Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Matzah Interviews James Tweedy (of The Bronx)

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James Tweedy

James Tweedy, better known to Bronx fans as Tweedy, doesn't fit the stereotype of a punk rock musician. Well spoken and well educated (not to insult the great uneducated punk rock musicians of our time), he brings intelligence and talent to Los Angeles' very own, The Bronx. Though the band has released merely a full length album and an EP in it's relatively short history, The Bronx have already carved their name into the filthy, marred walls of the historically rich Los Angeles punk scene. He sat down to speak with 'Get the Door, It's Matzah' recently. Here's what he had to say:

Matzah: So, you're from Los Angeles, right?
James Tweedy: Yes sir.

Matzah: Why name your band The Bronx when you're from LA? Is their any meaning behind that?
James Tweedy: It's a good band name, plus irony is big right now with the kids.

M: Who are your influences as a musician?
JT: In high-school I was all about 'indie-alternative' - Sebadoh, Ride, Sloan, Dinosaur Jr. - then in college the influential bands were Superchunk, Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Jawbox and the Likes. Biggest influences outside of that would of course be Led Zeppelin, the Stones and the Stooges. It's hard putting a finger on it being an avid fan of music - influences come and go from different places at different times. Lately it's the easier to digest of black metal (Cursed and Mastadon) and early 90's shoegazish type stuff (Swervedriver/Ride/Jesus & Mary Chain)

M: Do you read any music blogs, aside from 'Get the Door, It's Matzah'?
JT: We're new here.

M: I saw a few pictures of The Bronx, where you guys dressed as cops. Who do you like more, cops or meter maids?
JT: No one likes meter maids - we have friends who are cops, so I'll say cops - it's really quite funny that these individuals we know retain the power of the law and the ability to brandish firearms. God help us all.

M: Do you have any infamous police stories?
JT: There have been a handful of run-ins. A bike cop in Philadelphia gave us a 'disturbing the peace' ticket for playing our 'Best of 80's Metal' cassette at ear-shredding volume while parked just off State street. For the most part they've helped us out - when we rolled our van in Utah they helped us out, when our first van got totaled in Michigan by a drunk driver they helped us catch the shitbag - cops are nicer in other parts of the country, except Texas.

M: Are The Bronx recording a follow up to their self titled debut yet? What are the plans?
JT: Yes. We're currently writing the record. When we've written the best record we're capable of we're going to record it, then release it.

M: What was it like signing to Island/Def Jam so early in your career? What were the perks?
JT: It was great. None of our other bands had ever been signed to a major label before and so far it's nowhere near the ass-fucking that everyone claims it to be. They've been quite good at accommodating us and our whims. As long as the music is not being influenced by what label you're signed to, it doesn't matter if you're signed to Ducky Records or Universal Music Group world conglomerate evil headquarters. Everyone is trying to fuck you - the majors do it with the lights on. We might have a more sordid tale down the road but for now we're quite happy with our relations.

M: Did it seem too much, too fast (especially because you guys were signed within playing a couple of shows)?
JT: We had to hit the ground running but it all worked out. We had a plan, they just stepped along side us, supported our ideas and let us do it. Our goal was to release a record and tour for two years. We did.

M: Why did you guys form White Drugs Records?
JT: White Drugs was formed because the deal we did with Island didn't affect our first record, because it was already done and we wanted it that way. We formed White Drugs as the entity from which we could license out our record from to get it released. For example, White Drugs did a deal with Ferret Music - they licensed the record to release and distribute it for us. The same story repeats in several different countries with different labels licensing the record from us (White Drugs).

M: What is happening with White Drugs Records now? Are you guys planning to put out other bands on it?
JT: We're focusing on being a band before being a label. Eventually it will grow into something. It's our avenue to get stuff done ourselves. The Drips record will be coming out on White Drugs later this year, that's a Matt/Joby side-project deal that in the past put some stuff out on the surf/punk label Hostage Records. Maybe another 7-inch or two. Nothing outside of our immediate family for the time being.

M: It seems like a big aspect to your music are drugs. Why the drug references?
JT: Sometimes it's tongue in cheek to exploit cultural faux-pas but mainly it's from individual personal experience which reflects itself in certain songs/attitudes.

M: Obviously, you guys have had some hard times. Do you still feel like 'Los Angeles kicks you in the teeth everyday'?
JT: We love living here, it's been gentler on us lately - mainly because we've been on tour and haven't been here for the last 2 years.

M: On a more upbeat topic, what up and coming LA bands are you stoked about at the moment? What bands do you think deserve exposure?
JT: 400 Blows. The new record [Angel's Trumpets And Devil's Trombones] is out, go buy it. Just saw Giant Drag play tonight - it's good, honest and authentic - something that lacks these days in most efforts. The Icarus Line released one of the best records of last year 'Penance Soiree' much to the inattention of the public at large - and their new stuff sounds amazing.

M: I've heard that The Bronx have had some crazy tour experiences. Care to share any stories?
JT: What happens on the road stays on the road.

M: If we were backstage at one of your shows, what would we see?
JT: A bunch of sweaty, greasy 35-year old dudes telling us that they haven't been this excited about a band since they saw Black Flag in '84.

M: Can you give us a little known fact about yourself?
JT: I love fishing.

M: Name three things you can't stand about music these days.
JT: 1. Consumerist mentality in regards to music. Music is 'consumed' instead of enjoyed and/or appreciated. It is blatantly shaping music. Just turn on FUSE for 15 minutes. The effect this is having is that music is essentially eating itself, like a stomach deprived of substance begins to feed on itself. Our culture is so instant gratification - internet, tivo, music downloading, pre-records release - that no one is willing to wait for a good thing to come along. As a result, bands are making records on someone else's schedule and this is reflected in the sheer volume of shitty, unoriginal bands that are plaguing the musical landscape. There are only a few bands daring to slow down, take a breath and make truly classic, timeless albums.

2. Fake aggression. Screaming does not equal genuine aggression/emotion.

3. The imitators are being celebrated more than the imitated. This has always been the case though. The originators die in obscure poverty while the contemporaries they influence enjoy the fruit of their labor pains.

M: If a fan wanted to find you, where would be the first place for them to look?
JT: Online.


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