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The first time I heard the name Night Birds was from an acquaintance that saw them play some basement fiasco type dealie in that wholesome shithole we call New Brunswick, New Jersey and describe them as ‘some teeny punk band’. Huh. A few months later, I was handed a 7” of theirs in the living room of a Nineties Straight Edge legend. The cover looked cool enough to me; a real budget looking hand stamped cover that for some reason reminded me of that ‘Queer Pills’ single the Angry Samoans did back in the age of grey whatever. I flipped the cover over and saw they named a song "Prognosis: Negative" and I grinned from ear to ear. Someone silly enough to name their song after a Seinfeld reference? These jokers had to have something up their sleeve.I got the record home and yeah…it won me over pretty good. I know "hook laden" is a cliché, but hey…this is some hook laden punk rock that hit me in the huevos pretty hard with its’ non–nostalgia sheened fist. Its gotta heavy beach-punker vibe that might or might not resemble some of your favorites on the Frontier or Posh Boy label. Since I’ve always had a rager for this type of stuff, I was all over the Night Birds like stink on rice. Dug the above mentioned 7” so much that I tracked down the one that came before it, got a few t-shirts and signed up to be an official fan on every social networking site you and your nephew can think of. Not only that, but I tracked the dudes in the band down and axed them some questions about their rocking endeavor. TB: Lets get the basics out of the way and talk about how you got together and all that.
Mike: Well, for our ages (approaching 30) we're all pretty seasoned New Jersey punk rock veterans. I saw Brian's old band play a show in the cafeteria of my high school about a dozen years ago. Not long after that, I saw Joe's old band the Ergs play a set in a friend's basement (Hippie Mansion). They were so awesome they nearly ripped my brain out with their non-stop assault of a set, and we've been great friends pretty much ever since. All three of our old bands played a whole lot in NJ and did a bunch of touring too, mostly just nationwide. The Ergs had become really good friends with my old band Hunchback, and at one point the Ergs shared a member with Brian's old band For Science, and we got to know them through that. I mean, we were all playing the same basements anyway. You know, the usual incestual band crap. Joe and Brian had started a small project before all our bands broke up, and when that happened they decided to try and turn it into something more. Joe suggested I play guitar, and I was thrilled to do it. I almost felt like we'd been in a band together before anyway, because the Ergs and Hunchback were so often doing things together. TB: How do you think the Night Birds stuff differs from your previous bands?
Joe: Way more punk, pretty much no pop.
Mike: Stylistically it's not in line with any of our old bands' stuff. I mean Hunchback and the Ergs had a couple surfy instros here and there, but it's mostly very different. Our old bands' sounds ranged from Butthole Surfers/Killdozer rip off rock to pop punk to jazz to country, etc. We didn't wanna do anything we'd done before, and we all liked all those old California HC bands like Agent Orange, so we kind of started doing something more inspired by that.
Brian: Actually, stylistically it's right in line with a few of my old bands... I was in a band called Forward to Death a few years ago, which was named after the Dead Kennedys song... while we weren't trying to rip them off (not that we could if we had wanted to), we were all lovers of the style, much like Night Birds. I did a few hardcore punk bands over the years, all of which were influenced by Eighties hardcore, but I think where the difference is here is in the signature style to the musicianship. Mike and Joe both have a particular style and sound, and I love the way it goes together. It rules to write a retarded four-chord song and give it to these dudes to let them churn out something way more interesting and thought out.
TB: It seemed you guys sorta hit the ground running as far as recording and shows go. You seemed to get some releases out on some decent labels pretty quick. Are you "connected"? Are you "hungry"? Or do you just have a lotta songs lying around?
Brian: We don't have a lot of songs lying around, that is for sure. We write a lot, but we also scrap a lot to try and trim the fat a bit. I had just done records with Ken Dirtnap and Alex (Grave Mistake) with one of my old bands, Psyched to Die, and Joe had also just done records with the both of them for the Ergs, so we gave them Night Birds demos pretty early on, and lucky for us they both dug it. We figured instead of having to make a decision we would ask them to do a split release of our first 7", and they were into the idea. Brandon and Lauren of No Way Records fame liked our first single a lot, which was called "Killer Waves". It was only two songs and only 300 (I think?) copies as part of the Art of the Underground records series. That is why the new 7" is on No Way. As far as shows, I guess we've just made a lot of friends over the years from our various bands, and it made getting shows pretty easy, which was cool. I always feel weird about getting cool offers just because of someone in your band's old band (especially since I've done two bands with ex- Ergs), but they are just offers... If you play a show and suck, you still suck. If you get to do a first record on a cool label and it sucks, then more people will hear your sucky new record then would have if it was self released or something. It seems like now, a year or so into doing this band, we are getting more offers because people actually want to see Night Birds, and not because we're "connected" so to speak. TB: It's pretty apparent you have a very beachy/surfy streak in your music. Was this a conscious effort? Do you like the beach at all? Do you surf? Do you rip it up?
Mike: I pretty much always have a surf streak running through my guitar playing. Really because I think that those are the coolest sounds there are; for my ear there's just nothing that sounds better. It was conscious in that some of our early reference points with each other were surfy punk bands, but we're not TRYING to do, you know, "40% surf and 60% punk!" the stuff comes out how we all think it sounds best. And do I like the beach? In the words of the Dead Milkmen, "I don't wanna be on the beach, no fun". I hate the sun and all that crap. I definitely don't surf, and as far as ripping it up goes, I've ripped up some credit card and hospital bills before but that's all. TB: Where do you think the Night Birds fit into the whole Punk Rock thing? Do you care? What you do you think of tweeners wearing vintage HC shirts they bought on eBay? Are they your fans?
Mike: Fit in to the whole Punk Rock thing? I don't really think about it. I guess we do, but I like to think we make original, fun music regardless of any genre, you know? Of course I love punk rock, but it's not as if we'd ever do or not do something because of its "punk factor". As far as the young folks that grew up on nothing but the internet and have done school-like research into punk records, well ... it's unfortunate. The gifts that punk rock gave me are so related to being open-minded and questioning things, it's totally sad to me that there's this terrified mass of young people now who act like they care about it but are under the impression that punk is some factual, one-sided thing. How unbelievably sad! The person who says "I don't care!" the most very likely cares A LOT, you know? People gotta learn to just like whatever the fuck they want and stop caring so much about what "fits". As far as old shirts off eBay go, I don't really care what people wear, but I think you're talking about people that attempt to hold court because they "know more" about punk, records, etc. or are a more serious "collector", MAN that shit just makes me wanna puke. Gimmie a fucking break, I love music and I love records, if you wanna act like there should be more "rules" to it than that then you can go fuck yourself. Punk Rock is not a contest, so stop trying to win. I suppose some of these kids are our fans. Which is fine, hopefully we'll shake them loose from their conformity. But Night Birds exists outside the realm of the prepackaged and nothing will change that, ever.
TB: I noticed the Ergs label was called Frilly Pink. Was this a reference to Bad News? If so, what member of Bad News do you most associate with?
Joe: I can really relate to Vim Fuego - mostly because my real name is Alan Metcalfe.
Mike: Also, Joe's wardrobe is mostly made up of clothes that are in fact, Frilly Pink. Anybody out there that likes no-fi Nineties-era KBD punk should definitely try to seek out the Frilly Pink releases by the Gutter Rats and of course Johnny Hot Dog and the Condiments. They're gonna be hard to find but that stuff is amazing. TB: What are the future plans of Night Birds?
Brian: We are in the process of getting a new drummer. It's just about worked out, we find out for sure in the next few weeks. After the new guy is up to speed, we will continue writing our LP, which we have a good jump on, and we are playing the Gainesville Fest this year, and No Way Fest, which should be fun. We'll have a new 7" coming out on No Way right before those fests, as I had mentioned earlier. It's four new songs and it’s called "Midnight Movies". We hope for the LP to be out around March of next year so we can do a few tours around the US and hopefully go to Europe. Once this drummer thing is squared away we will sit down and try and figure things out a bit, ask again next month, we will have a more definitive answer.
Joe: I would love to get one of our songs in really good skate video.
(…FAST FORWARD ONE MONTH…)TB: So what’s going on with the drummer situation?
Brian: We have had five drummers at this point, nothing ever seems to click and when it does it doesn't last for one reason or another... however, Ryan, who recorded on “Midnight Movies” and played in the band for a while will be playing our upcoming shows and possibly re-joining the band. He was booted after showing up four hours late to record the "Midnight Movies" EP. It was sort of hasty decision and there was no real warning to it, so we talked it out and we'll see what happens. Nothing's definite yet but we all feel good about the decision...
In the time where Ryan wasn't playing with us we started really working on writing our LP with just me, Mike and Joe... I play drums at the practices. During that time Brandon Ferrel (Government Warning, No Way Records, ex-Municipal Waste drummer) asked if we had anyone to play on the LP and said he would like to offer his services. That dude’s an insane drummer, and we jumped on his offer. So, assuming all goes according to plan, we should start recording that with him in mid-December at the studio we did "Midnight Movies" at. We are planning a three week tour for the Northeast and Midwest (a few Canadian shows as well) and we are aiming to go to Europe for another three weeks in June. A lot of this is speculative at this point, but we are also pretty realistic when we make our plans and longish term goals. There is basically no reason touring for six weeks and releasing a LP in 2011 wouldn't happen.
Night Birds on the web here.Interview by Tony Rettman. To read other TB interviews, go here.
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