Everybody may have been kung fu fighting in the past, but Karate's songs are tightly controlled bursts of guitar power and emotions, hitting harder than Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan combined. It can be slow and ponderous, or faster and angry, but one thing remains constant about Karate's music - it rocks. I talked to vocalist/guitarist Geoff Farina, bassist Jeff Goddard, drummer Gavin McCarthy and guitarist Eamonn Vitt for about an hour in March and got the story of how these high-stepping and higher-kicking musicians started out, where they are and where they're going. Straight to the dojo, one would assume. Photos courtesy of Southern Records.
Let's do a quick voice check. Please say your name so I can transcribe this later.
Gavin: My name is Gavin.
Geoff: My name is Geoff.
Eamonn: My name's Eamonn.
Jeff: And my name is Jeff with a J.
GF: How are you going to distinguish which Geoff/Jeff it is?
I'll tell by the voice. That's why I was asking for a voice check. So the first question, and probably the most boring one ...
EV: How did we get together?
Actually, no. What's up with that nifty airplane on the cover?
GF: Airplanes have been a theme in my life the last year, I think. We had to fly home from our first tour and it was the worst airplane flight I ever had in my life. There were actually two flights, one from Kansas City to somewhere. Then one from there to back here and both flights almost exploded in mid-air. On one flight, even the stewardesses, or whatever they're called, were frightened so that's how I knew it was bad. I did it and presented it to them and they liked it.
So that would also explain the flames?
GF: Kind of. I don't like to fly very much. Well, I hate it and I think Jeff doesn't like it either.
JG: I've had various experiences on flights. They don't exactly thrill me, but it's the fastest mode of transportation.
GF: Gavin hates flying too.
EV: I love it.
GM: I don't like it. I don't trust it.
Did I just hear Eamonn say he loves flying?
EV: I like flying.
GF: No, he meant he hates it.
Yeah, you're screwing up this nice fear of flying thing we have going.
EV: I ruined it?
Well, not really ruined it.
EV: We don't fly together though.
GF: Eamonn flies everywhere and we drive and meet him there. Pick him up at the airport.
EV: Yeah. I've got my own little Cessna.
EV: Yeah. It's painted red, white and blue and has all this governor stuff on it.
You have to have the Official Seal of the U.S. on it of course.
EV: I didn't know that.
If you're going to paint it red, white and blue you have to.
GM: It got shot down.
EV: You're right.
Yeah, it got shot down by an Apache helicopter.
EV: Or Cuban.
Precisely. Now, how did the band get together?
GF: Well, it was first Gavin and I, I think, and we met because there was this guy who we later found out was in this awful, terrible band after we met him. What was his name? Craig or something?
GF: He and I had been talking about playing music and I really wanted to play music and had just moved back here from D.C. where I was living, so he said he had this drummer who turned out to be Gavin, so we got together and played and Gavin was great and this guy was really bad. I thought he was at least, and so I got Gavin's number and called him and then we played with this guy, Kevin, for a little while who was a friend of mine. He was in Sinner, and we also played with other bass players like Hans or whatever the guy's name was.
GF: Claude. Klaus!
GM: It was either Claude or Klaus.
GF: It was Klaus. That's what it was.
GM: It was not Klaus.
GF: Yes, it was. It was Klaus, who we also see around everywhere. Then we met Eamonn and the three of us played as a three-piece for a couple of years. We toured and made the record and everything and then Eamonn wanted to play guitar and I live with Jeff and we had all been friends for a while and he's a great bass player, so it was the obvious thing to do. When Eamonn first switched to guitar, we didn't even really have a question that we were going to have anybody else. We asked him and he was interested in doing it and it's worked out great. I don't know if anybody else wants to say anything.
GM: It's all true.
EV: Sounds good.
GF: Pretty boring.
How many bands have started off as a trio and then added a fourth member after recording an album?
GF: Some bands do. Rex kind of did something like that.
How did that affect the band?
GF: More volume. We just couldn't get loud enough. We needed more volume. I was really sensitive about it because I wanted to play the stuff on the record like it was on the record. I think we generally succeeded in doing that, like Eamonn plays a lot of parts I doubled on the record, but we really only do four songs off the record. There's some stuff that, at least in my opinion, would be difficult to do with two guitars that we haven't done. To me, it just sounds fuller and better and the more important thing is I think everybody's really happy doing it which is the best thing. You should talk about it Eamonn, because you're the one who catalyzed it.
EV: Yeah, I'm the enzyme. I don't think it sounds different really.
GM: I think it sounds great.
EV: I think it sounds different, I think fuller is a good word.
So there was some multi-tracking on the album?
GF: Yeah. I just doubled stuff, a bunch of stuff. You can hear it. Like, I played exactly what I played but I played through this old Vox amp. Normally, I use this Fender amp I totally fucked with and made sound the way I want to sound, but I did a lot of doubling with this Vox amp and I played really clean because I wanted a cleaner guitar sound and you can kind of hear it, I think. At least, I can totally hear it. It sounds just a little bit of stereo sound, but there's not really anything tricky. Mostly it's just doubling stuff to make it sound fuller and we mixed it way down so I don't think there's anything we can't do live. We just wanted to get that sound.
So how did you go about developing the sound? Like pretty much every band formed since 1990 or so, you've been compared to Slint.
EV: I don't think it sounds like Slint at all.
GM: I don't think so either.
EV: I can see Codeine, but Slint, I don't know.
JG: I think people are dying to compare everything to Slint.
Why is that?
EV: It's pretty easy.
JG: I think that's probably one of the better ones I've heard, that we sound like Slint. I've heard a lot of bands that don't sound anything like them and people are "Oh, it's just Slint."
GF: I've heard better comparisons of us. Like, I've heard people say Sunny Day Real Estate or Afghan Whigs or Big Star, which I think are a little more accurate than Slint or Codeine. I think Slint and Codeine are the easy things to say, just because we play slow and quiet sometimes and then get loud and screaming sometimes. I mean, I love Slint and Codeine and I think we all really love them and listen to those records a billion times, so I think that's something that's in our blood or something like that, unconsciously, but when we first started, I personally had more ideas of what I wanted stuff to sound like and I think we probably talked about what we wanted stuff to sound like, but now we just write songs and some of them are super fast and loud, some of them are super slow and quiet and that doesn't even matter too much, whether a song is loud or quiet. It's more just how it sounds and if we like playing it and stuff.
GF: It doesn't bother me that people compare us to them at all.
EV: I think people, whenever something is really dynamic, tend to say it sounds like Slint.
Argh! You're answering the rest of the questions I have and I haven't even asked them yet!
GF: Oh, sorry.
EV: We have ESP.
Well, that's cool.
EV: It makes it easy on us.
GM: Eamonn mentioned we have ESP, so I just thought I'd say don't get into any cars tonight. Stay away from dogs.
I live with six Great Danes. That's going to be tough. Anyway, the comparisons don't really bother you?
EV: Sunny Day Real Estate, I don't see it at all.
GF: I don't think anything can be right or wrong. We totally have our own ideas of what we sound like, and I know I personally think I sing certain ways and Gavin thinks he drums certain ways. He always says he stole everything he knows from these records and I don't think it sounds anything like that.
GM: Don't bother to cite them because I'll just be proven so wrong.
Let me guess - the first Ramones album.
GM: Yeah, right.
GF: I guess I feel like I sing like that guy, that Jesus freak guy in Sunny Day Real Estate. I don't know that I do or not.
So how did you develop the sound? You said you had some ideas of what you wanted it to sound like, but was it a collaborative process? How did it form? How did it get to what's on the album and the 7"?
EV: What kind of sound do you mean? Anything in particular? I don't think we consciously did it.
GF: I don't think we consciously did it either.
GM: If anybody, Geoff has more of an idea about it because originally, for me personally, I just played how I learned to play.
GF: I know the first couple of songs I wrote that we played had some kind of idea in mind, that song "Death Kit" or some kind of concept of what it wanted to be. I really liked a lot of blues stuff and there's just little things, but we're always surprised when people say "Our sound," or something. I don't think we ever even once talked about a concept of a sound in a serious way. It just worked out the way it worked out. I think we all like a lot of obscure music, and we don't necessarily like the same things. We like a lot of different things and some of the stuff I like, they hate and vice versa. I don't think it was ever anything like that just because we don't plan that far in advance. I know I don't want to be in a super punk rock band or a super slow Swervedriver band. I just know that I like what we play. I don't even listen to very much loud music anymore. I don't listen to rock music very much. I guess we're also really into our friends' bands and the bands we play with and see live, and we try to do a lot of shows with bands we like and know and I think those bands are probably a much bigger influence on us than bands that people who would read your magazine or most magazines might know of like bands everybody thinks about like Slint or Codeine. We're much more into bands like the Warmers or the Sorts or bands we're friends with who we see play and practice and develop and we know what the other people in the band play guitar like and stuff like that. That's such a stronger influence because it's your friends.
One of the things I was getting from the music when I was listening to the tempos and the tempo changes and the drum parts ...
GF: The tempo changes were an accident.
EV: That's a compliment. They certainly weren't planned.
GM: You don't have to tell him though.
GF: Let him live in his dream world.
EV: Yeah, yeah, all right.
GF: Sorry. We interrupt.
Anyway, I was picking up jazz rhythms and textures and things like that. Was that something you were thinking about? Does anyone in the band listen to old bebop records?
GF: I paid my way through college playing jazz gigs, but I played bass, and played lots of jazz and only jazz for a long time because I couldn't deal with being in a band. It's definitely something that influenced me immensely and I listen to jazz all the time. Jeff also plays horn and stuff like that. He's the one who's not talking.
JG: I'm here. I'm just waiting.
EV: He's reading a book.
JG: I'm reading The Vans of the Stars here and the Swirlies are in it.
Well Jeff, are there any plans to incorporate horns into the music?
JG: Ever since I started playing horns, like recently here, I played with the other band I play in called The Lune, a lot of people around town, like friends and stuff, have asked for horn and some of it I think works and some of it doesn't, but I don't know.
GM: You never know though.
JG: I don't think it would really fit but if people were into it and it sounded all right, then we'd definitely be doing it.
What kind of horn do you play?
JG: I play trumpet.
I was wondering if it was that horn Clark Terry plays.
JG: There's all kind of things that look like trumpets. There's smaller ones like cornets and piccolo trumpets and really big things like baritone trombones and things like that, but just your standard trumpet is what I play.
Now, you've already talked a little bit about dynamics earlier, but is it something you consciously plan out in advance or just feel your way through?
EV: I think a lot of it just comes from practicing a lot, playing live. Of course you have to be conscious about it, because you want to plan it. Every band tries to do that to a degree, I guess.
GF: It has to be real. A part has to want to get super loud.
GM: For me, I think more of it has to do with feel, like if something feels really good, that's the direction. If everyone feels really good about a certain part, you may not necessarily know what will come of it, but I just think people who play together a lot, you form a sort of intuitive feeling and type of playing with people you've played with for a while, or if you play with people in general. It's really nice, after you've been playing with certain people for a while, you don't need to look at them. You just know how people play and it's a really comfortable feeling. I think a lot of that sort of thing, for me, it's a type of feel and if everybody feels this part should come down or come up, then the chances are it'll work.
GF: Something I like about being in this band and something I think is different from a lot of bands is we're just totally focused on playing live and doing a lot of shows and playing good shows and I think you can never really know a song really well until play it live a ton and the parts that are really loud, I know just from my singing, when I really feel like singing loud, it has a lot to do with the way it comes off live and the way we do it together. You can't even practice that stuff. Some of the stuff we have that's louder is a little bit difficult to practice a lot because it's so high energy and it's not going to happen in your basement with just the four of you sitting there. You don't even want to do that, like it's painful or something. When it's live, it's a huge release and it's a great thing. I guess we had the idea, when Gavin and I started playing together, I remember we would talk about it a little bit and just be like, "This part should quiet and this part should be loud," and I always like music like that. I think most music should be that way. It's like playing music without notes or something, playing music in one key would be not having dynamics.
So two of you have played jazz, and a lot of this is done by feel. Does that mean there's room for improvisation?
GM: Not really. We sometimes work out things we want to do before a particular show, like merge one song into another. There's really no jamming during a live show.
GF: Something like the noise stuff, we never know what's going to happen with that. Definitely the feedback guitars.
GM: On "Caffeine," on the record, the end is kind of short but live we'll just let the noise go on forever.
GF: It's a live thing in a way.
GM: It's more deliberate I guess as far as being long and noisy on purpose just to stress some point or something.
So would you say the music is more structured or less structured?
GF: When we practice, I think that's what we do more than anything is structure things. That's part of the writing of the songs. I think they're a lot more structured than a lot of independent rock I hear. I mean, definitely the older stuff like "Schwinn" and "Death Kit," and stuff, every little thing, we would talk about the way we wanted it to be. I feel the need to do that, I feel like I'm being lazy if I don't do that, if I don't make a song as good as it can be and I think we all feel that way. We want to take it and make it interesting in some way, but that's all preparation for playing live, where it might be slower or faster or the noise parts might be noisier or something. We don't do a lot of things differently, but definitely the energy is a lot different. There's definitely a lot of structuring and I think our music is really structured, but I hope it's not math rock. I'm really a simple songwriter and those are the songs I love, but it's just sort of the little trim around the edges I expect to be nice and I think we all do with our little fills or whatever.
GM: For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of this band over the past couple of years has been the practicing and the refining, just making sure everything is nice and tidy. It's just the whole process is almost as much fun as playing it live, just working hard and the four of us working together and all knowing what we're going to play. For the drums at least, trying to accent little guitar parts here and there or little bass parts and stuff. The whole process of working everything out is really fun.
GF: Then it feels totally good to play a show because you know you have the stuff you want to present. It's like knowing you have these songs you think are really good and you feel confident and play better because you know you have something you worked on that you think is going to be interesting to people.
So what the heck is math rock?
GF: Like Don Caballero. I love those bands. I think they're great for what they do, but it's totally a whole different thing. I could just never do it, I have no interest in doing it and having parts that change time signatures every 30 seconds. Most of our stuff is pretty simple when it comes to time signatures or something, but there's bands that are great at doing that and they can totally do it. We're definitely not one of them, I hope.
GM: I think we only do that once, change time signatures. Or maybe we don't do it at all.
GF: We do it 2.5 times. Let me get my calculator out, I'll tell you exactly.
Probably 2.7 times per album. Okay. I've just been hearing about it and I had been wondering what it was.
EV: Whenever Gavin and I listen to math rock and we're in the same room, we'll show each other numbers on our hands.
GM: It's sort of like dancing to this new style of music.
EV: He'll look at me and hold up a number, like nine and a half with his fingers, and I'll nod.
GM: He'll be like, "Yeah man, you got it. You're rocking now." Pi, all right.
EV: Get out a slide rule.
Given math rock and the way you talk about the structure of your music, do you consider yourselves more musicians or architects?
JG: I built a loft in my van the other day. It's called the Homer Simpson loft. I don't know if you ever saw the episode where he built the spice rack for Marge. So I guess we're more musicians than architects.
GF: Eamonn and I built the loft in our first van, and we're definitely not architects by any stretch of the imagination.
I just built a bookshelf. I know the feeling.
GF: I think all the structure stuff, even though we work on it a lot ...
EV: It's simple.
GF: Yeah, it's simple and it's preparation for something else. It's good, but it's the shit work. It's like decorating before a party. There's definitely something to it and it makes me feel really good and it's something that's important because you want to do a good job and I think all four of us want to do it well, we want to do it the best we can do it or put a lot of time into it or something like that, but I really hope it doesn't get in the way of the basic thing we're trying to do which is play loud and make music which sounds the way it sounds, whatever people call it. I think the important thing that overrides everything is the mood of the music we all like and I hope on the records, that comes across, that there's something much more basic than the structural part of it. While that's important, I think there's definitely some kind of underlying feeling which is much more important. Just playing music is much more important than the whole aesthetic of being in a band or something.
So the music would be the something which is more basic or at the heart of what you're doing.
GF: I think so. I guess.
EV: I don't think any of us like bands because they're cool bands.
GM: Yeah. I mean, the only reason we play in this band is because we like what we can come up with. I guess enough people like it so we can go play shows in other towns and people will come see us in our own town. I was never expecting to be in a band people liked. It's just a new thing. We just do it because we like it.
GF: I get the sense that's why people like us. I think people like us because when we play a show, we're all there, 100%. I think it comes off that's what we really want to be doing, being onstage and playing what we worked on in the basement and not any other type of thing. When you go see a band and they're kind of bored, they're just kind of doing whatever else they do, but when you see a band that's really there, when they're onstage their mind is totally in the present and you can tell they're just putting everything into what they're doing and if it's something you like, then that can be a great thing. You see a band like that and it can be amazing and I know even though we all sort of have different tastes in music, there's definitely a lot of bands the four of us all love for that reason, that it's just such an in-the-moment thing you forget about your day, you forget about everything. You're seeing this amazing band that's just pouring their heart out. I think that's great and it feels so good. We just played a show the other night, it was our record release show, and there more people there than we've ever had who just came out to see us. It was just really flattering and I think it made us all play better. It was just this huge release and it just felt so good. There was all this afterglow the day after when I woke up and it just felt good.
So what influenced the songs? What are they about, if you talk about things like that? What kind of ideas, sentiments and feelings went into the album and what do you think the result is?
GF: As an album, I thought a lot about making a record that wasn't just a collection of songs, that they had a unity or something like that, but then at the same time, we're slow songwriters and we've never played a show where we had more than 10 songs to play, maybe 12 songs. I think we thought about making a record, but at the same time it was just the songs we had and could work out. We tried some other songs that didn't work and I guess we kind of wanted to have stuff that worked together and I hope this does, but I don't know that lyrically, there's anything any different on that record that would be different from the single we did or that would be different from any song I've ever sang on. I think generally I sing about the same types of things, the same types of feelings, and that's something I can't talk about. People have their own idea of what I sing about and they can see things in it which is just great.
And you don't want to take that away from them if you start talking in specific terms.
GF: Absolutely. I hope people like something I write or sing, but they have their own interpretation of it. That's great. That's totally cool.
Some of the songs seemed almost tender and others seemed bitter.
GF: There's definitely bitterness. I guess I could answer that in terms of a specific song more than I could generally. I can't even think of all the lyrics. I remember them when I play them, but it's hard for me to think about them. Anything in particular?
I was wondering about "Gasoline," "Every Sister," "Trophy" and "Bodies."
GF: Well, "Every Sister," I don't think there's a lot of lyrics I write about one specific thing, but "Every Sister" is definitely about my sister. I sat down and wrote a song about my sister and about my relationship with her, and I was thinking also about gender relationships and girls and boys in general and stuff like that. I hope it's got my own little personal story in it, but I also hope it's political in a way because it definitely has something to do with gender and age and people being different ages, the way people treat each other. I think that's what it's about. That's a simple song to understand. "Bodies," I don't even know. I can't even think of the lyrics.
EV: "Gotta touch the monkey."
GF: Oh yeah, it's about my German friend Klaus who played bass. And "Trophy" is definitely an angry song, very political. I think if you went through and assign political positions to the different lines, then it would be pretty easy to see what it's about. And "Gasoline," I've always had trouble with those lyrics. I don't think they're very good. I think it's lyrically the weakest song on the record but I also like it because it's so minimal and simple. I don't know what it's about. It's more like a way you feel, you write it in a little narrative or story. There's definitely bitterness, the whole idea of absence and something not being there that you want to be there, or something that you know is out there and you want to be there but it's not. It's really hard for me to say on that one. I mean, I think a lot about them and the way I write lyrics is more from an aesthetic point of view. I know when I talk to my other friends who are songwriters, we have these ongoing arguments and I think I'm in the minority about this, but a lot of the stuff I write isn't factually significant. It's not about any one thing or it might be about a combination of ideas into one song or just because it's unified in one song doesn't mean it's one story or something and I do it much more aesthetically, like I want it to sound good and I want a couple of words or a phrase to put some kind of feeling that really hits home, what it conjures up in terms of how you might feel. I think that's much more important and that's what I like much more about music than if a song's about a certain thing or a certain person or a certain political situation or anything specific. I think the one thing is that I don't write things with that kind of specificity. I know I'm in the minority, in fact, most people I talk to about it, and I do talk to people about it a lot, they'll have a situation where something will happen to them and it will be really important and they'll write a song about it and I can never do that. We just got in this really nasty near death van accident and I wanted to write a song about it and I've been working on it, but nothing's happening with it yet. I haven't been able to do it because I haven't been able to center all these facts in the song and it's not something I'm interested in.
So the politics appear in a more general sense?
GF: My whole philosophy is there isn't really the line between personal and political people want there to be and Americans need there to be to think about their lives. Music that's blatantly political has always influenced me a lot. I grew up listening to Crass and Fugazi and all those bands and I think when people get mad about that, I think the consensus is politics and music don't mix, and I think that sucks. I think that's ridiculous. I think it comes through in what we do too. We don't want to do FNX night and we don't want to play downtown where none of our kids can get in on Lansdowne Street or something. We want to play for people that put on cheap shows and put on bands that aren't totally in the money-making vein of things and we want to do smaller things. I definitely, 100%, want there to be politics in music I write, but at the same time, I'm not a preacher and I'm not somebody who is smart enough to be able to tell people what to do. I hopefully would not ever take on that role, so to me, what we do is really political in a lot of ways.
GM: I get sick of hearing really drippy pop music where the lyrics are all about the guy's miserable day, stuff like that, that really self-absorbed stuff because then the music becomes really non-threatening. It's just bland. I hate music that's non-threatening and serves no one but the artist who writes about his bad day or his girlfriend that just broke up with him. It may be decent music musically, but lyrically, I just don't like stuff that's really self-absorbed.
In a word, Hootie.
GF: Hootie and the Blowfish.
EV: I love the Blowfish, but Hootie's got a problem.
So does the band get involved with benefit concerts or express politics along those lines?
GF: We don't have rules or something like that, but I always think about what Eamonn said at one point. We were asked to do something silly, it was a friend of mine who worked at a big radio station, and I had a hard time saying no, we didn't want to do it. It had something to do with an FNX-sponsored, I don't want to put down FNX, but a big radio station, beer-sponsored type of show that was really expensive and stuff, and what Eamonn said is it's not this big political thing and we don't want to do it, but it's just not our personality to do that. None of us like that, none of us want to do it. We simply didn't think it was a good thing to do. As far as outside politics types of things, we've played benefits and would love to do benefits if we could afford to do them. There aren't many around here. There aren't many people putting on benefits for different things. I think the other problem we have is we're not a hardcore band and a lot of that kind of stuff is centered in the hardcore community which we all come from. We were all big hardcore kids, but we just don't play that kind of music and therefore, we're not in with the people who are doing that.
Where's the band based out of?
Yeah, Boston has a long hardcore tradition. Gang Green, the FUs, the Freeze, Jerry's Kids.
JG: You know, Gang Green and the Freeze are still actually playing.
GF: We'd like to express our discontent.
EV: Yeah, you can pick up any paper and find an ad in the back for one of those bands.
GM: The hardcore and muscle rock in Boston, I don't really like it. The punk kids, and punk as in not just punk rock but the chumps. In Boston, they're kind of dirtballs.
GF: That's a pretty sweeping, broad statement.
GM: Yeah, I know. It is pretty sweeping. Gang Green and all that stuff, it had its time.
GF: We don't know them, they don't know who we are. There are a lot of people in the Boston punk rock scene who probably have no idea who we are and could care less which is fine. There's also the vegan, tattooed, super-political hardcore scene here. It's totally cool and I think that's great and I have a lot of respect for them. I wish those kids liked us more. We've had a lot of experiences, especially when we first started since we were a lot quieter, where we played shows with all these hardcore bands and people hated us. They couldn't deal with us because we were more quiet or more melodic, I don't know why. Maybe we just sucked then. We've had that experience and we've been really sensitive to it. It's hard, especially when you're a small band doing shows and going out there. Sure, we'd love to play all ages shows all the time but nobody is putting on all ages shows for bands that aren't hardcore, vegan, militant bands or something. At least in Boston there aren't. The people who are doing it are really cool. There are a few people who are doing it and that's great, that's totally cool.
So unless there's anything you'd like to add, I think that should do it.
GF: We'd like to add Jeff Goddard.
JG: I'm here.
Jeff Goddard, the silent one.
JG: Yeah, that's me.
EV: He's the Boston hardcore vet actually.
JG: We don't want to get into that though, do we? There's a time and a place for all that.
All right, cite your pedigree, let's go through your genealogy. What bands have you played in?
JG: Well, worth mentioning? I used to play in a band called Jones Very with Vic Bondi, who used to play for Articles of Faith, and if you want to talk about politics, then join Jones Very because that was probably the most politically motivated, self-absorbed band I've ever been in. Vic's a great guy, and he'll always be a friend of mine, but he definitely felt very strongly about a lot of subjects, a guy that basically did sit-ups and push-ups to CNN News 24 hours a day or something.
Henry Rollins? Never mind.
JG: Yeah, more or less. I played in Moving Targets for a while and lots of different things. This is my ninth year of living here and Geoff and I are about the same age and we've both lived here just as long and we both have been in numerous little things here and there. Meeting up with these guys was definitely great. They played one of their first shows with this other band I play with called The Lune, and ever since I saw them, it was a nice breath of fresh air for me. When I first got here, I was really into the whole Boston sound. I grew up in Maine and we'd come down for shows every weekend at T.T.'s and the Middle East, well, the Middle East wasn't open then. T.T.'s used to have all ages shows, like Dag Nasty and Justice League. We'd just come down every weekend and see shows and when I was growing up, I would just buy stuff that was strictly out of Boston and all those bands. When I came down here, I ran into people that just happened to be involved with that. I've been playing for a long time and have always been really interested in playing and when I first got here, my big thing was just sort of trying to get involved in something I'd be interested in. I was a lot younger then, but I've lived here a long time and seen a lot of bands come and go. All of us go out and know a lot of bands in town and they come and they go, so when I first saw Karate, it was really nice to not have ever met any of these people and to see this show and this brand new band and it was really refreshing because I really liked it and ever since then, we've all gotten along and been really good friends. I've always had a lot of respect for them as songwriters and as a band in general, so when they asked me to play, it was something I definitely wanted to be involved with in some way or another so it was a good thing. Since then, it's been fine.
So what do you all hope people get out of Karate's music?
GM: Well, I would hate to say strictly entertainment. I don't really like when people say music is strictly entertainment, because I don't feel that way about what we're doing. I'm not going out there playing to try to entertain people solely. I hope people are entertained but, like Geoff was saying, he likes people to have their own ideas about what he sings about. He doesn't want to say anything literal. So I'd like people to be able to think whatever they want about it and maybe have people think a little bit about what Geoff's singing.
GF: I have a similar idea, but I think we're all people who have gotten a lot more than entertainment out of music and I think we're people who go and see bands a lot. It's hard now because we're always doing different things, but when we see bands, a lot of bands we play with, there's definitely a kind of bonding and it's funny, because recently a couple of writers from CMJ have called us an emo-core band in various ways, and even though that's a really silly kind of tag, there's definitely that influence. I think we were all into a lot of the same East Coast music when we were young and I think that's the way we thing of music. A show is a big event where we all had our hometown shows and we went and saw whatever band. For me, it was Government Issue at the Demi in Harrisburg when I was like 14 years old. After the first song, all the kids would be onstage, on the ground, on top of John Stabb, screaming into the microphone and feeling really great. I don't know what you would call it, but I think our shows are a little more serious than other bands. I don't mean serious like taking it more seriously, but I definitely don't feel like joking around when I'm up onstage. You want to sort of go through something when you're playing a show, it's not just occupying your time. It's like you're getting from one point to another where you're thinking or making people feel a certain way or something like that. I love listening to records and recording music, but I am really always into playing live and when I hear a record, it's almost a preparation for seeing the band live and I never really love bands until I see them live. I love records, but when I really love a band, it's because I went to see them live and they made me feel really good and really jealous because they're so great which happens a lot. I don't know how to say it and it's hard to say. I feel stupid trying to say the way I'm trying to say it, but there's definitely something which has much more to do with what we want to do.
EV: Everyone has certain records or they have a band they have a special relationship with, but you don't know the people.
GF: Yeah, like that Rites of Spring record. I listened to that 50 billion times and that's what you hope for.
EV: Yeah, that's a perfect example of music you associate with maybe a certain time in your life or certain instances and it just makes you feel a certain way. There's a million records that come out every year, and probably only three or four are like that. Hopefully it will be like that to people.
GF: Also our friends. It has a lot to do with our friends and that's what really feels good to me is when your friends like it.
GM: Yeah, I agree. There's a few people who I know who, more than anyone else really, I want them to come see us play. The other night when we played, there were a lot of people there I didn't know and I would rather trade a roomful of a certain five people for a room filled with people I didn't know. I wanted to do it for people I care about and who I'm friends with. Outsiders are okay, sure.
GF: We have a pretty tight clique.
There's a tight set you run with.
GF: We love it when people come up to us and introduce themselves and say how much they like it or something, that's great and we love that, but it's like that cool kid in wherever we were where the show sucked but that one kid came up to us and liked it. It's definitely a kind of contact with people. It's definitely that way for me because I'm not that social of a person and I don't go out a lot and I love people and I love my friends and I think my friends are brilliant people and I love meeting people, but I just never do it. For me, Karate is sort of a way to make contact with the rest of the world and it feels really good when there's somebody who says they listen to your song a lot. I love that stuff, all those connections between people and lives, different people in different towns who know each other or know you. Another great thing is when there's people who are in bands you love, and I know when we first started playing this was a huge rush for me, was these people who I totally respected in bands who I was friends with telling me how much they liked our band. So there's definitely this level on which there's this huge exchange going on between bands. It's like us and whoever we're playing with or touring with just completely digging each other and having a great time, and I don't mean that as an exclusive thing, I'm just saying it's one level. I have a lot of respect for people who make music. I think there are some really brilliant people who don't get any recognition at all.