How did the band meet?
The band had a pretty unconventional start. I was living in South America, doing human rights work, and Alicia and Luis had been jamming together in Kansas City. We decided it would be fun to send song ideas back and forth to each other. Soon, I began tracking instruments in my makeshift home studio in Bolivia and recording Alicia’s vocals when I came back to the US. Quickly, we realized that we really liked what we were doing, so we decided to make it a full time thing.
As a Kansas City native myself, I am curious on how the KC music scene compares to those of cities such as Los Angeles, New York, etc.?
Kansas City has a fucking amazing scene. To much of the music industry, KC is “fly over territory,” so bands here have to work ten times harder to be noticed outside of the city. The result is a really creative scene in KC with very high quality music. All the rad musicians around town raise the bar and make us work our asses off. We are really fortunate to be part of such an inspiring music community.
What are the main influences on your songwriting-both musically and not musically?
Musically, we have always been drawn to energetic music. Punk bands like Black Flag and the Ramones were big influences on me, but so were soulful artists like Michael Jackson and Prince. We try to mix the energy of these different genres to have our own sound of sassy, dance punk.
Outside the music realm, my work as a human rights lawyer has definitely influenced our songs. I have worked in various countries with victims of war, torture, false imprisonment, etc., and writing music definitely has become an outlet for dealing with these egregious things, and these issues have been at the center of some of our songs, such as September 1973, Ravens, and Animal. Alicia’s experience as a woman in the industry definitely has affected a lot of the lyrics she writes. I like that she and I have different experiences that we infuse in our lyrics. It makes our record diverse.
Does having a Harvard education in human rights play a role in the band’s music?
I’m not sure how much my education at Harvard has influenced our music. I would say, however, that the informal education I received from working with people in the streets fighting for change has influenced our music. We draw inspiration from people willing to stand up and battle to make the world a better place. It is the voiceless, downtrodden, and marginalized people of the world who still have the courage to fight for change that energize us.
Can you talk a little bit about your past with Bolivia?
I spent a handful of years living in Bolivia working with victims of government-led killings. I currently represent family members in a lawsuit against the ex-President for his role in the killings. It’s been interesting doing both music and lawyering on tour, particularly doing interviews and phone calls with folks in Bolivia while metalcore is blaring in the background. So far I’ve been able to juggle the two, but I don’t get to spend quite as much time in Bolivia as I used to since I’m on the road.
What advice would you have for teenagers looking into the music industry?
Honestly, it takes a weird combination of work and luck to “make it” in the music industry. You can’t do so much about luck, but you can control how much energy you put into your craft. If you are a drummer, play until your hands bleed. If you are a blog writer, write for every website you can find until you get good. We were all bad at the beginning, but if you are comfortable with stumbling for a little while, you can get good. Music is a labor of love. You may never make tons of money, but you will have a blast if you really immerse yourself in it.
For the whole band, what is everyone’s favorite songs and why?
Bad Religion’s “Suffer” — The first time I heard “Suffer” I was blown away. It mixed radical politics, catchy melodies, and aggressive music into a 1.5 minutes song. It introduced me to an entire new world of music.
What is your favorite tour you’ve been on?
Warped Tour…duh. You get to travel the US with a bunch of rad bands and play in front of rad fans. It feels less like a tour and more like a giant vacation with dozens of friends.
If you could compile a dream tour, who would it consist of?
I’d like to go out with Black Flag and Michael Jackson, but that ain’t gonna happen. Although probably just as impossible, it would be sick to go out with the Foo Fighters. Everything Dave Grohl does is rad, and you know that Jack Black would probably come along on the tour to hang out. I’d be down to play music and shoot the shit with Dave Grohl and Jack Black everyday. Can you make this happen for us?