Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt Explains Why Regional Music Scenes Still Matter

Bruce Pavitt
Bruce Pavitt

Sub Pop’s Bruce Pavitt Writes Book, Offers Advice To Bands: “Keep It Fun, You Know?”
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Jan. 22 2015

Bruce Pavitt is best known as a founder of Sub Pop Records — the label that is credited with bringing Nirvana, grunge and the entire “Seattle sound” to the masses more than twenty years ago.

Pavitt’s devotion, skill and connections fed the early days of this regional music movement that eventually led to a sea change in the entire music industry, but Pavitt is more than just a tastemaker; he’s a hard worker. And over the years he’d built a respected brand under the “Subterranean Pop” name– first as a radio show, then a zine and eventually as the name of the record label that he founded with Seattle DJ Jonathan Poneman that would release some of the most groundbreaking music of our time. Over the course of his life, Pavitt has worked nearly every job in the industry. He’s been a radio DJ, a zine publisher, a rock column writer, a record store founder, a club DJ, a record label founder and now an author and music historian.

Pavitt spoke to us from his home on Orcas Island in northwest Washington State, near the Canadian border. He describes the island as part natural paradise (one fourth of which is a state park) but with modern conveniences, like that all-important Seattleite essential: good coffee.

Pavitt’s new book SUB POP USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988, available now from Bazillion Points Publishing is a massive, deep collection of all of his written work — including coverage from his own zine and reproductions of his column for Seattle’s Rocket newspaper in the 1980s.

Just as an index of underground bands alone, the book is invaluable. Here, Pavitt tracks small bands from inception to death, celebrating their tiny triumphs and documenting their disasters. He had an eye on it all, and it shows. His words are often the only proper record of many short-lived but amazing bands.

Bruce Pavitt's new book, SUB POP USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988
Bruce Pavitt’s new book, SUB POP USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988

Read on for the full interview:

Jaime Lees: I was really excited to get your book. And I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks and it’s so great because it’s a book you can never finish reading, because there is so much information in there.

Bruce Pavitt: I’m really glad you think so. That’s awesome.

The book is nice because it’s something that I can pick up ten years from now and find something that I missed the first time through. I really like that in a collection.

Well, thank you. It’s pretty unique in that at the time not a lot of writers were digging in this deep. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that no writer was digging in this deep as far as indie American culture, and I do feel that the book works as kind of the broadest and deepest index of 1980s indie culture out there. I spent eight years writing this stuff and it just kind of sat in a cardboard box for 25 years and I decided to put it back together.

Oh my god, I’m glad that box didn’t get wet or something, you know?

That’s right. [laughs]

Okay, so I’m interviewing you for a St. Louis newspaper and I’ve been there [with the Riverfront Times] for almost a decade, and there are still so many local bands that I want to cover. I could tell how deep your coverage was in the book because I don’t know about most of the bands you’re writing about. So I was like “Oh, the book is not just about the bands that got famous, it’s every local band that was around back then.” Personally, that’s interesting to me because that’s what I do mostly do, too, is write about the non-famous bands.

Cool! Yeah, as you can pick up from the zine, my whole fascination was — I realized that every city had a scene. But that most of those scenes were completely ignored even by everybody at that time in the alternative music media. Which would be like New York Rocker in New York. They might do a quick little scene report from Chicago or somewhere, but for the most part certainly cities like St. Louis, even Seattle, were completely ignored. If you were in New York, you’d have absolutely no idea what was going on in St. Louis or Seattle.

So I figured that by reviewing these indie records, I’d be able to at least tap into the vibe of these different smaller cities. I had access to probably the world’s best library of independent music because I was a DJ at KAOS radio at Olympia, and KAOS was the only station in the country that prioritized independent releases. So every band who put out a single at that time — in the early ’80s most bands put out a single — knew that if they sent it to KAOS that it would probably get played. And that’s how I had access to these resources.

People in New York wouldn’t know what’s going on in St. Louis, but here we’re forced to know about what’s going on in New York because that’s what is in the news.

Absolutely.

So because we have such a sort of unknown but very vibrant scene here, I was like, “Oh, I gotta talk to him about regionalism” because that’s something that really interests me, especially with being from here. It also seems that sometimes here there’s a bit of a drive to keep our music our own.

Yeah.

Which I think is kind of a shame because I think our music is so great. But, like, if I was going to say to friends of mine in a band, “Oh, I asked Bruce Pavitt what he thinks you should do with your band” they’d say, “Well, fuck what he says! We do our own thing!”

[laughs] Yeah, yeah, totally!

Did you have that kind of resistance with your city, too? Because you were the guy who was taking it international — it was sort of in your hands. You did all of these things to get the music out and then it wasn’t local anymore. Did people have a problem with you, specifically, for that?

Some people had a problem with the fact that at a certain point the scene became so hot that, um, yeah it was no longer just friends and family anymore. And the main drive for most of these regional artists is simply to play music and be appreciated, not to make a career out of it. Basically, you’re talking about a network of hobbyists who are simply playing for the fun of it, but [laughs] the Seattle scene became so hot that there was a lot of money that came in and, you know, the culture changed.

There was more competition. Some musicians wound up making a lot of money. There was jealousy. There were people coming in from out of town. So it disrupted the “Hey, let’s just play some music for friends and family” vibe. Talent scouts coming up from LA, and it really did kind of fuck with the vibe of the scene. There was a documentary that came out in the early ’90s called Hype. And that’s the essential premise of that film: that by popularizing Seattle, Jon [Poneman] and I at Sub Pop had kind of destroyed the scene.

So people always have mixed reactions about what happened. But I think on some level a lot of people from Seattle felt a lot of excitement and kind of a sense of pride for what was going on in the city. Having been ignored for decades and then all of a sudden getting the spotlight — people have mixed feelings about that.

The essential premise of the 'Hype' film, spotted two weeks ago at a mall
The essential premise of the ‘Hype’ film, spotted two weeks ago at a mall

Well, you’re from Chicago, so you can probably understand that here there’s sort of an… extra healthy dose of Midwest skepticism for outsiders?

[Laughs] Yes, yes, definitely. Very similar, yeah.

I’m just interested in the potential parallels. You sort of drew the blueprint for what would happen if St. Louis music blew up nationally or internationally.

Yeah, I’ve got to say it’s an interesting story. I’m kind of deviating here, but when I stand back and look at it, this book kind of unveils the unknown story of all of the small, ignored scenes and the small ignored bands that created kind of a tribal network of punk enthusiasts and hobbyists and that network kind of grew over the ’80s and it’s… it’s a pretty fascinating story.

And it sounds weird to say that because it’s kind of my story here. But when I look back and review this book, it just… it’s really kind of almost unbelievable about how you can witness the growth of these small scenes as documented in this book, and then you see this energy kind of coalesce around Seattle and the essential premise of the book was that subterranean pop — underground pop — that any band could be popular if given the opportunity. That’s the essential premise of the book.

So you see all these rich local scenes kind of developing over the ’80s and then Seattle became kind of like the perfect exclamation mark at the end of the premise. Yes, the theory is correct. You know, if a scene gets nurtured and has some support and gets a little attention, then that music can go on to become very popular. Um, I know I’m kind of jumping around here a bit.

No, that totally makes sense because you can shine a light anywhere and find the good stuff there.

You can! And with the right — I would say — nurturing and support, really, any scene can blow up. And I would say in the back of my mind I always kind of thought about Jamaica. How the island of Jamaica and the city of Kingston could create a sound that would effectively influence global music. And it was just a handful of low budget studios in Kingston that created reggae and dub and Marley and affected the world.

So I always kind of had that model in the back of my head, and I would actually look at Washington state almost as an island. Not just Seattle, but Washington state. Because a lot of these bands — Screaming Trees, Nirvana, Melvins — a lot of these bands were coming in from the outlying areas. And I just figured: If they can do it in Jamaica, if they can do it in England — another case in point — then there’s no reason why it couldn’t be done in Washington. And it really came down to sharing information, communication and awareness.

The [Sub Pop] zine was read by just a small handful of other zine writers and musicians, but by the time I moved to Seattle and started writing for the RocketThe Rocket was printed up in editions of 50-60,000 and distributed all over the state. So Kurt Cobain down in Aberdeen would go pick up a Rocket, and in my column he could read about Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth and the Butthole Surfers and Black Flag. And I know my column very much influenced him and influenced different musicians around the state. They got turned on to this underground culture that was just bubbling under the surface. I hope some of that makes sense. I hope you can edit that in a way where there’s a linear story there.

That doesn’t need editing, that makes complete sense. I just think it’s cool that having done all of these things for so many years, what I think must be nice for you is that if it wasn’t your story, that you could look at your book and be interested in a historical perspective, at least, as a music historian.

Definitely. You know, it’s funny because when I first pieced this book together, it was a little difficult because, you know, imagine putting together writings that you created at the very beginning of your career — it’s kind of a mixed bag. Some of my writing, I think my writing got pretty good by the time of the Rocket — but it’s hit and miss. So, you know, to publish everything that you’ve ever written is a little daunting, you know, because the editor in me just wanted to go in and just cut it up and just put in the best pieces. But I knew that I couldn’t really do that because the power of the book is the volume of information. And that’s part of the story there.

So I do — to answer your question — I can completely appreciate this as a history book. And this is a history book that documents a culture that a lot of this information isn’t even available on the Internet. This is a forgotten history. This is a piecing together of a history that in many ways that has been long-forgotten. You know, band from Oklahoma presses 500 singles, three people buy it, band breaks up two weeks later. Well, guess what? They’re still in the index in my book.

Yeah, there’s still a document of it somewhere. So, to me, you’ve done sort of everything in the industry for the most part. When young bands ask you for advice what do you tell them? Because you’ve seen it from all sides.

I definitely have seen it from all sides. I’ve worked radio and clubs and I had a record store — I pretty much did work every facet of the business. And when the label started, I was art direction, getting the records in production and so forth. But really, the core advice to any artist is: Keep it fun, you know? This is really about a celebration of spirit and creativity.

That’s why most of these bands in this book put out records. They weren’t really thinking in terms of career. And I think the mistake a lot of artists make right now is that they analyze their career moves a little too closely. They’ll get a manager and an attorney after a couple of rehearsals. They’ll start contemplating licensing deals. And a lot of that affects the quality of the music. And I feel that a lot of indie music these days completely lacks the spirit of the music of the ’80s that was more punk-influenced. I find a lot of the music from this period more spirited because these bands, their basic goal was to put out a single and maybe do a regional tour. So they had nothing to lose and they put everything that they had into it. And they were willing to take risks and they were willing to look ridiculous because their aims were not commercial. There was no way that they would ever make money doing stuff, so a lot of these recordings, to me, are a lot more spirited. Whereas a lot of the indie culture these days is kinda cerebral, a little more calculated, lacking in spirit. So my advice is really do it for the fun of it and things will flow from there.

A perfect example from that era would be a band like the B-52’s. They started out as a house band playing parties. Then they went up to New York a few times — I was fortunate enough to catch them at Max’s Kansas City in ’78, maybe 30 people in the audience. And at the time, they were just so original. I’d never seen anything like it. They’d just pressed their first single. I think they might’ve done an edition of 2,000 copies, and that was that. But because they were having fun and not necessarily being careerists, they wound up being very successful. People tapped into that risk-taking and that sense of joy that they had because they were just playing for the fun of it.

Yeah, who could guess that they would’ve gone as far as they did based on what they did?

Yeah. They were just having fun.

It seems like a lot of the bands here — and this is just my stupid little observation — some of my favorite bands that don’t go far locally, even, it’s because they don’t go to other people’s shows. And it’s not that they’re being punished for not going to others shows, it’s just that they miss out on that idle bar chat that eventually turns into, “Hey do you want to get on this show with my band?” It seems like the more everyone communicates around here, the easier things flow.

Absolutely. And this is — that’s actually a really good point. And the number one question I get asked all the time is “Now in the Internet era, does regionalism still matter?” Because people can network on the Internet. And I always say, “Absolutely.” There’s no substitute for going to a show, bumping into another musician or maybe a photographer and sharing ideas and developing a bond. And it’s those bonds that are developed through interpersonal connection that really help gel a scene. Internet communities are no substitute to a great local club that’s open to new artists.

We have a few of those here, so we’re really lucky. They really help to feed the community.

Yep. In Seattle a perfect — just to reflect on this, what happened in Seattle — a key factor in the Seattle success was the fact that a local photographer Charles Peterson was obsessed with documenting these live shows and he had a very unique style– you might be familiar with his work?

Of course.

He had a lot of crazy action shots. Anyhow, I came across his photos at a party. I instantly recognized that if I could package the Seattle music with these images and was really consistent about that, then people would be intrigued. There was just no doubt in my mind. And this all happened by going to a party and meeting Charles, and that’s the thing about scenes: One thing leads to another and the next thing you know you have a culture.

Yeah, most of our musicians are artists also. So it’s easy for a musician to work with a photographer or a painter and on and on.

Yeah, one thing leads to the other. Hey, I wanted to mention just in passing that in one of my early zines — I can’t remember which one — but there was a St. Louis band and they were kind of a big deal at the time. I just wanted to drop in their name — that’s a group called Raymilland, named after a B-movie actor.

Ooh, I have that record sitting ten feet away from me.

Pardon me?

A St. Louis label called BDR put out a collection of Raymilland recordings a few years ago and the record is sitting ten feet away from me right now.

Fantastic! Let’s see… that was in the third issue of my zine. There’s a quick little one page interview. I thought they were really good. They were championed by Wax Trax Records in Chicago at that time. In 1980 Wax Trax was kind of the center of the Midwest — that was the hub. Again, there was no Internet, so if you’re a music fan and you were in the Midwest, you’d drive to Chicago and go to Wax Trax records, because that’s where all the records were and all the zines. And then with the zines you could do some research and figure stuff out.

There was a publication in Chicago called Praxis which was very high end, kind of an art magazine, that focused on fashion and art and music and was part of the punk culture. And they included a flexi disc of Raymilland in one of their issues — that’s how I found out about them. You know, just a little history there.

That’s so crazy!

Raymilland was definitely seen as very progressive. A very interesting band. They sounded a little more European [laughs] which is why I think Wax Trax was so excited about them. But I think they’re really good.

I actually saw them play a reunion show in Athens, Georgia, a few years ago.

Really? Oh my god!

Yeah, they played in St. Louis and at Popfest in Athens and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I love the record but it was amazing live.

Cool! That’s great; I never got a chance to see them.

If you want a copy of the record I can send you one.

Great, that would be really awesome.

Raymilland record from BDR Records, St. Louis
Raymilland record from BDR Records, St. Louis

So how do you currently find new bands that you’re interested in?

Well, uh, yeah, through word of mouth. I’m actually hanging out at SoundCloud a bit. I like going to SoundCloud and typing stuff in. Having lived on the west coast here for a while I’ve been more tapped into the west coast festival circuit. There are a lot of underground festivals here; music tends to be a little more DJ-oriented and a lot of that music is available on SoundCloud. So I don’t spend a lot of time in urban clubs — just a little bit. So again, word of mouth and doing research through SoundCloud and, you know, Bandcamp as well.

Could I ask you really quickly before I let you go — what’s your opinion on the latest media assertions about Dave Grohl being overexposed?

Oh, interesting. I haven’t seen that but I just saw Dave Grohl a few days ago. He was in Seattle. I think Dave Grohl… Do I think he’s overexposed? No, no I don’t. I think he’s done an incredibly great job with Sonic Highways — it’s a really good series. I think it was a brilliant marketing move, too, to have like an eight hour infomercial supporting your album.

No doubt.

It was actually over-the-top marketing genius. But, you know, he played it well because he went into these cities and was incredibly respectful of the legacies of these cities. He kind of knocked it out of the park with that. I’m very impressed. He’s pretty much the ambassador of rock these days. And I think that he has really good things to say. And that if anybody is going to go out there and you know, network with the president of the U.S. and talk music that it should be Dave. So I’m a big supporter of Dave Grohl. Personally, I liked him maybe a little more as a drummer in Nirvana than as a singer in the Foo Fighters, but aside from that, I think he has a remarkable gift for bringing people together and that’s a good thing.

Yeah, he’s the ultimate networker.

Yeah, I think so. You don’t need the Internet, just talk to Dave Grohl.

– link: Riverfront Times
– link: Denver Westword

Interview with Kelley Deal of the Breeders (STL)

Interview with Kelley Deal of the Breeders

Kelley Deal, Amy Whited in 2009 looking out over Skatium Rink (photo by Jennifer Hylton)
Kelley Deal, Amy Whited in 2009 looking out over Skatium Rink (photo by Jennifer Hylton)

This one is personal, darlings. As a Breeders fan and a native St. Louisan, I was beyond stoked to learn that the band would be shooting a video in my city with our roller derby team, the Arch Rival Roller Girls.

The event was whispered about for months, but nobody was sure if it would really happen until about a week before the video date. There were no contracts involved, just people getting together to make something cool, completely D.I.Y. style.

So imagine our excitement when it actually happened. Right on time, Kelley Deal arrived in town with video directors Mando Lopez (Breeders bassist) and James Ford. Suddenly, we were superstars. And it was all set up by my friend, Amy Whited.

Whited is a lovable little spaz with a brain that moves lightning fast (and a mouth to match). I’ve known her since I was about 17 years old and she was a cool older sister type who had a band and hosted riotgrrrl concerts in the basement of her ramshackle house.

As far back as I can remember, Whited’s true love had always been music- specifically the Breeders. She’d met the band, seen them play countless times and she has artwork from a Breeders record tattooed prominently on her upper arm. She even adopted two little mixed Dachshund puppies and named them Kim Dog and Kelley Dog.

Whited explains, “They were my most favorite band. I loved the Pixies before them. I was on a mission to meet them cause I saw them in Columbia, Missouri in April 1994, and I was thinking that I must speak to Breeders at Lollapalooza. And they were nice!”

Her dedication all of these years resulted in a spectacular success: arranging for the Breeders to record the bands latest video in St. Louis with her roller derby team and newest obsession, the Arch Rival Roller Girls.

The shoot was scheduled for early on Valentine’s Day and despite the drizzle, the roller girls turned up en masse. During the eight hour video shoot they had to skate pretty much constantly, but they hardly even took breaks. In fact, the rollers seemed to rally near the end of the day.

“We kind of got delirious around hour number six, ” explains Arch Rival Roller Girl Lauren Busiere, “We had to keep skating all day and we were all exhausted. We were completely bonkers. It was like a child’s slumber party in the middle of the day- except Kelley Deal was there. It was really awesome, but completely crazy.”

The spirit of the day was greatly helped along by Deal, who has endless enthusiasm and a contagious smile. She trotted around the rink, sprinkling encouraging words, heartfelt ‘thank you’s and pats on the back wherever needed. Her main role of the day, however, seemed to be to coach the performers with the song lyrics. She wanted the derby players to be the ones singing the song in the video, so she spent much of her time standing behind the camera, holding up a lyric sheet and singing along.

I talked to Kelley yesterday and asked her about Whited, roller derby, the video, her new EP and the Breeders’ future plans. The interview is below.

Jaime Lees

——————————————-

JAIME LEES: Ok, so let me just say, I’ve known Amy Whited for about a million years.

1994-b
Kelley Deal, Amy Whited, Kim Deal in 1994

KELLEY DEAL: Oh, me too. Do you know the story of how we met her?

Yes, but please tell me all of it.

Ok, the Breeders- this was in 1994, the Breeders were on Lollapalooza and we were in Chicago. And my mom and dad had gone to that show ’cause they live in Dayton. So, of course they have all the backstage passes and all that stuff. So we were out walking around and stuff and then we go back to say hi to my mom and dad and they have this, like, 16 or 17 year old little blond-headed girl with them. And they introduced us to her and we were like “Hey, well Hi, how are you?” and my mom is like “This is Amy. She’s joining us back here.”

I guess they started talking to her and they discovered she’d hitchhiked from St. Louis, Missouri to Chicago to go to Lollpalooza. So, of course, my mother and father were just appalled at that idea. So they kind of adopted her that day. So we said hi to her and got her a pass and we hung out back there. And I know before the end of the day my mom and dad gave her money and made her promise to take a bus home back to St. Louis.

Awww.

You know, I never did ask her how she got home. I need to ask her that. Cause if it were me, I’d have spent it on drugs, you know? Wouldn’t you? But, so after that, years would go by. And any time the Breeders went out, any time we were close to St. Louis like Chicago or Cincinnati we’d be like “Hey, there’s Amy!”And eventually we exchanged phone numbers and then when the email came along we exchanged email.

And the last time I saw Amy was back in the summer when the Breeders came to St. Louis and we met up and we were talking to her and her and some of her friends and roller girl friends came on to the tour bus and we hung out there and stuff after the show. And Amy and I were just talking about how cool it would be to do a video with the derby involved in it somehow. Like the Breeders could play in the middle of the rink or something and we both thought it would be a great idea but then we just kind of forgot about it.

So we left and then the Breeders did this Vote Early, Rock Late rally. It wasn’t for Obama but it kind of ended up being for Obama, if you know what I mean. And it was in Cincinnati and we’re hanging out after our show and we’re talking to these girls and one of them had a derby shirt on for the Cincinnati roller derby and I’m like “Oh my god, are you guys in derby, too? Oh, do you know Amy?” Thinking that everybody knows everybody, you know how that is. So then… That was in October and in November, you know, I had my knitting book out.

Yes.

So there’s this thing called the No Coast Craft Fair in Minneapolis in November and they invited me to go out there to do a book signing and to

judge craft contests. It was really fun. There was five teams and it was me and several other judges. And one of the teams was the Minnesota roller girls. And they actually won the contest. But they actually deserved to win. It wasn’t just that I liked roller derby and so they won. (laughs) Yeah, so I was like “What is going on with this derby stuff? This is crazy! Ok, I can take a hint.” And so I called Amy up and I said, “Amy, listen, we’ve gotta do this.” And since then we had a new song we had done. And I was like “That new song, ‘Fate to Fatal’ would be perfect for this.” But then the idea of us all getting together… We were taking a break, the band was taking a break and two of the people live in Los Angeles.

Right.

And Kim and I are in Dayton and I’m like “How are we going to get all of our people down there to do a live show?” And at the same time, I was thinking about how cool it would be if the [roller] girls would do the lip-synching. That’s way more interesting to me, to have them do the lip-synching. So we started thinking, how could that work? Cause there’s not any real narrative to it. It’s not like there’s really a story, and I never really wanted there to be a story, I really just wanted it to be about their derby and how fun it is and how rad it is, you know? And that’s it. I don’t think it needs any story. It’s a fantastic visual. And it’s a great song. So it just worked out perfect.

So how did you decide to do it here [in St. Louis]? Are the Dayton/Cincinnati roller girls pissed?

Good point, good point. At one time, Amy and I were talking and we had talked about all of this a lot. And we’re like, what we could do- I was calling them away games but they’re not they’re called “road derby” or something. And they were going to be going through Detroit and I was like “Well, you guys could come through Dayton, and you could, like, play against the Dayton derby.” And that would have been cool. But the thing is, logistically, where are we gonna set all the girls up? And they’d have to come through here, we’d have to get hotels or find houses for people to stay in- it just made more sense [to film in STL], because there’s so many derby girls there in St. Louis. I mean, there’s the whole league, and it’s not just Amy’s team. And it took me a while to put that together. I was like “Oh, so there’s not just 13 of you rolling around.” “Oh no, there’s tons of us, and we could actually play against ourselves on our teams.” And I’m like, “You know what, Amy, it will just be easier.” And I drove down from Dayton in my car. And then Mando [Lopez] and [James] Ford, they flew out to St. Louis. And you know, cameras are so good now, and Mando- he’s the bass player in the Breeders- he actually does it for a living. He does camera work for a living.

So you were like, “Well, we don’t have to get a camera guy…”

Exactly. So then it was like, how is this gonna work? Cause I’d never been to the Skatium before. And I’m like what about drinks? Cause people are going to be thirsty. And what about food? And I’m just… all of these are question marks, cause we were in the middle of doing something else right then.

Kim and I were driving to Chicago to do this benefit we do with Second City, it’s like a 24 hour comedy and music thing. We’ve been doing that for a few years and it’s really fun, so we were rehearsing for that cause you’ve gotta kind of tear all the songs apart and make them interesting for just two people to play. And we had to figure it out. Kim would be like, “We could do Pacer, Kelley, if you play the bass part.” And I’d be, “OK, well how does the bass part go?” [Kim,] “Well, wait, I don’t remember. So I’ll play the bass part and sing.” So we were kind of re-learning that. So it was really busy, and Christmas was coming up, and it just seemed really busy so I was so worried it wouldn’t come together. That I was just going to drive into the Skatium and I was just going to go “Uh… here’s the lyrics. Go! Make magic!” So I get there, Amy has it completely— I don’t know what she does for a living. I think it has something to do with, like, organization and shit, doesn’t it?

Yeah, it’s some kind of office something right now.

Yeah, exactly. You can tell. Everything was completely mapped out.

Dude, if Amy wants to get something done, she just gets it done.

Oh my god! And gets it done well. Yeah. It ran like clockwork. I mean, I was so fuckin’ impressed, man. Yeah, I was really impressed.

She has some kind of weird motivating skills, do you know what I’m saying? She got all of those chicks to show up and skate for eight hours straight…

Oh my god! They skated like dogs for eight hours. Without drinking. No beers.

They really did.

I’m impressed with that. They’re really good about not drinking and skating. At least, they seem to be. Maybe somebody is there with a flask takin’ a nip, but I was pretty impressed with that. There’s a lot of socialization there, too. You wanna talk with your friends and you wanna have fun, so the idea of not drinking when you’re doing it for eight hours and it’s on a Saturday…

Well, what’s kind of great about that derby is that most of those girls didn’t know each other before they got involved in it. They all just kind of made their own family and it’s kind of sweet to watch. Cause they wouldn’t really know each other otherwise.

Oh, I know. It’s so cool. And, you know, when you get older you have all of your high school friends and all your neighborhood friends and then you have your work friends but as you get older you kind of start losing the number of friends somehow. I think, I don’t know what it is, how that works and shit, but something like derby, having those relationships with girls- it’s so good. And it’s not work relationships. I used to work in an office, you know, and everybody in the office goes out to dinner afterward, you go to a bar, meet up or something like that, but then you invariably start talking about work, or people at work. But the derby it just so great cause it’s something other than work.

I mean, I was shocked by how much they just- they just skated for eight hours straight and then all of those tricks at the end? I had no idea they could do that stuff.

Oh I know, oh my god. I don’t know if it’s out right now, or if it’s going to be out in the next couple of days. Have you seen the video? Mando called it- he titled the making of “Skate to Fatal.”

Yeah, I saw the clip on Rolling Stone.

They were really cute talking about- I mean, you see all of these wipe-out shots- it was pretty bad at the beginning there.

I watched saw James [Ford] take a serious fall. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be OK there for a minute!

Ha! Oh my god! Yeah! Mando was talking to me, about an hour into it, and he’s like “Man, I’m telling them to slow down but they can’t slow down. Listen I don’t know how this is going to work, but it’s not going to work how I thought it was. They can’t slow down. They’re unable to.”

Yeah, you just have to get out the way!

Yeah! So the video is cool. It’s awesome. There’s so many wipe out shots that look really bad ass. I don’t know all the girls and stuff, but there’s this one girl that’s got long hair and she’s doing push-ups. As a chick, I just really love it. And there’s at the very end, the whole thing ends with Grave Danger absolutely wiping out and she’s just laughing- it shows her laughing on the rink. It’s so cute. And they were all so patient! And they were willing just to try everything and they had enthusiasm and they looked great and the shots were amazing.

And they were doing those jumps and spins and shit. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of games, but I didn’t know they could do stuff like that.

I know!

So were you technically a director?

No, I was the… how do you say… I was the idea person.

Well, it was hard to tell, cause it seemed like you had some stuff planned out. But then it would be like “OK, wait, now to this.”

Right. I mean, I had a vision. And Mando respected that.

(Laughs)

And I appreciate that he let me, you know, work on it.

So tell me about the EP that “Fate to Fatal” is going on. With Mark Lanegan and all… I love him.

Oh my god, his voice…

It’s so soothing!

You know, he sings like… (long pause) he sings like an old black man. He has that resonance of life, love, love lost, dreams smashed, forlorn- you know what I mean?

Oh yeah.

It’s like he sings like a serial killer would.

Yeah!

It’s kind of really spooky and eerie and kind of dangerous but soothing, too, in a really weird way.

It’s half soothing, half really sexy and I’m always confused about how to react when I hear it.

(laughs) Yeah, right, exactly. Like, “Should I be afraid of that voice?”

Yeah, am I scared or am I turned on or what?

Totally. Yeah, should I be turned on or not?

So why did you put out an EP and not a full album? Are you going to make another one?

Well what happened was last summer Kim got into a little writing frenzy. So we were doing some songs and we decided to record one of the songs, Fate to Fatal, in England at the very tail-end of the tour. And then we came home until, like, November. And we had a month, month and a half break there. And then we worked some more. And we worked some more. And we knew we were going to do All Tomorrows Parties, do you know about that?

Yeah.

Yeah, we’re curating and we’ve got really good bands. X is doing our party. Gang of Four is doing our party. Wire is doing our party.

Damn girl!

I know, it’s so awesome. And Teenage Fanclub…

(gasps) Don’t even talk about Teenage Fanclub. Love them!

Yeah! I like to call it “my party.” (laughs) And so we were going ATP and we’re going, “Geez, we’ve got these songs, we should release, like, an EP around that time. It’s be fun. It would give us new songs to play- cause we just did Europe- we were just there. So we can do some new songs and people would actually know the new songs cause they’d have been released.” So that’s what we decided to do- put out an EP. And then we were talking about how we should release it, and we talked to 4AD a little bit and it was, like, overkill, so we thought “we should just do it ourselves” so we did.

And now it’s going to be on vinyl and digital download?

Yep.

Well that’s the best way to do it now.

I think so, yeah. It just so happens that we were doing this the same time that Record Store Day was coming up. It’s this Saturday, so we were like, if we wanted to, we could just make the release date Record Store Day. So we just did that and it will be available for download on iTunes the following Tuesday. We’re doing the in-store at Shake It Records and that’s this Saturday. Shake It Records is a local vinyl store in Cincinnati, and Kim and I are going to drive down there with some guitars and play for like a half an hour or 40 minutes and I think we’re going to sign some records, too.

Everything just seems to keep lining up in the right way. And when I was looking up the release info it said that Pod and Last Splash were being re-released on vinyl, too. Is that true?

Well, we’ve never had a release that has not been on vinyl. So yeah, it’s all coming out on vinyl and I think it’s great.

So are you gonna summer tour? Are you coming here? What up?

That’s a good question. I know we’re doing… we’ve already… dates are already starting to get confirmed for August in Los Angeles. We’ll start working that out then. We’ll start moving out from there. I think we might do this San Diego street fair- Street Scene or something like that. Then opening for Elvis Costello who is doing something with Jenny Lewis at some bluegrass thing. He’s doing something with her and some other people. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a bluegrass kind of thing. I think it would be awesome. Whatever Elvis Costello does- I’m so happy to open for him. Oh my god. So yeah, some more touring. I don’t know exactly where or when we’re coming.

Well, that’s nice. But when you do the midwest again you know you’ve got to come here cause you know about a million more people want to come.

Oh my god, I’d love to. I can’t wait for those guys- and for you, too, cause you were there during it- to see the video.

Oh my god, I stayed the whole time, it was so long.

They skated like dogs!

Like dogs!


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