Sometimes the best way to understand music is to see it without all it’s hyped up, appealing packaging. To listen to it without thinking about the production costs, the producer or the label that proudly stamps their logo on the CD. Sometimes it’s just better to listen to music in its most basic form, to catch only the pure energy, emotion and fervor. Some bands may have their ticket punched to greatness on the most technologically advanced ride possible, but as Junction 18 has proved, sometimes all you need to get from A to B is a sense of humor and a small orange cycle. With the success of their debut full length release “This Vicious Cycle”, this Massachusetts band has not only crossed state lines, but oceans and borders to spread their infectious angst and melody across the globe.
1. First of all, thanks for taking the time to share with us your work and music. How did the band first get together to write and perform?
We actually all met in rehab a long time ago, most of us were addicted to muscle relaxers but Chris was mostly into huffing things, so one night at the weekly rehab dance on Saturday nights the band that was playing got in a fight and quit in mid-dance, when the band quit everyone was really upset, then all of us kind of just got up there and started playing, next thing we knew we were Junction 18.
2. How long had Junction 18 been together before signing to Fearless?
A long, long time, I think since 1996 maybe, I don’t know.
3. Certain members of New Found Glory assisted in your signing to Fearless, how has the relationship been with both NFG (since their meteoric rise to stardom) and Fearless (since your signing)?
We played with NFG last April and they were cool, but we don’t really see them or talk to them much anymore. Fearless is on the West Coast so we don’t really talk to them much either, at least I don’t.
4. When I first picked up ‘This Vicious Cycle’, the thing that struck me the most were the beautifully poetic lyrics. The words paint pictures in my mind, what would you say are the strongest influences behind the words and who does most of the songwriting?
I don’t write the words, Andy does, I don’t really know what he listens to anymore, but on the first album the writing was done equally by the four who were in the band then, Ryan McHugh, Chris Kelley, Andy Bristol, and me Ryan Spencer.
5. Listening to this record is definitely an audio experience of incredible levels, describe the feeling of being on stage sharing this experience and how it was writing and recording them?
We wrote the songs pretty fast, we just built ideas off of each other and it went really well. It was kind of weird playing the songs at first because we were playing them and no one knew the words or the songs at all, the album came out months after we had recorded but it was fun playing them, we were very proud I recall.
6. What would you like the listener to understand most about the music of Junction 18?
I think people should look past the fact that yes, we do make a shitload of money and we do have the most bitches and 20 inch rims on our SUV’s, but we’re still people and we’re still here to make music, just because we’re poppin’ krystal and flashin’ bling doesn’t mean we don’t care about what we do, we do it for the fans, and the bitches.
7. There has recently been a lot of exposure for certain labels, both Vagrant and Drive Thru has seen mainstream success, do you think that the levels of exposure will inevitably lead to burnout and overexposure seen most recently by the ska scene and how do you as a band approach mainstream exposure?
Yeah, definitely, you can only have so many bands that sound exactly the same before people catch on. I hope it burns out because it all sounds like garbage to me anyway, it’s not original, there’s nothing memorable about most of the music that’s being made by those bands anyway, I can’t even tell most of the bands apart, and I just can’t understand how they can sit there and be satisfied with writing a song that’s already been written a million times. It all sounds like shit to me but the most I can do is not pay attention to it, I understand that it’s the hip sound now and that’s why there’s so much of it and that’s why it’s not special, it’s just disposable and it doesn’t matter how long it goes on for because it will never make a difference on music, well at least to me.
8. Massachusetts is very different from California, what differences (speaking in terms of the music and social scene) stand out the most in your mind and has the fact that your label been on the opposite coast effected the band in anyway, whether it be touring, writing or recording?
It definitely affects it, California is a different world than MA, we think different because we’re from here. MA is very different than any other state in the country. I’m more in touch with living day-to-day here but I think out there it’s more of a glamorous life, there’s way more to do out there and there’s a lot more going on. If we need something from them or need to get in touch it can be tough, because we’re 3 hours apart in time and 3000 miles apart. I think it has worked well most of the time but distance can definitely affect things.
9. What are the immediate and future plans for Junction 18?
Keep writing songs and avoid the FBI at all costs.
10. What would you say is the biggest accomplishment for Junction 18 and yourself are so far?
We’re from a really small town, so the fact that our music is available around the world is quite mind-blowing at times, I think we’re realistic and we know that we’re lucky. We never expected anyone to care about our music or even know about us outside of MA, so all of this together is quite an accomplishment for us.
11. What recent CDs have you purchased that really stand out as great work?
‘Amnesiac’ and ‘Kid A’ by Radiohead have been 2 of the only good pieces of music that have been put out in the last few years to me, obviously there are others but not any that speak to me as far as originality and progression go. I think music has lost a lot of creativity and ambition in the last few years and it will be a long time for it to get better, if it indeed does.
12. Spencer’s Pizza in Abington, the best pizza place in Abington?
You better believe it you silly bastard, we’ll fuck up any other pizza shop that comes around, and we’re the shit.
13. Aside from the obvious differences, what aspects of being in a band have changed since Fearless added you to their roster? It was obviously more difficult in terms of recording, promoting and spreading the word, but do you miss some of those ‘more innocent’ days before Fearless?
Well, before it was a hobby for us and now it’s a job, there are demands now, there are deadlines and responsibilities, and if you want to do it for a job than you have to have those things. I must say I don’t enjoy all the rashes though.
14. You’ve toured with some great bands and played some notable venues, what would say are your fondest tour memories to date?
My fondest memories were the shows out in California last summer with Dynamite Boy and the Stryder, it was an incredible atmosphere with people that we knew and enjoyed being around, and the shows were all great. After the shows Sean from Dynamite Boy would always treat us to the filthiest hookers, his treat of course. I remember waking up in a pile of puke next to Danny from Dynamite Boy and we both got up and couldn’t remember whose puke it was! Craziness!
15. It’s safe to say that Junction 18 is one of my favorite bands; it’s difficult to find good music in Asia, how important is it to you and the band knowing that people from the opposite end of the globe listen to your work and admire what you do so much?
I think it’s really fucked up, I never figured anyone across the world would even hear us so it’s a great feeling. Kind of tickles a bit, oh god, now it’s a burning feeling! Help!!
16. How important has the music been to the band personally, to record and release your hard work and then being able to share it with your fans?
It’s the most important thing to us, that’s the thing that brought us together and keeps us together. We all care about nothing else besides music. Music is one of the only things that’s real to me.
17. Would you personally prefer commercial success (large amounts of units sold, airplay etc) or is it more satisfying to have a fan see you after a show and tell you how much your music has effected their life and how important you are to them? How has the fan reaction been?
I could care less if we sell 100 or a million records, if you start thinking of things like that than you’ve lost sight of what music is about. If I’m not successful at music it doesn’t matter, because I can still have it in my life whether I’m listening to it or playing it, and that’s all that matters to me.
18. Finally, your favorite and worst moment since the release of ‘This Vicious Cycle’?
Best moment was rocking out with Mick Jagger on the last Rolling Stones tour, worst moment was the hit-and-run incident out in LA last summer, I’ve said too much.
San Diego’s Best Dancers: An interview with Allweather
San Diego’s rich punk history continues its next chapter with Allweather
San Diego’s alternative music history will forever be intertwined with punk’s mainstream rise through the 90s. While Los Angeles and the Bay Area took much of the attention, San Diego quietly produced a few bands that would ultimately rise to the top of mainstream punk. Now more than 20 years later, San Diego continues to produce as many excellent bands as it does excellent burrito joints. We are unsure whether it has anything to do with the sunny locale, or the food, or the proximity to coastal bliss, but San Diego punk is thriving. But don’t just take our word for it, just listen to the current crop of punk bands that call the area home.
Allweather are one of the newest on the scene, but their members have a long history amongst Southern California’s punk underground. They’ve just released their debut full-length Through the Floor; 10 songs of hard-hitting, melodic punk that at times throws it back to Lifetime’s emotionally charged output.
We spoke to Allweather guitarist and vocalist Tim Putnam.
Thanks for taking the time guys- new full-length in the books- how does everyone feel?
We are so stoked that this thing is finally out. It took about a year and a half to put this all together, what with full-time jobs and other adult-y obligations; but now we’re ready to share it with the world and it feels awesome. Definitely a labor of love with this one.
I really enjoyed the record. You’ve gotten some great feedback?
Everyone has been super receptive. Maybe they’re just being nice and telling us what we want to hear. But if so, they’re doing a great job! They’re saying some nice things!
I spent the first few listens trying to figure out that “sound”— because the album got me like a record did so many years ago. It took a few good listens but to me, it reminds me of Lifetime’s Hello Bastards and Jersey’s Best Dancers. At least that’s how it made me feel. I love those two records and I felt the same when I listened to yours. What are your thoughts on the different interpretations of the record or how it can make people feel many different things?
That’s awesome that you say that. I honestly love everything Dr. Dan Yemin has been involved with: Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Armalite, Paint it Black. Contrasting dark vocal delivery and lyrical themes with more melodic/upbeat instrumentation is something I think we try to emulate from those bands. I’m hoping that makes for a record that everyone can take something away from, whether you want to just bop around to some pop punk songs or delve deeper into the bummer-ass lyrical content and see what exactly this dude is yelling about.
Who produced it and how did the writing and recording go?
So, that gets a little messy. The majority of engineering was done by our lead guitarist, Tony Estrada, who was our guitarist at the beginning of this recording quest. Tony left the band in the process of recording the record so Todd Allen, of Paper Street Cuts fame, stepped in to engineer what was left of the project. Mixing and mastering was done by Paul Miner at Buzzbomb Studios. All music was written collectively by the band.
It’s a personal record- songs about day-to-day life, ups and downs?
For the most part, I’m a fairly upbeat kind of guy. That’s because I have music as an outlet to compartmentalize any sad or angry thought I might have. This record is a collection of all our anger and sadness for the last two years. That’s pretty heavy. We’ve got songs about heartbreak, death of friends, and questioning the purpose of human existence. More ups than downs I guess.
You guys are relatively new as a band. Can you share with us a little Allweather history and how you got started?
I’ve known Aaron and Manny since we were teenagers. We all grew up about an hour and a half east of San Diego in a small town called El Centro, California. It’s basically the default decision when you’re old enough to move from El Centro to San Diego because it’s a larger city close to home. Aaron, Manny and I all ended up in San Diego by this logic and all played in bands together when we were younger in El Centro and just decided to jam to see what might come out. And Allweather was born. Tyson is the newest addition to the family, having joined our ranks on lead guitar almost a year ago, and the dude is a prodigy. He brings a lot of songwriting to the table and is going to be huge in shaping what Allweather is going to sound like moving forward.
What got you all into into punk and the music that became Allweather?
I think coming of age in the late 90s/early 2000s, punk was somewhat accessible. At least gateway-punk. It was very easy to get into Green Day and Blink-182 by seeing them on MTV, then hop on the internet and get sucked into the rabbit hole that is punk rock. Before you know it you’re on Limewire giving your computer AIDS so you can pirate “Maxwell Murder” at 20 kbps. 2 days later you listen to it and you’re like “Welp, I guess I’m a punk now.” Also, growing up in a small town like El Centro, you were just bored and had to entertain yourself. You started garage bands and booked backyard shows because it was something to do.
Let’s talk about the stop-motion video for “Life Vest”- looked like a fun video, but it looked like a lot of work. How was that to shoot? Why stop-motion?
Almost 1000 individual photos. 18 hours straight of shooting. For a 2-minute music video. SO WORTH IT. We had about a hundred dollars to spend on the video and stop motion seemed like a good way to add some class to our cardboard-prop-level budget. Luckily, Tyson took the reigns, figured out the math behind the whole thing and hopped in the director’s chair. All in all, we’re super proud of the finished product.
The vinyl/CD is out through Paper Street Cuts- how did you guys connect with Paper Street Cuts?
I’ve been playing local shows with Todd of Paper Street Cuts in San Diego for the last 9 years. In that time, Todd has become a real friend of mine and the band’s. This year Todd started making handmade lathe cut records for limited release through his label, Paper Street Cuts. No… like he cuts his own records. By hand. WHAT? Not to mention he’s an incredible human being. So, when Todd approached us about having our record be the first LP available through Paper Street Cuts, we jumped on it.
You had a record release show June 14. What are you guys up to next- back on the road?
We are going to be heading out for a West Coast USA tour at the end of July. It’s our first time touring and we’re pumped. More info on that shortly.
What are some of the things I should check out next time I’m in San Diego- food, music- cool record stores?
San Diego is the self-proclaimed burrito capital of the world. But it’s true. Best burritos anywhere. And where do you go to get one? Throw a rock in any direction and you’ll probably hit a taco shop. Some of our favorites though are Colima’s, Roberto’s, Rigaberto’s, Alberto’s…basically anything with the -berto’s suffix will be a win. For live music, our headquarters is Tower Bar in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Honorable mention goes to Til Two Club, the Casbah, and Soda Bar. Tons of rad record stores but our recs go to Red Brontosaurus Records and Re-Animated Records.
The Down and Dirty: An interview with The Aggrolites
We chat to “dirty reggae” kings The Aggrolites about their new record Reggae Now!
It’s been a long time between records for Los Angeles reggae band The Aggrolites. 8 years to be exact. After countless albums and endless days on the road, the band felt like it was the right time to step away from the grind of writing, recording, touring. But the extended break between records meant the band just had time to get some air, recuperate and find the charge that would ignite that next spark. That next spark ended up becoming Reggae Now!, a collection of the band’s signature “dirty reggae” sound, packed with life-affirming songs about hope and positivity. And while the album isn’t afraid to challenge and question the current landscape we find ourselves in, it doesn’t shy away from having a good time.
The record has received some lavish praise, with noted filmmaker, DJ, and Big Audio Dynamite co-founder Don Letts saying; “Their tunes perfectly echo the human chemistry you can hear in those early Jamaican productions. The band’s old-school analog sound totally captures the spirit of the music I grew up on“. While Specials vocalist/guitarist Lynval Golding has said; “This is THE album.“
It’s easy to say that one of the most influential bands of modern American reggae is back. But the truth is, they never left. In between stops of their current North American tour, we had a chance to chat with vocalist and guitarist Jesse Wagner about Reggae Now!, how it feels to have written the record on their own time, and the significance of reggae music in America.
Congrats on the new record; how does feel now that it’s out?
It feels awesome. We are beyond stoked to see how positive the vibes are coming from all the fans old and new.
It was a long time between records- 8 years. It was the right time to take a break after 2011?
We felt so. We were going hard on the road for a good decade. I think 250 days a year can wear anyone out. We never quit though. We just needed some time to do our own thing with our families and friends back at home.
How did Reggae Now! come together- was there a spark that got you guys back into the writing process?
It just felt like the right time. We had talked about it for a while and when it happened it just worked.
Was this the first time you had the chance to write and record an album without the pressure of label deadlines? How did it feel that you could just write Reggae Now! on your own time- the way you want to 100%?
Yes it was. And it felt really chill and relaxing knowing that time was on our side. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
How did you connect and end up working with Pirates Press Records? It seems like a great fit- plus their roster of artists is incredible.
I’ve known Skippy for a long time now and have been a fan of what he has been doing with Pirates Press for years. Playing the style of music we play isn’t necessarily an easy target to market. We knew Skippy and Pirates Press would know exactly what to do with our album and are all grateful for them.
For those who may not be too familiar with the Aggrolites- share with us a little bit of your history and how the band came to be?
We’ve been around since 2002. We all pretty much come from the same scene in Los Angeles and all have the same love and passion for old school Jamaican music. With that passion, the band has managed to keep it going ever since.
How has the tour been so far? You guys are hitting cities all across the US until August; how is touring and getting to meet and perform for the fans now than, say, back in 2002?
It’s been an amazing run so far. If anything, things are getting better. I think with the internet it’s easier for people to find out about certain genres of music. We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback.
I love the video for “Pound for Pound”- where did you shoot it? How was it?
It was filmed in the San Fernando Valley at an equipment rental spot called Zio. Our friend Josh Rousch was the director and mastermind behind the whole thing. We had a blast filming it. So much fun and we were stoked to have some Aggro fans involved in the video also. That was a first.
Let’s talk about reggae- because it’s such an important genre of music (in my view) and I think some people only see it in one color. But there’s a lot of history and culture- how did you discover reggae and what are some of the most important aspects of the music and culture to you and the band?
I found out about reggae probably like the majority of the American youth from the early 1990s; punk rock and Two-Tone. The thing that got me stuck on it was how tuff of a sound it is, but at the same time so beautiful. It is by far the most interesting music I’ve ever gotten into. I love how they sang about social issues going down on their small Island, but how powerful the lyrics would be in relating to people all over the world.
Reggae, and ska and rocksteady seem to have a close relationship with punk. You guys have toured with and are close to many punk bands; what is it about the two genres that make sense and connects?
I believed it all goes back to the late 1960s when reggae became popular with the working class in the UK. It’s music for the people. Songs about struggle and overcoming it. Very rebellious music also. I believe Don Letts said it best that reggae was the soundtrack to the punk rock scene throughout the late 1970s.
How important do you think music of good vibes is in today’s world? I think maybe the world could use a little more Reggae Now.
I thank you for saying that and agree 100%. We’ve always said we are “Feel Good” music. Sometimes it’s nice to just play a record and have a good time. Especially in this day and age. There is a lot of corruption going on and hopefully, we can ease people’s minds from negativity with our album.
The Aggrolites’ new album, Reggae Now!, is available via Pirates Press Records.