Blast from the Past: Traditional Fools
This interview ran in the Northern California special issue, MRR #300 from May 2008! Order it here
The Traditional Fools are an energetic, feedback-and-reverb-soaked punk band based in San Francisco. These three young lads are migrants from the bro-truck and peach-stucco-covered coastal purgatory of Orange County. The sounds of the Beach Boulevard comp, Redd Kross, and ’60s SoCal garage punk bleed through Traditional Fools’ blown-out amps, perfectly blended with their own chaotic originality. Live shows, best experienced at a house, are always a spontaneous combustion sure to get even the meekest of bystanders embarrassing themselves on the dance-floor. So far they’ve released the Live at Wizard Mountain tape, a self-titled 7″, and a split 7″ with the Primate 5. Also, they just finished recording a 14-ish song LP that will be coming out this summer. This impromptu interview was conducted as we huddled around our backyard barbeque pit in mid-February grilling real burgers and fake hot dogs, shared cheap wine, and made fun of Governor Schwarzenegger while the Saints blared from the boom-box. Bear with us or get drunk and pogo!
Questions by Alex, Daryn, Gerad, Eric, and Kevin.
MRR: Well, we don’t have any questions so hope it doesn’t end in dead silence… So, you guys are a rock and roll band, huh? What are your names and what instruments do you play? Also, if you want to add some witty introductions for the tape player…
Andrew: I’m Andrew. I play bass, sing, and work at Aardvarks on Haight and Ashbury.
Ty: My name is Ty. I play drums, guitar, and sing, and work at RVCA on Haight and Ashbury
Dave: I’m Dave. I play guitar and drums, and I sing and work at Ben and Jerry’s on Haight and Ashbury. We’ll get the foursquare phenomenon at this intersection when Sonya from the T-shirt shop joins us with an accordion or something. Then we can stand at each corner and take over this tourist trap. But I really don’t work at Ben and Jerry’s…
MRR: How did you all meet?
Ty: I met Dave at the prom. (Laughs) I knew his ex-girlfriend and we met when they were together. I met Andrew when I was moving up here for school and we started hanging out because we didn’t really know anybody. He knew Dave, so we all started hanging out, and we started playing because we were bored.
Andrew: Dave and I were in a band back home.
MRR: What was it called?
Andrew: I guess it was called the Shitfuckers. It was kinda the beginning of the ’Fools because we covered the same Redd Kross songs.
MRR: How old were you guys?
Andrew: Seniors in high school.
Dave: I was a junior.
MRR: So how old are you now?
MRR: Have you had any problems with being booted out of bars that you play?
Dave: Stork Club! (Laughs)
Ty: We’re kinda tired of playing bars. We would like to play more all-ages shows.
MRR: Do you feel like a lot of house parties are outside San Francisco? Do the same kids go to the East Bay shows that go to the SF shows?
Andrew: House parties are a lot easier to have in the East Bay. In Oakland every summer, the Cereal Factory has a few hand-picked, top-notch BBQ shows, and bands get paid in beer. Jason records the shows and is the nicest man ever. But in San Francisco we got Thrillhouse Records, which feels like a house party, and in the summer time we got Dolores Park shows. Last night there was a 2 A.M. generator show at Ocean Beach.
MRR: Did you guys go to that?
All: We were all tired.
Dave: I was a little stoned.
Ty: I was trying to figure out how to fix a broken window that I broke.
MRR: According to the bit in the Guardian, you’ve never had to book your own shows. Do you think you guys have earned the title “softest working punk band in SF”?
Dave: If the Guardian said it, it must be true.
Andrew: That was true for a while, but we’ve set up some stuff for touring bands and we have set up some Wizard Mountain house parties.
MRR: I think I just made that “softest working” thing up. Anyway, what is Wizard Mountain?
Andrew: Wizard Mountain is our friend Kyle’s house. He runs a tape label, recording studio, art, comics, and print shop, plus once in a while he has parties.
Dave: It’s our home base, where we feel most comfortable.
Ty: It’s the best place to play in San Francisco.
MRR: What separates Wizard Mountain from a standard venue like Bottom of the Hill or something?
Ty: When bands play at Wizard Mountain, it’s in a tiny, tightly packed room underground. It’s also got a visually appealing atmosphere and good vibes. Everyone’s on the same level and nobody’s trying to be cool.
Dave: People that go to Bottom of the Hill are always bored or trying to get laid.
Andrew: Yeah, when we play on the floor, losing that barrier between the crowd and band gets everyone in on the party—we aren’t the spectacle.
Dave: And musically too, we as a band sound better when we’re not spread thinly across a stage.
MRR: Rumor has it that inhibitions melt away from the rigid-est stifflington watching.
Andrew: What? Do people do it more on nights that we play?
MRR: No, I mean they dance. Any noteworthy dance moves you’ve seen on the floor?
Andrew: The “Kyle Crawford writhe.”
Dave: The “Crabwalk.”
Andrew: Hey, can I get some of that wine?
MRR: Where did the name Traditional Fools come from?
All: We were all delirious one night trying to think of a name, it won out over Rock Solid and the Soaring Eagles. It’s traditional, fool.
MRR: You guys are from Southern California and it’s pretty obvious in your sound as well as your look. Is that intentional?
Andrew: We’re influenced by the beach and its many bittersweet attributes.
MRR: Why did you relocate here to the Bay Area?
Dave: It was a service trip.
MRR: There is a lot of SoCal immigration to the Bay. Why do you think so many kids move up here?
Dave: Life isn’t as good down there. I can’t stand more than maybe two weeks in Southern California these days.
Ty: Moving to the Bay Area is just far enough that you get away, but it is close enough that you can go back whenever you want.
Dave: Yeah, ’cause we got a lot of friends that have stayed down in SoCal, so it is good to stay in touch.
Andrew: There is a strong connection between scenes as well.
MRR: Do you think it is easier to be a band in San Francisco in terms of getting shows, practicing, and recording?
Andrew: There is way more of a community in music and in everyday life here. In LA and OC, it doesn’t feel like there is much of a unified community due to the sprawl. San Francisco is a pretty small geographic region and it keeps people connected.
MRR: What is the song “TL Defender” about?
All: The Defender is our mascot.
Ty: We practice in the TL, or Tenderloin district, of San Francisco, at the intersection of Turk and Taylor.
Dave: A lot of people practice there. It’s where we met our friends Les Hormones.
Andrew: The area is like Skid Row. It’s an epicenter for drug-use and vagrancy. The Defender cleans up the streets.
Ty: He wears a gold spray-painted football helmet, shoulder pads, and a cape. He’s got a hockey stick he rides around on his bicycle with, as he cruises for scum.
Dave: So if you are into OC’s, crack or methadone, and are looking to score in the TL, watch out for the Defender, ’cause he will get you.
MRR: Will he turn you in to the cops?
Andrew: Nah, he is a vigilante and this is the Wild West.
Ty: He will take you out with his hockey stick though.
Dave: We wrote a song about him because we love him so much.
MRR: What classic Bay Area bands do you like?
Andrew: Dead Kennedys.
Andrew: Johnny Strike looks like a Nazi from fucking Indiana Jones.
Dave: Is there any more wine?
MRR: Surf or skate?
Dave: We love to surf and we love to skate.
Ty: Growing up in Southern California we were just surrounded by it.
Dave: It’s all fun in the sun. Growing up, there was nothing else to do.
MRR: What do you think of skating in San Francisco?
Dave: It’s pretty fucking awesome, man. In Orange County you get jive from the police, but you can seriously skate anywhere up here because they got bigger fish to fry—so, they just leave you alone.
Andrew: The skate from my house to the store is more fun than going to any skate park.
MRR: So Chocolate Covered Records put out your first 7″, how did that go?
Dave: We couldn’t be happier with a label. They came up to us after a show at the Cereal Factory a little more than a year ago and asked us, and we were stoked to work with friends.
Andrew: We always like dealing with friends, but some guy in Italy asked us to do the split with Primate 5 from Seattle, so that’s how that came out. There were only 300 pressed though.
MRR: The hamburger-wearing-sunglasses artwork on the first 7″ is unique. Who did it and how did they do it?
All: Kyle Crawford who does Wizard Mountain carved it.
Andrew: We block-printed all the covers every night after work, which took about two months.
Dave: It was all worth it, man, we would just get drunk and print covers.
MRR: Was the burger art influenced by anything?
All: Rosamunde! [A place in San Francisco that serves choice burgers once a week.]
MRR: You just got finished recording a ton of new songs, what are they for?
Andrew: Yeah, we recorded at Wizard Mountain for an LP that will come out on Make a Mess Records. It hasn’t been mixed yet but it’ll be out this summer when we go on tour.
MRR: Talk a little about the tour.
Andrew: Not sure where we’re going yet, but hopefully most of the country depending on how much time we can get off from our obligations. First priority is swimming holes, second is playing shows. Help us book shows!
MRR: Fuck, it’s frigid out here.
Andrew: If you pretend like it’s summer, it’s still summer.
Ty: Eric Burden was full of shit.
[Conversation drifts to what is left on the BBQ…Andrew brings it back by discussing what we asked earlier about non-punk people enjoying the band…]
Andrew: It’s weird when non-punk people like us, because random-ass people like our music that do not like anything we like: the bands we play with, or our influences. But, I don’t think it has anything to do with music. I think it is the vibe that we put off.
MRR: On the same subject of appealing to non-punks, talk about being in The Beginning, the Birdhouse skate video.
Andrew: They asked us to put the song “Please” on the Flow Team montage, the real youth skate talent. They gave us boards and wheels.
Dave: I think it’s pretty cool ’cos one of my first exposures to music was through watching skate videos.
Andrew: Yeah, I got into punk through 411VM. 24, the video with “Halloween” and “Last Caress.” Jimmy Astlford skated to the Misfits and did a Benihana down a ten-stair to “Last Caress.” It was siiiiiick!
MRR: Do you think some bands get overexposed through skate-video soundtracks? Like Jim Greco and his Johnny Thunders obsession which lead to seas of long-haired 12-year-olds that looked like junkie punk pirates at the skate park. I know it’s a dumb question, but are you scared?
All: No, we’re stoked. We are the next Johnny Thunders.
MRR: Are your instruments important to creating your sound? Do you wanna talk about your gear?
Ty: I got a 1965 Ludwig black oyster Pearl jazz kit, woooooo!
Dave: Prior to that we used a drum kit that I got at a garage sale for $5. We just got a bass rig at another garage sale for $100 and I play a guitar that I got for free. It’s called a Conrad. I guess it was something you could buy at a department store in the ’60s. The bass that Andrew uses is a Squire. That was my first instrument and I decided to saw a part of it off and then I spray-painted it. I don’t know. That question sucked. (Laughs)
MRR: What do you guys think of Blackwater?
Dave: What, do you mean coffee?
MRR: No, the private security force that kills civilians and protects corporate investment in Iraq.
Dave: We don’t know anything about your nut-bar conspiracies and we don’t understand them. (Laughs)
Andrew: Oh, come on man, it’s the real deal!
MRR: Blackwater is fucking scary, OK?
Dave: It’s almost as scary as that robot dog. [Go to YouTube and search “Big Dog.”]
Ty: Total abomination.
Andrew: Oh! Lets talk about Boston Dynamics, the tech group that’s responsible for that wretched machine!
Dave: Look out for Boston Dynamics because they are going to end the world pretty soon.