keenan marshall keller
Box Elders just left their home in Nebraska on the heels of their absolutely winning Alice and Friends album on Goner, which is ferociously adorable bubblegumistic rock ‘n’ roll recorded perfectly through a stack of furry comforters. They play tonight with Nobunny, Hunx and his Punx and Pearl Harbour. This interview by John Henry.
What made you move out of Omaha?
Jeremiah McIntyre (guitar): A girl I’m seeing, she got a job in San Francisco. I like it there. It’s nice. It’s like fall all the time. One thing that’s nice about winter, though—the first day of spring. You almost feel like you’re high because you’ve been suffering through winter and then the first day it’s really really nice and you don’t have to work is really exciting. I think I might miss that if the weather’s the same all the time.
How does Omaha manage to produce bands like Box Elders?
Jeremiah McIntyre: Omaha has always been kind of a weird countercultural town. There are a ton of hippies that some how ended up in Nebraska so there have always been record stores and bookstores and before the Internet you could always find off-the-wall stuff. You were never isolated in that way. If you really wanted to step out from what everyone else was doing and look around for something else, it was always there. I still think Omaha has the best record stores because the prices are great and if you dig you find things you never would expect. I came out to San Francisco and record shopping is almost no fun. You can find whatever record you want and the prices are dumb.
What kind of records did you find there that helped inspire the band today?
Jeremiah McIntyre: People get so hung up on their ‘sound,’ thinking it’s something they thought up. To me it’s just folk music. Ideas bounce around between people’s heads, sometimes getting smashed into something that seems new. Anytime you have any idea, there’s a thousand people that are having similar ideas. Yeah, sure—I grew up listening to ‘60s stuff because my parents listened to it. Then I got really into punk—all the L.A. stuff, Posh Boy and whatever. Then I got obsessed with John Peel and started buying all the Peel Session records I could find. Then noise, some industrial stuff, New Zealand and Scottish pop, too. In Omaha you could find that stuff for cheap because you didn’t have to compete with collectors. The whole record collector thing—those guys weird me out. I’ve always felt that they didn’t care so much about what was on the record as much as the record itself. I guess I can understand an obsession with something being rare or esoteric, but some people take it too far. I just want to go out and find stuff to listen to—hear what people have to say. I always get excited about new bands.
I think it’s great that Goner put out your album—I always thought they had that same idea of just putting out what you liked and not worrying about a genre.
Jeremiah McIntyre: Eric Oblivian has some of the broadest music tastes of anyone I know—stuff that you never would suspect. It’s thought of as being a garage label, even though they do stuff that you wouldn’t call that. No one gives a fuck about commercial radio. It’s so bland and so middle of the road that no one even notices it. The stuff Goner does, people are passionate about it. Garage rock or whatever—they hung on to a D.I.Y. mentality. The noise folks did, too. The people that talk about it and write about it are involved in the whole process. When you go to whatever city they live in, they’re at the show. They probably booked it. You’re going to meet that person. When it comes to whatever indie rock has become, it’s so removed from the people doing it and the people buying it. Someone on Terminal Boredom might shit talk on my band but I’ve met them and I know who they are. That’s cool—at least you’re a person, not filler between ads. People will argue about this and argue about that but I have to step back and be like, ‘Oh, at least they’re moved in some way.’ Even if they hate my band at least there’s excitement. The way I see it is the people that hate it are just as important as the people that like it. Especially with rock ‘n roll—it’s the feeling of being under siege.
Last time you were in town, your brother Clayton said he was going to start a thrash metal band—has he done it?
Jeremiah McIntyre: Yeah—he’s way into metal. Metal is kind of like that, too. It seems to be under siege from the whole world. That’s what was always cool about metal. It was always like an ‘us or them’ mentality. Underground music is always accused of being elitist but it makes people feel like they’ve got friends—like they belong to something. There’s huge social aspects of music and if you try to say, ‘No, it’s just about the music! Blah-blah-blah!’ then you’re missing a lot of the point. Music has always been social—it’s dudes sitting round the fire making flute noises. It’s always about people. Another thing I like about metal is—we had this show that got cancelled because the promoter wanted to do a Slayer concert, so we got to go see Slayer at this venue that was ridiculously small for Slayer to be playing at. The kids were moshing to the music that was playing over the P.A. before Slayer even came out on stage. There was a pit to the house music. I was just really blown away how excited metal kids are about music.
What was it like when the whole band lived in the same house?
Jeremiah McIntyre: It was hard. It’s hard having roommates and it’s hard being in a band. Dave who is the drummer of our band is easily the most patient person on earth. My brother and I have really annoying fights. I know the fights are dumb even while we are having them. If I was involved in the fight and had to listen to them, I would lose my mind.
Did you guys practice in the house? Was anyone ever late?
Jeremiah McIntyre: Yeah—it was economical but we had to wake Clayton up physically—drag him to wake up. Practice is fun. It never seems like a drudge. It is weird all living in a house. It can get tense when you’re in a mini-van for a month and then you come home and you’re like, ‘Oh, you again.’
Where did you get the name ‘Alice and Friends’ for the album?
Jeremiah McIntyre: It’s named after this restaurant in Chicago. It’s this Korean vegan BBQ that’s run by this Korean church that seems to really want you to join it. If it is a cult, they might be the most pleasant cult I’ve ever had an interaction with. The restaurant is really good. I’m usually pretty critical and I usually don’t like vegan fake meat, but it works. There’s a lot of sermons going on when you’re there and the menus have a lot of lessons from the teacher—whoever the leader of the organization is.
I really like the art on the cover—who did that?
Jeremiah McIntyre: It’s this guy Michael Gruber from Omaha. The record store that put out our 45—he’s the brother-in-law of the guy who owns it. He does really off-the-wall fantasy art and he was bringing the stuff into the shop and showing it to us and the one drawing we were really into. When you go over to his house and hang out with him, he collects swords and he tells you about every time he’s seen Alice Cooper, which is a lot. It’s Dungeons and Dragons rock ‘n’ roll fantasy kind of stuff.
BOX ELDERS WITH NOBUNNY, HUNX AND HIS PUNX AND PEARL HARBOUR ON TUE., OCT. 20, AT THE MOUNTAIN BAR, 473 GIN LING WAY, CHINATOWN. 9 PM / $7 / 21+. MYSPACE.COM/BURGERRECORDS. THE BOX ELDERS’ ALICE AND FRIENDS IS OUT NOW ON GONER. VISIT THE BOX ELDERS AT BOXELDERS.BLOGSPOT.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/BOXELDERS.