You and Tim are the primary songwriters. How do you write together?
Normally what will happen is I will come up with music, we will arrange it with the entire band, put it down on 4-track, and [tim] will sit in the band room with the 4-track and come up with lyrics and a vocal line.
Do you ever work from lyrics first?
No, I don’t…and Tim doesn’t either, he rarely writes any music.
Tim doesn’t write much music? I know he plays a little guitar.
He hasn’t written an entire song or the basis of an entire song since Satiate.
Do you think about how the song will work live or how it will work as just a song by itself?
Actually, Tim talks about the live stuff a lot, I just go for the song writing. There are songs that turns out are not played live, just because I don’t think they work that well live. I think every song but one, I may be wrong, has been played live at one point or another, but some songs have been played live only once, and probably will never be played live again.
I know McCarthy off of 4AM has been played once, 92 off 4AM, I think has been done once, maybe not though. But there is usually a couple off of every record, that either, we don’t like them live or we will play them for a while and just decide there are better songs to use.
Do you feel pressure writing now that you have deadlines to meet?
The only pressure part about it is that you get burnt.
From working so hard?
We actually took a day off today, cause we were sitting in band practice yesterday, about half way through…and I’m writing something and I stop, and I go I don’t even know if this is any good or not, I can’t tell anymore because my brain is so fried. We’ve been going the last 3 months, 5 days a week, plus nights.
Do you feel pressure living up to what you have written in the past?
I don’t think there is, I think after the first record we where able to figure out our strengths and weaknesses were…we know what to let slide. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where we can at least not embarrass ourselves to bad…I compare records, I have my favorite record, Dixie, I don’t count Satiate considering it was our first one, there were so many different styles worked in there. I think 4AM overall was a good record, but there was also something about it overall that I don’t think was as good as Dixie, Dixie had a better feel to it.
What is your favorite AVAIL song?
I hate this question…favorite AVAIL song…let me think here. I wish I actually owned some of the records so I could look at the song names. Probably…25 Years is up there, I like it a lot, Beliefs Pile,…one of the new ones we wrote called…what the hell is the name of it…Nickel Bridge.
What is the name of the new record?
It is unnamed at this point.
I saw you a couple years ago and you closed the show with 25 Years. I doesn’t seem like a show ending type song.
It hasn’t been done in a while. You would have to ask Tim that. I don’t mesh with set lists, before the show I ask Tim what we are starting with…I normally don’t see the set list until I’m on stage. Then I put my two cents worth in afterwards…that was a good set, bad set, this song hasn’t been played in a while.
Do you record live as a band?
Yeah, play live, then overdub guitars, and then do vocals.
Do you like recording?
The last experience, the split with the Young Pioneers, I had a good time, I think a lot is the mental aspect of it, knowing I would only be in there a couple of days. I like mixing a lot more then I like recording vs. I keep screwing up this stupid guitar part. Hopefully when we go in in two weeks it will be a good experience.
How do you think your equipment, the budget, and where you record affects the sound of your album?
I don’t think it is as much the recording equipment as it is the engineer…because there are people who have taken 8-tracks and made them sound great, and I’ve heard 8-tracks from studios that sound like crap. As I’ve learned over the years, you can’t make a bad amp sound good. There are certain characteristics you cannot change. At this point, I think were set the best we’ve ever been.
What was it like recording the live album in San Francisco? Did you know you were being recorded?
I knew we were being recorded…I don’t think Tim did, Gwomper I know didn’t. It is coming out in January.
Have you heard it? Do you like it?
It is a pretty good representation…as far as the recording goes, I’m pretty happy with the recording, I mean it doesn’t sound polished or anything, nor should it, but it is there and it came out good. But that was easy, I just played the show, I didn’t even pay attention, all my mistakes are there. There weren’t any heavy duty mistakes, we came out kinda lucky.
Talk about how you started touring. Was it a network thing?
Basically, what happened is we played locally, then North Carolina…we wanted to do more shows, and we met this band who was doing shows in Florida, so they called us and we played there. All the sudden we had played North Carolina, we had played Florida, got numbers from Florida for further up north, and we got numbers from North Carolina for further down south, to the point we could do a ten day tour…I think Born Against helped us out with some huge list of people who did underground shows…So we called those people up and they were willing to do the shows. So there we are, keep doing it, keep building.
I know you have been offered to do bigger tours like the Warped Tour.
We were offered the Warped Tour…we got a call from the Misfits…we have gotten a bunch of calls over the years…either the offers sucked ot we were not in the position to do it or we weren’t comfortable with it.
With Ticket master and the price of the shows?
Yeah, depending on what band it was or what tour there were different factors involved…some of them were ticket price issues, in all the cases it was just like no thanks, we appreciate the offer.
Does this have to do with AVAIL doing things on its own, and not piggy backing other bands success?
It definitely has a lot to do with it, it’s a hell of a lot easier running the stuff, it’s gonna get done the way you want to do it…in retrospect I think there were probably some of these shows, some of these tours we probably should have gone on. I don’t regret not doing it but in the situation we are in now with a little more experience, a little more knowledge, it probably would have been smart to do it…for the exposure aspect of it, there is all that stuff you have to take into consideration…
cause we all try to do it the Fugazi way…but we’re not Fugazi.
I know things are beginning to change, for example the tour with Lagwagon to Australia.
At this point I think it’s something we have to do. And if you just take the economics of it into consideration for us going to Australia, for us to go out there by ourselves, I mean, I really don’t have ten grand to lose. It’s so damn expensive just getting over there and internal domestic flights…it’s not set up like the states…so we are doing it, no one has any complaints about it.
Do you anticipate doing more things like this in the future?
It’s possible…we are not saying no to anything right now. We’ll just wait and see what happens and if we get offers or go after something it’s all by the band to make the decision to do it, there is nothing set in stone…going with the flow.
How do you design your own merchandise; t-shirts, stickers, patches, etc.?
Yeah we do it…the last ones we had help from our friend Brain who does graphic design stuff…
but normally it’s pretty much been us, that’s why most of the t-shirts suck…maybe we could get creative one of these days.
All your merchandise is really cheap.
We use a guy in town who gives it to us really cheap so it keeps our costs down.
I remember seeing you with Bloodlet in Florida and they were selling long sleeve shirts for $18 or $20.
You have to do the mark up, to make money on it so you can put gas in the van and eat…I mean, I think there are some things people do that are a little ridiculous, I don’t think t-shirts need to cost $25.
What do you hate/like most about being on the road?
What I hate most is being away from home for an extended period of time…what I like most are the shows, I rarely mind playing shows…it’s the down time, it’s when your sitting in a van at four o’clock in the middle of bum fuck, wishing you were at home sitting on your couch.
You have a big community of friends all over the U.S.
That definitely makes it a lot easier, there is always something to look forward to, you don’t have to just go out by yourself…we head down south, we have people there…start heading west we have people there, the northern mid-west, NY, people all over Northern California, so it makes it a helluva a lot easier.
What are the shows in Europe like?
Shows in Europe, man actually there was a show in Italy that was crazy…shows in Europe as a whole are good…I don’t want to compare it to the U.S. because it’s completely different…overall they are good, people seem to have a good time…I have no problems with the shows in Europe.
Lets talk about the revolving bass player door.
What happened to Chuck?
Chuck…lets just say it didn’t work out, Chuck was just Chuck…it wasn’t musical, he was a great bass player..it just didn’t work out. I can’t say much about Rob because I’ll probably get sued for slander…
The $25,000 law suit?
Actually I’m allowed to say that…I just prefer not to talk about it.
How did you get picked up by Lookout Records?
Actually Chris who was running Catheter sent Lookout a copy of our record…and we played a show with Rancid in California and Larry Livermore came out to see Rancid and ended up seeing us, Tim talked to him after the show, just bullshitting with him and we got a call about three months later saying that they wanted to put out record out.
Lookout was just sold.
Lookout was sold internally.
How did that affect you guys? Did it make you feel uncomfortable?
Yeah, I mean, there were definitely concerns…things will always change when businesses change hands and new owners, once they have control can implement their own ideas that before they couldn’t do…we had lots of phone calls with Chris who runs Lookout now, he came out to Richmond a few times so we could sit down and have face to face meetings about what was going on..he went over Lookouts’ game plan and what direction they wanted to go…we liked everything he said so we stayed with Lookout.
At one point during all this you went to talk to Columbia Records. Was it just to feel it out?
Yeah…that was right at the time Lookout was sold…since we do one record deals we are never under contract very long…so we had all this stuff going on with Lookout, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do, or what was going to go on with Lookout se we had this old friend of ours, Jason Jordan, who works as A & R for Columbia, he was like come up and lets see what is going on, so they flew us up and we had three days of meetings with them which was actually very educational..and decided it would be in our best interest to stay with Lookout.
Was that because of control issues, and signing a more than one album deal?
There were a lot of factors…the main thing is we want to continue as a band…there was a large gamble with Columbia…they want to push you into mainstream…sure I’d love to sell five million records, it wouldn’t bother me, but what are the realistic chances of it happening…what would happen if the first record on Columbia sold 100,000 copies, which is by our stands amazing, but by major label standards who knows…we had three billion meetings, arguments, etc., etc. and decided it would be best at this point to stay with Lookout…we took a lot what we learned from Columbia into talking with Lookout.
Do you think Columbia treated you differently since you are on a label and have been running your own business for years?
Yeah…I mean, when we went into the meetings we met with people who just do production work, to art people, all the way to the top dog who runs Columbia…
Tommy…so we spoke with him, and there really didn’t seem to be any bullshit coming out of his mouth…he seemed pretty strait forward, he didn’t give us any insane promises, or anything like that, he is like this is what I can offer you, this is what can potentially happen, he brought up the good points that could happen he brought up the potentially the bad points. There was a large fear that if it failed with a major, would it kill everything. If we go through a crappy period on Lookout, can we rebound as a band from that as a band and put out another record. The chances are very good we can do that on Lookout, but on a major I’m not so sure.
Where you worried about the “sellout” issue?
I wasn’t…it is something I don’t have too many issues with, I think there is a point where people do things for the wrong reasons and that’s where the “sell out” aspect is, when your doing something your against…we are doing the band thing and are just trying to survive, there are ethics involved in it that you want to stick to, but there is a lot of stuff , the financial aspect…people who don’t think bands should make money. A lot of people don’t understand it, either they never have experienced it or haven’t sat down with anybody, or just don’t care and this is the way I think so I’m right…we have to have rent to pay, the van has to be fixed and put gas in it, we like having health insurance, I like being able to feed my kid, put clothes on his back, pay for his health insurance…I’m not laughing to any bank.
Is it possible you might sign with a major label in the future?
It is possible…yes it could happen, are there any plans to at this point, no. I personally have no problems with major labels, if the band wants to go on a major label, I don’t care…but there are bands who go on majors and do their thing and are fair about it, so much of this is strictly a punk rock issue, I mean other bans besides punk rock bands have morals and ethics, and there are not necessarily alternatives. I mean what do if you are Hootie and you are in the middle of South Carolina. Who the hell is going to put out your record? What independent label is there that will put out that type of music. You would have to start your own label…there are so many factors involved in this major label thing, I’m not going to judge anybody for doing it. If I don’t like what they do I won’t support it.
Interview by : Jimbob