Interview: French Exit Talks About Influences And ‘Guts & Black Stuff’

Interview with Bobb Lange (Guitar/Vocals) and Tim Stasica (Bass/Vocals)  |  By R.j. Physician

A weird thing happened today at work. As some hippity hoppity music was playing on a 20 year old boom box in the corner, off the cuff I asked a co-worker what was the last album or CD he had purchased. I could see the wheels turning through his eyeballs and after a few seconds he said, “You know, I’ve never bought any CDs, I get music online.”

“You have never been in a record store? Never bought an album?”

He shook his head in the universally known ‘Nope’ manner. “How old are you?” I said with awe.

“Dude, I’m only 18.”

So it’s happened people. There are now adults that have never experienced the joy of smelling a record sleeve and now “collect” only via digital files. It blew my mind but I guess this makes sense; it’s the next logical step in musical evolution. It’s how many bands start today, spreading their music via Bandcamp and other digital internet sites.

French Exit started out by releasing two digital only releases in 2010. Their first vinyl in 2011 brought us their first physical, a 7″ titled Worst Case Scenario (Solidarity Recordings). They followed up in 2012 with a split 7″ with Signals Midwest. Then nothing for well over a year.

The band has personified DIY by releasing 4 (FOUR!) CDR recordings packaged with hand screen printed CD sleeves made from empty beer can cases and given out at local California shows. Simply known as the First One, LP EP, Fr3nch Exit and Covers, I challenge you to try to get your hands on one.

I’m supposed to be objective but no, these are really freaking good. It’s like the band were born from one mother, rocking in the womb, the gentle waves of amniotic fluid making Duke (drums) poke Bobb (guitar) in his tiny in-vitro butt with his drumstick. (Because they are rocking so hard in the womb. I can’t make it any clearer for you. Do not make this sexual.)

December 7th, 2013 French Exit officially (ohhh!) released Guts & Black Stuff, their first full length record (It’s Alive Records) and played their record release show at VLHS in Pomona, CA. Bobb Lange, Guitar/Vocals and Tim Stasica, Bass/Vocals took the time to answer some asinine questions and for that, I thank them.

Are you satisfied with how the album turned out and are happy you can finally put the question, “When are you going to put out a full length” to rest?

Bobb: I’m thrilled with the way it turned out. We poured the better part of a year into writing, recording, and handling all of the other ancillary details. Any time I think back on 2013, the record is tied to pretty much everything, so I love the fact that we all have an artifact to remind us of this period of our lives. I love all of our previous EPs in the same way, but I guess an LP just has a greater weight to it.

Tim: The record sounds a lot better to me now than when we finished it. I was just so tired of it at that time that I didn’t listen to any of the recordings for a good 6 months. When I finally did it was like, “oh, that came out ok, that’s a relief.”

What did you listen to as a kid? Can you remember rocking out as a ten year old?

B: I was really into classic rock and oldies radio as a kid. I led a pretty sheltered musical life as a result, but The Clash was the stand out band for me at that age. Sabbath, Elvis, Beatles, Queen, Springsteen were all big for me too.

T: I was raised on the Beatles and Creedence and too many show tunes. Queen was my favorite band for a long time.

Have you ever seen the 1984 movie Amadeus? Thoughts?

B: I have not seen the movie but I enjoy what I have seen of Miloš Forman’s work. And the Falco song “Rock Me Amadeus.”

T: I have. For some reason, I thought the guy who played Mozart was the same guy who was Vigo’s helper in Ghostbusters 2.

How do you make a decent Mojito? (This is a test for the bartenders in the band.)

B: I’m no bartender but I drink enough to know that the secret’s in the muddling. [He’s right by the way.]

Speaking of Guts & Black Stuff, what’s the story behind the title? Any recording stories?

B: It’s a reference to the 1996 episode of The Simpsons, “Lisa’s Date with Density.” I’m a big Simpsons-phile and the quote seemed to fit the theme of the record. The recording process was uneventful, as I recall it, but Tim (who recorded, mixed, and mastered the entire album) may beg to differ. I’m sure he looks back on the months of toil with a different lens than the rest of us.

T: Bobb took a really long time to record. Everything else was pretty easy. [Laughs] No, we’ve recorded enough by now that we have kind of a method. I dumped and re-tracked all the bass tracks near the end of mixing because songs weren’t lining up and this way everything was live and sounded exactly the same. That’s probably the only drastic thing I did. The recording was actually kind of anti-social and blue collar work, so nothing much interesting happened… sorry!

Favorite band of all time?

B: This band [French Exit]. Not to take away from the people who inspire us (past and present), but anyone who doesn’t love their own music the most is doing it wrong.

T: It changes for me all the time. Right now I can’t stop listening to The Temptations and other soul. I bought the new Against Me!, it’s great, and after one listen, Temptations went right back on my record player.

Do you agree that Morrissey is a cunt and why?

B: I wholeheartedly disagree. I understand why his over-the-top persona rubs some people the wrong way, but I enjoy his work thoroughly. His music aside, he seems like a nice guy.

T: I like The Smiths.

How did the band come to be?

B: Anthony, Duke and I have known each other for a while, all growing up in the Antelope Valley area (north of LA). Anthony and I met Tim at a house show Duke’s old band (Kill Radio) was playing. We hit it off that night and made plans to play soon after but it took a few months before we actually got together.

What would you sell your left nut for? (Just your left one, you would still have the right one.)

B: A Jawbreaker reunion.

T: About $500,000.

Do you skateboard and why do you think it is so prevalent in the punk rocking scene?

B: I was a total skate kid growing up. I still skate now but it’s mostly just curbs and getting around now that I’m paranoid of breaking my fingers/hands/wrists/arms. I think the obvious connection with skating and punk rock is the DIY mentality. You don’t need a team, coach, etc. and you can do it however/whenever you want. Plus, like punk rock, it’s more fun when you do it really fast.

T: I can’t skateboard for shit. I come from the Midwest. I rode a bike everywhere. Even in the winter; you see it snows and rains a lot. Bikes can deal with those better I guess. I don’t know. It was culture shock moving out here and seeing skateboards everywhere, old dudes using skateboards as transportation. It’s much more a part of western U.S. culture than Midwest, I think. I mean, there ARE skateboarders in the Midwest – but not like out here, I can’t walk to the grocery store without skateboarders passing me every block or so.

Why don’t you like bacon? It’s fucking awesome.

B: Because meat is murder.

T: I had a lot of food allergies growing up and could only eat milk and oatmeal for a while. So a lot of things just taste bad to me now and I have no desire to eat them.

One band you would sell your remaining nut (the right one) to tour with.

B: [see “left nut” question]

T: I think I’d rather us and our friends just have bigger, farther reaching, crazy successful tours. I love a lot of the bands we’ve toured with, and if we could do a sold out national tour with Off With Their Heads and Signals Midwest, that’d be the most fun thing ever.

This is a stupid unanswerable question, but what makes a great band?

B: Pyrotechnics. And I have it on good authority that cocaine is involved.

T: A gospel choir. When singers use auxiliary percussion instruments. Leather.

Pick up Guts & Black Stuff here: Bandcamp | Physical

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