TV Smith joined the late Jay Reatard on a short US tour in 2009. He’d open the string of shows with an acoustic set, followed by Jay’s set of Blood Visions / Matador singles material, and the night would conclude with Jay’s band backing up TV for a set of Adverts classics. I missed the Memphis date so I hopped in the van and headed to Oxford the following day. Full disclaimer: this is one of my first interviews ever.
What were you doing before the Adverts started?
TV Smith: Before The Adverts I played in a school band and before that I was just writing poetry. The whole thing was a process that at some point became known to other people and then it just kind of became established. I was always just getting it out of myself and writing, not thinking this is the way my future lies.
Who were some of the first bands The Adverts played with?
We started out just as punk was starting out. We were one of the first punk bands to ever play the Roxy, the first time we played there was with Slaughter and the Dogs and Eater. I think the second or third time was with Generation X. Later we played with bands like The Damed, Ramones, The Heartbreakers. Kind of everyone really.
What were shows at The Roxy like?
The Roxy was only open until April of ’77 in its original form, so it was literally only open for 100 days, they took away the lease and some other guy took it over and it was never the same. A lot of the bands got too big for it even though they had started out at this little club…it was tiny. It had a little bar upstairs with a downstairs room. The stage was a total of six inches off the ground and I think if you got a hundred and fifty people in there it was really uncomfortably full.
Did you ever tour Europe?
We played a few shows in mainland Europe, but mostly in Britain. We did a few gigs in holland and a few gigs in Germany, we didn’t really get outside of Britain very much. We got successful in Britain quite early so we toured on the back of that. You know, we broke up after two years so we didn’t get the time to go much further.
What bands did you tour with?
The first major tour we did was supporting the Damned and we went out on a 30 day tour of Britain. Both bands were in really good shape and it was a really good tour because things were still really exciting and both bands were really trying hard. Later that year we did a tour supporting Iggy Pop and that was like a dream come true because me and Gaye were both big fans. That tour was our biggest because all the dates were theater dates rather than club dates. All of a sudden here was this little punk band that started 6 months ago and we were supporting our hero.
Editors note: 11 years later I’m realizing how stupid it was not to have any follow up questions about the Iggy Pop tour. Ah well, hindsight is 420, as they say.
So it caught on that quick?
Yeah our first gig was January 1977 and by summer of 77 we had a hit single and we were a famous pop band.
Did you guys ever tour the US?
Nope, we were advertised to play CBGB’s once but it never happened, I never knew why but now I’m beginning to figure out how hard it is to get a visa and it makes sense why we weren’t able to get a visa. (Tv missed the first handful of dates with Jay Reatard after he was denied a visa in London.)
What was Britain’s reaction to The Adverts and the other first generation punk bands?
They were shocked, completely shocked. It was unbelievable. That’s kind of what made you think you were doing something right. We started because we didn’t like society and we didn’t like the music that was going on. They were just absurdly shocked, looking back and thinking about how people were protesting outside Sex Pistols concerts and holding up banners.
The mere existence of Lavender Flu makes me feel like garage rock is back in the rightful hands of those who deserve the recognition, even if there’s little to be found in that department in 2020.
2018’s Mow the Glass was awesome. 2020’s Barbarian Dust is a masterclass. If we’re all alive in 2022, maybe the rest of the world will catch on to what many of us already know to be true: Lavender Flu fucking rules.
I caught up with The Hummingbird Whisperer (Scott Simmons) and Gresham Ocarina (Chris Gunn) to learn more about their latest album.
Where does the album title Barbarian Dust come from? Drugs?
G.O.: At band practice one day, sound and visions invaded, merciless knocking and yelling at the door. All signs pointed to a part time post post post post post new age crust punk kicking our door down to berate us mercilessly with the Nurse With Wound list. Said list was scrawled in classic punk font on a 10 foot scroll wielded and unfurled as some sort of fabric whip. This costumed warrior would yell at us to “Do Your Homework” and READ THE LIST!!! Turns out it was just the Hummingbird Whisperer banging on the door. He’d had an epiphany. The title has to be “Barbarian Dust” he said. No questions asked. We went from there.
HW: Smart drugs
Who did the artwork and where did the concept come from? The color scheme is awesome. I feel like if it was black and white It would almost look like an anarcho punk bands LP.
HW: That color scheme was inspired by a sick Rosemary’s Baby poster that I had and punk had nothing to do with it. Maybe a little bit of Emory Douglas….
G.O.: Thanks! We ARE an anarcho punk band. It’s interesting that the images are strangely relevant to current events. The album layout was put together a year before the end of life as we knew it. Our muse (pronounced MOOZE) is always Michael Anthony related and we follow that for better or worse. The Rajneeshees on the inner sleeve can tell you a lot. I used to live a few blocks away from their old fire bombed hotel.
So this is the first proper studio recording for Lavender Flu, What was that experience like? Anything you did there that you “couldn’t” do before?
HW: It was cool to record where Nu Shooz recorded. Always had a soft spot for Poolside. Otherwise it was pretty much about getting good drum sounds. Was nice getting to fuck around with the vibraphone too. But really, Justin Higgins could record us anywhere and make it sound cool.
GO: It was fun but reminded me why I don’t really like recording in proper studios. We were really just using the room to get bigger sounds then our last record which was recorded live in a one room cabin. Justin was still recording us on the same tape machine as the last records. We used a bigger mixing board this time. We were able to fully maximize the gong recording as well as the expertly played Thunderlube.
I gotta say, this album still feels pretty free, maybe even more free than Mow The Glass? You went into the confines of the studio to really get free?
HW: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”
GO: Sometimes you have to put on nice running shoes to truly dance like water.
“No One Remembers Your Name” might be the prettiest LF song I’ve heard. Can you talk about that track a little bit?
HW: That one came together really quick and instantly had that Big Star / Real Kids ballad feel.
G.O: Thank You. “Just Like Darts” and “Common at Noon” are foundational for me. I am constantly hunting for the way those songs make me feel. “Don’t go downtown to the record stores cause all your friends stop and stare.” Have you ever realized that Thurston Moore ripped off John Felice’s vocal style? We try so hard to go backwards and backwards. Like Neil Hagerty said “Just can’t Depend on those Memories.” It seemed fitting to talk about these themes in a very traditional songwriting style.
Was it intentional to leave “Mow the Glass” off the album of the same name?
G.O: The album was inspired by the song that hadn’t been written yet… To explain further, we were forced to open a show for Thurston Moore a few years ago and my brother was convinced Steve Shelley was an imposter. He still does not believe that was the real Steve Shelley and I am starting to think he is on to something.
At what point did you realize you were gonna put the Burzum (read as Venom, I pose) cover on the album? What’s the history there?
HW: We started playing that song not longer after we started playing live. Originally we were gonna put it on a 7″ but since those are stupid expensive these days, by the time we were working on the album, we thought it fit with that batch of songs. Gresham Ocarina got obsessed with that song at the warehouse he used to work at.
G.O: Its actually a Venom cover. There is a deep twisted history there and I am glad you asked. I worked in a warehouse for 8 years where you walked in circles all day lifting bottles and cases of wine. There was one stereo system and it was extremely important because whatever music was being played was either salvation or made the shitty situation nearly unbearable.
We were in there for 17 straight hours sometimes. You had to work until the orders were done. I have seen grown humans near tears in that warehouse because of Victor Wooten being played… again. I have seen grown humans nearly fight each other because some “jazz fan” decided to play Mahavishnu Orchestra… again. Into this hell walked a giant of a man who shall remain nameless. He was about 6 ft 6” and 350 pounds of bronzed muscle. He used to change out of his workout clothes on the loading dock which really confused the truckers delivering wine. A giant naked bodybuilder lurking in the corner of a warehouse is an unexpected sight.
This guy was my friend and I miss working with him a lot. He could lift three cases of wine like they were feathers. He kept trying to get me to try ‘Roids. “How old are are you Chris?” he would say “36? Its all down hill from here. Let me get you some Testosterone. Its gonna fucking change your life!!!” Anyways, this guy played the 7 same albums on the communal warehouse stereo on repeat. Each album multiple times a day. Metallica- Kill Em All, Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath- Master of Reality, TOOL, Primus, and Venom- Black Metal. He especially loved to play “In League with Satan,” over and over and over again.
I had never heard that song before but its SOO fucking great. I was so happy to hear it instead of TOOL or Alice in Chains or fucking PRIMUS. So I was always ecstatic when “In League with Satan” was played on that stereo and it meant a lot to me because of what it was not and what it was. The Clockwork Orange experience of the music forced onto me in those 8 years has seeped into Barbarian Dust for sure.
Who are some of your favorite lesser known musicians from the Pacific Northwest? Past and present is chill.
HW: From right now I would say Mope Grooves has a bunch of great pop songs. Michael O is MO and Virginia from the Mantles with some friends. Great songs and he has an album out under that name that is a total sleeper. Regarding older stuff. In the mid-late 90’s there was a scrappy all over the place band called Irving Klaw Trio that morphed into Hochenkeit. Their best stuff only came out on CD. The song “GIve Me The Message” by the Neo Boys stands with any late 70’s Rough Trade single. The Whines “Hell To Play” is a great album that came out at the wrong time.
GO: Current: MouthPainter, Barry Walker Jr. Sunfoot, Mope Grooves, Michael O, Gen Pop, Lucas Gunn, Tenses. Past: Tim Hardin
Can you talk about the poem on the inner sleeve of the record?
GO: Its the lyrics from a song from another one of our records. It was vaguely inspired by an unwritten Phillip K. Dick book about aliens that have no ability to hear music but want to experience it desperately so they plant their consciousness into a human in order to have ears. The symbiotic relationship allows the human to gain all sorts of new abilities as well. The lyrics have nothing really to do with this but they were written on a bus ride through Albany, Oregon.
Riley Gale from the band Power Trip was a larger than life figure in the underground music scene who passed away earlier this week. I called him up for an interview in 2014 and he obliged, answering my semi-loaded questions about hip hop and hardcore, questions I half knew the answer to already.
Years later I’d end up booking Power Trip at a tiny bar in Memphis, but when I heard the news on Tuesday the only thing I could think of is an uneventful night sitting at the Barracuda in Austin by myself. I don’t remember why I was there or who played, but Riley came and sat down next to me. We didn’t talk about anything important, but that’s the most poignant memory I have of him. For some reason, that interaction outweighs the time I booked his band or watched them level The Teragram in LA on the absurd tour they did with Destruction Unit.
Anyway, I thought people may want to revisit this pretty short interview where Riley talks about the formation of Power Trip and Dallas hardcore more than anything else. Rest in peace. A legend gone way too soon.
How did Power Trip first start? What made you guys want to start playing together?
Riley Gale: We started in 2008. My old band had broken up, and Blake knew I was looking to do something in the crossover, mid-to-late ’80s NYHC type of style. His parents lived in the same suburb of Dallas as mine. We got together, and he showed me some riffs. We got his friend who played drums to start playing with us, and it just kind of built from there. We played some local shows, and then a label showed some interest. Shortly after that people outside of Texas showed interest. We just have been pushing it since then.
The first label we were working with was called Double or Nothing. They kind of botched the whole thing. They lost the record and the dude kind of fell off the face of the earth. I’ve never even talked to the original guy to ask him what happened with the label. It’s ironic that it was called Double or Nothing because we kind of gambled on them and lost.
You guys have been described as a hardcore band, a metal band, and a crossover band. How would you describe your music? How important are labels like those today?
I mean, if you’re going to pigeon hole us, I guess crossover would be the label I would use. Me and Chris grew up in the punk scene and then got into metal. We all listen to hardcore, punk, and metal, and we take elements from all of it. I would consider us hardcore punks playing metal.
How were you guys involved in the Dallas hardcore community prior to forming Power Trip? Would you say that the scenes in Austin or Dallas helped mold you guys into the type of band you are?
I’ve been in the Dallas scene since 2000 or 2001. But around 2005 was when I had a local band that got kids excited about hardcore music. At that time, if 100 people came to a show it was considered a great turnout. The average shows would only bring about 40 people. When that band broke up we started Power Trip, and we were actually decent, so the shows got better. Through people’s hard work it’s become the best scene in Texas, and it’s one of the best in the country now. Without bragging, I think we helped make Dallas a place that’s worth playing. Bands used to skip us all the time but now that doesn’t happen. Everybody comes to Dallas now. The guys in Iron Age also got me into a lot of the bands I’m into now. I’d say they had something to do with the way Power Trip sounds.
Lyrically there seems to be more going on in your songs than the typical hardcore song message. What are some of the topics you cover with your lyrics?
It’s funny because I cover a lot of topics that are still pretty prevalent in the hardcore scene. ‘If you don’t like the world as it is then change it,’ ‘don’t take shit from people,’ all the cliché tropes are still present, but I tend to hide them in allegory or metaphor. I try to present typical ideas in a way that people haven’t thought of looking at them before. I’m not writing a fucking doctorate thesis, but I try to write about topics in ways that they haven’t been addressed before. It’s the closest thing I would do to poetry in a sense. I could be straight forward and say the world is doomed, and it’s going to end, or I could come up with a creative way to say that.
Do you listen to any Memphis Rap or Hip-Hop? How about any old Houston or Texas rap from the ’90s? Who are some of your favorites?
In the van and at shows we listen to all kinds of music, especially southern rap. We actually had something on our [contract] in Europe that said we got to control the house music before and after the bands. The last thing we want is more loud guitar music after 6 hours of loud heavy music. Our drummer is from Houston, so we listen to a lot of that stuff. Some of the more obscure Memphis stuff we don’t know about, but we like a lot of the big names like Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia. I listen to the Ghetto Boys and DJ Screw all the time. On my old computer, I had a full discography of DJ Screw. I think it was like 20 gigs. That computer died unfortunately, probably from a DJ Screw overdose. A couple years ago we had a Juicy Jay rip-off shirt that said ‘We Trippy Mane’, but that was before he got embraced by the frat-boy scene.
Can you tell me more about the Extermination compilation that’s coming out soon? Is that the first new music from Power Trip since your album came out?
It’s technically not a new song. It’s a rerecorded song from our demo that we just didn’t do right the first time around. One of the guys from the label that’s doing the compilation approached us about doing it and we were interested, but it was hard to find time to write a new song so we rerecorded that old song during the session that our LP was recorded in.
What else do you guys have planned for the rest of 2014? Are you guys recording new material any time soon?
We are starting this three week-tour with Mammoth Grinder on Monday in Memphis. Then we will be home for the fall and probably go back out in the winter. There won’t be any new music until next year, but hopefully early next year we will release a single that leads up to another LP.
I figure its best to start a new web mag with a brand new band, and Romero’s debut single is a certified smoker. Something tells me members Dave and Lana didn’t expect to get hit up for an interview this early into their “careers” but thankfully they were up for it.
Crunchy Magazine: How did you settle on the name Romero? Are you big Night of the Living Dead Fans or..?
Dave: We really struggled for a while to decide on a name… we wanted something that could eventually have it’s own meaning, like a surname rather than an adjective + noun. I’m a massive fan of George A. Romero and had floated Romero at some point, no one was too keen until I created a powerpoint presentation that explained how it was the perfect name. The fact that it’s the name of the hearse in GTA was a strong selling point. I did a full on TED talk and at the end we all hugged.
Nice, Wasn’t expecting a GTA reference. What’s the verdict on having your music be in a video game? I think video games have served as the gateway to underground music for a lot of young people.
Dave: Oh yeah big respect to whoever compiled the soundtracks to San Andreas and Tony Hawks Underground! Those turned me onto so much interesting stuff when I was a kid and encouraged me to explore different genres. I would love to hear Romero on GTA!
Your debut single recently came out and had a lot of worldwide internet punk hype surrounding it (does anything else matter in life?). Are we to believe these are your first songs as a band? And how long have you been a group?
Lana: The horse has well and truly bolted and we couldn’t be happier really.. We’ve been a band for about a year and a half now! They’re not our first songs, just the first to be released. Coincidentally these two songs were the last that we wrote about a month or so before going into the studio.. and we’re so lucky that Cool Death came into the picture because we didn’t have much of a plan in place for after recording.
Are there any more unreleased songs from that recording session?
Lana: We recorded six songs during the session. Two of them we have scrapped, and the other two will most likely be on the upcoming album.. possibly with a little tweaking. At this point in time we have 11 songs for the record.
What do you guys do when you’re not doin Romero? Jobs / Hobbies / Other bands?
Dave: At the moment most of us are still working but we spend a lot of time writing for Romero and other projects – Ferg and I play in EYESORES, Lana performs with a Blues Brothers band and song writes in her spare time, and Adam has his own solo thing called Boredwalk. Adam and Murry both have a concerning obsession with NHL too.
How big is Hockey in Australia? I’ve been to a couple Kings games and the fans are the best part in my opinion. Whats the typical Australian hockey fan like?
Dave: Haha well the only two fans I know are Adam and Murry and those guys suck!! Nah, it does seem like a friendly environment as opposed to other sports. But I’m not too sure how big it is here… The NHL games look very fun and I know those guys would kill to see a Sharks v Rangers game one day.
The lyrics to “Honey” are some of the best I’ve read in a while, and the vocal cadence is so fucking rad. Lana, were you singing the lines “Bang heads, last night I got home thinking something that you said” before the guitar parts for this song was written?
Lana: Haha wow thanks so much! It’s funny you mention those lyrics because they were really the last piece of the puzzle for me.. the boys had the chorus down, and I was adamant that I didn’t want a ‘huge’ chorus vocally… it’s so easy to get swept up into thinking that the chorus has to be big.
Who is the song “Honey” about and what really happened at the discotheque?
Lana: I really don’t know what happened!!? That’s the problem you see… drinking. to be honest I had a lot of unused lyrics from late nights that I threw into the Honeypot (pun intended). The song is about chicks and nightlife really…. I just wanted to sing stuff that sounded good, and I REALLY wanted to have the word discotheque in a song because it’s a sickkkk word… we don’t say discotheque in Australia. It’s just a good ol’ club ain’t it?
Discotheque is indeed a sick word. So it seems like the song is kind of a blurry mashed up memoir to going out and partying around at night?
Lana: Yeah it’s definitely a mashed up memoir because the lyrics aren’t exactly narrative. The girl in the red dress is real but what I’m implying in the chorus is that usually we would ‘bang heads’ or I’d be ‘at her neck’ or that we would be an unlikely duo.. instead this time I took a part of her home with me.
How do you know the label Cool Death? How did they come to release your music?
Dave: It was an instagram thing where they saw us playing live through a friend and then asked us to play Maggotfest which was huge for us. Pretty much after that show we organized the 7” with them. Ferg also already knew Bradford through his brother from long ago. We couldn’t really ask for a better release considering how young we are as a band so massive thanks to them.
Maggotfest seems like an amazing time, is that something that you guys had attended before being asked to play? Greatest Maggotfest set you’ve witnessed?
Dave: Ferg was a devotee of Maggotfest but the rest of us were fresh meat! I’m eternally disappointed in myself that I didn’t catch Royal Headache headline or the time they brought out Hank Wood, Dawn of Humans and Crazy Spirit. But I can vouch for R.M.F.C. – they were my favs at the last one.
Both songs on the debut single seem to have an upbeat vibe, would you say you’re a generally positive band?
Dave: Definitely as a band we stay positive because we all love making music, but I would say we are more melancholic – our music sounds happy but its not about happy shit.
I really appreciated that your single came with a sticker. What band has the best stickers in the Melbourne punk scene?
Dave: Yeah those screen-printed stickers came out really nice thanks to Troppo Print studio. Brad Pot (RIP) are sticker kings of Melbourne for sure though, they’re all over every urinal – Adam even saw their stickers while on holiday in the US.
What’s next for Romero?
Lana: Well we’re in the midst of writing the last few songs for an album which we are hoping to have out by the end of the year.. fingers crossed.
Dave: We’re so stoked with how much love we’ve received internationally, so we really want to organize overseas tours ASAP.
All photos courtesy of Kaitlyn Hickey.
Check out Romero and other bands on Cool Death Records here.