Interview with James from MAKE DO AND MEND; Watch new video for “Disassemble” right here! @makedoandmendyo @riserecords
Make Do and Mend are currently on the road bringing their infectiously melodic punk sound to ravenous fans and first time listeners everywhere. Forming in 2006, the Boston-by-way-of Hartford, Ct. band has several recordings and show performances under their belts, and will undoubtedly be hitting someplace near you in the future… These guys are working very hard at their craft, so make sure to go check them out.
Currently supporting their latest release, “Everything You Ever Loved,” on Rise Records, I got a chance to speak with guitarist/vocalist James on an unseasonably warm December Monday in Syracuse, NY to discuss the new record, their experiences on Rise Records, their travels on the road in the US and abroad, and where they’ll be going in 2013. Scroll down to check out the new video for “Disassemble” right HERE via Punknews!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! For a lot of our readers, I’m not sure if they know exactly who you guys are yet. So if you could, introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
J- Awesome. Well, my name is James and I’m from, like you said, Boston, Massachusetts by way of Hartford, Connecticut. I sing and play guitar. Matt, who plays drums, is my brother. Mike, who plays guitar, is, how do you call it, brother by association… Brother by knowing each other for an insanely long time.
G- Fair enough.
J- Brother from another mother. And also Boston by way of Hartford. Luke, our bass player, is actually from Birmingham, Alabama. So, yea… That’s us and that’s out story.
G- Right on. Now, if I’m correct, Make Do And Mend has been around since 2006 and began in Hartford, Ct. What I’d like to know is, obviously you’ve got a brother in the band, but how did everyone in the group first meet and when was your first performance? When did the sense the songs really begin to take shape, and when did you decide to make this a full-time group?
J- That’s really a great question. Yea, we started in… I went to college, and we started in my freshman year of college in 2005. Matt, Mike, and I played in a band while we were all in high school, and when I went to college, that just sort of dissolved.
And so, I went to college, and we weren’t really doing anything, and I fucking hated college… Really, really despised it.
G- We all do.
J- Yea, you know? So, I started writing songs while away, and sorta went to the guys after being gone for a little while and said ‘You know, I have this batch of songs that I’ve been writing.’ I never sang in a band previous to this, and I just kinda wanted to sing. I don’t know how to sing, I don’t have a good voice, but it just sort of makes sense, you know?
G- You do have a good voice, by the way. It fits the music to a T.
J- If I do have a good voice now, it was developed. It didn’t start off that way. Trust me.
But yea. So we just started doing that and we played our first show in a church in our hometown. The dude putting us on the show let us play, but he made us play after the band who was headlining the show… That was the one condition. So, we played to like 2 people, we were terrible.
For a long time when we were playing shows in our hometown, we were really, really bad, and people would just not… You know. We would play a show with our friends’ bands, and there would be 100 kids at the show, and they would all wait outside while we played, and then come back in after we were done. (laughs) So there was a long time of that.
It’s really weird because I’ll get frustrated. Let’s say we have a rough show, or there’s a show where there aren’t as many people there as we’d expect. I’ve never done this before, but I really should remember that we’ve played multiple shows to just a completely empty room. So, a little bit of perspective there.
But we wrote a demo that was really bad, and we ended up putting out an EP a little bit after that. Once we started to get our musical feet underneath us, figuring out exactly what we wanted to do, after we put that out was when we sort of decided that this was real enough to be a real thing.
G- No that’s good. I mean, you guys… This is probably the smallest show you’re going to play on this run, and you’ve played Syracuse before. Like I said, I’ve never seen you before, and it went off. It was a great time, you guys had a really good set…
J- Yea that’s honestly like… Tonight was like my favorite thing, you know? In an environment like that, in a small personal environment, a little bit goes a long way, you know? Whether it be a smaller amount of people, whether it be a smaller room, whether it be a smaller PA, you know? It counts for more when you’re in a more personal environment as opposed to when you’re standing up on a stage. Tonight was an absolute pleasure. It was far and away more than I was expecting.
G- Good! It was great to see you and it was great to have you, because Syracuse is pretty boring, and it beat Monday Night Football. Live music beats football, even though The Giants are playing and I like The Giants.
Now, you moved from Hartford to Boston, but obviously you got your start in Connecticut. You gave us a little bit of background into the shows over there… How are the scenes there from your experiences in both cities. Obviously, I’m sure Hartford is much more populous for you now than in your formative years, but how are the scenes, and how are the responses at your shows?
J- Connecticut has an incredible scene, and really always has. It’s had it’s peaks and valleys in terms of music being made, and the amount of people going out to shows, but Connecticut actually has a very rich independent musical history. There aren’t that many bands that have come from Connecticut that have made much of a name for themselves, but underground music has always been a very important part of Connecticut, especially for myself and my friends.
G- Bring back West Beverly!
J- Oh my god! That is a blast from the past! They’re from my hometown West Hartford.
G- West Hartford I know… I auditioned for them.
J- You’re kidding me?!
G- Yes I did. A looooooong time ago!
J- Alright. So yea, it’s always been a very, very… We grew up going to shows, and when we grew up going to shows, there wasn’t really much of a… There was a hardcore scene, and when I first started going to shows, it was a very sort of heavy hardcore scene.
J- Yea. And to be perfectly honest, Hatebreed is one of my favorite bands.
G- Love ‘em!
J- I could never not admit that. But there was a lot of that, and I think Connecticut gained a bit of a reputation for that. Then there was punk punk, like leather jacket punk. And so we started going to shows, and putting on shows, and playing shows, and our friends sort of followed suit, and a really nice, young, alternative music scene developed from there. And I think that has held true.
And Boston is very similar in that way. It’s a little bit more dispersed, I feel, than Connecticut. Connecticut is very insular, you know? At any given moment, there’s like one venue that does shows, and so there’s always been a very homogeneous vibe there. And like I said, Massachusetts is a little more spread out. Similar and different in a lot of ways.
G- Right on. Well, you’ve recently signed to Rise Records I do believe, it was actually in 2012, and if you could tell us a bit about the new album that you’ve released on Rise, starting off with where you recorded, who was behind the boards, and to discuss some of the inspiration behind the songs on the record.
J- Cool yea. You know, the record is called Everything You Ever Loved, and it’s the first record that we’ve ever made that I think all of us are really 100% proud of, which is weird. Really weird. Everything we’ve ever done previous to this, I’ve grown to love it, but it took me a little while.
When we did the record before this, called End Measured Mile, for a while I hated it. While we were recording it, I hated it. When it first got done, I hated it. And then I listened back, and after a while of playing the songs, I grew to really love it a lot. But this one was sort of, like, it felt like our baby from day one. It really became something that we’re super proud of.
So yea we recorded in Seattle with a guy named Matt Bayles. Pretty well known musical engineer, whatever.
G- Oh yea.
J- At his studio called Red Room, and it’s awesome, man! You know, it was a real learning experience, because we’ve recorded with incredible talents, and the cool thing is they’ve always been our friends. Every recording we’ve ever done previous to this we’ve done with one of our friends, Greg (Thomas – Misery Signals; Pro Sound & Recording guru; currently sitting in the back seat), and people who are just amazingly talented in their own right. But, this was the first record where it was, sort of, recording with a ‘name’ dude, you know what I’m saying? And it was a learning experience, for sure.
G- (laughing) Did he kick your ass in there?
J- Little bit. Little bit, you know? You don’t, especially when you’re interacting with your friends, there’s a level of comfortability there, so you know how you can be. You know what’s going to piss them off, you know what’s gonna get everything to be cool, and so there’s a lot of tip-toeing when working with somebody new. So, there was definitely a lot of tip-toeing, but by the end of it, we’re pretty comfortable with one another.
G- Good! Now, I want to get a little more depthy and speculative… Do you have a favorite song that Make Do And Mend plays or has written, or if you had to select one song from your catalogue to give to someone who’d never heard of Make Do And Mend before, which song would you select and why?
J- God I really don’t. That’s a super tough question. I think that I would choose a song off of our new record, just because I genuinely feel it encapsulates the most cohesive Make Do And Mend sound. It’s definitely, you know, I think it’s different from anything we’ve ever done before, and a lot of people have pointed out a lot of distinct differences, like them or not. And I don’t think I could pick out what song that would be.
G- What’s the most fun song for you to play when you’re on stage?
J- I really, off the new record, we’ve been playing a song called “Stay in the Sun” that I have a total blast playing. So, that might be it.
G- Good. I like it! Now, I know what to expect, because I popped my Make Do And Mend cherry tonight so to speak, but for the first time listeners who may see you on a bill or may bite the bullet on a day that don’t have anything else going on…
G- And go and check a show out, what should your first time listeners expect of the performance when they see you for the first time?
J- Good question. I hope that they can expect a certain level of quality. We take playing live really, really seriously.
G- It was very good.
J- Cool. Thank you! So we want to be as technically proficient as possible. We want to sound as good as humanly possible. But, by the same token, my favorite bands have always been the ones that sort of get up there and go for it, and just sort of leave it all up there.
G- What bands are your favorite bands?
J- Bands like Hot Water Music is one of those, for sure. Even seeing them now, they get up there and they just crush! You know, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that Hot Water Music are for real.
G- No doubt!
J- They’re not fucking around. And so, that’s something that’s always been super important to me. I want to get up there and I want to leave people without a shadow of a doubt that were not fucking around. We just want to bring it! So, you know, trying to offer well played rock and roll with a lot of head banging.
G- Now, as a band that’s building, Make Do And Mend has spent a tremendous amount of time on the road. The road can totally suck sometimes and it’s very difficult, but it’s also better than what I’m doing waking up at 7am tomorrow to go to work.
J- That’s arguable.
G- I don’t know, I’d rather be on the road, man. If you wanna go do my job, I’ll play guitar and sing for Make Do And Mend!
J- Well, I’ve got the earplugs (I work in hearing health care), so I could probably bullshit my way through a day or two!
G- (laughing) How do you guys maintain your touring schedule and how do you occupy your time when you’re traveling between those 23 hours before a 45-60 minute set??
J- That’s a really good question. In a lot of ways, it sort of just becomes autopilot, and not in a sedative way, you know? Not in a ‘Whatever… time to punch a clock’ way.
J- (laughs) A lot of Scrabble. We’ve been doing it for so long, and I mean “long” being a relative term. We’ve been touring now for 4-5 years. It’s just become so much of a second nature thing. Now, when I’m at home, I have a harder time passing the time than I do when we’re out. I get very antsy. So yea, I honestly don’t think I could describe it to anyone who hasn’t done it or knows how it feels.
G- Right on. Now, the next question pertains to traveling and touring as well. As a band that has played nationally and abroad, how would you say your reception compares in the US versus your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play, the hospitality by the venues and the audience, and audience’s reaction?
J- Ok. I’ll be bluntly honest in saying that, especially European culture, caters a lot more towards just general hospitality and general considerations. Not only for bands that come over there, but generally with one and other. It’s a lot more of a congenial vibe over there.
So, you know, going over there, especially being an American touring band, there’s a certain element of gratitude, whether it be deserved or undeserved is not my call to make. But there is a certain sense of gratitude that people over there give off and give to American bands that come over, so that’s very nice.
We’ll be going over in…
G- March, correct?
J- Yea early 2013 to do our first ever European headlining tour. It’s the first tour we’ll be able to do anywhere headlining.
G- And it’s over there and not here?
G- How did that happen?
J- You know, it’s a matter of reception. It’s a matter of response, so if that gives you any sort of hint, we get in where we fit in, as most people do in life at large. But Europe has always been really cool for us.
G- Dude, that’s badass! Congratulations and crush it! If I was a millionaire, I’d go join the tour with you over there.
Though you’ve already toured with the likes of Polar Bear Club and Touche Amore, we’re all dreamers, and you’re on the road all the time. Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? More specifically, if you could put together a feasible 3-band dream bill, that included Make Do And Mend, who would you select and why? I have a feeling Hot Water Music will be on there…
J- Hot Water Music would be on there. You know, just because we’ve toured with them before and they’re just a great band to be on tour with. Especially as a band with years and years of knowledge… 14 years of knowledge, but also still love what they’re doing and give it 110%. So they’re definitely on that list.
A band that I think all of us really really dream of touring with, and it’s like the ultimate never will happen dream…
G- One Direction?
J- One Direction. Absolutely. No, it was a toss up between One Direction and Miley Cyrus.
J- But it’s Jimmy Eat World.
J- They’ve always been sort of a pillar of a band doing what they do for a long time making emotional rock and roll. They’ve always been sort of a true north. Sort of like Hot Water (Music) has for us as a band. And number 3, I don’t know. That’s a really good question. Probably one of our friends’ bands to be perfectly honest because we loved touring with our friends’ bands and touring with our friends in general. Which one of our friends’ bands? I don’t know. We’d figure it out.
G- C’mon you’ve got a lot of friends and friend bands… Pick 1!
J- Pick 1?
G- Give ‘em a shout!
J- Umm, it’d be Title Fight.
G- Title Fight would be good!
They’re A) just so next level musicianship wise, and in terms of genuine people, people to just be around and exist around, they’re just flawless. There you go!
G- What do you say… $8 ticket? $12 dollar ticket?
J- It’s actually going to be $5, $3 with a canned good.
G- That’s a good one.
J- And it’s going to be at your local VFW.
G- (laughing) Right on. So, you’ve been doing this strong for quite a while, and in all of your cumulative performance experience, what would you say is the craziest or most memorable show that Make Do And Mend has played to date? Hopefully you trump it in the future, but to this point, where was it and what was it like?
J- It’s a really good question. I don’t think I could pick one, to be perfectly honest. That’s as much of a quantitative question as it is a qualitative question, you know? It’s one of those things where relativity of a bunch of different things come into play. There might be shows where kids go way crazier than another show, but the overall vibe at another show was better than the one where the kids were going wild. So, I don’t think that I can give a specific answer.
We aim for, and tonight registered in this category, we aim to play shows to people who care, people who are engaged and people who understand. And anytime that that happens, anytime there is a tangible click between us and the people in the audience I view as a special show. So tonight was definitely measured amongst shows like that, and it’s not always the craziest show that elicits that. A lot of times it can be tame, it can be calm. There’s a connection there that sort of paramount. So, that to me is the craziest show.
G- Cool. So to finish up, Make Do And Mend are doing very well. You’re on the build, you’re working very hard at your craft, and there are kids who are envious and want to be in your position. There are a lot of dreamers, and music is a dream business, and you have to be one of those types of people in order to make it work.
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?
J- You know what, I can genuinely say, and this probably sounds like a load of storybook bullshit, but whether its playing in a band, whether its anything that you do, I genuinely believe that if you do it because you love it, because you truly want it, and you take great personal joy in it, whether its at the tip top or at the lowest rung of the ladder, you will find joy and you will find reward.
Especially playing in a band, it’s a here today gone tomorrow kind of thing, and if it’s something that you truly want to do, I genuinely believe that you have to be ready for it to be gone tomorrow. If you’re really, really, really worried about it, being here today, if you’re lucky enough to be here today, and staying here today for a long time, you know, you gotta be ready to give it up at any given moment. Whatever you do, do the shit out of it is my general opinion on most things.
G- That will suffice. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today! It was a great set. Travel safe on the road, we look forward to good things in the future, and we look forward to having you back in Syracuse soon.
J- Thank you. I hope so!