Iron Chic

Following the release of their debut full-length last year, Not Like This, it seems that Long Island super group Iron Chic have really made a name for themselves - you all know them. So, while making waves in the UK for the first time, Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull caught up with Jason Lubrano [vocals] and Phil Douglas [guitar] where they discussed the band's turbulent past, why they don't consider themselves "entertainers" and the reason behind their drinking habits on stage.

What’s going on in the world of Iron Chic? Phil: Pretty much just finishing up the UK leg of our European tour, doing two or three more dates in the mainland after today in Kingston. We’ve done about 13 or 14 shows and we’re heading home on Sunday. The tour’s been great and everything’s gone really well.

Have you been surprised by the buzz surrounding Iron Chic over here? Jason: Yeah, I guess to an extent.
Phil: Yeah, people have been nice to us, but it hasn’t been insanely crazy. It’s been well attended.
Jason: It’s interesting to come half way around the world and get a reception as good as we get at home, it’s been pretty cool.

You haven’t really played that many shows and you’re still yet to play a lot of places in the States, why did you come to the UK before all that? Phil: After we released the record, we did almost a month in the US and little things here and there. We decided to come to Europe because I did with my previous band Latterman and we had a good time, and Jan [Yo-Yo Records] who pressed our demo on a 12" asked us to come over.
Jason: Besides Phil, none of us had been to Europe before, so it’s a little more exciting than staying in the US.

Do you find you have that hype in the US? Phil: ‘Hype’ is a hard thing to qualify, it’s external, it doesn’t really affect me one way or another. It means maybe we play shows and people are into it, but it’s hard to define what ‘hype’ really is and what the effects of that are. It’s a question I can’t really answer. Do we see more people are the shows? Maybe. Even then it’s hard to qualify it, as you said, we don’t tour all the time, so it’s not like we’re constantly turning and more people are turning up. We did a three-week tour and that did really well, then we kind of laid it low for a bit and did some shows here and there, and then we did this. I mean, as far as the reception of our record, people have been into it and stuff, but I’m not really sure how to say the ‘hype’ has affected us or how we perceive the supposed ‘hype’.

Do you think that the ‘featuring members of Latterman’ tagline has helped you make a name for yourselves? Phil: Yeah, I mean, people liked Latterman and especially after we broke up, people seemed to have gotten more and more into it. It helped us get off on the right foot, but obviously if people are going to like it, then they’re not just going to like it because I was in Latterman.
Jason: Yeah, it helped us get the name out and give it a little momentum in the beginning to get people to listen and interested in the first place to try it out.

Do you find that people like to compare Iron Chic with Latterman? Jason: In a lot of reviews, like if you see a review, the word ‘Latterman’ is going to be there at some point, for good or bad.
Phil: I think musically it’s not so much compared, particularly the lyrics I think, but there is some resemblance of Latterman. Most people don’t perceive it as a rehash of Latterman, I don’t think any of the ex-Latterman bands are, they’re kind of their own thing, but you kind of see it in them.
Jason: Obviously, there’s going to be some connection, those people who had a hand in writing those songs have a hand in writing these songs, so there’s going to be some familiarity in there.
Phil: Yeah, it’s not really a big deal. I guess at first, it started kind of weird, I’m not going to say uncomfortable, but it kind of made me feel a little strange, then after a while I got used it, it’s not a big deal.

I went to the London show of this tour and one thing I noticed is that you all drank a lot and there wasn’t much interaction, is that a nerves thing? Jason: That’s just how we are. We’re not a fucking hardcore band, I’m not going to fucking floor punch or run around and do cartwheels and stuff. I do drink to calm my nerves a little bit, but even when I’m not drunk I do the exact same. Sometimes, I’m a little bit personable if I’m feeling a bit funny, but I am a shy person, I don’t consider myself an entertainer per se. We write songs because we like to write songs and people get really into it, and it’s very flattering and it’s very fun for us to go play shows. We do it because we enjoy it.
Phil: The ironic thing is, is that you don’t really drink when you don’t play shows.
Jason: Yeah, I do almost only drink when we play. It also really takes a lot out of me to sing, but I pretty much use all my energy. [laughs]
Phil: I don’t think we go out of our way to be a drunken punk band, we just do it to have a good time, but we’re not trying to make a shtick out of it. I try to avoid that type of thing because it gets really weird.
Jason: I also drink a lot when we play because I’m very thirsty. [laughs] I’ll drink about four beers because we play and then I’ll drink four to six beers while we play.

Do you feel that Iron Chic shows are more about the crowd’s involvement and the energy they bring? Jason: It honestly makes it a lot easier for us when people are freaking out. We played a couple of shows on this tour, and one was a Sunday matinee show and it was really subdued, we were really tired and it’s definitely more awkward if people aren’t freaking out, but if people are freaking out, it makes you feel more comfortable. You feel like you can do whatever you want and they’ll enjoy it. I think the crowd enjoying themselves is definitely part of a successful show.
Phil: I don’t think there’s any pretense around us, we’re not trying to be entertainers. I don’t know if people have a certain expectation going in, but we’re not going to be jumping around. It’s all good.

Obviously, you’re older guys, this isn’t a full time thing for you, is it? Is the band more of a thing on the side for you? Jason: Yeah, it’s definitely not a full-time thing. Rob’s got a kid and a full-time job, Mike has a label, Phil does recording and works as a security guard at night, I’ve just recently stopped delivering pizza to do graphic design and artwork, but I haven’t paid a bill with it yet. We’d like to make the band what keeps us going, but until it starts paying the bills, it’ll not be a full time thing.
Phil: I think in some respects, especially with gas prices, it’s very hard for a band to just do a band full time without driving yourself crazy. I think, at best, it’ll become a bigger part of what we do, but I don’t think we’ll be touring nine months out of a year or anything like that, I don’t think that’s feasible.
Jason: Yeah, that’s the thing, you can either tour non-stop or you can get sponsored by an energy drink or whatever, and sell your ethics short.
Phil: It’s a weird thing, for sure, to try and balance everything. We’re just trying to take it easy and then after this tour, we’re probably going to start writing the next record. We don’t have any expectations or any set goals, we’re just going to see what happens, we’re open to new experiences, and won’t try to make it corny and stupid.

I recently read in another interview and you said you nearly broke up after the release of the Shitty Rambo EP, why was that? Jason: It’s kind of hard to get into without getting personal about it, but there was kind of like some shit going on with the old bass player and the old guitar player had some health issues, it kind of worked itself out, but he left and there was more shit going on with the bass player that was hitting Phil particularly hard.
Phil: Yeah, without getting too into it, it was just basically some shit with the bass player, a friend and an old roommate. It made me feel very distant from where I lived and the band itself, I lost a year of my life in a way and I was going to move, but then we talked it out and it’s ended up great so far.
Jason: Shit was going on between them with none of us really knowing, and we didn’t understand why he was being weird or whatever, but when it all came out, it was all up in the air and I told Phil to relax and write some songs to make him feel better and I think it definitely worked.
Phil: Honestly, I don’t really like talking about it, but it’s not a big deal. It worked out for the best, everything that happened, should have happened, because if it didn’t happen then we wouldn’t be here today. I don’t think with the original line-up we would even get to tour as little as we do. It needed to happen and I’m fine with it. I don’t like talking about it much, but I’m coming to peace with it.

There’s a lot of bands out there with the same ‘gruff punk’ sound, how do you keep it fresh? Jason: I don’t know, we don’t really think about it, we just try to write song that we like. It’s not pre-conceived, I don’t think. It’s weird to say, but there’s not a lot of thought that really goes into it. I mean, thought goes into it, but we don’t plan or anything. Maybe a lot of after thought goes into it where we’ll nitpick this or that and try to shape it, but I don’t think we think about it too much.
Phil: We just write what we like and what seems natural, and hopefully other people will perceive it well. The idea of trying to pick apart a genre and trying to think of new spins to keep it fresh, I don’t think there’s anything preconceived like that.
Jason: Yeah, I don’t think most bands do. There are only so many different things you can do with chords.

On your recent EP, Split N’ Shit, you covered Bikini Kill’s "Jet Ski", which I thought was pretty odd, why did you cover it? Jason: I just like the song and we just wanted to do something different. It was actually really hard to sing to, we didn’t know if it was going to come out good in the end, because I can’t sing that high. I also thought it’d be neat, because it’s such a different sound from us, overall. I wanted to do a Nine Inch Nails song, too. [laughs] I don’t know, I like to cover different songs. I mean, you can cover different punk songs and it’s not going to come out that much different than the original, but sometimes, if you cover something a little weirder to begin with then it’s interesting to see how it’d turn out once you put your spin on it.

That EP, along with the rest of your music, is up on your Bandcamp page for free/donation, what’s the reason behind that? Jason: I mean, honestly, people are going to get it from the Internet one way or another, so we figured we’d rather people just get it from us and if you want to pay for it, then you can pay for it, because if you get it from Soulseek or BitTorrent then there is no option to pay for it, so at least we know they’re getting a decent version of it. I’d rather them have nice MP3 files than some shitty rip from a stream or something, or a virus. [laughs] And the fucked up thing is that people still put it up on Mediafire or whatever, when you can literally just get it for free from us. I think it’s definitely been beneficial. It took a bit of deliberation, especially since Mike does a label, so we don’t want to fuck him over, neither. I’d say around 25% of people who download it actually give something, it’s fairly significant, it’s helped us - like help go on tour and I think we made enough money from the EP to get our tickets to come here and stuff, well, almost. It’s also fun to see what people will donate when they can donate whatever they want, like someone donate $6.66, just things like that, it’s interesting, or $4.20. Some people will donate 25 cents and I’m like, are you serious?! I think it’s definitely the right choice, though.

You said you were going to be working on a new record when you get back, do you think there’s a bit of pressure since Not Like This was so well received? Phil: We have to like it first, we can’t control how people perceive what we do and when you start trying to skew things to how other people will enjoy it, then it just starts getting to the point where it’s weird. Obviously, there is an aspect of it to some extent, because we want to write something that’s really good, but as far as real pressure, there’ll be a bit of pressure, but we’re not going to tear our hair over it.
Jason: If we wrote a bunch of songs and they sounded shitty, then we wouldn’t put them out and if it sounds good, then it sounds good, but we’re not going to be like, ‘It sounds good, but how are other people going to receive it?’ If they don’t like it, then fuck them. [laughs]

So, what else does Iron Chic have in store after this tour? Phil: We’re going to go home, relax, play a couple shows and start writing new songs, and maybe start trying to get a new record together.
Jason: I’m going to sleep for two days.