The Dead Catholics Interview Part 1 (yeah, they're that cool)
werd: james niche
Lest we be damned: Practical innovations in destroying fingertips and hating. Everything.
That should be the title of the new CD by The Dead Catholics. Rochester's newest bishops in the diocese of grunge.
However, it is not. "ROC FLOUR" is the title and I'm sure it's either a name dedicated to the city from which they formed or a twisted homage to the status quo rock bands swarming the airwaves.
It's grunge, it's stripped down and minimalist. Imagine Steve Albini from the mid-nineties meets Ric Ocasek and The Cars. Progressive grunge. No, seriously.
Listening to these guys and imagining the live show takes me back the old days of unwashed hair, torn flannels and homemade t-shirts with "Flipper" scribbled on them.
Those were the days. The days of carefree guitarists and wacky vocals that somehow made you bang your head to the angst emitting from the amps.
Singer and guitarist Jacob Richard, Drummer Ryan Z. and soon-to-be ghost bassist Justin Willoughby all sat down with me for a tender heart to heart on how they really feel about things as well as the new album and the show the CD release party at Monty's Krown on the 16th of August.
This interview was so much fun and these guys...well, actually just Justin, had so much to say that I am breaking this interview into two parts. This is the collective band interview, and coming up in two weeks is the "I Hate List" from Justin Willoughby and gang.
Enjoy it, if you like you can have a doggy bag if you can't finish it.
Justin HATES it.
ACT:LIVE: Let's roll boys. Let's get some introductions.
Jacob: I'm Jacob, I play guitar and sing in The Dead Catholics. I'm originally from Webster.
Justin: I'm Justin and I used to play bass. Well, I still do for the time being until the release party. I also recorded the album with them. I technically already left but I'm going to stick around for the release, I also made the flier which is awesome.
Ryan: I'm Ryan and I play drums. I'm also from Webster, I grew up with Jacob. We've known each other a long time.
ACT:LIVE: How did you guys hook-up, the three of you?
Ryan: Well, we had always hung-out even after high school, then I started playing drums about six years ago and Jacob wanted to start a new band; things evolved from there.
Jacob: I primarily played bass before this and Ryan was playing guitar. Once he switched over to drums, I started also getting bored with dead-end guitar players in Rochester, so I would end up writing songs. You run into guitarist problems a lot here.
Ryan was always there for the good times and the bad. If we were gay it would totally make a lot of sense. (laughs)
ACT:LIVE: How was the writing flow as you got together? I take it this was a good click for you Jacob.
Jacob: It was pretty good, I had pre-written a few songs, so we gave those a whack to see how they would turn out. They came out good, we didn't think they could get any better so we called it a day.
It all sounded just like it does now, just sloppier.
We tried to raise the bar in a few places without letting anybody know it. We like to keep the expectations low, if you know what I mean. We figure somebody out there is going to like it if we do.
ACT:LIVE: Why are you leaving Justin? You guys seem like you work well together.
Justin: I've been playing with them since February 2007 which just seems like forever with these guys. They fired their last bassist a week before they had a show because they are so awesome like that. That's where I stepped in.
I'm stepping out now because I HATE these guys. It's such a pain in the ass driving all the way out to practice.
Kidding aside, I'm trying to start a company and finishing school so the time I can devote is slim to none. I'm also trying to film a skate video, things are just ridiculous.
ACT:LIVE: Who's in the skate video?
Justin: Just me and a few of my friends. We made a video for the Krud Co. film festival and we won best soundtrack. It doesn't mean it was the best on the world, but it was pretty sick.
It was at Extreme Skate Park in East Rochester and Krud Co. had the place shut down for the day for a couple hundred people to skate, watch videos and have an awesome time.
ACT:LIVE: You guys still looking for a replacement bassist, because this guys a prick. (laughs)
Jacob: There's a couple guys that we want to try out, but it's just a matter of finding the time to connect with them.
It's a shame because we really are going to miss Justin. I probably shouldn't say that though. I kind of regret it now.
We've been busy working on the CD and I've been working a stupid shift all summer, so it has taken a lot of time away from me to take care of things like finding a new bassist. That will all be changing soon. I'll be able to put more focus and time into the band the way I would like.
ACT:LIVE: It's been tough enough just to find time to sit down with you this week, I can imagine the auditions time is even tougher.
Jacob: I think we've had maybe one rehearsal together in the past month.(laughs)
I think all we're going to have a is a quick warm-up that day. We hope to remember our parts.
Justin: We spent so long recording that album that when we get together it just happens now. We don't even have to rehearse. We know it's as good as it's going to get. We'll play a song half-way through and figure that sounds decent.
It's so loud at the show, so even if it doesn't come off decent, no one will know.(laughs)
No one brings earplugs so you know if they say it sounds good, they're lying.
ACT:LIVE: What did recording entail for you guys? Where did you record?
Justin: We recorded at 4th Floor Studios, which is actually on the 3rd floor.
It was at this dude's house, it was a pretty sick attic set-up. The floor boards were pretty sketchy too, like a punk band was kicking the shit out of the floor. Somehow the nails in the floorboard underneath carpet were coming up, which means you would really have to go out of your way to screw that up.
Jacob: It was at Paul Rusinko's house. He's one of our friends on MySpace.
We should be getting all the rest of the material, like artwork, this week.
We only have a few days left and I'm starting to realize we need that stuff soon.
Justin: It might be a "make your own cover" CD and we'll sell it for half price.(laughs)
ACT:LIVE: How many tracks on this album?
Jacob: We've got ten tracks and it's about fifty minutes long.
ACT:LIVE: Did Paul Rusinko do all the mixing and mastering?
Jacob: Yeah, he did all that. We were pretty happy with the way things came out. All the songs have a nice presence but they didn't sound too polished and that's what we wanted. We wanted it to be a little rough around the edges.
ACT:LIVE: Who did the artwork for the CD?
Jacob: Justin and his wife primarily.
Justin:What did he ask?
Jacob: He asked about the artwork, tell him about the artwork.
Justin: What am I supposed to say?
Jacob: He and your wife, you worked on the artwork...and...well, anyways, the cover has a picture of a smashed up car.
Justin: Oh, yeah.
Jacob: Most people don't get it at first, what the picture is.
ACT:LIVE: What was the image you were going for?
Jacob: We were going for a dingy, bland thing. We took a few photos in the old subway.
Justin: Because if you are band in Rochester, you have to do at least one shoot in the subway.
ACT:LIVE: Who are some of your influences as musicians?
Jacob: (lights his cigar) I guess Type O Negative. I'm a true fan because I'm afraid to admit they are my favorite. I'm obviously influenced by Nirvana, but I really like Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I've also been listening to a lot of Mars Volta. As far as singers that influence me, Joe Cockers back up singers. I don't know what I just said.
I also like Anal Cunt.
Justin: The kind of stuff I like is ridiculous. I'm going to say it, but you won't believe it.
Dave Brubeck Quartet, KC & The Sunshine Band, Peter Gabriel. It's funny because I hate way more music than I like, the stuff I like is so random. I even like gangster rap like N.W.A., old school shit like that.
Jacob: Justin is more of a jazz musician than a bass player. Does that make sense?
Jazz musicians, by default, are always awesome bass players.
Justin: Yeah, a lot of times I like to put the bass out there in a song where the rhythm guitar part might be.
Ryan: As far as musicians that inspire me, the drummer from TOOL and A Perfect Circle, those two are big on me. I listen to a lot of Failure and Mars Volta too. Jake and I like a lot of the same music.
I like more metal stuff too, like Cradle of Filth and Lamb of God.
I've only been playing for six years, so playing on that skill level has been difficult because drumming is so physical that if I had started earlier I would be a lot better. If you start younger you are trained into the motions.
Justin: You have to remember that Ryan is also 93 years old.
Ryan: I definitely like music that's darker and varies in timing. I like to get away from the 2/4 rock beat.
ACT:LIVE: What was the last show you guys have been to, local or otherwise?
Ryan: The last show I went to was a local show, it was one of my co-workers sons was in a band and I wanted to check them out. Sad thing is, we left before he even played because we had him confused with another guy in a different band and thought that was the show. Oops.
A lot of the bands were emo-punk ish and I'm not really a fan of the whiny radio stuff. The music is ok, but the singers are always whining about something.
ACT:LIVE: Is it tough getting people into your retro grunge style? Today's music is so stylized and pretty in a lot of ways. Commercial rock is, anyhow.
Ryan: Yeah, it is hard. That music is what's popular now, the only people checking those bands out anyways are high schoolers. That's the majority of what I see.
At the same time, music is so subjective and people like what they like. We have a crowd that really likes us and that's cool to me.
From an indie perspective, I think our band is something that a lot of people like because it doesn't sound like anything you would hear on the radio. It comes through that we really do appreciate music. It's not always predictable.
We're all artists and we all love the art of it. We make music that we will enjoy.
Justin: I genuinely hate my music. I generally hate everything. Find something, anything, I bet I won't like it. (laughs)
ACT:LIVE: I'm almost running out of time for this session, so let's get that album plug going...when is the CD release?
Jacob: August 16th at Monty's Krown. We are playing with Travelator, another Rochester band. I recommend you check them out at the very least. That band is really good..
All right fellas, I'm giving you a shout out and thanks via the web here. That interview was really fun and I can't wait for part two.
Check out The Dead Catholics and Travelator at Monty's Krown on Monroe Ave, August 16th and pick up the new CD from The Dead Catholics "ROC FLOUR".
Part Two: The Justin Hates List, is coming in two weeks kiddies!
Coming up this week is the Foreign Legion "Secret Knock" EP review and the Soul Slingers MixTape CD review. I also sit down with Sarah at Utta Clutta on Park Ave, catch a buzz and discuss the current state of Rochester and the arts. Till then kiddies...PEACE!
Right now we're listening to:
Nirvana "Very Ape" ("In Utero", 1994, Geffen)