When your lead singer, Keith Morris was the frontman and co-founding member for Black Flag, your punk career and aesthetic will most likely come pretty naturally. OFF! are a living example of this statement. Having emerged into the music scene a few years ago as a punk-rock supergroup of sorts, the band has enjoyed success, proving they are naturals when it comes to blending short and sharp songs with the die-hard punk ethos. Guitarist Dimitri Coats took some time out of his day to talk to us about the band’s latest release, ‘Wasted Years’, touring and the living, expanding entity that is punk-rock.
I saw a few hours ago that you and Keith Morris [vocals] did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). How’d that all go down?
Yeah, really well actually. Keith has been preparing for a Reddit AMA for a while know without even realising it. He always leaves his Facebook chat open no matter what, so he’s always doing a Reddit AMA in Facebook technically (laughs).
Wasted Years comes out today in America I think, how are you feeling about it all?
We’re very excited! The idea Richard [Pettibon, album art] came up with was something we really went for here. We went after a certain concept and we knew the general colour of the record physically and sonically was going to be a lot darker and I guess I’m just pleased with our ability to stick with it.
Tell me about the focus and the direction you were taking on this record?
Like I said, we knew the artwork in the last album was white with black ink and here we wanted to reverse it. We wanted to record it at our practice space so we were gonna call it the ‘Something Demos’ or whatever. We had everything in the same small room with leads everywhere and we were bumping into everything and the atmosphere just played into that and we came up with the name to sort of play it down a bit. Less is more kind of thing and that went for the whole record.
That can almost be said for everything with OFF! Your songs are known for being quite short and at times, under a minute long; do you find it harder to write these songs or is not even intentional and it’s just something that happens when you all write?
Well, the song starts to feel weird if the song goes for longer then it needs to. I’ve also said in the last that the songs are at regular length, we play them at faster and more intense rate than most bands. (laughs) They’re more sophisticated than people think. With us being interested in good song writing so we try and create those and implement that idea in as well.
Is that belief and idea that songs shouldn’t go on too long something you hold only in your band or is it something you critique in other music?
No, no, no, no, no! That doesn’t apply to anyone else! (laughs) We are all fans of music in general and all different types of music so if a record was a really good record and it was only one song that just went forever, it would still be a great song. We’re fans of Deerhunter and they trip out and just go off in jams on some songs. As far as punk and hardcore goes and what our band does, I think there was a need to re-explore what made it exciting and interesting in the first place. A lot of modern punk had moved away from that and become a bit too radio friendly, a lot of it had lost the plot. So when I played guitar and wrote songs with the others, Keith in particular got very excited as it reminded him of his early roots in the genre. And the more excited he got the more excited I got because I had no idea I was actually doing that.
That’s very interesting you say that as my next question is related to that. Where do you see the punk rock scene today? I no doubt agree with you when you say punk is becoming more radio friendly and commercialised. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, there’s always a reaction to these sort of things. But you know, in terms of what hardcore is today, I’m not even sure we fit in to that. We’re probably viewed as too commercial for that with the fact that our album is being streamed by The New York Times. It bums out a lot of people who are into the genre. There’s extreme stuff out there, still holding tie to what the genre was about, you just have to dig deep enough.
There’s a band called HOPE, they may have broken up I think, but they have no commercial potential really. They’re on stage smashing everything up like guitars and microphones. They’re a band like that I guess. And the thing about us, is that we don’t try and fit in with a certain group or what not. We were just talking about it and we were wondering what band we would open for if we opened for a bigger punk band. It’s just difficult for us as we’re kind of in our own world. It’s like Cerebral Ballzy’s gonna be touring with us this entire album cycle. It’s because that’s the closest we can get to the target audience we want. We’re playing to these kids and Ballzy are a young band and they feel like a kind of band that will suit that. We want a kind of party atmosphere as we don’t want to play to a bunch of meatheads who are gonna rip each other’s faces.
What you said about people getting upset that The New York Times was streaming your album reminded me when fans got almost offended when you played with The Red Hot Chilli Peppers as it was too "un-punk". How do you respond to those comments that you’re not holding down the ethic of punk-rock?
I guess I respond with, "My singer was the lead singer of Black Flag, so fuck you. What do you know about punk?" (Laughs)
That’s a pretty amazing answer! So heading back to the album, you called upon Raymond Pettibon to do your album artwork like he did on your first record, what was the decision to do that again?
Well you see, ‘Wasted Years’ is actually our third album. See we released our first album disguised as a series of EP’s. It’s a little trick we played on our fan base to create a false sense of history. But anyway, Raymond has done art for us on all our official releases really. He’s like the fifth member of the band, he has that much play in our releases really. So it would be wrong and it would feel strange to not have him included in this record someway. We knew he would represent us in that regard really well.
This record has sixteen tracks and so does your "second record" too. And if you add up all the songs from your EP’s, your "first album" has sixteen too. Is this a recurring theme and motif within OFF! or is it something that like the song lengths, just happens?
Well, Keith’s favourite band is Kiss and his favourite song is ‘Christine Sixteen’. (Laughs)
Why do I get the feeling that that’s not a legitimate answer? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Keith’s sitting next to me and he’s screaming "liar!" But I guess it’s really in case we’re lazy. We want to get away with the bare minimum of what he can do. We have to write these songs under extreme, self-imposed deadlines so I guess we just want to get it done really. I mean, theoretically there’s a bonus song on the digital release, that brings it seventeen,then we’re releasing a seven-inch with two others that makes it nineteen. But no, it’s not like a theme or something; it’s the bare minimum because we’re literally finishing these songs as we walk into the studio. If it were any less then sixteen it would feel more like an EP and not an album. Even though this record is only twenty-three minutes long!
‘Wasted Years’ is out now in Australia through Vice and is available through these retailers and more: