Dumpster Babies interview

May 11, 2013

Dumpster Babies interview

Sometimes the stars just seem to align when
you listen to a band.  You expectantly
click on a link, drop the needle on the record or stick in that new CD and the
tones that slither and crawl, belching and squeaking out of the speakers are
everything you want.  But sometimes, just
sometimes, the music is even more than that. 
From the opening tape hiss on the title track I knew that there was
something special about Dumpster Babies. 
The lo-fi, DIY spirit of the music spoke to me.  These guys got it, they really got it.  You get in, you do your damage and you get
out.  No need to meander around and overstay
your welcome, a simple one, two combination and you leave the listener flat on
their ass!  That’s exactly the kind of
mantra I can get behind and the sort of philosophy that the Dumpster Babies
seem to live by.  In light of the recent
release of their debut self-titled Dumpster Babies LP on Tall Pat Records, I
decided it was high time I tracked down these windy city residents and got the
skinny on just what a Dumpster Baby is, what it does and how it went about
recording one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time! 
How would you describe the local scene? 
Are you guys very involved?  Has
it played a large role in Dumpster Babies history or evolution?

It’s as vibrant as ever with tons of talent bouncing around all over and
there’s a genuine hardened edge to it. 
Chicago bands, we play our hearts out at every show.  Are we involved?  I’d say at the very least we’ve been
around.  We’ve all been playing and or
going to shows forever, and in a way, grew up with a lot of people we’ve met at
shows over the years, many of which who’ve become dear friends and now make up
a large part of the local scene.  Also,
I’ve been doing band and poster art for several years as well, so yeah, it’s
definitely played a large role.  I
honestly don’t think that we’d have a record, or be the band we are for that
matter, if it wasn’t for us being so involved. 
Bands in Chicago look out for each other.  We’ve gotten by on other bands helping us
when we’ve needed support and we’ve tried to reciprocate as best we can.  The Chicago scene played a huge role in me
wanting to play in a band.  Seven, eight
years ago Paul and I would go to a lot of shows Cal’s, Empty Bottle, Schubas,
The Note, Double Door, The Mutiny, Ronnie’s. 
There were all these places to go see bands and that would get us really
excited about rock and roll.  We’d have
conversations about how we could do that if we tried.  Headache City was a band that I thought was
absolutely perfect.  M.O.T.O. was another
band that when I would see them play I would think about being in a band
There are a few main venues that have been around for a while, and
consistently have good shows, other than that there are a lot of venues that
pop up and disappear quickly.  A lot of
house shows, which, I don’t know, get busted or people move out.  The bands fluctuate a lot, but they’ve always
been great.
What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this
your original lineup?
Right now, it’s me (Kev-oH) on rhythm guitar, Tom on lead, Pauly on
drums and Johnny on bass, we all sing, which is fun.  Our original bass player was our friend Mo
Estrada; he’s actually on a few of the recordings on the album.  He plays in Get Up With The Get Downs and
Giant Squid Autopsy, he’s a hyper-talented musician.
Are any of you in any other bands? 
Have you been in any bands that released anything?
I’ve been playing in various projects over the years with my buddy Jason
Ewers, most notably the now defunct Ornery Little Darlings who released an EP
and LP, and most recently in La Kaza who have an EP in the works.
The Billy Carter Band, German Girls, Rattattack, and Dynasty of
Poseidon.  Tom and Kevin have started a
new band called “Peasant SnaXXX”; they just released a new single
Nummy nums.
How did you meet?  When and how
did Dumpster Babies become a band?
Paul and I met about ten years ago at work.  We didn’t like each other.  I thought he was a tool and he thought I was
a pussy.  He showed up one day with a
copy of Please Kill Me by Legs McNeal, so we started talking about MC5 and the
Clash and found out maybe we did like each other.  I had been playing guitar since puberty and
Paul was just learning to play drums.  We
would get together and try and play songs, just the two of us.  One day he told me he promised his friend we
would play his party.  I was mad ‘cause
I’d never played in front of people before, but felt pretty good about what we
were playing and in the end it turned out to be really fun, I caught the bug
and wanted to keep playing to those who would listen.  So, we started a band called Action Finger
and played for a few years.  When that
band ended, Paul’s little brother Tom had just finished college and was hangin’
around.  He had been playing guitar for a
bit and was really into the same bands. 
It was a blast hangin’ out with him so we decided to start a band
They kept waking me up with their “practice” while I was
trying to sleep in my parent’s basement and eventually I just picked up a
Kevin pretty much covered it.  Tom
and I are brothers, we’re city kids, born and raised in Chicago.  Growing up we always shared the same
interests in music and art and frequently worked together on various
projects.  As far as John goes, we’ve
been friends with him for years, part of the old bar crew.  He’s been kicking around the scene longer
than any of us and has played in a bunch of awesome bands.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even think I was
playing drums yet when he was in the Billy Carter Band, who I used to try and
catch every chance I could, now that was a fun band to see.  To be exact, Dumpster Babies started in the
winter of 2008.  Kevin and I had our side
project, a guitar/drum duo called Mother’s Bread, and we’d play shows that our
other band, Action Finger, wouldn’t or couldn’t play.  A light bulb kind of went off one night when
our pal AJ from Radar Eyes asked us if we’d like to jump on a bill with them
and Plastic Crimewave Sound.  Before that
point it hadn’t occurred to us that we had something going in our rawer, more
punk side project than our main gig.  So
we decided to convince Tom to jump on board and it really clicked.  By May 2009 our buddy Mo joined in on bass
just in time to play our first show as Dumpster Babies at the Cobra Lounge with
The Hussy, The Half Rats, and The Wanton Looks.
John:  I
had known these turds for a while from the bar but I can’t remember exactly
when they asked me to play, sometime in early 2010 I think.  I was busy as shit and thought it was only
gonna be for a show or two, so I never really learned how to play any of the
songs.  Three years later little has
know you’ve gone through at least one name change.  What was your original name?  What led to the name change?  What does the name Dumpster Babies mean or
refer to?
Our original name was something Paul came up with, and I thought it was
great.  We were trying to come up with
names when he just blurted out “Thee Magic Johnson and His
Aides”.  I laughed so hard we had to
go with it.  We played maybe two shows as
“Thee Magic Johnson and His Aides” when we realized it was not
getting it’s just due.  It was written in
one publication as “Magic Johnson and His”…  At one of our early shows we were thanked on
the mic by another band as “Magic Johnson and His ‘You Know What’s”.  So we thought of something less
offensive.  Tom and I had written a song
about being Dumpster Babies that had nothing but their own rock and roll.  We enjoy trying to crack each other up so we
went with that.  I’m pretty sure it’s
been a disadvantage to us.  Lots of
respected opinions have told us it’s a dumb name but it’s a little late for
that.  So fuck ’em.
We were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS when I came up with
that one.  When I try to rationalize our
name it always sounds silly because it wasn’t a serious decision at all, we
definitely thought about it but I don’t think we ever thought about having to
explain it.  I think the name is a prime
example of why we’re such great friends, the simple fact that we just crack
each other up!
This is kinda far-fetched, but to me it’s kinda like an existentialist
thing.  Like this city’s a giant dumpster
and we’re these helpless little beings. 
We don’t stand a chance but were gonna make the most outta what we got
and get some kicks while we’re at it. 
Also in Chicago, growing up, there’s nowhere to play so all the neighborhood
kids end up playing in the alleys and by the time you’re five you’ve spent
countless hours in the alley, fucking around, using dumpsters as makeshift
bumper cars and all types of shit… 
It’s pure nostalgia.
You have an unapologetically rock sound that you fuse with some serious
punk attitude but I can hear plenty of other stuff kicking around in
there.  Can you tell us who some of your
personal musical influences are?  How
about the band as a whole?
It starts, with me anyway, driving to the liquor store with my dad while
he’s blastin’ the oldies station, like loud ass Everly Brothers and Dion.  Then you find the Ramones.  And we feel no need to ever apologize for
being rock and roll; it should be the other way around.
Tom and I grew up listening to our parents’ records, classic rock and
the oldies station on the radio.  Also,
our Dad plays guitar and piano and writes his own music as well.  He actually wrote songs for me and each one
of my other five siblings.  He even wrote
a song called “Friday Night is Pizza Night” way before pizza was
hip.  I’ve always loved the unabashed
primal sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  As I got
older I sought out the more obscure stuff that wasn’t played on the radio
particularly in the punk vein, pick my friends brains, and hit the record and
book stores to dig as deep as I could. 
Monumental influences that come to mind are the Sonics, Stooges, MC5,
Monks, Ramones, Kinks, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Johnny Thunders, Link Wray,
Dead Moon, Screaming Lord Sutch, King Kahn and The BBQ etc.
Kevin:  I
grew up in a house full of women, no brothers. 
I can sing a lot of words to the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack.  My mom grew up in Michigan in the 60’s
listening to Motown and all the girl groups of that era; I adore those sounds.  My dad liked listening to country music and
he loved The Guess Who and Grand Funk Railroad. 
Being from Michigan Bob Seger albums are issued to you at baptism.  I would discover bands from my oldest
sister’s boyfriends.  They would make her
mix tapes and I would steal them.  I
discovered punk the way most suburban white kids of my generation did.  Nirvana was huge for me.  I was completely fixated with that first
album.  When I found out about The Clash,
it was as if new doors had been opened. 
I found out about the Ramones after getting into The Clash.  Then Iggy and The Stooges, MC5.  It was a very backward transition in the
space time continuum.  Some of the songs
I write are directly influenced by other songs, The Nerves, Gentlemen Jesse and
His Men, The Half Rats and Eddy Current Suppression Ring were really
influencing me when I was writing the songs on our current album.
John:  I
think we’ve all listened to a shitload of Ramones and Stooges and
Dictators.  Recently there’s been a lot
of Nobunny and Personal and the Pizzas. 
The Spits and The Black Lips get mentioned a lot in the practice
space.  I think we all had a pretty
serious Eddy Current Suppression Ring problem for a while.  M.O.T.O. has a lot to do with it as well.
Tom:  A
lot of my influences may not be directly manifested in our music.  The Wipers, Billy Childish, The Real Kids,
Germs, Jay Reatard, Dead Moon… plus Wu-Tang Clan and all that other 90s
don’t like to label or classify music; I think it defies explanation in that sense.  Can you describe Dumpster Babies sound to
someone who’s never heard you before?
Anthony Cozzi of Radar Eyes coined our sound as ‘dum-dum rock’, and
that’s fucking perfect.  Think: “The
Beach Boys if they were street level drunks and/or sniffed glue.”  Honestly we’re not trying to be retarded,
this is just the best we can do.  Scouts
It’s true.  We’re not trying to be
retarded.  It’s entirely possible that we
are though.
It’s just kinda goofy garage-punk rock and or roll.  It gets hard to label.  I guess a lot of our stuff is kinda
trans-genre, but not in a rap-rock sorta way. 
We have a song we jokingly refer to as Caribbean/beach/punk, but that
actually describes it pretty well.  The
whole genre thing gets a little ridiculous if you take it too far.
Can you talk a little bit about the songwriting process for the band?
Step one: Purchase 30 to 40 beers. 
Step two: Write song.  Step three:
Spend two months trying to remember it and yelling at everybody else for
forgetting it even though you know that you’re the one fucking it up.  I don’t know. 
We all write our own songs and bring ’em from time to time, and we’re
pretty democratic about playing everybody’s songs.  We’ve got “Tom” songs, and
“Kevo” songs, and “Johnny” songs, etcetera.  Come with an idea, we’ll play it.  Never think about it too hard, I guess.
That’s our motto.
We have a really good balance of influences between us all.  Tom, John or I will bring a song that has
lyrics and a chord progression in to practice.  Everybody comes up with their own parts; it’s
really fun when songs come together. 
Paul has an invaluable role in the song writing process as the
discerning ear.  He can hear the songs in
a way that we can’t and offers insights that make the songs better.  Paul will often sing out a transition or
intro/outro that he hears in his head and we will laugh at him for singing it
out.  Then we’ll try it ‘cause it’s a
good idea and it will become a part of the song.  I have a blast when we are all into a new
song that somebody has brought to the table.
You just released your debut, self-titled 12” LP, Dumpster Babies.  Was it a pleasurable experience?  Do you all enjoy being in the studio? 

It was a pleasurable experience for sure.  We’ll let you know if we ever record in a
studio.  I’ve seen a few, they look cool.
It was a good time.  I know we’ve
mentioned him quite a bit in this interview, but Anthony Cozzi has been so good
to us over the years.  When we started
recording he didn’t really want anything other than for us to have an
album.  He’s always been that way as a
person; he’s a very selfless guy.  I may
be embarrassing him right now but whatever. 
It’s hard not to enjoy yourself when AJ is hanging out.  He’s a hunk.
Can you tell me a little about the recording of the album?  Where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

The first recording we ever did together the result of a pickle we got
into while booking ourselves an appearance on Chica-Go-Go.  We realized quite late that the show doesn’t
record live and that we needed a pre-existing recording so we could lip sync
to.  We ended up calling just about
everyone we knew that might be able to get us a recording.  Tyler Brock from The Half Rats, who was playing
in Cococoma at the time and also happened to be appearing in the episode we
were going to be on, was able to get “No Ghosts” in a day and have it
ready for the morning shoot of the show. 
The rest of the recordings were done over two separate sessions with
Anthony; one with Mo and one with John. 
Both were done basically live with older analog equipment, 4 tracks and
8 tracks.
Who’s putting the album out and where can our readers get a copy?
Tall Pat Records is putting out the album.  You can buy it in Chicago at Permanent
Records, Laurie’s Planet Of Sound, Saki, Unchartered Books, and Bucket O’
Blood.  You can buy it online at
tallpatrecords.bigcartel.com.  We’re
working on getting it everywhere else. 
Do Dumpster Babies have any other music available?  Are there any plans for a follow up single,
split or anything for the rest of the year?
This record is it so far.  We’re
ready to record another LP’s worth of music, we’ve just been busy getting this
one done.  We’ll have new recordings as
soon as we can.
We have a bunch of new stuff that we plan on getting out as soon as we
can, it’s a pretty exciting place to be in at the moment.
We have enough songs right now to record two LP’s.  But, yeah, we’ve had our hands full with
completing this project.  We’ll be
recording again soon enough and hopefully releasing another LP before the end
of the year.
What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the
We have to make ’em short but sweet and do as many weekend trips as we
can hitting up our friends in Memphis, St. Louis, New York, Wisconsin.
John:  I
have a baby that’s about to turn one, so these guys have been super cool about
staying close to town recently.  We may
pop up to Milwaukee or Minneapolis this summer, nothing major, but we’re
tentatively looking at something big next summer once the baby gets a job and
moves out.
Kevin:  I
suggested that he perhaps find the baby a nice dumpster.
We’re gonna go to Norway and burn some churches with some black metal
death bands.
You have played with some killer bands; can you list a few of them?  Who are some of your favorites?

The Man or Astro-Man show at Empty Bottle was one of my favorites.  We played a show with The Woolen Kits from
Melbourne.  That was a good night.  Any time we play with The Fuck Knights from
Minneapolis it’s a blast, especially the show with Creepy Band a couple of
years ago, that was pretty fantastic.
Mind Spiders was cool.  Sueves
show was cool.  Outer Minds was cool.
Do you have a funny or interesting story from a show that you’d like to
share with our readers?      
We played a show a while back at Crown Tap here in Chicago.  It was a place where working class Latinos
would drink and enjoy the music of their culture on the jukebox up until about
10pm when the gringos would enter and it would become a rock venue.  Often times, some of them would stick around
and get down with everything and make shit a lot more fun.  After we played this one particular night,
there was a very sweet middle aged Hispanic woman who was very
intoxicated.  She was just standing in
front of me while a bunch of us were just bullshitting.  She said nothing, I don’t believe she spoke
much English but she had a very sweet smile on her face so I started dancing
with her.  I danced with her as if I were
dancing with my mother, nothing disrespectful. 
People were getting a kick out of it and she and I enjoyed our moment
together.  I stopped dancing and she then
proceeded to follow me around the rest of the night.  When we were leaving and loading all of our
gear she came out of the bar and stood by me. 
By this point she was smashed and a bit wobbly.  She fell into the side of the car and landed
between the curb and the vehicle.  We
were all mortified as she just laid there. 
A couple of us picked her up and tried to figure out what to do, no one
had any idea other than to put her in a cab, so we did.  I hope she’s doing well.
Where’s the best place for our readers to keep up with the latest news
about Dumpster Babies?
Check out Tall Pat Records online for updates about recordings or where
to buy music and our Facebook page for most other news.
am very much a physical release guy.  I
love having a digital copy of the album but there’s something indispensable
about holding an album in your hands while you listen to it.  Do you have such connection with physical

Yeah I definitely share that sentiment. 
Not only do I prefer the sound on vinyl but the album artwork seems more
legitimate being bigger and all.  Growing
up on tapes and CDs, sometimes when I listen to albums I’ve never heard before
on vinyl for the first time it becomes a completely new experience.
I’m all for a physical release. 
It’s good for the prostate.
I’m always curious with the multitude of choices available to musicians
today, why artists choose the mediums that they do to release their
products.  What led to the album being
released on vinyl as opposed to CD or cassette tape?

Well we all listen to vinyl and most of our favorite bands albums are on
vinyl.  It’s definitely the hardest most
expensive medium to transmit your music through but it has its rewards.  Anyone can burn a few CDs or tapes.  Pressing vinyl is like starting a small
business or something, it’s a lot more of an investment.  We actually had some of these songs on a CD
at one point and it just didn’t feel like a finished product.  With vinyl, I feel like people are less likely
to toss it aside minutes after you give it to them.  Although I do think tapes have a certain
charm to them.
Vinyl does have that kind of cliché thing, “it sounds so much
better”, but Tom makes a good point that CDs are a dime-a-dozen.  You’ll never be stopped on a side walk in a
popular neighborhood by a fledgling musician, a la hip-hop artist, trying to
sell you his vinyl!
What’s your take on digital music and the rapidly changing face of the
music industry?
It makes everything so disposable. 
It can make it more accessible if artists put the effort into it but I
think audiences on a computer have a shorter attention span and are less likely
to listen to a whole album.  People can
download days’ worth of music in hours, whereas back in the day, before I was
born, people would buy an album and listen to it in its entirety for days.  It makes it all the better when you see a
scene of people emerging and starting stuff and interacting in real life.
My take is that life in general is unpredictable and nothing is
certain.  I love hearing music and I love
playing it just as much.  You will always
be able to hear good sounds regardless of the medium in this country, you just
have to try and find it.  Things that are
amazing don’t always just fall in your lap, unless you’re really into bird
shit.  When I hear discussions on the
music industry and how it’s so difficult to do whatever it is that’s being
discussed, I get so bored.  Things change
constantly.  So for those who are
disheartened or upset by the industry I can only advise finding someone to
talcum powder your ass for you and quit whining because, at this point, you
sound really boring.
ask everyone I talk to this question so please feel free to list as many or as
few as you’d like, but what bands should or readers be listening to from your
local area that they might not have heard of?
Kevin:  Radar
Eyes, The Sueves, The Runnies, The Bingers, Heavy Times, Uh Bones, Slushy,
Magic Milk, Vamos, Negative Scanner, Outer Minds, Football, We Repel Each
Other, The Yolks, The Blast Beats, Rabble Rabble, Claw Toe, The Half Rats, Bare
Mutants, Absolutely Not.
Some older bands that aren’t around anymore: Headache City, Cococoma,
M.O.T.O., Ratattack, Tyler Jon Tyler, Veedee.
What about nationally and internationally?
Woolen Kits, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Mean Jeans, The Tough Shits,
The Hussy, Fuck Knights.
Is there anything that I missed or that you’d like to discuss?
Yes.  In the last 4 hours we
scored a DVD collection and a sixty-gallon aquarium from the trash; strangely
Tom:  I
lost my soul in a bet on a game of racquetball in the summer of 2010.
Kevin:  I
am really good at racquetball.
(2013)  Dumpster Babies – Dumpster Babies – 12” – Tall Pat Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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