After many miscues, we finally got our interview with Avail via email, and to make it better, it's with lead singer Tim Barry. Click READ MORE to find out all about Tim's feelings on diverse opening acts, the band's influences, just *why* Richmond is so damn great, plus a ton more.
MEGAN: On many punk websites there has been an ongoing battle of words on whether or not you guys are a decent band or just plain suck. This is your chance to respond to that question. Why should someone go see your band over anyone else? What do you have to offer that is interesting or new in any way?
TIM: That's a hard question to answer. It's hard to give the band I'm in "props" and convince people why they should see us over anyone else. It's almost like forcing me to say why I think AVAIL is better than other bands when I know we are not. All bands and people are different. Fans of music are attracted to different bands for different reasons. That's why debating whether a band is "decent or just plain sucks" seems endless and boring. All bands are easily critiqued. Everyone sees and hears things differently. People in bands should always realize that some people will like what they do and others will hate it. That's just how it goes. But to attempt to answer your question, I'd have to say that AVAIL does a decent job of blending different styles of music (punk/hardcore/rock) and plays those songs with honesty and without a gimmick. That's what I love about AVAIL and why we've been doing it as long as we have.
M: If there was one message that people got from your music, what would it be?
T: To be yourself. To feel good about yourself. To challenge yourself. And to be aware of your surroundings, both socially and politically.
M: Do you enjoy listening to your own albums?
T: Ha, I rarely listen to our albums. It's hard from my position to do so. I don't know about you, but I'm am painfully critical of everything I'm involved with. But regarding our albums that is based mainly on the actual recording quality and not the songs themselves. Our new record "Front Porch Stories" is the only one I've listened to a lot. I think the songs are strong and the recording came out better than any in the past. My favorite part of being in AVAIL has always been playing live. For a long time the albums were secondary to that. Nowadays I'm having a lot of fun learning the recording process and understanding the importance of strong studio albums.
M: How do you feel about touring Europe?
T: We are just about to go over to Europe again for our 7th time. I've always enjoyed it. Europe can make or break bands though. Many, many bands have an intense time there. It's hard to be cut off from easy communication with home, and the conveniences of touring in the States. To break even on money, bands have to spend well over a month there, so it's easy to become tired of it and just want to go home. But the more a band goes there the easier it gets. And usually the great shows make up for the hardships.
M: What's so great about Richmond? Along with that, what do you think it is about the Southern states that makes the citizens there have so much pride in where they're from? I know that personally, being from Texas, I've found that up north, very few people are as proud of where they're from as those in the South, why do you think that is?
T: I think it's because the South lost the Civil War. I think Southerners felt so degraded by the lose that they turned around and started being proud of being from the South and that just passed on through the generations. Now a place like Virginia where we are from is a little more complicated. Folks from the deep South call us Yanks and people from up north call us Rednecks. We're as far north as the South gets. Texas on the other hand is in a world of it's own. I've never, in my life seen so much pride from a state. People down there are all about being from Texas. As far as the question about Richmond and what makes it so great. What I like about Richmond is the sense of community I feel. Richmond is small for and East Coast City. It is slower here than many other places. People greet one another on the street. The cost of living is low. There is a tremendous amount of history. There are some really great bands and writers and artists. It has a not only a great urban environment but also many great park systems running along the James River. But with the good, there is plenty of bad. Virginia overall is very conservative. There is still pockets of Racism here. Some folks are not very tolerant of people different from them. The economy isn't all that great and at the same time Richmond is quickly becoming over developed. The list could go on, but I'll leave it at that.
M: What are your influences?
T: We listen to everything from country like Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams to southern rock, to rock like Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar to punk like Circle Jerks, Minor Threat and Black Flag to hardcore. Somehow, all of that crap comes out in our music in one way or another. But AVAIL has spent the majority of our time trying to rip off all of those great DC bands from the mid 80's like Soulside, Marginal Man, 3, Dag Nasty, Kingface and Gray Matter.
M: What are you listening to/reading/watching these days?
T: I just finished reading two great books. One was interviews with Howard Zinn called "Terror and War." Then I plowed through Chomsky's "9-11." Now I'm reading a book on Auto Mechanics. Gotta mix that shit up. All I've been listening to is the new Dixie Chicks album, as embarrassing as that is to admit. But, as soon as I can get my hands on that new Tragedy CD that shit will be in my boom box on repeat for the next few months.
M: Has your fan base increased since your last tour, and if so, how has that affected your live show?
T: Our fan base has stayed about the same over the last couple of years. Actually, that's not true, in some places it's increased. Our new record is selling better than any other one. I think that is pretty cool. That always helps the live shows. The more people who come out and know the songs the better the show. People always say that we are a good live band. But I don't know if it's actually us being "good" or if it's the enthusiasm of the people who come out to the shows that make them what they are.
M: The most recent tour that you completed put your band together with opening bands that people wouldn't normally expect to play with you/together (i.e. Hey Mercedes, The Curse, The Reunion Show, and All American Rejects). How did that come about and how did the crowd respond to the mix of bands? Also, how was your experience with each of the bands?
T: That's a damn good question. We usually try to mix up our tours to make them more exciting. We've always done that. Some of my favorite shows have been totally eclectic. Playing with bands like American Nightmare and Hot Rod Circuit have been extremely successful and fun. Other shows people frown upon because they are too mixed up. But you can't make everyone happy. We just do what seems right to us and hope that others enjoy themselves.
M: How is "Front Porch Stories" different from your previous albums? If you had to recommend one of your albums to somebody who had never heard your music before, which one would it be?
T: As I mentioned before, I'm stoked on "Front Porch Stories." It came out better than I could have ever expected, so naturally I'd recommend it to people as a good representation of the band.
M: When will you be going into the studio again and what sort of new direction do you hope to take with a new album?
T: We won't be going into the studio any time soon. "Front Porch Stories" came out just this last November so we will be touring off and on for the next year. We just completed the first leg of midwest and West Coast dates. On January 10th we start an East Coast tour then leave again for a short string of US dates in March. In April we will tour Europe and will simply continue to do shows. Once we've toured enough we will start working on another record.
M: In Chicago, I noticed that Tim and Beau Beau both spent a LOT of time in the crowd, what drives you to just jump right into the crowd like that and have you ever been hurt when doing so?
T: I always go in the crowd when I can. I like the energy down there. It gives me a full perspective of the show. I can't stay in one place too long. And yes, both Beau and myself have been hurt in the crowd and on the stage more times than I can count. Sometimes it's petty shit like cuts, other times it's broken bones chipped teeth and stitches.
M: As a band, Avail's been around since the late 80s. After being around so long, what are your hopes for the future in regards to success? How do you plan to achieve your goals?
T: We have always taken a simple approach to the band. We spend a lot of time writing songs. We drop anything we don't like and keep those that mean a lot to us. Then we hide out in the studio and record those songs. Then we tour our asses off for about a year and when we get home, we start writing again. Because of that simple approach we never set huge goals. We've feel lucky that we've been able to do this band as long as we have. We are content where we are at and look forward to playing shows writing more songs and having a good time doing it. And as soon as it ain't fun anymore, we'll stop.
M: And here's a spot to say whatever's on your mind right now, talk politics, talk holiday shopping, whatever suits you.
T: I'd just like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, and we look forward to hitting the road again in a week. Thanks.