NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

Recently, Andrew Jackson Jihad played the Owl Sanctuary and it was brilliant. After the show, Ned and myself got talking to Sean Bonnette and gave him a copy of issue 6, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview with us. A few days later, I emailed the SideOne Dummy press agent and organised an interview. Ned and I thought up some questions for Sean and I sent them off. Here is the product. The image was taken from AJJ’s facebook.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m a huge fan, and that your gig at the Owl Sanctuary was awesome. What would you say is the difference between playing a small, intimate venue like that, compared to a larger venue?

Hey! Thanks! On a technical level I would say that sound is a big difference. In smaller clubs it’s a challenge to be dynamic, to go from a whisper to a cacophony. Banter is funner and easier in smaller rooms. I enjoy both experiences.

How did Andrew Jackson Jihad start?

Ben and I worked together at a coffee shop around the time he got an upright bass from his dad and I started getting confident about my songs.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Wherever I find it and more importantly wherever it finds me. I find some of my favorite influences outside of music; skateboarders like Rodney Mullen and Ari Shiffrin, visual artists like Suzanne Falk and Wayne White, authors like Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve become more observant of the processes of others over the past couple years. Thematically I am inspired by childhood, mental health, violence, faith, etc…

Given that your lyrics are so emotive, there must have been times when fans have told you how much they have been affected by them. Have any of these stories ever stuck with you, or changed the way you see your own songs? If so, what was it?

All of the stories stick with me, but out of respect I’d rather not divulge any of them.

What have you found the reception of the new album (Christmas Island) to be, and why did you choose to expand the band?

I feel like it went over really well! I think it really helped people understand us. We expanded the band for the knife man tours to do justice to some of the electric songs, and we kept rolling with it because it’s very very fun and Preston, Deacon and Mark are brilliant.

Given that Knife Man seems to have the overarching concept of fear and Can’t Maintain deals largely with depression, would you say that Christmas Island has a single concept? If so, what is it?

Grief.

You often write songs that are very explicitly personal, but you also sometimes write songs that seem to be written in the persona of someone prone to extreme, senseless violence, like “Getting Naked and Playing with Guns” and “Bad Bad Things”. Where do these songs come from? What inspires them, what do they represent?
I wrote Bad Bad Things when I was really happy, no clue why. “Getting Naked” was an empathy experiment, for in real life I am the neighbor kid.

With songs like “Temple Grandin”, “Do, Re, And Me” and “Angel Of Death”, Christmas Island seems to be a lot more surreal than previous albums. Did the larger band offer more creative freedom, or were they just the lyrics that came to you?

The larger band does offer more creative freedom, but they’re not the source of the surrealism. The lyrics come out the way they come out, the less control I have over it, the better. My favorite state to write in is one of feverish abandon; control relinquished, mind clear, without any awareness or care of what anyone will think about the songs.

The song “Linda Ronstadt” seems particularly emotive and personal. Would you say that the song deals with stoicism in the face of depression, and was it inspired by your personal reaction to a piece of art?

That song is the truest one I’ve ever written, and you nailed it. It’s about the stoicism breaking down and giving way to validation.

ajj

Did Randy’s House [as Referenced in the song “Randy’s House”] actually burn down? Is he doing okay now?

Yes and yes!

How did the European tour go? What made you choose to do a separate solo tour in Europe, then meet up with the band for the UK?

Mainly it was for the dynamics. I love playing solo every once in a while, it gives me a chance to do whatever I want with complete autonomy. I like not having to adhere to a set list every couple tours. It was perfect to do the solo tour before the UK run because I got to “center my chi” and immediately reconnect with AJJ with a clear head and a hunger for volume.

What are your plans for the future? Got any tours and releases lined up?

We have a mess of US festivals this summer, in September the almighty Smith Street Band is bringing us and the Sidekicks to Australia, then I’m hoping to record a new album around the beginning of next year.

Finally, can you think of any new bands that really stand out and that you think we should check out?

I’d recommend Rozwell Kid, they’re possibly the most flawless rock band I’ve ever heard. R. Ariel is awesome, she rides vibes really hard and touches on many unspeakable emotions. Hard Girls, as I’m sure you just saw at the Owl Sanctuary, are incredible. Dogbreth and Diners are a sweet pair of sister bands, really beautiful pop music.

Thanks for doing this!

Thanks for having me!!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, with questions contributed by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

I caught up with Mike, guitarist of the hard-to-describe post-punk/indie group Hard Girls after they played with Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Owl Sanctuary. Also worth noting is Hard Girls have also collaborated with Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Common Rider in NMG favourites Classics of Love, and Ned and Mike were both fucked when the interview was recorded. Here’s the interview in all its drunken glory, with some of the ums, ers and ahs, as well as my intermittent howls of laughter, taken out. The image was taken from Hard Girls’ Facebook page.

Okay, so, um, we’re rolling. So I guess first of all, who’s in Hard Girls, and when did they start?

My name’s Mike, I play guitar, I sing on some of the songs, Morgan plays bass, he sings on some of the songs, and Max plays drums. We started in 2006, 2007? Around there. Max and Morgan were in one band in San Jose, and I was in a different one, we shared a practice space.

Were some of you in Shinobu?

Yeah, I’m in Shinobu!

Oh! I just remember like old Asian Man [Records] catalogues and thought ‘hey! Shinobu!’ [I don’t remember what purpose this sentence served] Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Oh cool, thanks man. Yeah Shinobu and Max and Morgan’s old band shared a practice space together, then pretty much everybody but us left and we started this band.

That’s fair enough. Do you have any other side things, I dunno like, you’ve got Classics of Love, and Shinobu’s still going.

Yeah uh Max and Morgan play in a band called Marathon States with, uh, [he was prompted by a woman sat at the merch desk] Jason Thinh from Short Round, and I played on Jeff Rosenstock’s solo record –

Oh yeah, that was really good!

Oh cool!

Uh, We Cool?

Yeah, exactly!

I know what it’s called, it’s just got a question mark so I had to be like, [questioningly] we cool?

Oh yeah… [questioningly] we cool?

Yeah, I’m just having a crisis of confidence right now.

Haha, that’s alright, me too. I always have it! [unintelligible talking]

Yeah, it’s a constant state, isn’t it.

Yeah, uh, and then, pretty much everyone who recorded on that, also recorded on Dan Adriano’s new record. So, we’re getting back in… we basically leave here in a couple more days, then we fly out to the states, then Hard Girls is doing a US tour, then right afterwards I’m flyinf out to do a tour with Jeff Rosenstock and Dan Adriano. So that kind of covers the gamit of it.

Okay. I guess it’s kind of a generic question, but what are the influences for Hard Girls?

Um… Max and Morgan are very much into metal music. We were all initially very into punk music, that was like, what brought us all together, pretty much. The things that we really agree on are Guided by Voices, Television, Wire, the Weakerthans, and then after that, it’s just kind of like, what everybody is into, sort of.

hard girls

Fair enough. How’s touring? Are you touring England, or Europe, or?

Just the UK right now… it’s been since the third, so we did the London show on the third, we’ve been travelling around then the last show is on the twentieth in Dublin. Fly back and we go straight out, drive to Dallas and start the next tour, pretty much, so it’s like, we have a day off then we drive for three days to start our US tour.

[I was faintly terrified at this point] That’s pretty intense… Um… you’ve made some comments about UK food… I don’t entirely blame you, what are you making of the, uh, cuisine?

Well. Fish and chips are what I order normally in America, and I have no problem finding them here, which is kind of-

Yeah, it’s the place to be, really. You love fish, you love chips…

Yeah, I fuckin’ love both of them! It goes together well, and then uh, but like, Max and Morgan are more adventurous than me, they find stuff everywhere, and we’ve gone to a lot of grocery stores too, just ending up in like, a Tesco or wherever getting salad and bread, just basic sort of stuff. But otherwise like, kebab, Indian food, chip shops, we’ve kind of had it all, it’s every night.

That’s the dream. Touring around with good bands, and eating lots of takeways…

Yeah! It’s great! It’s good! Awesome!

Are you planning to do any more recordings? Er…

Yeah, uh-

Are you, er, ah… Sorry I’m interrupting.

Yeah, me too!

Let’s scratch that from the record, pretend it never happened. What are your plans for the future?

We’re doing that next tour, we get back, then, probably in January, February, recording the next album. Get back, tour… I have one more tour then we spend a couple of months working on it.

Okay, cool. Great. Are you on any label, or?

The last one was on Asian Man,

Fuckin’ Asian Man! Ah! Sorry.

They’re like hometown heroes!

I’ve never met Mike Park and I just feel like I’m friends with him.

He’s amazing!

He is amazing!

He’s totally amazing. He’s the best! He’s a fucking weirdo, he’s an amazing weirdo! He’s one of the best people I know.

Is it okay to record you and [write down] that you called him a weirdo?

No please!

Then I will!

I insist you take note of it. He’s amazing. He’s both his public persona* and his private persona at the same time, and they’re not different at all, but they’re entirely different in some ways. He’s great. Asian Man is like our home, kind of.

I used to really want to be signed to Asian Man… now I’m in a powerviolence band, and I don’t think that will happen, but anyway. How’d you end up touring with Andrew Jackson Jihad?

Shinobu played with them like, close to ten years ago. So I’ve known Sean and Ben for almost a decade at this point. They played at the practice space that we used to share in San Jose, between Shinobu and Pteradon [Max and Morgan’s aforementioned old band] probably six, seven years ago… Probably more than that actually, probably seven or eight years ago. So we’ve known them for a long time, we’re kind of just like, old friends, Phoenix and San Jose have similar music scenes, and they’re also on Asian Man, and we all kind of like agree on… what music should like? Kinda.

Fair enough. Do you have any last… ‘any last words’ sounds like I’m about to shoot you. Do you have anything to say to the kids?

… Not really.

Hahaha! Yeah they’re a bunch of arseholes, alright, well um, thanks a lot for doing this!

Cool man, yeah! Thank you.

* Mike Park’s public persona, for the uninitiated, is that of a joyous man, nice and enthusiastic to the extent of being slightly bizarre. How is someone supposed to be so lovely? In this economy?

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS