Shea Stadium Records / Votiv Records
on April 2014 at Phone
Brooklyn alternative punks So So Glos are champions of the DIY ethic, putting out their latest album Blowout independently and touring relentlessly. As Votiv Records gear up to release the album in Europe and the UK and drop a full vinyl release in the US, singer Alex Levine took some time out to speak to us about the record, influences and filming their latest video at a porn studio.
So how are you? A big tour starting with the Front Bottoms, Say Anything and You Blew It! Starts in June, so what’s going on with you guys at the moment?
Yeah, we’ve got a little time, we’re just working on some new songs and doing a couple of shows here and there around New York, you know just always working on new songs and just relaxing while we’re home for a quick second.
I heard a vague rumour that you guys may be coming back to the UK at some point this year?
Uh huh, well yeah, we may! That rumour may or may not be true!
You were over here back in February playing some shows with Ezra Furman, how did that go?
It was really fun, being on the road with Ezra was a blast, I mean it was just good to be out there playing rock and roll in good company. With somebody who’s helping to carry that torch of rock and roll and it was really surprising how many people still come out and care about this kind of music in 2014.
That wasn’t your first time in the UK?
No, we’ve been over a couple of times, once with (…And They Will Know Us By The) Trail Of The Dead and once with a band called The Virgins and they were all super great!
On your recent UK tour you guys played some different, more underground venues, was that a deliberate choice or were you just going with what Ezra had setup?
That tour was booked and we were just added to it, but we’re always championing alternative and strange venues. We’ve played in kitchens, bathrooms and basements, everywhere they have an outlet.
Is that kind of what started you guys to start the Shea Stadium Arts Space and Venue and putting stuff on there?
Well the Shea Stadium thing came about after a long time touring in the states and we came back to New York and established a place called the market hotel. In America its very different than over there (in Europe) with the really stringent drinking laws that exist which are really contrary to my beliefs as bout how rock and roll should be for all ages. Whether or not you’re drinking shouldn’t exclude people from coming into a club just because they’re not of legal drinking age so these things, in a city like New York just needed to exist. It’s a lot of sticking your neck out on the line for those types of places and just creating a fun environment. So these alternative arts spaces kind of go hand in hand with the whole ethos of all ages punk rock.
Yeah, I totally agree you’ve got to be inclusive and make sure that your stuff gets out to the widest possible audience that it can.
Yeah, first and foremost protest music belongs to the youth you know and you’re not going to start a riot with a bunch of older people!
So your last album, Blowout came out last year and was the first one you guys did with Votiv, after your split with green owl, how did you end up connecting with them?
Well we put out the record completely independently about a year ago in the states actually and it’s only now just coming out over there (Europe) a year later. I mean we just printed it out, burned it on CD’s and just put the record out there because we were not really into going with the classic music industry model that had really done us wrong in the past. So we were kinda fed up with that bullshit and just put the shit out on our own and then Votiv came to us a couple of months after. We played David Letterman and the record had gotten all this good press which we were super grateful for. They saw that and then wanted to put it out for real so we were like alright, put it out for real. It had been out digitally and via ourselves at shows, but they helped us press the vinyl and sort some monetary stuff out and they’ve been really good to us, but ultimately it was a self release that got picked up by them.
And I guess that’s the best way to do it because you already created the buzz and you have control as they’re approaching you wanting to work with you based on that buzz?
Yeah, I mean we’re not the kind of band that’s sitting in a room waiting for a record executive telling us what to do and trying to be the next strokes or whatever, we really are a band of brothers and we don’t do it because someone is telling us what to do or how to do it, this is just the natural thing that we do. We couldn’t really do it any other way! It’s not that we’re trying to, we just don’t know any other way!
Do you guys make a living from music? I recently read an interview with Doyle von Frankenstein from the Misfits and he was ranting (unsurprisingly) about the digital age and how so many well known musicians have “day jobs”. How do you feel about that? It sounds like you guys just do it because you love it?
I think it is hard to be an artist in a rock and roll band now, because that infrastructure, that middle man, for better or for worse is gone so yeah, I don’t really know what else to add! We just do it because it’s fun travelling, play music and do it as long as we possibly can to support ourselves.
When I first heard your stuff it really some across as almost instantly familiar in a kind of nostalgic alt-punk kind of way but with a really cool fresh twist. With almost a pavement-y vibe about it. Can you tell us a bit about music that influenced you and drove you to do the kind of stuff you do today?
Oh yeah, I mean we’ve been into all types of music since we were kids, I mean there was even a Darlene Love sample on the record which got pulled off because of Phil Spector’s clearance issues. Yeah, there’s always a good head nod to the past but when we were making this record we tried to think about making the music of the future you know? Push it a little bit farther and embracing the melodic structure of what we were listening to. When we were making this album I was listening to a lot of hip hop, lyrically I was pretty much exclusively listening to Notorious B.I.G and the Wu Tang Clan and so there was a lot of that coming through and it’s just all about this idea of being caught up in the modern world, this ‘me against the world’ type in a city that’s crumbling and that kind of post apocalyptic world, or maybe just a straight up apocalypse. So I don’t know, maybe musically we have elements of the past caught up in a whirlwind of explosion that looks something nlike the future.
That’s a very cool way of putting it! One of the first things I saw from you guys was the video for My Block, which had a real effortlessly cool vibe about it but you guys always seem to come up with interesting concepts for videos, I know the most recent one for Speakeasy you’ve taken on the role of a cyber cop trying to rouse people from a technology induced coma. Where does that creative come from, is it all from the band?
Oh no, that was just my idea! The Speakeasy thing we put that together in one day with Chris Elia, we went to high school with him and he works in this building in san Francisco called the aArmoury which is basically a porn studio and I came up with the concept so we could use all these things in the space, but I don’t really know where it came from, somewhere deep in our minds, teenage angst hangover maybe! Or angry discontent with the world.
It comes across really cool, it’s an excellent video, really good fun!
Well thank you, we tried to make something fun for the kids so they can break their computers! Its about going out and having fun – go outside!
Totally – there’s a whole world out there if you just open the door.
Yeah, close the computer and open the door!
That sounds like a mantra for the youth of tomorrow!
That’s the So So Glos Mantra! Before you go out you’ve got to do the So So Glos pledge and channel the spirit of rock and roll!
Well I hope that when you guys come back to the UK I hope to see that mantra at your shows! So just a couple of final questions, with the album being over a year old now and you said at the beginning that you guys are always writing and jamming out new music so what are the plans for the next record?
We’ll have to see when logistically we can get a break from touring to put together the pieces of what we got planned. We have a lot of pieces, I can say that! A lot of demos, so whenever we can get a couple of months off, and we haven’t had that in a long time, but when we can, we will definitely put the record together. We’re excited for it.
A couple of non musical questions if you don’t mind, with the arts/venue space being called Shea Stadium, I assume that means you’re Mets fans?
Yeah, well moreso fans of the underdogs and of the losing teams. Fans of the failing optimist. And uh fans of the little guy you know.
With the islanders moving into Brooklyn next year, do you guys cross the line into the hockey underdog as well?
We’re not really hockey fans, but if they’re losing then yeah, sign me up! And I think just picking up a guitar and forming a band and using that medium as an artist as opposed to maybe the drum and bass or techno scene, I think that qualifies as a major underdog as well you know. Writing a pop song without electronic backbeat..its a metaphor, you get it!
I totally get where you were going with that! I really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us today, and I really hope to see you guys back in the UK soon and can’t wait to hear some new music.
No problem, thank you!