"(mainstream is full of) entertainers, not musicians. Peddling garbage to the masses. No one writes their own songs. Just a lot of fake looking puppets pushing sex, greed, violence and hate. Seriously fuck the radio."
How was the band chronologically assembled? Under what circumstances?
How the final version of the band came to be is kind of a weird (and long) story. Towards the end of 2009 when we knew Men As Trees was coming to an end, my brother Jason (Men As Trees Guitar/Locktender Bass) and I had a lot of discussions on what we wanted to do next. Frank was leaving for graduate school in Arizona and Nick was staying in Detroit so they weren't really available or else MAT may have stayed together. We were both slotted to Teach English as a Second Language in Korea and knew we wanted to try and pursue a musical project while we were there. After having 8 different bass players in MAT, and Jason being a bass player initially anyways, it made sense for him to start playing bass again, so with me on guitar, all we would need is a drummer in Korea to make the band work. Keep it simple. Less people, less scheduling conflicts. Also, since Jason and I are brothers, less likely he would bail and make us start the never ending bassist quest all over again. So we started writing songs that would become very early versions of Locktender songs and eventually found a punk, like “I love Rancid ” punk, drummer in Busan. We jammed a bit but making music work there was a lot harder than expected. The drummer was in a bunch of bands, transportation took forever, and to be honest after having Frank behind the drums for so many years, we held the bar pretty high for what we expected. Straight punk wasn't really gonna cut it. As the project seemed to not be going anywhere, I found out I had knocked up my long time girlfriend so we decided to head back to the US to start our family, ultimately putting any projects with Jason on hold since he wanted to stay and finish his teaching contract. My now wife and I moved a little north of Philadelphia where the only people I knew band-wise was the guys from The Lady is Not for Burning. Jon/Kyle were the guitar players for that band but when we started playing it was me on guitar, Jon bass and Kyle on drums. Playing with them was kind of a trip. I showed up initially ready to play high speed, screamo, Propagandhi tech-punk and they slowed me down...like way down. Insanity turned into chill post rock indie real quick but I was really digging it. I was playing with no distortion at all, lots of delays/reverb and just really letting the music develop. Not rushing it. It was a major influence in the writing to come with the final line up of Locktender. So it seemed to be going well because all the people who came to practice were into it, as well as the questionable neighbours who loitered in front of the house....gotta love North Philly. Anywho, unfortunately right when we had 3-4 songs down and wanted to record a demo, Kyle had to move to Pittsburgh, Jon got crazy with work and I had my kid, so the project kind of fizzled out. Around this time, I took my kid brother to see ENVY and kind of fell back in love with the whole epic screamo thing again. It's not that I didn't like what Jon/Kyle/I had created but I had that desire to really build up to chaos and let things get really dark and heavy when it was called for. Probably after seeing ENVY, I called up our old MAT drummer Frank, who was now living in Cleveland. We decided we should probably play some music, so he came out to Philly and it was just like old times. It's hard to describe what it's like playing music with people you have played with for 10 years. Not having to describe what a part should sound like. Jason and Frank are like that. They just know what to play and are both such talented musicians. We write songs so naturally at this point. Frank and I probably messed around with early version of #63 and The Thinker, it sounded good and I decided to move to Cleveland so we could pick it up full time. At this point Jason's teaching contract was done and he decided he wanted in as well. As for Nick (MAT final bassist, LT Vocals) we had been in contact since I moved back to the States. I'd never been in a band where we had a stand alone vocalist but always wanted to give it a try (I think I may have been listening to a lot of Hopesfall at the time haha). I really wanted someone who could really give vocals/lyrics their all since they didn't have to manage an instrument too. I felt this was especially important given the LT concept and how much work would go into the vocals. Nick had a been just a vocalist before, had an iron throat that seems to never give out regardless of how many consecutive shows we play, is super smart so I knew his lyrics wouldn't be trash and I guess most importantly was already a friend of ours who we knew we could tour with so it made sense having him join the band. He still lives in Detroit but it's an easy commute for him to come down for shows and practices. So yeah, basically from 2009 in Korea to 2010 in Philly to finally getting the line up set in May 2011 when we had our first practice in Cleveland.
Why the name, LOCKTENDER?
Originally Jason had always wanted to be in a band called AGES that would write songs about historical events, kind of in a way that we now use artists. Once I moved to Philly I thought it would be weird using that name without him, so that's how Jon/Kyle/I ended up as Locktender. I used to run trails along canals by the Delaware River. As I would run I would always pass by these old Locktender's houses. A Locktender controlled the flow of the canal/river via locks and allowed passage through. I always pictured some bearded guy in the fog in the middle of the night greeting strangers and liked the concept. Anywho, the name went away once Jason came back and we decided to try AGES again. Problem was, Cleveland already had a band named Ages, something we were unaware of until we made a website and got a bunch of hate messages from their fans calling us posers haha. We quickly decided to go back to Locktender, and looking back now we are all glad we did. It fits us and the music well.
What bands have most directly influenced LOCKTENDER’s songs over the years?
It's really hard to say musically which bands we've been influenced by because we all listen to and appreciate such different genres across the board. I was listening mainly to Motown and Reggae when writing the guitar for most of our records. I actually try to avoid music that would be in our genre when writing, specifically to avoid being influenced. I guess one band that we all admire is ENVY. We've always loved their music but with starting Locktender and getting on in years, I feel like we look up to them because they have shown that it is possible to have it all: they consistently put out great records, tour internationally on their own schedule but also maintain full time jobs and families and whatnot. It's nice to know we can strive to play the music we want to on our own terms but also be able to work jobs to pay the bills and get health insurance to take care of our families/loved ones.
How would you describe LOCKTENDER’s music?
Prententious Art Core haha. Who knows at this point. I usually just call it screamo/post rock to generalize but usually leave it up to the listener to decide what “genre” they feel we belong to. I feel like our music is all over the maps these days. If someone asks who is over 50 years old I usually just say it's like Led Zeppelin.
Although I love ‘Kafka’, ‘Rodin’ is a ridiculously massive and I would assume time-consuming project which translates amazing to the songs. What progressions, realizations or other ways has LOCKTENDER evolved from the last project to this one?
To be honest, it's weird because we have been working on everything at the same time. Rodin was pretty much written when Kafka was being recorded. We just wanted to put Kafka out first. At the start, I pretty much showed up with three albums worth of music and we have been playing catch up ever since. So in terms of evolution, I guess each project takes on the essence of the artist during writing but we are constantly switching back and forth. Certain songs have taken a long time and been worked on and rewritten a lot but I feel that's necessary for us to be happy with the end product. It's nice to be finally caught up so people can hear the songs we have been playing live for three years actually recorded. We played “The Thinker” at our first show in Aug 2011.
“The Piazza” was placed on the Amber split 7”, how did you guys become acquainted with the band and how did the idea of the split first come about?
We had actually asked Cory from Halo of Flies to be a part of our split 10” in 2012 when it was originally supposed to be with Sailing On (they ended up not having their songs ready in time so this became the Brighter Arrows split). The timing ended up not working out but we kept in contact and met Cory in person at Skeletal Lightning Fest in 2013. I really dug Protestant and Cory's very honest personality (he told us he hated most of our merch when we first met haha) so still thought it would be cool to do release with HoF at some point. A few months later he told us about this band called Amber and that he thought we would be a good fit to do a split together. We started talking to them too, loved their music and the rest is history.
Please explain ‘Rodin’ in as much detail as you can!
I basically stumbled upon the Rodin museum in Philadelphia and was floored by his art. Like most people I knew about “The Thinker” but after seeing “The Gates of Hell” and “Burghers of Calais”, I knew we had to focus on him as an artist. His work is so honest and detailed and selecting the pieces to focus on was almost too easy, like we knew what song would go with which piece with next to no debate. Like all our music, our songs for Rodin is just our take on his works, whether that be musically, lyrically or both. We are really happy with how the record turned out and I hope people are able to see his works visually (at least one time) when listening to the record.
You had a split 10” with Brighter Arrows, who have recently, like yourselves, been getting their fair share of attention. How did that split come into being?
We have known those dudes for a long time. MAT toured with Mans in 2008 so we have been close with their drummer John since then. Funny enough, originally when Jason and I went to Korea the plan afterwards was to move to Chicago and start a band with John. Obviously it didn't work out that way but we've always loved his drumming style and have been friends for a long time. He is surely one of a kind. Also, we knew Jake from Lautrec. Super nice guy too. I was pumped when I found out they were playing in BA together. Just made sense to do something between our bands so that's how the 10” came to be. John was actually in the studio as our pseudo “producer” when we recorded the Collected songs in Chicago.
How have you adapted to people praising the shit out of your music? Is it difficult to stay modest?
We are all very down to earth guys and our reaction is always, and will always be extreme gratitude. If everyone hated our music, I think we would still hole up in a practice space and play our songs just because we enjoy them, but it is always nice to know someone appreciates what you've created.
I heard that tracks 1 and 4 from ‘Rodin’ were going to be one song. What led to the decision to separate those tracks?
Probably the fact that it would have been over 30 minutes of music and wouldn't have fit on one side of a record haha. There was a point where we had them arranged together but I think we just decided we can play them back to back if we want. I love playing lengthy songs but people need a break. Also between broken strings and tuning failures, the longer the song, the more likely problems are to arise live. 19 minutes with “Burghers” alone is probably enough but more importantly was already long enough for us to finally write a song longer than “The Decline” by NoFX, a goal for like 10 years.
Is there a song that you feel encapsulates LOCKTENDER as a band?
At this point probably “The Burghers of Calais”. Maybe “The White Dam” too. I'm happy with all our music but if someone really wanted to give us a listen, those would be the best representations of us.
What have the different recording experiences been like?
The songs for the “Collected” splits we did very fast in Chicago over a single weekend. The engineer was great but I think it was too much to record in too little of time. That was the Men As Trees approach ...record cheap , super fast and usually out of town so you can't go back for another take. Recording is stressful enough without being limited for time so I think “Collected” was kind of the tipping point for us to start looking for a new strategy. When it came time for “Kafka”, Joe from Masakari put us in contact with Bill from Mars music. They had used him a lot and had great results. He had done a lot of old school hardcore (Earth Crisis, Tragedy, Integrity) and really knew his stuff. He is hard on bands so you have to bring your “A” game but he does it to make sure the record turns out great. He has your best interest in mind. Also his space is on a farm in total rural Ohio. You get to record in a big open wood planked room. No headphones or isolation. Just loud as hell and live. This is preferred for us since we always record live with vocals/minimal overdubs after. So we did “Kafka” with him and went back a year later to do “Rodin/Split w/Amber”. Bill is a great guy. Even fixed my amp and cab for me. One of the genuinely awesome guys that make our scene better for everyone. Also he has already recorded every Mushroomhead album for the last 20 years so he has a wealth of entertaining stories to tell during lengthy bouncing down sessions.
What has been the most difficult song to write? The easiest?
They are all different. Some may take more rewriting than others but for the most part since we have all played together for so long, songs usually come together pretty naturally.
What songs are you most proud of? Why?
Sounds corny but all of them. They are all my babies haha. I felt like Men As Trees was our learning band and we'd be embarrassed to play some of the older songs because we were still figuring out how to write individually and as a band. We figured it out in the later years but I'm talking like the early demos. With Locktender, we know who we are and anything that we put the effort in to record, we are happy to play.
Are there any songs that you don’t necessarily enjoy listening to or playing anymore?
Continuing on what I said above, we are happy to play any of our songs. It's a actually a point of pride for us that we can play any of our songs. I know a lot of bands have stuff that goes by the wayside but we made it a point to be constantly rehearsing our entire discography. When touring Europe in 2009 with Men As Trees, it was disappointing to tell fans we couldn't play something they requested because we no longer knew it. A casualty of having 8 different bass players meant we never had a chance to reteach everything. Locktender still has all it's founding members so pretty much if a fan wants to hear something, they just have to tell us prior to the show and we will be happy to oblige.
You guys are pretty tight with Jon from Cassilis, how did you meet him and the rest of the band? He’s done a lot of LOCKTENDER art, can you talk about the works?
We've know Jon a long time. Him and I started talking online once both our bands ending up on similar DIY label when I was in MAT and he was in The Lady is Not for Burning. We eventually played shows together in NYC and NJ in 2007. The Lady called it quits but we played with Cassilis in Baltimore in 2008. They crushed it so hard, as they still do. Once MAT ended, we kept in touch and he was the first person I called when I moved to Philadelphia as I mentioned above. His girlfriend's family is in Cleveland and mine is in Philadelphia, so we try to get together every time we are in town. Jon has done a lot of our art and I kind of put him in the same boat artistically as I would Jason, Frank or Nick. He just gets it. I don't need to explain anything to him. Usually we send him the record, and whatever ideas he comes back to us with, we love. He did the art for the split with Cassilis, Kafka & Rodin and to be honest we will keep using him because we always love the results and he is basically like family to me at this point. He is a designer for a living and his stuff is at http://jonweed.com/ in case people wanna check him out.
You recently did a short stint with Yusuke, tell us about how you were introduced to the band and how the tour went.
As your probably noticing a trend, they are also long time friends. We met those guys when they were all still in high school when Men As Trees started playing the Pekin/Peoria/BloNo area of Illinois in 2007. We have kept in touch with Ryan & Tyler since then. They have been in other bands but Yusuke is probably the most put together project they've been a part of. We've basically been telling them for years now that as soon as they had their stuff together we'd do something. The weekend was a blast. All great guys. They seem to end every live performance by tackling each other and ending up face down screaming on the floor. Gave us a good laugh. There was a lot of sass back and forth but all in good fun. Psyched to see them getting some attention too. I feel like they are one of the few bands doing that old school screamo sound right. They will go over well in Europe this summer when they tour with Delos.
I spent time in South Korea, you spent time in South Korea. What would you like to say about the time you spent there and how it has influenced you?
You know that song “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K.....that had to be written about living in South Korea. I could spend days talking about my time in Korea but I guess I'll just leave it as a time when I met a lot of great people, made some friends that will probably last a lifetime (I've seen many since living there), learned a lot about myself and what I wanted out of life, and made me appreciate my friends and family back home. Influentially Korea was a big push to help me realize how much I missed playing music and get me to strive that much harder to make Locktender happen when I returned home.
I know you’ve played in Men As Trees. Can you talk about that and any other side-projects or offshoots that band members may have taken part in?
We have all dabbled a little with other bands but nothing serious and most of it was many years ago. Nick used to be the most active with other stuff but it was probably because he was only in Men As Trees toward the end. He has said himself, that he wishes he got in MAT sooner (we'd agree..probably save us a couple bass players). We are pretty monogamous to be honest. At this point none of us have a lot of extra time and the little we do have usually goes into Locktender. The members are all more than free to pursue other projects but I think Locktender is fulfilling enough that it keeps us pretty content.
Considering the point of this blog is to introduce people to new bands, which bands would you recommend checking out?
We tend to associate ourselves with bands that are not only musically fantastic, but just really sincere people. As we age we have less patience for assholes. That said, pretty much anyone we have toured with or done a split with is definitely worth a listen aka Reptilian, Brighter Arrows, Cassilis, Oaken, Wounded Knee, Coma Regalia, Amber, Yusuke, Roots & Ruins, Foxmoulder, Animal Faces....the list is honestly endless and I'm sure I will kick myself later for not mentioning others. I always recommend creeping the labels we work with too because majority of the bands we're label mates with are also great.
What are your future plans, short and/or long term?
We have spent so much time recording lately that we really just wanna play shows for a while. Put off going back to the studio as long as possible. Official plans are to tour Europe this May with The Reptilian and then probably just random weekend tours to round off 2014. Then lots is up in the air as for 2015 and beyond. We have definitely neglected the US for touring so there is discussion of our first West Coast tour ever or a US/Canada east coast tour for 2015. Then beyond that probably Europe again in 2016 but maybe longer so we can play the UK and areas we normally miss (Spain/Portugal/France/Italy). Japan/SE Asia/Australia is on our bucket list too.
Is LOCKTENDER already writing the next album? If so, will you play any songs live anytime soon, or keep them under wraps?
We are always a few steps a head of ourselves, so yes we are working on new stuff. In fact it's almost done. Caspar David Friedrich will be our next artist. He was a German landscape painter who was great and totally under-appreciated in his time. We probably won't play the songs anytime soon since we have so much new stuff already out but maybe we will think about recording the songs sometime toward the end of the year.
Please give us your opinion on Touring vs. Breaking Even.
I guess for us, if touring is breaking even, then it's a success. If not, then it's just a good time with friends. Anyone into screamo for financial gain has got a long road ahead of them.
What significant similarities and differences have you found between the European and North American music scene?
Both scenes are very supportive and made possible by great people. The European scene tends to be a little bit older and a little more organized. Typically we get taken care of better in Europe. Always a place to sleep, cooked amazing food and attentive audiences. America is great too but DIY touring can seem more like one long party since we play so many house venues, which is great in it's own respect but sometimes it is nice to just be able to chill after a show. Both scenes are great though and each have different aspects that make touring a blast.
What is the most exciting thing to happen to music as of late?
Haha, nothing or maybe I'm just the wrong person to ask. I listen mainly to Sam Cooke, Toots & The Maytals and other stuff that was recorded decades ago. I love watching our friends live but at home my life usually consists of me in the kitchen cooking and blaring Motown.
What is the most frustrating thing about the "music industry"?
For me, the fact that industry is made up of entertainers, not musicians. Peddling garbage to the masses. No one writes their own songs. Just a lot of fake looking puppets pushing sex, greed, violence and hate. Seriously fuck the radio. Outside of NPR I don't even turn it on. Being a part of the DIY scene gives me hope that one day there will be enough of us tuning out the filth that the big wigs will have to foreclose a vacation home or something equally annoying to them. Music should never be about making money. Takes the honesty out of it.
You have kids, is it difficult to balance music, work and children?
It's hard but as long as you can survive on minimal sleep and have a supportive family unit & employer, it's doable. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing wife and an extended family that watch my daughter when I'm out of town. They don't hold it against me either which makes being away easier. They know it's my passion and I feel like I'm a better man because I'm able to take time for myself and focus on band stuff here and there. I do put a lot into my family to make up for being gone. That's crucial to make it work. They are the most important thing in the world to me and while I obviously put a lot of hours into the band, I try to reciprocate by being a good Dad/Husband and put family first whenever possible and be present when I am home. Leaving is hard though. Right now I'm trying to explain to a three year old why I'll be gone most of May. I remember the night before I left for our Euro tour in 2012, I was putting my daughter to bed (she was about almost 2) and I told her I loved her and she looked up and said “I love you too Dada”. It was the first time she said that so I was pretty wrecked and felt so shitty about leaving. Definitely a scotch night. Jobs are a big reason why we don't tour more or longer but me with family is probably the biggest factor for us touring not as long/often. I just don't want to look back and feel like I missed out on her growing up by being gone all the time. There is always another show but you only get one first steps or word or day of school.
LOCKTENDER has a beer. Talk about that.
It's no secret that we are all beer enthusiasts. We have been very fortunate to make friends with the awesome guys from The Bottlehouse Brewing Co. in Cleveland Heights, OH. Jason, our bassist, has worked there for a while and recently the owners came to see us play. Afterwards, they said they'd love to make a beer for us and the rest if kind of history. Never in a million years did we think we'd have our own beer but can't say we aren't ecstatic that it is coming to fruition. It's gonna be an insanely hoppy imperial stout and we're gonna have it's release coincide with our Rodin release party, all taking place at the brewery on 4/19/2014. The reaction so far has been overwhelming. I guess we will be shipping a lot of “olive oil” to our friends and fans once it's released.
What’s the best thing about True Detective?
Lone Star beer and roadside Bahn Mi sandwiches.
What is your favourite book?
More recently, Fall of Efrafra got me to read Watership Down which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Currently really digging Treme and House of Cards. The Wire will always be amazing.
The Fountain, The Great Escape, Cool Hand Luke, The Sting (anything old with McQueen, Newman, Redford...I'm a sucker for).
Anything Toronto Maple Leafs. Gilmour/Clark/Elliot Dream team forever!
Anything Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Asian and the spicier the better.
choice for best cover art/packaging?
Anything from OH post rock outfit Romance of Young Tigers. If you have ever seen how insanely complex and DIY their releases are, you will understand why. I swear it must take them a day to put a single record together.
top 10: records?
(in no particular order and just what is coming to me right now)
Toots & The Maytals – Funky Kingston/In the Dark
Lagwagon - Trashed/Blaze/Resolve
Propagandhi – Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes
Fall (the season) – The 2 to too many EP
Le Pre Ou Je Suis Mort - ST
Envy – Dead Sinking Story/All the Footprints
Anything Godspeed or ASMZ – Horses in the Sky
Pretty much anything from the genre of Motown/Soul
A Ghastly City Sleep - st
City of Caterpillar - st