In the process of recording a new full-length album The Funs have already released two versions of their Tour 2013 cassette tape and reissued their self-titled album, originally available only on cassette, on vinyl this year! Brash, melodic, sometimes atonal and always blown-out in a warm haze of fuzzy tape distortion The Funs have been blazing a trail in the already crowded Chicago DIY, lo-fi scene and have had no problem leaving a lasting impression. Having released a string of sold out cassettes on Manic Static The Funs are one of the most honest and raw bands I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long while. With titles like Pseudodysphagia you can almost hear the neurosis dripping from the dissonant guitar and drum-scapes. Raucous punk rock noise slams headlong into a deep and sincere love of pure, unfettered rock’n’roll! Jessee and Philip took sat down and took time to shed some light on where the band’s been and where they’re headed in the future. It’s rare you hear something this pure, I can’t recommend clicking on the link below to listen to music much more than I already have other than by saying The Funs are just that, fun. Unpretentious and unassuming just let The Funs sweep you off your feet like they did with me why don’t you? http://thefuns.bandcamp.com
Why a two-piece band as opposed to a traditional trio or something?
Jessee: We did the full band thing for a few years but couldn’t keep it together. Philip and I were able to play guitar together which is something I really miss being able to do live. We had drums and bass and the whole deal but in a year we went through six different drummers not from drama or anything like that but because people get married, they go to school or just aren’t that serious. That is the main reason we knew we had to strip it down.
Philip: After being in a band for a few years with three to four members it’s hard to get everyone to quit their lives and just do that. Jessee and I have always hung out together and both had the same ideas and passion for things. It just made sense, now we’re like E.T. and Elliott.
© Lucas Herzog
What are the major advantages and disadvantages to playing as a duo?
Jessee: It’s cool to have only two schedules to deal with that’s for sure. We’re able to say yes to a lot of shows that way. It does suck to have to be so tight sometimes. Like if one of us fucks up at all live there is nowhere to hide. There’s less to work with so we have to be conscious of making dynamics powerful. We’ve had to tweak things over the years to get a full band sound.
Philip: I love everything about it. Except, we have the same amount of shit as a full band. So the carrying part sucks. So thank you to everyone who has helped us lug shit around, especially Bob and Jeremy.
Where, when and how did you two meet?
Jessee: Philip and I met at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts center in south city St. Louis when I was seventeen and he was fifteen. We both loved this local band Nineteen. It was this short lived bands last show and it was my first art opening. I guess I asked him to help me push some chairs or something, that’s what he tells me. I just remember this nervous kid. We became friends and then I moved to Chicago but we kept in touch mostly through writing ‘cause I couldn’t get him to talk much for seriously at least three years. Anyway, I convinced him to move to Chicago when he was seventeen to play music with me. I built him a bed in crawl space in a storefront we lived in Rogers Park. It sounds creepy but it wasn’t. It was beautiful and soft, with warm light and trinkets. It had tiny green carpeted stairs that went to an old window he used for the door. I will never forget picking him up from the Amtrak station. He was just a kid and all he had was a backpack and a guitar.
Philip: Being isolated in the middle of nowhere I was lucky to have some friends who would frequent punk shows in the city. When I met Jessee for the first time it changed me. I had never met anyone like her, our cosmic weirdo vibes collided. The universe was altered that night I think it was august 2003. We have Spent almost every day together sense then.
What led you to start The Funs and when was that?
Jessee: Well I can lie and make something up like I sometimes do when asked this question or I can tell the truth as plainly as I can. The Funs came from one of the absolute worst times in my life and that’s an understatement. I had lost my older brother Nathan to schizophrenia. To say it devastated me just doesn’t cut it. There are things in life for which there are no words. Basically, the shortest way I can say this is that I lost it. I dropped out of art school and moved back to south St. Louis and was living in a punk house trying to put the pieces back together. I was learning to walk again. I was like a thing wandering around without skin. So after doing that for too long, Philip dragged me in the basement and said “let’s be The Funs because we need to have a good time together again”. Or something like that. It was a life or death situation. That may sound like total cheese but I don’t care. So we just started fucking around.
Philip: We were living in a punk house in St. Louis around 2008-ish, absorbed by booze and negativity. At least I was. I decided I needed something new to focus on, something free. So we started The Funs. It’s been my main focus ever since and the best medicine.
Where are you originally from?
Jessee: St. Louis.
PHILIP: I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Illinois about fifty minutes north of St. Louis where we live now. It’s peaceful. There are a lot of stars and pretty trees
Where is the band currently located?
Jessee: Chicago mostly but we recently moved to Nowhereville USA to rehab a house that Philip’s grandparents abandoned. We are trying to make it a place that bands can stay on the road or stop off and record. Hopefully, one day it will be a teeny tiny residency or wildlife sanctuary for endangered artists. We’re also slowly starting to play out in St. Louis so it’s nice be a part of that scene again.
Philip: New Douglas, Illinois / Chicago. We’re back and forth a lot.
How would you describe the scene where you are at?
Jessee: Fucking fascinating. Chicago has some really great bands right now, it's exciting. It's a huge city so there are shows every night all over the place. It can be almost overwhelming with all the shit there is to see. There are kids making it happen in Chicago. They are determined to keep a DIY scene going despite non-stop shut downs, they keep it moving and that’s what I love the most about it. They are fostering bands from all over, and doing it right. Because they really care about it and it turns them on. I don't take that for granted ‘cause it's not like that everywhere. Some cities you can't find a house show to save your life but Chicago is full of kids doing it, throwing shows, running independent labels, recording and documenting the scene. It's also fair to say there’s an array of dark bars with good sound to see legit shows as well. So it's an ideal city to be in a band ‘cause there are as many places to play as you want to be a part of.
Philip: Chicago is amazing. Everyone gets along. People of all kinds and all different types of music interact which seems rare in a lot of places.
Are you very involved in the local scene?
Jessee: We live in the local scene.
Philip: Even though we live four hours away we’re still very active in booking and promoting shows in Chicago. It’s where we evolved so it will always sorta be home, at least for The Funs.
Has it played a large role in the history or evolution of The Funs?
Jessee: I guess you could say we were born in St. Louis but raised in Chicago. Chicago took care of and absolutely made us the band we are today. People coming out and falling in love with us and throwing shows and recording us has sustained us as a band for sure. We couldn't be doing what we do without the support of that community.
Philip: Without Chicago and our close friends coming out to our shows when no one else was, the outcome of all this would have been much different. We have always had a lot of support there and I am very excited and proud to be a part of the Chicago weirdoes. There’s no place/scene like it. It has a family feel to it.
What does the name The Funs mean or refer to and how did you choose it?
Jessee: Like I said before the name was almost a joke really because we were both so down at the time and needed to do something that we could laugh about and be free with. We wanted some small place we could control the chaos and be okay again. I am by no means a drummer but it is really fucking fun to play the drums. In The Funs I get to beat the drums.
I absolutely hate to label or classify music, how would you describe The Funs sound to our readers who haven’t heard your music yet?
Jessee: I would say to readers give a song a listen or don't. I also, absolutely hate to label or classify music. I don't know what we sound like. We sound like guitar and drums and singing. We are loud and dirty and sensitive creatures. We are shy guys attempting to share ourselves with the world because we love it. I don’t know what else I would be doing, I don't know.
Philip: Honest and sincere blown out fuzzy no bullshit Roc’N’Rollz, Gravel Pop or Buzz Fuzz 4 Lyfe.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Funs songwriting process? Is a collaborative effort or does one of you come to the other with a more finished product to share? Is there a lot of jamming?
Jessee: No. No jamming. I hate that word but there is no other word for it. Why is there not another word for it? I’m not saying we don't play around together sometimes but all the songs are written the same way. I write a pretty guitar part when they come and lyrics follow and Philip sits down and figures out the drums and vice versa. It's very natural that way and we have learned not to force it. Every time I write a song it feels like a magic trick but I have no idea how it’s done.
Philip: One of us will write the guitar and lyrics. Then the other plays the drums. It’s pretty standard shit. I wish I could say we jam for hours on a mountain possessed by whatever but ya know, I’ll keep this honest.
Do you enjoy recording or are you like a lot of musicians feeling like a rat in a cage when you get into the studio?
Jessee: Recording can be tough ‘cause you get an idea in your head how something sounds and want it to sound the way it does in your head and it's a matter of capturing that very alive thing with a machine. I still love recording though. It takes a lot out of you but I always look forward to it.
Philip: It can be frustrating and naked feeling. Especially, when it’s not sounding how you intended and there’s not much of a solution for changing it on the fly. But after a while going back and listening to those albums and having distance it’s pretty cool to hear what we did and I’m proud of that.
You released your first cassette Spitting Trash in 2011; can you tell us a little bit about recording that album? Where was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used? Who released it?
Philip: We recorded it in our practice space in Pilsen, Chicago with our friend Matt Wenzel. He was living across the alley from us at the time and owned a Tascam 388 and some mics so we just spent an afternoon and knocked it out all live did a little mixing and then it went straight to cassette, it was the second release on Manic Static.
What does the name Spitting Trash mean?
Jessee: The name means someone talking shit. It's about laughing off negative bullshit.
You followed up Spitting Trash with 2012’s PSEUDODYSPHAGIA cassette, where was that album recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used in the recording? Who released PSEUDODYSPHAGIA?
Philip: It was pretty much the same thing as Spitting Trash, maybe a bit more mixing, but mostly bugging Matt to crank up the guitars on everything.
Pseudodysphagia refers to the irrational fear of chocking, why did you choose that for the name of an album?
Jessee: I had pseudodysphagia for about a year when I went back to finish school. I think it's hard for people who haven’t experienced an anxiety disorder of some kind to understand but I'll try to explain. It was like one day out of nowhere, while I was eating Chicken Pad Thai, it felt like I couldn’t swallow because I would choke. There was this surge of adrenaline and then I couldn't get that thought out of my head and it just stayed with me. Believe me I know how strange it sounds and feel free to laugh because it was absurd. At the very worst of it I had to sip water because I couldn’t just drink it normally. I couldn’t. I wasn’t anorexic or anything like that I just ate really slowly. Like sloth slow. It would take me hours to eat anything solid. I would tear all my food into itty bitty pieces and masticate till my jaw hurt. Swallowing triggered panic in me. I couldn't go to restaurants without freaking out, I couldn't eat the cake on my birthday and I don't even want to talk about Thanksgiving. It took my total concentration to eat. It was so weird because my rational-self knew I was being totally bat shit crazy but the fear was still there. It took me about a year to get out of my own head, mostly with the help of a cognitive behavioral therapy book. I still don’t really understand where it came from or how it went away. I can only describe it like chipping at a wall with a dull knife. At first it feels like you’re not doing anything but eventually you make a dent and then slowly you break through and then you are standing on the other side like, “how the hell did I get here”? I will tell you one thing; I don't take eating and breathing for granted anymore. So yeah, I was dealing with that the whole time we were writing those songs and Philip was dealing with me dealing with it. So it seemed only natural to call the album that. The best humor comes from tragic situations. I can laugh about it now because it is so ridiculous but it was terrible at the time.
After PSEUDODYSPHAGIA you dropped the original cassette version of your self-titled, The Funs album. Originally issued in an edition of a hundred cassettes it was recently reissued on 12” vinyl in an edition of two-hundred and fifty pieces. Was the recording of that album much different than the sessions for the previous two releases? Who recorded it? Where was it recorded? What kind of equipment was used?
Philip: The Self-Titled album was recorded and mixed at Minbal in Chicago by Cooper Crain. I have always really looked up to Cooper and all the bands he’s been involved with and was really excited to be able to work with him. He’s the Phil Spector of our weird world. It was recorded on one-inch tape with killer old mics.
How has the album been received? It must have been pretty positive to have earned two cassette tape editions and a 12” vinyl pressing!
Philip: People seem to dig it. There have been some thoughtful positive reviews. The one for Decoder Magazine is amazing. That dude really got it. Also, the cassette review on Tiny Grooves. It feels really good when people take the time to listen to the album and understand it positively.
You also released a limited cassette, Tour Tape, this year in two editions totaling seventy-five copies as always on Manic Static. It seems like your titles are starting to catch on and sellout quicker and quicker. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the Tour Tape? Was it much different than previous recording sessions? Who recorded it? When and where was it recorded?
Philip: It will be released in three different editions, the first being West Coast, the second being Midwest and third being East Coast in the fall. It was also recorded by Matt Wenzel who now lives in Champaign, Illinois. We have a bunch of new songs. We wanted to record different versions for The 2013 Tours so we have something new and give people a taste of the new record. The four songs on the tape were recorded the same way as our first three releases, all live in one or two takes and then mixed up a little bit. I think for us, that process of recording is fitting. It’s sorta crude but in a way that sounds good. We don’t want to polish shit too much. We’re a live band, always have been. And from experience listening to records, I’m bummed when I go see a band and am disappointed by their live shit because their records are sorta fake, overdubbed or whatever. So if you don’t like our record chances are you won’t like us live.
You have another upcoming cassette release slated for release later this year through Manic Static. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect from the upcoming release? Has it been recorded yet? Are you going to be, or did you, attempt anything radically different in the recording or songwriting of this album? When is it scheduled for release?
Philip: We have around twelve new songs we have been working on. Slowly we’ve been bringing them out live. The last three albums have been very quick as well as the song writing process. With the upcoming release I believe we talked about calling it Loves Not Dead. We are taking more time with it and letting the songs evolve a little more. The Self-Titled album was recorded in May 2012 so it’s been over a year, but I don’t want to rush it. We’re going to record the new album in September. Most likely the same way as our previous albums, doing it live in a day then mixing it, I want to spend more time mixing this record. As far as a release date, hopefully it will be out at the end of the year.
How did you originally get hooked up with Manic Static to begin with? It seems like you have to get along fairly well considering your entire catalog has been released by them. How is your working relationship with them? Do you plan on continuing to release material through Manic Static for the foreseeable future?
Philip: Not a lot of people know this, which is cool with me, but I started Manic Static. The new record will most likely be released on cassette through Manic Static but hopefully there will be some label interested in releasing the vinyl. Who knows? Daydreaming is cool.
Are there any plans for a full-length or any other release apart from the upcoming tape for this year?
Philip: We are recording a new full-length in September and releasing a split flexi-disc with our boys in Earring which will be coming out on Manic Static/Notes and Bolts; should be out in September or October.
What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?
Philip: We are doing a ten day tour of the Midwest in mid-July followed by a two weekish tour of the East Coast in October and most likely the West Coast again in the spring of 2014. I guess we’ll tour until the wheels fall off the van or we have to get, like, real jobs.
© Sam Dourge
You have played with some totally awesome bands, who are some of your favorite acts that you’ve had the opportunity to share a bill with?
Jessee: Naomi Punk, Sic Alps, Broken Water and Weed
Philip: Playing with Naomi punk was great. They are killer live and nice dudes. FF in Seattle rips, Sic Alps as always, Dope Body last summer was pretty insane as well. I could go on but those are the four that stick out at the moment.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live performances that you’d like to share with our readers?
Philip: I think that at almost every show there is something bizarre happening, especially in basements. Chicago is a booze city. People like to go over the limit which is rad ‘cause they are more free and flimsy, so it’s cool when people move around and get crazy. We put a lot of energy out, so when people stand there and stare at you and don’t move at all it’s confusing, ‘cause you’re releasing this feeling but they’re not giving it back, sometimes people seem timid.
© Ashley Hubeny
Jessee: Last summer we played in a friend’s back yard called Ottoman Empire. Our friends Snacks played their last show, their drummer was going back to school so they went all out. They played last, inside a giant inflated cube they had made by ironing sheets of clear plastic together and inflated with box fans. Their singer Magic Ian was in a separate cube to left of the band. It’s hard to describe how cool it looked. The sun had just gone down, they were spot-lighted with construction lights, it was hot as fuck and they were all sweating like mad. The crowd went nuts and kept knocking over the fan inflating Ian’s cube and it would start shrinking all around him but he just kept sweating and singing and rolling around. I thought he was going to suffocate more than once. Then some kid grabbed some spray-paint out of his backpack and started tagging the cube, when he passed the cans around the artwork got big fast. So then it was just music coming out of this colorful smelly beautiful bubble-cube. I couldn’t believe they could keep playing without passing out. It was one of those rare moments when things are dumb and wonderful. Oh and a few days ago on the fourth of July some kid put his head in our bass drum. It’s not something I recommend but it was awesome that he was feeling it that much, I hope he’s okay. Every show we play at a DIY spot is amazing, with sweat and surfing and losing your shit and being able to go somewhere else.
Where’s the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news from The Funs, like album releases and upcoming live shows?
Philip: We do the Facebook thing and I update www.manicstatic.blogspot.com with posters and videos pretty often.
With all of the possibilities available to artists these days I’m always curious why people choose the mediums that they do to release their material. Why cassette tape releases?
Philip: Cassettes have always just made sense. They’re hands on. They sound warm and fuzzy. Both of the vans we’ve had over the years have had tape players. The idea of tapes to me and the reasoning behind Manic Static is; it’s all hands on. You can get tapes for cheap, you can get inexpensive tape decks at Salvation Army’s, yard sales, whatever and print all the stuff yourself. You can create a unique style. It bums me out that people pro-dub and shrink-wrap tapes now, spend too much and drive the cost up on everything. It’s become a trend like everything else. If you put time and effort into it you can do it all yourself and make it sound and look rad and I think those people/labels that do, stick out for a reason.
Jessee: I’ve had more than one person actually get pissed about the tape thing like it’s a special club that we’re trying to leave people out of when really it’s the opposite. I’ve had to defend myself about it and that cracks me up. It’s not like we’re tape only band it’s just what we can afford in an aesthetic that we enjoy. And don’t give me that CD shit, ‘cause CD’s blow in my humble opinion. I can’t take care of ‘em, they rust, they sound bad and I don’t like the look of ‘em. The bottom line is, all of our current music is available online, so to me we aren’t excluding anyone who isn’t into tapes. You can download our songs for cheap, and that money actually goes to us, put it on your computer, or iPad, or robot, or stream it, or whatever you want. If you want a physical copy, its tape or Vinyl.
The Self-Titled album was re-issued on LP recently but it was originally available only on cassette. Do you have a favorite release medium?
Philip: Records are amazing. The huge artwork, the packaging and most importantly the fidelity is the best! But it was a big leap to release the vinyl. It was worth it but we are poor, cassettes are the poor people’s records.
I must admit it. I love having a digital copy of an album. Being able to listen to the music wherever and whenever I want is really cool without having to worry about carrying anything bigger than a phone around with you. But there’s something irreplaceably magical about physical releases for me. Having something to hold in my hands, artwork to look at and liner notes to read make the listening experience a more complete one, at least for me. Plus I feel like I get a little peak inside of the musician’s heads with the artwork, layout etcetera. Do you have any such connection with physical releases?
Philip: I love physical releases. I get excited to get a record and pull everything out of the sleeve. It’s cool when there are the extras like lyric sheets and posters, ‘zines things like that. When you can tell the record was designed by the band or person it makes it more personal. I think unless you’re working incredibly hard, touring a lot, self-releasing things and being a part of it all people don’t understand how much work goes into it. So when people stream records or download Mp3s it’s very disconnected from the artists, everything is so instant. I love the internet don’t get me wrong but I support people and buy records and tapes, I love getting packages in the mail. I think there are enough people out there like us, those that do love physical things that it will never die.
Jessee: My best absolute best experience listening to music is having the physical copy in front of me, experiencing the artwork and reading the lyrics. I love reading the lyrics along to a song. It’s the best. It makes me really understand it in my own way, big turn on.
Do you have a music collection? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Philip: I randomly collect records and tapes when I’m in the money which I’m usually not. I mostly try to get them from bands or labels that I really like or I’ll trade with bands… I’m really digging on Milk Music’s new one and PC Worship’s stuff.
Jessee: I love all things Kim Deal. The Whines are my favorite 21st century band. Currently digging Naomi Punks last record and of course all things local. And I am not saying this to sound deep but one of my top albums of all time is Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, because it touches the core of me like few things can. Sure the ballet is beautiful but I just listen to the record and it makes me see images and feel movement. I’m an orchestra nerd. I played violin for years, ever since I was a kid and quit to play bass in a punk band when I was a teenager. I regret quitting and still want to buy one and play again but its big want and small need, so someday I’ll pick it up again. I guess what I’m trying to say is that being in an orchestra gave me an appreciation of the endless possibilities of notes. It made me understand the real beauty of simplicity coupled with power of crescendos, ha-ha! You can’t fucking touch Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Wagner’s Ring Cycle, ya know? That is the mega nerd in me coming out but I love listening to those records while I clean the house. Oh, and Rhapsody in Blue is one of my favorite songs. The Rite of Spring is fucking mind blowing. Tell me it’s not. Fuck Fantasia. Really listen to it.
Like most things having to do with technology it’s kind of a double-edged sword but digital music, while rapidly changing the face of the music industry and distribution, has exposed people like me to a world of music we would have otherwise never have heard of. As an artist during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Philip: I think Bandcamp is amazing. We put our music on the internet because we want it to be heard, that’s the point right? But I really don’t know a whole lot about the digital side of things. We’re not on Spotify or iTunes so fuck it.
Jessee: All I know is our music exists on the internet and you can find it if you want to and that is good. Artists have the curse of being broke. I can honestly say that people getting to hear our music is more important to me than money. Do I wish that I could support myself playing music, absolutely! What artist wouldn’t want that? But it’s not why I do it. “Starving artist” has become an expression for a reason. I pay for the music I listen to because I know what it’s worth.
In hopes of keeping up with all the mind-bendingly awesome bands out there right now I ask everyone this question so please feel free to list as many people as you’d like, who should I be listening to from your local area or scene that I might not have heard of?
Philip/Jessee: All these people should be famous: Coffin Ships, Earring, Toupee, Twin Peaks, Sundance Kids, Skymaul, Bigcolour, Regular Fucked Up People, The Sueves, Todays Hits, Maximum Effort, Voight Kamff, Demon Lover, and everyone that we left out.
What about nationally and internationally?
Jessee: The Whines, Weed, Cascadia, TeenAnger, I’m really into these Canadians. Adam Faucett is an inspiring alien from the South that can make your spine shiver. I recommend start with the album The Great Basking Shark and the song Salton Sea. It literally makes me cry. Its dirty folk country so if you’re into that there is nothing better. See him live if you can, he lives on tour.
Philip: Naomi Punk, Sic Alps, U.S. Girls, Milk Music, PC Worship, Gun Outfit. I could go on but that’s what I’ve been listening to the most at the moment.
Is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?
Philip: Thanks for asking us these questions. It’s important that people like you do this. Oh and buy our record! http://manicstatic.bigcartel.com/product/ms-030-the-funs-s-t-lp
Jessee: Never hesitate to reach out to us. Everything matters, always. I love you, all of you.
© Marissa Lyons
(2011) The Funs – Spitting Trash – Cassette Tape – Manic Static (Limited to 50 copies)
(2012) The Funs – PSEUDODYSPHAGIA – Cassette Tape – Manic Static (Limited to 70 copies)
(2013) The Funs – The Funs – Cassette Tape, 12” – Manic Static (Tape Limited to 100 copies, LP limited to 250 copies)
(2013) The Funs – Tour Tape – Cassette Tape – Manic Static (1st edition of 50 copies, 2nd edition of 25 copies, 3rd edition ?)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013