Typesetter Interview by Joe Arpke
I saw Typesetter at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee (5/29/18) and I was revived. I didn’t think bands like them existed anymore. They started out with a fucking bang, no introductions, just noise from everyone and right into their first song. They moved from one song to the next barely leaving me with time to come up for air. I was mesmerized by Typesetter’s stage presence. I was supposed to take pictures, but fuck it, I just wanted to enjoy the show. I was reassured that the music I die for is still alive. Holy shit! I thought it was buried. I haven’t seen a really good mix of punk and post-hardcore in a while.
Typesetter call themselves “beergaze,” but I’ve been sober for five years and loved the hell out of the band. I picked up their vinyl, Wild’s End (2014) at the show and a three-song cassette (2016) but the real treat is they have a new album coming out in fall 2018!
Typesetter reminds me of a band that belongs on No Idea Records—my favorite record label since forever. No Idea put out some of my favorite bands: Hot Water Music, Small Brown Bike, PlanesMistakenForStars and Against Me! I was lucky enough to get the whole band together for an interview in Madison after their second Wisconsin show. They played at the now shuttered Frequency, and we got interrupted during the interview in a spooky history lesson on paranormal dwellers.
What I realized after the interview is Typesetter is not only did they tear apart the stage live, but I would trust them with the keys to my house. They’re good punk. They give a shit and have manners and morals. They will even go to the van to smoke weed.
Joe: Isn’t Typesetter working on a new album right now?
Marc: Well, it’s finished. At this point we’re working on the final touches.
Joe: I find it a little strange that Typesetter is touring before the new album is so close to being finished.
Marc: Yes, because of Pouzza Fest in Montreal. It was our fourth year playing there recently and we also love to tour. Typically it is smart to go on tour with a new record, but we had the opportunity.
Sarah: Yeah, and we got the chance to go on tour with our Canadian friends Mobina Galore, which was awesome.
Joe: Typesetter is trying to do this full-time?
Alex: We have been in bands forever and have done it for fun, and it’s still fun. I think we would love this to be our full-time job, where our job is our creative output. I don’t think that has changed much over the years. Like, slowly play to more people, hopefully sign to a bigger label, and have a bigger audience.
Marc: It’s definitely my full-time focus and headspace.
Joe: Do you have any guidelines or principles you follow?
Alex: A lot of it exists in the band but most of it is unspoken. It’s suggested, that if you’re in this inner circle, we sacrifice a lot of personal time. We get offered this really cool opportunity to go on tour with Against Me! so it’s like, “Cancel your plans, go on tour,” no brainer type of shit.
Joe: Does it make it difficult because some of you are married?
Alex: Yes, I am.
Marc: So am I. Currently, there are some family events, where I can’t commit to anything because we’re going to be on tour. The band takes priority, so I tell them I can’t be there.
Joe: I know you guys have a lot of talents that you bring to the band, could you tell us about that?
Marc: I like to cook. Music related, I’m an audio engineer. I do mostly live sound. When the stars align I like to do recording. I mixed the record that we are going to be putting out soon. I recorded about half of it. I’m pretty happy with it.
Alex: I book the shows, and managed the band for a long time. Social media comes along with that.
[Matt lets out a big “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” from the bathroom where he went to relieve himself, which made us laugh.]
Marc: Alex, crushes all of that. Sometimes, I want to ask what can I do to help, but I don’t want to get in the way.
Alex: Everyone is willing to help, but sometimes no help is better than any help. For example, please don’t double post something or double respond where it makes us look like we have too many hands in. When we first started this band, I made it clear right away that I’ve done this before in other bands and can handle it. Everyone was like “cool.”
Alex: Now we have people helping us. We have a booking agent, which is amazing to finally have those opportunities! It’s nice to have that finally after six years.
Joe: Sarah don’t you do illustrations or screenprinting?
Sarah: I’ve done a couple illustrations.
Marc: Matt does all the screenprinting for the band.
Marc: Sarah is a full-time illustrator.
Sarah: Yeah, I mostly do work for other people.
Joe: How about you Kyle? Are you the driver?
Everyone: Ohhh. [Groans and laughs.]
Joe: I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get him involved.
Kyle: I don’t know. Why is everyone staring at me?
Marc: Kyle does plenty of shit.
Sarah: Yeah! Kyle packs and unpacks the van every day. Kyle is the Pack Master!
Kyle: I’m not much of the business person.
Marc: Why don’t we just let the musician speak for himself. [Laughs] Yeah, Kyle does that shit, aside from writing a bunch of songs.
Joe: What is the writing process usually like?
Marc: With the latest record coming out soon, it was really important for me to write songs that have their own identity and can stand out on their own, outside of a record context. I think the record we are putting out soon feels like a bunch of singles. None of the songs would have been what they are without everyone putting their own little touches and style on them.
Sarah: I sing on the new record, play keys, Korg, trumpet, and tambourine.
Joe: I’ve noticed with Wild’s End that the songs flow from the end of one song into the beginning of the next.
Marc: This record doesn’t have songs that go into each other as much, but the sequencing is crucial. There is an overarching narrative that ties the whole thing together, but it wasn’t that intentional. With this recent process, we wanted to decide what was best for each individual song, as opposed to how can these songs flow as a specific narrative. Within that, it’s impossible to avoid a cohesive narrative that evolves naturally. We wrote twenty songs and we cut them down to ten for an LP.
[An ice machine was making a bunch of noise so Matt was nice enough to get up and unplug it which took out a considerable amount of feedback in the recording of the interview.]
Sarah: Oh hell yeah! That’s much better.
[An employee from The Frequency came downstairs to empty the trash, “It does not smell like marijuana down here!”]
Matt: Were we supposed to be smoking marijuana down here?
Frequency Employee: This is a punk rock show. It’s supposed to smell like weed.
Sarah: Well, if that’s the requirement.
Kyle: I walked all the way to the van!
Frequency Employee: I appreciate the consideration, but dude I’m the biggest pothead here.
Matt: Do you want to smoke a bowl?
Frequency Employee: I do but I’m working right now.
Typesetter: Show us your ghosts!
[The Frequency is haunted and had paranormal investigators check it out. Employees and bands have had strange things happen to them while down in the green room.]
Sarah: I was down here before and one of these cases just fell over.
Frequency Employee: I’ve seen bottle caps just slide off the tables. I’ve seen shit fall over. The creepiest thing I’ve ever seen was when it was three or four in the morning. We were closed, locked, everything was dark. We’re in between the front bar and the back just drinking and this twenty-year-old kid comes out of nowhere with a buttoned up shirt asking for Jackson. He was looking down the whole time. We were like, “Dude, how did you get in here?” He kept saying, “Where’s Jackson?” He went right up to the front door and walked out. That ghost tour that came through here, I told them about that—where I locked the front door and I tried to have them open the front door, but nobody could figure it out.
Sarah: Yesssssss! I want to be haunted!
Matt: We’ll take him with us.
Sarah: Yeah, go open the door. Say it’s Typesetter. We’ll add another member to the band! We got space in the van.
Marc: Apparently, there was a sound guy—not the one tonight—who got locked in the bathroom and was shaking.
Sarah: Why did you not know that it was haunted?
Matt: I knew about the ghost tour but I don’t really believe that things are haunted.
[During the interview the employee took us to the door where hauntings have gone down and members of Typesetter called out for Jackson, asking him to come join us.]
Frequency Employee: The first year it was open, it was July and the A/C was broken. I had a cabaret act reuniting. They were down here drinking, snorting coke. I got hammered and couldn’t leave so I went to pass out in the office, which is right down there. Around five in the morning I heard voices that were saying, “Do you think he can hear us? Do you think we are being too loud?” I couldn’t believe these fuckers were still snorting coke till five AM, so I opened the office door, and it was pitch black. There was nobody down here.
Sarah: Yoooooooo! I love it!
Zach: The common thread that connects all of those is, let’s not be here at four in the morning.
Sarah: Oh yeah! What time is it? It’s 12:40 AM.
Joe: This question is an individual one for everyone. If you can get two tickets to see any live event that’s happened in history, who or what would you want to see and who would you take with you? It could be a sporting event, a concert, the crucifixion of Christ…
Marc: Were they selling tickets to the crucifixion?
Joe: Yeah, I don’t think so.
Marc: I bet they were selling merch! [huge laughs] Shout out to the merch guy at the crucifixion.
Matt: I would go to the original Woodstock and I would take Kyle with me. We’d take a bunch of LSD and smoke a fuck ton of weed. It would be a blast. They documented the original Woodstock on 9mm film. They filmed the whole thing, but they cut it down to a four-and-a-half hour long movie. That movie changed my life! It made me a better drummer.
Kyle: I would go see The Clash. Anywhere. I would take anybody here.
Alex: I would go see Nirvana when they played at The Metro. Another one would be when Sonic Youth played at Smart Bar back in the day, on the fourth level of The Metro. I’ve seen old photos of it. I’ve listened to the recording of that show, too. As far as bringing somebody, I guess the people around me in Typesetter, are whom I love, so fuck the two tickets. I would buy four extra!
Kyle: I’d also love to see Green Day or Rancid at Gilman. It was like the coolest DIY spot in the world. We played there in February. They just celebrated their thirtieth year. It was fucking awesome. It sounds so good in there.
Marc: This is going to sound nerdy as fuck. If you go to Gilman, just a block away is Golden Gate Fields, which Rancid has a song named after.
Kyle: They have a list of every band that has ever played there.
Marc: There’s fucking Green Day graffiti all over the place. It’s fucking awesome. Every band who you think is cool has played there.
Joe: Would you go see American Idiot the musical after that?
Zach: If Billy Joe was there.
Marc: Yeah, if Billy Joe was playing “Jesus of Suburbia” I’d definitely go see that. I’m a huge fan of musicals and Green Day. I’d see that play anytime. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of that record, though.
Sarah: I fucking love that record!
Marc: My all-time favorite musical is Wicked.
Sarah: I know! You sang the whole thing in my car one time.
Marc: I’ll do it again if I have to. [Laughs]
Sarah: A few years ago I had the chance to go see The Postal Service in either Kansas City or Chicago and I am still kicking myself about it by not going. If I could rewind time and have a ticket, I’d go see them at either place. As for who I would take with me, it doesn’t matter because I’d probably lose whoever I took with me, as I would be up front crying.
Marc: I would go see Wicked with the original cast. I wouldn’t take anyone with me, I would just go twice. Rent the whole theater.
Joe: What does Typesetter stand for as a band?
Zach: We are inherently political. There are things that exist as morals for life, and if we didn’t have that in common we wouldn’t be in a band together.
Marc: Typesetter isn’t a political band nor sings protest songs…
Matt: We all read Eugene V. Debs and are pinko bastards.
Marc: That’s for damn sure! My personal beliefs have changed from year to year and from thing to thing. I am a pretty radical leftist. Typesetter doesn’t aim to push a specific agenda. However, if you are at our show and are on some nazi, homophobic, transphobic bullshit, we will show you to the door.
Alex: It blows my mind when some racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic person shows up at our show and acts all like a fool—or for this case—like themselves. We aren’t verbal about our stance, but are you like blind? It’s pretty clear where we stand just by looking at us. They must have just walked in without having a clue to who is playing. We are pretty open and honest about where we stand.
Joe: Yeah I hear you.
Alex: Are you not aware of your surroundings? You’re not at some boys’ club bullshit rendezvous, where we’re going to circle jerk and talk about bro shit. You’re not part of that world anymore. The show that sticks out the most is when we were in Germany and there were a bunch of really scary biker dudes, like…
Kyle: Sons of Anarchy.
Alex: I couldn’t get on stage with confidence that everything was going to be okay—either the crowd or our band—so I grabbed our tour manager. When I’m on stage, I know I have a group of friends looking out for me. However, at a show, if someone is by themselves, I don’t know if they have friends looking out for them. We just want to make sure everyone feels safe at our shows.
Matt: That’s the main thing. That’s what is going to be cool about touring with Speedy Ortiz because they put signs up saying, “Call this number if you don’t feel safe at our shows.”
Alex: They also neutralize all of their bathrooms as well. They tell the promoter ahead of time that they are going to do it. That’s what I’m really interested in politically as a band. I don’t want Typesetter to have an agenda like Anti-Flag.
Joe: What, you guys don’t want to close the set every night with “Die for the Government”?
Alex: We have nothing against Anti-Flag. That’s just what they do as a band.
Joe: Propagandhi is another example.
Matt: We love Propagandhi. I would say that Propagandhi is the most played band in the van.
Sarah: I have no idea who Propagandhi is.
Marc: We played them for you in the van.
Sarah: Well, I had no idea I was listening to them until you told me.
Marc: Propagandhi is one of my all-time favorite bands politically-wise that has had a permanent impact on my life. Along with the Weakerthans, they put out some of my favorite records.
Marc: No! Now I’m fired up! If you’re a fucking nazi, you should come to our show so you can get your fucking throat slit!
Matt: Whoa, holy shit! We’re holding ourselves to that now. I’m going to forge myself a blade so what you said just now on record gets executed.
Marc: Even if you’re on some low-key, Trump-supporting shit, you’re pretty much the same to me. Fuck you!
Joe: Do you have an essential item you always have with you when you’re on tour?
Sarah: I bring my drawing stuff.
Alex: Marc’s partner gave me a gift, a clothing item, when I was exploring gender more publicly than ever. I always put it in my bag—whether I wear it on tour or not—but it became this almost ritualistic good luck charm for me. It’s always there.
Matt: I have something I always bring with me on tour. The only two times I forgot to put in my bag were the only two times Typesetter got pulled over by the police. I have this necklace that has these stones in it and is leather-bound. I have this charm that I put a lot of my intention into. That’s why I have been comfortable driving twenty-five miles over the speed limit.
Sarah: Most things I bring on tour, I lose. I lost a lot of shit: amps, face wash three times.
Alex: You can channel your energy into something.
Matt: Like parking spaces in New York City!
Alex: I believe you can put your hope, confidence, drive into something that will help you stay true to yourself. Fuck it if it sounds ridiculous, hippie, or mildly religious, but if I bring this piece of clothing and channel energy and stay positive—because it’s there and it’s my comforting thing—well whatever works and gets you through the day.
Sarah: It’s like when I was in swimming, my coach would have us visualize winning the race. I visualize myself playing songs on stage and it’s easier to do because I already did it and channeled my energy into it. It’s like the same thing.
Matt: Yeah, I visualize myself winning everything and I win at everything all day. [laughs]
Alex: You sound like Charlie Sheen.
Matt: Do you think we got the last four parking spots in New York City right in front of where we were supposed to be by accident?
Matt: That’s because I was having this crazy mental experience and proclaimed that was going to happen in NYC. Now we are on a five and zero run. We parked in front of literally every venue.
Joe: When is the last time you felt completely vulnerable?
All: Every day on stage.
Marc: Well, I’ll be super honest with you. I don’t feel that vulnerable then. There is a lot of shit you can hide behind on stage when you’re playing. It’s more of the moment right after when you are super vulnerable. That’s when you have to actually look people in the eye and they will let you know about what just happened. Like, “Hey, you did a great job,” or “You guys fucking suck,” but that honestly has never happened to me.
Alex: Yeah, usually because people aren’t that honest.
Sarah: Yeah, “Your dress was the best thing about that set.” [laughs]
Joe: Isn’t that fucked up how you can put all of your energy into something for the longest time and someone can cut it down just like that?
Alex: That’s the worst thing about putting a record out. Some will say it’s awesome. Some will say it sucks. Someone will write, “I hear the new Typesetter record sucks,” and they will say that without even hearing it. They are just voicing that on some stupid review that they read. I read reviews. Like, why not? We spent four years writing this record and in five minutes someone can give it a shitty review in a big publication and that’s the general public. Now, that’s being vulnerable above all.