Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interviews: MATH THE BAND

Ithaca Underground's Bubba Crumrine catches Kevin and Justine of Math The Band on a rare day off on their way back from South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Several pauses in the interview had to take place for the interviewer or the interviewees to collect breaths from laughing or attempt to get back on task in one of the most fun and hilarious interview we've ever been a part of which gives a great glimpse into what to expect from this candy-fulled, analogue synth fueled duo of crazy people.  Today you'll learn about the adverse relationship between good pizza and good shows, Math The Plague, Candy Cereal, the best show food, new tunes, and more.  They're Math The Band... who the hell are you?

IU: How was SXSW?

K:  It was OK.  We played way too many shows each day. We determined that if the show was at a pizza shop then it would not be a good show.  If it was not at a pizza shop than it would be a good show.

 IU: So there is a relationship between pizza shops and good shows?

K: Yes. However, the shows that were at pizza shops, did have good pizzas and those that were not at pizza shops, did not have good pizzas.  So you have to choose. 

IU: Was this your first time playing SXSW?

K: Yes, first time at SXSW but we’ve played Austin before.

IU: Was it worth it?

K: Well, if we were just coming through town and that was our only Austin show, it would have been a bummer.  There’s just too much going on at the same time. 

J: It’s a thing where there’s 2,000 bands trying to do the same thing so it’s a bit overwhelming. 

K: There’s even more than that total.  That’s the official bands, there’s upwards of 7,000 bands in town.  At any moment in town there’s like 800 shows happening at the same time. 

J: You couldn’t go anywhere in the city and not hear a show going on. 

K: That said we had one really good show every day which is pretty good. One of the shows even had a goat.

IU: A goat? Was it a show at a pizza shop or not at a pizza shop?

K: It was not at a pizza shop.  That one was in someone’s backyard.  It was pretty amazing!

IU: Would you do it again?

K: Oh yeah! This year we worked on the rule of playing as many shows as we could.  Next year I say we would be picky. We saw that there were some bands that were playing 15 shows.  We wanted to prove that we could get a lot of shows so, we took as many as we could. I think we would have been better off picking 3-4 good shows than picking 9 shows and having half of them be good.  So if we do it again we’ll just do one a day. 

J: Quality over quantity!

IU: Sounds reasonable! Looking back to last summer, what happened when we were supposed to have you out here with The Emotron?

K: Justine and I just graduated in December which meant back in the fall we had our last semester of college.

J: I had to find an internship before school started which I needed to interview for.  I had to get home much more quickly than initially anticipated.  Orientation was on a Wednesday and I needed to find a place to intern in the next week and a half.  If we continued on tour I wouldn’t have made the orientation.  Which sucked, but now we get to get together and do a show!

IU: Hooray! So, no more having to balance school and tour?

J: Not for the time being!

K: Now instead we’re crossing our fingers that we don’t get fired.

IU: Another can of worms!  Looking back even further, how did Math The Band evolve from a bedroom recording project to a touring band?

K: I started setting up shows and touring because people asked me to.  To be honest, it was never decision.  The whole thing just sort of happened.  I never intended to even play shows but people asked me to so I said OK! And here we are. 

IU: What got you into the style of music Math The Band has become?

K: I really don’t know.  I’ve always been fascinated with analog synthesizers.  I have reoccurring dreams of finding supermarkets where that’s all that they sell and they’re really cheap.  Almost every thrift store I go to I have déjà vu of finding something really cool there.  Outside of that it was a very natural progression.

IU: I hear you have quite the collection!  What’s your favorite?

K: I like my Yamaha CS-15 a lot. I regret that it’s kind of fragile so I don’t get to take it out of the house very often.  I think that would be my favorite that I had.  We’re trying to save up for a Minimoog model C but it’s going to be a bit before we can afford one.

IU: Which ones do you take on tour?

K: Right now we’re bringing the most replaceable one, our Moog MG-1.  We have a rule, if it’s something we would cry over if it broke, we don’t bring it with us.  Which actually came in handy because, at SXSW there was one show in particular that was really great and I got a little carried away and I smashed up my guitar pretty good.  It’s now being held together half with tape and half with screws which we drilled through the body to hold the neck on.  It should last us another week.  But that’s why we brought the cheapest guitar that I own on tour.  So in case things like that happen, it’s OK.

IU: Just in case you get excited and have to smash something, you’re covered.

K: Exactly!

IU: Do we need to bring a spare guitar just in case that one doesn’t make it?

K: No, it will make it! We promise. 

IU: What’s your best tour story?

K: Here’s a recipe for you.  This is what you need to buy… Skittles, sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Nerds, Swedish Fish, Mike & Ike’s, sour Mike & Ike’s, tangy twister Mike & Ike’s, and Starbursts and then you open them all up, put them in a bowl, and mix it all up.  Then, you get a couple cans of Red Bull, pour that on it, and you eat it like cereal! It’s called Candy Cereal and we ate it in a hot tub! 

IU: Wowee! How did you feel?!

K: Really great! We really recommend it.  If you don’t do the Red Bull thing, it’s still Candy Trail-Mix and it’s still pretty good. But it’s not as extreme as pouring Red Bull all over it and eating it with a spoon. 

IU: Doesn’t it all start clumping together?

K: It doesn’t actually but the coloring from all the Nerds and Skittles comes off because the Red Bull dissolves it and it just turns black!  So, if you don’t put Nerds or Skittles in it, then the color change does not happen as much. 

IU: I’m going to have to try this… Did you two come up with this idea or was it presented to you?

K: Our friend, The Emotron, introduced us to Candy Trail-Mix and we added our own ingredients.  We made ours more sour – he doesn’t put the sour candies in.   He likes to put Red Hots in it! 

Also, three of us took 40 inches (combined) diameter of pizza, sat with it in a hot tub, and just ate the pizza.  We tried to invite ladies in but they didn’t come.  But they didn’t… We had a line to lure them in, we’d say “Come on in! The pizza’s fine!”  And it was!  But none of them would take it.

J: Accept for me! (Laughs)

IU: And that’s how you joined the band, right? (Laughs)

J: Yep! That’s how I joined the band. (Laughs)

K: We offered her pepperoni pizza in a hot tub and she was in!

Another cool story was when we played in an airplane hangar in South Carolina with Peelander-Z.  There was a 250lb man who tore his shirt off, climbed to the top of a refrigerator, jumped off and crowd surfed!  Then people everybody did human pyramids and other people ran into them like human bowling.  The closing act for this show which, again, was in an airplane hangar, was a circus.  A real live traveling circus! This girl contorted herself into a suitcase, came out of the suitcase, put flags in her mouth which a guy from across the room whipped out with a big long whip.  Then this girl lit a whole bunch of stuff on fire, lit her pants on fire, and then danced the fire out! Another guy did break dancing on broken glass.  That was the closing act at a show in an airplane hangar in South Carolina and that was really neat!

We slept there and when I woke up there was this giant dog named RAMBO that had all of his arms and legs wrapped around me.  Then I got sick and I’m pretty sure it was because of Rambo.  I’ve made no less than 15 people sick since then, personally.
J: Including me!

K: I’ve gotten no less than 15 people pretty darn sick.

IU:  Are you still sick?

K: Yes I am!

J: And I am too!

IU: You’re both still sick? Don’t get me sick!

K: I can almost promise that I will.

J: You should take your emergency now.

K: Yes, you should start drinking your pineapple juice now, sir.  

IU: Dammit! You’ll be Math The Plague, you’ll be infamous!

K: Math The Plague: spreading it across the nation.

(Interviewer’s note: at this point I’m nearly suffocating from laughter so, let’s all take a deep breath and continue).

IU: If someone asked you, “Who the hell is Math The Band?” what would you say to them?

K: I’d say “Who the hell are you?” That is exactly what I’d say.  I’d say “Who the hell do you think you are? We’re Math The Band. Whadda you got?”

IU: They got nuthin’!

K: Exactly.

J: (laughing) Oh god…

IU: It’s a good response (laughing even more… conversation breaks down into a series of hand gestures which would be hard to translate as it was difficult enough to translate them over the phone). What sort of worldly advice can you offer touring bands?

K: If you play at a burrito place, everyone will crowd-surf burritos. 

J: It will be great!

K: Also, if you’re going go to a show and you’re hungry and need to bring a meal, a burrito is the perfect thing because you can hold it in the air and pump your fist with the burrito!

J: It’s true!

IU: So there should be more burrito show spaces?

K: Yes, although you can also show up with a whole cheese pizza and that feels pretty cool too.  I’ve done that, just stand in a crowd with an entire cheese pizza. 

IU: In the box or out of the box?

K: In the box.

IU: Did you share it?

K: No, I did not.  I went to that show alone and nobody was getting’ my pizza.  “Math The Band: nobody's gettin’ our pizza.”

IU: Not even if they asked nicely, knew you, and didn’t ask “Who the hell is Math The Band?”

K: It depends on if we were done eating the pizza or not.

J: Or if they offered us money.

IU: So, to recap, if they pay for the pizza or if you no longer need the pizza, you’ll be willing to give up pizza?

J: Or, if they trade us better pizza with more toppings.  Like pepperoni or peppers and onions. 

K: We’re not in the business to lose pizza.

J: It’s true.

K: You can also make Pizza Cereal.  You take different types of pizza, cut them up into small pizza, and add ranch dressing and a little bit of water to make it soupier.   Eat it with a fork or a spoon.

J: Gross! That sounds awful! (Laughs)

IU: Water is taking that way too far.  (Laughs)

J: I was on board ‘til the ranch dressing with water came in…

(More deterioration into Cap’n Crunch, making candy cereal part of a contract rider, Kevin not accepting change, the IU recording mechanisms faltering...  let’s regroup and start over.)

IU:  So, you had a new album come out last year, correct?

K: Correct! It’s called “Don’t Worry” and it’s awesome.

IU: Is that the newest of the new or do you have newer material on the way?

K: Actually, we had close to three new albums recorded when my hard drives failed and had to be reformatted.  We lost everything.  But we’ll be recording again.

IU: What are the new tracks?

K: You’ll see! We’ll be playing several new songs at the show.  Our new set up has a lot more live instrumentation, mostly midi controlled.  Midi controlled analogue synths, 8-bit game consoles, newer computers controlling old computers, and more. Other material we’re recording even has a live drummer.

IU: That’s great! I can’t wait to see the set up.  Will you look to have a drummer on the road with you in the future?

K: Possibly.  We’ve toured with a drummer before.  Currently we have one drummer in Seattle and another in the works.  In the meantime we’re going to keep doing it how we can.  We’re always looking for people to play, show to show, tour to tour. 

IU: So Math The Band is a bit of an ever changing entity at this point?

K: Yeah, but no matter how much it changes its still me sitting down, writing music, and showing it to other people.  In the meantime we’ll be playing our drum tracks through our PA system.  We bring a 2600W PA system with us to every show.  In fact, we played in Arkansas in this club, and they must have had a 4000W PA system.  We set up our PA on the stage, playing our tracks through that and people were like “hold on, we can’t hear your vocals!”  The sound guy said he couldn’t get our vocals louder than our PA.  Being in a band that relies so much on having a decent PA system is so stressful on tour because what happens when you show up and all they have is a 50W PA with one microphone – which happens.  Traveling with our own is just a sense of security that money can’t buy.  Except, it did. It totally did.

IU: Anything else we should look forward to at your performance at The Shop this Saturday, the 27th?

K: Nope.  There’s nothing else to look forward to.  That’s the exact number of things to look forward to.  There’s nothing else.

J: Nope! About eight songs, us, and…. oh, jokes!

K: Yes, jokes! For the first time we saw a review of our band that prominently featured a joke that I told.  I was really excited. It was the official SXSW showcase, the guys who wrote “The Best of SXSW”.  I play a guitar with only four strings – Presidents of the United States of America do it so of course that’s the way I’m going to do it.  During our set I broke two strings so, therefore I only had two strings left and I said “Mah mama always said you only need two strings to play the guitar, A and G.  I’m not sure which strings are left on this but Ima call my mother after this and find out.”  That’s what he wrote about us.  He just wrote my joke. 

We’re shooting to be stand up comedians in addition to being in a band.  We try to work in a joke or two between songs to test out material until we hit the big time. 

IU: So, Math The Band is just what you’re doing in the meantime until you make it big in comedy?

K: Exactly.  So, you can look forward to a number of family appropriate jokes.   

IU: Are they all family appropriate?

K: Yes.  One of my favorites is bleeding and then asking people to lick it.

IU: It’s a family affair!

K: Exactly!  And that is science.