There’s been a big buzz over this band as of late. Is the hype justified? Is there reason for concern? Well, if you go by their recent mind blowing CD with a hologram cover, the answer is an overwhelming yes. If you’re looking for political rhetoric, skip the Blanks. If you want straight up punk rock, these are you’re guys and gal. Check out what Mike, part time frozen yoghurt vendor and full time Blanks 77 singer, had to say.
Rational Inquirer:(with reference to the fact that the interview was conducted by phone from Mike Blanks’ work) Where do you work, by the way?
Mike: I Can’t Believe It’s Yoghurt. It’s a frozen yoghurt type of place.
RI: It seems like a good job.
Mike: I can do whatever the fuck I want.
RI: Why not start with a history, but let’s go a little further back. How did you guys first get involved in punk rock? What got you interested, and did you play in previous bands?
Mike: None of the real Blanks were in any other bands. But we started about six years ago. Me and Chad, the drummer, used to hang out at the Pipeline. We’d see bands like The Wretched Ones and stuff like that. All the members except the bass player are original members. TJ’s been in the band for about 2 years. Almost all our recorded stuff has been with him, though. Brendan was the original bass player, but he left. I think he got tired of it because we were trying to do a lot. Then we had this kid who was in AFI as well. But now he hates us. It’s not hard to hate us.
RI: You all seem pretty young. How old are you, and do you still live at home?
Mike: We’re all like 22, and of course we live at home.
RI: How did you swing doing everything? Is touring and playing okay with your folks?
Mike: Well…they’ve grown to accept it. We bombard them with it. “We’re leaving. Bye” They’re cool with it now. It took a while for them to realize that their son was not going to be a doctor.
RI: You guys have several songs about punks and skins. Where do you fit into this picture politically? In Europe especially, these two groups stand worlds apart politically with skins being right wink, generally and punx taking a more liberal stance. Where do you fit politically with these two groups. They rarely seem to mix.
Mike: For us it’s just an area thing. In the New Jersey area, punks and skins sort of get along. In Germany I know it’s different. When we were there two Summers ago, people were wondering if we were nazis or something. They take things way too seriously.
RI: What type of crowds do you get?
Mike: We got a couple of skins. They were cool, though. People were afraid of them. You don’t have to be afraid of them. They’re just people.
RI: The name of your band pretty much shows where you’re coming from. Some people might say this is re-hashing something old and irrelevant. Why concentrate on a sound and image that’s 20 years old and being mass marketed? What’s the threat in that?
Mike: We just like to play like that. We don’t even sound like a band from 77. It’s more of a mix of everything. When we first liked the punk rock, we liked the older 77 style crap. Then…when we started the band, we sounded like one of those old bands…I’m so glad we don’t sound like that anymore. A few years ago we started listening to The Dwarves, and they’re like total kick ass, amazing! I think that’s when we started getting better and growing into our sound.
RI: I’ve heard through several third person sources about the incident with Lars from Rancid and the NY show. Could you, in your own words, tell us what happened and what you think of the incident?
Mike: Well, The Rancids were playing at The Saturday Night Live the night before and our friend Kandra had sex with Tim. She was supposed to get them to come and play at The Coney Island High that day with The Casualties, The Blanks 77 and a couple of others I forget. So they were supposed to play, but they decided they weren’t going to because they might get beat up. For some reason they wanted to sing on one of the band’s set. So we’re like, “Do it during ours. It’ll be funny.” So they did, and a big old scuffle broke out. I had a good time that day.
RI: Are they sellouts in your eyes?
Mike: I don’t care what they’ve done. As long as they don’t…They’re pretty nice people. We’ve talked to them. It’s just some of their people that they choose to work for, like their crew, their management, I don’t care for those types of people. I would rather not have to deal with them. I don’t know if that qualifies them as having sold out. They should just choose better people to…they should be more involved in what they’re doing. But I think they have a pretty good thing going.
RI: Why’d you open for them?
Mike: This actually happened when I didn’t care much for them. It was after the fight. They asked us to open up for them. I think they were sorry that the fight broke out at The Coney Island. I didn’t care. We got mentioned on the radio. It was funny. Playing with Rancid was really funny because it was a lot of people. The most people we had ever played to. So I kind of liked it for that. But I didn’t like dealing with big club people. They don’t treat you very well. When you play the smaller clubs, they usually treat you pretty good.
RI: Is Blanks 77 a political band?
Mike: No! We’re not stupid, though. Some people think we are. We don’t preach politics, but in some we touch upon it, but not like crazy. We just fit in with the basic punk ideals.
RI: Where do you stand politically? Do you vote, or would you vote? How do you see the upcoming presidential campaign?
Mike: I don’t. Rene does. We ask why. And she says she doesn’t know. She’s too busy rockin’ the goddamn vote. But I don’t think she’s going to be doing it this year because we’re going to probably be playing in November. We’re going out to Minneapolis and down as low as Georgia. We get back on the 19th.
RI: How’d your last tour go, by the way?
Mike: Oh it was fucking great! We were out from June to August. It was a great time. This has definately been the best tour so far. This was just our tour. We didn’t have to rely on anyone else. We did it ourselves. We had a cool little bus to take us. It’s like one of those little retard kid buses. You would have loved it. There’s a loft up there where we can have sex if we want to – if we chose to. You definately have to check out the bus. It’s very creative looking. It’s big and silver and has leapard print on the sides and flames.
RI: You haven’t had any problems with police with it?
Mike: No, not really. It doesn’t go very fast.
RI: Anything interesting happen while on tour?
Mike: Well…we got the scabies. That was wonderful. (laughter) We got to play with The Dwarves. That was fucking amazing. We stayed at their house. Their set even lasted for more than five minutes.
RI: Do you feel there’s common ground politically in the punk scene?
Mike: I don’t know about politically. But what does “unite” the punk scene is…I think everyone hanging out together talking about punk rock and the bands…”how did you get your pants like that?” It’s just fun. That’s what I do at all the shows. Politics is okay, but I don’t want that to be my life. Our band would never talk politics while we’re playing. We don’t go for that.
RI: Who came up with the concept for the cover on your CD?
Mike: Actually, that was Radical Records. Our friend Josh did their artwork, and they made it move. They said to find an artist and get them to do three frames…there you go. I don’t think a punk band had ever done that before. I’ve only seen some trance and techno stuff like that. Now for the next record we really have to outdo ourselves.
RI: You’re now working on that, are you?
Mike: The day we get back from our November tour, we’re going into the studio to record. We have around 14 songs saved up. It’ll be a full length. It’ll be called Tanked and Pogoed.
RI: It’s wierd that you’d be doing another record so quickly.
Mike: That Killer Blanks record came out in Germany first. So it’s been over a year already. We really want to put out this next record because that’s so old already. That’s all we care about. It’ll hopefully be out by March. Radical also helped us shoot a video. It’s been sent to all the local cable access shows. If any shows want to get a copy, they should write to Radical. It’s B&W and color. It was done by the guy who did the video for the Gin Blossoms. The guy knew nothing about the punk rock, but I guess Radical are like friends with the guy. We’re all very pleased. That was one thing we had wanted to do. We kind of like videos.
RI: You mention drugs and alcohol in most interviews I read about you guys. Is this a big aspect of your lives?
Mike: In our lives…I could say “no”, but I’d be lying. We like the drinking. It’s fun for us.
RI: The Beatles once said that all their best material was written while they were high. Does the same hold true for the Blanks?
Mike: No, I don’t think we write songs when we’re drunk. We just play that way. It’s a big social thing.
RI: Tell me about your scene? I read somewhere that it was comprised of mainly suburban well-to-do whites? Is that the case?
Mike: I guess…I just had this conversation with Sue, and we were talking about the punk rock. We’re wondering where everyone comes from. I said, “Well Sue, all the best punk rockers come from rich neighborhoods. They have money for their jackets, pants, etc. None of us in our band really have a lot of money. It’s funny how punk is supposed to be this dirty little living-on-the-street thing, and here we are driving cars and working at yoghurt stores. There are a lot of rich kids that come to see us. I have nothing against them. In New York, however, there are a lot of kids who live in squats. They make a life for themselves. One of the members of The Bouncing Souls lives in a squat still even though they’ve managed to do pretty good.
RI: What do you see as your main influences and who would you compare Blanks to?
Mike: Geeze…I really like The Dwarves. I like thier whole attitude. When I first started playing I loved The Ramones. We always like the Sex Pistols a lot – then probably The Blitz and The Partisans. Right now we compare ourselves to three bands. The way we play – song after song – is like The Ramones. The way we act, like we’re really hot shit, is like The Dwarves. For our drummer, he has his special catagory…he has this cool stage show….kind of like Kiss. We’re trying to give people what they pay for. we try to make people get into it. We’re forcing ourselves upon people.
RI: Are you in a contract with Radical or can you release stuff outside of Radical if you so choose?
Mike: We probably could, but they would have to agree. Everyone has to agree. They can’t do anything without our approval either.
RI: With punk being so popular these days, I’m sure you get kids asking for autographs. How do you feel in that position?
Mike: I love that! I don’t care. It’s funny. I think they’re retarted asking for it, but at the same time I could see why they’d want it.
RI: So you’re not against it?
Mike: You have to look at it both ways. How do you look like a bigger dick? If you do it or if you don’t. If they want it, what the fuck. Some little girls come to the shows and we give them kisses. We’re going to set up a kissing booth on our next tour. (laughter)
RI: Thanks for the interview. I need to kinda keep it short. Is there anything else you’d like to add? What is the name of your store so people can go bug you?
Mike: No, don’t print that. Everyone knows, though. It’s I Can’t Believe It’s Yoghurt. Everyone calls me here. The yoghurt for today is the nonfat with nutra sweet vanilla. You put some caramel on that…
Interview by : Nelsen Magana of the Rational Inquirer