Twenty-twenty has been a rough year for all of us. Everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another, and we’re all hoping a vaccine can return us to a sense of sanity by the spring. While we wait a little longer for that to happen, it’s important for us to start the new year off strong.
Boston punk act Rebuilder are taking this sentiment to heart with an online event titled “Live From 2021” that’ll be happening on New Year’s Day at 3:30 p.m. EST. Andrea Neuenfeldt from Fake Rays, Matt Spence from The Stereo State, Sharkie, Wolf-Face, and Dylan Slocum from Spanish Love Songs and Catbite will also be joining the band for the virtual show.
The entire extravaganza is being broadcasted via Noonchorus, and tickets are $10 in advance and $12 during the day of the show. Folks can log on to noonchorus.com/rebuilder to purchase tickets and watch it all unfold. If by chance you’re going to be busy during the afternoon, “Live From 2021” will be rebroadcasted for the following 72 hours after it initially concludes.
Guitarist and vocalist Sal Medrano and I had a talk ahead of the show about who had the idea to make it happen, finding a barn to record a performance in, a couple singles the band put out a few months ago, staying busy and not rushing the next Rebuilder album.
Who’s idea was it to have a virtual show on New Year’s Day?
Me and our bassist Daniel [Carswell] were kind of doing some livestreams on Facebook and Instagram during the beginning of the pandemic. That was mostly to push any new stuff we had released, like some T-shirts, stickers and stuff like that. We would do this fun, little, live thing to promote these things, but they weren’t that much fun to either watch or do. I think it was one of those things where I said, “We’re not going to do anymore of these. If we do another stream, it really needs to be with live bands, and I don’t know how we do this, but I think it would be really cool for us to do.”
That was something that was talked about probably around September, and then Daniel mentioned that we could probably do something like it for our New Year’s Eve show this year if we are able to do it as a full band. We started taking on the idea and figuring out what it would look like, which was a lot more fucking work than I thought it be. We decided to do it through Noonchorus because our buddy Mike Krol did a virtual show there, and we asked him what the experience was like, and he told us how great it was, so I took his word for it.
How difficult was it to round out the lineup for the show? Was it just you guys hitting up friends to see who’d be down to do it, or did you have specific people in mind?
We had to figure out first what this thing would even look like and how we could pull this off. On the very basic level, that even meant band members. Our drummer Brandon [Phillips] pre-pandemic had left the band because he just started working a full-time job, had just bought a house and got married. He didn’t really have a lot of time to dedicate to the band, so Harley Cox from Choke Up started playing with us a little bit more on drums.
Now, we’re in a pandemic, and Daniel and I live together, which is fine, but we had to figure out when we could all get together and do it safely. Harley wasn’t working or doing anything, so the three of us would meet up to work on new songs, and when this livestream idea came to fruition, we wanted to give Brandon and other folks the opportunity to participate if they could.
Getting five people in a room together to practice music, even when there isn’t a pandemic going on, can be very, very difficult for us. We kind of had to figure out how to do that as well, which is why during our performance there are some songs where there are five people playing with three guitar players, and it sounds awesome, and there are others where we did it as a four-piece with Brandon on drums.
It was pretty much seeing who was available to rehearse what, which is pretty fun to do because we want everyone to be involved. Moving on to the venue aspect of it, we hit up a bunch of places in Boston and even outside of the city to see if we could record a performance. We didn’t know what it would look like at the time, and each venue that we talked to wasn’t able to let us do it because they couldn’t go back to the people they put on furlough and ask them to come in for a date.
We then offered while saying, “You don’t need to call anyone. All you need to do is open up the door, and we’ll figure the rest out,” but every venue basically turned us down. It was surprising, too, because there are a lot of venues that Daniel and I work at. ONCE in Somerville was willing to help, and The Wilbur was willing to help, too, but there were parameters that kept it from happening, especially without having a big budget.
We wanted something that was either free or extremely cheap. As it started getting closer to us not being able to find something, I remembered that when I worked for the ska-punk band Kicked In The Head, they had a recording studio in Quincy that was a big barn separate from a house.
I texted Anthony Modano from the band, and I asked him if he still had the barn, and he said, ”Yeah, I just play drums in it while running the recording studio, but it’s still there.” Then, I asked him about filming a live show there, and then we sorted out how many people were going to be involved.
Jay Maas joined up with us because he’s recorded all of our records and he’s a very, very good friend of mine. Before I even approached him about being involved, he said he wanted to be involved. It was one of those things where I gave him an out three different times because I wasn’t sure what we were diving into, and I couldn’t afford to pay him his usual rate, but he just figured it would be fun to do.
With him involved, it was the five of us, him for audio and his friend Phil to oversee the video part of it. He had an assistant as well, so it was two people for video. Then, I had our photographer, Brittany Rose Queen, come take pictures because I figured that it would be the only show we’d be able to do for the time being. With the crew and band, there were nine people total; we all had to get negative tests beforehand, and we all wore masks as well to be able to make this safe for the house that we were in and everyone that was there. It was a huge undertaking.
I can totally imagine there being a ton of complexities involved with this whole thing. There are a lot of sponsors for the event, including Roxy’s Grilled Cheese based in the Boston neighborhood of Allston. How does that particular sponsorship work? Do you plan on doing anything special with grilled cheese sandwiches for the event, or did they just hook you guys up with a bunch of them to eat after your set?
It cost so much money to try and pull this thing off that I knew that we needed to get sponsorships for this. It’s the only way to actually have a shot at breaking even and possibly make money, but I don’t think we’re gonna make any money.
I had seen a bunch of other livestreams doing sponsorship spots, so I had a model of what another company did, and that’s what I did while asking for a lot of money. I figured that if we were able to get half of what we needed through sponsors, we’d be OK, so I started hitting up companies I knew, and friends. I sent out emails with different packages that had different levels; one was a social media shoutout; another was a logo on the flyer, and there was an inclusion in the video where they could sponsor a song.
For the most part, a lot of companies that I’m friends with were absolutely down to sign up for one of the packages. I’ve known James DiSabatino, who runs Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, for a long time, so when I posted that we were still looking for sponsors, he just sent me a text about doing the lower-tier package. He PayPal’d us, sent the logo over, and we had it in. It would be hilarious to do a Rebuilder grilled-cheese eating competition, but this thing has already taken so much of our time that I don’t think I’d have the time to take part in it.
It’s cool that you’ve been able to get so much support through these businesses for this virtual event.
Yeah, the first people that we hit up are from our own community. Safe Responsible Movers, who are another sponsor, are run by a couple friends of ours, and it was pretty much that, just friends who wanted to support what we’re putting on.
That’s awesome; that’s great. Rebuilder released two singles this past fall with “Monuments” coming out on September 25 and “Burning The Bridges To Hillsborough County” on October 12. The first single focused on the tearing down of Confederate statues while raising money for Black Lives Matter and the second single raised money for Jeff Poots from the Boston band Witches With Dicks, who is recovering from a severe brain bleed.
There’s a lot that has gone on this year concerning social issues and civil rights, but what was the spark that inspired the writing of “Monuments,” and how has Jeff been doing lately while recovering from his injury?
I’ve been kind of checking in on Jeff’s Instagram account, and he seems to be doing a lot better. He’s home; he’s been posting pictures of himself being out and posting old videos of him hanging out with friends. It’s great to see because when we heard about what happened to Jeff, Harley came to practice and told us about it.
A couple weeks prior, we had an old demo of a band Jeff used to be in called Mavis Beacon, and everyone had a different story or how they first heard it. No one had a real, clear explanation of when it came out; it was just a demo, but the songs on it are really good.
When we heard what happened to Jeff we were just talking about these songs, so we figured we would cover one of them to raise money to help him recover from his injury. It was a fun thing to do, and I was glad that we could help out a friend of ours. He was my old roommate, and he showed me a lot of cool music. Daniel will always say that Witches With Dicks is one of his favorite bands as well. With “Monuments,” it takes me a real, long time to write these songs, and I usually don’t have a lot of time to just sit and write a lot of new music.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m trying to force it, and it just doesn’t come out. The times when I can sit down and start experimenting with music are really nice. During the pandemic, I dove into doing a lot of dumb TikTok videos to pass the time. It was fun to do while helping keep my mind from being extremely depressed because if you work in live music, it’s a real bad time to be in.
I was doing these TikTok videos for a couple months, and then when the George Floyd murder happened and all of the protests with everything I was seeing didn’t put me in a good headspace at all. I was like, “I can’t make a TikTok video right now; I can’t be a funny guy on the internet right now. It’s not even possible for me to even think that way.” I fucked up my whole routine that I had when it came to dealing with the pandemic.
I remember being in my room; I picked up my guitar, and I started playing stuff. The song came to me really, really fast. There was a point where I was feeling like it was already a song, and I was ripping it off of someone else. That still might be true, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet, but I wrote it very fast, and the lyrics came to me very fast.
It was a very simple song, and Daniel and I had been working on other stuff for what’s going to be the next Rebuilder, full-length record. I showed the song to him, and I thought it would be appropriate to release it as soon as possible because I like the song a lot, and we should just record it.
If there’s any way we could record it for free and use it to donate more money to Black Lives Matter after we donated all of the proceeds from the sales of our “Defend P.O.C. Punk” T-shirts, then that’s what we wanted to do with the single. It wasn’t a well-thought-out thing to be honest; it’s one of those things where, as soon as it happened, everything in me was reactionary.
I was so upset, so disgusted with everything, and without even running it by Daniel, I posted that all of the sales of the T-shirts were going to benefit Black Lives Matter. We sold so many of them that we had to reorder them to keep them in stock, and I was so happy that we were able to donate almost $2,000.
Yeah, I was really happy about that. Then the song came to me so quickly that I figured if we could get this out to donate more money, then let’s just do it. I literally applied a day before the deadline for the Boston Music Awards’ 617 Sessions to get a free recording day at The Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge. I had asked Brandon if he wanted to jump on the track, but he already started working full-time, and Harley wasn’t around to do it, so we kind of took two or three practices to work out the song and how it sounds.
Then, we went into the studio, and we recorded the song; I then asked the folks behind the 617 Sessions compilation if they could have the proceeds from “Monuments” go to Black Lives Matter, and they ended up extending it as an offer to the rest of the bands on the album.
Most of them were, so if you either bought it from us on its own or as part of the compilation, the proceeds went to benefit Black Lives Matter. I think we raised around an additional $700 through that. It was really reactionary; none of it was really planned, but it felt like the best thing I could do to make a difference.
The end result is that you raised a bunch of money for a great cause. You say it’s reactionary, but it seems like it was definitely worth it. After the virtual show on New Year’s Day, what’s next for Rebulder?
It’s one of those things where I thought during all of this, that we would lay low; there’s not much we could do, obviously, without shows.
Both Daniel and I have kept ourselves extremely busy with Rebuilder stuff this year. We were talking about it the other day, about how this is the busiest we’ve been with a pandemic going on, and we released two singles. We also did some video stuff, did some livestreams and released a bunch of products, so I don’t think it’s possible for us to really lay low.
The nice thing is that for the better part of over a year now, we have been working on a full-length record that we had planned to release this year, but with everything that’s going on, we have to wait a little longer, which is fine.
We’re very close to having the whole thing done. A year ago, we recorded five songs, and then we recorded three more for it probably three months ago. There’s three more we’re going to record, and not all of it will be on the album, some of them will be singles, but I think the whole album will come out before anything else.
We’re kind of close to getting to that point, and then it’s a matter of who is going to release this thing. Doing the full-length in phases was nice rather than going to a studio and getting it all done in a week.
As Daniel and I have been writing newer stuff, we’re totally fine with recording the songs at our own pace. That’s probably how Rebuilder will operate following the next album and still stay busy.