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Way To Go Genius interview with Eric “Big Arm” Hurst, Chris “Westerburg High” Wescott and Kristen “Wheels” Wheeler

April 6, 2014

Way To Go Genius interview with Eric “Big Arm” Hurst, Chris “Westerburg High” Wescott and Kristen “Wheels” Wheeler

Stacy Ellen Rich
From the opening needle drop of their Self-Titled Way To Go
Genius
12” I knew I was going to dig the hell out of the band.  There are a lot of bands that are going for a
real no frills, stripped back, honest to god punk sound these days, there just
aren’t a lot of them that do it well. 
Way To Go Genius may sound like some off hand, flippant remark that a
teenager would make but if you’ve come across the simplistic, frantic, insanely
entertaining band, it might as just well describe you!  I talk to a lot of bands who, while they’re
madly talented, will never hope to reach the radio airwaves or much more than a
niche market with their sound, Way To Go Genius is not one of those bands.  Songs like “Your Kids” “and Super King”
sound like the good stuff they played on the radio late at night when I was a
kid and we were all supposed to be asleep. 
That kind of passively aggressive, maddeningly catchy punk rock.  And I do mean rock, because from start to
finish on the album and the single Way To Go Genius will not leave you lagging
or lose your attentions, throbbing beats and rumbling bass fronted by a snarky,
snarling vocal line and guitar distortion that sounds fresh from the Anarchy In
The UK
album!  From blasters like “Dos
Dos” to extremely well crafted breaks in pace such as “Skin” Way To Go Genius
is not only an amazing band but they offer up one of my favorite serious punk
albums I’ve heard, in well forever… 
“Black Nightmares” might be my favorite thing on the album, the
distortion level exploding through the ceiling, in the red production values
and howling vocal lines teemed with a perfectly restrained vocal line melt into
a freakin’ masterpiece in my opinion. 
Building to these wicked crescendos and dropping out into bottomless
pits of insanity, pure fits of madness, and I love it!  By the time the album was over I had sent an
e-mail and was finding out all that I could about the band, which wasn’t
much.  Thankfully I managed to track down
all three founding members and grilled them, as I do, endlessly about the
history of the band, their recordings, live performances, and just what they
have planned for the future.  So kick
back and read the interview, you can do it… 
There you go…  Way To Go Genius!
Listen
while you read: http://waytogogenius.bandcamp.com/
What is the
current lineup for Way To Go Genius?  Is
this your original lineup or have there been any changes made since the band
started?
Eric Big Arm:  This is
the one and only lineup of Way to Go Genius, which is me on vocals and guitar,
Chris Westcott a.k.a. Westerburg High on drums and vocals, and Kristen “Wheels”
Wheeler on bass and backing vocals.
The more people I
talk to the more I realize that a lot of people are in more than one active
band at a time and that despite the fact I know all about one of their bands I
might never even come across their other band! 
Are any of you in any other active bands at this point?  Have you released any material with anyone in
the past?  If so can you tell us a little
bit about that?
Eric Big Arm:  Yeah,
we’ve all been in bands over the years and bounced around.
Wheels:  Before this
band, Westerberg High and I were in another band for a long time called The
Slighted where the roles were reversed, and I played drums and he was the lead
singer.
Eric Big Arm:  I’ve
been in a couple of bands in LA…
Westerburg High: 
Including some bands of ill repute.
Eric Big Arm: 
…Funeral Director, Red Roses—
Westerburg High:  What
was that band in St. Louis called?
Eric Big Arm:  Douche
Powder Factory.
Westerburg High:  That
band rules.
Eric Big Arm:  They
still play around but they changed their sound.
Westerburg High:  Do
they go to the gathering of the Juggalos?
Eric Big Arm: 
(laughs)  No….
What was the local
music scene like where you grew up?  Did
you go to a lot of shows when you were growing up?  Do you feel like the music scene there played
any role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you play today?
Eric Big Arm:  My
musical tastes have changed so much from when I was young.  I was forced to go to lots of shitty shows in
St Louis.  My first show ever was New
Kids on The Block…. Yes, I said it.  We
went with my family.  Then we went to
another show, Amy Grant.  Then Eric
Clapton Unplugged.  All big, giant venues
and outdoor concerts.  And then I turned
eighteen and I started dating this chick, and she took me to a Buckethead show
that opened up my mind quite a bit. 
Before that my motto was anything written after 1970, I don’t want it, I
don’t care.  And after that Buckethead
show, actually, I was very intrigued.  He
was a weird dude that I’d never seen or heard anything about, playing with a
fuckin’ chicken bucket on his head. 
After that I started going to clubs in St Louis and then when I moved to
LA I really knew what I wanted out of live music.
Westerberg High:  Bay
Area for me.  So I grew up on metal and
classic rock, then synth and goth.  First
show was Scorpions and Iron Maiden at the Cow Palace.  Second show was Styx, Kilroy Was Here tour
with that short film before the band came on that showed them as futuristic
rebels fighting for freedom of information.
(Laughter)
Wheels:  I didn’t
start going to good small-club shows until I moved to St Louis for
college.  Mississippi Nights had all the
cool bands come through there, and it was all-ages.  When I moved to LA in the early ‘90s, that’s
when I really got into a true local music scene, which was awesome at that
time.  Chokebore, The Necessary Evils,
Touchcandy, 400 Blows; all loud and crazy stuff.
What was your
household like when you were growing up? 
Was it very musical?  Were either
your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely
involved/interested in music?
Eric Big Arm:  My mom,
dad, grandpa and my grandma, they all played in bands.  And my aunts played in a rock and roll band
when I was a little kid, all the way until I was probably twelve.  My mom and I toured Canada with them when I
was about five years old in their van they called “Booger”.  They made me a shirt that said “Loadie”
because I couldn’t say “Roadie”. 
Watching them play was what started me wanting to play music and I
always wanted to perform.  Not long
after, I got in trouble with the babysitter because I got all the kids she was
babysitting to start a “band”.  We were
playing tennis rackets and were all standing up on the couches and one kid was
playing the drums on the Inchworm.  We
all got in trouble, but I got in the most trouble because I organized the whole
thing.
Westerburg High:  My
stepmom played the autoharp.  At the time
it was horrifying, but now I think it’s the best.  She played Anne Murray and some Crystal Gayle
and a lot of church songs.
Wheels:  I actually
just learned recently that my uncle was a jazz drummer for years.
What do you consider
your first real exposure to music?
Eric Big Arm: 
Definitely the band my aunts were in. 
And then listening to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin totally made me want
to play guitar.  I started really
listening to them after high school and was determined to learn how to play
Jimi Hendrix’s solos.  My style and
tastes have changed of course, but it made me a better player.
Wheels:  My older
brother turned me on to a lot of good bands like Black Flag, Husker Du,
Flipper, The Minutemen, and even those first cool B-52s records.  I was listening to all the popular stuff on
the radio and he showed me there was a whole other side of music out there that
was way better.
Westerberg High:  Bay
Area radio was different when I was young and each station had their own playlists.  I would sit in my room at night with a
boombox listening to everything from Doctor Demento to Hearts of Space, plus
there was college radio.  Believe it or
not, Stanford had a killer radio station back in the 80’s.
When and why did
you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  When did you start doing that?
Eric Big Arm:  When I
was eighteen or nineteen, I started playing in my first real band.  We played a bunch of covers, but we had a
handful of originals.  I didn’t write for
that band, though.  Not long after that,
I started tinkering with recording and that’s when I started writing and
recording tons of songs in my basement at my mom’s house.
Wheels:  When I was
young and saw the movie Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains on USA’s
Night Flight
, that’s when I knew I wanted to be in a rock band.  A long time later, I finally started a band
called Hans Kristen Anderson.  It was me
and another girl named Kristen and we had one song called “Best Boy Electric.”
Westerberg High:  I
didn’t really pursue drumming in a band when I was younger.  I dabbled in keyboards and synths and I tried
out for a few bands when I was in my twenties, but my improvisation skills and
my ear were a little flat so it never worked out.  A friend of my roommate had left behind an
old Acetone organ and I started playing that a lot, it was so much simpler than
a synth.  I had pretty much given up on
playing in a band and then I found an “organist wanted” flier for a band that
looked really cool.  They were called
Jeepers Creepers and fronted by a musician and artist named Michael
Motorcycle.  They were okay with my skill
level and would clue me in on what keys the songs were in.  It was a “psychobilly” band and that genre
had a very strong following, so I started out playing some pretty packed
high-profile shows.
If you had to pick
one moment of music that changed everything for you, redefined the meaning of
music and opened the door to all the infinite possibilities of music, what would
it be?
Eric Big Arm:  During
college, I had a friend that was a crazy record-collector dude who was
constantly turning me on to new stuff.
Westerberg High:  I
got lucky with this club Iguanas, which was a club in Tijuana in the late
‘80s/early ‘90s.  That place was total
mayhem.  It was in Mexico, but it was an
American-run club so they had a bunch of money and they built a fat fucking
club.  I was going to school in San Diego
and you could walk right over the border to it. 
Everybody played there.  I saw
Nirvana open for Dinosaur Jr., the Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Jesus Lizard,
Living Color…  Henry Rollins got knocked
out on stage.  That place was anything
goes, tequila shots were a dollar and everyone eighteen and over could
drink.  That was where I learned that
playing in a band, and seeing bands could be this insane madness.  Going to Iguanas in TJ, brief but lovely.
When did you get
your first instrument and what was it? 
Who gave it to you?
Westerberg High:  I
got my grandpa’s piano when I was a kid, but I hated taking piano lessons for
the usual reasons.  Then I had a friend
whose older brother was a badass drummer and he gave me some lessons and turned
me on to some good songs with sweet beats, lots of Prince.  Even songs like “Looking for Clues” by Robert
Palmer.  That shit is tight!
Eric Big Arm:  Aside
from the Spaulding tennis racket and a Muppets drum set, my aunts had all this
junk in the basement that they were going to get rid of when they went on tour,
and I found this old guitar that they were going to throw out.  It was missing a string and it was way out of
tune.  I smacked and twangled on that
thing forever.  It was a cool old
guitar.  I wish I still had it.  It had a paisley pick guard and the rest was
painted all black.
Westerburg High: 
(Sings “Smoke on the Water” and laughs) 
Later that year, when I was probably five or six, my Aunt Julie came
back from Canada with a mismatched set of drums, no cymbals.  I beat those thangs with the heads duct-taped
together.  They were rad.
Wheels:  Clarinet
fifth grade.  But when I was in high
school I realized I was a really mediocre clarinet player and I switched to
mallet percussion, e.g., bells, xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, marimba,
vibraphone.  There were about twenty
clarinetists but only two mallet percussionists, so I thought I could stand out
more in that section.
When and how did
you all originally meet?
Wheels:  At The Scene
in Glendale, right?
Eric Big Arm:  I may
have met you guys before that.  I went to
see The Slighted at Painkillers with The Husbands and the Turpentine Brothers.
Westerburg High: 
That’s right, Painkillers.  They
emptied out that loft for the show and put it all in a U-Haul outside.
Eric Big Arm:  I
didn’t know anyone in LA when I went to that show.  I was just smoking weed and napping in my
truck between bands.
Wheels:  How did you
hear about that show?
Eric Beg Arm:  That
crazy record-collecting friend of mine from Illinois turned me on to the whole
LA punk scene.  And he told me to go
check out the Turpentine Brothers at Painkillers.
Wheels:  You saw us
but you didn’t meet us, did you?
Eric Big Arm:  No, I
guess not…
Westerburg High:  I
remember seeing you at that show.  You
were very complimentary.
Eric Big Arm:  I had
long hair…
Wheels:  What?  No way!
Westerburg High: 
Yeah.  It’s all coming back to me.
Wheels:  But we really
formally met at The Scene Bar…
Eric Big Arm:  2007 or
8.
Wheels:  …Where all
the best bands played for a long time. 
But when we first met you, you were in a different headspace.  You were a lot more, let’s just say
“energetic.”
Eric Big Arm:  Oh, was
that the cocaine?  (Laughs)
Wheels: 
(Laughing)  Yeah.  You had a different vibe to you then.  You were playing in bands with our friend
Grant and we met you through him.  We
were a little scared of you because you were kind of intense.
Eric Big Arm:  I was
too much for a lot of people.
Wheels:  Yeah, you
grabbed his nuts at one point.
Westerburg High:  You
did, you grabbed my nuts.
Eric Big Arm:  Did I
really?
Westerburg High:  Oh,
yeah, in front of my girlfriend…
Eric Big Arm: 
(Laughing)  Oh, my God.
Westerburg High:  And
she said, “Are you going to do something about that?”  And I was like, “Ah, fuck.”
Wheels:  You didn’t
want to fight him, but you didn’t want him to touch your nuts anymore.
Eric Big Arm:  I was
crazy and fun.  I was new to LA…  (Laughing)
Westerburg High: 
Yeah.  You definitely cupped my
balls, though.  And just left your hand
there like, “What’s up?”, kept it there.
Eric Big Arm:  I
did?  (Laughing)
Wheels:  It’s funny
because thinking about it now that’s actually your normal personality.  That’s your gesture of friendship.
Eric Big Arm:  That’s
me.  Like, “Hey, bro.”  (Cups airnuts)
Westerburg High: 
That’s pretty much standard procedure.
Wheels:  But when we
first met you…
Westerburg High:  Now
he cups my balls and I like it.  But then
it was foreign to me.
(Laughter)
Eric Big Arm:  It was
the first time.
Wheels:  Then it
seemed like an aggressive moment…
Westerburg High:  Now
it’s like warm pudding.
Wheels:  When we first
started playing together, you were kind of touchy with me too and I was like,
“Hey, not so much with the touchy.”
Westerburg High: 
Handsy.  “What’s with the handsy?”
Wheels:  And then you
were like, “All right, I’ll stop being handsy with you.”  But you kept being handsy with him.
Eric Big Arm:  Some
people like to be touched.
Westerburg High:  Some
people are hot.  They’re irresistible.
Eric Big Arm: Totally. 
I just want to run my fingers through your hairy chest…
Wheels:  But now I
feel a little bit left out.
Eric Big Arm:  (in a
sweet voice)  You feel a little left
out?  You need a little rubbin’?
Wheels:  It’s a fine
line between feeling left out and being felt up.
(Laughter)
What led to the
formation of Way To Go Genius and when was that?
Eric Big Arm:  It was
2011 and I had been toying around with different ideas and playing with
different people.
Wheels:  The Slighted
was kind of on the wane at that point and people were wanting to play different
styles and switch instruments.
Eric Big Arm:  I got
together with Westerburg on drums, Noah from The Slighted on bass, and Edgar
from The Guilty Hearts on guitar.  We
played together a few times but it seemed like they didn’t want to commit or
they had other things going on.
Wheels:  You guys were
Voice of Nyquil at that time, right?
Eric Big Arm: 
Right.  And Westerburg and I were
at a party after that thing went poof, and I said, “I’m still down, I still
want to play.”  And he said, “Me
too.”  And a week or so later we talked
about it and he said we needed a bass player and I suggested another friend of
ours and he said, “Actually, Wheels wants to give it a shot.”
Wheels:  Yeah, I heard
about you guys getting together and said, “Well, maybe I should just come hang
out and play bass with you two, just to jam for fun, to try something new.”
Eric Big Arm:  So we
met up and it came together really naturally.
Wheels:  Songs came
fast and easily and we all just gelled really well right away.
Westerburg High:  But
then you still weren’t sure and I had to give you the deadline that it was
either you or our other friend.
Wheels:  I just needed
that push and I said, “I’m in” ‘cause I didn’t want to miss out on something
really good.
I love the name of
the band, somehow I feel like I should always be saying your name sarcastically
to myself in the mirror when I’m listening to your music ha-ha!  What does Way To Go Genius mean or refer to
in the context of your name?  Who came up
with it and how did you go about choosing it?
Wheels:  We struggled
and came up with a bunch of names but none of them seemed right or they were
taken by other bands, or we just couldn’t agree.
Eric Big Arm:  Some of
the other ones that were in the running were Drunk Canoe, Limp Zipper, Hobo
Stag Party…
Westerburg High: 
Drunk Canoe was high on the list. 
Hobo Stag Party, you gotta be an extreme band to be called Hobo Stag
Party.
Eric Big Arm:  And if
I remember right, Westerburg, you sent a text with a bunch of names and Way To
Go Genius was one of them, but I just blew it off and moved on.  I was already spurting out new names, and
then a week later we were at rehearsal and you said, “What about Way To Go
Genius?” And that time it rang true for me and stuck.  When I read it I didn’t care for it, but when
we heard it, it was totally right.
Westerburg High:  It’s
not the sarcastic, snarky term that you think it is.  It’s a heartfelt accolade and
encouragement.  I say “Way to go, Genius”
and I honestly feel like you’re a genius.
Eric Big Arm: 
(Laughs)  You’re so full of shit.
Westerburg High:  No,
that is what it is…
Eric Big Arm:  And
it’s coming from the most smartass person in the group.
Westerburg High:  …No
way, (in an encouraging voice) it’s “Way to go… 
Genius.”  (Reaches out to hug
Eric)
(Eric laughs)
Wheels:  The great
thing is that every time you tell people the name they either laugh or smile.
Is there any
shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Westerburg High:  We
live by the lyrics of Creed.
Eric Big Arm:  And
Fireball.
Where is Way To Go
Genius currently located at?
Eric Big Arm:  We have
a great lockout space in Glassell Park and we’re all based in LA.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you’re at now?
Westerburg High: 
Better and better.  Everything I
want, every style of music I want, I can go see in LA.
Wheels:  Big clubs,
small clubs…
Westerburg High: 
Everywhere a club, club.
Eric Big Arm:  The
scene did all the heavy lifting for great bands for a while.  When that changed ownership, things moved
downtown to the Redwood, Five Star Bar and the Down and Out.
Wheels:  And then on
to some cool dive bars in Long Beach and San Pedro: The Prospector, Harold’s
Place.
Eric Big Arm:  Our two
best venues now are Café Nela, which just started up, and Permanent Records,
which is doing a great job of keeping bands I am really into playing here in
LA.
Are you very
involved with the local music scene?  Do
you book or attend a lot of local live shows? 
Do you help to record and or release any local music?  If so can you tell us about that?

Eric Big Arm:  I book
most of our shows locally and I do set up a lot of shows for bands I know that
are coming through town.  All three of us
go out to shows all the time.  Currently,
our rehearsal space is doubling as my recording studio as well.  Doors are open here at Big Arm
Recordings.  I recently recorded tracks
for The Chew Toys and the Tee Pee, and I’ve been talking to a bunch of other
local bands about coming in for sessions.
Do you think that
the local scene has played a large role in the history, evolution or sound of
Way To Go Genius or do you think that you could be doing what you’re doing and
sound like you do regardless of your surroundings or location?
Wheels:  The local
scene has played, and does play, a big part in our sound.  All of us being in bands that were part of
the music scene in the mid-to-late 2000’s, and hanging out with all our friends
at shows around town definitely led to us being in this band, and being able to
work together so well on a sound we all like. 
LA is a great place where you can put yourself out there artistically,
and there’s always someone around who’s into it and will be supportive.
Eric Big Arm:  We’ve
definitely been supported from the beginning by Paul of Death Hymn Number 9,
aka Pol E. Wog, who puts a lot of shows together under Ghoulhouse Records and
has been in tons of bands over the years. 
He’s taught me everything I know about booking and networking, and he
gave us our first local shows.
Westerberg High: 
We’ve had great support from people in the scene, which makes us want to
bring the pain every time we play.
I could go into a
lot of detail about it, but I won’t.  I
will suffice to say that I am terrible at describing bands to our readers.  Rather than me making some long meandering
statement that won’t really explain much of anything at all, how would you
describe Way To Go Genius’ sound in your own words to our readers who might not
have heard you yet?
Westerburg High: 
Southern California punk, with a dash of Warped Tour and a pinch of
Bush.
Eric Big Arm:  Nah…
Westerburg High:  Not
a pinch of Bush?
Wheels:  You can
always use a pinch of Bush.
(Laughter)
Eric Big Arm:  If
Steve Albini were to record the philharmonic, that would be our sound.
Wheels:  The LA
Philharmonic?
Eric Big Arm:  Any
philharmonic.
Westerburg High:  Phil
H. Armonic.
There’s some
really interesting stuff going on in your music that I can’t really put my
finger on.  Who are some of your major
musical influences?  What about
influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
Eric Big Arm:  The
Mentally Ill, The Spits, The Buzzcocks, Big Black, the Undertones…  We’ve also been compared to The Germs and The
Heartbreakers.  We pull from a lot of
different genres, we’ve got hard aggressive songs and upbeat songs.  We run a wide range.
Can you talk a little
bit about the songwriting process with Way To Go Genius?  Is there a lot of jamming and exchange of
ideas between band members that gets worked out and refined into a song in the
practice space or does someone come to the rest of the band with a riff or more
finished idea to work out and compose with the rest of the band?
Wheels:  It’s a
collective process.  We usually start off
with a riff or a beat, and work off of that. 
We find if vocals don’t come quickly while we’re working a song out,
it’s usually not a keeper.
Do you all enjoy
recording?  I mean I think that most
musicians can really appreciate the final result of all that hard work, there’s
not a lot in the world that beats holding an album in your hands knowing it’s
yours and no one can ever take that away from you!  Getting to that point though, getting
everything recorded, especially when it comes to having to do everything as a
band can be a little bit stressful to say the very least.  How is it in the studio for you all?  Do you all utilize studio space when you’re
recording or do you prefer to utilize the more do-it-yourself approach and do
things on your own time and turf with your own equipment and personnel?
Eric Big Arm: 
Recording for us, is with my gear in our space.  It’s all DIY and I could do it all day long.
Wheels:  It’s
definitely a huge bonus to have an audio engineer in your band with all his own
gear.  Both times we’ve recorded have
been a blast.
Does Way To Go
Genius do a lot of preparation before you record getting things to sound just
so with transitions and arrangements or is the recording process more of an
organic process where things have room to change and evolve a little somewhat?
Eric Big Arm:  Before
we record, we jam, we rock, and we kick it hard.  Then, we lay it down in two or three takes,
and done.
Let’s take a
little bit of time to talk about your back catalog, your first release that I’m
aware of was 2012’s self-titled 12” Way To Go Genius limited to only 300
copies.  Can you talk a little bit about
the recording of that first album?  Was
it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all? 
Did you all release that album yourself or is that on a label?  When and where was that material
recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Eric Big Arm:  We
recorded both that and our newest release here at Big Arm Recordings on Pro
Tools and self-released both of them.
This past year
2013 you followed up the self-titled album with the Egg 7” which I also believe
was self-released and limited to 300 copies as well.  Are the songs from the Egg single newer or
were they stuff that was left over from the session(s) for the earlier
album?  Was the recording of the material
for the new single very different than your album?  Where was the material for the Egg 7”
recorded?  When was that and who recorded
it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Eric Big Arm:  The
songs on the 7” are really different from our first release.  Tougher songs with bigger balls and a
harder-edged, rougher recording.  We used
the same recording process we used for the 12” but with different EQs and mic
placements.
Does Way To Go
Genius have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a single or a
song on a comp that I might have missed?
Eric Big Arm:  Just
the two recordings so far.
With the release
of the Egg 7” not too long ago are there any other releases in the works or on
the horizon at this point?
Eric Big Arm:  We for
sure will do some more recording this year. 
I have some new old gear that’s gonna play a key role in upcoming
recordings.
Where’s the best
place for our US readers top pick up copies of your music?  With the completely insane international
postage rate increases this past year I always try to provide our readers with
as many options for picking up import releases as I can!  Where’s the best place for our international
and overseas readers to score copies of your music?
Eric Big Arm:  You can
get our records at In The Red Records, Goner Records, Slovenly or BlackGladiator, Manglor Records and Permanent Records or you can get it directly
from us at our Bandcamp page
International readers should definitely hit us up for copies.  I just shipped to Australia last week.
Where’s the best
place for fans to keep up with the latest news from Way To Go Genius like
upcoming shows and album releases at?
Wheels:  Our Facebook page is the best place to keep up with us and our shenanigans.
Westergberg High: And CNN.
Are there any
major goals that Way To Go Genius is looking to accomplish in 2014?
Westerburg High:  I
would say a halftime show somewhere.
(Laughter)
Eric Big Arm:  More
recording for sure and a lot of shows, a few 7” records and maybe a split.
Do you remember
what the first song that Way To Go Genius ever played live was?  Where and when was that?
Wheels:  Our first
show was booked by Pol E. Wog at the Redwood in 2012 and I think the first song
on the set list was “Fall Smash”.  It was
a solid show and lots of our friends came out to support us.  Great launch of the band.
What, if anything
at all, do you have planned as far as touring goes for 2014 so far?
Eric Big Arm:  We’re
looking to put together two short tours this year, a Pacific Northwest tour;
San Francisco, Oregon, Washington and maybe Vancouver.  And maybe a couple dates in the Midwest.
Wheels:  Next year we
want to go international.
Eric Big Arm:  Yeah,
let’s get the fuck out of this bitch. 
We’re gonna go straight to Amsterdam and play there for like a
week.  (Laughter)  Maybe we’ll only play one show, but we’ll be
there for a week.
Does Way To Go
Genius enjoy touring?  Do you spend a lot
of time on the road?  What’s life like on
tour for Way To Go Genius?
Wheels:  Last year was
our first tour and we had an awesome time. 
Fantastic bands, great cities, Tucson, Las Cruces, two shows in Austin,
Houston, New Orleans…
Eric Big Arm:  We had
a great Town and Country van.  Soccer mom
vans rule for touring.
Wheels:  …Then rounded
it out in Memphis.  We played a crazy
house show for a bunch of kids there and then rewarded ourselves with going to
Gonerfest, which was going on at the same time.
Eric Big Arm:  That
was our best fucking crowd reaction, in Memphis.  Our first crowd surfing.
Who are some of
your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with the
last few years?
Eric Big Arm:  We’ve
played with a lot of amazing bands.  Bad
Coyotes from the Bay Area, Death Hymn Number 9 from LA, Stumble Drunk from
Austin, Pop Gestapo from Tucson.  In LA
we’ve also played with Ugly Kids, The 87’s, Lovely Sort of Death and Magic
Trash a bunch of times.
Wheels:  We love The
Chew Toys too.  And all the bands that
were on the Permanent Records Eagle Rock Music Fest show, especially The Lamps,
Smelly Tongues and Merx.  Talk Sick Brats
in Houston were fun and Buck Biloxi and the Fucks and Chinese Nightmares in New
Orleans were really awesome.
Westerberg High:  Also
the Stalins of Sound from San Diego, Wreck of the Zephyr and Buck Biloxi were
memorable for me.
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
Eric Big Arm:  I’d
like to go on tour with Death Hymn Number 9 and Smelly Tongues.  But in my dreams, Yanni.
Westerburg High:  I’m
into yacht rock so Volcano Choir. 
They’re more current.  They’re
similar to Yanni.
(Laughter)
Wheels:  If we could
go on tour with the Murder City Devils that would be my ultimate.
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to
share here with our readers?

Eric Big Arm:  We
booked a show in Austin at a bar that was supposed to be three bands and we
were the third band.  We get there and we
see a girl writing on a chalkboard out front and it says, “Eight bands!  Two stages!” 
And we were like, “Wha–?”
Wheels:  We go inside
to talk to the booker and the guys says…
Eric Big Arm:  “It’s
Vans Warped Tour!  Welcome!”  (Laughter) 
“Here’s your backstage passes. 
Stack your gear in that corner and we’re going to give you a little
shitty PA to play through on the small stage because this is the real stage
over here.”
Wheels:  They’d had
another show booked that night that was outdoors and then had to move it to the
club we were at because it was raining.
Eric Big Arm:  But all
the other bands were like Limp Bizkit and Sevendust with Sublime closing the
show, not a good match for us and the other two bands at all.  So we end up alternating, their bands on the
big stage and our bands on the small stage.

Wheels:  And our stage
was all crazy and loud with the Stumble Drunk lead singer writhing around on
the floor in the crowd, and the big stage is like, “Clap your hands!  Raise the roof!” with Fred Durst-esque
backwards ball caps and playing that terrible, “Let’s Get Stupid” version of
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” that makes Kurt Cobain spin in his grave.

Eric Big Arm:  And
then when we were loading out, this roided up dude knocked out some kids in
front of the club just for looking at him. 
And then he charged up the street and randomly hit some other stranger
walking down the street, and there were police cars and an ambulance…
Westerburg High:  Cool
story, bro.
(Laughter)
Wheels:  That was our
tour catchphrase when anyone would go on too long with a story.

Do you all give a
lot of thought to the artwork that represents the band like flyers, posters and
cover art?  Do you have a go to artist
for your art needs?  If so, who is that
and how did you originally get hooked up with them?
Eric Big Arm:  All our
album art was done by Stacy Ellen Rich, aka LaStace.  My wife. 
She’s an artist, a designer and an art director, and just really hooked
into our style and sensibility.
Wheels:  The Egg 7”
design was a great collaborative effort with her.  She had some ideas and through discussion,
they evolved into the egg.  Then while we
were all still talking, she went into the kitchen, fried an egg and
photographed it, then put it into the computer and made it a graphic.  All while we were hanging out.  And it turned into a really cool cover.
Eric Big Arm:  Yeah,
she’s very talented, and really hands on.
Wheels:  And Eric’s
done a lot of our best flyers.  On the
road, he was putting together these amazing flyers on his phone when we were
driving from city to city.
Eric Big Arm:  My
favorite one was the Super Happy Fun Land one with the puking clown.  Westerburg sent me that picture.

Wheels:  LaStace made
some great one-of-a-kind t-shirts that we sold on the road, and I designed our
band shirt, which you can also order through our Bandcamp site.

With all of the
many mediums of release available to musicians today I’m always curious why
artists choose and prefer the various methods that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for
your own music?  What about when you’re
listening to and or purchasing music?  If
so, why?
Eric Big Arm:  We like
vinyl the best for the sound quality, and we’ll always release our stuff on
vinyl.
Wheels:  Vinyl is a
great medium for cover art as well.  And
we do include download codes in our records for the digital kids.

Do you have a
music collection at all?  If so can you
tell us a little bit about it?
Eric Big Arm:  We all
have big music collections that we’ve been building over the years.  Lots of records.
Wheels:  You can never
stop finding good new stuff to add to a collection, and there’s always some
rare releases you just can’t live without.
I grew up around a
fairly large collection of music, it seems pretty big to me now, but as a kid
it was truly monstrous.  I was encouraged
from a really young age to listen to anything that I wanted and there was something
magical about this ritual that I used to have. 
I would wander up to these seemingly endless shelves of music and pick
something completely at random to me as a kid, stick it in the player, read the
liner notes, stare at the cover artwork and let the music transport me off to
another dimension.  Having something
physical to hold in my hands always made for a more complete listening
experience and I doubt that I’ll ever shake my addiction to physical music because
of it ha-ha!  Do you have any such connection
with physically released music?  If so
can you talk just a little bit about that?
Wheels:  Having a
physical copy of music is really important to me as well.  I have the digital versions of things, but I
really prefer putting on a record or picking out CDs.  When I used to make cassette tape mixes for
people, it would be an all-day affair where I would spend a few hours making
stacks of all the things that might go on it. 
Then I’d spread them all out on a table, and while one song was
recording in real time, I’d pick out the next song based on how that one was
making me feel.  And then you’d road test
it, and go back and re-record it again and again until it was right.  It’s definitely not the same as just dragging
and dropping songs on your iTunes.
Westerberg High:  I
definitely have that jones.  My home
stereo has a turntable, cassette player and a CD player, and I still buy all
three of those mediums.  I scoffed when
cassettes came back recently.  Now, of
course, I have a boxful of new releases on cassette.
As much as I love
my music collection portability has always been a major issue for me, I love
listening to music no matter where I’m at and I was never able to take enough
stuff with me on the go to keep me happy. 
That was before the advent of digital music, though I can carry more
music on my phone that I could have stuffed in my trunk a few years ago!  And when you team digital music with the
internet you have a real game changer on your hands.  Together they’ve exposed people to an entire
world of music that they otherwise would never have been privy to and it seems
to be leveling the playing field somewhat for musicians willing to harbor and
promote a healthy online presence.  On
the other hand though, illegal downloading is running rampant, it’s harder and
harder to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle and the face of the music
industry is rapidly changing to day the very least.  As an artist during the reign of the digital
era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Eric Big Arm:  When I
make music, I would rather people buy the record.  I prefer a physical copy every time if it
exists.  If they don’t buy the record and
they can’t pay ninety-nine cents for it on iTunes or somewhere else, whatever,
I don’t care that much.  If they Google
us, and like us, and want to get it for free, great.  Steal it! 
I’m not Lars fuckin’ Ulrich!
Westerberg High:  I’m
too lazy to get my digital collection in good enough shape to take with
me.  I spent a period of time downloading
music from the Internet, but it was always from people’s blogs and the albums
were obscure and are impossible to locate now. 
When I started downloading current indie and punk bands, I felt shitty
about it.  Now I buy compact discs
because they have dropped in price while new vinyl has skyrocketed.  I still have a disdain for mp3s.
Wheels:  But it’s
important to have a digital presence out there and have videos on You Tube
because that’s where a lot of people go for music, instead of buying it at
stores and at shows.  You want to be
accessible to everyone in the end.
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can but there just aren’t enough hours in
the day anymore.  With more and more
bands popping up every day, and so many of them being so good, is there anyone
from your local scene or area that I should be listening from your local scene
or area that I might not have heard of yet?
Eric Big Arm:  Yeah,
the LA scene has a lot of cool bands playing right now, some we mentioned
above.  Death Hymn Number 9 and Smelly
Tongues are two of the best out there right now.
Wheels:  And White
Murder, Pol E. Wog’s other band.
Westerburg High: 
Check out Katrina Parker and The Savage Gospel as well.
What about
nationally and internationally?
Eric Big Arm:  For
international, The Anomalies and Bits of Shit.
Westerburg High: 
Heavy Lids from New Orleans.
Wheels:  Ex-Cult,
Blind Shake and TV Ghost all put on intense live shows.
Thanks so much for
taking the time to finish this piece, it wasn’t short and I can’t assume it was
super easy but you’re done now!  Before
we sign off and call it a day though, is there anything that I might have
missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to our readers
about?
Wheels:  Thanks for
asking us!
Eric Big Arm:  I’m
from Edwardsville, Illinois, and I have a cat named Drexl and I collect
matchbooks from all over the world.
Westerburg High:  Put
your fucking phones down and absorb the greatness of Way To Go Genius.
DISCOGRAPHY
(2012)  Way To Go
Genius – Way To Go Genius – digital, 12” – Self-Released (Limited to 300
copies)
(2013)  Way To Go
Genius – Egg – 7” – Self-Released (Limited to 300 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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