Father Figures play a distinctive brand of tightly coiled, aggressive, trapezoidal post punk rave ups. If you compare Rock N’ Roll to a cannon ball and punk rock is that cannon firing directly at your head, then Father Figures take that cannon and aim it at you at an angle. As their music fires away it wildly ricochets, gaining momentum so you can’t tell where and when it’s going to hit. Way back when piano pounding wild man Jerry Lee Lewis earned his nickname “The Killer.” If you want to compare rock musicians to assassins then Father Figures aren’t the boorish thug hit men with the big loud guns, they’re cold calculating ninjas you won’t ever see coming. Razorcake magazine says they “meld urgency with intelligence, catchiness with dissonance, and sophistication with blunt force.” Now if that’s not the poison dart into the ocular cavity I don’t know what is!
Interview by Jay Castro
Tom Reardon, bass and vocals.
Michael Cornelius, guitar
Bobby Lerma, drums
You all have quite extensive musical resumes. Care to give us a brief synopsis of your musical careers including bands you are involved with now aside from FF?
TOM: All of my other projects are in various forms of retirement/death. Most recently, I did a show with Pinky Tuscadero’s White Knuckle Assfuck, which was active from 2001 to 2009. I also did Hillbilly Devilspeak from 1993 to 2005. Both of those I was the primary vocalist for, as well as playing bass. From 2002 to 2008 I played bass in North Side Kings and sang back up. I was there for the Danzig punch. I have also been involved with several other projects (Bourbon Witch and Son of Crackpipe) and filled in on bass for a few stellar local acts like Blanche Davidian and Mob 40’s.
MVC: The first band I played in that made a record was The Jr. Chemists. They were an arty punk band I was in with some college friends. I started JFA soon after that ended. In the late ‘80's I played guitar in a punkish slightly funky band called Zuwal for a few years. During the heydays of the late ‘80's and early ‘90's Tempe music scene I played bass in Housequake three nights a week in Tempe clubs. In 1997 or so I played bass in a hip-hop, jazz, funk group called Suite Number Three. We started The Father Figures in 2009 after I had a long hiatus from playing in a band.
BOBBY: Some friends at Sunnyslope High School and a thirteen-year-old version of me decided to start a punk band called The Joke in 1983. Later that year, I joined the guitar player and bass player/singer from No Real Attitude and we formed Kluged. Funny, my current band mate Michael Cornelius, produced our tape all the way back then. Then I played with Sticky Thang at the very end of that project, and then moved on to The Voice in 1990. From there I played in the first incarnation of Jeff Dahl’s band here in AZ and (maybe) simultaneously, played in a re-formed Grant and the Geeers. Finally, played in a band called Forty Watt Las Vegas for about six years of so and then formed The Father Figures.
I read that part of the reason you guys named the band Father Figures is that you are all actual fathers. With all of you having a history in punk/hardcore, did any of you guys go through the Other “F” Word syndrome when you had kids? Did you think: “I liked irreverent music and people but I’m not sure I want my kid around that kind of stuff?
TOM: On the contrary, I’ve always hoped my kids liked the weirdest, craziest music possible. I fully support their interest in music, though, in any capacity, even if they like stuff I really don’t enjoy.
BOBBY: I have a six-year-old daughter and she is learning to play the drums and piano. She also wants to learn to play the guitar. I’m covertly, gently trying to expose her to good music and that includes punk rock. A little piece of my soul dies every time I hear her listening to something radio oriented (although this conduit is filtered by us). I want her to be in bands and experience the thrill of creating real music with other real humans. I promised myself I would not force my culture on her, so I just try and plant the seed and step back and see what happens.
MVC: I didn't have kids until I got married in 1998 and by then my teenage stepdaughters were already listening to music that I found offensive. My music was just noise to them for the most part. My granddaughter is a big Father Figures fan.
Both of your albums are on AZPX, a company that is better known for Skateboards. How did you hook up with those folks?
TOM: They are good people to know, even if you aren’t in a band or a skateboarder. The Locker family pretty much rule, so I’m just honored to consider them friends. This would also have to include Pat McG, as well, who is an amazing dude.
MVC: Rob started AZPX to show some love for the local skate and music scenes. I have known Rob for a long time and looked to him to help us out with graphics and t-shirts and it evolved from there.
On the your second LP, All About Everything you gave a song called “Crosstown” that’s about keeping your bravado amongst all the shootings there has been. It reminded me of this article that I read that basically blamed the fact that in society males are told to bottle up their feelings and always be the “strong” ones and it’s these repressed feelings that are causing them to act out in this way. Do you feel there is any truth to this, if not do you think there is any solution curb gun violence?
TOM: Great question. I wish I knew what made people snap and do awful things. This song is more about the idea that somewhere out there is a person who would like to assassinate the listener and how it feels to know that, yet still go about their daily business. I think there is a solution, sure, but it really needs everyone to be open to the idea of increasing budgets for mental health care, increasing empathy, decreasing the availability of guns in general (especially to the mentally ill), and increasing acceptance for people who are not just like you.
MVC: America is a violent society. We accept and glorify violence in so many ways. It's hard to consume any form of media without being confronted with an endless stream of all kinds of violence. There is stuff that's popular that should be totally abhorrent to people like the gory crime shows or Dexter. Gun violence is a direct result of the violent nature of our society and can't be looked at as a separate issue. Until America as a whole is willing to reflect on what a nonviolent society would look like there will continue to be instances of extreme violence.
You guys play music that to me relies more on musical precision and less on ol’ fashioned Rock N’ Roll chaos. As a band, do you guys prefer making records so you can tinker with the songs more and get them to your liking or do you actually prefer the unpredictability of playing live?
TOM: We seem to be more comfortable in the studio and with the whole process of getting ready for the studio. We are a band that needs to practice and “winging it” has not really worked to our favor in the past. Personally, I love the idea of experimentation with sound and just going for it live, but with The Father Figures, that’s not really our forte.
MVC: We all like songs that are concise yet have a lot of movement to them so that steers us to very set song structure.
BOBBY: This is a tough question because I love both. Playing live is a release on multiple levels- plus you get instant feedback for your effort. I love the studio because there’s nothing like hearing your ideas and all the hard work from practices balloon themselves up, the way they (for this band) were meant to be heard – big, loud, and precise. We try and keep the songs repeatable in a live setting, so we don’t add much more instrumentation than what we do in the rehearsal room. We do spend a lot of time on the production side, though (probably 75%). You can hate the songs on a Father Figures record, but you can’t deny that they sound good.
MVC: Thanks to Byron at Villain Recording.
You guys have played with some pretty big names (X, P.I.L.), what’s been the Father Figures most memorable show good or band and what made it so memorable?
TOM: We played show at the George and Dragon during our first year as a band that was really gratifying. The crowd was really into what we were doing and it sort of cemented, at least for me, that we were on to something that I liked doing, and we liked doing, but also something that the crowd seemed to get something out of as well. The PIL show was very memorable as longtime fan of that band, as was our second time playing with X and getting to meet John and Exene. Both of our CD release shows were really great, as well, just being with all of our friends and fans and having a good time.
MVC: I'm really glad we had a chance to play at Hollywood Alley a few times before it closed. Our show in San Pedro with Saccharine Trust was pretty special to me since Joe Baiza is an influence on my guitar playing.
BOBBY: For me, probably the second time we played with X (at the Crescent Ballroom). We were jacked up, the crowd was jacked up and it went off like a gross of bottle rockets in closet.
The band is obviously influenced by the post punk era in rock music, stuff like Gang of Four, Wire etc. In your opinion, what is the most underrated band from that time and why do you feel these people deserve more recognition?
BOBBY: Early “Modern English” is rough edged, jerky, creepy and noisy, killer beginning for a one hit wonder – ultimately, known for the wrong song.
TOM: I think a lot of these bands have gotten their due, especially over the last few years with all of the books and documentaries that have come out celebrating the topic of punk and post-punk. For me, I’d probably have to go with the Proletariat as being one of the more underrated bands from this particular era. They rocked and deserve to be checked out. I only recently gave them any focused attention and I’m glad I did.
MVC: Recently I dug out my turntable and rediscovered a band called Spike in Vain I used to listen to a lot. I also have to agree with Tom on the Proletariat.
There have been reports that the U.S. Government has used songs by Skinny Puppy and Van Halen to torture prisoners and detainees. If you were a government agent, what music would you use to torture your enemies?
TOM: Prove that I’m not a government agent. Typically, I use a combination of the Best of Burt Bacharach and Milk Cult.
BOBBY: “Wham,” or “Flipper.” Same band different approaches.
MVC: Man, I can't even joke about government torture.
If Father Figures could be remembered throughout Rock N’ Roll history for one song of your songs, which one would it be and why?
TOM: Very difficult to choose just one. There are several that still make the little hairs go up on the back of my neck. Right now, I’d have to go with one of our new ones, “The Truth is an Odd Number” because I just love its power.
BOBBY: A really big “if” here. I’d bridge the old and new with the two songs that best personify our sound and what we do: “We the Battery” for the new and “Butterfly” for the old. Yes, I know I didn’t follow the directions.
MVC: I can't pick just one either. I remember the feeling I got when we first played the intro to “Switch.” It felt really right and I knew the band was headed in the right direction. I also have to say that “Fix You” is one of my favorites because it really expresses what I want to do on a guitar.
What does the band have in store for us, any tours or new albums?
TOM: We are working a new album right now, which is our third. No title yet but we’re kicking around a few things. We’d definitely like to get out to the coast again and play some more in California. Other than that, though, no definite plans.
MVC: We are still deciding if we want to release the album this July for our 5th anniversary or wait until the fall when we can play more shows to support it. We are releasing an album of studio outtakes and cover songs for Record Store Day on April 19th. It will only be available at Stinkweeds records and we are only making 100 of them.
Band web site: www.thefatherfigures.com