Sunday's Best is a phenomenal indie rock band out of L.A. and they created one of my favorite albums of 2000. If you haven't heard "Poised to Break" yet, I strongly suggest that you pick it up immediately and prepare to be amazed by some astounding songwriting. I interviewed Tom, Ed, James and Ian in their van before a show they did in San Diego. There is one thing that characterized this interview - laughter. Constant, abiding, often hysterical laughter. If there had been more room in Sunday's Best's van, people might well have been on the floor. While reading this, keep the following things in mind - if something seems really over the top, it was probably followed by laughter.
So I have a chance of transcribing this later, please state your name and the instrument you play.
Tom: Hi, I'm Tom and I play drums.
Ed: I'm Ed and I play guitar and I sing.
I haven't seen much background on Sunday's Best. I know you're out of L.A. but that's about it. Can you start off by telling me how you started?
Ed: Yeah. The band started about, what, four years ago maybe?
Tom: Yeah, three or four years ago.
Ed: Yeah, three or four years ago and it was a different lineup. Basically, we had another member and we recorded a 7" with Tom actually, he's a recording engineer, and the other guy left and we had another lineup change and we enlisted his help and he ended up playing drums. Basically, that's how it got started.
Tom: Three of us were college students at Loyola Marymount University and DJs at KXLU which is the radio station there and the other guy was just a friend of a bunch of people that were also DJs there so it's all kind of stemmed from love of music and being college radio DJs and nerdy crap like that.
There's nothing nerdy about it. I did it for four years.
Ed: Exactly. You know then.
Yeah, I know about boards breaking in the middle of a show and using chewing gum and baling wire to fix it.
Ed: There you go.
So it sounds like you all met at the station and realized you had similar musical tastes.
Tom: Pretty much. It's very unexciting.
So when did you start playing instruments?
Ed: I actually studied music in school. I majored in it, but it was classical guitar and that was sort of how I got into doing music.
Tom: I started playing drums when I was 15 and played that for a while and then switched over to guitar and played for a while and then went back to drums for Sunday's Best.
I wasn't aware that you had been around that long. I had heard the EP on Crank! and "Poised To Break" and that album flipped my wig last year and I still think it's one of the best records I heard in 2000, but what all do you have out?
Tom: Well, thank you. There's also another 7" on Market Participant Records which ends up nowadays kind of being Better Looking. It's the same guy, it was just his first idea of a record label title at the time, so we got a 7" out on that, we play a couple of songs from that live, and then there's a very old 7" that was playing before either James or I were in the band, so those are the recordings. We're on a couple of comps too.
Ed: The Che benefit comp that was put out on Slowdance.
Tom: Right, then the Slowdance compilation. What the name of that again?
Ed: "Che Fest."
Tom: No, the other one. The brown one.
Ed: Oh. I forgot.
Tom: "The Slightest Indication of Change."
Ed: We also had an instrumental comp on Sign Language Records.
So you do instrumentals as well?
Ed: Not really. We tried that for a second.
Tom: We crank them out every now and then. Our 7" has an instrumental on it. Our full-length has that hidden track instrumental. Sometimes we do, but usually it's only because we haven't gotten around to writing the words yet and we're too impatient and want to record it. It's not because we set out to be musicians, per se.
So it sounds like the songs come before the lyrics.
Tom: Basically, yeah. I think we usually come up with the music and then the vocal melodies start happening simultaneously. If they don't come at all, then we don't worry about it.
So two new people have joined. Please state your name and the instrument you play.
Ian: My name is Ian. I'm the other guitar player. The lead guitar player. No, not lead. The lead/rhythm guitar player.
James: The lead flaming solo guitar player.
Ed: This is his first Sunday's Best interview.
James: I'm James and I'm the bass player. That's my formal given name.
I really liked your playing on "In Beats Like Trains."
James: Oh no, that was all these guys. That was all Ed. I basically just joined the guys about two months ago. Ed used to play bass and he decided that his Rickenbacker was too lonely in the corner of his room so I took up the bass playing responsibilities.
So Ed played bass on the album.
Well, then you're the one that I should tell that I've been trying to learn those bass lines.
Ed: Oh, really? That's so funny because that bass line is the one where we totally sat in there and cocked shit up. I can't remember that anymore.
Tom: That's an Afghan Whigs bass line.
Ed: Yeah, we stayed up all night with that.
Tom: We couldn't leave. We had to catch the moment. That's awesome that you like it though because sometimes you do stuff like that in the middle of the night and you're like, "What the hell are we doing?" "I don't know. Is anyone going to care?" But yeah, somebody does care.
Well, I've spent probably an hour and a half screwing around on the fretboard.
Tom: Dude, we'll show it to you and then you'll be like, "Aw, damn! These guys are monkeys!"
So we were talking about the songwriting process and it sounds like lyrics come after the music. Is that always the case?
Ed: Lyrics always come after.
James: Yeah, but for melody, it depends. It happens as music is being written, sometimes, and then you finalize it during the recording process. I think we just try to make it as good as possible.
Tom: Vocal melody is the most important thing. Ed is brilliant at coming up with all these vocal melodies and harmonies and in the end, the lyric process is more like the jigsaw puzzle that you do when you're tracking the vocals. It's like, "Okay, I know we've been humming this melody for a long time. We have to actually put words down, so what do we do?" That becomes a little more nerdiness at the end, but it's usually the vocal melodies. We've written lots of songs, like great little parts of songs and riffs, but unless there's that kind of inspired vocal melody on top of it, there doesn't seem to be any reason to finish it.
So do you keep those parts around?
Tom: Then they come back. There's always that one guy that starts playing that riff.
Ed: It never quite dies.
So when the lyrics comes after the song, how do you fit that in? Do you write from personal experience, do you have lyrics written in journals or do you write them as the song comes along?
Tom: You just kind of make it up.
Ed: Yeah, I think Tom and I are great at ...
Ian: Well, you think you're great.
Ed: Yeah, I think what we try to do is come up with something that conveys some kind of ...
Tom: There's usually one line.
Ian: They actually carry around pocket diaries in their back pockets.
Tom: There's usually one line that comes up in the process of doing it that you build everything around.
Like a central idea.
Tom: Right, right, and from then on, it becomes this game of Boggle.
Ed: What words fit with the melody, does that make sense with the overall theme.
So where do the lyrics come from?
Tom: All you have, really, is personal experience, I think.
Tom: I think we're better people on paper than we are in real life, but yeah, you just take little bits and pieces of your life. The trouble is getting so personal that no one else can relate to it, so you're kind of forced to leave things more general so that anyone else can listen and go, "Oh, I can see how that might fit into my situation," or something like that. That's always a hard one because sometimes what makes really good writing is being really personal and really getting into the minutiae of the details and scenarios and situations but if you do that too much, you alienate people so you're kind of stuck.
Ed: This is actually a question. There's also some kind of fiction, loosely based on a series of stuff, like "Looks Like A Mess," no one was actually at a bar.
Ian: I actually was at many a bar during that time.
Ed: Well, no, some of the stuff, but then there's AYSO ...
Ian: I think we take the Steely Dan approach too to lyric writing.
So basically what you're saying is that you'll take a general idea and add on things that might be clever or funny or otherwise add to the song.
Tom: Right. It just becomes an amalgam of experiences because nothing you ever do on a daily basis is all that profound. There might be a couple of profound moments in there, but songs usually require more than one or two so you end up kind mish mashing. It's like we're partially writing stories based loosely on our lives, but it's not a diary. It's not like keeping score at a baseball game. It's not like a formula in which we spit out all the personal hardships in order to figure it out. We're just telling a story.
So do you keep scores at baseball games?
Ed: Hockey games.
Tom: Yeah, I don't like baseball. I'm the one guy that doesn't like baseball.
What, am I in a van with Dodgers fans?
Ed: I was a Dodger fan until the strike and that really destroyed my relationship with MLB.
Tom: James is Canadian and I'm trying to get him to love hockey as much as I do.
James: As much as I should, basically.
It's a matter of national pride!
James: Apparently, but our national sport is lacrosse. It's just misinformation.
Tom: Few people know better. Curling is really popular there too.
James: Curling is another great sport.
Ian: Hair, or ... ?
Ed: Wah, wah, wah.
It's funny to me that there's a hockey team called the Canadiens but no baseball team called the Americans.
James: There's the Yankees.
That's true, and there used to be the Washington Senators.
James: There's a baseball team called the Canadiens too. It's a AAA minor league team in Vancouver. There's also a beer called Canadian and there's no real American beer. We're real big fans of putting our name on everything.
Ian: Then there's the Indians that are essentially American, and the Redskins and they're pretty much the first Americans.
Tom: And then there are the Braves, but those are all offensive stereotypes that we want to keep going because we're insensitive.
So one of the things I really liked about your songs is that they do seem personal. There are moments that it seems like most people could identify with, like "The girl you used to tease / Is rolling up her sleeves."
Ed: You'll have to talk to Tom about that one.
Tom: I wrote that for my soon to be ex-wife who hated it. Let that be a lesson to you. Don't write songs for girls.
Is that song the reason why she's soon to be your ex-wife?
Tom: No, the main reason she's soon to be my ex-wife is because I'm an asshole but I will say that I wrote what I think are some pretty cool lyrics for her and she didn't like them. Sometimes you think you're doing great stuff. I mean, any girl in the world would tell you that they'd love a guy to write a song for me and then you write it for them and they fucking hate you.
This is an interesting perspective because usually people talking about getting into a relationship because they wrote a song for a girl.
Tom: Yeah. It didn't quite work out.
Ian: Well, your song was basically saying, correct me if I'm wrong, that she was a sourpuss.
Tom: Yeah, it does say that, but I don't think it's nearly as negative as that.
Tom: I think the point is that when you're so hungry to prove everyone wrong and give the world a big fuck you, you kind of miss the point on a lot of shit and I think that she was so pissed at everybody that it simultaneously made her really charming and funny and really tough to make friends with people because it just never turned off. She was always so mad and after a while, it gets old to people around you, just like if you knew a guy who was always fucking complaining and pissed, you wouldn't want to hang out with that guy. It'd be a drag.
Well, not all the time, anyway.
Tom: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Therein lies the rub. One minute, it's really funny and charming when it's an inspired comment about something that's dumb and the next minute it's really old; it's like the same complaint over and over again.
You know, this is really fascinating to me, because I'm used to all the stereotypical drummer jokes, like "What did the drummer say before he got kicked out of the band?"
"Hey guys, listen to this song I wrote!" So what's it like to be a drummer who writes songs?
Tom: I don't know. It's really no different than being any other band member and writing a song. I never write the whole song. With us, it's one of those things where I came up with the verse and pre-chorus but the band wrote the chorus and that's the most important part. With us, all the time, inevitably people will write parts of it and then bring it in and then everyone else finishes it off and that's what makes the band so fun.
Ed: I don't think any one person comes in like, "Hey, look at this, I wrote a song!"
Tom: Yeah, like "Hey, play this because that's your riff now." If you listen to demoed versions of that song, the verses are not the same at all. The only thing that's kind of the same is the pre-chorus, but the verses totally changed and the choruses totally changed and there definitely wasn't a triple harmonized guitar solo in there. That definitely happened in the studio, courtesy of my friend Ian right there.
So it's really a collaborative process.
Tom: That is totally what has made this band the most enjoyable thing by far. I've been in a couple and usually there's one guy who really gets into being the singer/songwriter guy and that's it, and I used to be that fucking guy and he was kind of a jerk, and what's a lot more fun is when you can bring part of a song in and everyone gets to be a part of it and inevitably it gets better, I think. You can get fixated on trying to do something with a song and you've so over-thought it that it kind of makes it lame but other people come to it fresh and they're like, "I don't know about that," and they change it and if you give it time and let it go and lo and behold, it's usually better, because they've heard what you've done and gotten the idea and they turn it into something that's more by the group. Theoretically, you shouldn't be in a band with people who are playing things you don't like anyway, so it helps when you actually trust them and everyone gets to be creative together.
So there's no 60/40 split on songwriting.
So what are your favorite parts to play in these songs?
James: It's interesting, my favorite thing about coming in is ...
Tom: That new slap stuff you added, that hard funk stuff.
James: Actually, it's that sweet five-string that I wear up on my nipples. I'm sure I can add a lot more to these songs than they did on a simple four-string.
You mean you aren't playing a Conklin seven-string? What are you, some kind of pussy?
Ian: He's active right now.
Tom: It's fretless by the way.
Ian: Dude, I have to pee. I'll be right back.
James: I'm all about the four-string Precision Bass with a pick, but it's really cool because I've been a fan of the band for a while before I actually joined and so I had enjoyed the songs from an outsider perspective, so to be able to come in and actually partake in them and step up and play the parts of the songs and add my own little variations here and there, kind of personalizing it a bit, but as far as picking a favorite? I couldn't pick a favorite.
So the songs change as you play them live?
Tom: I think we're one of those bands that actually likes to rehearse it and try to play it as good as we did on the record. We aren't a band that will come in with a brand new arrangement of a song and you're going to be like, "Oh my God, is that the same song?" If we're doing our jobs right, ultimately it will sound a lot like the record, only you get to watch us play it.
So people don't have to go hunting around for live versions on the Internet.
Tom: Right. Exactly, although with new stuff, the interesting thing is that the lyrics will change a lot, like on the Che comp, that's a version of the song that ended up being "Bruise-blue" and it has different lyrics and I think it actually has some different actual physical parts in it so it changed a lot from what we had been playing.
Ed: We added a verse on the album.
Tom: Right. So some stuff in the writing process will change but, for the most part, once we all feel good about it, that kind of stays the entity for a while.
So Ed, what's your favorite part to play? Are there any songs that are near and dear to your heart?
Ed: Actually, I don't really have a favorite riff or part of a song. I like them all. I like every single song on that album. I like "Congratulations." I think I like playing that, the last track. I'd like to see that come back sometime.
You don't play it live?
Ed: No. I don't know. That's a good question. Who know, it might fit in later on in our set. We try to make the set as cohesive ...
Tom: No, you're right, cohesive, like you're trying to build a set that can incorporate material from all different stages like the EP and 7" and compilation and the album. Also, the fun thing about playing live is getting to go off and sometimes, I think songs like "Congratulations" and "Looks Like A Mess" can be just a little too laid-back. Half the stuff we write is really up-tempo and fun and the other half of it is more thoughtful and slower, but to try to fit that into a live show when you keep hitting people with fast, up-tempo songs and then the set really seems to slow down so it's hard to work in a mellow tune like "Congratulations." Plus, and tonight's a perfect example, we show up and we have a 30-minute set. Our set that we've been working on has 10 songs and it's maybe 40 minutes, so do you cut one or are you a little rude? I think we're going to be a little rude tonight.
Ed: Just power through it?
Tom: Yeah. We'll try to keep the chit chat between songs down.
So how about you, Tom? Do you have a favorite part to play?
Tom: I agree with Ed, I like all the songs we play, but I have to say that I really like playing the two most up-tempo songs, I really love playing "Saccharine" and "The Hardest Part." And actually, from an old crusty song that we do, I have to say that my favorite song to play on drums is actually one from the EP; it's called "Instead, He Falls." I don't know why. Maybe it's because it's the only time I get to ride the floor tom at all. In fact, on that song, I get to do all the classic drummer tricks. I get to do the floor tom in the verse, I get to do a snare roll in the breakdown section and then I get to double-time at the outro which are all the dumb drum tricks that you get to do.
What, no tom rolls?
Tom: No, no.
So you don't get to pull an Alex Van Halen.
Tom: No, no, there's no "Hot For Teacher" going on.
Now you're breaking it out. What is that, Stoli?
Ian: Yeah. This is the part where everyone gets disappointed with me.
Tom: Stoli and Mr. Pibb? Is that what's going on?
Ian: I don't have any orange juice.
Ed: Stay true to the edge, Ian.
James: Just drink it straight.
If any of you want Xs, I have Sharpies with me.
Ian: I don't get wasted. That's retarded.
James: He just calms his nerves.
Ian: I just need like one drink because I tense up on stage and grip really hard.
Tom: When you interview us 10 years from now and he's in rehab, we'll remember that time when he only needed to drink to get a bit of liquid courage.
Ian: Pretty soon, it'll be, "I need a sixer of Heineken and a bottle of whiskey to get me through this."
Tom: "I just need to drink to sleep. If I can drink myself to sleep, I'll feel better."
Ian: I have one drink before a show.
And how many drinks during?
James: We used to have many drinks during.
Tom: Yeah, this is actually a new policy. We've changed our ways.
Ian: Yeah. No drugs at practice. I mean, we don't do drugs.
James: No shooting heroin in the studio anymore.
No overdosing in the bathroom because it's inconsiderate to people who need to take a leak.
James: No calling 911 anymore.
So Ian, what's your favorite song to play? Do you have a favorite part?
Ian: Um, man, let me think about that ...
James: I like to play the fucked up part.
No tasty slide?
Ian: I'm trying to think. There's sweet riffage. My newest, my current favorite, is the first new song that we're all now playing with this current lineup. I play my first official guitar solo with a backwards bend on it. That's pretty dope. This new song, I dig my parts. Off the record ...
Wait a minute here ...
Ian: Not off the record, from the record.
I spent a long time in journalism. You say off the record, I turn the recorder off.
Ian: Yeah, I know. I'd say "Hardest Part" is fun and "Indian Summer" because it's all just great and it's really fun, but this new song, there's this crazy tremolo part where it sounds like, what did you say Ed? Depeche Mode?
Ian: Then there's a harmonic and then there's this guitar solo. That's my new pick.
Tom: You get to play lead guitar on that song which really makes a kid feel good, I think. When you get to play lead anything, it's pretty rad.
So the album seemed really cohesive; nothing seemed out of place. How do you go about structuring something like that? Is that just sequencing or do you also think about it when you're writing the songs?
Ed: I think that's sequencing. We thought about the order. We had many orders.
Tom: Yeah, we tried them out differently on cassette and we got CDs and everyone would make their own, like program a CD and listen to it for a couple of days, and then the guy that mixed and mastered it had his own version. At the end, I think we all just kind of sat down with all the different ideas. We knew it was going to start with "The Hardest Part." It was just the right way to start it and it comes out of the gate rocking. Then ending with "Congratulations," it was either going to be "Congratulations" or "Looks Like A Mess" that ended it and so there were a couple of things we kind of knew. The rest of it was all just figured out from there.
Ian: Yeah, it kept building. First we recorded "Saccharine" and we were like, "Oh, we know what we're going to start it off with," and I think there might have been another one like, "Whoa, we have to start it with this," but as soon as we finished "The Hardest Part," because that was written while recording for the most part, we were like, "We have a winner!"
So were there any songs that you left off the album?
Tom: No, we pretty much used it up. The 7" that we did has a song called "Sons Of The Second String" which we play live. We were thinking about re-recording some things and didn't end up doing it. There's also a song called "Love My Friends, Hate My Life," which is on that Slowdance compilation, that we were thinking about re-recording but didn't and we just kind of left them to appear in their only format on those releases. The temptation is to take every song you really like and try to make it as good as you can, but sometimes it's like, "You know what? It's good enough. Let's just leave it alone."
So a lot of the songs seem bitter and wistful; I can't say that I could pick out a really happy song on the album, yet in person, you seem like pretty jovial - albeit cynical - people.
Ian: I never really even thought of that.
You know, if the backpack-wearing, shoegazing emo kids read about you guys cracking jokes ...
Tom: Yeah, but we're just musicians. They don't know that Ed is the most avid Lakers fan in the world.
Ed: I live and breathe it.
Tom: We have band practice and he'll be like, "Oh man, come on, the game's on right now. I can't do it." They don't know that James is a fisherman extraordinaire. This kid is an angler, fly fishing, you name it, fresh water, salt water, this kid will hook you up on some key info. Ian is painting these days. I'm a total jock. I play ice hockey and go to Kings games.
But you don't have a mullet. How can you play hockey if you don't have a mullet?
Tom: I had a mullet until recently. They made me cut it off.
Ian: He also had a handlebar.
Tom: I cut it off because I realized I wasn't cool. I thought I was cool.
Ed: It looked hot. You were all Stillwater.
Tom: I think you have to allow yourself to do both. The problem with writing whimsical songs is that they don't last as long. If you write a joke song, the joke is over quickly and then it's forgotten, but when you write about an emotion that people can relate to over and over again or a thought or a feeling like sadness or regret or whatever, those are the feelings that linger. As humans, we naturally gravitate toward the bad stuff. I don't remember a compliment someone paid me two weeks ago, but I remember the nasty thing someone said to me four years ago. That's just the way we are and I think that's part of it too.
George Alec Effinger, a science fiction writer of all things, once wrote that of all animals, humans are the only ones who are sad after sex.
James: I don't have sex.
Tom: Post-coital depression?
Well, that settles that for James.
James: I'm not sad after sex because I don't have it.
So you're happy all the time then.
I really like the way that you express anger and rage and sadness and all these emotions are, of course, intermingled, but what really grabs me about the songs is that you express them clearly, poignantly and it's not like you're saying, "Fuck the world! We're pissed!" You seem to be approaching it from a more introspective position, trying to find out exactly how can learn from it and move on and maybe not make that mistake next time.
Tom: You're going to make me cry.
Ian: It's pretty articulate, huh? Right? Would you agree? Dude, it kills me every time I see it, like usually reviews. I'm just like, "Ow, rub it off." That's cool, that's one person's opinion, but when they attack the lyrics, it kills me. That's my biggest pet peeve.
People actually attack your lyrics?
Tom: Oh yeah.
James: It's been known to happen.
Tom: I think the word simpering has been heard. I remember that. I can't remember the people that complimented it, but I sure remember simpering. It's one of those things. We realize that people, when they've decided they aren't going to like you, can't be won over. They can't be convinced. We've taken the approach, and this is why we laugh and have fun, that we have to be who we are and people will like us and people will hate us. We can't control it either way, but I'm not going to fucking worry about whether some kid in there is not going to like us tonight because if we do our job right, hopefully there will be two other ones that do whereas a kid that doesn't want to like us, he's already decided that ahead of time. We couldn't win him over if we tried, so what's the point?
So you focus on the people who don't know who you are.
Tom: That was it. If we do our job right, that's what we'll hopefully do and that's what we're going to try to do.
So what has being on Polyvinyl been like for you? I know the first EP came out on Crank! and you've put things out on other labels. Are you testing various labels to see which one works best for you?
Ed: I just think that Polyvinyl offered us a great deal that we couldn't really turn down. I think the support that they give their bands, for tour support and support on the album, is just great. For example, their support on college radio got us into the top 30 on CMJ which is great. It's just a complete package deal. I don't think we're consciously moving around. We're just trying to look at what will benefit us and get the music out there.
Tom: We kind of owe a lot of things to Rainer Maria because they're the ones who turned Matt onto us in the first place.
Ed: And Paris, Texas.
Tom: And Paris, Texas. What ended up happening was that Rainer Maria was going to have this new record come out and it got delayed so all of a sudden, he had this window of time before he was going to make a record and that's when our window of opportunity opened up so if it wasn't for Rainer Maria not being ready to do the record when they were going to do it, then we wouldn't be on Polyvinyl. It was just the luck of the circumstances. He liked it and he was there. Matt's the kind of guy you call up, like we got back from tour and we were all broke and we were like, "Since none of us have jobs quite yet, can you send us some money so we can make payments on the van and band rental space?" And he did. He just fronted us the cash. He fronted us more on that instance than Crank! gave us for the whole first EP. You know someone's got your back when they're willing to go out on the limb for you.
Ian: This is a guy who is so excited about his bands. You call him and he's like, "Dude!" For instance, at CMJ we played with all these Polyvinyl bands and there's this total family feel to it. It was awesome. Every band was in front for every band that played.
Tom: Or they were downstairs getting drunk together. One way or another, there was definitely some bro hanging out going on.
I only found out about Polyvinyl recently, but so far I haven't found a single album that I don't like.
Tom: How do you love that Aloha?
I haven't heard it yet.
Tom: Oh my God dude, that's probably my favorite thing that has come out recently.
I picked up the American Football disc and that blew me away, and then I started picking up Paris, Texas and Rainer Maria and Pele's "The Nudes."
Tom: The new Paris, Texas EP is really good. Yeah, you'll be blown away by the Aloha record. That's the record that, to this day, is still in my room and if I'm going to be working at the computer doing something and I want something that makes me feel creative and is just really beautiful in the background, that Aloha record goes on all the time.
Ian: We came up with this crazy idea of putting out an album where we cover Polyvinyl bands.
Tom: Yeah, all Polyvinyl bands do a cover of another Polyvinyl band. We want to do a Rainer Maria cover.
So kind of like a fucked up Metroschifter album.
Ian: Yeah. Metroschifter has the songs and then everybody collaborates, but this is more like, "We want to cover your fucking song."
Tom: Yeah, we just want to play your songs, buddy. Show us how to play that damn chord.
So I heard that Pedro left the band and started playing with Jealous Sound.
James: Yeah, it's been a real negative [everyone laughs]. Like everybody said in all these interviews, he was just a complete dipshit. I'm trying to make something up here.
Should I tell people that you're smiling?
Ian: He pulled a gun on us once when we were on the road and he was just fucking crazy.
Tom: It was just one of those things. It was probably the healthiest breakup we've ever had with a girl or a band member or whatever because it's just one of those things where we just suddenly realized that we weren't having fun so we worked it out.
Ian: We're friends outside of this band.
Tom: And we'll stay that way. In fact, he's coming tonight and he'll be down here hanging out. We're still friends. It was just a situation where we realized that we have three people who want to do one thing and he had a different idea of what he wanted to do. Ultimately, if you have a chance to do that, then you should go ahead and do that. We just lucked out. James is Ian's roommate and the first guy we tried out, so it was kind of like, "Do you want to join our band?" "Do you mind if I finish this burrito first?" We're dragging him off the couch and it turned out perfectly.
Ian: You just did a Jawbox story.
Tom: I know, I snuck it in there.
James: You don't mind if I finish this ramen, do you?
Ian: The Jawbox story is when their drummer left, they kicked him out or whatever.
Tom: He left to join Shudder To Think.
Ian: Whatever his name was, B.A. Barracus, was J. Robbins' roommate.
James: This is Tom's story.
Tom: I heard that the drummer was a roommate of one of the guys in the band and when they asked him to join the band, he was like, "Well, do you mind if I finish my dinner first?"
Ian: My macaroni and cheese.
Tom: Exactly. It was just perfect. You saw how much that band evolved. I think once people see how much we've evolved by adding James to the band, I mean, we had no idea it was going to evolve as much as it did, so we've been as surprised as anyone else. Is that The And/Ors?
Ed: Yeah. We should go watch that, huh?
Tom: We can do more stuff later.
How about one more question? I have a lot here to transcribe.
Tom: Oh, okay.
Why do you guys do this?
James: I have to feed my baby's mother. No, because it's fun. I wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't fun. Nobody wants to be stuck in a van going across country for months with a bunch of smelly boys.
Ian: It's half love and obsession with music and half ... wait, Tom, you're like, "Everything goes away when you go, '1, 2, 3, 4.'"
Tom: Yeah, totally. When you click off a song and you kick into it, that's it. At that moment, you're playing.
Ian: Nothing compares to that.
Tom: For me, if I wasn't playing music and being in some way creative, I think about what my job would be like. I was at work today and it was sucking and the only thing that made me smile was driving down to San Diego tonight and this ain't no big deal. Or I have practice coming up later or there's something like that and if I didn't have that to look forward to, man, it would be shitty.
Ian: When you were talking about playing your part, yeah, you're playing your part but you're part of this whole, this whole unit where my part goes with his part which goes with his part which goes with his part and you're creating this fucking thing and it's music and it's just fucking dope. Nothing compares to that.
Ian: When you come to this realization that you're making music, whether it's part of an orchestra or symphony or opera, on any level, you're working together with all these people and you're making something. You're creating something. I don't know if anyone goes into philosophy, but you're creating something greater than yourself and I'm just in awe. I wouldn't give that up for anything.
James: I think too that there's a unique window and that's one thing I realized because I kind of dropped out of it for a while and there's a unique window of time to take that passion and love of music that Ian was talking about and be able to convert that into something real where you can actually affect people and interact with people. You aren't going to be 20-something forever. You aren't going to be young enough to get up on stage and rock out and identify with kids and stuff and to be able to do that, if you have a talent or you have something, now is the time to use it so why sit at home and waste your life? Go form a rock band and tour America.
Tom: And also, I want to say one more thing, the "Yeah" moment is what it's been about for me in this band lately. That's when everyone's writing a new song and one guy suddenly hits on that idea that everyone in the middle of playing can barely play because they're all going "Yeah!!!" Ed has always done that to me on vocals, Ian is doing that to me all the time on guitar and James now is the new thing. I'll look over and all of a sudden we're doing something else and his bass line is out of left field and I wouldn't think to have played it like that, because I end up playing a lot with the rhythm guitar, and all of a sudden, boom. He's dropping something that's like, "Okay, that was smart. That was cool." That "Yeah" moment, sometimes it gets lost, but that's what keeps me doing it because there's nothing like creating this thing and it's something that just blows your mind on a regular basis. As long as we keep blowing each other's minds, it's totally worth it. That's what makes practice amazing.
Any final words?
Tom: Thank you very much.