Interview: Coachwhips

by Gordon Downs

Sitting a mere stones throw away from Interstate 5-North, I find myself sitting with John Dwyer and Valtronic of the Coachwhips. There’s a heavy smell of fecal matter that none of us can help avoid noticing. With a little help from Joe Camel and a couple of tallboys, we were able to brave through the stench and managed to get John and Val to chat about the Coachwhips’ latest tour of the US, and maybe give a little insight into the next album.
“Last night we played in Arizona,” explains Dwyer of the Coachwhips’ gig the previous evening. “There was this woman there, who was like a ‘Mom’ kind of figure. She was the only person that would really talk to us there. When we were setting up she walked over to me and she was like, ‘Are you guys playing right here? That’s cool!’ All the kids that were at the show split because all of these pop-punk bands played before us. Then we went and played this bar later and had one of the best shows of our whole tour. Just like a total dance party. But that woman came to that show as well!” Dwyer explains excitedly. “She was all sweaty and dancing, “ adding that” it’s cool that we can appeal to someone’s Mom.” Though he quickly says, “God I hope she has kids? She looked like a Mom?”

The Coachwhips are notorious for their live shows, which usually (more like ALWAYS) take place on the floor of the venue they’re performing at. “We haven’t played on a stage yet.” Dwyer adds.

Like a crazed carnival barker set loose with a guitar, Dwyer makes it a point to keep the crowd moving, even if it involves lunging into the audience with his guitar and homemade microphone clamped in his mouth. “We had this one time when they were really adamant about us playing up on stage.” Explains current keyboardist Valtronic (of the notorious Double Dutchess crew from San Francisco.) “The woman who owned the club,” continues Dwyer, “was obviously going through chemotherapy, and I knew it right by looking at her. I could tell right away she was going to be uptight about us not playing on-stage. We hardly ever ask [to play on the floor] we just do it.” Dwyer explains. “Because then you don’t have to be told no.” adds Val. “But this time I felt like I had to ask because she was obviously sick. So I asked her and she was like, ‘No. Just on the stage, blah, blah, blah.’ Then I talked to the sound guy and he said, ‘Well honestly, she’ll probably leave soon, so just wait until she leaves and then set-up.’ So this whole time we’re watching this woman with a bandana on, waiting for her to leave. The second she left, we assembled everything really fast and played. It was a really fun show considering it was at a terrible place.”

Essentially, the Coachwhips are John Dwyer with a rotating line-up of musicians and friends. “I started playing with the Coachwhips last summer, just filling in for the prior keyboard player.” adds Val. With Dwyer taking up duties on guitar and vocals, and the drums stripped down to the raw essentials: snare, kick drum, hi-hat and floor tom, the one real piece of equipment that sounds as if it’s been modified is the keyboard.
“It’s a Casio Tone.” Val says. “It’s a little shitty white one that I bought off a bum for three bucks.”

Dwyer explains of how he acquired the keyboard, which the Coachwhips still tour with to this day. “I dropped it off my bike immediately after I bought it and it broke. The bum died, so it sorta has a little bit of his spirit in there. He was a friend of mine kind of. He was this dude named Edmund who was definitely a character in San Francisco. He died on a park bench last year.” Dwyer says of his transient friend. Though with the way the Casio Tone sounds when performing live, and on the Coachwhips latest album, “Bangers vs. Fuckers,” it sounds as if it’s being run through some crazy filter or pre-amp? “Nope,” explains Valtronic, “We just play it on the organ setting, (then makes a gesture with her hand as if to turn a volume knob all the way to 10). Not on flute, not on piano.” She laughs.

With several albums already recorded, pressed and distributed throughout America, I inquire as to the status of the next album?
“We recorded the new record on a four-track.” Dwyer obliges. “We usually don’t record on four-track, but some of those songs sound really good to me so I think I’m gonna use some of those recordings. We’ll do some new songs when we get home. I just want to do it on four-track from now on and do it for free. Because I have a four-track, and if you can do that – well then fuck it.”

Dwyer takes a drag off his cigarette and indicates that we should be getting back to the club. Though before we leave, I ask him if he has a tentative name for the new album? “The next album’s gonna be called “Live From The Ginger Minge.” It’s a fictitious club, which actually means the red haired pussy.”

Having recently garnered the attention of legendary BBC radio host John Peel, the Coachwhips seem to be on the verge of reaching a wider audience. They just recently returned from a tour of Europe and Japan. Where as here in the states, the Coachwhips are accustomed to playing smaller venues with plenty of room on the floor, overseas they were playing venues that could hold up to 1,000 + people. Will the Coachwhips remain on the floor, or will they elevate to a higher plateau? Stay tuned.