The Two Words Absent are
The stereo is on, Bluetip pulse out with some pure emo punk rock, and this edge of energy fills me as I go over some questions with Jason Farrell, the guitarist and singer for this Dischord band.
Who is in the band right now, and how many drummers have you gone through?
Jason Farrell : Bluetip is and always has been me singing and on guitar, Dave Stern on guitar, and Jake on bass. We’ve had three drummers who were supposed to be permanent members (but left for various reasons), and two drummers who we asked to fill in for tours we had set up… after all that switcheroo stuff, we got Dave Bryson, wrote Join Us [Bluetip’s most recent CD], and have been touring since.
I admire the packaging and design of the two CDs [Dischord No. 101 and Join Us ], with Join Us seeming like a continuation of the first CD, as far as design goes, rather than a separate entity. The cut of the CD cover is very nice. Do you do design work for other bands?
I had hoped to have some sense of continuity with the Bluetip album designs… now I question how much more I can do with metallic inks and simplified shapes. Maybe the next one will have cartoon flowers and checkers to break the repetition. I do design covers for other bands, or help them in a less artistic fashion; just doing the prep work for their ideas… all depends on how involved in their own aesthetics they are. I prefer HELPING as opposed to DOING, otherwise half the time they end up with a Bluetip cover under a different name.
A couple of recording questions… how was working with J. Robbins, and how is Ian Mackaye as a producer?
Both Ian and J. were great to work with. J. engineered AND produced Join Us , so he was active in all kinds of ideas throughout the recording process. With 101 , we had Don Zientara as engineer, and Ian produce. Ian helped direct the session, giving recording ideas as they came to him, helping us to communicate better on what was our first big recording together. I dunno, I liked them both, but we were much more prepared and much more comfortable on the latest record (having played some 200 more shows). We had a better idea of what kind of band we were and wanted to be.
I notice more dynamics on Join Us , more experimentation. Are you, as a band, moving in a direction you are happy with? Do you have a preference in the recordings you have done, or do you feel that the different producers accent changes that the band is going through?
I’d say we were a very different band from 101 to Join Us . I’m happy with both. Each is a fairly good representation of our band at that time, but I’m very proud of the songs on Join Us , more so than 101 . We’re pretty happy with that record. We’re currently trying to figure out where we’re headed now. I guess songwriting in a band is a continuum, and recordings are a sort of time-freeze cross section. I don’t know what’s next… well, I know there will be guitars and stuff. We’re writing now for a seven-inch and album to see what those guitars will do.
If it’s not too personal, I’m always a little curious about inspiration. Here, just the words. Do you take on the lyrics as personal writings or do you find yourself taking on the role of a storyteller, perhaps becoming characters?
I hope to step out of personal journal writing in songs. It’s awkward for the people involved… kinda one-sided and a bit unfair. Songs like “Jersey Blessed” and “No. 2” start to get away from that, start bringing in a storytelling aspect or less painful observations… not so heavy-handed and down. But I write what I write… sing whatever comes out. I can’t always direct where the writing will go or predict where it will end up.
I’m a little curious about who you listen to, bands that inspire you…
I like Failure, Cheap Trick, the Damned, tons of different stuff. Stern has been into Killing Joke lately. Guess all those bands sound old. [I’m] not too sure what new music I could say was my favorite.
You went on tour with Tool and the Melvins. How was that?
Ridiculous and fun. 10 shows playing to 3,000-7,000 kids in hockey rinks. The Melvins were angels, Tool were consistently amazing… I wasn’t really into them before the tour, but seeing them live and seeing how they handle their band/business gave me new insight into their band.
Do you enjoy touring and playing live shows? Do you play better with an audience or alone in a recording studio?
I love most aspects of being in a band: performing, traveling, recording. You can’t really separate out those aspects and still call yourself a band. Well, I guess you could, but I wouldn’t want to be in THAT band.
I noticed you played with Farewell Bend… do you prefer that smaller scene, or did touring with those big rock bands leave you wanting bigger and better things?
I liked our tours with the Farewell Bend and Kerosene 454, but sometimes you want to just sit back and play the middle slot on a three-band show. We’ve been headlining or co-headlining a majority of our tours since we started in ‘95. That’s not to say we’ve been a big headlining band, just uninterested in sitting around waiting for a big band to ask us out. So we tour in whatever capacity we can. It’s nice to have some of the pressure off, play shows with bigger bands, widen your audience a bit. Larger tours sure are quite a bit more comfortable, knowing that you will be paid and can afford to leave home.
The interview ends, the CD is over, and I’ve got a song by Bluetip stuck in my head… “Whatever doesn’t kill me just makes me slow…” ◼