A while back, I was given an album to review by a band on Revelation Records. Right away I was disinterested, since the hardcore screaming bands the label usually produces all sound the same to me, and are anything but interesting to review.
When I finally got around to listening to the album, I was shocked. The sound coming from my stereo was nothing like I’d expected. In place of the screaming and shouting about how corrupt the government is, or how the youth should overpower the world – I heard yelps of fun and infectious chants. With crazy song titles like
"We Be Dragons" and "Pizza Party," I knew this band was a different breed of cat and I wanted to find out more. Even the album’s artwork makes it stand out – it features a strange hybrid of elementary school collage work and psycho-killer tribute paintings from prison. The garage/post punk party these boys create is something that will make you shake like the elderly.
I was able to catch up with the boys while they stormed through Chicago, and was pleasantly surprised with how cool and collected they were. I figured after the release of a debut album that sounded as strong as theirs, they’d have heads the size of
watermelons... maybe next time we talk they will.
LAS: So first, tell me how you guys met.
Bill (bass): Well we all kind of met in Milwaukee, being in local bands and doing basement shows around town. We were all 17,
after-high-school-age. Bands changed members around until we ended up where we are.
Nathan (guitar/vocals): We've all known each other for ten years; Milwaukee’s a pretty small city. It was all a matter of time until people gave up the music dream, and we had only a precious few to play together.
How did you guys get hooked up with Revelation Records?
Nathan: We're friends with Since By Man, and pretty much before we became a band, the guy who does A&R at Revelation stayed with me for a while. We became friends before the thought of our band even came about. It's kind of an odd label for us to be on, but everything’s going well so far.
It certainly does have a different sound than your usual hardcore Revelation sound, but I think it's a perfect avenue for the label to branch out. What did your previous bands sound like?
Bill: This is pretty new for us. All the bands I used to be in were all dark and serious. In your late
Nathan: And life is shit...
Bill: Yeah, and you feel alienated and you take yourself very seriously. It seems ridiculous to talk about it now, but the sound of the music that we made, by comparison, is kind of embarrassing.
Nathan: But on those lines - if you can find a teenager that's not angst-ridden, I wouldn't have wanted to hang out with him and I wouldn't want to know him now.
So how did this sound come
Bill: I think, overall it came out of the want to do something different. After making such dark and serious music for so long, we realized we don't really have those personalities. Call Me Lightning seems to collect our overall personality a hell of a lot more.
Nathan: If you want to talk about particular influences - growing up I came from listening to the hardcore punk stuff, Gorilla Biscuits, MDC - the shit to kill the government. We listened to a lot of DC bands, Chicago bands... Pretty varied.
Bill: As far as influences, with me I grew up listening to 90's alternative, Liz
Phair. Gang of Four is pretty prevalent, and we get compared to early Talking Heads and Les Savy
Fav, which doesn't come straight across, but I guess I can hear it.
Nathan: I'm definitely down with the Les Savy Fav comparison. They're not necessarily a roots-influence, but I take it as a compliment. They're a great band.
So you're name is from a Who song if I'm not mistaken...
Nathan: I love the Who, and I like to steal names from things and not come up with anything original...
Bill: For me, the Who is perfect.
Nathan: I'm probably the biggest die-hard Who fan in the group. Perhaps in the beginning we thought we might sound like the Who. It's actually the name of a pretty shitty Who song,
[but] it sounds good. It will all be clear when we write our big concept rock opera.
What are your immediate plans?
Nathan: The album just came out and we plan on trying to play as many shows as we can. We'll be heading out for a West Coast tour in a few months. We've realized it's a lot easier to go out on tour when you're 19 and still living off your parents. We're planning on getting out of the Midwest for a while in the near future.
Bill: We've been together as a band for a year and a half. I've been in bands with Shane (drummer) for almost ten years...
Nathan: We're fucking hayseeds, there aren't a lot of people to play with. Just a bunch of dudes that have been hanging out and playing being dorks.
Are you guys comfortable in the Milwaukee scene?
Nathan: I love Milwaukee. It has a surprisingly amazing scene with great bands and supportive people. It's not big enough to separate the mohawks and the crust-punks. It's a smaller scene where people hang out in the same three bars. And it's cheap.
Bill: I'll support that statement. I don't want to make a rock and roll dream cliché, but I plan on committing to this as much as I can because you never know what could happen.
Nathan: I hate my fucking job, I'm a busboy and it sucks. I absolutely will be committing to this. We don't really have high expectations of anything; it's just what we really want to be doing right now. As long as we want to be playing we'll want to sustain ourselves with just that, if possible. We're pretty realistic.
One of the greatest things about this album is the fun you guys seem to have while playing together. Any hints as to how you, as a band, are able to retain that sound?
Nathan: We've been friends for long enough that we can hate each other for a little while and still be friends, be a band. We can blow up at each other, have terrible things happen and are mature enough to continue on. In the past - we've had a lot of bands that have broken up over dumb stuff. We know who we are and we know we like to have fun in our lives, so why not in our music too? Hopefully this one will last.
Bill: Actually, we're all super-flakes.
Nathan: Yeah, we're huge pains in the ass. We're incredibly different people, very difficult. It's kind of amazing that we can get over each other. Once you get past that point your band's probably going to last. I hope so anyway. I think most band realize that after a year or so you fucking hate each other anyway.
So you guys don't hang out together outside of the band?
Nathan: We do a bit, but the space away from each other is good.
Bill: It's valuable.
Nathan: Our drummer, who's not here - if he hung out with me every night we would not be a band. He'd punch me in the face.
Bill: It's never strictly business when we're together either. We keep our distance.
What was your recording process for the album?
Nathan: We pretty much prepared what we ended up with on the album, and that's it. We didn't have much time or money so we really hammered away. We recorded everything at our practice space in two days and mixed it with my dad –
he runs a studio, so we did all the mixing and vocals stuff at my dad's place, which was a bit awkward, but my dad raised me around music. He's very supportive, so I can thank him for that. There was no experimenting in the studio. We prepared for it, went in and banged it out as fast as we could, which is what you have to do when you don't have much money.
Bill: There was a lot of stressful work happening in Nathan's
dad's studio with all the mixing and producing, much more than the 2 days of recording. The best thing about it was that through all the negativity we were surrounded with, we got through it together. We didn't blow up at each other surprisingly.
Nathan: And as far as the outcome we're all very pleased. I would do it again, and I'd like to add another day or two.
A lot of new bands first release an EP before a full length nowadays. I suppose since you guys had the ten tracks, you released a full length first - was there any flack or pressure because of that?
Nathan: Actually, it took us a while to figure out what we were doing as far as a label - so by the time we got around to recording we had enough songs... People like albums, I like albums.
I think it's a strong move, and worth it to release an album this strong...
Nathan: I think it reflects our personalities. There's enough shitty stuff to deal with in this world without having to be reminded by a band. Fuck it, have some fun - I don't need to be depressed.
Bill: Leave that to the radio NüMetal bands. Let them be the mouthpiece to the teenagers. It's so ambiguous to sing about how terrible your life is.
Nathan: I'd rather just sing about magical dogs and Christmas time, or whatever.
Can I ask about the artwork on the album?
Bill: That was mostly Nathan; I did a little bit on there.
Nathan: It's all collage - and then my girlfriend painted it. It's a bunch of fucked up ideas I had and Bill helped out. It looked all schizophrenic; then my girlfriend made it look beautiful. She made it pretty and a little more coherent. I love the fact that we're on a label that we could waste a whole color booklet, with no information about the band or music. It's punk psychedelic.
Hearing you guys, and knowing that you're a
three piece band, it's pretty powerful. Are you planning on having a big tour? What do you hope the future brings?
Bill: I'm sure we'll be touring.
Nathan: We play Chicago a lot. Almost every month. We're going to tour on this album through the spring. We've already started writing more songs. We'll do another album; hopefully we'll have enough songs to do that in another ten months.
Bill: Like I said before - you don't know what's going to happen.
Nathan: Hopefully we'll have something new that doesn't sound exactly like our first one... even if it does, fuck it, we're having fun.
Bob Ladewig, who never does anything in moderation, now calls
himself Lightning. He will be ogling the band with his eyes
tonight at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, where he lives and