“Let’s be honest, with The Disconnects and Crazy & The Brains’ Tour The Other Side 2012, we’re not reinventing the wheel or anything. This won’t be the first time two bands from Jersey piled into a jitney on a quest to terrorize far off places like Fort Collins, Colorado, Escondido California, and Portland, Oregon,” says Todd Wolenski, owner and head honcho at Baldy Longhair Records. “But that’s not to say that this isn’t a big f’n deal. It is. For the past year-plus, these eight men and myself have worked our asses off together, crafting and disseminating some of the most earnest and original punk rock and roll this state has seen in some time. I’m not saying this as the label, either. I’m saying it as a fan. Their respective styles aren’t a conscious decision. It’s just who these guys are.”
Baldy Longhair cranks out the sounds I’d been dying to hear from the local scene for years, and the progress of both bands has been astounding to watch from the wings. To check out the label and obtain their cassettes and vinyls, be sure to visit baldylonghair.com.
Before the bands hit the road, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Urban of Crazy & The Brains, and Ryan Switzer, Tommy Miller, Joe Brendel, and Anthony Ruscitto of The Disconnects about this damn unholy union of a tour across the U.S. The transcription is below:
Describe your band in as many or as few words as you like.
Chris Urban: Maybe like Jonathan Richman but less sensitive? Plus The Ramones and Beastie Boys? I don’t know. That’s a weird question. I’d rather people decide for themselves when they listen to our records or come see us play. We consider it our take on punk, before it lost all its creativity. It’s music. Music intended to make you jump around, get off your ass and dance, alter your mood, make you think and make you laugh a little bit. We’re punk kids who started this band out in the anti-folk scene, so when people ask us which genre we are we tell ‘em both, because we are both. We are both and we are neither. Really, the genre doesn’t matter at all. Just come see us live you’ll figure it out!
Ryan Switzer/The Disconnects: No, we don’t wanna!!
Tell me how you guys first hooked up with Baldy Longhair Records. What was it like when you decided that it’d be a safe, wholesome idea for both bands to tour together?
CU: We knew Todd through one of our best friends. Both grew up in the same town as us. He had a website that covered our band a few times so he started to get familiar with us. When he started a label up and asked us if we wanted to put something out with him, it was an obvious choice; we didn’t even need to think about it. Todd and tapes? We knew it would be awesome. As far as us and The Disconnects touring together, we have known the Disconnects kids for a while now. We played in punk bands together when we were younger around NJ. And I did a tour with Ryan and Joe opening up for their old band a little while ago. We went absolutely nuts across the country and had a blast for three weeks. Any chance to do that again, I’m jumping on.
RS: Well, Chris and I had played in different bands before the ones we are in now and have always been in touch. I might have sent Chris some Disconnects stuff when we first started and he had told Todd about our group. Todd contacted me and explained to me the whole deal of what he was trying to do, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He wanted to do a punk rock cassette label and we thought, wow, this is perfect! We are really excited to be part of an up-and-coming label that has nothing in mind but bringing you the best punk rock they can! I don’t think the words safe and wholesome have ever been in my head, but we wanted to tour with a group that had just as much excitement and passion for what they’re doing as we have, and it shows.
Joe Brendel: I first met Baldy at The Saint in Asbury Park. He was sporting a Trapt shirt and I said, “Hey, nice shirt.” He replied, “Thanks! Say, do you want to make a record with me?” Of course, I agreed. But in all honesty, I don’t know how we hooked up with him; I met him after everything had already been arranged. Sorry.
Tommy Miller: I think quite simply that we trusted Todd. We knew he wasn’t some kinda whipper snapper! He believes in rock and roll in the same way we do. I’m not sure yet if touring with Crazy & The Brains will be “wholesome.” We’ll try to make the tour as healthy as we possibly can though! I’m only gonna have three beers on the entire tour!
How would you say your sounds complement each other?
CU: We both have energy, live and on the record. We’re basically two different takes on early punk music.
RS: I think both bands are very similar as much as they are different, if that makes any sense. First off, we’re all weirdos, but what it comes down to is the roots. I think both of our bands really respect the roots of rock and roll and understand what it’s really about. The music is real, plain and simple. I feel like our bands’ music truly translates to who we are as people. Too many bands these days are worried about how fast they can shred or where they can fit the drum solo, and they lose the real-ness and true feeling that makes rock and roll great and relatable. Three chords and some heart can change the world, and I think a lot of people forget that. I think especially on the tour that will really come through, too. Both of our groups give it their all up there and as unpredictable as The Disconnects can be, what you’re getting is real and that’s all we want to give you—something honest.
JB: We all listen to the same kinds of music, and members of both bands used to play together with different bands a few years back. It’s cool to see how the songwriting and sounds of each band has evolved over time. If there’s a band that would be a better match for us on this tour, then I haven’t heard or seen them yet.
TM: The sounds of our voices are similar when we say “great show!” after each performance.
In that same vein, how would you say your sound stands apart, or on its own?
CU: To put it simply, we have a xylophone player. They have a lead electric guitar player. You pretty much just gotta see us live or listen to us to see for yourself. We’re extremely different bands coming from a similar place.
RS: Crazy takes the rawness of rock and roll and throws the craziest party ever for it and you’re all invited! I think our sound is a bit grittier. When Tom and I started writing, we wanted to follow in the ways of our heroes—Chuck Berry, Johnny Thunders, Bob Stinson—ya know, that ripping, raunchy rock and roll guitar lick that never fails. I feel our music is an attack really, with no precision but coming for whatever is in our way.
TM: Our sound stands apart because we play rock and roll. Not too many people seem to be doing that these days. There are some great rock and roll bands out there—I just wish there were more. Most things out there are fluffy and cookie cutter. I miss bands that were dangerous. I saw The Replacements as a kid and thought for sure one of those guys was gonna die the next day. I really hate how sterile things are today. So, we definitely have a very gritty non-sterile sound. We’re not trying either, it’s just who we are.
Times are tough for everyone these days, including touring musicians. What makes you most nervous heading out this summer?
CU: I don’t think we’re nervous about a thing. No matter what happens we’re doing what we love, the way we wanna do it. NYC could be blown up when we come back but we still will have spent the summer having the most fun playing the songs we love. NJ has better pizza anyway! Just kidding… (No, it does though.)
RS: Indeed they are! What makes The Disconnects nervous besides themselves? Hmm. Maybe, not finding some good hot dog places. Being nervous about the terrible pizza that awaits us in some of these states. I’m nervous for the smells that will be lingering in our little bus. Staying alive. I’m nervous for dirty bed sheets and bed bugs at hotels. For the most part, we aren’t really nervous. We’re really excited to meet all you rock and roll girls and boys out there!
JB: It’s going to be tough to pay for travel. Gas prices are high, and our bus is very thirsty. But people can surprise you. We’re relying on the generosity of others while we’re out there, and there are definitely people that will understand what we’re going through. It’s fair to say that anybody in a nowhere town in Middle America that’s at a punk rock show has their whole heart in it and will help us out.
TM: I’m scared and worried about meth heads stealing our shit.
Anthony Ruscitto: Only having the Rand McNally as our guide—I have a dumb phone. Does anybody remember laughter…? Do people still remember rock and roll?
What can we expect to see from you guys on this tour? And what does the future hold?
CU: Us playing the most energetic, rowdy, ridiculous, messy shows possible 30 days in a row. Us trying to out play each other every single night. Us playing on each other’s songs. Us plastering our names in graffiti all over the country. Most likely playing on some street corners for free when we are bored before the show and most definitely us sleeping on your floor. Surprisingly we don’t smell nearly as bad as we look like we should.
RS: You can expect us to crash at your house, eat your food, drink your beer, and talk your ear off about bands and monster movies all night. You can expect us to be up front watching all the great local bands we’re gonna be playing with across the country! You can expect to see us at the end of the bar after every show. We’re taking some new songs on the road, which is going to be fun, and when we come home from this trip we’re going to be writing the rest of our new LP. Then it’s back in the bus and TOUR! TOUR! TOUR!
JB: Expect no excuses, just results.
TM: You can expect a real rock and roll show. And more of the same in the future. That is, if we can manage to stay alive.
AR: Rock and roll, and more rock and roll!
The Disconnects/Crazy & The Brains will be at JR’s in Philadelphia on July 30 and at McFadden’s in Bayonne, NJ, on August 4. For more information, go to baldylonghair.com.