Ray CarlisleFat Wreck Chords
By Dustin Blumhagen on April 9, 2014 at Phone
Wyoming twin brothers Ray and Brandon Carlisle formed Teenage Bottlerocket in 2001. They’ve built a loyal fan base, joined up with infamous punk label Fat Wreck Chords and toured Europe with metal group Volbeat. Ray Carlisle took some time to discuss what the group has been doing lately as they get ready to hit the road with Pennywise and gear up for a summer on Warped Tour.
Teenage Bottlerocket are opening for Pennywise on their 25th anniversary tour, coming up the US west coast and into Canada. How did that come about?
They asked us to go on tour. That’s the short story. We are looking forward to it, getting back up to Canada. We always love playing there. With Pennywise we are doing Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Not in that order of course. We are going to spend some toonies and maybe even eat some poutine. Who knows?
Tourmate Jim Lindberg wrote the book Punk Rock Dad and helped get The Other F Word documentary out… I hear that you are also a “punk rock dad.” How do you juggle fatherhood and being in a band? Is it challenging?
I got a really unique custody situation with Milo’s mom. When we are not on tour Milo stays with me, when we are out on the road he stays with his mom. It just depends how much we are out on the road though. Usually it would be one week on, one week off. It’s really cool. Whenever I’m on the road, I miss Milo a ton, especially when it’s a really long tour. When we are out for these short stints I get to come back and hang out with him. When we are on the Warped Tour I think we’re going to have him out on the bus, maybe 3 or 4 days. Basically I try to keep in touch with him while I’m out on the road. There is a juggle routine, but it isn’t anything too complicated.
Is he old enough that he thinks it is cool that his dad is in a band?
Ya, he does. He has a guitar. He told me last night that he wants to be in a band when he gets older. I was trying to convince him to be a tattoo artist, but… Hey Milo, get a tattoo gun and tattoo all your friends!
My youngest son, Jett is a huge fan. I loaded up the ipod he got for his birthday with a huge variety of my music. When I checked it out a while later to add some more tunes, the songs from Freak Out had a few hundred plays, so I added in the rest of your discography since that seems to be what interests him. Apparently what I listen to has been rubbing off on him. I feel like sometimes people have this image of dad’s as all being like a white washed Leave it to Beaver type of thing. It’s always great to talk to parents who don’t fit into that stereotypical image.
That’s awesome. Lots of parents tell me that their kids love Teenage Bottlerocket. With some of our songs, especially the lyrics, kids can relate to, like I’m so scared, I wet my underwear (from In the Basement). Maybe by the time Milo is 20 and your kid is 19 Teenage Bottlerocket will grow up. Our audience will catch up with us finally. That’s funny. I got Milo a guitar recently and he does this pick slide and he says, hey dad listen to this Teenage Bottlerocket song, I can play Bigger Than Kiss. He just shreds the pick along the strings. Pretty funny stuff. It’s great, I love being a dad. I can totally understand what you are saying, there’s a lot of squares in Milo’s school as far as parents are concerned. I go to pick up Milo and I just can’t relate to a lot of these parents. I get along better with the kids than their parents.
Definitely. When I spoke to you a few years ago your “day job” in the gas industry often brought you up here into Alberta. Are you still working in the field? Is it a struggle to balance a full time job and the band, which would also seem to be a full time endeavor?
I haven’t been in the field for a long time. Last year, Teenage Bottlerocket did 165 shows. I was sort of just full time Bottlerocket. I’ve been doing some work for that company over the last year in Wyoming. I haven’t been up to Alberta in a while, except to rock, which is good. That’s the way I prefer it.
Obviously it’s a great thing that you are so busy with the band that you need to take time away from your other job.
I’m really fortunate to have a job that will allow me to take time off to tour. I actually really like the balance of my life. I like touring a lot, but I don’t want to tour all of the time because I have a kid. It’s nice that whenever I’m home I have another job.
I recently saw the fan video for Who Killed Sensei making the rounds on the internet. It’s a humorous low budget affair. What did the band think of the video?
I thought it was funny. I kind of thought it was a great idea. I wish that we would’ve thought of it. We would’ve had Cody in a ninja outfit and taken it a couple steps further, but it was hilarious. Someone did a Maverick video too. They took a bunch of clips from Top Gun and matched it to the lyrics. I loved that one. That was probably my favorite fan video.
I haven’t seen that one. As a kid, Top Gun was my favorite movie. I’ll have to check that one out. I love the song.
It turned out cool. It’s always amazing whenever I check out youtube. People covering our songs acoustically on youtube from Singapore and all these different places. It’s cool to see that with this technology you can do a quick search and check out who has been posting stuff about your band. We just sort of stumbled across that Sensei video like that. You can play a show and search youtube and sometimes people will post footage of the show you played. We try our best to keep up with that. Roll the film.
Do you feel that because everyone is digitally connected it helps you to reach parts of the world where you have never toured? Places that the label wouldn’t reach out to?
I think so. We’ve been offered a trip down to Brazil. It’s not fully confirmed yet, but maybe the internet helps get us down to Brazil. It gets everyone’s music out there. It’s definitely very helpful.
You’ve done Warped; you’ve toured with a variety of punk bands from NOFX to the Queers and played The Fest down in Florida. But I see that you also toured in Europe with Iced Earth and Volbeat, which seems like a really strange lineup. How were those shows?
It was cool. Like you said, it was totally unorthodox. Volbeat are a radio metal band and we’ve always toured with punk bands like NOFX and Dropkick Murphys and stuff like that. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into and I had an idea that Volbeat were huge in Europe but we didn’t realize that they were as big as they are. We played some shows in front of 16000 people and it was crazy but definitely opened our eyes to a completely different realm of the music industry. It’s cool that our band has sort of been a vehicle to experience all kinds of stuff. The Warped Tour is another example of something that we get to do. I think it’s great. If anyone’s out there that has a band, take advantage of different opportunities that you get. We could have easily said we’re too cool to tour with Volbeat and Iced Earth and not done it. At the end of the day, you don’t get to go to Europe with Volbeat. That was a decision that we did make. We went over there and rocked as hard as we could. I thought it was really fun. It was cool. We released the 7” that had the German song on it (American Deutsch Bag) that I learned in high school when I took German class. The reaction from the German audiences at the Volbeat shows to that song was amazing. It was really cool man, but definitely strange. I want to say all the dudes in Volbeat, every member of that band is really really nice. The lead singer fell in love with one of our songs that we wrote 10 years ago called Rebound. When it was the third show of the tour, we heard Volbeat in there sound checking playing our song Rebound. We just thought that was so bizarre. To be honest, I didn’t even really know that much about Volbeat. I didn’t know the band, but I knew that they’d toured with Metallica because I did a little bit of research. But I didn’t know what they sounded like. We were just like, let’s go do this tour. It was cool. It was a lot of fun.
It’s really cool that they are approaching opening band selection as music fans. When you guys are touring as headliners, do you get to choose who opens for you or does the record label have an impact on the lineup?
We do, yes. Last time we were up in Calgary we had Elway and Dopamines. We’ve chosen The Copyrights, we try to bring out our friends bands and pick bands that we really like to listen to. It’s good. We don’t really have pressure from the label or pressure from anybody higher up who is like, you can do this tour but you have to bring this band with you. It’s not like that and obviously it’s not like that for Volbeat either.
It’s even less expected when you are dealing with a mainstream band like Volbeat. I don’t know much about them either, but I’m aware that they are really popular. You’d think that bands working with major labels would have significant pressure to conform to touring with who they are expected to tour with.
There’s a lot of pressure sometimes from booking agents. The guy who books Alkaline Trio also books Bayside, so why not put Bayside on the Alkaline Trio tour you just booked because you are going to get 10% commission from them as well? I think booking agents definitely encourage different bands to tour together. Our booking agent will sometimes suggest something and we get along with a lot of bands on the roster, so it’s happened in the past. We’re going on tour with Off With Their Heads, but we really like those guys. I think that happens sometimes, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Bayside and Alkaline Trio would definitely work great together. Then it makes for a great tour.
Have you had any experiences in the past where you looked at a lineup you were on and thought, this is really strange?
I think the closest thing would be Volbeat. It was just so strange and I feel that Teenage Bottlerocket was out of place on that tour. At the same time, we went with it. It was a great opportunity to get our music out to some people who wouldn’t have had an opportunity to hear our music otherwise. We played Reading & Leeds once and the atmosphere at those shows was kind of stale. The audience wasn’t moving much and we thought, shit, should we even be here? Then afterwards, there was so much fan mail, like you guys played Reading and you are my new favorite band! Sometimes even though you don’t fit on a bill, afterwards you look at and think, I’m glad we did that. Also, uncomfortable situations that are kind of awkward at the time are always entertaining afterward. We are always happy we did it and can laugh about it.
Teenage Bottlerocket is heading out on Warped Tour this year for two months. How do you like the tour? It sounds like it would be quite grueling.
The Warped Tour this year will be our first Warped Tour experience. I’ve went as a fan in the past. I went and saw Against Me! and Broadway Calls maybe four or five years ago. I also went to the 2nd Warped Tour ever in Denver way back then. The tour is a lot different now than it was back then. There were a lot more bands that I listened to, but it’s changed. It’s cool that Less Than Jake are playing this year and our friends in Mixtapes are playing. I’m looking forward to becoming a fan of some of the other bands I haven’t heard before. We are just totally excited to be going out. We are taking a bus. Should be awesome. I love the summer time. I’m totally looking forward to it.
I went to Warped every year for a decade. My favorite thing about it was the diverse lineups and always discovering a few new bands that I’d never heard before. It was great to see the bands I knew and loved play live, but being blown away by someone you’ve never heard of is such an amazing feeling as a music fan.
Yeah, definitely a lot of kids come to Warped Tour just to discover new music. That’s why they are there. Honestly, we hope to acquire new fans and bring our music to people who would otherwise never hear us play. It’s kind of like the Volbeat tour, but maybe a little bit closer to what we do. It’s another opportunity that Bottlerocket has gotten that we are stoked on. It’s important to experience new things with your music.
You did an acoustic song for Songs from a Couch, which is obviously different from the music that Teenage Bottlerocket normally makes. Do you enjoy doing those sort of one off things? Do you ever perform acoustic sets during normal tour runs?
I really enjoy playing acoustically, but I don’t get an opportunity to do it often. I don’t tour with an acoustic guitar, but often times someone will come out and we will pass one around. If someone brings an acoustic to a show and wants me to do a song, I think a lot of Teenage Bottlerocket songs transfer acoustically great. At the same time, it seems like every dickhead that was in a punk band is kind of jumping on the whole, I’m wearing a button up cowboy shirt, this whole alt country thing that is happening. I don’t want to go for that. I don’t want to start an acoustic band, but at the same time I want the opportunity to play whenever I can. I have mixed feelings about it. Sometimes I hate people on acoustic guitars. But it can be hard, just you out there playing a song without your band to support you. I love it and I hate it.
You recorded a cover of Via Munich for the Tony Sly tribute album. Did you get to choose the song you covered?
Yes, the first time we toured wit h NOFX, just after It Came from the Shadows came out, Tony Sly was opening the shows acoustically. He was awesome acoustically. He often rode in our van with us. We became really great friends with Tony. He was touring the 12 Song Program album and Via Munich was on that release. He would play that song every night and it became stuck in our heads and became our favorite song. When Fat Mike asked us to do a song, it was sort of a no brainer. We have to do Via Munich because it represents when we hung out with Tony the most. I think Mike originally wanted the punk bands on the label to tackle the acoustic tracks and the acoustic groups like Old Man Markley to do No Use for a Name songs. When the final list came out, it wasn’t quite like that but it turned out great. Such a great album, I love it.
It was nice to see that it balanced out his entire career and his influence. So Kody is doing some dates with the Lillingtons again, including Pouzza up here in Canada. Do you guys ever run into scheduling issues between the two groups? I know they don’t play much…
We haven’t really had any conflicts where we were like, oh shit, we can’t play this show because The Lillingtons are playing Pouzza or Riot Fest. They aren’t playing that often. We haven’t had anything like that. Maybe one of these days, we will play something together. We have always been really good friends with the Lillingtons. We’ve known Kody for years. Being around each other from 1994-2000 in Wyoming, it’s sort of an inbred little punk scene around here. Everybody knows everybody. That’s ultimately what led to Kody playing in Teenage Bottlerocket. It all works really great.
It is interesting to see the evolution of pop punk bands who have been in the scene for a while. You have Kody in the band, who originally came over from The Lillingtons. Chixdiggit are touring with Kepi Ghoulie from Groovie Ghoulies now. Do you feel like the brotherhood of the scene allows for collaboration?
I saw an interview with Billie Joe from Green Day once and he was encouraging people to start bands with their friends. Don’t start with the best guitar player on the block, start it with your friends. KJ and Kepi have always been close, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Kepi is rocking with those dudes now. You can tell from the pics on Instagram that they are having a ton of fun together on tour. That’s what it’s all about, getting out there and having fun with your best friends.
It has been about 12 years since A Bomb came out. If this was a Behind the Music episode for Teenage Bottlerocket, what would you have to say about the long career and evolution of the band?
I’d say that it flew by. We sort of lived the life of Teenage Bottlerocket from one album to the next. We’ve always had the next record in our sights. Right now we are writing to get our next record out. We haven’t decided what color it is going to be this time. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 12 years since the A Bomb 7” came out. It was in the middle of the Shadows tour, I still had it in my head that we were a new band. Floyd was like; you realize you’ve been in a band for 15 years, right? It kind of snuck up on me and now here we are 5 full lengths later. It seems like we’ve accomplished so much with this music and we look forward to keep on doing it. It’s something that is important to me. Wow, it flew by.
I feel like from the outside, your band keeps getting bigger and bigger, which is awesome. Sometimes you hear about bands whose fans get angry once they’ve reached a certain stage, yelling sell out.
I think there will always be fans that come and go. One week you may be their favorite band in the whole world, then the next they’re moved on to bigger and better things. But we’ve had a lot of fans who have stayed with us the whole way. My twin brother, Brandon, his wife cuts hair for a college and she has a Teenage Bottlerocket sticker on her mirror where she cuts hair. Some dude came in, looking like a wannabe gangster, flat billed hat, talking sideways, he looked like he listens to rap music for lack of a better description. He saw the sticker and he was like, no way, that’s my favorite band! I love to hear that. You can’t pigeonhole our fans. You can’t say, a Teenage Bottlerocket fan wears a leather jacket and Chuck Taylors. That’s really far from the truth. Especially since we’ve toured with so many different bands. We always see fans at shows with Dropkick Murphys shirts on, which is cool because they got into us because we did that tour.
Maybe you’ll start seeing kids show up with Volbeat shirts?
It’s happened. That tour was in Europe though, so we probably won’t see too much of it here. We get lots of emails though. We won over one person in Norway.
That’s a start! Thank you for the interview. It was great. My son and I will be at the show in Calgary. He’s going to be very excited.
Awesome. Milo was 6 when we brought him to his first NOFX show. He’ll love it.