Grab your guitars and load the old van; we’re getting ready to hit the open road. Bring your cameras and plenty of film, road maps are a must and don’t forget your friends. Welcome to the world of Limbeck.
Their latest album, Hi, Everything’s Great saw release on Doghouse Records and the guys couldn’t be happier. Their album springs American nostalgia; in a world focused on the new, Limbeck aren’t afraid to go to the old for inspiration. Using the good old days and the many things we overlook in everyday life, Limbeck crafts music from everything and anything; resulting in their imprint of “pop-rock with a dash of country twang.”
Patrick and Robb were kind enough to take a few extra passengers through their journey, so buckle your seatbelt and grab that camera; we’re going along for the ride.
[Interview with Robb MacLean and Patrick Carrie]
David: For the readers out there not familiar with your sound or music, how can you guys best describe it to them?
Patrick: As simple as this question sounds, the answer is everything but. We generally have come to describing our music as pop-rock with a dash of country twang. We’re not too country, but the average pop-rock listener would most likely see us as being kind of “rootsy”.
David: Robb, is it true that many of the lyrics you write are transpired from the photographs you take? Explain how you get lyrical inspiration from your photography?
Robb: Yep. It’s not always necessary, but I do like to do that. Photos you take are usually really nostalgic, good and bad. If I look at one that I’ve taken that reminds me of something that happened, it’s easier for me to write a complete, coherent song. There’s also been a time or two when I’ve written a song and then tried to take a picture of what was around me at the time, like for the song “In Ohio on Some Steps.” It’s not my favorite picture in the world, but I like it because it reminds me of that morning. I might just be way too into nostalgia!
David: In recording “Hi, Everything’s Great”, you guys didn’t use top of the line equipment for all the songs, you opted to use older equipment and older models. Why was this?
Patrick: Well, we’ve never been fans of the Mesa Boogie dual rectifier, or the Marshall JCM 2000 … all those new hi-tech amps. They didn’t do it for us… So we spent way too much money on a bunch of Fender amps from the 60’s and 70’s that gave us such great, natural tones, and when you’d crank ‘em, it would be the tubes working really hard, pushing the speakers really loud, instead of some bad pedal to do it for you. We were all really happy with how the guitars sounded on the record, and the bass too. Justin used a cool old Vox bass amp… and Matt used a whole room full of kick drums and snares to get some neat sounds.
Robb: It’s not like we were going for a lo-fi sound or anything, and it wasn’t a new idea or anything. The truth is new amps by Mesa Boogie, Marshall AND Fender just can’t compete with the old Fender/Marshall/Vox/Gibson/Sears/Alamo/Voice/you-name-it amps for our style of music (if we were a metal band it would be a different story.) They don’t make them the same way these days. The ones that are older than I am have 10 times more character. Each one sounds a bit different, even if they are the same model.
David: You guys have also incorporated the lap steel guitar, banjo, organ, and even the cowbell to your sound on the new CD. How did using all these new instruments come about?
Patrick: They were just kind of there, so it seemed like the right thing to do … actually it was a little more planned for some of the instruments. We had a friend Chris from the band Melee fly out to play some piano and organ parts here and there on the record. He’s an incredible player, and we had some great late night jams with him in the studio. There was an old 1950’s all-original Fender lap steel guitar that appeared in the studio one day, and we were looking for an instrument to tie together a melody at the end of one of our songs, so we tried some parts out with it, and we were very excited about it. We still are. The banjo was also just sitting around the studio. The cowbell … it’s the kind of thing you kind of hear before you actually put it on a song. You’ll be listening to the song and say, “Hey Matt, did you put cowbell on the bridge of this song? Cause I can totally hear it” after he denies doing it, that’s the sign it’s a must.
Robb: Sometimes it’s less musically motivated and more because of stuff like the Saturday Night Live sketch where Blue Oyster Cult’s producing a record with Christopher Walken telling them they need more cowbell. That’s not the real reason that Matt played a cowbell in ‘Gamblin’ Man’ but it would be a damn good reason if it was.
David: How have things changed for the band since signing with Doghouse Records after being a do-it-yourself band for years?
Patrick: Well, first off, Doghouse Records is an incredible label, with an amazing staff of people that really care about their bands, and really love the music. So it’s a great feeling to have such a strong force behind us. It’s a feeling we’re not used to, but we love every minute of it. Plus they have pretty kick ass barbeques. Doghouse is allowing us to be where we want to be; they’re with us every step of the way making sure everything is going smooth and how we want it to. We made a record that we’re very proud of, and now we’re touring as much as possible, and they’re helping to spread the word, and keep us out there. It’s incredible. Incredible is definitely the word for them.
David: Your 2001 release “This Chapter Is Called Titles” and brand new release, “Hi, Everything’s Great” were produced by Ed Rose of the Get Up Kids and Coalesce fame. How is the experience in working with Ed for years?
Patrick: Ed is an incredible person. We’ve recorded nearly everything with him since meeting and making our first record with him. Not only is he an amazing producer and engineer, but he’s the best to hang out with and get tours of the Lawrence (Kansas) and Kansas City areas among others. He knows all the best restaurants, a ton of crazy stories about everything, he has a great collection of amps and gear, a perfect musical ear, and his wife was nice enough to let us borrow her car for the time we were there so we didn’t have to drive our gigantic enormous van everywhere.
David: Speaking of that large van, you guys are big on traveling and seeing the country. Talk a little bit about touring and the opportunity to travel the open roads.
Patrick: We love touring. We love seeing new places. We love going someplace, and not knowing what’s around the next corner. It’s the best thing ever, hanging around with three of your best friends, driving around the country and playing music. It’s completely amazing. When we’re on tour, sometimes it’s very surreal to look around and realize exactly what you’re doing. It’s just too perfect.
Robb: Yep. It’s cool to meet people from other places too and stay at their houses and hang with their cats and dogs and be friends with them the next time you come through town. Also be friends with them on Friendster (I’m just kidding … ok, I was actually telling the truth, but I don’t like Friendster, I just don’t want to deny my friendship with someone when I get the friend request, so I make them my friend. Now all I do is get annoyed if anyone sends me messages via Friendster instead of regular email or calling me on the phone.)
David: On to friendships then, you guys are pretty tight with Adam and John from the band Home Grown. You and Home Grown even joined forces and put out one of your early releases on a split CD titled “Connection” on Adam Lohrbach’s Utility Records label. How did that friendship all come together years ago?
Patrick: Basically, we befriended them quite a long time ago, not through music, but through bad jobs. Bad jobs that you had to drive really far, and stand around on a corner while holding a sign pointing to a new housing development that needed some attention. As far as the CD, we consider the “Connection” EP to be our first real demo as a band.
Robb: Yeah, we don’t really include that in our discography since it’s a demo quality recording, and so far removed from what we’ve been up to in the last couple years.
David: Robb, when recording “This Chapter is Called Titles” you lost your voice and things looked down for the band. How did that bad experience eventually end up helping the band?
Robb: I didn’t really think of it as such a huge thing. I mean, it was a drag since we were so close to finishing the record. It worked out to our advantage though, because we went home for a couple weeks and got to listen to it with new ears and work out some changes that we might not have picked out before, had we just stayed and mixed it.
David: There was quite a gap for you guys between full length releases. During the time after releasing “This Chapter Is Called Titles” and “Hi, Everything’s Great”, how did you guys mature and progress as a band?
Patrick: Well, it took about three years between the two records… so we had a lot of time to think stuff out. I can definitely say our taste in music has changed a LOT. In the time that we had to make this record, it’s been very noticeable to see a given band put out a great record, and do very well in all areas … and then immediately a handful of bands will pop up and do the same thing and everyone buys into it. There’s no value for originality when every record label around can have their own version of a given band, and profit off of it. It’s pretty sickening. So basically, we got a bunch of Bob Dylan records, and Johnny Cash records… listening to bands like Big Star, the olds 97’s, The Eagles, and stuff like that. It’s all incredibly great driving music. So it was the soundtrack to our touring. Back then artists would have time to develop and progress, so there was no need for them to jump on the bandwagon and put out the same record as everyone else to keep afloat. We took note of that and we wrote what felt right, and what felt good. So our end product is a record that we’re very proud of.
Robb: When I started becoming broke from touring and paying rent at the same time, I got into a lot of music that I never thought I would ever like back in high school, because I would listen to what I could get for 35 cents at thrift stores. I’ve never been one to scour thrift stores that often, but I like them, and they’re a great place to buy records that you’ve never heard before. If you get one or two that you hate, they were only 35 cents or so, so it’s no big deal. So now I even like John Cougar Mellancamp and the boss. I’m still easing into the boss, I’m not 100% in the Bruce Springsteen club yet, but I like the idea that I’m listening to “the boss.” There’s nothing more American than “Born in the USA.” but, of course, if I pulled up to a stop light blasting it, I would probably get embarrassed and turn it down a bit.
David: You guys recently were able to tour with label mates The All-American Rejects. How was that experience and were there any really funny or wild moments from the tour you could share with us?
Patrick: The experience was amazing. It was definitely one of the best tours we’ve ever been on. They’re the sweetest guys, and an awesome band. They treated us like kings. We made some really great friends for life now. We hope to keep meeting up with them in the future. It’s hard to pick one funny moment … but when we got back into the US from Canada, we all went to Dirk & Emily’s house (the owners of Doghouse) in Toledo for a gigantic BBQ. It was a crazy day of playing with all the dogs (I think they have 4 of ’em), watching Super Troopers, playing baseball, and making s’mores … not to mention the incredible BBQ.
Later in the night, Justin from our band and Tyson from the Rejects decided it would be fun to light off this big firework called “Halley’s Comet”. It’s supposed to go 300 feet in the air, or something ridiculous like that. The only problem the stick to launch it off was broken … so Justin runs to find a stick from a tree, while Ty grabs some duct tape from inside. They end up taping a branch onto the rocket… and putting it right in the middle of the yard to light it off… They light it once … and nothing happens. So they light it again … and it slowly takes off … and it ends up that the stick is waaaay too heavy, so the rocket drifts up towards the roof, and then explodes. So basically, we almost lit the Doghouse Records house on fire. It was funny.
David: Along any band’s journey there are people or bands that really help you out. Who are some of the people or bands that have really helped Limbeck out along the way?
Patrick: Well although we just came in contact with them… everyone at Doghouse Records (Dirk, Emily, Sheffield, Dave, Laura) has been so amazing to us. Also, the All American Rejects for being way too damn good to us. An incredible promoter from up north, Eric Fanali, has treated us very well, and definitely helped us out more than his fair share. Our good buddy Nick Celi from Tucson … and everyone in Kansas, Ed Rose, Ron Hayes & the Black Lodge, Sean & Burton @ Bearpress and Mr. Greg Franklin. This is turning into a weird kind of thank you list, so perhaps I’ll stop here before I get gushy.
David: The album is out in stores, what’s next for Limbeck?
Patrick: First off trying to replace the words “incredible” and “amazing” with other words, because I now noticed that I use them too much. Touring like mad is next for us. Playing the songs off our new record for people to hear, and hopefully like. To be out in the world and meet people and see new places. And then somewhere in there work on some new songs … what about you Robb?
Robb: I’ve already replaced those words with “ridiculous” and “rediculously.”
Dreams and Devotion: An interview with Strung Out’s Jason Cruz
For Strung Out’s Jason Cruz, art is more than just the music he’s known for. It’s the dreams and emotions he writes and paints as well.
For almost 30 years, Jason Cruz has been synonymous with the art he’s been crafting. That art of course, is his work as songwriter and vocalist for Simi Valley melodic punk rock outfit Strung Out, who since 1990, have been writing hard-hitting, emotionally-charged music that became part of the wave that brought punk’s into the mainstream consciousness in the mid-1990s. Strung Out’s three albums of that decade, 1994’s Another Day in Paradise, 1996’s Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues, and 1998’s Twisted By Design, proved to be the perfect answer to those who sought out the deeper underground of punk that bellowed below the surface of Green Day’s Dookie and Offspring’s Smash.
For many listeners like myself, Strung Out and many of their Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph brethren meant a world of new music wrapped in the subcultures of skateboarding, surfing, punk attitudes, and a vibrant urgency that echoed sounds of rebellion and independence. While pop culture acceptance for just about any form of art and music seems fleeting, Strung Out have never wavered from what they do; now three decades into their history and nine albums deep into an ever-impressive catalog. Songs of Armor and Devotion is perhaps the band’s finest work since they first burst onto the scene. Composed, yet still breathing fire, its tracks still exhibits that “debut album energy” but comes with the benefit of the wisdom of touring, writing, and experiencing the world three decades over.
However, for Jason Cruz, art is more than just Strung Out. He has quietly and not so quietly been honing his craft as an artist and a painter, coming to light on a musical front by painting the cover art to his band’s 2011 “Best Of” album Top Contenders: The Best of Strung Out, and NOFX’s 2013 EP Stoke Extinguisher. But one look at the wide spectrum of art he’s painted and you can see that it’s more than just album covers. His painted work, like his music, seems to come from the same passion and emotion that drives his lyrics and songwriting. Now he embarks on a new chapter as a children’s book writer, taking inspiration from his daughter to write There Are Such Things As In Your Dreams, a bedtime story born in dreams.
We spoke to Cruz not long after the release of the band’s new album to talk about the long-lasting influence of Strung Out and to discuss his art and how they share the same creative head space. We also spoke about his upcoming art exhibit and his new book and the toll and triumphs of the tour cycle.
Congrats on Songs of Armor and Devotion. It’s stellar work; how do you all feel about the release and response to the record?
Cruz: I’m glad people are digging the tunes. I’m anxious to get em out on the road and see what they turn into. See if I can keep up with RJ. It feels like another new level to explore.
But you’ve been busy with a lot of projects- tell us a little bit about the children’s book you have written? It was inspired by your daughter?
Cruz: The book is called There Are Such Things As In Your Dreams and it’s basically a bedtime story. My daughter just spoke the title one day as we hangin’ out having one of our talks and it stuck. I thought it was the most beautiful thing she ever said.
What’s the story of the book?
Cruz: It is basically a bedtime story trying to explain to a kid what the hell dreams are and how cool they can be. How the adventures you dream at night can only pale to the ones that await you when you wake kinda thing.
How long did it take to write and create the book?
Cruz: I worked on the story, which is more like a poem, and all the illustrations for just over two years. Anywhere I could set up and draw. In between shows, on planes, at the desk at home, wherever. Once I told the kid I was gonna do this book she made sure to ride me pretty hard about getting it done so she could take it to school and read it to the class.
What’s the approach like writing the book in comparison to writing songs for a new Strung Out record?
Cruz: Pretty similar process I guess since they both involve rhythm, flow and the use of imagery and imagination. With a song, it’s a collaborative process. Each member adds an element to construct this thing. With the book, it was all me. Inventing as I went along until I had enough elements to unify the idea as a whole. It’s a lot harder flying blind like that. I guess I kept this first attempt as simple as possible for that reason.
Where can we buy the new book?
Cruz: All the usual modern day outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Baby. It will also be available on my site as well.
I’m looking at some of your art and I like how different the pieces are. For instance, the difference in emotion, style with pieces like “Choke”, “Rise & Fall”, and “Church Fix”. What are some of the things that inspire your art and what were some of the inspirations behind these pieces?
Cruz: Oh I guess just the love of doing is what really inspires me. To be an artist. To challenge myself. To learn my craft and grow. I could never stick to a certain style or look very long because I’m just too moody I guess. I need the freedom to move around and explore. Always trying ‘get it right’ whatever that means.
Is creating art a completely private and solo process for you?
Cruz: Completely. I guess that’s why it can be so maddening at times and so fulfilling at the same time. Like what nerve do I have to even attempt this?!?! What is this whole art thing?!?! Is this good?!?! And somewhere in between all that doubt, there is joy and fun. Problem solving and improvisation.
What are some of the things when looking back at this 20+ year career with Strung Out do you hold as the most important to you? Is it the records? The consistency with the work or the influence you’ve had for listeners around the globe?
Cruz: To be able to keep living my life in a such a way is all I can ever hope for. Making true connections. As long as I am a good person, as long as I am good to my muse and never take anything for granted and always be awake and alive I am grateful.
Is there one album you look back as particularly important to the band and yourself? Say one that you felt like thing were heading in the right direction?
Cruz: For me, I’d have to say it was the pseudo acoustic record we did called Black Out the Sky. That record was super important in our development as a band and as human beings. It kinda loosened any restraints we thought we had and really showed our fans and ourselves the possibilities of our union as a whole.
I’ve always loved Suburban Teenage and Twisted By Design because I think both records hit at the right time for me (I grew up in Indonesia and discovering your music was a big part in who I was and am); plus I learned that bands could hit hard just as much as they sang with emotion- but I think Songs of Armor and Devotion is very much in the same vein. What was the songwriting process like for Songs of Armor… and when did you guys start writing the record?
Cruz: It all happened really quick. Once we set aside the time to write and record we wasted no time and the ideas all came very fast and effortlessly – for the most part. We had a lot of ‘pent up‘ energy and angst I guess you say.
I love the song “Crows”- did you feel like it was a great stand-alone song- were there reasons why you didn’t want to put it on a record?
Cruz: Who knows? Looking back I don’t even remember. It seemed like it didn’t really fit anywhere but it was too good to just let go, so yeah, that song is kinda like a sad pretty little island.
You’ve got an exhibit coming up in October that will showcase your art and your new children’s book. Is the process of creating a new exhibit the same for you as say, planning an upcoming tour? What can we look forward to at the exhibit?
Cruz: Luckily I have help from some really great people. I’ll be painting up until the last minute so any and all help is greatly needed and appreciated. Along with the illustrations from the book I will also have on display a series of new oil paintings.
Steve Caballero is also part of the exhibit, was it a natural process working together with Steve on this? How did this come together?
Cruz: Steve is a blossoming artist and a great human being. I guess I just got extremely lucky on this one.
Strung Out have a North American tour coming up with The Casualties. How’s life on the road these days, are you guys all still enjoying being on the road?
Cruz: Ask me that on the last week of the tour and you’ll get a different answer than now.
I got to see you guys twice the last couple of times you were down in Australia; will we see you here sometime next year?
Cruz: Yes, I believe something big is in the works for Spring.
Do you have a road map for the next few years or are you happy with playing things as they come?
Cruz: It’s more a map of the ocean and I am chained to the wheel.
Jason Cruz’s Fine Art Exhibition and children’s book launch takes place Friday, October 25th, 2019 at the Copro Nason Gallery in Los Angeles. Tickets can be booked here. More information can be found on Jason Cruz’s official website. Strung Out’s new album, Songs of Armor and Devotion, is out now on Fat Wreck Chords.
All Work and All Play: An interview with The Drowns
The Drowns prove that having the right work ethic goes a long way
It’s been a busy year for Seattle punks The Drowns. The band, whose individual histories stretch back some 20 years, are a rough and tumble blend of street punk bravado and positive attitude that found its footing with their 2018 debut album View From the Bottom. With tours, festivals, and new music already checked off in 2019, The Drowns put the “work” in working class rock n’ roll with no rest in sight. Fresh off the release of a new 7″ titled The Sound, the band are prepping for their first ever Japanese tour in October and are working on their new full-length album due in the near future.
On top of the globe trotting, the band will take part in this year’s Rock The Ship Festival, their label’s annual punk rock escapade on the high seas, anchoring a lineup that includes noted bands like Cock Sparrer, CJ Ramone, and Subhumans. We spoke to vocalist Aaron Rev about the new 7″, the terrific street punk anthem “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier”, and what they’re looking forward to next to cap off an already packed 2019.
I really enjoyed the new 7”- how has the reception been, and how are you guys feeling about these new songs?
Rev: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. So far, so good. The reception has been incredible. And we love the new songs. We just got back from a month and a half tour, and the new jams went over great.
It sounds like the band is very in tune right now and that things have continued to go strong since the debut album?
Rev: Totally. We also have a pretty intense work ethic, so right when we are finished with something we are already working on what’s next. Just keeping the ball rolling.
The songs on the new 7” SOUND amazing- where did you guys record and produce the record?
Rev: We working with our brother Jesse O’Donnell from the band Noi!se at his studio the Autopsy Room in beautiful Tacoma WA. Working with Jesse was great. He’s a great guy, and a great engineer. He’s really got an ear for this type of music, and he pours his heart in to it.
What’s the story behind “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier”?
Rev: I live in the south end of Seattle. Years ago I moved to a neighborhood called Georgetown. It was incredible. Tons of artists living in a kind of shitty area, just for cheap rent so they could keep creating. When I’d first moved there, it really was one of the greatest points in my life. I was surrounded by incredible people who inspired me to create. But, we all started to see the gentrification coming, because nothing that great could last forever. The Georgetown neighborhood has a huge building in the middle of it called Rainier Cold Storage, where they used to make and store Rainier Beer. They ended up tearing part of the building down, and for me that symbolized the beginning of the end of what we had. When they were tearing it down, I broke in at night and stole some bricks for the old building, and when I have them around, they serve as reminders to carry the spirit of what we once had along with me wherever I go.
You’ve been playing a bunch of shows over the last few months- how have they been? How are these new songs translating to the live setting?
Rev: The shows have been CRAZY! We’ve gotten tons of support and a great reception to all of the new material. It was a killer tour.
For those who may not be familiar yet, share with us a little history of the Drowns.
Rev: We were all friends in different bands, and we’ve all been in the game for 15-20 years a piece. Our respective bands started to slow down, so we all decided to start a project together. Also, not many bands we knew of were playing the style we wanted to play. So we got together, started writing, and just haven’t stopped.
Are you guys splitting time between Seattle and LA?
Rev: Our drummer Jake lives in LA so we just fly him back and fourth to accommodate, and we head down there. With the internet, it’s surprisingly easy to keep a long distance band going these days.
Speaking of Seattle, I saw on your Twitter that some of you were at a Sounders game- is soccer the sport of choice for The Drowns?
Rev: Totally. Huge soccer fans. MLS and Premier League. Some of us are big hockey fans too.
It’s funny because I felt that “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier” has that stadium anthem feel to it (at least in my head), that its a great song for thousands of people to sing together.
Rev: Hell ya. I’ve worked with the Sounders in the past with my old band. I’d live to have The Downs work with them. It’d be a perfect fit.
Pirates Press has been releasing some great music this year; you guys are in great company. What were some of the reasons for choosing Pirates Press as the new home for your music?
Rev: First and foremost, they are incredible people over there. You be hard pressed to find any other label active right now that gives a shit as much as they do. They are hands on, they are passionate, and they care about the bands, and the music, and the fans. They are truly a great example of how a label should be run.
You were at Punk Rock Bowling this year- how was it? It’s such a massive looking festival from the outside- Did you guys have fun?
Rev: It was KILLER! The lineup this year was insane. The setup of the festival this year was perfect. And, we were crazy surprised when we started playing at 3:30pm and right after we hit that opening chord and turned around, there was a sea of people! We felt so humbled by how many people cane to see us. It was insane.
Are there already plans for a new full-length to follow View From the Bottom? What are the plans for the rest of the year?
Rev: We are definitely always working. So you can bet that you’ll hear about new material soon. But for now, we are going to hit Europe and Japan later this year. And keep on moving.