Firstly, I would to thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview. I am an avid follower of the site. I admire that you give ‘the little guys’ aka independent artists and labels a fair shake because our media however well-intentioned, tends to skip over bands just because they’re not a household name yet. My name is Lauren. The only remarkable thing about me is just how unremarkable I am. I’m just your average dork, who happens to be a huge punk rock fan. I’m 25 years-old and live in a small, unincorporated town in central Florida called Port St. John, FL. It’s an hour from Orlando, where I attend shows. I have written for punk zines for six years. My older brother Jordan got me into punk rock when I was in junior high. He made me mix CDs for the bus ride to school and for our long trips to visit my Grandma in Gastonia, North Carolina. My cousin Randy used to skateboard and got my brother into punk rock. My first exposure to the genre was through mix CDs, Fat Wreck/Epitaph the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks and of course, the ever controversial band, Green Day. I have fond memories of playing as Bob Burnquist and grinding the helicopter blade in the hangar bay to Lagwagon’s ‘May 16.’ (That’s not an innuendo. Hi guys. *wink*) Now I just make mixtapes on Soundcloud and Spotify for kicks instead of burning CDRs.
I wasn’t born with a crass patched jacket and a rebel fist in the year. I’m just a polite, goody-two shoes middle-class suburban kid who happened to get into this counterculture. I have Cerebral Palsy and am wheelchair bond. My parents are the greatest and most supportive angels in the world. I have four cats and a dog and love them with all my heart. I spend most of my time by myself watching TV shows and blasting punk rock in my room. After many years writing for zines, such as DyingScene and For the Love of Punk, I’ve launched my own PR business called Mills on Wheels PR.
I’m pretty laid back and love people with a good sense of humor. I tend to be overly sensitive, but just like to be kind to others and make friends. I run on caffeine and hugs. Wow, this would make for the worst dating profile ever. I mean to say, “I have nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills.” And words, “I have the best words.”
What’s it like being from a small town in Florida? Are the Florida Man stories we hear in the media accurately portraying what you’ve experienced growing up there?
I have mixed feelings about Florida. My family moved here when I was 2. My Dad has worked for Lockheed Martin for twenty-something years. We moved from Sunnyvale, California to Florida for his work. For context, something you have to understand is, I don’t get out. I cannot drive, which limits my social interactions and perspective on my state. Aside from school, I have spent most of my life isolated in my room. So, I may have become jaded towards my state for personal reasons rather than an accurate view of what it’s really like here.
My parents taught my brother and me to be open-minded, caring people who question everything. Both my parents grew up in religious households and eventually drifted away from that. I am saddened by a lot of things go on in Florida. Some examples include the Casey Anthony trial, and George Zimmermann getting away with murder. It’s hard for me to think about Florida’s intense history of racial prejudge and police brutality. A lot of southerners talk about southern pride and will tell you that the confederate flag represents heritage, not hatred. This is in my opinion, total malarkey. The confederate flag and the south’s history is NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING to be proud of. People like to wax poetic about ‘the good old days,’ when things were simple and innocent. To me, what that translates to is ‘back when minorities were treated poorly, gays stayed in the closest and women in the kitchen.’ Don’t ever fall for that. That’s part of the reason America is in the mess it is in with that tangerine Caligula, Donald Trump. It honestly crushes my spirit and for my sanity these days, I have to not focus on it as much because it makes me cry.
Part of the reason I registered to vote, was to vote against these extreme right-wingers, namely that Lord Voldemort hatchling, Rick Scott. While the tea-party and conservatism is popular in the south, it’s important to note that southerners aren’t all conservative, religious nuts. I sure as hell ain’t. I’m as bleeding-heart as it gets. Also, not all rednecks are racist a-holes. Some rednecks just happen to like NASCAR, Country Music and mudding, but this doesn’t ALWAYS mean they’re how you think they are. You’d be surprised. I try my best to judge people as individuals and not as a group. I think in the digital age, it’s easy to talk smack or see the hate behind a computer, but if you go out and meet people one-on-one, you’ll realize there are a lot of good people in the world
My Mom grew up during the race riots in North Carolina when schools were first being integrated. It’s sad to think that some people still can’t get past skin color, sexual orientation etc. We’re all humans and bleed the same. I realize FL catches a lot of flak. Most of it is deserved, but my Mom reminds me that there are good and bad people everywhere. I’m a young, liberal atheist, in a blood red county and it’s not easy, but thankfully I have the internet to find like-minded people.
There are a lot of negatives about the south, but one positive thing I will say is that I truly love how close-knit and friendly people tend to be. I like that people invite each other over to dinner. I like the yes sirs and yes m’ams. I like that everyone is up in each other’s business and people take it slower. There is a charm to that which you won’t find anywhere else. I guess N.C. would be considered part of the Bible belt too, but give me that red dirt. Heck, even those old churches are beautiful. There’s a lot to be ashamed of here, but heck, we have Astronautalis, Rodney Mullen (AKA the greatest skateboarder on Earth) and Tom Petty. If I were ever the prideful type, I’d be proud to sure the same air with Andrew Bothwell, because he’s the man!
Who was the first punk band you started listening to and how did you hear them?
It’s hard to pinpoint my first punk band. If the punk elitists will consider Green Day punk, it was them. I’m going to assume most people will roll their eyes at that statement, so I’ll go with Lagwagon and The Suicide Machines. Through THPS, I discovered bands like Lagwagon, Bad Religion, The Suicide Machines, Authority Zero, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies, Swingin’ Utters etc. I would obsess over every artist on that soundtrack which led me to Fat Wreck and Epitaph. I remember getting those Punk-O-Rama and Rock Against Bush comps. Those were a goldmine for good jams. I think THPS was also first exposure to hip-hop music. I had WRONGLY thought as a young girl that all rap music was sexist and materialistic. I feel ashamed for believing that now. I was so wrong. Look at the amazing lyrics of Gang Starr, Public Enemy, KRS-ONE, Blackalicious, Run the Jewels etc. When you’re closed-minded and ignorant over music because of cultural differences, YOU are the one that misses out. Music is everything.
I’d also like to say that my favorite bands of all-time are Bracket, Sick of it All, The Gamits, Gob, Off With Their Heads, The Suicide Machines The Murderburgers and Bigwig. (IF ANYONE CARES.) Bracket have some of tightest harmonies in the whole world and Gamits have never gotten their due. It pisses me off. Go look up those bands and tell me I’m wrong. I won’t listen to you.
When and how did you start writing for DyingScene & For The Love Of Punk? Link me to your favourite article you’ve written on each site!
Oh jeez, this is a difficult one, girl! I’m going to sound like a politician for a second and veer away from the question if that’s okay. I’ve been lucky to interview a lot of wonderful people in my lifetime. Probably the best human I’ve ever met from the scene is Johnny Wilson, bassist of The Gamits, and founder of For The Love of Punk and FTLP Records. I started writing for him in 2015 (I think?), but we’ve been friends for a long time. I am constantly inspired by him, his work ethic and overall willingness to look out for others. Having him is like having an extra big brother. I got a Gamits tattoo because I love their band, but above all, it’s for him, so every time I look at it, it reminds me of how lucky I am to have them in my corner.
Secondly, I’d like to mention Jan Drees, singer of the band, The Shell Corporation. I never have confidence in myself but he always pushes me along and is around for me to confide in. Every time I think of these two guys, I tear up because I feel so happy to be their friend. I’d go to the end of the Earth for them.
Now to actually answer your question, I started working for DS in 2010. I became friends with the founder Dave Buck and he taught me how to write for a zine. He’s terrific. I was around at the beginning stages and I’m psyched to have had the privilege to write there.
As far as favorite articles, I love my interview with Lou. He’s one of the coolest people ever. I love my Interview with Chris of The Gamits. For FTLP I’ll go with my FEST post, Joe McMahon interview and my PUP interview.
Who is the coolest person you’ve ever interviewed?
Lou Koller of Sick of it All. That’s an easy one. I’m a socially awkward nerd, but he’s the sweetest dude. I can’t even begin to explain how rad that dude is. If you would have sent me to tell middle school Mills that one day I’d get to be pals with my favorite bands, it would blow my mind. It blows my mind now too. I guess it’s funny to me that the most uptight weirdo kid in high school who was never invited to a party nor had many friends now gets to hang out with all these cool people. I feel like life sort of evened out. Same thing with Todd of Propagandhi. How does a dork like me deserve to know such sweet people? I don’t.
Best punk rock related memory?
My favorite punk rock memory is getting to go to FEST last year for the first time ever. Growing up a Florida kid, it killed me not to be able to ever go. It wasn’t possible due to money. I would have to pay for a hotel room for my parents and me since I can’t dress and take care of me. It’s not really possible to go on my own. My friends started a surprise GoFundMe for it. I had so many mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I hated accepting the money. I felt like I accepted something I didn’t deserve. I don’t do zines and whatnot for anything other than to help people and bands I love. On the other hand, it was the best experience I could ever dream of. It’s one thing to write to people from in front of a computer be friends through electronic communication, but it’s a whole different beast to meet people face to face for the first time. That’s wonderful! Cruising around with Jared from Sic Waiting, Jan from Shell Corporation was just amazing. It was great to feel like I belonged and loved by so many. I couldn’t go three feet without being accosted by loving people shouting my name. It was the best thing ever to feel that family atmosphere.
What’s it like for you to live with Cerebral Palsy?
To be honest, it sucks. I often see disabled people propped up to be the feel good story of the night. People like to feel good when others overcome adversity and champion them when they’re at the top, but they often will turn a blind eye to them when they’re at the bottom, need help etc. The gritty struggle of being disabled is rarely discussed or even represented in the media. It is possible this is because these struggles make others feel uncomfortable or sad, but to fully appreciate someone, you have to consider what they’ve been through. It sucks not to be able to take care for myself as an adult; it sucks to be isolated etc. You’ll never hear me say crap like “It’s a blessing in disguise,” because that’s garbage to me. Maybe that makes me sound bitter, but oh well.
One upside of being disabled is the ability to see life through a different lens. When you struggle so hard just to exist, leave the house and participate in normal activities, it really makes you sensitive to the plight of others. I’d never compare my struggles to others, but because of my position in life, I’ve felt like an underdog. That’s why I’m more empathetic to the needs of others. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging or being arrogant, but once you’ve swallowed life’s bitter pill, you start to see the struggles of others; whether it is people with mental disorders, behavioral issues, gay people, transgender folks etc. I like rooting for the underdog. That’s why I get pissed off that politicians have made being human something to be marginalized through denying rights to gay people, trans etc. How dare someone dictate to others how to be? The law and government should be there to help its citizens, not oppress them. Stay out of the bedroom and bathroom of others. I didn’t choose to have Cerebral Palsy, a learning disability or suffer from depression. It is simply a part of who I am. People don’t choose what they’re born with. They ought to be given basic respect and human decency.
I wonder if it weren’t for being born a freak, would I have been drawn to punk? I mean freak in an endearing way. If it weren’t for my CP, I’d just be another National Honor Society kid and would probably be into some lame ass mainstream band like Seether or something. Haha.
What’s the biggest misconception you’ve heard about the disorder?
If we’re talking about CP, I think the biggest misconception about people with CP is that we are mentally disabled. Sure, there are people who have CP and intellectual deficits, but the two don’t always go hand in hand. I use a wheelchair and whatnot, but I don’t have a lower intellectual capacity than your average person. Sometimes strangers will come up to me and assume I’m mentally disabled and talk to me like I’m a kindergartener. It puts me in odd spot because I either have to stand up for myself and hurt their feelings for making assumptions or sit there and be patronized. I guess the right thing would be to correct them, but I don’t like confrontation. I’m not your poster girl and I am not here to educate ignorant people. I guess I should, but it’s taxing. I’ve got more rewarding things to do than talk to every assclown that enters my life. I’m not the idiot whisper. Fuck off.
I don’t really think about my CP too much to be honest. Once you go down the ‘what if’ rabbit hole, it gets dark. You get what you get in life.
Another thing to consider is that disabled folks want everything able-bodied people want. If you don’t know something, it’s better to ask than assume. A lot of people assume that disabled people can’t or don’t want romantic relationships. I cracked up one time when someone blurted out to me, “Do disabled people have sex?” I guess I can see why people would wonder, but it’s like, “Well duh, we’re human beings with the same needs and desires.” I get that it’s a weird topic, but the bottom line is that we have the same basic needs in life. We want basic things, but have to find different ways to accomplish them.
The strange reality is you’d think the CP would be my biggest thing, but it’s not. I find depression weighs heavier on me than my disability. I suppose maybe it wouldn’t exist without my CP, but that could end up being a chicken or the egg discussion. My disability is something you can see. Its consequences are visible with the naked eye. It can be explained away through science and a textbook. Depression is a more abstract, obtuse concept. There isn’t always a point A and a point B. Of course there are books and research on these topics as well, but it’s not as concreate and easily understood.
This is WAY off topic, but one way I am able to cope with depression is through television. We are at the height of television genius in my opinion. Mr. Robot presents depression in an extraordinarily compelling, realistic light. They get it right. The main character suffers from other disorders as well, but when I saw the scene where he talks about lowliness in the first episode, I was so happy. I felt like finally someone depicted the struggle in an accurate way. In fact, because of my connection with it, I wrote to their FB. I got a reply from the show’s creator Sam Esmail and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It meant the world to me that he gave a crap.
That show and House MD. I like how House’s disability is portrayed. With him, it’s not so much the physical aspect of being disabled that impacts him. It’s about the emotional struggle and chronic pain. That’s what they got correct and I really appreciate its emotional depth maturity and dense subject matter.
Your dad takes you to all the punk shows, but is he a fan of the music himself?
My Dad is the most bad ass person you’ll ever meet. He suffers from Ankylosing spondylitis, which is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of the axial skeleton. It’s basically an extreme form of arthritis. His neck is fused so he’s hunched over and is neck and head is immobile. He has swollen joints, is in chronic pain and has trouble walking. Despite all this, he conquers every day with a smile and sense of humor. He’s so positive. It’s a true inspiration to me. At times, he pisses me off because he handles things like a pro. I look at him and the things he’s been through and wonder why I can’t handle my issues as heroically. Lol. Last December, he fall and broke his back and neck. The meds he takes for his Ankylosing spondylitis makes his bones brittle, which is why his bones broke easily when he fell. It was a hellish experience for him. I hated seeing my best friend and hero hurt. He’s healed now, but I don’t think he’ll be able to take me to shows anymore.
He likes some of my favorite bands, but he’s more of a classic rock guy. He digs AC/DC, The Eagles, CCR, Metallica, Pink Floyd etc. He mostly likes that punk makes me happy. He likes the social aspect. Musically he likes some of the bands. We saw Billy Talent. He loves them, Bad Religion, Rise Against etc. He loves Sick of it All, which is HILARIOUS to me. I’m not sure he can understand everything Lou is yelling about, but he loves him and the band.
Tell me about your new PR company!
It started because of Joe from Smoke or Fire. I interviewed him in November and we become fast friends. I met him and was nervous, but he’s so chill and it felt like chatting with an old friend. He told me I should rep his upcoming solo record. At first, I was apprehensive, but I eventually jumped on board. I will be representing his new solo album, which is due out later this year. I’m excited for everyone to hear it. It’s a solo record with a full band playing and it’s beautiful. Joe is one of kind. He can make anyone comfortable in their own skin. It’s lively and wears his heart on sleeve. I think that really comes across in the music that he makes. I’m also doing PR work for Dragged In, from Toronto. It’s the new band featuring Patty from Brutal Youth. Dragged In, I’d say are a more traditional hardcore band. I like that style of music because a token Straight Edge kid, I’m very fond of Youth Crew style hardcore. Dragged In released their debut EP “EP” early this year. They already have EP2 in the bag, but it’s due out later this year. Speaking of Brutal Youth, I’m doing the PR campaign for their upcoming LP on Stomp Records.
There’s Moonraker from California. Their upcoming record is going to blow you away. It’s hard to describe. It’s definitely got a 90’s skate punk feel, but it’s so much more than that. I almost hate using that term because they’re not a cookie cutter bad. They’re fiery band with sassy self-deprecating lyrics and a ton of heart. The first time I heard them, it reminded of the best parts of Jughead’s Revenge.
I’ve got Four Lights from Seattle Washington. They’re great. Punk rock with power-pop and indie rock sensibilities. They’re so fun and their debut record is due out later this year. Four Lights is the new band featuring Dan Gardner, ex-guitarist from the Red Scare Industries band, Success.
I’ve teamed up with Brooklyn punks, Sketchy. They’re a great band full of great people. They’re working on a new LP right now, but you can check out their previous record HERE.
Mansbridge from Montreal! They’re so freaking amazing. They have a self-titled EP out and are working on their debut LP as we speak. I’ve heard the demos and it’s going to be so tight! Brad and Jody are socially conscious people with unique perspectives and playing styles. That’s what makes them special Aside from making rad music; I absolutely love their guitarist Brad. I talked to him on the phone the other day and he’s the real deal; a great soul with a bright future. Talking to him made my whole year to be honest, so I’m stoked to work with them. This listing off bands I’m working with thing will probably bore everyone to tears.
The goal with my website and company is to treat everyone fairly. That’s the most important aspect to me. Money is a necessity in life to survive, but it’s not everything. I care about people first and foremost. I know from having musician friends for most of my life that they work their tails off. Most of the time they work is for little or no reward. None of these bands are selling out arenas like Lady Gaga. No disrespect to her. She’s got a wonderful voice and lots of talent. Plus, anyone who annoys puritan Americans is on my team. What I’m saying here is I just want to help musicians get the audience they deserve. Their jobs are thankless enough. Some don’t have the time or knowledge to efficiently promote their music. I’m basically a rolling billboard for the bands I love anyway. Plus, I work on the media side of things, so that gives me an upper hand by knowing what media outlets need from bands to coordinate coverage.
I know I’m ranting. I’m sorry. With my site, I want things to be personal and welcoming to everyone. On the internet, things are so negative and based on stats and clickbait. I like recognition and atta boys as much as the next person, but I feel like music journalism has gotten out of hand. There are certain sites that thrive off our worst instincts. It bums me out when I see a website write trollish articles that read like something written on the walls of a junior high bathroom. The way outlets cover substance abuse, mental health issues and just personal issues is ridiculous. People kick others when their down to feel superior in order to get traffic. Regardless of what you think of their music, look what happened to the singer of Sum 41 and Creed. Everyone just slammed those guys and made them into cartoons. Regardless if you like them or not, alcoholism and mental health issues should be handled with care, compassion and understanding. Regardless of who is dealing with those issues, they should be handled with kindness.
I see sites all the time that claim to be progressive and punk rock, but will feature punk album premieres in between directly sexist or lowbrow content. What I want to do is move to a more positive, empowering light. Not in a cheesy, self-help way, but in an honest way. Punk rock helps me through my plethora of issues. I want a site where people can express whatever is on their mind in a constructive manner. Punk rock tends to be nihilistic and self-destructive. I understand where it comes from as a group of outsiders, but it’s more than that!
You can ask and get a list of 10 things punk hate right off the bat, but can you name 10 things they love? I’m guessing you can’t. I want to see what punks like outside of their music. I know Joe is into cooking, Jan is a pilot. Todd from Prop is into art, my pal Guli is into hockey.
Normally when punks like something, they turn that passion up to 11. I want to see the fire within them. Something good! That’s what inspires me about punk and I want to give it to others. We spend so much time bickering and trying to out punk each other, none of that matters. I want us all to be a closer, happier community. It sounds idealistic, but if I can make this scene happier, that’s my goal. There is an abridged saying that’s often contributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it’s actually from Bessie Anderson Stanley. It goes, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” This is my life’s mission. The original poem is worded differently, but only a geek would freak out about it. Johnny is going to have my website up soon. There you will be able to find more information about me, but for now read my mission statement here.