Friday, March 10, 2006

Interview with the Impossibles

I was randomly thinking about this interview I did years ago with this band called the Impossibles and remembered that it was probably stashed on an old laptop in the back of my closet. So I found and turned on that clunky old computer and what I found was a treasure trove of old writings from my college days. I then of course decided to get all this stuff back so I pulled out a floppy disk(remember those) and starting copying everything over to my current computer. I'm still thinking if I should do something with all of it or not. we'll see.

Anyways back to the interview. When I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college I had this half baked idea to start up a website called milwaukeeshows.com. Kind of a dumb idea, made absolutely no money, but at least I was able to go to a lot of free concerts while the site was up.

One of the things we'd do on the website was interview the bands. This girl Allison volunteered her time to help set up all these interviews and in exchange we'd get free concert tickets and get to meet whatever band came into Milwaukee at the time. 9 times of out 10 she would do all the interviews and transcribed them for the site, but on this particular occasion I interviewed the band.

The band was called the Impossibles who were from Austin, TX. They were this kind of this indie rock, punk rock, weezeresque, ska influenced band that I had really admired and was influenced by in high school. They broke up when I got to college and then had a "reunion tour."

Now that I look back on it, they weren't even really that big of a band, but at the same time they were just one of those little bands that you totally get into and want to tell all your friends about. So I went to meet these guys backstage before the show at this club in Milwaukee, WI called "The Globe East" that I believe closed down a few years ago. Backstage was a dark basement that appeared the owners used as a storage place.

I sat in a dark dingy basement of some rock club with a small tape recorder in my hand, interviewing a mid-tier punk rock band from Texas, all while taking in the aromatic scents of stale beer and cigarettes.

Interview with the Impossibles

For those of you who know the Globe, it's a small venue, and that is a generous description. For those of you, who have never been to the Globe, it's a small venue, and once again, that is a generous description. One could describe it as cozy, one could describe it as cramped, but regardless, the Globe provided the perfect scene for the Impossibles when they came and performed on November 9, 2000.

Positively 18th Street: Okay well I'm sure you guys must have been asked this question a million times before but what is your favorite Weezer song and album?

Rory: Oh geez.

Gabe: Ummmm…

Rory: Actually, we don't get asked that question all the time. Most of my favorite Weezer songs are not on albums, because . . .

Gabe: Weezer hasn't put out anything in so long…

Positively 18th Street: Did you happen to catch them on their last tour?

Rory: Yeah, we saw them in Austin…I didn't really like their new stuff, I couldn't really get into it. I think it will be better when they record it, like the first time when I saw them—when I saw them on the Pinkerton tour… When I saw them on the second tour for the Blue album, they played "Getchoo" off the Pinkerton album, and I hated it, but then I heard in on the album and liked it. I don't know… My favorite Weezer song would have to probably be, I guess, "Suzanne," off the Mallrats soundtrack. I've always loved their 6/8th stuff, you know.

Gabe: Holiday was a good one.

Rory: "Holiday" is an amazing song, but then they've got so many good songs. "Say it ain't So" is my favorite one that they play live. That song will always kind of evoke a certain emotion from you, it's like a certain time in my life.

Positively 18th Street: What was the reason for you guys initially breaking up and what was it that brought you guys back together?

Rory: Back in '98 the we got done with our first tour, like you were saying, it was a summer tour, and at the end of it was kind of like a devisive period, there was a split in the band, where there were kids who wanted to go to school, we had all just graduated high school. Then there were kids, who wanted to go to college, and then there were people…basically me, and I wasn't in school. So I wanted to play in a rock band and kind of do that, and so we kind of got to that point. On our first tour, like we said, where we played here, it was really rough and there were five people at every show. It wasn't like we had a whole lot to look forward to at that point, but I think that's what it kind of came down to. I don't blame anybody for wanting to go to school, man. I think that at the time it was a good decision. So the kids went to school and I kept being in a band, and it kind of just fell back together, where Craig was playing in a band again, and Pat wasn't really doing anything, and Gabe wasn't doing anything musically. Gabe and I started living together because I ended up kind of homeless, and so we ended up living in a one-bedroom apartment. It kind of fell together naturally. It was weird; it wasn't really forced at all. Kind of like, the idea came up; we had already been planning on playing together musically, and it pretty much took off from there. A lot of people have a weird conception about it, like initially people thought that we get paid a lot of money now, but we're still as poor as we've ever been.

Gabe: Especially now considering how, I don't think any of us planned on it happening

Rory: Yeah, not at all. It's like if you had asked me three months before if it were even possible--and kids did all the time, that's probably the thing--we got more popular after we broke up, then when we were a band. People would always ask me if the Impossibles were getting back together, and everyone went back to school. Now that it has, I think it has worked out really well for everybody. We're making music that we like, and we get to tour a lot, and it's been awesome.

Positively 18th Street: I noticed you guys have really been embracing digital downloads by offering tracks off your new album on website as well as a site on mp3.com with files. What are your feelings about the file sharing programs out there like Napster?

Rory: Um, I don't know,honestly, I totally see both sides of it. Metallica got crucified for trying to go against Napster, and I think that's kind of whack. I know that there are a lot of artists that agree with them, but they're too afraid to say anything about it because it is so "uncool" and anti-napster, it's like—I use Napster, so I'm not going to say too much about it. At the same time, I know that there is no real way to tell the impact of it. I don't know how many people have just downloaded our songs as opposed to buying our records. But, I look at it as just a promotional thing, I would rather have people have access to our records, and have people be able to listen to it, then as opposed to having it that they are not able to find our records. And that happens to us a lot.

Gabe: It's not like we are selling platinum . . .

Rory: I think the people that are hurting the most are people like Ricky Martin or Christina Aguilera, people who have one song that people really like. They [napster] spreads it all over and that's not going to sell the single and the single isn't going to sell the record like they wanted it to. As a web-designer, I think it is awesome that we can transfer cd-quality sounds easily like that. It's just that I think that people get a little too aggressive about.

Positively 18th Street: Are there any new albums out now that you guys are really into?

Rory: The new At the Drive-in, we were just listening to on the way up here. There is a new album by the band called the Fucking Champs… have you ever heard them? They are so amazing. They are like an all instrumental, heavy metal, kind of Brian May from Queen; he used a lot of harmony and stuff, and mix it with Injustice for All and Metallica. It's amazing, you should listen to it. If you get it, you'll love it.

Gabe: I'm trying to think of anything new that we are listening to…

Rory: There's a band called Ozma that Gabe and I are listening to, they're from California and we're really into them. They're really cool, they have this song called "Natalie Portman" that we listen to all the time.

Gabe: I'm trying to think of what else I listen to. Everything I listen to is old. What's that new one we just bought? Oh Kid A, Radiohead's newest album.

Rory: I think it is one of the weirdest albums. . . I think it's weird that people reacted to it the way they did. Everyone was like, oh, it's so experimental . . .

Gabe: I think more had to do with the buildup that people expected it to be.

Rory: It reminds me a lot of that EP they put out after OK Computer, the Airbag/How am I Driving It's not OK Computer, and it's not a start-to-finish, amazing sounding record, but how many of those are they going to be able to put out. It's not even conceptually like Ok Computer, but it's really good, and I like it.

Positively 18th Street: Rory, I know a lot of people out there are curious, what happened with you and the Stereo, and are you and Jamie Woolford on good terms?

Rory: (short laugh) uh. . . yeah, we are on good working terms I would say. He did the layout for our last record, so we, uh, still work together, but I don't know.

Positively 18th Street: Listening to your new album, I saw that you guys have completely abandoned the use of upstroke guitar this time around. Any particular reason for the switch? Do you guys still enjoy playing your old material?

Rory: Actually, if you play it backwards, the whole things got it.

Gabe: well, yeah, we were broken up for two years…

Rory: It was also has to due with that fact that those two years . . .we were 17 and 18 as opposed to being 20 and 21. Our musical influences shifted drastically. I haven't been able to really understand bands that have been able to play one-solid music their entire career over a span of ten or fifteen years. That just seems crazy. I want to change my music constantly. Every time you hear something new, it's like an inspiration. It makes you want to do something different. Nothing against bands like ACDC, cause I think they are an amazing band, but they play the same record over and over. It's a good formula and it works, and they are really popular, and that is cool, but I couldn't imagine doing that. I guess, for us, we have to keep our music genuine.

Gabe: It's not that it has much to do with us trying to make this new come back and as this new band. It has to do more with us growing out of it. It's not about us hating ska…you can really only do so much with it before it becomes something else.

Rory: I got this question in The Stereo too. Since I was in the Impossibles, why I stopped playing ska. These were all the same songs that I was writing, it's just that if we had not broken up, we'd have been playing the same basic songs. If you listen to those (The Stereo) records, you see that there is sort of a gradual motion. The only way it seems really abrupt is if you just bought Anthology, which is a ska record we made in 1994, and then you listen to the one that we just made.

Positively 18th Street: Do you like playing some of the old stuff live?

Rory: Some of the stuff. It has more to do with crowd reaction, honestly.

Gabe: Crowd reaction can really dictate how much you enjoy playing something, especially when we first started touring because that is what the people knew.

Rory: I'm already sick of some of the songs off our newest record because when you play the song every night for 6 months, that's how it goes. The ones that we play live, I stand behind as still being good songs. If I had written them today, they'd probably be a little different.

Positively 18th Street: What are your feelings on the 6 month ska explosion a couple years back and what it has done to the underground scene. How did you guys manage to get out before the entire genre took a nosedive?

Rory: It was kind of cool to be apart of it, and I think that in any type of genre popular blow-up like that…I can't talk tonight…

Gabe: The thing is, at that time, I don't think we were ever that popular, period. We were in Texas, but nationally, we weren't big. It was cool to be apart of it. And, it was definitely a time when you could put ska/punk on a flyer and get twice as many kids as just putting the band name.

Rory: It was fine to be apart of, but I think anytime this happens, there are going to be the bands just riding the wave, and the bands that are making good music. I like to think that we were making good music. I know that there were other bands in that same time period. They played great music. We just played with the Blue Meanies in Houston, and they kind of went the same way, those guys are freakin' amazing. I'm not as bitter about it as I imagine some bands who were drawing like 5,000 kids are now down to a couple of hundred.

Gabe: Yeah, we were never up at that point, and we got out at the right time, not that we planned it like that for anything, and we were never… I think the bands that got hurt the most were the bands that got elevated the most.

Positively 18th Street: Being that you guys are from Texas, I was just curious how you guys feel about George W. Bush and the presidential election in general?

Gabe: Don't get me started . . . I used to work for Gary Morrow who ran against Bush in the gubernatorial race the last time he(Bush) ran, and I was a researcher and I to campaign against him, and I have hated him ever since. It's going to be a sad day in American history when he is elected, and he probably will.

Rory: The way that we elect our presidents has been kind of screwy. I'm glad that it's getting some light shed on the fact that electoral colleges are f***ed up.

Gabe: It's just weird because for me, talking about George Bush and the whole political system, it's like he is preaching to a choir. Everyone I associate myself with usually thinks the same way I do about the whole political stuff, especially about Bush. It's just like really scary and weird to think that half the country voted for someone who is THAT Republican.

Rory: No one KNOWS George Bush at all. His political career was Texas for the periods that he was a governor, and we were around for that G: But some of the things he did there were just mind-boggling and scary like his extreme pro-death penalty and anti-gay, anti-everything.

Rory: He's voted against making sexual orientation a hate crime issue in every chance he has gotten.

Gabe: He will kill everyone else, but he won't kill someone just because they hurt someone who was gay. Don't even get me started, we'll just go on and on.

Positively 18th Street: Are there any towns that you have really big followings and do you have a favorite club to play in?

Rory: Houston, right now, is like our home away from home, Austin too. The Fireside Bowl in Chicago was really great too.

Positively 18th Street: what about ones where there aren't huge followings?

Gabe: California is still a huge nut to crack.

Rory: We did really well in Southern California, but we can't get a show in San Francisco.

Gabe: We can go one place and do amazing, and go another and have literally five people show up. Over a span of three days, we went from Orlando with 225 people to Charlotte with 15, you know what I mean.

Rory: As far as areas of the country, the Midwest is where we have so far done the best.

Positively 18th Street: Are you guys planning on recording any new material in the future and if so when could we expect a new release from you guys?

Rory: Yeah, we're recording in February with a guy named Brian—the singer for Battery. They were a hardcore band from Boston, and he has a studio. We're doing some work with him for out new EP that is due out in February and hopefully out by June. So it will be pretty interesting.

Positively 18th Street: On Fueled by Ramen? How are things going with them?

Rory: Great. I have talked about this a lot in other interviews. Fueled by Ramen has been great for us because we started when they started, and so as they have grown, we have grown. It has been a total gradual thing. We never really needed something they couldn't give us, nor did we deserve more than what they could offer us. It never got into that weird territory with us. It's awesome. I love working with John of FBR. John and our booking agent, Trish, are the best people I've ever met in the music business, honestly. I've met so many booking agents that are just jerks, and a lot of people have the theory that if they are jerks then they can get you more money and everything. They just have this theory that if you are a hard ass, then that makes you a better-business person. For us, we want somebody who is going to represent us they way we want to be represented. We are not D***s, and we don't want to come off as jerks because our booking agent is a jerk. It is awesome that we get to work with people like John and Trish who really are good representatives of how we like to do business.

Positively 18th Street: What are your feelings about major labels and would you ever consider signing with one?

Rory: I don't think we have any problem with other bands being on major labels.

Gabe: It's a big deal, and switching to a major label is a really big scary process.

Rory: We witnessed, second-hand, people going through really scary situations when they signed to a major label. For us, knowing that we are secure on this label and that we can do whatever we want and our label will be supportive of us is worth more then the money that we would get with a major label.

Gabe: I think the scariest thing about a major label for everyone is that the emphasis shifts on the record bill so much more. You could make the greatest record of all time, but if it doesn't sell, then you're gone.

Rory: Like Superdrag's Head Trip in Every Case. Have you ever heard that record? Amazing record! Amazing! But they were on a major label and they got dropped right after that. Gabe and I think that the only time to sign with a major label is when you are holding all the cards. Like the band Built to Spill on Warner Brothers. If Warner Brothers decided to drop them, it wouldn't hurt them because they've already got a super-strong independent following. Less Than Jake was the same way with Capitol. If we could do it, staying on an independent label the rest of the time, then that's fine too. It's not like a goal. A lot of bands have that goal like if we get signed to a major label, then we've made it.

Gabe: Really, if you're doing really well on an independent label, you stand to make more money on an independent, some of the times, obviously not all the times.

Rory: A lot people don't know the fact that Fugazi are millionaires, and not everyone is going to be like that. But, they never sacrificed anything, they never had to because they were always working hard as a band and making really good music that people loved.

Gabe: I really believe that if you continue to make really good records, then in the end, everything works out, and for the best, the way you want it to, because that is really the root of everything, the most important thing.

Rory: If you're not making good music, then what's the point or doing it anyway?

Positively 18th Street: Have you guys ever had a Milwaukee's Best Ice?

Gabe: I actually had a really bad experience involving Milwaukee's Beast. I've never had it since then…

Rory: We got a keg at his house…

Gabe: I wasn't an experienced drinker at all.

Rory: He ended up throwing up and passing out in our van.

Gabe: On this tour …should I tell him about Craig?

Rory: Well, I'll tell them if you won't. So Craig doesn't drink very much and Craig only drinks beer so when he drinks other stuff, he thinks that it's like beer.

Gabe: He was drinking Jagermeister. We were at a party and they were just feeding us drinks like crazy. They were giving him just cups of it, and I think when all was said and done, he had at least 20 shots by the end of the night. So he's just passed out in our room. Then the middle of the night, our roadie, Dan, who is this little 18-year old, skinny kid is in the bathroom, you know going number 2, and just sitting there. The door cracks open, and Dan says, "Craig, I'm taking a shit, Craig." Dan can't see Craig, but asks if he's okay, and Craig says, "yeahhhh…noooo." Then Dan says, "Well, hold on," and then all he sees is this stream just pouring onto the bathroom floor. I was in the bed and I heard it, and Dan was just laughing too hard. He wasn't even making a sound. All we could hear for about a minute was the sound of piss hitting the floor. We didn't even clean it up that night. The next day, Craig says, "Why isn't anyone going into the bathroom?" And we were like, "You asshole. You have no idea what you did?!"

Hope you enjoyed this interview. Here is a list of albums released by the Impossibles.

The Impossibles Anthology CD. (1999, Fueled By Ramen)
This is a collection of their first "self titled" full length album and the "Back for the Attack" ep. There is definitely a small place in my heart for this record, in particular the EP.
Buy it

The Impossibles Return CD (2000, Fueled By Ramen) This is their "Reunion" album. It is definitely an interesting record and shows the potential they had beyond the weezer/ska thing, but it loses a lot of the energy and excitement of the first one as a result. "Never say Goodbye" was an instant Impossibles classic in my book.
Buy it

The Impossibles 4 Song Brick Bomb EP (2001, Fueled By Ramen)
4 song brick bomb is a really cool record that I've always liked. The thing I enjoyed the most is this is the first time you see some of the influences they discussed in this interview in their music. There is a definite Radiohead type vibe to some of the stuff, while obviously still rooted in their punk roots. I definitely could have done without Get it + got it + good though. "Long way from, long time since" is a beautiful song that deserves to be rediscovered. "Oxygen is also highly recommended."
Buy it

Post-Impossibles

The Stereo - Three Hundred (1999, Fueled By Ramen)
Paired at the request of Fueled by Ramen, who most likely didn't see a Jamie Woolford solo record as commercially viable, set him up with Rory Phillips who together recorded this pop-rock gem. Rory's songs clearly out shine Jamie's stuff, but I think it serves as a good mix pairing the two up. The title track in particular ranks up there with the best of the Impossibles material. Jamie went on to record another 3 bland rock albums under "the Stereo" name but nothing compares to this first one.
Buy it


Slowreader - Self Titled (2002, Fueled By Ramen)
This is an absolutely beautiful record, that I think may have gotten lost in the shuffle and not discovered by alot of Impossibles fans as I don't think it was marketed well to their rapidly aging fanbase. This is Gabe and Rory completely reinventing their sound, very electronic based in the vain of Radiohead and the Postal Service. I still love this record even as I've grown older and my music tastes, more snobby and elitist.
Buy it