This is a fuller (but still edited for brevity) version of an interview I did with Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carslile which I turned into an article for the Manitoban (please go and read that version here).
If someone’s never heard your band, how do you describe what you sound like?
I always say we sound like the Ramones.
So you’re from Wyoming, has being so isolated affected how the band has developed?
Absolutely. The limitations are there’s nothing to do tonight, the weather’s keeping us inside…if we go outside we’re gonna slip on sheet of ice and break our arms – so it’s grab your sticks and your picks…let’s play some rock music!
You’re heading out on tour with NOFX, led by Fat Mike who runs the label you’re now on, Fat Wreck-Chords. What was your reaction when they asked you to join the tour?
“Yes”, my reaction was “Yes!” We had goals in mind with [the album] “It Came From the Shadows” and one of those was we’re gonna do a headlining tour for as long as we possibly can throughout the U.S. and then hopefully we’re gonna score a support slot for a band that’s huge. And by huge just somebody bigger than us. NOFX was definitely on the list of top five bands you would ever want to go on tour with in your life before you die.
Who else would be on that top five tour-with before-you-die list?
Alkaline Trio and of course the heavy-hitters like Bad Religion, Green Day, Rise Against or some of the newer bands like National Anthem. But NOFX is on the top of the list, there’s no other band I want to go on tour with.
Do you all still have to book time off jobs to go on tour?
No one’s making a living off this yet. Miguel’s just graduated, Kody works full-time in a grocery store and Brandon and I work for this oil company…we go out and we’ll work for months at a time in certain areas and then we’ll have a chunk of time off afterwards, for instance in August we were in Russia working on this oil well for a solid month.
What do you do on the wells?
We’re telling oil companies how much oil is left in their reservoirs – I always tell people we’re dipstick guys - not to be confused with dipshit guys!
Back to touring, what sort of music do the guys in the band play in the van on the road?
Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste, Ben Harper, Lawrence Arms, Dead to Me...The Hanson Brothers....The Varsity Weirdos from Moncton, New Brunswick.
One common theme of pop-punk is a sort of nerdy, self-deprecation, yet on your last single, the admittedly tongue-in-cheek, “Bigger than Kiss” (where you “beat the piss/out of Peter Criss”) you sound very self-confident. Do you think Teenage Bottlerocket’s playing at the top of their game right now?
We’re four full-length into it and we’re constantly learning…we don’t put any restrictions on our song-writing either. If I say, “Hey I wrote a new song", no one’s gonna say, "that’s not Ramones enough we can’t play that one". There’s a certain confidence level you need to achieve to go up there and play your music. If you’re insecure about that, the audience can smell that from a mile away. Part of punk rock is being cocky. A part of our personality is very arrogant and yet at the same time we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The song is meant to be funny but there’s also a seriousness about it; whenever we play it live you can’t help but grit your teeth and headbang as hard as you can when you’re down-stroking – it s a let-take-on-the-world kind of feeling. It kind of works in all directions. It’s not a serious song - we’ll never be bigger than Kiss - but those guys just make themselves an easy target and I’m glad we took them down.
Everyone I showed that video to just flipped out. How did it come about?
Our friend Ben Levin from New York did it…we tossed a couple of ideas at him but he came up with most of that stuff on his own.
Would the band ever consider following Green Day to a major label (such as they are these days)?
If I was an A & R rep for a major label I would go after a young, attractive band - which we’re not, that could tour all the fucking time - which we can’t. I don’t think major labels are functioning on the ‘these guys write great songs let’s release them’ level. So I think that proposition would never come up. If someone wanted to give me a million dollars to record an album, yeah I’d do it.
Any forgotten, under-appreciated bands you’d like to talk-up now that you’re getting more famous?
This band from Seattle called, Head. They’re really cool and I really liked all their albums.
And I liked the shout-out to Jodie Foster’s Army on “Skate or Die”.
It was originally going to be D.O.A. but I chimed in and said, it should be J.F.A., they are the skate-punk band. Then the original plan was going to be sing D.O.A. on the vinyl and the CD would have J.F.A. but in the studio the D.O.A. line never came out.
So Kody Templeman from the comparatively more famous band The Lillingtons joined Teenage Bottlerocket after your first album. Is it hard to bring aboard another singer/song-writer/guitarist without all the usual ego troubles?
No, it’s not difficult at all. I think all the best bands out there have two lead singers; Alkaline Trio, Dead to Me, Dillinger Four and what you’re saying reminds me of Rancid, where Lars wasn’t in the band all the time and then all of a sudden you have this new lead singer plus guitar player.
What happen is, Kody and I get competitive with our song-writing. Kody will play me a song over the phone and blow me away and I’ll pick up my guitar and crank out a tune with Brandon and send it to Kody who’ll listen to it and he’s fricken’ stoked and fired up and the same time and he’ll write a song. That’s how we write records - we try to out-do each other but we’re all batting on the same team.
“Screeching Weasel on their worst day is a million times better than Teenage Bottlerocket on their best day.” So Joe Queer of legendary pop-punk band The Queers told you kids to get off his lawn and you were all pretty gracious in response. Why do you think that punk bands never have publicity-generating feuds?
Like Notorious B.I.G. versus Tupac – I’ll cap you Joe Queer, you motherfucker (laughs). No, I’m not gonna lie and say I was born with a Mohawk, Green Day Dookie got me into punk music from there I discovered the Lookout catalog, I was the only kid in my high school listening to Screeching Weasel, the Queers. So there’s no bad blood. Just the fact that Joe Queer’s talking about me interviews is flattering, because I was listening to his records before I lost my virginity.
After the big tour, what’s next for the band?
We’re doing a West Coast tour with Banner Pilot in July – which is gonna be frickin’ awesome and we’re playing Insubordination Festival and Skatopia with The Meat Puppets, D.I., C.J. Ramone, Gwar and Fishbone.
Any new recordings in the works?
We’re constantly writing songs and we some new ones that are…pretty awesome – the humour has not gone away.
When NOFX comes to Winnipeg, Fat Mike sometimes sings a couple of bars of The Stretch Mark’s “Professional Punks”. Would you guys ever consider covering a song by a band from Winnipeg when you play here?
“Ska Sucks” of course…whenever I think of Winnipeg I think of Propagandhi.
So what’s the best song ever written?
I’d say “With or Without You” by U2 or “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles and I’ve heard Kody say “Summer of 69” By Bryan Adams. It seems like these songs existed before they were written.
Oh and by the way would you ever play with your fellow identical twin bands Nelson, Good Charlotte, and Tegan and Sara
I think we’d be the opening band for that show
Teenage Bottlerocket open for NOFX at the Burton Cummings Theater on April 26th 2010
Thanks to Ray for a great interview and Melanie Kaye for setting everything up!