Big Troubles

POP-O-MATIC

Eleven nights into their first touring experience I met with the band before their final Canadian show. We talked Mitch Easter, discussed “urban nut” –whatever the fuck that means – brushed upon purchasing pornography, and delved into the band’s tongue-in-cheek fantasies of working with one Brian Setzer, during which I learned to keep personal observations to myself and enjoy the aloof idiosyncrasies of a young band.

 

Big Troubles are up-and-coming, catchy, and purposefully hard to gauge. Recently signed to Slumberland Records, their second full-length Romantic Comedy came out this fall to mixed reactions. And in Van, in a van with Jersey plates I got to know the stranger side of what has become an increasingly polarizing act.

How would you describe your sound to someone who’d never heard a Big Troubles song?

Sam Franklin: Pop-Rock.

Alex Craig: That’s what we’ve finally settled on. At first we would just say rock, or alternative; sometimes even indie-rock. But now we just say pop-rock. That makes the most sense to people.

After your first Canadian shows – Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and soon to be Vancouver – what’s the initial opinion of the Great White North?

S: It’s better than the American Midwest.

A: We really liked Calgary, because we found that it was kind of stuck culturally. It seemed like we had walked into some sort of time machine and popped up in 1999.

S: Actually, I take it back; it’s on par with the American Midwest.

Luka Usmiani: But Vancouver’s been fantastic. Nicest of the four. The drive in was nice; long, but nice.

So you bought a porno today? Tell us about that.

A: Yeah, we went to Fantasy Factory just down the street. I was a little disappointed with my purchase. It was wrapped in shrink wrap, so I couldn’t really check it out. I was going off of the cover picture alone, which the rest of the issue didn’t really live up to. It was pretty raunchy though.

Ian Drennan: We can show it to you later.

I look forward to that. What are you guys most proud of on Romantic Comedy?

I: I think just the experience of working with Mitch Easter.

And how was it working with a guy who has produced bands like REM and Pavement?

S: He was down to earth, a very nice guy. Eventually it got to the point where we were all very much speaking the same language. As in, we were speaking nonsense and he had learned how to speak it as well.

A: We do speak nonsense, and we weren’t sure if he thought that was funny at all. But by the end, he was chiming in with our jokes.

L: We started calling guitar takes ‘urban nut’; describing them as ‘urban nut.’
Urban Nut?

A: Yeah, the concept of ‘urban nut’ was really big for the album.
L: It flows throughout the entire album, we think.

A: We’d be doing takes and saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s urban nut.’ And I was thinking Mitch probably just thinks we’re retarded. But then there was this moment where someone was tracking, and he turns to the other three members of the band and goes, ‘You think that was urban nut?’

L: Things would also be ‘Hollywood’ or ‘boyfriend’.

A: If we thought we were singing our vocals too effeminately we’d ask if that was too ‘boyfriend’.

L: We may have gone too ‘boyfriend’.

A: And ‘Hollywood’ is if it sounded appropriately slick.

I: ‘Hollywood’ approved.

A: When we wanted all the takes to be really slick – if it achieved that high slickness – then it was ‘Hollywood.’ Overall, it was pretty ‘Hollywood’; and ‘boyfriend’, but not too ‘boyfriend’.

L: Almost all the time though, Mitch knew exactly what we wanted. It was a real pleasure.

On initial listens I couldn’t help but note similarities to The Jesus and Mary Chain. Do you guys get that a lot? And how much do you appreciate being compared to a seminal act like that?

S: We got it a lot, especially early in the Big Troubles career, and after about the fifth comparison to the Jesus and Mary Chain I just kind of wanted to rip my own head off. And I’m not sure that any of us ever really listened to them.

A: When you start, some people pick up on some older things that influenced you and you think, ‘Yeah, that’s great. They hear that.’ But the novelty of that wears off really quickly, and eventually it’s just obnoxious. But, more recently there have been some really unwarranted comparisons to contemporary bands, and that made me realize that I’d take a comparison to an older band over that any day.

Awesome. Thanks, guys. Have a great show and enjoy the rest of the tour.

A: I think we should just riff for a minute. We could talk about some of the future plans for Big Troubles moving forwards.

L: I think it should be a secret.

A: No, the fake ones.

L: Oh, the fake future, yeah.

A: The swing revival revival. I’m not sure I should say this; I don’t know if it’s really ready to be printed. But I’ve had some emails back and forth with Brian Setzer, of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, and he seems pretty interested in working with us on our next record.

Okay. Thanks guys, really. How about one final thought?

A: We’ve made sort of an alienating record with our second record, because people wanted to hear the lo-fi shoegaze of Worry and they’re disappointed with this new album.

L: But the third time around we’re not going to give them a record, we’re going to give them a swing revival restaurant.

A: We’re changing mediums altogether. Every LP comes with a download card to open your own restaurant. Our third record will come with a meal coupon to the Brian Setzer Restaurant by Big Troubles

Leave a comment

ION Magazine 170-422 Richards Street Vancouver BC Canada V6B 2Z4
© Copyright ION Publishing Group 2013