Interviews | Back to Issue 10

Interview by Brendan and Wade

the promise ring. the interview. take one

We join the interview a few minutes in, talking about baseball players from Milwaukee, the Promise Ring’s hometown. Talk about baseball, playing pickup basketball games and a few other questions were lost, as the beginning of the tape was mysteriously erased. By the way, this interview was done in July of ’99 right before “Very Emergency” came out, so it’s kind of dated (we’ve survived Y2K)…and conversational. Sorry. Interview by Brendan and Wade, outside the Grant St. Mighty Taco in Buffalo.

NIMBY: Being from Milwaukee, how do you feel about Robin Yount’s election… er, induction into the baseball hall of fame today? I think it’s awesome he spent his entire career with the Brewers.
Davey: Yeah, that’s like old-time baseball, man. When players play like 30 years for the same team, that’s awesome! Now you can’t get a player to play for more than like three.
Dan: The whole thing about Robin Yount is… one time I was at the game, and it was one of Rollie Fingers’ no-hitters. It was the bottom of the ninth and…
Davey: Rollie never started!
Dan: What’s that? Really? No! I thought…
Davey: The only brewer to ever throw a no-hitter was Teddy Higuera. Or Juan Nieves, I can’t remember.
Dan: Anyway, there was some important thing…
Davey: Oh, the game where Robin made that diving catch?!? It WAS Nieves.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, Juan Nieves, same shit. Anyway after the game they were interviewing Robin and asked him how he felt about the catch. And he was like “Oh, you know, I just did it for my teammate.” He’s a real team player. He didn’t say, you know “I’m so fucking awesome, that guy was nothing to me.” He tried extra hard to catch it so Nieves could have a no-hitter.
Davey: Yeah, I remember that! It was amazing. Two outs in the top of the ninth…and someone hit a total liner into the gap. And it was the first year Robin was in center field after he’d gotten too ‘old’ to play shortstop. There was no way he should have gotten to that ball; he totally laid himself out and made the catch. The team was pretty stoked.
NIMBY: Yeah, he was one of my favorites. Longevity and heart. So, which city is more happening on a Saturday night? Milwaukee, Madison or Urbana, Illinois?
Davey: On a Saturday night? I would say Madison during the summer.
Dan: WHAT?
Jason: In the summer, all the kids aren’t in school!
Davey: I think U of I has more parties than Madison does. But in the summer Madison doesn’t lose as much. But that’s just my opinion.
NIMBY: But they all beat Milwaukee, huh?
Davey: Milwaukee’s not really a party college town at all. But I’d rather be in Milwaukee on a Saturday night than either of those other two towns, but that’s just me…
(Tape gets garbled for like 2 minutes. Fuck.)
NIMBY: So you guys have been approached by some major labels before, I’m guessing. Is that something you’d ever consider? Jumping to one, I mean.
Davey: Nope. We’ve never been approached. It’s more a thing for the rumor-mill.
NIMBY: Honestly? Wow.
Jason: We considered it. Well, there was that one time that we managed to sign to like 9 major labels all at once. For millions and millions of dollars! So we were able to sign with them and then get out of it. And now we’re independently wealthy!
NIMBY: So they never offered you like a vice presidency like that guy from Limp Bizkit?!
Davey & Jason: WHAT?!?!
NIMBY: You didn’t hear about that? The singer from Limp Bizkit is supposedly like the vice president of Interscope records.
Davey: Where’d you hear that? C’mon.
NIMBY: My friends in Massachusetts and I were talking about it. We were complaining about the sorry-ass state of modern music…
Dan: Yeah, like a major corporation like that would let some knucklehead… do that…
Davey: “I can run a business, I’m 22!” I can see them explaining the contract to him now: “AND you get to be the Vice President!”
NIMBY: Well that’s a good lead in for our ‘why does modern pop music suck’ question.
Jason: It doesn’t! I don’t think it sucks!
NIMBY: Well, the bands that get on the radio, I mean…
Davey: Yeah, but they don’t all suck. I think to say that the state of modern pop music sucks is to imply that at some stage pop music was amazing.
Scott: There have always been shit bands…
Davey: It’s just like, because it wasn’t your era you don’t know about all the shitty bands that were there.
Jason: All the bands, all the ‘Creeds’ of back then have been forgotten about over time. Like twenty years before you were born you would never know.
Scott: It’s hard to say. All the ‘oldies’ that are hip to like now – in like 40 years these hip tunes are probably going to be like Matchbox 20, and people… well, I’m going to be like “This sucks!!!”
Jason: Yeah, lots of people are gonna be into old ballads, I think. Like Poison ballads will be good fare for people in the future!
Dan: I’d have to disagree, because you can’t say that a Who record or something like that would be looked upon as just as good as the Matchbox 20 record twenty years down the line. The Who was first – the Who paved the way for Matchbox 20, you know? It’d be a sad state of affairs nonetheless. I’d say ‘Oh my god, how awesome is that?’
Jason: But I don’t think the Who is really pop music though.
Dan: Yes they are; they were. They weren’t as pop THEN as Matchbox 20 is now. Even more so, they’ve probably sold more records.
NIMBY: But I mean if you compare Matchbox 20 to something like Foreigner. Pick like two loser bands. I dunno. Okay, that question fell apart. Sorry.
Dan: No, no. I just don’t see the purpose of… you can’t knock the classics. I mean they’re classic for a reason.
NIMBY: Yeah, Because they’re the first to do something, something new, something cool. And so they… sort of can be like a point of comparison, even if bands hate to be compared.
Davey: Yeah, well it just amounts to saying what will be and what won’t. Only point I really want to bring up is that it’s kind of really easy to rebel against what’s popular now, and not even think about whether it’s good. I personally don’t listen to the radio. But I don’t know if it’s because it’s good or bad; it’s just, I don’t.
Jason: I think in the era of the Who there were a whole bunch of popular bands that … that the genre sort of changed… the Who THEN probably wasn’t probably considered pop music. Yeah they sold lots of records, but pop music NOW is like a whole series of different bands.
Dan: Well we’re not just talking about music that makes it on the radio; it’s music that people LISTEN to. The Who made it on the radio. Matchbox 20 makes it on the radio. Whatever. I don’t know what you want to call it but…
NIMBY: So would you guys be psyched to hear something of yours picked up by mainstream radio?
Dan: Sure. If it happens it happens.
NIMBY: But it’s obviously not what you’re ultimately shooting for, right? I mean at least I don’t think if that’s the way things should be.
Davey: I think we look at it more as if we make it, great. But as long as we can keep making songs we like—that’s the ultimate goal. That is THE intention. To stay together, keep having fun, and keep making good songs. But it certainly makes it a lot easier when more people are reached with your songs. It doesn’t change what we’re doing if some radio station decides to play the song. But if they do, good for us. Because that means we’re dissin’ Matchbox 20 by taking up some of their air time, you know?!
NIMBY: More power!
Davey: Well, we think so; I don’t know if that’s true or not! Okay, what’s left?
NIMBY: Well, I guess this would be the ‘lyrics’ question.
Collective: Uh-oh!!!
NIMBY: I don’t know if this is anything you want to get into… but… where do you look for inspiration... and how do you approach writing lyrics? I’m guessing Davey writes them all…?
Davey: Yeah, I write all the lyrics. I don’t know. This new record was written a lot more on the fly than our other records. I used to have a huge book of lyrics – which I still do have – but now I like writing the lyrics as I/we write the songs. I start writing the melody as soon as I start writing the song, you know? And as soon as I start writing the melody, I try and think of words. So I start making stuff up. That’s pretty much how it works. Sometimes I’ll get to something and be like “that sucks” or “this just doesn’t work” then I’ll replace those. But if I can get a catch-phrase and work around that, then it’s good. I try to do it as much in the… well, as part of the ‘wheel’ of the song, more than I used to I guess. As the song is being written I like to write the lyrics. But of course this method is not foolproof, by any means. Oh, inspiration. Um, I don’t know where inspiration comes from. Your head. Which is constantly bombarded with messages. Blips. I mean everybody’s it, you know?
NIMBY: Cool. So, this is your first show in Buffalo, right?
Davey: Yeah. We’ve never played Upstate New York at all. Nowhere north of New York.
Dan: My first band played Syracuse once. It’s a nice town.
Davey: We’ve never played there because Jason always says we couldn’t. But seriously, I don’t know why we haven’t yet. It’s kind of a weird routing to come out this way.
NIMBY: Oh no it’s not!
Davey: Okay, that’s a bad excuse. I think upstate New York has fallen prey to Canada. That’s the way we usually have our tours planned out. Usually after Cleveland we do Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal. But I don’t know how much longer that’s gonna happen, I see there are people here that appreciate us coming!
NIMBY: Yeah well, neither of us will probably be here next year, but oh well… we might…
Davey: Well, if Doug Flutie shows up, that’ll help! He’s on the list, so somebody call him! His band could open up since the sixth band cancelled!
Jason: Cancelled! Who?
Davey: Angels in the Architecture, I think?
NIMBY: I don’t know. I think they may’ve broken up. Oh, another question: What are you guys doing for the Millennium? I heard that Pink Floyd is doing this thing in the desert in Egypt; there just going to set stuff up and play near the pyramids! Every band is doing something, you know?
Davey: Really?! We’re gonna open for Prince. Nah, I’m gonna be hiding out.
Jason: It’s definitely freaky. I think people are really underestimating it. I do.
Scott: Eh, I think people are overestimating things.
Davey: Those two opinions are why I think it will be really intense. I think if you’re out driving down the highway that night… you just can’t trust a single driver! It’s kind of crazy because you don’t know how other people are gonna react.
Jason: I’m going to be somewhere where there’s not a lot of people to bother me.
NIMBY: That works.
Davey: That I totally understand. But I think it’s going to be either pretty wild or pretty ‘nothing at all’. One of you will be right! I don’t know which.
Jason: Well, I don’t think things will be like the Apocalypse. But maybe things will be fucked up to a certain extent where it’s gonna be a major inconvenience. Some people will be hit a lot harder than others. There’s a lot of things to take into consideration. Like the whole bank scare, a lot of banks are saying that they’ve taken care of it – and if they have then that’s good, and if they haven’t then it’s bad – but you don’t really KNOW. But regardless, I think a whole shitload of people are gonna be terrified of it happening, so lots of people might pull their money out even if it’s safe to leave it there. And that is something that could cause total chaos! And there’s lots of cities that are more prepared for it than others. Like, I’m sure Minnesota is really prepared. There’s a lot of states that get their electricity and power from other states. I think Pennsylvania supplies a lot of electricity/power for a lot of states, and they are totally not prepared! So some states are gonna be fucked even if they are ready because they get power elsewhere. There are like so many things that can be affected by this scare, it’s unbelievable. Like small towns, if they can’t get food or if the power goes out somewhere there’s no way to converse. There’re just so many possibilities, it’s unbelievable.
Davey: Uh, yeah.
Jason: I’ve been reading up on it a lot. A lot of it’s scary, because it’s stuff we don’t know about firsthand. It’s all second hand. That’s why it’s scary to me.
Davey: The only thing I know first had is of a guy that works at an electric company, Wisconsin Electric. Wisconsin Electric runs Illinois because they don’t have their own, they borrow from us. So this guy I know says he’s 99 percent sure that nothing will happen, but if something DOES happen, we’ll be like 3 days without electricity!
Jason: And it’s something small like that could cause total chaos! I mean imagine a city the size of Chicago going without power for like 3 days. Like total looting, et cetera. I mean, remember when New York City had the ‘brownout’? It wasn’t even a blackout and people were going totally fucking crazy.
Davey: I’m sure they’d get Chicago’s [power] back up as soon as possible if something did happen, but then you know Southern Illinois could be out for like a week or something. Because they’re thought of as less important.
Jason: Also nuclear power plants: they were doing tests on them to simulate Y2K, and one of them DID totally fuck up! And the thing is, they knew what has to be fixed, and they fixed it, but the problem is, they can only test it every 6 months! So they can’t test it again before the end of the year. That’s fucking scary.
Dan: I have a cousin whose ex-wife who works for the Dept. of Agriculture and she’s on a task force of forty some people who are trying to get the Dept. up, and they said that at 100 percent efficiency with those people and their full-time plus overtime jobs doing everything they can do in their manpower, they can finish only 43 percent of what they need to do by the end of the year! And the task force has been going on since like ’97! So, I don’t know if that 67 percent’s going to mess up or not, but that is scary…
Jason: And there’s also the fact that all these other countries, like third-world countries who’ll get hit really hard. And everyone’s economy directly effects all the other economies. So even if the U.S. was totally prepared, if Japan goes totally under then that affects us in ways I don’t even know…
Dan: I still think that 99 percent of this stuff isn’t gonna happen, but that one percent chance, that’s what’s really fucking frightening.
Jason: Yeah, overreacting is going to be the big thing, I think. I agree. Nothing will probably happen. I listen to too much Art Bell, sorry…
NIMBY: Okay, that was… an involved answer…
Davey: Yeah, that went a little bit overboard… but Y2K is freaky. I was thinking I might just spend three days working, sleeping and writing songs in the studio for Y2K… that was one of my ideas. Write as many songs as possible and record them. Otherwise I’ll probably be hanging out in my house. If I have electricity…
NIMBY: One last thing I thought of is… well, you know Braid is breaking up in like a month…
Davey: Yeah, you gotta love their ‘plan’ to break up! At their high school break up… they were like “Yeah, I’m going to college, so let’s break up.” Now they’re playing like 4 more shows…

Tape ends, but you didn’t miss much. More talk of Braid and basketball, and we walk back to Showplace from the Grant Street Mighty Taco. They turn down a request to play Saturday, opting to do a lot more new ‘pop’ stuff. Good show.