Saturday, March 31, 2012


Burgerama is happening as we speak!  How many months did it take to prepare all of this?

Sean Bohrman:  For probably two months or so, since the beginning of the year.  But it wasn’t just this I was planning.  We also have a festival going on in San Francisco called the Burger Boogaloo, and that started yesterday.  There are two shows today, and two shows tomorrow.  I’m driving up there tomorrow for that.  We just got back from SXSW two days ago.  We did five shows there that sold out.  They were huge shows and Bill Murray was there, it was crazy.  It’s just been really really hectic ‘cause Lee (Rickard) has been on tour with The Nerves, and Brian (Flores) was in the hospital for a little while.  Me and Bobby were the only two working, and we don’t have a car between us, so the weeks leading up to SXSW were really really crazy and we didn’t get everything we wanted to get done.  But for the most part, everything was a success.  All the stuff we had been planning for worked out, and thank god.

Who’s manning the store while you’ve been gone?

Brian is actually out of the hospital and he can’t really party or anything, so he’s just kind of taking it easy hanging out at the store.  Patty, our friend, was watching it while we were gone.  Everybody is coming together to help the Burger cause.

Sean Bohrman (On right)
White Fence
Dirt Dress
Keith Morris of Off!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Just to Be: A Q&A with Voxhaul Broadcast

(L-R) David Dennis, Phil Munsey, Tony Aguiar, Kurt Allen
            A few weeks ago, before Voxhaul Broadcast set out on their busy schedule to record the last five songs to complete their upcoming album, then travel down to Mexico to play a festival, then head to Austin for SXSW, and finally finish the month of March by playing a Monday Night Residency at The Satellite in Silverlake, members David Dennis (guitar, lead vocals) and Tony Aguiar (guitar, organ, vocals) found a quiet Wednesday to meet me in their Silverlake neighborhood to sip some coffee, share a cigarette,  and chat about the evolution they and their bandmates, Phillip Munsey (bass) and Kurt Allen (drums), have experienced over the last 20 years.

Before Voxhaul Broadcast, you guys had a different name for the band?

Tony Aguiar:  Yeah, Boulevard.

How long were you Boulevard before changing the name up?

Aguiar:  We were Boulevard for at least a year or two, but then there was another band named Boulevard and we kind of got into this battle, and we were like, ‘Fuck it, just take the name.’

Has it been the same four members since the beginning?

Aguiar:  Yeah.  Me and Kurt (Allen) grew up on the same street.  I’ve known him since he was four.  I’ve known David since junior high, and same with Phil (Munsey).

Your ties run deep then?  I’m sure that makes a difference in your success.

David Dennis:  We’ve all been friends for a real long time.

Individually, when did you know music was the path for you?

Dennis:  I kind of grew up in a singing family.  They were all like church folks and Pentecostal.  So I just grew up singing my whole life because my mom is a choir director and my dad was a singer.  She played the guitar, and she actually taught me how to play.  She’s a songwriter as well.

Did your mom ever travel for music?

Dennis:  Yeah.  My parents were missionaries when I was growing up, so we lived in India and Russia, and she was a traveling singer/songwriter and missionary.  That’s how I got into it.  Tony’s dad was a guitar player.

Aguiar:  He had a guitar shop, so that was pretty simple.

You always had the tools around you?

Dennis:  He grew up most Saturday mornings to his dad blaring Cream or Led Zeppelin.

Aguiar:  It was never a question for me, it was just so obvious.  I never had a doubt of what I wanted and I still don’t.  I don’t think, ‘Oh I could have done this, I could have done that.’  There’s so much good stuff so far, it’s so much fun.

That’s probably another reason why you guys work so well together.  You’re just who you are, and you’re not trying to be in a band to be cool.

Dennis:  If you’re in it to be a superstar or something, the odds are against you, so you better start with liking it; you better start with loving it, and then go from there.
Love the music, not the spectacle.  When did you know that you found your sound?  Did you tamper with different genres, or just start jamming, or something else entirely?

Dennis:  We’ve collectively grown through so many different genres.  Knowing somebody that long—you can imagine what kind of music we listened to when we were in fifth grade—and it’s obviously a lot different then it was in fifth grade.  Naturally you listen to different bands and you start to be inspired by different things.

Aguiar:  I think we’re always evolving with our sound too.  Even with the new songs we’re recording, it’s a little bit different from what we used to do.  It matters who we’re listening to at the time, and what we want to sound like, and what’s fun to still play.

Dennis:  Even the changes in life you go through, and life in general, can change the way you’re writing.  Sometimes you’re more introspective, sometimes you’re more extroverted, sometimes you dig love, sometimes you hate love.  It’s just whatever is on your plate at the time.  It always finds its way into the music.  That’s really the best way you can write songs—just from a real place from a real feeling that you have.  At least for me it is.  I’m not very good at making up stories of things that didn’t really happen.

There are a lot of artists that hide their lyrics behind the music, but you guys always tell a story or communicate an emotion clearly.  When you’re writing, where do you go in your head to be able to translate those feelings?

Dennis:  I’m really always in that space in my head.  It’s all I know really.  It’s what I’ve done for so long.  It’s such a big part of me that if I don’t do it, I start to go a little bit nuts.  We were on this tour recently and usually I bring my acoustic with me.  I’ll play on the stairs while we’re at the hotel, and I’ll write on the road.  I didn’t have my guitar on the road this time because we were sharing gear and we had to keep it in the other band’s trailer.  So the last tour we were on I was just going bats.

How long were you touring for?

Dennis:  A month.  That was probably the worst tour as far as being pent-up—like I think I’m gonna explode if I don’t get to play my guitar soon.  Even though I played it every night, I wanted to just write and play something new.

Before moving to LA, you guys started your music careers in Orange County?

Aguiar:  David grew up around the world, but I guess we met in junior high and were there since then until we moved up here.

Dennis:  I was born in the mid-west.  The places I’ve lived at the longest were the mid-west and here in LA, which has been about five or six years now.  That’s about the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere.

Do you feel more comfortable on the move, or do you like staying in one place?

Dennis: I don’t know.  I got a little bit anxious being like, ‘I think this is my home.’  It feels weird, but until recently I’ve pretty much lived out of a bag.  I moved out when I was 16 years old.  Even when I move in somewhere, it’s like a mattress on the floor.  I’m just afraid to have things.

What’s bad about having things?

Dennis:  Nothing, nothing is!  But they make me anxious for some reason, you know?  But I just moved into this new place, and the people who were evicted left all their furniture, so I moved into a house with tons of furniture already in there, and I was like, ‘Wow, my life really came together real fast (laughs).’  I just became a regular adult overnight.

When did you decide to move to LA?

Aguiar:  Phil just kind of moved up here (to Silverlake) one random year and we all followed.  We liked it a lot and found our home here.

Dennis:  You know, you think you hate LA until you go to certain places in the city.  Our first experiences playing LA were at The Roxy and the Whiskey, and they’re just like graveyards from the ‘80s.  It’s an awful scene over there.

The high rent is killing that strip.

Dennis: We kind of had a bad taste in our mouths, and they treat the bands awful over there.  Then we started playing shows in this neighborhood, and started meeting people around here, and this really feels like home.  It’s like a different world over there (in Hollywood).
You’ve toured with quite a few notable bands over the years.  Is there any act in particular that really inspired you guys while out on the road?

Aguiar:  I think when we went on tour with Airborne (Toxic Event).  It was a big leap from where we were.

Dennis:  That was a really special tour for us.

Aguiar:  We grew as performers big time because we were playing for 1,000 people a night, so we got our bearings straight—like exactly how you have to perform—especially when it’s not your audience too, ‘cause now you’re trying to win over a lot of people that don’t know who you are.

Dennis:  There were always people excited in the front row, and then there were always a couple people who were sooo bored—like obviously thinking, ‘When’s Airborne gonna come on?!’

Aguiar:  Yeah, that was our favorite game—picking out that one person.

Dennis:  We would all get on stage and look for that one person.  I actually started giving out the Most Bored Person In the Crowd award.

Aguiar:  Seeing how real fans—since Airborne has a lot of good songs—really react with songs helped us as songwriters too.  We want songs that people can love and live and say they can relate to, so that really opened our eyes to a whole different world of writing and performing.

You’re heading out to SXSW this year?  How many times have you attended now?

Aguiar:  We’ve been a couple times.  We went in 2008 and did a couple shows, then we went in 2010 and that was alright.  We went last year and it was phenomenal because we did all the great events with Filter, and the Pure Volume shows.  This year again we’re going to do the Filter shows and stuff like that.  When you’re doing the festival like that, SXSW is different.  We had a house with a pool last year, so we really got to relax.  It’s just band camp.  There’s so many bands, you run into all your friends out there.  They’re playing in one spot, and you’re trying to make it to all these different places.

Like one big ant farm.

Aguiar:  Yeah, it’s just the craziest thing.  I couldn’t believe, the first time we went, what it was like.

Dennis:  Or you couldn’t believe how you got home.

Aguiar:  Everyone has free drinks so…

Dennis:  It’s funny and that’s a weird thing in the music industry, like when you go to a meeting, it somehow just turns into drinking.

Aguiar:  They want to give you booze ‘cause you’re a band, so they expect you to drink.

How do you handle all the distraction?

Aguiar:  We’re pretty tame.  We do have our nights where it gets a little rowdy.  But after every show we go back to the hotel room and work out, ‘cause we’ve been sitting for eight hours, so it’s like, ‘Let me run for 20 or 30 minutes.’
Do you work independently, or do you have a manager of some sort?

Aguiar:  We just got new management with this company called, The Management Company.  We met them through Airborne, like our manager is Airborne’s manager, and he works with The Bravery and Andrew W.K.  We just got on that like a month or two ago.

Any dealings with any record labels yet?

Aguiar:  When it comes it comes.  We’re not rushing to get into it.

Dennis:  I don’t know how to feel about record labels.  I’ve seen more of my friend’s bands just get eaten alive that are on labels than seeing them become successful from being on a label.  It’s hard to be optimistic about it.

Aguiar:  If someone presents us with a good opportunity then we’ll definitely take it, but until then, we’re fine on our own.

When you produce your albums, how are you distributing your work?

Aguiar:  With Timing is Everything it was iTunes and at the shows, and then at local record stores.  It’s been working fine for us.  We’re not like worldwide yet, but we hand out to enough people when we’re out at shows.

How has song placement helped in spreading your music and raising some funds?

Aguiar:  The placement stuff is our bread and butter.  We don’t really have jobs—we just play—and the placements help us keep 100% focus on the music.  We work with this company, Zinc, who helps us out.  We just got on The Vow recently.

Dennis:  They’re big supporters of ours, and they are pretty much the reason why we’re able to survive without being on a record label, because we have some people over there that like us and send out our songs.  We’re very lucky to have a good relationship with our publishing company.

With your newest album Timing is Everything, how would you say you’ve grown since your first release Rotten Apples?

Dennis:  Mentality-wise we’ve grown up a lot.  I was into a lot more psychedelic stuff, I think we all were, back then.

What types of bands were influencing back then?

Dennis:  We were listening to The Seeds at the time, and Cream and Zeppelin.  The Kinks are one of my favorites too.

For the production of your music video, ‘Leaving on the 5th,’ who did you end up working with?

Aguiar:  A buddy of ours, Justin Franklin, does videos and he had been wanted to do something with us for a while so we sat down and came up with this concept.  He was really excited, so we went with it.
How do you manage your craft and social media simultaneously?

Aguiar:  That’s the only way to get to people, which is kind of sad, but you gotta go with the times.  You gotta sit in front of your computer and spend time doing that day-to-day.

Does each member have their own specific role in the networking, like one person covers Facebook, one on Twitter, and so on?

Aguiar:  Yeah each person takes over one, it just has to be that way.

Dennis:  Phil does the Instagram.  Whatever I’m supposed to do I’ve been slacking on I think.  If you notice, our Facebook and our Twitter, every once in a while we’ll post something funny, but we’re not like the 10-times-a-day offenders.

It’s been a little more than a year since your last release.  Are you working on any new material?

Aguiar:  We are actually going into the studio this Saturday to finish the album.  We’ve got six songs that we did earlier this year, and we’re going to record four or five more songs this weekend and we’ll be done.

Dennis:  We’re recording at Village Studios in the room that they built for Fleetwood Mac.  It’s gonna be awesome.

That should hold some good vibes.  What producer are you working with?

Aguiar:  We’re working with the same guy we worked with at Village last time.  His name is Ghian Wright and he’s amazing.  When you listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic, they do the sessions there and he’s the one working on them.  He knows a lot of people, but he’s pretty much the house engineer.

How did you initially get connected with The Village?

Aguiar:  We did a KCRW event one time and the owner of the studio, Jeff, just loved us and we called him one day.  We said, ‘Hey we want to record, can you help us?’  He was excited and said yeah, and we got in for dirt-cheap.  So we’re going back there again and it was such a great experience.  We bought David a cake on his birthday there ‘cause we were recording on his actual birthday.
How long are your recording sessions usually?

Aguiar:  This one is going to be pretty short, but at the same time pretty long—like 8am to 12am.  Being exhausted can be good, it can bring out good stuff too.  It brings out real emotions I guess.

When do you think you’ll complete your new album?

Aguiar:  We’ll probably be done by the end of February.  We’ll at least have a single out in time for our March residency at the Satellite, and we’re going to SXSW and Mexico in the meantime.

I saw that you’re hopping on a festival with Modest Mouse.  What are the details on that?

Aguiar:  We’re going to fly down to Mexico for a couple of days and do our thing.  It’s an outdoor festival and it should probably be pretty crazy.  I’ve never been to Mexico, so…

Dennis:  I’ve heard really good things, and then really bad things…

Tell me more about your residency at The Satellite.

Aguiar:  It’s going to be good.  It’s every Monday, it’s free, and we’ve got a lot of good bands, DJs, and sponsors.  I’m really excited.

Why did you choose that specific venue?

Aguiar:  We just have such a good relationship with Jen over there that we couldn’t play anywhere else. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Artistic Archive of SoCal Punk: A Q&A with Marco Almera

All photos courtesy of
Artistically, who inspired you?

Marco Almera: For the most part, Rick Griffin, when it comes to color, black lines and symbols.  He did a lot of surf and psychedelic art, and at the end of his life he did a lot of religious pieces as well.  There’s even a point where he turned typography around, where he was writing abstract letters that said nothing.  He was just drawing these warpy words that said nothing, but still got the point across.  There was a famous Jimi Hendrix poster he did that way….it didn’t even say ‘Jimi Hendrix’ on it. That was a high point for type because he broke out of the whole box of actually saying something with his type.  He was very radical for his time.  Plus he surfed, was into motorcycles, and was into Jesus and all this other cool stuff so I totally identify with him.  I’d say he’s my number one influence.  He used a lot of brilliant colors and a lot of contrasts, which I do also.  He was a cartoon artist and everything had a strong black line.  I come from that school of ‘everything being defined clearly’ as well.

You can tell how much time went into Rick Griffin’s art.

Yeah, you can tell he liked drawing.  He would surf all day, get all faded and chill in a hammock in Mexico or whatever and draw.  You can tell how much he loved his work, because he drew whatever he wanted, and you can feel how much he cared for every little thing that he drew, and how much he was experiencing while he was drawing.  He was probably stoking himself out creating, just as much as we are looking at the art.  There are a couple other artists that I liked, and what bridged the gap for me was probably Frank Kozik.  He did some of the original posters from the Austin punk rock scene, and a bunch of skate-punk stuff.  Then he started doing bold-line art, screen-printed rock posters, and used a lot of controversial symbols and stuff like that.  He influenced me by making me realize that I could do that as well.  Whereas Rick Griffin was a generation before and did a lot of psychedelic art; Frank Kozik did more punk rock and garage and in-your-face art, kind of like the early Xeroxed punk flyers.

When you were a youth, were you already beginning your art career?

I was drawing ever since I was young.  It was just what I did.  I drew waves on PeeChee folders, the folders from grade school.  You would have the PeeChee with the girls playing tennis on it, so I’d re-draw the girl’s tennis racket into a machine gun.  If you look at the old school PeeChees, they always had images of sports figures and you could kind of doodle on them and change them into your own thing.  The guy relay racing with a baton, you could turn that into a German hand grenade or a gun.  That’s what everybody was drawing on and there were some kick-ass PeeChees.  Fast Times at Ridgemont High probably referenced PeeChees at least once.  We’d put Vans stickers on them and draw waves.  So ever since grade school, I’ve been drawing little figures, characters and symbols.  I’d draw the AC/DC lettering all perfect, or Led Zeppelin.  Some people would play video games, I just drew. 

Do you feel like certain people have a natural inclination to go against the grain?

Absolutely….and I’m in that boat, for better or for worse.  I’m always going against the grain, no matter what situation, even at my church, haha.  I’m the church guy who will drink a couple beers, who has tattoos, and who might accidentally drop an F-bomb in front of the Pastor.  And then around my surf and punk rock bros, I’m the guy who doesn’t puff herb or do drugs , who always goes to bed early Saturday nights to make it to church in the morning.  I’ve always had that gene to go against the grain.

It must be tough, especially here in Orange County, because it’s so fast and everything is at your fingertips all the time.

Especially down here.  It’s fast, and also in any situation, any scene, there’s a lot of pressure to conform and fit in.  Not just conform, but you gotta know what is popular. Newport is like high school for adults. It’s tough to maintain your individuality, when a lot of people kinda vibe you if you don’t dress cool or don’t follow certain trends.  Like, ‘Who wears shoes like that?’  People get rad here, but a lot of times, they wait until everyone else is doing something, and then they try to do it a little bit more. Kinda like, ‘I’m gonna put a curly-que on my mustache.’

The mustache movement is pretty hysterical.

I realize that I have one, so I guess I’m part of it.

You’re in the clear, that’s definitely a full beard.  So let’s talk a bit about the process of your art.  I notice the intricately layered details, but also the tendency towards a clean solid-line style.

I’m a very technical artist and illustrator.  I’ve tried to not be, because art these days is a lot more distressed, layered and outside-the-box.  People like the elements of the design not clearly defined.  But for me, “clearly defined” was my training.  Everything had a crisp, clean black line around it.  So for me, having to break out of that cleanness has been my biggest challenge over the last couple of years. I started doing a blacklined—almost a pinstriped—style.  Pinstriping, blackline-art, cartooning, painting with a brush and India inkthat was the basis of my first posters.  Everything was crisply defined and illustrated…and now things have far gone away from that.  There’s no defining lines; everything is just broken and smashed and cracked and just hinted at, which is really hard for me to do ‘cause I am not subtle at all.  Trying to add subtlety to my art has been very challenging…but also very positive, and it has brought me to another level.

Although at times, the images you project are much stronger than broken, messy ones.  You’re not distracted by the scratches and tears.

A lot of people like the scratches and tears—the distressing.  People seem to want everything layered and jumbled up, especially now—they don’t want things clearly defined.  They seem to want everything in this kind of ‘grey area’ with a lot of mystery, a lot of ambiguity, presented in a way so the audience can interpret it for themselves.

Like a Rorschach?

Yeah, exactly.  And I think there’s an element of truth to that.  People want to make art to let people fill their own story behind it.  Whereas in my art it’s like, ‘Here it is.’  It’s very clear what it is.  But that’s the only way I know how to make art.  The story I tell is the story that I want to tell.  I’ve been trying to break out of that a little bit, and be not so bold and definitive.  I’ve had some success doing that lately.
Tell me about the women you portray in your artwork.

I’m attracted to strong women.  My girlfriends have always been strong and smart, and they definitely are the type that stand their own ground.  To me, that’s the ideal woman.  I like very European women, and European women are very independent.  They have an old-school, old-world elegance and beauty to them.  Although they’re beautiful, they’re down-to-earth and reliable, and you can trust them in a pinch.  Those are the women that I try to portray in my art.

Have you been in Orange County your whole life?  You’re work seems eclectic in the fact that it encompasses so many aspects of Southern California lifestyle.  It’s great that you’re archiving that history.

Yep, my whole life. Through my art I guess I have been archiving the Southern California experience that I’ve lived since the ‘80s.  It’s been a fun ride; I love what I get to do for a living.  All of my influences, you can find it in SoCal.  I might paint some scenes from Hawaii, or Santa Cruz, or another country, but you can always find an element of SoCal in there.  There’s no ice hockey in my art.  There are really few mountaintop scenes in my art, because it’s nothing I’ve really have experienced in depth (besides Mammoth).  Whereas the bands, I’ve seen all those bands.  Every band I’ve done artwork for I’ve seen live. And the old Xeroxed punk flyers; I used to see those bands around here, Long Beach, and L.A.

That Primus poster with the tight-rope walker over the flames is pretty amazing to deconstruct.

(Laughs) Yeah that was tedious.  I’m trying to get away from that style because people appreciate it, but they aren’t buying it much right now.  Right now people want a lot of free-form thought, with things a bit more ambiguous or undefined, and a lot more textured and layered.  I think they appreciate the old posters like the Primus one, but not the exactness of a cold-line drawing.  I’m sure things are going to change…in ten years, line art will be popular again.  Old always comes back.  But as of now, people don’t like to be told what to do, and they don’t like to be told what to do in art.  When everything’s so defined, it takes the mystery and the fun out of it.  It’s a challenge for me because I grew up creating symbols, and symbols are very sharply defined and it’s very clear what each symbol means.  As an artist, I’m someone who mostly works with symbols, ‘cause every piece of art I create, there’s an amalgamation of different symbols—whether it’s a car, a girl, a star, or a cross.  They all symbolize something, and I’ve noticed some of the more popular symbols right now really don’t mean anything.  Like the Volcom Stone, I would say that it’s gotta be the coolest symbol ever, but what does it mean?  It’s a hemisphere, it’s a diamond, it’s kind of a ‘V’, it’s kind of an arrowhead, it’s black and white, it’s equal halves, it’s a bullet.  That thing is awesome.  It means so many things, just like Volcom means so many things.  But what does it say?  It says kick-ass, punk rock, think for yourself, push it to the next level, be rad.

Youth Against the Authority, right?

That’s right.  As a symbol, it’s very powerful, but it’s still undefined what that symbol means, compared to the symbol of an arrow pointed up.  You go straight or you go forward, and that’s a very clear symbol.  Trying to create symbols that mean nothing, but still do mean something—that’s a tough challenge.

That’s the idea of phenomenology?  A good logo should be noticed, but the action of absorbing it should be unrealized.

It’s like the bunny rabbit in street art.  The bunny rabbit has emerged in street art, in collectable toys, and in graffiti as a symbol.  This innocent little creature that you can bastardize and turn into a monster.  Frank Kozik did the smoking bunny, and when you go and look at these other Japanese toys, there’s always some kind of version of a bad rabbit, or an evil little bunny doing something it’s not supposed to do.  But it’s still a bunny, so kids can have it.  That symbol has emerged, and graphic artists use it, street artists use it, t-shirt artists use it.

No matter what, the bunny is still cute.  Street art has been around more than two decades now, and you got to witness it in its upbringing.  What do you think of street art becoming the norm these days?

It’s pop culture.  I remember when Frank Kozik ran a record label.  Some interview I read, he was talking about how kids under the age of 25 don’t know rock music.  They only know what they’re being marketed, but they didn’t grow up with rock and roll.  They didn’t have older brothers listening to rock and roll, they had older brothers into hip-hop.  When their sister went away to college, she came back with hip-hop and dance music.  A lot of kids under 25, hip-hop culture has been their whole life.  So street art and the urban type of music and art movement, is basically all they’ve been encompassed with.  At the same time, there’s been the rise of cell phones, computers, internet, Facebook, and all that—which is basically pushing the same thing.  So it’s basically just hip-hop & pop culture presenting itself as street art. But it is the most popular style these days.
Just like the Punk movement, it was supposed to mean ‘fuck authority,’ right?

For me, the whole street art and hip-hop thing—that is the new authority.  Every other commercial has the guinea pigs dancing hip-hop, or the ironic white man rapping, or the urban kid in his own world listening to hip hop on his iPhone. Then you get Shepard Fairey trying to sell it as rebellion with his ‘phenomenology.’ He’s saying, ‘Obey, Obey, Obey,’ and people are obeying and they are buying.  He is the new guy on top, and again, it’s pop culture.  Some of it’s cool, a lot of it is B.S.  The part I think is ironic is how he’s supposed to be all anti-capitalist and for-the-people and all that, but all the money he’s making he’s putting into those evil capitalist banks and probably investing.  No one is putting money into a collective for people to share equally.  That’s capitalism for you, and he’s a capitalist.  As a graphic artist, and as a smart-ass, and as a DIY guy, he won.  He’s very clever, and he was able to kind of trick everybody.  While not being able to be the greatest hand-drawing artist, he was still been able to trick everybody into believing his concept.  In that way, my hat’s off to him.  Now all art is concept.  He has used and bastardized so many symbols, that symbols don’t mean anything now.  They have this other meaning.  It’s like when he took the Misfits Fiend Club, and then he put Andre the Giant into the Fiend Club, it was like the double whammy.  It was like the Andre the Giant Fiend Club making fun of the Fiend Club, making fun of Andre the Giant, and then making fun of you.  That’s genius.  At first I was like, ‘Hey, he’s ripping off the Misfits.’  And now I realize, who were the Misfits ripping off?  As a graphic artist who gets ripped off, that bums me out.  But the fact that he has stuck to just one symbol of Andre the Giant’s face to make his millions, that’s pretty clever.

There always seems to be more than one layer in Shepard Fairey’s artwork.

Yeah, he’s broken symbology up, and as an artist who works in symbols primarily, it’s mind-blowing for me.  He started with this one symbol, and then he put ‘Obey’ on it.  And then the Motörhead symbol said Obey.  Ok, I see that, whatever, he’s ripping off Motörhead.  If I did that, I’d be in court!  Fortunately for him, he has a more powerful lawyer than me, so he can get away with it.  But it’s evolved past that, and what he’s done with symbols, he’s broken them down and given them double meaning.  It’s kind of cool, and only Any Warhol had done that before him.

I’m looking at the symbols thinking, that’s cool, but then I’m obeying.  In a way, he’s making fun of us by using the same type of propaganda style that stemmed from WWII—but now not to inspire support for war, but rather for pop culture.

There’s always been propaganda.

It depends on who is controlling it that makes it dangerous or not.

You can see how everything is mass marketed and promoted, and everybody is kind of jumping on the bandwagon—no matter what the bandwagon is.  Even the anti-bandwagon-bandwagon—everybody’s on that bandwagon (laughs).

Tell me a little about your education in art?

I started out as an independent mind in the punk rock scene, the surf scene, and the skate scene locally.  When I went to college, they didn’t have computers.  They didn’t have a Graphic Arts degree because it was just Fine Art.  So I didn’t go to a design school, I went to UC Santa Cruz, so it was just painting and sculpture and water-color.  I mean, who water-colors?  I had an upper-division water-coloring class, seriously.  Computers were not part of my formal education, so after school, I had to educate myself in 1994 to use computers, and the internet didn’t come around until 1998 or so.  Whereas kids today are wired their whole college experience.  Papers can be turned in digitally, you have your teacher’s email, you have cell-phones to talk to your friends.  We didn’t have any of that, and so my education experience was classic fine art, no computers, no on-line.
It was all analog.

If I had half of the tools that I use now daily, back in my college days, I would have taken way different classes.  I would have been more graphic-art oriented.  I had a typography class when I was at Cal State Long Beach that was related to computer fonts.  But we were drawing individual letters, and everything had to be measured out by hand.

Designing by hand seems more amazing these days because of the technology crutch.  Because artists have certain programs, they can cut corners, whereas you were actually measuring, cutting, and drawing with your hands.  Same idea goes with music.

Certain bands stand the test of time.  Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis.  Those guys wrote music, played guitar, and made record albums on wax.  They didn’t have the modern computer age.  They created the music that pretty much, we—and all the first punk and rock bands—still listen to now.  Subhumans and some of those early punk bands were pure music, and they were anti-technology, and everything was limited-edition pressings.  They were innovators that everyone is starting to copy today.  So there’s something to be said about the old way.  I’m kind of in the middle, because I was raised in the ‘80s, and my music was all from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and I grew up when things were starting to become more digital, and the concept of a computer started to come alive.  I was playing simple computer games when I was a kid, like Asteroids and Atari.  So I was on the bridge between the old pre-computer generation, and now, where everything is computerized.  Little kids have cell phones and email accounts now.  As an artist, I’m glad I have the formal training, but I’m also glad I’ve taught myself to adapt to the new modern edge.

The markets call for people to work faster, and the only way to be faster is to have the computerized technology.

You can do your research way faster these days.  You used to have to go to the library and photocopy.  People these days have no idea.  You would have to go to the library, bring a bunch of dimes for the copy machine, and then photocopy—in black and white—every image.  That’s why the first punk flyers were black and white; the original images were pulled from books of Reagan or Elvis and had to be photocopied at the library.  Then they would go to another photocopier and arrange it and cut and paste the type.  That’s the original way. That’s why everything looked so raw.  They didn’t have Google.

Or Photoshop or Illustrator.

Yeah, they took images from the Vietnam War or Nicaragua from the library books and newspapers.  It’s funny because with a lot of art now, people are trying to go back to that.

Seems like technology is now engrained.

It’s everywhere; and I do say it’s a good thing, because I sure do like emailing sketches to my different clients around the world.  It sure saves me a lot of time and hassle.  I use the computer everyday for my art, but it’s diluted the art world a bit because anybody can be a graphic artist nowadays.  I’m hoping that my formal art training, in the long run, will set me apart since I have that fine art background as a painter and a printmaker.  And maybe that’s why I can’t connect with street art so much, ‘cause I’m about a half-generation older than that concept, and I grew up with clean lines, pinstripe dagger strokes, oil painting, acrylic painting, printmaking, and sculpture.  Everything has to register with the intent to be printed, and my fine art training taught me that things need to fit square on a canvas, things need to be framed, the edges need to be clean.

A little bit of order is good.

True. But street art, what’s cool about it, is that it has challenged me to break out of my old way of thinking.  My education in school and the beginning of my professional career was based on everything being clean, registered, organized, and balanced because that’s what an illustrator is taught.  Street art throws that whole idea of the canvas being square out the window. 

The street art movement seemed to arise because people were pissed and wanted to say what they thought without any boundaries holding them back.

I understand, as someone with a punk rock background, that immediacy of wanting to express your self.  But I grew up in La Habra, and there was graffiti from the Hispanic gangs and the cholos, so I always hated graffiti, because it made me feel like my neighborhood was shitty.  So when I see graffiti, it still bugs me.  That’s another reason why street art and the hip-hop thing for me just always made me think, ‘This sucks not being able to get away from these dirtbags because wherever you go because they’re always going to move in next to you.’  It’s funny because a lot of suburban kids coming from nice families and nice homes go to live in the city because they want dirt under their fingernails.  Not me, I want to move to the suburbs where the streets are clean, there’s no crime, there’s no one breaking into your cars, and no one spraying graffiti everywhere.  That’s why I’ve lived in Newport Beach.
All that negativity makes it hard to live a healthy life.

It takes away from a real life.  If everyone is walking around trying to be some hard-ass ghetto thug, no one is walking around just being real people.  And that’s why I talk about the loss of good fathers for these inner-city kids.  They’re being marketed to be this hard-ass thug hustler playboy.  It’s so far removed from who a man really is, and it’s destroying inner-city America.  You can take all the money from all of the rich people in America, and it still won’t be able to change that.  Those images and ideas are over-marketed to American kids, so that’s a conflict for me as an artist when it comes to pop-culture.  I like speed, I like aggression, I like intensity, I like power, I like surfing well and skating rad.  I love all that kind of stuff.  But when it comes to living, really living, I want peace, balance, and—I know this sounds corny—the integrity of the family.  To me, that’s very important.  I think a lot of hip-hop & pop-culture tries to tear that apart.  Maybe it always has.

It seems more prevalent today with communication being so much quicker.

I agree with challenging convention, but some conventions shouldn’t be challenged.

They should be respected?

They should be respected, and improved upon.  You know, evolve for the better.  Maybe I’m just getting older and I don’t feel the need to destroy everything, or tear everything apart, or smash everything.  Now being older it’s like, ‘Now I’ll protect my stuff and value my relationships.’

You get what you give, right?  The more destruction you evoke, the more destruction comes back at you.

Totally. If someone paints a mural and then someone else goes and sprays his tag on it to deface that mural, I mean, that’s just punk-ass.  I have no respect for that at all.  Street art guys are clever and they always want to be one step ahead.  I’m hoping and I’m praying that as new kids emerge, maybe they will have some respect for convention.  Maybe even a Christian artist will emerge as the street artist of the next era.  Where he’s clever and dope and his angles are smart and his art blows people away, but he’s talking about loving God and being righteous…and being respectful.

Not debasing?

Exactly.  I’m hoping that will change, but who knows.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Man That Never Was: A Q&A with Michael Hindert

How did you get into music initially?

Michael Hindert: It started with Nirvana, and the Beatles about the same time.  At the same time, my sister was dating a guy in this band called The Pietasters.  He was the trumpet player in that band, but he played guitar, and somehow I had him teach me guitar.

How old were you?

12. I’m not much of a practicer, so it took a long time.  I watched a lot of T.V. and played on the two chords I knew.

Sometimes that’s all it takes…

Yeah, lots of time.

When did you start to get serious about music?

Well I started playing in bands with my brother when I was 12, until I was like 16.  In junior high, we had a band, and then two or three years in high school we had a band.  It was a sort of a weird, eclectic, bluesy project, and we even had some classical stuff; it was really weird.  It was a horrible name—The Court Jesters.  Then we started a rockabilly band with a friend of ours who we had played with in junior high.  That was looking like we were going to start playing a lot of shows.  This band had an even worse name—The Conjurers.  Then we were playing basketball one day and my brother broke his arm, and so that ended that.  Then I went off to school, and I thought, ‘Oh man, I want to be in a band.’  I went to school, and more school, and then I was in New York.  I was like, ‘Well, I kind of want to try to join a band.’  This was in 2003, and then I started auditioning for these pretty bad bands.  One, I got a call-back for as a guitarist, but then Mike from the Bravery, he called and said, ‘Our bass player just quit.’  It was right before their first show, so they had a fill-in, and his name was Phil—Phil the fill-in (laughs).  He played a couple of the shows.  I auditioned in the meantime, and Mike helped me learn the basslines, ‘cause I hadn’t played bass before that.

You had never played bass before?

I maybe picked it up once or twice, but it was mostly guitar.  So I learned the songs, and got in.  Then I toured for a bunch of years, playing bass.

Seems like there’s a gap in there… What’s your history with Mike?

Me and Mike went to school together.  I was at school for two years in Boston, then I transferred back to D.C.  He was at GW, which is where I transferred.  I ended up transferring to Georgetown, but the one year, I was at GW.  There were two colleges, and a couple little secondary schools.

Did you mainly study music?

No.  Philosophy, then cooking, and then a short-film program.

You’re more eclectic than I thought…

Mike and I had philosophy classes together, and that’s how we met each other.  And then I was up in New York, and he moved back to New York.  Right before he tried out for the band, I was like, ‘Oh man, let’s see if they need another guitarist.’  And then he started playing guitar.  I would run into him in New York and he’d be going to band practice.  He called me, and I was either going to move down to Costa Rica and try to learn how to surf, or I was going to try to join a band.  The band, I couldn’t tell if it was working out, so then Mike called me.  At first I got this call back, so I was nervous.  But of course I said yes.

Once you started playing with The Bravery, were they already established and playing tours?

They had played two shows, and I was at both of them.  I auditioned before those shows I think.  They had recordings, but they hadn’t really started any sort of plan.  They did have a manager already, who was a friend of the drummer’s in Boston.

That’s good you had a manager from the beginning.  Most bands swim upstream without for quite a while…

Yeah, and he was from Boston and he had gotten a few bands major deals so he knew a good way to go about it.

Connections are key.  Did you start playing bars to begin with?

Yeah, we played Boston and New York mostly.  We played at Bars like Lit Lounge.  It’s sort of cabaret—like the Beatles, low ceilings and stuff.  It’s really cool, but it’s a bitch to play at, because the stage at one end is a really small bar with little turns and things, and you have to keep your equipment at the other end.  So between sets, you have to go through all of the audience.  It was a cool place.  Other places were just small bars in New York, Boston, the Middle East, T.T. the Bear, and other little venues.

What was the first show that you knew there was something big going on?

We opened for The Libertines.  Well, right before that we did our residency, and each week there were more and more people.  By the last one, there was a line out the door.

Where was that residency at?

This place called Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower Eastside.  I think it was either a Fader or Nylon party, we opened for The Libertines.  A bunch of people were there, I think mainly industry people, but it was a big show.  That was probably the first one I guess.
Did you ever tour with The Libertines?

No no, that was just one show.  That’s where, I think, our label that we ended up signing onto finally decided that they were interested.

So did it take off from there?

Yeah, it did.  We did one short tour in the US opening for VHS or BETA from Kentucky.  And then we went over to play one show in Iceland, and then we went to the UK.  We lived in London for a month, and then toured through the country a little bit in between a London residency.  Then we went to Paris and started touring for three years straight.

How is it being on the road for that long?

Uhh, I hate it, but we don’t tour that rough, but we tour for a long time.

Do you have tours where the shows are night after night after night?

We’re not as bad as we used to be.  We used to go almost every night.

How do keep the performance going every night?

Well, alcohol (laughs).  The problem is when you quit drinking, ‘cause it’s way too much, and you feel a little better ‘cause you’re not hung over so you’re doing a bit better.  But if you do a stretch of a couple empty shows, sometimes it’s a bad stretch.  Then you start drinking again (laughs).  Most of the band doesn’t get drunk on stage while they play.  I made a rule pretty soon into it that I wouldn’t drink before shows, to keep from hitting bad notes.  That would just cause us to drink more on stage.

That’s smart.  Some bands don’t follow that rule.  Once you had success with The Bravery, how long was it before you began Merrifield Records, and what is the label all about?

I guess three or four years.  I started writing my own songs a couple years into it and that was slow-going, but I finally got an EP together.  Then we had some time off.  During most of my time off I would travel—either go on surf trips with John, the keyboardist for The Bravery, or just travel up and down California, trying to figure out where I wanted to live.  I never found a home.  Then, as I was writing music and had this EP together, I wanted to get my band together.  At first I was thinking of bringing the drummer out to California, but I decided that was too much of a pain in the ass.  Honestly, maybe I should have done that, but instead I moved back to Virginia.  Our bass player lived in Virginia, but he lives in LA now.  This is Gary, an older bass player.  We’d have five members, but mostly it’s Kenny (Pirog), me and Dex (Fontaine) in my band The Danvilles.  I haven’t figured out exactly what’s going on, but Gary wouldn’t move home, so I started a new band, No Lover, ‘cause I didn’t want to have to deal with new members.  But then with No Lover came The Dusty’s, and then Dex is in a bunch of other bands, so I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, we have like a whole record label here.’  It took me a while ‘cause I had, as long as I had played music, never tried to write anything.  It took me a while to write anything, and the first EP I recorded sometime in 2009, I think in the Summer.  I probably started writing in 2007 or 2008.  No Lover ended up being really awesome, and I thought, ‘This will be it.’  So I brought The Dusty’s on tour with The Bravery, and had No Lover play after-parties.  We played a few, but I was like, ‘If we’re going, we should make a few compilations.’  So we put a few of the bands on and handed that out.  Through playing some of the after-parties, we met some other bands and I told them, ‘You should be on Merrifield.’  Once I had Dex out on the West Coast, I thought, ‘Well, I gotta do a Danvilles tour out here,’ but the bass player had to get back soon for school or something. So he went back to the East Coast and I told him, ‘I got Dex out here,’ and he was interested in doing a mini-tour.  We did it with Semi-Sweet, and through that I met more bands.  Then as I traveled more and more, I met more bands, and over the last couple of years we ended up signing a lot of bands.

How many bands are signed to Merrifield Records now?

It something close to 50, and they are different levels.  They’re all over the country, and a lot are in Virginia, Santa Barbara, a few in Costa Mesa, plus a couple East Coast.  Then there are a couple projects I’m still trying to get going, which I’ll sign once they have something.  There are about 40 that I want to eventually sign.  We’re also signing visual artists, filmmakers, videographers, and trying to get a couple writers.

Sounds like a good group you’re forming.

Yeah, what to do with it I haven’t quite decided.

That was my next question.  What’s to come in the future?

Yeah yeah.  I want to start a movie production house so that eventually, all of our movies will use Merrifield music.  But to do that, I have to get investors, and I have to think about that.  That’s a separate company, but I feel like that’s something I can set up.  The music for Merrifield Records, I can’t decide how to set it up yet because there’s no telling what is going to happen with the industry just yet.  I don’t want to rush into anything because there’s nothing to rush into.  So right now I’m just trying to get all the bands as far along as possible.  We have some really good ones.  Everyone I signed was a friend, or a friend of a friend, almost completely, and from that we ended up with some really really awesome bands.  It’s interesting to see what will happen and what bands will get signed.  No one signs to Merrifield.  As we build it, I want to preferably keep it so that no one has to sign.  I can’t tell what’s going to happen.  I’d rather not get any investors ‘cause then nothing has to come from the bands.  Eventually, we will need to get investors, but I want to be setup and bring as much to the table so that as much can be kept for the bands as possible.  So really I’m just trying to make a home for my own bands so that I can concentrate on enjoying life and playing music, and not having to deal with the business stuff.  Not that I have to deal with that much with The Bravery, but for my own bands, I have to figure stuff out.

You work in video as well, right?

Yeah, I want to be a filmmaker, I think.  I keep going in and out of it.  It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.  I did a short-film program at NYU—it was a three-month program in their adult-school.  I really liked it, so I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go to film-school,’ but it’s so much work for so little assurance of a good job.  And, everyone will tell you, if you wanna make a movie, just do it yourself.  Still, the amount of work to make it was a lot and I was like, ‘I don’t want to deal with all this.’  But, it seems like technology is getting better, and when technology is better, maybe I’ll start again.  Then I was in The Bravery and we had different people following us around, and I was like, ‘Man it’s pretty awesome what has happened with all of this technology.  And then I asked one of the business heads of our record label if I could have a camera and he said alright, he’d get me a camera.  Then I asked the A&R guy to buy me Final Cut, so he got me Final Cut.  At first I made little Bravery videos of touring and things.  I got a free introduction to it, and then I read all the Final Cut books.  They had these workbooks to learn Apple transitions.  So I just started doing it, and it was something I could just sit in my bunk and work on.  I was listening to the Growlers a lot of the time and I used their music sometimes.  I think I had like four videos using their stuff.

How did you select Merrifield Records as the name?

I was trying to think of a band name for The Danvilles.  I was driving around and there’s a city right there.  I grew up in Falls Church, and nearby there’s this area called Merrifield.  It’s where the movie theater is and Taco Bell and all that stuff. All the bands that were on it were started were right by it.  I was driving one night, and someone had told me to start looking at signs, so I was looking at signs and saw Merrifield.  That’s how I got The Danvilles too, from a street sign.