An Interview with Catch 22: Damned If You Do Ryan McGrath January 20, 2016 Interviews This past year, Catch 22 made their way back into our hearts by announcing their return to the scene after being inactive since 2012. Immediately after playing their first concert in three years at Webster Hall in Manhattan in June, these Garden State ska icons had an eventful summer that consisted of several East Coast dates, further reiterating that they are ready to pick up right where they left off. Fast forward after a satisfying and productive 2015, the East Brunswick-based group welcomes in the New Year with a highly anticipated headlining performance at Panic State Records’ Seventh Anniversary celebration, taking place at the Starland Ballroom. With a lineup featuring the likes of many Panic State labelmates and friends such as The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Sammy Kay Rebuilder and With The Punches, Catch 22 will also be inviting an old friend, former frontman Jeff Davidson, to perform Alone In A Crowd with the album’s original lineup in its entirety. To start 2016 on a high note, I had the opportunity to chat with members “Mingus” Pat Kays (bassist), Chris Greer (drummer) and Ryan Eldred (lead vocalist and saxophonist) about the band’s relationship with Panic State Records, bringing the original lineup back together to perform Alone In A Crowd, as well some plans in the works for the New Year. So, Catch 22 started to actively play again throughout the course of 2015. Did you feel like it was only a matter of time until the opportunity to reunite was going to come up in conversation amongst the members of the band? “Mingus” Pat Kays: We stopped playing shows, but we never stopped being a band. We kicked around reuniting for some shows at least once a year throughout our unannounced hiatus. As we integrated back into the real world, we began to grow more individual responsibilities, like kids, wives, pets, and mortgages. Most of us found other ways to keep busy in music, too. Ryan Eldred: All of us are really happy to have been able to play some shows and be active again this year. We didn’t break any records on the number of shows we played, but the important part is that we all still really enjoy the people that come out to see us, and most importantly each other. At the end of this month, you will be headlining Panic State Records’ Seventh Anniversary show at the Starland Ballroom. Tell me about your relationship with the label. How did the opportunity to play this celebration come about? PK: Panic State Records is our family—we had to do this show. Seriously (joking), we tried to weasel out of it, but Chris Greer and Bryan “Bean” Greer [Panic State Records co-founder] weren’t having it. Chris Greer: My brother “Bean” [Bryan Greer] and I are co-founders of the label, and we thought this was a great opportunity to celebrate both our anniversaries—our seventh year as a label [Panic State Records] and our 20th anniversary as a band [Catch 22] together, and put on an unforgettable show. Did I mention that The Youth Ahead are playing?! This anniversary show will also be featuring a variety of Panic State labelmates and friends like The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Sammy Kay, With The Punches, Rebuilder and The Youth Ahead to name a few. Are the any acts that you’re looking forward in sharing the stage with or to catch up with? RE: Sammy Kay and The World/Inferno Friendship Society. CG: I look forward in seeing them all. The lineup for this show is stacked with killer bands, and it will be a pleasure to share the stage, break bread together, and be a big family. That is what Panic State is all about. I’m especially excited to watch The World/Inferno Friendship Society. Watching [World Inferno frontman] Jack Terricloth and crew absolutely destroy is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. With The Punches are bringing it back one more time for New Jersey—super exciting—and The Youth Ahead are coming back. We go way back with The Youth Ahead, from the days of Birch Hill and The Stone Pony, to other various hole-in-the-walls we called home. Since [The Youth Ahead drummer] Jay Monchik is part of the Panic State Records family, we just annoyed him enough until the fellas said yes. For this show, you will be playing Alone In A Crowd in its entirety with the original lineup. Is there any personal significance with Catch 22’s lineup or any correlations to Panic State Records that inspired the idea to play this record in full for the occasion? RE: Panic State says it’s the original lineup but really it’s just Jeff Davidson joining us for the show. Fortunately, most of us happened to play on Alone In A Crowd as well, and there hasn’t been much of a lineup change since that record. CG: “Bean” brought up the idea of Catch 22 doing a full album live. I thought it was a pretty cool idea since we had never done an album set before. When something like a 20th anniversary comes around, I want to try and do something special. For me, Jeff contacting us and wanting to come and sing this record with us takes it from special to a one-time only type of show. Jeff has always been part of the family and I am extremely happy he is home with us once again. With having Jeff Davidson come back to sing these songs [from Alone In A Crowd], how does it feel to have this specific lineup come back together and revisit this material? What would you say that you’re personally looking forward to about this night the most? RE: Jeff always brings a great energy to the stage when he performs, so that will be exciting. Also, Alone In A Crowd is a very horn-heavy record so the evening should be nice and intense. PK: I couldn’t agree more with Ryan’s sentiment. I’m especially looking forward to performing a few of the songs I’ve wanted to include in our live set for years. Along with playing Alone In A Crowd in its entirety, what are some other surprises that you have up your sleeve for this show? RE: We plan to bring a positive attitude like we always do. We plan to be well practiced, and show some new material while celebrating some of the old. Also, there will be balloons, pony rides and cake. No clowns! Once the Panic State Records Anniversary show is all said and done, will there be many more opportunities to see Catch 22 in a live setting in 2016? RE: We’re hoping this will be a solid showing in New Jersey for us. We don’t plan on anything here [in New Jersey] for some time, but we are planning weekends in different areas to spread our love around as much as we can. Also, I’ve heard that you’ve been working on and plan to release some new material soon. How’s the writing process been so far? RE: The writing process has been interesting because it’s a little different this time around. We have to do a lot more writing through telecommunications. But it is really coming together for us and we are hearing a lot of stuff that we love. We are also talking about the idea of the album and there are talks of maybe even seeing new music coming out in waves, bunches, or blocks as opposed to longer releases. PK: Yeah, so far the writing process has been slow and steady, but ideally we will have at least one new song to play at this show. We’re doing what we found is strongest for us, and what we do is that—we’re really a personable band. We tend to branch into different variations of ska and punk and ultimately reggae and rock—which are all related—and see what we can do with that instead of hammering one specific stylistic choice. For better or for worse, obviously the definition of Catch 22 is, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” For our band, it seems more like, “Damned if we do,” you know? But we do it! I’d say we’re about a quarter to a third of the way through the writing process for an album’s worth of material. We’re a true democracy, and we essentially run as everybody has to be on board for something to go. With six, sometimes seven guys in the band, it’s a tricky thing. But it seems like right now, we’re not even sure if we’re going to go the album route. I think that the way that we’ve always done it was to write with the intentions of a full album in mind. I don’t know how much sense that makes any more with the birth of—and by birth of I mean maturity of—digital music, and singles. So, what I see for us, and the page that most of the band is on, is we still have that album mentality of having a body of work that represents where we’re at right now, but release wise, we’re looking to release a song or two at a time. On a related note, what some other future plans that Catch 22 has in the works for the coming year that we could look forward to as well? PK: We definitely have a lot plans—I’d say on the front burner of what we’re going to do for 2016, but we’re not at liberty to speak about that yet. One thing I will say to you openly is that you’re definitely going to see new material by Catch 22 this year. Catch 22 will be headlining Panic State Records’ Seventh Anniversary show at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Jan. 23. 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