Smile Politely

Make the scene you live and breathe

There’s a difficulty in being a band that isn’t as accessable as most acts you’d see on a regular basis playing around C-U, but I don’t think that Midstress really wants to be one of those highly accessable bands. Being the local punk staple, they basically can do what they want when it comes to playing shows. Whether that’s hosting house shows, playing with bands not even close to the same genre as they are, playing a set in the mix at Pygmalion Festival, or whatever else — they just want to play.

Midstress is taking their act on tour starting tonight, and this past weekend, following a very eventful Memorial Day, I got an opportunity to sit down with Ryan McCoy (guitar, vocals) and Mikael Brackett (bass) and we got down to business. By “business,” I mean talked with them about being interviewed using very generic questions, browsed through their extensive and impressive record collection, watched their house cat jump and roll all over the place (“it will rip human flesh” was what I was told, jokingly), and touched the poster which is actually a velvet poster of The King himself.

SP: So where am I exactly? “The Velvet Elvis”?

Ryan McCoy: That you are. The last show we actually held here was with Buttonhoof, these guys from Bloomington, Indiana, who played with us back in late April. I feel bad that we’ve only had one show here recently, but I want more to happen.

Mikael Brackett: It’s difficult being in the place we are right now, actually. There are a lot of difficulties with hosting shows as often as we’d like to being a house venue, obviously.

McCoy: Hosting shows here, and another reason I think we’ve been trying to spearhead things recently — to try to make there be a scene here. I think that’s something we really want to happen. That’s the whole point of the C-U Collective — there should be something outside of just bar shows for kids that can’t go to shows that are 19+, and not a lot of people like the bar experience. I think that the whole reason is that we love all the dudes that have done things, but it’s kind of a dying breed. This whole scene, the whole local scene and shit, the Terror House and what was the Dan Aykroyd House, and them stopping, there’s got to be somewhere to pick it up.

SP: Outside of hosting live shows here and there, what else has been going on in Midstress camp?

McCoy: In the past couple of months we haven’t played locally because we’ve been working on this new tour we’ve had in the works for a bit. We feel kind of bad about that happening but it just kind of had to happen.

In preparation for this tour, funny enough, is the fact that we’ve never toured before. It’s a bit embarrassing actually [laughs]. We love this town, but we need to play out of town — this is the first summer that our schedules have worked out that allows us to actually go on tour.

SP: What can people expect from the upcoming tour you’re about to embark on then?

McCoy: The tour is across some of the Midwest states. Some of us have been to Minnesota, but I’ve never been. We like Wisconsin, and we’ll be hitting Iowa City as well. We are just anticipating a lot of sleeping in vans or cars when we travel — we’ve stayed in some pretty seedy hotels, so we’re just going to plan on sleeping on someone’s floor instead. Everyone in the Midwest is too nice for their own good, so that’s why we planned this tour around the Midwest — and mainly because we don’t want to go to any oceans [laughs].

Brackett: Even though we have not been on many tours, we have set up a lot of house shows and been involved for a long time, so we have met many people from not only across the United States, but across the globe that come here and play shows with us.

One of our funniest shows was when we were set between two a cappella groups at Canopy Club. A great friend of ours set it up and we said “Oh of course, we love interesting, eclectic shows,” and it was those two groups, and a band from Italy. We had some Australians who played here one of the shows, so we meet all types of individuals that create connections with us. Now it’s just at the point where we hope there is some reciprocity in going out into the world.

SP: Understandable, but absolutely no oceans on tour — put that on the “do not’s” list. Anyways, tell us about the band you’re going on tour with.

McCoy: We’re going on tour with Robots Counterfeiting Money, who we’ve played in town with before. We have known these guys for a long time.

Brackett: They’re a band that sounds like if Andrew W.K. did something with Nomeansno. They also do a pretty great Iron Maiden cover.

SP: You guys have some experience with playing good covers.

McCoy: We like to cover some songs when we play, and we did a Beastie Boys cover right before we decided that doing The Great Cover Up was a good idea.

Brackett:  We were looking at everything and we didn’t want to do it like two years ago, and didn’t want to repeat anything that was done, because there are all those bands that have been done like Rancid and anything else like the Beatles and all the things we listen to…

McCoy: What about that band that sings “The Freshman”, you know, “We were only freshman…” [laughs], that’s been done, so we couldn’t do something like that.

SP: You guys eventually went with and pulled off a pretty great set by The Specials.

Bracket: But we got on stage and realized to ourselves, “this is the worst band to pick because no one will know their songs!”

Anyway, back to Robots — last time they were at Cowboy Monkey, they took it a step beyond and just put their stuff on the floor, with their entire PA and everything.

SP: Good thing your show Thursday is at Cowboy…

McCoy: Yep, it’s at Cowboy, and hopefully we can do something a little bit like that. Cowboy is a funny place, and we really thank them for doing shows, but sometimes if you’re going to charge a $7 cover, kids aren’t going to come out.

SP: The last time I saw you guys at Cowboy Monkey you played with Santah and Easter, so it was quite the eclectic mix of bands on that bill.

McCoy: I mean, it was an all local show, but none of these bands are playing and need to make that much. All those guys are totally cool with playing a local show for free or for just drinks or something instead.

Brackett: I think it’s a lot about paying for what you’re getting. If you have a price set on it — and it’s an odd phenomenon that I don’t necessarily agree with or understand — but people will not come out to a free show, because it might not be “worth it” in that sense. I mean you’re getting music, you’re getting what you came for, but it’s just because there was no price set on it, it doesn’t seem like as important.

SP: How much is the show on Thursday?

McCoy: Five bucks. We’re playing with Robots Counterfeiting Money and Bruiser Queen.

SP: When I was looking at the listing for the show, it came to my attention just a week or so ago that you guys have a new EP that you’re putting out. It seems like that’s been a pretty recent development.

Brackett:  We’ve had a plan recently that what Midstress is doing is that we’re all going to record EPs that are controlled, dictated by one member, and this is Ryan’s [laughs].

McCoy: …is that what’s happening now?

Brackett: That’s your introduction…

McCoy: Well, we did it with Matt Farmer. He recorded other bands like Enta, Hank, some of those bands. He does it out of his own studio, but he also works on location as a traveling producer so we did get to record it in Champaign at our friend’s basement, so we recorded there. When we’re done recording we usually go to Milwaukee, so this is the first time we’ve done anything entirely local.

Brackett:  A lot of these tracks are ones we’ve never played live before, and we did this EP with multitrack as opposed to live, which was different than how we’ve done it before.

McCoy: We did the EP and recorded it in separate parts like most people do it. Guitars we usually overdub and everything.

Brackett: It’s different because you’re not actually in the room with the band so you’re not able to pick up the subtle changes and pick up on even the most spontaneous rolls or fills and lock in and do it together, so you can get a bit lost at times. At the same time, it forces you to be more concise with what you’re writing, which I think is something that is important right now. We used to just talk about having fun and hoping everyone would be there at the recording sessions [laughs], so this was an interesting experience because I think that with every recording situation, any time we play live you just have to learn “what’s the next step?”

McCoy: Bottom line is that we recorded this one a lot quicker. It was in one day — four songs and it was just something we had to get off our chest. These are songs that I feel like I’ve been meaning for us to do. So we’re just going to go with that for now and see what happens.

Midstress kicks off their tour tonight at Cowboy Monkey with Robots Counterfeiting Money and Brusier Queen at 9 p.m.

Related Articles