INTERVIEW: Jim Lindberg talks new WRATHS and new Pennywise
LOS ANGELES, June 15, 2016 — The South Bay has spawned many great punk bands over the years from the likes of Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and Descendents, to Pennywise, Deviates, NoBigDeal, and 98 Mute. Now there is a new band coming out of the South Bay that is starting to gain momentum. Fronting this band is Jim Lindberg, who is better known for his main band, Pennywise. Recently the band released their first self-titled full length on Bird Attack Records. Recently, Jim Lindberg took some time to speak with Wells On Music regarding his new band, a new Pennywise record, writing music, and a possible Pennywise box set.
Interview transcribed by Becca Jean
On the new Wraths record, you guys put all of the seven EP songs on there and then five newly recorded songs. The last time I spoke to you about it, you said that the original EP kind of came to you already complete just with no vocals, did you guys do the same thing with the new songs or were you kind of a little more involved during that writing phase?
Yeah, basically, I did a lot of the lyrics off the first batch of songs and then on the second batch, Steve wrote words and music for two of them and I think Krane wrote “Are You Serious?” and we all collaborated a little bit in the end game with those, and then we all kind of put “It’s Not Over” together. It’s kind of a funny story about that one. “It’s Not Over” has a kind of, like, a Nirvana style feel to it, but I just put some lyrics to it and we’re like, “Ya know, it’s a cool jam,” and after we recorded it, we’re like I know there’s gonna be people like, “Wow, that really has a Nirvana vibe to it,” but they’ll put it a lot harsher on the internet. And right away someone was like, “That’s Drain You” by Nirvana,” but it actually wasn’t, so we had a good time kind of deciding what we should do about that, but we just put it on the record. We thought it was a pretty cool song and then literally right after we recorded it and got it pressed and everything, the Montage of Heck documentary came out, the thing on Kurt Cobain and a really great documentary, but they had a chord progression on some of his outtakes and it was our exact chord progression and it was like, “Never before heard,” and I’m like, “Oh man, [when] the album comes out, everyone is gonna think we watched the documentary and just ripped off the script.” We were right. It did sound so much like Nirvana we actually ripped it off without even knowing that we were doing it. So that was pretty funny.
Have you guys heard from the Nirvana lawyer team yet?
No, we haven’t, but there’s only so many riffs out there, so what can you do?
I was recently reading liner notes, which I often do because I’m kind of weird, but I was looking at the Pennywise blue album liner notes and I always kind of assumed that Jason wrote a lot of that music, but Fletcher wrote a lot of the music for that album and you and Jason kind of wrote the lyrics on top of that, and now with Pennywise you write songs with music and lyrics, as well. Do you have a preference as far as writing the song and music yourself?
Jason and Fletcher did a lot of it, obviously, at the very start and then I started adding more and more lyrically, and then started adding more and more on the guitar, as well, up to a point where Full Circle and Straight Ahead are at least half all Jim songs. Like I wrote guitar and music for them and it kind of started going that way after that point just because I was just doing it a lot. I was writing all the time and wrote so much stuff and there was probably on each of those records, and subsequent records, probably I’d have like 15 or 20 outtakes. I was just writing a ton of music. But for me, I like both ways. Some of the best songs I think Pennywise has ever done, like a song like “Every Single Day,” is when Fletcher brings in a riff and I immediately take it and put words to it, top to bottom, without even thinking about it, and I think that’s just a great example of he and I working really well together. There’s a lot of other songs like that, as well, where he’ll bring in something, but also if I go in there and write a song all the way top to bottom, like “My Own Country” or “Date With Destiny” or something like, that then there’s gratification as well there.
But this thing with Steve it was so much different cause he writes in a completely different style than me and Fletcher, in such that he does a lot of riffs and he’s always just kind of had his own style and I really like that it kind of strays a little bit from your typical skate punk stuff. So it was a real challenge and some of the songs are pretty intricate and it was a challenge to find melody lines on that first batch of songs, like when you look at a song like “I Won’t Be Here.” When you hear the melody line, you’d be like, “How are you ever gonna put lyrics for that song?” It’s so strange, but somehow that was the challenge of finding a way through it. It kind of liberates you from the verse to chorus to verse and similar chord progression and it kind of helps to keep things different so I enjoy doing all three.
Will you write music for Wraths?
The guys have asked several times if I had anything that I wanted to bring in. I had this one little riff that sounds like it could be a Wraths song that I was just playing last night and kind of thinking that we could really do something cool with it. So, I think that will definitely be a likelihood and, you know, we already have probably four songs maybe five that we want to record and they come pretty quick for us. We practice once a week and the guys work on songs while I’m gone, so I know we’re gonna have another batch of songs this year really quick. So, like you said [earlier in regards to Emmer Effer], I just wanna make the next one.
What made you guys go with Bird Attack for the release of this record?
It was kind of timing more than anything. We recorded the songs down at Screaming Leopard and then I was adamant. I was just like, “Let’s put these on the internet ourselves, I don’t want to hassle with anybody. I just want to throw it up on the internet and let people check it out.” And everyone agreed that was a cool way to do it. I did one interview, I’m not even sure who it was with, right when we did that and I was kind of talking s**t about record labels and how they just want to hype stuff so much and I understand that’s part of the business, but for what we were doing, a side project band, I didn’t want to be constrained to what someone else wanted to do with the record. We just wanted to put it out really generic style. So I talked a lot of s**t in the article and then Garrett [from Bird Attack] called and basically said, “Hey, man, I’ll put this thing out for you, no strings attached, no pressure at all.” And that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
There’s so many strings attached when it comes to some labels, like for example, we’re putting out some of the early recordings of Pennywise and we’re doing it through Ken Seaton [Hardline Entertainment]. He’s a great friend and he’s been around forever, but everyone knows it’s a bummer to do business with friends because eventually when you have any type of disagreement on how things should be done, you start going, “Man, I have to drink beers with this guy. I don’t want to hassle him.” So, when Garrett called up, like he’s on the other side of the country. I’m not gonna see him around and don’t have to worry about any problems and he couldn’t be more cool and he’s one of those guys who’s really active in the punk scene right now. He’s doing all kinds of cool stuff. He does a podcast and flies over to Groezrock and does shows and does his radio show from there.
I still count on people who are trying to do whatever they can to keep the scene healthy and keep it alive and keep things going and he seems to be one of those dudes who is good at that. So I’ve been stoked to work with him and who knows, maybe the next one we’ll just put it out ourselves or work with Garrett again, but right now, it’s just about getting the songs out.
Are you guys gonna be doing any real touring with Wraths or just kind of shows here and there?
It’s kind of up in the air. Pennywise has got all kinds of things lined up. We’re talking about adding even more shows. There’s certain ideas for shows being bounced around and we definitely want to play, we’re pretty hard up to play right now, but the situation didn’t become perfect. We were actually gonna play the night the Descendents decided to have a show [at The Standing Room in Hermosa Beach], that kind of ruined that idea. We definitely want to play, but it’s just finding the right scenario. We got offered some shows with TSOL that I couldn’t do, again. So it’s kind of a bummer, but I always tell the guys, “Hey, man, if it gets to a point where it’s like I have to turn down so many shows, we can talk about what we need to do,” but right now people are just starting to learn about the band and get into it. I want it to get out there and people to hear it and I want some people to come to shows. So, I think it’s fine until we find the exact right perfect circumstance, but I can definitely see us doing a couple week tours up and down the coast or there’s a couple support gigs we can get on and be stoked to jam.
On a selfish not what would it take to get a Pennywise, 98 Mute, Chaos Delivery, Wraths show in LA?
Hell freezing over would probably be the first thing. No, I think that would be great. I’ll tell you what, I’m actually talking to some people right now about doing a yearly benefit show. I’m trying to see what that would look like and basically have it be a situation of all the different projects I’m involved in and play with and whether it’s members of Pennywise or other local bands just having one night where we can raise some funds for all these different causes that I’m involved in and care about. You want to help each and every individual cause whether it’s friends who have passed away, a lot of people are starting foundations for their families, I’m on the board for Surfrider foundation. So, I want to raise money for that cause and I have a friend whose son has Muscular Dystrophy and I want to help them out.
I’m thinking that a good way to deal with all this is have one benefit show and have all the proceeds go to all these different places so I can have a really cool yearly show and do some good in the process. Trying to put that together, I think, would be fun, but I think Justin [Thirsk] needs to find a drummer so he can sing, and then you gotta get everyone to get a weekend free, when our families will let us go. But it was great to see 98 Mute play again and they didn’t miss a beat. Everyone was really stoked to see that and it’s been super fun. It feels like there’s a kind of revitalization of the scene in the South Bay again and people were really stoked about that Descendents show. I think there’s room out there, it’s just finding the perfect venue and getting people playing.
How far along are you guys on the new Pennywise?
Not very far! It’s been a point of contention. I really, really have been pressing that we really gotta get into the studio and it’s kind of been doing chores and then people have to get back to their families and things like that. It just kind of keeps getting put off, but I know everyone has a batch of songs. I’ve got ideas for songs and I know Fletcher was playing some stuff the other day that sounded cool, but we just have to get in there and do it, that desire to play has to be there from everyone involved, and that’s why I’m doing so much Wraths stuff because if Pennywise isn’t gonna practice and get in the studio and write songs, then I’m not gonna sit around twiddling my thumbs. I’m ready and willing to get into the studio and that’s what everyone says, but they don’t seem to be doing it, so I just said, “Okay, well, you let me know when you’re ready.” I hate to sound pathetic, but if anybody’s been in a band as long as I have been, then they’d understand that the politics of getting into the studio shouldn’t be that difficult, but sometimes they are.
The last time we spoke you mentioned wanting to release a box set, have you made any progress on that?
You know, right when I got back in the band that was a super huge priority for me and I went through a lot of effort kind of sizing up what we should do and how it would potentially look and did all kinds of stuff and everyone humored me for about a year and then it was just like, “Ha, not gonna happen.” Basically Epitaph was like, “Oh, we just want to do like one CD,” and that became Yesterdays. So, it was kind of a bummer for me cause I thought it could be something really cool for our fans and most of our peers have done it. Now, we just did this thing with Hardline and Theologian putting out the old stuff. I definitely think it’s beyond time for there to be a really cool Pennywise box set. So, everyone out there that cares, write a letter to Epitaph Records and title it “What The F**k?”
After I interviewed you about that, everyone I talked to about it was stoked like, “Oh s**t, when is that coming out?” and then nothing.
Yeah, it goes back to politics as well. Probably right when I suggested it, the vinyl scene was just starting to kick back up, about four years ago, and now it seems to be really thriving. So if I brought it up again, I bet it’d get a better response this time. So I should probably dust off those mockups and designs we had and we’ll do it. But let’s be honest, unless Fletcher wants to do it, it’s not gonna happen, So you gottta talk to him and be like, “What the hell? What’s up with the box set?”
I’ll start working on Fletcher then.
Yeah you should! Please everyone should complain to him.