Modern Fix

HEY MERCEDES – interview by mike bushman

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It’s always interesting when a band has history. Especially when it was a reference point of a contemporary movement in music. Hey Mercedes has a history. Those who have followed the morphing of indie rock into emo, knew of an impressively creative Urbana, Illinois outfit known as Braid. While the band excelled in vision, talent and drive, they were the victims of being the cool thing about five years too soon. Without much support and too many shows to three people and the bartender, Braid pulled the plug at the cusp of their success. Many feel the band was only just beginning to realize it’s full creative potential. But there was six years logged in behind Braid and the members were all ready for a shift in direction. Drummer Damon Atkinson, Singer Bob Nanna and Bassist Todd Bell felt their combined creativity would be worth of joining forces again, so with friend Mark Dawursk (ex-Alligator Gun) rounding out the lineup, the band overcame their distances (each living in different cities scattered about the greater Chicago/Milwaukee area) and filled out a year writing material for their next endeavor. While not as challenging as Braid’s compositions, Hey Mercedes does undeniably showcase the strong writing cohesion these friends share. Also present is the warm distortion and clever hooks trademarked by their indie rock sound. Their songs are personal and delivered with intimacy. They hope to have something in common with their listener as Hey Mercedes shares their music willingly. Some good fortune in the way of Vagrant Records signing the band off their EP of the material that would become ‘Everynight Fire Works’ ensured the world would be given the chance to hear Hey Mercedes.
And that’s all these guys ever wanted out of being in a band to begin with.

Bushman: How is the world of Hey Mercedes this March of 2002?
Damon: Pretty busy. We have shows all month, but it’s really weird because we are not on tour, we are just doing weekend shows. So we are home every Tuesday and Wednesday. Then we go out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We just got back from Japan. We were there for three days. It was really crazy. One weekend we had shows, then after the last show, we drove straight to the airport and flew to Japan during the week, played two shows there and did a bunch of press, and flew back this last Thursday, and then we had a show on Friday, Saturday and then today.

So with all this travel, are you writing? Being inspired?
D: I think we are being inspired, but we’ve found no time to write. We’ve left April and most of May open because we want to tackle some writing.
Bob: I have a lot of songs and parts of songs musically written already. Just waiting for us all to get together. Lyrically, I write all the time. When I’m on tour, when I’m home.

Is touring good for lyrical inspiration?
Bob: To be honest, I think being at home is a little more inspirational, but it’s because the whole time I’m wishing I’m on tour. So it’s kind of both in a way. When I’m on tour its great going different places and meeting different people and just getting a different perspective on a lot of things. But I think the best stuff comes when you are kind of alone, at home, wishing you were back there. When you are in a bad mood also, that’s when the best stuff comes. Or when you are, for lack of a better word, lonely or something. As opposed to when you are on tour and happy all the time.

Because things are rolling so quickly, do you find you have to consciously set time aside to accomplish things like that?
D: We’ve done it that way for a while. You have to pencil time in. Just because of the way of how everything works. You write the songs, you record them, you release it and then you go support the record. So you are out for so long, so you might as well throw writing into the whole process.

Status of band currently? I heard Mark Dawursk (ex-Alligator Gun) has since left the band. (He is the only non-ex-Braid member of Hey Mercedes).
D: That is true. It was one of those that Bob, Todd and myself had agreed that Mark in the band wasn’t the best thing. So we just decided that now is the time and we decided to talk to him and be real with him I guess.
Bob: We knew him and knew he was a good guitar player, but you don’t really know someone. You don’t know the chemistry until you’ve been on tour for a long time.

It was a long search to get him originally though no?
D: At the beginning of this band, we (being in Braid obviously) wanted to find someone to fit the spot and who we thought could be with us for a while. We tried out a couple people, I mean, it wasn’t like this huge search. I had been friends with Mark and I had known he was not in a band and that he was a great guitar player, and that he needed to be in a band. And we were looking for someone so it just worked out that way. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine but it ended up being working together in a band just wasn’t happening.

Replacement?
Bob: If it’s working good, we’ll probably try to write some songs with him.
D: We have a guy filling in for us because we had the March shows and we didn’t want to cancel. We wanted to ah… keep rocking. So it stands now, if at the end of the month, we’ll kind of come together, and the guy we have filling in for us now, Shawn O’Brien from Chicago, and if things are looking good, I don’t know, maybe he’ll be the new guy. But we are kind of leaving it open and we don’t want to do anything too irrational. We just lost a guitar player, so we want to make sure we find the right guy, because we’d like to do this for a long time.

Can we talk about Braid a little bit? I do believe it relevant in a few ways. What it had to do with the forming of Hey Mercedes, and the undeniable impact the band has had on the younger bands coming out now. I feel Braid preceded the whole emo movement, by being one of those bands that was doing it so well before it had a label, that so many bands imitated the formula, thus creating a sub-genre, which in turn always needs a label. Emo. I think I just figured it out for the kids who keep asking what emo is. Heh. First question, quite simply, why did Braid break up?
D: At the time, we had been working ourselves into the ground touring constantly. We were at the point that we had a written a handful of new songs and we new we needed to do another record. And there was a little distance between… and for the obvious reasons when you look at who is in Hey Mercedes right now… there is a little distance between Me, Bob and Todd and then Chris. Seeing that Chris kind of wanted out, he wanted to go back to school, he didn’t seem as interested in the band as us… I don’t know, I guess in a certain way inside, and maybe a lot of people didn’t see it like we did, but maybe there was a little bit of bad luck… I think we just worked ourselves into the ground, I don’t know, it’s just one of those things.
Bob: The strain of being on tour for so long and working so hard. We worked really hard and toured a lot for the first three or four years we were a band. We really didn’t see any progression. It was fun to be touring and stuff, but it was really taking a toll on us, mostly on our friendship, so that when the time came that we started to generate some interest, or buzz, or popularity, we were almost wanted to start something new at that point. When we brought it up to Chris, it was a total mutual thing. He said, ‘Yeah. I know. It’s gotta happen.’

Do you see Braid influences in some of the up-in-coming bands?
D: Occasionally yeah. I think it’s a little harder for us to see it. It gets pointed out to us a lot more than we actually notice it. I don’t know why that is. If we can’t really hear it, or we just never heard some of these bands. And now going out with Hey Mercedes and some of these shows we are playing with local bands. And we’ll get the whole, ‘Wow, you guys were in Braid, that’s amazing, you totally influenced me’, but it’s the coolest thing. It’s totally flattering. It sheds some importance on what you’ve done in the past. I mean, there are certain bands that I’ve heard in particular that were blatant rip-offs in a way. But, right on. Because there were bands for us that we were totally influenced by. Jawbox always comes to mind. Even certain Braid reviews would say, ‘it has a huge twist of Jawbow’ and stuff.
Bob: A little bit I do. When Braid was a band, we really to try and do something a little different and not play just straightforward punk rock. We wanted to make it really interesting and challenging for us to play. Interesting for people to hear. Trying to kind of twist around the regular structures of songs and stuff. And I see a little bit of that going on now. I’m sure it’s not just because of Braid, I’m sure it’s because of the other bands that were around. I have remembered points in time where seeing bands and thinking, ‘Wow. That really sounds like a Braid song.’

Do you feel the weight of Braid and having a history?
Bob: Not really. I’m sure that everyone was thinking what they were thinking, but I never personally felt any kind of pressure to be like Braid or please Braid fans.
D: Not really, no. Because we had so much time in the beginning of Hey Mercedes, all the writing for ‘Every Night Fire Works’ was so intense. We were so concentrated. Not a struggle to write, but like, Bob lives in Chicago and has to commute up to Milwaukee. We had to practice weekdays and he’d have to take a train back to work the next morning. All the work to write the record. We locked ourselves up for a year and just wrote. We played a couple of shows here and there, but we just got away from all that stuff. I think there has been enough time gone that we feel a sense of accomplishment with this band. We’ve been able to write the songs, put out the record and do the touring. And a lot of times, we are getting a lot now, people that are like, ‘Yeah, I just heard of you. I went to the Vagrant Tour’ or ‘I went to the Vagrant site.’ Or ‘this band was talking about you, and then I found out you guys used to be in this other band Braid.’ We don’t want to dismiss our history, but that says something about our accomplishment that we’ve been able to somewhat break free of that. And by hearing those stories, we are obviously attracting a new audience. More people and new people are hearing our music. Nothing against Braid fans that are now Hey Mercedes fans, but if we are still playing to the same people and no one new is hearing your music, then we are doing something wrong.

The sound seems more streamlined and smooth. Less angular and erratic. Conscious decision and approach?
D: When me, Bob and Todd first got together wrote a handful of songs, just the three of us. We had said we kind of want to do something different. So we even thought of having a guy spinning records or something. Because if we were just going to just keep writing Braid songs, people would have said, and we would have questioned ourselves, ‘Why didn’t we just keep Braid together’? So for me personally, I didn’t want to play the quirky, crazy stuff. During the time off between Braid and Hey Mercedes, I was concentrating more on just playing solid and writing good songs and concentrating more on the parts. When we were writing songs with Braid, we could write three songs in a day. With Hey Mercedes, we can write one song, in like three weeks. So we took more time because we were just more into the musical aspects of the songs. Not just like, ‘oh we can just throw a song together and here it is.’ There were a couple of times when we thought the songs were done. Then we’d listen to them on the demo tapes and we’d be like, ‘No. No. That parts got to go.’ So we really took our time with the songs and made sure they were done. And that we were happy with them and hopefully other people would be happy with them.

How does it feel being more of the lone vocalist?
Bob: It feels good because it helps me work on singing. Because I’m always trying to be a better singer. Being out in front forces me to do that. Makes me work a little harder. I enjoy it. It’s not like I enjoy the spotlight anymore, but it helps me become a better singer. I can’t be like, ‘Oh, I’m not singing that well tonight, but Chris will carry it.’ But actually Sean, the guy that’s filling in for us, sang for many bands growing up. He’s a great singer. So he’s been doing a lot of the backups that couldn’t do, or didn’t want to do. It’s been really great. If we do end up writing songs with him, you’ll hear a lot more of him. When we decided to kick Mark out of the band, the next guitar player we get, it would be great if he/she could do backup vocals.

How was the recording process for ‘Everynight Fire Works’?
D: Well the thing was we had a budget to record. We were able to spend a lot more time with the record. When you are in the band it’s fun. If you can do that, if you have the money to spend some time in a really nice studio, it’s really fun. The last Braid record that was recorded was done in maybe five days, recording and mixing. It was a great experience, but there’s not much you can do. It’s really raw and it’s really bare. We picked J.Robbins (Jawbox singer/guitarist, producer of other notables, Burning Airlines,) because we were really comfortable with him. And he was excited to do it.
Bob: Jay (Robbins) being a singer himself, really had a lot of pointers and stuff and helped me sing my best. We worked with him on ‘Frame and Canvas’ (Braid’s last album). I was familiar with his style of recording vocals, and he was familiar with my style of singing. So we went into the Hey Mercedes recording with that knowledge and it was really easy and comfortable.

When you have such a name putting their stamp on it, do you feel it gets any extra attention?
D: Not for us. With J, and when you are around him, and you are living the moment, you are there, it doesn’t seem too weird. If anything, the stamp on the record that we thought would help us, was the Vagrant stamp. Knowing the support and I guess the power behind Vagrant. And when I say power, I mean they have the manpower. They have the publicists and they have the marketing and the sales. But as far as J.Robbins, we love working with him because he does a great job. On our Japan release, there is like this additional spine on the record with little notes in Japanese. And we were just over, so I was asking, because it’s all Japanese, and then it says, ‘Burning Airlines’. And it says that J.Robbins produces it, who he is and all that is. And during all the press that we did, I think each interviewer mentioned J.Robbins producing it.

That’s interesting that their culture pays as much attention to the technical aspect as the musical approach.
D: I guess maybe it does help. But for us, we are honored for him to do the record, but we don’t think about the imprint and what it’s gonna do for people.

Title means? (And ties into concept for album art…)
Bob: It’s meant to signify ‘working’ every night. It’s non-stop. All we care about it music. It’s about every night, non-stop, work work work. In the best sense of the word ‘work’ possible.

Which was released on Vagrant Records. How did they come about supporting your first full length? (For the record, it was Matt Lunsford at Polyvinyl Records who agreed to help out and release 4 songs recorded at Smart Studios)
D: It was actually kind of odd. When we first started this band we all sat down and kind of drew out a plan of how we wanted things to go. One of them was, record an EP and release it. We were originally going to release it ourselves, but we really didn’t have the money.

Braid didn’t set you guys up financially?
D: (slightly laughing) Braid’s last show covered all our expenses and the debt we were in. So we wanted to do the EP, no matter who released it, we wanted to shop it around and try a decent label that we were happy and content with. It just so happened that Matt offered to do it. So we did the EP, he released it. It was awesome. Before it even came out, before it was released in stores, I got a call from Vagrant saying ‘hey I got an advance copy of your EP, it’s awesome.’ The funny thing is that we had promo packs all set up, and one of them was to Vagrant that I was going to send them. So it was really weird that they contacted us first, but it was cool. There were a couple of other labels we had in mind. But ended up flying out to California to do some shows in December of 2000. I had been in contact with Vagrant for a while. We set up a meeting with Rich and it was awesome. We had like a questionnaire for them like, ‘Ok, if we are on your label, do our records get released in Europe? Do they get released in Japan? Do we get tour support? Can you do this and this and this? And all of the answers that we wanted to hear, they gave to us.
Bob: It’s a great feeling to know all the people who work there, like 11 or 12, are like working for us. That was one of the problems that Braid had. We worked so hard to tour and go do crazy things, but Polyvinyl didn’t have the cause or capacity to work for us as much. There’s only two people there, it’s a smaller label, and they do have other bands that they needed to attend to. For instance, when Braid was in Norway, the promoter didn’t get any posters and the promoter was like, ‘I don’t know if the show is gonna be good because we didn’t get any promo stuff from your label’. We were really upset about it because… we were in Norway. When’s the next time we’re going to get to Norway? People should know that we are going to be here. They don’t have to come, but at least they should know. And that’s what’s great about Vagrant is they’ve got a person to make sure that happens. To make sure our show gets listed in the papers or whatever and some people know that we are coming.
Can I get the story behind ‘A-List Actress’? It’s one of the more signature songs I think, with that great little stutter break ‘Messing up my line… Every time.’
Bob: It’s from the process of making your life into a movie. The drama that happens in everyday life. Especially in areas of romance. It’s making a relationship situation into a movie. Making it so dramatic by seeing it as a movie.

Also, Eleven to Your Seven seems very personal. Slightly spiteful even. There seems to be a specific person being addressed?
Bob: There really isn’t. It’s just a general frustration. I wrote a lot of that when I was home, alone, like I said, that’s when the best inspiration comes, in between the Braid and the forming of Hey Mercedes. It’s hard to write that personal. To be that personal in lyrics. It was a place that I needed to get it all down on paper and then put it in a song so it would be easier to forget about it, or be happier about it.

‘Let’s Go Blue’ shows some serious guitar cohesion in melding that trickling repeating guitar run against the pumping chords.
Bob: That actual line was something that I came up with, and instead of making everyone else’s part really ‘noodle-y’, I think it was Mark or Todd decided it was probably better to have the other guitar playing just chords over that as opposed to having it sound like a mess. Like a Don Caballero or something. I still find myself writing crazy type guitar lines like that. But I think that was the right thing to do to have the chords behind it to give it melody. There’s not a lot of melody in that guitar line.

I just last saw you out on tour with Saves The Day and Thursday. Lots of screaming girls for Saves The Day. Did Hey Mercedes expand their audience in the 15-year-old girl market?
D: Yes. Definitely. And the way I know that is because three weeks ago I got home from another Saves the Day tour that I did. They went out with Weezer for three weeks and then headlining for a week, and they still didn’t have a drummer. Their fans are amazing. They would always come up and talk to us and all that stuff. And I’d see tons of kids with Hey Mercedes and they were all 15-year-old girls. And I was like, ‘This is great.’ And they would say, ‘When’s Hey Mercedes coming through’ and they were always asking, and the kids were really super cool. What’s interesting is that we definitely came across to the 15-year-old kids, which is great because in interviews and reviews, we are always told Hey Mercedes has a little more mature sound. Which some of these younger kids might not understand. At least what we think is they might was the Blink182 easily accessible punk pop stuff. But we’ve come across and that’s amazing. But at the same time, we just played a couple of weeks ago in a bar, 21 and over. And it sold out.
Bob: Definitely. 15-year-old guys and girls. That’s what’s great about doing tours like that. Sure, there’s going to be some of the younger kids that are just going to the show because it’s the cool thing to do. But you have to think about when you and I were 15 years old and going to shows. I was going to shows because I like the music, and I got into a lot of bands. And I’m in a band now.

Indie rock bands aren’t really known for their rock and roll excesses? What kind of deviant behavior goes on backstage at a Hey Mercedes gig?
D: Depends on who we are with. If we are by ourselves and playing with two bands we don’t know, I mean we’ll hang out with them but if we don’t have too much in common, we’ll just kinda be chill. It also depends on the setting. We’ve done a couple of shows this month with this band called Pele from Milwaukee. We know them because they are from our hometown, so to speak. And those dudes are fun, and we hang out with them. There’s some boozing going on, but just a lot of joking. Nothing too crazy. We don’t throw TV’s out the hotel room.
Bob: Nothing too bad. A lot of drinking. Actually I’ve declared ‘Alcohol Free’ April. At least for me. I don’t want to get too out of control, and I don’t see it ever happening because you just feel like shit a lot more than you feel happy when you are drinking. You feel happy for a few hours, but you feel like shit for a whole lot longer. That’s pretty much it. We’re not too crazy. We’ve got most of that out of our systems.

What if Indie-rock/Emo becomes the next biggest thing, making tons of money and now you are playing Arenas to 50,000+ people a night. Can you guys handle that?
D: I think so. You never know until it really happens. And the thing with asking us now before it happens, if were to ever happen, it seems exciting. Like, yeah that would be cool.
Bob: I’d be scared to death, but I’d learn how to handle it.

What do you think it would do your band?
Bob: Well, we’re pretty leveled headed and we’ve been through a lot and we’re old guys, sort of. I don’t think any crazy amount of success is going to go to our heads just because of where we came from.
D: That’s the whole test for a band. Stardom, fame and success altogether. That’s one of the biggest tests. You can do anything and have anything. If Hey Mercedes became a huge band and were playing arenas, it could be rock n’ roll. It could be chicks backstage. We could be getting into the cocaine and getting crazy and then we could be throwing TVs out the hotel windows and stuff because we wouldn’t care. But going into it and it does happen to us, and we are as levelheaded as we are now, then we could be the same guys. We could be playing arenas, but backstage, we have like Scrabble set up. I mean, there would probably be some beer on rider, and we’ll have a good time. But that would be the extent of it. Just having fun and having out with friends of ours.

Have you ever felt mad/betrayed/some negative vibe when you saw bands you really liked get adopted into scenes of people you know you just didn’t relate to?
Bob: Definitely. That’s been a backlash against Vagrant because some of the bands have gotten so popular. But y’know, I totally understand. I know where they are coming from. Because I was that kid. When I was 17 and Jawbox signed to Atlantic… I was pissed. I was pissed off. I even wrote them a letter. It’s funny because I’ve talked to them since then about it, but I didn’t know them at the time. They wrote back. They just explained why they were doing it, it was very cool. I thought that was very cool. I was still a little peeved about the whole thing, but it was very cool that they took time out to write me back. And from what I was told, they got a lot of mail about it, and they wrote everyone back.

Was Hum an influence? (They were from Champaign, Braid was from Urbana, a suburb). And for the more mainstream reader, remember that the Smashing Pumpkins where from Chicago which all of the above cities would be part of the same regional scene. Bands in the Midwest often have to tour long stretches between gigs, due to the general amount of… well, fields and forests between cities big enough to host a scene large enough to support live music.)
Bob: It’s kind of obvious that the Midwest has a sound. It’s a perfect melding of the sounds of the coasts coming together. It’s got the pop punkiness of Southern California but yet has the harder hardcore elements of bands like Fugazi from DC.
D: I grew up in Milwaukee, but the first time I heard a Hum record, I freaked out. Man, that whole deal. It is kinda weird. I remember the first time meeting those guys and they were like at one of our shows. And they were hanging out, and was like, ‘dude, you guys are incredible. You guys are amazing.’ And with them, it was weird to see them go to a major, then have a song that was on the radio, and then you didn’t hear of them.

Do you think your sound is a product of your environment?
D: Yeah, that stuff shaped us. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve sat down and listened to a Hum record or Jawbox record.

I can see the drumming style of Jawbox influencing your style.
D: He influenced me. And old jazz drummers. And Stewart Copeland, he’s crazy. Even my environment right now. One of my favorite drummers right now may seem really kinda awkward and simple, but this guy Mike Marsh, he plays drums for that band Dashboard Confessional. Amazing. Love the guy in person, watching him play drums… incredible. I find there is few people that influence me. And it’s not because I think I’m better than everyone, that’s not it at all. When I think of being influenced, I think of great people, I think like wow, they are phenomenal. Even the bands that we go on tour with, like in the beginning of Braid, we did a 10-day tour with Jets to Brazil. We all loved that band. Blake and the other guys are incredible people and we love their music. I think we are even a product of some of that.

First club show?
Bob: It was Naked Raygun at in Chicago in ‘89.
D: There was this show in Milwaukee I had actually mentioned going to the Sunday Matinee punk rock hardcore shows. My first one was this club called the Unicorn. My friend Dan’s mom drove us down because we lived in the suburbs in a town called Grafton. It was Birth Defects, Trademark, Demise and Billings Gate. Packed. I was changed forever. People were stage diving and body passing and just going nuts. But it was totally cool. People were just so moved by it. It wasn’t like college kids trying to body surf in order to be seen. I got thrown in. I didn’t just stand there and nod my head. I went in and went crazy and when the show was over, we went next door to Gus’s Mexican Cantina. The band Birth Defects came in there and we noticed them and we were like, ‘wow, look it ‘s the band’. They just played to a small club in front of like 150 people, and we’re like, ‘yeah, there they are. That’s cool.’ And they came up to us and said what’s up and gave us stickers. So that was really cool. I remember that exact story that I just told you, when I was on stage playing in front of 12,000 people. I was like, ‘Look at where I came from. Look at my first show ever.’ While I was at that show, I was in a band, me and my friend Dan. Dan’s actually the drummer of the Promise Ring. Me and him have known each other since we were little kids. Me and him did a band at the time and that was my first band ever. The name was ‘Minor Adjustment’. Terrible name, but I was 12. While we were at that show, I can just remember thinking, ‘Man, I want to be up there on that stage. These bands are awesome. They’re rocking out. Everyone in the crowd is going nuts. I want to be up there doing that.’ Eventually I was playing the Unicorn. And I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I told everybody. I told my mom. We made flyers and everyone came out and it was awesome. That’s where you start out with. That was a great moment for me. And now, I’m playing the Meadowland in New Jersey in front of 12,000 people. And while I’m up there I’m thinking, ‘Man…..’

Favorite rock band t-shirt that you own?
Bob: I really like this Pele shirt that I have. It says, ‘Hopeless’ and the world ‘Pele’ is inside it in a different color. I like it because it’s clever. It’s not an outright walking ad for Pele. Even though I wouldn’t mind being that because I like the band.
D: Right now it’s my Jets to Brazil shirt. Black shirt with white print and it’s got this bird on it. It’s a cool design, it’s simple. But most importantly, it fits really really, well. It’s really comfortable. I don’t have a lot of band T-shirts. Normally, they are terrible fitting shirts. And I like the band to. Certain favorite bands of mine, I don’t have their shirts. I don’t have any Cardigans shirts. I love the Cardigans. I don’t have a Jeff Buckley t-shirt.

Maybe you have an awkwardly shaped body?
D: That could be it too.

Have you done a lot of videos? Do you record a lot of things (cameras, video cameras) when you are on tour?
D: We don’t do much video camera stuff. But we all bring cameras. Bob has this photo project he’s been working on for years. It’s a pretty cool deal. Me, I bring a camera on tour. I don’t find myself taking that many pictures for the main reason being, for as much touring as we’ve done, I’ve seen the United States so many times, there’s nothing more I want to take pictures of. I’ve got two full photo albums of all the touring I’ve ever done. I went on tour for my very first time when I was 18. That’s the start of the book, and it goes up until now. And it gets less and less amount of photos from around now. We just went to Japan so I took a bunch of photos there. And when I went on that Weezer tour with Saves the Day, I took photos just because it was a crazy experience with the whole arena thing. It’s not as big as it used to be.

Bob’s is Bob’s photo project?
Bob: It’s a linear Polaroid thing where the first picture is a Polaroid of me. The next picture is a picture of a person holding that picture of me. And the next picture is a picture of someone holding that picture. So I’ve got almost 400 of them. I’ve been doing it for a year and I’m going to stop it this year. I’m going to be the last person holding the picture.

Any famous musicians?
Bob: Oh yeah, Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, all the guys in Fugazi, all the guys in Dismemberment Plan….

Would you put your band on a VH1 ‘Band on the Run’ style reality show?
Bob: I hate reality shows.

Have you seen The Osbourne’s TV show?
Bob: I like the Osbourne’s. It’s more of a sitcom than a reality show.
D: I love it. Look at them. They all swear at each other. They don’t care. When I first heard about it, I thought ‘Oh my god, this is gonna suck.’ But it’s amazing. So hilarious.

It’s the 2000 version of Rosanne. It justifies the dysfunctional system of the American home.
So is music now and forever your calling?

D: Definitely. Always has been, always will be. Unless something tragic happens.
Bob: Yeah. I don’t ever want to do anything else. There might come a point in time where it’s not fun for me anymore, and I’ll just go do something else. Something where I would be able to travel a lot. I would really like to be able to write more. Journalist stuff. I like to keep journals when we are on tour.

Hey Mercedes plans for the future so our readers can adjust their social calendars?
D: April and May we are writing. There’s an opportunity for us to do Japan and Australia in May/June. Then in July/August, we’ll be out on a six-week headlining tour. We are trying to work it where we can go over to Europe in late August or early September with Saves the Day. And then we’ll do the Vagrant Tour, which is October/November. And right after that, we want to go do another record.

Final impressions on the masses?
D: Life itself can just pass you by and anything can happen. I love for people to know something that I found recently. Music can shape your life and help you through the worst times, but the biggest thing for any one person is to make sure that you are happy with what you are doing. And that you take everything positive. Life can be very short. So have a blast. Have fun. That’s what I’m doing. It’s kinda generic, and kinda cheesy, but that’s me.
Bob: Do your best. Don’t worry.

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