Meet TSUNAMI BOMB - The Spine That Binds INTERVIEW
Northern California’s punk rock Tsunami Bomb are back for the first time in 15 years with a new LP entitled 'The Spine That Binds, which was produced by the band and mixed by Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock), via Alternative Tentacles, founded by Dead Kennedys own Jello Biafra.
Originally formed in 1998, and disbanding after many member changes in 2005, TSUNAMI BOMB reformed at the end of 2015. Released in 2018 was and EP entitled "LULLABY FOR THE END OF THE WORLD /NAYSAYERS", the band's first bit of music in nearly a decade. The EP was the flag planted into the ground letting the world know that Tsunami Bomb wasn't going away anytime soon with two tracks from the EP later to be featured on this forthcoming 2019 release "The Spine That Binds".
This long-awaited third full-length release, 'The Spine That Binds,' proves that Tsunami Bomb not only embrace their signature style of aggressive pop-punk combined by a touch of the dark side and harder hardcore influence but has taken it even further by honing their skills of melody while being more in-your-face and more aggressive than ever within each track.
I had the opportunity to chat with the band about their new album, signing with Jello of the Dead Kennedys label, playing the last Vans Warped Tour and more!
* TPPD: So what has the reception been like since you announced Tsunami Bomb's comeback?
Oobliette: We had a bit of pushback because of lineup changes, but far less than we anticipated. The majority of fans, new and old, have welcomed us with open arms. Some people were very careful and skeptical at first, which we totally understood and just answered any questions they may have had and let them take their time getting to know us in this form.
Dominic: I understood the skepticism. People fixate on a vocalist, and we knew we were asking a lot of people coming back with a new voice, but sometimes you just have to believe in yourselves and what you are doing. I was completely prepared for the worst, but it’s been so much more welcoming then I expected. I think taking our time and letting people get used to us as we are now really helped.
* TPPD: Tsunami Bomb has signed with Jello Biafra (of the Dead Kennedys) label Alternative Tentacles. How did that relationship come about? How has that relationship been?
Oobliette: I'm still waiting to meet him, but I hear he is quite the character. Dominic: Ha! I forgot you haven’t met him yet. Oh man… I can’t wait for that meeting! You two together is going to be… interesting. Two Titans! A few years back I worked for Alternative Tentacles as their in-house publicist, I moved on and then a couple years ago I was hired back on as the GM. Jello and I have become good friends over the years of working together and it turned out he was a fan of our “Mayhem On The High Seas” 7” and was interested in Tsunami Bomb back in the day, but found out we had signed to Kung Fu Records before he ever met us. I found that really flattering, but it always surprised me because I wouldn’t have thought he would have been interested. Wish we had known! As we were shopping the demos and the early recordings for this album around, we weren’t really getting any response. It was kinda like the old days, Tsunami Bomb has just never been a band that labels have really got behind. Like, all the labels we have ever put a release out with? Have been the ONLY labels who were ever interested or even asked! We’ve never had a bunch of labels lining up to work with us. I think we are just a bit outside of anything that’s going on. It’s not easy for everyone to wrap their head around. Tsunami Bomb’s sound has always been a bit of a weird little beast, and I guess that has made most labels pretty skittish when it comes to us. Anyway, we were shopping the music and not really getting anywhere. We were considering just putting it out ourselves, when Jello started asking me why I was refusing to give him the demos. What did I have against AT? I was shocked, because I just didn’t think that Tsunami Bomb was an Alternative Tentacles band. I told him I hadn’t thought of him because the band was pretty poppy, and I thought he wouldn’t like it. His response was, “I don’t care about poppy! I signed Pansy Division! I care about bands not being boring! Are you boring? Is your band boring? Let me hear the fucking songs!” Well, we are not boring. So, I let him hear it and to my complete shock, he loved it. He insisted we license the record to Alternative Tentacles…and here we are! It’s a bit weird for me, AND a lot more work to be both in the band and at the label, but no different than if we had put it out on our own. We are really grateful to Jello and AT for taking us on. It doesn’t matter that I work at AT, if he didn’t like it? He’d never touch it. He’s been incredibly supportive and brutally honest. He once described our sound as “Pat Benatar goes Goth, backed by TSOL” which is the strangest description I’ve ever heard of us! We are a weird fit there, but we are a weird fit anywhere we’ve ever been. So that’s nothing new. Having me there to look after things is pretty helpful, just a bit exhausting. I’m Tsunami Bomb 24/7!
* TPPD: Your new album "The Spine That Binds" is out November 8th and it seems to sound like a modern punk rock record while still staying true to early Tsunami Bomb sound (circa 2004 The Definitive Act LP). How do you go about achieving that while writing?
Oobliette: I think that it just came naturally. I hadn't written music since I left the band in 2001 (and was terrified to) and the first time Dominic sent me a song idea since we reformed, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. It was as if no time had passed. Maybe not writing anything since the last TB record I worked on helped me stay true to the sound.
Dominic: Part of the reason I agreed to come back to Tsunami Bomb was that I never felt we were able to finish what we had started with that sound. I felt like there was more I wanted us to say and more I wanted to explore with that sound. When we started, I knew that with all the changes that people had to accept, we needed to anchor them and make sure they knew we really WERE Tsunami Bomb. So the entire intent with The Spine That Binds, was to touch upon all the chapters of Tsunami Bomb’s history, all the songs we had written previously, all the albums that had come out before and bring them together, course correct the direction of the band back to what made it so unique in the first place, and then move it forward slightly to give people a clue at where we may head in the future. The main goal I strive for is for our songs to feel timeless. It doesn’t always work out for a variety of reasons, but that’s the goal. I don’t think a song should feel like 2019 anymore than it should feel like 2002. Oobliette gets that, and when I send her a song idea, she never ceases to amaze me with where she will take it. She is the greatest songwriting partner I’ve ever had, so being able to work with her again after all this time is a gift. Gabe is another one! Such an incredible drummer. His drumming style has really shapedTsunami Bomb. Andy is just a mechanic with his anthemic guitar work. He’s really come to understand what we are trying to do and he always strives to make the songs better. Kate has just come so far in such a short time. She has such a beautiful voice and it goes great with the raw power of Oobliette’s voice. Everyone brings such a unique vision and particular skill to the band, it’s a lot of fun to write with them. I love it.
* TPPD: Where did you go to record The Spine That Binds? Any DIY elements to the recording process?
Oobliette: We recorded all over. Since we are pretty spread out, we recorded when we could. We did completely produce this ourselves, so in my opinion, that is pretty DIY.
Dominic: I agree! We oversaw this completely ourselves and paid for it completely on our own. We were lucky to have some incredible studios help us out. Due to us being spread out and schedules being what they were, this was recorded at a lot of different studios. Most of it was tracked at White Whale Studios in Santa Rosa, CA, with half the drums tracking at Pop Smear Studios in San Rafael, CA. We also tracked vocals and keyboards at Applehead Recordings in Woodstock, NY, and additional vocals at District Recording in San Jose, CA. We took this pile of files and tracks to Jack Shirley at Atomic Studios in Oakland, CA and he really was amazing helping us make it all come together. He was brilliant. Steve Orlando then mastered it, and he’s so talented. His work with Skywalker Sound is featured in tons of EPIC sounding films! It was a big team, but a great team who helped us make this album a reality.
* TPPD: When I first posted the press release for The Spine That Binds back in September some fans wanted to know about Agent M as to if Tsunami Bomb and Agent M are on good terms or not? From the comment from Alternative Tentacles Records official Facebook it seems like you all are. Can you confirm?
Oobliette: Some of the members are still friends with Emily. Right now, she is out in Texas and has a side project she is playing with called Survival Guide.
Dominic: We have nothing but gratitude for everything she did in Tsunami Bomb. We completely respect her decision to not return to the band and focus on her own project. She’s doing what she loves! We wish her all the success and encourage Emily fans to check out her music.
* TPPD: It's said on Tsunami Bomb's official Wikipedia page that "Tsunami Bomb was a Warped Tour staple through the early 2000's." What are your thoughts on Warped Tour's official end after 25 years?
Oobliette: I feel like it was the right time. It seemed the last couple years there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes leading to some conflicts. Kevin actually just had a pretty great interview on a podcast outlining the lead up to the end. Honestly, I have so many great memories of the tour, that's what I will always remember. We were able to play two years ago and then again, this year for the last show. It was a lovely goodbye, but we would be back in a second if the tour ever decides to return.
Dominic: We owe so much to Warped Tour and Kevin Lyman. It had a huge impact on our band and us as people. I guess all great things must come to an end. I’ll miss it.
* TPPD: You also played the 25th-anniversary Vans Warped Tour this year. What was it like playing the last ever show for that festival?
Oobliette: It was so much fun. They really did an amazing job putting the show together. It was great to see all the bands new and old with fans from so many generations all getting together for one big send off. It just felt right to be there for that day, and we were humbled and honored to be a part of it. Dominic: Agreed. Very bittersweet… and beautiful. It was like the old days. I wonder if we’ll ever see anything quite like that again?
* TPPD: Speaking of festivals, you guys just played the annual FEST 18 in Florida with Jello of DK what was that like and how does it differ from other tests?
Oobliette: Well Jello wasn't there but we had a blast anyways. This Fest is just 3 days (or 5 if you pre/post fest) of madness. There are bands, comedians, wrestling matches, all kinds of fun. There is a whole community of people who attend who keep in contact year-round. When people talk about the scene being dead, I want to send them to FEST. There are bands and people from all walks of life and is just one big ol’ party. This year we did a secret set and a regular show. We decided the secret set shouldn't just be another regular set, so we got a little weird. We went full Halloween, dressed like skeletons, and Kate and I covered ourselves in UV makeup and the whole band played with only black light. We resurrected some very deep cuts and had some very special guests from Kill Lincoln and Bad Cop, Bad Cop join us.
Dominic: That’s another festival with a unique soul all it’s own. I mean punk rockers from all over the world taking over this small college town? It’s pretty epic. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. This was our second year at the festival, and I’m pretty sure we’ll keep going as long as they keep asking!
* TPPD: And lastly, what's in the future for Tsunami Bomb end of 2019 going into 2020?
Oobliette: Time to write another album, this train ain't stopping! Dominic: Exactly! We have so much more to say!
TSUNAMI BOMB - THE HATHORS
ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES RECORDS