If you're a fan of old Unwritten Law mixed with a hint of ska punk influences, then you'll love Trenchtown. These guys hail from Hermosa Beach, the same city as punk pioneers Pennywise, and could be described as the lovechild of Green Day and Sublime. Having been a part of the Warped Tour two years in a row, the band has made a name for themselves and recently released a new self titled album, Trenchtown EP.
We had a chance to ask front man Ryan Wagler a few questions about the band's inception, goals and plans for the future.
1. How'd you decide on the band's name?
We wanted a name that described who we are as well as what we are doing. We searched hundred of words trying to find a name that would fit who we are, found some but they still didn't define what we were doing. Then we searched hundreds of songs trying to find lyrics that would accomplish this. An old song by Bob Marley summed it up, a song called Trenchtown. "We free the people with music". As a band, we all came from the same town in Southern Michigan. We had similar experiences growing up. I went to music when I needed an escape. That's what we hope to provide to those who need it.
2. How did you all meet and how did you develop your sound?
Well like I said, we all met in junior high/high school. Of course myself and Eric (bass) are brothers and Nichols (guitar) is our cousin. We shared a love for Green Day, Nirvana, and Sublime back then and still do. Not so oddly enough, many people comment that our music sounds kind of like a mix up of Green Day and Sublime. Our sound is not manufactured or intentional though. We sound like a piece of everything we love to listen to. Rancid, Lagwagon, Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet, NOFX, Goldfinger, Sublime, Zack Brown, Muse, etc... It's all in there somewhere.
3. Are you guys working on any projects at the moment?
We just released an album earlier this month. "Trenchtown EP". We had been working with producer Billy Graziadei from the band Biohazard on the project for about 9 months. He's produced all the recent Biohazard albums and has worked with Slipknot and Sick of it All. He really helped fine tune our sound though. Came in during our rehearsals and didn't mind arguing with us about how a verse/rhythm/vocal style should go. We're all a little thick headed when it comes to outside critique on our songs but we took most of his suggestions. Now that we have time to reflect, I think everyone agrees he knows what he's talking about.
4. Where can fans catch you guys live? Any tours/shows coming up?
We've got some national touring options for early winter that we're waiting on more details. However, for the next few months, we got a few larger shows coming up. On August 6th we're playing the International Pop Overthrow festival at "the Joint" in LA. We've been a part of this festival the last 4 years or so and always meet some good up and coming bands. On September 4th we'll also be playing a show with long time Orange County Reggae greats "Common Sense". This show is at the Brixton South Bay in Redondo Beach. Great venue, we just watched Strung Out and Unwritten Law there within the last month. Anyway, this show with Common Sense is expected to sell out so energy levels should be nice that night. We also play every Friday on Hermosa Beach Pier for the happy hour out-of-work beach crowd.
5. Are there any bands you admire and wish to work with?
Personally, I admire good song writers and bands/musicians that put out a lot of music. Usually these people are in more than one band. Guys like Mike Herrera from MXPX and Joey Cape from Lagwagon/Bad Astronaut are people I would like to work with most. They have a ton of side projects and find different styles to express their talent. Earlier this month, we all went to a Bad Astronaut show and Burlett (our drummer) struck up a conversation with Joey Cape and gave him a disk. Two days later we were on facebook and Joey Cape had posted our music on his home page asking his followers to listen to it. We got a great response and it was definitely cool to be given props from someone who had such a strong influence on why we started doing this in the first place.
6. What inspires your sound?
I think most music is, either directly or indirectly, affected by other music. That gives me the most inspiration. And this goes beyond what our favorite artists are or what is on our ipods. If you want to grow as a musician you should surround yourself with other musicians. This means going to as many shows, both local and national, as you can and picking up acoustic guitars at parties. I'm also inspired by tragedies. Meditating on loss and suffering is very common in song writing. A lost relationship is one thing but finding a deeper loss such as purpose or life is a whole new type of tragic. I like somber songs, but those that give hope. Even if just a glimpse.
7. What are your musical goals and what lessons have you learned so far?
Our goal is to get our music into as many hands as possible. We've taken a new approach to this album. Although we do sell them online for a fixed sum, at shows we accept only donation. If you don't feel like giving a donation, you still leave with a disk. The music is more important than the $5 we get for it. I guess that's a lesson. Another lesson I've learned is how important chemistry is. Our band went on hiatus for a year or so and we all performed with other bands. Not until we reunited did I realize how important it was to have a common mind set to really make music collectively. It's like being married to 4 other men at once. It's gonna be disastrous if there is no chemistry. We're all close brothers though.
8. What's the best piece of advice someone ever gave you?
I don't know if anyone has actually said this to me, probably, but if not, I've definitely heard it before and it's the best advice. You must do what you love and love what you have. As a band, I remember times in the past when things were very tough financially. Being on your own DIY tour and living off a couple bucks a day for food can be damaging mentally as well as physically. But we were playing every night and doing what we love. Nichols (guitar) calls this a curse. But he put it best when he said, "ever since we played out first high school party, we've been addicted to the rock and roll lifestyle." It's not the party addiction though, it's the addiction to performing and spreading music.
9. What do you guys do when you're not making music?
As far as I can tell everyone has their own hobbies. I like watching baseball, Burlett (drums) goes to swap meets, Eric Wagler (bass) likes to sleep, Greg Bo (lead git) looks for dates at the gym, and Nichols (guitar) drinks coronas on the roof of his house. That being said, when you're serious enough about your music it's hard to really think about much else. We go out on nights off and kick loose but usually end up at a live music venue. Maybe it is a curse...
10. Anything else you'd like to add?
First and foremost, please go to www.trenchtownmusic.com and listen to our music. If you like, stay in touch with us. Write us a message on facebook or join our mailing list. Finally, come check out a live show. We love to hang out before and after our sets. We love to hear feedback (good and bad). We love to hear music from other independent bands. Thanks for the interview Christy.
Photos courtesy of Yev Shrayber