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Interview with: Dave Warsop of Beat Union

Previously posted on PopWreckoning.com on 7/21/2008:

Continuing in a series of interviews from the Bonner Springs, Kan., Warped Tour show, I took a moment to speak with the lead singer of Beat Union, Dave Warsop. He had just wandered in from catering, but he kindly put his plate down to speak with me.

Bethany, PopWreckoning: Hi, I’m Bethany. Can I get you to state your name and position in the band?
Dave Warsop, Beat Union: Dave. Singer. I’m the vocalist and leading guitarist.
PW: Your album, Disconnected, talks a lot about anxiety for the future and technology issues. Do you think technology really is a big problem and how does it affect musicians?
DW:I don’t think technology is a problem at all. That’s something that I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. On that song, that’s a song that I think you just realize your surroundings. I think every band, every songwriter is some what of a philosopher or… well… I’m going to rephrase that.
Every band, every songwriter is what’s in your mind and coming to conclusions about your surroundings and that song was literally just about taking in how things were changing with technology and not wanting to be left behind. I don’t think technology is a bad thing at all. It’s just realizing in that song how much things are changing with MySpace and people downloading music. But it’s not all a bad thing.
I think it’s very much a good thing to explore the music. That song’s just about change.
PW: How do you feel about music downloads?
DW:I’m all for it. I’m the kind of guy who wants to go to a record shop: find the CD, find the vinyl. I want the physical product so I can take that home with me and look at the pictures and read the lyrics, that’s the kind of person I am.
But that’s just me and not everybody has to be that way. I think downloading music, well music is as healthy as ever, it’s just the way that it’s being sold to people has changed completely and I guess that’s what the song “Disconnected” is about.
I actually think “Disconnected” can be so much more than that. That’s just a song about alienation as well, you know what I mean? It can be a lot more than that. It can be alienation, solitude and I think those are things which all human beings feel. I mean everyone is disconnected to a certain extent being trapped in a human body.
PW: Have you found the American audiences pretty welcoming to your band’s music?
DW: Definitely, yeah. American audiences have been really, really great to us. They’ve been really, really good. We’re just excited to be touring over here and getting a shot at it.
There’s not many bands where we’re from [the UK] given those kinds of opportunities. We’re just really grateful that we have them for what we do and play for an American audience. I think the American audiences are a little bit nicer to us actually. Purely because we’re a different sounding band because we’re English, so maybe we stand out a little bit more here and we sound different in the American music market. So, people seem to take to us quite strongly, it’s been very flattering. We’re real happy to be here.
PW: Is there a different way to approach America versus England or is it pretty much the same type of touring? You choose the same type of songs?
DW:Definitely, I’d say. Well, that’s quite an interesting question because I’d say in America we try to emphasize our Englishness. At home we’re still seen as quite an English band and a lot of our influences come from the late 70s sort of music, more English music.
Well, I think again, the whole part that stands out a little bit more, so we definitely emphasize our Englishness: that we’re from England and have English accents when we sing. We don’t really try, but we want it known that we’re an English band in America because that’s what we are.
PW: Are there any wild stories you have about Warped?
DW:Nothing too wild so far, sorry to disappoint you. I guess since it is a rock and roll tour, it hasn’t been very rock and roll for us so far. It’s been a lot of hard work getting up early mornings, setting the tents up, playing in the heat and trying to meet as many people as possible. I talk to kids and try to make some new friends and try to make some new fans out here.
So, yeah, as of right now there hasn’t been too much partying. Although we did-after our show in Denver there was a free bar for all the Warped bands and we went along because we’re from England and fond of a few drinks. I think if you put any band in front of a free bar, it’s going to get messy.
Actually that night did get messy. So actually to answer your question, that’s the one night things went crazy. Our merch guy got naked and I’ll admit that I loved some one. I told someone about my undying true love for them, which was possibly alcohol induced.
What else happened? A fight nearly broke out outside with us and some locals, so yeah that was kind of a crazy night.
PW: Any plans to celebrate the end of Warped in Kansas City?
DW: We just, well, we’ve got another show tomorrow, so we’ll probably just be enjoying the day. Soak up what we can of Kansas. We’ll have to get drunk another night. So that’s the tough part, it’s work. It’s such a grueling schedule, so there isn’t a lot of time partying on the tour. I wish there was.
PW: So it’s not quite as rock and roll as people expect it?
DW: No, I’m sure other tours are more suited to the rock and roll romantics.
PW: Ok. Final question. What’s playing currently on your iPod?
DW: I recently got this off a friend’s iTunes and I got Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs, the entire album. It is really, really nice. I’m a Ben Folds fan, but I didn’t have that album.
PW: What’s your favorite song?
DW: “Not the Same,” the first song “Annie Waits” and the third song “Still Fighting It,” I think it’s called. They’re three really good songs off the album. I’m also listening to Nick Lowe at the moment because I’m a big fan of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe is a songwriter that actually produced all of Elvis Costello’s records. I’m also really enjoying a Swedish singer called Robyn. I think she’s really good. I try to listen to as many different types of music as possible.
PW: That’s awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. It was nice meeting you.
DW: You, too.
PW: Good luck on the rest of the tour.
DW: Again, it is really, really a good time. It’s a pleasure to be out here. I’m really glad our band has this opportunity. We’re very grateful. So thank you for taking the time out of your life to talk to little ole me.
PW: Aw. Thanks. Best of luck to you guys.

Beat Union: myspace


Interview With: Nate Novarro and Alex Suarez of Cobra Starship

Previously posted on PopWreckoning.com on 7/27/2008:

If you thought I was done posting interviews from the Bonner Springs, Kan, Warped on July 2, then you thought wrong. Here is yet another that I did with some of the members of Cobra Starship: bassist Alex Suarez and drummer Nate Novarro. Due to time constraints and the decision to avoid having a paper, rock scissors challenge to the rights to the interview, I opted to conduct a joint interview with Andy Powell of ProDJPublishing so some of his questions are included.

Bethany, PopWreckoning: Can I get you guys to state your name for the record and the instrument you play in the band?
Alex Suarez, Cobra Starship: I’m Alex Suarez. I play bass guitar.
Nate Novarro, Cobra Starship: I’m Nate Novarro. I play drums.
PW: You guys recently released “Guilty Pleasure” in Spanish. Are there any plans to do any more songs in Spanish or is that kind of a one time thing?

AS: We’re just playing it by ear. I wish I could say that in Spanish. We’re not sure. We’re just going to play it by ear.
(In Spanish it would be “Lo estamos jugando por el oído,” I believe.)
Andy Powell, ProDJPublishing: How long did it take you guys to record that and actually pick it up in Spanish?
NN: Well, Gabe [Saporta] is fluent in Spanish, so he translated the song and he went and recorded it. We had the music already done.
AP: Is that how you guys usually write? Lyrics first then music?
AS: The song was basically written already, so we went in the studio and the guy that mixed our record just added the Spanish vocals over the same music that’s already on the CD.
PW: Are you guys working on any new songs right now?
NN: Always, always. We’re always working on new songs.
PW: Any new styles we can expect to hear from you?
NN: We’re trying to kick up the electronic notch a little bit, you know? We play a few songs live that way like “Kiss My Sass” and “Scandalous.” All keyboards, all the time and the added drums. We’re trying to make some more songs like that. Kind of test the waters that way a little bit.
PW: Does every one contribute to the writing process?
AS: Yeah.
AP: Who do you guys listen to? Who were your inspirations?
AS: Growing up? Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, 311, I don’t know. Metallica. Yeah. A lot of hair metal. I was born in ’81 and my brothers were older and they kind of turned me on to a lot of hair metal stuff like that. Then I kind of got into the punk and the goth.
PW: You are one of the few bands that has a female in the group. What have you done to help her survive Warped Tour?
AS: We beat her up every day.
NN: We’re verbally abusive. Yeah, anything. Shit on her pillow. Anything.
AS: No, we understand. She’s tough as nails, too. So, she can beat us up, too.
PW: So, it’s the other way around?
NN: Yeah, she kicks our ass on the tour.
AP: How did you guys come together?
AS: Well, Gabe had the song “Snakes on a Plane.” He wrote a record and had his friends on the record. He met me through the first song demo. Then he met Nate.
NN: Yeah, he met me and he had like a four song demo at first. It wasn’t even “Snakes on a Plane.” He showed them to me because I knew Gabe from like three to four years prior and then he was like, “I need a drummer.” And I was like, “Word. I’m in.” And that was my story.

AS: Ryland [Blackinton] and I, he met us through the drummer in Midtown, his previous band, because I lived right upstairs from that kid who was the drummer. He was like, “Yo, my friend’s starting a side project from our band. He’s looking for some guys so if you guys want to do that with that’d be sweet.”
NN: We met Victoria [Asher] through MySpace.
AS: Yeah, Gabe was searching because we lost our previous keyboard player and whatever, things went the way they did.
NN: You [and Victoria] were already friends, right?
AS: Yeah, a friend of friends. Yeah, I was acquainted with Victoria already and Gabe was on her MySpace and was like, “Keyboard player. Brooklyn. Female.” You know? And this MySpace picture is up and I’m like, “Holy shit. I know that girl!”
He’s like, “No way!” So, we called her up and sure enough and here she is now.
PW: Are there any new bands or friends that you’ve made on Warped Tour that you would recommend to check out?
NN: Every Time I Die. I love those guys. They’re awesome. They’re the sweetest dudes to hang with. We’ve kind of been brought up with a lot of bands: The Audition, we already knew. I just met the dude from The Higher the other night and he was pretty cool. A very nice guy.
AS: It’s like a huge hangout. A huge summer camp thing.
AP: Give me a day in the Warped Tour.
AS: A day in the Warped Tour: you wake up, maybe get some coffee, brush your teeth. There’s enough time to pull yourself together and look for the closest port-a-potty or bathroom and well, that’s actually crucial. Yeah, that is crucial.
First thing in the morning. Early. You do that maybe and have a little something to eat. Find out what time you play. Some days we play at 11:20. Today we play at 5:50. Then I find out what bands I want to go see.
NN: Yeah, you look at the schedule and you see who is playing when and you’re like cool.
AS: I have press at 1, a signing at 3, we play at 5.
NN: You kind of set your day up by looking at the schedule in the morning. Cool, I can squeeze these guys in on the way from press and to catering. I can catch these guys on the way from catering back to the bus.
AS: Halo.
NN: Yeah, I can play Halo with these guys and system link our buses together.
PW: Is that really what you guys do?
CS: Yeah, for sure.
PW: First Halo or?
NN: Three, but we play all of them. We don’t have all of them on tour. We actually love one the best.
AP: Which do you guys prefer: Facebook or MySpace?
AS: I just got a MySpace.
NN: Ugh, I just couldn’t handle MySpace anymore.
AS: It’s overwhelming with fake people that find me on MySpace and I’m like I’m done. I don’t want to deal with it on another site. It’s a lot of work.
AP: What’s on your iPod?
AS: Tons. We got a lot of hip hop, classical, early rock, lot of sixties rock, pop rock, metal.
NN: Actually, when I got my iPod, I went to my dad’s computer and I was like give me everything.
PW: Tell us the most embarrassing thing on your iPod.
NN: Kenny Chesney.
PW: Do you listen to it?
NN: No, never. But it’s there. If I ever want to make a joke, I’ll play it.
AS: I want to say my own would be Britney Spears‘ “Toxic,” but I just think that song is awesome. It is one of those most perfectly produced songs in history and that will last like 15 years.
NN: Maybe there will be a metal version.
AS: We should do it karaoke and record it.
NN: I think I actually have the acoustic version of that.
AS: Oh really? I should get that from you.
AP: Best place to play and if you say Kansas, I’ll know you’re lying.
PW: Psht, I don’t know. Lawrence has Pita Pit. (I happen to know from a previous Cobra Starship show in Lawrence that Nate Novarro has a soft spot for Pita Pit).
NN: (Eyes wide) Pita Pit! I love Pita Pit. Lawrence does have Pita Pit. Lawrence is sweet.
I like playing my hometown of Atlanta.
AS: I’ve noticed that our shows in Long Island and New Jersey are usually just the most insane shows. Like we did an in-store one time in New Jersey and the venue could only hold 300 people. Over a thousand kids showed up. It was amazing.
NN: Their shows are usually the craziest shows.
AS: Yeah, the crowd’s awesome, the shows are great.
AP: That’s all I have.
PW: Thank you, guys.

Cobra Starship: website | myspace

Alex Suarez’ side project This Is Ivy League: website | myspace

Video: Fueled By Ramen
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Interview with: Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin, Something Corporate, Pt. II

Previously posted on PopWreckoning.com on 7/18/2008:

Here is the exciting conclusion to my interview with Andrew McMahon, singer/keyboardist of Jack’s Mannequin, previously of Something Corporate. from when he stopped through the KC area as part of the July 2 Warped Tour show. In this part we discuss touring and if his future includes Something Corporate.

If you missed the first part (Read here: Pt. 1), we chatted about his new album with Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger.

Bethany, PopWreckoning: How is the Warped experience different than other tours?
Andrew McMahon, Jack’s Mannequin: Oh God, it’s just…it couldn’t be more different than anything. It is like this moving festival that takes on this circus sort of thing where people are just…it’s very loose and nomadic and communal.
And the people! You are always saying hi to this person or that person and you’re out there with the fans and people really are integrated into the experience. They’re backstage. They’re loose with security, which is OK, for me. I don’t mind. You end up meeting a lot of people. You can’t go out and meet 10,000 people a day as much as you’d like to, but at Warped the kids make their way back and you can have real conversations with people regularly throughout the day about music and about what people are listening to.
It’s a much more integrated, connected, community kind of experience.
PW: What’s the most extreme, favorite memory of any tour, any show?
AM: Any tour, any show? You’re talking about the last 10 years?
PW: Warped or not. The show you’ll never forget.
AM: You know, I have a couple of these stories that I tell, that I try to tell at different times. You have those moments all the time, that’s why we do it. Because those moments are regular in a lot of ways.
I think that probably my most overwhelming moment that I had on the stage, I had after I had been cognizant. There’s like a year after you’ve been on stage when you were just totally new and you’re just like, “WHOOOOA!,” freaking out.
Eventually, it just settles down and you learn how to be a performer and you learn how to pull it around on your bad nights, you know what I mean? So in that period of time when I was with Something Corporate, we did a show at the Astoria in London and it was such a big deal because we were an American band. We never had hits — to this day I’ve never had a hit — but we made connections. And that was a really cool thing because it was a sold out show, 2,500 people, sold out in like a day, and it’s in London.
So we’re from California and we’re in London; people are losing their mind. We go out and we open, I think with “Konstantine.” I think it was a slow song. I just remember sitting there and having one of those out of body experiences where it was just like, almost like the movie where the fucking crane of the cameras is circling the stage. You’re just out of body.
I’m sitting there at the piano, I’m totally numb, watching this crowd, this huge 2,500 people, and I’m like 19 or 20 years old, playing. We’re opening with this most soulful, quiet moment that you wouldn’t want to open a set with because people like to freak out, but it’s like pin drop. But that was just from sitting in my chair. It wasn’t like anything amazing happened other than just feeling good, you know?
PW: That’s a cool story. Now, Warped is all about discovering new artists. Have you made any new discoveries being on Warped?
AM: You know, I mean to be honest, I got here yesterday. So, it’s been this period of acclamation and whatever. I did get to see my first Paramore set, a band that I’m about to go on tour with right after this. We all leave this and jump on tour together, so I got to see her, see Hayley and the band play for the first time and I was really fucking psyched.
It’s funny. I have the kind of fans who will be questioning if anything is too commercial, but I intentionally make commercial music. I like commercial. I make pop music. I’m into it. I grew up on the radio, even though I haven’t had anything there. I remember when I first heard one of those songs. I really dug it, but I have the fans who would be like, “The MTV thing and blah blah blah,” and I’m like, “Oh. P.S. I would like to be on MTV.” Her band is really good and it was cool to see that today. I’m psyched to go out on tour with them now. I saw them really kick out a sweet show.
PW: Well that’s awesome. [looks to Josh] Do you have any questions, Josh?
AM: Oh, I’m Andrew by the way (like he needs an introduction)
PopWreckoning, Josh: I’m Josh. I’m the editor. Is Something Corporate is completely done?
AM:I wouldn’t say completely, no. The thing about Something Corporate is, well, it’s hard to explain how each one of us has our own lives and the people in our lives. That is me and Something Corporate. We have our own lives and how we interact.
They’re really dear friends of mine. We see each other all the time and talk all the time. There’s definitely always discussions of when are we going to put something together. And when I say put something together, I don’t envision for me personally, that we’re going to come back and make a new full length record. At least not any time soon. And go on a world tour and be out for a year working on a Something Corporate record.
That’s like the dudes and friends I grew up with in high school and we had this amazing experience and this huge connectivity on stage and it was undeniable. It was really special, something I’ve never experienced on stage. But we were also all 16, 17 years old and as you grow up, you get older and you start liking different things and you start going different directions. It just made sense for me and everybody’s got their own things that they’re doing.
It’s like we’ll do something because love each other, we respect our fan base and we know that we have the ability to really make cool stuff together. There’s all these songs that never really got to see the light of the day that I would love to do a huge package of. And music, there’s a whole different world of music now.
Commerce and music are two totally different things. It’s not like you make a CD and it sells. So, I kind of believe in this idea of making other things that sell. Like if we collected all these amazing b-sides that we’ve done that nobody’s heard or stuff that’s been kind of scattered. “Konstantine” was never on a fucking record. It was never on a record. That song has its own area code and it has never been on a record. So to find a home for this and something that really shows people what the experience of being in Something Corporate was really like–there’s pictures of us being babies on stage, high school, it was really a cool thing. I want to do something to celebrate that and throw some new tracks on there and these handfuls of demos and songs that we had never put out that I’d love to finish that are really cool songs.
I think the biggest problem with Something Corporate was that there were so many people around with so many opinions outside of the band that some of our coolest shit that was really groovy would have to be put on the back burner because we’d been pigeonholed into this Drive-Thru punk rock thing. But I mean I loved everybody there and I loved everything about that. I wouldn’t trade that experience. Sometimes in our own head, I think that we didn’t let our selves be as free, we didn’t let ourselves put out these songs that maybe were a little more challenging and not just straight up the main vein, but were really cool adult communications that got lost along the way.
PW: You have your own label now, don’t you?
AM: Yeah, I do.
PW: Would you put that out through the label?
AM: Yeah, that would be possible, but truthfully we’re under contract with Universal and whatever version Universal decides to be. I mean, we got signed through Drive-Thru through MCA. MCA became Geffen. It’s my understanding that Geffen is now Interscope. So, there’s people in that system that I’m really close with that care a lot about our music that I think when it’s time, they’ll probably be the ones to put out the release.
PW (Josh): That’s the only other question I had.
AM: Well, that’s the most honest I’ve been about it since. So, you have your own little goldmine for you.
PW: Thank you so much.
AM: Yeah it was a pleasure. Great to meet you guys.
PW (Josh): Nice meeting you. I’ve seen you like three or four times and never gotten to meet you.
AM: Yeah, it’s nice to meet people.
PW: I actually got a chance to meet you one other time before, but you were in a sour mood.
PW (Josh): Don’t tell this story. (I have to tell this story, it is a good story.)
AM: No way, what? What happened?
PW: I don’t know if you remember the Lincoln, Neb., show where there was a decibel rule? You couldn’t go over a certain volume.
AM: How could I forget? Did you meet me before or after the show?
PW: It was right after the sound check.
AM: Oh, so you met me at the worst moment.
PW: You were actually really cool about it. Yeah, everybody was just sitting and we were like, “Oh my gosh, he’s not going to want to come over here and talk to us.”
AM: Yeah, with that, it was just about not giving a show. I mean when we do it, it’s for you guys.
PW: I thought it was amazing that you were like, “Fuck it, we’re going to pay the fine.”
AM: Well, you have a business choice. You either cop to the man and give less of a performance or you say, “Fuck the money tonight, let’s put on a show.” You know? It was cool and it was a good lesson to them because they didn’t tell us about that sound thing. You have 2,000 people ready to see a concert and they literally couldn’t. I mean our guitar amp was breaking the decibel. The guitar amp! Without even being in the speakers of the house. It was like, “Whoa.”
PW: I just thought what you did there was amazing.
AM: Yeah, well I’m glad you got to see me in a better mood. I appreciate it. Thanks for doing the interview.
PW: Yes, thank you.
AM: Take care of yourself. Have a good one.
PW: You, too.

Jack’s Mannequin: website | myspace
Something Corporate: website | myspace