The Rebel Spell

The Rebel Spell - Todd Serious

  • March 4th, 2011

As The Old Sins warmed up the crowd at the DV8 Tavern after a rather large snow storm hit Edmonton the night before, I caught up with my new pal Chris from and we wandered into the basement of the venue to do some interviews with Todd Serious from The Rebel Spell. Throughout the conversation, Todd and I discussed various aspects of the punk rock world and their new album – It’s A Beautiful Future. We touched on the abundance of punk festivals that has been popping up lately, their new bass player Elliott, the use of corporate media and, of course, sexism in the punk scene.

After you’re done reading the interview I did, make sure to tune into and listen to PunkRadioCast’s interview too!

Bobby: Starting with the basics, you guys are just kick starting this new tour in support of It’s A Beautiful Future. You had two record release shows – one in Victoria on the 18th and then in Vancouver on the 25th. What made you decide to do two record release shows in BC as opposed to the one big record release show?

Todd: Well, I mean, a few people will cross the water to see us on one side or the other but not that many. And really, this whole tour is a record release tour so it’s just trying to get as many people out as we can out.

The Rebel SpellBobby: This entire tour is in support of the new album and you’re going all the way to Montreal and back and in the mean time you’re playing the Rebel Fest in Ontario. Are you excited for that? And this entire tour?

Todd: Yeah, Hamilton is where they’re doing that Rebel Fest thing and Hamilton’s always been super fun. They’ve really nurtured a great all ages scene there and we really look forward to going there. We have a lot of good friends so it’s kind of cool that they’re doing this festival and able to make a bigger deal out of the whole thing.

Bobby: What do you prefer? Do you prefer doing the festivals or do you prefer the club shows and stuff like that?

Todd:  I think probably the best shows are… could happen anywhere. *laughs* I don’t know. I don’t think I could say a specific place is better than another. It just sort of depends on a bunch of elements that come together at the right time.

Bobby: What I find interesting is, especially in the last few months, is the amount of punk festivals that has popped up. I mean, there’s The Fest obviously and then you’ve got Pouzza Fest which is a new one in Montreal, you have Rebel Fest, Way Out West Fest, Riot Fest, Death to False Hope Fest, BOMB Fest. Everywhere, there’s all these new festivals popping up. Why do you think suddenly there are all these fests, punk fests and people organizing all these festivals?

Todd: I don’t know. If somebody throws a festival and people show up from somewhere far away, they’re like “festivals are awesome again!” So I think it’s just – not to knock them at all – I think it’s just sort of a trend though. You go to one and you’re like “wow, this is great.” That’s the thing, I’ve had a few of those experiences recently too where I’m at these festival style shows and I’m like “wow, this would be really cool to do!” and I think that’s just what happened.

Bobby: One comment I read about someone talking about the fests was he feels that there’s all these festivals that are happening like The Fest and there’s this one kid who can’t afford to go to The Fest. So he’s like “you know what? I’m just going to throw my own and get people to come to me.”

Todd: *laughs* Yep. We played Punk Island Festival last year in New York and it’s right in – what’s it called? Governor’s Island or something which is like you drive into Manhattan and try to park your van and then take a ferry over to this island which has no cops on it. Which is really neat but we get there and there’s supposed to be golf carts to move gear for you and anything. There was supposed to be anything but there was nothing. I’m like “what’s going on?” There were some fairly heavyweight bands – like Star Fucking Hipsters, DOA was there from a long way away. And there was literally no stage anywhere or power. I mean, the stage we were supposed to play on was a batch of grass where someone had to break into a building to get power to where the stage was. It was really funny. I was like “what’s going on?” and somebody said to me, and I have no idea who it was, and was like “oh, I think this kid just invites a whole bunch of awesome bands and then stands back and lets it happen.” He’s done it a few years running and it’s a cool thing but at the same time, when you first get there – you’re all the way in New York, you want stuff to be a little bit organized.

Bobby: You want some organization after you’ve travelled all that way.

Todd: And it’s a free show too right? Everybody who was playing was playing for free – as far as I know. To like not even have help… you’re literally carrying your bass amp and everything across Manhattan on foot. Our guitar player weighs a hundred pounds; our guitar rig weighs a hundred pounds. She’s pushing this thing down the side walk forever. It was deadly and was like thirty five degrees or something like that. It’s good though, was really enjoyable.

Same thing, just a kid inviting a bunch of people and calling it a festival so that they come to him.

Bobby: Which is entertaining anyway.

Todd: Yeah. It turned out really good. I had a good time anyway.

Bobby: I believe this is your first tour with Elliot on bass – am I right?

Todd: Yep, yep.

Bobby: How’s he fitting in? How did you find Elliott?

Todd: I don’t know if you saw it, but we did a posting on our website and some advertising to try and get people out. We invited a few people out that we thought might work. We had a guy from Ontario, we had a good from Saskatchewan, some from around Vancouver; and Elliott, he lives really close to us. I mean, you look at him and he doesn’t quite fit but he’s so great on bass and he’s such a cool, intelligent guy and it’s really great to have a new angle in the band. He’s a great musician so we’re looking forward to being able to draw on that skill as we begin to write some new stuff.

Bobby: Speaking about new stuff, like we said, this tour is in support of It’s A Beautiful Future that was released on the 15th of last month through Rebel Time Records. How did you get in touch with Rebel Time and can you tell us a bit about the album?

Todd: The whole Rebel Time thing is really just through the Hamilton stuff I was talking about. Since our very first trip… we played Hamilton the first time we were out and I think I fixed somebody’s van for them…

Chris (from You guys are tight with the guys from Broadcast Zero too right?

Todd: Yeah, and that’s all just through the kind of Hamilton connection and it sort of spread from there. We met them on our first trip, different people in Hamilton and we’ve just always gone back – we’ve just kind of had a real connection there. Like we get there and that’s where we go to rest when we’re on tour. It’s like “ahhhh, we’re in Hamilton!” It’s nice because it’s usually a matinee show that we do there and then sometimes we get the rest of the day off. Sometimes we go to Toronto, like we’re doing this trip. Not so relaxing, but we’ll probably wind up back in Hamilton just to hang out for a bit. So yeah, they’ve always just helped us out in various ways and we were like “okay, we need some help with this release.” Because we’ve always just most done everything on our own and we needed to be a little bit more organized and get a little bit more bang for our buck; because it’s tough enough to do it on our own and we’ve been doing it for a while now. So it would be nice to have some help and these guys have been great.

The Rebel SpellBobby:  I know you guys had some support from G7 who re-released your first two albums digitally. Now G7, in 2008, kind of closed its doors and got rid of all the physical stuff because they were against all the pollution and the plastic and decided to just go for digital releases. Do you think that that is a good thing? To kind of go the digital route to save the pollution or do you like having the physical copy?

Todd: I was right on board. When we first dealt with G7, that was when we were releasing Four Songs About Freedom, and we were just gonna to do it digitally. It’s just an EP, it’s kind of experimental, we’ll just do it digital. No physical stuff. And we had so much backlash from people because people couldn’t access the music. So it pitted two things against each other that we really valued and that is an environmentally conscious perspective against accessibility to the music. We’ve always sold our music for as cheap as possible and then all of a sudden people were like “well, I don’t have a credit card! I can’t order on the internet” and stuff like that. So it just put a real barrier up which didn’t work. So then we wound up pressing CDs.

I’d prefer not to when I think that soon enough CDs will be gone. I, personally, don’t keep any physical music anymore. Cause I’m on the road a lot and I move a lot, my lifestyle’s pretty nomadic and CDs just wind up in boxes in storage somewhere and then I’m paying for storage for something I have on my computer or whatever and that’s it.

I understand. I really like going to people’s houses when they have nice vinyl collections and just holding these big pretty things – and I get that – but it’s just not for me

Bobby: Yeah. Sometimes it’s very aesthetically pleasing just to see all these things.

Todd: Yeah and that’s where vinyl’s so much better than CDs again too. Even if you’re not into the difficulty of moving them around and all that stuff, you’ve got to admit that they look way better than CDs.

Bobby: Speaking about EPs, before It’s A Beautiful Future, you released a four song limited edition CD called Songs From The Impending Release.

Todd: *laughs* Oh yeah. What was that? Four Hastily Selected Songs From The Impending Release?

Bobby:  Yeah, that was it.

Todd: I tried to go for a long title with that. We had our album recorded but we were nowhere near ready and we had a tour booked and we were like “okay, we gotta promote this record in someway.” We knew that if we went out there was places like Hamilton where if we showed up without new music, it was going to be ugly. So it was sort of like a little bit to placate people and try to give people an idea. “This is what we’ve actually been working on” because it had been a long time since the last record.

Bobby: We do have new stuff; it’s just not quite ready yet. Soon, soon!

Todd: Yeah, yeah. We didn’t have any of the artwork or anything, so we just brought a few songs.

Bobby: One of my favourite tracks on the new album is the closer which is a cover of Leon Rosselson’s The World Turned Upside Down. What made you decide to pick that song to cover?

Todd: I have no idea. It was like you pick a cover. I had never learned any cover songs with any band I had ever been in. Learning someone else’s timing and stuff was just hard for me so I was just like “ah, never mind.” But then we were like “let’s fill out the album, we have time, we can record one more track – let’s do a cover.” So I was just trying to think of one of my favourite songs anywhere, ever and that was The World Turned Upside Down. I think we did a good job, I was really happy with it. It’s kind of weird to throw yourself at somebody else’s material – especially a folky tune like – but I think it turned out cool.

Bobby: Yeah, it’s quite different than the rest of the album.

Todd: Yeah, particularly that sort of quiet, almost acoustic kind of intro and stuff

Bobby:  You have said before that you rely on touring a lot to get yourself out there in front of people because you don’t really trust the corporate media. Why’s that?

Todd: I think that’s… did I say that?

Bobby: Yep, you said it.

Todd: I know I don’t trust corporate media but I wonder if I’m mashing two things together.

Bobby: Well, you avoid the use of corporate media you said.

Todd: There’s this sort of music industry machine and when you start going down that path, you lose control of just about everything. Early on people approached us like “oh, do you want management?” or whatever and we looked at that stuff and then we started looking at the contracts that were being offered and it was just absurd.  You had nothing. You got nothing. You got nothing!

It was like somebody’s idea of you that they created to present to the world through TV or whatever – if that didn’t work out, then it was just you that looked like shit and you were tossed aside and they’re onto the next project. But you’re the one who’s made to look like a fool and all your hard work is down the drain. So it was just trying to keep control of just your imagine, you know?

Bobby: What I found funny was that I read that in an interview and then I went back on your website and I read your Twitter page – which is, of course, part of corporate media – where you were talking about your new music video that you did with CLAY and you were asking Pink Eyes from Fucked Up to play it on Much Music’s The Wedge. *Todd laughs* So I’m like “you don’t like corporate media but you’re on Twitter, sharing a YouTube video, asking to be on Much Music…” umm… that seems a bit contradictory…

Todd: This is some hard hitting journalism eh? I know you were going for this whole thing as soon as you said that. Because we did the video, we did get some grant money and part of that money – if you make a video, they give you money. If you don’t make a video, you don’t get any money. So we’re like “okay, we’ve got somebody paying for a video, let’s make a video.” So we made the video and we were terrified like shit, singing into a camera and all that stuff. This is going to be painful; it’s going to be terrible. And then we got it back and went to watch it and I was sure I was going to hate it because I didn’t know what CLAY was going to do. All I know is I was running around looking like a fool. It was okay, we didn’t take it too seriously but you see where some people do just a ridiculous video and you see it and it just doesn’t work. It’s not funny. It just looks like you didn’t try or whatever. So we tried and we were like “oh god…” and then it turned out good and we were thrilled.

Now it was like “well, now what do we do this thing?” We put it on the internet, so that was cool but then somebody wrote us and said “Hey, the guy from Fucked Up is doing The Wedge now. They’re doing the Wedge again.” And we were like “well, maybe we’ll just send it to him.” So it’s funny because yeah, I don’t trust that stuff. But the nice thing about Much Music or whatever is you made your own commercial and you’re putting that on. So we’re able to control the product.

Bobby: The perception.

Todd: The exact perception. I mean it may not be exactly us but it’s kind of a good approximation. We weren’t too ashamed of it, so to have that go to people’s houses is okay. I think the real distrust – the quote you were looking at in the beginning – is definitely really about this sort of industry and how getting sucked into that can take you for a nasty ride.

Bobby: But sometimes it can have it’s advantages.

Todd: *laughs* Well yeah. It’s about compromising, it’s funny – but I’m okay with that. *laughs*

The Rebel SpellBobby: Cool – just a few more questions. One thing that recently got a lot of press was – well, do you know who Lauren Denitzio of The Measure [SA] is? She recently wrote a lengthy blog about sexism in punk rock because she’s been touring in the band for six/seven years now and she wrote all about male privilege and how people, in the punk community especially, shove it off because it’s not the intent. So when they call people “bitches” or “cunts” or “sluts” and it’s “oh, well I didn’t mean it that way. It’s not that bad.” And basically she said there is sexism in punk rock just most men don’t perceive it or see it because they don’t think it does exist. But if you take a step back and actually look at it, there’s a lot of sexism in punk rock. Of course, you guys have two members who are girls. Do you see that there is a lot of sexism in the punk rock scene?

Todd:  We get asked about this a lot and I think that the sort of positive spin on it is that overall there is less sexism in the punk community – even the broad punk community which encompasses a lot of really different kinds of people. So there is this community that is a lot less sexist I find than sort of mainstream society but it’s still riddled with sexism. You get these sort of back handed sexist remarks like “wow, you’re a great drummer for a girl!” I don’t think a lot of people mean it in a bad way, but like you were saying – “well, I didn’t mean it like that!” Well, think about what you just said. That stuff does come up, for sure.

Bobby: What she pulled out was the Kathleen Hanna quote – “I’m sorry if I’m alienating some of you, your whole fucking culture alienates me.” She was talking about putting on female fronted festivals or female fronted shows where it’s all female fronted bands. Some guys are like “well, why would you do that? That kind of alienates us.” Well, you’re entire culture alienates me.

Todd: Yeah, it’s like trying to explain affirmative action to somebody in ten seconds.

Bobby: You can’t do it.

Todd: You can’t! That’s almost what that idea is. It’s something that’s intended to… yeah, you know. Anyway…

Bobby: Cool. I guess that’s about it. Thanks a lot. Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to add?

Todd: No. *laughs*

Bobby: Thanks.