Hailing from Glasford, Illinois, Switchbitch Records recording artist Flannel Mouth released their debut EP, Pull In Your Horns, back in March of this year. A hard-to-categorize yet solid listen, the EP takes the listener on an alt-punk/metallic-infused/ bounce-a-thon of complexity that is probably best left for the recipient to judge. I was never good at this “review” stuff anyway.
But I do dig the tunes, so I caught up with (as you’ll soon find out) EVERYBODY in the band, hilariously at length, in a last minute phoner-turned-emailer-cuz-The-Man-got-me-down) for an exclusive interview with Live High Five. We talked about the recordings on Pull In Your Horns, their plans for 2014, and what bands they’d most like to tour with in the future. Get ready!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
Luke: I come from Glasford, and my name is Luke! I play guitar and sing.
Ryan: ‘Sup, G? I also as well come from Glasford. I play bass and sing backup vocals!
Tyler: Waddup, G? I’m Tyler, I play the drums, and I’m starting to learn how to sing a little bit.
Luke: Zach, who do you remind yourself of?
Zach: Gary, the pony.
Luke: He plays the… instruments.
Tyler: All the instruments. But to answer your question, “Who is everyone and where does everyone come from?” Well, everyone I know is from Earth. I don’t know all their names, because there’re seven billion people.
Luke: So, we’re sorry, G. I don’t know what they do, either.
Tyler: Not even what they play, if they play anything at all.
Luke: Some people are just dismal.
Tyler: So, we know all the people from Glasford, centrally, though we’re currently located in Peoria, [Illinois]. But we like to call ourselves Midwestern, because…
Luke: We’re from the Midwest.
Tyler: We’re from the Midwest, mostly. Ryan’s got a little bit of Hawaiian and Filipino and South Carolinian in him.
Luke: I’m Welsh.
Tyler: I’m part Welsh, too!
Luke: I’m Welsh, a little bit of Polish.
Ryan: White people, bro.
Tyler: We’re Anglo-Saxons. But we’re not quite Aryan. Let’s not go there today.
Luke: Gary was Aryan.
Tyler: He was Gary-an. Hungarian!
Ryan: Gary was hungry.
Tyler: This is getting stupid… Just layers and layers of jokes, like ogres.
G- Nothing wrong with a little comic relief once in a while. I can dig it.
So tell us about the band! How long has Flannel Mouth been around and when did you first get started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”
Ryan: Back when we were Iridescence!
Tyler: We definitely clicked before that because we were playing instruments together. We were thirteen and going to film a Jackass-type video – what was it called?
Luke: Murphy’s Law.
Tyler: Because anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We sent out a casting call for maybe fifteen people.
Luke: Yeah, and Ryan showed up.
Tyler: Ryan was the only one who showed up.
Ryan: Now it just sounds like I had no friends.
Luke: You did! They were just bad people.
Tyler: You did have some terrible friends.
Luke: We saved you.
Tyler: So we were like, “We’re not going to go film this with just the three of us, because none of us have a camera.”
Luke: So we went downstairs [at Luke’s house], and…
Tyler: We showed Ryan that we knew how to play guitar, because we were that cool, but then realized we need a bass player. So we asked Ryan to play the bass and gave him a bass to go home over the weekend, and then he came back by Sunday and had already learned “Longview” by Green Day.
Luke: And that’s the first time Ryan ever clicked.
Tyler: He clicked pretty loudly.
Luke: He joined our clique!
Tyler: Clique Vodka! Clique Shots!
Luke: And then later on, it almost clicked.
Tyler: We got an initial click with Zach, but then we mistook it for a snap, so we let him go. And then we realized it was quite the click – a bigger click than we’ve ever heard before.
Luke: It was a snap! It was indeed a snap. And that’s when we all snapped into it.
Tyler: And then we got all sheepish and asked Ryan to take Zach on a date, and had him ask Zach to be in our band.
Luke: We were scared to tell Zach that we wanted him back because he’s stronger than all of us.
Tyler: And he’s way smarter and better at everything. And that was way before we were called Iridescence, which was October of 2009. That was when we really clicked as a band, because we were like, “Holy shit! We need this guy in the band!” And then I’d say we really clicked as a band again when we won the opportunity to open for Hawthorne Heights.
Luke: We’ve clicked a lot of times.
Tyler: We’re just a regular group of metronomes.
Luke: We’re like a pen!
Tyler: We’re the annoying kid in the back of your testing classes who’s always clicking his pen. That’s our band.
G- I’d say that covers it pretty well. I hated that kid in class during tests, by the way. Interview fucking over.
Just kidding. So, you are currently touring in support of your debut EP release, Pull In Your Horns. How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record?
Tyler: We’ve been touring since March 2012.
Luke: We’ve toured the world!
Tyler: The world being central Peoria, Illinois. We’ve mostly toured places like Chicago, East Madison, Wisconsin, and just the Midwest in general. We’ve definitely toured, but not as extensively as we’d have liked to. Bands run out of money, we run out of money, and we ran out of van, actually.
Tyler: As for the reception of the songs, this release actually featured a lot of old songs that we’ve been begging people to come see us play for a long time. It’s been our newest song, “Oh, Bastard,” which came out the day before Thanksgiving, that has the best reception so far. There’ve been a lot of press features about it, which is awesome to see. Somebody going out of their way to talk about it and post about it on their sites – it’s amazing. It’s always fun to retweet!
Luke: Tweet, tweet, mofo!
Tyler: Tweet and retweet are on a boat! Tweet fell off – who’s left?!
Tyler: No, retweet. You’re not very good at problem solving.
Tyler: Well anyway, G, to get away from “Oh, Bastard,” which is definitely our best song and you should definitely go out and buy it – to answer your question about Pull in Your Horns, I’d say “The World Awaits with Eyes Half-Open,” track five, gets on the radio around here quite a bit. A lot of people like the way that ends with the singing and the decrescendo.
Luke: A cappella!
Tyler: It’s a cappella, but it’s a decrescendo where it just ends with the drums. Other than that, “The .22 ” is good because it sounds the newest.
Luke: That’s because it is the newest. “Passing Cops” has gotten a little [attention]. People like that one.
G- So, listen to the whole EP, in full, all the time. Got it!
And can you tell us about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, who was behind the boards this time around, and how long did the release take to record and get ready for release?
Tyler: Well, G, we recorded it at SwitchBitch Studios, which at the time was located in Joe Occhiuti [of The Venetia Fair]’s basement.
Luke: It was Frank Occhiuti’s basement. And he is our dad. Frank Occhiuti is everyone’s dad. Frank Occhiuti is your dad.
Tyler: That’s guaranteed. So we recorded it there, and it took three and a half days to record six songs. Three and a half eighteen-hour days. And that’s just live music stuff, not all the producing and analyzing each note. It was nuts. Mike [Abiuso] and Joe were behind the boards, and they did a great job doing the producing, really. They honed the songs to make them presentable. Let’s just say we were dressed in hoodies and Capris at a formalwear party, and they taught us how to dress up a little bit.
Ryan: Nice! That was good.
Tyler: That was terrible. It was one of the worst things, but it somewhat made sense.
Luke: I’m still wearing Capris though.
Tyler: We finished recording at the beginning of January and released it at the beginning of March, which meant we had a lot to get done really, really quickly. We did all the album art in that time, not to mention naming the freakin’ band. It was a lot to get done in two months with the art, the pressing, and whatever, and then the shipping in time for us to play our record release show on March 8th, which was at the Brass Rail in Peoria, Illinois with The Venetia Fair! It was a SwitchBitch Records affair. It was great.
G- Undoubtedly a rager of a good time. Solid bill!
So, since I wasn’t there and haven’t had the chance to see you guys perform yet, what should your fans, both old and new, expect of the performances when you guys hit the road? What should some of the first time listeners expect to see when you take the stage?
Ryan: Not Butt-Rock.
Tyler: We are the epitome of not Butt-Rock. We’re definitely idiots before we hit the stage, and you’re absolutely sure to catch us goofing off.
Luke: Or drinking a grape soda.
Ryan: We’re unprofessional, but still very professional.
Tyler: We get asked all the time, “Hey, what band are you here to see?” and we’re like, “No, we’re playing.”
Luke: We’re the type of people that will try to hug you and shake your hand at the same time.
Tyler: But as soon as we take the stage – actually, as soon as we’re loading in or setting up, we’re one of the best and most professional bands out there, just making sure everything gets done correctly and quickly, and then we go up and play. As soon as it hits, it becomes a whole other thing. You’re definitely seeing a performance; you’re seeing a band live.
Luke: We like to catch people off guard, so if we come to town, we’re trying to trick you immediately. You’re thinking we’re something that we are not. And then we will prove that we are not that somebody. And then we will go back to being that somebody that we were being but are not.
Tyler: People approach us at the merch table expecting to see the band-us, but we’re being the goof-us and want to ask you all the questions in the world. We’re the least professional professionals out there. We’re the most-professional-least-professional professionals.
Luke: Kind of like Keanu Reeves.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s good!
Tyler: So “what should you expect to see when we take the stage?” We honestly couldn’t tell you, and we don’t want to tell you.
Ryan: It’s a surprise!
Tyler: Just expect to get blown away.
G- (Laughing) Fair enough… That really didn’t help me at all, but I’m still intrigued, so come to the East Coast.
Ok, there are 4 of you, and this is probably going to get ridiculous, but 4 albums every fan of you should know about and why. Go!
Luke: Sheik Yerbouti [by] Frank Zappa, because you’ll never know anything ever again.
Tyler: It’ll absolutely show you that you didn’t know shit about music.
Luke: No. No? No. It is the freakin’ funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Well, I mean, it’s interesting, too, but I just wanna give the people that, because then you can give them the other ones later.
Tyler: But we all took the “other ones later” first.
Luke: No, I gave you Sheik Yerbouti first.
Tyler: Oh, I see what you’re saying.
Luke: [Also,] Happy Hollow by Cursive.
Tyler: That just really enforced that “no rules” attitude.
Ryan: Any Brand New album. Literally any one.
Tyler: I don’t know, man, I’d really go with The Devil & God [are Raging Inside Me].
Luke: Devil & God would be the single one.
Ryan: I still take from all of them.
Tyler: We’re really learning how to experiment and I think that Brand New is one of the most pivotal things you can listen to. You have songs like “Jesus” which is a pop song in an indie format. It’s a pop song in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge structure with the way it builds and the way it ends, or whatever, but then you have songs like “Limousine” where it’s just wild.
Ryan: So that’s two.
Tyler: That’s three. Brand New, Cursive, and Frank Zappa. I used to want to say Saosin if you want to [understand] the drumming. I used to be like, “Oh, what I want to do is put a difficult thing you’ve never heard before behind this. No one would ever think to do ‘this,’ and I’m going to make it really difficult.” But nowadays, I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m trying to be appropriate.
Ryan: Saosin isn’t a band.
Luke: Say Anything’s …is a Real Boy. That’s a pretty damn good album.
Tyler: What’s the name of the third song on it, after “Woe?”
Luke: None of us know.
Tyler: Where he’s looking for drugs in a southern town.
Luke: Isn’t it like “The Grinding South?”
Tyler: “The Writhing South.” The way it establishes its beat right away and as soon as you get to the bridge – (mimics music).
Luke: How does one even type that out?
Tyler: It just goes to show that the bridge is just so different.
Luke: It’s a really good bridge, and it’s a really good album.
Tyler: It taught us that we don’t have to write a song a certain way.
Luke: So I guess that wouldn’t be Frank Zappa. I would say Happy Hollow by Cursive – what else did you say?
Tyler: I think we settled on Devil & God by Brand New.
Luke: So that’s two, I’d say Say Anything. Or would we rather do a Modest Mouse [album]?
Tyler: You just excised Frank Zappa, so we can just put Modest Mouse in there.
Luke: I’d say Modest Mouse was definitely the thing. Modest Mouse, Brand New, Cursive… Ryan: And Jay-Z. We’re going to leave it at that.
G- (Deep breath) All good choices. Lots of variety going on there!
So, do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
Ryan: If we’re talking about Pull in Your Horns, when we did Warped, I would show off “The .22” more often than the others.
Tyler: I would too. I would show them because it was more indicative of what we’re going to sound like.
Luke: But as of 2013, “Oh, Bastard” is the song that I would show them.
Tyler: “Oh, Bastard, ” hands down. It shows depth, it shows ability, and it shows that we’re just good.
Luke: We just wanna do you right.
Tyler: So let us do you with “Oh, Bastard.” And it also has auxiliary instruments that not a lot of bands really get to play, and that’s Zach on violin.
Ryan: We’re metal.
Tyler: We’re Yellowcard?
Ryan: We’re death metal.
Tyler: We’re yellow metal.
Ryan: Yeah! We’re not black metal. We’re yellow metal.
G- Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? Give us your 3-band dream bill to be a part of.
Tyler: If we’re talking restaurant bill, then I hope it would be someone who’s really poor, because they wouldn’t order extravagantly.
Luke: Bill Clinton, Bill Shatner, Bill O’Reilly. Bill Clinton would beat the shit out of Bill O’Reilly.
Tyler: Bill Clinton wouldn’t do that. Bill Clinton’s too cool. So, who do we want to tour with?
Luke: Bill Clinton!
Tyler: His next campaign. For whatever it is he wants to run for.
Luke: How about the tour manager is Bill Clinton?
Ryan: Anthony Green. His solo project, not his band.
Tyler: I’d still [want to] tour with Circa Survive.
Luke: How about we make them one?
Tyler: Like Anthony Green (slash) Circa Survive (slash) Psychic Babble?
Luke: Yeah, all three of them. And then [The] Sound of Animals Fighting.
Tyler: High and Driving.
Ryan: I feel like The Sound of Animals Fighting wouldn’t really fit with us.
Luke: I don’t care!
Tyler: It’s a dream tour… It doesn’t matter.
Ryan: Well that’s not on mine. I threw out Anthony Green.
Luke: Anthony Green. Okay, that’s good. Jesus.
Tyler: We could tour with Jesus.
Luke: The Jackson Five!
Ryan: Some church band.
Tyler: Like Reliant K?
Ryan: No, like we picked them out of a church just to tour with them.
Luke: I would like to tour with…
Luke: Anthony Green. Ryan took mine. I’d like…
Tyler: I’m just going to say Circa [Survive], because anybody that I want to be around are members of that band.
Luke: So Tyler took my second pick, and Ryan took my first pick. So I’m going to say –
Tyler: Zach, quick! Take Luke’s third pick.
Luke: I’m going to say… I want to say… Everybody knows what it is; I’m just waiting for someone to interrupt me. I’m going to say…
Ryan: Zach, say something!
Tyler: Are you going with Zappa?
Luke: No, dude.
Tyler: I think a Brand New, Circa Survive –
Luke: Let’s put Circa Survive and Anthony Green together.
Tyler: He’ll close the show. People will stick around afterwards to watch him solo.
Luke: No, everything. Like Circa Survive, [The] Sound of Animals Fighting, High and Driving, and all that is just Anthony Green’s set.
Ryan: We’re just putting it all together. Anything that Anthony Green’s ever done.
Tyler: That includes old Saosin.
Luke: All his old band members will be there.
Tyler: Alright, so Brand New, all the Anthony Green projects, Cursive, and then we’re opening.
Ryan: Isn’t there supposed to be one more band?
Tyler: We’re going to sneak The Venetia Fair on there, though.
Ryan: They’ll just take our set. We won’t even play.
Tyler: There we go. Our dream bill is to not play it.
G- Hahaha ok, you guys can just sell merch or concessions then.
So, what is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played in 2013? Where was it and what was it like?
Ryan: The Castle.
Tyler: The Castle Theater. January 25, 2013.
Luke: That wasn’t very exciting.
Tyler: We got the scrims just for that show.
Ryan: Yeah, the day of the show.
Tyler: We learned we wanted to play shows like that forever. We played in LaSalle, [Illinois,] at the Ninth Street Pub.
Ryan: That was a good show. That was fun.
Tyler: I almost got into a fight.
Ryan: Oh yeah, the pool table.
Tyler: I was walking to the bathroom, and [some guy] said, “Oh, I didn’t know they moved the girls’ bathroom over,” and I turned and looked at him, like “…really?” Like, “That’s the best you’ve got? You really thought that one out, didn’t you?” I mean, it wasn’t as mean as I make it sound now; I’m sure I was a little more timid than that. I kind of had a beard, but not really, so I just looked like a wuss, but I was still like, “Really, dude? That’s the insult you chose?” He just kind of stood up, and I was like, “Dude, whatever,” and I just went to the bathroom. I thought for sure I was going to get jumped in the bathroom.
It was right after we got done playing, too. I felt so badass. But on the way home we sold our CD to chick at Casey’s [General Store], which is the second time we’ve sold a CD to a chick at that exact Casey’s.
Tyler: Yeah, the one upstairs – The Fizz. The load-in was awful, but we played with Carielle and Bears and Company.
Luke: What about that show with all those awesome bands from Macomb? That was a big show.
Tyler: The Ritz.
Luke: There was a lot of people there.
Tyler: So let’s see: we started the year in Bloomington at the Castle Theater with Mindset Evolution, who’ve been local favorites for a while. Our next big show was the Subterranean in Chicago with The Venetia Fair, Victorian Halls, Shotgun Zombie, and The Zero Years – that was a fun one. After that was The Fizz with Bears and Company, Carielle, and The Sometimes Family.
Luke: They were really awesome.
Tyler: Yeah they were. Like a 60’s revival – what R&B used to sound like.
Luke: They brought the funk.
Tyler: And our most recent really cool show was in Macomb, Illinois at The Ritz. It turned out to be with a lot of cover bands, but they were really exciting cover bands. We made a lot of friends there. So that’s what 2013 has kind of looked like for us.
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Zach: Sell your body.
Luke: Start doing heroin young.
Ryan: Give the fuck up.
Tyler: And I’ll say you can do it! As long as your heart’s there – no, we’ve given up…everything. Well, not given up, but prioritized. We’ve prioritized the band over the very vast majority of things.
Luke: You’ve got to put the band first.
Tyler: You’ve got to be willing to have your peers make fun of you –
Luke: Kick you in the shins…
Ryan: Because that happens a lot.
Tyler: Be prepared to see all your friends graduating college, moving on with their adult lives, getting married, and having kids and all that. Meanwhile you’ll feel like you’re still the same seventeen-year-old playing music in a band. Except now you can drink at shows that you [play] without feeling all taboo about it. You’ve got to be willing to take that from your peers, your family, but most of all you’ve got to be confident, because the fact [remains] that’s what’s going to drive you through. If you don’t have that air of confidence, you’re going to be a has-been, and you’re going to go your whole life wondering what could have been.
Luke: And don’t do that.
Tyler: Just don’t give up hope, I guess. We’re not really the ones to offer a bunch of advice on how to make it, or what to do, because we’re just now budding and learning our own identity.
Luke: I feel like that’s a big part of it, is learning your own identity. It’s up to you, man.
G- A pleasure.