It’s my pleasure to present you a bunch of news and insights from of the most original and interesting rock / post punk bands out there, THE STATIC AGE. Formed in Chicago, IL back in 2001, the band is back with a re-release of their debut album “Neon Nights Electric Lives”, out this March on Highwires. The album features remixes from Jade Puget (AFI) and Dave Walsh (THE LOVED ONES) and will be available on vinyl for the first time ever! Furthermore, the band has been working on the follow-up to their recent “Mercies” release while plotting some touring for 2014.
Read all about that, current state of music industry, touring Europe, being a band for 13 years and much more in my interview with THE STATIC AGE, available for your enjoyment below :)
Hey guys! Thanks for taking some time for such a small DIY punk magazine as IDIOTEQ :) It’s a great pleasure to have you here. How’s the holiday time treating you this year? :)
Andrew: Hey, thanks for having us.
Adam: It’s the holidays, so it’s been crazy all around for me.
Andrew: Usually I’d agree, but the holidays were actually not so crazy for me this year. I just spent a week in the winter woods with no cell phone service and an old fireplace.
Awesome! We all should try doing without our cell phones for some time!
Ok guys, judging from your blog and social media entries, I suppose it is only natural that you tend to spend more time outside your hometown of Chicago. Some might say you have relocated there, there’s so much Germany related content on your online pages, haha! What’s your connection with the country and what’s your best adventure with Germany been like?
Andrew: Well, I suppose Germany has become one of this band’s many homes. It dates back to about 2009 when Felix from Flix asked us to come over and tour there for the first time. We really hit it off with him and had a blast on our first short tour of Europe, so we made it a point to come back often. As for the best adventure? Oh wow, there are so many, it’s hard to even keep track. Germany’s an amazing place, and we’ve had countless adventures exploring the various cities and the countryside with a host of new friends.
Adam: Relocating to Germany would not be all that bad, there’d be plenty of Schnapps, and we’d be with our favorite German, Felix.
Haha. What do you miss about Europe when you’re home?
Adam: The shows and being able to walk wherever you want and indulge in an alcoholic beverage and not be hassled.
Andrew: Yeah, the drinking anywhere in a city thing. That’s a perk. We don’t have that privilege in America, and it took me awhile to get used to it. I think I must have asked Felix a dozen different times if I could walk around the streets of whatever city we were in with a beer. Every time, he would just sigh and say “Yes, Andrew. Again, yes. Of course.” More importantly though, I miss the shows, the bands and the people. There are really vibrant music scenes all over Europe, and it’s been amazing to be able to tour through them.
Speaking of home, how do you see the music scene in Burlington, VT and Chicago, IL these days?
Andrew: I do think the music scene in Chicago right now is pretty great, and it obviously has a rich history, but it’s not really a place I’ve been personally familiar with until the past few years. As for Burlington, it’s certainly changed quite a bit over the years, often for the better, and it’s always been near and dear to our hearts. There are some awesome things happening around great bands like DEATH and ROUGH FRANCIS back in Vermont right now, too.
Adam: We are rooted very deeply in more ways than one in the Burlington, Vt. music scene, so comparing it to the Chicago music scene would be difficult. The band being based out of Chicago now is just another chapter in the history of the band. The Burlington music scene is something that is very special to us.
Ok guys. Let’s get down to the details of your recent work.
You recently did an amazing acoustic session for Cardinal Sessions. How did you get involved in that and how do you feel about the final result?
Andrew: That was a lot of fun, and we were psyched to be a part of Cardinal Sessions in general. The only odd thing about it was that it was freezing cold during the shoot — if I recall correctly, it was done outside during a record-breaking cold in February — which made playing guitar and singing both a bit tough. I’m just glad it seems to have come out well (and that you can’t see my nose running during the video).
Adam: Felix set that up while we were on tour with SMILE AND BURN in Europe, and it was killer to take part in. Definitely very, very cold, but the outcome was fantastic. Doing special one offs like that on tour are great to change things up, keep things fresh, and you never know what the outcome will be.
How do you feel that your recent acoustic performances prepare us for what your future releases are trying to do musically? Are there some plans to put more emphasis on acoustic sounds?
Andrew: My father is a folk artist, and I learned a chunk of what I know from him, so I really started learning on an acoustic guitar first. As such, a lot of THE STATIC AGE’s songs start in that stripped down way and then get built from there. I even have a side project that’s largely acoustic for which I put out a record called “White Rooms” a few years ago. So, yeah, it actually fits really well with what we’ve always been about. As for an actual acoustic record from THE STATIC AGE, I don’t think that’s in our future, but Adam and I certainly love doing the acoustic show or taping now and again. And I suppose those do happen pretty often, and will continue to — like the Cardinal Sessions, an acoustic show at the RAMONES Museum in Berlin last year, an acoustic show at the 100Kiloherz space in Schwelm last Spring, or the most recent one — the Snaproll Sessions in Chicago which we taped this past Fall (and will be released soon). I imagine it’ll always be a part of what we do.
Adam: Yeah, I think showcasing our songs acoustically is more of an insight into how some songs were composed, as opposed to what the listener can expect as far as future releases. I’ve always enjoyed playing our songs acoustically, and when they come out exceptionally well, it’s a bonus that we can think about releasing it to the public.
You also did a cool split release with FEATURING YOURSELF from Kiel, Germany. How did you get hooked up with them for this project?
Adam: Through Felix again, and we had a friendship already going with Kay from FEATURING YOURSELF. The result was great.
Andrew: Yeah, we’re huge fans of those guys. We’re actually set to be full-on label mates with them via Highwires in the coming year. We also toured with them this past Spring, and had a blast. I have nothing but awesome things to say about that band.
What other bands would you like to share a split with? Any decent names you’d like to spread the word about?
Andrew: Yeah, CASPIAN would be awesome — they’re a great band, and one of the guitarists, Jonny, is an old friend of ours from back in the Burlington days. Beyond that, a split with ROUGH FRANCIS from back in Vermont, which includes our original drummer and close friend Bobby, would be awesome. That band is also up to some amazing things.
Alright guys. Let’s talk about your upcoming re-release of “Neon Nights Electric Lives” this March on Highwires. What’s the point of this re-issue? Give us the backstory to this project.
Andrew: Well, Neon Nights Electric Lives was originally fully released on Tarantulas Records in 2005, but the label has long been defunct, and the record fell out of print. It was our first real album, and something we’ve always been hugely proud of, so we wanted to breath some new life into it and make sure it stayed available. It’s a big part of our history — it’s the original lineup, and was recorded with our old friend Matt Squire, who’s since gone onto some pretty massive things. It also captures a snapshot of us right when we were figuring out how to be a band. So, just personally, it’s a hugely important record to me, and I’m very happy to see it get a new round via Highwires and on vinyl. And I’m also excited to include some of the extra tracks/demos from around that era, which will only be available as supplemental downloads (including remixes from Jade Puget from AFI and Dave from THE EXPLOSION/THE LOVED ONES, which actually did appear on the original CD).
Are you a vinyl enthusiast? Besides the obvious, what do you think the classic format has to offer that digital forms of music can’t?
Andrew: I think vinyl feels archival, historical in a way that the less tangible digital form can’t touch.
Adam: Very much so. There’s just something more tangible about a vinyl release of a record that you just have to have. The artwork looks better, it’s more of an investment if you choose to listen to the vinyl version, as opposed to the digital. Literally, you need to get off your ass and flip the fucker over. Americans may be too lazy for this though? I’ll always remember my first vinyl purchase — getting shit digitally is just too damn easy.
Andrew: Yeah, we’re quickly moving to a world where all media lives in bits and bytes — newspapers, books, film, music — which has its huge benefits, too — I’m no luddite, at all, but I also romanticize the era of music that I grew up with. LPs, like books on a shelf, are the tangible form of human ideas. There’s something captured there that can’t get away. Sure, you need a player to make sense of it, but it doesn’t just disappear like a corrupted or deleted file. It also asks you to invest in what you’re listening to, which so rarely happens these days. I love Spotify — as a listener — but I also lament the lack of focus its platform allows. With vinyl, you’re constantly called back into the present moment — every 25 minutes or less. There’s something oddly valuable to me about that, too.
You’ve been working on a brand new album, too, right? Tell me a bit about the time spent in Downbeat Studio and the timing for this new release.
Andrew: We’re working on the followup to 2012’s Mercies I. The big idea is that Mercies will eventually be a multi-part album that comprises 17 songs across a few releases. So, we’re neck-deep in a set of songs that will form Mercies II for release later this year. As for Downbeat, we’ve gotten into a really great loop with Mike Govaere over there — he engineers our live drums at his studio, then we work at the Highwires space to produce/record the rest of the tracks before bringing the whole set back to Govaere for mixing. He’s been our go-to guy since we did “In the City of Wandering Lights” in 2011, and we’ve been lucky to work with him.
What are some of the subjects and themes that people will hear in the lyrical direction that you’ve taken this time?
Andrew: That’s a hard question to answer just yet. Everything’s still in flux, as I’m still writing lyrics, so we’ll see how it lands.
Adam: Politics, politics, and more shit talk.
Andrew: Ha! Yeah, sure, politics and shit talk.
You already toured Europe five times! How do you remember your last April adventure on the road? Any places or people that caught your eye particularly?
Adam: Getting the chance to play a festival show with AC4 and see Dennis (REFUSED) in a live setting was amazing. Never got a chance to see the REFUSED, so getting to see Dennis perform was something special. One of the most entertaining and fun frontmen I’ve had the chance to see.
Andrew: April/May was especially fun because, as I mentioned, we were out with our friends in FEATURING YOURSELF for about two-thirds of it. Flix Fest in Stuttgart was a particular blast, too.
Any plans to visit us again in 2014? What are some of the places you’d like to get to next?
Adam: Yeah, hopefully.
Andrew: We plan to be back in late 2014 or early 2015 at this point. In the meantime, there are a handful of places we plan to get to. We’ve got US plans, and there’s talk of a possible first visit to Asia (China, Singapore, etc) this summer, which we’d be really excited about. That said, like I mentioned above, we certainly can’t wait to get back to our European second-home.
Alright guys. What else? Are you working on a new video perhaps? :)
Andrew: Nothing to share just yet, but soon enough.
Adam: We’ve always got some propaganda brewing.
OK, one more :) Through over a dozen of years of engagement in this band, how would you sum up your experience to date? How do you look back on THE STATIC AGE now as experienced band members?
Andrew: It’s been way more than we ever expected, I think. We were kids from the woods of Vermont playing in hardcore and punk bands and hanging out at a small club called 242 Main every weekend. We’d been on tours before — I went on my first tour playing guitar for a grindcore band, believe it or not, when I was 15 — but, at least for me, I had no idea how wide the world really was. So, the whole thing’s been one long adventure beyond that. Sure, we made a lot of mistakes, but at least we were loud about it.
Adam: Life changing. I’m not sure there’s any other choice I could have made in life that may have taken me to the places I’ve been to, met the people I’ve met, and experienced what I’ve experienced through touring and playing music.
What are you trying to convey to people out there? What do you want people to take away with them from THE STATIC AGE?
Adam: Whoa, that’s a tough question, never something I’ve really thought about… I’m tongue tied as to how to answer. I’m not sure I have an answer to offer.
Andrew: Yeah, that is a big question. And I think there’s way too much to actually cover here. That said, I think the idea of this band has grown up with us, so it’s never been fixed on one thing. At this point, we’ve been a band long enough to go from being teenagers to adults. I think we were kids growing up in the earliest era of the digital age, and that whole arc is a part of what we’ve channeled as a band, right down to the name.
I also think we’ve been a hopeful band — I think we always tried to imagine things as bigger than ourselves, right from the beginning. I got interviewed for a documentary outside a warehouse party in LA many years ago. We’d just turned down some big record deal because we couldn’t really stomach the people we’d been negotiating with for months, and I was so sure that people like that were no longer going to be necessary someday soon because of the way the internet was set to change everything, and just the idea of that got me excited. There will always be a need to support and foster artists — record labels and collectives matter — but the attempts at exploitation at that point were just insane. God only knows what was in my system, but I said something along the lines of “fuck commerce, choose art.” To me, that’s always been a part of THE STATIC AGE, too. I think I tend to hate things that have no message, that just aim to sound cool. Those are soundtracks for commercials. And, maybe that’s one of the big ideas that’s also followed us through the years: Don’t bother being cool. Cool sells sneakers on behalf of venture capitalists. Be honest. Be awkward. Be earnest. Make people uncomfortable with it if that’s what compels you. Make art. I guess sometimes art might sell some shoes to somebody, too, but if that’s all you’ve got, stop it. How’s that for an unprepared train of thought? Also, can anybody spot the PROPAGANDHI nod in there?
Awesome! Thank you for sharing this!
That’s all I got for you fellas. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any final thoughts?
Adam: Go Red Sox 2014…
Andrew: He leaves me no choice but to root for the Yankees, and I don’t even like watching sports.
Thanks a lot! I would want to sincerely congratulate you on your recent work. Thanks again for bearing with me! Take care and keep warm this winter :)
Adam: Well, we are stuck in a polar vortex…
Andrew: Thanks. And yeah, we’ll be doing our best to stay warm. Chicago’s been insanely cold this year, and I don’t think it’s bound to get better anytime soon, unfortunately.