In the furthest corner of a nicely hidden Brooklyn bar called Dynaco, Bobby, Joe, Chris and Sean are waiting for me. The bar’s completely made out of wood, and the fireplace is burning like there’s no tomorrow. We’re all drinking dark beer, which pretty quickly sets a good mood. Not that it’s really necessary in the company of these guys. They’re all extremely friendly, and it’s not in any way forced. I have a feeling that friendliness comes naturally to this bunch.
People in Denmark don’t know about you guys – yet. How would you describe your sound to someone that doesn’t know you?
Bobby: Are you serious? You’re not gonna do that? Hm, alright.
Chris: It’s supposed to be the first thing that comes to mind.
Bobby: I know, but I just end up thinking of what other people say about it.
Chris: So just say Pavement.
The guys all laugh. Seems like a comparison they hear quite a lot.
Bobby: 90’s oriented, loud, garage-rock that gets compared to Pavement and Guided By Voices a lot. I think the influences are there, but I don’t think we sound like them.
Bobby asks me what I think. They all get pretty stoked on the idea of me doing the interview instead of them. I decline the offer, and we all settle on a compromise to do it more as a conversation rather than an interrogation. I like that. Already three minutes into the conversation, and it’s clear to me that these guys are all about being down to earth, having fun and most importantly friendship.
Tell me a bit about how it all started?
Chris: Oh yeah, that one’s easy.
Bobby: I met Chris and Joe three weeks into college. We just started hanging out, and we all played music but were into different stuff. One weekend Joe was back home and I played a song I’d been working on to Chris, and then he said “I bet Joe can learn how to play drums.” And when he came back we got him to play drums. This was 2007. So we started playing music together. We met Sean a year later. We all wrote for the same Fordham paper and were friends, and when Chris and Joe came back from being abroad we started playing together as this band.
Sean: Yeah, that was in 2010.
Bobby: But I feel like we only started playing a lot maybe in the past year or two. And that’s where it actually came together and we were like a band, you know.
There’s a pretty vibrant scene around you guys. Do you feel influenced by what happens around you?
Sean: Oh yeah, absolutely. All the time. For me it has gotten to this weird stage where I listen to a lot of bands that I’m friends with. It’s even influenced the way I play my guitar.
Chris: Other bands is the way you find out where the cool venues are, who the good people to be friends with are, etc. I have a lot of friends in this particular scene that I probably wouldn’t be friends with if it wasn’t for the music.
Bobby: Musically, for me it’s an influence in that it’s people you get along with making music that you’re excited about. It definitely gets absorbed. The few times we’ve been written about I’ve thought it’s funny that we get compared to older bands, cause I’m always worried people will think we’re ripping off friend’s bands or local bands. I know it’s filtered through us and we have our voice or whatever, but it’s definitely something I’m aware of. But more than that, I don’t think we would be as productive if we didn’t live in NYC, where there are all these bands that work with such a high level of intensity.
Sean: It’s definitely a motivation. Just being around such a vibrant scene where even though there are so many bands everyone is mutually supportive. You help each other put on shows, you go to each other’s concerts etc. It really snowballs like that. I don’t feel like it’s competitive at all.
Everyone agrees with Sean’s statement, and Joe continues:
Joe: I feel like the competitive thing is intensified by certain venues more than by bands themselves. The bands and the people we know are super supportive. We like to see each other do well.
Bobby: To me it’s competitive like skateboarding is competitive. You see someone do a cool trick, and then you wanna do a cool trick too.
The talk takes a turn, and the guys explain to me that there is a very strong coherence between skateboarding and playing music here in NYC. I’m not surprised; it’s the same where I’m from. They start teasing each other about their skateboarding skills; especially Bobby is taking some hits. This is obviously an old joke, and the jokes keep coming until I cut them off with a new question.
Live or record?
Bobby: Why do we have to choose?
Joe: Live record!
Sean: I guess I would pick live. I love recording but to an extent it always feels more like work. I’ve never played a live show where it felt like work. We can go on tour for ten days in a row, and I wouldn’t want to be recording for ten days straight.
Bobby: I would go live too. I do like the sound of things recorded, but there are some things we have recorded that we’re never gonna play live.
Chris: I judge a lot of our songs by how fun they are to play live.
Oh really? What are the elements of a fun song to play live then?
Sean: A lot of dynamics, it speeds up and then slows down, stuff like that.
Chris: I’ll just play any song where Sean has a guitar solo.
Joe: We all have our secret favorites… well, our not so secret favorites. So Bobby came up with this thing we do at practice where everybody picks a song. And then we just take it from there.
We start talking about how to look while performing. Sean always looks down concealing his face completely with all his hair, Chris likes to identify friends in the crowd and make weird faces at them, while Joe’s biggest fear is ‘making a weird sex face’. That one makes all the guys laugh uncontrollably, and me too. They all decide that it’s just better to look bland than that.
Do you have a specific purpose with your music?
Joe: I would like to quote Lana Del Rey: ‘I’m very selfish, my music is for me’.
Chris: Ha! Yeah sure. I mean it’s difficult not to be selfish answering that. The goal isn’t being rich and famous. It’s for me to have fun with my friends.
Sean: It’s a way for me to have fun in a way I feel good about. I could also have a lot of fun getting up at 11 and day drink all day – and I do – but I feel bad about it too. But recording or playing live I have a lot of fun, and I don’t feel like a piece of shit.
Bobby: Two Inch Astronaut posted a thing recently where they said that it wasn’t like their music could save the world or anything, but they appreciated that people would listen to it. Or something like that, I can’t remember. I do it because I feel like it’s the one thing I’m good at.
Bobby really wants to explain how creating music can be perceived as selfish. He gets into this whole explanation about old indigenous communities and the “selfishness” of these communities trying to keep the outside world from ruining, what they’ve built. It’s a long monologue and the other guys chuckle every now and then, but they let him finish the story without interrupting because it makes sense. I feel it too. The community around this very special thing is close and not to be messed with. It’s supportive, mutually dependent and nourishing from within. For me – as an outsider – I feel glad to be able to get a sneak peak, and I like what I see.
The guys just released a split EP, and they’re mixing material for a new record. When I ask about the future Chris’s response is immediate: Everything. We’re just gonna keep making stuff.
I sure hope so.
Listen to Doubting Thomas Cruise Control below: