Teenage Bottlerocket has been staying true to their raw punk sound for years, and they are bringing some much needed authenticity back into this year’s Warped Tour. I met up with singer/guitarist Ray Carlisle to reminisce about the good ol’ days of punk rock at Warped, but he also reminded me to keep a positive mindset instead of being a grumpy old dude. Touché Ray, touché!
TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET INTERVIEW
SONIC HIGHLARK: This Warped Tour is kind of really cool, because I grew up listening to a lot of the bands playing this year. I didn’t connect it till now, but Kody (Templeman) also plays with The Lillingtons right? I used to do a punk radio show in college and I used to spin their.. I think it was one of their first records all the time. So when I realized Kody plays with Teenage Bottlerocket I was like “Shit! No way!”
RAY CARLISLE (VOCALS – GUITAR // TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET): Probably Death By Television.
SONIC: Yeah, that’s it! I’ve been asking this a lot, but do you see a change in your fanbase over the years?
RAY: Warped Tour or just in general?
SONIC: Just in general.
RAY: Well, our fans are getting older and older just like us.
SONIC: So fans that continue to follow you guys.
RAY: Right. Started in 2001 and a lot of them are reproducing and have kids now. So I mean there is a big difference between our all ages shows versus the 21 and over shows for most part. It’s almost pointless for us to do an all ages show anymore. We did this all ages show in Pittsburgh with 200 people and only 2 were under 21 and the next time we played there they were at the bar. We changed record labels for our last record and there was a change in the fans with that. We were doing Warped Tour in 2014 and we saw people in the front row with Neck Deep shirts and shit. So I kind of felt like “Cool, this is working!” because we were getting our music out to people that usually wouldn’t hear it which was kind of the point of making those moves.
SONIC: Has the crowd for this Warped Tour been a mix of the new younger fans and the older ones?
RAY: You know, we’re actually playing to a smaller crowd than most of these bands, we’re like a “band’s band” out here so there’s a lot of bands that have been watching us play, like the dudes from Less Than Jake or New Found Glory watch us play everyday but it’s sort of just hit or miss. It depends on where we are too. I was just saying in the last interview I did that most Teenage Bottlerocket fans aren’t into Warped Tour. But there are a lot people who support us, there are lot of people in line when we are doing our signings and pictures that tells us “You’re the whole reason why I was here today.” We pay special attention to that kind of comment because it means a lot that someone would stand in the sun all day long. Some of the places we played have been 100 degree weather and stuff, and we’ve played at 6:30 at night. So people who stick around to watch us they are dedicated and that’s cool, it’s rad.
SONIC: For sure, yesterday was insanely hot here so I’m glad it cooled down a little today. What do you guys have coming up?
RAY: We are going to Europe in December with this band called The Bones, and we are also going to Edmonton and Calgary in September. Our new drummer is from Edmonton and we’re going up there to prove all his friends that he’s actually in our band.
SONIC: Haha. So back home, it’s pretty far right? From Laramie and where Kody lives?
RAY: To Newcastle? Yeah it’s probably like 4 hours.
SONIC: Damn! So how does practice work?
RAY: Well, we don’t have too many rehearsals. We sort of treat the first 3 days of tour as practice for every tour that we have ever done in the history of Teenage Bottlerocket. Even on Warped Tour we’re mixing it up doing different sets, learning new songs everyday. We’re actually kind of doing a little rehearsal in the bus with the acoustic guitar just playing the song in the stereo. So it’s usually just like “Yeah dude we’re going to start recording this record” and we’ve sent each other demos at this point, and we just go into the studio and crank it out.
SONIC: Oh, so you’re literally finishing the songs when you’re already recording.
RAY: Yeah, we meet up and just do it. For tours too we just meet up and go on tour.
SONIC: Haha, that’s pretty cool man, and can we expect some new music soon?
RAY: You know, Brandon has written a lot of songs and we’re going to finish those, and Kody has sent me a couple things he has written. For the most part though we don’t have anything ready to go right now, but we’re also working on a concept record so couple of things in the works and it’s exciting! So yeah, there will be new music from Teenage Bottlerocket in the future.
SONIC: I’m glad you mentioned a concept album, I’ve been discussing a lot recently about how people are more used to listening to music with single songs. Are you an album guy?
RAY: I am. But our music really hasn’t really varied from record to record, so we’re not going to throw any wrenches in the gears and come out with our experimental sound album that’s going to be drum and bass or whatever. We are going to stick with the sound that we love playing and yes, it’s going to be a cool concept. I don’t want to give away too much so I’m not going to really talk about it but it’s really awesome and I’m looking forward to it.
SONIC: When you listen to music, do you listen a lot of new bands or older bands?
RAY: A little bit of both man, I love that new Night Birds record, I love it! The band Pears I really love a lot, but on the bus we’re listening to a lot of Fugazi and a lot of Shellac, so that’s older. I guess a little bit of both man and we listen to a lot of New Wave music and you know I like walking around Warped Tour and hearing bands like The Heirs, just like a bit more chill music.
SONIC: When I looked through the list of bands playing Warped this year I noticed a lot of bands like you guys I grew up listening to, but I wasn’t too familiar with most of the new bands. When I listen to it, I don’t want to hate on it but it’s kind of a bad version of the bands that played 10-15 years ago. Maybe too polished?
RAY: A lot of pre-recorded tracks going on.
SONIC: Yeah, bands like New Found Glory it’s super catchy but you know, it’s very genuine and organic. The newer bands in similar genres I’ll hear them and immediately go “Skip, I’m not interested.”
RAY: I think it’s just the product of getting older too man, I mean shit, I wish I was out here watching Propagandhi everyday, (laughs) but I’m not and you have to make do with what you got. It seems like no matter what band I’m watching, and no matter how terrible I can find something that I like. “Man, that bass player is so good!” or “Listen to that snare drum, it sounds perfect!” or “Their drummer crushes it!” I always try to walk away with something positive in my head and I always try to do that.
SONIC: That’s awesome. It’s a great mindset to have.
RAY:Yeah, so even if it’s like “Oh my god!” I’ll say “Wait, that dude really knows how to play the guitar.” or whatever and I try to walk away with that kind of an attitude. You’re going to get yourself down out here all summer long, what are you going to do? Be grumpy pants all the time? “I remember when Warped Tour was NOFX and the Bouncing Souls, this is fucking stupid!” But let’s have fun with our lives, let’s not just go around being the grumpy old people right? I mean it’s easy to go “I’m old, I’m 38 years old and I fucking hate everything!” But I want to have a more positive attitude.