In this part, the foursome talked about making With the Ease, Grace, Precision, and Cleverness of Human Beings, their unusual and unique spin on starting a band in high school, why they play so many shows with the same bands, BB guns & fireworks, and much, much more…
QRO: How was making With the Ease, Grace, Precision, and Cleverness of Human Beings?
DS: It was like the most fun two weeks ever.
We went down to Maryland, to my parents’ house, they were out of town, and we just built a studio in the basement. We’d spent a couple months before, just acquiring a bunch of equipment. We went down and built it, built the little studio, we recorded two sessions a day. I think the first one was 1 PM to 6 PM, and then we’d break for sort of dinner – and we bought BB guns, so we’d go out and do some shooting, really blow off some steam – so it was like one to six, and then maybe nine to four.
MI: We ended up getting naked a lot, too…
DS: There was an unfinished section of the basement; we put pillows and stuff in all the windows, all around. In Maryland at night, the crickets and bugs are so loud that, what we did the first night, we set up everything, we had these guys play completely full volume, everything, drums and guitars, and I went outside and walked around. As soon as I closed the door of the house, it was like [loud static-y sound of a million bugs], from the bugs and the air conditioners running.
‘We can do anything we want, whenever we want… We can do absolutely anything.’
My brother and I bought fireworks last time we were in Tennessee. We had these fireworks called ‘mortars’ – I don’t know if you guys have these, they’re like a cardboard tube, and you light it and you drop the ball in, like an army mortar, and it’s “BOOM”. It’s so low-pitched that you feel it in your chest, and then it goes up into thin air, and it explodes again in the air.
We’d do it every morning. That’s how we started every day.
MI: We’d all be in our underwear, in the backyard, with coffee, and it would just be, “BOOM!”
DS: My favorite moment, in interaction with other people, our neighbors next door, just awful people that never liked my family – we were always such at odds with them, like the Hatfield’s & The McCoy’s – Jimmy was out there by himself one morning, blowing off steam with his BB gun–
JC: In my underwear…
DS: In his tighty-whiteys. And he’s out there, and he’s about to take a shot, and he feels like somebody’s watching him. And he looks over, and he’s sees the wife, Judy?, he looks over and he sees her, and he makes direct eye contact with her, and then he goes [sound of a shot], puts the gun down, and walks back into the house.
The Subjects recounting making With the Ease, Grace, Precision, and Cleverness of Human Beings, backstage @ Music Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY:
QRO: How did it compare with making your initial, self-titled EP?
DS: It was way better. The first time we did it, we did it on a cassette four-track. We asked the owner of our rehearsal space if we could just take the space for the weekend. Nothing was going on Saturday or Sunday, so we just came in Saturday morning – we might have set up Friday night – and, between Saturday and Sunday we recorded it, in two days. We just blasted through it, and then I think we might have put it into the computer and recorded vocals afterwards. We did it in like three days, really fast.
MI: We’re going to feel really spoiled for the new record. It gets better every time.
QRO: But you can’t shoot off fireworks in the studio…
MI: Not on the outside – we just have to do it on the inside…
QRO: Where are you on your split 7” with The End of the World?
DS: We’re going to get it in a couple of days, but it’s going to be released August 12th. But we’re going to start selling it before then.
QRO: Is it true that you’ve done something like twenty shows with them?
MI: I’d say we’re getting close to that number with the White Rabbits (QRO spotlight on). It seems like you become friends with people, you play a ton of shows with them. It’s great.
JS: And then it gets awkward…
QRO: It seems like a lot of Brooklyn bands know each other. You guys, White Rabbits, Walkmen, Harlem Shakes (QRO spotlight on), Frankpollis – is it just you guys do a lot of shows together?
DS: You have so many bad experiences playing with people, that if you like them, you sort of stick with them. And if you like them and like their material, it’s so rare, you end up just trying to play with them.
QRO: Where are you guys on finding a new label?
MI: We don’t know what we’re going to do with this record. We’ve got a couple of people working with us, trying – we’re talking, we’re trying to work out.
I think we’ll have a better idea, hopefully before we record, but definitely when we record.
QRO: You guys met in high school, when two of you guys were teachers, and two of you guys were students. How did you broach that subject, about forming a band?
JS: Dave approached me, because Dave was pretty much the ‘resident’ – my experience with him was him waving to me on the street, riding the back of Ari Goldstein’s pegs, riding this guy’s BMX pegs, and he’s like, ‘Hey, what’s going on, dude?’, going past me down Second Avenue, and I was like, ‘Uh, it’s cool, man – have fun.’ And they’re like, ‘You wanna hang out?’ ‘No.’
And then, months later, Dave was like, ‘Hey man – I heard you play guitar. Wanna write some songs? We’ll play them at school carnival, with teachers.’
Anyways, we write the songs, play them with a bunch of teachers, and the next year, we were like, ‘Let’s play the school carnival again.’ And the teachers were all like–
MI: Can I cut in really quick? Jimmy & I slayed them. Our band fuckin’ slayed their band, ‘cause they played right after us.
JC: The original Subjects…
DS: Originally, I was in that band, too.
JC: Yeah, you played some drums.
MI: Anyway, we slayed their band. And they were like, ‘Man, we gotta start learning these songs…’
JS: Actually, what happened was, then, somebody started booking shows for the shit me and Dave had. And we were like, ‘Shit, we have to actually play in a band.’ And Matt & Jimmy were the best options – ‘ringers’, as the principal called.
The rest is history…
QRO: What did your fellow students & teachers think about it?
All: We didn’t tell them.
QRO: What about your parents?
MI: They thought it was cool. My parents thought it was amazing.
JC: My dad, I think, threatened these guys, ‘Make sure he’s doing good in school…’ But it didn’t really matter, ‘cause I’d basically show up at eleven o’clock each day…
MI: I think the school was cool with it, basically because we were straight A students…
QRO: So what did ya’ll teach?
JC: Joe taught English?
JS: And Spanish.
QRO: And you guys actually had them in your classes?
JC: I never had Joe.
MI: Joe gave me detention. I drew a pair of testicles on the whiteboard, and Joe, who was not there, he was like, ‘Who did this?’ And he found out it was me–
JS: You’re combining situations. I didn’t give you detention once – I gave you a bunch of them.
MI: You gave me a lot of detention…
JC: My only interaction, really, with Joe, was that I’d just gotten the Tenacious D DVD [The Complete Masterworks]. I watched it, and went up to Joe–
JS: This was the weekend it came out, by the way.
JC: And I was like, ‘Hey, Mr. Smith – what’s on the menu?’ Just threw that at him, and then he gave me this look, ‘cause obviously he knew what it was.
MI: The answer is, “Hand job, five dollars. Blow job, ten dollars. Speed job–
JC: No, he says rim job – I’ve watched it.
QRO: How did you actually do in their classes?
JC: I did okay. I didn’t have Joe in a class, but I had Dave, we did video, made some movies. You taught history for a little bit. I mean, average, above par, par…
DS: In school?…
JC: Listen, Dave, don’t talk down to me…
DS: Are you saying you did average, above par in school? I’m not even making any comment on that…
JC: I came in everyday at eleven, and then came into his office and slept until lunch.
DS: Jimmy’s whole thing in high school was, school starts at eight fifteen, he’d show up at ten thirty, ten forty-five, go into my office…
QRO: Are you sick of being asked about the whole teacher/student thing, or do you think it’s your ‘hook’ for lazy journalists?
DS: We don’t get asked about it as much anymore. These guys can drink now, so even though it’s still relevant, it’s kinda different…
JC: We actually never had trouble with that. We always either lied, or just slide through. Didn’t mention it.
QRO: Are there any new songs that you particularly like playing live?
JC: Yes. We [just] played one of them. It’s brand new.
QRO: It doesn’t even have a name yet?
DS: It doesn’t even have all the words yet.
QRO: What about older songs, such as from With the Ease?
JC: “Hounds [of War]” is always a crowd-pleaser.
DS: We played a lot of them at the early show.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play live, because of the arrangement, don’t like to play live, or just don’t play anymore?
JC: Yes. That song “Numbers”.
DS: We’ve kinda always wanted to have a keyboard, but we’ve never figured out a way of working it in. Because it seems like so much more – you have to get it, you have to get used to bringing it around, you have to get an amplifier for it, you have to get used to dealing with a sound person for it. So we were always sort of overwhelmed with what we were doing…
But now we just got one, so we’ll probably be able to play it.
QRO: Which one of you guys will be playing keyboards?
DS: We’ll probably all end up playing it. Different songs, the keyboards sometimes will replace the guitar part, sometimes will replace a different part. That’s another thing we’ve got to figure out.
QRO: What cities or venues have you really liked playing at?
JC: Uh, Texas…
DS: The Troubadour in L.A., that was great.
JC: Santa Barbara, Philly…
QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?
JC: It depends who the audience is for this story… [REDACTED]
DS: We went on tour with these guys from Pittsburgh, Black Tie Revue. We were really competitive with those guys, so we had some sort of competition, and the loser had to do to a cover of the winner’s choice. It was a pool game that turned into a skateboarding thing, all these different competitions… we loved doing the competition so much that it we made it the best of three, than the best of five…
So eventually, we just realized it would be better if we just both called ourselves winners. And so we both called covers for the other to play. We made them play Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” [while they made us play Joan Osborne’s “[What If God Was] One of Us”].
The Subjects playing “Time” live @ Music Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY: