Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Michael Lohrman Interview: Stitches Punk Music, Uncut.

First off, The Stitches were the band that set off the 90’s into the 2000’s punk revival on the underground circuit, prompting bands to release 7”s that lived in the middle of nowhere, myself included, and created an excitement that had not been felt in a long time. What motivated you to start the band and why do you think the effect was like a musical drug induced explosion across the underworlds of the U.S and Europe?

First of all, I didn’t start the band, I joined it. I answered an ad that they put up in the record store (Underdog Records). We voted “The Stitches” in as the name off a long list of ‘potentials’ and played our first show about a month later.
-The Exploding Fuck Dolls had played their first couple of shows (with Duane singing) and the opportunity seemed right. They were really good, but the ‘scene’ at the time sucked pretty bad- I hated most of the bands that were playing regularly at the time, the clubs they played in and the people who went to them. I would get thrown out of every gig I went to- meathead jock bouncers and pony-tailed promoters didn’t seem to dig what was goin’ down…just their disposition alone was enough to prove their retardation to me, but to throw someone out who was spending good money on their overpriced drinks solidified my beliefs…so, I figured if I was in the band that was playing that night, not only could they NOT throw me out, but they’d have to give me all the drinks I wanted and pay me some $ on top of it. Basically, they were gonna fuel the fire that was gonna burn down their club…

As the premiere band from this genre, with major press publication coverage that seemed non-stop, what made you decide to avoid signing with a major label and streamline the sound for mass appeal like so many did at the time?

-The only reason I started Vinyldog Records was because nobody else wanted to put out our records. There were certainly no major label offers coming our way..I’m pretty sure our sound was as streamlined as we could possibly get it ha ha - we set out to write mid-tempo powerpop songs and what made it to record was as close as we could come…

Do you think the bands that kind of commercialized “crash and burn” punk with melody killed the momentum this scene had? Did this lead to oversaturation where bands were more concerned with putting on safe and sober stage shows with merchandise being the main focus? It felt like every band from the revival period had turned into a hoodie sweatshirt.

-Damn, I dunno…I’ve heard some stories about bands starting because of the opportunity for $ to be made in merchandising…I don’t think people tone down who they are to put on a safe and sober stage show, I think it’s just who they are- safe and sober people. We have Stitches hoodies available on our website

Are the Stitches still together and will there ever be another album of original material?

- We’re still together and we play about once a month locally and try to get at least one out of state regional tour in a year…dunno if we’ll ever write another album’s worth of material- we haven’t even practiced in 9 years. The only time we get together as a band anymore is to play a gig.

What was the motivation behind The Stitches Do the Jet Set? I heard the band was met with major opposition in this endeavor. Personally, I love the art/electronica damage of the record. What would you say to fans that were wondering, “Why can’t they just do 5 or 6 new tunes and throw in a couple of covers”? Is the writing process time consuming for the Stitches or is it not an issue??

-Skibs came across an electronic drum kit and we motivated to use it. He picked it up during the decline of our band practice nights- I could rarely make it to practice and they had a handful of songs in the works that never got set to lyrics. I think they got bored of playing the same shit and started fuckin’ around with the electronic drums..We purposely played ‘The Jetset’ at a show in Huntington Beach where we knew the reaction was gonna be bad- the crowd threw chairs and bottles, some of ‘em threatened to beat us up ‘if we ever played that shit again’…it was perfect.
-We recorded it just to record it. We put it out because we recorded it. I wonder if those fans ‘that were wondering’ like Flipper…

What bothers you the most about current “punk” bands and what bands outside the genre do you enjoy. Do you find it limiting when people decide to “live in a genre” forever? Some people and artists have a nasty habit of being frozen in time, why do you think this happens. Is the time of everyone’s lives their twenties and then you just give up and settle down?

-I’m pretty much out of the loop when it comes to current punk bands- I don’t get out much. I like the Regulations records. We played with a band in Austin called the Flesh Lights that I liked..uhhh, yeah. Honestly, everything bothers me about everybody. I have to make a conscious effort every day to try an’ not let other peoples’ existence bug the fuck outta me..
-I listen to all kinds of music- I’ve got a few is good to people and it’s very subjective- it’s not for me to judge what music and/or ‘type of music’ does for other people. Personally, I get bored with just one genre. Besides, there’s so much more out there to listen to..
-Ah yes, the ol’ “frozen in time” phenomenon..I went to my 25 year high school reunion a few years back and had the oddest experience. First, let me say, I was pretty pissed I spent money to attend this shit can event- I forgot that I absolutely hated high school and everything about it- especially the people. Second, a little history- I was 4’11 and 98 lb.s when I graduated. I rarely went to school. When I did, I was high as fuck and usually just went to sell stolen Polo shirts and LSD. I had 2 friends- stoners that I’d blow grass with at lunch- and a handful of sympathizers– that I could relate with. 1 friend died on graduation day and the other- well, I wish he had too..So, I go to this lame ass reunion and the “frozen in time” phenomenon is the life of the party- “I was the best…”, “remember when I….” & “…back in the good ol’ days” were king. I think it’s fear that runs it, if you get down to the center of the issue. People, by nature, are scared of change. Most people get their identities from what other people assign to them- not too many folks get to make one of their own. In their youth, people have a bigger social life and therefore get validation on their given identities more often. As they grow older, have kids and start to settle down, they don’t get their egos caressed as often and their identity gets a little lost. There’s certain times, sounds, people, images, etc…that can spark a memory of who they think they used to be and they cherish it as “the best times of their life.” It really is a ‘nasty habit’, as you say- it’s a tough habit to break as well. David Bowie’s ability to reinvent himself….something to be admired.

Do you find copious amounts of drugs and alcohol to be the portal to getting to the essence of truly explosive band that emotionally connects with their audience while rattling their nerves at the same time??

-Pretty good contradiction there- ‘drugs and alcohol’ & ‘emotionally connects’.. I don’t think it’s necessary, but for a good ‘punk’ show, confrontation, recklessness, destruction, a complete lack of respect and the imminent threat of violence, seem to be what works best…in my book, at least. Drugs and alcohol can help people drop their inhibitions enough to access that, if they have trouble getting there on their own.

In what ways have you changed since the band started and what are your aspirations as an artist and performer? Will Mike ever go solo or join another band?

-Next February, I’ll be 20 years older, I have a wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs, a 9-5 office job, a mortgage and a station wagon. The suits I wear on a daily basis have less holes and bloodstains on them. I’m not as angry, as often. I rarely go out to see other bands play unless The Stitches are playing with them. I buy a lot less records. I haven’t been thrown out of a club, gone to jail, dyed my hair, been beaten up, drank booze or done drugs in over 10 years…I’m as fuckin’ square as you can possibly imagine- you can cut glass with the corners of my life.
-ha ha- ‘Solo’- that’s funny. I don’t have the time to join another band- even if I did, I don’t know if I would. Besides, at this stage of the game, I see no reason why The Stitches would break up- we have a lot of fun together, it certainly doesn’t take much time or effort -we never practice and don’t give a fuck if it doesn’t sound perfect when we play live- and people still come out to our shows. When we go outta town, it’s like four old friends getting together for a fishing trip- we pile in the van and laugh the entire time. I love those guys…

There’s a tendency for bands to “sloganeer” and tell people what they already know, which to me is really annoying and exhausting, how do you feel about bands with a “message”?

-Isn’t there a ‘message’ of some sort in all music? I guess it would depend on the ‘message’ they were throwing out? Maybe I don’t fully understand your question? “I play in a band called The Stitches and we hate bands with a message!”

Who are your top 3 bands and women of all time that represent your taste as an individual?

-Here are my top 3 bands WITH women of all time that represent my taste as an individual:
1) Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
2) The Shangri-Las
3) The B-52’s
…and if you’re gonna throw out The B-52’s on a technicality, then please replace them with Elastica. Thank you.

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