After nearly 14 years in the business, road warriors Big D and the Kids Table have cemented a reputation as one of the steadiest riots in ska-punk. Released last month, their new record Big D and the Kids Table eschews the genre's clichÃ©s in favor of breezier, more accessible grooves that go a long way in making once riotous crowds take the slam out of slamdancing. In an interview with G'Ra Asim, outspoken Big D helmsman Dave McWane weighs in on Warped Tour, the band's unusually pliable aesthetic, Cookie Monster, and why the D don't look at themselves as being nearly as DIY as they're made out to be.
How has Warped gone this summer? How have crowds reacted to the new tunes from Fluent in Stroll live?
Well, itâs pretty crazy actually. Everyone keeps pointing out in interviews that weâve done Warped Tour a lot, which we didnât realize. We consider ourselves kind of the newbies of Warped Tour, but I guess four Warped Tours later youâve done it before. And the reaction is great. Weâre finally one of those bands that bands like a lot. You know sometimes within the world of bands, everyone checks each other out. Even though thereâs different genres, everyone respects what everyone does if theyâre doing it well. We all personally get a lot of different people pulling us aside going "holy shit! You guys are really fucking doing something!" That feels nice. And the reaction from the record has been super crazy good. â¦The landing of this record is so far the smoothest.
It feels like there was a sense of acceptance on the bandâs part of complete departure from what people were used to on this record. The spirit of it is very independent.
We donât even know who we are. We just kind of look inside our tribe. So we donât know how to look at ourselves. We just keep sticking with each other, writing music with each other and thatâs the only reality of our band that we can conceptualize.
Is there some kind of unifying message or legacy that you bring to all your records that you want to be remembered for or associated with?
I would just definitely say freedom of your artistic journey. When I was in high school in the â90s, all the artists were celebrated for being different and being innovative, but I think starting with the early 2000s, I think people more get celebrated for making whatâs best the same, for making it best within the parameters or schematic of what you must make to be on this golden, Olympic place where you get your medal. So, to be remembered, I think weâre one of the last bands of that wave thatâs just making music with their buddies and not really looking at it as a full on marketing plan. I think weâre artists. I always say also, thereâs musicians and then thereâs people who want to be in a band. And I donât think there are many musicians left anymore- you know, people who love their instrument and romanticize getting better at their instrument with the creation of their songs. And we do jump styles because itâs just so fun, and weâre gonna do a thrash record. You know, Ryan and I, our sax player, we talk about it all the time. We want to make a thrash record and weâll probably do that after Warped Tour. I guess just freedom, you know? For some reason weâre remembered as being DIY, but thatâs weird for us because we donât think weâre doing anything that DIY, itâs just that other people arenât doing as much. Weâre just doing the bare minimum. Everyone can do the bare minimum: book your own tours, you know, make your own merch. You donât need anyone to help you. So I guess freedom of artistic expression.
Along the DIY lines, I think I read somewhere before that it was kind of a turning point for your band back on Warped 2005 where Kevin Lyman and Joe Sib offered to put out your records because they noticed your work ethic in terms of handing out flyers and approaching people personally. Do you think that approach commands the same attention as it did a few years ago?
You know, I do think so. I do think guerilla, DIY promotion is today just as strong. â¦Kevin and Joe just saw that we just frankly werenât rockstars; AKA, we werenât lazy. We had a band, we wanted people to see it, so we hustled and we are our street team. I still think if bands did do that, they would prosper. I mean frankly, if bands stopped working on their graphics and started practicing their guitar scales more, I think that their bands would prosper more. Simmer down on your Photoshop logos and Myspaces and just stay inside your houses and play for eight hours every day. I think youâll get more out of your journey as musician doing that.
I mean, Slash from Guns âNâ Roses didnât update his Myspace every day. He just fucking learned the guitar.
Well, I wonder how much your appreciation of that kind of musicianship has to do with your musical background. I know youâre a graduate of Berklee College of Music. How does that academic understanding of musicianship inform someone whoâs been in a punk band for 14 years?
Well, I went to Berklee for drums. That was my principal instrument. â¦I think it helped me greatly, because if youâre going to speak, you should choose your words carefully, and the more vocabulary you have, the more eloquent youâre going to sound. So that just goes with music. Obviously, a lot of other artists have gone a different way and thatâs their way. But itâs more fun to learn the language youâre going to speak musically because youâre just going to articulate your ideas better.
I donât know if youâre familiar with Anthony Raneri from Bayside.
Which guy is he?
Heâs the singer/rhythm guitarist.
Yes. We just made friends with them.
Oh, ok, cool. I donât know if youâve heard but heâs been blogging a lot about this yearâs Warped and he made a big point to say that a lot of bands are playing to backing tracks and not really doing anything live except pretending to play. On top of that he mentioned the controversy involving bands like Millionaires and Brokencyde.
Thatâs the hot topic of this summer, yeah.
Yeah, it sure seems that way. Iâm curious; given how different the Big D aesthetic is from those kinds of bands, how do you feel playing with them?
Well, I kind of find it a little surprising that everyoneâs pointing out these bands- Millionaires, Jeffree Star and Brokencyde- and saying which, you know what I mean? Because in my opinion, thereâs a big pile of poop on the Warped Tour, and then thereâs a couple piles of green poop. And everyoneâs going "look at that green poop!" What everyone doesnât realize is that itâs all shit. I donât understand why the green poop is being pointed out, and the other huge pile of shit isnât. I just think that thereâs a lot of bands that also suck on this tour. They can play a couple chords. It doesnât mean that theyâre godly or better than Millionaires- who are playing to a backing track. I think the instrument playing bands are getting a little high school catty. There are talented bands on this tour, but there are also some untalented bands on this tour. So if youâre going to point out the people who look a little different on this tour, you just need to point out everybody who you think sucks.
I wouldnât ask you to name names, but youâre almost making me curious who else you would point out.
Dude, I donât even know what those bands are called. They all sound the same to me. We call them the Cookie Monster bands.
Are you talking about screamo in particular when you say "Cookie Monster"?
You know, I donât even know. I donât think Iâm educated enough to say. Iâm not the one pointing fingers; I wouldnât bring it up. I think everyoneâs just doing their thing. The only time I actually answer the question is when Iâm asked. It just reminds me of bullies making fun of the weak. Weâve been on the Warped Tour for so many years that we were that band that was made fun of. "Ska sucks, you guys suck." So thereâs a little in me to protect the bands that are different that everyoneâs putting down.
The addition of (female vocalists the Doped Up Dollies) is kind of an unusual personnel change. How did that come to be and was there a particular song on the new record that struck you to add a back-up vocal element?
It started when I went to a show down in Boston and one of our singers, Hayley Jane, was playing. I remember I was just at that point where I had drank a little too much and I was walking out and our trumpet player Dan says "hey, look at this singer!" We both looked onstage and she was absolutely amazing. She was playing with another band that had completely taken the show. So the alcoholism was at fault. Usually I wouldâve just been like "oh, wow!" But I had enough beer in me that after the show I said it all in sloppy, terrible sentences: "Would you ever want to sing?" and, you know, all that stuff. So we got together and we started working on the demos and then I put a funny flyer up and Sirae, one of our other singers, contacted us. Then our old friends Nicole and Simone contacted us and it really became exactly what Big D always wanted to do. Itâs like it almost took 14 years to do what we wanted to do in 1996.