The Daycare Swindlers formed in Washington, D.C. in the mid ’90s. Since 1998, they have toured a whole bunch and released four albums. New & Tasty, Testosterosa (both of which are punk rock with influences of reggae, surf, and DC hardcore), and In Loving Memory (which is a little harder sounding) are on Vile Beat Records. Their newest album, Heathen Radio, is on Go Kart Records and will be released on November 12th, 2002. This interview was conducted on the 23rd of October, 2002, at a diner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after a house show the Swindlers played with Two Man Advantage and Toxic Narcotic. For more information on the band and where to get their albums, visit www.dcswindlers.com.
Interview by Jessica Disobedience: [email protected]
Photos by Ali Freesland: [email protected]
The Daycare Swindlers are:
Noah – vocals
Steve – guitar
Mark Reiter – drums
Mike – bass
Scrote – lead guitar
Jessica: Because this interview is being done in Wisconsin, it has to be asked. . . what’s your favorite kind of cheese?
Noah: Jalapeno cheese – pepper cheese.
Steve: Pepper Jack?
Mike: Uh. . . Cottage.
Noah: Cottage? You are old. Cottage cheese isn’t really cheese. . . that’s milk. It’s dairy. It’s old milk, man.
Jessica: It’s like curds and whey.
Mike: Okay. . . Parmesan.
All: Yeah. . .
Scrote: For myself, it would have to be Gorgonzola.
Steve: Not Limburger?
Scrote: Definitely not Limburger.
Reiter: A nice Stilton.
Noah: Is that a firm cheese?
Reiter: It’s a firm cheese. It’s from the vein cheese family. Much like blue cheese, but stronger. . . more robust. And it’s very aromatic.
Jessica: If you got control of a major radio station for a day, who would you be sure to play on it?
Noah: Two Man Advantage.
Steve: Yeah, definitely Two Man Advantage.
Noah: GC5, Hudson Falcons.
Steve: Rocket 350.
Noah: Leftover Crack.
Steve: Riverboat Gamblers.
Noah: Elvis Costello.
Reiter: Kid Chaos.
Scrote: Bad Brains.
Noah: Tom Waits.
Scrote: Peter Frampton.
Reiter: Yoko Ono.
Jessica: . . .and Aerosmith!
Scrote: The five-way split. Yoko Ono, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, T. Rex. . .
Steve: . . . and The Dictators.
Noah: Don’t forget Dick Dale.
Noah: Some Native Nine.
Reiter: Maybe some American Thighs.
Noah: Booger Weed.
Noah/Reiter: Tentacle Butt.
Reiter: Crystal Clit.
Noah: All the big bands.
(More band names are listed, but they all overlap each other and are unintelligible.)
Jessica: I was reading about how you guys got a lot of shit for the cover of your album Testosterosa. (It features the band members climbing onto the body of a larger-than-life woman wearing a tight dress.) I was just wondering why you think that is, and if you think that sometimes people in the punk scene have the tendency to be so politically correct that they can’t have any fun?
Reiter: Before we even answer the question, we have to tell you the story behind the cover of that album, because that’s not the cover we wanted. We designed the cover. When we recorded that record, we had a $5,000 recording budget, and we went over by several thousand dollars. So, by the time it actually came about, we had this whole Russ Meyer concept that Scrote came up with, like Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, or a James Bond kind of thing. So we did the photo shoot for it, we sent it in to the label, they used their own graphic designer, and he came up with that cover (the one that ended up on the album). Because there was so much money spent on the recording and we went so far over budget, that’s the record cover that we got.
Scrote: He basically said, “This is your cover, whether you like it or not.”
Jessica: That sucks! So you didn’t even get shit because of your decision. That’s really lame.
Steve: And all that mainly came from that whole Wilson Center/Contraceptives/Sidebar fiasco.
Scrote: Yeah, we were accused of being sexist and racist.
Scrote: Well, there was this whole altercation in Baltimore at a show with this band, The Contraceptives.
Steve: That was the first show we played in Baltimore.
Scrote: …And this person that was with The Contraceptives grabbed the mic out of Noah’s hand while he was singing and threw the mic into his head.
Noah: She was yelling, “You’re sexist! You’re sexist!”
Steve: They were heckling us the whole show. We were like, “You don’t like us, that’s cool, but you’re ruining this for everybody else.” She flipped out and grabbed the mic out of Noah’s hand, threw it at his head, and split his head open. And then words were exchanged.
Jessica: And because of that you were sexist and racist?
Noah: Yeah, well, somebody said something like, “Fuck you, you stupid dyke,” or something like that.
Scrote: But it was a girl calling another girl a dyke. That was the thing that was ridiculous about it. And then there was some crap that went back and forth between guestbooks. So the band told the Wilson Center, “These guys are a bunch of sexist assholes.”
Steve: So I had to call up, I think it was Mita who was setting up the show, and explain our side of the whole story and why we should be able to play at the show – where we had to sing into mops.
Steve: We had to sing into mop handles. That was the PA system: a microphone duct-taped to a mop stick.
Noah: It was hard to hold it in place so it didn’t move around too much.
Steve: Yeah, and that was a great show.
Reiter: The accusations are further reaching than just that incident.
Scrote: A lot of reviews. . .
Reiter: That record, the week that it came out, charted #8 on the CMJ adds chart.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Reiter: It beat out a Bob Dylan record the week that it came out. We had the Syndicate working it. The record label hired the Syndicate to work it to radio. So, the first six weeks that the record’s out, the Syndicate talks to all the program directors for college radio. The week that those reviews started coming back, there’s little one-line blurbs from all the program directors. And all of it was like, “Sexist pig bullshit crap. I wouldn’t play this if you gave me a million dollars, because they’re sexist pig fuckers. And this is shit because. . . blah, blah, blah.” So the implications of that album cover were much more far reaching than just the immediate backlash in our own little community.
Scrote: But there was a local thing as well, and then there was the whole national thing. So we had to admit that we were truly sexist.
Steve: Yeah, but look at the new Rollins Band cover. That’s the worst.
Jessica: And the fuckin’ Red Hot Chili Peppers album covers.
Noah: Yeah, exactly. And the whole album, the title Testosterosa – even the cover where we’re jumping up – we’re worshipping women.
Scrote: And not even the title, but the original concept behind the artwork was a bunch of testosterone-driven women in a gang with chains beating up men! But it turned into this lame beer ad thing because the photographer was like, “Well, I don’t copy other people’s work,” and so he did his own thing which was completely not what we wanted. But we’re not bitter about that.
Steve: No, not at all.
Reiter: We’re very happy with the record cover.
Scrote: It was a learning experience, to say the least.
Reiter: Mike covers it up with duct tape every time we lay it down on the merch table.
Scrote: We wanna re-do the cover.
Noah: Yeah, we were thinking about trying to re-print it and stuff.
Scrote: At the same time, it’s stupid that it’s gotten so blown out of proportion. It’s just a fuckin’ album cover. If you don’t like the cover, then don’t listen to it.
Reiter: Make your own cover.
Scrote: Yeah, if it’s so important what the cover looks like.
Jessica: It’s not even offensive. I mean, I never would have thought that.
Scrote: We were at a Leftover Crack show and this girl came up to me and told me she found it offensive, yet she wasn’t offended by Leftover Crack burning down a paper maché model of the Twin Towers.
Steve: And she was also offended by Two Man Advantage’s “testosterone performance.”
Scrote: Yeah. They didn’t even do anything. Yet it’s okay to mock two thousand people’s deaths, I suppose.
Noah: Well, she was from Berkeley, so. . .
Jessica: Those fucking Berkeley people.
Jessica: So, what made you decide to do In Loving Memory? It’s a lot harder, it seems, than your other albums, and I was just wondering if you approached the songwriting or the recording any differently for it.
Noah: We had a ton of different songs that our friend Jeff Costello was going to put on an album. But then Go Kart ended up signing us. So he picked all the songs he liked the best for our Go Kart album. We had another album we had to do for Vile Beat, so we took all these other songs that we had and piled them together. I don’t think we purposely made it any heavier. Well, the thing was, Jeff wanted fast punk songs. So he took all those for his record.
Mike: It was supposed to be a 7″.
Scrote: Yeah. So the Go Kart one wound up being all fast shit, and all the stuff that wasn’t quite as fast wound up on In Loving Memory. And that was recorded after our first tour, and we were so pissed off and bitter, I think a lot of that came over. And our friend committed suicide. That was a real bummer. But we had already recorded the album by that point.
Noah: The title had two meanings: in loving memory, kind of saying goodbye to Vile Beat, and also in loving memory of our friend who committed suicide.
Scrote: The other thing about the music is that we, as a band, feel like we should be able to do and play whatever we want.
Steve: We try to write stuff that we would go out and buy.
Scrote: We’re not going to try to do the same album over and over.
Jessica: That’s cool. I mean, too many people do that. They find this sound that everyone likes, and so they just keep making the exact same music forever. And now for a less serious question. For those of you who have tattoos, when did you get your first tattoo, what is it, and do you still like it?
Steve: I’ll go first. I got one on my left calf. It was in ’94, it was my graduation present, it was Biohazard’s insignia. And yes, I do still like it. I saw them last year and they were still really, really awesome.
Scrote: My first tattoo I got in ’98. It’s this design like a Celtic circle. I still really like it, but I need to get it touched up and I need to get it added on to.
Reiter: I got my first tattoo right before we left for our first national tour. It’s a big cross with a heart and drumsticks crossing behind it. It reads, “God, freedom, and music.” I’m still happy with it. But I hate freedom and music, and God hates me.
Reiter: So I’d like to change it. No, I’m very happy with it.
Noah: My first tattoo was Rappahannock Skinny. A bunch of my friends, my brother, a bunch of people got “RS,” Rappahannock Skinny. It’s a town we grew up in: Rappahannock, Virginia.
Mike: I’ve got one tattoo. The deal was, when we finally sold all of the very first run of New & Tasty…
Steve: I thought it was just 1,000 copies.
Mike: That was the first run. The deal was we’d all get a DCS tattoo, so that’s what happened. But, actually, we still found a few more.
Scrote: There were actually 1,200.
Mike: But we thought we had sold all of them. There was something else. Weren’t we sort of celebrating something else, too?
Scrote: The signing, probably.
Mike: Yeah, the signing to Go Kart. We were in Philly at the time, we had just played a show with Leftover Crack, and we all got the DCS tattoo. I just wish I had gotten it in a place where it doesn’t look like it’s up too high. I wish I had put it in a place where it would look like I was more proud of having it.
Jessica: It’d be pretty sad if you were like, “No, I hate the tattoo, and I don’t want anyone to know I’m in the Daycare Swindlers!”
Reiter: Don’t you also wish you hadn’t gotten it in Philly?
Mike: I definitely wish I had not gotten it in Philly.
Mike: Philly and Baltimore just suck my ass.
Mike: They really do. They’re shitty towns.
Reiter: Tell ’em what you really feel, man.
Mike: But it was a great tattoo parlor.
Jessica: My first tattoo was done by my best friend with a safety pin. It’s on my ankle. It’s actually a tattoo of a safety pin.
Noah: Can we see it?
Jessica: It’s all faded now. It was done about three and a half years ago.
Mike: But do you still like it?
Jessica: I do, except you can’t see it now. I have to touch it up. I would still like it, if it were there. So. . . I was thinking the other day that reggae and ska seem to be the only two kinds of music that punks and hippies can both listen to without getting annoyed. And I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts on this, and why you think that is.
Scrote: I don’t know if I agree with that, because I used to hate ska, and I was really into punk music. And then I wound up in this band, and I was forced to play the ska songs and was like, “I’m never going to fuckin’ like this shit, but I’ll just play it.” And now I guess I’m just starting to break down or something.
Scrote: I guess I’d be the wrong person to answer the question.
Noah: It seems like punk and reggae are both rebel music. Reggae’s very political, and so is punk rock in general – or socially aware. And it seems like they kind of go hand in hand, to me at least.
Reiter: Plus, The Clash sort of pulled that music into the punk scene.
Scrote: Bad Brains, too.
Jessica: Stiff Little Fingers, too.
Reiter: Yeah, I mean, you know – it became okay. If some punk band tried to bring Tony Bennett into punk rock, I don’t think that would have the same effect, but reggae became an okay thing. Since the ’70s, there’s always been a cross-awareness. And both punks and hippies smoke a lot of weed, too.
Scrote: It’s weird that punks smoke weed.
Noah: Yeah! Punks wanna get rowdy, but you can’t be rowdy when you’re stoned.
Jessica: Well, maybe punks feel like they’re too rowdy most of the time, so sometimes they just have to chill out.
Jessica: If people had been smoking weed tonight that fight never would have happened.
Scrote: Yeah, if there had been weed going around, no one would have fought.
Steve: If there had been weed going around, no one would have been standing!
Noah: It’s all Toxic Narcotic’s fault.
Steve: It happened during “Asshole.”
Scrote: Exactly. It was that song that caused it.
Jessica: I heard people blaming that! They were saying, “It was because of that song that the fight started.”
Scrote: Oh, shut the fuck up, man. It’s like that Ozzy Osbourne thing.
Jessica: Or like people blaming school shootings on Marilyn Manson or some shit like that.
Scrote: And video games. I love that. It’s the same people who are like, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” And video games kill people, apparently.
Reiter: [commenting on music playing in the diner] This is also awesome music that punks really get into.
Scrote: Along with John Denver.
Steve: Dude, Two Man Advantage love John Denver.
Scrote: Two Man are so into John Denver.
Reiter: Yeah, they’d been drinking at a bar, they pulled up to the hotel, they just had it fuckin’ loud as shit. And they knew all the words, man.
Scrote: They were all singing.
Steve: Yeah, that was the scary part: not that they were listening to it, but that they were singing with it.
Scrote: Well, I mean, Leftover Crack are really into Michael Jackson. So is it really that weird that Two Man listens to John Denver?
Jessica: Everyone has some kind of weird, embarrassing musical tastes.
Scrote: That’s true, but when you just flaunt that, that’s punk.
Jessica: “Fuck you! I like John Denver!”
Scrote: Exactly. Punks aren’t supposed to like that shit.
Jessica: If you could destroy one genre of music, what would it be?
Steve: Boy bands.
Noah: “Cool” jazz. It grates my nerves.
Mike: Really? It gets me in the mood, man.
Noah: [laughing] Smooth jazz!
Reiter: I would destroy emo.
Scrote: But that would be Dag Nasty, too.
Reiter: No, they’re a punk band. I think emo’s a completely invalid category of music. I mean, is there music that doesn’t evoke emotion?
Jessica: And there is. It’s bad music!
Scrote: [to Steve] I’m surprised you didn’t say prog rock.
Steve: Oh my God, fuckin’ Zappa.
Scrote: Yeah, Zappa alone, I would completely destroy.
Steve: But I’d rather listen to that than fuckin’ Dashboard Confessional any day. At least Zappa wrote somewhat intricate shit.
Scrote: Wow, I can’t believe I’m hearing this. You’re defending Zappa.
Steve: You’ll never hear me listen to Zappa. But I’d listen to that before I’d listen to Dashboard Confessional.
Reiter: That’s a mystery, the whole Dashboard Confessional thing. At Tower Records, it’s filed in the punk section. It’s a dickhead with an acoustic guitar. They used to call that folk music.
Jessica: I was pissed off when I heard Dashboard Confessional compared to Billy Bragg. Billy Bragg’s way fuckin’ better than this asshole!
Noah: I still haven’t heard that yet.
Reiter: Well, I bought it.
Noah: Did you really?
Reiter: Yeah, because everyone was talking about it. I had no idea what it sounded like. But everyone was like, “Dude, there’s this amazing punk band called Dashboard Confessional.” And it’s in the punk section.
Jessica: It’s just one guy, right?
Reiter: He’s got a band, but it’s just mostly acoustic guitar. The whole record is about him getting dumped by his girlfriend or whatever, and then the last track of the record he’s actually crying as he’s singing. It’s horrifying.
Jessica: A lot of people seem to think that music is the most important art form in the punk scene, and I was just wondering if you guys agree, or if you think that other art forms like writing and photography are just as vital to punk as music is?
Scrote: Punk is more of an attitude than a style of music or artwork. It influences those things, but you can do those things anyway without attaching that to it. I mean, you can’t really define a punk band, because they sound so different across the board. What are the parameters of a punk band? The parameters should be there are no parameters.
Steve: So are you agreeing or disagreeing?
Scrote: I don’t know.
Scrote: I’m just talking out my ass right now.
Reiter: It’s hard to sort it all out. I mean, what’s a punk rock photographer, or a punk rock sculptor? If you could replace the word “punk” with “underground,” then I think absolutely, all those things are vital.
Scrote: Yeah, you need the zines. If you just had the bands and no zines, then. . .
Jessica: No one would ever hear about the bands.
Scrote: Yeah, exactly. So the zines are just as vital, and so is photography, flyer-making, and all that stuff.
Jessica: Well, if you said you hated zines, then I’d have to hurt all of you.
Reiter: The only zine I hate is Razorcake.
Scrote: MRR. . .
Jessica: Let’s not even get into Maximum Rock’n’Roll.
Scrote: You’re sending this interview to them as well?
Jessica: No, it’s just that everyone has many things they could say about Maximum Rock’n’Roll, I’m sure.
Reiter: They had many things to say about us.
Scrote: They gave us two completely different reviews for the same album. One panning the shit out of it, the other telling us how awesome it was. They said we were jumping on the “ska cash-cow.”
Steve: And they told Mike to shave.
Noah: Yeah, they said, “What’s up with that facial hair?”
Mike: “Gotta lose the beard, man.”
Jessica: What does that have to do with anything?
Noah: Exactly. It has nothing to do with anything.
Scrote: I like it when they review something and there’s nothing about the music whatsoever.
Jessica: Want to talk about your new album at all?
Noah: It’s a very short album, but it’s good.
Mike: We’ve got half of another new album.
Scrote: Yeah, we’ve got eight songs for another album recorded. But our new one, Heathen Radio, will be out November 12.
(After the interview ended, there was more discussion about the destruction of genres. We decided that we couldn’t destroy country or folk or rap because there was a lot of it that was actually good, and Scrote vowed to destroy opera.)