I’m so fucking sick of discussions about “punk’s problem with women” that make reference to the Warped Tour and its “ShiraGirl stage.’’ I don’t give a fuck about the Warped Tour and I don’t really see what the fuck it has to do with punk rock in the first place.
The last DIY show I went to was five days ago in Madison. Two of the bands playing were Lipstick Homicide and Rational Anthem, both fronted by women. The last band I bought a shirt from was The Turkletons, a band in which lead vocals are traded off between the guitarists – one male and one female. The last set of records I bought from a distro were three 7-inches – by Boys, Pity Party, and Skinny Genes. Only one of those doesn’t prominently feature women and that’s only because it’s a solo effort by one guy. But that one guy’s active band is Science Police, of which two of the members are women.
The gender of the performers wasn’t even a thought (until this morning when I read another of these articles and asked myself if there was any validity to its criticisms). I don’t support any of those bands because they have women in them; I support them because they’re great punk bands. When I interviewed Rational Anthem for Razorcake, I asked singer/guitarist Noelle Stolp about gender and punk rock. She said and I quote: “To me – I don’t really fucking care. I don’t feel any different. I just know that I can shred better than some dudes and it kills their self-esteem as well as their boners.” Beautifully fucking articulated.
Punk rock is whatever the fuck we want it to be. If you don’t like the shows being booked at 924 Gilman or Charm City Art Space, become a member and book your own shows (one of the only rules to do so is “no sexism”). If you don’t like the coverage in zines like Maximumrocknroll or Razorcake, write your own articles, conduct your own interviews, and they’ll printthem! And if you feel like whatever group you identify with is underrepresented in punk, then start a band, put out records, and go out on tour.
Are there sexist attitudes in the punk scene? ABSOLUTELY! (Kind of like how there are sexist attitudes – oh, I don’t know – EVERYWHERE). Is that a bummer? Of course. But I think we do a way better job (in the punk scene) at being inclusive and open to people of all genders, races, ideologies, etc than 99% of the rest of this planet (and we’ll continue striving to be even better). Punk rock is important to me so I’m sorry if I’m getting defensive but I don’t appreciate all the shit you’ve been talking on this scene that I love and that so many of us (male and female) work so hard for.
In conjunction with my interview with the band (published in this month’s issue – #76), Razorcake Online just published a short story I wrote about one particularly ridiculous day on our tour back in 2009. You can read it on their website or you can even download it as an eBook! Technology, huh? Scope it out here.
One note: if this were written today, it’d have a radically different tone. My perception back then was pretty out of whack. I trust that you’ll be able to see through the author’s bullshit and identify the real villain and the real victims.
Update: The reviews are pouring in! (Via text messages).
Chris Hembrough says: “The desert story is really good. I got mad and then kinda sad and then kinda smiley .”
Dave Dillon says: “Read that story, its really great. I remember you saying you were writing it a long time ago. We’re hitting the road now. Youre going to fest right?”
Pete Stolp says: “Dude fantasy draft is going down right now.” [But he wasn’t on that tour so fuck him].
I remember in 2008, somebody asked me, “Are you really still gonna care about bands like Drunken Boat and Ringers five years from now?” I stated confidently that I would. And I do! In his review of the Frozen Teens LP, Todd Taylor compares the band to The Replacements, Bent Outta Shape, and Drunken Boat. Obviously, The Replacements get their due every day and Bent Outta Shape still get nods pretty often too. But it’s nice to see that someone else out there picked up on the little something-specials going on in the music of Drunken Boat, remembers them, and still cares as much as I do.
I don’t know Bianca, but in her review of the Peeple Watchin’ cassette, she writes, “If I were in a pit of despair, this would be the soundtrack to my triumphant escape from it.” And that is exactly how I felt about Peeple Watchin’s “I’m Still Here, Asshole” in the darkest moments of this last July.
Marty Ploy’s top five list concludes with “Having Rational Anthem in southern California for a week.” I love those kids too, Marty!
Another reviewer I don’t know (Rick Ecker) writes of The Turkletons (in his review of their split with Lipstick Homicide) that they’re “every bit the equal on this split single.” Like my first little note, I think Lipstick Homicide are a band that have been getting the recognition they deserve but it makes me happy to see that The Turkletons are too. If Lipstick Homicide’s “Not That Easy” is my favorite song on the record, then The Turkletons’ “Geography” is only the slightest scratch behind it. And the lead in that song is definitely the highlight of the record.
A few weeks back, Jesse (Slow Death) wrote something online about all of the records he had in the works and Chris (Turkletons) said something like, “You’re boring everyone.” His response: “What if I told you they were all based around puns and clever wordplay?” Chris: “Sold!” I think I laughed out loud reading that.
Ten thousand years ago, I was supposed to release The Humanoids’ debut full-length on Traffic Street. Those plans took a backseat to my heroin problem but the LP has finally seen the light of day thanks to Darren’s new(ish) label, Throwing Things Records. He gave me a copy when Rational played with The Haddonfields in St. Louis last month, it just happens to be spinning on my turntable as I type all of this, and – like everything else that I just mentioned – it’s one more little thing that makes me happy, one more little thing that puts a smile on my face.
Did you know that there are people in the world who care about shit other than pop punk?
When I was eighteen years old, I played in a band with Chris Hembrough. I smashed the windows of his house one night in a drug and alcohol-fueled rage. By 2008 (about four years later) we were friends again, but the kind of friends who rarely – if ever – hung out. He called me and asked if I’d come see his band play. They asked me if I could help them out with a few things and one thing led to the next. I convinced them to change their name (originally Portman). I helped them put together a demo. I booked an East Coast/Midwest summer tour. I started Traffic Street Records to make their next release appear more legitimate.
We drew some boundaries after a bit of tumult. I continued to put out their records, but I didn’t want to have to do any other chores for them and they didn’t want to put up with my mental illness. Part of me thought that without my incredibly skilled hand on the wheel, the band would crumble to shit. Part of me was wrong. Rational Anthem has grown to become one of my absolute favorite bands. And thanks to some serious, long-term inpatient treatment, I’m no longer a mixed blessing or a liability for them. I’m just a friend and a fan.
We sat down for two hours the night before they left town for their sixth annual U.S. tour to talk about their (often our) misadventures along with the kind of personal stuff that wouldn’t normally come up if we were just hanging out as buddies.
That’s the introduction I wrote for my interview with Rational Anthem in the new issue of Razorcake. If you’re not a subscriber, you can get a copy right here. The interview’s really lengthy and came out really well. Thanks a ton to Todd Taylor for being an excellent editor, to Bambi Guthrie and Marc Gärtner for their photographs, and to Keith Rosson for doing a killer layout.
I’m always busy. I always have “really important” stuff that I “have” to do. When I was living in DC, it was Traffic Street Records year-round and law school around final exam time. Back then (before heroin became the main problem), I feel like the biggest point of tension in my relationship was my emotional unavailability. Every night, Taylor would ask me to come to bed, I’d tell her I was almost done, and then six hours would pass before I actually made it to the bedroom. So every night she went to sleep alone, woke up while I was still asleep, and then came home from work to find me busy packing up records or laying out a record insert or [whatever]. Eventually, I started doing whatever Traffic Street stuff that I could at school instead of the apartment, so that she’d already be asleep when I got home and I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not coming to bed and not paying attention to her.
Heather and I moved to Jacksonville this June. She didn’t have a job lined up before we got here so, for the first two weeks, we were both home all the time. Since I’m always busy, I’m never bored and I’m always content in that regard. But Heather has been working [forever] and likes having a job to go to every day. Consequently, she was bored out of her mind. And – maybe because of my own insecurities and my experiences with Taylor – I felt guilty anytime I was working instead of paying attention to her. It was stressing me out. And the fact that she was visibly bored and unhappy made even harder. Especially when I tried to talk to her about it and she just tuned out. Eventually, I decided that there was nothing I could do and just went about doing my own thing. But when it got to the point where we were barely talking at all, it was too much.
I’m feeling disconnected. I’m trying to push through it, assume the best, not stress out. If someone’s not talking to me, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. They could just not feel like talking. Or it could have everything to do with me. But if every attempt at conversation – every question asked – is met with a one-word response, what am I supposed to do? [Moving to a new city together] is supposed to be exciting. And it is for me. But I feel like only for me. And that tempers the excitement a bit. I opened up, put everything out there. Explained with sincerity how I’m feeling. And I got nothing back. Literally, no response.
[ -written June 17th]
I was at a loss. Now I couldn’t work. I sat alone in the living room dumbfounded. And scatterbrained; I had my probation deadline hanging over my head and hadn’t finished my community service hours yet. That was also weighing on me and fucking me up. Especially since I was getting my hours from home; that meant that I could have been doing it in that moment, but wasn’t. Instead, I decided that I needed to paint. It had been too long.
There’s a small block of text in the center of the canvas:
My first impulse is to lie in bed, face down, and cry forever. My second is to beat off. I need to write and paint. I spill my guts and… I’m struggling. Sharing life isn’t easy. I might not be built for it. It’s tough to know what’s right for me. I like being me but it isn’t easy. I guess nothing is. That doesn’t feel true.
The next day – as has so often been the case this summer – I did a total one-eighty. Within twenty-four hours of painting “Blueprint,” I was working on a drawing that says: “I couldn’t be happier” – something I genuinely felt.
Nearly a year had passed since I painted this piece and it remained unsold. That’s mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t been displaying it because I didn’t really like it anymore. I don’t usually go back and work on old pieces because I tend to think of them as “artifacts” from another time in my career. But if I was keeping it locked up in a trunk, in a garage somewhere, it wasn’t really doing much good as an artifact or anything else for that matter. Better to go back, work on it some more – until it was something that I could be proud of and sell with confidence. It took another ten hours or so and I finished it on May 12, 2014. Sixteen days later, it was sold. Here’s what it used to look like…
Listen while you read! (The embed for their new album won’t work, so here’s a stream of their 2011 EP, “Bread Line” – one of the last releases on Traffic Street).
It’s almost midnight, which means that I’m just barely living up to my “new content every day” promise. I know, I know. You’re all very upset. I’ll make it up to you somehow… just not tonight!
You see, I’ve been spending the day, readying myself to hit the road. Tomorrow I’m embarking on a (very) short tour with Rational Anthem. We’re going up to Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis and stopping for a few other shows on the route up and back. (By the way – interesting trivia fact… did you know that (not counting bands that Davey Tiltwheel is in) Rational Anthem are the only band playing that aren’t from the Midwest?) That’s kind of cool if you ask me.
But anyway, a ton of my favorite bands are playing and I’m really excited about it. Before I went to rehab (the first time) I was going to at least forty shows a year (many of which I was the one responsible for booking). Shit, I did forty shows just in the summer 2008, ’09, and ’10. Since I went to rehab though, Rational Anthem (and Weak Nights) are the only bands I’ve seen. In almost two years. That shit’s insane. Plus, Rational Anthem’s 2009 tour was kind of the epitome of my bad behavior. Well, my bad behavior in a social context anyway. I was not a good friend to them. After that tour, my relationships with Chris and Noelle became a little strained, so it’s kind of a big deal for me to be hitting the road with them again. Even if it is just for a week. It means a lot to me. Like… it makes me really happy. Not just that I get to go, but that they trust me to go. That they actually want me to go. (They invited me! They’re stoked on it! (That’s really, really awesome)).
I interviewed them for Razorcake recently, so you’ll be able to read a lot more about our zany adventures together once that comes out. For now, I’m just gonna share some of the stuff that I got to design for the sixty-or-so day tour that they got home from about a week ago.
This originally said Off With Their Heads instead of Rational Anthem but I decided to change it up ’cause Rational needed a shirt and OWTH didn’t. I listen to both bands when I’m feeling well, but when I’m upset, I turn to OWTH when I wanna dwell in it and Rational when I wanna pull myself out. I didn’t get one of these shirts before they left for their long tour so I’m pretty stoked to finally get one tomorrow.
Screen-printing is not the best medium for images with small or fine details. It took me fucking forever to find a balance in manipulating this image so that the faces were somewhat visible, but didn’t have any lines or dots that’d be too small to come out in a screen. The logo on the first few Rational records and shirts was mine, but this one I stole (I think it’s one of Corey’s). (When Corey’s not playing in The Manix and Banner Pilot, he does some pretty outstanding artwork and was definitely an inspiration to / influence on me). Anyway, this shirt was Chris’s idea (or at least he’s the one that brought it to me). Originally, it was going to say “Pop Punk Vacation” at the bottom, which I thought was kind of boring. We thought this was way, way funnier. Not only is it a great statement about playing in a band generally, but what the fuck are they doing posing on top of a van for a photograph? I mean, don’t these fucking kids have jobs? Honestly…
Originally, this was the only thing I was designing for Rational Anthem’s summer tour, but – as it’d turn out – I got to do pretty much everything. (That first shirt design was also printed up on red and black koozies). This one definitely took the longest though. The main artwork – like the name of the tour – is a National Lampoon parody. I looked up the posters to the different Vacation movies and thought it’d be fun to do a re-imagining of the “European Vacation” poster, on which the Griswold family are all clutching the legs of their leader, Clark, as he stand proudly with his fist in the air, clutching a [I forget what he was clutching]. The tagline is also a parody of the tagline from the poster. Ours says, “For over three dozen years, punk rock has survived many terrible posers. Now for the real test… Rational Anthem are coming out of their mall!” (That’s definitely my favorite part). Anyway, I drew the kids with colored pencils. Don’t ask me why I gave them green skin – I have no reason. The van in the background is from the first piece I ever sold, “Clarity,” and the rest is from a piece I made after I left rehab, called “Heather Pierce.” Neither is up on this site with a real write-up yet, but you can see them (and get a little background info on each) elsewhere. “Clarity” is online here, in my Facebook album of inpatient artwork, and “Heather Pierce” is up here, on my Storenvy site.
Here are the dates for our little mini-tour. If you’re coming out, I’ll see you soon!
Tue. 8/13 – Leavin’ late and just hanging with Stewart in Atlanta
Wed. 8/14 – St. Louis w/ [ask Noelle]
Thu. 8/15 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis!
Fri. 8/16 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis!
Sat. 8/17 – Dave Strait Fest in Minneapolis! (this is the day Rational are actually playing)
Sun. 8/18 – Des Moines, IA w/ The Copyrights, Lipstick Homicide, Tight Bros, and more
Mon. 8/19 – Carbondale, IL w/ [ask Noelle]
Tue. 8/20 – [ask Noelle]
Regarding the shows on Sunday and Monday though – Zack’s hitching a ride with us back down to FL from MPLS and – I think Dear Landlord might be playing one (or both) of them. Once I’m actually with everyone, I’ll know more solid details on the shows (like venues/addresses) and I’ll throw them up online here when I do.