DONOVAN WOLFINGTON, a DIY indie/punk from New Orleans, Louisiana, are putting out their debut full length called “Stop Breathing” on April 13th, 2013 via Community Records / Broken World Media! I caught up with them earlier this month and asked them a few questions about the new outing and their amazing, legendary local music scene. Check it out to see what’s up for DONOVAN WOLFINGTON in the coming months.
Hey, Neil! Great to talk to you! How’s it going? Hope all is well. Can you introduce DONOVAN WOLFINGTON for me?
Hey! great to talk to y’all too. It’s going pretty well. I’m watching family guy in my friend’s house. He’s not home. This episode is pretty funny. DONOVAN WOLFINGTON is an punk/indie 5 piece from New Orleans, LA consisting of Matt Seferian, Christian Baraks, Neil Berthier, Savannah Saxton, and Chris Littlejohn.
What is the history behind the band? Tell me a bit about yourself, how old are you and how you put this band together.
I ended up meeting Matt at orientation of college. Everyone was pretty lame, but I tried to keep a positive mindset about it. I saw this kid with a pavement shirt on and so I went up to him and I was like “Hey, I like your shirt.” The kid ended up being matt and he would not stop talking about pavement for like 3 hours. Okay, maybe not 3 hours, but it felt like it. His enthusiastic nature was incredible though. Then we actually got to college. This is where both matt and I kept running into each other being like “Hey, wanna jam sometime?” but didn’t until like 2 months into school. We kept jamming with people we hated jamming with and it was really straining. I was going to put out an acoustic EP with some songs I wrote about my awful ex girlfriend and how I missed her and how I hated college. It was gonna be a split with a kid who I started jamming with but he would skip practice to do acid a lot and it got weird. I finally got a chance to play with matt and it was the most fun I had ever had playing seriously with anyone before. I had never seen anyone play like him and I loved the parts he was coming up with over the songs. I met Savannah the first day of school and she was pretty funny and had some weird tattoo’s and piercings that I thought were cool. It turned out she was a music major and had a really great voice and played piano. We asked her to join and we all started hanging out and having fun and getting drunk together on weekends and going to see shows. We saw Christian play with another band he was in at the time and he was so much fun to watch play bass. I had never felt that way about a bassist since I saw NOFX when I was 15. We talked to him after the show and he was down to jam. He was older than us so I was nervous. He ended up being the man and really awesome at bass. We had a different drummer and there was a lot of conflict. We got Chris because Christian raved about him and they had played in bands together in Dallas and were BFF’s. He started playing with us and we felt a really great fit. We starting touring and playing around the city and now we’re here today with a real full length with a lot of plans to keep doing a lot of things. I’m 19 years old, so is Savannah. Matt is now 20 and Christian and Chris are 21. I actually don’t know if Chris is 21, but if I had to guess he’s 21 or 20. He rules. We’re all still in school. It’s kinda lame but I’m one of those people who’s kind of afraid of life in some aspects so it’s definitely better than anything else I’d be doing unless we were touring full time.
Wow, great! Take me through your recordings history. Is “Stop Breathing” your first proper work?
I would consider it the first “proper” one. We recorded a 4 song demo in one night called “Sometimes, Nostalgia” which I am personally not that proud of. We are re-recording all the songs on it which we did two of on this record (American Spirits, Friends) because the recordings do it little justice. But we’ll do the songs Makeshift and Spiders from the first EP on the next record. Stop Breathing’s recording process started in April of 2012 and didn’t fully get finished until October of that same year. We worked extremely hard on it and sat on the record for longer than expected or desired but it worked out in the best way possible and the record finally sounds the way it should. Recording is always scary to me because you can write a song with certain vision in your head and have it come out nothing like you had planned. You can only hope that if it comes out different than originally planned that it’s better than you had imagined which in this case is what I think happened. I really had no idea how this record was gonna sound and it’s really something we’re all proud of. We record demos all the time and revise things but no one hears those except maybe our friends. Demoing is one of my favorite things because you can find the parts you really like of a sing and then keep listening and hear what you can make better.
Yeah, man. Do you have any other songs left after the demoing process?
We drop some and take parts to put into other songs. The last track on “Stop Breathing” was a demo we recorded on garage band in Matt’s dorm room. We liked it the way it was so we mastered it with the rest of the tracks. We have a lot of demos for our next record or split or whatever it will be, we’re just trying to make them the best they can be.
You’ve received a lot of great reviews, guys. I’ve seen dozens of positive accolades in the world of emo / indie / punk music. I’m not surprised at all, the record is really solid. How long have you been writing it?
Hey thanks! Yeah, the feedback has been unreal. We’re really stoked about it but it was pretty overwhelming at first. I personally didn’t expect it to do as well as it’s doing. I probably thought that because we sat on it for so long though. All in all the record took a year to write, record, mix and master. Some songs were way easier to write than others but that’s just the nature of those types of things. At the end of the day, I think the record sounds the way it should.
Writing and recording it, what were some of your primary influences?
As far as writing went we were all listening to a lot of different stuff at the time. I was really into the “Just Married” record by GLOCCA MORRA and “Magic Isn’t Real” by PILE. I know Matt was just getting into SPARKLEHORSE and GRANDADDY. But at the same time, the classics like PAVEMENT, BUILT TO SPILL, DINOSAUR Jr., GUIDED BY VOICES and NIRVANA are on constant repeat when we all hang out. As far as recording influences, we were all listening to the S/T JOYCE MANOR record a lot. The fluidity on that album is something to be desired by anyone who writes music and they definitely took the time to make an awesome record. Great dudes too. We wanted to do something similar recording wise.
Who did assist you, if anyone, in the process of recording “Stop Breathing”?
Our good friend Ross Farbe from the band Native America engineered and mixed the record which was awesome because it gave the record a really interesting sound and something different than I had expected out of the record. Then after that our homie Chris Rehm from the band CADDYWHOMPUS mastered the record which really tied the whole record together and made it feel extremely cohesive.
What merch items have you planned to support it?
We have shirts from both labels and vinyl and cd’s that you can get from both labels. Mixed color vinyl. You can check out the designs from both Broken World Media and Community Records websites. We’ll probably make a sweatshirt or something weird too with an old screen we have. Check up on our facebook we’ll keep everyone updated.
Who’s that boy with a jar? Is there a story behind the picture?
I wish there was a story behind that shirt. It would have made it a lot more interesting. Our homie Derrick Shanholtzer (The World Is…, Broken World Media, Etc.) made it as a part of our pre order package from Broken World. As far as merch and album art or anything of that nature goes, we like to keep it within the family. By that I mean, either we design it, or our photographer or graphic designer friends will. We’re all in it together, you know?
Back to your newest outing, have you thought about releasing on tape? Cassettes are back! [smiles]
So I’ve heard [laughs]. That was the original plan for this release but we all like vinyl a lot more than tape (no offense to anyone who likes tape more, just a personal opinion I guess). The vinyl was more expensive on our end but it was worth it. I don’t have a tape player though. In turn, it sounded a little impractical for us as well. I’m pretty positive none of us have tape players actually. I know Savannah’s car had one but that car died. So that’s lame.
What’s up with the Bandcamp story you posted about a few days ago? I mean, how come they have run out of free downloads?! Is there a limit for it? Or was it set to one million and you already reached the ceiling? [laughs]
[laughs] Our bandcamp crashed the first day we put it up for free download. We didn’t expect that at all. It’s still up for free on Communityrecords.org. You can only have like 200 free downloads a month or something on bandcamp. It’s super weird. Music should be free though, merch and vinyl should be paid for. People shouldn’t have to pay for intangible objects that make them feel good.
Did you contact Bandcamp with the official complaint? [smiles]
The feedback must have been amazing, right? Tell me more about how people received this release. What was the most surprising situation you’ve experienced so far?
[laughs] Nah it’s policy. The feedback has all been really positive which is great. I think the best feeling is when we hear from people we really respect for their music and they tell us that they really enjoy it. The fact that people are listening to it on their own time and listening to it as a record as opposed to just a bunch of songs is most gratifying feeling because that’s the way it was supposed to be listened to. It’s definitely humbling and flattering in a lot of ways and I’m just glad people are enjoying it as much as we do. My parents are really proud but I don’t think they like our songs. They like American Spirits and Coca Cola but I think that’s about it. They wish I didn’t swear and scream so much which I guess is expected because they’re parents but whatever [laughs]. That’s punk I guess. There have been a few surprising emails that I can’t share publicly, but you’ll know about them very soon. It’s nice to have this good of feedback for this record because our next record is even better and it makes me really excited for what is to come.
How advanced is work on the new record?
It’s pretty much already written. There’s obviously way more to do but based on the demos and songs that we’re coming up with right now, I have no doubt in my mind the next record will be better than this one. With that said, I like this record a lot but in terms of song writing and lyric writing I’m really happy with how things are coming out now for the future.
Do you already plan some new moves distribution and promotion-wise?
[laughs] Nah we’re not that efficient. We’re still focusing on that stuff for this record.
I guess we can count on another vinyl, right? [smiles]
What’s special about this format?
Hopefully. It’s expensive. We’re broke so it’s tough and we can only spend so much. I think it’s all of our favorite form of listening to music. There’s something really special felt when you open up a vinyl and you get to see the art the band chose and read all the lyrics as you listen to the record.
Are you a serious collector? What’s your beloved record? Do you have one?
[laughs] I guess so. I don’t know how that would be necessarily defined but we all love and collect vinyls. Definitely In Utero by NIRVANA or 36 Chambers by WU TANG CLAN.
Tell me more about your cooperation with Community Records/Broken World Media.
We had been friends with Greg and D-Ray (Community) for quite a while. We showed them the demos and they enjoyed them. Therefore they were down to help us put out the record. I was facebook friends with Derrick (Broken World Media) and I sent him the Spencer Green single out of whim. He listened to it and asked to put it out. We love both labels very dearly and everyone should check out everything both labels put out. They’re seriously awesome labels run by seriously awesome people. Shameless plug, yet honest. [smiles]
Tell me about your local music scene in New Orleans. What’s the relationship between young artists and old raisins and their cultural heritage? [smiles]
I’ve never been a part of a better music scene than I have in New Orleans. It’s really nice to have a lot of your favorite bands in general be your best friends. I think the coolest part about New Orleans’ music scene is that everyone has to have a good live show. There are 100 different shows going on any given night in the city and if your live show is bad no one is going to come and check out your band. I like the survival of the fittest mentality around here because it makes for some of the greatest acts I know. Shout out to ALL PEOPLE, NEW LANDS, NATIVE AMERICA, WOOZY, HABITAT, CADDYWHOMPUS, HEAT DUST and ARCHANIMALS. Those are just a few of the many bands that are coming of out New Orleans who absolutely kill it and I honestly cannot find things that are this cool and genuine in any other city. Maybe Boston. But even then there’s not nearly as many awesome acts and the shows are always extremely over priced and 21+. I guess that makes for great DIY scenes though, which is the way most great things start out from what I’ve seen. The touristy funk jazz scene or whatever is here too, which is what people generally look for when they come to New Orleans. That scene has its place too. It makes a lot of money for the city so I can’t hate on it at all. That started as a genuine thing too, but now it’s all about money. At least a lot of it is. My point is there is an unreal thing going on down here that everyone should know about and check out. You’re missing out hard if you sleep on it.
Has it been always like this or is it a recent boom and bloom of music and art around there?
It’s always been here but what’s going on now is extremely exciting and more relevant than years past it seems like. There’s a lot of transplants here, including myself (sort of). So not only is there something unique from the people who’ve lived here all of their lives, but along with that there’s everyone else who’s not originally from here bringing a lot to the table. I lived here until I was 7 then moved to Connecticut. I moved back two years ago.
How much have you traveled so far? I mean both as a band as an individual (individuals)? What’s the farthest you’ve been?
We’ve only been from Florida to Texas skipping Mississippi and Alabama. Did a lot of Texas last summer. Everyone in our band is from Texas except me and some haven’t really been outside of the south. Therefore, we’re stoked to tour the Midwest and East Coast this summer. I did East Coast with my old band in high school which was rad, then I started college and it was lame and I couldn’t tour as much as I would like anymore. Summer tour will be rad. We’ll probably do West Coast this year at some point too which I am more than stoked for. The idea of playing by a beach is always exciting for us.
So how would you compare New Orleans to these places, not only in terms of music scene. What places caught your attention and why?
Texas to me was really awesome in some places but really annoying in others. Everyone will get mad at me in our band for saying that. I’ll never get the pride for Texas that is preached there, which is okay because I’m not from there so I will never understand it. I love Boston to death, but there’s not as big of a sense of community there as there is in New Orleans. Florida was nice for a minute. Like I said earlier, beaches rule. I haven’t seen enough of it to make a true opinion. I’ve toured the East Coast before and there’s a lot of people who are really enthusiastic about music there but a lot of people like to attach on to a hype train there too. It’s not bad, it’s just tough to know if people actually like your music or if you’re just the next hot thing. If it’s cool to like a band in the Northeast, people will. With that said, it’s nice to go there and play shows because kids go apeshit and have a good time, but the honesty or passion is a weird thing to think about because you don’t know if it’s real or not. Then again, maybe I just don’t trust anyone and am kind of cynic when it comes to other people’s opinions. It’s probably on me. America is rad though. Rock on and stuff.
What about traveling abroad? Do you dream about seeing the world?
We’re down for anywhere and everywhere!
Any plans to make it happen? [smiles]
Any details you’d like to reveal? [laughs]
Bummer! At least promise me to drop a line once it’s all lined up.
How many concerts have you done so far?
Oh we will let ya know! I honestly have no idea we’ve only been around for like a year and a half or so. We wanna play a lot more!
Ok, guys. Is there anything you’d like to add before we finish off?
Thanks to everyone for listening! You have no idea how much we appreciate it. We’ll have new music, merch and tours very soon so keep your eyes peeled. We urge you to check out the bands that aren’t us that were mentioned in this interview. It’ll be fun and make your life more enjoyable!
Thanks for your time!