Song - Artist - Album
The Toonerville Trolley - The Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night
Seattle hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes announced their break up at the beginning of 2010 after nearly a decade of making great music and putting on some of the craziest live shows I have ever seen. I got a chance to see them on two nights of their tour in March 2009, supporting their third and final album Tail Swallower and Dove. Here is an interview that I did with guitarist Ryan Frederiksen, bassist Brian Cook, and drummer Chris Common the second night I saw them, at The Space in Hamden, CT.
(Brian Cook, Chelsea, Ryan Frederiksen)
Chelsea Dodds: How is the tour going so far?
Ryan Frederiksen: Very well. We were all sick for about a week except for [Brian] so it’s getting better.
Brian Cook: Finally out of the cold.
CD: How is it going other than you guys being sick?
RF: Good, besides being sick. That kind of puts a damper on things, but besides that all the shows have been pretty well-attended, so it’s been good.
CD: Have you ever played in Connecticut before, or is this your first time here?
BC: We’ve actually played here before.
CD: Oh really? How long ago was that?
RF: About two and a half years ago?
BC: Yeah, it was a while.
CD: Was that before or after Easter came out?
BC: It was right after. … (drummer Chris Common wanders into the room) hey, wanna get in on an interview?
CD: So now we have three-fourths of the band here; where’s Steve?
BC & RF: He’s snoozing.
BC: He had a long night… or early morning.
CD: Yeah, after the concert last night I was wondering how he’s even able to walk after shows.
RF: He manages, somehow.
CD: I was actually wondering if you guys have anything that you do to prepare for your live shows, because they’re really energetic.
RF: We do some stretches.
Chris Common: I warm up a lot.
CD: Do you have a favorite city and/or venue to play in?
BC: I like the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I think that might be my favorite venue.
RF: What was that place we played at in Brussels?
BC: Oh, the AB?
RF: Yeah, that place was amazing. It’s just a gorgeous venue, it sounded great, the people there were amazing – they had an actual chef there that did the cooking for all the bands, and it was really good. The whole experience there was amazing.
BC: A lot of European venues are pretty nice.
CC: This place in Luxembourg, even though it was way too big for us, had the most amazing light show ever that rivaled like, Pink Floyd. It was ridiculous.
CD: Also, do you have a favorite song to play live?
RF: It probably differs for all of us.
CC: Yeah, and also, when we go on tour and play the same songs every night, we –
RF: get sick of them.
CC: Yeah, like if it was your favorite song, after you go on tour you’re like, “I hate this fucking song” and you wanna play something else.
CD: What’s your favorite song to play right now?
BC: We’ve been closing with the same song every night on this tour off the new album, called “Ethric Double,” and I like that one a lot.
RF: I like “Woolen Heirs” right now.
CC: I’m actually liking “Meet Your Mayor” right now, which isn’t on the record, but that’s been the first song we play, and it’s always really fun.
CD: Do you have a funniest or most memorable tour story?
CC: Where’s Steve? [laughs]
RF: The last tour we did, with Russian Circles, was pretty good, Brian’s also in that band and hanging out with those guys every day was always a treat. We were constantly laughing the whole time, having safety meetings… which we haven’t done in a while.
CD: What are safety meetings?
CC: We just talk about how safe we need to be for the evening, and general safety concerns.
CD: Like jumping off of things on stage?
RF: Steve, yeah.
BC: We go in the van and drink vodka and put on safety visors. I don’t know why.
CD: Do you bring the safety visors out on stage with you ever?
BC: Well, one time we did.
RF: That’s right. A bet was lost.
BC: We can’t talk about that though. All the really good tour stories are about awful things, I feel like.
RF: Like the Kiss of Death.
CD: What happened then?
CC: Oh, Steve and a certain someone he met in L.A. …it was Anna Nicole Smith.
CD: He met her?
RF: And he made out with her. Gross, right?
CD: Yeah, that’s ridiculous.
BC: It was her birthday and he had Anna Nicole’s birthday cake smeared all over him. But he kissed her!
CD: How did that even come about?
BC: We were playing across the street in this really awful club on Sunset Strip...
RF: Emphasis on awful.
BC: And after we got done playing, we wanted to get out as soon as possible, so Steve and a friend of his went across the street to some night club and it was Anna Nicole Smith’s birthday so she had her whole entourage there. It was when she still had that reality show about her, so they were filming there.
CD: So did he make it on the show?
RF: The show actually got cancelled right around that time, so it never aired.
BC: But he had to sign a release form, and then apparently her manager yelled at him… it’s not good for her image probably.
CD: So your first two albums were on Jade Tree and now you’re signed to Suicide Squeeze; how was the transition between labels?
RF: The transition itself wasn’t too easy, but once we got off Jade Tree it’s been night and day.
CC: It’s been amazing. Suicide Squeeze is great.
CD: What triggered the switch to Suicide Squeeze?
RF: Jade Tree sucked terribly. They just decided to stop being a label, but they held onto all their bands. They wouldn’t allow the bands to leave without paying to get off the label to buy their contracts out. It was just a nightmare. We were going to do the new record with Jade Tree, and they required us to submit a budget for our own record for where we wanted the money to be allocated to as far as any kind of advertising, radio promotion, recording budget, you know, the whole nine yards. So our manager drew all this up, and it ended up being cheaper than the previous record’s budget, and it took the label four months to get back to us regarding that. They did some other shady shit too, so that’s when we just started saying, “You know what, fuck these guys, let’s see what we can do to get off the label.” And it took us a while, but we persevered and made it through.
BC: It was just kind of a real bum out of a situation because they’re a punk rock label that we were all really excited about, and the history of that label, the bands they’ve put out. They were very supportive of the band in the beginning but then like three months after Easter came out the two owners got other jobs and they had one person left on staff. Getting ahold of anyone at the label was difficult, getting them to answer any questions or get back to you was virtually impossible. And it was like, “We wanna do another record!” And they’d be like, “Cool.” And they wouldn’t like talk about it. We were like, “Could we do that? And if not can we leave?” And it’s like, “No, you can’t leave, and we’ll talk about doing another record when we feel like talking about doing another record.” It’s like, you guys are supposed to be a punk rock label, if you’re not going to do it then let us leave and do something else.
CD: Right, that’s not very punk rock. It’s unfortunate because a lot of my favorite bands used to be on that label.
BC: Yeah, they put out a lot of great records.
RF: Key word is “used to.”
CD: This is true. So do any of you have a favorite song on the new album, or does that differ from day to day too?
CC: I think it’s probably somewhat similar to our favorite songs to play, I mean my three favorites are “Woolen Heirs,” “Red Line Season,” and “Ethric Double.” One that we’re not playing on tour, the very last song, “Briggs,” I really like too. But we really haven’t played that one out yet.
CD: What about “Cavity Carousel”?
BC: We’ve been playing that. That’s a weird one though, I think it’s my least favorite. I’ve met a lot of people who are like, “That’s my favorite song on the record,” and I’m like, “Really? Alright.”
CD: I really love that song! It’s kind of catchy.
BC: Yeah, it’s definitely different.
CD: Last question: Do any of you have anyone in particular who influenced you to start playing instruments or to be in a band in general?
BC: I don’t think I can pinpoint one person that made me want to play an instrument, but the first concert I ever went to was Fugazi and I think that left a pretty big impression on me. So I always kind of looked to the way that they do things as an example of how to conduct a band, what kind of code of integrity to operate by. So I’d probably say Fugazi.
RF: I’d say pretty much just general punk bands for me. I grew up loving music, and it wasn’t until I started catching onto punk rock bands that I was like, “Fuck, I could do this. This seems easy.” And then I just picked up a guitar and just kind of went from there.
CD: Were there any specific punk bands?
RF: I got into straight edge bands when I was at a young age, so for me it was bands like Brotherhood and Undertow, just local people in the Seattle area that I ended up becoming friends with.
CC: It was kind of the same for me. I got a drum set and a bass guitar at an early age but never was interested until I went to my first local show in Dayton, Ohio, where I’m from. And I think seeing a couple local bands made me think, “Oh, I want to do music. This is cool, they’re actually doing something and not just sitting in their basements listening to Metallica or something.” But I’d probably say that it was just seeing my first local shows and some key bands, like this band Brainiac was a big influence. It was one of the first weird indie rock shows that I ever saw when I was getting into music, and that probably did it for me I think.
And, if you're like me and still bummed out that these guys broke up, I have good news! You can still check the guys out in their other bands. Brian Cook currently plays bass in post-rock band Russian Circles, and Ryan Frederiksen is currently the guitarist of Narrows.