In the ferocious manner that indie music floods our senses lately, the good stuff can easily get drowned out by the rest. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of luck to come across those hidden gems. I had the pleasure of not only seeing the Philly-based band “Drink Up Buttercup” play twice recently, but I also got to ask them a few questions about the trials and tribulations (and of course the joys) of being a musician these days.
As I approached the boys whom where strewn across a 5 x 5 NYC sidewalk I was greeted with a crooked smile and a plume of cigarette smoke. After the introductions (as I tried to get straight which boy was whom) we decided to walk to a nearby park (since it was a beautiful day, and New York had not seen sunshine in over 20 days) and sit by their van to conduct the interview. I’m glad I was able to speak to these guys because some of the questions I asked developed into some very interesting conversations.
Q: So, how does playing in Philadelphia (where you guys are from) differ from playing in NYC?
A: James: “We like playing in NYC better because first of all the venues are better, there are more of them and they are situated in areas where there is a lot of stuff going on, so people go out to them more often, we have also gotten much better feedback from audiences here in New York, here people treat us like an actual band, and we are more respected, while back in Philadelphia, local bands are not paid mind to as much, we are just seen as a local band and not much more”.
Q: What are your thoughts on rock and roll, and how would you define it?
A: Ben: “I can answer that one, rock and roll in my opinion is not so much about the music. Rock is about the attitude, the persona, and the vibe that the musicians give off, and we are definitely a rock band by those standards, the music can really vary and sound a million different ways, as long as the right attitude is in it its rock and roll!”
Q: How did you guys meet?
A: James: “My brother Farzad and I were already playing music together, and through a mutual friend we were told about Ben and Mike who knew each other. We linked up and things worked really well for us together as a band. The band flourished and really took shape when the four of us came together. The energy was right and we wanted similar things in our music”.
Q: What is life like as a musician in the age of the Internet?
A: James/Ben: “The web is just filled with all this music, and due to the excessive exposure the market is over saturated and nobody ends up making any money. Its really tough being a musician right now, because on the one hand you feel like you are meant to do something and it feels really good to do it, on the other hand you still need a job to support this other thing you love to do and wish you could do for a living”.
Later on, Ben adds: “You come to a show and you have 3 dollars in your pocket, and you know you are getting your 3 drink vouchers, so you are drinking for free, and those 3 dollars are going towards tipping the bartender, so you walk away from the show with less money than you started out with! I mean, we get on stage, we play an amazing show and have a great time and when the show is over we all have this energy and this excitement, but it quickly wears off when we know we have to get into the van and drive back home and work in the morning. It’s just tough.“
Q: Whom and what inspires you guys, musically and otherwise?
A: “Music isn’t necessarily what inspires us these days, we find inspiration in all sorts of other stuff, we enjoy comedy in the form of standup or movies, we also love old sci-fi movies…media in general has proved to be great inspiration, we are each moved by different stuff but we can bring that energy and make great songs out of it.” Mike is currently listening to the Buzzcocks – not a bad band to listen to, eh!
Q: How did you guys come up with your band name?
A: “Well, how do people come up with band names, you can’t take that stuff too seriously, we believe it has to have some humor to it, Farzad came up with the actual name, we wanted it to sound sweet and adorable, despite the fact that our music is not sweet or innocent at all, actually quite the opposite. We enjoy the irony of it all.”
Q: Which of your songs are you most proud of and why?
A: “That’s a tough one, I’m sure we could all sit here and name our favorite song, but the truth of the matter is that when we write a song we strive to include different elements, so our stuff doesn’t sound repetitive, which I think makes for an interesting compilation of music. So you can say we probably like all of them because each is unique and good in its own way, the only thing which ties them together is the theatrical drama element, so they can range from sounding cheerful to dismally dark, but they are always equally as dramatic.”
Q: What are your touring and recording plans?
A: “Well, we have recently finished recording an album, and it is currently in the process of getting mixed. We are also signing a record deal, so stuff is definitely happening for us right now. We have been touring quite a bit and don’t plan on slowing down, we have a couple of shows coming up here on the east coast.
I had been looking forward to their Mercury Lounge show all week. The venue is a great space for lesser known bands. It’s the platform performance spot – a place where musicians get noticed. I was glad to see them perform here because the intimate setting really makes you feel the music in a way that a larger venue never could.
Their live performance embodies what’s good about indie music these days. No reservations on stage, anything goes. Yet they masterfully take this attitude and make the music sound perfectly composed and harmonizing. They have a loud, confident guitar driven sound adding elements such as the stark percussion, that brings in this junkyard feel to their sound. It’s hard to take your eyes off these guys when they are up there, and who can resist the sound of the harmonica, or a huge garbage can getting smashed up on stage?
James, the lead singer, being classically trained, really gives the band a polished finish despite the strategically chaotic sound the band thrives on. They don’t like to stay still for very long, you find the guys are constantly moving around from one part of the stage to the next, sometimes jumping, other times hopping like frogs on speed. The props really add to the atmosphere: a skull head on the keyboard, a disembodied doll head on the drum kit. As a final touch James enjoyed pulling an eyemask over his eyes and sang a couple of tunes that way. It made for a really bizarre experience, yet I couldn’t help feeling amused by the whole thing.
Bands have to take matters into their own hands and make sure that their live performances captivate audiences convincingly enough for them to be remembered, and hopefully to sell some albums. I can assure you these guys have gotten my full attention, and I suspect many other people’s as well.
Download Gods & Gentlemen courtesy of the band and The Rock and Roll Report!