Old Lines Interview
We are pleased to offer Blow The Scene readers around the world a new interview with Baltimore’s metallic d-beat practitioners, Old Lines as the band today releases a scathing new EP, If You See Something, Say Something on Reptilian Records. Old Lines is currently gearing up for slew of East Coast tour dates including stops with Weekend Nachos and the annual punk bash, The Fest in Gainesville. With a brutal concoction of politically conscience themes punctuated by sharp and poignant musical attacks, Old Lines is band to keep an eye on in 2013.
In this new in-depth interview we chat with three-fourths of the band and touch on a wide array of topics from political motifs on If You See Something, Say Something, working with Kevin Bernsten at Developing Nations Studios, Mitch’s (Runiner/Pulling Teeth) role in the formation of the band, music in Baltimore, and much more.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Old Lines..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s kick things off by having you introduce yourselves and your musical weapons of choice with Baltimore’s brutal crust-laden metal unit, Old Lines.
Mitch: I am guitar
Pat: I’m Pat, I play bass.
Matt: I’m Matt, I do vocals, and Jake plays drums
Joshua BTS: Let’s dive right in on this new E.P. If you see something… on Reptilian Records (Mastodon, Pig Destroyer, The Dwarves, Pg. 99). When did the writing process begin for this record? And what does the writing process look like for Old Lines? Is this a democratic process, or is there a captain that steers the direction?
Matt: We started writing it a while ago. We played a very early version of “Stratford” once or twice on tour last spring. We all come from different musical backgrounds, so I feel like over time, the songs kind of grow and evolve into what they will finally become. It might start from a riff Mitch wrote, or an idea Pat has, but it all gets filtered through all of us. One of my favorite things about this band is hearing how drastically the songs transform through the process.. Plus, Jake will make anything sound punk as fuck.
Pat: Mitch definitely handles most of the songwriting load, but we all have input as far as the finished product, so that’s pretty cool. It never turns into a situation where we are recording songs that we’re not all into. We usually just start with the riff, and then figure out our own parts from there. It’s pretty organic.
Joshua BTS: Where did you decide to lay down these tracks and whom did you trust to turn knobs? What does the tracking process look like for Old Lines? Do you track to metronome separately or go for more of the live vibe?
Mitch: Kevin at Developing Nations records us and Brad Boatright from Audiosiege masters our records. Those two are the only people we trust with our recording process and I don’t see a reason why that would change anytime soon. Its a huge help when you are working with people who have a great musical background too with Kevin being in Triac (who fucking slay) and Brad being in From Ashes Rise. Its a situation where you don’t have to try and explain what you’re striving for, they already get it. It’s perfect for us.
Matt: Totally, working with Kevin rules. He’s really easy going, lets everything happen very naturally, and always knows what we are going for, maybe even before we do. We are always in the studio together too. Even if only one person is tracking, we will all be there hanging out.
Pat: Yeah, it’s pretty relaxed, and Kevin is by far the easiest dude to work with. He’s also not afraid to tell us when something we’re doing sounds weird, or that we can do it better. He actually gives a shit about it. I think you can tell that with every band he’s recorded.
Joshua BTS: Who crafted the cover-art for If you see something… ? And how do these images correlate with the lyrical motifs on the record? What does the lyric crafting process look like for Old Lines?
Matt: Jake and I were throwing around a bunch of ideas for the cover art, but he actually did it. The process for the artwork and lyrics are really similar to the songwriting process- Being affected by something or someone, and then turning those feelings into an expression. Basically, the idea behind the title/artwork is an effort to turn government propaganda on itself. Everywhere we turn we get messages and suggestions to distrust our neighbors. Huge lit up signs on our highways say, “Report suspicious activity.” Well, what about their suspicious activities?? Illegal wars, environmental devastation, and a corrupt judicial system seem a lot more alarming to me than my quirky neighbor, or an abandoned car. So they urge us, “If you see something, say something.” Okay, I will.
The song “Stratford” is about a police raid that happened at Stratford High School in South Carolina in 2003. The principal suspected some students of selling weed and organized a full scale police raid. A SWAT team entered the building with guns drawn and dogs barking. They threw 14 year old children on the ground. They screamed threats and pointed guns at them while they searched their backpacks and lockers. They didn’t find any drugs or weapons. They made no arrests. However, they did achieve what they set out to do. They succeeded in teaching an entire population of high school students about excessive force. That when it comes down to it, you have no rights; and that badge means they have no consequences.
If we all continue to stay silent about stories like this, they will continue. Period. They are meant to scare you and make you feel helpless. How could you, one person, possibly change a problem as big as police brutality? The easiest way to start is by talking about it. If you see someone being harassed, tell someone else about it. Tell everyone about it. Regain your voice, and then use it to promote positive change. Sometimes, it only takes a little noise to start an avalanche. ACAB.
Joshua BTS: For those just tuning into Old Lines– How did you come up with name?
Matt: I think one of the qualities that comes out in our songs is frustration. Both musically and lyrically, the songs are frantic and angry, but also frustrated. We all grew up listening to people sing about the problems of our society, and yet after all these years nothing has been solved. We’re still being fed the same old lies. The same old people are still in office. The same old system is destroying us the way it always has, and we are another band in an uncountable crowd that is screaming the same old lines.
Joshua BTS: Old Lines features Mitch of Ruiner/Pulling Teeth on guitar. How did you come to link up with Mitch? You also share members with some other rad Baltimore bands if I am not mistaken?
Mitch: it wasn’t like that at all. I basically spent two years asking myself, “how do I start this fucking band?!” Then one day, Jake had to move into the basement of the house I was living in at the time and suckered him into to playing drums on some songs I had written. We both tried to get a solid lineup going and it pretty much failed over and over again until I asked Matt for a second time to be in a band with me. He reluctantly agreed and then after some more lineup changes and other demoralizing life events we eventually suckered Pat into playing bass for us. Good story, right?
Pat: I was supposed to be the original bass player, I think, or at least one of the people that Mitch had in mind early on. I was really busy playing in the Oranges Band, at the time, which was more of an indie/garage band from here, and was also working for Thursday as well. I remember being on tour with them when Mitch originally sent me the songs, and after hearing them, being like “this is the band I’ve wanted to do for a while”, haha. Unfortunately it took a little longer than expected to have it work out. It had been a few years since I had been in a hardcore band, but that’s the music I love and grew up on, so it was cool to have it finally work out.
Matt: To be fair, if i was reluctant it was only because I had so many other things happening at the time. I’ll never forget going to that first practice though. Mitch and Jake had a few songs written already, I showed up with some lyrics to one of them, and everything just clicked. I think maybe halfway through playing it we all got pretty stoked. It was like, “oh yeah, okay. This totally works.” When Pat joined, he rounded it all out and it felt really solid.
Joshua BTS: Old Lines is very much in tune with current politics and activism. What issues really have your attention right now? And how do you see music playing a part with these issues or movements?
Matt: Environmental issues and animal rights make me the saddest. The abuse of animals and the destruction of the planet are so human. No other species that lives, or has ever lived, has caused the level of devastation that we have. To have such a blatant disregard for life in general. Whenever people tell me that they would like to be vegan or vegetarian but it’s just too hard, I can’t help but to be sad. Groundwater pollution, ozone depletion, deforestation, not too mention rampant abuse of both animals and workers, all because you “can’t live without cheese??” The reason people get to feel that way is because they are allowed to be willfully ignorant. That’s why I have so much respect for eco/animal rights groups. They bring these issues to attention and try to make it so that when you make these lifestyle decisions, you may stay apathetic but you will always know better.
Of course these aren’t the only issues that come to mind either. The magnitude of human rights violations that happen in our society is staggering. It’s 2013, and people are still being beaten and killed for being homosexual? Women still have to fight for the rights to their own bodies. The War on Drugs is obviously a war on class and race, and prisons are still overflowing with innocent people. The U.S. military continues to murder innocent civilians overseas.
I don’t know if I would ever be able to put one cause in front of another, and I don’t know what that would even accomplish. The fact is that all these issues are related to one another and each one helps the other survive. Interlocking Oppressions. My hope for Old Lines is that we can create a situation where none of these topics are off limits. We can exchange ideas, and vent frustrations. We can take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together.
Joshua BTS: Old Lines has a series of tour dates throughout the remainder of 2013 in including an appearance at FEST in Gainesville. Any stops you are particularly looking forward to?
Mitch: I am beyond excited to be playing the Weekend Nachos record release show in Chicago, love that band and I love John Caution.
Matt: I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the places we haven’t been for a while. We had a show in Nashville, TN last time we were out and it was awesome. We’re also playing with some of the same bands we’ve met before too so it will be awesome to see those guys. Fest is gonna be a rager, and I’m really looking forward to the shows with Cop Problem.
Pat: I’m stoked about all of it, really. The Fest should be pretty fun, getting to hang with our buds from all over the place. Texas is gonna be fun and interesting I think. Nashville and Columbus were awesome last time we were out, so I think those should be fun again. Hanging with Caution and the WN dudes in Chicago is gonna rule, too. Plus getting to play some spots we haven’t hit in this band yet should be neat.
Joshua BTS: How did you come to link up with Reptilian Records for the release of if you see something…?
Matt: Growing up in or around Baltimore and being into anything punk related, there’s no way that Reptilian didn’t fuel that fire. I have so many stories from hanging out in the record store when I was a kid. Most of them would seem so stupid or trivial to someone that doesn’t understand, but all those times mean everything to me. When Chris X approached us about putting out an Old Lines record, I don’t think any of us even hesitated.
Pat: Yeah, a pretty decent chunk of my record collection is from that store. Until it closed, I stopped in there at least once a week since i got a driver’s license. You can’t be into punk in this city and not have some sort of connection to Reptilian. We were all stoked when Chris asked us about it.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy with Old Lines– How do the current members spend their time?
Mitch: I have another band I play bass in called Other Gods that has been a work in progress for a long time but we are almost done with our first record, I’m pretty excited about that. Other than that, I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend Emily, my dog Alley Gator and I try to go to as many baseball games as possible. DBH.
Pat: I bartend at the Ottobar and the Metro Gallery, so that takes up a pretty large amount of my time. The rest of the time I’m attempting to hang out with my girlfriend, or watch hockey, the Caps to be specific.
Matt: I work at a tattoo shop and try to spend every waking minute with my dog, Juneau. I love taking her out in the woods, and we go hiking a lot. I’ve heard people talk about how much their church means to them, and that’s how I feel about the forest.
Joshua BTS: What’s your take on the current Baltimore music scene? Any bands that are really exciting you right now?
Matt: Every scene has it’s ebb and flow, and I think Baltimore is on an upswing right now. There are tons of DIY spaces running successfully, and there are really great bands popping up all the time. The other cool thing is that pretty much all the bands are part of one subculture no matter what flavor they are. You might see a heavy as fuck crust punk band like Dopecopper play a show with Big Mouth, who have that DC Dischord hardcore thing going on. Howling Curse is a great d-beat noise band. Wet Brain is grungy rock, but totally punk about it. Crimes. Also the new Triac line-up is my favorite so far.
Mitch: I agree with Matt, Baltimore is definitely on an upswing. I can’t remember the last time there has been this much going on around here, with small fests, new phase of generator shows, plenty of house shows and DIY spaces. Even the regular small rock clubs are doing a great job with music and other events around here. We had a club called Sonar which was a multi room venue get shut down so maybe thats inspiring people around here just to make things happen. It seems like more people are working together then against each other. Its awesome! check out these baltimore bands: Triac, Big Christ, Roomrunner, MultiCult, WarxGames, Sick Fix, DOC(they live close enough), Putrisect, Scum Again, Widows Watch etc etc.
Pat: Agreed, everyone seems to have their hand in something. There’s a lot of people busting their asses doing fests, running DIY spaces, playing in bands, and just doing cool things. Some of my favorite bands from here right now are Big Christ, Triac, Widows Watch, Dopecopper, Wet Brain, War Games, Wild Honey, they’re all over the map, from having a total AmRep sound like Big Christ, to power pop/punk like Widows Watch, and shoegazey like Wild Honey. It’s a cool place to be playing music right now.
Joshua BTS: What do you have on the slate as we head in 2014?
Mitch: Something amazing is in the works for late March but that is just a one off show that I am working on with a friend that will include Old Lines. You’ll be hearing about it soon enough.
Matt: More shows, maybe a tour in spring. Hopefully getting another record out. Really just trying to keep moving forward.
Pat: Just like the dudes said, doing as much as possible, whenever we can do it. I always want to be on tour, so the more we do that, the happier i am, haha.
Joshua BTS: Thank you kindly for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the World! Any final thoughts before we check off until next time..?
Pat: Thanks for doin the interview, this was fun! Come hang with us on tour, take us to your favorite dive bars and burrito spots!
Matt: Thanks to all the people that have ever come to one of our shows, listened to the records, repped a shirt or patch or supported us in any other way. It’s so rad to see people get as stoked on it as we are. Go to shows and party hard. Start circle pits. Peace!
Stream If You See Something, Say Something
Tags: Audiosiege Engineering, Big Mouth, Brad Boatright, Cop Problem, Developing Nations, Dopecopper, From Ashes Rise, Howling Curse, Joshua T Cohen, MultiCult, Old Lines, Old Lines, Other Gods, Reptilian Records, Reptilian Records, Roomrunner, Sick Fix, Triac, WarxGames, Weekend Nachos, Wet Brain