American band the Wives recently played a gig in Sunderland as part of their first European tour. They played at the new live music venue in Sunderland, Chambers Nightclub, at an evening set up by Black Glass, who are an independent group who are putting on such shows and club nights across the North East. Tonight’s was their first in Sunderland, and what a great first night. The evening also included sets by two local bands as well as the Wives, who are one of the hottest new bands to come out of the American underground scene.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will. They were recently described by one music mag as “ So fucking punk it hurts” Now I wanted to see how much pain seeing them would cause me, and also just how torturous an interview with them would be. I’m happy to report that, although very punk, they are a great bunch of guys. I had the pleasure of joining them in what is their car,tour bus and home for the next few months before they went onto destroy Sunderland and leave everyone wondering “What was that?” and all who witnessed them realise that they may never see anything so unique and wonderful again.

I entered the venue without having any idea what the Wives looked like. All I knew was that they were American and by all accounts very punk. I saw a bunch of friendly looking young scamps by the bar in the venue.

“I’m looking for the band” I enquired. It somehow felt a little like a cowboy film, only with bands instead of sheriffs…and bouncers in suits instead of Indians…you see my point...

“Which one?” came the reply from someone who was quite clearly not American, but more local. Eventually three tired, but very cool looking guys entered the room. After some polite introductions, the Wives took me out to their car where the interview took place. And why not ? This is punk rock people. No green rooms here! The band consist of guitarist Randy Randall, bassist/singer Dean Spunt and drummer Jeremy Villalobos. While in their tour-mobile I talked to the band about music, George W, limb loss and the eternal question, what is punk?

PB : So where are you guys from ?

RR : We’re the Wives and we’re from Los Angeles, California.

PB : How long have you guys been together?

RR : Four years.

DS: Isn’t it three and half?

RR : We agreed to be in a band about four years ago, but it took us about a year before we really had any songs and played our first shows.

PB : This is your first trip to Europe. How long have you got left?

DS : About 18 years

RR: 6 weeks and 6 days, not that I’m counting. It's fun..

DS: Yeah, it’s great but you do miss all those at home who you love you know. We are enjoying it though, and yes it is our first trip this way.

PB : What stage are you at career wise?

RR : We’ve released two 7-inch records and one full-length album, 'Erect the Youth Problem', which we’re touring with at the moment.

PB : Fans of what bands would like yourselves?

JV : Sugarbabes (Laughs).

DS : Black Flag, minute men.

RR : Husker Du, SST.

DS: Newer bands like the underground bands and the more arty sounding bands and that kind of thing.

PB : Which bands influenced you?

DS : For me a lot of the American punk bands from the 80’s and that whole hardcore scene. Lots of other things though too.

PB : You were described by a well-known music magazine as “so punk…

DS: …It fucking hurts.” Yeah.

PB : Care to elaborate? How does a band become that punk?

DS : A Mohawk. I’m not sure.

RR : I’m not quite sure what that was referring to. Maybe the idea that you do stuff yourself, I think that’s what it was all about. We do stuff ourselves; we don’t rely on managers or labels ('Erect the Youth Problem' is released on Dean Spunt's own Post Everything label-Ed).

PB : Punk rock and politics in music seem to go hand in hand at the moment, with so many bands making a point of their political stances. Would you describe yourselves as being political?

RR : Personally political yes, like in what you do everything is a political gesture in some way. Dean wrote the lyrics. My guitar playing is personally political. I feel that playing the way I do it says that what I believe in, that you don’t have you to follow a trend.

DS : Yeah there’s no "take down the state" or anything. We have no agenda like that.

RR: I have been wanting to take down more States, but playing live in the US underground it becomes assumed, like playing at a warehouse in the middle of downtown, you're probably not supporting George Bush. The people there already know, but the more I see, the more I think maybe some people don’t. So if someone does something like that from seeing us then that’s great.

I’m not the sort of person to stand on a soapbox and tell everyone they have to believe what I believe, but I’m starting to see there’s a lot more for us to say.

PB : Have you thought more about politics since being outside the US?

RR : Yeah.

DS : I’ve thought about politics a lot more since I left the States. People ask questions and people really want to know like what is it like living there at the moment.

PB : Sticking to this theme, George W. Bush is good because…?

DS: ...because.

RR: Because his lies are so thinly veiled. He doesn’t even have to believe them himself. He's good because it’s so easy to see how evil he is. He's such a bad actor.

PB : And George W is a dick because… ? Not trying to rag on your president here by the way!

RR: No, no, it’s good. It’s the little power we do have, and as artists or whatever within the smaller more independent media we can say these things. It's good.

DS : He’s good because he’s just so fucked. And he’s so backwards to what the American people actually want. He’s really lighting a fire for people to go against him. A lot more people are becoming a lot more liberal minded because it’s so easy to see how wrong he is.

PB : If you had some sort of super “punk rock powers” that enabled you to change one thing, or to convey just one message to people, what would you say or do?

DS : I wouldn’t necessarily say get rid of something. Just cease the day. We kind of lead by example in that way.

RE : Yeah the idea that you make your life what you want it to be individually. I’d want people to live the way they want to. They just have to work hard and do it. It’s about not waiting around and making your own decisions instead of waiting for someone to make it for you.

PB : In an ideal world, where would you be in five years time?

DS : Shit?

RR : …I don’t know.

PB : Or would you just be happy getting through tonight’s show and seeing what tomorrow brings?

DS : I don’t really think that far ahead, but if I could still be playing music...

RR : I think this is an ideal world.

DS : Yeah.

RR : I can’t imagine it being any better than this.

DS : Well I mean maybe if a I lost a limb, maybe I couldn’t play then…well I mean I’d try.. Yeah right now is an ideal world, because everything we would want to do we’re doing. It doesn’t matter what anybody says. It’s what everyone should do.

PB : What does “Punk” mean to you in 2005?

DS : It means a lot. It’s what you make it.

RR : Being a punk, it’s the idea that, as a band, we’re not waiting for anyone to open any doors for us. We’re just going to go ahead and do it. You know like playing the sort of music you want to play because you want to.

DS : It’s all about doing it yourself.

RR : It’s about believing in yourself and what you do. It should give you that power and that confidence to do what you want to do.

DS: To me it’s the most important thing as far as music is. It’s not a style of music. It’s about doing your thing. When you talk to older people about punk, they think of a bunch of English guys with Mohawks. That wasn’t punk. That was just a fashion thing. All of those bands were actually on major labels!

(At this point, I have to add that I was offered a beer, from their personal stash in the front of their car by Randy. How great are these guys! PB)

DS : I think there were more people doing their own thing before all that came along, like the Fugs, the Shags.

RR : Captain Beefheart.

DS : Black Flag ! You know they put out their records. They toured. Noone asked them to. Noone wanted them to. They just wanted to get out there and share the music. That whole scene of hardcore and punk in the early 80’s in the U.S. The music was great, but it’s everything else that went with it that makes it so amazing. It’s a way of life.

RR : It’s the way I live my life. Here’s the deal, I get to travel around and play my music to thousands of people I’ve never met. It’s that idea, and the idea that you should never feel about whatever it is you're doing if you really believe in it.

PB : Was there one song, album or gig you saw or heard that made you say, “Yes, that’s what I want to do”?

DS : Fuck man. I don't know.

RR : I knew I could do this when I saw Mike Watts, (singer of the minutemen-Ed), He played at this club called the Smell in North Hollywood. My friend and I drove up there, and I saw these kids supporting them. And I just said, “Yeah I can do this”. It took me five years to get the balls to do it, but here we are.

DS : Ever since I was a little kid and I played music, I thought I could do it myself. But I never realised that I really could and really was until we booked and played our first gig. Nobody came but we’d done it.


And that’s that. They did do it. And they still are doing it, across Europe at the moment. As for the night, it had only just begun. The band had to go and soundcheck and wait around for the other bands to play before they could get up there and strutt their stuff.

The Wives really do not sound like anything or anyone. There are shades of other bands in their music, but it would be hard to pick a song and say that it sound similar to another song by such and such a band. This seems to be exactly what the Wives are all about. Creating something new, not following a trend, not trying to fit in, or even settle on fitting in. Just getting out there and doing what they want.

For this reason the Wives are fantastic live. As they took to the stage there was the usual small venue style crowd dispersion, with a band, a very empty dance floor then the onlookers stood a little further back seeming a little apprehensive to get too close, in case its just you, your drink and an empty dance floor.

Dean, however, had the solution. He stood and looked out at the vast gap. He walked off the stage and through the crowd and preceded to pull random people from the crowd and stand them nearer the stage. This had the desired effect and the rest of the crowd warmed to this and moved in themselves.

In addition guitarist Randy stood on one of the PA speakers testing the durability of the roof with his guitar. This was punk, although it didn’t hurt. This was cool, and this was the kind of thing that anybody with more than just a fleeting interest in music, would be excited about. The thought of witnessing a band that seemed capable of starting something new, and this was all before they played a note. They didn’t have to. They just had what ever it is that those really special bands have.

Dean then struck the first note SNAP. There goes his G-string. “Dudes, has anyone got a bass guitar I can borrow ? I snapped a string” Well this was kind of hindrance,but still as someone said once the show must go on.

So they ploughed on bass-less through the first song. It couldn’t have been longer than 50 seconds, and when it was over the band had surprised, confused and baffled the crowd but everyone seemed to like it. Finally everyone knew what they sounded like, and they liked it. Although there was a slight pause and “…is it over?” before anybody clapped. Finally a bass arrived and the show continued.

They continued to play songs that were equally as quirky, some longer, some shorter, some louder, some more melodic than others, but each played with a full heart of intensity and each refreshingly and re-assuringly original. Throughout the show after each song the crowd gave a big hearty cheer as it was clear they were loving it and feeling as I did that this was something new, a band that could very well be a huge influence on many people and bands, and maybe even change music in some way.

It really is hard to describe exactly what they sound like, watching them I was reminded of a more arty sounding old school punk sound, or maybe Fugazi with a rocket up their arse. There were plenty of more melodic moments to contrast the frantic pace of some of the bands’ songs, but somehow they manage to fuse it all together perfectly without it being pretentious, boring or self indulgent.

The Wives are a really entertaining band, who clearly love what they do and believe in what they do. With so many bands trying to be unique or groundbreaking yet failing miserably, the Wives are one such band who not only pull this off in their music, but put on a exciting live spectacle. They are everything a punk band should be. Inovative, exiting and above all passionate. The band's passion for what it is they do and stand for really comes through in all they do. Catch them while you can, before everyone else discovers them.











Related Links:



Commenting On: Interview - Wives








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last