TWEAK BIRD: FREE TO BE YOU AND ME
(from the Reservations EP out now on Play White Noise)
Tweak Bird are prowling the streets of Austin (just like Audacity, who are so awesomely unsupervised the cops have stopped them twice!) and today they will be playing the Tee Pee day party at Club 1808 with Night Horse, the Warlocks and more. This archival interview by Chris Ziegler.
Was your very first band a Fisher-Price version of Tweak Bird?
Caleb Bird (guitar/vocals): Honestly, yeah. Our very first band was Tweak Bird twelve years ago. Ashton had a thrift-store $50 drum kit and I was playing guitar through a bass amp—not even knowing what a bass amp was. We just played heavy riffs. It was really really not good.
Ashton Bird (drums/vocals): Eventually that transitioned into ‘Oh, now we learned some songs—now let’s cover songs!’ And then he was in high school, and he being younger and me being Ashton, he started a cover band and after that was like, ‘Hey, man, can you play drums?’ So that band was your pretty sweet heavy rock funk band.
Is there an alpha brother and a beta brother or is it two omega brothers?
A: Depends how the moons are aligned, man.
C: Now you sound like a hippie.
Who’s your favorite Sneak Bird sit-in so far?
A: My favorite was when Dale [Crover] and Toshi [Kasai] hopped on down at the warehouse when we played with Altamont. That was pretty wicked. Dale did the solo on the recording, and Toshi turned all the knobs and made us sound cool, and they hopped on guitar and jammed out.
C: Right before we played I was like, ‘Dale, wanna solo?’ And he’s like, ‘How about Toshi and I solo?’ ‘Yeah, totally!’ Being in Tweak Bird, we hadn’t played with any other band members, and the sound was instantly like, ‘Hell yeah, man—shreddage!’
A: It’s cool to dabble in being a three-piece band. We’ve had tons of cool dudes come play with us. We played with Ancestors—pretty much all of them. Scott Martin from 400 Blows.
Does it permanently change people to pass through Tweak Bird?
C: Playing with Scott changed the way I think about our songs—the way he interpreted them. It wasn’t like he just sat down and did things over it. We rehearsed like two or three times and he integrated a totally alternate view. It sounded like a different song to me. Kind of bizarre.
Did anyone tape it?
C: I’m sure somebody’s got some YouTube. Where was Videothing when we needed him? ‘It’s cool, man—I got five seconds of it!’ No, Mike’s totally awesome.
What is the most tragic American folk song?
A: ‘Put My Little Shoes Away’ by Woody Guthrie.
C: ‘Put My Little Shoes Away’—totally!
A: I was just gonna say it’s the saddest song in the world. I wouldn’t say you could beat it.
C: I guess we listen to a good amount of folk music in the car and at home. If you listen to the words—I’m not a parent, and Ashton is—
A: —it’s heavy.
Did it get heavier after you became a father?
A: Even beforehand it was like, ‘Whoa, this is heavy.’ Even from a kid’s perspective. ‘Whoa, this is a sad sad story. Give my toys to all my playmates, but save my shoes so you’ll remember I was your kid…’ Whoa! Yikes! Yeah, that’s a downer. Let’s talk about really crappy stuff for the rest of the interview. Other really sad songs.
C: And world hunger is bad.
Want to make this the first L.A. RECORD interview that makes people cry?
C: Let’s go there, man.
When was the last time you saw a total stranger cry, or cried in front of a total stranger?
C: You’re totally going there!
Step by fateful step.
C: ‘Comedy’s not working! These guys are terribly unfunny! Let’s make this a drama!’
A: Ok, I was getting off the bus and walking through a parking lot and there’s this lady sitting there crying. Like 25 years old—bawling her eyes out! And I’m like, ‘What makes a 25-year-old woman cry in the middle of a parking lot?’ And she stands up and turns around and yells at this guy standing like 100 to 150 feet away who is standing there on a bike and holding another bike, and she’s like, ‘Give me my bike back!’ And he says, ‘You ain’t getting your bike back’ and he rode away. With both bikes.
C: He doesn’t need two bikes! That’s wrong.
A: And they were well into their twenties. They were old people.
C: My story was way less resolved. This lady was crying at the bus stop, and I was like, ‘Are you gonna be OK?’ And she was like grabbing her chest and the guy next to us was like, ‘Do you need an ambulance?’ ‘I gotta get to UCLA hospital.’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, the bus is not the way you wanna go.’ We offered to call her an ambulance, but, ‘No, no, no—I’m gonna be ok! I’m gonna get on the bus!’ And that was that. Fade to driving away on the bus. Like a sad scene in a movie. It happened two days ago.
When was the last time you broke the heart of an animal?
C: Oh, our dog Raven! Our dog was gay! I was a young teen and I caught him humping a dude dog and I hit him because ‘THAT’S WRONG!’ He honest-to-God ran away the next day and I never saw him again.
A: I didn’t know that happened!
C: Obviously, now—dogs do that! And it doesn’t matter!
A: Either way it doesn’t matter! You can have sex with whoever you want to!
C: Free to be you and me, man! But I didn’t know then! I was confused!
A: That’s a harsh time.
C: Good lord, man. What else?
What regret could you never bear to leave this life with?
C: I’ll let the dad answer that one.
A: For me, it wouldn’t be anything too grandiose.
C: In a really general sense, you wanna leave things at least as good as you found them. Try to leave it better—try to make a difference.
I can hear your voice breaking.
A: And not leave anybody mad at me. It would be relationships. To make sure I’m on good terms with anyone that I crossed paths with.
Who is the best pistol shot in the band?
A: I’ll tell you exactly what it is. I am consistently pretty decent and he is not-consistently amazing.
That’s kind of how you have to go through life, too.
A: Whoa! Hey now! He goes for the bulls-eyes, you know, but a lot of times he misses. And I’m just like, ‘Eh, pretty close will do it!’ I’m just trying to injure the guy, you know?
C: It’s always been like a competition—anything we do we make a sport of it.
Which of you has the most ridiculous championship status?
A: I’m pretty much the champion of NBA Freestyle Jam.
C: Just to give you an idea of how the game works—it’s not played in a video game system. You choose a character from the game you want to be and play in the driveway. You say, ‘I’m Shaquille O’Neal from the Magic!’—it was the Magic then—and then you do a 360 dunk on a Fisher-Price hoop like four feet high.
A: We actually manufactured our own basketball hoop and built it into a tree in the yard so we could slam dunk at like five feet and seem like we were trying.
C: And no one else was around, so we’d judge each other and get into arguments. But Ashton was pretty good. I’ll give him that. I was always Barkley. Why was I Barkley?
Have you read his book?
A: I didn’t know he had one! I need to check that out. I was always into the showy basketball players. Like Hakeem Olajuwon—‘Look at this! The windmill dunk!’
C: Oh my God—I specifically remember that one.
A: I was like twelve. ‘Start the windmill!’
C: And your feet didn’t leave the ground!
A: I was real chubby so I didn’t get air. It was like start the windmill with my left foot on the ground and finish with my right foot on the ground.
C: And it was a mini-basketball. Like a baby’s head. The free giveaway basketball.
What’s the best free gift you ever received as children?
A: I could go deep for that. The best thing anybody ever gave me—when my dad and I went to Chicago or something, he taped these CDs his buddy had. It was like We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘n’ Roll and Dark Side Of The Moon on the other side, and that was pretty sweet for someone to give me.
C: I remember getting Jared Wheetly’s G.I. Joe collection and that was way better! Half the G.I. Joes were missing their bottom half, and all the missiles were missing from the jets, but it was still awesome.
Did you go through that stage where you melt G.I. Joes with lighters?
C: No, we weren’t allowed to play with fire.
A: But that’s not really true. We were building fires with stolen matches.
C: But we’d get whupped if we were caught. If we did mature Boy Scout stuff it was fine. But then someone would light a stick on fire and it’s ‘Let’s play warriors!’ and throwing flaming sticks at each other.
Do you prefer being called ‘teenage-appearing’ or ‘elfin’?
C: ‘Elfin?’ You brought up the elfin thing!
A: The first time this has ever been brought up! Maybe three days ago I was listening to my CD—we just got our CDs back—and this girl in the room didn’t say it to me, but she said it to someone near me—‘These guys kind of sound elf-y.’ And I was like, ‘What?’
C: Great, man, now it’s officially a thing. We played a show with Qui and as soon as we were done David Yow comes up totally wasted as usual and the only thing he says: ‘You guys sound like girls.’ Thank you? I don’t know. Sure. Just print ‘elves.’ Just go with ‘elves.’ Like if you watch the old Snow White cartoon—they had some jams! Those were musicians! They got this hoedown thing they do. I’m not offended.
Those were dwarves.
A: Joanna Newsom is like an elf to me. But I don’t even know her. I don’t wanna offend people I don’t know. But that’s elf-y to me. To me—obviously, I think my brother looks like a young person. And I’m a pretty young-looking person as well. So we look young. It’s cool to me. We’re young. I don’t mind. Soon enough we’ll stop looking young, and people will stop talking about that.
Then what will they talk about?
A: Probably how insane we are. How we’re changing the world one album at a time.
What changes have you noticed so far?
C: Besides massive amounts of Myspace friend requests?
A: The world, though, man—I think in general, and this is Ashton the hippie—the world is spinning more positively now. I feel there’s more vibes and electricity and what-not in the world, and there’s positivity right now.
C: I’ll agree with that. You can kind of feel it. If there’s energy about your band going on outside of you, I think you can feel it. It doesn’t always have to be people like, ‘Your band is great!’ It’s out there and that’s a weird feeling—a cool feeling.
When did you figure out this was happening?
C: When you called me to do an interview.
Are your shirts off in every photo from every road trip you ever taken?
A: I don’t think we’ve ever been on a road trip with shirts on.
For fuel efficiency?
A: It makes you feel like you’re going faster for sure.
What would be your most valuable skills in a partisan-warfare situation?
C: We grew up in the woods, man. We could live outdoors probably indefinitely. We don’t need running water and stuff. And we wouldn’t freak out.
A: If it was like world chaos, if there were two people who could be like, ‘OK, guys, let’s not be chaotic…’—we’re good at that.
C: We know who’s got skills in what areas! We could reorganize! Repopulate the earth! Organize colonies!
What are the most valuable modifications you’ve made to your own gear so far?
C: I put new strings on my guitar.
A: You built your cabs! Talk about it! That’s what he’s talking about!
C: When I got my guitar, I rigged all the electronics out. I put a single pick-up and volume and it was a total guess but it worked out. I love it. Mostly you get burned by the soldering iron. I get my face too close and the solder smoke is really toxic, and you kind of space out, and you lay it down on your lap and it burns through your pants.
Is this why you don’t have kids?
C: Probably. I’d definitely leave them at McDonald’s. I have to wait til I live in a small town where people know me and return them.
TWEAK BIRD WITH THE WARLOCKS, ANNIHILATION TIME, YEAR LONG DISASTER, NIGHT HORSE AND BLACK MATH HORSEMEN AT THE L.A. RECORD AND TEE PEE DAY PARTY ON SAT., MAR. 21, AT CLUB 1808, 1808 E. 12TH ST., AUSTIN. TEEPEERECORDS.COM. TWEAK BIRD’S RESERVATIONS EP IS OUT NOW ON WHITE NOISE. VISIT TWEAK BIRD AT TWEAKBIRD.BLOGSPOT.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/TWEAKBIRD.