But, on their new EP, which is called Dark Moon, Adam Davis and Aaron Carnes go pure synth. The release is incredibly dark, at times almost goth or synth-punk, and contemplates mortality itself through a series of vignettes. It's completely unexpected, completely unique, and sometimes, horrifying.
Because Gnarboots is venturing off into daring, strange, and philosophical new directions, features Editor John Gentile spoke to them about the release, the purpose of a live show, and death itself.
Click read more to venture to the dark side of the moon.
Adam, you are now a father of two. What does it mean that sometime in the distant future, your children will no longer have you to rely on. What does that mean to you?
Davis: Early on, and this is an idea stolen from Brendan from the Lawrence Arms, early on looking at my kids, I need them to speak at my funeral, so I'm not really scared to leave the bloom.
Aaron, eventually we will all face oblivion. What does it mean that eventually, all traces of your existence will be wiped from the corporeal world?
Carnes: I wasn't prepared for these questions. John, what's going on?
Well, I was amazed how radically different the new EP was from previous Gnarboots releases. It's very, very dark. Conceptually, what's going on behind the new Gnarboots EP?
Carnes: More than anything, it's just trying to be more serious. For us, that's just how it came out. Adam wrote most of the lyric and melody. We talked about it and we both liked the vibe of it, and the tone of it. I think the tone of the four songs fit with one another.
Do you think the next Gnarboots release will reflect this dark emotion?
Davis: I think we really just wanted to have some songs in this theme. Our next release could totally be different, but it will probably be in a similar vein. We're both kind of sick of blowing out our voices on the first song of the set, so it's nice to have some songs like this.
I'm amazed at how scary the new songs are.
Carnes: I don't know if that was intentional. I like songs that are stories and have narratives to them. I was impressed with Adam writing these songs which were narratives and stories- they weren't personal. They had these characters that stuck out.
Tell me about "Puppets Plus." It has the line "God is always watching you," but it doesn't seem to be in a comforting tone. It almost seems to suggest a peeping Tom.
Davis: It's supposed to be kind of the idea that everyone has these different thoughts and how they went to live their life. Their morality is shaped by what's going to happen to them in the afterlife. The message is that if you have some sort of darkness in your heart, you may as well act on it because God is already going to judge you.
So, it's an argument for predestination?
Davis: Not so much predestination, but that you can't hide your real self.
Carnes: The idea in the Bible is that if you think about having sex and having sex, they are basically the same sin. So, if you think about it, you might as well do it.
Davis: That's not how I think, but that is the thinking of the character in the song- what he thinks of himself.
How will this affect the live show?
Davis: We've already been performing these songs live. If anything, it takes some of the ha-ha's out of the room. It's still kind of fun, but I feel like the last time we played the song, we got s lot of interesting looks on people's faces.
Is this EP a reaction to some of the people that thought that Gnarboots was a "joke" band?
Davis: I think a lot of people misjudged us and think that everything is a gag. We're definitely not opposed to people laughing. We're getting up there and we're trying to be real. And sometimes being real is funny and sometimes it isn't.
You and I once talked about how you were at a show once, and the guitar player of the band was charging through the audience to generate a type of aggressive atmosphere, and you didn't move, and he fell over and broke his guitar. Do you feel as though most bands aren't "real?"
Davis: I think it's really easy when you're on stage to not be in the moment. that incident was John Dwyer of the Oh Sees in the Hospitals. He was kind of manhandling he audience that night, which is fine. That can be fun. I wasn't paying attention for a moment and all of a sudden he was pressing himself against me, which I though was funny. So, I pressed against him and it knocked him over and it snapped his guitar cable and it ended his set. The entire room just looked at me. I felt so uncomfortable that I left the show a few minutes later. I felt like he was okay with tossing around and getting up on people, but the second it became real, and the second he was acted upon instead of him acting on people- I felt like it wasn't even rough- I was like a loving or brotherly push- I just leaned against him, and all of sudden it shattered the illusion of this chaotic show. I definitely try to be very aware on stage and not think about what else is going on in life and not be distracted by other things and to really be present. I don't mean that in a super serious way, but if you are trying to get a bunch of people to dance, you should be focused on dancing in that moment. You shouldn't be thinking, "Oh, I sure would love to get a burrito."
Are you trying to be more accessible? I feel that these tracks are more accessible than your earlier tracks.
Carnes: I don't know if "more accessible" was the goal so much as waning to make recordings that put more emphasis on the construction of the recordings. That's what we'd like to do in the future.
At Gnarboots live shows, people are often scared and back away from the band. Are you no longer interested in creating an environment where people are challenged by the music?
Carnes: I would think that everything that we've done will remain there. I also think that we'd like to become more theatrical. Theatrical bands that do productions are usually really serious or distant from the audience. We'd like to move in that direction but still have the funny element, but breakdown the divide.
Davis: I feel like the Flaming Lips do what we eventually like to have. They have big productions, but are very present in the moment and they are willing to change things on the fly and have things get really weird. I think just the production for heir new live set up, where they literally put their singer on a pedestal for an entire performance- that's such a weird idea. I like where that's going.
The Flaming Lips can basically do whatever they want, but are still the Flaming Lips- they still have their same core personality no matter what they do. Is that what you are trying to do with Gnarboots?
Carnes: We want to be able to go along with any idea that we have. Gnarboots is me and Adam…
Davis: and everyone.
Carnes: So, whatever me, Adam, and everyone wants to do, that's what we'll do.
Does Gnarboots think of itself as a punk band?
Carnes: I don't even think punk rock at all when I'm thinking of music at this point. I don't think we even sound remotely like a punk rock band at this point. I don't think that the punk rock audience is that much into us. The only related factor to punk and us is that we have roots on a personal level, but I don't see it in a band.
Davis: Punk as a style of music is a little too conformist for us. Punk as an ideology, I think we are very punk. We're trying to shake things up and doing what we think is best without giving a fuck what other people think of us.
Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I think Gnarboots is the most punk rock band there is, right now.
Carnes: Well, some inside info- we recorded the new EP in a car.
Davis: I have a microphone and a laptop and it's the quietest palce where we can be loud and wild without waking the kids.
Do you guys sit in the front seat or the back seat?
Davis: The front seat because the backseat has baby seats in it.
I've seen Gnarboots play 924 Gilman, where they were not that well received. In fact, the last time I saw you guys play there, one guy yelled "this isn't fucking punk!" and he stormed out of the venue! But, when you guys play chip-tune shows, the audience absolutely loves you. Why do you think that is?
Carnes: For one thing, I think that the whole chip-tune scene has as much as of a scene to it. The chip video game scene sort of did it first, but people deiced that hey would take it in every conceivable direction. Were not even a chip-tune band, but we incorporate electronics into our music in a way that electronic bands don't. And, we're kind of nerdy, so we don't necessary act like we have an inherent "coolness" which I think they like.
Davis: I'd even go as far as to say that the chip-tune scene almost resembles more closely what punk was originally about. Just because they are so willing to try different things within the context of what they are doing. There are people doing straight chip-tune, but there are all these other artists, like Slime Girls, that are almost a indie band with ska beats, or crash faster, which is almost an industrial band. We fit in there because we do electronics and we're getting wild. Also, people need to chill back with the comments.
The comments bum you out?
Davis: Kind of. It's so easy for people to just lash out for no good reason. I don't know why people focus so much on negativity. It's so easy to tear things down. We spent months on this recording and people can just turn it down. Which is fine. But, they focus so much negativity on nothing for no reason. Part of me just laughs about it, but on the hand, part of me is like, "Really? Well, why don't you go do something?"
What is the Gnarboots endgame?
Carnes: I don't know if there is a Gnarboots endgame. For us, it's a chance to continuously do music. We can have that going forever and work within each other's schedules and produce what we want.
Davis: We joke about it, but we'll probably be a band far beyond any of contemporaries, just because it's so easy for us to roll with changes.
Is Gnarboots eternal?
Davis: Yes. As eternal as me. That's the point of the "End of the World" song, because none of you shit mean anything, because we're all gonna die and end up in the ground.
Has something happened in your personal life to suggest these thoughts of mortality?
Davis: No, I'm just trying to be honest. I feel like sometimes I put on this armor of invulnerability that if you work hard enough, you'll somehow outlive anything. But, you won't. A lot of times environmentalists will talk about how we're destroying the world. That's not true. The planet will destroy us. He planet will be here long past when there are any humans walking around.
Carnes: We're just a speck on the time continuum of everything and the universe. It's a hard thought to keep in your head.
Even though we are just a grain of sand on the infinite beach, what should we do? Should we just live it up?
Davis: I think you should just try to enjoy what you have. I don't think it's a dark message. I think it's a message to accept that one day you will die and it makes every moment until then that much better. You are constantly looking for the next best thing. You are enjoying what is happening. Just enjoy where you are right now. Be present.