Interview with hype man Beau “Beau Beau” Butler and drummer Erik Larson | By Michael Thorn | Photo by Ken Penn
There was a time when it was impossible to go a punk show without seeing the patch that accompanied AVAIL’s second EP, 1993’s Attempt To Regress, stitched onto a bag or jacket—a testament to their cross-genre appeal. Notorious for their live shows and constant touring, the punk rock legends steamrolled through the ’90s and into the ’00s playing just about everywhere, with every band, and to everyone. They were the band who would roll through town, go absolutely apeshit, and leave the whole scene wondering what the fuck just happened.
Then, suddenly, they were no more.
In the 12 years since their unofficial disbandment in 2007, frontman Tim Barry crisscrossed the country playing folk music, bassist Gwomper did time in Smoke Or Fire and The Real McKenzies, and guitarist Joe Banks played in Freeman with former AVAIL bassist Chuck McCauley and current drummer Erik Larson, who also played for a litany of other bands including Alabama Thunderpussy, Kilara, and Parasytic. With everyone busy with their own projects, the obvious question is how did AVAIL come back together?
Below, Larson and AVAIL dancer and hype man Beau “Beau Beau” Butler discuss the band’s decision to reunite, starting with two sold-out, packed-to-the-gills reunion shows in their hometown of Richmond, Virginia, on July 19 and 20.
Interview with Beau “Beau Beau” Butler
AVAIL went from being the band who came through town every few months to just kind of fizzling out and stopping. What caused that?
I don’t know. I don’t know if it actually fizzled out, honestly. Obviously, bands grow and have ups and downs; you’re really popular in one area, and then you go back two months later, and nobody comes out to the show, but if we were on a down at that point, it was really stressful. Like, that’s what we did, right? Some of us had other jobs and stuff, but this was our job, and it was getting—there’s a lot of work, and there wasn’t a big payoff at the end. Then, we honestly played a show in Richmond and then just never got back together.
We never said anything. Nothing was ever said, but we just didn’t get back together. It was super weird. We just stopped. [Laughs] There wasn’t anything said; one of us didn’t go, “Fuck you. You’re a dick,” and leave. We just stopped being around each other. It was really odd, and it’s just—I don’t know. When we decided to play shows again, that was the first time all of us were in the same room in 12 years.
We’d go out, and a couple of us would be there. I’d see Tim somewhere. I’d see Joe somewhere. I would go see Tim doing something, but all five of us, it had been 12 years. Not even all five—I should say all four of us, because we decided to ask Erik to play in the band again for this Over the James stuff. He had quit in ’99, so it had been 18 years, 17 years, whatever the fuck it was. Eighteen to 19 years since all of us were in the same room.
Yeah. […] We said that we were gonna do this until it’s not fun anymore, and when it’s not fun, we just won’t do it. Then, it—just wasn’t that much fun.
What was the initial impetus to get back together and do these shows? Was it one person’s idea, or was it like you were hanging out with Tim and he said, “Maybe we should do this”?
Now, over the years, I tried to get everybody back in the same room and just shoot the shit, ’cause I’ve always thought it is weird when your friends aren’t friends anymore. So, I brought it up a couple of times, and everyone was like, “Man, whatever. I gotta go do this, so maybe next year”—like, blah blah blah—but I think it was a Saturday night, like 7 o’clock at night, and Tim just called me out of the blue and was like, “Hey, man. You interested in playing some shows?” I was like “What?!”
It was just out of the blue. He just straight hit me with that, and I was like, “I think it would be cool as fuck.” He was like, “Nothing, crazy just like—” and I’m like, “I just want my kids to get to see me.” They know what AVAIL is, but they don’t know what AVAIL is, you know? Like, I think that would just be super fucking cool.
He’s like, “Well, I don’t have everybody’s numbers, but I talked to Gwomp, and Gwomp is kinda in, so if you called Joe and call Erik—” so I was like, “Fuck it. OK, I’ll call.” I just called everybody, and I said, “Hey, you wanna get together? Maybe play a couple, three shows or something like that? It won’t be like it was before, ’cause we don’t have any stress on us to do shit.” We all got together, got in the room, like, “What’s up? What you wanna do? What you thinking?”
At that point, we had Justin [Collier from Good Fight Entertainment], who is now our manager, basically put together some proposals for shit. He said, “All right, well, we’ll do Richmond shows, then we’ll do an East Coast run, and then we’ll do a Southeast run, then a Dallas, sorta Texas run, then we’ll do, like, two runs on the West Coast and do a Chicago thing,” and all of this kind of stuff. We were like, “OK, yeah, we don’t wanna do any of that shit. Let’s just play Richmond and see how it goes.” I, for one, was super skeptical that it was even gonna do well, honestly.
Even in Richmond?
Even in Richmond. I made a bet with [Iron Reagan vocalist] Tony [Foresta]. I was like, “All right, man, I think the first show will sell out,” and he’s like, “I bet it will sell out in five minutes.” I was like, “Nah, maybe in five days.” Then, when I got closer to it, it’s like, “All right, well, maybe in five hours, it’ll sell out.” […]
We’d also put a hold on a smaller venue. We weren’t so sure that it was gonna sell out that quick, so we were gonna play a second show at a small place, ’cause we didn’t think it was gonna do that well and I didn’t wanna come back after 12 years and play a fucking half-full [The] National [theater]. That would fucking suck. So, yeah, I thought it would sell out, but I didn’t think it would fill out in less than a minute. That was insane. That doesn’t even make sense to me, right? To think [of] where we came from and, then, what we were doing in the meantime—and some of us were just not that into music. We’d go see shows and stuff, but it wasn’t like music was an everyday [thing] like it used to be. Literally, when we came back from tour, we would play Alley Katz, and it holds, like, 600 people or some shit like that. So, yeah, we came from playing a 600-person room to over 3,000 people.
One of my friends said it really well, when people were freaking out that it sold out, and even I was like, “Whoa, what the fuck?”—Paddy [Costello] from [Dillinger Four] goes, “What the fuck do you people think?! You think that this band can’t sell out their hometown that they haven’t played in 11 years? It’s fucking stupid!” When he said it like that, I was like, “Well, I guess it kinda makes sense.”
With those initial practices, was it like, “Yeah, this makes sense,” or was it more like, “This is actually hard, and I don’t know if we can do this?”
Tim and I basically told the guys we weren’t gonna come to the first couple of practices. There’s no need for us to sit around if they can’t remember the parts or they can’t play it or it just doesn’t sound good. So, maybe the fourth practice, we came. It was like, “Holy fuck! It sounds dead nuts like it used to!”
Then, there was this shit that we just used to do. There’s a part in a song where me and Joe have touched feet every time we played it for 20 fucking years. We weren’t even looking at each other, and I was probably fucking around on my phone and he’s playing guitar, and we both just lifted our foot up and touched feet. I mean, there were certain parts we needed to tweak a little bit, but it came right—like, someone would say, “Let’s play this song,” and we would just start it. We’d just fucking play it. It just felt right.
That was the impressive thing to me, because I’ve probably seen AVAIL like—20 times? [Laughter] The first time I saw AVAIL was probably 1993, and that’s the thing, is it felt like it did then, and I’ll be honest, I’m always skeptical of a band getting back together.
Yeah, I mean, we were way more nervous about that than anybody else for sure, ’cause the band has this weird reputation—and this was before the internet and before fucking cell phones and all this stuff. We had this reputation of coming to wherever it was and going ballistic and people going, “What the fuck just happened?”—and especially, not to toot my horn or nothing, but it’s not very often that you have a band that has a dancer. [Laughs] Even in pop music. So, that whole thing—we didn’t wanna fuck that up. We don’t wanna ruin that. So, we were real weird about it.
That was the thing, especially in the ’90s, y’all were the unity band. You show up, and it would be a bunch of baggy-pants straight edge kids, a bunch of emo kids, a bunch of crusty punx, and everybody together—and, well, you remember the ’90s, everybody would just kinda stand there.
Yeah, yeah. [Laughs]
Except when y’all came to town, and then it was totally different.
We talk about it a lot: We were always into seeing really diverse shows. We always thought that was cool, right? Because we grew up Northern Virginia, so we would go to shows in D.C. I was at all these shows where I’m just like, “How the fuck did those bands play together?” Like, Token Entry, Dr. Know, and The Exploited. Sure, they’re all punk bands, but they are nothing alike. So, we brought that with us. We would play with, like, a hip hop band; we would play with all kinds of bands.
When we moved to Richmond, we got hooked up through the guys in Four Walls Falling, and that hooked us up with a lot of the straight edge bands back then. We would put on shows, and then, we put on a Born Against and Rorschach show, and that was just fucking—that was a game changer for Richmond. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but fucking Born Against was the shit. They were just fucking crazy. They changed everything. We got a list of contacts from them, and they were like, “Hey, call these people.”
Then, we played down in Florida with a band called Endpoint, and we became friends with them. Basically, you have to go out and play. You had to go out and play these fucking crazy art spaces. We played the Che Café, and people were like, “You played a coffee shop in San Diego?” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s just what you do I think,” not knowing that there were bands that were on Epitaph and Fat [Wreck Chords] that were playing in San Diego and playing these huge fucking venues. We just didn’t know they existed and didn’t know how to get in with that. So, we just built this whole fanbase. We built a reputation that’s like, “Hey, come see us. It’ll be fun. I don’t give a fuck if you drink, and I don’t give a fuck if you don’t drink. It’ll be fun.”
I feel like, because of that, AVAIL are a band people relate to in a crazy way. I mean, you’re a tattoo band. [Laughs] There’s an approachability that you have always projected that can be really refreshing. To go back to the shows, it was really cool that they were with all Richmond bands.
We were very adamant about that.
And it was a diverse range of Richmond bands. I’ve only seen Nosebleed and Asylum at house shows. Why was that important, and how were those bands selected?
Well, we were practicing in Iron Reagan’s spot, and we decided that it would only make sense to ask Iron Reagan. We wanted another bigger-sized band, and Tim—of all people, which I thought was weird, ’cause he doesn’t listen to a lot of hardcore or punk rock anymore—he says, “Yeah, we should ask Down To Nothing.” We were like, “That’s the most amazing idea. Hell yeah!”
But then, the smaller bands, there was a bunch of them. There were probably, like, 10 bands that we all kind of listened to. Erik knows more about those kinds of bands, ’cause he still goes to smaller house shows and he loves that, but I’m just not into that and neither is Joe. So, I didn’t know most of those bands. I was like, “How about Candy?” I wanted to play with Candy or Division Of Mind—bands I had seen at United Blood [Festival] and shit. That could be cool. Basically, we just listened to all the bands and were like, “Well, I like this band.” I was like, “Fuck yeah, and there’s a woman in [the band]. That’s fucking bitchin’.” Like, it wasn’t a thought, “Let’s make sure that there’s a woman or a person of color,” or anything like that. It was just like, “Well, this just makes it cooler.” We were all very, very adamant that it had to be Richmond bands, and it’s the same on all the shows on tour—or the four shows we’re doing or whatever.
For us, it’s a big thing that the opening band has to be from there [and] has to be smaller, to give them a little exposure. It’s just cooler, right? It’s cool to see a band that comes through and they’ve got their two bands that play with them. That’s fucking cool as shit, but when your friends can be like, “Dude, we’re playing the show,” that’s cooler, right? It makes it more grounded. It makes it real, more authentic.
The reunion is being billed as the 21st anniversary of Over the James. Why that particular record as opposed to the 25th anniversary of Dixie? What about that particular record stands out to you? Or is it just a random thing you thought was funny, that it’d be the 21st anniversary?
[Laughs] That was certainly part of it, for sure, but it was pretty much Tim. Tim just listened to it after someone brought it up that it had been over 20 years since that record was released. He listened to it and—I’m just kind of saying what he said—said, “Hey, this is a pretty good fucking record.”
I definitely like songs on that record, but there’s songs on [2002’s] Front Porch Stories that I think are fucking cool. Same with [2000’s] One Wrench, Dixie, [the 1992 debut LP], Satiate—well, not so much Satiate, but you know what I mean—but when you listen to the progression of them, we knew what we were doing the most, I think, on Over the James. We still had a ton of angst and still wanted to talk about a lot of shit that we didn’t like, but we weren’t polished enough that we would go into the studio for a month and do this, that, or the other thing. It was just, “This is what we gotta do. Let’s play these songs. Let’s get this music. Let’s put it on this record.” I think it kinda summed up us in a nutshell at that time. I think that was our—I don’t want to say it was a commercial success, but it was a good record for us. It sold more than all the other records. Everybody being on the record too, that was another reason that we wanted to play with Erik. So, it is all kind of tied in with each other.
Like, Dixie and Satiate, they weren’t what we did; we just happened to do that. This is the beginning of us being like, “Hey, we know what we’re doing.”
So, what’s next? I know you’re playing Muddy Roots [Music Festival in Tennessee] and these short East Coast runs. Is that it, or is it more wait and see what happens?
I think it’s more wait and see what happens. We don’t know. We kinda wanna get through these stretches of shows, and if something comes up that we wanna do, then cool. If it doesn’t, then cool, whatever. This isn’t what we’re doing, you know what I mean? This isn’t our job anymore. This is what we do for fun. So, yeah, if someone says, “Hey, you wanna fly out to California and play these two shows with this band and it’ll be fucking massive?” then maybe we will. There’s nothing planned. It’s just Muddy Roots, these four shows in the Northeast, and then Riot Fest, and that’s it. I said yes to Riot Fest and Muddy Roots because I wanted to see these bands for free, so that was my whole thing about it. I didn’t really care about the money that much or whatever, but fuck yeah, I wanna see Violent Femmes. I wanna see The B-52s again. I wanna see these bands, and I don’t wanna pay for that. [Laughs]
Would you say, in some regard, what you’re doing with AVAIL now is more similar to what you were doing earlier on? Like, “This is the band we do, and we just do it for fun?”
Yeah, yeah. Obviously, there’s other shit that goes [into] it, but one of the things that we talked about with AVAIL—around all the members of this band, there are, like, nine fucking kids. Back then, there wasn’t—I mean [Banks’ son] Little Beau is 26 years old, so he’s not Little Beau anymore, you know? But yeah, this is something that we’re just doing for fun, and if we just don’t wanna do something, even though everyone else thinks we should, then fuck it. We’re not gonna do it.
Interview with Erik Larson
So, you were out of AVAIL starting in—was it ’99?
Yup, Halloween of ’99 was my last show.
What was your reaction to them calling you? Did it feel like it was out of the blue? Had you just been hanging out with them a lot more recently?
It didn’t seem out of the blue, but it didn’t seem expected, if that’s a good answer. I would see Beau relatively frequently, ’cause our kids went to school together, and same thing with Joe—and Joe and I had been in Freeman about 10 years ago. So, we all had been hanging out or whatever in casual ways. Beau didn’t call me at first. I made him call me. He texted me and asked me if I’m interested in doing AVAIL reunions with an Over the James theme. I said, “Yes, I would totally do that, but this is not a texting conversation. You have to call me.” [Laughs] He wrote me back, “Damn it,” and then, he called and we started chatting. My first question was just, “Where is this coming from? Why is this happening now?” He told me that, in a roundabout way, the anniversary got Tim thinking about it, and some conversations were starting with him and Beau, and then, Beau kind of tested the waters with everybody to see if there was interest or whatever. Once we got everyone at least interested, then it was like, “Well, let’s have a face-to-face chat about it.” So, that’s how it started.
How did that face-to-face chat go? Beau indicated that all of you all hadn’t been in the same room with each other for a decade-plus.
Well, that’s true. I hadn’t been in the same room with those dudes since I left the band—not collectively anyway. Basically, the four of them got [together] first from what I understand, because there was the guy who played drums after me. Ed Trask, right?
Ed was in the band for eight, maybe nine years almost. We both were in the band about the same amount of time. They had to basically say out loud, “Larson is the drummer we want for this,” and come to a consensus amongst themselves. Then, they talked about other details. I don’t think they all sat around holding hands in a Kumbaya moment, you know what I mean? It was more like logistics. Yeah, then it was, “OK, so we’ll all meet up at Tim’s house, and we’ll kinda just go through, ‘This is the general idea. This is the general plan.’” So, that’s what we did. It was relatively uneventful, to be honest, ’cause it was like no time had passed. Everyone was still the same person they were. Personalities all seemed the same, but there’s definitely a level of enthusiasm that I hadn’t felt from any of them individually or collectively for a long time. So, it was really cool.
Do you feel like the band, the way you’re approaching it, is less like, “This is a job,” and more like, “This is what we do for fun”?
I would say there’s different perspectives on that. It doesn’t feel like a job in terms of, “I gotta do this.” But it definitely feels like there are considered and deliberate decisions that are made in terms of what we’re going to do. As of now, there is no intention to tour. Not like we used to, man, like when we were all young people and could do that. It’s like some of us still do, some of us don’t, and it’s OK. Everyone’s hovering around the half-century mark in terms of their age.
So, it’s more like, “How can we do this so that everyone is enjoying themselves and having fun?” That should be the baseline, for me anyway. It’s like, “Are you having a good time?” Because if you feel it, you give it off, and then, everyone who’s watching and listening feels it and they give it back to you. It’s just this great feedback loop. I think that’s kind of where we’re at. Everyone is definitely—I don’t know, pretty amazed, really. I hate to use that word, ’cause it’s a familiar catchphrase, but it’s kind of overwhelming to see the reaction that people have been having with just the two shows that we did. You don’t think about the art that you create having that kind of impact on other people. At least for me, it’s more of a catharsis, and I would do it regardless, but getting honest joy coming from people is really kind of surprising. It’s awesome, but it’s not at all what I was expecting.
Did you expect those shows to sell out like they did?
No. No, I did not. I figured we could probably sell out one at that venue, that size, maybe, but I certainly didn’t think it’d be two nights, and I certainly didn’t think it was gonna happen in under five minutes. [Laughs]
It was, like I said, a little overwhelming. I’ve been out of the punk and hardcore scene so long that I’m seeing people who I haven’t seen since I left the band, and that’s a whole other dynamic of interpersonal relationships, ’cause it’s fucking 20 years for me, man. So, I’m traveling with all these other bands, many bands, put out many records, been married, I have a child, done grown-up stuff. There’s all this life experience in between, and it’s weird to run into people who you saw when you were a young person and, to some extent, the relationships are still the same. It’s kind of interesting.
You’ve been playing a lot of metal bands, though, right?
I guess that’s kind of a subjective term. I play—yeah. In terms of coming from AVAIL, I left and went straight into just being a guitar player. I’ve been with [Alabama] Thunderpussy; I did that the entire time. I was one of the founding members, and I killed the fucking band. [Laughs] I broke up the band, ’cause we basically had done everything we were gonna do. So, that was like 12 and a half years of that. I did various other bands playing guitar, and I did various other bands playing drums as well, some of which crossed into the punk world a lot. Parasytic was more of a crust band, though, so we were definitely DIY all the way: house shows and squats and stuff like that.
I don’t know. I never really got out but didn’t really return to the world of AVAIL. Although, the funny thing is I ran into a lot of what I would call ex-pats of the punk scene in the stoner rock metal scene, ’cause I always feel like that’s where punks went to retire, in stoner rock. [Laughter]
How were those initial practices when you first started playing again? Did it just come to you? Was it a struggle to remember some of these songs, figure out how to play them?
I can only speak for myself. I listened to the records a lot in the couple weeks leading up to it. When Beau, when we had the initial conversation, I went out on tour with another band I’m in, and I just brought my iPod with me and listened to AVAIL records when I was sitting waiting for other band members or whatnot. So, kind of refreshing my memory, but you gotta actually do it to get the muscle memory back in gear.
Fortunately, I kinda feel like things happen the way they happen because they happen that way. I’ve been playing drums a lot more, so my chops are better. So, when I was able to sit down, really the only weirdness for me was that it’s a different configuration: the amount of cymbals and stuff that I used with AVAIL was actually more than what I used with other bands. Joe and I got together two days after Christmas last year, and it was just the two of us for the first week. I don’t know what kind of prep he did, but he sounded great almost immediately. A little bit of like, “How does this part go again?” or “How many times is this? Do you know?” but by the end of the second week, when it was just me, Joe, and Gwomp, it didn’t feel like much time had passed. Everyone just kind of plugged right in again. So, it was pretty cool.
Do you feel like it was an open secret that you were practicing again or was it pretty hush-hush?
I think it was pretty hush-hush for the most part. There were some people who knew. Obviously, the Iron Reagan guys knew, ’cause they were letting us use their spot—and people talk. One of the Iron Reagan guys runs a bar. You know a secret and you run a bar and you drink a little bit, sometimes, that secret tends to get out. Come February, I had people stopping me and going, “Hey. So, I hear there’s something going on,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “You and some guys jamming, huh?” “I’m in several bands, man. What are you talking about?” [Laughs] I would be real cagey.
I ran into an ex-bandmate in early March before the announcement was made. Sam Krivanec, he played in Kilara and Alabama Thunderpussy with me. He stopped me [in the] Walmart parking lot. He’s like, “So, what’s up? AVAIL getting back together, huh?” I’m like, “Man, I got nothing to say about that.” That was just my talking point. I just kept saying that to every question he asked, and he got mad at me. Le was like, “All right. I see how it is.” Obviously, three weeks later when the announcement went down, he called me up. He’s like, “You’re such a bastard. You could have just told me.” I’m like, “Yeah. Now, I have something to say about that, Sam.” [Laughter]
Were there concerns when you started to practice again that it was gonna be bad? Like, “Well, what if we just can’t do this anymore?”
I never had that thought in my mind. I never thought that it was gonna be an issue of us sounding bad, but I didn’t even think about it or even worry about it, ’cause I knew that—I had played with Joe before, and I felt like, “Man, you guys just gotta knock the rust off, brush away the cobwebs, and it’ll be fine.” I’m sure the other dudes who hadn’t played in a band in a long time probably had more reservations. I know Tim was a little concerned about singing these songs, because it’s a different way of singing and a different approach than what he does with his solo stuff. It’s definitely harder on his body. He was a little concerned about that, but within two days, he was just like, “I got this. We’re good.” So, I think everyone kind of felt that way.
You were talking about that feedback loop, that crowd reaction. What was it like when you first started playing those songs at the show? Was it an overwhelming feeling? Was it just like, “Oh, this is just how it used to be”?
Well, I’m not gonna have a very good answer for you, ’cause where I sit on the stage and the way that I approach playing, […] I just don’t pay attention to what’s happening in front of me as much. I look at the band, and I’ll see the first couple of rows of people. Now, I’m completely cognizant that there are 1,500 people out there, ’cause you can hear it and you can feel it, but I can’t really focus on that, especially when there’s that many people who give a shit there.
It really felt like it was just a celebration of a thing that I was a part of and not “the” thing. So, I don’t know, man. I’ve played big shows like that before, but I’ve never been the focal point, so it was kind of surreal. It was kind of hard to like—well, this is interesting: It didn’t feel like it was because of anything that we were doing, in a way. [Laughs] It felt like everyone was just at a big party, and we have to be here playing. It didn’t feel like we were the party. To me, that’s how it felt. It just felt like everyone was at a big gathering together. So, it was kind of neat.
So, Over the James, what about that record stands out to you? Obviously, that was the last record you played on, correct?
Well, that’s the last full-length I played on. We did an introductory EP for the Fat Wreck Chords audience called 100 Times [in 1999], and that sort of was one new song and a bunch of rerecorded old songs, but yeah, Over the James was the last full album that I played on. […]
I can go into each individual record, but for me, I think Over the James was just kind of like a culmination of everything that had happened prior. The band just felt comfortable being the band. The songs were good. Everyone knew each other very intimately and well, so it wasn’t a struggle—it wasn’t like we were fighting for something still. It was more just like, “Here we are. This is us. Boom.”
Kinda like you figured it out, basically?
Yeah, as much as you can. I would think that you could always improve and there’s always somebody better than you with anything you do, so it’s a constant thing, but it just felt right. It felt, in the moment, awesome. Now, when we did Dixie, I remember tracking it on the punch keys and hearing some of the vocals come back across the monitors and just getting this sensation like, “Oh man, we’re striking lightning here. There’s something happening with this.” But that’s also a response to Satiate, which was just more like a first album, a collection of everything we got—and it’s a really crappy recording, but whatever. [Laughs]
I love Satiate. I could quote you lyrics from “Bob’s Crew” and stuff like that, but, still—
Oh, yeah. It’s all subjective. I keep saying that, ’cause everyone’s own personal experience with this is—it’s something bigger than the individuals or even the group. This is for everybody.
You and I have talked about this before, that audience-wise, in the ’90s, it was kind of a full swathe of what was going on. You played with everybody. How important was that to you? Or was that just part of being a band in the ’90s?
I think that might have been a little bit about the time, just because the scene was a little bit more insular. I don’t wanna call it small, because there were shows in every town and there were bands in every town. It was the next generation up from the Black Flag generation, so the touring circuit had been established to an extent. We took a lot of numbers and contacts from Born Against and Rorschach, so without that help, we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what we did.
None of us really thought about ourselves as being in a scene, I think. I think it was more like we were in the overall community, so we weren’t trying to play with these kinds of bands ’cause that’s what we connected with. You know? Not musically or lyrically, ’cause there was no real parameters put on what we were trying to do musically other than, “Do we like that? Does that sound good?” Occasionally, you’d try to write something a little bit faster, ’cause you’re like, “Oh, we need to get a really aggressive song” or “Let’s write a really punk song,” and that’s where something like “Scuffle Town” [from Over the James] would come about. But it was never an intentional going for something.
So, I feel like we were just having some success with things as we went along. We would ask to play with certain bands if we were friends with them. I don’t know, I feel pretty fortunate that we were able to play with a wide variety of people just because that’s how it ended up. […] I got to see and play with some really killer bands from that era, so I feel pretty fortunate about that.
In the context of living in a city like Richmond versus San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, whatever big town, would you say that Richmond kinda shaped how AVAIL operate and what you sound like?
I would agree with that, for sure. Especially if you’re looking at the ’90s, when everybody moved here and the band started to coalesce, there really wasn’t a whole lot in terms of what you would think of as punk or hardcore now. There were punk bands, and there had been really great punk bands here in town, but as far as hardcore, not really. There was metal. I felt like even before I was in the band, the guys in AVAIL started cultivating ties with other bands in town, as well as where to play. It was pretty much just Twisters, which ended up being Strange Matter—but we boycotted Twisters for a while, because the guy who owned it was a total racist prick. The whole scene boycotted it until they got him out of there, and then, they reopened again under new management. […]
Kind of going off of that, y’all had all Richmond bands playing with you at the shows here. Why was that so important? Also, why were those bands picked and how were those bands picked?
I was given the task of kind of curating that. So, my thoughts on it were, yeah, it had to be Richmond bands because the whole album is Richmond-themed. So much of what AVAIL has been is about where we are, in this place. So, as much as it was a celebration of the band and that album, I also wanted it to be a celebration of what is current, not just have this be some nostalgia trip where it’s like, “Oh, let’s go watch a bunch of old fat guys play music from 20 years ago.” It’s like, “Well, we did this, and thank you for celebrating it, but there’s also celebrating that you could do for the bands that are currently doing this in your town.”
I wanted to make the bands a little bit diversified too—not just in music but to show the change in the scene. Chris [Boarts Larson], my wife, had posted a picture of a collage of photos that she had taken the first five or 10 years that she was living here, and someone internet trolling her or whatever was like, “Oh great, just a bunch of white guys.” Well, that’s what it was then in the ’90s. It was just a bunch of white guys playing music. Right? That’s not the case anymore. There’s a lot of women involved. There’s a lot of people of color involved. There’s a lot of different viewpoints, both in politics and religion, and just style issues that I thought were important to highlight if I could, the best way I could. You only get two opening bands, right?
So, I tried to do that, and I felt like every band that was on the shows was a good representation of a certain aspect of Richmond. Maybe not a good all-inclusive thing, and I’m sure if I had social media, I’d be getting yelled at, but I don’t for that reason. [Laughs] But I thought it came across really cool, man. It’s really important to not just be a band and take from your scene. It’s important to give back too. That feedback loop, you know?
Beau mentioned that one of the efforts you’re trying to make is, when you play in other cities, that those bands are local bands as well who kinda need a hand up, so to speak.
The shows we’re doing up in the Northeast, those are very important to me too, ’cause I worked with—let’s just say “the powers that be” to pick local bands as much as possible. Sometimes it wasn’t a feasible thing; sometimes bands didn’t wanna play the show, but I’d try to do some research, and we got Soul Glo in Philly, we got Fuck It… I Quit! playing New York, and Tied To A Bear from Boston. They’re all local, and that’s important, you know? Again, it’s a celebration of where you’re at and what you’re doing and what’s possible rather than just like, “Hey, let’s go watch a bunch of old fat white guys play music. [Laughs] From 20 years ago.”
So, you’re not gonna be touring as of right now. You just have this run of shows up the East Coast and then Muddy Roots and Riot Fest. Are there thoughts about doing other things? Is there any desire to do a lot of stuff or is it gonna be, “Let’s just wing it and see what happens”?
The short answer is yes.
To all of that. I am of the mind, and I may be the only person, where I can still get in the van and go for a month or two at a time. I am not like everybody else in the band, and that’s important to know and to temper in my excitement with stuff. Basically, we are playing it a little bit safe and we are taking it as it comes, because everyone has children for the most part, except for Gwomp. People have spouses, people have jobs, people have responsibilities. So, you can’t just jump in the van and go for 30-plus days again.
Fortunately, we’re in a place in this band’s existence where it doesn’t need to be that way. We can pick and choose things that we wanna do based on how fun it’s gonna be. I have a personal bucket list of things I wanna do with the band. If [George Stroumboulopoulos is] listening or reading, I wanna play [“House of Strombo”]; that’s one of my things I really wanna do. There’s other things, but hopefully, once we complete this first run of shows, we will have figured out how to be a band again so we can do things in a more regular way—but I do wanna play Strombo’s house.
I know that’s in the middle of Canada, so that’s kind of awkward to just do a one-off there, but… I’m down. I’ll drive.