Today, London, Ontario punks Single Mothers released their new album Everything You Need on Dine Alone Records. The album was written by lead vocalist Drew Thomson before the pandemic hit and dives into consumerism, affordable housing, and so much more with the indomitable spirit and humour Single Mothers are known for. Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with Drew Thomson over Zoom to talk about the new album, the secret to finding everything you need, nihilistic contradictions, Sublime, and so much more. Read the interview below!
You wrote Everything You Need by yourself. Peter Landi and Daniel Ormsby play on the album. What’s the difference between writing solo and writing with a band for Single Mothers?
For all the other albums with Single Mothers I’ve kind of taken a backseat to the music. My primary role in the band would be just to get people together and see what they would come up with. I’d maybe pick a direction or help from the back but for the most part I would stay out of it and just wait until there was something there then put lyrics over it and kind of ruin all the songs by yelling on them. [laughs] But on this one, the band has changed so much over the years. It’s kind of a constantly evolving experiment and everybody that’s involved in the band now has kind of moved on. Everybody lives in different cities now and it’s harder and harder to get people in a room together. So I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to do another record but then one day I just started writing a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t sure what to do with and decided that this could be a Single Mothers record and that maybe I should just write one for once. I demoed everything and sent it around to the band and then we came into the studio and recorded it really fast. We recorded the whole record in two and a half days. I wrote the whole thing in eight days. It’s different in that way, I usually don’t have much to do with the music and with this one I kind of wrote everything in my bedroom like a teenager and sent it off. Peter and Danny added a lot in the studio. We passed a guitar around and everybody just played on it. It was very, very fast the way we recorded it purposefully and they definitely added a lot of stuff that I didn’t have in the demos. The guitars on “Throw” are imported from the GarageBand session that I had recorded. We didn’t even re-record those, we just flowed them in. We were like, “you know what? These guitars sound pretty good!” It’s kind of an odd record in that sense, kinda piecemeal.
How much of the album was recorded in GarageBand and how much was recorded in studio?
Most of it was recorded in the studio, other than the guitars in “Throw”. I think there’s a few other things that I might have thrown in just to save some time because we were on such a tight crunch. When we booked the studio I told our friend who does a lot of our engineering, Kyle [Ashbourne] who works at the Sugar Shack in our home town London, Ontario, that we were only going to record four songs. I booked three days but the power went out halfway through on the third day so we only had two and a half days to record everything. When we got to the studio he was like, “alright so like four songs, what are they?” and I was like, “you know what Kyle? How about we record ten songs and just see how it goes?” He was really cool about it, he just said, “let’s see what we can do”. We recorded ten songs, we left one song out from that session so I think the record is nine songs. But I think it’s just the guitars on “Throw” from GarageBand and that wasn’t intentional. I assumed we were going to re-record all of those but they just fit. I just woke up one morning and wrote that song really fast so it was really cool that those guitars got to stay on the record version. I’m really happy about that. Everybody was cool about it, nobody was like, “these sound like shit” even though they do. [laughs] Everyone was like, “this works”. When things work and it’s the easiest way to do it, that is the best way sometimes.
They do sound good in the song. You also have your solo projects The Drew Thomson Foundation and No Idea Head. How does your songwriting change with each project?
The weirder, more experimental stuff I just put under No Idea Head which is a joke. Then with The Drew Thomson stuff, those are songs that I craft more on influences I had when I was younger and growing up in the mid to late 90s, pop-rock stuff that I really liked. I always say Single Mothers is kinda based on a few bands that I really loved in my twenties and The Drew Thomson Foundation is based on a few bands that I really loved when I was an early teenager like the Old 97’s, Everclear, Wilco, and stuff like that. When I’m writing Foundation stuff I have a partner that I write with sometimes, his name is Mike Riley and I’ve known him for twenty years at this point. I’ll usually send him stuff and we’ll bounce ideas back and forth. He’s not involved in Single Mothers stuff. He hates Single Mothers, he thinks it sucks. It’s pretty easy to keep it separate.
The songs on Everything You Need were written before the pandemic. What has it been like revisiting them?
It’s been interesting. We wrote those songs in 2019 and there was already a lot of disdain and hate in the media and in the news. The song “Nausea” is funny to think that I was complaining about this before it got way worse. [laughs] It seems like everything got so much worse after 2020 and into 2021, just vibe-wise at least. It’s funny to hear that song back and go, “oh, alright”. It’s important to remember that things can always get much worse even when you think it’s already bad. There’s a song called “Too Many Choices” which I wrote trying to articulate some sort of slapstick satire on how consumerism runs our lives and our biggest complaint can be sitting in a food court and not knowing what to choose. Then when the pandemic hit and all the food courts closed I thought, “no one's gonna think this is funny”. [laughs] But yeah I think things are kind of back now. It feels like we’re not far enough away from 2020-2021 to really recognize how crazy it really was. I think we’re just in that little middle part where we’re just over it and we don’t want to think about it anymore, we’re just moving on. Maybe in about five or six or ten years we’re going to look back and go, “wow, that was really, really fucked”. So those songs right now don't feel so weird because nothing feels really weird, everybody’s just excited that it’s over. I haven’t put it into perspective much. I remember when we were in the pandemic I was like, “this song is dumb. Records don’t matter. Bands don’t matter. Nothing matters. This record is dumb. There’s no reason to put anything out”. I got very depressed, like so many people did, and I just thought the band was over and there shouldn’t be any bands, like no bands should exist, nothing should exist. [laughs] The only things that matter, really, are food safety and keeping people safe and bands are just a narcissistic waste of time and energy. I’m over that now! I’m glad that I am. We started getting it mixed in the middle of the pandemic then I just stopped thinking about it. Thank god that Jay Maas, the guy that mixed the record, was patient with me because I didn’t talk to him for six months. He just kept emailing me going, “are we going to finish this?” and I kept ignoring everything. Sorry I’m rambling again!
No, this is great! Keep going!
I was at The Bronx and Drug Church show in Toronto last night [October 20] and I haven’t gone to a show in a while so I’m very tired.
How was it?
It was amazing. It was really, really good. The lineup was Scowl, Drug Church, The Chats, and The Bronx, just the greatest tour lineup that has ever been. It was really fun, really good.
You gotta tour with all of them now.
I would love to, it would be really great. Scowl’s really good. We’ve toured with The Bronx and Drug Church before and those tours were the greatest tours ever. So I went there specifically to say, “hey, let’s do it again!” They all said no but one day. [laughs]
They don’t know what they’re missing!
It’s interesting that you mentioned thinking, “bands don’t matter” during the pandemic because you put out a good amount of music over the pandemic including two Single Mothers EPs called Pig and Bubble. How did those come about? Do you feel like your songwriting changed during the pandemic?
Well, those didn’t matter. I had to keep myself busy because we had been playing over 200 shows a year between the band and solo stuff for the last few years so when the pandemic hit I was just going crazy. I got this program called Ableton and I was just experimenting with it a lot. It was the first time in a long time I had been home and able to sit at a desk with a laptop and record music, not just in the back of a van with an acoustic guitar or something. So those EPs were just me trying to kill time and not go insane. They were fun but they didn’t matter. Nothing matters. [laughs] I was very depressed.
Are you going to play any of those songs live or are they just going to be relics of the pandemic?
I think that’s a relic of the pandemic. I was going to put them on Bandcamp just for anybody who maybe wanted them but they ended up on Spotify because of our record label, Dine Alone Records. They thought that they should go on Spotify so that’s the only reason they’re on streaming services. That wasn’t my intention. They were just a fun little thing that a few people liked and a lot of people hated. [laughs] I’m not trying to please anyone so I don’t really care.
When they came out it was sanity saving so thank you. On “Nausea” you describe yourself as “a nihilist with contradictions”. What are some of your contradictions?
I don’t want to care at all but for some reason I end up caring too much about things. [laughs] One of my friends, who used to be in Single Mothers and isn’t anymore, his biggest complaint about me was I either didn’t care at all or I cared way too much and it drove him crazy. And it drives me crazy too. That’s what that line is about, like, “I shouldn’t care, I know I shouldn’t care”. I know I don’t care in a way about the news cycles and what’s going on around but for some reason I also just care way too much. It drives me crazy and it tends to drive my friends crazy. There’s no balance. I can’t just be chill. I want to be chill. I wanna be just even but it’s one extreme or the other at all times. That’s kinda what that’s about.
Makes sense. Even and then spikes happen.
[laughs] Right, yeah. It’s all spikes. I’m very annoying to be around. I’m very annoying to be in a band with so I understand why he’s not in the band with me anymore.
Everything You Need does get a little more experimental especially on “Things”. During the song you do a skit about wifi throughout, you throw in a mini-cover of “Santeria” by Sublime, and there’s a small piano part in it. What influenced this experimental direction? Why did you cover “Santeria” specifically?
I think Sublime is such an interesting band. There’s a group of kids every single year that start high school and they all think they’re the first ones to discover Sublime. Sublime always has a perpetually new fanbase every year because every single year somebody smokes their first joint and listens to 40 Oz. To Freedom or something and they find Sublime. I had been thinking about that recently. I was thinking about Sublime when we recorded actually and I thought it was funny to throw that in because they’re such a perpetually adolescent band and for a band that doesn't even put new stuff out they’re always getting new fans and new life. Maybe I’m wrong but if I went to a high school on Monday and surveyed all of the grade 9 students, a few would be like, “my life changed when I found Sublime”. They’d be skipping class and it would probably be the first step to ruining their lives. [laughs] Skipping class, smoking weed, and listening to Sublime. That’s exactly what happened to me. I remember the first time I heard Sublime and I was like, “fuck, I’m doing everything wrong! I’m going to class, I’m sober, this is dumb!” So I just thought it was funny, really. Most of the things that I write about or we do in this band is because I think on some level it’s funny. The piano parts in “Soak” were played by Kyle from the studio. He thought it would sound cool and I love piano. I love The Hold Steady record Boys and Girls in America. It is one of my all-time favourites and there’s so many cool piano lines in that record. I’m always happy to have piano involved. I showed this record to a few people and they were like, “oh, this is weird” but I didn’t think it was weird at all because I wrote it, I guess. I was like, “this is just normal. This is stuff I like”. But a lot of people said it was weird and it kinda threw me off because I didn’t think it was weird. In our discography it’s weird but in my life it’s not. It makes sense.
How do you know when you have everything you need?
Well, it’s all a mental game. It’s all what you believe. I think that’s what we’ve kind of learned, especially in the thick of 2020, is everything you need can be anything you have if you’re willing to make it work. That’s kinda where the name came from. I didn’t have a name for the record when we finished it but I had an idea of a theme that I was trying to play off of. Everything You Need made sense after what we’d all been through and having to make things work, having all the tours cancelled, and everybody that you’re friends with is out of work all of a sudden, everybody is. I hate talking about it. I talk about it because it’s something that happened that influenced the record but it affected everybody equally so there’s no unique-ness to the story. But it does make you realize that we don’t need as much as we think we do to make ourselves happy, to make life happy. In fact you’re usually happier with the less you have. So everything you need truly to me is whatever you think you can make do with, whatever you think you need. It’s all a mental game. Consumerism, it's gonna be the end of us. The only way we’re going to change the direction of humanity is if we all understand we don’t need nearly as much as we think we do and to really parse back. So you know you have everything you need when you can stop wanting more, I guess. It’s all just the attitude.
On the Drew Thomson Foundation’s Instagram you recently posted stories that showed you in the studio recording. Will there be new Drew Thomson Foundation material soon?
Yes, there will be. We just recorded five songs last week and we’re going back into the studio next week to record some more. So hopefully those will be out early next year.
How would you describe the punk scenes in Hamilton and in London?
They're very good, very active. There’s a lot going on in Hamilton right now. There’s a group of people called Steel City Hardcore that are putting on shows that seem to be going really well. There are a lot of house shows in London that are doing really well. I think all over there’s been a resurgence of guitar-driven music. It seemed like it kinda faded out for a little bit and now it’s back. I think there’s a lot of kids starting bands. There’s a lot of venues that shut down during the pandemic and there’s lots of DIY spaces popping up and that’s how it should be. That’s part of the cycle and that’s really cool. Seems like a lot of people are stepping up and opening up places for shows which is great.
Do you have a favourite DIY venue right now?
There’s a place in Hamilton called the Killroom which is like an indoor skatepark that’s doing really well. I’ve been there a few times and it’s popping off. I really like it. There’s a few houses in London, like the Foam Dome. They all have weird names. Everyone names their house some weird thing.
That’s half the fun.
Yeah, it is. Let’s give it a silly name and never tell anyone the address. [laughs]
What are you listening to now?
Right now I’m listening to the audiobook of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is good, it’s funny. I read the book back in high school but I didn’t really get it. I was probably too into Sublime and ripping bongs. [laughs] But I’m listening to that right now. I’ve been listening to the new 1975 record a lot and it’s really good. I really like it. I listened to it on the ride home last night. This guy can spin a line well. I love the new Drug Church, Hygiene is a great record. Scowl is great. Militarie Gun is really good. Nick Cogan and Chris Villeneuve from Drug Church have another band called Pile of Love that’s really good. So I kind of flip around. For new stuff, those are the bands to be watching right now, for me at least. I always have some Self Defense Family playing in the background somewhere if I’m just hanging out. What about you? What do you like?
Single Mothers is one of my favourite bands so I’ve been listening to a lot of Single Mothers. Scowl’s amazing. Punitive Damage is really good. Steph Jerkova, the singer, also plays bass in Regional Justice Center. Spaced is really good too. Cluttered’s doing great stuff. Bad Waitress is really good. I could go on. [laughs]
Bad Waitress are great. We’re hitting a new golden age of punk and hardcore. It seems to be really stemming from the Bay Area. So many good bands are popping up. Spiritual Cramp are really amazing. Very cool. We’re all listening to good music, that’s good!
What’s next for Single Mothers?
We actually have another album that’s done and it was a similar process to Everything You Need but I wrote it during the pandemic around 2021. Again, I wrote it in a fit of eight days, sent it to Danny and Peter, and went back into the studio and recorded it in three days. It’s coming out after this one so I think it’s going to start coming out in a few months. We’re not really playing live much but we have some tour plans for spring next year that we’re looking forward to. We’re just always writing and recording little bits here and there so we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll have more stuff. But I might end the band tomorrow at the same time. [laughs] Half the time I don’t wanna do it anymore and the other half I think I’ll die doing this so it really all depends on if I’ve had enough coffee, if I’m feeling anxious, if people are being nice to me. We’re supposed to be going on tour next year and we’re supposed to have another record coming out, so hopefully that is what happens.
Hopefully, fingers crossed.
Yeah, fingers crossed. [laughs] I hope people like Everything You Need. If people listen to it and don’t like it, just shut up about it. [laughs] Just don’t say anything at all. Every time we release a record there’s a group of people who hate it. I respect that they liked Negative Qualities enough to be mad at me every time I release something that’s not Negative Qualities. It happens every time. They’re like, “fuck! What happened to you? This sucks!” [laughs] I don’t know what to tell you. You can’t just re-write the same album over and over, it’s boring! But I think it’s funny. I like getting hate mail sometimes, it pushes me in the right direction. It’s always the same people, you don’t know their names but you know their avatars or whatever and you go, “oh, it’s this fucking guy telling me I suck again”. Which is funny. [laughs] But I hope people enjoy it. I like this record, the band likes this record and that’s what matters the most. It’s our favourite record so I hope people like it but I don’t care. [laughs]
|Nov 04||The Rec Room||London, ON||w/Mvll Crimes, Strange Ways|
|Nov 10||The Garrison||Toronto, ON||w/Mvll Crimes, Mile End|