Interview with Decent Criminal
Decent Criminal - Photo courtesy of Dodgeball Records
Heya Tristan! It's so cool to have the chance to interview you! Where are you right now and what are the vibes like?
It's so cool to be interviewed BY you! I'm in Long Beach, CA these days. The vibes are pretty good around here. Living on a steady burrito diet, so yeah, all is well. Hope the vibes are good where you are too.
Thanks! You'll be releasing your second album, Bloom, on October 13th via the relatively new label Dodgeball Records. What can we expect from the record and why did you title it Bloom? Are you feeling, against all socio-political odds, hopeful these days?
From the new record you can expect a step forward from the last Decent Criminal record. I feel like we're starting to catch a real groove in our song-writing and we're pretty stoked on the direction we're headed. The word “Bloom” in this context refers to the next stage of growth in a natural progression. It's an analogy for us as both a band and individuals. Many of the songs on the album deal with facing yourself and making difficult choices in life that provoke change and allow yourself to grow. So we felt Bloom was an appropriate choice for an album title.
As far as feeling hopeful, I can at least say I'm positive despite the current state of both the social and political worlds. As sad as they both are currently, and in actuality have been for a long time, I feel it's important to remember to enjoy your life. And I don't mean that in an ignorant sense. I feel it's important to be aware of all that's going on in the world, but also be aware that our world is comprised of millions of people crossing paths every day while living different lives that have different realities, different priorities, and different desires, that all coexist with one another.
And with all this going on, it's damn near impossible to achieve a like-minded world, but while each person is trying to get by or succeed in their reality, my hope is that while crossing paths and hopefully enjoying what they're up to, people can at least use this consciousness to remember to put effort into evoking a positive change of any size for, or with, other people. Hate is the ugliest part of our current social world and while I'm not sure we can change political routes due to that whole world being fucked up, we can change what happens socially between us.
Speaking of the ongoing cultural and political meltdown (and divide) in the US, do you address these current events through your lyrics at all?
Most the time the first few lines I come up with for a song happen while free-styling with a melody in mind. I'll have an idea for a vocal melody, play it along with the music, then words just start to happen, so I'll write those words out and trust my intuition. In that process I find that what comes out is usually a form of involuntary self-expression influenced by my present place in life. That doesn't mean I don't care about what's going on culturally or politically, but most of the time the lyrics I write are internally self-expressive.
You do seem to cover rich psychological ground on the two singles you've recently released, "Deviant" and "Neurotic". Does this thread continue through other songs on Bloom?
Appreciate you thinking about the lyrics, and yeah, I think so. My lyrics are usually the product of exhaustingly over-analyzing any area of interest psychologically. Which can be both rewarding and suffocating, but I'm happy when it pays off creatively. It's also rad to share a lyric sheet with another member of the band whose lyrics I enjoy a lot.
If I said you sound like Green Day's pissed off, scuzzy older brother on "Neurotic", would you hate me? There's just something about those rousing, melodic chorus harmonies...
Ha, not at all. I grew up with, and will always have a love for, Green Day. I was like 5 years old when Dookie came out and one of my favorite memories is being in my older brother Dane's room when his friend brought over Dookie to show Dane. His buddy was super-stoked on it while Dane was talking hella shit, ha. But at that age I thought any music played in my brother’s room was the coolest shit in the world. So when our dad first started buying Hunter [Tristan’s brother and bandmate] and me CDs and cassettes when I was 9 or so, Dookie was one of those first shining albums I had to own. To be honest, I don't hear Green Day with “Neurotic”, but it makes sense why there'd be an unintentional influence there.
Which artists/acts, then, inspired your sound and/or outlook for Bloom?
During the time most the songs were written for this record, I believe I was bouncing around a lot of Pixies, Tony Molina, Weezer, Mike Krol, Beatles, Rupert Angeleyes, Toyguitar, and Nirvana to name a few, but that's just me. Brian wrote some songs on this record, Alex wrote one and all our parts within those songs could come from all kinds of stuff. As far as an outlook goes, life experiences essentially, just lyrically working your way through shit.
Draw up a comparison diagram for your two albums and...No, sorry, what I mean is, how would you compare Bloom to your self-titled debut LP from last year?
The lyrical content is different. With the first record I feel like I was tying up some things in myself that I had held onto for a long time, ideally on a song like “Abandon”. Also, a good chunk of the last album talks about trying to hold onto somebody while the new one talks about letting that person go and dealing with the ups and downs of that process.
Sonically, this new album is more produced than our last album, given it was recorded in studios as opposed to a small barn of a rehearsal space we recorded the last one in. Not that that wasn't fun and rad, but for this new one we were able to give it the proper boom of production we couldn't with the last one. Also, Brian wrote and sings on “Cold” and “Storm” and wrote the vocal melody and sings on Alex's song “Expectations”, so that's different than the last one which had all my songs and main vocals.
How did you connect with Dodgeball records?
We connected with Dodgeball over this last summer when Mike had us on his show, Live from the Rock Room. We'd played Chicago the night before and rolled into Mike's house on about two hours of sleep, looking like total garbage. But Mike being the good dude he is, let us shower, fed us pistachio muffins, and we ended up sitting around just talking it up for a few hours. It was a good time. A few weeks later Mike wanted to hear our new album and the rest is history.
Why the hell are a set of teeth about to chomp down on sweet ol' granny on your album cover?
Haha, think more of the teeth and the devastated landscape behind Granny as just that, BEHIND her. Moving forward despite the obvious wear from her past.
Cool! Um, moving on, why are all your song titles always only composed of one word, like "Vacant" and "Numb" from your first album and "Void" and "Pretender" (Would that be a political reference at all?) on your new LP?
I just feel like there's a few perks to having one-word song titles. A word standing on its own provokes an interest or mystery. I feel like the more words there are, the more that mystery is given away. It feels poetic to me. It also makes sense for set lists. Most song titles in a band’s set list become one word after you get tired of writing the whole thing out every night for the run of shows.
What is the music scene like in Long Beach? SoCal surf punk seems to be all the rage these days. Do you take part in the shenanigans and performances?
Been down here for the last year or so and from what I've found, the Long Beach music scene is alive and well! We spent much of the early part of this year working on our record, so we haven't played locally much yet, though I'm sure we'll be diving into shenanigans after our record comes out. But I've definitely been to some rad shows down here, for sure. There are surf punk bands around here, but I feel like Long Beach is pretty diverse; you can get a lot of genres.
You traversed the US on tour this summer and just wrapped up a brief California run, when will you be gigging next?
We have a grip of record release shows coming up, then Fest in October, and a little west coast run we're thinking by the end of the year. We'll be all over the map in the coming year and we're definitely looking forward to that.