RECORDS DON’T CONFUSE ME TOO OFTEN, BUT WHEN THEY DO, I LIKE THEM. SO, WHEN MINNESOTA’S NEWEST ROCK LEGENDS, MUNKEY JUICE, SENT ME THEIR LAST ALBUM, SASSY POTATO, I BECAME CONFUSED, AND THUS, A FAN. I FIGURED IT WOULDN’T HURT TO GIVE THEM MORE PRESS, SO I CALLED ALL THREE OF THEM AND CHATTED IT UP. READ ON, MY WAYWARD SONS.
Vinnie: Is this Munkey Juice?
N: This is Munkey Juice.
V: This is Vinnie Baggadonuts.
N: How you doing, man?
N: This is Nelson of Munkey Juice. You looking for all of us to get on a phone?
V: Sure, if you guys want.
Stacie: Hey. This is Stacie.
V: Hey! Nice to finally talk to you. You guys are closer now. Minnesota is closer to Milwaukee than Columbus.
S: Yeah, sorta. (laughs) Hold on. They’re all finding phones. I’m going to go into a different room, because it’s weird to hear the actual voices, and the voices in the phone.
N: Stacie just doesn’t like me.
S: (laughs) Yeah. That’s pretty much it.
N: I’m also naked,.. I wanted to get comfortable for this.
S: So, we got one of us upstairs, one in the living room, and one downstairs.
V: Just so you guys know, I’m tape recording this so I can turn it into the government, so we have a record for the Patriot Act. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d first like to ask why you moved to Minnesota from Columbus?
N: Well, I probably should answer that because I’m the main reason. I am going to grad school up here, and I kinda convinced the guys to come up here with me. That’s the main reason.
V: I just wondered if it was because of the Columbus music scene or anything like that.
S: Well, for me, that kinda helped me decide to go. I’m a freelance designer. I do websites and stuff, and most of my clients aren’t in Ohio, so it doesn’t really matter where I’m at. And I was pretty fed up with the Columbus music scene. I’m sure Nelson and Bubba can also comment on that.
B: We’ve been able to get as many gigs in a week here as it took us to get in a year in Columbus. There’s just more of a community here.
N: Yeah, there’s definitely a bigger response up here. I came up thinking we wouldn’t get a gig until 2004, but we’ve already lined up seven gigs within the first month of being here.
S: Columbus is just hard. It’s very cliquey. I don’t think we were fitting in the scene, you know? We’re not particularly social, hanging out at the bars every night, so,... (laughs)
N: It’s pretty dead up there, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a lot more lively up here. I mean, the bands up here are even more friendly. We had trouble being personable with any of the people down there. They would shun us. While we’d play, they’d walk off, but we’d sit and watch them. The people up here just have a collective joy for music.
V: That’s awesome.
S: That’s something I noticed here, too. When we play at bars, the people who come to the bars come to see the band. They’re not just at the bar and like, “Oh. A band’s playing,” and ignore us. People are actually coming to bars to see the show and not just drink, which is nice.
V: So, is there any sort of general sound up there? Like how Nebraska’s got this whole indie rock scene everyone’s hyping about? Is there anything like that going on up there, or is it pretty diverse?
N: As far as the bands we’ve played with, it’s been pretty diverse. I can’t say there’s one collective sound. We even noticed that we sound a lot different from the bands that normally play here, but I don’t even know what that means.
N: But, we saw a jam band play. We’ve seen some punk bands play, some power pop bands play, you know. We haven’t played enough for me to see any sort of definitive sound up here. What do you think, Bubba?
B: I haven’t seen any definitive sound yet.
V: So, how many albums do you guys have coming out again?
N: Well, we’ve got one out right now, Sassy Potato, and we’ve got one that’s getting ready to be released. We got the mastering back from Jon Chinn in Columbus, but we’ve got five total out right now.
V: Stacie, weren’t you telling me about this massive amount of releases you had planned?
N: Oh! (laughs)
S: Yeah, this is our little CD promotion thing. We’ve already started, and I think we have ten done. We’re gonna release ten CDs, each with ten songs on them that are under a minute long. Then, when they’re all done, maybe put out a double CD with 50 songs on each CD.
V: What made you guys decide to do that?
S: Well, most of our songs are originally pretty short. And I thought it’d be cool to do a dozen or so. I had the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs album, and I thought that was cool. They had three sets of 23 songs on three discs. I read that he originally wanted to put out 100 songs, but because of the CD length they’d have to be pretty short. So we just made the stipulation that each song would have to be under a minute, and we just went with that. And we also liked Guided By Voices albums; how their songs were really short and such.
V: The only reason I ask is, just listening to the album and talking you guys, you seem to have this insane motivation that’s even present on your website. It's pretty impressive, because the Internet is a pretty cold forum. You all just seem so absorbed in what you do, that it creates this constant stream of music to be released.
N: I think it’s just-- I hate to say this-- but, we don’t do much else. So we can just bang out these songs, and we have the equipment. Right now, all our stuff’s in the basement. We’re all kind of amateur musicians on different instruments, and we just like playing around and coming up with tunes. We have our own recording system, but it’s pretty simple. I’m one of those people who believes that writing a pop song is not nuclear science. We’re just banging 'em out because we can. We all have guitars and, well, Stacie doesn't play guitar. But he has an accordion.
S: I think that’s something we all agree on. We can’t figure out how bands can go for years and years and years without new material, and when they do release a new album, it only has nine songs on it. It’s like, what did you do that whole time? (laughs) For us it’s like, if we have an album out and a few months have gone by, we’re like, “Man, where’s the next thing?” It’s an obsessive compulsive kind of thing.
N: Which we all are.
B: I think we record too much.
B: Nah, it’s alright. It’s kinda fun.
N: I mean, we figure, “Why not?” Who knows how long we’ll be together? Might as well have the archive.
V: So, you guys are still a “continuous side project” like your site says?
N: The whole “continuous side project” thing was when my brother Bubba and I were just doing it all in the basement of my parents’ house. We were just banging out songs. Then I went to college and played in a few bands, one of them with Stacie. And then I went to rehab, and after I got out of rehab, I was band-less, so Bubba and I started playing music again as this little side thing to keep me sane. (laughs) We just kinda progressed from there. I called Stacie up and dragged him into this whole thing.
S: Yeah. When he called me, it was the first time I’d talked to him in two years. He had pretty much disappeared down in Athens, Ohio, and me and a bunch of our mutual friends had no idea what happened to him. When he left, he was in a pretty bad state. So it was kind of surprising to hear him chipper and sober.
S: But after a few letters, phone calls, and CDs he and Bubba had done, I finally joined.
N: So, I guess we’re a full-fledged thing as far as the band goes. But we’re all pretty busy with our real-life jobs-- the ones that are paying for the rent here. We hope somebody notices. God, it’d be nice to at least be paid to put out our music.
V: See, we’re all in a similar situation. We all do this work that we’re passionate about, this work we try and get out there, but we have to pick up some regular work to pay the bills. Is it as frustrating for you guys to have to do that, too?
N: To some degree, I think it is. But it was a little bit harder when we were in Columbus and lived an hour away from each other. We’d have to meet at my grandmother’s house for practice. I think it’s a little bit easier now that we’re living in the same house. Except I think we’re driving each other crazy. (laugh) I think it’s easier for us to do it and put it out. But as far as financially getting easier, I think it’s more of a burden now than it’s ever been. At least for me, it is, because I’m doing school and not making any money.
S: It’s tough for me, too, because, if you consider the band a freelance thing, then I do it twice. I’m a freelance designer, and moving to a new design community, it’s hard to find new work. Little bits here and there, but you gotta eat first, then the band. It’s tough, but somehow we manage to keep putting things out.
B: It’s kind of the same for me. I just graduated college, so to pay the bills, I gotta wait tables.
N: Did that answer the question?
V: Yeah. I pretty much assumed that would be your answer. I’m just curious, because I personally can’t figure out why there’s so little encouragement for the arts.
N: It’s hard, too, in any kind of art, to get a mass audience for anything. People that have the money promote the stuff that is flashy and shiny. But they don’t care about the stuff that is creative and speaking and saying something. And also, the term “artist” is probably thrown around too loosely these days.
S: At least with college and high school kids now, everything’s an MTV culture. It’s all so prepackaged and presented. It’s like a universal language, and all these kids know all these bands. And when there’s any new local band, they don’t wanna go out and see it because it’s different.
N: And no one’s telling them to like it. (laughs)
S: Exactly. Until some critic says, “This band is great! You must go see them!” I mean, just talking with other bands in Columbus, it was always the same struggle for all of us, trying to get people to come out. People would be like, “Well, I know this guy, but I don’t know what his band is going to sound like. And I don’t know if I wanna pay five bucks to see it and not like it.”
N: I think one of the most frustrating things for me is that people won’t pay five bucks to come out and see a band play, but they’ll have hundred-dollar cell phone bills every month. Or they’ll go out and waste $50 a night on dinner, drinks, whatever. They’ll pay $20 for a CD by Limp Bizkit or Good Charlotte, but they won’t pay five dollars to hear the band they just saw play and were tapping their toes. I mean, five bucks! Jesus! You guys are fuckin’ Nazis!
V: (laughs) Is that fuel at all for what you write? What is the inspiration for the songs you write?
N: I don’t know. I think this next album we’re putting out has kind of a political undertone, because we wrote it during that whole “thing that was happening over yonder.” (laughs) I do a lot of the writing, and Bubba does a lot of the first drafts, so to speak. A lot of my stuff is personal, dealing with my recovery, me twisting it around in different ways. And I think a lot of stuff is just banging off social issues, but in a pretty cynical way. I mean, sometimes it might just be an idea. I think if you think too hard about it, it comes off sounding too wishy-washy.
V: I ask because I dig stuff where you listen to the lyrics and you read the song title and think, “Okay. I think I know what this means, but I’m not real sure.”
N: Sure, sure, sure! Thanks.
V: I just thought the album was so different.
N: Well, the review you guys gave us was real flattering, because people always ask how we define ourselves, and we tell them we can’t! And I think seeing someone else saying they also can’t define us makes us seem a little less pompous. (laughs) I think it’s just because we have a pretty eclectic collection of music. We all bring something different to it. I’ve played in other bands where the stuff I write comes out chinchy. But when I play it with these guys, it comes out a lot different than I ever imagined.
V: So, what has the crowd reaction in Minnesota been like?
B: The crowd reaction was pretty good, actually. We got a real good response.
S: It’s always nice when you’re into the fourth song in your set, and someone screams out, “You guys got another gig!” That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard!
V: Was it intimidating at all just showing up in a brand new city, saying, “Okay, here we are. Here’s what we do.”
S: Actually, for me it wasn’t, because just before the shows, people from other bands were coming up to us and talking to us, asking what we’re like. It was like the crowd was already open-minded to our sound, whereas in Columbus, we’d see a punk rock crowd and know they were gonna hate us, or, “Oh, no. It’s a jam band crowd.” (laughs) It just seems a lot more laid back here.
N: I definitely feel that people just aren’t as snooty. They don’t go around with this attitude like, “Who the fuck are you?”
N: They’re more like, “Who are you? Can we talk to you? Do you want to play another show?” This girl at our last show in St. Paul-- we’re just sitting there popping quarters into the jukebox, listening to some Zeppelin-- and this girl from the other band starts talking to us, asking us questions, and she wants to help get us another gig, before she even heard our music or anything! It’s been cool. Our neighbor showed up!
V: Awesome. So, tell my tape recorder when the album’s coming out and stuff, so people reading the interview will be well-informed.
N: (laughs) Okay.
S: Well, hopefully it will be coming out end of October/early November. I still have to do the design for it, so,... (laughs)
N: Well, I think it’s our best work ever, you know? (laughs) No, it actually is one of my favorite CDs of ours to listen to. I think it has five songs we recorded in Studio Workbook in Columbus that turned out really nice. We recorded some other songs in another studio, but the guy fucked us over.
N: If you want to write in your article “Fuck Scott Simmons”, you can.
N: I think it all came out really nicely. There’s a nice diversity. The last album was straight-forward rockin', and this one’s got some texture to it. Bubba’s got some songs in it that he actually got a sax player for. It really has a good finale aspect to our CD. There’s some banjo mandolin stuff, Stacie does more percussion stuff, Bubba does more keyboard stuff. It’s a lot better album than what we’ve done before. And I think our next album, that we’re already working on, is even more exciting. And that’s the best thing about what we’re doing; we keep expanding our repertoire.
S: You really see a progression on this album. We really clicked together. It’s real hard-hitting stuff.
B: Yeah. I think the Rolling Stones better watch out.
V: So, is there going to be any touring outside of Minnesota to promote the record?
N: I think the only limitations to that are that I’m in school right now. We’ll have to work stuff out during winter and spring break. We’re always open to anything.
S: There was our failed attempt at a big tour this past summer, appropriately called the "Fuck Ohio Tour". We were trying to play all the surrounding states over and over again, but never play Ohio. But we only landed one gig. So, oh well.
V: Alright, I hate to do this, but I gotta end it. The tape’s running out. So, I have the one last question we ask everyone. Do you know what I’m gonna ask you?
N: No, I’m not gay. (laughs)
V: (laughs) Okay, then I have two last questions for you guys. Do dogs have lips?
B: Girl dogs do.
N: Do dogs have lips-- oh, I get it. I get you, Bubba. (laughs) Backwards lips. Okay. Do dogs have lips? I don’t know. In my drunken days I would have said yes.
N: But, I'm gonna have to say no, now that I’m sober.
V: Nobody’s ever answered the dog lips question with the “girl dogs” answer.
N: Strike one up for Bubba!
B: I like the bitches!