Something Corporate: William Tell, Andrew McMahon
Sound the Sirens Magazine: Kamtin Mohager
Kamtin: Aloha guys? Can you tell us your names and what you do in the band?
William: I’m William and I play guitar
Andrew: I’m Andrew. I play piano and sing.
Kamtin: So, how has the tour with New Found Glory been?
William: It’s been awesome. We’re really great friends with them and we’ve become really good friends with Further Seems Forever. Those guys are great. And obviously we have been friends with Finch for a while because we started on Drive-Thru at the same time. It really is a lot of fun. It’s pretty much an extension of the good times we had on the Warped Tour. It’s been a blast. It’s really cool to come out and play cities like Denver for instance where we’ve only been once or twice before. It’s cool to spend more time here to get to know the kids and the bands that are around here. Hopefully build more.
Andrew: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s been more than we ever hoped it would be which is great. We’re only a couple weeks through, but so far all the shows have been unbelievable.
Kamtin: How great was the Warped Tour?
Andrew: I think for us it was, well, before going out there was one of the most nerve wrecking things and I really never got over the nerves of it to be honest. Like, everyday was like the new “Oh jeez, I got to do this again”, not saying about performing, but just going out and there and seeing what the kids will think about us because we’re not really a punk band. And we definitely have that element of us that doesn’t belong on the Warped Tour which is almost why they thought we belonged on the Warped Tour. But what ended up coming from it I think was a big help. We pretty much released our record on the Warped Tour and it sold so many more copies with the result of us going out and seeing all those people and getting the chance to sit in the merch booth all day and hang out with kids and talk to people that were seeing the band for the first time. I think the benefits of doing it were so amazing. It ended up being a great thing.
Kamtin: Oh yeah, for sure. Because at school I wore my Something Corporate shirt before a lot of kids knew who you guys were. And teachers come to me thinking it was some joke shirt thinking me mocking the corporate scene and now I think about a month ago, you guys were featured in our school newspaper. There was a huge article of you guys. So, it obviously has helped.
Kamtin: Well, I call them slippers, but why do you always wear flip-flops. I know they are so comfortable. I would be wearing them now but I will be in the mosh pit in about 2 hours and that would be hell on my feet. But, I have never seen you in shoes. What’s up with that?
William: All our friends back home in California, we all wear them. It’s so much easier and much more relaxed and usually the weather is decent up in California. It starts to get kind of cold on the road so we end up bringing some shoes along, but I much rather prefer slipping into these just because its the easiest thing to wear. And especially on a tour bus, at least in ours, we’re in our bunk and you can only keep like a change of clothes and not much else. So you can just throw on your sandals instead of going down and getting socks out of your bag.
Andrew: But it’s just like a standard cultural thing in California. It’s just the thing. When people see us they thing were in uniform or something like that. It’s really just like us wearing a pair of skate shoes to most kids.
Kamtin: Since you guys have gained so much success recently, are there any plans of re-releasing “Ready…Break”?
Andrew: I think, well, ok. Success or not, I know there are a lot of people want to hear it and so we’re trying to work something out right now where we can put it out as a fan club thing. I mean, there’s other stuff that goes along with it as far as legal shit. We have to figure out what we have to do with it before anything happens, but it’s not something that we’re working our asses off to make happen just because we’re so busy, but it’s definitely in the works. Not to stores so much, but to the kids. To me, I like the record and I love what it means to us, but I also think its best suited in the hands of people who know what it is, which are the beginnings of this band and not really where we’re going.
Kamtin: “Konstantine” has to be one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. It is so packed with emotion and feeling that it becomes a very touching song to listen to. It seems like you are singing out to a person you love or once loved. Is there a specific story behind the song?
Andrew: I dated this girl for like a year and a half or so, and then it ended, and then restarted. There’s a lot of trial involved in a relationship and it’s the typical thing. You think you care so much about someone in High School to keep going back together with them when really it’s not necessarily worth the trouble that goes along with it. So really it just kind of developed out of that and all the issues, problems that kind of came along with our relationship. It was a tough time. These guys know it when I wrote it, it just was what it was, but I’m glad something like that came out of it.
Kamtin: Have you guys been writing any new material?
William: We have been talking about that all day.
Andrew: We’re going to try and be in the studio April, May, June of this year to put a record out by like October next year. You know, its still like a year or so from now, but you got to start the planning early.
William: The planning is taking place right now.
Andrew: So we’re definitely trying to make something happen. You know, there are obviously different factors that revolve themselves, but we want to be recording a record soon.
Kamtin: What are your plans after the NFG tour? Are you guys going to be doing a headlining tour anytime soon?
William: That’s what we’ve also been talking about all day. We’re trying to plan out the next year because in this business, you have to plan things so far ahead of time to get everything line-up, but probably a headlining tour, possibly co-headlining; sometime between winter and spring.
Andrew: We have some international plans to kind of fall somewhere in there so it’s just kind of like trying to figure out where. How we can fit a month long trip to Europe, 6 week headlining tour of the states, and recording a new album into the next 6 months. So we’re trying to make it all work. I think it will end up working. Hopefully just in time for us to be out again in the summer time.
Kamtin: If you guys do it, are their any bands you guys want to do it with?
William: There in such preliminary stages right now, we can’t even say.
Kamtin: How do you feel when you turn on the radio or TV and you hear “I Woke Up In A Car” or “If U C Jordan”?
William: Well, it hasn’t happened much often because we’ve been gone so much.
Kamtin: Here, to tell you the truth, it’s on about 3 or 4 times a day. So, since I heard it, I was like “Holy shit, this is fuckin’ awesome!”.
Andrew: Haha, that’s so awesome dude!
William: Every time we hear something like that, like when I first saw “I Woke Up In A Car” on MTV2, it was just really amazing. When we were recording this record, “If U C Jordan” was playing in our home town so that was really amazing. The first few times we heard it, we were getting out of the studio and getting into our cars to go home and it was just an incredible feeling.
Kamtin: Thank you so much for sitting down with me and answering a few questions. I really do appreciate everything. Would you like to leave with a few words of wisdom?
Andrew: Yeah. Just to let them know we appreciate them coming out to shows and listening to the band. We have a good time doing what were doing, so hopefully people just keep listening. And thank you Kam for doing this.
William: Yeah, thanks man!
Kamtin: No, thank you.
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.
Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station
There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.
Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.
You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?
Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”
Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”
Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?
Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.
Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?
Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.
How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?
Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.
Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.
For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?
Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?
Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.
Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.
How many bands are you in now Mike?
Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.
Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?
Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.
I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?
Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.
Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.
Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?
Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.
Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?
Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present. When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.
What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland.
Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.
Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.
Is there a new full length on the horizon?
Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.
Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.