86'd Records is a DIY punk label/distro/website from Long Island, NY since 2010.
Rations is/was a punk band from Long Island, NY active between 2008-2013. Rations Noise is an electronic offshoot formed in the aftermath. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. 501 East Setauket, NY 11733-0501 U$A.
So this 86%-off-sale has been a smashing success so far. I sold a cubic ton of records last week and the orders are continuing to roll in.
The post I made on Tumblr, however, is not going so well.
On a whim I posted the advertisement image and wrote:
“Reblog this pic for chance to win a $100 gift certificate to 86drec.com. Winner will be picked at random and announced on 9/6/2013.”
This was at the beginning of the sale and I was really trying to get the word out there. It must have slipped my mind that I don’t really have many Tumblr followers and know next to nothing about “the Tumblr.”
A whopping 3 tumblr users shared the pic so far. I’ll thank them by name.
To djjohnnyvolume I say thanks. Cheer up sadddad I appreciate your reblogging and comment. And to fleaworldtradeagreement: Thanks homie.
Anyway, I’ll still be picking a winner at random on Friday 9/6/2013. It’s just going to be a big sad hat with 3 scraps of paper in.
Click here to hit up the original post. Oh, and you can reblog it for chance to win a $100 gift certificate to 86drec.com. OOF.
I've made a lot of progress since yesterday's post! Big thanks to all the people who e-mailed and replied on Facebook and Twitter! I was able to link up 3 out of the 5 bands that were giving me trouble. Also, the websites Discogs.com and BandToBand.com were both extremely helpful. The OmniGraffle program has been indispensable for putting this all together.
Here are some of the improvements since yesterday:
Through some heroics using Brian from Striped Basstards connection to Kevin from Beyond I was able to link up to Divide and Conquer and Robotnicka to the rest of the cloud - mostly thanks to Paint It Black. I also found an alternate path that goes back to Latterman through Paint It Black. It gets a little convoluted up there, so I'll probably try pruning it down as I move forward.
Arun from I Farm chimed in on facebook and improved the band's links back to the cloud.
Dave from If You Make It and Laura Stevenson and the Cans helped get Operation: Cliff Clavin connected. Thanks homie.
My buddy Micah on Facebook provided multiple helpful hints which helped add and connect a bunch of bands.
I filled in a lot of the important shared but non-essential bands linked to TVR stuff. ie. The Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay, Bonerz.
More to be done
So that leaves All The Answers as the only band not linked back to the cloud. I've got a feeling that the Whiskey Trench -> Omegas connection will somehow get us back to the rest of the map, but we'll see.
Once that's connected, I'll probably move the project over to a small group of people to finish up. I'm looking forward to some hard editorial choices on what bands to add and subtract from the basic structure. Then on to arranging the the flow of the thing to a more sensible configuration. After that, hopefully Lubrano will help me to illustrate the whole thing... then I'm thinking 33"x23" newsprint poster via Solid MFG.
Any homies looking to help
Anybody but with additional ideas about connections, please hit me up at email@example.com. If you want to keep track of progress, you can sign up to follow this blog by e-mail over to the right. Thanks!
We're coming up on 2015 which will mark the 20 year anniversary of the founding of my old record label Traffic Violation Records. The label released almost 30 records for a slew of DIY punk and hardcore bands from Long Island, NY and beyond. In it's short existence between 1995 and 2002 we released records by Splurge, I Farm, Operation: Cliff Clavin, Contra, The Insurgent, On The Might Of Princes, Latterman, and a bunch more. A lot of the folks from old TVR bands went on to be in bands like Bent Outta Shape, Small Arms Dealer, Sainte Catherines, Ghost Mice, Bridge and Tunnel, Fellow Project, RVIVR, Iron Chic, and more.
Traffic Violation band map
One of the things I'm working on ahead of the anniversary is a band map charting the relationships among TVR bands by way of shared members. Think Seattle Band Map or Band to Band. My idea is to wind up with a nice big poster illustrated by someone like Righteous Indignation (wink, wink).
Here's what I've got so far:
I have all the TVR bands on there in maroon boxes. I've connected them all to the best of my knowledge. In white I've added "connector bands." These are bands with shared members that help link TVR bands to each other.
There are a lot of related bands that I've left off so far. These are bands with shared members that are notable, but don't help in directly linking TVR bands.
Here's the list of those:
Of course, these will eventually go in. But for now, I'm more concerned with clarifying what I already have and connecting the few remaining unconnected TVR bands.
Help me, please!?!
Here's what I need help with:
I need to figure out a way to connect the unconnected TVR bands to the larger cloud. I realize this may be a long chain, but if it's possible I'd like to do it. Here are the bands that I don't currently have connected:
Operation: Cliff Clavin
All The Answers
Divide And Conquer
I'm sure I'm missing connections between bands already on the map. Any help with that would be appreciated. Examples: Does Nakatomi Plaza share members with any bands on the map besides The Insurgent and De La Hoya? Probably Bridge and Tunnel, right? I need to clarify stuff like that.
Some of the ways I used to connect bands to the larger crowd are probably not the best available. I think those pathways can be improved. Specifically I'm talking about:
Latterman -> I Farm
Disenchanted -> Striped Basstards
If you have any information you can add please, please, please, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Ideally I'd like to hook up with a few dedicated Traffic Violation nerds who can help me polish this thing off and get it into some kind of shape to pass off to an illustrator.
Other projects going forward
I've got some other ideas about ways to celebrate the anniversary by compiling audio, visual, and written documentation. My archives are spilling over with flyers, photos, records, tapes, DATS, VHS videos, zines, interviews, etc. Documenting our particular scene was always the mission of Traffic Violation, so it would be neat to revisit that mission 20 years later.
If you have any ideas or material, please don't hesitate to get in touch!
The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads. The Free Music Archive is directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America. Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet.
We were really psyched back in May of 2012 when we noticed the site was featuring our "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" EP as a free download. Since we had licensed the work as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, Free Music Archive was able to make it available. Somewhere out on the interwebs (probably bandcamp) the ccCommunity curator came across our stuff and did us the favor of re-posting it on Free Music Archive. That album currently has over 1,200 streams and 2,300 downloads from the site.
Our experience using the Creative Commons license and seeing our stuff on Free Music Archive inspired a couple of things for our new record. First, we went with a bit more open Creative Commons license. This time we used the Attribution-ShareAlike. The difference being that this licence did not restrict any adapted works to non-commercial use. This licence carries with it the "Approved for Free Cultural Works" stamp by freedomdefined.org.
Here's a bit about freedomdefined.org's definition of Free Cultural Works:
This document defines "Free Cultural Works" as works or expressions which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose. It also describes certain permissible restrictions that respect or protect these essential freedoms. The definition distinguishes between free works, and free licenses which can be used to legally protect the status of a free work. The definition itself is not a license; it is a tool to determine whether a work or license should be considered "free."
Secondly, we figured we'd include download cards with the physical record that pointed people toward our page on Free Music Archive. There was no sense going to the trouble of download codes if it was available for free online anyway! We used extra space on the sheets we used to print our covers and provided the link and info on the license. We were able to print 3 to sheet, so we wound up with around 3,300 cards - 1,100 to include with the record and an extra 2,200 for giving away.
In the 7 days since posting "Martyrs and Prisoners" it's received over 3,100 streams and 4,300 downloads. We thought that was pretty cool!
As a band, we're very grateful for all the work communities of people around the world have put into making things like Creative Commons and Free Music Archive a reality. Licensing and distributing our music online using these tools was a great way to extend some of the ideas of collaboration and decentralization that were a big part of other parts of the release.
Our record is officially out today! Here's the comprehensive list of the record labels that helped us release "Martyrs and Prisoners" across the world. You can order from any of the labels below, or download for free at http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Rations/.
Speaking of interviews, there's an interview with Wells about organizing the split label release for "Martyrs and Prisoners" up at The New Scheme. The interview also runs in Wrong Choice Of Words zine from Dubai, AE and was conducted by Chris from Abbreviated Records.
Dying Scene was also nice enough to do a post about the stream as well.
Thanks to all for helping us spread the word about our new 7"!
The news that On The Might of Princes was canceling their appearances at Long Island Fest and St. Vitus this weekend made me think of the liner notes I wrote for the "Where You Are And Where You Want To Be" reissue CD from 2004-ish. I figured I'd post them here along with some pictures of the band. I'm not sure if this is an edited version, so please forgive any mistakes!
My earliest memory of On The Might Of Princes was drinking 40's in the King Touchless Car Wash parking lot with Tommy and Jason and a bunch of other dudes in the summer of 1999. Jason had recently moved from Connecticut - or maybe Florida or some shit - and he was living with his old man in Selden. He'd hooked up with Tommy through some kind of ad somewhere looking for a band. You know, the kind that reads, 'skinny red haired guitar guy looking for band. Influences: Sunny Day Real Estate and Bad Brains.' Tommy and Lou had known each other from high school, which of course, back then, was just a couple of years back. I'm not sure where Nicole fit in, but I remember her hitting the drums so hard that I just kinda figured she was mad at them. Enriquez had come around later on, bringing tighter and more technical shit to the table. Although, he was always better at getting people mad at him, than getting mad at the drums.
So in 2000, On The Might of Princes trekked out to Westchester, PA to record with Arik and Mike at the Creep House. It was the same punk-infested suburban colonial where Long Island bands like Sleepasaurus, Striped Basstards, Kill Your Idols, and Contra had all recorded before them. I was doing Traffic Violation Records with my buddy Brian at the time. We briefly bounced the idea of asking those dudes before they left if they wanted to do the record on Traffic Violation. Of course, we never got around to it. A couple of weeks later Brian and I got our hands on a 60 minute TDK tape of the songs that would become "Where You Are and Where You Want To Be." I remember pretty vividly, us sitting there in the Sea Port Diner parking lot, just listening to song after song. My jaw dropped, and (along with the curly fries) I had a lump of jealousy and regret in my stomach. I wanted to put this record out, and badly. But of course, it was too late for that. Probably about 30 seconds in to the tracking the first song, Arik had asked them to do the CD on Creep Records. I'd have to settle for doing the layout.
I don't remember who's idea it was to put that photo of Jason and Andolpho on the cover. But once we had it in there, we knew it was perfect. To me, it represented a lot of what was Long Island punk at the time. The shot was taken when Contra and On The Might of Princes arrived on the west coast during summer tour in 1999. It was one of the first jaunts that this new crop of Long Island bands had taken that far out. I still love looking at the juxtaposition of two boneheads from Long Island running down the beach away from the palm tree in the background. I think the photo also has something to say about the cooperative scene that we had back then. There was no ego bullshit from the band about it just being Jason on the cover, much less any bullshit about some dude from a whole 'nother band being on there too. But all that stuff is academic, what totally rules about this cover is it's sheer ridiculousness. It's a big fat black guy and a pale, freakishly skinny white guy running on the beach in their underwear. The cover was better than just unmarketable, it actually made you feel uncool buying it. It was perfect.
Maybe it was that sense of uncool, or the rejection of ego - or even the aloofness that led to such a goofy record cover - that allowed people to feel that On The Might of Princes was such an important band. Being into On The Might of Princes felt a lot like being in On the Might of Princes. If you were there, just in the room while they were playing, you were part of it. I remember seeing 'em in a basement in Smithtown once. When the music dropped out for the sing songy part in For Meg everyone there knew they were part of something important. I looked over and saw Deserae crying and singing along. It was obvious she was just as much a part of it as any of the guys playing the instruments. Mike Rok Lok was there screaming his heart out. I saw Meg too, and felt the same thing. Even Craig Hughes was singing along. "And I'll scream it till your ears bleed, You'll always have a friend in me." I was singing too, and I knew in my heart I was part of it. It felt good.
Eventually, I pressed up the 12" LP version of "Where You Are, and Where You Want To Be" on Traffic Violation, I even did the second and third pressings of the CD. And now that it's years later, I think I know why I got that feeling of jealousy and regret at the idea of it not coming out on Traffic Violation. Looking back over the 28 releases that we did, the whole thing wouldn't have made as much sense without that record. If that catalog of vinyl and CDs was going to tell any kind of story about what was going on around here back then, "Where You Are, and Where You Want To Be" absolutely needed to be on it. And to my relief it was.
I don't think any of 'em would disagree if I were to say that all of us learned a shit-ton of lessons about life since those days downing 40-ouncers in parking lots. But this record isn't about what we've all learned and gone through since it came out. This record is about what we knew - and who we were - back when it came out. This record was the best shit Long Island could come up with, and it was fucking mint. It doesn't matter what the band did after this, or what everybody is doing now, or who's still friends with who, or whatever the fuck. On The Might of Princes was amazing. And this record is still amazing. And all those people that felt like they were part of this band - and helped this band be what they were - this record is still theirs, and they get to have it forever.
Dead Uncles' posthumous LP is lurching toward reality like a patient emerging from the haze of a fever dream. The lacquers have just been approved and we should have test presses back soon.
The quixotic quest to press this future classic on vinyl was hatched by drummer Shannon Thompson and 86'd Records - eventually implicating Hip Kid Records, Lost Cat Records, Shitty Present Records, and the mighty Different Kitchen Records from the U.K. The 10 track album was re-mixed in 2012 and mastered for vinyl by Dave Eck at Lucky Lacquers. The album artwork was re-worked for by Shannon Thompson. A one-time pressing of 500 units is planned for a summer 2013 release.
"Stock Characters" was originally released on cassette by We Rise Tapes (Krystina from Curmudgeon's label) and Trashy Tapes (Sadie from Peeple Watchin's label) just before the band broke up in 2012.
Any other record labels that might be interested in helping out can check out details by logging into the the info page here.
From that page you can download the audio, check out the layout, and get details about the project. Just e-mail email@example.com for the password.
After some delays, we're back on track to have our new 7" out by the middle of June. We've got the label lineup finalized and listed below. The record is being released as a collaborative effort among 30 record labels in 11 countries!
You can check out the full list of labels - along with links and google map - below. For some of the rationale behind organizing the release in this manor and to view the album trailer video, check out this post.
RATIONS will be releasing our new 7" - "Martyrs and Prisoners" - on May 14th, 2013.
In preparation, we are reaching out to DIY punk/hardcore record labels and distros in communities across the globe. Our goal is to decentralize distribution and get small quantities of our records to as many local scenes as possible.
We currently have 25 labels collaborating on releasing the record in 9 different countries. We're hoping to hook up with a bunch more to help us get our stuff out all over the world. Each label will be kicking in a portion of the costs and getting a proportionate number of copies.
86'd Records is coordinating the effort. Any interested labels can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get a download of the record and full artwork and detailed info on the split release.
We did an interview with a fanzine called Brainstorm back over the summer. You can pick up a copy of the zine from 86'd Records and Distro or check out the transcript below. Big thanks to Dustin from Abolitionist and 1859 Records for doing the interview!
1. How long have you guys been playing for? How old is everyone & what does everyone do outside of the band?
SOCIAL DEE: I'm 30. I go to school and hang at the library, mostly. Sometimes I practice the drums.
TIA: I am 29. I own a small company called Vaya Bags that makes handmade messenger bags out of recycled material. I also enjoy biking, spending time with my husband Joe and our two cats Pancho and Lefty.
WELLS: I'm 36. Outside of the band I eat like shit, take drugs, and go to therapy. I hang out at the Starbucks in East Setauket mostly. I have a girlfriend who's a philomath. Rations has been a band since 2008.
BRIAN: I'm 35. Although I'm not the oldest chronologically, I may seem older, because I am married, have two amazing children, and teach high school math. That teaching thing is my side job. Rations is my real job.
2. You guys seem to place a premium on packaging & layout when it comes to your releases. Does that seem to be a fair assessment? What does that mean to you?
WELLS: I do all the layout and packaging stuff for the band usually. I don't think we put a premium on it above the music or anything like that, but it's something I definitely ruminate on, and the band talks about it and stuff. The packaging and presentation of a record is something I pay attention to in other stuff, so I think it just kinda comes out in what I want to do with the band too. I think the packaging of a release can create a context in which to listen to an album. A lot black metal records are like that: the visual and tactile qualities of the packaging set you up for the experience of listening to the record. I like that kind of shit.
BRIAN: I definitely think that the way a record looks and feels contributes to the overall quality of the release. I can remember when I first started buying punk/hc records, I would sometimes give a record a shot just because of how it looked. I mean, I figured that if I had similar interests as the band in terms of layout and design, then I might have similar interests musically. One record I'm still really psyched on buying is from a Campground Records band from Portland called Punky Rockit. I remember thinking that was a really strange choice for a band name, but the art work was so cool and must have taken a lot of effort. It was hand painted with at least three stencils. The artwork on that record and the music went together so nicely. I've always prized that 7" for that reason.
Tia: I never really thought that packaging and layout was especially important until recently. I saw the awesome stuff that Wells did with it and saw what a great aspect it adds to the record. I guess I always was just lazy and thought that if the music was good what did it matter what the record looks like, but my mind had definitely been changed when it come to this. Seeing the final packaging and the hard work and detail that goes into it, really gives a record something special and makes it much more of a tangible price of art.
3. Wells, you used to run Traffic Violation Records, right? You now have a label called 86'd. Why did TVR fold? Did you have a bad experience running it?
WELLS: Brian and I actually did Traffic Violation together for the first bunch of releases.
BRIAN: Yeah, I was around for the first few releases (Splurge, Striped Basstards, Howards, Disenchanted, etc.), but then lived in NYC full time for awhile, so it ended up being Wells' deal.
WELLS: I don't think I had a bad experience running it . It did get kinda shitty and miserable at the end. But I think that's the nature of a lot of things when they're at the end. It didn't fold, it actually probably just about broken even when all was finally said and done. I think the label did an awesome job of documenting a bunch of the punk that young people were making on Long Island from 1995 till around 2002. It got Long Island punk records into the hands of thousands of people around the word, and exposed a lot of kids from Long Island to other scenes and ideas and stuff. I think a lot of strong friendships were created out of the community of which Traffic Violation was a part. A real large percentage of the people involved with the bands from that time are still making music, and a lot of them still in bands with each other! I think stuff a lot of that stuff I put out stands up even today. And selling vinyl back then was harder, people wanted CDs! After Traffic Violation Records I did Eugenics Record Label from around 2004 till 2007 or so. Now I'm doing 86'd. One bad decision after another!
4. You guys are based on Long Island and have a close relationship with that scene. What's it like there these days?
TIA: The long island punk scene is kicking ass these days. There are a lot of people who are really putting their hearts into booking shows, starting bands, making zines and even reviving distros. Mike and the other fine folks at Dead Broke Rekerds book a ton of awesome shows. Some in their living room, some at local bars, and at a VFW hall out east thats looks like you are in a log cabin. Wells books shows there too. A few cool LI folk have started a zine called Shouting Shorelines. They have also created a book and zine library that they bring to shows and share with whoever wants to read them. Not to mention the ton of great LI bands; Iron Chic, Pretty Bullshit, Deep Pockets, Warm Needles, Sister Kisser, Crow Bait, Bastard Cut, The Broosevelts, Wax Phantom, and tons more. Long Island remains a strong hub for amazing DIY punk. I think the people involved in the scene these days really are doing it right.
WELLS: I'd add Make It Plain, Halfway to Hell Club, Giant Peach, Censors, For Serious This Time, Go White Bronco, Fighting 405, Playing Dead, and Tia's other band Fellow Project to that list. Also Rok Lok Records has been a label here on Long Island documenting the scene since 1999 or so. That dude's awesome. Also, I think it's worth mentioning the people who contribute by coming out to tons of shows, pay at the door and don't fuck shit up.
5. 10 labels co-released your stellar 7" EP internationally. What's the story behind that? I've noticed a trend where bands & labels work a lot together on co-releasing vinyl, at least in the DIY punk scene. What have your experiences been like with this?
WELLS: My first experience with doing split releases was in 1999 or so when I did De La Hoya's first EP which was a split release between Traffic Violation and Crap Records. From there I did a bunch like that. I did the Contra LP with a couple of European labels, the Insurgent 10" with a few different US label, etc. I think it's a neat way for scenes to kinda hook up and have ideas and stuff cross pollenate. It's a more horizontal and inclusive way to distribute music and art to the world. Cooperation on split 7"es and split releases were a big part of what struck me about punk early on. On this Rations 7" we had the benefit of knowing a lot of these people before hand, just from being around punk so long and stuff, so we tried to involve as many labels from as many countries as possible. The goal was to strengthen the network of DIY punk that exists outside the mainstream.
6. The music on the "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" 7" EP is great and blends the Long Island/East Bay sound has with angry 80's political punk ... there's even a little bit of Fugazi thrown in there on the title track. Is all of that deliberate or does the music of Rations inevitably blend the collective amalgamation of punk influences the band members have?
BRIAN: I guess we all grew up being part of the LI punk scene, so writing stuff that sounds "Long Island" is almost impossible not to do. I know that I've always been influenced by the stuff that came out of Victoria, British Columbia in the mid-90's, so I'm not necessarily trying to copy that sound, but in my opinion, that era/scene is some of my favorite punk.
TIA: It definitely seems to me like everyone brings a bit of themselves to this band. I think what influences all of us differs quite a bit, but that is what makes Rations cool. It is a nice blend of different genres of punk and everyone is open to whatever sound comes out.
7. Wells, you make up one half of Righteous Indignation LI (along w/ Lubrano of Iron Chic) and have produced some nice looking record layouts, show posters, etc. There seem to be a lot of people in "the scene" doing design work these days. Do you find it more cooperative than competitive? Or is there a healthy mix? Who are some of the people doing great work these days, in your opinion?
WELLS: Lubrano's doing pretty much all of the artwork coming out Righteous Indignation these days. His shit is so awesome it's ridiculous for me to work on stuff. He runs the whole thing, but I do things occasionally. I just finished up a tour poster for The Slow Death's Japanese tour with Worthwhile Way. I don't think doing dumb band art is a particular cut throat scene as far as that goes. That said, I do think Lubrano is pretty much better than everyone else at drawing monsters puking up their ghosts and holding knives and stuff.
8. The title track on your EP is a driving, simple and catchy punk tune and inspired by Leo Tolstoy. How did writing that song come about?
WELLS: I think we actually played it at practice for a while with a different melody and lyrics before we recorded. I wrote new lyrics on the way to record it at Tia's brother's place early in 2010. I knew I wanted to write a Tolstoy song because his shit had been blowing my mind for the few months before that. Social Dee drove and I took a notepad and a collection of Tolstoy stuff. The book I had with me compiled some of the more social and political stuff Tolstoy wrote after having a spiritual awakening later in his life. The lyrics are mostly lifted from the short story called How Much Land Does a Man Need? which was a pretty straightforward parable about greed. There's another book he wrote called The Kingdom of God is Within You that I was reading around the same time. That book is really what prompted my interest in Tolstoy. He shows Statism to be both morally and reasonably indefensible and calls for the regeneration of inner man as the means to oppose the repressive and violent institutions of church and state. It's cool because the way it's written makes it easy for an atheist or non-theist to read it and relate to the concepts without getting caught up on the "christianity" of it. Although, it is widely recognized as the sorta ultimate "Christian Anarchist" text. Around the same time, he was also editing Kropotkin's stuff and getting into some weird shit with communes and having followers and stuff. Tolstoy is pretty badass.
9. What are your thoughts on the Occupy movement?
WELLS: I was following some of the stuff coming out of Adbusters and Anonymous leading up to September 17 last year and I just remember being psyched and kinda waiting for the date to hit, and pontificating about what might happen and all that. Most of my experience with OWS has been as an observer though, listening to friends who've been involved with different actions, reading stuff. It's encouraging to me to see the evolution in both the issues it's addressing and the tactics being used. What started as something that was pretty focused on economic inequality, greed, and corruption has been used as a starting point for a lot of people to think about things like the nature of work and labor, authority, hierarchy, etc. It's neat to me how the movement has brought about a pretty mainstream discussion about about what's acceptable in terms of tactics. The effectiveness and even morality of non-violence when struggling against state violence is something a lot of people are talking about now. It's certainly something I think about a lot more since September.
Tia: I think the occupy movement is really awesome and inspiring. It's nice to see that people are finally standing up for and trying to change the injustices of society. Most Americans are so apt to just accept things that are unfair out of laziness or indiference, that it's refreshing to see protesters trying to make changes.
10. Anything else you'd like to add?
WELLS: We're working on demos for a full length right now. We've got about 20 songs written. That'll be out eventually. You can write to us at email@example.com or ℅ 86'd Records, P.O. Box 501 East Setauket, NY 11733, USA.
SOCIAL DEE: Land is social heritage. Only labor creates wealth.
Micah from Unwelcome Guests photo by William Strawser
Here's an interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests. From the cancelled issue #1 of Eighty-sixed Fanzine.
Stephen Schmitt is a totally sick guitar player. I don't really have a question.
It’s true, he is one of the best musicians I’ve ever known and I’m incredibly lucky to play music with him. He also plays piano, mandolin, steel guitar and pretty much any other instrument that he’s given a couple minutes to mess around with. On top of all that he’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever known, zero faults to that guy.
How'd you get into writing songs and being into punk and stuff?
It was probably 10th grade when I started hanging out with some kids who identified with punk. Jesse was the Social Distortion, leather jacket type and the other, Alex, was the DIY, Fifteen and Crimpshrine type. They played in a band together called The Young Ones and I’d go to their shows at a community space called Cobra La. Their drummer, Steve, was cool but it later turned out that he was a closet Jazz guy at heart. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t meet them. They showed me a world outside of Great Valley and I owe them more than I can really comprehend.
My first band started shortly after graduating from high school and it was called Slaymaker’s Bull. The band was Jesse, Steve and Colin (who were all ex members of The Young Ones), along with me on barely competent rhythm guitar. We played super sloppy and kind of fun pop punk stuff. Jesse wrote lovely songs like “Frat Boy Motherfucker,” “Fuck the Scene” and the pretty ballad “Gut Full of Beer.” I wrote a few songs which were always a bit on the overly serious and angsty side; one song was called “Damned to the End,” and another was unfortunately called “One of These Days.” We argued a lot because of, ya know, artistic vision. Oh, I did write “Goin’ Drinkin’” which was a ska song about getting drunk. The truth is that neither one of us wrote anything worth hearing in the entire duration of the band.
At some point Jesse kicked me out of the band because I couldn’t play guitar well enough, which was true. I kept writing songs and listening to folk music and Jesse’s band eventually fell apart. Colin and I started playing acoustic shows around campus under the name Unwelcome Guests, which is taken from a song title on the Billy Bragg and Wilco Mermaid Avenue records where they used Woody Guthrie lyrics. A friend of ours, Jay Sallese, recorded an EP which we called Hollywood. From there we put together a full band, recorded some more and then moved to Buffalo in 2004. Shortly after that Colin moved away and the current lineup of Unwelcome Guests which is Zac, Chris, Steve and I was formed.
What's the process of writing songs for Unwelcome Guests like? I know on at least a few of the releases the songs are credited as being "written by Micah Winship and Unwelcome Guests."
In the eight or so years that we’ve been a band we’ve kind of developed a formula for writing songs. I write the chord progression, melody, lyrics, and a lot of the bridge parts, etc. but once I bring it to practice it almost always becomes a completely different song. That’s why I put “all songs by Micah Winship and Unwelcome Guests” in the liner notes. I put a lot of work into writing songs and, since I’m not the greatest guitar player or singer, it’s kind of all I have to offer and I want to credit myself appropriately. To hear how incredibly different the songs become is a bit jaw dropping to me so I feel like the song writing credit works that way.
There have been a few instances in which we wrote things differently. “Put Down Your Gun,” the first song on the Painter EP, was written by Steve and I. I had the lyrics but hated the chord progression and general feel of what I had going on, which was a slow country ballad. I sat down with Steve and he came up with the verse progression and it took off from there. Chris comes up with some parts once in a while in practice that really change songs for the better, like the descending part in “Patience.” Zac’s steers things in his own way too.
Are there any songwriters you try to emulate?
I try to avoid emulating or ripping off any songwriters but it’s impossible to hide what you’re listening to when you write songs. I, of course, love Paul Westerberg, and the Old 97’s have been a huge influence on me. While writing Don’t Go Swimming I was listening to a lot of Smog and Bill Callahan. The whole standing on the shore idea is certainly born from me listening to A River Ain’t Too Much to Love. I’d also say that I’ve never fully escaped the Social Distortion and Screeching Weasel influence. Mike Ness is an embarrassing cartoon character but the self-titled record and White Light, White Heat, White Trash were a big part of my life. Ben Weasel, well… let’s not even get started on that guy. I’ve only, within the last year, really gotten into Hüsker Dü which we get compared to sometimes, so maybe that’ll affect our next record, who knows. As a band, we all look at Frank Black’s Show Me Your Tears and American Steel’s Jagged Thoughts as being great.
What's your writing process like? What are you writing now?
I feel like I’ve had writer's block for the last year or so but I now think that I was just too busy with school stuff. I recently finished my four year degree after dropping out back in 2004. I’ve already started writing more and even began a writing project with my friend Bill who is a photographer. He sent me a picture and I sent him a recorded song in response. He’ll be sending me a photo based on the song soon which should be interesting. I don’t’ know, it’s fun to write songs and sometimes it just takes a new project or an inspiring friend to keep you going. I’ve read enough songwriter interviews to realize that everything I can say is a cliché but there are just some common truths to songwriters. At this point, I write songs and play music because I need to; it is necessary in keeping me sane and happy. A good band practice can keep me happy for weeks and a bad band practice can do the exact opposite. It’s a really frustrating and sometimes awful world that we live in, and having the ability to distract yourself or medicate yourself with something that isn’t harmful is priceless. I can’t imagine where I’d be if it weren’t for going to Cobra La when I was a teenager and for that reason I feel like every town and city should have a common space for kids to get together and work on creative projects. It’s also why it’s so god damn infuriating that parents and dumbass community members try and shut down show spaces.
Other Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine: