The Bombpops recently released their new album Death in Venice Beach . So, Punknews' Gen Handley caught up witht he band to talk about the new release, COVID-19, and Death in Venice. Check it out below.
With COVID-19 making its destructive mark across the globe, a large number of industries are being negatively impacted, particularly the music business and its many bands that rely on the now-outlawed audiences who buy tickets to the shows. With the exception of the growing vinyl market, and the meager royalties from streaming sites, album sales continue to decline with most bands and their families depending on profits made from merchandise sales and live shows, which are currently at a standstill due to government regulations attempting to stop the spread of the virus at large gatherings of people.
In the recent weeks, many of you have been notified that the show you bought tickets for has been postponed until further notice. One of these shows could very well have been for The Bombpops, whose tour in support of their latest release, Death in Venice Beach, is sadly on hold until the world gets healthy again.
The Bombpops co-guitarists and vocalists Poli van Dam and Jen Razavi agree that while it was a very difficult decision to postpone their mostly sold-out tour, it was definitely the right one
“It was devasting – I listened to the record and I cried,” van Dam laughs sadly. “I was pumped and ready to go. I was fired up about the new record and to play these songs live for the first time. But you need to think about the big picture. I just hope the record is getting our fans through some tough times.”
“It was a tough decision, but everyone was on board. I don’t think we would have taken it so seriously, but Poli is a type 1 diabetic, which makes her high-risk in crowd situations,” explains Razavi. “You just have to pay attention to what was going on in the world and there was no denying it – you just had to accept it. It felt really sad, but as artists, we felt like we had a platform and this was our responsibility.”
But despite this somber chapter in The Bombpops story, the LA band has released an excellent sophomore album – an instant pop-punk classic, establishing them as leaders in the resurging scene. If you literary types guessed it from the title, the new album is an allusion to Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, Death in Venice. There’s a macabre coincidence in that Mann’s story takes place during a cholera epidemic.
“It’s about finding beauty in places it shouldn’t exist,” says Razavi. “It’s about how artists are inspired by something – like a muse, or a book, or listening to a piece of music – and how they aren’t able to control that. Sometimes, that lack of control drives people mad. Look at van Gogh who cut off his ear.”
Don’t let the catchy hooks fool you. In addition to the inspiration drawn from Mann’s somber classic, some of the melancholic themes were a reflection of what Razavi was going through at the time. She says the juxtaposition of dark themes and upbeat melodies was not intentional.
“I was going through a lot of dark things as well,” she reflects. “I had several family members and friends, like Poli, go through rehab I was at a point in my life- we’re struggling with this thing, that we all have been in the band, it’s like, 'well, ok we're out here as a band, I’m not ready to give this up, but I’m also in my early 30s, it’s getting harder and harder as an adult to sustain anything, especially living in Los Angeles.' I moved back home to my dad’s house which is something that I never wanted to do when I was thirty-one years old, thirty-two actually. I’ve always found comfort in darker art. In Mann’s story, I really felt more and more like the main character, in a way, because he just dives deeper and deeper into that darkness, somehow finding joy in it.”
This album and this band are proof that the genre can have depth when properly inspired, achieving the credibility of more “legit” punk sub-genres like hardcore.
“I think pop punk is seen like the ‘boy band’ of punk sometimes,” van Dam says. “It’s catchy, it’s simple and it’s happy, but it can grow and progress which I what I think we do, especially lyrically.”
There seems to have been a recent resurgence in pop punk music, with some of the best being female-led bands like The Bombpops as well as Bad Cop/Bad Cop who are also on Fat Wreck Chords. Razavi and van Dam believe that female guitarists and artists are sometimes held to a different standard than their male counterparts.
“You can’t get up on stage as a girl and be terrible live – you won’t make it,” says Razavi. “Guys can get away with a lot more on stage. Girls really have to get up there and be as prepared as they can." To that end, Razavi agrees that women are placed under a higher scrutiny when playing live than their male counterparts, making most live gigs a bit tougher for women than men.
“But we’re up to challenge,” she adds laughing.