Contributed by DesertBurst92, Posted by Interviews

The Mormon hardcore punk trio Tartar Control, composed of Sean Hart, Robert Selander and Robot, have been spreading the good word of The Lord and the great benefits of good oral hygiene to the Southern California punk rock scene since they self-released their first album, Holy Crap!, in 2011.

For those of you who are new to Tartar Control, just know that they are a very visual band. The “Jesus Is Love” video will give you what you need to know. And then if you can see them live, do it (especially is you plan on attending Punk Rock Bowling)! Just check out their their full live sets online.

Four years after Tartar Control released Holy Crap! , they finally self-released a new album called We Forgive You earlier this month. I, Ricky Frankel, reviewer, podcast panelist and occasional interviewer drove down to The Doll Hut in Anaheim, California, where the “Jesus Is Love” music video was filmed, coincidentally, to interview Sean and Robert outside of the sketchy and potentially haunted hotel that was near the venue before they performed that night. Just know that I was pretty much laughing during the whole interview, but I spared you all from having to read a ton of “hahahas” throughout it.

We're recording.
Robert Selander: WE’RE RECORDING!

Sean Hart: TEST!




S: I think its working…

R: I can’t hear…is the P.A. on? There’s no P.A. THAT’S A JOKE I MADE!

(Laughing very hard) Yes, we’re recording. So you met each other at the age of 5 years old in your church choir and became best friends. And then you were sent to South Central LA in 2011 for you mission. How has the mission been going? I know missions are two years, but you have been out here longer than that.
R: I’m not missin’ my mission! We have renewed several times over in order to stay out here.

S: Our district manager doesn’t seem to mind though, which is nice.

R: As long as we keep up our quota, which is an unofficial thing. There is no real quota.

S: But for us there is.

R: We like to keep our numbers high!

S: The mission has been going well despite the fact that you’re not allowed to have a band while you’re on a mission.

I think we can look the other way on that.
S: Ok, thank you.

I found this fascinating. I read that you guys were influenced by Leftover Crack.
S: Oh yes!

They are one of my favorite bands, too, but how do you reconcile the fact that they are so anti-religion i.e. “Atheist Anthem” and “Jesus has a Place for Me (Rock the 40 oz.)” when you guys are out spreading the good word of The Lord?
R: Well when you can’t understand all of the words at first…

S: Yeah people tend to fill stuff in, but they tend to do that with religion also.

R: Listening to punk rock can also sometimes be like a WWII message decoding situation where you have to find a message in there. So for me it actually took me several years to realize what they were even saying. And while I don’t agree with everything they say on my end, there are lots of people everywhere and I don’t agree with everything they believe.

S: Musically, they’re a huge influence. There is something about music that transcends all sorts of belief barriers and Leftover Crack definitely did that for us. For me especially.

What I’m not clear on from researching Tartar Control is your discovery of punk rock. You seem to go from coming to LA for your mission. How did you get into punk rock from being in choir?
R: Well Sean and I, before we made our fun band, we were a hymnal duo together…

S: Acoustic.

R:…and we were outside of a place called Burt’s Tiki Lounge, which as it turned out was a punk venue. We didn’t know that. Since we had come that night we saw what was happening inside and that was our first exposure to punk rock. After that it was one of those things where, you know, a spark went “BOOM!” and then you hear something and you’re like “What is all this?! These people don’t know how to play their instruments and they’re doing so well!”

S: It was really uplifting to see how much fun everybody was having and I know for myself I wanted to have that music experience go on with who we are. I just wanted so badly to be a part of that and I think we found our way into that once we got to Los Angeles finally.

R: We really wanted to be here or New York or somewhere where we could do what we do…

S: Yeah!

R: …and be in place where we could have fun with it. I mean if had been stationed in Zimbabwe, being in a punk rock band would be very hard. We failed our language test for that country.

Your third band member is a robot named Robot, why did you decide to go with a robot instead of a bassist and drummer? Is Robot also Mormon?
R: Robot is decidedly not Mormon at this point, though we have tried.

S: We have tried numerous times, but he’s not about to start.

R: It was easier to make a robot than to make friends. Let’s put it that way.

Los Angeles can be a mean place.
S: It's true.

R: Uhhhh, yeah!

When I first saw you guys in January opening for the Dead Kennedys at The Roxy, I honestly had no idea who you were. That’s only because I was living in Northern California for a while and didn’t know a lot about the current SoCal punk scene. And when your set started I was stunned, amazed and almost in tears from laughing so hard at the lyrics, Robert’s jumping and flailing around in the pit, and your between song banter. Your comedic timing onstage to me, is very tight and you have your onstage act down so perfectly. I mean I’d put you guys up there with, to me at least, with Daniel Tosh, Andrew “Dice” Clay, George Carlin, Chris Rock, Sam Kinison, etc. in terms of your talent for comedic timing and chemistry. Who are your comedic influences? Because I have never laughed so hard at a punk show in my life.
R: Oh wow! Andrew “Dice” Clay is getting a little old. He wears sweat pants everywhere he goes. We’ve been to the Comedy Store. Sean you go first. Sean and I have very different comedic influences.

S: It’s hard, it's like trying to choose your favorite type of oxygen to breath. I like Bill Hicks a lot, I loved Dennis Miller a ton when he was on in the '90s.

R: He loves Dennis Miller.

S: I do, I really do. Even his foray into football announcing was pretty hilarious. Gosh who else? Robin Williams was my favorite for a long time when I was young especially and I remember when I first started seeing humor in all, like one of the first people I identified with was Robin Williams.

R: Me too! "Mork & Mindy." That was the first time I saw him. Specifically the "Happy Days" episode.

S: Yeah! The best!

R: That’s how he started. Why did Mork come to "Happy Days?" I’m glad he did.

S: I don’t know.

R: I don’t know either.

S: What about you?

R: Me?! I like, as far as stand up goes, some of my favorites are, well, Andy Kaufman, I like Jim Carrey as a sketch performer, his early stand up was really good. I was a big fan of Bill Hicks. I have been listening to a lot of George Carlin lately.

R: …specifically his last special which was just an old man yelling at people. But it was amazing!

He was yelling about death a lot in that one.
R: Yes, and then he died. The irony is not lost. It’s very ironic.

Did you ever listen to You Are All Diseased?
R: No.

That is the best one he ever did.
R: Really?

Yeah, its from the mid '90s.
S: Is he wearing all black at this point?

I believe so. He also has a ponytail.
S: Yeah! I remember that one.

R: I am also a big fan of Patton Oswalt. I am a big fan of David Cross. I am a big fan of "Mr. Show," but you can’t be a big fan of "Mr. Show" without being a big fan of Monty Python. Monty Python was huge to me. I liked Robin Williams a lot for a very long time.

S: I like Zach Galifianakis a ton, especially when he was in Comedians of Comedy.

R: Oh! And Steve Martin!

S: Yeah!

R: That was the first comedy album I ever had. I still have it and have you ever read "Cruel Shoes?"

I haven’t.
R: It is out of print. It is very hard to find. But it is the one of the best absurdist comedy books. I read it in high school and I cried because I laughed so hard. Steve Martin was one of the best. THE BEST!

Sean this is just the guitar nerd in me wondering, where is your amp on stage? Is it in Robot?
S: The amp technically doesn’t exist at all. It’s all done through emulation. I play through MainStage, which is a piece of software that comes with Logic. It’s an Apple product.

R: We’ve made Robot to run all of our bass and drums. And MainStage is running through Robot as well.

S: I use Robot for everything. All emulation and amplification.

R: And Sean has a pedal that’s in front of him on stage…

S: That helps my guitar tone. Yeah it allows me to switch between clean and dirty and all that.

R: And everything else goes through a P.A.

Why did you choose the Fender Stratocaster as opposed to other models?
S: That was a gift. I’ve had that guitar for, gosh, a long time now, at least 10 years. If I remember correctly it’s a ’97 American Strat. The only things that aren’t standard on it are the Seymour Duncan pick ups and locking tuning pegs on top. And the bridge is a Floyd Rose. There’s an eccentricity about that guitar, which is in the locking area where you put the strings in near the Floyd Rose there are these little plates that you are supposed to screw in that Fender stopped making after that year. So mine is plateless right now. They’re basically just strung through as simply as possible. I like Strats largely because they’re so good to play between any sort of guitar-playing genre. They can cross over into metal or cross over in classic rock or blues. It can go anywhere I feel.

R: You’ve also had that guitar for the entire time we’ve been playing. So there’s a certain sound that comes out of that guitar specifically. I’m very familiar with how that guitar sounds.

You definitely have that clanky sound when you’re not super distorted at least that I have noticed.
S: It's got a lot of high-end kind of whip.

Tartar Control has quite the cult following in Southern California…
S: Which cult?

R: I hope they aren’t actually starting a cult are they?

Hahaha no, no…so much so that people are beginning to dress up like you both at shows. How do you feel about that?
R: Well the last time that happened I insulted the poor girls.

I was right next to them at that show!
R: It’s flattering. I don’t know that they know…

S: …that it’s sacrilegious or not.

R: Ignorance is bliss I suppose. I think its neat.

S: I remember I thanked those same girls that night.

R: I also apologized to them.

S: You did?

R: I gave them the business. They got a lot of business. They were scantily clad. You don’t dress up as a missionary with garters on.

S: It’s very nice to see people coming out at all. It’s a miracle to us honestly.

I did notice, and I’ll get to this video in a second, in the live “Brush Your Teeth” video that you just released, there are a lot of people there.
R: I didn’t realize how many people were there until I saw the “Brush Your Teeth” video.

I see that you guys get this question all the time online so lets just get it out there. Are there plans to do a full US tour now that the new album is out?
R: We would like to.

S: Yeah.

R: However, it’s very hard. I don’t think people understand that it takes a lot of money to do these things.

Oh, absolutely I do!
R: I’m sure you do, but everyone on our Facebook page they just go, “Come to New Jersey!”

S: “Come to Alaska!” I saw that yesterday.

R: We would love to. We would love to go all across the country and spread the good word if we could.

S: The world if we could.

R: But I think at the moment what we are going to do is expand more to the Southwest, up North and Northeast. A longer-term goal is to do a full West Coast tour and anything else that arises. Last year we went to Toronto for North By North East. Those kinds of things where we can branch out from there and do bigger things we’d like to do.

S: To answer succinctly, yes we would love tour the whole world, but we need some help because we try to do everything ourselves, but sometimes you need a little help from your friends.

Hey that’s respectable. Doing it DIY is a big part of punk rock, you know?
S: Yeah.

And both albums are self-released, too. I remember you were talking to a label.
R: We had talked to a label and it turned out we were going to pay more in lawyer’s fees, than what we were going to pay for the actual release of the album. It didn’t make any sense financially.

My favorite song on Holy Crap!, which I reviewed recently and enjoyed very much, is “Sodomy Basket.” Is that about someone specific?
S: Well, I think as with most of our songs they’re metaphors. In this case, it’s a metaphor for getting out one’s anxiety through a skill that you have. A means of dealing with being upset.

R: Basket making being that skill.

S: Basket weaving. Yes, exactly!

R: You need a very specific shape to make that basket. Like a corkscrew.

S: Yeah, exactly. Wicker usually is the best one to use. Right?

R: A smooth wicker.

S: Exactly, you would hope.

R: It depends on who you are dealing with really.

S: But to answer as directly as I possibly can. It’s not about any one particular person specifically. It’s more about dealing with frustration than any one particular jerk.

Another wonderful song on Holy Crap! is “Fuzzy Bunnies,” where the lyrics talk about bunnies brutally murdering people. What’s the inspiration behind the song?
R: That is more of an internal turmoil song.

S: Yeah it's less about extracting revenge and its more about dealing with the impulses inside of you that compel you to extract vengeance.

R: A lot of these songs and things we have are feelings, I feel, that everybody has regardless of you faith or anything and it’s all really how you deal with it outwardly.

S: Yeah it’s just a matter of dealing with the human condition through animals basically.

I find that other “comedy bands” focus too much on the comedy and not on musicianship. You guys though have managed to strike a balance between the two. What comes first music or comedy?
R: The hugs!

S: The hugs usually come first. A lot of the time I’ll work with Robot to come up with the music first and then Robert might have a concept for something and we try and see what meshes.

R: It works all the way around really. I think Sean and I really make the decisions. We have a very solid idea of what we like and sometimes Sean will have an idea, sometimes I’ll have an idea…Robot NEVER has an idea. Never! He’s offered things, but I won’t ever… They’re usually lewd!

S: He has offered up some pretty awesome R&B tracks.

R: But we’re not doing R&B! I’ve already told him.

You guys wrote a letter and sent a video to Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election asking for $5,000 to shoot a pilot for a TV show and in it you said he was your hero. Why is he your hero? Did he respond?
R: He did respond, though I don’t think personally.

S: No, he sent us a collection of pamphlets and literature. The sort of thing I believe he sends out to anyone on the mailing list. He didn’t respond to us directly or personally. But I was honored! I was astonished honestly that he even bothered to send us anything at all. I was very glad.

R: As far as why we look up to him, he saved the Salt Lake City Olympics!

S: That’s true.

R: That’s a feat unheard of! He was the governor of Massachusetts! I mean come on! He’s fit!

S: He’s very strong.

He’ll be boxing… god what’s his name? I forgot the boxer’s name, but he’ll be doing like a sparring kind of thing for charity.
R: How could you not look up to that?

S: Really? Is it Manny Pacquiao?

I think it’s a retired boxer. (Note: Mitt Romney is boxing retired boxer Evander Holyfield on May 15, 2015 for charity.)

R: Mitt Romney also has got a full head of hair.

S: That’s true he’s got a lot of hair.

R: He’s resisted male patter balding. Looks at his family! His family is beautiful. Who wouldn’t want all that?!

They’re like the new Kennedys.
R: Yes, they’re like the Mormon Kennedys. I hope no one dies in a plane crash.

S: Yeah, I hope not, too.

R: I hope he doesn’t have a son named Robert. That would be sad.

Why not John Huntsman as a hero? He is Mormon, he was governor of Utah two times. Did you send him a letter?
S: No, we haven’t yet.

R: Did Jon Huntsman run for president?

He did! In 2012.
R: Did he come as close as Mitt Romney?

Nowhere near it.
S: Yeah, everybody kind of solidified behind Romney.

R: You go behind the winners…who lose.

S: As far as Jon Huntsman goes, he’s definitely somebody who is within the Mormon faith who has been working very hard, as has Mitt Romney, to expose the idealism of Mormonism and to expose the quintessential American-ness of Mormonism to the whole world. I’m looking forward to a time when Mormonism gets its own Super Bowl commercial because we have seen two Scientology ones in a row so far.

R: I’m looking forward to that.

S: Yeah, that would be nice.

There’s that Scientology documentary coming out.
S: Oh that right! Going Clear.

Have you guys been to the headquarters in Hollywood yet?
R: We walked past it. It’s a scary place.

Horrifying right?
R: It’s so clean though!

S: There’s a lot of security.

There is.
S: It’s funny how the people who propound to give peace and happiness to everybody has the most advanced security systems. I don’t know why that is.

R: It’s like the Tower of Terror at California Adventure, except not run down.

Recently, Harry Reid, who is also Mormon, said he is retiring. Any thoughts on him? He’s a Democrat though.
S: That’s true. Well, its takes all kinds to make a galaxy, all planets to make a universe.

R: If you can't say anything good, then don’t say anything at all.

Now is sponsoring Punk Rock Bowling this year…
R: Good work!

S: Yeah!

…(laughing) and this year will be Tartar Control’s second year playing it. I believe you will be opening for Punk Rock Karaoke, will there be any other performances from you guys? I know sometimes there are surprise performances.
S: I think that’s all we’re doing.

R: Not yet. Mark and Sean tend to just pop things. We didn’t know we were going to play this year,

S: Yeah, we were totally surprised.

R: Yeah, we didn’t even know we were going to play this year and then he offered us a slot and you know, of course it’s a fun, fun, fun festival. If we did have other shows, we will be around, but I don’t how much more we will be playing.

S: Yeah, I think its just the one club show as far I know.

What do you like to do there when you are not performing…since it is Sin City?
S: Visit the monuments.

R: Fold my clothes. Remember the last time we went to the Atomic Bomb Museum?

S: Yeah!

R: I have never been to a place that supported the atomic bomb so much.

S: So strongly.

R: It was all real facts from the United States government about how great atomic testing was. I loved it! I loved every second of it! Remember the part where we went into the silo for the nuclear testing and there was a big video of all the Native Americans who supported how many times they saw the big explosion?

S: I remember that.

R: They reminisced about it like it was Christmas! Except Native Americans don’t celebrate Christmas.

S: Not typically.

I heard that you guys had a bit of a run in with Fat Mike at Punk Rock Bowling 2013, what happened?
(Sean and Robert both laughing)

S: Well we had performed already and it was Devo that were the headliners for that particular night who were playing, and Robert and I wanted to see them from the side of the stage.

R: So we were backstage and it was stage right. To get there, you had to climb up several large boxes. And so Sean and I said, “We’re going to do it!” And I got up there and I think Fat Mike was standing with maybe his girlfriend. It was a woman he was with. And so I helped Sean up and Fat Mike leaned in, he saw us, and he did a double take. And then he looked at me and went, “Hey, are you for real?” And then I said, “Yes!”

S: He asked me, too and I said “Yes! We’re real!”

R: So after that he turned to security, whispered something in their ear, and security looked at us and said, “Hey! You got to get out of here!” And we left. It was the most punk rock thing that had ever happened to us.

S: Yes, that’s true.

R: We want to be very clear. We were not offended. We were not angry. I mean Fat Mike has made himself very clear that he does not like Mormons in the least. So I’m assuming that when he is at that festival, which he is a large part of, and he’s on the side of the stage watching Devo, and two Mormon missionaries sidle up behind him smiling, I’m sure he was put off. We understood.

Wasn’t NOFX was playing it that year?
S: No, they did the next year actually I believe.

R: It was Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

S: Yeah.

R: But to be kicked out of the Devo show by Fat Mike at the biggest punk festival in the world? Is it the world? I don’t know.

S: Certainly in America.

R: That was the most punk rock thing that had happened to us. It was noteworthy. I wrote about it in my dream diary.

Ok, so let’s talk about the new album, it's called We Forgive You, and it came out on April 6, 2015, Jesus’s birthday. I assume that is not a coincidence.
S: That is correct.

I’ve heard a few songs from your live performances and I love them all. Who are you forgiving and what for?
S: Everything everyone has ever done.

For longtime fans, what’s new on this album? What have you kept the same?
S: Get read for more guitar solos!

R: So many more guitar solos.

I actually noticed that compared to the songs on Holy Crap!, the solo in “My God’s Cock” is phenomenal. It’s really good.
S: Thank you! Sometimes I can play it!

R: I think we’ve inserted more hijinks into the songs. There’s a lot more silliness. I think they’re all longer. Except, some of them are very short, like “Gotta Catch ’em All.”

S: The album comes in about the same run time as the first album, it's just that there are less tracks. The songs have gotten longer.

R: I think we’re better at what we are doing.

S: Hahaha! Generally better.

R: That will be the decision of everybody else really.

You recently released a live music video for a song called “Brush Your Teeth” which is on the new album and I believe you have been playing it live for a while now, in this song there’s the best chant ever where you go “Oral B, Colgate, Aquafresh, Crest!” Which is it guys? Which brand of toothpaste do you guys use?
S: I’m a Colgate man myself.

R: I rotate.

You rotate?
R: Yeah.

What are you on now?
R: Colgate.

What’s next?
R: Aquafresh. I rotate in order of the song.

S: We might get to Sensodyne at some point, depending on how long we go.

R: No, maybe when I’m 50. That’s old people’s toothpaste.

S: There’s more fluoride in it, too. It’s healthier for your tooth enamel.

R: I will never use Close-Up.

S: No?

R: Because its too racy. It’s all about kissing. It’s about lips touching, not about hygiene .

There’s another song called “My God’s Cock” which you claim is as “big as the universe” and “shoots sperm the size of the Earth.” How do you know how big it is? Have you seen said dick? Does it say anything about that in The Bible or The Book of Mormon?
R: No. I mean it doesn’t say anything about it in The Bible or The Book of Mormon.

S: It doesn’t expressly mention The Lord’s member anywhere. Nonetheless, I feel like right now particularly with everything that happening with ISIS and everything that is happening with fundamentalists of many religiona around the world combating each other, I feel like ultimately it’s a contest between these people to see who has the biggest, most fanatical member to exact beliefs upon the rest of Mother Earth. Again, metaphors. In that sense, I feel like our Lord has the largest member of them all and it’s an all-inclusive member as well. But I think that is something that’s lacking, if I may use a foul word, from the pissing contest that’s going on right now between all religions all around the world. There’s a lack of commonality and there’ are people that benefit from encouraging a lack of commonality between the citizens of the world. And those people that profiting off of that, are not necessarily profits of good news by any means. But I look at that particular song as a celebration…

R: I just think its fun to play pretend. No one really knows.

It’s interesting that you talk about the “commonality among the faiths” because it’s almost all the same god between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. So do you see the commonality or do you see it as there’s our god and there’s their god?
R: Well, all of the Judeo-Christian faiths share a lot of the same things. Its like flavors of ice cream. One being the correct one.

S: The thirty-first flavor is the correct one.

R: I’m sure you know which our favorite is.

S: Rainbow sorbet!

Which isn’t ice cream! It’s a sorbet!
S: That’s true. But it transcends!

The cover of “A Whole New World” from the movie Aladdin (skip to 0:26) will not be on the new album because you have to license it from Disney right?
S: Precisely. Although, I saw that there is a punk band that did a cover of Frozen’s “Let It Go” recently. They managed to get out a video of that.

R: We might release a video of it.

S: But if we do, it won’t be for profit because we like Disney and don’t want to steal from them.

R: I’ve heard that their wrath is vengeful.

S: Very vengeful!

You guys are known for shooting wacky (to say the least) music videos, are there any music videos in the works for the new songs?
S: Yup.

R: We have three planned so far. However, we have put all of our money into making the album.

S: So we have to earn something back through album and merch sales before we can approach it, although we are ready to make them.

Yeah, I’ve noticed something about your shows and its that you tend to sell out your merch very quickly.
R: I don’t know if that’s because I am bad at stocking it or if we are selling a lot of merch.

Well, I remember at the Dickies show, there was a line that quite long at your merch table and all the older people did not understand why. There was some guy telling us to by another band’s shirt and everyone in line was like “No, we’re here for Tartar Control merch.”
S: Hahaha.

R: Well, I think there is an age gap at our shows.

S: It’s just the difference between the kids who like to play with Pokémon cards and those who play pinochle.

R: We hit the over 65 crowd pretty well though.

Are there plans to press this album and Holy Crap! on vinyl record?
R: Well, we have thought about it, but the length of the album is too long,

S: We would have to cut out all of the sketches…

R: …or we’d have to cut out songs.

Or just do a double LP?
R: Which cost-wise would not benefit anybody. From what I have heard, pressing vinyl is much more expensive. We may release things on cassette tape.

S: That’s possible.

R: We have been offered a deal by Related Records, in Arizona, to release all of our works on cassette tape. That may happen.

S: But honestly, for those who do really, truly want vinyl please bug us about it because it’s something we could conceivably do in the future.

R: I want to release wax cylinders. I would like to release that if we can do it.

Anything else you guys want to say to the community?
R: Hello!

S: Hi!

Thank you guys for taking time out to do this interview.
R: Thank you for hanging out in front of this haunted hotel with us!