First off, I'd just like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here with us today. Now, please state your name and position in The Flaming Tsunamis.
I'm Andy, and I take care of lead vocals and the megaphone.
For the sake of our unfamiliar readers, can you please give us a quick history lesson on The Flaming Tsunamis?
The band has been around in one form or another since 1999. We’ve retained the core group of myself, Greg (guitar) and Ethan (bass) since the beginning, and the rest has been a revolving cast of characters that have stayed for varying lengths of time. Each person that’s been in the band has left a bit of their musical influence, and as a result our sound has changed a lot over the years, and has developed into the schizophrenic style that we have now.
Fans witnessed the release of your new album, Fear Everything, earlier this year via Kill Normal Records. How has the general response been to the record thus far?
We’re very lucky to have some diehard, devoted fans and friends who are willing to follow us down whatever musical path we choose, so they all seem to love it. As far as “important” people go, a lot of reviewers seem to give us a “I really enjoy this, but I don’t know what to think of it” type of response, but overall it’s been pretty good. I’m waiting for a review that totally trashes the record, but so far it’s yet to come.
How do you feel Fear Everything compares to the band's previous work, and now that it has seen the light of day for quite some time, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
The album was a long time coming, and this is the first time that I felt a release has fully represented what the band is about. We were finally able to bring in a lot of the musical influences that we’ve been harboring for years, and flesh out some of the ideas we’d been working on. It’s a lot more dynamic than anything else we’ve done. Whenever you listen to an old record, there’s always things you wish you could change or redo, it’s unavoidable, so I try not to dwell on that. I think with the time and money constraints in place we did a damn good job.
If you encountered an interested customer in a record store, which of the album's qualities would you use as selling points, and why?
There is so many sides to the band that it really depends on what someone else is into. I suppose you could customize a sales pitch for each person, and it would be different every time, but mostly I’d just tell people to check it out if they’re sick of image-based, cookie-cutter music.
The Flaming Tsunamis undoubtedly offer a unique combination of influences. How did you fabricate the concept of blending ska music with hardcore and metal layers?
It’s really just something we grew into as we all got older and our musical tastes changed. On the same note, a lot of people really focus on the hardcore and ska combination, but if you listen to the album you’ll find a ton of other influences that shine through equally. Essentially, we write the music that we do because it’s music that we would personally like to listen to.
Have you experienced any resistance or noteworthy criticism from any supporters of either genre?
On paper, the concept of our music seems ridiculous to many people, but once everyone gives the live show a shot, they see that our music comes from a genuine place. It’s not contrived. The passion really shines through, and they end up getting into it. We constantly find ourselves as the odd duck on a show, but we thrive on that, trying to expose everyone to different aspects of music that they didn’t think could fit together and sound good. The only time we’ve ever gotten shit was at the Ontario Ska Fest, where a few hecklers didn’t find us “ska enough.”
Where you draw your inspiration from when writing lyrics?
Throughout all of my lyrics, there is generally a consistent undertone of political or personal outrage, though we do have a few humorous songs. Sometimes it’s very outright, other times it takes a more horror-themed approach. Most of the personal songs are veiled with the horror theme since I find it harder to achieve the mood I want a song to have by blatantly writing about relationships or personal problems. As a result, a lot of songs, to me, are about one specific thing in my life, but no one else would ever know that’s what I’m taking about. Often, when writing a horror-themed song, I have an entire storyline in my head about what’s going on, but I only pull a few ideas from it. Sometimes the lyrics may seem as disjointed as the rest of the music, but to me it all makes perfect sense.
The Flaming Tsunamis are recognized as primarily do-it-yourself musicians. Is this route one chosen by the band, or have you merely been unable to obtain the necessary support to exist otherwise?
A little of both, though not to say we would turn down support from a label or band larger than ourselves if they were in line with our way of thinking, but we’ve never been keen on waiting for someone else to make things happen for us. We do things ourselves because that means everything gets done according to our own ethics and values, and we don’t need to compromise what we feel music should be about. This was an attitude we adopted early on, because from a record label standpoint we’re not marketable, we can’t be easily categorized, and we’ve had people flat out tell us they love the music but have no idea how they would market it, and therefore won’t put out records for us.
It seems as if you're an act that's constantly touring. What has inspired you to maintain such an extensive schedule?
We just love to play and love making new friends, and to truly see what the band is about you need to see the live show, so there’s no better way than to spread the word by getting on the road and playing as much as possible. I would love to be on the road so much that I don’t need to worry about maintaining a place to live.
While I'm aware you book shows yourselves, I'm interested in hearing about some of the more interesting, weird, or funny moments you've encountered along the way? Would you care to share any stories with us?
Being a band without a booking agent, we find ourselves playing a ton of random places like laundromats, a Mormon’s garage, sandwich shops, Jewish community centers, Christmas tree farms, tiki huts, art galleries, and any type of hall you can imagine. Places like this usually lead to odd interactions with the locals, but I’d have to say one of the most exciting things to have happened was at a show that was put on at an alcoholics anonymous meeting center where the AA members were actually running the show, and they decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to not let kids dance, and that includes everything from two-stepping to skanking and circle pits. Near the end of our set the kids got fed up with everyone who danced getting thrown out and they started beating up the security guys; one dude tried to throw a kid out and twenty or thirty kids jumped on him and started throwing chairs at him and everything. Then, one of the AA members comes up to Ethan and starts punching his shoulder to get him to stop playing, but we finish the set while everyone goes nuts. Probably one of the most bizarre shows we played was at the Transitions Art Gallery in Tampa Bay. It was a Saturday night and the parking lot became a scene out of a rap video, way too many underage kids drinking and kids bumping loud music out of their cars while girls danced and stripped in the flatbed of a truck. It was just extremely bizarre.
How do you cope with the transition from playing in Connecticut, where you've built a die-hard fan base, to out of town performances to new audiences?
It’s always great to play to a room full of kids who are piled on top of me screaming every word, but we get just as much of a thrill playing for people who have never seen us before, even if it’s just three people. You’re going to get the same energy no matter where you see us because we love to play; it’s just a new challenge.
While on the subject of your hometown audience, do you feel local support can either make or break a band's career?
I think it’s foolish for a band to try and get out of state if they don’t have solid local support yet. I know we owe a lot of our success to the die hard hometown crowd. They’re always there to support us when we’re heading out on a big tour or putting out a new release. Any band that forgets where they came from when they “make it big” is losing sight of the community that makes music such an amazing thing to be apart of.
Do you hold any plans to embark on an overseas tour in the near future?
We’re in the process of putting together a tour of the United Kingdom at the moment, but we don’t want to rush it and want to make sure it gets done right, since it will be a large financial risk. We’re talking to bands and getting things in line, so we should be over there before mid-'08 for sure.
If you could tour with any one artist/group, dead or alive, who would you select, and why?
That’s a tough one. It’d probably be a toss up between The Blue Meanies or Rage Against The Machine, but when it comes down to it, I’d choose The Blue Meanies. Musically, no one has ever touched what they’ve done, and I think our styles would compliment each other very well. Not to mention, I’d get to flip out to The Blue Meanies every night.
One of our readers is curious as to whether or not the "support our poop" campaign still exists?
The “support our poop” campaign is currently defunct. We sold our old tour van, “Mr Poop,” and purchased our current touring vehicle, a shuttle bus we converted to a camper named “Leroy.” It’s actually Leroy’s apartment, we just happen to live there.
Listeners recently witnessed the departure of your trombone player, and another of our readers would like to hear an explanation behind that situation.
His official reason for leaving was that he wanted to start a traditional ska band, so we’ll just leave it at that. We are looking for a new trombone player though, so if anyone’s interested please get in contact with us.
With the exception of your own release, which albums have you been listening to recently?
Lately, I’ve been listening to Call It Arson’s new record “Animal Strings,” as well as Architecture in Helsinki’s “In Case We Die,” At All Costs “Direction” EP, Murder By Death’s “In Bocca Al Lupo,” as well as Shallow Water Grave’s “Suspension of Disbelief,” all of which are great albums that I suggest everyone check out immediately.
On the subject of music, if you don't mind me asking, what are your uncensored feelings towards the current state of mainstream music?
I’d have to say that the mainstream music market right now has about as much artistic integrity as a McDonald’s commercial, and the music itself is about as interesting as the sound of someone taking a dump on top of another dump. There’s a few artists doing some interesting stuff, but in general, the entire music business is fucked up. I look in magazines and all I see is advertisements with pictures of a band with absolutely nothing indicating what the band might sound like, as if we’re supposed to decide whether we should check out a band based on how they look. It’s so backwards. As a response, our record label, Kill Normal Records, doesn’t advertise, we only put out samplers so people can decide to check out a band’s album based on the music, not some manufactured image.
As in independent artist, what are your thoughts on the ever-so-controversial subject of illegal file sharing?
It’s always nice to make a couple extra bucks off of your music, and it definitely is a great feeling when someone buys a CD at a show, but when it comes down to it, music is for everyone, not just people with money. I’d rather have someone get our music for free than not hear it at all because they can’t afford to pay for it. If you get a band’s album for free and you enjoy it, the best thing you can do to support them is come out to a show and dance and sing along. If you have the cash, pick up a shirt, it really does help.
What's next, whether in terms of writing, recording, or touring, for The Flaming Tsunamis?
We’re currently in the beginning of a two month tour that is taking us all around the US, and after that we’re taking a few weeks off and then heading into Canada with The Ceremonial Snips for the month of April before we had back home to play some Midwest dates. Then, we’re going to finally breathe and take a month off before we start writing and playing locally again. We’ll be out on tour for the summer for sure, so be on the lookout.
That's all the questions I have for you today, Andy. Do you have any last words you'd care to leave our readers with before we part?
Yes, everyone get off your computer, come out to a show, say 'hi' and make some friends! We are on tour right now, so check out our myspace and find out when we’re coming near you. If we’re not coming near you, let us know and we’ll try our best to get there as soon as possible.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions.
just a correction, since the interview was done a while ago, the april tour has been postponed until august, but the band will still be doing an east coast/midwest tour for all of july as well as playing locally in june.