Every scene has a few local gems that most people outside the area haven’t heard nearly enough about. Long Island is no different, and one of those "local gems" is Too Many Voices. The band plays melodic punk that is at once clever, engaging, and contemplative. With the release of their latest effort, Catch Me If You Can, Too Many Voices offer seven thoughtful, catchy, and well-written punk tunes that will satisfy those who like their punk full of melody and those who like their punk full of introspection. The release is a great introduction to a band that should be playing through all of our stereos at this point. So, Punkews' Miike Musilli sat down with Eric and Jeff to talk the band’s history, their recording process, and old Long Island hardcore punk.
Too Many Voices has been around for almost eight years now. There have been some impactful lineup changes as well. What keeps the band moving forward? Is your vision for the band the same as when you started it? Eric: This band actually started with Andy West (Kill Your Idols) talking with some old friends from the neighborhood he grew up in about doing a fast, old school hardcore band. I had run into him the day I moved back to NY and he had asked if I was interested in playing second guitar. The problem was there weren’t any songs. So I brought in a couple songs I had in my back pocket and we just ran from there. While I love writing and playing blazing hardcore tunes I don’t like to be limited to just one idea so for me that vision ended early on. My vision was to always just write songs naturally and organically. Trying to do or sound like anything in particular is trying too hard. I feel the vision has always remained the same. While we have a very diverse sounding collection of songs, I definitely feel there’s a real synergy among them.
Jeff: I joined in late 2012, although I had filled in for Scott for one show earlier in the year. It was a great show in Suffolk County with Iron Chic, Night Birds and a few other bands. I was sort of given a heads-up at that show that I might get a call in a few months asking me to join full-time. As I understand it, Scott was doing a ton of traveling for his job which I think made being in the band maybe a little prohibitive compared to what the rest of the band wanted to do. I had been friends with Andy and Eric going back to the ‘90s when our old bands played shows together – and I absolutely loved that first TMV demo – so I was really excited about joining up when the time came.
What is the writing process like for the band? How do your songs come together? Eric: I usually have some musical ideas or finished parts that I bring in to rehearsals, and then the band just does what they do naturally to make them come alive and magical. The vocal melodies usually come pretty easily. We just jam them and try out different vocal ideas. Writing the lyrics is the most painstaking task. I could spend months of tweaking lyrics to get them where I’m happy with them or I can bust out a few lines in the bottom of the ninth during a recording session. Musically we could be on our 12th record by now, but unfortunately we’re not an instrumental band.
Jeff: Eric is the musical visionary of the band. He is an absolute fountain of musical ideas. So generally, he will bring either a completed song or a riff to the band and then we’ll jam on it with everyone then putting in their own input. Eric is also a great bassist, so there have been times when the bass line is his and it’s my job to play it with the right feel and then maybe expand on it. The best example of that from the new record is the main bass riff in “Life On A Sandbar.” That’s such a great bass line and admittedly, probably something I’d never come up with. But, in general, we all write our own parts around the main chords that Eric puts together. He’s definitely the impetus for the songs, and then the rest of us build up around that.
Catch Me If You Can is the band’s first release in three years. What is different about this release than previous ones? Jeff: Well, it’s true that it’s the first release in three years, but the songwriting has taken place gradually over that span of time. A song like “Distance”, for example, may have already been written before the sessions for ‘South of Sunrise’ had even been completed. I know that one goes back a bit. I think that it’s different from ‘South of Sunrise’ in that those songs were predominantly written when Andy was still singing in the band. Even though Andy left the band before we did the vocals for that record, I feel like ‘Sunrise’ is sort of the final document of that chapter of the band’s existence. For a few years after Andy left, the line-up was Eric, Ivan, Jerry and myself playing as a four-piece with Eric singing – and the songs on ‘Catch Me If You Can’ document that period. There are still the faster, melodic hardcore songs that you might expect – like “Head and Heart” and “Can’t Stop This Feeling” – but also some moodier and more atmospheric songs like “Lost Boys” or “Life On A Sidebar”. I think a song like “Internal Faction” on ‘South of Sunrise’ pointed at that direction, and we filled it out a bit on some of the songs on the new record. Now, with bringing our new vocalist D.J. on board, we have now entered the next chapter of the band, so, again, like ‘South of Sunrise’ before it, I feel like ‘Catch Me If You Can’ really documents a certain era of the band.
Eric: This record is different in that these songs were well rehearsed and written in completion long before recording. We had actually started recording it a year before the actual session before we decided to scrap the tracks so we could rerecord it tuned down a half step in order to make it easier for me to perform the vocals. I was also much more confident and prepared vocally for this one as opposed to the last full length in which I took on lead vocals for midway through the recording. This record also sounds absolutely incredible. We didn’t cut any corners with the recording.
What was the recording process like? How did you like working with Matt Storm? Eric: Working with Matt was the best decision we could have made. I’ve known him forever and years ago we had talked about recording together but didn’t really discuss anything seriously. I was keeping up with some of the work he was doing, working with Mike Watt and Steve Albini, and was really impressed with how far his talent had grown. When he approached me about getting some time at Studio G in Williamsburg we jumped at the opportunity. We tracked all the basics live at Studio G. There’s a couple of amazing sounding live rooms there. The drum sounds on this record are some of my favorite on anything I’ve been a part of. All vocals tracks, minimal guitar overdubs and mixing were done at JRock Studio in Soho. Matt’s got amazing tones, has a great ear and really pushed us to get the best performances we could. I’m looking forward to doing the next batch of songs with him.
Jeff: I can’t say enough good things about the whole process. The studio was a real-deal professional studio that is in part owned by Tony Maimone, who played with Pere Ubu, Bob Mould, amongst many others. All the basic tracks were done in a day, with the extra guitar tracks and vocals done at different times later on.
What are your plans for Too Many Voices in the coming months? Eric: We are working on a new collection of songs that we would like to start recording later this year. We really want to get something down on tape with DJ on vocals. The stuff we are working on is another batch of diverse tunes but focusing on keeping them real concise. I’m really looking forward to these.
Eric, you took over as lead vocalist for South of Sunrise and Catch Me If You Can. Why did you ultimately decide to seek out a lead vocalist even after these recordings? Eric: While we tried out a few other vocalists we were never really seeking out a singer. We were very happy with the sound of the band as it was. I was the only one slightly uncomfortable as I love to play guitar and I also love singing but doing both simultaneously was compromising the best performances I could give on each instrument. I met our new vocalist, DJ, and I just asked him if he would be interested in trying to sing a few songs with us. Things sort of fell into place and now it sounds better than ever. I am able to do live all the vocal harmonies that I would do on the recordings as well as add a whole new dimension with other backing vocals and trading parts.
Eric, you and Ivan are the band’s only original members. How stressful is it to navigate a band that’s had such a consistent turnover in membership? Where do you and Ivan find the resilience to keep pushing on? Eric: While there’s been a number of people in this band over the years there really has only been two consistent lineups and basically the one we have now has been solid for the longest period of time and has recorded all of our material other than the original demo recordings. In all honesty there’s little resilience needed when the members are so damn good. I feel the band just keeps getting better, as do the songs and that’s really all we need to keep going. Fresh songs and the pure enjoyment of making music together. Whether it’s rehearsing, playing to a full house or playing a small show, we always just have a blast playing.
Jeff, In what ways is playing in Too Many Voices similar to your experiences in Two Man Advantage and Judas Iscariot? In what ways is TMV different from those bands? Jeff: That’s a tough question since all three of those bands were very different in style, in concept and in the dynamics of how those bands work. I’d say there’s similarity in that none of those bands considered themselves part-time. Just meaning, all three bands love to work….the members were devoted and considered the band fairly high on their list of priorities in life. If you’re willing to devote a few years a week every week of your life to something – that’s giving a lot of yourself – and I feel like everyone who is or was in those bands gave a lot to it. I’d also say that all of the bands were made up of a great group of guys….people who I really enjoyed spending time with and became friends because of it. In some cases, we were friends before the band started, in some cases, after the band started – but I can honestly say that no one in any of those three bands was someone I didn’t get along with. Definitely an added bonus when you’re in a band, but unfortunately, not always the case.
But with Voices, it’s a little different for me because, unlike The Judas Iscariot and Two Man Advantage, I’m not one of the people the band depends upon for songwriting. In Judas, there was no guitarist – it was just bass, drums and vocals – so it was up to me to come up with all of the musical riffs and parts for that band. In Two Man, I also write a lot of the music for our songs, with, admittedly, Skate writing the majority of it. I also did a lot of the logistical behind-the-scenes work in those band. In Voices, my role is a lot more relaxed – I can really just concentrate on being the bassist and focusing on the playing and leave the songwriting and logistics to others – not that I wouldn’t pitch in here or there – but I kind of like riding in the backseat sometimes.
Eric, One of your old bands, The Last Crime, is a bit of a cult classic in the hardcore underground. What was it like being in that band in comparison to Too Many Voices? What was it like working with J. Robbins so many years ago? Eric: The Last Crime was a different time period so playing in a band at that time was very different, not to mention we were all in our 20s then. We did play a lot though. The first year we played something like 58 shows without touring. The Last Crime was also a songwriting outlet for guitarist/vocalist Steve Depalo. Kevin Egan also sang and contributed a ton of lyrics and while we all added our own flair and shared the same vision for the band it was still very much Steve’s. Voices is my songwriting outlet. Similarly though I think both bands always wanted the music and performances to be the very best they could and we rehearsed quite a bit. We could all be total knuckleheads but when it came/comes time to play it’s very serious yet extremely passionate and heartfelt.
As for working with J Robbins – I don’t know. While I would love to record with him sometime I never had the chance. I moved to the West Coast in Spring ’97 and I only played on The Last Crime full-length and not on the two unreleased songs (recently released on cassette) that were recorded with J.
Jeff, you’ve been around for so many ‘eras’ of the Long Island hardcore scene, what keeps you coming back? What moves you to remain connected to the culture, music, and community? Jeff: I’m addicted to the hardcore scene. I love the friendships I’ve cultivated over many years and the music of course. I love the classic bands who were around long before I came onto the scene, but also love hearing the newer bands. It’s not always easy to relate to someone 20 years younger than you or 20 years older than you – yet – somehow – through punk and hardcore – you kind of can. But, the truth is, if I wasn’t playing in bands, there would probably be more distance between me and the scene these days. Even with playing in bands, I know that my finger isn’t quite on the pulse of the scene the same way it was when I was in my 20s and going to shows 3 times a week. I think it’s a natural thing to have happen, but as long as I’m living here and playing in bands – it’s definitely something I enjoy being a part of.
Most underrated Long Island hardcore or punk band (of any era)? Jeff: Tough question, because Long Island has produced so much great music over the years – punk, hardcore, or otherwise. I absolutely loved a band called Desperosity. I think they were around briefly in the late’90s/early-‘00s. The put out a full-length self-titled CD and a split 7” with The Clap (another great L.I. band). Both are probably very difficult to find. But they were total blasting noise-rock. I remember seeing them at some small bar in Merrick and I’m pretty sure my ears were ringing for a week afterward. It was like Unsane, the Cows, and a lot of the Amphetamine Reptile style stuff that I worship. Great stuff.
Eric: Krakdown. They were great live and Richie had such a cool guitar style. Those demos and 7” are worth tracking down.
A book everyone should read? Eric: A little something for everyone: The Science of Self Realization by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving; Go Cat Go! The Life and Times of Carl Perkins.
Jeff: Well, limited to the music world – Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad is essential reading for anyone interested in the American underground music scene. It’s got full chapters on the histories of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, and so many other great bands. But I think it’s also important to get a sense of the history of underground music – which really isn’t all THAT old – yet existed in an entirely different time – a time when bands actually could eek out a living on selling records and touring, simply on the DIY circuit. A time where you really had to do more than type and click a few buttons to let people know you’re playing or touring or releasing music….but also a time when, for the audience, there was real anticipation at the release of a new record….I remember looking forward to biking to the record store after school to spend my paper route money on a new record – and I feel like so much as of that has been lost in exchange for quick and easy access to information and media. The bands in that book are all legends and didn’t end up there by accident. It’s a great read.