Big D And The Kids Table have just released a new CD How It Goes and are currently touring with Ska legends Mustard Plug and the Voodoo Glow Skulls, amongst others, as part of the epic Ska Is Dead tour. During this time, Sean P Rogan and Dave McWane, the guitarist and singer respectively, took some time out to answer some questions about the new album, about the old albums, and about the Red Sox.
To start with, names and positions in the band, plus favorite song on the new album. Sean: Guitar. I can't pick a favorite, but I love How It Goes and Safe Haven turned out to be one of my favorites.
Dave: Singer. I like The Sounds Of Allston Village - Flash Light and our Specials cover - Li'l Bitch.
Speaking of the new album, you guys put a whole lot of love and care into the packaging, from the artwork, to the liner notes to the extra Rob Dobi Gorey-esque drawings. What inspired the dearth of packaging and material that came with it? Sean: Dave's got the vision on the artwork! But speaking for all of us, we wanted the artwork to be as big and bold as the audio part of the release. There's 20 songs… that's alot. So, we put 2 booklets in the CD. The first booklet focuses on the lyrics and the insight into the songs. We figured that when we buy CD's we like to read along with the lyrics and think it's cool to know where the song writers were coming from when they wrote it…or what inspired them to write it. The Dobi art is just awesome… good visuals for the songs!
Dave: I love-love-love Edward Gorey's art - it's just amazing - and of course Rod Dobi is too. I was given a Gorey book for Halloween and thought his style of picture would go sooooo good with some of the new songs. So, yeah yeah we did take a lot of time with the art - half the reason was too, cause mastering took so long that we just kept adding to the booklet out of being bored… he he.
Similarly, What inspired you to do the commentary on each of the tracks? Sean: uh, I think I just answered that. I should have read the questions first. I'm at a show in Oklahoma City, OK. We're on tour with the Voodoo Glow Skulls and our buddies from the Magnificent 7 are on the bill. I want to finish this before the show starts…so many good bands!
Dave: I think all bands should do that - it should be standard. And it's so fucking wierd when someone thinks a song is about something it's totally not about.
At one point in the booklet you say that you wished you would have changed the fifth name in one of the songs. Does something like this happen a lot, where you get the final version of the song and go "shit, that's not right!" And if so, do you just change it live to make it right? Sean: I'll let Dave answer this one, but the song is called New Nail Bed. As far as the music portion each song, sometimes you do want to change little things. A song will develop even after it's recorded, especially if you record it before you play it live. That's the cool part about playing shows, you have the freedom to change the little things that you would have liked to be different on the album. Led Zeppelin were masters of that.
Dave: Well, I was lucky cause I got to go in and fix everything I didn't like. After I recorded the vocals we went on tour for about 2 or 3 months - so I had a shit load of time to go naw-naw-naw that could be better. Then when we got back - I just fixed it all.
About Jade's name in New Nail Bed - yeah I wish I hadn't said it - but whatever - I'll change it live… I just don't like saying her name…
The new CD sounds like what a Ska CD should sound like, to me. It has this air of the great bands from the mid-90's and before: Mustard Plug, The Allstonians, Bim Skala Bim, and so many more. You also obviously channel some classics on Little Bitch. Was there a conscious choice to make a more "ska" album this time around, in comparison to Good Luck, which seemed extremely heavy and Link80-ish for most of the album? Sean: I feel as though this album represents us the best. We're obviously older now than we were back when Shot By Lammi and Good Luck came out. I'd also like to think that we've grown as musicians and song writers. How It Goes has 20 songs on it! They can't all be punk or ska, so we tried to represent our whole range. The title track is a straight up chill, reggae song; while Girls Against Drunk Bitches is about as Hardcore as we get. We try to balance songs out with other songs. There's also some different songs on the album like 175 and Voice Alone. The album dips into a few different styles but is still in the punk/ska genre… which is what Big D is.
Dave: It wasn't really a conscious choice - it was just what we were-and-are into. I've heard the opposite though - that this record is more heavy… but I agree with you. But hmm yeah yeah - we're just really into SKA so we wrote a lot of SKA songs.
And why won't you play stuff from Shot By Lammi live? Dave: We only get 30 minutes usually. And remember no matter what you DO play, people ask why your playing what they heard that night. If your on tour with us you'll see that we DO play everything - it just might not have been on the list the night you checked out a show. I love HEY - WHAT! - and Jeremy from SHOT BY LAMMI.
What the hell was Find Out "damaged and destroyed" on Gipsy Hill? Sean: We were in Brighton, England a couple of years ago on tour with some good bands, 5 Knuckle and Lightyear. Somebody threw a party after the show and we were all wasted on cider. Neil from Lightyear busted out his acoustic guitar and started playing Find Out, which was one of their favorite songs. Steve had his mini disc player and mic rolling and captured the masterpiece! We just all thought it was the funniest thing ever and decided to put it on our EP. I still laugh every single time I hear it. I love how drunk everyone sounds!
You guys have been around for a while now. I think my first exposure to you was the Moon Ska Skarmageddon 3 comp. It had the early version "In Front of Me" on it, killer comp. But in the time (something like 8 years…I think) you guys have only put out 2 LPs. There's been a few EPs and split CD's also. Is this due to a lack of recording time? Money? Was it hard being in a ska band in the post-3rd wave "collapse"? Sean: I personally don't think it's ever been hard being in a ska band, there's always going to be a scene. However, it's hard being in a band sometimes. We're broke as hell and always exhausted…BUT, we don't have day jobs and have seen more shit in a couple of years of touring than most people will in their entire lifetime! We really do love what we do.
As for the recordings, it definitely is a slow process for us. We could have turned How It Goes into 2 albums, but we wrote those songs together and their buddies…a team. There's 7 people with 7 different ideas. Songwriting is a long process with us, but we'd rather put out an awesome album every couple of years as opposed to a shitty album every year.
Dave: We have 3 LPs now - Shot By Lammi - Good Luck and How it Goes and a 10 song EP (which is the same length of an LP), so I think we have put out the right amount of records…. Remember we tour a lot and don't have money from labels to help us get by - so we all had jobs for a while and then there writing the songs - and fucking GOD help you if you have a girlfriend too - ha ha ha.
Was the homelessness a result of any problems you had as a band, or personally? Sean: It just doesn't make sense to pay $500/month for a room in Boston that you stay at once every 2 months. So, we couch surfed and mooched for a while, and some of still are. Bush (our sax player) and I split a tiny room in Brighton, MA and have bunkbeds. It feels weird having bunkbeds sometimes, but you make the best of your situation. We chose this path and I truly think that it's worth it. Most people our age have "real jobs", are getting married, having kids, setting up retirement funds…all of those adult sort of things. We, on the other hand, just want to know where the hotel is, what kind of beer we're getting and what day of the week it is.
Dave: Homelessness is always a result of a problem - but - no, not between people or personal reasons. It was a result of have no money and wanting to tour-tour-tour and tour. Right now we're on tour with some major label bands who have everything handed out to them and they are considered in the scene "very punk". When they see how we do things and get by - AND have a better fucking attitude then them - they look at us like they never new what being a badass is… They're so confused - they've studied punk in their bedrooms and have been considered so punk by there silly suburban friends - but now - whoa - now they see they're just silly - they're just playing "I'm in a band".
When you're back in Boston, what jobs do you work to stay out of that situation again, or is the band self-supporting at this point? Sean: The band's pretty self supporting at this point. It's no MTV Cribs situation by any means, but we get by.
Dave: I went to writing How It Goes and just lived very poor. It's hard to get a job for 3 weeks or a month. This time - I'll live bad and write the new dub record - STRICTLY DUB.
What's it like to play LAX in LA? Or do you? Is it personal against the whole city, or just a few fake fucks? Sean: The kids in LA love that song! The kids that come to our shows know what the song's about. It's not about them, and they know that. That song's become one of our favorite songs to play live. The vocal breaks are amazing when kids sing them. Sometimes, like in Boston, Chicago and LA, the kids drown out Dave! It's awesome!
Dave: Would you think we wouldn't play it in LA - that's the whole point. You can be sure to never think we'd be that lame. Yeah, they like it - they know what I'm talking about more then anyone else. Most Rude Boys - and "some" Punks don't role in those crowds - they spit down just as much as I do..
Have you ever played New England live? It seems like it'd be friggin' hard to pull off. Sean: Actually, we've been playing it a lot lately. We make it a little more "Dropkick Murphy's-ish" and it works. We're proud of where we come from and it definitely goes over well when we play it in Boston.
Dave: Yeah yeah - we play that live now - I LOVE IT… It's kinda hard - been then at the same time it's not… ha ha ha..
Are you Modern Lovers/Johnathan Richman fans, or just like the song? Sean: Johnathan Richman rules. He's a great song writer. I love how they play the original version at ever home Red Sox game. Did you hear that they won THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES?!?!? Hopefully they'll play our version at Fenway Park sometime.
Dave- In the intro of the disc, you talk about the politics of independent labels being a possible negative thing. Were you talking about Asian Man, as Good Luck was on them, but obviously since then you've self released (Gipsy Hill on Fork in Hand) and now are on Springman? Dave: Naw naw naw - not those label - they're great. Mike @ Asianman is so fair and so badass and Fork In Hand and Springman too… I ain't about to list the label that I'm referring to - that's just bad taste - but yeah they're the ones you're thinking about - know - and love…
You have one of the most impressive and original stage presences of any band I've seen. Especially for a guy of your stature, you totally own the front of the stage and the audience. Who are you favorite frontmen, and why? Dave: I do - we do??? Cool man thanks. I like Yako from Melt-Banana (they're amazing check them out). She's a big inspiration for me - BIG!!! And once I saw this old SKA band in San Francisco once (they broke up and I never got the band name) who ever that guy was - he inspired me too
What in the name of god was Porch Life? (I know what it is, but why?) And does it sell well? Sean: It's so funny! It took years to make. It does sell well but sometimes kids don't believe us when we say it's a gangster rap CD. It's so funny!
Dave: I was just so bored - drunk and - lifted….. if something make you laugh - go with it - even if it means a 20 song full length joke record. We poke fun of each other too - so it's a record of poking fun and having fun… Does it sell well? We'll just say some people get the joke.
Sean- What inspired your solo stuff? Was it just stuff you didn't envision being ska? You're not going to Avoid One Thing on us, and put Big D on hiatus, are you? Sean: Big D is my priority…fuck it, Big D is my life. However, I like to write mellow, nice songs that have nothing to do with Big D. I like to sing too and this is a good outlet. It's cool to have a side project I think. When Drexel was still playing shows, the guys in Big D that weren't in Drexel, loved going to their shows. Dave's a sick drummer, and it's only natural to do something with that, you know? I'd like to start playing shows in between Big D tours and my album should be out in late 2004/early 2005. But, Big D is definitely my main thing.
How in the world do you find time to jump out of planes so often, considering your near-constant touring schedule? Sean: It's tough, but it's a drug, and when you need a fix, you do whatever you can to get it. I love skydiving and it's an amazing thing to do when we're not on tour. We're playing our 170th show tonight (11/11/04). There's 365 days in a year, so that leaves a good amount of time here and there to jump. Ahhh, I love it…but like all the other aspects of my life like my solo stuff, they are all on the back burner while Big D is around!
(note: here I slip up, and make an ass out of myself, for not knowing two of my favorite bands' histories as well as I thought!) So, being from Boston, being a ska band, I've always thought that it's odd that you've NEVER played the Throwdown with the Bosstones. Is there some sort of rift there, or did it never come up? Are you fans? Sean: We love the Bosstones and actually have played the Hometown Throwdown. You're only allowed to play it once and we played it back in either 1996 or 1997 I think, but don't quote me on the year. We actually played it the year they released their live CD.
Dave: Yeah I'm a big fan of the Bosstones. There's no "rift", I think we where just the annoying new SKA band on the scene. They have they thing going on and can't hook up every band that plays the same style as them - yah know. Sometimes bands think you can get them "famous" - when you're the one counting change for a super value meal.
What's it like doing a tour like Ska is Dead, where you're playing with Mustard Plug, a group of guys that I consider legends in their own time, and some of the most consistent of the ska bands still around? Sean: We see those guys more than our own families and I'm dead serious when I say that. Other than Catch 22, their the band that we see the most. The Plug are great. We love them along with the Planet Smashers, Catch 22, Dan Potthast and the Suburban Legends. The whole Ska Is Dead tour is all Dave's, from Mustard Plug, idea.
Dave: Mustard Plug is BIG D's best friend bands - we are the closest - have the most fun with - really connect with. I mean shit, I tried to set up Collin (guitar) with my sister and now when we go to Grand Rapids he says he want to introduce me to his sister - so yeah we're buddies.
When I saw you at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, it shocked me the difference between crowds back east, and crowds here. Your fan base is obviously more East Coast-centric, has it been hard to get more coverage out here? Sean: Well, it makes perfect sense. We can tour the East Coast way easier than the West Coast. It's hard to get out there, but we can zip down to New Jersey for the day, you know? I think that we do alright for ourselves out west though. That San Fran show was Game 6 of the ALCS with the Yankees if I remember correctly. It was so crazy being out there for that whole thing!
Dave: You might have just seen a bunk show - Anaheim and L.A. are badass shows. But yeah San Frann and San Diego might not be as good - I don't know…..?
How did the Halloween show go this year? I just watched the LAX video and it looked insane. Sean: We love Boston and Halloween is our favorite show of the year. This year's show was definitely the biggest and best so far. We've played 8 years in a row with our good friends in Kicked In The Head. And yes, it was insane.
Dave: I was BAD-BAD-BADASS but some shit-brick stole me hat out of my suit case when we where playing. I think that's low…. BUT other then that it was the best - and I mean THE BEST.
Okay, now for some ones that I really want answered, but couldn't really fit into a section…
Last five good CD's you heard.
Sean: We all have different tastes in music, which makes us what we are as a band. We all give each other shit for what we listen to, but here's my last five…
1. Nada Surf - Let Go
2. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
3. The New Amsterdams - Worse For the Wear
4. Glen Phillips (from Toad the Wet Sprocket) - Abulum
5. Wheat - Per Second, Per Second, Per Second
Dave: Groovie Ghoulies
Dub Side of the moon - the Easy Dub Allstars
My new Lounge mix…
Funky Porchini - a Ninja Tunes DJ
And my new Ye Ye Girls CD - old French girls singing 60's rock..
Last five BAD CD's/songs you heard. Sean: I don't really like to talk shit about other bands, but basically most of the Emo stuff out there is pretty bad. Don't get me wrong, some of it's okay, but I'm not a fan of the whining. I believe that you can write nice, heart-felt songs without sounding like a baby. For instance, I love the New Amsterdams.
Dave: The Used, Yellow Card, Ashley Simpson I don't know all their names - cause I get them mixed up - but the shitty sing and scream medio-core bands……… I guess all of them - remember I just got off the last years warped tour - so you hate one of them you hate'em all.
Whatever happened to Drexel? Sean: Big D is the main focus so Drexel couldn't get the time it deserved. But I think Dave can probably do a better job explaining than me.
Dave: Aaron plays for The Lot Six now and I play in BIG D - we had no time. WE WERE BADASS… ha ha ha. See I'm a drummer first - this whole singing thing was an accident.
…the other few members of your band (French Horn 4 life!)? Sean: I think that you're referring to Marc Flynn's marching trombone. It's got the same amount of tubing as a regular slide trombone, but has valves so when marching, you don't hit the guy in front of you with the slide. Anyway, Marc left the band because of our touring schedule and other interests in life. He's a good buddy still.
…the hat Dave lost at the Warped Tour in Boston a couple years ago? You smashed my brother and my two friends and me when you dove after the thieving punk. Dave: Shit are you ok - sorry about that - you know you own one nice thing - and fuck-nuts try and take it away… Yeah I needed to get that back - I don't like it when kids come to BIG D shows and steal from us - it's one of the one things that gets me pissed. Fucking kid could'a probably went out and bought 5 fucking hats - but naw he had to take me - rip my hair out when he grabbed it - and wave at me as he jets… see it gets me going - ha ha ha.
How awesome are the Groovie Ghoulies, and are you passionate? Sean: They're our label mates now…we like them a lot.
Dave: THEY ARE THE BEST - THE BEST BAND OUT THERE RIGHT NOW - I MEAN IT. We heard Passionate for the first time in Switzerland with US - the Ghoulies and Fishbone, we had long long drive and we're really tried, after hearing "Passionate" we felt so - so good. The Ghoulies were the best band on this years Warped. And it's funny cause I always gotta dumb down how much I like them - when I rap with'em.
To end this, I'm just going to type two words, then go wild.
RED SOX. Sean: I wish that I was in Boston instead of Colorado Springs, CO when they won. Fuck. Oh well, there's still next year… but we'll be on tour again I'm sure. I'm not bitter, but it's not every day that the Sox win the World Series.
Dave: When you're right you're right - thanks man…
Interview by Justin August. Photos by Joelle Andre, Matt Teuten and anonymous sources. All from Big D's website.