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86'd Records is a DIY punk label/distro/website from Long Island, NY since 2010.

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Official organ and archive for punk and post-industrial bands Rations and Rations Noise. Contact us by email at or by mail at P.O. 501 East Setauket, NY 11733-0501 U$A.


Smiletrick Blog Since 2012. Send complaints to Wells C/O 86’D RECORDS P.O. Box 501 East Setauket, NY 11733-0501 U$A


J-Zone's new 7" single: "Stick Up" b​/​w "Mad Rap" 18 October 2014

We finished up the latest J-Zone 7" last week at Solid Mfg. Very psyched to see this finally out so I can share it around. I've had the tracks burned to a CD and playing in my car for weeks.

Definitely cool to hear J-Zone back at it. I've been working with him on-and-off since 2005-ish pressing CDs at the old company doing stuff like A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work and the Boss Hog Barbarians' Every Hog Has Its Day and a few more.

You can check out the tracks from the 7" below. "Stick Up" is an instrumental with J-Zone on drums duking it out with a hammond organ. "Mad Rap" has him back behind the mic taking down Russel Simmons and a bunch more.

You can order the 7" on at Save the guy a trip to the post office and get your order in over the weekend.

No interns at Old Maid Ent.

J-Zone's Mail Room (from instagram)

Solid Mfg. Year End List 4 January 2014

Here's my list of the top 22 records we printed stuff for at Solid Mfg. in 2013. The list includes the projects I enjoyed working on the most… either because the music ripped, the artwork was awesome, or the customer is just plain fun to work with.

This year's list is made up from all printed parts we did, but now that we're doing manufacturing for vinyl, CDs, and band merch next year should be rounded out with more of that stuff.

Cool. Thanks to all the bands and record labels that used us this year!!!

  1. Boilerman “Loss Leaders” LP Jacket and Insert (Self Released)
    • First LP from Chicago piece. Great record but they're even better live.
  2. No Sir, I Won't “The Door” 12” Jacket and Inner Sleeve (Framework Label)
    • Six song EP from Boston anarcho-punkers. Dudes from Libyans and Awful Man.
  3. Odz Manouk / Tukaaria LP Jacket (Final Agony)
    • Final Agony is one of my favorite labels to work on stuff with. Always top notch packaging!
  4. Argentinum Astrum "Malleus Maleficarum" LP Jacket and Insert (Anti Corporate Music)
    • Knoxville, TN Black/Sludge/Doom.
  5. Fucking Invincible "Downtown is Dead" 7" Jackets (Atomic Action! Records)
    • Dudes from Drop Dead. Ripper 8-song EP!
  6. Canadian Rifle "Deep Ends" LP Jacket (Dirt Cult Records)
    • Tons of great releases on Dirt Cult this year. Hard to pick just one!
  7. Murder-Suicide Pact “Die Screaming” LP Jacket (Give Praise Records)
    • Last LP from Florida legends. On the prolific and Give Praise Records. Hi Paul!
  8. Skeletonwitch “Serpents Unleashed” Gatefold LP Jacket (Prosthetic Records)
    • Prosthetic Records scores an A+ on being a big label that's beyond great to deal with!
  9. Mallwalkers “Shake The Rust Off” LP Jacket (Peterwalkee Records)
    • Matto of Phlegm Chuckers fame releases funk-punkers first LP.
  10. The Slow Death “No Heaven” LP Jacket (Rad Girlfriend Records)
    • LP version of the CD on A.D.D. Great band on a great label
  11. RVIVR “The Beauty Between” LP Jacket, Insert, and Poster (Rumbletowne Records)
    • One of our first customers. Last I heard, they were trying to make a video for each song on the record.
  12. Best Practices “Sore Subjects” 7" Folder (Tor Johnson Records)
    • Record label impresario Paul Dechichio releasing his own band's 7". Just like Ian MacKaye.
  13. Potboiler “Rolling Boil” LP Jacket (Salinas Records)
    • Old New Paltz, NY band gets a vinyl re-issue of cassette release.
  14. Multiple Truths "No One Wins" (Halo of Flies)
    • Mariam from MRR and friends.
  15. Cloud Becomes Your Hand "Rocks Or Cakes" (Feeding Tube Records)
    • My old Long Island buddy Stephe Cooper doing some weirdo stuff.
  16. M. Akers "Unused Score For La Puntura Velenosa Della Notte" 7" Jacket (Death Wound Zine)
    • A mystery wrapped in an enigma.
  17. Descontrol "Producto De Las Circunstancias" LP Jacket (Odio Los Discos)
    • Peruvian dis-punk from the 80s. Reissue of classic demo.
  18. Weed "Deserve" LP Jacket (Couple Skate Records)
    • Who doesn't like weed?
  19. Angry Gods Greyed Delay/The Swell 7" Folder (Nervous Habit Records)
    • New Chicago, IL punk and hardcore label. Nice people!
  20. The Dentists "Some People Are On The Pitch" LP Jacket and Inner Sleeve (Trouble In Mind)
    • Re-issue of this 80s U.K. band's debut full length.
  21. The David Liebe Hart Band "The David Liebe Hart Band Album" LP Jacket (Evil Weevil Records)
    • David Lieve Hart from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
  22. Parquet Courts "American Specialties" LP Jacket (Play Pinball! Records)
    • Debut cassette released as an LP by the awesome Play Pinball! Records.

Traffic Violation Records Distro Catalog 2001 26 September 2013

I scanned this whole thing a couple of years ago but never did anything with it. So, here it is. This is the 16 page distro catalog that I did for Traffic Violation back in 2001. Pretty cool looking through these short descriptions of records all these years later. Some of the writing is cringeworthy but oh well. Take a look:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Page 8

Page 9

Page 10

Page 11Page 11

Page 12Page 12

Page 13

Page 14

Page 15

Page 16

Band Map Progress 26 August 2013


Tons more bands added to the map

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 and 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 If you want to keep track of progress, you can sign up to follow this blog by e-mail over to the right. Thanks!

Traffic Violation Records 20 Year Anniversary 25 August 2013


You're not old school, you're just old

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
    • Robotnicka
  • 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 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!

On The Might Of Princes Liner Notes 13 June 2013

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.

Interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests about Songwriting 31 January 2013

Micah from Unwelcome Guests photo by William Strawser

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:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records

Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy 31 January 2013

Here's an interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy. From the cancelled issue #1 of Eighty-sixed Fanzine.

bricks1 bricks2

Other Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records

Keith Rosson from Avow Zine 31 January 2013

Interview with Keith Rosson from Avow Zine. From the cancelled issue #1 of Eighty-sixed Fanzine.


Other Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records

Gerge from Pretty Bullshit 31 January 2013

Interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit. From the cancelled issue #1 of Eighty-sixed Fanzine.



Other Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records

Cancelled 86'd Zine 31 January 2013


I feel like Bilbo when he said "I feel thin. Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." The perpetually coming soon Eighty-Sixed Fanzine issue #1 is the bread.

This fucker was ill-fated from the git-go.

I started hemming and hawing about doing another zine sometime in 2009. When I started up 86'd in 2010 I put "and Fanzine" in the logo as a sort of trick. I figured a public proclamation of it's existence would force my hand into actually making it a reality. I worked on it a bunch over the past coupla years, but never actually finished it. I tried forcing my hand again earlier this year by advertising it as done in my Razorcake ad for Solid MFG. The plan was to finish it up in the month or two before the issue came out.

Razorcake is a few days away from showing up in everyone's mailbox and I'm no closer to finishing than I was when I made the ad - or the months before that.

So, in the midst of a full-blown panic attack about it this morning it hit me - Fuck this.

There will be no printed issue of Eighty-Sixed Fanzine. I'm going to post what I have up here in the interest of not letting down the people who contributed stuff or answered interviews.

The zine is dead. Long live the zine.


Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records

Sick Sick Birds "Gates of Home" LP Track-by-Track 30 January 2013

After freaking out at how good the record was, I asked Sick Sick Birds frontman Mike Hall to run through their album "Gates of Home" and drop some wisdom about the songwriting process on each track. The record was released on vinyl by Toxic Pop Records in March of 2012.

From the canceled issue #1 of Eighty-sixed Fanzine.


“Pick and Choose”

Sick Sick Birds\

I think the lyrics on this one are pretty straight forward. Mostly, this is about the idea that it is easy to critique someone else’s words and actions, but much more difficult to be in the position to actually make things happen. Candidate Obama can offer one-sentence definitive statements like “I will shut down Guantanamo,” but President Obama finds out that maybe (for whatever reason, pick a reason) it’s easier said than done.

It’s also a reference to passive, sarcastic snarkiness in the realm of politics. Snarkiness can be an excellent cover for laziness. Just say, “They’re all a bunch of bums,” to mask the fact that this is a topic of which you know very little. This song is about being jaded on the jaded.


Writing this song was really uncomfortable and challenging. I was trying to imagine how difficult it must be for a kid to come to the realization that he/she is gay. Adolescence is hard enough when you are deemed “normal” by the masses. It is an awkward, unsure time. Imagine trying to navigate through that time with this secret growing inside of you. All of the public debates over laws and public policy are one thing. This song is intended for more of an individual and personal level. I was writing not so much about the global level of intolerance, but rather the one-liners that you encounter from people that you love and trust. I imagine that would create an environment where you feel like you have nowhere to turn. How could it not?

I was so apprehensive about writing this song – it felt a little presumptuous, like I was claiming to know how it felt. I was so apprehensive, in fact, that I bounced the lyrics off of a good friend of mine (who would be able to compare the lyrics to his experiences growing up) for quality control purposes.


Lee Blades and Tanuj Kundhi

Great opportunities often come at inconvenient times. This song was based off of a short story by H.G. Wells called “The Door in the Wall.”

Musically speaking, I knew when we wrote this that it was going to sound like an early Cure song. Normally, when I am concerned that a song sounds too similar to another band, I try to address it in the mixing process. For example, “this sounds like a Smiths song, let’s mix it so it sounds like something off of Husker Du Metal Circus.” For some reason, on this one, I decided to just go with it, and let it sound how it wanted to sound. So Dan (see Dan Black, below) mixed it so that it would fit right in on Seventeen Seconds.

“Spinning Jenny”

This one is about an aging scenester trying desperately to hang on to her social relevance. Same bar, same drink order, same heckling routine for the bands that come through town. The crowd at the bar is slowly getting younger as she is getting older. The more songs I write, the more I realize I am revisiting themes that I have written about before. This one seems like a companion piece to The Thumbs “All Lesser Devils,” that Bobby and I wrote together.

“One Town Over”

Mike Hall

This is a punk rock “grass is always greener” story about someone moving from town to town, based on an idealized view of a band or scene. When the person gets to the new town and sees the warts, he moves on, not realizing that the warts are the good stuff. I think it is more rewarding to make something better instead of constantly moving on in search of some dopey, nonexistent punk rock paradise.

“Caution Wires”

The opening guitar line was the first thing that I wrote for this song. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between chords and melodies. Specifically, I like songs where the melody repeats itself even when the chords change underneath it. Take something familiar and look at it in a different way. That’s what I was trying to do in the beginning. Starting out with a bright poppy melody, and then when the words come in, change the chords underneath and it darkens right up.

The first line I wrote for the song was the one about driving past Dahlgren Lab. It’s a reference to the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center, which I have driven past many times on Route 301 in Virginia. It’s just such a dark-sounding name to me, and I have always wanted to use it for something


“(Cross the) Shipping Lanes”

You know how when you mow the lawn, the back and forth creates a striped pattern? I was looking at the pattern while I was mowing, and the line “gonna’ cross the shipping lanes” kept going through my head.

So then I started thinking about a fictitious old guy contemplating the (lack of any) meaning in his life. He used to dream big – he was going to do big things. Never really got around to it. Never actually had any ideas of what to do, just the idea that he WANTED to do something. So, he gets it in his head that he’s going to invent something to cross the shipping lanes. Well, lots of things (boats?) can already cross shipping lanes, but that did not deter him. I tried to be really vague in my descriptions, because that is how the character would interact with people. He “just built the greatest thing,” but it’s unclear whether he actually built anything at all, or if he’s just a crazy guy disappointed in his life.


Dan Black

We did some shows in California in 2010, and got to spend some time with our friend Anna, a transplanted Marylander living in Hollywood. For whatever reason, in some conversation, Anna noted that olives tasted like tears. I wrote it down in the margin of whatever book I was reading.

"Gates of Home"

This song is based on the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Pierce. I first read this story in middle school, and always loved it.

The past two records (“Heavy Manners” and “Gates of Home”) were produced by Dan Black, of The Oranges Band fame, among other things. Dan is the first engineer I have ever worked with that really “produced” our records. He has a great, unassuming way of taking raw tracks and, by addition and subtraction, adding to the flavor of a song. Sometimes he helps to build a song based on our descriptions of what we envision, and sometimes he goes off on his own based on where he hears it going. It has been a great relationship.

This is a case of a song that I thought was decent, but needed something to make it really good. I had the idea to mash it together with Olive, but other than that, I had no idea what to do for it. So I asked Dan to work some magic do whatever he wanted with it. If the song ended up just so-so, we would have left it off the record and gone with 10 songs. Dan really completed this song – he added the pounding tom beat, and chopped the music in the beginning so it started with vocals. He also added the Gang-of-Fourish guitar parts and the synth. This ended up being one of my favorite tracks.

During the production phase of the records, it’s always a treat to get an email from Dan with a track that he has been working on. It’s like X-Mas morning. We love that guy, and really consider him a member of the band.

“New Shoe Leather”

Melissa Jacobsen

A friend of ours was writing a blog called Aural States that was devoted in part to the local music scene in Baltimore. He was embarking on a new project and asked to come over to the warehouse and record some live versions of a few of our songs for a segment on Sick Sick Birds. In addition to recording 3-4 of our regular songs, he asked if we could come up with a short instrumental track that would serve as the Intro for the show. The intro for the show later became New Shoe Leather.

I guess that I have written about Baltimore and Maryland in a number of songs over the years. In this song, there is a line: “A true middle man like Maryland.” Maryland is technically “southern,” as it is the first state below the Mason-Dixon line. But people in the deep South tend to think of Maryland as northern, and a lot of people in the Northeast tend to think of Maryland as southern.

For any historians out there, I highly recommend Maryland: A Middle Temperament by Robert J. Brugger.


Scaffold is the oldest song on the record, with its origins going back to 2000. We had put out The Thumbs “All Lesser Devils,” and were working on writing the songs that would become the final Thumbs record (“Last Match”). I had a couple of parts written that I really liked. So, at practice, we would try to finish this song by coming up with some complementary parts. Then, we decided that the new parts that we had written were strong enough to be a song on their own, so we removed the original parts and finished off the song. This happened maybe three other times – every time we used these parts to write a new song, it turned out that the originals did not exactly fit right. It was like these parts were the scaffold that we used to build the songs for the record. Once the building was complete, we removed the scaffolding and used it to build the next song. This was not our intention, but it’s the way it ultimately worked out.

Lee Blades

It wasn’t until Last Match was written and released that the song “Scaffold” was finally finished. We recorded a demo of the song in 2002, but The Thumbs were done and the song was shelved. We played Scaffold occasionally during Sick Sick Birds live sets, but never recorded it until the “Gates of Home” sessions. I really like how different the Thumbs and Sick Sick Birds versions ended up sounding.

The lyrics for this song are a continuation of a Thumbs song called “Where’s the Battle Cry?” that I co-wrote with my wife about a person helping a good friend through a bad break-up. Once the heartache from the break-up dissipated, the friendship suddenly dissolved. It seemed like the relationship had been so dominated by the processing and aftercare involved in dealing with the breakup, that afterwards, the person could not handle the emotional reciprocity necessary for the friendship. Maybe the friendship was a constant reminder of darker times. Or maybe the newly-renovated version of the person simply no longer needed the friendship. This reminded me of the original parts of Scaffold. The lyrics are about being someone else’s scaffolding, helping to rebuild someone, and then being disassembled and stored for the next project.

This is the only song that I have ever worked on where there is such a synchronous relationship between the music and the lyrics.

Album Credits:

Lee Blades (drums)

Mike Hall (guitar, vox)

Eric Jacobsen (guitar, vox)

Melissa Jacobsen (bass, vox)

John Irvine (trumpet on Olive, Conversation and Scaffold)

Tim Baier (guitar on Conversation and New Shoe Leather)

Daniel Black (guitar and keyboard on Gates of Home, additional instrumentation and arrangements throughout)

Produced and mixed by Daniel Black.

Drums and bass engineered by Tanuj Kundhi.

Design and layout by Michael Welch.

Other Stuff from cancelled issue of Eighty-sixed Fanzine:

Theme: Songwriting

An interview with Gerge from Pretty Bullshit.

An interview with Bricks from C.R. and Phallacy

An interview with Micah from Unwelcome Guests

An interview with Keith from Avow Zine

A track by track explanation from Sick Sick Birds about "Gates of Home" LP

A column by Jeff from Thanks and Lost Cat Records