On an unusually cold North Carolina night Mikey Erg was kind enough to brave the elements and talk with Punknews interviewer Alex Eschbach. Now, known news of his Paper + Plastick debut and drumming with the Star Fucking Hipsters was discussed. But Mikey also talked about working with Stza, tried to figure out just how many sets he was involved in at Fest 9, what else he has planned for 2011, and explains why exactly The Ergs! broke up.
It felt like every time I saw someone play at Fest, you were right in the middle of a set. How many bands did you play with that weekend?
I was trying to figure that out. I was trying to think of the bands I played in but didnât actually play in. I sang with Paint It Black, Bomb the Music Industry!, Paul Baribeau. I played with The Dopamines, I played withâ¦
I played with Mikey Erg. I played with The Soviettes. I played with the Slow Death. I think I did five sets and the ended up with eight or nine. Oh, the God Damn Doo Wop Band. Letâs not forget about them.
It seemed like you were really unprepared for your acoustic set at Fest. But you got a good response. People were crowd surfing at an acoustic show.
My thought about that wasâ¦ I had so much other stuff. I played with The Soviettes before, but then I hadnât played with them in a couple months and I played with the God Damn Doo Wop Band in a few months and then the Slow Death hadnât really been doing anything and I was tour with The Dopamines, so I didnât have to worry about them. I was just thinking about all this other stuff. For some reason the Mikey Erg set entered my mind at the last moment. I was like, "No, I wrote those songs. I should know them." Then I get up on stage with a guitar in my hand and I was like, "I really donât know how to play these songs."
Yeah, you were asking Joe how to play a couple of them.
Yeah, Joe was there and I was like, "Wait, is it B flat?" But itâs because I wasnât really thinking about it. It was an afterthought. But it was cool. That was the third time Iâd ever played solo in front of people. So now I take it more seriously because people want to see that. I didnât think anyone wanted to see that. They asked me to play and I was like, "Yeah, okay, Iâll play at the Civic Media Center and no oneâs going to come." But people were there. A lot of people were there. I guess people want to see me play songs without The Ergs! and thatâs cool.
Well, you were prepared to play Cee-Lo that night.
I did know that song. Thatâs been my favorite song of the year for awhile. Itâs my number one song of 2010. And itâs so easy. Iâm really bad at lyrics and it just happened to be one of the songs I knew the lyrics too because Iâd been listening to it so much.
Are there any plans for a solo tour?
Yes. I donât know if we can print this in Punknews. But fuck it. Itâs been talked about. Me and Dave Hause of Loved Ones and Ian from Cheap Girls are talking about doing a three man full US tour of just singer/songwriters. Weâre all going to play on the stage together, like trade songs, cover each otherâs songs. Itâs an excuse to get drunk and have a good time. He just did that with him and Franz from the Hold Steady and Against Me!â¦ kind ofâ¦ and World/Inferno. They just did a tour together in Europe. He said it went great. Iâm doing a thing on Paper + Plastick and Ianâs on Paper + Plastick and Daveâs on Paper + Plastick.
So youâre releasing something on Paper + Plastick?
I just did a single thatâs going to be in the shape of a heartâ¦ two songs. And hopefully this year Iâll do an actual full length record. Also, me and Jon Weiner from The Dopamines have a Superchuck-ish worship band called New Low thatâs going to do a 12" EP, which Iâve written a few songs for.
Youâre also releasing a 7" for Asian Man Records with Alex from Lemuria?
Thatâs also done as well. Hopefully thatâll come out soon. Iâm playing the Asian Man Anniversary show. I canât believe he asked me to play it. Iâm barely an Asian Man artist.
Yeah, itâs you and a bunch of ska bands that broke up ten years ago.
I want to see Slapstick more than anything in the world. And I was like, "How will I see Slapstick?" And Mike Park was like, "Hey, Iâll fly you out to play this show." I was like, "Well, thatâs how Iâll see Slapstick then!" Iâm stoked. Iâm so stoked. Mike is the sweetest dude and Iâm so glad to be a part of that label.
So your releases on Asian Man and Paper + Plastick, are they going to be acoustic or electric?
Itâs full band, me playing everything on both records. I feel stupid doing just an acoustic record. It sounds like The Ergs! if The Ergs! were three people who couldnât play their instruments.
I really loved the Ergquist EP that came last year. I felt like it was really overlooked last year. Are there any more plans to release more Ergquist material?
Not really. That demo CD-R is being pressed as a 7" as we speak. But I donât think weâre going to be doing anything else.
Whoâs putting that out?
No Breaks Records.
How was the recording of the new House Boat record?
Itâs great. We did it at the same place we did the first record. But I think the songs are better and the recordings better. I love the way it came out. And that will be out in a couple months. We were kind of trying to rush it out.
With so many people in the band that can sing, how do you guys who sings what part?
Well, they are Grathâs songs. Grathâs write the songs and Ace writes a couple songs. Then Grath and Ace will both say, "Okay, Zack, you sing this verseâ¦ or this line." Zack and I donât really write for that band. Weâre encouraged to, but we just havenât. I just havenât had the time. But theyâre open to that. It just turned out to be the new Steinways. Itâs not really talked about, but Grath will write a song and say, "I thought about you for this line and Zack for this line." We have four singers who are singers in their own right in this band. At some point maybe Zack and I will write House Boat songs.
I feel like itâs almost impossible to pick up a new pop-punk record these days without seeing your name in the liner notes. How many bands are you currently playing in?
Currentlyâ¦ wellâ¦ The Unlovables are still together but we havenât done anything. Short Attentionâs still together and we havenât done anything. You knowâ¦ I donât know. I donât know how many bands Iâm actually in.
Since youâre in a few dozen bands, do you ever get a break from touring?
I do, I do. But I only take a break from touring when there is a break for some other reason. Iâm usually the one who will do whatever. Like, Jonâs on tour with Less Than Jake. So thereâs three months were The Dopamines arenât doing anything. I couldnât do The Dopamines/Less Than Jake shows because I started playing with the Star Fucking Hipsters. Itâs a give and take with certain bands.
How is working with Stza? To me heâs always seemed a bit extreme.
You knowâ¦ I love him. Weâve hung out a bunch of times, weâve practiced a bunch, and Iâve gone to his house and weâve jammed out. Iâve heard shit, but thatâs in the past I think. The Stza that I know is a fucking great guy who loves making music. And Iâm fucking stoked because Iâm in a ska-punk for a first time. Itâs rad. And the new record weâve been working, thereâs a lot of ska in it. Itâs really fucking cool.
Is Fat or Alternative Tentacles putting that out?
I believe Fat is doing this one. But I donât know if thatâs something I should say. Iâm drinking a beer right now. So anything I say doesnât actually matter.
Whatâs Big Squirrel?
Big Squirrel is a band that comes from Cincinnati. It started out with Ryan (from Mixtapes) and someone else who I canât remember his name right nowâ¦ as far as I remember they made a CD-R of songs… kind of offensiveâ¦ kind of funny. I think we might restart that. Ryan can explain it better.
How was The Ergs! reunion show?
It was great. It was a lot of fun. We raised a shit load of money for a good caused. It was fun to play those songs again. I donât really know that itâs ever going to happen again.
So thereâs no plans for any more Ergs! shows?
Thereâs no plans and there was no plan for that. I got an e-mail out of the blue from Jeff that said Jay from Hunchbackâs mom was having a bad time and asked if weâd want to do that. And of course we all said yes. And Hunchback played too and it was really cool. I was expecting that at all. I wasnât expecting to ever play with those guys again. I mean, never say never. Which is what I have said. I would have said never before that. But I donât think it all happen without an important reason like a friendâs family member dying. I mean weâre all doing different stuff right now. So thereâs no real reason to do it anymore. People are still interested in our other projects. Even though I would love to do it. But whatâs done is done. If it happens then it happens. If it doesnât then letâs not make a big deal about it.
Why did you guys break up, especially since you still love playing those songs?
I think the main thingâ¦ we just did it for so long. Jeff is not a pop-punk band and thatâs kind of were Iâm coming from. Joe and I are kind of diverse in our influences. But I kind of decided Iâll write pop-punk songs. And thatâs what I write and thatâs what I feel comfortable writing. Jeffâs into more out there stuff. At a certain point it felt like he wasnât in doing by the numbers pop-punk. Even though I donât think The Ergs! were a by the numbers pop-punk band. But I guess we were enough of one that he was just like Iâm not into this anymore. And thatâs fine. Thatâs why a band should break up. If all three people or four or five people or whatever arenât on the exact same page you shouldnât do it anymore. I didnât even know that. The reunion happened and we all did individual interviews for this zine and his interview was like, "I hated pop-punk and thatâs why I didnât want to do it anymore." And I was like, wow, I didnât realize that. I just thought he wasnât into the band anymore. But that makes total perfect sense. He was the one that was into pop-punk and then he quit. So we got the message. Heâs not into anymore so letâs not do it. I always thought well maybe we could get together. But if itâs not into that kind of shit anymore thatâs totally fine. Itâs just a bummer. As a unit we got to this point that people were into it and people were listening and thatâs when it ended.
Yeah, you guys hit a pretty solid fanbase.
Yeah! We didnât have to worry about going on tour and losing money. When youâre a punk rock band thatâs kind of the main concern. Are we going to lose our shirts when we go on the road? But we were playing to a lot of people every night. It was rad. It was cool. But at the same time I donât want to play with someone who doesnât want to do it anymore. It wasnât like a big deal. It wasnât like, "Fuck you, asshole!" I understand thatâs cool and if I felt that way I hope you guys would feel thatâs cool. I mean thatâs the whole reason we were a band. We loved each other and we loved playing with each other. But if someoneâs not feeling it then letâs not do it anymore. We can all do other stuff and we all have done other stuff. Itâs all been pretty successful. I mean Iâm in North Carolina playing a random show. Thereâs people here to see me and thereâs people here to see Night Birds when they come through and thereâs people to see Black Wine when they come through. Itâs cool The Ergs! got us to this point where people are listening. If we are all not in it for the same reasons then letâs not do it. With The Ergs! we always said if itâs not the three of us then letâs not do it. Itâs not The Ergs!. We tried to add second guitar players or whateverâ¦ singers. It just never worked. Letâs just keep it the way it isâ¦ thatâs how it worked. But it wasnât going to work anymore. And likeâ¦ maybeâ¦ never say never. Maybe weâll play together again just because we feel like it. Who knows? We left it open ended. We did the final shows because thatâs how I felt at the time. But I really do I feel like if I came over and said, "Hey, I wrote this song and youâre the only two people I want to play on it." And we could do a record and it wouldnât be a big deal. Okay, cool, three Ergs played on this record. It shouldnât be that. I really want to play with my friends. So it shouldnât be a weird thing. But we couldnât be what we were. We couldnât be the band that was going on tour all the time with a shared common goal. That wasnât the case anymore. Thatâs why we stopped it. We didnât all share the same feeling anymore. Weâre all still friends. We all still hang out. We all still love The Simpsonâs. It just wasnât working kind of as a business thingâ¦ whatever it turned into. It just wasnât the same anymore.