My buddy Curtis (you may have heard of his band School Damage) and I sat down with Brian from Night Birds after their wicked set at Not Dead Yet.
We shot some shit.
Check it out.
Sarah: When you hear that somebody from Fat Wreck Chords likes your band, is that one of those monumental moments where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard that? Like when you heard about 9/11 or that Michael Jackson died, but like, better?
Brian: I do remember it! But probably because it wasn't that super long ago! I thought the coolest thing about it was that, like, I didn't know at that point how many people worked at the label or any of the ins and outs to it, I just thought it was cool that a label of that stature had their ear to the ground enough to know about a band like us, and it ended up being Chad who is like the day to day manager at the label and he likes puunk stuff, like he likes the band No Problem from Canada, he likes current hardcore punk bands that are cut from the same shit that I consider us from you know? So yeah they ended up putting out that single and then we played Punk Rock Bowling and Mike came up to me, I was up there writing a set list, I was the only person in the room, and he came in, walked straight over and was like 'why didn't we put out your last album'! And I was like well you didn't ask, nobody asked! And also we had been working with Grave Mistake Records and we were working hand in hand with the label and they - Alex - was super supportive about wanting to help us and wanting to give us whatever we wanted.. he busted his ass on the first album and it just felt like the right thing to do. I don't think it would have made sense to put out Born To Die In Suburbia on Fat, the trajectory we took is exactly how it had to be.
S: You guys are good friends with Alex of Grave Mistake Records now too aren't you?
B: Oh yeah, great friends! He went to Europe with us, let's us stay at his place, puts shows on for us.. he totally goes out of his way for us and we appreciate it. We're not living off of this so we're the kind of band where if somebody is going to do that sort of stuff for us then we're going to step up to the plate and we're going to be friends and that's just how it's going to be.
B: Exactly, and Mike said that too, he said he could really appreciate the loyalty. he was like 'I think that's really cool, but for the next record...'
S: When he said that he wanted to do the next record was there anything holding you guys back? Did you consider sticking with Alex again or were you all like 'fuck yes let's do it'?
B: You know, I think doing a third album with the same label - like he would have done a great job with it but I think in order to reach a new audience you need to do something like that. And yeah it was definitely the best offer on the table and everybody there is super rad. I think we come from a different place than most of the other bands on the label do so I think it could potentially be a bit isolating if we let it be, but we don't care, we're still going to play Not Dead Yet and we're still going to play Fest, and we're going to go on tour with Dillinger Four and we're going to go on tour with No Problem, we're going to do whatever the fuck we want and whoever likes us likes us and whoever doesn't, doesn't. If people who used to like our early 7"s think it's lame that we signed to Fat, fuck them! And if anybody on Fat thinks we're too hardcore for the label, fuck them! We don't care. It's working out well for us, way more people know our band's name than I ever thought would in the first place so I'm very grateful for the people who like it, and the people who get it get it, they get where we're coming from. We're not going to change just because we're on Fat, I think the new record is our most aggressive record that we've made, we were like, fuck it, we're going to stick it to anybody who thinks we're going to change just because we're signed to a label. And Fat lets us be as in control as we want, like they're so cool, I can't say enough good things about them, they've been super cool to work with.
S: Nothing else on the business side of things has changed since you signed either right, like you're still your own booking agent and shit?:
B: Yep. It's weird because at this point we'll still do stuff like this like the Not Dead Yet festival, and then we'll do like the Fat anniversary show, we're so all over the place.. and then we'll play like a basement show with a band from Europe where we want to give them all the money and then we'll get offered to do some cool shit and get decent money for it, it's so all over the place, #1.
#2 we don't tour enough that it's really necessary. Like, if we want to go out we know where we want to go, we know who we want to go with, there are some offers on the table from bands we'd love to go out with, so it just doesn't really make sense. And I just don't think there's the perfect match out there for us right now, if there was that'd be cool - it'd take a lot off my plate. When we got an agent the first time it was because I have a 2 year old daughter and this kind of stuff is time consuming, it takes time away from real life shit that I need to be doing, but at the end of the day I'm too much of a control freak and I think we're just too weird of a band right now..
S: You have a fear of flying right?
B: Yeah, I don't like it.
S: Does that affect shit when you're booking your shows, do you avoid confirming shows in places you have to fly to?
B: Nah, I used to say that I would never do like Japan or Australia, but now I'm just like 'fuck it', I'm going to die anyway so I might as well just get over it and do it, I don't want to look back thinking I could have done this stuff but I didn't because I was afraid to fly.
S: What do you do to prepare yourself for getting on that plane?
B: Take drugs. I take Xanax, but I mean, I take Xanax in the van. Xanax works for me, I know some people don't find it helps them but it works well for me, thumbs up.
Curtis: So I haven't heard the new album yet, I'm still waiting on mine, but I know you guys took some inspiration from horror movies in the past - now that you have a kid are you finding more inspiration in real life and how fucking scary that is?
B: Yeah, in the new record we do, and... I don't know. I don't even know how many more Night Birds songs need to exist in this world, like, a third album? Ya got enough, you know?
C: I love it though man, I love the horror aesthetic..
B: Yeah, me too, thank you.
C: Yeah man, when I heard Midnight Movies I was just blown away - and Born To Die In Suburbia is great..
B: The new one is way better though. Mutiny at Muscle Beach is way better than Born To Die.. I like that album but in retrospect there's a lot that I don't like about it. The new one I still like, it's been about 6 months and I still like it. Normally at this point I'm like 'ugh, it's rubbish"!
S: I caught one Seinfeld reference in the new album, is there more than just that one?
B: Yeah there's actually 3! But that includes artwork..
S: Oh sweet! Yeah going in I was wondering if you were going to keep that alive.
B: Yeah that's kinda something we always want to keep going... I think we had something, no we must have had something in Born To Die but I can't think of it now... we probably did. We always make it a point, it's a stupid little thing that we go out of our way to do just for our own personal amusement.
C: What's with the intro on Born To Die in Suburbia, Escape From LA?
B: Escape From New York.. Escape From LA / Escape From New York - same thing! I think by the time they got to LA it was a little bit more cheesy'd out. But yeah, when we do a cover we try to just make it our own, You know, like, Cro-Mags came out with the Clockwork Orange theme and we were just trying to think of something that'd be kinda cool, and that's just a really cool like, it gets your heart going, and we thought why don't we surf it up a little bit.. I like that song a lot. That's one of my favourite things that we do on Born To Die In Suburbia.. one of like, 4 songs I think holds up.
S: Do you feel pressured to play the songs that you're not really into anymore from that album?
B: You know, it's cool, we don't feel pressured to do anything! This isn't our job, it's for fun, and when we're done doing it we're going to stop.. we're not going to ever release something that we don't back.. and that's kinda the thing, bands don't know when to pull the plug, and you know it's tough - especially when you do it professionally - but you have to be able to step back and say is this good, is this something we want to put our name on. I don't know, I'm proud of my band, we've put a lot of work into it and I wouldn't put anything out there if I didn't 100% back, so I don't know if we'll ever do another full length.. it's a lot of work, and making it so you're actually proud of it and you actually want to put it out into the world is extremely difficult you know, and especially at this point with babies and houses and shit.. it's still super fun but that part of it can get super stressful. The way that we do it, I mean, we put a lot of time into it so I don't know, we might pull the ol' Paint It Black route and just start doing singles from now on! I don't know, we'll see.
C: Has Mick Foley ever come out to see a show?
B: No he hasn't been out to see a show! He did message us on twitter though, which is a really bizarre way to get in touch with anyone. We actually have a weird tie-in, my wife's brother is the Vice President of the largest wrestling toy distributor in the East Coast, and they make a lot of exclusive stuff so like, Mick Foley will come in and they'll work with him on it.. his daughter actually works there. Like, my brother-in-law is Mick Foley's daughters boss! So yeah we have a weird tie-in, my brother in law brought in a copy of "Maimed For The Masses" and had Mick sign it for me, and like a few people I know have posted on instagram them taking Mick the 7" and getting him to sign it and shit like that so then he messaged us on twitter saying he really appreciated the song and it was really flattering.
S: Do people ever bring you guys gifts - like last time Iron Chic were in Toronto somebody brought them a little Iron Sheik figurine - since you guys have so many references to shit I was wondering if you fans ever brought you stuff like that?
B: Iron Chic had that on their merch table in Philly! No, not really, we have a lot of conversations with fans about horror movies and Seinfeld and shit.. People have brought me shit before though - I was just telling Damian from Fucked Up earlier that we played a show in Connecticut and some guy knew I was really into hardcore and he brought me a Cro-Mags demo and a Euroboys demo like 'here you go, thought you might like these'!
S: Does it feel weird when people know so much about you?
B: Well, I mean, no I guess not, he was like an older dude who had like a cool record collection and thought that I'd appreciate those, I think he read in an interview somewhere that I'm a big record collector or something like that, so I don't know, I guess he liked our band enough that he wanted to go out of his way, I appreciate that a lot. I thought it was super super cool. I think if you get something and you're kind of a dick about it then it sucks. He went out of his way and wanted to give me something so I thought it was super sweet.
S: Yeah like some thought went into that..
B: Yeah, he was at home and thought 'oh the dude from Night Birds would be into these, I'll bring them for him', he could have just kept them to himself, I thought it was insanely nice, I was so thankful.
S: So we wanted to talk about horror movies of course, have you seen any rad new ones lately?:
B: I haven't seen a new movie in a long time period, I have a 2 year old so getting out to go to the movies unfortunately is a thing I don't really get to do anymore. Like Charlie Brown's Halloween is definitely the last movie I watched.
S: You haven't taken your kid to see the new Goosebumps movie yet!?
B: No but oh my god we did watch a Goosebumps episode the other day, the Night of the Living Dummy, and my daughter's opinion of it was totally backwards, like whenever the dummy would do something creepy she'd be like 'oh yay' and I was like no the dummy is the bad guy! She loved the dummy. It was really funny.
S: Is she dressing up for Hallowe'en?
B: She is! You know what sucks, this is the last year that Fest lands on Hallowe'en weekend so I'll be away for her 2nd Hallowe'en, but starting next year Fest will no longer land on that weekend so I'll finally be around for some trick or treat'ing. But yeah, she's going to be a cat that got eaten by a shark.
S: That's fucking hilarious!
B: Yeah! Anyway, movies, I like Call Girl of Cthulhu - that's pretty new. The guy who did the "Mutiny at Muscle Beach" video made a film called Call Girl of Cthulhu a couple years ago and our song "New Cults" is like the opening credits song, and that's how it came to be. He asked us about using that song and said in exchange he'd do a music video so we were like 'yeah sure', but we didn't realize that he was like a legit rad film maker, so then he sent us screeners of his new movie and we were like holy shit we need to take this guy up on his offer. It's really cool, his name is Chris LaMartina, he's done a lot of things but I really like Call Girl of Cthulhu.
C: I love the new video he did, it's great!
B: Oh thanks man. The concept was all us, and we gave it to Chris and he put it all together. It's crazy, like this isn't a pat on my back, it isn't a brag or anything, this is what I do for fun. Like, designing t-shirts and buttons and stickers and our album artwork and like, our flyers, that's all us because that's part of the fun for me. I think it's weird when bands have people to do that for them. Like, sometimes somebody else will do a t-shirt for us or something but most of the time it's me saying this is what I want, can you do it and we'll get somebody cool to do it, like Chris Shary who does a lot of the Descendents artwork just did a new shirt for us but it was my idea of like a Bones Brigade rip-off with Jack Torrance from The Shining. You know the part where Jack pops his head through the door, and there's the part where the Ripper is ripping through the Bones Brigade thing, so yeah it's Jack Torrance and the skeleton like sticking his face out - it's a perfect combination.
C: I need one of those shirts!
B: We'll have them for Fest! But yeah I don't know that stuff is all part of the fun for me, when a band is like 'hey, do the layout on our record' I'm like I need to have full control you know? The ideas for all of our album covers - not that they're like, fucking all that clever or whatever, but they're all our unclever ideas.
C: Did you do the Midnight Movies cover yourself?
B: No but that was our idea too, the guy who did that - Mike Diana - you should look him up, just google him - he's this American artist to get arrested and convicted on three different charges.. he used to do these really like obscene looking comics in the 80's and there was a murder in Miami Florida and a bunch of his comic books were found at the scene so he got arrested for creating, distributing and for something else, of like lewd artwork and he like did a little bit of time and then when he got out he wasn't allowed to have any artist materials in his apartment, and cops were allowed to do random searches so they'd come in at 3:00 in the morning and if they found chalk or a marker it'd get taken away from him. Look him up! It's insane. He was the first American artist to get really fucked with and he's still kicking around and he became friends - him and Frank Henenlotter who did Basket Case and all those movies - they became friends with our first guitar player Mike Hunchback and then we became friends with Mike Diana and Frank Henenlotter and that's how all that came about. The cover of Midnight Movies is like my favourite cover art that we've ever done, and it was a combination of the dude that did it is who we wanted to do it and that's why we wanted him to do it and then the fucking back cover is us with Belial from Basket Case because we went to Frank Henenlotter's apartment and we fucking took the original Basket Case and went up on his roof in New York City and took pictures.. there's a picture of me and my wife kissing over Belial.
C: Out of all the members would you say you're the biggest horror fan or is everyone collectively into this sort of stuff?
B: It's pretty equal, we're all into it. I'm the only dude who isn't into wrestling. Those dudes are big time wrestling fans. I don't dislike it I'm just not familiar with it. I haven't watched it since like the early 80's.
And this is the part where I (S) go into great detail about the movie Wolfcop, which I won't bore you with here because it's already a pretty long read but check out this trailer. And thanks to Shawn from Plan 37 for recommending it to me.
Huge thanks to Brian, Curtis, and Melanie for hooking up the interview!