INTERVIEW: Brian Gorsegner, singer of punk band Night Birds

Photo: Joe Leonard

LOS ANGELES, February 11, 2015 — In 2015, Night Birds released arguably the best album of the year, Mutiny At Muscle Beach, on Fat Wreck Chords. While the album was not the Night Birds’ first, it was their first on Fat Wreck Chords. Somewhat recently, Night Birds singer Brian Gorsegner took some time to speak with Wells On Music.

Interview transcribed by Becca Jean

So going all the way back, how old were you when you remember getting into music, like getting into bands and stuff (not little kid music), but actually liked music?

I was probably like 12 when I remember getting into the first couple bands that I got into. I remember getting Aerosmith’s “Get a Grip” on cassette tape and that was the first band that I remember being like, “Oh, I like music. This is a thing I like,” and I listened to that thing. I totally wore it out and then I got my mom’s record collection and I had The Monkees and Meatloaf and stuff like that and then, you know, that’s how I like got into Rock and Roll and then started listening to the radio and, around that time, it was Nirvana and Soundgarden and that’s the kind of stuff that I was digging on the radio. So, yeah, I was probably about 12.

When did you actually start playing music?

I started playing music when I was probably like 13 or so. By the time I got into music at all, it was getting into that kind of stuff and like The Ramones were a little bit on the radio and stuff like that, and it was like the summer of sixth grade going into seventh grade, or something like that, probably like 13 years old I was at a flea market and I found The Ramones “Mondo Bizarro” on cassette tape and I thought it was the only Ramones record. My friends would be like, “Oh, you like The Ramones you must like Blitzkrieg Bop and stuff like this.” I’m like, “No, I don’t know what that is but I love like Anxiety and Censorshit and all the real hits.” So, I discovered that and that Christmas I got a crappy guitar and a friend of mine his dad played drums in a cover band. So, he already had a drum set in his basement and we found a bass in the garbage, and just started a band pretty much immediately after discovering punk, which is weird because it’s not like discovering the first couple local bands and being like, “Oh, this is a thing that we can do,” how it usually happens for people. We just got into punk. It’s like when you watch basketball on TV and then you and your friends go out and play basketball. It was more like, “Oh, this is what we’re into now.”  I remember us being like, “Can we call ourselves punk now?” Like discovering that it was a thing and then kind of like getting into it and then we wanted to listen to it, we wanted to play it, we wanted to go to shows, and pretty much got all in right off the bat.

How did Night Birds ultimately form?

It was like 2009 and Joe, our bass player, was playing in a band called The Ergs and I was in a couple of bands that would play with The Ergs and both of our main bands at that time were coming to a close and we liked a lot of stuff, like this band, Career Suicide, from Canada and there was this band, Government Warning, and we had a couple mutual bands that were current bands that we really, really loved and we wanted to do a band like that and play with those bands. So, that’s kind of like the scene that we started playing in and we had a totally different line up. At that point I was playing drums and Joe was still playing bass and then it took a little while before it really clicked, but yeah, it was like 2009 when it got started up

Some of your music is pretty surf music influenced, do any of you guys actually surf?

Well our drummer does now, but at the beginning, no, nobody surfed when we started doing that stuff. It was more like right off the bat we’re into a ton of the SoCal stuff. So, bands like Agent Orange are like a big influence on us, and then after we had a couple lineup switches, this guy, Mike Hunchback, played guitar on our first couple records and he was in the band in the beginning and he was like really heavy into that stuff and naturally that really came across in his playing. So he really introduced that style tenfold to what we were doing and he really got us into that stuff and would make us mixtapes and stuff like that, and then it really just became a part of our song writing. It still is because we haven’t shifted gears or anything like that, so that’s how that kinda came to be.

What is the writing process like for you guys?

At this point, kind of the way it’s always been, actually, there’s always been multiple songwriters, but there’s always been a lot of collaborations. So somebody will write kind of a skeleton to a song, or speaking from my point of view, I’ll put together like a chorus that I really like and then I get lazy and then I’ll pass it off to Joe and be like, “I got this. Can you make this into something cool?” Then he’s real good for taking my strong pieces and turning it into something good. [It is] kind of rare that I’ll write a song from scratch. So, there’s a lot of working together and on the last record, our guitar player, PJ, played a bigger role in the same kind of thing. I would put together something and I’d show him and he kind of built off of that. It takes us forever. We’re slow songwriters and we also write a lot of garbage, which we kind of try to funnel out so nobody ever hears it, but I’d say for every one album, we basically write two albums and then by the time it comes to record, we already kind of weeded out that second bulls**t album, and then we have what we consider left to be, you know, a good record. We like all of our records. We do our best for all four of us to like every song on every record, so there’s never like, “Ehhhh, well, you know,” going into it. I rather have ten strong songs than fifteen songs with five that we’re just kind of not one hundred percent on.

Do you guys ever release any of those ones that don’t make the album, do you ever put those out as B-Sides or anything like that?

No, we have a ton of demos that we’ve recorded over the years that no one will ever hear because they’re just bad, they suck. On the last record, we just started working on writing the record and i was like, “How the hell are we going to come up with this many songs?” It took us like two years to finally put together twelve songs or something on the new record that I actually felt was good enough and I remember initially going back and like I’m going to weed through some old demos like there’s got to be something in here, and just going through stuff and being like, “Ugh there’s really not, there’s nothing here that we want to use. I know it.” There was one that I was like, “No, this one’s okay,” and Joe’s like, “No, it’s not good. It got rejected for a reason.” And then that’s another thing, we always go back we’re like, “No, it must have gotten deleted for some reason.”

You mentioned already Agent Orange, what other bands do you think are your biggest influences?

It’s really tough to nail it down to a couple things because a lot of times people will compare us to Dead Kennedys or the Adolescents and stuff like that, and we love those bands, but we listen to so much stuff that I’m always kinda like, “You know what? We like those two bands, but we like a ton of stuff.” I think maybe the very biggest ones are probably just The Damned and the Ramones are the ones that I feel like we’ll reference stuff the most probably, definitely The Damned “Machine Gun Etiquette” is collectively probably our favorite record.

I actually just saw them recently for the first time a couple months ago.

I never have. They came to town and we were at Gainesville. Fest happened when they were in New Jersey. Yeah, they played New Jersey on Halloween last year and we were at Gainesville Fest. Whenever they’re around I’m somewhere else and I’ve never seen them, but “Machine Gun Etiquette” is probably, minus the Ramones, probably my favorite punk record ever.

Do you guys have any songs that you reserved specifically from this album to put on a 7” or is everything out there that’s going to be out there?

Before we recorded “Mutiny at Muscle Beach,” we did a whole demo session for it and the demo session we did at the same place that we recorded “The Other Side of Darkness,”  the same place we did the “Midnight Movies” 7,” so, it’s like basically a whole other version of the album, but it’s with our old drummer because there was only a thirty day period between our old drummer leaving and us getting a new drummer. So, we had recorded that demo session with him and then went on tour and he ended up leaving the band pretty much during the tour. During that first session we recorded one extra song. It’s called “My Wife Went Under the Knife,” and that was intentionally intended to be on the Fat comp. We were gonna record an exclusive song just for that and then wanted “Left in the Middle” to be the song that we put on the Fat Comp. So, we ended up being okay with that, but yeah, there’s basically one song off that initial recording, but we kind of rushed it. So, even in hindsight, I don’t think it would have made it to the album, even if it’s intention wasn’t to be on the album to begin with. So, there’s kind of one song, but I don’t think it’s gonna come out.

You guys have had quite a few releases prior to signing with Fat, did you feel any added pressure with this new record because it’s on Fat Wreck Chords?

Umm, not really pressure. I think, initially, just because you know how people are. I knew that there was going to be the people who, when a band signs to a label and rightfully so because a lot of times a band will make some weird shift when they sign to a label and then they’ll try to like accommodate the label’s sound and they’ll change how they sound, but we’re not capable of doing that, even if we wanted to. So, that was never in the cards for us. We play what we like and that’s pretty much all that we’re capable of doing anyway, but I think that we made a conscious effort to try to make our fastest, most aggressive, gnarly sounding record to date just because, like, out of spite to the people that figured that we were going to get a little softer or a little more pop punk to try and accommodate the label, but that’s not why they wanted us and that’s not why we signed with them. So that was never in the cards, but you know, people were like, “Oh, Night Birds signed to Fat. I hope they don’t change their sound,” like, no, we’re not going to do that. I said we don’t even know how to do that, so that’s not going to happen.

It seems like Fat Wreck Chords recently has been signing bands that are definitely way outside of what we used to consider “the Fat sound” you know

Yeah, they’re signing all kinds of different stuff and it’s cool. Nothing wrong with a little diversity, but it’s also cool that they have their own signature sound. I mean, that’s an accomplishment. When you say a band has a Fat sound, you have an idea of what that band is gonna sound like, but I don’t know. We don’t fit that mold and we couldn’t if we tried.

Mutiny At Muscle Beach from Night Birds can be purchased from Fat Wreck Chords. You can catch them on tour this spring with NOFX.

Kevin Wells writes about punk rock music and baseball. He also plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk bands Emmer Effer and Violent Self. You can follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball.

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