When Iron Chic announced last spring that they had signed to Bridge Nine Records, flannel-wearing bearded and non-bearded punks alike rejoiced. It had been nearly three years since their brilliant debut full length, Not Like This, and while they managed to release a few 7-inch records and played some shows, there was always a lingering concern that at any moment the Huntington Station, NY band could just up and collapse.
It's no secret that all of them are pushing - if not already - 30 years of age, and they did almost break up once before. News that The Constant One, the sophomore follow up, was planned for a fall release was exciting. Now, after letting it whet punk palates everywhere, Iron Chic are gearing up for a trek across the US, taking them to cities they've never been before. To psych you up, Punknews staffer Matthew Bentel called up vocalist Jason Lubrano to discuss the shift in the new record, the DIY scene and crowd surfing.
Regarding The Constant One, itâs a solid complement to Not Like This. The musical continuity is there, but the subject matter has evolved, moving from nostalgic, cursory examinations of the past to contemplative, analytic resolutions. Thereâs always been a strain of positivity, but now thereâs subtle optimism.
Yeah, I donât know if thatâs necessary intentional or not. This record is a lot more about peopleâs relationships with each other on a personal level. I donât know the word Iâm looking forâ¦ It was more about the way people relate to each other, rather than my personal past life experiences, or something like that.
Was there a reason for the new focus?
No, nothing in particular. I guess there were a lot of little things that I wanted to touch upon for my own edification. Nothingâ¦ Nothing really major, though.
Some bands write topical songs; others in vague abstractions. Iron Chic toes a line in between. Is that intentional – the ubiquitous approach?
Yeah, Iâd say thatâs kind of by design. Especially with this record, itâs more personal in a way where I donât necessarily want to be very specific about events or anything like that. But I do like to try to convey the general themes and feelings that anyone could really relate to without making it too specific. Anyone can kind of listen to it and apply it to their own experiences.
Do you think it would make it harder for you to perform if it were more specific?
Yeah, I do. But I also think it would alienate people to some degree because not everybody has the same experiences. Iâm just some dude. I donât really have an agenda, or a place to really tell people how to be or how to live. I might have ideas on that and I might try to sort of subtly get it out there, but Iâd like for people to be able to take what they can on their own personal level.
Do you get much feedback on the new record?
Yeah, Iâve had some people come up to me. Iâm kind of a Google addict, so I tend to scour the Internet looking for reviews. Itâs generally pretty positive. Iâm also the type of person who will read a hundred comments that are great and kind of just say, "yeah, yeah." Then Iâll read the one negative comment and I canât stop thinking about it all day. But generally itâs been pretty positive, and I canât complain.
In reading other reviews some critics try to contextualize Iron Chic into late 90s/early 2000s emo/pop-punk (e.g. Saves the Day, Taking Back Sunday), which is apparent, but I feel ignores other influences.
For me, personally, I donât know if "emo" still applies, but I was into Piebald, Sunny Day Real Estate, even some of the older, gnarly British Columbia bands like M Blanket, stuff like that. Thatâs kind of what I cut my teeth on. Plus, you know, your standards like Descendents, Screeching Weasel, shit like that. Itâs all drawn from those sorts of influences. But I donât really write a lot of music. Phil writes most of the guitar parts. He definitely has a sort of Hot Water Music thing going.
For certain insular circles, Iron Chic are nothing new and already demonstrate signs of early canonization. Still, in the larger context, you guys seem to be making headway. Shit, Pitchfork reviewed the latest record. Is that weird?
Yeah. Itâs definitelyâ¦ Some of it is very new to us. A lot of it comes from signing to Bridge Nine. Weâre getting more exposure and more opportunity from outlets we wouldnât have before. But itâs been a pretty steady climb pretty much from the beginning, so itâs not completely out of the blue. But especially for me personally, Iâve never had anyone been this interested in a band Iâve been in. Itâs definitely unique. Itâs a new thing. Weâre really grateful for the attention, people being into it.
As far as shows go, have you seen a noticeable increase?
It really depends on the place. For example, weâve played the Fest the past five or six years. Some of those shows have been the biggest weâve played, even before it picked up like it has lately. Even the first time we went to Europe we got a good response. Itâs definitely more so now, and itâs getting better, but weâve been kind of lucky to have that. Thereâs been a year or two we were mostly playing to 20, 30 people but it seems like once it picked up, it kind of plateaued a little bit I guess. Itâs definitely getting a bit more. Weâll see with this next tour. But every time we play shows there seems to be a few more kids, a bit more of a reception.
Iâve read that your response in Europe was pretty much comparable to the US in attendance and reaction.
Yeah. Iâd say even the first time may have been a little better of a reception than we get in the US. Not any real giant disparity, but enough to leave us pleasantly surprised.
Youâre playing some pretty tight venues on the upcoming tour. Are you concerned at all about turnout being too large?
Weâre pretty optimistic about it but at the same time Iâd rather play a packed show to a hundred people than try to fill some fucking capacity room and not be as crazy. We definitely err on the sign of caution as far as that stuff goes. You can get a little bit of a false sense from things like Fest, where you think the chips just lie in a way that so many people are coming and freaking out.
Iâve read that you prefer it when people freak out. You probably feed off the enthusiasm.
As long as everyoneâs not hurting each other Iâd like them to go as nuts as possible.
Were you ever that guy?
What, freaking out at a show? Yeah, once or twice. I was never really into moshing at shows. Iâm too big to crowd surf. There were some German kids that did it to me one time and tried to lift me up, and I told them, "no, no, donât pick me up, Iâm too heavy."
Do you think the community rallies around certain groups? Wherever there is an honest punk group, Iron Chic can go and do well.
Yeah, Iâd agree with that. I have a sort of romanticized idea sometimes of the punk scene because itâs what I grew up in and thereâs things that attracted me as a kid that are still there. It tends to be socially conscious. Not everybody; you have shitty people in every group. Thereâs a certain element of camaraderie, and family to an extent. I think that extends to us when we play.
Iron Chic functions on a subsistence level, relying on small releases like 7-inch records and short jaunts on the road. With the move to Bridge Nine and the national tour, it feels like the band is becoming more full time.
Yeah. Thatâs definitely the goal for us. Itâs still hard. Our guitar player, Rob, has a daughter and he has a good job that he canât really take time off from beyond his vacation time and stuff. Which is one of the reasons why weâve not toured extensively. With the signing to Bridge Nine and the tour coming up, weâre definitely trying to make the push, at least as close as possible; if not straight up full time, as close to it as we can get. We got a guy filing in on tour for Rob. Heâll be coming to Europe with us when we go back. Getting it to full time for some of us is a little bit less of a thing; for others – for Rob, it would take a lot for him to make it full time and provide for his family. For me, Iâm married but that doesnât change my life. I donât have a lot of overhead, so to speak, and the rest of us – we all have pretty simple lifestyles. We can get by with a lot less.
I heard rumor that you guys were going to call it quits after the US tour.
No, weâre definitely not. Well, not as far as I know. We havenât been able to get out much and put ourselves in the position to do a little more, with time and everything, so its more about taking advantage of it now when we could, so we want to get out to the places we havenât been to. Weâll probably do another decent-sized tour sometime after that. Nothingâs planned, but at least for the next year or so weâre going to try to get out there as much as we can.
If you could tour with anyone, who would it be? Iâve always thought an Iron Chic/Titus Andronicus tour would be fitting, and probably a bit drunk.
Yeah, I could see that. If anyone? Thatâs a hard question. My kind of fanboy answer would be Dillinger Four. As far as current bands, itâs hard to say. We do tend to play with the bands we like, our friends and what not. We have Low Culture on board for one leg of the tour because theyâre our buddies. We did a small jaunt with them before, so we know itâs going to be a good time. We have a couple shows with our friends here in Broadcaster. You know, those kind of bands, people we like who make music that we enjoy.
Did Bridge Nine help plan this tour?
No, not really. Dumps has always dealt with our booking and touring. Heâs been doing the label and putting bands up out here. He has contacts and friends all over the place. Itâs one of the things heâs good at. Plus, we specifically wanted to do this tour on our own. Weâve been considering things like a booking agent, which are pretty foreign to us, but may be a necessity at some point. But we wanted to see how it'd go doing it on our own like the last few tours. The only time we donât book our own tours is when we go to Europe.
How was parting with Dead Broke Rekerds?
Well, itâs not really parting so much. Itâs Dumpsâ label, so weâre still involved. Heâs obviously still involved in it. Iâm sure weâll release something on there again. Itâs Mikeâs thing; heâs been doing it forever. But in a weird way itâs sort of an extension of us, too. So, itâs not so much parting as working with someone else. Weâre not really locked into anything with Bridge Nine, especially after this record, which isnât to say we wouldnât work with them more in the future. We just kind of take it as it goes. Iâm sure weâll have something come out on Dead Broke again. Iâm sure Mike really wants something to come out again.
As veterans of the DIY scene, do you feel house shows have assumed a galvanizing pretext, as the idea of organizing is as important as supporting the music and the bands themselves?
I think its safe to say that thatâs true to some extent. Thereâs definitely some thought and creativity into putting things like that together, especially things like house shows, where you have outside factors like neighbors and police and kind of functioning within the neighborhood. So yeah, I think thatâs probably pretty fair to say.
Do you ever feel that people are there not for the music but just to be there?
With house shows, maybe not so much. I feel like that kind of goes with anything, though. When people gather thereâs always going to be those who are less genuine than others, but not anything that I could really put my finger on. Iâm sure there are a few people who are there to be seen, or just to see their friends, and thatâs fine, too.
Do you do Iron Chicâs artwork? Thereâs definitely a common thread that runs through it – sort of imaginative interpretations of human elements.
I do most of it. Gordon does some of it, too – the t-shirts and stuff. I do most of the records and stuff like that.
Whatâs your inspiration?
I donât know. Itâs hard to say. Iâve always been into comics and cartoons and horror movies. I kind of draw from all those places. My style is dictated by what I can do – I draw more cartoony because I canât draw more realistic. And, you know, Iâm a pothead, I sit around and watch some weird stuff, "Adventure Time," shit like that.
Does that same mentality derive the sometimes weird, sometimes poignant audio chucks that often appear between your songs?
Yeah, to some extent. A lot of that comes from Phil. He does all our recordings, so he has some weird ideas to tie things in. Itâs kind of a creative extension of recording, fiddling around and making sounds. We like the album to be a cohesive listening experience.
Especially with the themes you express, I think it definitely makes a cohesive listening experience. So you guys are going back to Europe.
Yeah, when we get back from the US tour we have two weeks off and we head out again.
Best European story.
Oh, man. Psh. I donât know. Probably the best stories I couldnât say out loud. That one show [where I crowd surfed] – itâs called Club Shitzah. Itâs not really called that but thatâs sort of the local name for it. It was our first trip there, and itâs just one of those things. These kids were going batshit, we were really, really drunk. Dumps was wearing a sombrero, and they crowd surfed me to the back of the room and back again, and it was sort of just a perfect storm of drunken freak. Weâve had a lot of fun, especially when Rob is with us. Heâs a really crazy person on the road. He always has a funny story. But I feel bad outing him on some of these things.
Do you get nervous when you go onstage?
I meanâ¦ You know. Yeah. It would be disingenuous to say that I donât. But itâs not like – it is one of the reasons why I tend to drink, but I really only drink when weâre playing. I donât know if itâs so much to calm my nerves or a ritual or whatever. I do drink to settle my nerves to some extent. Sometimes just the thought of playing a show sober, just the thought – not even because Iâm nervous, Iâm just not used to it I guess.
The drinking sort of plays into it. You have a really distinctive onstage presence. Thereâs all this swaying and kids climbing on top of each other, a lot of "whoas" and finger pointing.
Well thatâs good because I get criticized that weâre not moving around enough. But itâs funny – the few times I have not been drunk people just assume Iâm drunk anyway because of the way I look or something.