Interview with ИO///sé guitarists/vocalists Michael Carter and Josh Hayes | Written by Dustin Verburg
ИO///sé is a punk band based in both Oakland, CA and Portland, OR. They’re all veterans of other bands, and their various styles and influences meld together into a frenetic, dense, and furious form of garage punk. Their newest album, Lower Berth, is out now via 1859 Records.
Did you make Lower Berth between Portland and Oakland? How did you record it, and how long did it take?
MC: The band started in Ventura, but as of now, I live in Portland and the three others live in Oakland. To get Lower Berth going, I came down to Oakland on two different weekends, putting riffs together and wrapping up songs that were already in the works. We recorded the songs on a few different weekends with Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios. We’re so stoked to be able to get Greg in on this. I think he tapped into an element of the songs we didn’t know was there. My voice blew out on the last day of doing vocals and I had to record a couple songs with Robert Bartleson at Haywire Recording in Portland. The whole thing took a lot longer than we thought, and we’re really happy to see this thing see the light of day.
This album is darker than the self-titled and Beach Bathroom Bingo, especially the title track. How did you choose the title? Does “berth” refer to space, function, or capacity?
JH: The name Lower Berth had been rolling around in my brain for a while. I liked the ring of it. It was also the episode of “Tales From The Crypt” where they reveal the origin of the Crypt Keeper, so there’s that.
But mostly, it brought images and feelings to my mind of stifled birthrights and predetermined destinies. The metaphorical box or position we are assigned, and sometimes assign ourselves in our lives… On every level: physical, metaphysical, whatever. The lower berth is the bottom bunk in the back corner, the seat furthest from the emergency exit, the parking spot a mile from the superstore. It’s a degradation of sorts. The song had been written, I had that done for a while, but had no lyrical ideas. Mike came along and polished that up nicely.
As far as the album sounding darker as a whole, we all changed our lives around a bit since the first album and EP, so maybe that’s coming through. Not sure.
“Lower Berth” is also the longest track you’ve recorded, right? And it’s on the same record with the shortest track you’ve ever recorded, “Given Up.” Usually, short songs are furious and longer songs have a bit more space, but it’s the opposite here.
JH: Yeah, I mean, they come out like they come out… There’s no real science to it on our part. Probably the opposite of science, whatever that is. What would that be? Christianity? Never mind, then, it’s science. “Lie & Cheat” is under a minute, and that’s a pretty furious track I’d say, speaking of religion also. The whole last part of “Lower Berth” was a totally different song that Mike had, and we just hitched it to the end one night at practice to see if it flowed and it stuck. Otherwise, it’d be a normal ИO///sé length track.
Are you taking anyone else on your European tour? Are you excited or nervous?
MC: We’ll be out in Europe in May and June with Jan [Matthias] from Yo-Yo Records. Jan is quite possibly the best tour buddy anyone can ask for, and we’re really excited to be going to a few new spots in Spain and Sweden. Since it’s rare for the four of us get together, the only thing we want to do is be in each other’s company and play together.
We’re also doing four shows in the States, along with this tour, playing two shows in Portland, and shows in Oakland and Ventura. Getting back to Ventura is one of the highlights for me. It’s been a while since I’ve been back, and I miss everything to an immeasurable degree. Some of the best people I’ve met and the best shows I’ve seen have been out of this city.
I don’t think there’s any nervousness between any of us, just the anxiousness to get things going.
Are you planning any music videos or tour footage, especially from Europe?
MC: Not that I know of, but who knows? Maybe we’ll compile footage of us talking in our sleep with an assault of things we find hilarious that no one else will understand.
You covered Tom Waits’ “Dirt in the Ground” for one of Lower Berth’s bonus tracks. It’s pretty rare to see a straightforward punk cover of a Tom Waits song, especially one that works so well. How did you choose that song and how did you approach the arrangement?
MC: I’ve been into Tom Waits for a while. I ended up driving seven hours to see him on the Glitter and Doom tour a few years back. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, hands down. It’s strange, I haven’t heard more “straightforward” covers of Tom Waits besides the Ramones doing “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” but once we got around to looking at “Dirt in the Ground,” it came together really quick. I’ve wanted to do this song for a long time, and we had no idea what the outcome would be—we just did it. The only way for us to approach arrangement is to fall into it like a trip: fall in front of a bunch of people and walk away like it never happened.
JH: We’d like to think we’re all busy, that may be part of it. I think I can speak for us collectively when I say we all interact through social media on a normal basis, but we’re not all about it. There’s so much shit to do on any given day, and it’s so nice outside a lot living on the West Coast.
I wouldn’t say we’re leery at all; we just don’t care enough. That’s probably an honest answer. We’d rather play shows and tour, and that only works out certain times of year, so what do we have to say to everyone via our Facebook page? What do we have to report on? Not much.
The best way to communicate [with us] would be through the Bandcamp or Facebook; we’re totally reachable. We like to hear from people.
Other than touring the Northwest, Europe, and California, what else do you have coming up?
JH: We’ll have another 7” out later this year or early next year, hopefully. We recorded a few more songs during Lower Berth, and we’d like to get them out. There should be a cassette tape of Lower Berth coming out sometime this year, too. Other than that, I’d really like to record all our Europe shows and see if we can’