Blast From the Past: Condominium
This originally ran in MRR#312, the May 2009 issue which you can pick up here
Interview by Shivaun and Stefan
MRR: Maybe we should start with the boring questions. What’s the history of Condominium? Because I know it started out as a project or whatever.
Matt: I started the band myself. I was originally going to be doing tape releases and it was all going to sound like that Anti-Cimex song “Criminal Trap.” Then I got Brad to help me out just playing guitar and learning the songs and stuff, and we decided it was good enough to be a real band, so we got Kim and Joe, and that’s how we became a real band. We’ve put out a demo, two 7”s, and a live radio tape, all self-released.
MRR: Are you going to keep releasing records yourself?
Matt: We don’t know for sure, because we’ve had friends of ours who have offered to put out our records. I like the idea of releasing our own stuff a lot, but it hasn’t been that successful.
Brad: We’re sitting on like 250 copies of the second 7”.
Kim: And we don’t really go anywhere.
Matt: We don’t play out of town a whole lot, and we don’t play a lot shows in general. It’s hard to sell records when you don’t have any distribution skills.
Brad: Maybe we just need a label to make us cool, because even when we did tour, we didn’t sell very many copies of the record.
Matt: We’ve been talking about putting out a couple records with labels, so we can get all kinds of hype around our band, then go back to putting out our own records so we can hoard all the money for ourselves.
MRR: What was the response like when you did that tour?
Matt: Okay. It was pretty positive I guess. Most of the shows were pretty small.
Brad: Some very small.
Matt: Yeah, some very small, but we had some pretty ripping shows.
MRR: Are you going on tour soon? Playing a show ever again?
Brad: We’re playing some local shows in March and April.
Matt: And then we’re going out of town in March again for a few days, just around the Midwest.
MRR: We should talk about the aesthetic. Who does most of the art and the visual aesthetic? What is it informed by?
Brad: Wow, this is going to be the mysterious guy question. You know, neo-futurist art movements…me and Matt have done all the artwork. Well, if you want to know who the real artist is, Matt drew the cover art for the demo.
MRR: Describe the cover of the demo.
Matt: It’s just a really bad drawing of…I mean I guess it’s my old apartment building where Brad and I used to live. I don’t know. It was just a stupid joke because I thought Condominium was the silliest name for a band.
MRR: So what’s the origin of the name Condominium?
Brad: I really like that name for stuff, and we had a radio show called Condominium the Radio Show that me and Matt used to do.
Kim: Only because you loved the name.
Brad: I tried to get many bands in the past to take this name, and Matt couldn’t think of anything else when it was just me and him doing the demo. I think he eventually became resigned to the idea of naming it Condominium.
Matt: The only thing that bothers me about it now is that people keep bugging us about how we’re some kind of comment on housing and gentrification issues.
MRR: Well, what are you doing about the housing bubble? What about the record bubble, more importantly?
Brad: I do want to blame the lack of us being able to sell our own 7”s on the financial crisis. I’ve not yet been able to nail down if that’s really true.
Matt: What about the real artwork?
Brad: Real artwork…it’s mostly me and Matt copying stuff out of books. I mean, the insert to the 7”s and a bunch of the stuff is Bauhaus and Fluxus. Early 20th century art movements, and I don’t know, they did a bunch of goofy stuff.
Matt: I’m just into goofy stuff. I don’t think our artwork is purposefully meaningful and I don’t want people reading more into it than is actually there. I just want our records to look neat.
MRR: There’s no serious ideology that’s informing Condominium’s aesthetic?
Matt: Not really, I like the artwork to be based on the themes of the songs on the record, but only loosely. It’s a general principle. We can go off on a tangent and make up something that’s only vaguely related to the lyrics.
Brad: The first record, because it’s called Hello Tomorrow, and that somewhat has to do with time, I put a watch on the cover. And the second one, we thought it had something to do with it…I don’t even know. The B-side label artwork somewhat has to do with…
MRR: What is that?
Matt: It’s a machine hooked up to a baby’s head to measure its brain waves or something.
Brad: I don’t know, besides it just being weird we didn’t want it to be too goofy or too silly, but also we didn’t want it to be burning skulls on top of an upside-down cross or something like that, or like war victims, so what other options are there? We’re not crew enough to have a live shot or pile-on chorus type things.
MRR: It’s too bad the live tape doesn’t have a crowd shot, but I guess that’s the nature of playing a radio station.
Kim: Matt jumping in the air.
Brad: Toe touch.
MRR: You said the band was originally planned to be like Anti-Cimex or whatever, but what’s shaping the sound as you go? Because it definitely doesn’t sound like Anti-Cimex now.
Brad: Originally it was like an Anti-Cimex, Totalitär type project.
Matt: I don’t know, I think that stuff is cool, and I still like the songs that we wrote that sound like that, but first of all, I don’t see the point of having a band where I keep writing songs like that over and over, that’s kind of pointless. And also I just got into being more experimental with the songs.
MRR: That makes sense, because on the live tape there are sound manipulations that are obviously studio based. Do you listen to a lot of noise and industrial music?
Matt: Some. Not a lot. I’m not that crazy about that kind of stuff, but I do like the freedom that comes along with it. It’s fun to play around and not be constricted to feeling like you have to play a D-beat or whatever.
Brad: Obviously things sound different now than they did before. Something got out of whack with the rippers/jammers quotient.
Matt: We used to have a tight ratio of rippers to jammers.
MRR: What would you estimate it at now?
Matt: Now it’s like half and half.
Brad: Easily. Although, somewhere along there we wanted to see if we could play something that was both a ripper and a jammer. At this point now…
Matt: I think we’re still following along the line of trying to make songs that are both rippers and jammers. We’re still trying to write songs that rage hard. They’re just not Anti-Cimex songs.
Brad: They are both sick and/or raging.
MRR: When you write songs, are you thinking about playing them live or how they’re going to sound recorded?
Matt: Most of the time, I think about it from a recording standpoint. I like the extra layers of sound you can add to a recording. And I like the idea of creating something that sounds complex like that but then figuring out a way to do it live. I think that’s a cool thing also, is watching someone make a really cool sound that you’re not really expecting in a live environment.
MRR: Are you going to have to start bringing a laptop on stage for the noise parts?
Matt: No. I like the fact that our music is instrument based and not PowerBook based. I like to experiment with the sounds we can make with our instruments, not programming stuff into a computer and plugging it into the PA system and just standing there. I don’t support that kind of thing at all. And I mean, as much as these issues do pop into my head sometimes, our music, even when we’re getting really out there, is a far cry from electronic PowerBook-noise or whatever.
MRR: With all these new elements, is Condominium beyond hardcore?
Matt: I don’t really think of the band that way anymore.
Brad: As a hardcore band?
Matt: I don’t think of it as not a hardcore band either. And I don’t mean to be like, “our band just totally transcends all categories,” I just mean I write songs that are good and I’m not going to lose any sleep at night wondering whether those songs are hardcore songs. The two records we’ve put out so far are clearly hardcore records, but that this point…I don’t know, do you guys have insight into whether we’re a hardcore band?
Brad: Personally, I believe that we’re a hardcore band because I’ve put a lot of faith in hardcore. I don’t know, I think that there are still elements of it that are still hard and/or raging. Obviously we all listen to hardcore music, and it’s not like that doesn’t come through. Even if we’re playing weirder sounding stuff sometimes I hope it just sounds like a slightly weirder version of Cro-Mags or SSD, which had weird parts too, you know. We do not sound like we’re playing Victim in Pain again, but we do still have hardcore songs. Kim, do you feel anything about being beyond hardcore?
Kim: I’m kind of with Matt. It’s a band. We play music. We all listen to a wide range of stuff.
Brad: Honestly, we play mostly with hardcore bands and play hardcore shows and that’s a scene we all come from. It takes a lot of work to break out. We’d have to hire a publicist like Fucked Up to really not be a hardcore band anymore.
Kim: We still play hardcore songs. We have a lot of songs that are definitely hardcore songs.
MRR: Stefan wrote, “What is more important, rawness or mystery?”
Brad: This is a great question! I think rawness, personally, because I think it takes discipline to be raw. Being mysterious can just be an accident. Being raw can be an accident too, but I’m sticking with rawness.
MRR: Are you saying mysterious bands have a lack of discipline?
Brad: No. I mean, maybe. I just think being mysterious is not that hard. It’s really not that hard to be and remain a mysterious band. You just have to have mysterious artwork. We have that or whatever, but remaining a raw band, writing raw riffs, that takes work. Being mysterious doesn’t really take work. Hence the discipline aspect.
Matt: I think I agree with that. I don’t think bands actually create good mysteries around themselves, generally. It’s pretty contrived.
MRR: How about seriousness? Is Condominium a serious band?
Matt: We’re not serious in the sense that we have any real goals and anything concrete we’d like to accomplish in the world. I don’t expect the lyrics I write to be communicating with a specific group of people, or getting some big message out. But I do take the band seriously, it’s something I put a lot of work into. The bands people consider “serious” are usually like, sure they are serious about hating the government or whatever, but they don’t seem very serious about writing cool riffs. And I guess I write sort of serious lyrics, but they aren’t usually the point, the music is the point, that’s what I take seriously.
Brad: Yeah, and we don’t have pizza in our name.
Matt: We’re not a joke band
Brad: No, we’re not a joke band. I draw a line between having fun at a show when you see us, and just like, thinking “whoa, fuck that was ripping.” I don’t want people to be having fun in a party sense. I’d rather people…not that I’m against head banging or something like that. I don’t really like shows that are “fun .”
MRR: Is that why nobody moshes for Condominium?
Matt: It might be.
MRR: Does Condominium have any concrete future plans?
Matt: We’re getting ready to put out a couple new records.
MRR: Sticking to 7”s?
Matt: We’re going to stick to 7”s for now. I’d like to do an LP, but so many bands put out bad LPs too soon. Like everyone is always blabbering about how the 7” is the perfect format for punk music, but then every shit band that is able to sell 500 copies of their first 7” is suddenly clamoring to put out an LP. But anyway we’ll be recording new songs soon and there should be two new 7”s out at some point this summer. We are also going on tour again in ten years.
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