Son Of A Gun interview with Nick Usalis and Garrett Luczak

April 1, 2015

Son Of A Gun interview with Nick Usalis and Garrett Luczak

Every once in a while in the midst of all these would-be 60s psych garage rockers you come across these days there’s someone that’s just channeling that proto-punk meets psychedelic garage rock vibe perfectly without even really trying to, and you can tell.  There’s an honesty and integrity to that kind of music that just can’t be fabricated or duplicated in my opinion.  And god damn we need more bands like Son Of A Gun right now!  The infectious qualities of their sound prove that there’s a healthy dose of pop something-or-other going on, but there’s such a tasty snarling edge to the mid-fi production quality and reverberated echoing vocals and guitars you can just turn them on, tune on in, and flip-the-fuck-out with ease!  Son Of A Gun recently unleashed their debut album on an unprepared world in the form of their No Bread 12-inch for Chicago’s Tall Pat Records at the tail-end of 2014.  I happen to have been keeping up with Tall Pat since they opened their doors and they have yet to disappoint at this point, or in fact amaze.  In keeping with that proud Tall Pat tradition No Bread is a devastatingly effective debut album, absolutely all killer and no filler.  Nothing on the album clocks in at over three-minutes, there’s almost always room for a nice tasty solo or break-down of some sort and Son Of A Gun always makes sure to cram as much reverb, fuzzed out insanity and fun as they possibly can in there for good measure.  From the minute I dropped the needle on No Bread I was subconsciously bouncing around the living room like a coke addled pinball, bobbing my head and hammering imaginary air-drums in spastic fits of involuntary convulsions like Animal in the opening scenes of The Muppet Show.  It’s an experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.  Songs like “Look So Good”, “Accident”, “Hangin’ Up On Me” and “Shape” are some of the sweetest garage psychedelia I’ve heard in forever.  There’s a timeless sense to Son Of A Gun’s sound as well, it’s something I don’t hear too often, and unfortunately right now with so many people trying to sound like they do, it’s something that I’m afraid will almost invariably ensure that Son Of A Gun won’t get half of the respect that they so richly deserve while they’re around.  From early beginnings as a one-man bedroom project Son Of A Gun has bloomed into a captivating, dare I say enthralling?  Fully realized live band with a debut album under their belt that sounds as well-oiled as most bands third release, which is usually just about the time they’re loosing they’re steam and the songwriting is really starting to fall off.  Fortunately for all of us, Garrett Luczak had been perfecting the sound of Son Of A Gun for years before he ever put together a full live band of contributing musicians, and you can tell.  I recently got a chance to sit down with Garrett as well as longtime guitarist Nick Usalis and have an in-depth conversation about the band’s earliest incarnations and output, where they’re headed from here, as well as a glimpse inside of the creative process for Son Of A Gun during those periods.  So follow me intrepid readers for a trip down the rabbit-hole, things will never be quite the same once you’ve taken the trip.  Tomorrow colors will be the brightest you’ve ever seen, your food will be the best you’ve ever tastes, the air the freshest you’ve ever smelled.  In short your world will be a little bit of a better place for having heard Son Of A Gun…  Talk about mind-expansion through art!
– Listen while you read:  https://sonofagun.bandcamp.com/
I know you all have been around for a while.  What’s the lineup in Son Of A Gun at this point?  Have you all gone through any changes or is this the original lineup?
Garrett:  Son Of A Gun originally started as me recording everything by myself in my bedroom in August of 2012.  I didn’t start playing live until 2013 with a slightly different lineup than we have now.  Right now, it’s me on guitar and vocals, Nick Usalis on guitar and vocals, Sammy Meyer on drums, and Chris Zalejski on bass who has been in Son Of A Gun since the first show.
Are any of you in any other bands right now or do you have any active side projects going on right now?
Garrett:  Yeah, Nick and I play in a band called The Rubs which is putting out a full-length on Tall Pat Records, who just recently put out our [Son Of A Gun’s] latest album, this spring.  I also play drums in a band called Gross Pointe that is releasing our first single on Hozac soon.  Sammy’s currently playing drums in Paul Cherry and also dabbles in guitar with his side project called The Chips. 
Have you released any music with anyone else in the past besides Son Of A Gun?  If so, can you talk a little bit about that?
Garrett:  I played in a couple of bands in college, but we never had a real release.  One of those bands was called Beer Helmet.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
Garrett:  All of us grew up in the Chicago suburbs.  I’m twenty-four, Nick and Sammy are twenty-three, and Chris is twenty-five.
What was your home like when you were growing up?  Was there a lot of music around or anything?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested/involved in music when you were growing up?
Garrett:  When I was nine, my dad and I started taking guitar lessons and he has always been very supportive of the jams.  Several of my older cousins who played in bands had a bit of an influence on me also.
Nick:  I also got into playing music at a young age.  Nobody in my family was a musician, except for my grandfather who played the accordion.  I used to go over to his house and play this old Gibson knock-off acoustic guitar that one of my grandmother’s friends gave to her.  That’s when I figured out I really liked guitars. 
What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you get very involved in that scene or see a lot of shows when you were younger?  Do you feel like that scene played an important role in shaping your musical tastes or the way you perform at this point?
Garrett:  For the most part, the music scene in the suburbs was pretty happening about twelve years ago.  There were tons of all-ages shows, mainly at places like the VFW or Knights of Columbus.  I played in a few bands in Junior High, but that scene I was a part of didn’t really stick.  All of our musical tastes have evolved passed pre-pubescent pop punk.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
Nick:  Hearing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album for the first time in my dad’s station wagon while on a fishing trip.  I was probably eight years old.
Garrett:  My dad also exposed me to some good tunes when I was a kid.  I remember him playing a lot of Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.
If you were to pick a moment, or a small series of moments, that seemed to change everything for you musically and changed everything, what would it/they be?
Garrett:  I think skateboarding in elementary school opens you up to a lot of music that maybe you wouldn’t find till you’re older.  The whole band skateboards, so I bet we probably all share discovering some jams through skate videos very young.
What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?
Garrett:  My dad bought me a Fender Dual Sonic when I was about five years old.
Nick:  My dad also bought me my first electric guitar when I was in first grade.  I think it was called a Slammer Hammer.
When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you, or was it more of just a natural reaction to being given a new outlet and opportunity to create something and express yourself?
Garrett:  I started writing songs when I was in fifth grade because I didn’t know how to read guitar tabs and I didn’t feel like learning, so I just made up my own stuff.  By the time I was in junior high I had a band of my own that would play places like the teen center.  I still don’t know how to read tabs.
How and when did the members of Son Of A Gun meet?
Garrett:  I’ve known our bass player Chris since freshman year of high school.  He’s been along for the ride since day one.  I met our drummer Sammy at the Empty Bottle through another friend of mine.  We started playing a lot of shows with his band The Morons and we ended up putting out a split 7-inch together.  I eventually asked Sammy to join Son Of A Gun and we played as a three-piece for about six months until I met Nick at a party and asked him to hop on board as a second guitar player.
What led to the formation of Son Of A Gun and when would that have been?
Garrett:  I moved back home from college and all the college bands I was in pretty much dissolved. My ex-girlfriend and I were in one of the bands, so when we broke up that summer I just wanted to make music even though I didn’t have people to play with.  That was like June of 2012.
What does the name Son Of A Gun mean or refer to in the context of your band name?  Who came up with and how did you go about choosing it?  Are there any close seconds that you almost went with you can recall at this point?
Garrett:  Son Of A Gun comes from a song title from the band The La’s.  It doesn’t really have any significance to the band itself, I just needed a name to release the music under and I happened to see it on the back of the record I had and it sounded like a good fit for the music I was making.
Is there any sort of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by, spoken or unspoken?
Garrett:  No ballads.
Where’s Son Of A Gun located at this point?  How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?
Nick:  Right now we’re posted up at our cozy rehearsal space in Garfield Park, which is very close to the Logan Square neighborhood where we play most of our shows.  I think the Chicago music scene is one of the best, if not the best in the country right now.  There are tons of people making rad music out here.  We’ve only been a part of it for a short amount of time compared to some of the other bands, but I get a real sense of community.  Everybody is friends with each other and seems to give a shit and will help you out.  Another cool thing is that there are tons of DIY venues.  New ones seem to pop up every few months.
Are you very involved in the local scene where you’re at?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything like that?
Nick:  We try to make it out to shows as often as we can.  You can almost go out every night of the week and see your friends play.  We do book shows from time to time.
Do you feel like the local scene has played an integral role in sound, history or evolution of Son Of A Gun?  Or do you feel like you would be doing basically what you are and sound like you do regardless of where you were at or what/who you were surrounded by?
Nick:  I think that the Chicago music scene has had a slight impact on our sound.  Everyone is influencing each other to make music, but we all have our own flavor. 
Do you record or release any music for anyone besides yourself/Son Of A Gun?  Are you involved in running or operating any labels or anything like that?  If so, can you tell us about that here?
Garrett:  I currently run Lo-Fi Supply which was originally started as a company where I screen printed my own artwork on beer koozies and t-shirts.  Lo-Fi released The Morons/Son Of A Gun split 7-inch and a tape for The Morons called My Ear Hurts.  We haven’t put out any music recently.

How would you describe Son Of A Gun’s sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before?
Garrett:  A pinch of 60’s garage and psychedelic music with a dash of 70’s proto-punk and rock n’ roll.
Speaking of your sound, I’m curious who you’d cite as some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
Nick:  We’re heavy into proto-punk type stuff like The Stooges and MC5, as well as garage music from the 60s like The Sonics and The Shadows of Knight.  We’ve been told that our music sounds like a blend between the two.  We’re also influenced by current artists such as OBN IIIs and Ty Segall to name a couple.
What’s the songwriting process like for Son Of A Gun?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with an idea for a song or a riff to work out with the rest of you or something like that?  Or do you all like to get together and just kind of kick ideas back and forth or jam until you hit on something that you’re interested in working on and refining from there?
Nick:  There’s really no specific way we write songs.  It’s sort of sporadic.  Sometimes we’ll come up with a riff during practice, and other times it’s Garrett and I sitting down together to write.  Sometimes we write songs on our own and bring them to the table.
What about recording?  Over the years recording has been the death of a lot of great bands, and while I think that most musicians can appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into recording when they’re finally holding that finished product in their hands, getting to that point can be an excruciating chore sometimes.  Getting things recorded and sounding the way you want them to and even seemingly small things like getting it properly mixed and mastered can prove to be painful processes indeed.  What’s it like recording for Son Of A Gun?
Garrett:  We started recording everything ourselves, with no real idea what we were doing.  We realized how stressful it was to record yourself once we wanted our recordings to actually sound good.  We went to the studio which was very stress-free for our last album because we recorded it live, and had someone who knew what the hell they were doing.  But I think we’re going to try recording ourselves again very soon.
Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the technical aspects of recording on your own so that you maybe don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else, or do you all prefer to head into a studio and let someone else worry about that headache so you can concentrate on the music and getting things to sound the way you want them to from the very start?
Nick:  Being in total creative control can be very fun, but also very stressful.  You can drive yourself insane trying to mix and master a song to sound the way you hear it in your head.  We decided to head into a studio to record the LP because we knew taking on twelve songs on our own would be a challenge.  We wanted to get these songs pressed to vinyl as soon as possible.  We wanted to get the songs out there.  Our guy Dave Vettraino at Public House Recordings did an awesome job on the record and we’re really happy with the way it turned out.  I think we might take a DIY approach to our next release since I just recently acquired some new recording gear though.
Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out exactly what a song’s going to sound like before you record, with every part of the arrangement and composition all worked out ahead or time, or do you all just get a good skeletal idea of what something’s going to sound like while allowing for some change and evolution during the recording process?
Garrett:  Most of the songs are finished products and are being played live by the time we record them.  We leave a lot of room for experimenting while recording, though.

I know a lot of people don’t know exactly how to take this question but people have been tapping into the altered states that drugs and alcohol produce for the purposes of making art for thousands of years.  I’m always curious about their usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally enjoy and ‘consume’.  Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Son Of A Gun?
Garrett:  We don’t take hallucinogenics, but we do like to party!
Nick:  I think we’re more productive when we’re sober when it comes to writing and recording new material.  It’s different when it comes to performing though.  We like to get loose!
You all have kept up a pretty intense schedule of self-releasing material, taking full advantage of places like Bandcamp, constantly offering up new recordings for fans.  Let’s talk a little bit about the recording of your back catalog for a moment here.  As I mentioned you’ve released a lot of digital material but I’m going to try and concentrate on some of the hallmarks and physical releases here.  In 2012 you released the Son Of A Gun album which I know is still available digitally on your Bandcamp page, but I saw some spotty information about a cassette version that I couldn’t verify as well.  Was that every physically released at all?  Can you share some of your memories of recording that first material?  When and where was that at?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you or more of a difficult and nerve-racking proposition for you all at that point?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Garrett:  The self-titled album never actually saw a physical release.  I recorded this album out of summer boredom and heartbreak.  I had just gotten cheated on by my girlfriend of three years and I was trying to use my emotions in a creative way.  I wasn’t worried about how it all sounded; I was just trying to find some sort of release.  I recorded all of the songs in my bedroom using GarageBand.
You also released the Treading Lettuce cassette in 2012 as well.  Was the recording of the material for Treading Lettuce very different than the session(s) for the self-titled Son Of A Gun release?  Where and when was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?  Now, I know that Treading Lettuce saw a cassette release.  Who put that out and do you know how many copies it was limited to?
Garrett:  Treading Lettuce was never physically released.  That album was also something I recorded alone in my bedroom with GarageBand.

2013 was a busy year for you all.  To start, Why Pick On Me? dropped the self-titled Son Of A Gun EP cassette.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for the Son Of A Gun EP?  When would that have been?  Where was that recorded at?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Garrett:  I recorded all of the songs for that tape in my bedroom right before hopping on a plane to L.A. that same day.  That was around June of 2013.

You also dropped the Gross Pointe split cassette for the ever sick Dumpster Tape.  I know all of their releases are pretty much limited edition affairs but I couldn’t find any concrete numbers on that release, do you know how many copies that was limited to as I know it’s already long since sold-out?
Garrett:  I think that release was limited to only a hundred copies.  We still have a couple left for sale in our personal stash.  We can be bad about setting up our merch at shows.

You all dropped an EP as well as your debut full-length album in 2014.  The Take EP was released on cassette by Why Pick On Me? who are constantly killing it with their limited run tapes.  Can you tell us a little bit about recording the material for the Take EP?  Who recorded and where was that at?  When would that have been and what kind of equipment was used this time around?

Garrett:  These are the first recordings we did as a full band.  Half of the EP was recorded at our practice space and the other half was recorded at Nick’s house.  We did it in January, I think, over a couple weekends.  We just used what ever recording junk we had lying around.

As I mentioned before, you also released your debut album for Tall Pat Records, No Bread in 2014 as well.  Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for No Bread?  What can our readers expect from the new album?  Where was the No Bread material recorded?  Who recorded it and when would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used?

Garrett:  We recorded No Bread in May of last year at Public House Recordings in Logan Square.  The approach to this album was a bit different.  Songwriting was different in the sense that Nick was contributing to songwriting instead of me writing all of the material.  It was also the first time we had been in a studio.  There’s a huge difference in quality when comparing it to the previous recordings, as well as access to different instruments like organs and a stylophone. 

Does Son Of A Gun have any releases that we haven’t talked about besides the digital only stuff that’s readily available on your Bandcamp page?
Garrett:  No.  Everything that we’ve released is up on Bandcamp.  However, we were asked to record a couple songs at this studio called Treehouse Records as part of their series ‘Monomonthly’.  If you want a taste of what’s to come, you can find two brand new songs on their bandcamp page.

With the recent release of the No Bread album I would normally hesitate to ask, but you all keep up an insane release schedule.  Does Son Of A Gun have any other releases in the works or on the horizon at this point that you can talk about?
Nick:  We’re about to start on recording five or six songs.  Nothing set in stone yet.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up your music at?
Nick:  Everything is available for purchase online.  You can buy the new album at tallpatrecords.com and Dumpster Tapes’ online store.  Other than that, you can purchase our music at most Chicago record stores, like Bric-A-Brac, Permanent Records, and Reckless Records.
With the completely insane international postage rates that just seem to keep going up and up I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up imports as I can.  Where’s the best place for our overseas and international readers to pick up copies of your stuff?
Nick:  Online for sure.  The labels that release our stuff accept international orders.  Other than that, you can purchase a digital download on Bandcamp.
And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from Son Of A Gun be?
Nick:  Follow us on instagram @sonofagunboyz or like our Facebook page!
Are there any major plans that Son Of A Gun is looking to accomplish in 2015?
Garrett:  We’re hoping to get an EP out and write material for our next LP. 
What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes right now?
Garrett:  We’re planning on hitting the road in July, possibly starting in Minneapolis and make our way down to Austin. 
Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road?  Do you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on the road for Son Of A Gun?

Garrett:  We don’t spend much time on the road.  We play most of our shows in Chicago and neighboring cities and states.  We have a DVD player in our van, so touring is probably gonna be pretty sick. 
What was the first song that Son Of A Gun ever played live?  When and where would that have been?
Garrett:  I think the first song that we ever played live was “Faceless Man” in a shitty basement bar called The Underground Lounge in February of 2013.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you all have had a chance to play with over the past few years?
Garrett:  We’re all big fans of Uh Bones, The Sueves and The Yolks (Interview here).  We love to play with those guys!
Do you give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, cover artwork, and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message you’re attempting to convey with the visual side of Son Of A Gun?  Is there anyone that you usually turn to in your time of need when it comes to the visual side of the band?
Garrett:  I try to create all of the visual stuff myself.  My day job is teaching art and I make a lot of art on my own, so I don’t feel like we need to seek outside help for our visual representation.  I also think doing all the artwork for the band myself helps create a cohesive visual image.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the methods that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for you own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, what is it and can you tell us a little bit about why that is?
Garrett:  My preference has to be vinyl.  There’s something so permanent in putting out your music.  You can throw a hundred songs on Bandcamp, but it ain’t official until it’s out on vinyl!  It also sounds so good, especially if you have a nice turntable and stereo, it’s like a religious experience.  I love buying and listening to records, I think I have a record buying problem…  
Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way right now.  I think that when it’s combined with the internet is when things get really interesting though.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and it’s allowed bands and their fans to communicate like never before in history, thereby eliminating a lot of geographic boundaries and limitations that would have crippled bands even a few years ago.  On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to all this amazing music they’re really not that interested in paying for it right now and a lot of people have started to see music as this kind of disposable entertainment to be used and then discarded when they’re done with it.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Garrett:  It’s cool to share the tunes online where someone from Germany can hear your stuff, but if you like the band, you’ll buy the record.
I try to keep up with as many good bands as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time to sort through all the amazing stuff that’s out there right now.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?
Nick:  If you haven’t already, I would definitely check out Uh Bones.  They’re making some pretty groovy tunes and they’re putting out a full-length on Randy Records this year.
Garrett:  Check out The Sueves and Skip Church!  Both are projects of badass artist Joe Schorgl.
What about nationally and internationally?
Garrett:  We played with this band called The Make-Overs from South Africa (Interview here), they were pretty cool. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me so much about the band!  It was awesome getting to learn so much about the band and getting a glimpse inside of the creative process for the band.  Since you took the time to make it this far and I don’t have any thing else to toss at you I’d like to open the floor up to you for a moment here.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you might just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?
Garrett:  We advise everyone to KUT LOOSE.
(2012)  Son Of A Gun –
Son Of A Gun – Digital – Self-Released
(2012)  Son Of A Gun –
“Lightnin’ Strikes” – Digital – Self-Released
(2012)  Son Of A Gun –
Treading Lettuce – Digital – Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Sample This – CD-R – Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Colors – Digital – Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A
Gun/The Morons – Son Of A Gun/The Morons Split – 7” – Lo-Fi Supply (Limited to
300 copies)
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Son Of A Gun Does “Wooly Bully” – Digital – Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Merry Christmas From Son Of A Gun – Digital – Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Live At Cole’s – Digital Self-Released
(2013)  Son Of A Gun –
Son Of A Gun EP – Digital, Cassette Tape – Why Pick On Me? (Limited to 50
(2013)  Son Of A Gun/Gross
Pointe – Son Of A Gun/Gross Pointe – Cassette Tape – Dumpster Tapes
(2014)  Son Of A Gun –
Take EP – Digital, Cassette Tape – Why Pick On Me? (Limited to 100 copies)
(2014)  Son Of A Gun –
No Bread – Digital, 12” – Tall Pat Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015
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