Thursday, September 5, 2013

Greenback High

     Every now and again you read a band’s profile that just hits the mark spot on.  One would think that a band would know their sound.  Not always the case, I assume it’s a bit of the old “forest from the trees” syndrome.  Anyhow, Greenback High describes themselves as “Power Pop for Punks”.  Simple and brilliant, that’s what I thought when I read that excerpt, that’s what I thought when I first heard their debut 7”.  The hooks of power pop songs propelled by the power of a punk engine.  I can’t wait to see what gets dropped on us next!

Interview by Jay Castro

Who’s answering the questions here?
Floor Tom, Joshy, and Beardo.

Who is in the band and how do they earn their keep in it?
Floor Tom Jones – Guitar, Vocals
Beardo – Bass, Vocals
Joshy Atomic – Guitar, Vocals
J.J. Heathen – Drums, Vocals

What is the Greenback High origin story?  How did you all come together?
Beardo: Like a lot of bands, we’re a group of friends who had played in many different bands in the same scene. Funnily enough, the first show Joshy played was opening up for one of my old bands when we were on tour in his town. Jimmy and I had played many shows together over the years in different bands, and we became fast friends when we both moved from Alberta a few years back. J.J. came into the fold a little later on but he engineered our first recording sessions, so he's been there from the band's inception too.

On your debut 7” Bombs Away b/w All of Us or None There is an obvious power pop influence. The B-Side however has a hint of Cocksparrer in it to me.  Are you guy’s fans of the ‘82 British Oi/Street punk era as well?
Joshy: Some of my favorite records are from the UK 77-85 period and they're records I've consistently listened to for over a decade and that spans all of the genres from UK82 and two-tone to Mod-revival and Oi.  We all grew up playing in punk and garage rock bands so we tend to have a pretty good appreciation for most of what were exposed to throughout the histories of each scene.  There are a lot of rules in those scenes though and I don't think we are a perfect match for any single one of them.  I personally identify most with the early punk scenes in New York and Britain but the Oi and UK82 stuff is great for its aggression and release.  I think if you try and pull a ton of influence from those bands you end up a Discharge or Void copy and that's been getting a bit stale.  The main influences that run through my head all day/every day are Clash, Replacements and Stiff Little Fingers I think those are most evident in the songs that I write.  You'd be on the money assuming I could sing every line to every song on Shock Troops though so who knows, perhaps it's snuck in!

I find it interesting that on your band profile you describe your music as “Power Pop ringed with tragedy, political commentary, and straight up good times”.  Quite a broad spectrum of human emotion!  Do you ever find it hard to put political or tragic lyrics to a poppy tune, thinking it might make light of a serious situation?
Floor Tom Jones: Not Really. I actually find it harder these days to write a happy-go-lucky song. Music can conjure a broad spectrum of human emotions, sometimes within one song. Power Pop has been pigeonholed as a genre that is not categorically political. On the pop side, I like to think Greenback High’s music is driven by melody and musical hooks.
On the Power side, it's driven by the urgency and directness of punk.
In the case of Bombs Away, the lyrics came after the last Federal election, when Stephen Harper’s majority Conservative government was elected. Shortly after that, Canada Post locked out its CUPW employees due to collective bargaining negotiations coming to a halt. Those lyrics were written as a way of realizing that, regardless of the obstacles from Corporations and the Government,  organized labour and everyday people, still have strength in numbers.  And just like in the protest songs of the early labour movement, I wrote what I saw right in front of me in an effort to reflect what I knew was all around. But who knows? The next one might just be about something a bit less serious. I'd like to think anything is possible with a melody.

What led you to decide to self release your 1st 7”? 
Beardo: We've all put out tons of records in past bands, on and off of various labels, so it wasn't much of a stretch for us to get it together for ourselves. And lo and behold, we're down to our last 50 or so copies, so get it while you can!
We're chatting with a couple of labels right now for projects down the road, but expect another self-released 45 in the fall from us in the meantime.

You also have a song on The Party Lives On compilation record.  How did you get involved with that project?
Beardo: The compilation is a tribute to Devon Clifford, and a benefit for the Devon Clifford Memorial Foundation. Devon played drums in You Say Party! We Say Die! before tragically passing away in 2010 from a brain aneurysm. In my day time gig, I book bands for a living and YSP WSD were one of the very first clients I took on as an agent. It was a tragic loss and I'm grateful that we were asked to contribute a song to that compilation.

I read that out of all different art forms, music has the power to alter a person’s disposition the fastest.  Do you agree with this?  Do you have any favorite music that you can put on that will always lift you up from a slump?
Floor Tom Jones: If you’re talking about the drive between Vancouver and Edmonton to play for 30 people then absolutely not! That’s a long drive. But otherwise, as in putting a record on, I think it’s totally possible.
These days, I put on a band called Nude Beach. But the tried tested and true standby for me is Talking Heads.

Joshy: I'm not sure if music is going to change my disposition so much anymore, but it certainly helped shape me when I was younger.  I'm still hanging on to my youth cult and I'm nearly 30 so if anything it's stunted turning me into a well-adjusted adult, thank god.  I will say it's really, really hard to be in a bad mood listening to Radios Appear by Radio Birdman. 

If Greenback High could tour with any band/musician from times gone by, who would it be and why?
Floor Tom Jones: Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1978) tour of North America.
Why? Great songs. Killer band. I’m thinking the Greenbacker’s coulda picked up a few tricks.

Joshy: The Sex Pistols.  No I'm not joking.  That would be insane.

Beardo: The Clash, or Paul Collins Beat, anywhere from 77-79. Just amazingly well written songs, and I've got to think the performances would have been incredible. Bram Tchaikovsky. Again, just tremendous songwriting and playing. Oh god, the MC5. New York Dolls. The Stooges circa 1974. Fuck, too many to mention.

You guys seem to play out quite a bit.  All of you are also in other bands too.  Is Greenback High considered a side project?
Floor Tom Jones: I do moonlight as the drummer in the James T. Kirks with Beardo and his brother Teddy. If you wanna talk about a side project, that would be the definition. The last show we played was when we realized we were all in the same room at a Greenback High show. Greenback High is my main squeeze right now.

Beardo: This band has pretty well become the focal point for all of us these days, and other projects we're in tend to take a bit of a back seat as this band gets busier and busier. I have a big record collection and a Protestant work ethic (with associated guilt!), so it's tough, for me anyway, to not have another band (s) in the wings.

Josh: No.  This is my main focus right now.

I read an interview with Keith Richards where he said that anyone buying digital music is getting short changed.  Do you agree with this and if so, why?
Floor Tom Jones: If you like pulling a record out of its sleeve, cleaning it, dropping the needle and checking out the artwork and lyrics, which I do, then yeah I agree. But when you get finished the gig and just have to hear that one song, which I do, then no I don’t. I’m a big fan of people who care for a treat their physical records with respect.  And carting around digital music saves them from my harsh judgements and everybody’s happy. Furthermore please note, I don’t ever want to imagine Keith Richard’s listening to music on an ipod. It would just look wrong. Thankfully I think his publicity team agrees.

I don’t like using the term “guilty pleasure” because I don’t think anyone should be made to feel ashamed of anything they like.  However with that being said, what to you listen to that you think a lot of fans may be surprised by?
Floor Tom Jones: Rush, Bill Monroe

Beardo: I agree that people don't need to have guilty pleasures. Like what you like, life is too short. I guess when you have a few thousand records it's hard to pinpoint a genre or specific band, but maybe you wouldn't think a dude in a band like mine is really into 20's country blues & ragtime, or 60's r & b, or a band like Midnight or Cursed. A good song is a good song. It all comes down to a hook, a story, and a strong emotional response.

I read that you guys are recording some new songs.  Is this for more EP’s or can we expect a full length sometime soon?
Beardo: Yeah! Our drummer J.J. just finished the mixes for 5 songs and we'll be sending them off for mastering any minute now. The next release will be a 3 song 7 inch EP this fall, and beyond that we do have a full length in the works out in 2014. We're focusing hard on writing new tunes at the moment, with some in the can ready to record and tons more lurking in the background. I'm certainly not ruling out more 45's or other projects before the full length comes out, as we do have some songs ready to roll without a specific release planned for them yet.

Any extensive tour plans in the works for this upcoming release?  Can we expect to
see Greenback High in a town near us any time soon?
Right now we're working on a November tour down the west coast of the good ol' U S of A. Touring Canada is a huge undertaking and it makes so much more sense to head south towards your cheap smokes and malt liquor. More shows in Canada are definitely in the cards too, but we'll spend a good chunk of time writing songs this summer and fall too. Probably recording as well. Touring other countries around the world is a shared goal, so next year we're going to try to hit another continent or two. “Like a shark — got to keep moving.” - Johnny Cash

Where can people go to hear your music or buy your records?
One of our shows, ideally!

You can buy our music digitally as well as the 7 inch online at
It's also distributed via Underground Medicine, Record Store Base in Japan and Hyper Enough Records in Japan. More in the works.