Friday, February 22, 2008

Interview: Finally Punk

Formed in Austin in 2006, Finally Punk catapulted their way to the top of a fairly short list of Texas' best exports and national acts in less than two years, garnering recognition in such polar opposite media outlets as Pitchfork Media and Maximum Rock 'N' Roll. The immediacy of their seizure-like rhythms and stark yet inventively spiky guitar playing was the only constant in the dizzying setup of the band rotating roles, vocal and instrumental duties of every member after almost every song. The hyperactive shouting has been increasingly tempered with a gentler approach to singing, but that hasn't watered down the group's potency, it's only added to their overall appeal. Founding member Erin Budd spoke to us via email.


How did the band come about in Austin? Were you natives or as is often the case, had some of you come for school or music etc?

Elizabeth (Skadden) is the only true Austinite. Steph (Chan)moved here for school and I (Erin Budd) moved to Austin out of boredom caused from growing up in a small Texas town. Austin was the only city in Texas I could envision myself living in.

What do you feel overall about Austin as the so-called live music capital? Do you feel that it's undeservedly hyped or justifiably recognized? Do you think the media focus is on the wrong things or that it's legitimately balanced? Do you think that it's a place where some of the more obscure acts eventually get the attention they deserve?

I think that the whole live music capital thing is a bunch of shit. There are millions of terrible bands here that play every night and only a tiny percentage of Austin musicians are actually doing something interesting. It is rather easy to become jaded and not really care about what is going on. Mainstream media only covers safe bands; bands that aren't really covering any new ground and who write those irresistible catchy tunes we've already heard a million times. I think that the more obscure acts will and only get attention among a small niche of people and probably won't be recognized as being innovative until it is too late, but this goes for any scene in any city past and present. Austin isn't special.

How do you feel about the venue situation in Austin? What do you like about it or what could be improved

The pro to having so many venues is that it is extremely easy to book a show whenever you want. My biggest complaint would be that there needs to be a general all ages hangout where they charge no more than 5 dollars at the door. However this would be difficult to manage because Austin is a transient college town and nothing good here is able to sustain itself for very long. I'm sure several clubs/venues could say that they have been successful, but they're catering to more generic popular crowds. I guess Emo's has been alright for more experimental music, but it seems like the bands I want to see are starting to play elsewhere.


In your earlier music, there were more jerky and jumbled rhythm structures and things were overall more chaotic sounding. Though the rhythms haven't completely calmed down, there is a bit more restraint and singing as opposed to shouting in songs like "Boyfriend Application" and "Primary Colors." Do you agree that parts of your sound changed? What do you attribute it to?

In the beginning we didn't know how to play/make music. We picked up instruments for the first time, wrote a few songs within minutes, and recorded in our living room. We were sloppy and terrible but people seemed to like it. I agree that certain sounds may have changed, but the only attributing factor to this would be that our songwriting abilities were sharpened with practice.

The track "Missile" has become somewhat legendary and the unforgettable opening line seems to be one of the first things I've heard people blurt out when your name comes up. Why do you think that is? Can you tell us a little about how that song came to be? I believe I said it was the best song of 2006 in my year end summary.

"Missile" was written in kind of an avant-garde fashion. People have interpreted the meaning in many hilarious ways, but the truth is that it is a reenactment of a reenactment of a fight between two drunk guys.


How does the switching off of instruments work in this band? Is the person who usually sings the song also the author as well? Or do you just pound out the songs together and try to decide who will do what later?

Refer to a few questions earlier when I answered that we had no idea what we were doing. Due to our lack of musical ability, we decided to switch around. The person who sings usually only writes their own lyrics and the music comes from either jam sessions or from parts that members may have brought into practice.

Are there instruments that you feel more comfortable on? Do you like the idea of forcing yourself to do something you're less comfortable with or has it all evened out by now?

I hate playing drums and I think that my strength lies in vocals/lyrics and bass, although I would love to be great at the guitar. Steph has been playing guitar since her early teens and she is really great at noodling. Veronica (our ex member) was great at drums and I think that Elizabeth is really good at coming up with experimental guitar parts. I feel very unimaginative when it comes to drums and only like to play similar beats. It is frustrating, but I deal with it by not playing the drums on very many songs.

I understand that you've experienced at least one significant lineup change and are now geographically challenged as well. What was the lineup change and how are you divided up now? How has the lineup change affected the switching off?

Veronica decided to quit the band so now we are a three piece. Elizabeth moved to Rhode Island to go to graduate school, and Steph is now living in LA. I'm the only member left in Austin, and I try to keep the fort held down. We got together this past fall in NYC for the CMJ festival and we were able to write and record a few new songs. Geography has definitely complicated the band and since losing a member we've never had the chance to really practice as a three piece and reassign parts. Communication is also key to a long-distance relationship and since we're all relatively busy perusing personal goals the band has lost some priority.

How did playing with Katelyn from Mika Miko come about?

She is Steph's roommate. We've had several people fill-in at past shows whenever certain members were either traveling or for some reason couldn't make it to a show. Since we haven't been able to have an extensive practice as a three piece we figured we'd just get one of our friends to help out.


It seems that in anything I've read about you, they list Kleenex/Lilliput, The Raincoats as well as Bikini Kill/Riot Grrl stuff to compare or reference what you sound like. Do you feel that is a somewhat narrow summary or do you think it's fair? What other influences do you have that you think are missed or that may surprise people?

We all listen to a great deal of music and our tastes can be anywhere from drastic to somewhat different from one another's personal favorites. I think that lumping us into the riot girl summary is quite a bit narrow, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is just easy for people to lump us in with other known women musicians and this is fine because we like them, but I don't think that we're directly influenced by them.


Are there any current acts that you either relate to or that you feel are doing interesting things? Any guilty pleasures?

Sure, I think that we could all agree the we all enjoy the bands that keep popping out from LA.The Smell has recently been getting a lot of publicity and that is great because they showcase some of the better current bands. I enjoy Ariel Pink, No Age, The Bubonic Plague, etc. I also feel that there are many good bands emerging from Houston as well, like Indian Jewelry.

How do you feel about SXSW? Looking forward to it or is it a necessary evil?

SXSW is my favorite holiday. I look forward to all of the day parties and other non festival related events.