Results for tag "avail"

Avail / Food Not Bombs

I had the excellent opportunity to talk with Tim from the band Avail in September, 1995, after playing a week-long game of phone tag. At least he called back. Here’s what he had to say. My questions are in this type, his answers are in normal type.


How did you get together as a band, how long have you been together, and has the band gone through many lineup changes in that time?

Avail has been together since, what does that flyer up there say, Friday, June 17, 1988 was one of the first Avail shows. We grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC and everybody was always playing music together, the high school sort of scene, everybody swaps bands and stuff, so there were a lot of lineup changes early on, and then in 1990 we moved down here to Richmond. We lived in this big punk house with up to 14 people and everybody pretty much played instruments and that’s how Avail really started playing out and putting out our own records. And then eventually everything fell into place with the current lineup and now we don’t live in that big punk house anymore but we still live with 8 people and it’s all of Avail except for the drummer, Erik, and other roommates as well, and 2 dogs, and a baby.

I have a question about your dog, but that’s coming up later. Next, did you always plan on going into music as a living?

All of us have always just played music and liked it, and we all grew up listening to hardcore and punk, and I think it just kind of happened. We never had any intentions of actually doing as much as we do now. We tour constantly and we never take it for granted, it’s amazing, like we just went to Europe for the first time and that was fucking insane, we couldn’t believe that we could be in a band and go and do these things, so we just take everything as it comes, it’s really weird for us.

I saw you play once in April and then a few months later, in July, I saw you twice, and that’s a pretty short time for a couple of tours. Does that take its toll on the band or do you all thrive on it?

Some of us thrive on it and some of us don’t. You know, there are people on tour that don’t like touring as much as others, and there are people at home that don’t like being at home as much as others, so it kind of trades off. This year, so far, we’ve played 107 shows since January and we got back from all the touring in mid-August, so we did a lot of touring, Europe included, and I think it went really smoothly. We had a few personal crises while we were on tour, not involving like personal conflicts between people in the band, but weird shit was happening at home. We lost a friend right around the beginning of the US tour, and had a couple other problems like that that kind of irked us during the tour, but we came home and everything smoothed out as far as that stuff goes. All the touring is really good, we’re going to tour again in late December before we go into the studio to record again, but that will be short, then we’ll tour again like madmen once the new record comes out.

When are the plans for that to come out?

I don’t know, we’re trying not to plan, because we don’t have everything written, and we don’t want to set a deadline, because then it will be like we’re writing songs just to put out a record. So we’re hoping that we’ll record in late December – early January, then I guess it would be like three months after that before it would come out.

Do you ever have time to write songs while you’re on tour? Do you make time to write songs, or do you just write when something comes to you?

It’s weird, every time we write songs it’s completely different. We rarely write on tour, like I’ll write lyrics and stuff on tour, but I usually don’t write them in the poetry form, I’ll just jot down lines and somewhere along the line they might work when we’re writing music. We have a 4-track at the house and everybody writes acoustic, really cheesy rock songs, and then a lot of times they get turned into Avail songs. So that is like individual writing, but everybody gets together and writes their own shit on it. So there’s so many different ways, and it’s really difficult to write because we tour so much. We’re taking a good long break from shows and doing some writing right now.

Is there anything that you can put into words that inspires your writing? Anything in your life or in all of your lives that inspires you?

I have this thing about writing, when I write lyrics, that if it’s not inspiring to me, something that I’ve felt directly, I have trouble writing about it. Like politics, for example, I can write sort of coated, political-style songs, but I have trouble writing, from an outside perspective, about people being repressed, and things like that, because I’m a white male, and I’m 24 years old, so I’m not like held down, in the same sense that a woman would be, or a non-white would be. But when it comes to something political, if I see something first-hand, like there’s a park here that I spend a lot of time in that a lot of homeless folks live in and they get kicked out every year when school gets back in because they’re seen sort of as an eyesore. And because I knew the people in the park, and because I felt close to their situation, I was able to write about that. The song’s called Monroe Park and it will be on the next record. So in a political sense, I was inspired by that because I kind of felt it, and then on a personal sense, obviously any relationship problems, or things like that, I can always write about because it directly inspires me.

So it’s got to be something close to you?

Yeah, exactly, or I feel like I’m faking it, and I can’t fake it. It wouldn’t be real. We’d all be faking it if it didn’t affect us in some way. And we’re all close to each other, so they understand what I’m writing about, and when Joe writes lyrics here and there, I understand what he’s writing about as well, and hopefully everybody in the band, and other people can interpret them their own way as well.

At all of your live shows I’ve been to, and I’m sure most of them, you all have a lot of energy on stage, but still the crowd seems to stay peaceful, and I love shows like that. All the shows are great, with a lot of songs packed into a pretty short period of time, always over too soon. But have all of your shows had that non-violent feeling, with a lot of people just enjoying the music?

Yeah, a lot of times. Of course, if you play 107 shows in such a short time span, there’s going to be fights eventually at a couple of shows. But it’s really cool, because, as you were saying, I don’t think the feeling at an Avail show is like, “Let’s fucking beat the shit out of each other.” I’m really into slam dancing, there’s cool energy with it, but there’s different kinds of dancing, where you’re really bothering the fuck out of other people, and hopefully at a lot of the shows you’re able to dance and not get too violent. And with that sort of crowd and that sort of feeling, if there is somebody who’s causing a problem, usually it’s dealt with pretty quickly, because nobody really wants it. There’s been fights in the past where, it sounds kind of pretentious to say, but nobody wants a fight at a show, so I say something like, “We’re not gonna play anymore if there’s any more fights,” and it sounds kinda lame, like we’re something cool, but it actually works. At one show in Fort Worth there was a fight and I said that and I saw the person causing trouble again and people were like, “please, just calm down, and let’s have fun,” so it actually works sometimes in that sort of situation.

I know you play a lot of shows, but is there any one show that you can say was the best, or one of the best, that you’ve ever played?

Oh man, no, not at all. Every show is completely different, and whether there’s like 600 people or like 60 people at a show, they’re always good for different reasons, there’s always things that suck for different reasons too, like I hate really high stages, things like that, but you can work around that kind of stuff, and make it really cool regardless. Big shows are rad because you get so much energy off of everybody, and everybody’s singing, and it’s just fucking amazing, and then like a show with 60 people is amazing for various reasons. We played a really small show in Salt Lake City on the last part of the US tour, and it was so much fun, just because it was a small group of people, and they weren’t really familiar with our music, like some of them were, but it was really fun and challenging to play that kind of a show, and by the end everybody was smiling and we had a great time, so shows are good for different reasons.

How were the crowds in Europe?

They were so weird, Europe is such a trip. I can run it down. England was stereotypical – leather pants, fucking dreadlocks, all these crazy things, like total drunk punks, and they just have so much fun, and the turnouts were good in England. France was literally like San Diego, everybody was like an emo person. Every country was completely different. Our shows went really well in like Czech Republic, Italy, meaning that turnouts were good and we were really happy. Germany was very much like America, and then places like Holland, nobody had heard of us, and it was really fun in that sense too.

Most of your shows seem to be pretty inexpensive. Do you have anything to do with the ticket prices being so low?

Yeah, we’re really anal about it. We really don’t want to play shows for over $5 or $6. We’ve turned down really big shows just because they’ve been $7. But a lot of this stuff is really new to us, especially playing in clubs. We like inconsistency, to tour and play clubs, halls, and basements, and different places, but the clubs are where you lose control a lot of the time with door prices and things like that. We ran into a couple of problems, for example, we played a show at the Wetlands and I found out later, after the show was over, that it went through ticketmaster, where the door price at the Wetlands was like $6 and there were some people from Philadelphia there that I was talking to and they had ticket stubs through Ticketmaster where they were $10. And so we’re really learning from our mistakes, and everything’s really new to us in that sort of situation, so we’re trying to work around those type of things right now. We don’t want people to pay $10 to see Avail and a couple other bands play because we wouldn’t pay that much. If you want to go to a couple of shows a week, you don’t want to pay $20 for it, so we stand really firmly on that. We have played about 2 shows that were I think $12 with GWAR, a fellow Richmond band, but we decided after a long debate that they were like a theater group with 18 people involved so we felt comfortable with that.

What other bands do you listen to or see live?

The bands that I seem to focus on listening to are local bands. I guess we’re really community-based people. The bands that we all really like here are the Young Pioneers, who are people who used to be in Born Against, and Hose Got Cable has got to be one of our favorite bands as well, and there’s another band here called Action Patrol.

Yeah, I saw them play with you in Connecticut back in July.

Yeah, fucking love that band. And I think all of us listen to really weird music outside of hardcore. Like we all listen to the old DC bands and bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, and stuff like that. But we’re rednecks. We listen to Lynrd Skynrd, and country music. I listen to a lot of bluegrass music. I think we’re gonna put a bluegrass song on the new record. It’s debatable.

Are there any bands that you’d like to go out on tour with?

Yeah, we actually talked about it yesterday. Hopefully in late December we’re going to do a 10-day tour of the south, to Florida and back, and hopefully we’re gonna go with Hose Got Cable. We don’t want to tour with bands that are really popular, I mean Hose is getting popular, but we want to go as equals. We don’t want to do better because we’re freeloading off a band that has a better draw, because we feel comfortable doing things ourselves. Like if we went out with a really popular band like Fugazi, who we don’t know at all, but it would seem kind of weird, like we were trying to get popular off of them, and we’re not into doing that kind of stuff.

It doesn’t seem like you have much time outside of Avail, but is there anything else you like to do when you’re not busy with the band?

Yeah, and right now is the perfect time to ask that, because we are only practicing and playing maybe 2 to 5 shows for the rest of the year. Beau is really into building model cars and he pierces people, that’s his job. Rob and Erik are both in school right now, for the semester. Joe, the guitar player, is a dad, so he stays at home with the kid all day, and things like that. And I have a volunteer job that I do 4 days a week with a social service facility here and I start a photography class tomorrow, and I mountain bike… all day, every day.

A friend told me that you like to jump freight trains…

Yeah, I ride freight trains. I’m sort of into putting myself in weird positions because it’s kind of empowering and you learn a lot about yourself, kind of like weird religious people going into the woods for a month and not talking to people. I put like $30 in my pocket, go down to the train yard, I only go south, never go north because it’s kind of weird and dangerous up there, but just get a backpack, a sleeping bag, some peanut butter and some bagels, and ride a freight train down south and wherever I get dumped, I hitchhike to whatever city I can get to and live on the streets for a couple days and hope that I can get back by hitchhiking and riding freight trains, and if not, the $30 will hopefully get me a Greyhound as close as I can to Richmond. I haven’t done that too much this year, but it’s a really interesting thing. And my suggestion would be to anybody who wants to try it to really only go with somebody who’s done it before, or learn about it, because it’s extremely dangerous, and you can get killed falling off the things. There’s also freight train gangs and shit like that, so it’s a really strange experience but it’s the ultimate in freedom.

What is the charity Food Not Bombs about and do you still do some work for it?

FNB is really loose-knit individuals across the country, originating in Boston, to use American waste to feed people who are hungry. A lot of restaurants and grocery stores throw out perfectly good food because it’s out of date or it’s taking up space, so these people go around and collect these things as donations and cook them to feed the homeless or anybody who needs food. We’re mostly involved from an outside perspective. I try to go down there and serve as often as possible, and we let them cook at our house whenever they need to. We do yearly benefits here and we donate our portion of the money or all the bands’ money to FNB. We’re playing here on September 29th, next Friday, with two bands from England, Bender and Citizen Fish, and the Young Pioneers from here. The Young Pioneers and Avail are donating their portion of the money to FNB, and obviously the bands from England will get paid so they can get home.

I told you I had a dog question so here it is. One line that always makes me laugh when listening to Satiate (“Upward Grind”) is “I share my clothes with my dog.”

That was me. I didn’t know that was going to be in there and so loud. That’s my dog Zeke.

Do you really share your clothes with your dog?

I think I was just fucking around. We were out of town when we recorded that. Whenever I leave, he takes all of my clothes out of my room and puts them on the couch in a huge pile and lays in them until I come back. It’s really weird, but I think that I might have been thinking about that because I was out of town. But that’s what I meant, and he still does it. He’ll be 5 in November and I just got his name tattooed on me, because I am a redneck I guess.

Do you get asked to do a lot of interviews, and do they get tiring or do you sometimes hear new questions?

Well, this interview has been extremely good. There’s times when we do a lot of interviews, sometimes we go a while with none. I never get tired of doing interviews, as long as they’re well done and not the same questions every fucking time. People always ask us about our tattoos and piercings and stuff like that which gets really annoying, but I guess it’s our fault because we have them. There was a time when we got asked the same fucking questions: “Give a brief history of the band, what do you think about veganism and vegetarianism, are you straight edge and what do you think about it, and what do you think about slam dancing at shows”. There are ways of wording those questions so they don’t come across as just bland. Like you talked about the shows and people dancing at them, you didn’t just say “what do you think of it.” You told me your perspective and I thought that was rad. Then you can just flow, it’s not like a one-word answer. AVAIL / Food Not Bombs


Interview by :
Mike Hall

Avail Interview

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.

What songs?

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.

Number six.

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.

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