Sunday, May 22, 2016

10 Questions with American Television

Hailing from Washington, D.C., American Television play a fun and catchy form of '90s inspired indie punk power pop.  The band's latest release is the five-song Reaction EP available on BandCamp.

This interview was conducted via email May 2 - 5, 2016.

For more information on American Television check out their Facebook, Twitter, and BandCamp pages.

Dave:  How did the band get together?

Steve:  We need to thank Craig Newmark (Craigslist) for this. That website brought Matt and I together 4 years ago after I moved here without anyone to play with. It also helped us find Bryan and Edwin this past year. There are talented people lurking on there, and weirdos. I'm glad we found a couple weirdos.

Matt:  fate.

Edwin:  I was sad, lonely and tired of playing by myself. I threw a listing up on Craigslist and a few days later Bryan contacted me. And the rest is history.


Dave:  What’s the story behind the name American Television?

Matt:  At the time it was the one name we could all agree on, we dug the idea of the AMTV abbreviation and Steve--being a badass graphic designer--felt like he could do some cool stuff with it.  As for meaning, I see it in the punk sense, whereby we are encouraging people to not just robotically ingest the crap that's out there, be it sensationalist 'news' programs or the drudge of reality tv, but rather we'd like to encourage people to think twice about what they're doing or supporting.  Alternatively, I think Bryan and others see it in a nostalgic sense, as a nod to simpler times and good ol' days in the likes of classics Cheers, MASH, or maybe even Mary Tyler Moore or something.

Bryan:  Mary Tyler Moore?! How old do you think I am? That show went off the air AT LEAST 3 full weeks before I was born!


Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

Steve:  I've been trying to hone in on this lately - I say this with some uncertainty because it's hard to draw comparisons, but maybe Methadones meets The Explosion...

We all have a love of 90s rock and melodic punk. That tends to keep us writing somewhere between those two worlds, but we step outside of that comfort zone at times.

Matt:  I like the second line of Steve's answer.

Edwin:  People have asked me this, and I do struggle with this as well. I don't know...take all the good music from '87-'97 throw it in a blender on purée and out comes AmTV.


Dave:  You recently released the Reaction EP. What's the story behind the record?

Steve:  Reaction is the first time all 4 of us are featured on the same recording. We recorded it with Kevin Bernsten in Baltimore. Although 2 of the songs were written in an early incarnation of American Television, we felt they had taken on a new life with the new rhythm section.

Lyrically, It's definitely on the darker end of the spectrum. Sometimes I like to face my negative thoughts head on. Writing is a cathartic experience - and after spilling those emotions on to paper, it's freeing.


Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

Matt:  We've got work and family commitments to tend to, but have found that weekend warrior-ing helps us play out regionally while keeping a healthy balance with our other obligations.  For example, we're just coming off a mid-April appearance at Death to False Hope Fest in Durham, NC and will be hitting Philly and Brooklyn on May 20th and 21st.


Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Bryan:  Most of the time, Steve or Edwin bring the bones of something to practice. Then we add from there, drums, lead guitar parts. We all work together on the arrangement. Nothing too complicated.  

Matt:  I gotta say, since bringing on Edwin and Bryan our songwriting has an electricity to it that just wasn't there before.  Those dudes provide such a spark, and an energy that drives us to what feels like a much stronger level of music.

Edwin:  Everything happens pretty organically. Steve or I will bring something to the table and just jam on it with Bryan and Matt and go from there. It's pretty amazing how well we all play off each other. There really isn't any kind of struggle or pressure to create something, it just comes to life.


Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in Washington, D.C.?

Bryan:  I think it's pretty solid right now, as it's always been. There is a good mix of youngsters and old heads making punk, hardcore, and indie rock. Other styles too, but that's what I like. Bars and spaces come and go, but on any given night, there's a chance to go see a band or performer doing something great.

Matt:  Active AF.  Case in point: It's impossible to book a show on an off-night, because there aren't any.  That is a fantastic 'problem' to have.

Steve:  I'm just blown away at how many great bands DC has. You can have 3 great shows on a Friday happening in 3 different neighborhoods and all of them will have great turn outs.


Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Matt:  Great question.  I don't think we could ever agree on an order, but top bands would include Timeshares, Restorations, Bad Religion, and Jawbreaker .

Edwin:  I love/hate these questions. It'd be interesting to make a "band top 5" due to the melting pot of influences we have. But for writers I will give a shoutout to Kerouac, Poe, and Whitman. And Clerks is only one of the best movies ever.

Steve:  I'll take TV Shows: Breaking Bad,  The Americans, Transparent on Amazon, and some old/canceled shows ... Freaks & Geeks, and this little known "buddy drama" called Terriers that was on FX; it had 1 season and ruled but no one watched it.

Bryan:  My wife and I recently started listening to all our albums in alphabetical order. The best ones I've heard so far are Over the James by Avail and Among the Living by Anthrax. Obviously, with both of those being 'A' bands, we're not too far in. But I am confident that those two will remain on my top 5 even after we listen to Yaphet Kotto or Zoinks, or whatever's at the end of the collection.


Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Bryan:  Even after releasing Reaction, we have some 2016 band goals still to accomplish. Mostly related to playing shows, writing songs, booking at particular venues. Pretty standard band stuff, but enough to challenge ourselves.

Edwin:  I still have 6 songs to write.

Steve:  Haha, that's an inside joke. Me too.


Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Matt:  THANK YOU!!!  We really appreciate your interest and the work you do for our community, keep it up!

Steve:  How does a show like Small Wonder, a TV show about a robot daughter who's family hid her from her grandparents and used her to do house work last 4 seasons? And then Terriers gets canceled after 1?!! Seriously, find that online and watch it.

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