Just Gluing Shit Together: An Interview with the Tyrades By Todd Taylor

The Tyrades are a great punk band. They’ll try to convince you otherwise, but don’t believe them. In a time when so many punk rock bands act and sound like they really DO want that major label deal and that chartered tour bus and that fancy deli tray backstage, can I just say how fucking refreshing it is to hear bands that are noisy and abrasive and have absolutely no commercial appeal? The Tyrades are kind of what I always wished Sonic Youth sounded like. To this day, I read reviews of old Sonic Youth records and get really excited to hear them, but then I put one on and there’s a ten-minute vacuum cleaner solo or something. And yet a bunch of self-proclaimed weirdos from Chicago put out single after single of manic, warped-in-all-the-right-ways, addictive guitar punk. History is being obliterated, and we’re all the better for it.

Interview and photos by Todd Taylor

Todd: Do any of you guys skateboard at all?
Frankie: I don’t skate, but I work for a skateboard distributor here in Chicago. I skateboarded when I was a kid, but it’s funny because now that’s my job.
Todd: Have you guys come in contact with some of the Chinese boards?
Frankie: Yeah, absolutely. It seems like the whole thinking across the board is that that shit is just totally inferior. It just seems like American stuff is just so much better. That seems to be a big problem because a lot of manufacturers, I guess it’s cheaper for them, one way or another, for them to get that stuff done overseas, but the quality just doesn’t seem to be there overall, even if it’s cheaper.
Todd: But the Tyrades did have skateboards on tour, is that correct?
Frankie: Yeah, we actually did have some skateboards with us on that tour.
Jim: We had them in Seattle, and there was some guy at the show we played with the Spits and that band the Girls, who are on Dirtnap. This guy was just being an asshole. He kept starting fights and he tried to steal one of the decks. We busted him, like, “Hey, what the fuck are you doing?” We were only selling them for twenty bucks or something. It wasn’t like it was expensive. So the guy goes to the ATM and gets his twenty bucks and then proceeds to get super drunk, get in a fight, and he gets his ass kicked. Right before we left, I went back in to do the dummy check, to see if we left any guitars or anything, and the deck was just lying there. The bar was closed and the deck was just lying there. I was like, “If this guy writes me a letter and wants the deck back, I’ll mail it to him, but I’m taking it with me.”
Frankie: He bought the deck and then he picked a fight with this friend of ours and totally lost. He got his ass kicked real good. I haven’t seen somebody bleed so much in a while. He went back for round two, and our friend was honestly trying to play this super cool. He’s not a big guy or anything and he’s like, “Man, I don’t want to do this again. Let’s just leave it alone,” but the guy wouldn’t leave him alone, so he got the crap kicked out of him again. So much so that he dropped good, American cash and then just left it. We ended up just selling it to someone else on tour.
Jim: American cash? “He paid five thousand rubles for that deck!”
Frankie: The guy paid us eight million lira. It was pretty great. He paid us an IOU. “I owe you twenty dollars for a skateboard,” and we wrote him an IOU for a good show.
Jim: We still owe him that good show. We owe a lot of people those, actually.
Frankie: We’ve written a lot of those IOUs.
Jim: I really like when we play really bad shows, which is about half of them, and somebody comes up to us and says, “You guys have done it again! Great show!” Are you deaf and blind?
Frankie: Were you at the same show?
Todd: When I saw you guys at the Garage, that was just an awful night. Most people would have been like, “Well, fuck you guys. We’re not playing,” but you guys played.
Frankie: Yeah, when you’re the thirteenth band on a fifteen-band bill… That second show was really fun. What was that place called?
Todd: The 3 Clubs.
Frankie: That show was awesome. The Popular Shapes were real fun that night.
Jim: I think one of our problems in general is that we don’t know when to quit. Failure somehow doesn’t stop us. That’s kind of a thing I’ve had throughout my life: never ever winning at anything but I’m still trying. You’d think someone would be smarter at this point and just know when to give up.
Frankie: I think it’s called the Rocky Syndrome.
Jim: Just that one time that we play a song correctly, we’re like, “Man, we could probably do that again.”
Frankie: “Hey guys, maybe we’ll be good this time.” “No, let’s cancel.” “No, I’m telling you, this’ll be the one.”
Todd: Have you ever knocked yourself out playing?
Jim: Robert smashed me in the face with his bass at the Triple Rock once, knocked me off the stage. I was pretty loopy and I think when I got back on stage, I wasn’t even playing the right song. At the Blackout, Robert fell off the stage and smashed his face open. He had to get stitches. Later on at the same show, I smashed my guitar, and the neck broke, but the headstock was still attached with the strings, so when I picked up the body to throw against the wall, it came flying by and smashed me in the back of the head. I thought we were both going to have to go to the hospital. Jenna gets a lot of sore feet from us stomping on her.
Frankie: We played a show a couple of weeks ago and I bled more than I’ve ever bled. I cut my hand open while I was playing drums. I looked at my drums a few days ago, and seriously, Jesus Christ, it looks like I took a paint roller to it. I didn’t need to get stitches or anything, but Jesus… I didn’t get knocked unconscious, so I guess that story’s wimpy by comparison.
Jim: Well, it’s funny because at the end of the night, my guitar was covered with failure.
Frankie: I drank a lot that night and when I woke up the next morning, my face was covered with ugly. I was wondering how that happened. “Who did this? Who took that magic marker?”
Todd: How do you balance out what I’m assuming is a modest income with breaking a lot of instruments? Do you think about it prior to breaking it?
Jim: Sometimes, I just get so fucking frustrated that it just seems like the right thing to do. I think if you’re poor and you smash something, it means more than Page and Plant doing it. It’s never planned, it’s more like I can’t believe how bad we are, and my friends that I just met have to watch this. Sometimes I make guitars out of the broken parts. Oh, and those work great.
Frankie: Those sound great. Why buy one when you can just glue one together?
Jim: When you don’t know how to play guitar, it doesn’t seem like you need a good one. I think that’s our whole philosophy.
Frankie: With my drums, it’s weird because it’s an older kit. It’s a kit from the ’60s, and no matter how much damage I inflict on them and throw them around, they hang together pretty good. I guess they just knew how to build stuff better back then. I’ve had my drums for ten years. I’ve eliminated all resale value, but it’s still in one piece.

Todd: Tell me the story about the time you guys played and there were little styrofoam pellets everywhere.
Jim: It was with the Black Lips. We were on tour on the East Coast with them, and one night we played in Virginia Beach at the Candysnatchers’ bar.
Frankie: It was a seafood restaurant. After ten, they shut the restaurant part down and they do punk shows.
Jim: Earlier in the day, we went and bought a giant stuffed gorilla from a thrift store. It was ten bucks or something, and we were like, “Oh, we definitely need to buy this and throw it at the Black Lips while they’re playing,” because they’re definitely like a brother band for us, and they’re just as dumb as we are, if not more. They would definitely enjoy getting hit over the head with a giant stuffed gorilla. At that show, though, all the guys there looked like bigger dudes. I knew it was going to get torn open and it didn’t really seem like those guys were going to get the joke.
Todd: They weren’t very playful?
Jim: No, and I just thought it was going to be a disaster, but we got drunk enough anyway and we threw it at them. Somehow it survived, and we were supposed to play in Atlanta, so we said, “We’ve got to take this thing with us.” So we strapped it to the hood, and me and Robert were driving and we kind of forgot about it. We would drive by all these construction sites and all the construction workers would point and laugh at us. We were like, “What the fuck? Are we just gay-looking?” Then a trucker comes over, and he points to his neck and then points to our roof, and I was like, “Is this guy about to kill me?” And then we remembered, “Oh yeah, it’s the giant stuffed gorilla on the roof.” It had a hole in its neck and all the stuffing was coming out, so we fixed it and took it to the show. We played last, and we definitely set it up for those guys to give us the worst of it, repay the favor. The next thing we know, the giant monkey comes flying at us, hits Jenna, almost knocks her over. I mean, it was big, probably almost five feet tall.
Frankie: It’s as big as two children.
Jim: As they’re throwing it around, all the fucking inside pellets are all over the place. It was like an unending supply of white pellets. People were scooping them up and throwing them in the air like it was snowing. The Black Lips are notorious for doing stupid shit, and they knew the guys that ran the club. After the show, we were all outside and the guy comes out and stands on the bumper of one of the vans and goes, “Can I have everyone’s attention? I have to make a new stipulation to the Black Lips rule. Number one: no fireworks. Number two: no giant stuffed monkeys.” I go, “But sir, that was a stuffed gorilla.” He looked like he was gonna fucking kill me. They had to make a rule because they’re that stupid that it might happen again. “I want to make sure that there’s no more stuffed gorillas.”
Frankie: The next time that a band brings one in, it’s like, “Oops, that’s trouble.”
Jim: Our bumper fell off on the way to that show, so we spray painted the Tyrades logo on it and sold it for five bucks.
Todd: Your logo, you have that stencil included with the LP. Have you ever seen that stencil spray painted somewhere that you hadn’t done it?
Jim: I’ve seen a lot of them, and it’s really flattering to see a kid that I don’t know and think that they ruined their jacket by spray painting that on the back of it.
Frankie: It definitely got tagged a lot when we were in Europe.
Todd: Who came up with it?
Jim: I think the whole idea was Robert’s brainchild. We have a lot of really stupid ideas, things that we think are genius, and we asked Mike from Broken about it, and at first he was like, “Ehh, I’m not sure, but let me look into it.” We decided that we would just stay up all night and cut them out, like we were putting them in one way or another, and then he was cool with it. We played in Detroit, and this kid bought the record – he was definitely more of a punk kind of guy and so was his girlfriend – and when he pulled out the stencil, he looked at his girlfriend and said, “You wanna go stenciling?” That was one of my proudest moments. That’s awesome. Someone’s as stupid as I am. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Frankie: In that burned out, black place.
Jim: That huge hole where I used to have love for other women.
Frankie: I think I know what you’re talking about. Are you talking about that place in your chest where the feelings go?
Jim: I was wondering, Todd, do you think drunk’s a feeling? Do you think anyone’s gone their whole life making the wrong decision every time? What’s the consecutive record for failure? My parents thought I would never do anything.
Frankie: Boy, were they right.
Todd: If all that’s true, how did you guys come out with such a great record?
Jim: (completely bypassing the question) The guys from Gasoline (a Japanese band) stayed at my house a few years ago in Buffalo and they found a bottle of saki in my kitchen that somebody had given me as a Christmas present, and they basically freaked out. I had already vomited twice that night. It was a Sunday during a long weekend. Robert had vomited three times and he had already gone to bed. It was just me and those guys wanting to do shots of saki, and I wanted to be a good host, like when the hell’s Gasoline going to be at my house again? The drummer was just powering these shots down, and that saki had to be shitty. It couldn’t have been good.
Frankie: Buffalo saki!
Jim: Buffalo, New York is so renowned for that shit. We’re doing shots of it and all of a sudden he goes, “Stop, stop! Saki: laugh at night, cry in morning.” It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. The next morning, I said to him, “Hey, cry in morning?” He was like, “I no cry… but body cry.” My body’s been crying forever. It’s like Mr. Burns.
Frankie: It’s like that one where Smithers is bathing Mr. Burns.
Jim: That little patch of hair on his chest. I’ve had girls vomit out of their eyes after seeing me naked.
Frankie: By the way, Jim’s double LP entitled Ego will be out any day now.
Jim: That’s actually true, Todd, I’m working on that.
Frankie: It’s a double LP. The front cover is Jim’s face, the back cover is Jim’s face. It’ll be a gatefold sleeve, opening up to two photos of Jim’s face.
Jim: Hollywood, Ego.
Frankie: Double LP, first press of eight million out now.
Jim: I’m hoping to sell eight.
Frankie: “Didn’t sell any, but gave one away as an ashtray.”
Jim: That counts.
Frankie: That definitely counts. That counts as four.
Jim: What was the question?
Frankie: The question was, “What about the foam pellets?” So anyway, we’re playing in Atlanta…
Todd: Are you happy with the record?
Jim: I think it looks cool on blue vinyl. I think it’s okay. I’m kind of ashamed to say this, but I read reviews and they’re so fucking nice that I get anxiety attacks. Like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe people like this this much.” The feelings that I want people to have when they hear the songs, they have. I almost want to just quit, because it’s like we pulled one over.
Frankie: You almost feel like you’re pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. We have no ego about it at all, so I never cease to be shocked by that. It’s such a nice thing to have somebody like the crappy record that you put out. I mean, I guess there’s worse records.
Jim: We could be worse. We’re not the bottom.
Frankie: When you join our fan club, isn’t that what it says? “The Tyrades: We Could Be Worse.”
Jim: I almost just want to break up, just leave it at a record that doesn’t suck.
Frankie: Jim actually called me last weekend to break up… well, not like that. That’s a whole different interview. He called me to just drop the band, but I didn’t answer the phone so it didn’t happen. That’s the only reason why we’re still a band.
Jim: I’m pretty sure there’s only going to be one more record.
Frankie: We could be worse. We could be in the Confederacy of Scum. We could be Cocknoose.
Jim: You’re going to get us fucking killed, Frank! We’re not strong people!
Frankie: We’re going to get lynched.
Jim: I want to be friends with Antiseen. And the people that hate them. Jimmy Neutral.
Frankie: “Jimmy Neutral, at your service. Kind of glad to meet you.”
Jim: It just gets a little embarrassing, because there’s so many good bands out there, like Sweet JAP.
Frankie: We could do this whole interview about Sweet JAP, so if you want to go ahead and start over…
Todd: How does Jenna fit into the entire equation of the Tyrades?
Jim: What do you mean? She’s the singer.
Todd: Does she get along with you guys?
Jim: Well, she’s my girlfriend, so…
Frankie: That means she gets along well with everyone but him.
Todd: Is she happy with the record?
Jim: I think so. Everything’s come to us a lot easier than it could have and we’re all really humble and thankful that we have opportunities to do stuff like this and play and meet people.
Frankie: For the record, Jenna’s definitely what makes us good. Otherwise, we would just be a bunch of dudes.
Jim: A fuckin’ dude squad!
Frankie: A bunch of jerks that can’t play, bleeding, and falling down.