Hey guys, how are you doing in these truly strange times?
Jason: We are doing ok, thanks for asking. We are all sheltering-in-place, so we haven’t seen each other in months but we talk all the time. It has to be one of the worst times in history to put out a record, but being healthy and safe is more important. I’m of course disappointed, but I have to keep it in perspective with what the world is going through.
One interesting way to view this is, the Earth is actually getting some of what it needs right now. I hate that humans are suffering and it breaks my heart, but there is less pollution, less consumption, less meat-eating, etc., etc. People forget, but the Earth will win, no matter what, so you must respect her.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the USA stronger than any other country. Do you think a more reasonable crisis management from the current administration could have saved lives?
Jason: Absolutely, without a doubt. It wasn’t taken seriously in the beginning and the president even referred to it as a “hoax”. It was clear as day that it was going to be a major problem, but it was dismissed and now they are backpedaling like crazy.
Our government wasted crucial time and now people are dying because of it. And, even when we did fully realize that this was catastrophic, the government STILL didn’t order a US-wide shelter in place rule. It was very, very clear that the president cared more about money and the economy than human lives, and that’s unacceptable.
The underground club and music scene is suffering immensely and many venues around the globe might not survive the crisis. What are your thoughts in regards of this unforeseeable development and the vast impact it (supposedly) will have on the cultural diversity?
Jason: It will be a rough time for music, without a doubt. The clubs have already been closing in San Francisco though, and long before the current pandemic. Our city is seeing the serious byproduct of rampant capitalism.
However, I will say this, music always finds a way. Whether you play a proper club, a festival or a punk house, music seems to find a way. In fact, I think that since people are bored out of their minds, there will be an avalanche of new music in the future and I can’t wait.
Our record will surely be impacted because of the current situation, but I’ve even found myself making new riffs and melodies. Music is like food or oxygen. It’s necessary. It won’t ever go away.
Many bands and artists are reaching out to their fanbase with streaming concerts. Are you planning something similar – especially given the release of your new record „Frail Bray“?
Jason: We have discussed this, but probably not. To be honest, there aren’t many of these live streams I’ve enjoyed and lots of them are just not real or live. The two that I think are pretty solid are Rhett Miller from the Old 97s and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie.
The SF Bay Area is still under lockdown anyways, so we technically probably shouldn’t risk it. Putting out a record is a lot of work. And a lot of that work has nothing to do with playing at all, so I’m mostly working on that.
Has it crossed your mind to postpone the release of the album due to the current crisis?
Jason: We tried. We asked the label, but it was too late and it would have cost money to pull it out of the larger music industry system. We thought that people would be stuck in their houses and need something to listen to, but I think people are just too distracted for anything. It’s just an unfortunate situation.
For me personal „Frail Bray“ is exactly the right record for dealing with all the stress caused by the pandemic. The rough energy brings sort of a cathartic relief. In general, is this something you’re aiming at with your music?
Jason: That’s very kind of you to say, thank you. I think restless people are naturally drawn to loud rock, so I’m glad that it brings some sense of relief.
Our music is definitely charged with anxiety, so I’m not sure if it brings everyone peace, but for some, it does. We do aim for the music to be as hot and messy and red-lined as possible. I’m also a pretty reserved person, but I have a wild mind and lots of anxiety, so I guess it presents itself when we play. Whenever someone who knows me sees the band for the first time, they all say the exact same thing: “I cannot believe that was you.”
In terms of what we put into the songs, I personally think of that scene in “Walk the Line ” where Sam Phillips tells Johnny Cash to play a song that he would be ready to share with God about his time on Earth. You get one shot to show everyone about your time on this planet. Johnny gave it his all, and he’s my favorite singer of all time, so I try to think of him. This is silly, but I have a few photos up when I’m recording vocals and one is Johnny, one is Lemmy and one is Joan Jett. That’s all you need, the three toughest rockers of all time.
What are your lyrics dealing with on „Frail Bray“?
Jason: The overall theme of the record is hope, rejuvenation, motherhood and positivity through grief. Our last record, “Tremulous” was so full of despair that I wanted to make a hopeful record. I had no idea that “this” would be happening right now in the world, so I think the message is as poignant as ever: Without hope, you have nothing. You must try. This virus is the perfect opportunity to show respect towards your fellow humans.
How have the reactions on the new material been so far?
Jason: I never say that our records are “good”. I only say that I enjoy them and I hope others will. I of course like them, but it’s not my place to say they are “good”.
We try as hard as we can to make the best records we can. We sweat every detail and it causes a lot of stress in the band but it’s worth it. I’m an all or nothing person and I’m pretty sure I had a nervous breakdown getting it ready. With that said, and with the world completely distracted, I will say that it has been pretty positive so far.
I’ve done more interviews than I’ve ever done, we made a cool video, the label seems happy, we had some incredible shows lined up and we were going to hit the European festivals for the first time ever. I’ve also had a few band friends shoot us some kind words and that is always incredibly flattering.
In comparison to your previous releases, how has the sound of WESTERN ADDICTION progressed with „Frail Bray“?
Jason: I will say that we focused on melody a bit more this time. I think vocal melody is the secret to great songs and I tried my best to make interesting melodies. I’m not the most gifted vocalist, so I really have to work hard on this part.
I think what comes naturally to most singers, doesn’t for me. I’m always punishing my band buddies about how they do it. I think Jack Dalrymple (toyGuitar, Dead To Me, Swingin’ Utters) has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard, of all singers, of all time and I’ve definitely cornered him about it. Ha ha.
He’s a good sport though. Singing is like nothing for him. It’s like pushing a boulder up a mountain for me.
It’s no surprise that the new album is also released via Fat Wreck Chords. What makes this beloved label so special from a musician‘s perspective?
Jason: I worked at Fat for 11 years, so I know it from both an inside and an outside perspective. Fat is very, very fair and they respect bands and you are allowed to pretty much do whatever you want and they will support you. And you will always be paid.
We aren’t a very big band and we still get great service. I think I could call up at any hour of the night, any day and someone would help me. It sounds cliché, but it truly is a family and my best friends and experiences in life are because of the label.
What are your plans for the near future – as far as corona allows planning ahead?
Jason: We just want to play as many shows as we can. Our big festival shows in Europe have been postponed to 2021, so we plan on heading over and hopefully playing a bunch of shows around it. We also have two songs left over from this recording session that we will do something with.
We re-recorded “I’m Not the Man That I Thought I’d Be” and I think it turned out pretty incredible. Brenna from the Last Gang sang the female part of the duet and her voice is insane. She can sing in any style and it’s just effortless for her. Her first pass through the song sounded fantastic, but it was a little clean and we said, “Can you make it sound grosser?” She said no problem and just nailed it. She has the perfect grit to her voice, just like Joan Jett. She also sang backup on a few other songs.
Darius from Swingin’ Utters played violin, viola, tambourine, piano, etc. and sang on some songs as well. We were incredibly lucky to get these guest stars!
Any last words you would like to share?
Jason: Thanks so much for checking out our new record. Please treat each other and music with respect and everything should turn out fine.