In the run up to Manchfester 4 in August, we’ve pitted some of the bands that are playing against each other in the interview room. First in the series we have Nathan Stephens-Griffin who forms one half of ONSIND, up against Dave Wolinski of Calvinball.
Question 1 – Q&A are in bold, then Q2 non-bold and so on…
Nathan: The tour we did together (with Apologies I Have None) all those years ago was special for me, because even though I’d been on a few tours by that point, it was the first tour I’d ever been on with other bands in a big van, and it was my first time experiencing that weird super-intense getting to know one another thing that spending time together in a van does. What are your prevailing memories of that tour?
Dave: We were the same. For us it was a total ‘in at the deep end’ experience. Not one or two, but three bands and a van. I honestly still look back at that as one of best parts of Calvinball. It’s amazing looking back how easy it was to do that too. As far as prevailing memories it has to be Leamington Spa, waking up to find Matt and Dan had slept in the van and Dan had tattooed a sizeable “ WWAWKD?” terribly on Matt’s shin. What Would Andrew WKD Do?. I mean that and the fact we crossed over tours with Spraynard and Break the Habit too, world’s greatest gig.
D: I’m gonna start with a Sophie’s choice kinda question, to ease you in. You’ve got two very different band set ups at the minute, Onsind is a primarily acoustic two-piece for which you play guitar, whilst Martha are a full band four-piece you drum with. You share members and genes so I’m not asking which band you prefer more, but more do you have a preference for styles? I mean in Martha you get to sit down, but in Onsind you don’t have to carry a drum kit about.
N: This is more difficult than you might think. Style wise, I can’t really pick cause I see them both as very similar, just delivered differently. I’d say that in general I probably enjoy playing live in Martha more for a lot of reasons. It’s less intense emotionally and politically, sometimes singing about sad shit in Onsind can really make my mental health wobble so I have to take more care with it. You’re very exposed when you’re there with just the two of you and an acoustic guitar. Any little mistake is very noticeable so there’s more pressure- we’re punx at the end of the day, it’s never gonna be perfect. Martha’s louder and you get talked over less. It’s more rocking. But the downside is that I’ve never really wanted to be a drummer, I’ve always just been one by default cause no one else in the bands I’ve been in could play. I’d love to play electric guitar in a band again one day. Now Martha’s set is like 40+ mins and I’m not very fit, so at the end of the night I’m like this sweaty gasping lump trying to pack down for ages after every show when everyone else is all ready to go. But I do enjoy both in spite of how negative this answer got.
N: Bangers announcing they were splitting up made me feel pretty sad, because it feels like a lot of our generation of punx are not as active as they once were. It’s understandable and perfectly natural, but it is sad. Calvinball hasn’t been active for a little while, and it seems like you’ve all moved on and done cool stuff outside the weird world of DIY punk (not least Idle Hands). How do you feel about not being as active in bands as you were? What advice would you give Onsind, should we keep hammering away at this punk lark, or pass the torch on to the next lot?
D: Bangers will be missed because they do everything right. It’s annoying that they’re even managing to split up in a surprising yet celebratory way. A total drop the mic exit. We’ve managed to slowly fizzle out from about 2 weeks after we formed the band. If i’m honest i’ve been fine with not being as active. I think, like you mentioned, we’ve all been fairly busy with other stuff (like living all over the world), but aside from that I always viewed being in a band as just being in Calvinball specifically. I toyed with the idea of starting another band but i’m not actually talented, or motivated enough. I realised I liked Calvinball because it was just an excuse to hang out with people, and I can still do that. Onsind though? You never get to stop. I mean, unless you want to? But no, you can’t. Don’t put that on me Nathan.
D: In fact i’ll throw that back at you right now. Anaesthesiology was a while ago now, can we expect to any more Onsind material in the near future? And if not, do you think that’ll mean you’ll eventually stop playing gigs or do you not mind pulling out the hits every now and again? Maybe say this is your last gig to sell more tickets, Kieran Kelly loves that tactic.
N: We still exist and are still writing, just taken a back seat to Martha because it seems silly not to give Martha a chance while people seem to be into it. The time flies by though, and I do genuinely feel like we said some pretty definitive stuff on Anaesthesiology, in terms of how we see the world. Like, I don’t want to revisit old ground, just because it doesn’t interest me. But the political situation couldn’t be more fucked up, and people keep saying ‘I bet the new onsind albums gonna be good’, but it doesn’t really work like that. Onsind is always about clawing a sliver of hope or understanding for the abyss, but it’s increasingly hard to find that hope or understanding anywhere. Having said that, we’ve got plans for some 10 year anniversary shows in 2017 so watch this space. Probably a new EP too or maybe even an album. We’ve got some pretty good new songs that I think people will dig. And when we do take the plunge and pretend to split up for cash like calvinball, we’ll make sure that Kieran gets his golden handshake.
N: For years we tried to convince Conor (drums, calvinball) to move to Durham to be the drummer in a hypothetical new fast band. And at one point me, Daniel (Onsind) and Matt Doherty (bass, calvinball) talked about starting the band that Kid Dynamite could have been, but it never happened. We also did that super group style collaboration at the Fish Tank in Durham that time- there’s a vid of it on youtube somewhere. Is there any hope for a newly formed more active Calvinball or is this a one off? Or failing that, are any of you doing any other musical stuff?
D: Well I’ve been trying to get Conor to move Manchester for years too. So he moved to Toronto. Obviously. Conor always has loads of music things going on, he’s touring with his band Bayone sometime soon. And Matt probably has a million really, really good bedroom demos done that’s he’s just to lazy to do anything with. God knows what Joe is doing, he’s in Australia so is probably struggling to get used to playing his guitar upside down. And like I implied before with my many excuses, those guys were carrying me anyway. Basically this is it for Calvinball, so let’s make it a good one.
D: Speaking of Matt, he had a question for you. He asks “What’s the secret to your pizazz?”.
N: I didn’t find show-business. Show-business found me.
D: Your lyrics have a huge political background and i’ve had long conversations with you in the past where we put the world to rights, if only for a brief minute. And with the current climate right now I think it’s really important to ask for your thoughts on Big Sam being touted for the England job which could easily distract him from another exciting season of Sunderland flirting with relegation?
N: Thinking about England and Big Sam reminds me of that bit in the office where Dwight is talking about Pam and Jim’s relationship and he says “they could both do better”.
N: I remember at one point you telling me you knew how to properly format a film script and I was so impressed and jealous. I still have a pipe dream of one day making a movie, and recently I’ve been making music videos and trying to figure out how the hell one becomes a filmmaker. Are you still pursuing creative endeavours outside of music? Let’s make a film together one day!
D: I spent two years learning how to form a script properly and have done very little with it. I quickly discovered to get a job within that industry I was expected to work for free first, which I obviously couldn’t do. I opened my own coffee shop though, which i’ve always wanted to do, and that’s way more creative than you’d think. Once our new shop is open we hope to host gigs in there in the future too, so hopefully I’ll still find a way to stay in the music scene. And I’d happily make a film with you Nathan, to become a filmmaker you just have to make a film right?
D: How about you though, I feel you have quite a few musical commitments so does that leave time for any other creative output or is it all used up on the bands? And what does Nathan do to relax? Paint me a picture.
N: Chronic anxiety means I haven’t been able to relax since the England-Germany penalty shootout in Euro 96, but that’s a matter for my therapist and I. It is hard to find time and energy to be creative when you’re working and have grown up commitments. Maybe I’ll quit my job and do something fun. Who knows? Last year when I was less employed I made like 6 different music videos. So far this year I’ve done 2. I’d like to become more disciplined and write more, like fiction or just blogging or something. It’s good for you. But yeah, it’s a toughy. I look forward to playing/hanging out in your coffee shop someday soon.
N: You lot achieved a hell of a lot in a pretty short space of time. Playing Fest in Florida, touring all over, releasing records. Most bands don’t achieve a fraction of what you bunch of lovable bozos did. Are there things you wish Calvinball could have done that you didn’t manage to do?
D: You say a short space of time, but I think we see it as it took us about seven years to write ten songs we’re happy with haha. To be honest i’m not sure how we stumbled in to most of the things we did. I think a lot of it was down to not taking it too seriously at all. I see a lot of kids starting bands these days and worrying about needing a manager, or booking agent or paying loads to record their first demo. I’d say save that money to spend on driving round the UK for a week playing as many shows as you can, or putting your own record out. That’s all we did. I guess one of the reasons we fizzled out is that Joe was about to move to Australia and the only thing we hadn’t done that we wished we had was have an album on LP, so we spent a week writing and recording it then paying for it ourselves, just so we could have it. Then Joe moved away, so we’ve only ever played one show with Joe since that album was recorded and think we just played one or two songs off it? So this show, with Joe, is the one last thing I guess.
D: Of all the band members I know I feel like you have one of the biggest collections of consistently good songs, be it Onsind, or Martha. Out of all the albums, EPs, and splits, and taking in to account particular songs or certain moments in time etc, do you have a favourite release?
N: Thanks Dave, you’re very kind! I’m very proud of the new Martha album, but it’s a bit early to say where that fits in overall yet. We worked really hard on it, and it took a lot of strain on us all to get it done, but I feel like the four of us have managed to pack a hell of a lot of stuff, lyrically and musically into a punk power-pop album and I hope that people will still listen to it in the future. Also I want people to buy that one in particular cause our van blew up and we’re fucking skint.
N: I couldn’t be more excited about DIY in the UK right now. What are some of your favourite bands that at the moment?
D: I really can’t get enough of the Hot Mass album. It’s brilliant, like early Piebald. There’s a couple of brand new Manchester bands i’ve heard recently too – Summerhouse, who sound like Turnover (https://uksummerhouse.bandcamp.com/releases) and Incisions, who have a bit of an Off With Their Heads thing going on (https://incisionsmcr.bandcamp.com/releases).
D: Are there any new bands you’re into at the minute? I want you to give me you’re dream 4-band bill of bands that you’ve played with in the past, not including yourself or Calvinball.
N: Christ that’s hard- I feel like my answer here will get me in trouble so sorry in advance. Dream lineup of bands we’ve played with would maybe be Billy Bragg, RVIVR, Olive Anne and the Spoonboy/Good Luck cover set where they played All Star by Smash Mouth at PIX Fest 2012. As for current UK bands, I love No Ditching, Shopping, Milk Crimes, Pale Kids, Molar, Outside Your House, Personal Best, Nachthexen, Fairweather Band, Trust Fund and loads more I’ve forgotten. Follow Equestrian Collective on facebook to see the sorts of bands we put on in Durham.
D: And finally, I heard you were Vegan is that true? Why do you hate animals you sexist.
N: Look right, I’ve told you, that money was just resting in my account.
Calvinball & ONSIND are both playing M4NCHFESTER on Saturday 27th August at The Star & Garter in Manchester. Tickets running low but available here: www.movingnorth.bigcartel.com