Smile Politely

Yossarian Plays WEFT Sessions Tonight, There’s No Catch

In Catch-22, fighter pilot Yossarian “had decided to live forever or die in the attempt.” For the local band of the same name, the stakes weren’t quite as high on Saturday night as they made their debut performance at Mike ‘N Molly’s, but Yossarian certainly survived, even thrived. They’ll live to fight another day: namely, tonight on WEFT Sessions at 10 p.m. on WEFT-90.1 FM.

The quintet, with (alphabetically) Collin A. Bullock on guitar and vocals, Aaron Gates on drums, Matt O’Neal on bass, Alex Resnick on guitar and Merry Thomas on lead vocals, chatted with Smile Politely out on the sidewalk after their gig about, among other things: their original plan to start a Dolly Parton cover band and how their current sound can be described as a bear fighting a lion. The results are after the jump.

Smile Politely: It’s chilly out here, so I’ll try to keep this brief.

Collin: I’m insulated like a polar bear.

SP: Some of your bandmates are not, though. OK, first show, how do you think it went?

Merry: It went surprisingly well.

Matt: More, more!

Collin: People seemed to like it, and what more can you hope for?

Passerby: Is your voice going out?

Collin: Absolutely. I screamed a lot. Keep that in the story, we have two random strangers hugging our lead singer right now.

SP: How long have you guys been together, rehearsing and all that?

Collin: A long time in general, with me, Alex and Matt, but we got a new lead singer and a new drummer – how long ago was that?

Aaron: Middle of June?…July?…July.

Collin: We’ve been around since, July, August or so. We had a show two weeks ago at the Red Herring, but that fell apart.

SP: So, you guys (pointing at Collin, Alex, Matt) were in a band together before?

Collin: No, Matt and I are old friends since high school, and he just bought a bass, so he’s been playing bass for about as long as the band’s been around. He’s getting good.

Matt: I’m learning.

Collin: So we were in a band, and Alex, how did you find us?

Alex: The Internet.

Collin: Alex does not waste words.

Matt: He picked up on the residuals, and just followed it.

Collin: I posted a Craigslist ad, and Alex came and joined us through that, and Aaron, how did you get in the band?

Aaron: He (Collin) wrote a really terribly hand-written note and stuck in on the drum shop’s door, and I looked at it and kind of was like, “What the hell did that say?” And I called up the number, and Collin was like, “Yeah, come on over, I’ll rape you.”

Collin: There was NO RAPE! And we had another singer at the time…

Matt: Dear God.

Collin: And that didn’t work out. Merry, how did you join us?

Merry: Aaron’s my roommate, I’ve known him for forever, ever since we were wee little high school children. And then one day he was like “Well, we need a new vocalist, so you should come over, like right now,” and so I did, and that was how it all started.

Collin: In the practice space, [we had some issues and I was like], “Your roommate sings, right?” And she came over like, literally, 30 or 45 minutes later, and it wasn’t bad.

Matt: We were originally formed, we were drunk when we originally got the idea…we were at Guido’s, I think [points in the opposite direction of Guido’s].

Collin: We were out at Guido’s, and it was me, Matt and the other singer, and we were like, “Let’s start a band! You want to join the Taliban? I’m in!”

Matt: The original idea was to play all Dolly Parton songs.

Collin: But I only know one Dolly Parton song, and it was the one that the White Stripes covered [“Jolene”] so that didn’t work out. [To Merry’s friend] Is that a Smashing Pumpkins Zero shirt? Awesome.

SP: So, did you guys grow up around here?

Aaron: Sadly, yes.

Merry: Yep, born and raised.

Matt: East St. Louis!

Merry: I was raised in a very nice neighborhood.

Alex: Arizona.

Collin: Interesting coincidence – Matt’s going to leave for the rest of this interview because he has a drink, but I’ll speak for him [this turned out to not be the case] – Alex lived in Arizona, that’s where he grew up, and I was born in Arizona. How far away – you grew up in Flagstaff, correct?

Alex: Uh, I was in a couple different places.

Collin: What town would you say most encapsulates your experience there?

Alex: Phoenix?

Collin: And how far away is that from Tucson?

Alex: Uh, several hours.

Collin: So the story means nothing. It’s interesting, I was born in Arizona, he was from there…sorry to waste your time.

SP: So, what is the greatest album of all time?

Collin: I’m going to say, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Aaron: Personally, I’m a Killers fan, so I like pretty much them all.

Collin: You gotta choose one.

Aaron: I don’t know, Sawdust is pretty tight.

Merry: I’m a big fan of Sufjan Stevens, I think my favorite album of his is Seven Swans.

Aaron: You can definitely tell our diversity here.

Matt: Daisies of the Galaxy by the Eels, been my favorite for a long, long time.

Aaron: Dragonforce is pretty fun, too.

Collin: The show tonight was not…we’re really a Dragonforce tribute band. We figured we’d just go mellow tonight.

SP: [to Alex] Are you abstaining, or do you have an answer?

Alex: I was listening to Pecker Dunn, who’s an Irish street singer, that was a pretty good album.

Matt: Nice!

Alex: That’s the last one I liked.

Collin: When I was in Ireland I saw a street singer, and I was like, “Play ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries,” and he was like, “That’s what fucking [unintelligible].”

SP: That’s a pretty mean thing to say.

Collin: That’s how the Irish are, dude. I was in a bar in Dublin, and I was like, “My Grandma’s Irish, I’m Irish,” and he’s like [shouting], “No you’re fuckin’ not, you’re from fuckin’ America! You’re in Ireland for one day, you have a fucking pint, you think you’re fuckin’ Irish, a hundred years ago you people didn’t want us to come in, now you all want to be fuckin’ Irish? Fuck off!” And like 25 minutes later he was like, “I’m just fucking with ya, have a beer, have a pint.” But yeah, they’re really cool, God bless Ireland.

SP: Maybe a little manic-depressive, but…

Collin: Which I’ve carried on in myself.

SP: Well, haven’t we all. So you’re going to be playing WEFT on Monday, how do you go from playing to people right there to playing over the air?

Collin: Let the record state that there were at least 15 people right there, so…

SP: To people, t-o.

Collin: Oh, my bad. How do we go from that, Merry?

Merry: Well, it’s a completely different atmosphere, for one. I’ve never performed in a studio, I’m assuming that’s where we’re going to do it?

Collin: [pointing] Right there, as a matter of fact.

Merry: Oh, well, ha.

SP: Taking it on the road, and that road is Market Street.

Merry: Before the show, this is my first show ever, I was having all these thoughts, like, ‘I’m going to screw up,’ and it’s different when there’s not a lot of people watching you.
Aaron – Yeah, next time we need to play Memorial Stadium, completely full.
SP: It was a good show. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was your first go-round.

Collin: We have technically played on the streets before for money. I don’t know if that counts or not. We made like $14 or something.

SP: What would you say some of your influences are? You played a Joy Division cover. I wouldn’t have recognized any of the other songs as covers. Are the others originals?

Collin: We know two covers, one of which we didn’t play. We know “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division and “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure, which we didn’t play tonight because there was a bar chord that Merry was having difficulty with.

Merry: Yeah, no, it’s true, I can’t play guitar worth shit.

Collin: You’re better than you think you are, that’s for sure.

Merry: It’s one of those things where I can play it if I’m listening along to the Cure, but…

Collin: You were saying influences…

Matt: A pretty wide base between all of us.

Collin: This definitely has an alternative-rock, mid-’90s kind of sound, a bit, but you don’t want to be too linked to that, beholden to that. So I think that we have roots to that, but there’s very rarely a conscious sense that, this next song is going to be our Smashing Pumpkins song or something, so it kind of sneaks in as it does for anyone who listens to pop music for the first 20 fucking years of your life. It’s probably obvious to people who aren’t us more than it is to us. Everyone agree?

Merry: Basically, yeah. It’s going to take some time it to develop a real fundamental sound. We don’t really need to.

Collin: How about “fucking awesome”? That’s our sound.

Merry: Fucking awesome. Yeah, that’s the new genre.

Collin: An eagle giving birth to another eagle.

Aaron: Or a bear fighting a lion.

Collin: I want that to be the headline. “A bear fighting a lion” for Yossarian.

SP: So I’m assuming the name is a Joseph Heller reference?

Collin: Well, it’s actually a weird thing both ways. It’s a Joseph Heller reference to a certain degree. When I was born, my mom wanted to name me Collin Bullock, and my dad wanted to name me Yossarian, like hard-core, “I want to name my kid that.” And my mom said, “He’s going to get a bunch of shit for that,” so my dad’s like, “Fine, we’ll name him Collin.” But my whole life, he’s called me Yossarian. It’s like this weird, passive-aggressive thing, where he uses Yossarian, so I thought it would be a good band name. But he got the name from Catch-22, so it’s a roundabout reference to Catch-22.

SP: Anyway, any closing thoughts? Sorry to keep you out in the cold.

Collin: I’m not cold. My personal advice, jog every day.

Thanks for hanging in there until the end. It was a lot more interesting to see the featured band before interviewing them, and hope you enjoyed it, too. Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. to see what you think of them in concert.

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