We Are The Union Interview

23 01 2010

“Anyway, they are terrific and I’m really looking forward to both talking to them and to seeing them live for the first time on Saturday. The interview will be posted shortly after it’s conducted.”

Yea, that was  what I said on the 28th of October, but nonetheless I successfully put off transcribing this interview until this past week.  I’m getting back into the swing of things at school and figured this would be  a good thing to kick off the semester with.  Just for a recap, I did this interview while I was in Gainesville for the FEST, in the alley behind the Venue in Gainesville actually, and played it on the show the following week.  It’s an interview with the entire band, consisting of Reed (Guitar and Lead Vocals), Brandon (Bass), Matt (Trombone and Vocals), Jim (Drums), and Ricky (Guitar).  So here it finally is, in print form, after the jump.  Enjoy.

I want to firstly talk about the FEST, because you’re here but as fans as well.  I know you’re going to see Rehasher next, but who else are you excited to check out?

Jim:  Flatliners.  I love that band dude.

Reed:  I got to see, last night, Strike Anywhere for the first time.  I’d never seen them before and I almost lost it. And before we go any further, can we swear on your radio show?


Reed:  Ok, fuck yea.  Because I swear a lot and it’s gonna be a problem.

Matt:  He could just censor it dude

Reed:  No I didn’t mean, like, ‘Interview’s over!’ I just mean like, I’m gonna have trouble.

Jim:  Radio edit.

Matt:  I want to see Samiam; bands that normally don’t come anywhere near Detroit.  Just want to see bands that don’t tour that often, like I’ve never seen Dillinger Four

Reed:  Yea I think everyone in the band is stoked to see Dillinger Four.  I don’t want to speak for anybody

Brandon:  Yea that’s the only other band really besides Rehasher

Matt:  Wilhelm.  Last night we watched Wilhelm and they’re always fucking amazing.  Less Than Jake is always fun to watch.  I’m trying to think of who else is playing.

That’s good.  So you guys are pretty much one of the only bands with a horn section playing this thing, right?  I mean other than Less Than Jake.

Reed:  Less Than Jake and Snuff.

Jim:  Snuff has a trombone player, and it sucks because we’re up against them.

Matt:  It’s kind of weird being the only other vaguely ska-punk band…

Reed:  Well there’s Bomb but they don’t have horns

Matt:  Yea.  But we’re one of the few bands out of the sub-genre that used to be, you know, everywhere.  I mean, there’s still bands that do it, but in general, bands that used to get way more respect from the punk community at large.  And now it feels like there’s not as much.

Reed: Like we’re outcasts.

Matt:  We’re like that weird band.  We still all love punk rock and we still all listen to fast melodic punk, like the majority of the bands playing here we listen to them and it’s evident in our music.  But it’s still like this weird stigmata carried over from Reel Big Fish, or like it’s automatically super-weird.  It’s weird because I feel like there’s a lot of kids who are stoked on it, but there’s still a lot of bands that are wierded out.

Reed:  Even at some places, we play places all the time where we’ll play a show with local like scene-type bands.  Like, I don’t know, I don’t even know how to describe them…

Like A Skylit Drive?

Reed:  Yea like that kind of rock right now, or metalcore.  To pull a specific example, we played with a band called Dr. Acula in Panama City, and kids, after we played, they didn’t even know that ska existed.  They were like ‘What the fuck is your band doing?’  They were stoked and going crazy, and we had an awesome reaction, but they literally had no idea what we were.  They had no idea ska was a genre.   It was a metal show, you know?

Matt:  The cool part, at least, or the upside is that it’s been so long since ska was popular that now there’s a whole new wave of kids – like kids have no idea.  It’s just trying to convince them.  The hard part is trying to convince them.

Jim:  We can also get older guys who think our band sounds like what they used to listen to, or a mix of what they listen to now.

Matt:  Yea the hard part is trying to convince the old fuckers that our band is worth paying attention to because there’s not that many ska parts in the songs, they’re not goofy songs, it’s not trite subject matter.  They’re all pretty serious punk rock songs.  That’s the biggest thing I feel like, being on our side of the fence is a huge step in getting some people to pay attention and go ‘Hey maybe we should not write off this genre completely.’ I mean there are other bands, a couple other bands that are playing here, like Less Than Jake gets love from everybody. The Flatliners are kind of a ska-influenced band and I feel like they have about as much ska in their band as we have in ours.  So it’s kind of just a matter of not getting discouraged.  About the fact that, you know, we all listened to Less Than Jake instead of – I don’t know – that’s like the first bands I started listening in punk rock, like ska-punk bands.

Reed:  Primarily like the Bosstones, Glowskulls…

Matt:  Yea, that was the way, at least for Reed and I, because we grew up in a town where there was a huge ska scene and not a lot of punk music because we’re from the Midwest, it’s like five years behind everything.  Like everyone from the East Coast was already over it, and we were still listening like ‘God this is the best thing ever.’  So we kind of came into punk rock from that angle so that’s why that’s still a part of our music that we’re interested in.  And of course, at this point we all have the same appreciation for punk rock in general as someone from the East Coast who started a band like Lifetime as a kid instead of a band like Mustard Plug.

Jim:  But there’s a lot of influences though.  Like Ricky and I grew up listening to a lot of metal, so that just brings in a whole new aspect to it.  You don’t think of a ska band with heavy riffs.

Yea, you guys have some great breakdowns in the middle of songs that you wouldn’t see in a lot of ska bands.

Jim:  So there’s a lot of elements of East Coast punk rock in our music, that’s where the most, you know like street punk and stuff like that, that’s the thing that…

Reed:  Fast and melodic.

Matt:  Yea, like that’s the thing that I think our band does that makes it different than third-wave ska-punk bands, and I think that’s the thing that maybe will end up enduring us to all these people that are here at the FEST that maybe don’t have a clue who we are.  I’m pretty confident that what we’re doing as far as the genre is not something that anybody has really done too much before.  Maybe because it’s a bad idea, but [laughs]

Reed:  The new stuff is even further in that direction.  The new record is even more of a melodic punk record than before.  I think there’s like – off the top of my head – I’m thinking three songs that have ska parts, and the rest is like melodic punk.  I mean the horns are still very much there, it’s not like we’re removing the horns from the equation so much as we’re just removing the cheesy ska upstrokes, or dance beat.

Matt:  It’s like mid-period Less Than Jake where they just played pop-punk songs that had horns.

Like Borders & Boundaries?

Matt:  Yea, kind of like that, just way faster.  The whole point of our band, from the beginning almost, was like we like Less Than Jake but we like Rehasher more.

Reed:  Yea, like when people ask what our band sounds like, the joke I always make is that we sound like Rehasher with horns, which is there because people always argue that they sound similar to Less Than Jake

Matt:  We were getting pigeonholed for a while as Set Your Goals with horns, and we were just kind of like…

Reed:  ‘Uh, have you not heard Rehasher?’

Matt:  That was just weird because it’s weird to get lumped into that stuff because that was a cheap trend.  It’s still kind of a trend, that like pop-punk hardcore scene.

Reed:  Like Four Year Strong or A Day To Remember

Matt:  Yea, yea.

Reed:  There was a review of our EP that called us “Less Than Jake through a Four Year Strong filter,” and it literally made me want to vomit.  Not that I have anything wrong with those bands, but that’s so far from what we’re trying to do.

Jim: I don’t have a double-kick pedal.

Matt:  I mean we listen to music like that, sure.

Reed:  And we like Four Year Strong a lot.

Matt:  We love those bands, but that’s not the reason our band exists.  I feel like the elements of our music that you would compare to bands like that come way more from a punk rock place, like Rehasher or Dillinger Four or Lifetime or more melodic punk bands; underground music that’s just fucking fast.  It’s weird because of you’re playing fast, major key music with a melodic vocalist – it’s like literally if you have some guy singing in your band, then your band is a pop-punk band.  But if you have some guy who sounds like his throat got fucked by a dinosaur or something then it’s like ‘Oh you’re a melodic punk band.’  It’s just weird that a slight difference can put you into a completely different category.  Like people will totally back Strike Anywhere – and not that I’m saying anything for or against these bands – but with Strike Anywhere, if you had some fucking guy with a dumb haircut singing over that instead of having the kind of aggressive punk vocals that Thomas has, I feel like a lot of people today would pigeonhole that into the same kind of thing as Set Your Goals or whatever; it’s so much the same shit.

Reed:  Yea it’s wierd

Matt:  Yea.  I mean they have so much time trying to put things in boxes, and try and categorize stuff like ‘this is punk because of this, and this stuff is not punk because of this’ even though it’s literally the same fucking thing, and that’s kind of where we got, when our band started, that’s kind of where we got caught up in.  Like ‘this band is riding that fucking like Set Your Goals mixed with some other weird gimmick.’  I don’t know, I feel like we – that was never our intent – I think we’re in it for a lot longer terms than fucking trying to ride out some stupid fad like that.  It’s not like the first time we ever heard a fast band was when the fucking Set Your Goals record came out, and I don’t think we’re gonna stop playing fast when fast music isn’t cool.  Because I don’t know if it even is cool; I think it’s still not even cool.

Jim:  Even the new songs they’ve been working on, that are after this new record that we’re going to release, it’s really different from that.  So it’s this natural kind of progression of different – you know, always adding new elements but still sounding like how WATU started.

Brandon:  I mean we’re just a melodic punk band.

Reed:  I think we’re all subconsciously going and sounding more and more aggressive just because we’re trying desperately, well not desperately, but we’re trying very hard to kind of distance ourselves from the gimmicky major-key breakdown shit, because Set Your Goals already did it and they did it way better than we’ll ever do it.  We’re trying to not be one of these bands.

Matt:  It was kind of like – it came out like that and it was almost coincidental, it was like ‘Oh man.’  Like when that Set Your Goals record dropped and then our first record that we did came out and it was like that’s fucking major key punk rock.  And honestly like that Rehasher record, when that came out, was like the biggest thing that made us want to play music like that, and then all of a sudden Set Your Goals happened and it was kind of like a weird… I won’t say we didn’t listen to that record because we did and we liked it and there’s definitely some stuff…

Brandon:  It definitely influenced us

Matt:  It influenced our record a little bit, but it was kind of more like – that was like this whole period where everyone was listening to more punk rock and less ska punk and stuff like that – but it was kind of inadvertent that we got roped into all this stuff and now it’s kind of almost an uphill battle to be like ‘Yo, we are interested in a lot more music than just that fucking trend.’

Reed:  I think our secondary influences, you know other people twist it around and turn it into our primary influence when in reality…

Matt:  I don’t know.  It’s just like, it’s the same thing.  There’s always going to be someone.  It’s the same thing as the having horns thing or being a ska band thing or being a melodic band.  Inevitably somebody that’s gonna be like ‘Oh you’re fucking ripping off this band blah blah blah blah.’  I feel like you literally have to be Less Than Jake to get respect being a band like that.  Like you have to stick around and not fucking listen to people talk shit, and come to the FEST and play the FEST and hang out with dudes and be like, we’re inevitably going to have a harder time than any other band I think to prove to people that we are a legitimate punk band almost.

Reed:  I think the Matt Kurtz One might be on the same level in terms of how seriously people are willing to take him initially, because in reality he’s a very talented musician and his music is definitely awesome but I think he’s kind of in the same boat as us in that people see that and go ‘There’s no way this guy is fucking serious.’ You know what I mean?  Because it is a silly thing to do, to literally play every instrument with one person’s body is a silly thing to think about but he’s a very serious musician.  So I think he might be on the same boat that we are in that respect.

Matt:  But hey, No Doubt is touring, they just got back together.  And pretty soon ska music is going to blow up and we’ll be fucking riding the fourth wave or whatever and living in Hawai’i.

So going off of that, if there was a fourth wave going on right now do you think you’d be more embraced as a ska band?  Just because you guys are so middle of the road you can’t really define one way or the other, you know what I mean?

Matt:  We’ll never abandon the ska, and if we stop having horns then we might as well start a new band.  And that’s always going to be the thing that automatically makes you a ska band in the eyes of everybody.

Jim:  Even without listening to your band, you know it’s a ska band.

Matt:  We’re inevitably, like if it ever becomes popular I’m sure it will help.  I don’t know if we’ll ever like, because I feel like inevitably whenever that becomes popular in a mainstream sort of way, it’s not going to be fucking bands with trombones playing retardedly fast.  So it’s not like we’ll ever start making shit tons of money doing this even if ska becomes popular.  I’m sure it would help, but do I think we’re ever going to be the pioneers of anything, or be like the flagship band of a new fucking wave of that music? Probably not.  Because it’s gonna be like dudes with haircuts playing ska music on MTV or whatever.

Yea you guys don’t have swoops.

Matt:  No, right.  And we’ll wear like wrestling jerseys on stage.

Reed:  The day that there’s a ska band with swoop haircuts, I quit music. I quit.  The day that that band becomes popular and successful I fucking quit. And I’m taking them down with me.

Matt:  It’s just like, you know it might help, if it ever happens again, if it ever reaches the level of popularity like it was in the 90s, I’m sure it will increase the attendance at our shows, but will it change anything drastically for us?  Probably not.  Because we’re still like going to keep playing music that’s punk influenced and therefore most people aren’t going to get, because that’s what punk rock is kind of about I guess.  It’s playing music that most people don’t get because most people are stupid. That’s like the attitude though, I think, right?  Am I wrong?

No, I mean…

Matt:  It’s like embracing the fact that most people think your band is unlistenable.  Like that fact makes you good.  Like if people don’t get it that means that you are awesome, and if they get it, it means you’re a sellout, so I hope nobody ever gets it.

So then there is a new record coming out?  Soon?  Is there a set date yet or is it kind of just coming?

Reed:  There’s no date yet.  We are just trying to finalize some stuff and then we’re gonna set a date.  And it’s looking like it’s going to be late January or early February.  It’ll be like late winter, early spring 2010.

Jim:  It’s been done for a while.  But we’re just waiting for stuff to kind of fall into place, basically.

Matt:  We’re just trying to maximize the number of records we can put out.  We’re just trying to make back the retarded amount of money that we spent recording it.  Relative to…

Reed:  Vinny [Fiorello, owner of their label, Paper + Palstik –ed.] spent way more money on this record than I think we ever would have been able to dream of.

Matt:  I don’t know if we should necessarily be talking about how much it cost on the radio, but suffice to say we’re trying to maximize…

Reed:  Compared to our budget…

Matt:  Here we go.  Cut that whole thing.  We’re trying to maximize the exposure of the record, so we are waiting for an opportunity.

Jim:  Yea we’re in the process of booking tours, you know like a release tour for it.

Reed:  Basically as soon as we know what our touring schedule is going to be at the beginning of next year that’s when we’re going to try and set a date to coincide with whatever the highest exposure tour we can get is.

And it will be on Paper + Plastik then?

Reed:  Yes, 100%.  We’re stoked on it, the art is out of control.  Derek Deal [Florida-based graphic artist who does a lot of Paper + Pastik work –ed.] fucking destroyed the artwork, it’s awesome.  He’s the best and I think we’re all really stoked with it. He did an awesome job.  Way better than I, at least personally, was expecting.

Matt:  Yea it definitely turned out really good and for a band that in the past, or even recently, has not always had the resources to outsource stuff like that.  I mean, there’s a reason that we’re all in a band playing music and not painting shit and it’s because we’re better at music than we are at graphic design so it’s nice to have non-Photoshop covers.  It’s nice to have a label with the resources and a label owner with connections to set that shit up so we can get someone to contribute something actually artistic and interesting to the visual side of it.  Because at this point you really have to work hard on the whole experience of getting a record and the packaging and the artwork to get people to be interested in buying it because people don’t really buy music that much anymore.  And obviously it’s not like that’s the primary concern, but it’s sweet to be able to put something together like that adds a lot to the visual aspect of it as well as the musical aspect and one that compliments each other.

Reed:  Yea there’s actually separate art for the LP and the CD, that’s like part of the same piece, but it’s like two additional panels basically, that aren’t a part of the actual LP itself.  So it’s kind of cool; the CD is a continuation of the LP art.  It really all came together very awesomely, and Derek Deal is the fucking man.

Matt:  And he was very nice about everything.  We had this really ridiculous idea for the packaging – well, it wasn’t super ridiculous.  It’s not that ridiculous but for some reason it was fucking really hard to explain.  So we had to make a mock-up and take pictures of it and all through the process we had to say ‘No, we need you to put this panel and rotate this shit around and blah blah blah.’

Reed:  He was a super good sport about it though.

Matt:  Yea.  And the amount of times we had to call him and be like ‘Oh, no, wait, that’s kind of wrong,’ and he’d say ‘No actually I think it’s right.’  And then we’d have these, not disagreements, but we’d have to figure out what the hell each of us were talking about.  So for him to bear with us, and take the time to do all this stuff, and send us revisions and drop what he was doing and do another revision, he did a fucking real great job and he’s done a lot of great work for bands on that label.  One of the cool things about Paper + Plastik is it’s more than just the music, too – it’s about the art.  It’s about actually holding an album in your hands and being like ‘Whoa, this looks fucking awesome.’  All the cool art that’s been done for the records and stuff, and the focus on vinyl because it’s a collectable format, and the size of the format allows you to have a really detailed, interesting art.  And it’s stuff that I would be interested in putting up on my wall, putting it on display and being like the uniqueness and the interestingness of the fucking art is a really interesting aspect to the whole label.  So that’s all really cool and it’s one the unique things about the label.  It’s something that I really like and it’s something that attracted us to the label.  And on top of that, he’s signed some of the best bands in punk rock and put out releases, like Wilhelm and Shook Ones.

It’s kind of crazy how quickly he’s assembled that label.  It’s really been not that long at all and he’s got everybody in on that.

Jim:  He’s pretty keyed in on the current state of punk.

Matt:  Yea like already established bands, and then up and coming bands like Protagonist, a band here that we’re friends with from South Florida that’s a melodic punk band, they’re signed and they’re fucking awesome.  I’m trying to think, Blacklist Royals, another band we’ve played with recently, they’re a really fucking good band.  Cheap Girls from around where we’re from.  And they’re all different areas of punk rock, and some of them are even various degrees of separation from, you know, like Cheap Girls is closer to a mid-90s alt-rock band than a traditional punk rock band, but they still have that work ethic and that spirit to their music.

Jim:  Everything has the punk rock backbone still.

Matt: Yea, it’s cool that he’s got this really wide variety of bands at different levels in the industry.  And the guy has a lot of knowledge and experience of stuff to help these bands and he’s done a lot to help us in the industry.  Just good advice and stuff like that, so it’s really cool to see him helping out.  And I feel like, at best, I don’t think he’s getting fucking rich doing it, I think he’s doing it because he loves the music and he’s at least making back what he’s spending on it.  But he’s really, you can tell talking to the guy it comes from a place of just really being interested in putting out bands that he fucking likes which is awesome to see in a time when the music industry as a whole is just putting out – the mainstream music industry is putting out complete shit.

Well that’s good because when he left Fueled By Ramen that’s why.  Well I guess that’s it because I’m excited to see Rehasher as well.  So thanks, and let’s go.

At that time we went around the corner and watched Rehasher until they left for their load in at their stage.  There still is no release date for the record, and they are only playing select shows at the moment.




One response

25 03 2010
We Are The Union Record Update « WMUC's Entirely Smooth

[…]  For that interview, complete with a discussion of the album’s sound and artwork, go here.  As for the record itself, you can pre-order it on sites like Interpunk, but I would […]

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