Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Distillers As Punk As Ear Wax

By: Jack Libby
For: CORD Magazine
Date: June, 2004

Flying the banner of punk hater is a very risky thing to do in a music world that loves to label everything PUNK. It's not a task most bands would be willing to take on. Enter The Distillers. Much has been said of this four piece as of late. Brody Dalle is one of the most talked about singers in music, and unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. Having moved to California from Australia as a teenager, Dalle met and fell in love with Rancid front man Tim Armstrong and the rest has been so documented that I'll go insane if I have to hear about it again. The frustration of being asked candidly about a personal matter has gotten to Dalle, so much that she is no longer doing interviews. In her place now stands guitarist Tony Bradley and bassist Ryan Sinn. Talking to them after their sound check and a ride back from MTV that had them forty-five minutes late for the rest of the day, Sinn and Bradley are in good spirits. Or as good as they can be for a band that's been on tour since October, this time around playing the Croatian Cultural Center for an all ages with Darker My Love and Crowned King.

You've played with a couple bands, and it's kind of a thing, I've noticed, they don't sound anything like you. Is that something you're doing on purpose now?

RYAN SINN: Which bands?

Well, for instance, the ones today.

R: Oh! Oh we played with Crowned King last time we were here. And then Darker My Love is a really good band. We like them and they're friends of ours and it's always good to be on the road with friends. I don't know, bands we've had on recently, it's just kinda been, "these are the bands you can take on tour." Oh really? Okay.

TONY BRADLEY: There's a list of like twenty bands and only two of them are good, so you have to go on tour with those two good bands. Otherwise you just listen to shitty music all night, all the time.

Is it kind of tough because I guess maybe labels or whoever's in charge of it, just find bands that you find in like the punk section of the record store?

R: Oh yeah they'll put you on tour with a band because, "there's a good idea for press for this band, so it'll draw a lot of attention to you."

T: Or like, "they're gonna draw a lot of fans 'cause they're a real big punk band." And you're like, "well, we don't wanna go on tour with crappy punk bands. We wanna go on tour with good bands. We don't care what kind of music they are." As long as they're a good band, you know, that's why we've been touring with different bands.

The term 'punk', is it even valid anymore?

T: Nope.

It's kinda lost its thing.

T: Lost its thing. Apparently… on MTV, people say its punk, and it's really not that punk. It's more like pop.

R: Yeah punk became pop.

T: Pop nowadays. And yeah the word 'punk' isn't valid anymore. Bands like… I dunno… who's punk? I'm punk.

R: The earwax in my ears…

T: Yeah the earwax in my ears is punk. Yeah, punk's supposedly about doing what you wanna do and being individual and saying "fuck you" to everyone else, and the bands today that are 'punk' do the exact opposite. They conform to every other band that's like them. They look like them and sell the same t-shirts and the make the same music and that's not very punk. That's very pop and very mainstream and very radio-friendly. I just don't understand how they can still use that word and be serious about it, you know?

Has it become draining having to go to places like MTV and sit there and deal with their bullshit?

R: Usually the people that work there... like what was that one we did on the other coast of Canada? It's um, something for Fuse, IMX I think?


R: And watching them just at home on TV these people are so cheesy, but as soon as the cameras were off, the people that interviewed us were really nice. And really down-to-earth people that were complaining 'cause the company makes them wear these certain shoes and certain clothes and stuff. And on camera they're all, "hey hey la la (makes exaggerated happy, excited banter noises)."

T: They just have jobs like everybody else, you know. Like we're trying to make a living at what we're doing and…

R: The people that work there seem to be really cool. I think it's just the programmers that suck.

T: Sometimes you gotta do stuff you don't want to do 'til you're in a position where you don't have to do stuff [for others]. But we're not really in that position yet.

Do you see yourself getting in that position?

T: Hopefully. I would love that.

R: I've got no problem putting our music on MTV. Hopefully if you put good music on TV then hopefully better music will follow. One band, a good band, gets on there, and they try to find that sound. So hopefully more good bands will get up there.

You've been touring this album for a really long time. Are you getting tired of it yet?

R: A little bit.

T: Yeah we're pretty tired. (Laughter)

R: We're ready for something new, play some new music and stuff. But we've only been doing this for… it just came out in what, October.

T: We've been playing it for a year, but the record came out in October. But yeah, you get into that mindset, and I think we're ready to start being creative again. The best part of being in a band is making records I think. And we're ready to do that!

Where are you gonna go with the new one? I've heard rumors The Distillers will soon be the new Captain Beefheart.

T: Brody. Brody loves Captain Beefheart.

Is that something you guys are interested in or is it just Brody's dream?

R : Um, well it's hard to say. I think usually going in the songs that we have are songs Brody's written. Once we get in and start playing on them, practicing on them, doing stuff, they usually don't come out sounding exactly how they went in, so it's hard to say how it'll end up.

T: We're just interested in doing our own thing and not being like…

R: Like "Coral Fang" started out like really surfy when we first started.

T: Mmhmm.

R: Like real surf…

T: Remember the original "Coral Fang"?

R: That's what I'm talking about.

T: We played it only twice. Or three times. No we only played it twice and then that was it; it was redone when we played the Troubadour.

What direction do you want to go?

R: I don't really think in terms of genres of what kind of music we wanna do or what kind of album we wanna put out, as long as it's something we're proud of and seem kind of happy with. You know, it could be … we could put a surf album out or we could put a Police album out. If it's something we go in there and do, and its fun, fuck it.

T: Yeah it's nice to be able to go in there with a clear palette and not being like, "we have to go and make a punk record. Real fast and real punk." You know, that's like a window this big (indicates small space). It's better to have nothing on the plate and do whatever we want. And we're growing as people and we're growing as music-listeners and we're growing as musicians and putting out the same record all the time is so boring and so horrible. I mean bands do that all the time and they get away with it, and I mean, that's fine. Like they want to put out the same record and sell the same record, that's cool. That's they're prerogative.

R: Oh, like?

T: Yeah. I just think, like, every punk band if you think about it. I don't wanna like… why do that? It's so boring. Put out one record and then bail, do something else. There's no need to be stagnant, especially today when music sucks so bad. If everyone keeps doing the same thing, music's not gonna evolve at all.

Do you think bands that last that start with a sound and then change a little and find their own style; do you think that kind of kills their fan base a little? Are you concerned about that?

R : Um, no I think we've uh, I think over the course of the last two years we've lost probably about half of our original fan base. But most people… I can respect somebody's opinion of like, "yeah I don't really like the album or whatnot, I like the older stuff better." That's fine, I mean there's bands I was into a long time ago, they've changed and some of the stuff I don't like as much as their older version. I'm not really worried about… I think it's more important to make music that you like opposed to making somebody else happy.

T: Yeah, if you're not happy, you're not gonna wanna do this anymore. We're out here because this is what we love to do, and if we're not happy then like… why are we here?

So it wouldn't matter if you got really tired of the music you're playing right now and you decided, "okay we're gonna do a new record and we're gonna go and we're gonna tour it and we're not gonna play anything off this album anymore, we're just gonna play our new stuff and go our own way." Would it bother you if kids stopped coming and they kind of went, "they sold out," or…

T: They've already said that.

R: Yeah they've already done that.

Is it kind of a bullshit term?

R: They already said we sold out. We sold out by doing what we wanted to do as opposed to everybody else trying to tell us what to do. We kinda just said, "Go fuck yourselves, we're doing what we want."

T: Kids who say "sellout" like, live with their parents and get fed every night. They don't know what it's like being out here trying to make a living, trying to do what you wanna do and get paid at the same time. They have no idea what that's like. They use the word "sellout" 'cause they read it in a magazine or whatever.

R : Yeah and as far as playing songs, sometimes we play… we've done a few shows I think where we've played one song off the first album and a few shows where we've played three or four. Those are kinda fading out. They're old and I dunno, sometimes they're fun to play, like "Colossus," we've been playing lately. But we didn't play that when we started this tour, did we?

T: No. We haven't played that in a while.

R: It's fun to bring stuff up again, from the past. I wouldn't think we'd ever just stop playing everything we'd done altogether.

Is it difficult to fathom… I guess you gotta come back to that word again… is it weird how the punk kids, the way they almost like, cling and get obsessed to bands. Is it almost scary how much impact you can have?

T: I dunno. I get obsessed with bands I think. But I … as long as it's not like at a weird level where they're like, walking up to their house and … you know what I mean? But no, cool, if that's what they're into, they're into music, like I've been into music all my life and got excited about like Nirvana and the Pixies and things like that. So now I understand what that's like. I'm still like that today.

Do you think it's weird the way American teens, well I guess not really Americans, but more teens are getting way more celebrity-driven, like it's more about who's in the band rather than how it sounds?

R: That's America as a whole I think. It's all about being on TV now, and being on a reality TV show and all that kind of stuff.

T: Yeah America has a lot of problems; especially when it comes to celebrity stuff. It's so easy to become the celebrity now on TV. All you have to do is go try out for American Idol or whatever and you can be a celebrity for fifteen minutes. It's kind of scary. It's horrible actually. TV is bad. They don't even have shows on TV anymore. It's all reality TV and stuff like that.

R: Cartoons are the only good thing on anymore…

T: I only watch the Cartoon Network. Really it's true, Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.

I didn't even really want to bring it up, but is it more of a bonus or a hindrance for [Brody] to be at the front of the band?

R: I don't really think of it as either. She's in the band. People are always drawn to the singer. That's nothing new. It's pretty cool though, she deserves it. She worked her ass off.

T: Yeah the media is always drawn to the lead singer of a band and that's good, and that's what they should be drawn to, because she is the lead singer, and not because of her personal life. And that's usually the case with Brody and um… yeah.

End of that right there.

T: End of that one.

Sounds like a good idea.