Wyoming skate punkers Teenage Bottlerocket have now been on the punk rock circuit for over ten years and don’t look to be stopping anytime soon. The band will make their maiden voyage to Australia next month to join local favourites Frenzal Rhomb on their national tour through September. We chatted to frontman Ray Carlisle to discuss punk, getting drunk and good old Australian hospitality.
Hey man, please start out by telling us your name, what you play in Teenage Bottlerocket and the best skate park you’ve ever skated?
My name’s Ray Carlisle, I sing and play guitar in Teenage Bottlerocket. The best skate park I’ve ever skated is the Laramie skate park in Wyoming because I know it like the back of my hand. I know every little pocket.
Where are you calling from today?
I am in Alberta, Canada. I’m driving home today, I was up here for three weeks working and I get home tomorrow so I’m stoked.
You guys have been around ten years now, which pretty much makes you punk rock veterans. Does it feel like you’ve been doing it that long?
It doesn’t, you know. The last ten years have really flown by, it seems like just last week we were releasing our first record with Red Scare really. I mean we’ve done a lot in this time but yeah, really cruised by fast.
Bands like the Ramones were pretty influential to you guys starting out. Are there any bands that have inspired you that might surprise people?
As far as surprise goes I think just a lot of bands that people haven’t heard of like the Varsity Weirdos from Moncton, New Brunswick, The Hanson Brothers from Victoria, British Colombia. Not the “MMMBop” Hanson, the blonde haired guys, but the NoMeansNo side project – stuff like that. Also I think we pull a lot of influences from pop music in general like The Cure, New Order and Joy Division, things like that.
Obviously your brother Brandon was also a founding member of Teenage Bottlerocket. Has that ever meant there was extra pressure or tension in the band?
Um, a little bit. We fight like brothers so I think it’s a lot to put up with for the other members of the band from time to time but we’re usually alright within five minutes. I think there’s a lot more ups than there are downs being in a band with my twin brother because our writing process has grown over the last thirty years really. We’ve been playing music together since we were eleven so I guess I should say twenty years. I guess there’s a lot of pressure because at some point: “hey let’s behave, we’re annoying the shit out of these guys”.
The band released the “Mutilate Me” 7” in April. How did you find response to the new tracks from fans or critics?
The reaction from the fans has been great with the two songs. We were really excited with the way that it turned out but I think there’s only so much attention you’re going to get from fans with an EP release as opposed to a full length. We’re going to put those two songs on our upcoming full length. I think we sorta fell victim of just being like “oh this is just a 7” on the way to the record” but for the fans that did check it out we’ve hear nothing but good things so that’s been really positive.
And can you tell us anything about your upcoming album?
Yeah I can! We have about ten songs right now. We’re gonna get in the studio as soon as we can, as soon as we have fourteen songs written we’re going to book a time. We’re going to record at the Blasting Room again and we’ll be releasing it on Fat Wreckords again. I think the fans can just expect the same thing we’ve done in the past, just stripped down pop punk music with a couple songs here and there that are unorthodox. But it’s going to be sorta staple Teenage Bottlerocket music, same as always.
It’s undoubtedly pretty exciting for you guys to be on your first Australian tour with your mates Frenzal. What are you expecting from these shows?
Um… I expect there to be a lot of alcohol at these shows. I expect Gordy to force us to drink when we don’t want to (laughs), but on top of that I’ve seen some footage of shows recently in Australia and I know that those kids go off. And I know that Frenzal Rhomb is notorious for having a real crazy audience. We’re looking forward to being able to perform in front of those people and hopefully win over some new fans and just enjoy everyone’s first time over to Australia.
From what I hear you dudes spent a bunch of time with Frenzal as they recorded “Smoko at the Pet Food Factory”. Any shenanigans to report on?
Well what happened was that they arrived in Fort Collins, that’s where our drummer Brandon lives, I live an hour north of there in Wyoming. And the day they arrived we drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia to start our tour with NOFX in Canada so Brandon got to hang out with Gordy. They did some driving one night but I didn’t get to make it down, so the only time I’ve actually hung out with the dudes in Frenzal was about twelve years ago. Our old band Homeless Wonders played with them in Denver and me and Jay hung out on the balcony and talked a little while. But I said I haven’t really chatted to them face to face I’ve ah, Gordy’s called me a cunt about a hundred times (laughs).
Yeah it’s gonna be awesome, we’re really looking forward to partying with those guys and hanging out.
Speaking of your Canada tour with NOFX and Old Man Markley, were there highlights of that tour?
Yeah my favourite cities were Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Canada is just awesome, especially that time of year. The audiences were just huge, huge shows. We got into a lot of trouble but at the same time maintained enough to get on stage and do our thing every night. It was a really good time.
You guys recently did Europe and the UK for the first time. How did that tour go? How do you generally find responses from overseas crowds?
Yeah that was in April, I think it bled into May a little bit. It was awesome, the highlight of that tour was definitely Ghost Rock. One of the best shows we’ve ever played, it’s an awesome festival. Generally I think that there is a little bit of a breakdown of communication. I noticed in Europe the kids don’t pogo dance, they more like get the circle pit going. There’s a part of our set where we start the pogo party and we want everybody to pogo dance with us but everybody just ended up starting a circle pit, so we ended up just asking for a circle pit instead (laughs). It will be easier to communicate, obviously, in Australia, yeah.
The band formed in Laramie, Wyoming, a city I think it’s safe to say isn’t known for punk rock. What’s the scene like there? Was it difficult starting out as a band in that area?
It was, but I think it worked to our advantage because it snows nine months out of the year it seems like and so you’re sorta forced inside by weather. Instead of going stir-crazy and getting cabin fever we just started rocking together and playing shows, and booking shows on the weekends and having something to look forward to. You’re right when you say Laramie isn’t really a hotspot for punk rock but we’ve been around the scene long enough that we’ve pulled in certain bands – Fugazi, and the Lawrence Arms and Against Me! To introduce some sort of independent underground music to the community … we’ve done our part but you’re absolutely right. We usually travel to Denver or Fort Collins as far as bands that are touring because more often than not touring bands will skip Wyoming all together.
Speaking of which, you just announced a tour of your home state. What was the reasoning behind that?
Being from the state of Wyoming we’ve been neglecting them really, the last time we played our hometown of Laramie was a year and a half ago. So we haven’t played Wyoming as often as we should, and I feel a little bit guilty for that because it’s not something we’ve ever been ashamed of. I have a lot of people ask me when I’m at the bar drinking, “when are you guys playing Laramie next?” “when are you going to play in Cheyenne?” We just sat down and booked the whole Wyoming tour to show our appreciation for the state and show some love to our friends that we’ve met over the years. I don’t expect the shows to be huge but the tour should be a lot of fun.
What albums tend to get the most play time on your van’s stereo when Teenage Bottlerocket are on the road?
We’ve been listening to the Ergs a lot. There’s this band from the States called Iron Shiek we’ve been listening to a lot, love that band, Gamut. But as I said before we listen to Cavalera Conspiracy, we listen to a lot of new wave music – The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain. Just a kinda eclectic mix of everything going out of the van.
Have you heard any young bands lately that are worth checking out?
Ah yeah, that band Cerebral Ballzy. I love that band. Just saw their video yesterday, Lance Mountain made a cameo in their video it’s just great, awesome. It’s a skate park video with like old school skateboarding going on the whole time. And, you know, OFF! which is just Keith Morris’ little project he’s got going on which is just Black Flag at its best kinda stuff. There’s a couple – Cerebral Ballzy and OFF!
Other than your forthcoming tour, what does the rest of the year hold for Teenage Bottlerocket?
Well we go to England on Sunday, and we’re playing the Reading and Leeds Festivals in the UK and we’re also playing five shows around those festivals. Then the day after we get home, we fly to Australia. As we come back, we’re trying to play Riot Fest, I think we’re working out the details of that still, it’s not confirmed at this point. We’re confirmed at Gainesville Festival in Florida for the Halloween weekend here in the States. Then we’re gonna try to get in the studio hopefully by the end of the year, maybe it will happen before Christmas time, maybe shortly after. So that pretty much sums up the rest of 2011 for us.
Good to talk to you man, any last comments before we see you next month?
We’re really looking forward to playing in Australia, it’s going to be everybody in the band’s first time in Australia. The second we step off the plane, it’s gonna be a great feeling man. Hopefully we’re going to go to the beach and looking forward to playing with these Frenzal Rhomb guys.
Cheers for your time dude, see you soon!