It was November 1998, and I found myself in the Van Meter basement at UMass. The CMJ Music Festival was that weekend in New York, and every band you could imagine was playing the east coast, all within one week of each other. I had managed to get a ride to Boston Tuesday night to see The Promise Ring and Jets To Brazil, and again Wednesday for Sunny Day Real Estate. Luckily, this night Jejune had come to me. Piebald and the (Young) Pioneers never showed, but Jejune put on a great show to make up for it. I hunted down Araby at the merchandise table, and she rounded up the whole band in the kitchen for this interview.
NIMBY: Could you just say who you are and what you play so I can tell who's who on the tape later?
Joe: I'm Joe, I play guitar.
Araby: I'm Araby, I play bass.
Chris: I'm Chris, I play drums.
NIMBY: So are you guys on this side of the country because of CMJ right now?
NIMBY: So did you play CMJ already?
Araby: No, our show's tomorrow, there's a big showcase at Brownie's tomorrow afternoon, and we based a short tour around the fact that we got the show.
NIMBY: I think just about everybody else has too.
Araby: Yeah, yeah... we weren't gonna do it, but it just kinda came up all last minute, and we got the show, so... We just came back from a really long tour, but we just decided, all right, let's go ahead and do it [the short tour].
NIMBY: So, you guys are from San Diego... do you have anything to say about San Diego?
Joe: Sorry, I wasn't listening.
Araby: Sunny and 70!
Chris: Well, Joe is actually the only native San Diegan, I'm from [somewhere else] California [Note: I think that's what he said, there's a lot of background noise on the tape.] She's from the tropical island of Hawaii. [points to Araby] Yeah, she's a Hawaii girl. She's climbs trees like a monkey to get the coconuts. If she see something shiny in a tree [?] she really has to suppress the urge to climb it.
Araby: Yeah, It's really hard for me to not climb things.
Joe: We sometimes roast pigs in the ground before our shows.
Araby: Just to make me more comfortable.
Chris. Yeah. But San Diego's great, though. Sunny, beautiful.
NIMBY: The music scene...
Chris: I think it's great.
Joe: It's underrated.
Chris: Yeah, right now especially.
Joe: Well, you know RATT's from San Diego.
Chris: Yeah, like he says, RATT's from there... no, there's a lot of good bands. Triztessa, No Knife...
Chris: Yeah, Boilermaker.
Araby: Boilermaker, the Interstate 10...
NIMBY: So how did you guys get signed to Big Wheel Recreation, how did you start putting out records with them?
Chris: I was friends with Rothman, Matt Rothman [?], the the owner of the label. I think it might have bee the same night I met him that I played him a tape of the band. We had just recently finished recording some stuff. We had only been together for how long, like a couple months? We recorded something and I played it for Rothman, and he was like, "Whoa. I think kids are really gonna like this." I think that's almost exactly what he said. He set up a show for us, I was hanging out with him a week later he came up and said, "Have you guys ever heard of the Promise Ring?" and I was like "Yeah, they're great" and he was like "How about playing with the Promise Ring and Garden Variety for your first show?" and we were like "Oh! Yeah, sure!"
Araby: No, actually I think it would really suck. [obvious sarcasm]
Chris: So he set it up and the show went really well. At first he was a little skeptical of signing us to the label--well, not signing us, deciding whether he was going to put anything by us out on the label--because we were deciding whether we were going to move to California or not, and he didn't want to have a band on his label that first off, was not in Boston or not even on the east coast, and second off, that would be taking some time off to relocate and start over again. So he didn't really have faith in us at that point.
Araby: Now he does.
Chris: Yeah now, he has faith in us. He saw how well the shows went after that and that's all it took to convince him. It's been a really happy relationship ever since then.
Joe: Well, there was that problem with me seeing his cat...
Chris: Yeah, there was this little problem with Joe dating Rothman's cat.
Araby: It had a little thing...
Chris: It ended on amicable terms, though.
NIMBY: That's always the best way. So you were in Boston when you started?
Joe: We were all going to the Berkeley College of Music.
Chris: Yeah, all three of us. She's the only graduate, though. [Points to Araby]
Araby: One music school nerd and two music school dropouts. [Singing] Music school dropouts...
NIMBY: So that kind of leads in to my question about your musical inspirations.
Joe: Bachman Turner Overdrive.
Chris: Uh, yeah.
Chris: Actually I think I'm inspired any time I see anyone play at any live shows. Just the fact that people are out there doing it and having a good time totally inspires me. And of course seeing a really great band is always like, "THAT'S what I wanna be doing!"
Araby: Yeah, I'm more inspired by people's shows and people's presence and people's ideals and how the band functions as a unit rather than their music. The energy of it rather than the actual sound inspires me or influences me. I'm more influenced by a band by thinking, "Wow, I would like to be as tight as that band is," or, "I would like to play to the same kind of people that band plays for," or, "I'd like to get on shows like that band..."
Chris: Play for that many people...
Araby: Yeah, more so than, "I wanna sound like that."
NIMBY: Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics? Who writes the lyrics?
Chris: [points at Araby and Joe]
Araby: We do. [awkward pause]
NIMBY: I know it's kind of a tough question...
Joe: No, we've gotten this question before. The basic idea is... the human condition... self-analyzation...
Araby: I actually look through my shelf of books and look at the titles. I randomly look at my huge shelf of book and I open my eyes and find a title and go from there.
NIMBY: Cool. Cuz I'd just like to say that I think you guys write great lyrics.
Joe: That's good to hear.
Chris: That's something that I think about a lot, even though I'm the drummer and I don't write the lyrics. It really gives me the chance to look at them more objectively. But I think it's important because I don't think any one part of writing music is easy and lyrics are especially hard because they're so personal. So what you might be writing, you might think is great, but it might not translate to anyone else. So it's hard to write something that's a little esoteric but still translates to other people, that someone can really appreciate.
NIMBY: Last time I saw you guys was when you played the Punk Rock Prom in Worcester. Have you guys done a lot of stuff like that?
Araby: That was our second punk rock prom, actually. Our second show ever... second or third? Third show ever...
Joe: Third show ever.
Araby: ...that whole thing we were doing with The Promise Ring and Garden Variety. We went along with the Promise Ring for like three or four more shows on that tour. We played a show in Columbus, Ohio that was also a punk prom so that's where we got the idea from.
[someone informs the band that there is a largeish crows at their unmanned merch table.]
NIMBY: I'll try to wrap up.
Araby: It's OK. They can wait. (Laughs.)
Chris: I hope no one's stealing our stuff...
NIMBY: Well, you've already talked about some bands from San Deigo... are there any other cool bands that you've played with around the country, that you want to give lip service to?
Joe: Some bands we've played with I think are really cool are Antarctica [?], All Natural Lemon Lime Flavors...
Araby: Did we play with them?
Joe: Yeah, we played at a show with them in New York. Triztessa...
Chris: Yeah, Triztessa...
Joe: There's a lot of cool bands we've played with. I don't think we've ever played a show with all bands that I totally hated.
Araby: Just moderately so...
Chris: There's this band called the Killingtons, they're from... Huntington Beach? They're really cool, we played with them a while ago. I haven't seen anything since about them, but they recorded a CD, I think they were looking for a label to put it out.
Araby: We played with a cool band in Milwaukee called Camden, they were kind of on the right track. It was like their third show ever or something...
Chris: What was that band we played with, it was like three guys.... Shielbound?
Chris: They're really good too. They have a lot of energy.
Wade: Well my last question was, umm... Y'know how every interview has to have one question that has absolutely nothing to do with nothing? Well, my last question is what's your favorite quote from the movie "Heathers"?
Joe: We already had one that was going to be on our record...
Chris: Yeah, it's so funny that you asked that, because it got cut off in the mastering.
Joe: "That's why I gotta blow up the school, because nobody loved me."
Chris: (in Christian Slater voice) "That's why I gotta blow up the school, because nobody loved me."
Araby: I think that'd be it.
NIMBY: Well there's a couple good ones...
Chris: Yeah. "What's your damage?" But that one's the best. That was before... which track was it? "Sitcom Epiphany." It got cut off in the mastering, but it was gonna be on the album.
Joe: It's funny that you would ask that.
Araby: So it's not completely unrelated.