Ringo Deathstarr are Elliott Frazier, Alex Gehring and Daniel Coborn. The three Texans are on the brink of great things. Excellent reviews followed the debut album Colour Trip (QRO review); they are now in a support slot alongside The Smashing Pumpkins (QRO live review) across Europe before working on a follow up album – due early next year.
QRO sat with the threesome in the busy dining area of the small Start the Bus venue in the heart of central Bristol with other diners and those out for the evening. Having just polished off their evening meals, Ringo were tucking into a couple of beers and Jack Daniels.
QRO: Welcome back to Bristol! Last time I met you guys was back in November 2010 whilst you were supporting The Wedding Present and just before the release of your debut album Colour Trip. How has the past year gone?
Daniel Coborn: It’s been crazy, just been touring non-stop, but really good.
QRO: During the summer you released Sparkler, a mix of early tracks. Were you pleased with the results?
Elliott Frazier: We didn’t want anyone to be unable to get hold of our stuff, so we had to reissue some of our stuff and it’s convenient to have it all in one place.
QRO: So how excited are you to be supporting The Smashing Pumpkins on tour?
Alex Gehring: Very excited!!
EF: We are still trying to adjust to being in that situation; it’s like you can’t really prepare for what’s in store for you even on the first day when you arrive.
QRO: So is it the sheer size of some of the venues?
AG: They are huge and The Smashing Pumpkins are taking their own stage and lighting with them everywhere. We haven’t really played shows where you have the whole catering and big back stage area. It’s very different to then playing places like [Start The Bus, Bristol]!
QRO: Any stand out shows for you so far?
DC: Yeah and Paris last night.
AG: Our first shows were a little shaky. I felt we took a little time to adjust to the venues.
You know we were not able to rehearse and prepare to play in a room like that.
AG: It’s like a different sound, from like our practice base back home, which is like a small room, and then you bring that onto a huge stage like an arena and all the sudden it sounds completely different, so it’s definitely taken a few shows to tweak the sound to how we like it.
QRO: But your sound is quite a big sound, and I can imagine you probably have no problem filling large halls with your wall-to-wall sound?
EF: It’s definitely good for us to be on a stage that big to put everything through the PA system, but you know we don’t normally play in that situation. It took us a few shows before we could understand what we needed to do with our own stuff to make it sound at it’s best. We had moments like where – ‘Oh man we should have realised this a long time ago.’ You know we have played large venues, like the ones with The Wedding Present. We should have realised stuff like this back then. Maybe we were just too stupid!
QRO: So do you think you have grown up or kind of evolved as a band since then?
AG: It feels like we are positively growing up, even with these last few shows.
You know it’s just really impossible to get it out of a box.
QRO: So when’s the day off? What do you do?
AG: We try to not have a day off
DC: We haven’t had an evening off for ages. `This is like 19 gigs in a row.
AG: It’s better for us that way.
EF: Days off are for lazy people or rich people!
AG: We would just spend money if we had days off.
DC: It’s not so bad at the moment. We are on about 7.30pm and finished within a couple of hours. It’s not a lot of work and we don’t have to drive everywhere between shows.
EF: That’s the other luxury of not headlining your own shows, you get to finish early and you don’t have to stay out late until 2am in the morning.
QRO: So how come you are playing Bristol in between all these shows?
EF: We’ve been trying to play here again since a year ago, for reason it never happened.
DC: We like Bristol; it’s got really great places.
EF: Yeah we have tried to come to this venue the last two times, but for one reason or another it never happened.
QRO: Which of your songs do you love playing live?
AG: I really love playing "Tiltawhirl" live; I feel that it’s a pretty fast paced song, which is simple to play. It’s new also. A lot of the songs we’ve been playing for five years now.
DC: This particular song is a Japanese stranglehold. We are going to Japan after this tour.
QRO: You have played Japan before yes?
DC: This will be our fourth time and the third time this year!
AG: It’s definitely where we do best, where we are best received. It’s like entering another dimension, your own dream world.
QRO: How does touring the U.S. compare with Europe and beyond?
DC: The U.S. sucks! [laughs]
QRO: Bearing in mind this is for an online American magazine!
DC: That’s ok… [more chuckles]
AG: We don’t really have a big following in America. They don’t get us. We will play a few cities and hook up with someone and play really small bars. You know where you maybe get a one drink ticket and maybe $50 for the night.
EF: You know we are not asking to be paid to make our pockets fat, but you know you can’t go on tour and be paid $200 a night. Maybe if you are 19 and right out of high school, and you haven’t got to lease an apartment, and you haven’t got a wife and pets and all those responsibilities, then maybe it’s a great opportunity.
QRO: So have you all got pets?
[A resounding yes from all three]
AG: Some of us have more pets than others. Elliott has a woman… [laughs]
EF: And here’s the leash right here… [points to his wedding ring on his finger]
[laughs all around the table]
QRO: Congratulations! Is that a recent thing?
EF: No, six and a half years. Yeah, before this band.
DC: That’s why it’s like difficult to go out there, ‘cause before this band we still had those responsibilities.
QRO: What do you miss most about home? Be careful before you answer this Elliott…
DC: Not a lot really. I don’t have to work when I am doing this, so I’m having a fun time. You know miss girlfriends or whatever.
EF: I like just being able to stay at home and not do anything. That’s what I do when I am back home.
QRO: So you are all working when you are back home?
DC: I am not right now
AG: I have two jobs – I work at a vintage clothing store and a coffee shop. I am actually really fortunate that they let me go on leave for so long. They are really awesome.
QRO: Alex, did you get into trouble with your dad after completing the "2 Girls" video?
AG: [with quite a stern voice] He has not seen it!
[laughing from everyone else]
He does not know it exists.
DC: Yeah right!
QRO: That was a fine bit of artistic work by the way!
AG: Thank you!
It was really fun to make, too. [giggles] My mum saw it and she was enthusiastic… I guess. My grandma especially [giggles], but I told her please don’t tell my dad. Maybe don’t mention it…
QRO: Better make sure he doesn’t read this…
AG: Just don’t give my full name ‘cause he Googles me and says, "Oohhh I saw a really cool picture of you on the internet" and I’m like… oh no! Maybe he has just not told me, because he’s embarrassed.
Ringo Deathstarr’s video for "2 Girls":
QRO: You have just released a new EP, The Shadow. Hot off the press, I haven’t heard it yet.
DC: What’s wrong with you? [laughs all around]
QRO: Is it a change of direction?
DC: Sort of.
EF: We were more prepared for releasing an EP. The only reason why we decided to do an EP was so that we could return to Japan sooner. You know we had these songs and we were writing for the next album, and basically we took whatever songs we had at that moment and put them on an EP. So it’s not as big a change as the album is supposed to be. It’s just a few new ideas and still like the same thing. It’s like we have Jason Reece from …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (QRO live review) to sing on the main track "The Shadow" because we wanted a totally different vocal sound.
QRO: So you are working on a new album?
AG: It will probably be a while.
EF: We are hoping for maybe May.
AG: We would like to have some time at home to really work on it. We have been on the road so long, we haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write songs. I guess we could try and write whilst on the road, but that’s not our way.
EF: We are not songwriters. That’s one thing we are not!
AG: I feel a lot our songs just come about during practice and from messing around and you go, "That sounds cool," but when we are on tour we rarely get a chance to soundcheck, so we don’t get a chance to mess around together and play our instruments.
QRO: You have probably had enough of touring, but are you planning to do your own headlining tour or are you going to wait until the album comes out?
EF: I don’t know man, ‘cause it’s kinda weird, ‘cause in The States we have not really toured since June, and it’s a thing where we need to tour, but we can’t, so I don’t know what will happen with that, but we will do South-by-Southwest. We definitely won’t be back here…
[at this point sound man Chad McGillivary made a sly grab for the small bottle of Jack Daniels by Frazier, who stopped mid flow to rebuff the attempt by poor old McGillivary. Nice try and a wry smile came the sympathetic reply from Coborn…]
EF: We probably won’t be back here until after the album and return for the summer festivals. We will probably go to Japan before that and do a real tour, because we normally go over there and do three shows. So we would probably do a week or two and then come back here.
QRO: Did you do many festivals across the U.S. or Europe?
DC: Yeah, we did The Way Out West Festival in Sweden, The Off Festival in Poland.
EF: We were going to play the Indietracks Festival here, but then we got accepted onto the Fuji Rock Festival so unfortunately we had to cancel. We were going to try and do it all. They had a schedule at the Indietracks and if we had maybe been down to play on the first day, we might have been able to make it.
QRO: Is there anywhere new you would like to visit?
DC: South America that would be nice, but maybe tricky.
QRO: Any particular reason you would like to visit Russia?
DC: It’s just another place we seem to be getting quite a large fanbase and we have never been. It’s one of those places that’s quite different to America, so I’d like to check it out. We have seen pictures of all sorts of crazy stuff over there. It’s so big and so disorganised.
EF: You know, that’s another place that we never imagined we would be able to go to.
[at this point Ray Williams, tour manager returns with a bottle of red wine and we all delve in. Thanks Ray!]
QRO: How did you all meet?
EF: I met Dan in high school and Alex I met in Austin at a clothing store I used to shop at all the time.
QRO: Are there any particular bands you are listening to at the moment?
AG: I have been listening to The Breeders (QRO live review) on my iPod.
DC: Kanye West.
QRO: Really? [Coborn laughs]
DC: Yeah, he’s pretty awesome.
QRO: What do you think about bands generally at the moment? Do you think there is a bit of a lull?
EF: I didn’t know there were still bands?!?
QRO: It’s just with the current financial climate, you would have thought there would be bands out there with something to say politically?
AG: What like Rage Against The Machine?
DC: I think a lot of bands have given up fighting that fight. It’s the same thing that goes on always, you know like nothing ever happens. We tend to have songs around the good things in life. We should just pretend stuff like that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t really affect us.
EF: Yeah like I have stopped watching the news and everything.
You know I can still wake up in the morning, go to the store by my house and do what I do. I know the world is going to explode, I just hope it happens really fast and I die instantly… [chuckle from Coborn]
QRO: Is there anybody else you would like to collaborate with if you ever got the chance?
DC: Kanye West.
AG: There are so many people. Like Dinosaur Jr. (QRO live review).
EF: We just had the EP done by Jeff Schroeder and Mike Byrne from The Smashing Pumpkins
AG: That was a big deal, although Dean Garcia of SPC ECO (former Curve) also did some of the remixes on the EP.
DC: Yeah, you know… that EP. You haven’t got yet?!
QRO: Yeah, okay Dan, give me time, it’s only been out a day or two! [laughs from Coborn]
EF: I tried to ask Garbage if they would do a remix, but they didn’t reply. I guess they’re a bit busy!
QRO: If you could choose one of your songs to be within an already released film, what one would it be and which scene?
[laughs from the remainder of Ringo Deathstarr]
[at this point we discuss sport. Coborn expressed his passion for baseball and in particular the Houston Astros, but apparently they "suck." Elliott said he like nothing more than inviting his mates around on a Monday night to watch the football, drink Bud Light, eating "shitty food" and getting dumb (I think he was humouring QRO…)]
QRO: If I was to meet you in a year’s time, where do you think you will be? Where would you like to be?
AG: Probably right here. I guess I’d like to be in the Bahamas or something. I’ve never been.
EF: I don’t like the Bahamas. I don’t like islands. England’s okay, ‘cause it’s a pretty big island. Being trapped on a little island.
AG: He’s scared!
EF: I’m not scared, it’s you know… just so inconvenient to get off the island. I’d rather be somewhere where there’s something going on.
QRO: Any embarrassing moments?
EF: Yeah, I jumped off a stage the other day. These people in the front row at Oslo wanted my guitar pic and a photo. I leapt down off this stage that was about six feet tall and hurt both my feet, and so I’ve been limping.
AG: And everyone in the crew has been making fun of him, calling him hop along.
EF: And now they respect me though!
QRO: Peter Hayes from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (QRO live review) had messed up his ankle falling off a stage. He was really chuffed though, because apparently distiller and legend Jack Daniels had once done his ankle in and gangrene set in and he almost died. Really ‘rock and roll’.
EF: Yeah it was really dumb. Like the second day in, I could hardly walk at all. Like in the morning I found this piece of wood in the trash at this hostel we were staying at and I was in such pain moving around with my hands on the wall. We got to the venue and thought I wasn’t going to be able to play, ‘cause that morning I couldn’t even stand on one foot and how was I going to reach the pedals for my guitar. So I took a load of Ibuprofen and drank a bottle of wine to ease the pain!
QRO: Well that’s all the questions I have to ask. Is there any burning questions that I should have asked?
DC: Uh… I dunno man… uh…
[once QRO added Gehring’s name to our little black book, we carried on chatting about rabbits and TV shows we all liked. Gehring expressed her love for the show Breaking Bad, about a chemistry teacher who has cancer and then starts selling meth to secure a future for his family. I was totally out of my depth, as I hadn’t watched any series since Lost]
‘Til next year when we meet again… in the Bahamas. Ringo’s onward and upward!