empty bottle in Chicago. I just saw Todd Hembrook and the hemispheres over Christmas and that was the best show I went to all 2013. I’ll never forget seeing Prince.

First album/tape/cd you ever owned?
Bobb 
 – the Space Jam soundtrack
Tim – first 7″ was Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, first tape was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack, first cd was Bush’s Sixteen Stone.

Worst job you ever had?
Tim
 – customer service in men’s clothing at a department store. I’ve waited tables and painted houses and that was the worst thing ever.
Anthony – I worked at Papa John’s for 3 days.

Describe the band in 5 words.
Bobb
 – rocking and fucking rolling. yeah.
Tim – we love playing together. cats.

Album Review :: Bike Tuff :: Into Shore

Bike Tuff :: Into Shore

I know, I know, I am a bit behind the curve on this one. Into Shore, Bike Tuff’s debut full length has been out for a few months and it is pretty damned awesome. It is an album about music and having a good time making it. I don’t know how many of you go to the links in these reviews, so I am going to shove Bike Tuff’s bio in here, because it tells you everything that will make you love the band before you even hear the record.  “Hailing from the ‘farm belt’ that rolls across Southern Michigan, we don’t have an elaborate agenda for Bike Tuff. We have beards because we can’t always afford razors, we play fast because half the dudes are from Jersey, and we love playing in basements because there’s no stage for us to fall off of.”

Into Shore is a punk rock record that manipulates elements of pop punk, indie, and emo, constantly bringing together contradictory elements to create a style of music that is pretty striking. One track can go from hard fast punk rock to a melodic sing along or a slow emo track that gains intensity and passion or the tracks where the music is heavy but the vocals are slow and delicate.

I could talk about each track because they each have their own style and personality. Oak Street Market is a super catchy pop punk / indie hybrid that is over flowing with energy. This Canada House Is Not a Home has a great voice – a bit strained and a bit snotty and the music is fast and aggressive, this is the most classic punk sounding track track. Black Book is a slow emo track with powerful music behind it. Baby, You’re an Anarchist is a pop punk track that progresses into one huge sing along. The Matlock Expressway is fast, a bit thrashy, and a bit strained.  Los Plantanos has great heavy music with the greatest layered vocal seconds that you will be singing along to.

The album ends with VincereVel Mori a slow creepy song with heavy music and a hook buried beneath it. You may not notice it before it takes hold of you.

This album is one that gets better with every listen, the more it seeps into you, the more you feel it, the more you understand it on some visceral level.

Interview with Great Cynics

I have written about Great Cynics a few times here on CC2K (check outDon’t Need Much and In The Valleyreviews) and I finally got the opportunity to talk with Giles about the band, the transition from solo project to band, their music, and what is next for them.

Great Cynics started as an acoustic solo project, what prompted you to change direction and start recording with a band?

I was writing songs for an album and kept on thinking “I can hear a drum part fitting in here”. So I asked Bob, who had been in a few bands I’d seen at ska-punk shows when I was 16, if he’d be up for playing drums on a record with me. We practiced and it just felt inspiring and fun so we kept it. When we went to record Don’t Need Much we originally thought we weren’t going to have any bass on it, but Peter Miles insisted on playing bass himself and it sounded good. We left it like that and Iona joined when we started touring. We don’t think too much about it, we just do what feels right.

Is there any difference recording with a band rather than solo?

It’s more inspiring, more fun. You can try different things to make an interesting record, even if it’s a ‘simple’ record. Since recording Don’t Need Much, I’ve got really into Pavement and Pixies. Those bands’ records have so many layers to them and have been an inspiration to the songs we’ve started writing for our second album.

Great Cynics is a name that evokes specific connotations, but your music is more upbeat and catchy than those connotations. What is the reason behind the name?

The name is about overcoming your self-doubts, and doubts of people around you. When I was playing acoustic, I played under the name Cynics. That name came from having an argument with a friend from my old band about the logistics of touring, and thinking “you’re a fucking cynic”. We kept the name when we became a band. But then we had to change it a week before the release of our album due to some kind of copyright issue with The Cynics, the psychedelic rockers from Pennsylvania.

I read that all the songs on In The Valley have been recorded acoustically when you were still a solo artist. Have those acoustic songs changed personality at all once they were recorded by a full band?

Our plan was to do exactly not that. We kept the tracking as simple as we good, recording the backline live and not layering on more vocals than needed. It was something we thought about, because when you have three instruments you have to think about their dynamics which I never did when I was playing on my own. We didn’t change any of the structures or lyrics, we just kept it as simple as those songs originally were.

Are you the sole songwriter in the group?

I write the guitar parts and rhythms, and Bob and Iona do their own thing. I write the lyrics too. It would be weird for a solo acoustic person to become a band and not keep the same lyrics; the lyrics that were personal to the one person who it was before. It seems to work.

I adore the lyrics “45s that play like 33s” it is so quaint that it instantly made me feel nostalgic for my local shows in high school. Is that feeling of the importance of music and the culture that surrounds it something that is important for you to convey in your lyrics?

I think I write about the things that excite me. Growing up and getting into punk rock, getting excited about it and wanting to be involved is the kind of stuff that gives me a buzz. That’s one I can’t control.

Are you guys record nerds? I’ve noticed that both Don’t Need Much and In The Valley have been released on limited first pressing colored vinyl. Is that something that you guys are into or is that the decision of the record company?

Getting our records pressed on vinyl was something we just assumed we would. Records are more interesting than CDs, and now that high street shops are selling record players it makes sense to buy records rather than CDs. We’re so lucky that we have this relationship with Lisa at Kind Of Like Records, because we get excited about the same stuff. Records and variations of them is most definitely one of those things.

The listener can hear the progression from Don’t Need Much to In The Valley in terms of your sound as a band, and it feels like they are just the beginning of what Great Cynics is going to record. What is next for the band, are you currently writing any new material or is there a new album in the works?

We’re always writing and talking about what we want this band to be. We’re looking in the direction of album two, which I’m really looking forward to. We had practice today and the songs for the second album dig a little deeper than the ones on Don’t Need Much. I think we may have scratched the surface on that one.

Do you have any plans to tour the U.S.?

It looks like we may be over later on in the year, which is something we’re currently figuring out.

Best show you have played?

The Atlantic, Gainesville at Fest 10

Best show you have been to?

Most recent best show was Lemonheads at Shepherds Bush Empire

Dream line up for a show that you are playing?

Jawbreaker, Jets To Brazil, Forgetters. Do we have to play, or can I just go?

What are you listing to right now?

The new Cheap Girls album, Giant Orange.

What are your guilty pleasure bands?

Motion City Soundtrack, but I’m pretty bad at keeping that a secret.

There are kids discovering punk rock every day, what bands should they be listening to?

The bands that have always excited me most are the local ones. It’s kind of special when you fall in love with bands who are living in and singing about the same city you live in. There’s a connection to be made there. So my advice would be to find something that’s not a world away.