Ahead of an extensive UK tour I catch up with Brooklyn punkers the So So Glos to talk rock n roll, baseball and basements.
The So So Glos are a band that inspires a wealth of music writing clichés. They're a 'band of the people', they are 'DIY heroes', they 'mean it, man'. The thing about these four guys from Brooklyn is they genuinely are all those things. Inspired from a young age, these guys have spent their entire creative careers following an alternative path to the music industry bullshit.
Comprised of three brothers and a lifelong family friend, they came together as children inspired by Nirvana and punk rock and haven't looked back. Since these earliest days the band have been self-releasing their music and forging a tight scene of friends and collaborators (including epic East Coast Punks, Titus Andronicus). Their dedication to both doing things their way and enabling others to do the same has led to the band helping to create Shea Stadium, a collectively run venue for local bands and artists.
Their recently released second album Blowout, is an angry blast of Buzzcocks and Clash inspired rawk, with the New York attitude of the Ramones and a young Springsteen, and they're about to do what all DIY warriors (another cliché for you there) do and take it on the road.
Before their run of shows in the UK I had a chat with bassist Alexander Levi about what the band are trying to achieve.
"You're clearly a band who's taken the classic DIY punk ethic to heart; can you tell me a little about the venue you co-founded, Shea Stadium in Brooklyn?"
We got involved with Shea because we had some prior experience working and living in speakeasy type venues. Our oldest friend, producer and occasional fifth So So Glos member, Adam Reich started the place and we jumped on board to help build the foundation. It's bred on ethics we believe in. Non-exclusive, all ages and open to everyone who comes through that threshold. In the beginning it was a place for us misfits who felt like outsiders in our own scene and city. One of the pillars of this DIY shit is exactly that. If you don't have a place where you feel like you're at home, make one for yourself. That idea stands more permanent than any temporary space. If anyone doesn't feel welcome at Shea, I encourage them to form a more ideal space. That's what it's all about.
"What was the idea behind naming it after the original venue , which I believe is being turned into a mall?"
The original Shea stadium was a gritty, trashy place which served as home to notorious NYC underdogs, the New York Mets. We think it's important to preserve a bit of the grime and grit in this world, and I think it's safe to say that at this point in history, the spirit of punk rock and rock 'n' roll is in the hands of the underdogs.
"I heard it through the grapevine that you guys set it up with the guys from Titus Andronicus? Do you guys go way back with them?"
We came up playing house shows and basements with Titus. We go way back for sure. They started practicing at Shea and helping out with shows a while ago. There's a large community that currently holds Shea together.
There was a time not too long ago when there were only a handful of punk bands in Brooklyn. I can remember us, Titus Andronicus, Screaming Females, Le Rug, The Beets and a few more. We were laughed at for playing the type of music we did just a few years back. Now I hear about a new punk band "from Brooklyn" every day. Funny how things go and tables turn.
"Tell me a little about how the band got started?"
Our parents got divorced in 1991 so we clung on to music and became a gang and a band just like that. There was never a thought of a music "industry" or a fucking star plan or anything of that sort. Music was a place where we felt like we belonged and it came at a volume just loud enough to tune all the bullshit out. It still is. Those are our roots.
"Your sound suggests an influence from The Ramones, the Clash and maybe even the Replacements, but which band (if you could name just one) would you say was most important to your sound?"
There isn't just a single band that influenced our sound, It's a hodgepodge of styles that we've always been into. Since we're in the UK though, I think we ought to mention The Jags. They were an amazing and historically overlooked British band. Lyrically, I'd like to be somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Wu Tang.
"Blowout is your 2nd album, how does it differ to your first full length?"
All the records purposely have a different feel. The first record was self-titled and it's a straight forward rock 'n' roll record. That was a reaction to a "too cool for school" scene that we got trapped into during the early days of the So So Glos. Next we put out two shorter concept records. Tourism/Terrorism which is a post 911 escapist kind of thing. Low Back Chain Shift was an ep cantered around a faded New York and a longing for the elegance of what once was. It's a village green-esque tribute to our ever changing hometown. Blowout is a return to the roots of the rock and reggae that originally saved us as kids. We dug deep on this one through old tapes we made as five year olds and sampled a lot of home recordings from our childhood. On Blowout we use roots music as a shield to combat the anxiety provoking and panic stricken modern times we're living in. A generation of communication with nothing to say.
"What's the DIY scene like in Brooklyn Right now?"
It changes every 5 seconds. It's probably a damn Starbucks by now.
"With the internet having blown up the scene do you guys feel that you're part of an international scene or is it still very localised for you?"
The spirit of rock 'n' roll ain't on the Internet or in a specific scene. It's probably in a dingy basement somewhere where your cell phone doesn't get reception. I'd like to think we're all a part of that, if we choose to be.
"Do you feel like there aren't enough bands doing thing this way in the industry?"
The music industry bores me incredibly. You call this entertainment?
"You're going to be on tour in the UK soon (both headline and supporting the Hold Steady) are you excited?"
"What are your ambitions for the band in the long run?"
To inspire love and controlled anarchy on the dance floor.
The So So Glos are on tours with the Hold Steady before heading out on their own headline slot.