Brainstorm Zine Interview 21 February 2013
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or ℅ 86'd Records, P.O. Box 501 East Setauket, NY 11733, USA.
SOCIAL DEE: Land is social heritage. Only labor creates wealth.