Contributing editor Armando Olivas was able to chat with drummer and co-founder of the group, Jamin, at length on several topics. The two had a lively discussion about how the band is able to look so dapper on a day-to-day basis, their love of guerrilla street performances, and the love of Jenny Owen Youngs.
You're a folk band but have roots in punk rock, do you ever feel this is a difficult position to be in in regards to your fan base or gaining new fans?
Not really. It was about 10 years ago when were a straight hardcore band and then transitioned into the folk sound. I thought it would be weird to see our new audience up against our old audience and there was some weird stuff from time to time. People would go head-to-head, nothing too violent just silly arguments. At first it was kind of difficult but as far as we've been in Europe, the States, & Canada we've gotten a pretty good response and I think that it worked itself out quite well.
I've seen you guys a couple times and it's always weird, but in a good way, knowing that you're a folk band with a circle pit. You don't really see that much.
[Laughs] Yeah, the energy has stayed over. We definitely put on an energetic show and there will be a mosh pit despite us playing folky stuff.
But it's nice to see that the fans are into it. Speaking of the live show, you guys will pretty much play anywhere. From local streets to next to a food truck on Warped Tour, what is it about the impromptu set up that you guys seem to enjoy so much?
The thing we enjoy the most about the impromptu shows for all of us is the surprise factor. People will walk by and hopefully we can put a smile on their face and make them hang around; maybe make them dance on the street. Also the fact that it's a full on band playing rehearsed original songs that we can play well because most of the time musicians on the street are playing covers by themselves.
Oh yeah, usually it's just a singer/songwriter type playing covers; never a band as big as you guys which a nice treat to see is. Now I have to say - you guys are very well dressed men, you have a vintage look going on, where do you shop for such nice clothing?
Thrift stores. Sometimes we luck out and find something cool at the thrift store. Other times we will shop at a vintage clothing store. Regardless it has to fit in our budget because we usually don't have lots of money to spend on nice clothes and often time vintage stuff can be pretty expensive. But usually we are able to stick to thrift stores and find some cool deals.
For working with a strict budget you guys do a great job. You're able to look very dashing, gallant, and dapper. Speaking of dapper, Avi from Silver Sprocket is a very dashing man when he wants to be and if I am correct Silver Sprocket has put out your last few releases. What is it about Avi and his Silver Sprocket endeavor that keeps you working with him?
Ultimately he is just a really cool dude. We've worked with other people in the past here and there and what keeps us coming back to him is that he is such a laidback dude but he also gets shit done. He isn't lazy by any means. Unfortunately there are a lot of lazy people in the music industry who try to bank on you doing all the work and he isn't like that at all. He works his ass off. For having such a small operation he gets his stuff out there and we really appreciate him working so hard for us so we try to work really hard as well.
Totally. I've met him several times. He knows how to have fun but he works as hard as he plays and that is very rare to see especially in punk rock. Not to mention he's got his fingers in everything whether it is a 7-inch or a comic book. So I give him props and I am glad to see you guys have been done right by him. Now I want to talk about albums. Every single album you guys have put out has beautiful artwork. Is it the same person for every release or is it different people for each release?
Thank you first of all. I'll forward the complement to our tour manager/merch person/ artist. She did the artwork for Hobo's Lament, All That We Know, and By the Lamplight. The other 7-inch we did was someone else that one was done by our friend Yosef who also does our website. But Randi Hobbs is her name and I hope she'll be doing our album artwork for a very long time. She's a total badass that puts up with us and travels with us everywhere. She does all our art, merchandising, and tour manages us. She's an amazing person who works her ass off.
Most definitely. She sounds like a hustle, a triple threat which is a very nice kind of person to have with you while you're on tour. I'll have to give her a high five and let her know her artwork kicks ass. So I actually just checked out the new record the other day and it's been out for a minute but it feels like it has more energy than anything else you've done in the past which is saying something because every release you've put out has always had a very high level of energy. Going into the studio for this one, were you just full of more energy than usual or what?
As far as capturing energy on a record goes, it's difficult to do because it doesn't have so much to do with the energy you have in the studio like it does with a live show. And we've tried that before with all of us playing together live in a room all at once and that didn't work. It just ended up sounding sloppy. We haven't found a way to do it all at once in the same room so we ended up doing everything separately but it all goes back to the engineer whose name is Ray Jeffries. He totally captured the sound that we wanted to go with, a more "live" sound. So the drums are more big and present than past recordings. He did a real good job of transferring our live show onto a studio album.
Totally. I was very impressed I almost wanted to do a jig when I first listened to it in my room. This is some stomping music to put it simply. So moving on to the next question, you guys have a tour coming up soon. Is it going to be a headlining run?
Well first we're going to Brooklyn to play a friend's wedding, then we are heading down south to play a festival as well as some headlining gigs, and then we are headed straight back to Seattle to meet up with Murder By Death which will bring us back to California and across the States. Then we will come back to California to do some shows with the Reverend Horton Heat.
Wow. Those are both great headliners but at very different ends of the spectrum. It's nice to see you guys branching out but then I guess you guys have always branched out. You've done tours with Streetlight Manifesto or whoever is awesome.
Yeah, we go over pretty well when we play with different bands and keep doing that. I've always liked the idea of all three bands not having to sound the same. I like to be a smorgasbord.
And sometimes that goes over well and sometimes it doesn't because the fans usually aren't used to it. I think currently you're one of the very few bands versatile enough to pull it off every single time.
Thank you. We try.
Well you guys do a good job so props. So I have one more question before I go and this question is more so for me. Last fall you did a tour with Jenny Owen Youngs and Frank Turner; do you have any interesting stories about that experience?
One thing pops into my mind but first I want to say that Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls are awesome and it was a great opportunity to open up for them and I want to say thank you. They also took us out for a run of dates in Europe and the UK and it was amazing. Also, I was going to mention this but I forgot but we became good friends with Jenny and that's whose wedding we're going to play for our first show back. We're playing her wedding in Brooklyn. We got to become good buddies with her and during the recording process when we were out in Michigan recording our last album our lead singer, Ian, talked about a part he had written for a female vocalist on a few of the songs. Well she was our first pick and she was out in Michigan when we were recording and so she is on a couple of the tracks on By the Lamplight. That was a really neat experience that she had the time to come record after her show.
That's cool that she's on the record and it's awesome you're playing her wedding. I like it when artists I listen to befriend each other, it's just cool to know they're friends and that they can collaborate like this on projects.
Yeah and she is an amazing singer.
I know which sucks because every time she comes out to California I miss her. For the longest time she just never came out and then in the past three years she's come out about four times and I've missed her every time just due to lack of funds or prior engagements I couldn't get out of. It kills me every time. It's the Jenny Owen Youngs curse but I am hoping to break that soon. Now that does it for me, if you have anything else you want to say now is the time. Otherwise thanks for the interview.
Something that I always try to tell anyone who is an aspiring artist or musician is just do it. Sky's the limit. I'm just a small town boy from Oregon but I've been all over the place. If I can do it anyone can do it.