Bob Schmidt (Mandolin, Banjo)
HI BOB THANKS FOR CHATTING WITH ME. HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY?
I’m doing pretty well thanks!
CURRENTLY YOU ARE ON THE 7TH ANNUAL ‘GREEN 17 TOUR.’ THIS ISN’T JUST A TOUR, IT IS A TRADITION. HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WILL BE ON TOUR ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY? DOES IT VARY EVERY YEAR?
It’s usually kind of a lottery situation. We put it out there and it’s partially routing and it’s partially who wants us the worst.
WELL, WE WANTED YOU HERE IN LOS ANGELES.
We would have done L.A., but we are doing Coachella this year and you know how they do those tricky things with blackouts. There was probably a fair chance that we would have been in the L.A. area on St. Patrick’s Day except for that sad fact of reality in tour promotion.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT BANDS TO GO OUT WITH?
We listen to a lot of music and luckily we have a lot of friends who play in bands. We just put the feelers out that we are looking for bands and we will take submissions from anybody who is interested. Essentially we spend a lot of time listening to a lot of different music and I would say we are in a fairly fortunate position where we don’t need bands to fill seats in order to sell tickets at this point. It puts us in a position to bring out bands that we think people should hear rather than taking out a band that we need to bring out so that they can sell tickets. This year is a great example of that, both Moneybrother and The Drowning Men are great groups. They are some of my favorite music out right now. Moneybrother does really well in Europe and Sweden where they are from, but are just starting to crack into the States over the last couple years. The Drowning Men haven’t been together that long, but they have a really original sound and they write great songs.
SO MANY BANDS DESERVE TO BE HEARD AND IT IS RARE THAT SOMEONE WILL GIVE THEM A CHANCE LIKE THAT, SO THAT’S GREAT OF YOU GUYS.
Yeah, we love great music and we want people to hear it. We also have an audience that is fairly open minded given that they like us, so it is a good way to get bands that would normally be overlooked out there and into people’s eyes and ears.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU SEE IN THE AUDIENCE? DO PEOPLE WEAR GREEN HATS AND PAINT THEIR FACES GREEN?
There is a lot of dyed green facial hair and a lot of green Mohawks out in the crowd. There are also a lot of kilts, a larger than expected number of kilts out there usually. Every once in a while there is a guy dressed up as Luigi here and there. We’ve had Smurfs.
I KNOW WHAT A SMURF IS, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T.
Be careful because you are dating yourself there.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE AS FAR AS THE SHOW GOES?
We are bringing out a lot of songs from the new album that will come out at the end of May, so there is some new music in there. We are a pretty straight forward band, so there’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors going on. We have a new backdrop and a bunch of that stuff that we brought out for the new album.
ON APRIL 15TH YOU WILL BE AT COACHELLA THIS YEAR. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT SHOW? HAVE YOU DONE IT BEFORE?
We have done it once before and it is one of the festivals that is fairly close to their European counterparts. It is a cool experience getting out there and having that kind of wild fun in the desert. Everyone is just out there to listen to music and have a great time.
DO YOU KNOW ANY OF THE BANDS PLAYING THIS YEAR?
I believe The Black Keys will be playing the day we are. There are some decent acts out there. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys a lot. We are on the road so much and with our families that we don’t necessarily get a chance to see live music when we are not playing it. It is definitely a plus to get to the festivals both here and overseas to see a bunch of different acts working it out.
I'VE SEEN TWO DIFFERENT RELEASE DATES FOR YOUR BRAND NEW ALBUM TITLED SPEED OF DARKNESS. IS IT MAY 31ST OR MAY 24TH?
It is May 31st.
I THOUGHT THAT IS WHAT IT WAS, BUT SOME PEOPLE HAVE IT AS MAY 24TH.
We were originally going to put it out on May24th, but Lady Gaga’s album is coming out on May 24th. We decided to push it back and not be eclipsed in the media by the storm that would accompany her release.
THIS WILL BE YOUR FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM. WHERE DID YOU RECORD IT?
Well it was recorded in two places. The bulk of it was done in Asheville, North Carolina at a place called Echo Mountain Studios. It is an old converted church that they’ve turned into a recording complex. It is a really nice facility, it had a really good vibe, the sound was good and there was a ton of old vintage equipment that so few places have. When you are working in Pro Tools and all the other things, it really helps to kind of make it sound like an album. You are using all the vintage gear that all those albums were made out of. It adds a dimension of depth that some of the newer equipment doesn’t have.
We try not to use Pro Tools as a crutch, but it is kind of the norm as far as recording these days. As much as we like tape, it is expensive stuff to cart around when you are running as many tracks as we are.
THE ALBUM TAKES A LOOK AT THE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE IN THE U.S. WOULD YOU SAY THIS IS THE OVERALL THEME OF THE ALBUM?
I mean yes and no. I would say that is more of a background theme. It deals more with the personal aspect that the economic collapse is pretty much global. I know Dave did most of the lyrics between Ireland and Detroit, Michigan. Detroit was pretty much the epicenter of what happened in America. Ireland is a small country so the entire country feels the same affects as a city would in America. They are just as brow beat over there as people were in Detroit. I think the direct impact of what you see of neighborhoods collapsing, schools shutting down, hospitals shutting down and all these things happening are so much more visceral in Detroit. Everywhere you look you just see this decay and this society crumbling. It just seems so disturbing and unfathomable that it can happen so quickly. That is kind of where the title of the album comes from. There was this man we knew about a decade or two ago whose son when he was eleven or twelve grew up in Bosnia during the Bosnian Wars. He had come home from school and said he learned what the speed of light is, but they didn’t teach him what the speed of darkness was. They did a book about the Bosnia Conflict that was a chronicle of the war and its affect on different families and things like that. When we read that quote it seemed like such a great metaphor for how quickly that darkness can sweep over and really extinguish the light. How quickly things can change for communities, cities and for neighborhoods. At the same time the speed of light is equal to the speed of darkness and it can change back as quickly. You have to have that hope, that knowledge and the confidence that any state is temporal. Everything arises and falls away. The good will come back as quickly as the bad came.
SO THE MESSAGE YOU ARE TRYING TO GET ACROSS TO PEOPLE IS THAT IT’S BAD, BUT WE CAN GET IT BACK.
Yeah, it’s not like Ancient Rome anymore where everything is going to fall to the ground and people will go somewhere else. This has happened to every country in modern time, it will happen to us and you come back. The UK didn’t disappear off the face of the Earth. Things change and you move on.
THE ECONOMY AFFECTS EVERYONE, BUT HOW HAS IT AFFECTED YOU AS A BAND? I MEAN BESIDES THE FACT THAT GAS PRICES ARE SO HIGH.
Yeah, that is always an issue. Ticket sales and album sales are down across the industry, so there is some belt tightening going on with everybody. We are a big band and no one is rich in our band by a long shot. There is so many of us. It’s in our minds what people are going through and how hard it is to dig in your pockets to come out to see a show. The thing we do, is we try to give them bang for their buck, so that any money they are spending with us is going to be well worth while. We try to bring that celebration to help them forget about whatever woes they are going through. At least for two hours they can have a good time and not let all the burdens of life weigh too heavily on them. They can be in a group of people who are like-minded and are in similar situations. Everybody is feeling it, we are all together, all we can do is kind of band together and that is how we will make it through.
ARE THERE ANY GUEST VOCALISTS OR MUSICIANS ON THE ALBUM?
No, not on this album. We have a couple of guest musicians. We have Joe Kwon the cello player of The Avett Brothers who did a couple of lines on it. We had a guest piano player and a guest trumpet player. They were just some guys that were around town and could play. There aren’t any real celebrities on it.
WHICH SONG WOULD YOU SAY IS THE STRONGEST ON THE ALBUM?
The song I’m digging right now is called “Saints and Sinners.” It’s pretty straight forward, but the groove is really good. I’m excited about a lot of things on the album. “Saints and Sinners’ is one of the ones that we are doing right now and I think the reason I’m excited about playing it is just because we are out doing it. There are a number of songs that we are going to try to bring out over the next couple of weeks and start playing them. I’m sure I will add them to the things that I’m excited about.
YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO BE OUT ON THE ROAD UNTIL JUNE. I’M SURE YOU WILL GO BACK OUT AGAIN AFTER THAT. WILL YOU BE OUT FOR MOST OF THE YEAR?
Yes, in and out. We are doing festivals in Europe at the beginning and end of summer. We will be in Canada for a couple of weeks in the fall. There are definitely some more American dates squeezing in here and there.
TELL ME ABOUT BORSTAL BEAT RECORDS. IS IT THE BAND’S LABEL?
Yes, we decided to put together our own label and take a stab at doing it ourselves. The opportunity arose for us to be able to do it and it was kind of an exciting thing to have full control of everything that you are doing as an artist. We have always been pretty hands on with how we’ve managed ourselves, so it just seemed like a natural progression for us. It was hard to say goodbye to SideOneDummy because they had been with us for a long time. They had started a label themselves at one point, so they kind of got the logic of why it was an exciting thing to do and why we would want to do it. It’s different for us because we were never with a major label, so it wasn’t like we had these big guys digging their hands into our pockets, spending our money irreverently or trying to control us creatively. I think if you can afford to do it, it just doesn’t make sense. We scrimped and saved enough money to be able to afford to not take an advance to go into the studio or do any of the other stuff. That presented us with the opportunity to be able to do it. I don’t see why if you could, you wouldn’t once you get to a certain point. For a band just starting out, I think that there are a lot of things that having some kind of distribution or marketing can do to help get your name out there. Once the ball gets rolling, you can do just as much for yourself as anybody else can.
WILL YOU BE SIGNING OTHER BANDS TO IT?
I think our intention is to be able to use it as a platform to bring other bands to light that we like. I think we are going to make sure it works with us first before we drag anybody else in. I’d like to think that would work out. It’s an exciting prospect. We just want to make sure that the whole thing doesn’t go up in flames before we sign a bunch of different bands. I don’t think it’s much of a gamble per say, but it is just being able to handle wearing all of the hats that it takes to make it happen. That is where it all becomes complicated.
OK SO I HAVE A ST.PATRICK'S DAY RELATED QUESTION. HOW COME THERE ARE NO FEMALE LEPRECHAUNS?
I would say, referencing the classic movie 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People', that there are female leprechauns. They just don't have red beards, so they are less distinctive. They just look like little women.
GOOD ANSWER! WHAT IS YOUR DRINK OF CHOICE ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY?
It’s usually a Jameson on the rocks. Depending on the quality Guinness is always good.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE INTERVIEW. I HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL ST. PATRICK’S DAY! WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD OR SAY ANYTHING?
I will say that during the ‘Green 17 Tour’ we are selling the record in pre-sale in a bundle with a t-shirt and you get a little download card. If anyone is interested in getting their hands on it early then by all means it is available.