STRIKE ANYWHERE – interview by pr!
After 3 weeks of calls, emails, and frustration I was able get ahold of Matthew Sherwood, guitarist of Jade Tree’s Strike Anywhere. With their newest release, “Change is a Sound”, they have opened eye’s and ears, showing that punk and political ideas can mix without sounding like shit. Lyrics like Timebomb Generation’s ‘Your children are shooting up society / ’cause you made money making killing a commodity / at war on TV from a faraway field / a timebomb generation’, Strike Anywhere puts enough charge in their lyrics to make you listen without having to contimplate. Since they come from Richmond, home of some of the best bands out there (River City High, Avail etc), some would say clever quips like “there must be something in the water”, but not me. I’m just not that witty. I did, though, get a chance to exchange witty remarks with Matt, who let me know all about Ralph Nadar, underground dog fighting, his mom, where Thomas is, Matt’s cats, why Strike Anywhere’s punk, seafood and the Strokes among other things. Read and learn!
PR: If you had to define your band’s music and style to somebody totally not in the loop (like your mom), what would you say?
Matt: Well, my mom knows punk rock, so I would say that we’re ‘punk rock, except we can play our instruments’. It sounds pejorative to anyone in the loop, but we play rock very fast, and have vocal harmony. We have a lot of political and personal idea’s and imagery.
P: I’ve seen reviews comparing SA to a Rancid/US Bombs type of punk. Although I can see it, I don’t think that’s where you guys are trying to go.
M: I would, in a way, just for the love of Rancid and Dwayne, since Ive skated forever, and I think that we’re probably not as much sounding like those bands but influenced by them. Thomas and I really love reggae and dub, and we’re constantly searching for new music in that category.
P: That’s weird, because you don’t sound anything like reggae.
M: No, we dont, but I think that just shows how cool it is to have diversity in music interests but still come up with the type of music we do. Some of us come from really different music, like older hardcore, but we put a lot of ideas together to come up with our stuff. I think you can hear it in our music. I mean, we don’t bust out wide open, because it wouldnt really fit with our extremes. We like reggae like the early Dischord stuff, and Tom kinda uses that kind of influence in his lyrics.
P: Speaking of reggae influences, have you ever listened to (Epitaph records) Mouthwash?
M: No, I havent.
P: I’ll hook you up with an extra copy I have. I think they sound like what you dont want to… if you know what I mean. But their pretty cool. I think they’re from England, whatever that implies.
M: Interesting, Id love to hear it. Tom and I both like this band called Dub War (Earache records), who are the only bands of their ilk on their label. Their basically a supped up reggae punk band. It’s exciting when Rancid brings people out who have a lot of influence in their own universe but people into punk dont really know about them.
P: The so-called ‘pure’ punk fans hate that kind of stuff.
M: Fuck them.
P: And you can’t sell a certain amount of records, ’cause that’s selling out too.
M: Right, right.
P: Your album, ‘Change is a Sound’ was one of my favorite releases in 2001-
M: -thank you
P: Hence that’s why I got you on the cover. Unfortunately, I noticed that SA got mixed reviews in other press. Does that bother you? Do you read media?
M: Oh sure. I dont know, I love it when people put a lot of thought into a negative review. A lot of people said negative things about us sounding like Good Riddance, which is funny because prior to that, I didn’t even know who GR was. I guess that’s because Im on the east coast.
P: They were on our August 2001 cover.
M: Awesome! I know of Dave thru Kid Dynamite, their drum player… drum player? Drummer. Anyways, Darren and Tim from Jade Tree always talk about them and have all these stories, but I didnt really know about the band. Its weird to get compared to a band that you dont know, and it’s doubly weird to have people hate you because they think you sound like a band, which you dont even know. But now we’re going out on tour with them, so I imagine we’ll be great friends when it’s all over. I really enjoy their music.
P: When someone says you sound like a band you’ve never heard of, do you go out and listen to the music?
M: Of course! You got to. Having listened to them, I can kind of see the comparisons, but other times it confuses me. I can tell more that we sound like kid dynamite then Good Riddance.
P: I think it comes down to Mr. Arrogant CD Reviewer. He has a stack of fifty CD’s, and puts each one in for 3 minutes, listening to the first song and then sampling over the remainder of the CD’s, finally coming up with a similarity and ripping on the band for sounding like them.
M: (laughs) I dont know much about reviewing CD’s, but it seems challenging. There are a couple different approaches you can go when you review other people’s music, and I could see it being a real challenge to be creative. I like when ideas are really mixed in a review. The ones that I saw about us that were bad are fun to read. Like one reviewer started talking about the shirt Matt wore on the back of the CD, the Rolling Stones Tour of ’81 shirt. So he just starts going off for a paragraph or two about the Rolling Stones tour, which didnt have anything to do with us, and then just said we’re generic sounding, which I can accept. Were a 5 piece band, and we play rock. We’re going to be loud.
P: I recognized that ‘Daytona USA’ shirt from the arcade game, but I didnt write about it. I dont give a fuck.
M: (laughs) I’m glad you recognized that.
P: I know it’s been under a year, but have you written anything new?
M: Actually, it’s only been out since August.
P: Seems like a while.
M: Yeah, actually it does. It’s funny, because a lot of people ask when we’re going to put something out. I don’t feel ready yet, although I think we’re going to be recording a song acoustically for a punk acoustic comp. We each have two or three new songs written out.
P: Who writes the lyrics?
M: Pretty much Tom. He writes about 98% of them. Typically, he writes from personal experience either with him or directly around him. Usually, one of us has an idea and brings it out. I’m the fruity guy in the band, who gets weird inspirations from visual things. It’s not a fight about where you get the inspiration; it’s questioning the quality of the idea, once manifested. But anyway, we all have really different ways of bringing out new ideas, which can be really painful, but in the end it’s worth it. The majority of the first record, Matt Smith wrote, and we kinda filled in the rest. Now, off the last record, we all did 20% of everything. It was great, and I think we have a pretty good process. It can be painful, but the end result is great.
P: The final product.
M: Oh yeah, the product! Sell some more units.
P: You’ve got some politically charged lyrics; is Strike Anywhere out to change the world?
M: You know, that would be incredibly pretentious. I dont think us as a band will change the world, but we try to spread ideas to others. One of the things I really appreciate about Tom is his natural charisma, which he’d be embarrassed to hear about, but when he speaks, he really speaks to each person in the room as individuals not just some faceless group of people. Interesting, my landlords here. Hi there.
(Landlord: Hey, you got a sec?)
M: Well, Im talking at great lengths, but the dishwashers broken.
P: Living with real world problems?
M: (laughs) Its like Kool Keith said “Look in my cabinets. There’s Captain Crunch in there. I’m a regular man.” And as far as changing the world, it’s hard to say. I mean, throwing a rock thru a window makes a statement, but that’s not really our thing. It’s interesting and valuable to think about the way society is structured and the way the system is put together, and then to get on a forum and discuss the things you feel strongly about. I know that we’ve been to Living Wage marches in Richmond and supported Food Not Bombs, which is cool. There are lots of things happening in Richmond
P: If you could change the world, what would be the first thing you would do?
M: I’d drain the White House swimming pool, so I could skate in it. Man that was a stupid thing to say.
P: If you died right now, that would be your final quote.
M: I could live with that. Man, I dont know. I think I would… this is really abstract, but I think a lot of the problems people have are that we’re not comfortable with our skin. We’re always caught up in different colors, or being fat, or whatever. It sounds like hippy nonsense, but it would be a great thing if people would spend time in self reflection that would increase growth or change without hating themselves. (laughs) If I could invoke that kind of change, I would be a super natural being or something. I know Tom talks about the media a lot, and I think MTV is part of the problem. Lots of things cause problems.
P: I think a lot of people arent happy because they see MTV and wish that was their world.
M: I think a lot of people, when they arent perfectly content, they think somethings wrong. Too much stress. Not something I can relate to, but I understand it exists, and it seems difficult to live with. But yeah, things like MTV Cribs make you think “damn, I gotta have some dubs on my ride, or my life is worthless” kinda of thoughts.
P: I like that show. To me its interesting to see what people do with their money. Sometimes they just go nuts and have all this nonsense and others live very moderately. It’s a weird voyeurism thing.
M: It’s really just a super amplified reality show.
P: But the real world and all this shit bores me. I’m not interested in peoples lives or anything, but I will watch cribs and shout things at the TV, like “your fucking stupid, spending $500k on a gold tractor” or whatever.
M: That’s the flipside of my changing the world. You cant protect people from changing themselves. That’s being human. You can sit and do nothing. You can kill yourself, or you can make millions. It’s free will.
P: Did you vote?
M: Actually, my registration didnt arrive. I registered, and received my card after the election.
P: The man let you down.
M: The man did let me down. I was registered in another state, but never got it.
P: Who’d would you have voted for?
M: Probably Ralph Nadar. Actually, defiantly Nadar. I’m sure that’s who Tom voted for. What’s interesting is that some of the punks in Richmond are becoming viable candidates for politics. Like Adam, the old guitar player from Born Against, who is a thoughtful guy and would be great to see as Governor or something.
P: Let me ask you something.. (we then proceed to get in a twenty minute discussion of Nadar, Bush and politics, which was way too long to fit into this interview. Great points all around, and I think we both learned something. Well, probably just me. He might have learned that Im kinda ignorant, but that’s about it)
P: My girlfriend voted for Nadar.
M: That’s cool. Mine voted for Gore.
P: That’s funny. I voted for Gore, so I just figured I cancelled out my girlfriends vote. (more discussion) …but Im just a stupid music critic.
M: And I’m just a stupid musician. That’s the thing, when you asked about changing the world, Im just a dude with an engineering degree who plays guitar. I have lots of ideas for art projects, and think that people can be effective by controlling their environments, but I dont think playing the right chord or doing the cool stage jumps will change anything. Most of the cool things a political band can do are stage protests and things like that. It’s not really about the music. Like Tom, he went to the city council and helped cut down the dog fighting.
P: Dog fighting? Like illegal organized dog fighting?
M: Yeah. Now they can actually press charges, and have police power.
P: Like, pit bulls and stuff? (totally amazed that this exists)
M: Yeah, exactly. Animals in the neighborhood, and stuff. Like, he would be walking his dogs, and some random person would come up to him with a young pit-bull and throw it at his dogs, trying to toughen it up or whatever.
P: No way. Thats ludicrous!
M: Yeah totally. So that was a significant change which was way cool for him and his neighbors and it was exciting working with the system to get shit done, an example of effective ways to use and go around the system.
P: Speaking of animals, in the inside of ‘Change is a Sound’, it says that Strike Anywhere supports the vegetarian lifestyle. Is the whole band vegetarian?
P: Vegan or vegetarian?
M: Kind of half and half. I occasionally fall off the wagon and eat seafood.
P: Now, why is that bad? I mean, its seafood. It’s like eating bugs, except these bugs live underwater, and their tasty.
M: It depends on who you ask. I mean, is a fetus a child?
P: Well, come on. Like, I have a fish tank on my desk. I see these fish. They are stupid. They are just not smart. It’s a lot different then, lets say, a puppy.
M: Thats the thing people fight about. If it had a mother or a face, you cant eat it.
P: Arent milk/cheese/eggs taken from animals that are in stocks? Isnt that bad?
M: And thats exactly the argument people use to convert people to vegan. My girlfriends vegan, so I eat vegan about 80% of the time, unless Im at a seafood restaurant, then I mack the salmon, but I respect the salmon, and I catch mass hell for it. I support Cristen, and Tom and all them. I hate milk, but Ill eat cheese when it’s on something that someone gives me to eat. I guess I have a little freegan going, but that’s part of being poor. I’m sorry; can you give me five minutes with my landlord?
P: No problem.
M: Im buying a house, and we’re moving soon, but my landlord sold this house that we live in now, so we’re dealing with the new owners.
P: What’s the best show you’ve had?
M: London, England. Amazing. People were so enthusiastic, it was great. Punk Band TV came out and taped it, and sends us a video that sounded and looked great. And our last show in Richmond was incredible. Very warm and heart felt.
P: What’s your worst show?
M: Tokyo Rose, in Virginia. Seven people came. Oh, and a bad recent show in Madison, Wisconsin. They just didnt get our music. And when we toured in Belgium, they didnt like us at all. There’s something kind of cool about that. When you play a show and you play bad, but people like you, it feels shallow. But when you play good, and people hate you, it’s a little cooler.
P: Whats the best band nobody knows about?
M: Trial by Fire is amazing. Their going to be huge. There’s also this band called The Break, and their just incredible. You will hear from them. Blocko, that’s another good band, from England. Kinda sounds like Leatherface.
P: The worst band nobody realizes?
M: (laughs) That’s a good way to get in trouble. Oh, another good band is Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
M: Yeah, we played with them, and they’re just amazing. Each band member could be his own band, so together they just rock. We really enjoyed hanging out with the band, but I was blown away watching them. Amazing. Anyway, worst band that nobody knows.
M: Yeah, realizes. All of rap metal can eat a bowl of dick. I have a soft spot for Rage Against the Machine. I guess, I guess Ive never really been into the White Stripes or the Strokes.
P: Who will you be touring with?
M: All sorts of bands, like Avail, Good Riddance, and then Anti-Flag. Oh, and Trial by Fire. We should be coming to the west coast in June. Oh, and another good band, Spare Change, rock. They’re really good. Kinda At The Drive In type of music.
P: Final words?
M: Um, man, thanks a lot. I hope this interview makes sense. It’s hard for me to stay with one thought.
P: I’m a stoner, so welcome to my world.
M: See, Im not, so I wonder if I should be.
P: I dont know, not to sound like a typical drug user, but it helps me cope with just about anything. ‘Have a problem? Smoke a bowl! All better’.
M: (laughs) That’s great. I should try that. When we were in England, pot was everywhere.
P: You guys straight edge?
M: No, only our drummer is. Um, so different people take different things. It’s just amazing how the drug scene is so open and not criminalized in every other country. Amsterdam, obviously, was all about drugs. I dont really know that much about drugs, but there was so much variety in those coffee shops, it was crazy. For people who are dedicated smokers, Amsterdam is a dream.
And with that, the interview was over. I’m glad that bands like this can exist without being shoved in the corner with the ‘hardcore’ political groups out there. You’ve got to check out their sound, so go to www.strikeanywhere.org and find out what these lads are up to. And for god sakes, dont forget to bring a towel.