Drummer Wisam Alshaibi told us a little bit about signing to the label, their release, touring with Yellowcard and screamo bands and why they think the Lawrence Arms and Hot Water Music are the greatest bands ever.
So how did you end up working with Astro Magnetics?
It was a pretty long and arduous process. Basically, we all moved to New York City about two years ago to try to get a record deal, and we ended up living in a one bedroom - seven of us in ghetto Brooklyn - and basically the record deal we were talking about totally flopped on us, it was basically a lie and we ended up being screwed over; fucked over in New York City and were trying to find a way to make it and we all kind of dumpster dived, just did what we could for a while. About 8 months later I was working at this hot dog place, and Geoff [Rickley] from Thursday walked in. I gave him a link to our Pure Volume site, and about a week later he came back and then we played a showcase for them and they signed us.
That’s pretty good luck.
It was crazy fucking luck! We couldn’t believe it happened.
Are you guys back in Denver now or are you still in New York?
We’re actually in New York far more than we’re in Denver. But Denver is really our home base. We really haven’t been home in so long. We’ve been touring pretty much since July non-stop, a week off here and there.
Geoff produced your album too right?
It was amazing! Geoff and Thursday influenced me a lot when I was younger and it was great having someone who is experienced and who knows the fine tunings of songwriting to guide us the elaborate process of making a full length. We’d recorded a lot before but never anything that big. More than anything he’s just our friend, a really good friend and he’s done so much for our band, I can’t even put it all into words, he’s just a really good dude.
I think a lot of people were surprised when your stuff started coming out because some people were expecting that every band on his label would sound like Thursday.
There’s really nothing that sounds like Thursday on the label. It's so many different kinds of bands, from mellow acoustic stuff to abrasive indie rock stuff, but none of its really like all that much like Thursday at all.
I guess a lot of people were expecting more indie rock or posst-hardcore, but you guys are definitely more Hot Water Music-influenced.
Just for us, like, Hot Water Music is the shit. A quintessential band like them and the Lawrence Arms, Small Brown Bike, Leatherface… stuff like that. Those are the bands we grew up listening to and what we want – not want to sound like, but we want to take that all in, and I don’t know, a lot of kids hear us and try to compare us to like something more modern and they don’t really quite get it. I’m like “have you heard of Hot Water Music?” and they say“Aw no.” and I’m just think “Damn man.” I bet you for most kids they’d listen to a band like that and they wouldn’t even get it.
Though where we’re from in Denver there’s a lot of bands like that. I think it’s actually sort of a small scene arising again so…
You guys have some good labels down there too right? Suburban Home?
Suburban Home, yeah Virgil [Dickerson]’s is an awesome guy, and its such a grassroots indie label. He really actually cares about music and he won’t sign a hardcore or screamo band at all.
Do you guys see yourselves touring with more bands like that? You had a couple bands, I wouldn’t call them screamo necessarily, but definitley on that end of things.
We toured with Chiodos, Number 12, Fall of Troy; like I said we do everything we can, we’re going out with The Lawrence Arms again. It’s just all across the board really.
I fucking love that band so much. Like, I have no words to even describe how much I love The Lawrence Arms how much they mean to me. Like I’m probably going to get a Lawrence Arms tattoo pretty soon.
They're really great. What did you think of the new one?
Brendan gave it to me in Chicago. The minute we put it on we all started freaking out and clapping, we couldn’t believe how good it was.
As for your record, for a lot of bands when they write their debuts they have years of songs but when they start thinking about their second one it’s a lot harder, because they don’t have this huge pile of songs to go through.
We’ve been thinking about our new one so much I can’t even tell you. All we want to do is go write this record cause we know that we can top it times a hundred. A lot of songs on it we wrote while we were in New York, and its sort of interesting, if you were to listen to the record from a chronological point of view, from when the songs were written, it sort of tells this weird tale. We actually – we wrote the record without any gear, almost all on acoustic guitars, because we actually never had any equipment when we were out there.
We were just borrowing stuff, and we wrote some of the songs in any way we could and then we ended up living in this van that Number 12 used as practice space for like a month and a half; for two months in New Jersey. We lived in this shitty abandoned warehouse and we just lived in it, wrote the record there, pretty much all of it there. It brings back a lot of – so many different memories of so many different times, and so much shit we went through to get there. There's
definitely a lot of like angst and desperation.
The fact that that record came out, that we were able to go on tour and actually made it as a band, like in any way, still blows my mind. The record really meant – means a lot to us. I think in a lot of ways it will always be my favourite no matter what.
How has the response been?
It’s very slow building. It’s cool now because we’re going on tour; we’re actually starting to see kids come out to see us and that just means a lot for even five kids to know every word to every song on your record. It’s the best feeling in the whole world. And you can totally tell; they’re the kids in the crowd that are the little loser punk kids you know? They’re not the kids with the girl pants on, and the emo hair . It’s the kids who look like weird with the punk rock patch on and a Mohawk. It’s pretty cool.
Those kids are the best.
I’m one of those kids! That’s how we all came up. Its weird because one of our guitar players had never listened to punk rock; been in a punk band, he was into pure black metal all of his life.
His whole approach to our band is like black metal, death metal, finger-tapping weird shit. Our bass player is totally all about Murder City Devils, just like pure rock and roll and stuff like that.Our singer and me are the two kids who really came from a punk rock background. Mike is also one of the main songwriters in the band, he plays guitar…
I'll admit up front that this is a weird question because it’s a round-about way of asking you what your influences are, but, if you could go on tour with any bands you wanted, that are still together or that broke up, that are dead or whatever, who would you pick?
I would pick Hot Water Music, the Lawrence Arms, Murder City Devils and Led Zeppelin.
(laughs) That might be an odd bill.
It’d be awesome.
Yu could still go on tour with The Draft right?
Yeah we could. We would love to.
Have you heard any of that stuff yet?
I’ve heard a little bit of it – Samiam, forgot about that.
As for the Draft, I’ve heard a little bit of it and it sounded amazing. I wasn’t a fan of the last Hot Water Music record; like I think it’s good, but not –as good as everything else they’ve ever done.
Any other plans for the year?
We’re going to just keep touring, expecting to probably do the Warped Tour or most of it, then come back in September and start writing a new record, hopefully record it by December and have it ready to come out in spring of next year. And then we'd do it all over again. Probably in the midst of writing it we’ll go on some tours, hopefully maybe we’ll get overseas if we can. We'll just live in a van, like even when we get home we don’t really have anywhere to go, kind of sleep on people’s floors, it’s like we’re always on tour.
All these tours are going to help a lot I think; getting in front of a lot of kids is probably a really good thing.
Definitely. Even stuff like the Yellowcard tour, and we didn’t belong there, it was still a good time. Not that I know if it really did that much for the band itself, but it was just fun and totally obvious that we were the dumb punk rock band that had no idea why were there.
Old Yellowcard sounds like dumb punk rock too. I think they got a lot more serious on Ocean Avenue.
When they play the giant Verizon wireless commercial comes on and we just felt silly being there, but it was fun. All the kids in the crowd were real nice; all kids that really liked music. Mae was a really sweet band, they’re all really nice kids.
Speaking of that, yeah, like you guys have played with a lot of bands that are not in your necessarily obvious tour mates. What kind of response do you get, like if you haven’t been headlining, a lot of the kids are there to see a more screamo band and you guys must seem really strange – have you gotten bad responses or has it been people throwing things at you?
It’s either that the kids just fucking stand there and they don’t give a shit, or they came to see us, or they’re just kind of “whatever” about it. Or sometimes we totally win kids over; it depends on where we are. It seems to be doing pretty good in the Midwest, and east coast but it’s weird because here in Colorado we’re actually not as big of a band as I’d think we would be.
We draw some kids but not nearly as much as some screamo bands out here that aren’t even on labels and stuff. You know we go on tours with Number 12 and most kids are there to see them they don’t give a shit about us. Y’know it’s a battle every night, if they don’t like us then fuck em, we’re just going to keep playing and playing our asses off, being who we are and eventually the kids who want to see us – they’ll come see us. The thing is we still love all those bands we go on tour with, we’re all best friends with the band and more than anything its just about having fun, its not about the music industry or being big or having money or any of that shit, its never going to happen. We’re just a punk rock band and that’s what we’re going to be.