Trash Talk: Above & Beyond

Some of you might only have heard about Trash Talk subsequent to their deal at Odd Future Records,

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Some of you might only have heard about Trash Talk subsequent to their deal at Odd Future Records, but the band has been making a lot of noise for almost a decade now — long before the label’s conception. Now four albums deep, the Sacramento-based band have been turning heads locally and internationally with their signature raging sound and short-length tracks, acquiring them a growing cult following worldwide. We reached out and connected with them while they were on their Converse Rubber Tracks Live China Tour. While chowing down some sushi at a local Japanese spot with vocalist Lee Spielman and guitarist Garrett Stevenson, we had them share with us in an honest conversation. They detail us on their thoughts of China (outside of Japan, it was their first time stepping foot in Asia), their favorite places to tour, their creative process, their weirdest fan moments, the importance of a good relationship between artist and their audience, and much more. On a whole, we learn that Trash Talk is a quartet of talented, hardworking, down-to-earth guys who put family, friends, music, and the notion of giving back before anything else. Following the interview, we drove the band down to the venue and kicked it with them backstage while they carried out their warm-up rituals. Come the performance and they take everybody by surprise with their raw energy and stage presence; they were able to own the audience. While new for most, the experience was remarkably well-received. Check out the conversation with Trash Talk below.

How are your impressions of China so far?

Garett: It’s been sick, it’s been pretty cool. I really didn’t know what you expect. It’s just mad far away. We came out and every things cool, like people are mad chill, from the shows and the reactions from the crowds. People’s been taking care of us, and everybody’s just been looking out for me. Real cool experience.

Can you outline the differences between Chinese and North American audiences?

L: In America, we kinda like know whats gonna happen in a sense, how people are going act in line with punk and the etiquette of how a punk show happens. Whereas in some of these places, like Chengdu, this is the first time some of these kids have been exposed to this type of show. So it’s refreshing to be in a packed room of fresh clean slates where you can mould and do whatever you want to make it. It’s been really tight just to see kids not really knowing and by the end just like letting full loose. It might be like a more reserved type of kid over here and just watching that kind of people wild out. It’s crazy seeing that.

G: It’s pretty fresh to play to people who don’t have a preconceived idea of what’s about to happen. They’re just showing up to have a good time or to see a show. Everywhere in the West, everything’s been done a thousand times over so everybody feel some way about it. So to just have an open mind and just being in the situation is cool.

So obviously connecting with a live audience is important. How do you do it? Do you have a special ritual, or is it just natural and organic?

G: Yeah it’s pretty organic like ever since the conception of the band our thing was to just leave it all out to the floor essentially and we just kinda go out and give 110%, whether that means climbing to the highest point of the room or smashing things, we just like to give them everything. There’s not a person that could come to our shows and say it was uninteresting or that they weren’t at least entertained. It really just comes natural once we start playing music, I only know how to jump up and down and kick sh*t and f*cking jump off the stage. I couldn’t do it just sitting there and standing still. So for 30 – 45 mins a day I’m able to be a f*cking full on (bad kid?) @3:30.

L: You can’t expect a crowd to give you 100% unless you give them 100% too. If you step on the stage and don’t go in, then how do you expect a kid to give you the same amount of intense
energy? You get what you give you know?

You’ve been all over the world touring. Is there a favorite place?

G: Man, I always say number 1 is LA, we love playing in LA. There’s nothing like playing home. The vibe of Los Angeles/California is really awesome. Tokyo’s great. Australia. London. Paris.

L: It’s also that in Los Angeles, since we live there, we get to do a lot more of event-type things. When we come to a city like Hong Kong, we’re on tour, we can’t exactly set up things the way we want it to be but in Los Angeles we get to do a lot more of special events, whether it’d be free shows, two shows in one day, or like special guests like bringing friends out, picking the line up like we want it to be, being from Los Angeles, we get more room too f*ck around, really.

Is there a favorite song out of your catalog for you to perform?

G: It’s difficult too, because with our songs, our music is really fast but our songs are relatively short, as far as I’m concerned, from the first note of the set to the last of the set, it’s one song that blurs together. I don’t really break it up too much in my head. I don’t know how you feel though (to Lee).

L: There’s certain songs that I know that there’s just parts that will hit, this is about to be the one like (G: What song) like “Blind Evolution,” I guess it starts with like a guitar lead, and it’s like I know it and you could see it in the crowd and it just like that and when it hits its just like “Ahhhh” it all comes together in a sense. you can see it in the crowd slowly like what’s gonna happen, then the drums hit and the room explodes. There’s certain parts in the set for me like a certain drum fill that leads into a part or like the intro or even the end. There’s just certain parts in the set where I could vibe super hard to it.

For your release earlier this year, how do you evaluate it? How do people receive it, was it up to your expectation and how does it stand to your previous works?

G: It stands pretty well. With every record, we progressed a bit, little steps, big steps, everything kind of across the board. With this record, we do a lot of different things. It’s always been a dream of mine to work with Alchemist, who’s one of my favorite producers ever. To be able to work with him on the record was awesome, the reception of that from the people was f*cking amazing. I don’t see our body of work as album per album, I just see it as one moving unit just continuing to progress. It’s just hard for me to see it as a record or song or event or release, it’s just a blur of vibes of us getting out there and continuing to go making records to be able to keep us on the road and to be able to keep us being active and creative. As soon as the record is done, we go onto the next thing.

L: I also feel like with this, we got to do stuff like street campaigns in L.A., covering the entire of the city with posters and cartoon music videos and just timeline-wise worked out everything we wanted to, with designers and photographers. We had enough time to do everything we wanted to do and there be no hiccups.

How hands-on are you guys in the creative processes of your releases, such artwork or music videos?

G: It’s really only us man, we don’t even have management or anything, we handle everything completely in-house. so everything that you see is me and this dude sitting down with and wrote on a piece of paper or jammed on some sh*t. We just take everything ourselves so everything is just 100% us. Doing anything different it wouldn’t be the same and we wouldn’t have the same vibe and message.

L: The thing is with everything on this record, it wasn’t like “oh yo, this dude’s super tight, we need to get him.” It was like, we tapped like our friends and our peers. The person who shoots it’s the homie, the person who made the animated video – that’s a good friend. The person who made the whole video, that’s a good friend. We use our friends to get the job done instead of just tapping a person you never really met, you know? Keeping it more in-house and family-based, it’s the way it’s always been, and it’s worked out really well on this record with that.

Do you feel like this is the right thing to do? I mean the music industry has always been a place with drama and everything sounding the same. Do you think (going indie) is the right thing to do?

G: Now is always the best time to do whatever you’re gonna do. If you’re putting your best foot forward, you should be able to step out there and put yourself out there, and you shouldn’t need to hide behind a label or a manager or anything. If you believe in your sh*t, then take the risk, and put 100% into it and focus your energy into it. That’s what worked for us; I don’t know if that’s necessarily gonna work for everybody, but I see that as a master plan for everything, if you really just invest into it, you’d be straight.

L: I also couldn’t really see, I couldn’t ever wanna feel comfortable or see us letting someone else have control of what we do, because this is what we do and we’ve been doing it for like 10 years. We probably do it for another 10. This is us, to give someone else creative control over something that’s our brainchild and our baby just sounds like not even a logical thing that could really ever happen. If it’s our output then we can’t really have anybody else’s opinion on that, except for our own. So at the end of the day, everything has to be approved by us, come from us, though us, cause if we f*ck it up, it’s on us, there’s no way around that.

So how’s the nature of the deal with Odd Future, are they very liberal on everything?

G: Absolutely, it’s been like the most chill, relaxed, laid-back experience ever because that’s essentially why we were able to work with OF – we’re all super like minded, we all have the same vibe. Tyler does a lot of his own sh*t, everybody in the group does their own sh*t. It’s just a bunch of friends being able to be creative together and separately as well, and everybody’s able to just do whatever the f*ck they want; it’s high fives all the way around. So we’ve never had any pressure on that side ever.

L: And it just makes sense they may rap and we may play punk music but we’re still the same kid. The genre doesn’t….we’re still the same person; the type of music we play doesn’t separate us. Working with peers and people that you f*ck with on a level basis, its not far out there at all.

When is the next album coming out?

G: I don’t know, we’ve been jamming on some sh*t man and I don’t know, just whenever something comes out. We got a bunch of stuff on the rise that we’re working on, outside of making music, outside of touring, a bunch of other ideas and stuff we’re trying out, and sh*t’s going well. We just moving you know. Hopefully, it will be done early-ish next year I guess hopefully.

L: We’ve really been enjoying ourselves doing things involving our band that’s not music-completely-related. it’s been really fun to not have to double front flip off a stage and break my back to make waves…it’s been really refreshing.

When do you decide to put out an album? When there’s enough material?

G: I think for us it’s kind of when we get a break, when we get time away from doing something crazy. We tour a lot, and this is the least – last year – that we’ve spent on the road ever, and we probably tour seven to eight months this year. We’re typically always going so when we’re not working, we’re at home writing. So this year we’ve been able to not play so much but be able to do different creative things and be able to take trips and try different sh*t. So it just kinda depends, when we have some space and some clear head space to chill or to get in the zone and jam and be in the same city at the same time and feel like its right then we just do it. There’s not really ever a time though where we’re not working because this is our job and there’s nobody else who works for us and so when we get a second we’re going in.

How would you describe your relationship with fans?

G: We’re super hands-on with fans. I don’t really even like to use the word fans because it’s goofy but it’s just like if you wanna f*ck with us roll up you know? We here. We’re not too cool for anybody because all that sh*t is stupid to me. I’ve had artists that i’ve watched and want to say was sup to. You walk up and they’re just like “the f*ck? why are you even talking to me?” That stuff turns me off so I never ever wanted to be that dude, and you’re absolutely not sh*t without those people that support you so you might as well open your doors to them, to a certain extent.

L: We go above and beyond to give back to people more so that other bands, doing free tours and free shows. I think we’ve honestly played like 7 free shows in LA this year. It’s insane. Free shows, free food and free drinks. When I go to shows as a kid, and it’s like “oh you get to see one of your favorite bands, for free, and get drunk for free, and have free pizza. that’s the sickest sh*t ever. So I try to put myself in. I’m a fan of a lot of music. I try to put myself in those shoes and be like what’s f*cking super tight and someone’s gonna be really juiced on. It’s stuff like that, all these shows are free. That’s insane, you don’t have to pay any money to have come a good time and you get to get drunk and maybe get a free skateboard or something it’s like all this sh*t is gnarly. Growing up I wish I had bands that cared more of how I felt and stuff, not everyone has money like that.

G: That too also, I’ve always felt that has opened a lot of doors for us in a sense that to come to one of our shows, you don’t really have to sacrifice or do sh*t, you just kinda pull up. you can just come and try it out and not have to put some money up. You come through you just like it or you don’t, you could leave, it’s all good. We did a free tour across United States, every show is free. Every show is packed out, every show is sold out, everyone had a good time. If you didn’t like it, you didn’t lose anything. I feel like that always opens up a bunch of new fans that aren’t sure if they’re were into that of style of music or if they just heard about it it or just on the fence. But it just takes a lot to come from it. I don’t necessarily come from the punk background, so it took quite a bit for me to able to get to my first punk show, I’m like f*ck i don’t know what I’m into but I got there and i enjoyed it. I could see how it could also go the other way, so having it just be an opportunity for anybody to roll up its like really dope, that’s how I got into it.

L: Yeah, I said it before, when the show is free, just come and form your own opinion, even if you have no idea what it is. If you didn’t like it you didn’t pay to get in, who cares, there’s no sweat off your back, and if you found something new, f*cking wow, you found something super sick that you’d probably would’ve never came to if it had costed you 20 bucks. That’s why doing stuff like that, free events and just trying to do creative cool events opens up a lot of doors. It makes it more than just a punk show, you can get every kid from a little f*cking skate rat to a punk kid to a person who likes rap to a graffiti, whatever, anything! It’s like when you’re standing with all your friends it’s like what’s going on tonight? Man, Trash Talk’s playing a free show. The second you say free your whole squad’s going, that’s just the way sh*t works. So it’s tight opening doors like that.

How has Punk evolved in the last five years, has it changed a lot?

G: I don’t know, my personal view on the whole punk thing, I don’t really like to go too hard on us being a punk band you know? Because we just do our thing and that’s the genre of music in which we do make yes, but i don’t necessarily put us in a bracket of like any kind of scene or anything because we’ve built our own sh*t, you go to Trash Talk shows in L.A., anywhere across the world, you got anywhere from a hip-hop kid to a rock kid. So I don’t really f*cking know. I’m not as in tune with the punk scene as i used to be personally. You might be able to tell a little more on that.

L: There’s a lot of bands doing a lot of creative stuff and doing it their own way and at the same time I think there are a lot of brands pigeonholing themselves and doing the same things over and over and just putting themselves in a box, and that blows me out because it shouldn’t be a thing to where you broaden your horizon, open your mind and go do different sh*t. Whereas like there are certain bands that’s like, yo you wanna go play a show with like a rapper or like Action Bronson or like Danny Brown, and they’re like “f*ck no!” it’s like, why would you say f*ck no? who are you to say “f*ck no”? But there are a lot of bands that do all that sh*t so it’s like a double-edged sword. there’s bands that are being creative and breaking the glass ceiling and there’s bands that are just gonna play with the same bands forever to the same kids forever because they’re just content with doing that and so, i guess to each their own and it is whatever it is but it’s kind of a bummer to see those type of bands just stick to one scene and be like yo we’re a punk band, f*ck everything else…that sh*t gets boring, grow up a little bit, think a little bit. So, it goes both ways. There’s people doing sh*t and there’s people not doing sh*t with everything.

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Interviewer
Petar Kujundzic
Photographer
Stanley Cheung/Hypetrak

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