Bloomington, Indiana -- a breeding ground for DIY ethics -- is home to folk punk bands, Microcosm Publishing, and the trio Good Luck. Their debut full length Into Lake Griffy, released in May 2008, is filled with nasally vocals, upbeat hooks and urgently charged, infectious pop punk melodies reminiscent of a louder, brasher Weakerthans. On a beautiful, late summer Sunday all three members – Matt Tobey (vocals/guitar), Ginger Alford (bass) and Mike Harpring Jr. (drums) -- took some time right before band practice to check-in via Skype with Punknews about what's been going on in the world of Good Luck.
I read on your MySpace blog that youâve having a busy summer but maybe not necessarily bandwise; what has Good Luck been up to musically? < Ginger Alford: I wrote that MySpace blog, they didnât know about it.
Matt Tobey: Was it old?
Alford: A little.
Mike Harpring Jr.: Oh I think I saw that.
Alford: It basically was saying what weâve been up to this summerâ¦
Tobey: We have been slowly been working on new stuff. Itâs taken a bit longer writing this batch of song than the first batch. Iâm not really sure why.
Alford: Because we werenât doing anything when we wrote the first batch. Now we have lives.
Tobey: Well Mike was doing stuff.
Harpring: I was very busy the first year of our bandâs existence, but there was just so much momentum, so I just dealt with it. But ever since then… I donât know.
Alford: Weâve lost the train of this question already; I donât think I even remember the question.
Tobey: What are we up to as a band?
Alford: Weâre writing songs. We played a show in town last week. We have a few shows with our friends in another local band called Selfish Whales next weekend; which is exciting because this will be their first out of town show ever. Itâs going to be fun.
Harpring: Weâre doing pretty well and being consistent about practice now that the summer is over and I guess just planning a mini-tour and going to the Fest. But Mattâs going to school so we canât do a lot of out of town stuff. Weâre just doing stuff at our own pace now.
This new material that youâre working on - is it for a full album, an EP - what are you working towards?
Tobey: The plan is an album. We have five songs right now.
Alford: Five roughly finished songs. Tobey: It is kind of tempting to just record these now and put out an EP but I think that we would all rather do a full album.
Alford: Itâs also tempting because many well meaning friends are always asking "When are you going to record? When is that happening?" And it would be nice to say "Oh weâre recording next Tuesday! And then weâre going to put out an EP." But right now weâre just sort of not very exciting because weâre just working on new songs.
Harpring: I think if December rolled around and we had only one new song between now and then, it would be nice to record what we have.
Into Lake Griffy which was released last year, was packaged in 100% recycled materials, why did you make that move?
Tobey: Because itâs the only way that makes sense, I feel.
Alford: Yeah, itâs not actually measurably more expensive to use recycled material. Itâs actually pretty easy to do and pretty common to do in the "music biz" now. If weâre going to put out a thousand of anything you should think about how you do it.
Harpring: I think that a lot more people are using them and by having examples from other peopleâs projects it became a clear option. Since we had complete over everything, we chose to do it.
Alford: It was easier to make those decisions because weâre just doing everything for ourselves. And you donât have to be like "Hey is it okay if we get it printed like this?" Itâs just well, weâll find the money to pay for it somehow and weâll just do it and thatâs it. It always seemed like the thing we had to do.
Harpring: Jewel cases..
Alford: Yeah personally I donât even like jewel cases. I donât want to own them for myself so I wouldnât want someone else to feel they had to own something of mine that was in a jewel case.
Tobey: Yeah, we donât want to put more of that out in the world. I mean they already existâ¦
Alford: Like little babies. Little jewel case babies.
Tobey: At least with our CD case aside from the CD itself, if it was thrown out it would rot away and just turn into the dirt. Instead of a jewel case that is just plastic and going to be sitting in landfills.
Alford: Well except for the CDs itself.
Tobey: Right. Weâre looking into making our CDs out of plant based materials.
Alford: Yeah, you can record that our next CD is going to be made out of corn silk.
Well youâre in the right place, right? Indiana? Home of the cornfields?
Alford: Weâre going to harvest it ourselves.
Tobey: Next time.
Alford: When we get a grant from Obama.
How do you think your live show compares to your recorded material?
Alford: It depends on what night!
Harpring: A month ago I would say the live show was a lot drunker. It was a separate, random occasion that usually doesnât happen. But itâs sometimes a little sloppier.
Tobey: Itâs usually sloppier.
Alford: I would say itâs consistently sloppier. I mean but who wouldnât about their band? Who records an album and then says "Well we sound a lot better live."
Harpring: Thatâs usually just from our perspective; but say someone who recorded our album were there or some good friends that didnât mind giving us constructive criticism, if we play a sloppy show, theyâll tell us we played a sloppy show. But most of the time I think itâs just us who thinks that.
Tobey: Well most of the time when weâre sloppy itâs not like drunk sloppy; we donât do that hardly ever.
Harpring: We just smile and laugh and look at each other and have fun.
In this business, people always try to make a comparison to other bands when discussing them - is there a band that you consistently get paired with? Or is there a band that you just donât get the comparison or even hate a little?
Alford: I will say this. And I donât mean this to be degrading at all to the very nice review someone gave us online. I believe the first line of the review was something like "Three kids walk into a bar, get really drunk and then write a punk rock record." And we were like "Wow! That is soooo off-base." Because, well Matt doesnât drink at all and I drink very rarely and Mike is pretty lightweight in the drinking as well. And we probably didnât have any alcohol in the entire period we were writing and recording the record.
Harpring: Didnât they say something about party band?
Alford: Yeah I think it said something like this is "the ultimate drunk party album". I was like "are you sure youâre talking about this album?"
Harpring: I hear Weakerthans a lot. There was actually this one-liner review site. Less than 160 characters, and it said "Weakerthans long lost punk pop album" or something like that. Other bands? I think I heard someone say Ted Leo.
Do you think those are accurate?
Harpring: Ted Leo and Weakerthans are some of my favorite bands, so itâs hard to make music without influences from bands that you like.
Alford: Yep thatâs pretty accurate. I donât think we suffer from people trying to compare us to a single band.
Tobey: I think that my voice at least sounds a little like John K. Samsonâs.
Harpring: I donâtâ think weâre as sensitive as the Weakerthans. Their sound can often be soft and low key and I think weâre a lot louder.
Alford: Weâre pretty loud.
In the world of dreams, who would you love to tour with?
Alford: In the world of dreams I would like to tour with Gandalf. (laughter) We could ride the Shadowfax.(laughter) You know who Iâm going to say. Should I just say it?
Tobey and Harpring: Yes.
Alford: Okay they all think I want to tour with Bruce Springsteen and maybe a part of me really does but I think the actual fact of doing that would be awful so I donât really want that. If the land of dreams is in the 1970s, then yeah Iâd want to tour with Bruce Springsteen.
Tobey: I would like to play with Superchunk because once I had a dream that we were opening for us and while they were playing there was this weird guy that started peeing on everything and I had to escort him out.
Alford: Thatâs really not that great of a dream.
Tobey: So maybe I would like to tour with Superchunk in my real dream world.
Harpring: I feel like touring has to be of a certain dynamic to be fun and for it to go well and I feel like we do pretty well touring by ourselves. I think Iâm too rational about it. I think that if we toured with a bigger band - if we toured with the Weakerthans or Ted Leo for instance - thatâs going to be bigger clubs and more expensive shows that some people that like our music a lot might be alienated by and not want to come to our shows.
Alford: Yeah, I feel like when we tour by ourselves itâs pretty fun. And much like when weâre putting out the CD, we get to make all the decisions. If we were touring with a larger band - I know this is the world of dreams we were talking about - but in the world of reality I actually donât think it would be that great.
Tobey: I think that Gandalf is it.
Alford: Final answer - Gandalf.
Matt , you've headed back to school, can you tell us about that.
Tobey: Yeah, Iâve never actually gone to any college, so Iâm a 24-year-old freshman which is pretty exciting. There is an audio recording program at the college here in Bloomington - Indiana University - I guess the music school is one of the most prestigious music schools, so just being involved and surrounded by all these amazing jazz and classical musicians is pretty cool. I mean Iâve only been going for two weeks so far, but Iâm still pretty excited to see another side of professional music. Itâs interesting.
Pardon the assumption, but I'm guessing that Good Luck isn't your fulltime job? What's your day job to pay the bills?
Alford: None of us really have fulltime jobs.
Harpring: You mean, how do I pay my $190 rent? Itâs usually about two days of house painting. I used to work for Microcosm Publishing, which is a radical zine publishing organization in town, but I donât know if Iâm going to be working with them anymore just because the project they had me working on is obsolete. Now Iâm working and doing house painting. I actually looked into doing a medical study at Evansville which is just like four nights for $1000. So basically, when I need money I can find it. But if I donât want to work; I wonât work and Iâll be fine.
Alford: Itâs really cheap to live here. You can kind of get around for free, rent is fairly inexpensive and there are a lot of places to get free or inexpensive food. So you donât have to have a whole lot of expenses. I work three days a week at a picture framing store. Itâs very low stress - usually. And then I work at Boxcar Books, which is a radical bookstore. But I donât make any money doing that. I do the finances there; which just goes to show that I can spend a lot of my time doing something that I donât get paid to do. I think itâs easy to have a lifestyle here where people have time to pursue creative ventures.
Harpring: Or community projects. I volunteer just a day a week at the food pantry - Mother Hubbardâs Cupboard. Itâs not affiliated with a church institution or anything. Itâs just a really rad organization that gives out a couple bags of food to whoever wants it. And itâs usually health food and pretty tasty organic veggies and stuff.
Alford: And so far I feel like weâve been really lucky as a band that the band hasnât been just a drain on our finances. I have been in bands where it has been. I feel like weâre very lucky that the band always pays for itself.
Tobey: Also the past couple times weâve been on tour weâve been able to pay ourselves some money. So itâs a nice supplementary income that we end up with in the end.
Alford: Keep the costs down and you can do what you want.
What can you tell me about the music scene in Bloomington?
Tobey: Itâs really kind of enormous; especially considering the size of the town. The other night there were four shows going on. I think it was a Thursday night?
Harpring: Five shows if you count The Temptations.
Alford: Yeah! Five shows on a Thursday night. Itâs a great scene here. Thereâs kind of a long history of cool bands like everything from Zero Boys - which is not really a band Iâm really into - all the way to up to Plan-It-X Records which was here for a really long time, which I think influenced a lot of bands. There are some big indie rock labels in town too. But there are always tons of people playing in really good bands around here. Itâs nice to be surrounded and challenged by them - to a duel.
Harpring: Itâs sometimes hard if youâre booking a show for a friend from out of town because itâs sometimes difficult to convince people that they should go to this show if theyâve been to one every day for the past few days. Thereâs not a huge pool of people to go to shows.
Alford: Yeah, I feel like there are more shows and more bands than a pool of people that want to go see all the shows and all the bands. Which I think makes it so a lot of bands end up seeing other bandâs shows. But itâs okay!
So youâre heading to the Fest this year again - what are you looking forward to?
Alford: I feel like I always end up going to see bands Iâm already friends with that Iâve seen a bunch of times. Which is awesome.
Tobey: I actually havenât really thought about it. (laughs)
Alford: I think a lot of people look forward it to being a huge party weekend and itâs not really what we look forward to. But the thing that I do look forward to, unequivocally, is seeing a bunch of people that I usually only see a couple times a year. Thatâs always nice to catch up.
Harpring: I would say the same. I not that excited about going to that many shows all the time; it can be overwhelming. But Iâm definitely looking forward to going.
Alford: I look forward to it being Halloween and us being the only ones that actually act like itâs Halloween,; which is what happened last year. We played on Halloween and we were the only ones wearing costumes. It was kind of weird.
What was your costume last year?
Tobey: Alvin and the Chipmunks
Are you going to dress up again this year?
Tobey: Yeah we gotta do something. Alford: We got something.
Harpring: Thereâs something up our sleeves so to speak.
For someone that has never been to the Fest before what kind of advice would you give them?
Harpring: Bring a bike if you have it and if you can do. And if you want to see a band at one of the venues like Common Grounds or 1982 or any of the midsize venues that are popular, get there early. Donât get there when they start playing because chances are youâre going to have to wait in a line. And bring all your own food if you can and the means to cook it.
Tobey: Or go to Reggae Shack.
Alford: Go to Reggae Shack. Itâs delicious.
Harpring: And expensive. If you have a lot of money and want to go there three times a day, do that.
Alford: I want to go there at least twice.
Tobey: Be responsible. There are a lot of scary people there sometimes.
Harpring: Donât be one of those scary, drunk people.
Alford: Thatâs my advice, even though itâs very selfish - please donât be one of those scary people. There are already plenty of them.
Harpring: Drink responsibly.
The Good Luck PSA.
Alford: Weâre kind of just one big public service announcement.
What's next for you guys?
Harpring: I want to tour Europe and I want to go back to the West Coast. Those are some big, bigger plans.
Alford: We have a secret 7" thatâs going to come out. I donât know if we can talk about it or not. Can we talk about it?
Alford: We canât talk about it.
Anything else you want to say to the Punknews community?
Alford: Oh! Setting it up! I donât if I have so much to say, but Iâm interested to see what kind of reaction we get. Iâve had some interesting reactions from the Punknews community before.