Mikey Erg

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 didn’t actually play in. I sang with Paint It Black, Bomb the Music Industry!, Paul Baribeau. I played with The Dopamines, I played with…

Mikey Erg.
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. Let’s 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 was… I had so much other stuff. I played with The Soviettes before, but then I hadn’t 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 hadn’t really been doing anything and I was tour with The Dopamines, so I didn’t 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 don’t 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 it’s because I wasn’t really thinking about it. It was an afterthought. But it was cool. That was the third time I’d ever played solo in front of people. So now I take it more seriously because people want to see that. I didn’t think anyone wanted to see that. They asked me to play and I was like, "Yeah, okay, I’ll play at the Civic Media Center and no one’s 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 that’s cool.

Well, you were prepared to play Cee-Lo that night.
I did know that song. That’s been my favorite song of the year for awhile. It’s my number one song of 2010. And it’s so easy. I’m really bad at lyrics and it just happened to be one of the songs I knew the lyrics too because I’d been listening to it so much.

Are there any plans for a solo tour?
Yes. I don’t know if we can print this in Punknews. But fuck it. It’s 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. We’re all going to play on the stage together, like trade songs, cover each other’s songs. It’s 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!… kind of… and World/Inferno. They just did a tour together in Europe. He said it went great. I’m doing a thing on Paper + Plastick and Ian’s on Paper + Plastick and Dave’s on Paper + Plastick.

So you’re releasing something on Paper + Plastick?
I just did a single that’s going to be in the shape of a heart… two songs. And hopefully this year I’ll do an actual full length record. Also, me and Jon Weiner from The Dopamines have a Superchuck-ish worship band called New Low that’s going to do a 12" EP, which I’ve written a few songs for.

You’re also releasing a 7" for Asian Man Records with Alex from Lemuria?
That’s also done as well. Hopefully that’ll come out soon. I’m playing the Asian Man Anniversary show. I can’t believe he asked me to play it. I’m barely an Asian Man artist.

Yeah, it’s 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, I’ll fly you out to play this show." I was like, "Well, that’s how I’ll see Slapstick then!" I’m stoked. I’m so stoked. Mike is the sweetest dude and I’m 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?
It’s 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 couldn’t 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 don’t think we’re going to be doing anything else.

Who’s putting that out?
No Breaks Records.

How was the recording of the new House Boat record?
It’s 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 Grath’s songs. Grath’s write the songs and Ace writes a couple songs. Then Grath and Ace will both say, "Okay, Zack, you sing this verse… or this line." Zack and I don’t really write for that band. We’re encouraged to, but we just haven’t. I just haven’t had the time. But they’re open to that. It just turned out to be the new Steinways. It’s 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 it’s 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?
Currently… well… The Unlovables are still together but we haven’t done anything. Short Attention’s still together and we haven’t done anything. You know… I don’t know. I don’t know how many bands I’m actually in.

Since you’re 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. I’m usually the one who will do whatever. Like, Jon’s on tour with Less Than Jake. So there’s three months were The Dopamines aren’t doing anything. I couldn’t do The Dopamines/Less Than Jake shows because I started playing with the Star Fucking Hipsters. It’s a give and take with certain bands.

How is working with Stza? To me he’s always seemed a bit extreme.
You know… I love him. We’ve hung out a bunch of times, we’ve practiced a bunch, and I’ve gone to his house and we’ve jammed out. I’ve heard shit, but that’s in the past I think. The Stza that I know is a fucking great guy who loves making music. And I’m fucking stoked because I’m in a ska-punk for a first time. It’s rad. And the new record we’ve been working, there’s a lot of ska in it. It’s really fucking cool.

Is Fat or Alternative Tentacles putting that out?
I believe Fat is doing this one. But I don’t know if that’s something I should say. I’m drinking a beer right now. So anything I say doesn’t actually matter.

What’s Big Squirrel?
Big Squirrel is a band that comes from Cincinnati. It started out with Ryan (from Mixtapes) and someone else who I can’t remember his name right now… as far as I remember they made a CD-R of songs… kind of offensive… 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 don’t really know that it’s ever going to happen again.

So there’s no plans for any more Ergs! shows?
There’s no plans and there was no plan for that. I got an e-mail out of the blue from Jeff that said Jay from Hunchback’s mom was having a bad time and asked if we’d 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 wasn’t 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 don’t think it all happen without an important reason like a friend’s family member dying. I mean we’re all doing different stuff right now. So there’s no real reason to do it anymore. People are still interested in our other projects. Even though I would love to do it. But what’s done is done. If it happens then it happens. If it doesn’t then let’s 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 thing… we just did it for so long. Jeff is not a pop-punk band and that’s kind of were I’m coming from. Joe and I are kind of diverse in our influences. But I kind of decided I’ll write pop-punk songs. And that’s what I write and that’s what I feel comfortable writing. Jeff’s into more out there stuff. At a certain point it felt like he wasn’t in doing by the numbers pop-punk. Even though I don’t think The Ergs! were a by the numbers pop-punk band. But I guess we were enough of one that he was just like I’m not into this anymore. And that’s fine. That’s why a band should break up. If all three people or four or five people or whatever aren’t on the exact same page you shouldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t 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 that‘s why I didn‘t want to do it anymore." And I was like, wow, I didn’t realize that. I just thought he wasn’t 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. He’s not into anymore so let’s not do it. I always thought well maybe we could get together. But if it’s not into that kind of shit anymore that’s totally fine. It’s just a bummer. As a unit we got to this point that people were into it and people were listening and that’s when it ended.

Yeah, you guys hit a pretty solid fanbase.
Yeah! We didn’t have to worry about going on tour and losing money. When you’re a punk rock band that’s 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 don’t want to play with someone who doesn’t want to do it anymore. It wasn’t like a big deal. It wasn’t like, "Fuck you, asshole!" I understand that’s cool and if I felt that way I hope you guys would feel that’s cool. I mean that’s the whole reason we were a band. We loved each other and we loved playing with each other. But if someone’s not feeling it then let’s not do it anymore. We can all do other stuff and we all have done other stuff. It’s all been pretty successful. I mean I’m in North Carolina playing a random show. There’s people here to see me and there’s people here to see Night Birds when they come through and there’s people to see Black Wine when they come through. It’s cool The Ergs! got us to this point where people are listening. If we are all not in it for the same reasons then let’s not do it. With The Ergs! we always said if it’s not the three of us then let’s not do it. It’s not The Ergs!. We tried to add second guitar players or whatever… singers. It just never worked. Let’s just keep it the way it is… that’s how it worked. But it wasn’t going to work anymore. And like… maybe… never say never. Maybe we’ll play together again just because we feel like it. Who knows? We left it open ended. We did the final shows because that’s 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 you’re the only two people I want to play on it." And we could do a record and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Okay, cool, three Ergs played on this record. It shouldn’t be that. I really want to play with my friends. So it shouldn’t be a weird thing. But we couldn’t be what we were. We couldn’t be the band that was going on tour all the time with a shared common goal. That wasn’t the case anymore. That’s why we stopped it. We didn’t all share the same feeling anymore. We’re all still friends. We all still hang out. We all still love The Simpson’s. It just wasn’t working kind of as a business thing… whatever it turned into. It just wasn’t the same anymore.