Hardcore band End of a Year has been playing around upstate New York for a couple of years. Often compared to Embrace, the band has its own sound but with similar personal lyrics. I spoke with singer Patrick about the band after the show.
Please tell us the usual: who are the players and their instruments, how long EOAY has been playing together, etc.
Hans and Doody play guitar, Andrew plays bass, Eric drums, and I (Patrick) sing. We've been a band since, I don't know exactly, I think 2002 or 2003. I am very bad with remembering dates.
What made you choose that particular Embrace song title for the name of your band? And getting recorded at Inner Ear… how DC can you get without living there?!
The name happened as a result of our lack of attention to detail. After our first practice someone remarked that it sounded like Embrace and suggested the name. We collectively said "Sure" without reflecting on how bad a band name that is. Since then we've toyed with changing it, but the only name we all agree is cool is "Barf Spectrum" and we had to admit it would be pretty hard to be taken seriously with that as a name.
Honestly, the DC-influence is a funny thing. We all love those bands and the ethic many of them have, but we never intended to ape that style. It just sort of happened that we have those leanings. It's become a little frustrating when I'll read a review that wants to lump us in with the rampant false-nostalgia in hardcore. That's not us. Hans really believes he is playing Roxy Music stuff and Andrew is constantly pushing us to cover Italio Disco songs. No one in the band has ever said, "Wouldn't it be cool if we sounded like Guy Picciotto fronting Swiz?"
But I have to plead guilty about recording at Inner Ear. It's a very typical thing to do if someone was looking to have a "DC sound." But we couldn't help ourselves. We were given more money to record than we had ever needed in the past and we wanted to do it right. So we made a list of the studios and engineers on our favorite records. The list consisted of dead British guys we couldn't afford even now that they are dead, and Don Zientara at Inner Ear. While we sometimes get shit from people about how predicable a choice it was, I think it was a good one. Don's sensibilities matched our own and we had a great time recording with him.
I lived in Albany last year and while it is a small city, it seems to have a thriving scene (as compared to Syracuse). Do you plan to keep that your home base?
Some of us like Albany more than others but none of us love the place. Personally, I really don't care for it. We have a number of colleges, so one would expect that we'd have a music scene with fresh faces every year but it's not the case. Too many of our colleges are for squares and the existing scene is not friendly to new kids. So basically I live in a place that is cold six months a year which also doesn't have enough of the art-based social outlets I would enjoy, Bummerville, Pooptown. For a while things were so unpleasant in Albany that we made Cohoes, a small town next to Albany, our home base just to distance ourselves from what was going on in Albany.
We see so many bands on tour waving the flag of city or regional pride and we just can't relate.
Last year, you toured the US and this year you have a short tour planned for Europe. How do you like touring? Do you get a chance to explore in addition to work?
We all love touring, though we all seem to love different things about it. The United States has been a disappointment on a lot of levels. Not the shows, which are fun, but the actual nation. Growing up in Albany we always assumed there was so many great places outside of our upstate hole, but really the US has proven to be four or five really nice places and ten-thousand really unpleasant places.
I think more than anything we like to play and it's nice to play in front of someone new each night. Something about it makes you believe you are being productive. We don't see too much of the nightlife in most places because we are exhausted after playing, but we often see most of the cities we visit by virtue of being lost in them for hours at a time.
Your band seems to get billed as emo but actually rocks pretty hard, which to me is decidedly UN-emo.
Thanks. Younger people have a wildly different idea of emo than you and I do, so I never know how to take that tag "emo." I used to just assume we were a hardcore band, but over time our tempos have slowed and I suppose the catch-all term "punk" probably works better now.
End of a Year gets described as a musician's band, and I am a musician too, so that lumps me in with that crowd. But what does that mean to you? Do you really notice that thing about your fans?
I think the term "musician's band" comes up for us because the only people who seem to like us are in other bands or work at record stores. I don't know exactly what to make of it, but it seems to the the case 90% of the time. We've played shows where clearly no one who paid to get in liked us even a little, but the sound man loved us. It's that sort of thing. I think it's most noticeable when we sound check before playing. We'll warm up with a Steely Dan or Gang of Four or Seaweed and the people who recognize the songs usually happen to be the ones there for us. Music nerds, which is ultimately preferable because we're pretty nerdy too.
I like that you have recommendations in your liner notes at the end of the songs. Are they extraneous, just some stuff that ya'll like, or are they connected with the songs, however tangential?
I'm glad you like the listening recommendations; not everyone does. I've been getting asked in interviews if we include them to distance ourselves from criticism somehow by acknowledging our inspirations. Which wasn't my intent when I put them in the liner notes. It came from me sitting around with the songs for a year or so and slowly coming in contact with songs with similar themes from other artists. It occurred to me that someone somewhere has said what I'm saying better than I have. I don't have an ego about that sort of stuff. I'm trying to express myself as fully as I can and I'm limited by my brain and throat. So of course there is someone less limited who has already made my point clear. It doesn't rob what I'm saying of its importance to me; I'm not threatened by other artists even if they're better than I am. If anything, I appreciate them for giving me something to relate to. What did Newton say? "If I'm able to see this far, it's from standing on the shoulders of giants." Something close to that.
The last song on the record is basically a love song to my favorite band. I don't feel weird about that. If someone gets into Smog or Lungfish or any of the bands we recommended as a result of the liner notes, I feel we've done something good in our time as a band.
I am always interested in hearing and writing about the creative process in artists that I like. Do you feel like ranting a bit on how your band creates its art?
We work like a jam band. Basically we all begin playing some loose nonsense and by jamming on it for twenty minutes something emerges. We trim parts from 12 minutes to 2 minutes and pick an appropriate time to end it. Then it's a song. I'll latch onto something during the writing that lends itself to a phrase stuck in my head and write lyrics around the OCD-style sentence hooked into my head.
I've been in bands that plan every part of the song on dry-erase boards and this is very much the opposite. It's like learning the clutch on a new car each time.
Those are photos of my family. When I see old photos, of anyone — even people I have no connection to — I feel wistful and a little sad. I don't think of our record as being sad or happy necessarily, but somewhere in the middle. That's what old photos do for me so I thought it worked. I borrowed the photos without asking and was surprised to find my mother was supremely flattered by her inclusion in the album art.
What are you reading/listening to these days?
I am listening to Bill Callahan, Seaweed, Sean Price, and am making an effort to connect with some of the female artists I overlooked growing up, so lots of Ani Difranco and Aimee Mann. The other guys in the band are listening to Grateful Dead, italio disco, and assorted grunge.
I'm reading the Riverworld books. I picked up a copy of To Your Scattered Bodies Go for 50 cents on tour and have since become totally immersed in the series. It is some of the most wild writing I've ever encountered.
The band played a couple new songs at the show. Can we expect a new CD? And will it also be on Revelation Records?
The next full length for Rev will be coming out early next year. January or February depending on when we get into the studio. Before then we have a number of split 7" and EP's for other labels due out. I wish we were a little more prolific. I've heard a story about Rocket From The Crypt finding a record they forgot they were on when they toured Europe. That's an awesome idea, to have so much material you can't keep track of it anymore.
You can listen to End of a Year at its Myspace page.