Interview with The Booze and The Biters

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to interview both The Booze and the Biters, at present my two favorite rock n’ roll bands out there today, who you may already know about from recent MOKB posts here and here. Currently they’re on a nationwide tour together, in support of the Biters All Chewed Up and The Booze’s At Maximum Volume, both on Underrated Records and recorded at The Factory Studio, Atlanta (both can also be found on iTunes and Amazon). I met them at Portland’s East End this past Friday night, shortly after they jumped out of their vans from the ten-hour drive from Reno, Nevada, where they’d played the night before. Though road-weary, with dwindling bank accounts and somewhat reeling from a string of brutal, small-town gigs; it was quickly evident that it’s this group of good friends’ fierce sense of humor, camaraderie, and shared mission to bring straight-from-the-heart, gutsy rock n’ roll to the masses, that carries them along the occasionally unfriendly roads across America. I chatted with Tuk (lead singer-songwriter/guitar) and Matt (lead guitarist/back-up vocals) from the Biters, and Randy, (singer-songwriter/lead guitar/back-up vocals) Ricky (guitar/back-up vocals) and Chaz (lead vocalist) from The Booze. They graciously joined me for a two-hour, roundtable free-for-all, before they played. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:

MOKB: So you guys just got in from Reno?

Randy: Yeah, my ears are still ringing.

Matt: Don’t tell her about my gambling addiction.(laughs)

Tuk: We lost $700 dollars last night. Me and Matt.

Ricky: We were staying at this place called The Atlantis, so after the show, Tuk and Matt came over and the next thing you know, we were wheelin’ and dealin’ over there.

Matt: We we’re putting real money down. We were gambling like men. (laughter)

MOKB: I was looking at your tour schedule and it looks like you were hitting a lot of smaller towns on the way up here from L.A. and S.F. How did those go?

Tuk: Sacramento sucked ass. Chico sucked ass.

Matt: Chico wasn’t too hot.

Tuk: And I’m being positive with those words, you know what I’m saying?

Matt: But it’s still better to play those small towns than to have four days downtime. Which is what it was. We had a sure thing in S.F. and we wanted to hit Portland and Seattle on a Friday-Saturday, so what are you going to do in between there? Nothing and fuck around and spend money? Instead of playing shows? ‘Cause the shitty shows are still paying a hundred bucks or so and it breaks it up into short drives and you can stay with a friend along the way.

MOKB: So if you’re in Chico, even if it isn’t a packed or well-received show, are there still a few cool kids who are excited to see you?

Matt: No, but there’s cool kids who drove to that town to see us. That’s what happens, because those shows are all-ages, so kids from S.F who couldn’t see us there at the 21+ shows road-tripped up.

Ricky: Even in San Jose, kids drove up like an hour and half from somewhere else to see us, and they couldn’t even get in, so they just sat outside by our van the whole time.

MOKB: Do have favorite cities across the U.S. you like to play?

Randy. New York.

Matt: Austin is bad-ass. L.A is great.

Tuk: Chicago. Both Indianapolis and Chicago are awesome.

Matt: And Milwaukee. That’s always good.

Tuk: They’re not always huge shows, but lots of cool people come out. The shows feel great because of all these great people. A lot of other places it seems hard, because it feels like there’s not a really a scene for what we’re doing. For either band. (motioning to Randy)

Randy: It’s like we’re the last of a dying breed. (laughs)

Tuk: Especially when you’re in a band that looks like band and you’re trying to play real rock n’ roll. You go into some of these other places and people are like (in a disgusted voice) “you guys must be in a band” And it’s like these are my everyday clothes, it’s not like I got a costume on or anything, but that’s the audio-visual part of rock n’ roll that drew me into it as a kid, and I think that’s what the true spirit of it is. But now there’s such a slacker, indie generation thing going on, that it almost makes Nirvana and the grunge scene look glamorous, what’s happening now. You know? The indie scene is so ironic. Post-modern, indie, ironic bullshit, and then the mainstream is like fake soul-less robots, so then you got people like me and Randy, rock n’ roll superheroes trying to fight the fucking forces of evil on either side and just getting ambushed.(laughs) It’s kind of weird for me because those kids will go “look at your haircut, look at your band, are you trying be trendy or something?” and I’m like “No, nobody’s doing this to be trendy.”  It’s like I’m being ridiculed in high school again for looking like a rock n’ roll band and playin’ the music. Some of the comments made to me in the last couple of days from these people is blowing my mind, because when you’re touring, living like shit and trying to play this, and really trying to be real, and honest…I mean, I don’t have an attitude, none of has, or any ego about it. We’re for real.

Randy: Like when we’re just going into a gas station, it’s like somebody just skipped a record in the old saloon when we walk in.

MOKB: So how is it in your hometown of Atlanta?

Randy: Atlanta’s still pretty bad.

Matt: The show’s we play there are really fucking awesome, high energy, good times…

Randy: But it’s just us. There’s not a scene there. That’s why we play together all the time. And when we do those Hate City Nights in Atlanta, it’s just like three bands.

MOKB: Does it ever make you want to move to another city?

Randy: Of course, all the time.

Matt: It doesn’t make me really want to move. I don’t think it matters where the bands’ from. I don’t want to be a local band. I just want to be a band that happens to be based out of Atlanta, hopefully dominating another city every tour. I think if you can do that it doesn’t matter wherever you happen to live.

MOKB: When I see on you on YouTube doing the Now Dig This! series (a filmed music show in the spirit of the Old Grey Whistle Test) it makes me think there’s a hipper music scene going on in Atlanta than most other cities. (Biters-Now Dig This!)

Randy: Naw, that’s just us. (laughs)

Tuk: That came out of Randy calling me from England about it, and I just helped make it happen. He conceptualized it and I helped follow through. We’re going to try to do another one but it’s expensive. You know why there were seven bands? Because we couldn’t afford it, so each band had to pay ninety dollars. (laughs)

Matt: The more bands the cheaper it was. We had to rent out this big-ass t.v. studio to do it.

MOKB I know you each recently put out new albums, The Booze’s At Maximum Volume, and the Biters All Chewed Up, that you’re touring in support of. Do you have any other projects in the works?

Tuk: We each have a video coming out in the next two weeks.

Randy: The Booze has a video coming out next Wednesday.

Tuk: We have one coming out for Born To Cry. It’s got an actual storyline, Randy plays a bartender in it, there’s a whole bunch of characters in it.

Randy: Our’s is for Kick Me. It’s a split screen like Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. Or like Kitchen. Have you seen that?

MOKB: I’ve seen Chelsea Girls. Not Kitchen though.

Randy: Well it’s in black and white with a split-screen, like with a Chelsea Girls thing going on the left side and the right side is like Kitchen. But anyway, it’s just a collage of images.

MOKB: And looking ahead, what would make 2011 a stellar year for you?

Tuk: To survive off playing music. I’m not asking for too much, I just want to be able to play. And write. That would be fucking killer. Not to have a day job and struggle. It’s gotten to the point now, where for us, it’s starting to get…real discouraging.

Randy: Yeah.

Tuk: Sometimes it’s hard to keep going and being enthused.

Chaz: The way I was thinking of it last night, in Reno, was it’s kind of like gambling. You have a certain amount, and you ask yourself, how long am I going to keep going before I run out of money? Can I keep doing this? You know the payoff could come, if we keep re-investing and re-investing, but at the same time, we may run out before that happens.

Tuk: It’s scary when you don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel. Like if I could just see a peek of daybreak, that would be so fucking awesome. And actually get to a little island instead of just keep swimming. It’s like my arms are getting tired, you know?

Randy: Plus we’re getting older too.

MOKB: I feel like every time I read a review of either of your bands, I read a lot of “the next biggest thing” or “on the verge” type of comments. Do you ever feel that way?

Tuk: Well that would be great, if somebody would like to invest some money in us.

MOKB: Would the goal to be on a major label right now?

Tuk: Probably, but I don’t know. What, then they’d hire songwriters for us or some shit? (laughs)

Randy: It would be better to be on an indie label with a lot of money.

Tuk: But this right now is all theoretical. We’re just trying to make it to the next city. We’re sometimes living off ten dollars a day, which when you’re a grown man, sucks.

Randy: Not to mention, there are bands in London that get a major record deal after their first show. And here we are. We gotta hustle up and down the country.

Tuk: But if we weren’t doing this…you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way, it would just be nice for a little bit of hope.

Chaz: When we play in a city like L.A. or Chicago, it makes it feel more real. More positive.

Tuk: Yeah, you get this natural high off the audience, off their energy and that’s what this is all about. Then after four days of playing for nine people calling us names and stuff like that, it kind of takes it away. But you gotta get out here and do the grind, that’s a part of it. Everybody should pay their dues, for sure. I don’t feel I’m entitled to anything.

Randy: But at the same time, we take as much time as we can to perfect our music. To make it perfect…our playing. Then I do a lot of side band playing for bigger acts when I’m not doing this, and those guys play to a backing track. So sometimes it all feels like a big mind-game. You know what I’m saying?

Tuk: And we’re out here trying to be like four dudes, playing great music at the same time, organically, and it’s fucking hard to make it sound good, but we’re trying. Of course, we all have goals we’re trying to achieve. But both our bands get disrespected, seriously, about things like “they try too hard, they sound like this, their recording’s are over-produced” and its like, why? You know? Because we want to do our own thing? It’s why we play together all the time. We don’t even sound the same, our bands, but somehow we’re touring together because we’re trying to carry the same spirit. Our heart is coming from the same place.

Randy: There’s guys in Atlanta, saying things to us like “You guys are going on tour? Why are you trying to sell your music? I hate it when bands do that.” I mean, what are we supposed to do? Play in our basement for no one? Anything that you’ve heard, you’ve heard because someone sold a song. And they always tell us “You guys need to create your own thing. You guys are looking too far back.” It’s not that, we’re not reinventing the wheel or anything. We’re not doing that. But at the same time, if we were trying to do that, then the only canvas that you have for your creativity, is your memory. So you have to look back, no matter what you’re doing.

Chaz: Which makes me think about what’s going on now, on mainstream radio these days. If music is supposed to be about self-expression, and you’re making yourself sound like a fucking robot, then you must feel like robot, you know?

Tuk: We’re just out here trying to kick some ass. We’re just some guys working hard as fuck. We really are.

Chaz: I know there’s a demand out there for bands and sounds from the 70’s, like Tom Petty, who we love, and there’s those old bands from back then getting together again to tour and they’re making loads of money. And people are craving to hear that style of music. But then people are seeing us doing the same kind of thing as them, and saying “oh those guys are just a novelty act.”

Randy: It’s like how we get called retro rock. It’s not retro rock. We’re just a rock n’ roll band. We just go into a studio, or on a stage and plug in. But they call us retro rock because there’s bands now like Nickleback or Green Day, who they’re calling rock n’ roll. And it’s either do that, or this, but we both can’t be rock n’ roll bands, so they have to call us something else. So you can call us this, that, or the other, but you have to remember T.N.T. by AC/DC was just Beggar’s Banquet with distorted guitars; Tom Petty was just doin’ The Byrds and Dylan, but no one’s going to say that because those guys are revered stars. But it’s easy to pick on us.

Chaz: But we wouldn’t be out here if we didn’t really believe in what we were doing.

Tuk: I’ve been telling Mario, the drummer for The Booze, whose been filling in on this tour, “I’m up there like, giving these people my all, like I’m giving them my life force, they’re just draining my blood, and instead of giving it back, they’re just shitting it out. (laughs) And Mario’s like “No, they’re really into it.” And I’m like “I don’t get that feeling.”

Randy: That’s the difference between you and me. Before I even go up on stage I can spot that already.

Tuk: But I feel like if you’re a powerful being, you should be able to change people’s minds. I’ll get up there, and I’ll try my hardest. If you put on an honest, real rock n’ roll show, with your blood and sweat, you can change people. I don’t know…sometimes I think people are so spiritually blocked, desensitized by video games, what they’re eating, their lifestyles, reality t.v.; then they see us and they don’t even know what the fuck’s going on. They’re just watching us with their mouths open.

Chaz: That’s why I almost kind of like playing in front of dead-panned people, because it  gives me the feeling that when I’m up on the stage doing my thing, at least I can show them; this is what it looks like to feel something. You know? You can feel this way. Here’s something that really exists. I guess that’s all I can really do.

Randy: Larry David, the comedian, back in the 70’s, he would go up, and he could already see there was no one out there who was going to get him. So he’d get up there, grab the mic and look out at them and go… “Naw” and he’d leave. (everyone bursts into laughter) That’s what I wanted to do last night. (laughs)

Tuk: Me too. And I love to play.

Randy: On this tour, sometimes I just want to go home and sit in a tub. And I don’t even take baths. I shower. (laughs) But sometimes it really makes me want to go home and sit in a tub.

MOKB: When you do get home from a tour, are you happy to be there, or do you find it hard to stay in one place after so much constant traveling?

Tuk: I’m happy to get home, but no matter what, after about two weeks I get the itch to go back out there again.

Chaz: Yep.

Randy: Exactly.

Both bands went on to play the passionate, ass-whuppin’ rock n’ roll sets they’re becoming known for, to a packed Portland club. The Biters with their ferocious, precisioned, heart-exploding, punk-pop-edged rock n’ roll, that makes you wish you were joy-riding with your friends on a hot summer day with the windows rolled down and their music blaring. And The Booze, with their early R&B and Stax soul-soaked rock n’ roll, so seasoned and perfected underneath, they can afford to play it loose and dangerous on the topside, making you glad you’re in a dark club reaching for another beer. If playing honest-to-God, real rock n’ roll includes inducing the audience to ass-shaking, fist-pumping, head-banging, and screaming sing-along back-up vocals with big, ridiculous smiles plastered on their faces, then the Biters and The Booze delivered. As we filed out after the show to the merch table to snatch up some t-shirts, stickers and buttons, (they have vinyl too, by the way) I turned to my friend Nat, who I’d raved to earlier that evening about how both these bands, with their very different styles, had a way of making you feel twelve again; like when you first discovered the bliss of rock n’ roll with the unaffected joy of a pre-teen, and gave him a “did I tell you?” look. With a glazed-over smile that looked like he was both lost in happy teenage memories, and currently bathed in the sweaty, baptismal re-birth of a great rock n’ roll show; his whispered response to me was an utterly sincere “I believe.” Of course we giggled for a second after he said it, the sheer drama of the sentiment couldn’t help but crack us up. But here’s the thing: he absolutely meant it. Without a lick of irony. One can only hope these rock n’ roll superheroes uncover more believers out there on the road, inspiring them enough to keep fighting the good fight.

Fortunately for all of us, we here at MOKB were sent some amazing live footage of these two bands at the Star Bar in Atlanta earlier this year, so you can check ’em out for yourselves.

Biters – Oh Yeah (The Bitch Wants More) (live @ Star Bar HD)

The Booze – Kick Me Where It Hurts (live @ Star Bar Atlanta HD)

-Post by Miss Dolly Mod

  • Joanne b, That’s me

    April 8, 2011 [ 6:57 pm ]

    Baltimore LOVES Biters

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