Words by Brendan
I’m not sure how to label this post. It’s partly an introduction to a great band, so I want to say it’s a New To Us, New To You? segment. It’s partly a transcription of an awesome, lengthy chat I had with the band, so I want to call it an interview. It’s partly a concert review, since I saw the band play a set at Commonplace Coffee in Squirrel Hill. But ultimately, the title above is the only appropriate one: I saw their show, we hung out, they crashed at my place, we hit the town the next day. It was an experience. Check out some of their tunes here, and read on for more info about the band and our crazy time together.
The whole thing started when I got an email from Eureka Birds singer/keyboardist Justin Levy (far right in the photo above) back in early March about a new EP and an upcoming show in Pittsburgh. As luck would have it, this was during my spring break and I happened to really dig the tunes on their EP. (Hearing “That Mountain Is A Volcano” first hooked me in, but “There Was Light” really sold me.) I arranged to meet him at the show and do an interview afterwards. So on that Tuesday night, I bussed over to Squirrel Hill around 7:00, walked into Commonplace Coffee and sat down with a cappuccino and biscotti. I recognized Justin from a photo I saw online and went over to introduce myself. He and his bandmate Kevin Collins (second from the right in the photo above) were setting up their equipment. Typically they would play as a four- or five-piece, but for this jaunt from their hometown of Baltimore down to Austin, TX for some SXSW shows, they traveled as a duo: Justin played keyboard and sang, and Kevin bounced back and forth between bass and percussion, sometimes doing both at the same time.
This particular show was their first stop on the tour and they were figuring out how to play some of their songs with just the two of them. They had a beat sample on Justin’s iPod for the percussion part during “There Was Light”, for instance, and Kevin was definitely making up some drum parts as he went along, standing up with his bass strapped on him and tapping the cymbal or tom to accentuate Justin’s singing and playing. I was impressed that Kevin managed to somehow use a drumstick in one hand and pluck certain strings on his bass with the other simultaneously. Kudos, dude. Having this show at a coffee house was an interesting choice, too; I didn’t even know Commonplace had shows before this, and it was little irksome to have folks walking in and out throughout the evening, but oh well. They sounded great despite these obstacles, and I’d really love to see them come back and play a proper venue with the full band, like at Club Cafe or Brillobox. Yeah, that would sound awesome. Justin gave short intros to some songs, explaining their geneses or motivations and it really solidified my appreciation for their genuinely thoughtful (almost cerebral, even) indie pop songs. His explanation of “Cactus Man”, in particular, was insightful: it’s a story of a … well, a cactus/man guy who can never have fun things like balloons or water beds or what have you, so he’s a sad sack and gets drunk all the time and so, in a broader sense, it’s about yearning for what you can’t ever have. (Check out the interview portion below for more thoughts from Justin on that one.)
While they played, I sat at a table along the wall and did some videotaping, both with my own camera and with their Flipcam. They had been given that camera by the Flying Dog brewery who were sponsoring one of their SXSW shows, and they had been asked to record some of their interesting moments on the tour, so while I sat and minded their merch, I taped a couple of their songs with their own camera. The crowd was quite attentive, given the atmosphere, and I noticed a few groups of people sit down and watch after coming in for coffee and realizing they liked what they heard. After they played, the three of us sat at a table and chatted and made plans to get some food later, but we wanted to stick around and see the next scheduled performer, some singer/songwriter type guy. It was the nice thing to do, ya know? He was all well and good but not totally my cup of tea; nice voice but a little too enthusiastic or something. He had a guy play cello with him, totally impromptu, which worked really, really well, actually. That guy was talented. The singer played a couple of cover songs, blatantly against the venue’s policy (Justin showed me an email he got from the booking agent with a sentence about that and rolled his eyes), and Justin and I played Scrabble against each other on our phones, a mere three feet from each other. Hey, at least it was discreet. When the time came, I helped Kevin and Justin pack their gear up and load it in their totally-packed van, dubbed “The Red Sparrow” (everything is bird-themed with them, it seems), and we drove back to Shadyside.
I suggested going to Bites & Brews for some pizza and beer (naturally) since we were all starving and it was early enough in the evening that we would likely find a table and be able to do an interview. So we coasted the Red Sparrow into a wide parking space, walked into the place … and realized that we had all forgotten it was Mardi Gras that night. Even for 10:30ish pm, it was pretty crowded and noisy. The jukebox was playing loud music the whole time, waitresses were giving out purple & green bead necklaces, and they were raffling off a bicycle (which none of us won, unfortunately). We found a table alright, and I did a test run with my voice recorder to make sure I could hear our voices over the background din. It would be tough to transcribe later, but it sounded workable, so we sat back for a while and enjoyed our slices and ales and chatted about … anything and everything. The hour or so that was “on the record” you can read below, and it is mighty entertaining. Definitely check it out to read about Justin’s science background and how it influences his music, and Kevin’s ridiculous stories from his days of playing in bands. Seriously, they are hilarious. I wish I had recorded the whole conversation but that would have taken forever to share, and as it stands, I’ve already been sitting on this piece for too long (sorry guys!).
Anyway, we went back to my place and drank some delicious Flying Dog ales and jammed some records on the turntable late into the night. Kevin fell asleep sitting up on the couch while Justin and I had a heated Wii tennis match. A plan was hatched for the following day, and I woke up in the morning quite groggy from the celebrating, but it was spring break, so who cares? Our ultimate destination was the Andy Warhol Museum, so we guided the Red Sparrow down to the Strip District and stopped at Pamela’s. I, of course, had some strawberry hotcakes (so delicious) and the guys filled up on eggs and toast and bacon for the road trip later on. Then we drove over to the North Side and walked around the Warhol Museum for a little while. We couldn’t dilly-dally too much since they needed to hit the road and get to Ohio for an early evening show, but we got to see most of the permanent collection and really enjoyed Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an” exhibit. They got some Flipcam footage in the balloon room for funsies. We heard a song playing on the radio in the lobby on the way out and it was on the tip of our collective tongue but no one could identify it. Justin emailed me weeks later to say it was Arcade Fire and that he could finally sleep. Ahh.
It was creeping into late afternoon, and the boys had to hit the road soon, so we made one final stop at Jerry’s Records. I insisted that they at least see this place, even if they didn’t have time to poke around. I picked out The Byrds‘ Greatest Hits for them to keep the bird theme going. We piled into the Red Sparrow one last time, forded the roads back to my apartment, and then I bid the fellows of Eureka Birds adieu. They went off to Ohio, then further southwards and westward to South By Southwest.
I heard later on that the Red Sparrow broke down and almost had to be retired, but sprang back to life. You shall never die, my fine “feathered” friend. I also heard that Kevin moved permanently to Austin, TX, and is no longer with the band. Too bad, but I’m sure their sound will march forth and continue to charm many ears and brains along the way. I’m sure they’ll charm you, so head on over to their Bandcamp page to name your own price for their LP and EP, and stay tuned for more from Eureka Birds. I’m certainly eager to see what they have in store.
Check out the tunes above, and peruse some links below. Then read on for a full transcription of our “on the record” chat. It is epic. In many ways. You’ll want to read it all, I insist. Bold entries are my questions, answers from Justin are marked with J, and answers from Kevin are marked with K, naturally. Enjoy!
So, tell me your band story: how you met everybody, how you got started playing music, all of that.
J: I started writing songs for this project back in, I guess, 2004. I went through a bunch of different members but the guitarist has been with me for a while, probably about three years now. Drummers have been circling in and out, and the guitarist and I decided it was time for us to record because we had enough songs, so we went out to Indiana to work with Tyler and two members of Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s. For that record, I played the drums and keyboard, so we didn’t need a drummer, and Dave was on guitar. A friend of ours back then played bass, named Allin.
Had you played any shows together at that point?
J: We played a couple shows, with our old drummer, but when it was time to record, we had some creative differences, so … That was the first record. We finished it and were really happy with how it turned out, so we started going on Craigslist, looking for new members. They learned the parts to play with us, we played a bunch of shows.
K: I booked you a show with my band, when you were on that tour.
J: Yup, that’s how I met Kevin in the very beginning. We just had different members come and go, so we’re trying to write different things. But the new EP is a little different than the debut, but I’m really into it, and it’s what I want to do. We had a tour back in September and Kevin said he was up for it and, ever since then, it’s been great.
K: Justin was in my band, my comedy-funk band called Basketball Beatz, which has yet to record but …
J: It’s mainly songs about basketball.
K: It’s mainly really funny.
Cool, I’d like to hear that.
K: Justin’s a great player and he needed a bass player, so I was like, “Sure, I’ll go on tour”. Since then, I’ve been in the band.
So you usually don’t play drums and bass at the same time, like at the show tonight.
K: No. I’ve only done that … I only did that at two shows before this.
J: And tonight we played songs that we’ve never played before like this.
Yeah, it looked like you were kinda making up the parts as you went along. It worked, though!
K: I was really worried about how the volume was in that room. I didn’t want to … I was really trying to play as quiet as could be.
I think it worked out. I could kinda hear the snare rattling sometimes, but …
J: Yeah I could hear that. I’d look over and give him “the eye”.
Other than that the volume was pretty good.
J: We’ve played small shows like that and these are things that you think about, like, is the snare going to rattle for a song that doesn’t have drums? For the current band now, we have a new drummer, we just picked him up last month. He’s awesome, we’ll try play a lot of live shows with him. He and the guitarist are meeting us in Austin, and we’re playing our barbeque tour, on the way back. We’re playing in a chicken shack.
K: I’m really excited about the “I Guess I’m Floating” show. There are a lot of awesome bands.
J: Yeah, the Floating Fest showcase at SXSW. We’re playing that with the full band, we’re playing a chicken shack, we’re playing some bar/grill type places.
This is all around Austin?
J: On the way back home [to Baltimore], in Little Rock and Louisville. It’s a tour to very strange places to play. We’ll have some very awkward nights.
K: That’s a kind of a challenge though. I’m just excited to, you know, share some music.
Waitress: Want some beads? [Ed. note: this was the night of Mardi Gras.]
J: I don’t need to show you anything?
Waitress: Not unless you want to …
J: Maybe later.
Cheers. Fat Tuesday, right?
J: We fuckin’ did it.
Didn’t even have to show our tits.
J: Yeah, we have a hodgepodge, some kind of weird dates, except for the showcase at South By, that’s the only really big venue we’re gonna play at.
How did that come about, and the sponsorship thing?
J: Well, Flying Dog is sponsoring the Floating Fest showcase, and they’ve been talking to us for a while about, you know, “We really like you guys, we wanna help you out” …
K: And they’re from Frederick, Maryland, so they were trying to pick some local bands that they wanted to represent them.
J: Yeah, Flying Dog is a very locally-oriented brewery. We did the beer tour there today and everyone is just really awesome there. Everyone knows each other.
K: Yeah, super legit, but super cool.
J: “This message sponsored by Flying Dog”. But they’re friends of ours, so it was really nice. That’s where we got the beer.
Would you have been going to Austin without that?
J: We would have had some kind of tour, yeah. But just having a showcase is really going to help us out. And they suggested us to the blog [I Guess I'm Floating], and the blog had the final say, so …
K: There are a lot of really good bands playing. One is called Bird Lips. It’s funny how there are so many animal names … Animal names are so hot right now.
J: You should check them out, they’re really good.
[Waitress arrives with pizza.]
K: Can we order … do you have any like, cheap shots?
Waitress: Well, there are $3 Jaegers …
J: That sounds like a celebration.
K: Yes, we will do that.
Did we all got artichokes on our pizza and not realize it?
K: To great minds!
K: Artichokes are kind of our thing. Of all the vegetables … they’re not your average veggie.
You mentioned the EP is kinda different from the album. What changed in your musical flavor to bring that out?
J: It’s a little … sparser, more sparse. I don’t really know how to describe it. Is sparser a word?
J: Yeah it’s more sparse and I think the songwriting is more mature.
K: Would you use the words, “It’s a little more simple”?
J: Yeah. It still has moments of orchestration and there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, into the production.
Listening to some of it beforehand, they sounded good, but then hearing you describe what some of them are about, at the show, was kind of enlightening. Like, “Cactus Man” being about wanting something you can’t have, and that shedding light on the idea of, you know, a cactus boy. Where do these ideas come from? Do you write all of the lyrics?
J: Yeah, I do, and you know, the inspiration for “Cactus Man” came from … I was in this parking lot and I saw this car that had a cactus figure on its antenna. Just a ridiculous-looking cactus doll on their antenna, waving … and I couldn’t stop staring at it. I probably sat in this parking lot for like five minutes just staring at this cactus/antenna thing, and it came to me, like immediately: I can write a song about a cactus who can’t have things like balloons, and the guy’s just gonna be a complete drunk and nothing’s really gonna work out for him. I need to make him a hero in a song. So that’s where it came from. And my background’s in science, I studied biochemistry, I worked in the field for four years at NIH and Johns Hopkins, and then I worked for a bigger medical devices company that I won’t mention the name of … but it was very corporate, and I got to the point where I just reached the end of that, like I couldn’t … that’s not what I wanna do, so I had to get out. I felt like I couldn’t win.
Had you already been writing and playing music at that point?
J: Yeah, I’ve been doing music for a long time, but I hit a brick wall and I could just relate to Cactus Man. Also, I took a trip to Yosemite, out to the desert, with a friend, and it kinda came together. The song “There Was Light” is about evolution and the Darwinian perspective of evolution, and that’s all my science background. I felt like there could be a song about that kind of thing. I’m working on a music video for that right now.
K: We’re experimenting with stop-motion, cut-out construction paper. It gives a really neat look to it.
Are you guys making that yourself?
J: We started to, and then … I had some visions that we wouldn’t be able to really do.
K: We needed a little help.
J: Yeah, we’re getting some help with this guy named Todd Kemp out in Frederick. He does animation, I guess he does Flash, but we’re gonna do all the cutouts ourselves, all the construction paper cutouts, and he’s gonna animate them. It’ll save us a lot of time and it looks a lot cooler, too.
Have you done videos before?
J: No, never.
K: The funniest part about that was our two hour debate on what the Big Bang actually looked like.
J: What do you think about that?
What it looked like?
J: Yeah, how could we represent that with construction paper?
K: What do you think happened.
I dunno, I’m kinda picturing empty white space and then a dot expanding … but then, what’s the white space? There has to be something from nothing, and anytime you try to represent what it came from, there’s something there …
Was this the debate?
K: Yeah yeah yeah, exactly.
If there’s way to make … wherever you play it, if you can just make your TV screen expand as opposed to showing nothing on the boundary, that’s the way to do it.
K: Well first we were doing all these explosions, then we realized, that’s not really what happened.
Yeah, I think of an explosion as combusting something that’s already there.
J: So that’s the first five seconds of our stop-motion video.
And that was a two hour debate.
J: That’s on the horizon.
Any other creative projects going on?
J: We’re trying to do another EP I think. I don’t think we have the money for a full length right now. We have the songs, you know, just got to have the dough.
How’d you get connected with the guy from Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s?
J: We loved their first record when it came out. We listened to it a lot, The Dust of Retreat. Great record. We loved the songwriting, we loved the instrumentation, everything, but we also really loved the production of it, and we were looking for someone to work with us because it was just the two of us at the time. So we sent Tyler a demo and he loved it and said, “Come on out”. So we recorded the whole album in like 11 days, a day per song, got someone from Margot to work with us and, I don’t know if you know this, but Eric is playing strings on all of their stuff and he’s the violinist. And Tyler, this is before Kevin was in the band, is playing bass on it, too. We’ll get Kevin on the next one.
Hopefully one instrument at a time. So what usually happens? Do you have the lyrics down and then everyone adds parts to it, or do you just have a song in your head that you share?
J: I’ve been stepping back a bit. Usually, I have the chords and lyrics, and the guitarist just comes up with his stuff. Kevin’s been making bass lines. I play the drums again on this EP.
Any bands that you feel like you sound like or are influenced by? Anything like that? That’s probably a popular question, but …
J: Uh, you can’t compare us to this guy, but I love Kanye‘s new record. Have you heard that yet? It’s fucking awesome. It’s amazing. I’ve been listening to a lot of that.
K: We were rocking out to it.
J: Yeah, it’s a great record. I really love the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. And we’ve listening to Radiohead‘s new one a bit, The King Of Limbs. It’s solid. It took me a few listens to get into it, even though I’m a big Radiohead fan.
J: The first time I heard it I was like, “What? What the fuck is going on here?”
K: That’s what I like about it.
J: You like that about it?
K: I really like it.
J: Yeah, I love it now.
K: I felt the same way when I first heard Kid A. I was like, “What? Radio- … What happened? … Oh, this is really cool.”
J: You know, I love Radiohead and part of me really wants to hear something reminiscent of The Bends, and it’s never going to happen again.
J: I dunno, it just seemed like they were there for such a short little while.
K: It would be nice to hear a little bit of something … not so dark.
J: Yeah. But I gotta say, I really like The Beach Boys and The Beatles a lot.
K: I think we should definitely have a Beatles shout-out in there.
Ever play any cover songs?
J: No, we have a lot of original stuff to work on. We play covers with Basketball Beatz, our joke-band.
Who does the artwork for your CDs?
J: The first album was done by an artist in Philly called Leanne Biank. And the new one was me. I actually took that picture in Yosemite. They’re birds over this lake, and it’s funny because the lake that I took the picture at has recently been in the news. I don’t know if you’ve heard about … this whole story might be a hoax, but they found arsenic-based life.
I did hear about that!
J: Well they found it in the lake where I shot the picture of those birds.
J: And I swam in that lake, too. Apparently it was lousy with arsenic. But yeah, that’s the little story behind the picture. That was crazy though, [the arsenic-based life]. Has it been disproved yet?
Not that I know of.
J: I think there was some kind of contamination or something.
I feel like it was a big deal right when it came out but I haven’t heard anything since.
J: Yeah I think people are trying to disprove it and I think NASA’s trying to trick them a little bit, because … you didn’t listen to the press conference, did you?
J: The scientists that were talking about it just didn’t seem like … I feel like they should have done some more work before saying there’s alien life, essentially.
Well, it’s such a sensational story, I feel like they just wanted to share it.
J: Yeah, I was excited about it.
So where did the name come from, Eureka Birds?
J: From outer space, man.
Alright, far out.
K: That’s our biggest motivation.
J: Yeah I forgot to mention one of our biggest influences: David Bowie. We went to outer space once, Dave and I did, and we hung out with Bowie, and that’s where that came from.
[pause for shots]
K: That’s a party in a cup.
Yup. Fat Tuesday.
K: Have you ever been to New Orleans?
Nope, what’s it like?
K: It’s great.
J: You gotta go.
K: It’s a very bizarre, exciting, wild place. The history of that place is that everybody was sent there for being … for burglary and prostitution and drunken conduct, and they just stuck them all in that little area. And of course all the voodoo and jazz and blues … I was walking around that place feeling, like, weird deja vu. Very haunting–everything had this haunting feel to it, but in a very exciting, really cool way, not like a creepy … So, the bars don’t close, you can smoke everywhere in bars, there are strip clubs everywhere, you can just walk around and take your drink out on the street.
I have a friend who worked there for a little while, and he said you can buy a margarita at a drive-thru, like at a fast food place.
J: You didn’t say that New Orleans is haunted.
K: I’m not saying that “New Orleans is haunted” is a fact.
J: So, another record that we’ve listened to a lot lately is Paul Simon‘s There Goes Driving Simon. Fucking awesome. I’ve been into Paul Simon lately.
So you must have liked his “Homeward Bound” cover? [referring to the other act at the show that night]
J: No, did not care much for that. What was up with that?
Do you guys have any weird tour/venue stories? Like, the worst bar you’ve ever played at, or anything like that?
J: I mean, this is our first longer tour with Kevin. We did play this one garage one time, before Kevin was in the band. It was called Scary Studios.
Literally, a garage?
J: It was a garage, in East Baltimore, one of the hardest neighborhoods in Baltimore. There was nobody there except the bands. And someone tried to sell me crack before the show. That was the first night I did crack. [laughs] It was the worst show ever, in the history of shows.
That’s a bold statement.
J: You know, actually, hold on … there were a couple other people there. My girlfriend was there and our cellist friend was there, which made it even worse, because they were in this horrible, dangerous situation in a terrible place. All I wanted to do was just go home, but we had to play some songs. We played 5 songs and then decided it was time it was over. There was no PA, it wasjust all of our gear. I sent everything through my amp. And that was the worst show ever. And it’s kinda helped me because, I mean, we play bad shows now—
But they’re never as bad as that one.
J: —they will never, ever be as bad as that one. And, like, our new drummer will say, “Oh that show was really bad” and I’ll say, “Well, you weren’t in the band when we played at Scary Studios!” We went into it thinking it was an art gallery or something. This really cool girl recommended it to us.
That’s how all bad stories start.
J: There was no art. I mean, it was debatably art. It was graffiti in a garage. But anyway, that’s my story. Do you have any, Kevin?
You don’t have to top that one. Maybe “best venue” story, if you want to turn it around.
J: I have a good venue story.
K: You do?
J: Yeah, we played the Metro Gallery in Baltimore. It’s an art gallery and they had an exhibit called “Naked Baltimore”.
Is that what I think it is?
Is that like those photos of the people on the bus [hanging up in Commonplace Coffeehouse at the show] … except they’re naked?
J: Exactly. [laughs] No, no, good idea though.
K: That would be a great gallery show.
J: So these people decided that they wanted to be photographed nude, and it was their exhibits on the wall. I can’t remember the name of the photographer, I think she was German. Her name was like Ooli or something … but she photographed all thes naked people and they’re on the walls and people would come to the show … It was packed, there was free beer, and people were volunteering to be photographed naked at the show.
K: At the venue?
J: Yeah, at the show, [volunteering] for the next installment. “Naked Baltimore”. I’m not sure that they have since had any other “Naked Baltimores” …
So you were naked for the show?
J: No, I was not naked. [laughs]
Okay, I thought that’s where this was going.
J: That was the first time we played the Metro Gallery. Also the craziest show we’ve ever played there. Nobody was naked out in public. They’d go out into the back room and do that. Yeah, and that was the best show we’ve ever played. My friend actually got very drunk and ended up getting photographed naked.
J: And he was very upset the next day.
K: Oh my god.
J: He actually went back and got the picture.
K: He was black out.
J: He was hammered.
K: Lights out. Lights, camera, action. [laughs]
J: He got the picture and showed all of us, bragging about it. We were like, “Dude, I don’t wanna see that, that’s terrible.”
K: One time I was on probation and I had to take a piss test, so I took all these … all these detox teas and drinks and all this stuff because I had to play at this bar in Baltimore. It was a pretty cool venue, and it was a really big show for my band to be playing. We were opening up for this band called The Juliana Theory. Do you know them? They were like sooo emo, but we were very emo.
J: Wait, hold on … you played … in an emo band. [laughs]
K: I know.
What were you called?
K: Points West. So it was this unheard … We were associated with really emo bands, like The Juliana Theory, and I really liked them.
J: I did not know about this.
Wow, okay, revelations. [laughs]
K: So the show was a sold-out show, and … [to Justin:] You didn’t know I’m emo?
J: I’m gonna leave your ass in Pittsburgh, man.
K: I’m also a hipster because I play multiple instruments at the same time. And I have a hipster mustache. But, in any case, I ate all these, basically, laxatives. And I’m on stage in front of a sold-out crowd.
Wait—this is your best show experience, right?
K: No, no, this is my worst.
Ok, I didn’t know where this one was going.
K: Well, it’s kinda worst and best, it’s like right down the line. I was convinced I was gonna shit myself onstage, and there was nothing I could do about it. There was no time for me to muscle through this crowd and get to the bathroom. There just wasn’t any time. So I had to suck it up. And anyway, I shit my pants on stage.
K: No, but don’t take that out of context. That is on the record. [all laugh]
J: “I shit my pants on stage”, that’s the caption.
K: But I was playing bass and my butt cheeks are just … clenched. And I thought it was over. I thought that was it. I was starting to plan what was gonna happen when I shit my pants and what I was gonna say was, “Who farted?” into the microphone. [laughs] Or I woulda said …
J: You had a microphone?
K: I was singing backup. I would have said … because it would have immediately stunk the entire place … I was imagining this, I was in a difficult situation. I was even gonna say, “Look guys, hey, everybody, it’s over. Okay, yes, I shit my pants.” I think I was running that over in my brain, like, how I was gonna deliver that line.
J: I think you just gotta come clean at that point.
Or dirty, depending on how you look at it.
K: You can’t just look around and say, “Uhhh, what happened guys?”
So wait—boxers or briefs, at that point. I think that makes a difference.
K: Well, what should be written down on the record is that I prefer bikini briefs. Okay?
J: What the—I don’t even know you man. [laughs]
K: And I don’t know if you guys have experienced that, but I would recommend it. Bikini briefs are … they give you the utmost support.
Wow, that is on record. What’s off record? [laughs]
K: Umm … [laughs]
So you shit yourself, right?
K: No I didn’t. I just …
You held it together.
K: I held it … together, barely, and then I destroyed the bathroom and disappeared for an entire set.
I think if you had shit yourself, that just would have been the ultimate emo act. You would have just had to retire right there.
J: You would have written an emo song about it, right?
That sounds like the best story, not the worst.
K: Yup. Oh my god, when you [Justin] were asleep, and I was driving the van, all of a sudden, the highway—which was a 65 mile per hour speed limit, and all the cars were going that fast so I couldn’t slow down—they had all this construction, so they had a very tight, curving 65 mph kind of deal that … I was almost gonna wake you up.
J: In my dream, I was on the Titanic, actually.
K: Yeah. It was a little frightening, because the van has a little bit of give each way.
J: When you turn the wheel, you turn … and then it turns.
The boat analogy you made before [about the van] makes a lot of sense.
J: That van—it’s dangerous. It shouldn’t be allowed on the road.
And you call it the Red Sparrow, keeping with the birds thing?
It’s a motif.
K: Yeah. “Spreading The Wings” tour.
J: That’s not the name of the tour.
K: “Bikini Briefs” tour.
“I Shit Myself” tour.
J: I can’t believe you were in an emo band. It’s so lame.
K: If you heard it, you would understand. It wasn’t that emo.
J: What kind of singer did you have? Was he, like, really whiny?
J: So it wasn’t “screamo”?
K: No, it was. We were kinda hard … it was on the edge of emo/screamo. But it was before all these douchebag fans did it and ruined it.
J: So you invented …
K: I was in a band right around that time where it was starting to happen, and it was really cool, and then … it got really botched.
J: It was really cool?
K: Actually, I am really cool. And I started emo. Kevin Collins. I was wearing a … I think I was dating a hair stylist, and we had our hair colored and stuff.
J: This is terrible, terrible news.
K: You know? Just bein’ real. Keepin’ it real.
J: Yeah man.
K: I actually played shows with Fall Out Boy. And I hated them, and they were a terrible band then, and they’re a terrible band now. They were starting at the same time we were, and we knew each other and played shows together … Do you know them? It’s like pop-punk emo garbage.
I’ve heard of some of these bands but I haven’t really … bothered to listen to them.
K: You’re not missing anything.
J: You should check them out though.
K: You should ceck them out to laugh at.
Okay [laughs]. Along this vein, what’s the best/worst band you’ve played with, or that you’ve seen live? I feel like I should ask both of you, because you’ll probably have different answers.
J: Bands can be terrible for different reasons. This is a tricky question. I mean, the good bands … we play with good bands a lot. There’s a band called Kadman, a band called Vandevere, a duo. We love them both, they’re amazing.
K: Really, really good.
J: Secret Mountains are really cool, too. Terrible bands, though? I mean, I can’t really go on the record saying any of them, but … Kevin, do you have any?
Any other emo bands you wanna bash?
K: Did you know that I was in a ska band?
J: That’s way better than emo.
K: My first band … I’m 29, so I’ve been playing in bands since I could get in bands. So, yeah, ska. We played with this band that I really liked called Springhill Jacks. They were like a really huge ska band at the time. They were just about to break right before ska failed.
I’m noticing a similar arc here …
K: We opened up for this band and we were all half their age. And our trumpet player who was a friend of mine, she met them in the dressing room and … I guess, we did a sound check, and the band we were opening for wrote “That trumpet player sucks” from our band in big spray paint on the wall of the dressing room we both shared.
[Waitress attempts to take Justin's pizza away, but Kevin stops her to eat his leftover crusts]
K: So anyway, this band that was kinda big at the time but obviously no one ever listens to anymore … they totally bashed our trumpet player and she never played again. And I was like, “Why? Those guys are totally douchebags! They’re so full of themselves and they don’t even come close to your talent.” And I was trying to explain that to her, and … it didn’t work. Her feelings were crushed, she took it very personally, and she never played ever again.
K: And that was the worst …
J: How was she?
K: She was good. She was totally fine and creative and good. She was attractive, as well as being a good trumpet player.
Are there any other genres of bands that you played in that you’d like to share?
J: Yeah, what was going on like 10 years ago? Hootie & the Blowfish? Acoustic rock?
K: No. I’ve played in some hard rock bands, though.
Like, hardcore punk?
K: Yeah. Well, not super hardcore. Kinda heavy though.
Do you always play bass?
K: Sometimes drums. Bass. Guitar. I played in a polka band. Just kidding. [laughs] I’ve always wanted to, though.
J: Yeah, that’s gonna be the Eureka Birds next EP: all polka. And we plan on being at Groundhog Day next year, with Punxatawney Phil, playing polka. That will be the debut of our next EP. At the Groundhog Day festival.
K: Polka. At Groundhog Day.
J: Yeah, that’s what they do. It’s all polka.
I think my only polka experience has been Weird Al. I don’t know if that’s so legit.
J: Maybe not.
K: I do have one more band-related story.
By all means …
J: Is it a good or a bad story?
K: One of the first times [Justin] and I actually hung out was when you were in town and … I drew you a picture of a “Eureka Bird” … what I thought was a “Eureka Bird”, on a napkin, and then … because I really liked the music, and somehow we traded a show. I was in a different band, and we ended up partying. We ended up going to this bar and getting out of our minds … drunken. I just remember, vaguely, the part where I suggested shots, right? And bringing a round of shots for everyone. And that was when … everybody blacked out. Cut to our friend’s apartment and Justin and this other lead singer of another band. She was puking and Justin was puking—
J: I never puked.
K: No? Anyway, the first time we really hung out we went way over the top and just got out of hand.
J: Yeah, that was … the first time I really met Kevin. We played a show—wait, did you play that night? Maybe a different night …
K: There’s a certain amount of bonding you get when you drink to the point of vomiting.
J: I remember Kevin and some other friends were playing acoustic guitar in the living room until … probably 4:00 am in this apartment. I was out of mind. And I was just very confused as to why you were playing acoustic that late at night.
K: And I was playing a song of my own, a pretty ballad for the girl sitting next to me, who told me she wanted me to play it and then vomited all over the rug.
J: She didn’t care much for the song.
K: I don’t know if that was an accolade or her showing … dislike.
Could be neither.
J: Could have been the five shots she had before. We’ll never know.
K: Well, thanks for coming and checking us out.
J: Any other questions?
What do you think you guys would be doing if you weren’t traveling around and playing music?
J: If we had to work?
Yeah. Not to make you think about that, if you don’t want to.
K: What was the question?
What would you be doing without music?
K: Oh. If I didn’t have music, it’d be over.
J: Yeah, if I didn’t have music, I’d probably be an astronaut and I would probably be traveling to and from outer space, mainly with David Bowie.
K: I’m definitely really thankful that I get to play music. It’s really important to me.
J: Yeah, me too. I worked in the shit, man, for too long … for four years. And the thing about it is I really like science. I love science.
K: That’s why I think it’s great that you’re combining your dark humor and science into your pop/eclectic rock music.
J: Yeah, but, I’d probably be in a lab, at a university, doing research.
K: I’d probably be under a bridge. Sucking dick. For crack.
J: Let’s face it. You have a mustache like that, it can only mean one of two things.
K: [twisting mustache] “Excuse me, I’m in a hard place” … Wait, that’s actually the wrong line …
You can work on it.
K: “I can give you a hard place.” [laughs] That’s my crackhead line.
You can work on it. Well yeah, thanks for answering my questions and all that good stuff.
K: Yeah man, thanks.