Since leaving Against Me! five years ago, Warren Oakes has focused on his career as a restaurateur and stayed pretty quiet musically. That changed this summer when his new band, Sunshine State, started practicing in earnest, recorded some demos, set up a Bandcamp, and started playing shows. Interviewer Megan Rosenfeld talked with Warren about Sunshine State's upcoming recording plans, his thoughts on this year's Fest line up, and recent developments at Boca Fiesta, his restaurant/venue.
As a preliminary matter, let's clear the air and be transparent about our relationship. I've been an enormous supporter of Warren Oakes projects past and present, from like Skahova Witness and Criticaster Project to Against Me! to the present, but I've also been one of your biggest critics. Would you say that is a fair assessment? Are you nervous?
I think it is somewhat fair but maybe doesn't reveal the true depth of your Homerism. Not nervous! Looking forward to it. Maybe a little nervous.
Letâs also set the stage here. What are you listening to right now while we chat? Sauna Youth, which is a new project from my friend Rich Phoenix. Rich is awesome, he was in my favorite Dan Yemin-inspired hardcore band, The Steal, and his old pop-punk band Captain Everything is also a favorite of mine from that genre. I am a Rich Phoenix fan through and through.
Me too! I also think you are sucking up to your interviewer a little because you know my name (weekend punk) is from The Stealâs full-length. I am listening to Fake Problems, which is fitting because Rich Phoenix once designed a shirt for them. Did you know that?
Fake Problems is recording now, are you excited about that?
So excited. They posted a picture of Dolly Parton on their Instagram a few weeks ago and nothing has made me more excited for an upcoming record than the idea that the new release will be Dolly-inspired.
Well, speaking of NEW, Mr. Oakes, you've started a new band that was recently the subject of a Punknews post, Sunshine State. Tell us how this band started.
A little background is probably necessary to make this make sense: my day job/night job currently is owning and operating a restaurant called Boca Fiesta and an open-air bar/venue connected to it which is called the Backyard.
My good buddy Jake is the co-owner of Boca Fiesta and one of the owners of the Backyard as well. One of the events that he has created and promoted is the wildly popular "Band Roulette" which entails local musicians tossing their names in a hat corresponding to the instrument they play. The names go in the hats and then drawn out at random and bands are assigned and tasked with writing a couple original songs and learning a cover for a Roulette Showdown three weeks after.
Troy [Perlman], Kyle [Fick] and I were thrown together by the divine hand of fate and we enjoyed the dynamic and the sound so we kept at it even after the show came and went. Our original incarnation featured Jessica Bays on vocals and went by the moniker J. Bays and The Featured Creatures. We covered "Kiss Me Deadly" by Lita Ford and "Anything, Anything" by Dramarama. Jessica is no longer with us and Mike Magarelli came on board to add second guitar and to back up Troy on vocals.
We also wrote the song "Sour Mash" for the Roulette band and we play a version of that same song currently.
Let's talk about Band Roulette. It sounds fun! How often do you do it? Can anyone sign up or is invited musicians/those "in the know" only?
The first two were a few months apart and were open to anybody who wanted to participate. The third was specifically open to any women who wanted to participate and was a benefit for Girls Rock Camp which took place this summer in Gainesville. Iâve heard several of the bands from the Lady Roulette are playing together still as well as one of the bands from the first event. We played (and won!) the second event. The next permutation may be an invite only for some of our favorite local musicians… to be determined.
I like that the Backyard has given you the ability to promote organizations that maybe you couldn't normally big up, like how as a man-drummer, you couldn't be a huge part of Girls Rock Camp, but as a venue owner, you can give space to let these events happen and promote them.
I like it too! I kind of want a business card that says "man-drummer" on it.
That reminds me of when I once thought about getting you a Christmas present that would have all your potential titles on it (restaurateur, drummer, driver, mover, helper, bartender, waiter, friend, activist, ginger-beard…). What other cool things are happening at Boca these days?
The newest recurring event is a local hip-hop showcase every Thursday night. Iâve been pleasantly surprised by the caliber of talent that has been coming out for this event. Iâve been thoroughly impressed by some of the DJs, MCs and break dancers that have come out in the first few weeks so far.in the next month we have a Beastie Boys tribute show, including some of the old Beastie Boys punk songs. Each Beastie actually plays the corresponding instrument to their real-life counterpart. Plus, they all work at Boca!
We are also hosting a burlesque night, Band Roulette show, The Vibrators, The Toasters and Voodoo Glow Skulls, and a bunch of Fest shows. That is just October! We also host karaoke every Monday, trivia every Tuesday and Thursday and a booty dance party every Friday night. The calendar is packed! There is also a bunch of fun food side projects that Jake and I are working on…
It sounds hectic! What is your role in most of that? I know you wanted to work on some hip hop beats a few years ago -- are you part of the talent on the hip hop night?
The four other owners, bar manager and I share the tasks required to keep things running so itâs not as hectic as it sounds. My role is a mix of promotion, stage managing, being a sound guy and generally managing to keep things on track. On a good night I basically just hang out and watch everybody do their jobs well. I have not yet contributed musically to the hip hop night but the dream lives on.
Sounds like the five of you work very well together. You know what makes the dream work? TEAM WORK. Ha! Anyway, I canât wait to hear your future hip hop project. My dream is that itâs some sort of medley/mash up of you doing "Shoop" while RJ of Aphid Ant Constructions does "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It)."
Add some counting, spelling and the step-by-step instructions of how to do a hot new dance move and we have a hit on our hands!
Speaking of dreams, for a few years, when we've talked about what you thought your side project band would be (when you were in Against Me!) or afterwards, when we'd talk about your next band, it seemed as though you were leaning toward a band that had lyrics focusing on correcting historical myths. I believe you even recruited a bandmate and wrote a song or two, what happened with that project? And do you think that Sunshine State's lyrics will eventually head in that direction, or is that still an off-in-the-future dream project?
I don't see that in the cards for Sunshine State… Troy is our primary lyricist and vocalist and I know that his theme (for this batch of songs/album at least) is documenting Gainesville and its inhabitants. The historical myth correction project must and will see the light of day, however! Peyton Randolph is getting slept on so hard it's practically criminal. I believe the original drum and harmonica line-up is really the best way to get the message across.
When y'all wrote "Lunchblood", did you know that it was going to be an enormous monster jam? I canât listen to it without thinking about like millions of kids shouting the lyrics back and then all air guitaring that righteous riff at the very end.
I've been consistently pleasantly surprised by how much I like this band and that song was early evidence for me that we had good chemistry as a band. The songwriting had been unfolding really easily and naturally and none of the songs get overworked to the point where you start to resent them. It is easy to labor over a song until it ends up "perfect" but you always hate the song a little because it was so taxing to bring it to fruition. Our first ten songs so far have been pretty effortless and "Lunchblood" is one of my favorites for sure. So far we have not encountered millions of kids with air guitars but I feel your fever. Even our practices feel pretty epic most nights.
How come the other songs you recorded are not on < a href="http://sunshinestategainesville.bandcamp.com/">Bandcamp? Only five are.
We just put a few demos we did in our practice space up there for friends, family and anybody who was curious about how we've been spending our Tuesday nights. We plan on recording an album in January, tentatively called What Friends?.
What are your goals as a band?
Write some really good songs, play some really fun shows, see what happens… I'm not much of a planner.
I know that in the past, you've spent a lot of time in Minneapolis and DC, and Against Me! was always really loyal to Baltimore -- are you planning any jaunts there or to other out-of-Florida hot spots?
We're playing Atlanta at 529 on Saturday, December 7th and maybe Valdosta Sunday, December 8th, other than that, we're playing a couple Gainesville shows, including the Fest and are open to invitations but don't have any travel plans. I'd like to do some festival field trips and long weekends but I'm not so sure I can see us grinding it out in a van… Who knows what the future holds, though? Wait a minute… is this a subtle way of inviting us to come up and play in DC and Baltimore? Sounds like a party!
Getting back to definite plans, do you think Boca will have the Hip Hop night on the Thursday of Fest weekend?
Nope. Weâve got fest shows happening starting Thursday night this year. The newly expanded Fest, bound and determined to Grinch Halloween every single year.
As long as we are talking about Fest now, let's go head and talk about it. What are your thoughts on the line up?
There are a ton of great bands and good folks coming to the town at large and our venue specifically. The obvious disappointment straight off the bat is that I don't see any Annie Soviette projects on the list. Between the Goddamn Doo Wop Band and Soviettes, I feel like she's been on our stage more often than not.
How disappointed are you, 1-10? Readers, I should let you know that years ago Warren told me he had a huge "talent crush" on Annie. He's been superfan for years.
9.5. being able to roll out the red carpet for awesome friends is absolutely one of the very best perks of my job. If you don't have Soviettes and Awesome Snakes in your life, my condolences. Touring with the Soviettes was absolutely one of the highlights of my rock and roll career: part one.
I've been listening to Awesome Snakes SO MUCH in the last three weeks or so. It's on permanent rotation. "Shut Up" is such a monster jam. What do you think your all-time favorite Annie Sparrows song is? "Tonight" by the Soviettes. Totally beautiful song.
Also, do you think it's weird I keep saying "monster jam"? I've been thinking it nonstop for weeks and it keeps coming out, but it feels a little out of character. What do you call good songs?
Monster jams. Hits.
What other slang is fresh in Gainesville these days?
Hmmm. I've noticed people are saying YOLO less and less ironically all the time. I'm a little square so I might not be the best guy to ask. I like the classics. Righteous. Crucial.
Okay, let's get back to the Fest schedule. Anything you see that you are totally stoked on? I notice Good Luck isn't playing, and they've been your main jam for the last few fests. Sorry about your BAD luck.
I know! I love Good Luck. Bummer. Underground Railroad to Candyland will be awesome for sure. Iâm sure our mystery bands are going to be righteous. I know David Liebe Hart dropped off so we are gonna have a super special mystery band to headline on Sunday night.
Underground Railroad to Candyland were so good last year! I saw them before Fake Problems at that Top space. Creepoid should be a good show
I donât know anything about them. What's up with that band?
They are from Philly and the kids are pretty nuts about them. Itâs loud and weird and pretty cool.
Oh, speaking of Philly, I am going to see Trophy Wife next week. Jealous?
Yes, totally jealous. Whatâs up Katy Otto!
Katy Otto: National Treasure. Who else are you stoked on for Fest? North Lincoln, Max Levine Ensemble and Monikers will be a solid Sunday set too. I encourage Fest attendees to see my band mates' other projects: Troy plays bass for Whiskey & Co. and Mike is playing a set with his other band Grievers (Samiam, Hot Water Music). Plus Human Parts are playing inside the Palomino Sunday afternoon! I hadnât even noticed that until just now.
Oh, awesome! Human Parts has another video out, have you seen that yet? Oh and did you hear Andrew played all the instruments on the record? I read that on this very website.
I heard but I havenât seen it yet. I hear that it features lots of children? Andrew Seward the one man band!
So, moving on just a little bit but really, since we are talking about one very talented man: your talent crush is Annie, as we've established, and you know that mine is one mister Cory Branan. Let's be real: how much did his original song "Sour Mash" influence Sunshine State's song called "Sour Mash" and also can you imagine doing a MASH up of both, wouldn't that be cool?
Ha! I see what you did there… I like how many shout-outs of slept-on talent we've been able to get into this interview! Cory Branan is one of the best songwriters in America right now. Fact! I need to give his "Sour Mash" another listen and see if we can sync up the beats per minuteâ¦
I don't know anything about being a DJ or a song masher or anything, but I think that if you were talented, you'd be able to figure it out. Is that a wrong thought?
You may have to speed up one song or slow down the other to make it so you can transition between them so somebody might end up sounding like a chipmunk… that might not be uncool…
I suppose Troy or Cory could always smoke more cigarettes or drink more whiskey or watch more Kathleen Turner movies to lower their voices, which may help the chipmunk effect. I don't know Troy that well, but I think he wouldn't mind and I am almost positive that Cory wouldnât mind that regimen.
We should probably consult Girl Talk on this one.
So earlier you mentioned that you and Jake are working on some dope food projects, too. Whatâs up with those?
We are working on doing some canning and bottling of hot sauces, pickles, salsas, dressings, natural sodas for a future line of tasty treats that folks can take home with them. We'll start out selling them from Boca and at the Farmer's Market and Co-op and see where it goes from there… We also just expanded our exotic meat menu at Boca and are currently featuring kangaroo, rattlesnake, elk, duck and of course, alligator, as always.
Wait, WHAT! You are always having those on the menu now the way you always have alligator or are they one at a time monthly specials?
We have a section in the menu "Featured Creatures" that is always available and features rattlesnake bites, an elk hot dog, kangaroo sliders and duck tacos and all of them are always available at least until the new year. Gator has always been and will always be on our menu.
Is this going to stay on the menu for Fest or are you offering only a more limited fest weekend menu?
We are going to offer a limited Fest menu in some respects but we do plan on offering all of the exotic meats during Fest.
Exciting! It feels weird to talk about Fesy (that's what Fake Problems calls Fest) this early, but I guess it's only a few weeks away.
Ha! Iâve stopped listening to Sauna Youth, by the way, and now Iâm watching a new episode of Top Chef Masters right now, actually. Bryan Voltaggio is currently making tongue tacos for a Luchador Wrestling challenge! Which reminds me, did I mention that Jake and I are going on a honeymoon to Mexico right after Fest? Weâll be spending a week down their doing "research" aka eating tacos and drinking tequila.
I was going to close this interview out right now, but I thought of another question: Recently you got the opportunity to see Queen Bey, aka Beyonce Knowles, aka Mrs. Carter on tour. Did you learn anything at that show that you are going to incorporate into your shows moving forward?
I learned that you can learn more from bad shows than from good shows. If you see a bad band you can really clearly break it down and see everything that rubs you wrong and all the mistakes you should never make. Seeing BeyoncÃ© is an amazing spectacle and leaves you with a list of notes that reads as follows:
1. Be awesome.
Are you following those notes, Wardog?
See you in the pit hopefully real real soon!