My third time seeing New Jersey’s Basement Beers. Two of those times headlining a Meatlocker show. While I might have a hard time pigeonholing their sound. Their live sets are hard to match. Fun, engaging and all inclusive. Sometimes you can judge a band by the people standing around you in the pit. If that’s the case. I guess the middle picture below tells a pretty good story. JD
It happens more often than not. You head out to see a favorite band and by sheer coincidence find yourself thoroughly embracing a band you had never heard of. On one particularly freezing night. I risked life and limb to see a touring band by the name of Snowhaus gather at Montclair’s Meatlocker. Less than a year prior. Snowhaus, a Massachusetts act I had never before heard of. Blew the doors of the cavernous collective. Forever sealing my fandom. As this particular show progressed. History repeated itself as I found myself thoroughly enjoying yet another band I had no prior knowledge of. That night and a week or so later at an establishment just blocks away. A band by the name of Basement Beers rewarded me with another great set. With a tour just a day away and lots to talk about. I laid the tracks for the interview I hope you are about to read. Thanks to Teddy, Greg and Shaun. As each of them took the time to chime in and contribute. Here’s to supporting the scene, the bands and the people who make it happen. With no further ado. I give you the Basement Beers. (Interview and live images by James Damion.)
James: You just came off a tour with the band Cutters. How did it all come together?
Greg: We’ve been friends with Cutters since our first show on the same bill together at Stevens Institute which was either November 2014 or February 2015. Since then we have shared the stage together and become friends. In November ’15, Pierce hit us up about this incredible opportunity.
Shaun: We’ve known Cutters for a while now, and at the last show we played together in Brooklyn, Pierce loosely suggested we do a tour together. Fast forward a couple of months, and Cutters is going on tour and they followed through and asked us to join. Pierce drunkenly suggested it to us when we played together in BK. We didn’t hear back so we assumed it was just bar talk, but they hit me up on Facebook shortly after and it all sorta fell into place.
Teddy: Pierce drunkenly suggested it to us when we played together in BK. We didn’t hear back so we assumed it was just bar talk, but they hit me up on Facebook shortly after and it all sorta fell into place.
James: Were you big fans of the band before this all came together? You were out for 17 days. Where did you go? Was this the longest you’ve been away from home?
Greg: We’ve all been fans of Cutters for some time now. Mike is so adorable! We were in almost 20 states in 17 days with shows almost every night, sometimes two. Philly, Pitts, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Fort Worth/Austin/San Marcos/Houston, Texas, NOLA, ‘Bama, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Jersey.
Shaun: We’re all big fans of Cutters, Greg hums their songs as he falls asleep at night. I was only out for 10 days, but that is the longest I’ve ever been away from home.
Teddy: What they said ^^^ Cutters rules and it was a blessing to be able to explore the country with them.
James: What happened to Shaun during the tour that needed medical attention? Who filled in while he was unable to perform?
Greg: Shaun, tell ’em baby!
Shaun:I had what’s called Pneumomediastinum, which is a medical way of saying I had pockets of air in my neck and shoulders. I was diagnosed with it the day I was supposed to leave for tour and it kept me bedridden for almost 5 days. Teddy filled in on vocals, as did Pierce and Brian of Cutters. But even when I was on tour, I couldn’t sing because of my condition, so I was strictly guitar.
Teddy: Brian filled in on guitar for the first leg of tour, and I did vocals the whole time which was incredibly nerve-wracking.
James: From your posts on Facebook. It looks as if you made a lot of friends along the way. Were there any particular moments, bands or people who particularly left an effect on you?
Greg: There are so many, but definitely the people who we never met before who cooked for us, and let us crash at their place. Forever grateful. Forever Grohl.
Shaun: I still think Allen from Austin was the gnarliest dude. He fed us breakfast burritos and was the only guy at his house that saw us play. Plus, he traded me a killer vest, which I wore for the remainder of tour. But Andrew, also from Austin, let us stay his place for three days, which is unbelievably kind.
Teddy:We made too many friends to count. As someone with a lot of anxiety, touring is really terrifying because it puts me completely out of my comfort zone for weeks, but the DIY community has proven time and time again to be some of the nicest and most accepting people there are.
James: Alright, let’s get to the heart of the matter. What’s behind the silly name? Are we talking about a great basement show low lighted by a couple of cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon? Or is there a deeper, more sociological meaning behind it?
Shaun: We were honestly drinking beers in Greg’s basement, fleshing out our first songs and that was what Greg half jokingly suggested. I honestly wanted to change it, but it’s to the point and makes sense for our music and the type of shows we play. Also we still practice in Greg’s basement.
Greg: I joked about naming our band Basement Beers or Project: Basement Beers and thus we formed that month of February 2014!
Teddy:We drink beer and play in basements, its pretty self-explanatory.
James: How did you first meet and what made you want to make music together? Had you been in other bands before?
Teddy: I’ve played in bands with Greg and Shaun before when I was younger, none of them were very good, so its surprising that Basement Beers has gone anywhere. (lmao)
Shaun: We all went to the same high school, but each in different grades. I had been writing more guitar parts, and I knew Greg was a drummer, so I wanted to jam on some of them. After that first session, I suggested we bring Teddy into our midst. Teddy and I had been in a prog rock band in high school, so I knew they’d be down for whatever.
Greg: I remember I hit up Shaun, who I had been friends with for years from the local scene, concerts, parties etc. about jamming. We had our first jam in January 2014. Then that February Shaun invited Teddy, who we were both friends with and had played in bands with before to come to my basement and drink beers/jam.
James: Did you originally set out to be a trio? Are there any plans to perhaps add a piece or two?
Greg: We are such completely different people from each other which makes this band quite interesting. We’ve never really considered adding a fourth member unless it would be Kevin James or Dave Grohl…maybe Steve Harvey.
Shaun: I’ve always wanted to add a second guitar, mostly because I write so many different parts for every song and I can’t play them all. However, it forces me to be concise in my writing, and I think it makes us stronger as band, because we are restricted with what we can do.
Teddy:We’ve talked about adding another guitarist or possibly a synth player but it’s already hard enough to coordinate shows/practices with 3 people so it probably won’t happen.
James: How would you describe your sound and overall method of destruction to someone who hasn’t heard of Basement Beers? Influences, bands or a genre, sub genre you might find yourselves
Greg: 2/3’s Blart, 3/4 Grohl
Shaun: I just tell people a punk band so I don’t have to get into the details. We have some emo, some twinkly stuff, some mathy stuff, but I just consider us a punk band. I’m influenced by bands like Glocca Morra and Into It. Over It. but also Van Halen, a lot of Van Halen. I want to do blow with David Lee Roth.
Teddy:People keep calling us an emo band or a pop punk band and I don’t really think we fit either of those categories. We’re definitely somewhere in the Punk genre but I think categorizing it more than that would have pigeonholed us, ya know?
James: Favorite bands to play shows with? Favorite places you’ve played?
Greg: Personally, New Orleans and Austin for me. Favorite bands… too many! Anytime I get to see Cutters I am grateful. They always put on a stellar show and I learn so much from their performances…all four of them! Best part of tour for me was getting to see them do what they do best every night 🙂
Shaun: Although I’ve only played with them once, Jank was a blast, super nice homies. Cutters without a doubt. Also, Snowhaus, can’t forget Snowhaus. I’m a sucker for New Brunswick basements. My favorite shows have always been down there.
Teddy:We’ve played with so many cool and supportive acts its hard to single any out, but I think PUP was the coolest band we ever played with. As far as venues go, the Meatlocker is like a second home to us, but I love playing any dank basement.
James: Your last EP “Nothing Outstanding” was quite good. Personally, I feel the title itself undercut the fact that it was a stellar release. What led you to choose such a self-deprecating title?
Greg: Mother Russia.
Shaun: Some guy in Russia reviewed our first recording, and one of the comments on it was that it/we is/are nothing outstanding. We thought that was really funny, so had to use it. Personally, when people say shit like that, it’s super motivating, because it makes me want to be better.
Teddy:The only press we got for our first EP was from a Russian “Midwest Emo” music page, who called our EP “Nothing Outstanding” and “Ordinary Twinkle”. They said the same thing about our second EP. It’s truly amazing that nowadays we can be roasted by strangers on the other side of the planet effortlessly.
James: What’s next for the Basement Beers? Are you writing new songs? Can we expect any new music in 2016? Any last words, shout outs, disses or schism?
Greg: Racism is schism. We are recording our upcoming third EP at the end of May! We are also getting close to our 100th show. Besides that we got some new merch goodies coming soon!
Shaun: We have a little weekender in the last week of April with our pals in Mr. Pink. We have shows sporadically throughout, but I think the big focus is recording. We’re recording a new EP at the end of May at Backroom Studios, so that should be cool. Hopefully we’ll have a more fitting title for this record, but knowing us, probably not.
Teddy:Got some more shows coming up, recording a new EP, another little tour, and some sweet, sweet merch, homie.
For more information on Basement Beers. Click the links below.
Just as fanzines and music blogs serve as the CNN of underground music. It’s the Independent Record Labels that provide the vehicle for which we enjoy much of the current music that comes out of our often thriving music scenes. For bands that cannot or do not wish to beg for crumbs from the all consuming music industry. Independent labels such as Sniffling Indie Kids serve as a home and comfort zone for many bands. In my years as co creator of United By Rocket Science and now with Document. I was happy to find that the D.I.Y. (Do it Yourself) ethos I grew up on was still alive and thriving. In a relatively short time. SIK has served up plenty of evidence and musical inspiration. I recently reached out to Frank and Eric to get an inside look at what makes this label such a integral part of New Jersey’s independent music scene. JD
Despite the musicality and quality of the labels releases. The name Sniffling Indie Kids as well as the labels logo have a very juvenile look and sound. What’s behind the term “Sniffling Indie Kids” and the logo?
Frank: I’m stealing a quote from Eric on this one…”The name Sniffling Indie Kids comes from the Hold Steady song “Positive Jam” and it very much signifies our perspective on life and music. Take the music very seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.” Plus, being able to use the acronym “SIK” has been a lot of fun because we’re putting out the “SIK-est” indie records in NJ. Basically, the name sounded cool, funny and memorable so we just kind of went with it. As for the logo, we had one of our favorite cartoonists make it. His name is Steven Darden (http://www.stevendarden.com/) and he rules. We now however have a new logo that we are using that was based on the original text, but re-imagined by YJY’s Steve Sachs (http://cargocollective.com/stevesachs/).
You had attempted and somewhat succeeded to create something very inspiring with the Tiny Giants Collective. What became of that and do youn think there were any lessons to learn from the experience?
Frank: The Tiny Giant Artist Collective was more or less an experiment. It was an unbelievable learning experience. It was a friendship builder, a network expander, a musical opinion forum and a self destructing nightmare. Basically, we wanted to build a network to expand communication of great bands and people passionately involved in the music scenes throughout the tri-state area. We kind of achieved some of that, however in the process, the move towards attempting to be purely democratic somewhat destroyed it. When the original five people started it, it was very content driven, and held a high standard for quality as well as the people we would have involved. But as time passed and more people got involved, it was a standard “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario which overall degraded the quality of the group. It also had become filled with too many people with a focus on “me” and not enough on “we.”
Sniffling Indie Kids is the direct punch back at what we initially tried at building. We now have jobs and some (not a lot) of money to work with, so we figured we could take the mistakes we learned from the TGAC and build something better with SIK as a record label instead of a collective. Not to sound like a pompous control freak, but I’ve always felt the three of us who run SIK have very good ears and more often than not are on the same page in regard to who we would like to work with.
2015 was a very busy year for SIK with a number of noteworthy releases. With all the urgency. Is there any fear or burnout?
Eric: No. Well maybe. Who knows? We are involved in a lot of musical projects ourselves, besides the bands that we work with, so there definitely is the possibility of burning out at some point. However, at the moment we are going to kick ass while there is ass to be kicked and let the future bring what it will.
You’ve been releasing material at a somewhat frantic pace. What is it about these bands, their music, or both that inspire you and makes you feel they need such immediate attention?
Eric: The majority of the bands are people that we have known in the scene for a long time in various other musical incarnations. Occasionally, we hear someone new that we want to work with, but it’s always organic as far as finding out about them.
Frank: Also, a lot of the bands we are working with are very prolific song writers. It makes it easy to continually put out new material when bands are putting out 1-2 full releases a year.
With the overwhelming amount of noteworthy acts in the current local scened. How do you maintain a quality over quantity?
Frank: Since we’ve known the people we work with for quite some time, we try to keep it a close knit family circle. The people currently in the circle have yet to disappoint our ears.
Eric: At the same time we won’t release anything that doesn’t align with our personal tastes.
Aside from yourselves, (Frank & Eric) Who else is involved, both creatively and monetarily?
Frank: So the label is run by Eric Goldberg, Joe Lanza and myself (Frank DeFranco). At the same time, the label somewhat operates in the collective way that TGAC did with people pitching in here and there to help further achieve our goals (like Steve with the logo).
Eric: Also, there have been multiple blogs (such as this one) that have been loyal to helping support our cause. Jim from CoolDad Music was gracious enough to go so far as co-hosting an Indie Pop Winter Formal with us in Asbury Park.
How hands on are you with the recordings and mastering? Who else, besides the bands themselves, are involved with the process?
Frank: So as far as recording, often Joe will lend out his hand in helping get music tracked for anyone on the label. There are others involved such as Max Rauch (LKFFCT & NGHTCRWLRS) and Erik Romero (Dollys) who are in bands on the label who record/mix/master a lot of other bands involved with the label. Additionally, our long time close friends Jeremy Cimino and Skylar Adler have played a behind the scenes role in making a lot of the records released on the label sound as good as they do. We ourselves tend to not get too involved in the making of the records (except if Joe is involved), however we do make sure that all of our releases are held to a certain standard of quality.
You recently celebrated your first vinyl release with Rocky Catanese’s “New Day Old Night”. Was there something special or unique that influenced you to go the extra mile by pressing it on to vinyl?
Frank: Obviously we dug the record, but besides that, there’s a few reasons why we did. One, he really wanted to do it, so much so that he offered to put up half the funds to help make it happen. Two, we wanted to put out something on vinyl in our first year of existence. Three, we’ve known Rocky for a long time and he was a reliable person to do this with. Four, we knew that when Rocky said he would be playing out a lot and touring to support the record, we could trust his word. If it were financially possible we’d put out everything on vinyl, but that just is not an option for us at this time.
Eric: We look forward to doing more vinyl releases via our upcoming limited edition Sniffling Indie Singles series. These will be 7″ lathe cut splits of two bands on the label.
You mentioned that while you’re not seeking out bands to sign. You definitely have plans in place for future releases. Care to fill us in? Or is it a deeply guarded industry secret?
Eric: Our next release is Delicate Flowers in April. The rest is a closely guarded secret.
To order or find more information about Sniffling Indie Kids. Click the link below.
Essex County’s Archie Alone have posted two stellar tracks from their upcoming split 7 inch with a mystery west coast act. While there is no telling when the split will be released. Or on which label. The two songs “Broken” and “Mend” do an amazing job in displaying the bands power and ability to blend post core power with emotive lyrics and heartfelt vocals. Having seen the direction the band has been taking it’s sound. This just might be their best material yet. Don’t sleep on this. JD
With a title that gives even the most purposeful head case like myself a shot at redemption Desir Decir’s “Even the Earnest Learn” is a shot in the arm for the working class humps and dreamers of the world. Featuring present and former personnel from The Life Eaters, The Everymen and more. It’s a wonder this hard working, hard touring band ever found time to get back into the studio. On their followup to their 2014 debut “Mechanics” the trio of John Feuerbach, Greg Reyes and Mitch Cady return to Killing Horse Records with six songs that display a sense of growth and determination. Upon being handed the CD by the bands drummer earlier today. I was given enough time to thoroughly ingest each song while navigating the series of potholes and traffic congestion we’ve all come to call Hoboken.
The cleverly titled “Postpone the Orioles” jolts you out of your seat with it’s rallying cry “Can’t Stop the Train from Coming”. “Semetary” follows with it’s Ramones inspired opening cry and it’s Johnny Thunders swagger. “Roy’s on the Table” follows with crash course mix of early 80’s Power Cow Punk meets Social Distortions dirty boogie vibe. There is an overall grit and dirtiness going on here that leads me to think these guys have seen many a night both in front of and behind the bar. As each of these six bangers feature a good sense of story telling. While I made earlier comparisons to The Ramones and Johnny Thunders. Closer and more current comparisons can easily be made to Gaslight Anthem, The Legendary Shack Shakers and Desir Decirs’s brethren The Everymen. Recorded and mixed by the very skillful hands of Mike Moebius at local legend Moonlight Mile Recording. The band will be heading back out on tour in January and plan to release a 7′ inch EP in early 2016. So be on the lookout. J.D.
Philadelphia’s Howlish are an ambient / alternative that has been playing together since 2014 when, still a very young band, released their debut EP “Open House”. Since that time, the quartet of Mark Watter – vocals/guitar, Karl Germanovich- bass, Taylor Cullen – drums and Brendan Sweeney – lead guitar have been making a name for themselves with shows up and down the East Coast. (a.k.a. The Best Coast) With their sophomore release “Outer” due out any day now on “Sniffling Indie Kids”. I was able to scoop up a copy to get a listen to what the future holds for Howlish, Sniffling Indie Kids and the rest of this big, flat world.
On their followup “Outer” Howlish create a spacious and atmospheric eight song gem. Moving slowly, though not without purpose with both skill and grace. The opener “Woods” moves along at a slugs pace, infiltrating the senses with it’s nurturing simplicity and dreamlike vibe. “Black Ice”, not to be confused or even seen on the same iceberg as AC/DC’s samely titled album and song follows with it’s shoe gaze meets dream pop leanings. Seemlessly solidifying “Outer’s” statement of purpose. There’s a sense of restraint throughout that has the listener wonder if these whispers are just heavily guarded screams waiting to emerge from their cocoons. My personal favorite “Fader” seems to beg the question in an even deeper sense with it’s engaging guitar eccentricities. “Outer” lifted this listener up in more ways then one. I’m glad I took the ride. J.D.
Brooklyn’s Courtesy Tier have announced their new EP “Little Rock” which is to will released on Beverly Martel Records on November 6! Pre-order is now available on iTunes: Available Here Having followed the band for some time now. (More than four years now) I can’t help but be excited. I highly recommend seeking out any and all material they’ve released as well as experiencing them in a live setting. J.D.