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THE BEST OF THE WORST: Techy SkaCore Punk Math Metal with horns :)

That’s right, folks! THE BEST OF THE WORST is a hell of mixture of hardcore punk passion, math rock dynamics and ska spices. They are currently in the process of releasing a new record via Community Records and were so kind to sit down with me to talk about “Perspectives“, the crazy blend of tunes they produce, the NJ scene and the idea of starting a wedding band. Actually, there’s a lot more inside the interview below.

New Jersey should be damn proud of these guys and Facebook should do something about their silly number of 1200 fans! I bet there’s something wrong with the like button :)

Hello, gentlemen! Who’s there? [smiles] There’s like 30 of you in the band, right? [laughs]

Joe:

[laughs] Yep.  We actually used to be a full-on high school marching band.  Once everyone grew out of their uniforms we didn’t have enough money for more funny hats so we had to downsize a bit.  True story.  Also, we do have one lady member!  We are a mixed bunch.

Jay:

There are 7 of us, which makes touring interesting. I play sing and play guitar, Joe sings and plays drums. there is also Ryan who plays bass, Cheech on guitar, Stiffie on sax, Kate on trumpet, and Rob on trombone. we could fill out a pretty solid kickball team.

Ouch! Sorry, Kate! My wife’s name is Kate, this makes even more sad I forgot about you. Sorry! [smiles]

How come you reach out for such small undertakings as IDIOTEQ? After so many releases you should be bloody rock stars, shouldn’t you? [smiles]

Jay:

[laughs] We really just want to get this new album out to as many people as possible. It something we are all super proud of and we have spent a lot of time gearing up for its release.

It’s your first full length since the 2009’s “Calling From The Grave”, right? Tell me more about it.

Jay:

Correct. In 2009 we put out calling from the grave for free via the now defunct Open Hand Records. Giving that album away for free gave us some solid momentum moving into 2010 and we toured a few times in the Northeast, Midwest.  After those two tours we put out the 7-10 split with TOMAHAWK CHOP from Long Island on vinyl.  Then we had some member fluctuation so we took some time to regroup.

Last April we put out an EP of three songs that would be on the new album, with that EP we just really wanted to establish the new lineup.  After that, we got the rest of the new songs together and recorded the 11 tracks that became Perspectives.

Joe:

BUY IT!  It’s 5 fucking dollars.  That’s less than most full length albums.  That’s less than most THINGS period.  A hot salami sandwich is like $5.29 + tax.  Plus, if you buy the CD you will get some stickers and a really cool poster of the album artwork.

Jay:

We really have come a long way since our old lineup, the group that recorded CFTG was 4 piece (guitar, bass, drums, and trombone).  Now we have expanded to 2 guitars and a 3 piece horn section. The new songs have a lot more layers and are definitely more complicated. At the same time, we feel the new album also shares a good amount of characteristics with our previous releases.

Joe:

It’s like our two older EPs had a baby, and then it was injected with something terrible.  We still bring the “heps”, we still bring the “dun dun dunnnns”, and we still deliver the tech.  I think the songwriting is a little more cohesive on this one.  Instead of being like “ok breakdown, punk beat, ska beat”, we just tried to make the songs feel natural and flow.  This was a lot harder than it sounds since we don’t like to repeat too many choruses [laughs].

Amazing. What caused the shift? How did you decided to complicate it a little bit? [smiles]

Joe:

It was more of a natural progression.  We’re a little older now and we wanted to get a little more innovative with our sound.  I’m trying to avoid the cliche of saying “this is like, our most mature album to date mannn”.  Cause how mature can you really get playing our niche genre of weird ska-core?

It’s tough trying to explain what style of music we play to people.  As soon as you bring up the ska/horn element they get this condescending smirk on their face.  Like “ohhh you’re in a SKA band”.  We kinda have to walk on egg shells when we tell people about our music so they don’t instantly write us off as a REEL BIG FISH cover band.  Most people will tell us “yeah, I used to like ska….but then I just like, grew out of it.”  People think this is the most intelligent and clever response ever, but I’ve heard it at least 100 times.  Cool man, so you’re basically saying you’re more mature and dignified now because your musical tastes have “progressed” to chillwave-indie rock?  Eat shit.  All of our musical tastes have changed over time as well, but good music is still good music regardless of genre.  To write off a whole genre of music based on some superficial factors is pretty dumb.  Except maybe Crunkcore.

I think that concept really caused us to bust our asses with these songs.  It had a lot of influence on our musical intent and what we were trying to do with each instrument in the band.  Also, spacecake.

[laughs] So is the NJ scene tired of ska in general? [smiles] No, but seriously, tell me more about your local scene.

Kate:

[grimace]

Jay:

When we were all younger, NJ was the place to be if you were into ska. But around when TBOTW started, it seemed that the scene started a slow decline. as months passed there were fewer and fewer ska bands existing and less strictly ska shows. its all for the better though. We have definitely found a place for ourselves in NJ, it just doesn’t always revolve around ska. don’t get me wrong there are still a handful of hardworking ska bands in NJ, but the quantity doesn’t seem to be what it once was.

Joe:

There are bands that play ska music that do indeed bust their asses in NJ, we just aren’t one of them.  These bands are also spaced out all over NJ so its’ kind of tough to consider all those bands a part of one “scene”.  I have to give internet props to THE WAFFLE STOMPERS, SURVAY SAYS, and NO SUCH NOISE! for keeping it up for so long and going out on tour multiple times throughout the year.  Also, INSPECTER 7 just reunited after the demise of HUB CITY STOMPERS.  We aren’t really a part of that scene either, even though Jay was when he played guitar for HCS [laughs].

So what’s your place in the local music scene? What are its characteristics around where you exist? Is it divided in some way?

[Joe]:

It’s hard to get into scene semantics without sounding preachy or self-important, so I’m going to pass on that [laughs].  I will say this:  we play shows. People come out and have a good time, regardless of how many horns are in our band.  We do kind of venn diagram fans with a lot of those bands I named, but I would consider our crowds a little different because we bring out a lot of our friends, who are more into hardcore/melodic shit.

Recently we’ve started up an artist collective called Choke Artist.  It’s basically made up of us and our best friends, working together to keep shit real in every sense. We’ve been running shows, doing some cd releases… we even have some clothes and shit like that available in our webstore. The music aspect of it all is 100% DIY.  We did a lot of the assembling for this new record ourselves, and got in touch with some local artists who did a bang up job with everything.

Amazing. Shoot us some names of the bands that already joined you guys. Also, tell us why would a band that’s so many years on stage like to stay DIY and support DIY ethics starting a collective like this?

Joe:

I’d say right now the heart of Choke Artist is TBOTW, COUNTY DROP, and MARLONEISHA.  We’ve been tight with the C-Drop dudes since 2006, Jay just joined as the bassist too….and I’ve been playing drums in Marlo since 2003, so 10 years.  We’ve all been doing this band thing for a long time and we have a lot of besties who have the same DIY mindset.  My roomates play in a band called GATES, they’re actually leaving to play some shows in Canada in an hour, so hopefully they’ll be tagging up Canada with some Choke Artist stickers [laughs].

Other affiliates at this point:  ARROWS IN HER, CHILLED MONKEY BRAINS, BROADCASTER, VESUDEVA, MARSUPIAL, SAVE THE SWIM TEAM, DAIDO LOORI, HOLY CITY ZOO, EVERYTHING EVER, and a few more.  We’re planning on putting out a compilation in the Springtime with some new jams by all these bands.

Jay:

Yea be on the lookout for that comp, it’ll be full of sweet jams. DIY for us, partially comes out of need and partially comes out of passion. When you play sort-of a niche genre like us, it’s not like some label is going to come and drop a shit load of money into a band so they can revolutionize the skacore scene. We put on our own shows, in spaces or in basements, we book our own tours, assemble our own cds and handle every single aspect of our band while also trying to support likeminded bands. I think that’s something that our fans appreciate and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love having total control over everything we put out/represent and it all comes from our collective hearts.

And what’s the job of Community Records in this whole distribution process?

Joe:

We played a bunch of dates on the C-Rec tour a few summers ago and it was a great time.  Greg and D-ray are awesome, hard working dudes.  After that tour Greg had told us that he wanted to work something out with us for our next release.  At the beginning of last year Choke Artist was only in its beginning stages, but we knew we wanted to be involved with the TBOTW release and team up with Community Records.

Basically, C-Rec is hooking us up with as many t-shirts as we need for promoting the record.  There are some sweet bundle deals available at www.communityrecords.org.  They are handling all of the mail-order for the new record, as well helping us out with press and promo.  We figured the more people we could get involved with this release the better, especially when we share so many ideals about music.

And here we are, right before the release of your new full length. What ideals are you sharing via this outing?

Joe:

They’re real down to earth dudes. They actually just successfully funded a kickstarter for them to convert a diesel van to bio-diesel…which means it will pretty much run on vegetable oil.  Save a ton of gas, better for the environment, and they don’t have to give the money they make to shithead oil corporations.

Cool. What’s the key to operate as an independent label and be successful these days?

Joe:

No matter what you do, keep it real.  And remember:  there’s always money in the banana stand.

Alright, fellows. The pre-orders for “Perspectives“ are set to go out at the beginning of February. How are you feelings about that record at the moment? What do you expect to happen when the album is out?

Jay:

My feelings are that this is by far our best release to date. Everyone is really on top of their game and I think it shows in the final product. I think we really achieved the sound that we we’re going for. I have a blast playing all of these songs so I hope everyone enjoys them.

Once the album is out, we plan to play around as much as possible. We have a NJ release show lined up for Feb 23rd, and stuff in the works for the months following. we are all truly in our element when we play live so I’m really looking forward to that.

Ryan:

I feel super proud of what we managed to record as a band. What I hope happens with the record is that people actually give it a shot and realize that despite the fact that we play upstrokes and have a horn section, we’re not some hephephep pickitup ska band.

Kate:

Our cd isn’t going to change the world, but it would be awesome if it helped people be a little more open-minded about ska elements in music, or even just not leave the venue when they see people warming up on horns. I mean, how many people see someone pull out a synth or an acoustic guitar and say, “well forget THESE losers” and walk out before soundcheck is even over? Loosen up, punks. Horns don’t equal STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO covers.

Cheech:

I dunno what I could say about the cd other than I’m really stoked that people have been responding positively so far. I think an overarching theme not only for the album but for our band in general is the notion of opening lines of discourse between those with antithetical ideals. Whether that be culturally or musically, I think we want others to realize that there’s a grey area between black and white. I think we’ve set goals for ourselves, but I feel weird setting expectations for ourselves. Ultimately, I kinda hope that if a younger person put our album on, they would leave with the idea that if they don’t like what’s going on in the world around them, they have more means than they realize to make it better for themselves.

It’s really hard not to respond positively, to be honest. I really love the vibe and the original way of mixing horns and ska elements with punk rock and traditional hardcore punk, ya know?

What’s the chance to see you guys live in Europe sometime soon?

Joe:

Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.  Europe is certainly a possibility for us,  but probably not for a while.  If we do ever get over there, we wanna make sure we do it right.  A few years ago our buddy Summers from Ska Mutiny Records released a split with some of our songs on it in the UK and ever since then we’ve been itching to go overseas.  For now though most of the touring we do will be in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Jay:

Yea being able to get to Europe has definitely be a long-term goal of mine, and the band’s. We hear good things about it, and if we ever got the opportunity I’m sure it would be a blast.

Ok, guys. Live-wise, is it hard to perform these songs, with all the winds supporting the classic punk rock section? Did you complicate it all for yourselves by building such song structures? Is it hard to perform these songs live?

Jay:

I think putting the songs together is the more difficult part. Writing and learning songs that have an ambiguous structure definitely complicates things, especially with an 11 song album. But that’s what makes it fun for us, we are challenging ourselves with each song and each part but I think it brings out the best in us. Once it gets to the point where we play them live, the song has been explored so much that it comes together naturally.

Rob:

Yes it’s difficult, but not because of incorporating horns, but because of how complex and technically difficult the songs are in general. Joe’s a great song writer, who really knows how to create a cohesive piece and make the genre work in general, but it was definitely challenging music to learn, and it’s always a work out performing live.

Joe:

This new CD is pretty hard for me to play live.  Jay and I wrote really hard fucking vocal parts.  I’ve been just practicing singing in my car with the CD…people probably think I’m crazy.  But it’s been helping.   I always hope that when we go out and play shows that the levels just magically sound right [laughs].  Remember kids, the person working the PA is your best friend.

Would you guys go a bit mainstream if such an opportunity happened? Would you support the reunited FALL OUT BOY? [smiles] Is there a barrier you have set for yourselves that you don’t want to breach?

Jay:

I’m not sure what you mean by mainstream but if more people listed to us, that’s not a bad thing. But were not going to change our sound to make that happen.

Kate:

I don’t know if it’s totally possible for bands to go mainstream without dropping their horn section, so…let’s not go mainstream.

Ryan:

If we had the chance to open for FALL OUT BOY, I’d do it in a second. That’s a huge audience to expose ourselves to, and if we managed to pick up 50 more fans I’d be stoked. Also, if anyone tries to tell me that a Little Less Sixteen Candles isn’t a fucking jam, they’re lying.

Cool. I like your approach.

Oh, and by the way, your music is a perfect soundtrack for a crazy party, you know that? You should definitely shoot a party video, around the pool with lots of half-naked bodies, etc. Will you? [smiles]

Joe:

Funny you say that, we actually tried that once before!  The last scene in our video for “Blood Drive Pride” is from a party we had at my house.  My parents were away for the week so we had a showin’ my basement and everyone there got hammered. Then for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to have a cake fight in my garage.  It was fucking chaos.  I think there still might be a cupcake wrapper on my ceiling.    Grounded 4 life.

Jay:

All I have to add is CakeMosh.

[laughs] Awesome!

Would you perform live at a wedding? [smiles] You know, there’s huge money behind it?

Joe:

YES.  I would be down, im pretty sure the rest of the guys would too.  Most of us are pretty down with the oldies, Cheech picked up some Marvin Gaye cassettes on tour.

Kate:

I would absolutely play at a wedding. I’d play for free if dinner and drinks was included. That plus watching old people dance is more than enough payment for me.

Jay:

It couldn’t be our songs though, they’re all pretty angry. Doesn’t really fit with the theme of a wedding.

Ok, guys. Do you have a name for your niche? What are some of the names you’d like to suggest for your genre? How would you label yourself? [laughs]

Rob:

Skacore is the short version I usually give. If I feel like being exact, I’d call us hardcore ska math metal.

Joe:

The way I describe our band usually depends on who I’m talking to [laughs].  Techy Punk with horns?  Skardcore?

Jay:

I usually like punkskashitcore. One time we were in upstate New York and this taxi driver asked what we sounded like, we told him BLACK FLAG and SUBLIME.

Cheech:

Ska. Although that might as well be a misnomer at this point.

Ryan:

Mathy post hardcore big band skramz.

Yeah, these will fit the title of this interview perfectly [laughs].

Finally, what does the future hold for THE BEST OF THE WORST? Anything you’d like to add?

Jay:

More music and more shows. I don’t really know what else to add besides that.

Joe:

Our 4th album will flop, so we’ll attempt to become a twinkly shoegaze band. We’ll fail horribly, try and go back to our old style, but realize our fans have already moved on. Break up, reunite 5 years later once we’re even more irrelevant and washed up. After an underwhelming reunion tour we’ll finally call it quits.

[laughs] Nah, mostly what jay said. Maybe a wedding band though, I’m seriously considering it now.

Please check out Choke Artists, Community Records and THE BEST OF THE WORST.

Great, good luck with that! [smiles]

Thanks so much for your time and have a good one. I love what you guys are doing [smiles].

/pem

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