The Von Bondies
Silent Uproar: It has been an interesting year for you guys, what would you say has been the biggest or most memorable thing that has happened in the last year?
Don: For me it was getting the last record out. We are really proud of Pawn Shoppe Heart and to be able to record it properly and take our time with it was a new experience for us and was very satisfying. I really like the first record, and am proud of it too, but that was recorded really quickly and it was just a different process with this last record.
SU: And you think it made it better by having more time?
Don: Yeah, we had most of the songs already written and we had already toured, playing most of the songs, but just getting in there and having Terry Harrison help us get the sound we wanted to record, was a lot of fun.
SU: Has it been hard to move past the whole White Stripes confrontation?
Don: I don’t know, we are touring all the time and we just did 6 months straight basically and for me when I am on the road; it is really hard for me to stay in touch with what is going on. I really feel cut off from the world when we are doing it so the others in the band would probably give you very different answers, but for me I feel and I hope that whole thing has blown over.
SU: Do you think people are finally able to forget about that and focus on the band’s music?
Don: Yeah I hope so. I understand why people are interested in it; people like to hear about drama.
SU: Right, but I would imagine that when the record comes out the band would want the buzz to be about the music, not who hit whom in a club one night.
Don: Yeah, it was very frustrating to pick up an entertainment weekly in the town we play in and read and article and the first thing they mention is that whole…thing. But it seems to be fading away.
SU: I have read several interviews in which you say that the band was started to express the angst you were feeling. That sounds kinda nu-metally doesn’t it?
Don: Nu-metally? Yeah, or emo or something. I think that most bands in punk rock start with people who are friends and start to play music because it is a good outlet. Jason and Marcie started what became this band a long time ago after seeing The Cramps and bands like that, and it just became the logical way to vent.
SU: Fortunately, you changed the name; it was Baby Killers, right?
Don: Yeah, yeah it was. We changed it when we got a new bass player and the music we were playing was completely different then what the Baby Killers had, so we decided to start fresh with a new name.
SU: Who is the last band you saw play live that you weren’t on tour with?
Don: Uh, I just saw The Hives last night. They put on a really really good show. They have this neon sign that says The Hives in script and it looks really disco or really 80s, it was cool.
SU: The vintage sound is kinda the “in” thing in indie music right now. Do you think you would have naturally aimed for this type of sound regardless of the current trends in music?
Don: That was the natural direction we were going. When Jason was writing songs, it was way before he knew there bands in Detroit playing garage music. I think for him he was just writing rock and roll songs, just simple things. I am sure there were indirect influences, but it was kinda a coincidence, we were playing shows in Auburn in basements and he had no idea that there were bands like The Cories or The Henchman in town.
I think it was just because that sort of music is very simple. Jason writes most of the songs and I have seen progression in his song writing abilities too as he travels more and learns more. On the next record we are going to all have more input on the songs and everything too, so I think it is just going to be a natural progression.
SU: I have read that when recording the album a lot of emphasis was put on the rhythm section. Is this a continuing focus of the band when writing songs, or just for that particular record?
Don: I think it will be a continuing focus. I think that the bass lines are very important in our music. A lot of the stuff that Jason writes starts with the bass line and they will be really rhythmic, but catchy, simple, but catchy rhythms. I think it is something that needs to be emphasized and focused on.
SU: Do you feel that drummers often get overlooked in bands?
Don: Yeah, I mean I guess that must happen a lot. It seems like though in this new kind of revival of rock and roll that the rhythm section is getting a lot of attention.
SU: The band has released records on two different independent labels, and now a major label arm in Sire. Which label have you found it more rewarding to work with?
Don: They are all so different. With Sire it has been really painless. We were able to just go in and record and we didn’t have to argue about our songs. No one was saying you need to change this song or anything. We are really careful about what we get into, so it has been kind of like working for an indie label with good backing.
SU: Do you feel that you would have been able to achieve the same level of success if you had stayed with an indie label?
Don: To us it seemed like this was the next step to do in order to get more people to be able to hear our music, it just made more sense.
SU: What do you have in your pockets right now?
Don: Uh, what do I have in my pocket? I am actually not wearing my pants right now.
(Lots of laughter by everyone)
Don: I’m still lying in bed.
SU: We all know there has been a lot of press and critical praise of the album, but has that translated into sales? Is the record doing well in stores?
Don: I think worldwide we have sold well over 100k. That blows my mind because one of our first goals was to put out like a 45. I think our first 45 we pressed like 500 copies, so to me it is amazing that we have sold the number of records we have. I know when you are on a major you are going to be expected to sell a lot of records. We are still kind of in the middle of touring to support the record we just put out, so.
I really don’t think about that stuff too much. I just go out and play shows and take it one day at a time.
SU: There have been songs that were written in the studio and then immediately recorded. Do you think these types of songs best represent the band, or are songs that have a little time to incubate a better representation?
Don: I think the songs that we get to play live and tour with better represent us. We have never been a studio band and have very little experience with the studio up until we recorded Pawn Shoppe Heart. That may change, but I don’t think we will ever be a band that sits and works things out and is really obsessive about getting things perfect in the studio to the point were we couldn’t do it live.
One thing that is really important to us is our live show, and being able to play live everything we write.
SU: Do you think Lollapalooza will ever make a comeback?
Don: I think it is possible, I think they just need to find the right combination of bands. I totally understand why they had to cancel it. There were legendary bands on the bill, but it was split over two days and a lot of the kids that would come probably don’t know so much about some of the bands on the bill. You need bands that are going to bring in kids.
SU: What is the craziest thing you have ever seen someone in the audience do at one of your shows?
Don: We were playing in Sweden and it was a pretty small room, and all the kids there were trashed and they were smashing bottles on the stage. Our tour manager at the time was trying to clean off the front of the stage, because there was all this broken glass, and he was leaning over with his back to the audience and this girl jumped on his leg and started rubbing against his leg really vigorously. That was pretty interesting.
SU: What is your favorite song to play live?
Don: Uh, I like playing “Ben Swank” a lot, and it is one of my favorite songs on the record.
SU: After seeing the rest of the world, are you happy living in Detroit? Do you think you will always want to live there?
Don: I know eventually I am going to move, but I live in a small college town and it is really quiet there, so it is nice to come back too. All my friends are here and my family is here, so I still like it a lot. That said I would love to live in a bigger city and I don’t know if that is going to happen before too long, but I still love Detroit, it is a great city.
SU: If you had to place the band on a music life timeline with one end being just getting started and the other end being ready to throw in the towel, where would the Von Bondies fit right now?
Don: We would be way past our prime…no…I hope that we are just getting started. So yeah, I am going to see we are really early in our life.
SU: After all the interviews the band has done and all the publicity you have gotten what should I have asked that no one seems to have inquired about?
Don: Um, let me think about that. You know that is a good question. I don’t read a lot of our press, so I feel kind of out of touch with what is written about us. So let’s see, you should ask us about our dancing skills, how about that.
SU: So, about those dancing skills…
Don: I have a serious lack of dancing skills, but I still try.
SU: Give us a nugget of wisdom to pass on to the masses.
Don: These questions…now you can see why maybe I don’t do these interviews…so a nugget of wisdom…how about, keep at least $3 in your pants pocket at all time.