TourKidd recently met with Patrick Kindlon of Self Defense Family, outside The Nile Theatre, on their tour with Goodtime Boys, to talk about his views on creativity and honesty in the alternative music community. He also offered some poignant critique of what could be called the “D.I.Y. ethic”, among many subcultural tropes and themes we’re all more or less familiar with.
Many devotees who find themselves responding critically to current types of alternative, guitar-driven styles of music might often express a discontentment with the sterility of what’s been produced as of late. Some might comment on how it’s too derivative and easy to pick apart. Others could make the, often valid, case that many current acts focus too much on current trends, cycles, aesthetics, or other relatively negligible distractions. Self Defense Family has provided itself to be a very effective counterpoint to any critiques of the sort.
As a band that has forgone every fleeting fashion, confinement, and concession, they make it easy to see all of the above mentioned disturbances for what they really are. In this regard, Self Defense Family is a very important entity within the hardcore, punk, and post-punk/hardcore music scene. They write what they want to write without so much of a thought as too whether it’s immediately likable or not.
The only real schedule they abide by is the intense timeline of music they continue to release, which, with almost 30 records on their resume, isn’t something to be written off considering the higher quality of each release. They never have been and never will be a band to throw away their creative prowess for any lesser entertainments. They bring an uncommon creative conviction that leaves them relatively peerless.
To set the stage for this, tell me about your history with touring, booking, promoting, and your history in the scene prior to End of a Year.
Kindlon: I’m originally from Albany, NY and I attended shows there for many years, the moved to New York City. I really did not attend very many shows in the city at all. During the time I was there, it was for four or five years, and during that time I maybe went to three shows–three shows in New York. There wasn’t a ton that interested me at that time. Then, I started doing what was then End of a Year.
I did a lot of traveling back to Albany. We were from that area, so I was commuting a lot. We were playing a lot, and for a band that nobody liked, we were playing an awful lot. Did a couple east coast tours, a couple national tours, always very terrible tours. But, we didn’t know any better, you know? Like, we’re all from the background that we didn’t know that other bands were doing really well. So, to us, if we showed up and we were in Richmond, and there were six people there, we were like “ alright, solid show”, you know? [That attitude has] been kind of a saving grace over the years. I’ve played with a lot of people, but I’ve never played with anybody that felt entitled to people watching them, you know? With the kind of stuff that we do it’s hard to feel entitled–it’s not for everybody.
When I moved back to Albany, after I attended college, I promoted shows for a few years. That’s a very frustrating and thankless job. Particularly if your town’s just not into what you’re into, you know? But, I did get to act as the promoter for a number of shows I really liked and brought bands that I really liked to Albany, which there is something fulfilling in that that was cool. Then, Self Defense Family became very much a focus.
I promoted shows for a few years. That’s a very frustrating and thankless job.
I started Drug Church almost like a…not like a joke…but as the most casual thing you could ever imagine. It was just guys from back home said “hey, do you want to sing on the demo,” and I said, “Sure.” Since that time it just sort of became more serious. And then, last year, with Jami from Code Orange, I started a record label. So, in the time that I’ve beeninvolved in music, I’ve put out and/or I’ve been a part of records that have appeared on something like 25 labels, and I now run my own label.
I’ve been a promoter. I’ve acted as my own booking agent, though I hope to god I never have to do that again in my life. So, I never really thought about it but I guess, aside from manager (though, I guess you could say I acted in the capacity of manager for my own bands), I guess I’ve done all the terrible thankless bullshit jobs involved in music. I hadn’t really thought about it before but, yeah, I guess I hate myself is what’s happening.
With all of that leading up to End of a Year, Self Defense Family, & Drug Church, how has your experience shaped how you handle your current projects and your roles in said project? It’s been explained that your role has been different from Self Defense Family to Drug Church, or Self Defense Family to End of a Year, as far as creative control or allocation of responsibility is concerned.
Kindlon: Well, with Self Defense, I take a really, really active role. It’s like a–and I don’t do this intentionally–but I identify very strongly with it as a part of… I don’t know how to best put it… it’s very much a reflection of me, you know And it’s a reflection of everybody that plays in the band, obviously, but like, I think everybody in the band sees it exactly that way, [too]–that it is a reflection of them–so it’s all… there’s a certain approach to it that we all take.
Drug Church is a little different in the respect that I defer to the guys in Drug Church for pretty much whatever they want to do. I told them when they said, “Hey, do you want to do this? We’re getting more and more offers, like, we have offers for records. If we become more serious, is that okay with you?” and I said, “Yeah, let’s do it this way though.”
In Self Defense, I spend a lot of my time saying “no” because we get offers to do things that I don’t think are in line with what I would like Self Defense to be. So, I say “no” a lot. And, I said, “So, how about this, for Drug Church, automatically assume it’s a yes. Just assume that whatever-the-fuck question, you want to go out with a dubstep DJ and a leopard, you know, like, if you want to do some bullshit, I’m not going to tell you no. It’s whatever the fuck you want to do.” It’s a very different approach in that respect.
I really enjoy Drug Church and I feel strongly about it, but it is a different relationship.
Sometimes I think, when I’m talking about Self Defense and how passionate I am about it, it makes it sound like I’m not passionate about Drug Church, which isn’t the case. I really enjoy Drug Church and I feel strongly about it, but it is a different relationship. Like, those dudes asked me to join a band and, you know, like, I’m an equal member but I actually quite like the idea that I would defer to somebody instead of attempting to impose my view of how it is. So, it is a totally different approach.
[Patrick Kindlon discusses his newest bands and how he approaches each project’s working dynamic. Listen on Bandcamp: Pt. 1 7:06-8:47]
Something that sticks out to me about the music I recognize with you is this theme of transparency. One example comes to mind about a conversation of yours on Snapcase and how they stopped playing because people literally stopped caring and how you’d want to play for the sake of playing. Or, lyrically, with the “Try Me” record, which has a very honest air about that. I was wondering if that’s something, not necessarily you push for, but out of necessity from things you weren’t seeing in the scene before.
Kindlon: No, I don’t think it’s highly intentional necessarily, but it’s probably is a response to something. I think it’s personally something that I find unsightly and embarrassing is when very small bands or very niche bands attempt the sort-of corny, like… not professionalism… like, there’s no reason to keep secrets, there’s no reason to be mysterious about anything when there’s not, like, people become cagey about things like money, right? Like, in the United States, it’s considered very rude to ask somebody how much money they make, right? Which I get, but, like, when you’re talking about types of music that don’t really make money, we should all just be pretty honest about it. It’s okay, like, nobody needs to feel like they’re less than anything, you know?
I don’t sit down and think, “I’d like to be as honest as possible”, you know what I mean?
If you wanted to make money, why don’t we just presume that you could go do that if you really wanted to, you know? You could go work in finance, you could start a pop-punk [band]… dubstep… or whatever, you know I mean, whatever you want to do! But, like, if you are in “punk music,” or whatever the fuck you want to call it, let’s presume that you’re that not necessarily out to make, there’s no reason to not be transparent, you know? Lyrically, whatever comes out is what comes out. I don’t really think about it all to be honest. Every once in a while, I’ll try something. I’ll say, on this record I’d like more physical references to things. I don’t sit down and think, “I’d like to be as honest as possible”, you know what I mean?
Actually, sometimes I think there’s a difference between “being honest” and “being earnest.” “Earnest” is not a bad thing; obviously, it’s a good thing. But, the way that I’m using it, I would call it a bit of an insult. Like, earnest is that gross thing that you come out and you’re like “We just couldn’t do this without you!” and it’s like, that’s pretty obvious, you don’t need to say that to anybody in your life. Every time you go to an In-N-Out Burger, they don’t say “We couldn’t do this without you!” because it’s understood, you know?
[Patrick Kindlon contrasts honest and earnest behavior as it relates to a band’s interactions with its listeners. Listen on Bandcamp: Pt. 1, 12:24-13:37]
Well, another example with your bands I would’ve mentioned were the End of a Year snuff films. I can’t think of any other bands in punk or hardcore that necessarily opens themselves in that kind of method.
Kindlon: That’s the thing, we tend to engage and I don’t, to be totally frank with you, I don’t know why we do that because we get a ton of fucking morons. But the thing is, I’m rather confident about what we do, like, I feel very fulfilled by what we do.
I think that if you’re not confident about what you’re doing, you have a tendency not to be able to criticize it, you have a tendency to take it too seriously, you know? But if you’re able to really truly believe in your heart that what you’re doing is valid and worthy and good, then you can talk real plain about it, you know what I mean?
You could, like, Self Defense will say, “Oh, yeah, that record wasn’t as good as the other one we wrote.” or, you know, “Nobody’s going to like this.” You know what I mean? Like, we’ll say that about music that we write. You know, and we’ll say “Oh, this recording didn’t come out good.” And we’ll still put it out. Not because I’m ripping anybody off. Not because it’s like “oh, fuck you for liking our band. Here’s a shitty recording.”
It’s just like, it is what it is, and I’m confident it’s good. It’s just not as good as something else we’ve done and if you don’t like it, you can either; opt not to buy it or you can buy it and give it to somebody or you can roll it up and pound it up your ass.
Truly, like, what the fuck, why are you taking it so seriously? I mean, I certainly don’t know, I just think that when you know you’re good, and when you know that what you do is valid, criticism from other people and criticism from yourself are both okay. Honesty is cool, it’s okay, there’s nothing to run from at least.
So in the context of your history in punk and hardcore, tell me about your ideal situations regarding touring, booking, promoting, playing in a touring band, and D.I.Y. as it relates to the scene.
Kindlon: Okay, well, to me, what I’ve found most fulfilling in life is to find people that know what they’re doing and allow them to do it. I think the notion, like, to me, that fixation that certain people have on a D.I.Y. aesthetic or D.I.Y. approach is, I don’t want to call it stupid… it’s just really strange. If my washing machine doesn’t work… I don’t know how to fix a fucking washing machine. And, also, my time is more valuable than the four hours it’s going to take for me to learn to fix a washing machine. I would prefer to pay someone $70 to fix a fucking washing machine than for me to become a washing
machine mechanic. Because, I don’t know how other people value money, but I don’t value it so much that I can’t part with 70 fucking dollars to see something done right. So, I get very confused by kids… I don’t see this anymore, this is kind of D.I.Y. thing was very precious, very important to certain people for a long time and I don’t see the same sort of dialogue on the subject that I used to. But, there used to be a real feeling against booking agents and I think that is, straight up, the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my fucking life because if you are serious about your band and you’re serious about creating things, the literal last thing you want to do in this world is devote yourself to the business part of your band.
I just think that when you know you’re good, and when you know that what you do is valid, criticism from other people and criticism from yourself are both okay. Honesty is cool, it’s okay, there’s nothing to run from at least.
And you’ll hear people be like, “well, I want control over my business” or “I want control over my art”. With a booking agent, you can fire them any time you want. They have literally no control over your life; it’s an employee of yours. You actually, by hiring a booking agent, or being taken on by a booking agent, depending on how you view that relationship, that is your fucking employee. Trust me, you are still D.I.Y. as hell. It would be like me handing you five dollars to flier for me. Does that mean I’m not D.I.Y.? It’s very strange that someone would see, I mean, booking agents are pains in the asses, because they’re born liars and they’re pieces of shit, but, like, their role is not bad.
Their role is like… it’s the same thing with labels. I love labels and the reason I love labels is because I’m busy making music. If anybody thinks that it’s more fulfilling to mail things all day then it is to make music, then they’re out of their fucking minds. Or, they just have a different sensibility and they’re a businessperson, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But, like, being a band, to me, both when I was kid and in my adult life, has been about expressing myself and when I feel an impulse to be creative, I have an outlet for it. And that has truly nothing to do with manufacturing, or fucking booking tours, or any of the nonsense that people think you can’t be a D.I.Y. band if you have these relationships with people.
[Patrick Kindlon critiques discrepancies among the D.I.Y. community. Listen on Bandcamp: Pt. 1, 18:41-20:30]
I don’t care, like, when someone says “oh, it’s fucked up so and so has a booking agent.” Why the fuck do you care? You know what I mean? I don’t care and I don’t understand why you care. I got to charge my electric razor to shave my face, I have to think about something else, you know? I have to go buy a new toothbrush. I don’t have time to think about that. So, for me, the ideal situation with being in a band is, you know, like, even the guys that say they don’t want to be in a sustainable band, I find that they often do cause sustainability is not the same thing as being rich. Being rich is like a pie-in-the-sky sort of ridiculous thing when you’re talking about music. Sustainability is not because sustainability is sort of self-defined. So, like, for us, we’re currently pretty self-sustaining in the respect that touring is not a money-making enough enterprise for us to that all the time. But, you know, we have planned seven records for next year, each one of them, somebody else is paying for and technically make money on each one of em’. That’s sustaining to me and it’s also exactly what I wanted out of music, which was making more things instead of thinking about how to make them. Like, how to get this done, you know?
Like, I understand the problem solving part of that, I understand the fun aspect of, like, “How are we gonna do this?” But, I’ve done that a lot and, really, for myself, what I find most fulfilling I’ve learned making music so I like to do that a lot. I do find it fun to put out other people’s music. That is pretty fulfilling actually. But, my own music, people can handle every fucking part of it except for the making of the music. I don’t know how I’d respond to a manager necessarily because I think perhaps I’m too much of a control freak for that, but, I’d even talk to a manager, you know?
Right now, I’ve got a relationship with a label. I’ve got a relationship with a booking agent. I’d talk to a manager, I guess. I don’t know what the fuck they could offer us. But, you know, I don’t mind hiring people that know what the fuck they do. Like a photographer, I’m a shitty photographer. I’m not going to go to college to learn how to become a photographer. I’ll just hire one. There you go.
I guess it’s not as stigmatized as it was before but I think a lot of people currently associate not doing it yourself with being a “career hardcore band”.
Kindlon: Yeah, but, here’s the thing; I don’t even know what’s wrong with that.
I watched Sick of it All the other day. They were fucking awesome. Those are fifty-year-old men. They’re really fucking good. I think they’re beyond reproach, really, because you could say you don’t like their music, but like, they still make new music. These are creative people that are doing things that they like to do. I find that really hard to criticize. I mean, I don’t like everything they’ve done, but that’s not the point, that doesn’t even fucking matter. If somebody’s in a career hardcore band, god bless them, because I don’t know how to do that. So, like, I’m very impressed by them.
So, that hasn’t changed. It’s gotten easier to tour in a lot of ways, but it’s also gotten harder. There’s a billion bands, you know what I mean? It used to be a hassle to get to shows. It’s easier to get shows, but now you’re competing with twenty other shows.
I always thought it was a weird thing to criticize, and a lot of people do criticize bands for being “career hardcore bands”. But there’s always the counterpoint of “god forbid they should feed themselves, make new music, right?” But that’s always the argument; it’s not a bad one. You know, I see it both ways. If the market can’t support you, what can you really do about that, you, like, there’s music that’s meant to be niche music. It’s not for everybody, you know? And that’s totally okay.
[Patrick Kindlon dismantles the social disapproval of hardcore bands making a living off of their music. Listen on Bandcamp: Pt. 2, 4:09-6:13]
So, since you’ve been going to shows and touring has become relevant to you, how have you seen the necessity for touring change from then to now?
Kindlon: I got to be honest, it’s still super important for certain types of bands. The label that I do with Jamie from Code Orange is called Harm Reduction and we put out hardcore music. It is night and day how records sell if you are touring versus you are not touring. Certain types of music, you 100% have to tour. Other types of music, you don’t. Obviously, with the internet, there are some bands that never played a show that fucking sell records just fine. But, a lot of shit, particularly aggressive shit, things that people enjoy on a physical level, you do have to perform, you do have to be out there touring. So, that hasn’t changed. It’s gotten easier to tour in a lot of ways, but it’s also gotten harder. There’s a billion bands, you know what I mean? It used to be a hassle to get to shows. It’s easier to get shows, but now you’re competing with twenty other shows. So, easier and harder.
In the past you’ve talked about the options of touring full time versus making music and I know you lean more heavily towards making music…
Kindlon: I would always, always… if, let’s say that I have, I don’t know, how many hours are in a fucking week? I don’t know, like, lets say that I have 20 hours to devote to my musical life, you know what I mean? It’s a lot, but let’s say that that’s the case, right? Let’s make that up. Touring is going out and performing the thing that you already make. Conceivably, it gets you off, but it also helps you sell things. I would rather just make a new thing, you know what I mean? That’s just the bottom line. I would just always rather make a new thing, and you could say that performance is a new thing every night. It is, but to me, it’s much more problem-solving oriented and also creative to be in a studio making new things, that’s it, you know what I mean? I just would always choose that.
So then, in the case of bands that tour full-time, such as bands like Nails. They’ll never be a full-time band and they don’t tour that much but they’ve put out two LPs and it seems like people love em’. Do you think that there would ever be a time where bands follow that mentality versus that of the “get in the van” mindset?
Kindlon: Yeah, I think we could conceivably get to the point that you only have to do a couple weeks a year, you know? That could very well be, like, with the internet it could very well be that the album cycle, depending on the kind of music you’re playing, the album cycle doesn’t have anything to do with touring, you know? Maybe, like, Nails puts out a record, they do two weeks U.S., maybe. A week or two weeks Europe, maybe, and then Japan. You know what I mean? So, you know, a little over a month a year. Todd from Nails gets to maintain, you know, like, he’s a family man. He gets to do the things that he wants to do with his life and also be creatively fulfilled and that’s like the best of all worlds, really. I think it depends on your ambitions, like, Nails is selling a good amount of records right now and that’s awesome. For some bands, that’s probably not the case. They probably have to be out more. So, I think it’s a real case-by-case thing. I don’t think we’re necessarily seeing a trend towards less touring. I think, for some bands, maybe the opposite, you know? Maybe some bands have to be out actually more than they ever have. So, I don’t see it as a trend. I see it as 100% band to band.
He’s one of the people behind a D.I.Y. start-up called TourKidd. The ideal situation with TourKidd is that this would bring about a new interface for connectedness between bands, booking agents, and promoters from all areas so that a band from, for example, Tijuana, could successfully (depending on your definition of success) tour from Tijuana to Montreal and back and declare that a solid tour for the books where everyone’s relatively happy. Maybe this is a tall order, but how would predict how TourKidd affects how touring is handled in the future?
Kindlon: Well, the internet makes it so that there can be some… it’s much, I don’t want to say easier, but it’s accessible to get buzz on your own, by yourself. If you want to spend time creating a buzz about yourself, you can do that in a way that you never have been able to before. I mean, not for nothing, there’s hardcore bands whose career they owe to a Youtube video because in that Youtube video things look really wild and then other kids saw that and saw that’s what’s supposed to happen at the shows and they go to those shows, they behave that way, and it perpetuates itself. There’s bands that have careers based on literally one video in their hometown just looking impossibly crazy. So, I think what the internet can do in a way that nothing else can is psych people up for you coming to town. I don’t think anybody’s cracked the code quite yet because, you know, like, people try really hard. People hire publicists, but it’s still kind of… plenty of things flop. So I don’t know if anybody’s cracked the code, but definitely, that’s where I see this having the most value is you can make people aware of what you’re doing so they might actually want to go to your show.
There’s bands that have careers based on literally one video in their hometown just looking impossibly crazy. So, I think what the internet can do in a way that nothing else can is psych people up for you coming to town.
With your experience and background in everything we’ve discussed, what would you consider your best choices or successes, worst decisions, or lessons you’d pass on in the context of being in a touring band?
Kindlon: Drink a lot of water, stop often, don’t [complain] about [it] like, when, you’ve got the asshole band mate that’s like “I don’t want to stop. No. We stop every fucking 45 minutes.” It’s more important that your fucking hydrated, you perform better when you’re hydrated. So, drink a lot of fucking water. You’ve got options when someone does an honorary guarantee. If you have a guarantee and someone doesn’t honor it, you can beat them up, you can walk them to the fucking ATM Freddy Madball-style and say “you’re gonna fucking pay us.”, or you can just not work with them again. Being the fact that I weigh 130 pounds…. I usually go with the fucking latter, you know what I mean? But, both are acceptable.
If there’s a guarantee, if there’s a contracted guarantee, the band is expected to do their part and the promoter is expected to do his or hers. But, you know, don’t freak out either way. Don’t get totally discouraged if you’re broke, that’s natural. Don’t get discouraged if you’re in merch debt, that’s natural too. Don’t go too deep. But, you know, don’t spend your money on strippers. Don’t gamble, unless you’re doing great, in which case, I guess, fine. Even if you have reached the point that you can afford a bus, don’t do it. Really, don’t even get a trailer until you absolutely have to. Keep costs down until you are actually making money. Then, if you want to be an asshole and blow that money, that’s fine. But, before that, do everything in your power to keep costs down.
If you put records out with multiple labels, standard small label deal is that you’re going to get 10% of that pressing. That’s just for you to sell on tour, that’s items for your merch table. The more items you put out, the more you have for your merch table. That’s something to consider if you’re one of these bands that takes a year to fucking write and record a record. You are effectively making it so each thing you do has to be a massive hit, because otherwise, you know, we have 18 things on our merch table. That’s mostly because we really like to make fucking music, but the other reason, the reason we bring it at least is because each one of those things generates money and if we had one item on the table, people would really have to really like that one item, you know what I mean? But, having 18 records on the table is really helpful. So, like, now we’ve started bringing everything that’s still in print or in press, we bring with us, you know? So, yeah, I would take advantage of that.
Don’t eat Subway. Don’t eat McDonald’s. Don’t eat Taco Bell. Ever. In your life. Go to Whole Foods; get yourself, like, staple items. Don’t be afraid to eat a fucking frito pie or a cold fucking thing of beans. It’s better for you than eating fucking food that tastes like nothing, like Taco Bell. No Taco Bell, that’s my advice. That’s what I’ve learned in a decade of performing.