Hello world on this beautiful Tuesday morning. It would not be right to not mention that Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, died at 74. We not only mourn Ray but we also celebrate the music & legacy that he has left behind. That is always what I found so amazing with music is that it keeps the musician alive forever. Today I am excited to kick off Memorial Day week with a band from Wilkes-Barre, PA: The Nonrefundables. Brandon, Chris, Frank, and Pete have been a band since 2004 and recently released the new album ‘Nothing To Be Done.’ In this age of singles and EPs the guys have put together a 15 song classic. Whether playing live or releasing music, this band keeps busy and the guys will play NYC in June & July so check them out. Join us today as we talk about Wilkes-Barre, never giving up on music, good vs evil, and much more. Also check out the MP3 to “The Only One” here too. Who loves ya?!
Stoli: So where are we talking from today and how is your day going so far?
We are coming at you from sunny Northeast PA, the Wilkes-Barre part…which is to be distinguished from our sister city-Scranton. Wilkes-Barre is home to a noble class of hard working, hard drinking Americans and our music reflects that. Scranton on the other hand houses nothing but pot-bellied, tight pants wearing femmes who I suspect hate freedom.
How is my day going? Every day I wake up is assumed to be a step up from the day of what I like to call “normals”. On a scale of 1 through 10 I would have to say today is a 5….maybe 5.47. Using the Hondo to normal standardized conversion formula that would round up to a 400 for everyone else.
Stoli: You guys have been making music for almost a decade. What does being a part of The Nonrefunadbles add to your life and what is the key to sticking with it?
Ask any musician what motivates them and most will answer that it’s second nature. We certainly don’t do this for the money…in fact I think we are at negative $20,000 with this project…we do it because we have a boatload of fun. It really is a rush to come up with a new song and put it together with the band. The next step for us is to present it in public. To me there is no point to creating something if you don’t inflict it upon the world. We stick with it because we are and have been friends for a long time and we feel like we have been steadily improving and creating new ideas. If I felt that we were stagnating I would be the first to pull the plug.
Stoli: I really like the name of the band. How did you come to call yourselves The Nonrefundables?
It’s really a legal disclaimer. Without it we would have been liable for thousands of dollars in refunds to disappointed bar goers in our earliest shows (we have gotten better-I assure you). That and our runner up band name “Muppet cock” just didn’t have a female friendly ring to it.
Stoli: How much has your sound evolved and changed since the band started in 2004 or have you stayed within the same sound?
We started with a rough surf rock/power slop(don’t ask me to define power slop) sound which quite honestly sounded like someone hitting a cat with a baby. We made lots of enemies in those days with my stage persona mimicking fat, drunken, bearded, not-so-sexy Jim Morrison. We have grown up quite a bit since those days (and practiced once or twice) and the sound has evolved. First to more straight up punk then to a mellowing that included rockabilly, blues-esque, straight up rock and more punk…but punk that doesn’t sound like shit. Our songs have also become shorter as I have developed a liking for getting to the point of a song and ending it. If you can get the picture in 2 minutes why drag is out for 5?
The Nonrefundables “The Only One”
Stoli: I am really loving the new album ‘Nothing To Be Done’. How long was that being written & recorded and where can fans grab a copy?
We wrote the music for “Nothing To Be Done” through the Winter-Spring of 2012. The recording occurred during the Summer of 2012 at Saturation Acres (props to Bret Alexander) in Dupont , PA. You can pick up a copy on Amazon (physical/download), iTunes and/or Cd baby. Of course we always have this release and our other albums available at shows.
Stoli: I love the song “The Only One”. What is that song about and who came up with the hook?
The song is the age old story of the girl cheating on the guy and the guy refuses to see what is right in front of him. I (Hondo/Brandon) approach songwriting with the melody/sound being first and foremost. I usually have the chord structure and melody before I even start thinking about words. In the case of “The Only One” the words and theme of the song came after the musical elements were solidified. For me music is about the sound and how that sound gets a reaction from the listener. The words can then be molded.
Stoli: If you were to produce a music video for 1 song on the album what song would you pick and what is your vision for the video?
My personal choice would be “Where Hippsters Go To Die” I would imagine that such a video would have the band arriving at the venue for a show in a Mexican/Thai fusion food truck. The venue would be a former bowling alley cleverly titled “The Bowling Alley”. We would play a show to a crowd of people drinking $7 cans of PBR, staring at their smartphones and generally trying too hard. The setting would include “art” for sale (the art would be from my personal collection of crudely drawn stick figures), 3 DJs simultaneously blasting their playlists, a wine and rock candy tasting and an 80’s dance competition. Raw hot dogs would be served. There is a reason I don’t usually get asked to provide ideas for music videos.
Stoli: In the age where singles & EPs are the norm, what made you guys want to put out a 15 song album?
We actually didn’t think about the length much-manly men of action such as us act then think and possibly regret later. We had a possible 20 songs to choose from and ended up paring it down to 15. We felt that the songs were strong and wanted to add them to the ether. The last 3 recordings were full length also. Since we have been releasing a full length about every two years we feel that each one reflects an era of style change in our music. It can be hard to fully include all of our ideas in a 4 or 5 song release.
Stoli: How much time per week do you devote to the band and do you also have family & work/school as well?
Unfortunately we don’t do this for a living. We all have “day careers” and live for when we can perform(About 1-2 times a month). We get together once a week for “practice” which can include anything from visiting the local pub for “market research” to swapping recipes…sometimes we play our instruments. We have been together so long and have logged so many hours that we quickly and easily develop new music and rarely miss a beat playing live. I would put our best hour up against any other band’s.
Stoli: What brought on your signing with Blind Pigeon Records and how do they help boost your exposure & music?
I would consider Blind Pigeon to be a really cool and supportive network of musicians rather than a traditional record label. We had been playing/swapping shows with some BPR bands for a while when we were asked to sign on. It didn’t mean instant wealth and fame but what it did do was bring us into a group of bands who cross-promote and help get the word out about what we are all up to. The label is based out of Pottsville, PA and you can check it out here : http://www.blindpigeonrecords.com/
Stoli: After the whole Boston Marathon terror attack, I feel like nobody can keep the people safe from evil. What are your thoughts on this and how good & evil exist in the world?
I think that in a free society we can never be 100% “safe”. Being safer might include giving up significant amounts of privacy and staying out of public places. Is it worth giving up a life worth living just to “live”? We can’t let fear drive our behavior and certainly shouldn’t let it drive our public policy. Do I think there is good and evil? Absolutely…but my opinion differs a bit from most people. I think as human being it is our duty to create our own good for each other and to be the justice that balances out(or at least punishes) evil acts. To attribute acts of evil or to leave the repercussions for such actions to the supernatural such as karma or “hell” is an abdication of responsibility. The elites of the world have used belief systems since the beginning of such ideas to get the masses to accept a crappier life now in exchange for rewards or justice in some non-provable future. We owe it to ourselves to create good and take care of each other. We owe it to ourselves to hold those that commit evil acts responsible. We are the cause, the effect and the response…if we have the stones.
Stoli: What is coming up for The Nonrefundables and where are you @ online?
We have a few shows coming up:
Sat-June 1st The Parkside Lounge-317 E Houston St New York, NY 10002
Fri- July 19th-Ole Tyme Charlies-31 S River St, Plains, PA 18705
Sat-July 20-Otto’s Shrunken Head-538 E 14th St Manhattan, NY 10009
(Check our website for times)