Hailing from Richmond, VA, AVAIL is arguably the most thrilling band on the planet. It's a band that is intelligent, exciting, passionate and one which can rock like no other. Interview with cheerleader Beau in Wales, April 2003.
..OK, you’ve just released your new album, ‘Front Porch Stories’. How much of an improvement do you feel it is when compared with the previous album, ‘One Wrench’?
..Beau) I think it’s an improvement because we actually knew what we were doing this time. We went in with more of a game plan than we did with ‘One Wrench’. We did have a game plan for ‘One Wrench’, but this time we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve. We knew how long we wanted to take for certain vocal parts – we basically allowed ourselves a lot more time. I think this is the longest we have been in the studio and the most professional we have been in the studio also. So, that was the only different approach
..Is there a reason you changed studios and producers from the previous two albums?
..Beau) Basically, we just wanted to do something a little more different. We had heard stuff that Brian Paulson had done and we definitely liked it. Let me say that Mark Miley – the guy who produced both ‘One Wrench’ and ‘Over The James’ - is an excellent producer. By no means would we ever say anything bad about him, we like him and we hang out with him on a normal basis. But Brian Paulson is more of a Touch and Go!, Quarterstick labels kinda producer – bands that had more crunch and more power to them. Mark Miley is more of a drummer, so his stuff is driven more by rhythm as opposed to power and guitar. So, that was how we tried it and we figured that if it didn’t work, we’d just…. Fire him!! Haha!!
And you feel it DID work then!!
..Beau) Oh yeah, I think it worked really well.
..OK, a lot of AVAIL lyrics tend to be centred around your home city of Richmond, VA. Why do you feel that necessity to promote Richmond to the extent you do?
..Beau) I don’t necessarily think we are promoting it. I think we are more on the lines of sharing what we deal with on a daily basis, to people who don’t. It would be stupid and ridiculous and…. kinda rock starish to try to sing about things we don’t really know about and try to branch out to a broader spectrum and say how everybody’s scene is this amazing thing; how everybody’s home town is this amazing thing, cuz we don’t know everybody’s scene or home town. What we do know is our home town and our scene and we know what goes on in our local government. We know what goes on with the people in the street – like, I know my neighbours! So, I don’t think it is promoting Richmond, but promoting what we understand. Y’know, it’d be ridiculous for us to try and write a typical Fat Wreck, West Coast sounding record because:- a) we don’t sound like that, b) We don’t really get a lot of that stuff. We get the Punk point, but we don’t get the Surf Culture, or the Bro Culture – that whole dressing up to go out type thing. What we understand is sitting out on the front porch with some friends and going, "Oh yeah, we’re gonna have some barbeque tonight!! We got a meat grill and a vegetarian grill – come over!! What do we want you to bring? I dunno – bring some potato salad!" That’s the kinda thing we understand instead of trying to talk about the politics of….. anything.
‘Scuffletown’ mentions the murder rate in Richmond as being "third per capita." Is it a dangerous kinda town for an outsider to be wandering around on his own after say 10pm?
..Beau) No, no not by any means! There are definitely places that, even though we’ve lived there for a long, long time, we still don’t go. Like, my next-door neighbour is a drug-dealer. He runs, pretty much, four or five square blocks within the general area of where I live. But I’m really good friends with him. When I left for this tour, I talked to him and said, "Hey, I just put my stereo in my car and I’m gonna be out of town for a couple of weeks. Can you watch them?" And he said, "Sure man, no problem." So yeah, we do deal with the crime rate to a point but primarily we don’t live in the areas that are ridiculously infested with crime. We live in a different area and there is also a lot of crime in our area, but we know everybody who lives near us. We’ve been in that area of Richmond for ten years and yeah, the first couple of times when we first moved there, I was like the ‘white boy with the Pitbull.’ Luckily, my Pitbull was huge and I got a little respect for that.
..Didn’t the band move down to Richmond from DC?
..Beau) Outside of DC
..So why choose Richmond over, say NYC, LA, San Fran or Boston?
..Beau) Three very, very, very important reasons. The night we went there – Joe and Tim went – FAITH NO MORE was playing at a club, a block and a half away NUCLEAR ASSAULT was playing, a half block from there was an 80s, like hair-Metal club that had bands and across the street from that was another club that had local bands going on. So, that night, there were four shows and they were amazing, literally in a three-block area. It was absolutely insane! We were like, "Fuck, we should move here." The second reason was that is was far enough away from our parents so they couldn’t just show up! They couldn’t just pop up at your house going, "Hi Honey, we’re here!" And you’re like, "Oh-oh!! I haven’t cleaned the house – ever. Me and my seventeen friends are living here and all our girlfriends are here too!" We didn’t want them to walk into a place where there’s like forty-two people in two rooms! The third and most important reason was that it was close enough for us to show up at our parent’s house and beg for food – unannounced!! Hahaha!!!!!
..Flipping that on its head, a lot of your lyrics also deal with travel – getting away from Richmond. How important do you feel travelling is to anybody, young or old?
..Beau) I think it gives you a sense of what you are leaving. I know a lot of people who are always, "Oh, this place sucks!" That can be Cardiff sucks, London sucks, Richmond sucks – but most of those people who say that never really travel. Travelling doesn’t mean going to the States, or going to the UK. It means going to, oh, Long View, Texas where, as bad as Richmond may seem sometimes you end up saying, "Oh what? This place sucks SHIT!! Richmond is soooo much better than Long View, Texas, it’s ridiculous." So, I think that it is relevant that you get out there and see different shit. And if you don’t see different shit, but find you like a place a lot fucking better – move there! At the same time, I am a homebody. When we’re in Richmond, I stay at home. I enjoy my house, I don’t like to go out, I love where I’m from and I love being there. So, I don’t think it IS necessarily important to travel. If you are happy where you’re at, then the adage of the grass is always greener on the other side is not necessarily true – by any means.
..Being a band that tours a lot – and certainly in terms of long distances – do you find there’s much friction between band members? I know you’ve been at it a long time, but do you find that there is still one little thing that Joe or Tim will do that completely pisses you off?
..Beau) Ohhh – absolutely!! Absolutely! We all have certain things that drive the others nuts! There are certain things that I do – and Joe and Tim and Gwomp and Ed – that drive everybody or at least one other person in the van crazy. Usually it is something that we end up laughing at, like "Goddamn it! Beau did it again!" But we’ve also known each other long enough to be able to go, "Will you fucking stop doing that you fucking retard." And you can reply, "Fuck you!!" and then you stop doing it. We’ve been around each other long enough to know how we can push each other’s buttons, and how not to push each other’s buttons!!
..So, with Ed being the newest member of the band, was there a settling in period for him?
..Beau) To a point yeah. We had known him for a long time. When we very first moved to Richmond, he dated a girl who lived across the street from us, so we saw him everyday. He kinda knew us as the young kids who had just flown in from Northern Virginia. He did fuck up though!! The worst fuck up he did? Me and Joe are notorious for needling people. If Joe starts and I’m near, we both go at it – we’re notorious for it, we do it to everybody. Anyway, Ed was like, "Yeah, I wanna play with you guys. Let’s give it a go and see how it goes for a while. I just wanna make sure you guys have tough skins. If you guys do something that is wrong or bad, I’m gonna tell you!" As soon as he said that, me and Joe immediately started needling him and it really hasn’t stopped!! So, everytime Ed gets pissed off, we go, "I hope you have a tough skin!" And there’s nothing worse than two 30-year old men telling another 30-year old man, "I hope you have a tough skin" in a really, really annoying voice like that which I just used. It’s beautiful!
..It has to be done!
..Beau) Haha!! Oh yeah, it does!!
..I saw your video for ‘West Wye’ today.
..Beau) Oh yeah? On P-Rock! Haha!!!
..Yeah – that’s it! Is it the first video you have done?
..Beau) No, it’s actually the second video we have done. We’ve never done a video with the intentions of it going on something like P-Rock and we still don’t have the intention of putting it on MTV. We did it cuz every year Fat Wreck Chords does a video comp and that’s the only reason we do videos.
..Is the video making process something you – personally and as a band – enjoy?
..Beau) No, we actually dislike making videos. They’re actually really frustrating and annoying. They’re not fun my any means!
..Would you change that opinion if say, Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese was directing it?
..Beau) Absolutely not. If I had a budget of say, 1.2 million dollars – the hell yeah! We’d go to the South of France, do all sorts of dumb shit! The fact is though, our video budget was a little less than $1,000. We paid our friends who run a clothing company, and happen to have a couple of really good video cameras, that money to do it. Videos are odd really. I think it’s really cool to see your friends on TV, be that BOTSETSFIRE or HOT WATER MUSIC, it’s really cool cuz they’re my friends and I know them – it’s like, "Haha!! They look like dicks!" But I don’t wanna be on the TV myself because then all my friends can go, "Haha, he looks like a dick!" So, it’s not something we enjoy! The only reason we gave it to P-Rock is because Russell, who owns part of P-Rock, is a really close friend of ours. He went to Ed’s wedding and flew from Amsterdam to be at our drummer’s wedding, so we’re really close to him. He said he really wanted a video to go on his station and we agreed because it was for him. We stressed the fact we didn’t want it to be huge, that we weren’t aspiring to be the next huge corporate Punk band. We told him he got it because HE asked.
..When you’re filming, do you feel particularly self-conscious?
..Beau) I actually don’t because I’m a ham! I mean, I’m the one who always gets up to the front of the camera if pictures being taken. I enjoy doing that and that is part of my personality. We did a thing a couple of years ago where we went on tour with PROPAGNDHI in the States and we had a guy follow us around for two and a half weeks, so I got really used to the being a camera all the time. As far as the actual process of making the video, it sucked. It’s like about ten seconds in a lit up building where we are playing – it’s actually our drummer’s art space, that’s where he paints – and we played through this song probably ten times. Granted, it’s not a very long song, but TEN TIMES? And then it’s only shown for about a minute, if that! The outside scenario we started shooting when it was like 4 o’clock in the afternoon and stopped at about 10. So, that made like a good twelve to fourteen hours of the same fucking song! It sucks – how many times can you do that? When we began playing it live, we were like, "This fucking song….." I mean, we practised it for a year, we recorded it so we had to listen to it a million times in the studio, then we do a video and play it for twenty hours straight! The last thing you wanna do is paly the fucking thing again!
OK, coming off the band – what are your sentiments regarding the war in Iraq?
..Beau) I have no opinion as a band member about the war in Iraq.
..What about as a person, singular?
..Beau) Ahhh, I cannot say anything for or against the war. I will not. I don’t want my opinions, or Tim’s opinions or anyone’s opinion on what is going on in Iraq to reflect on the band. I can definitely say that, as a whole, I don’t think anybody in AVAIL supports the war, but we do all definitely hope that all our troops, and the British troops and the Canadian troops, get home safely. Outside of that, I just hope that not too many die and……. It sucks.
..Have you approved of George Bush’s administration, up to but not including the war?
..Beau) Um, no. I’m actually a Punk Rock Kid and I don’t vote and I don’t think I could give a shit less. That horrible?? Haha!!!
..Haha!! No, it’s cool! OK, this is kinda like a personal question I guess. You did the song, ‘Model’, which is kinda like an anti-plastic surgery tirade yeah?
..Beau) I wouldn’t say plastic surgery, I would say obsessed with looks.
..OK, so you being tattooed and pierced……
..Do you feel that is in any way going against the grain of the message that ‘Model’ represents?
..Beau) No, because I am a little older. Y’know, I’d go on tour an have full arm-sleeves and people would have no idea what to do with me, they’d just freak out. I mean, we are talking here like fifteen years ago and being a heavily tattooed, pierced, skinny, goateed person – I was a freak! Even when I’d go to squats people would be like, "Woo, what the fuck are you?" Back then, it was done for a kinda freakish thing. Now though, it is like the norm, so that’s why I wear long sleeves so much now.
..What inspired you to get into the tattoos and body piercing?
..Beau) Being a Punk Rocker. There’d be people like Bill Danforth who used to skate who’d have three or four tattoos and looked fucking great and then Henry Rollins just looked so badass in BLACK FLAG and I was like, "That’s so fucking cool." So, that was the only reason I ever really wanted to get a tattoo, cuz they looked neat. By no means was I big and burly and wanted to accent them, by no means was I on of those kids. As you can see, I’m still not!
..Back to Richmond, isn’t there a bar where you lot do Kareoke?
..Beau) There used to be! We used to actually go to them and sing, but now there are different bars that do it that we don’t go to so much.
..What was your choice of song?
..Beau) Me? I pretty much refused to sing. I would sit there and hang out and goad people into singing songs. I was always the guy forcing other people up while I sat there chuckling! The last time we did Kareoke was in Orlando, Florida with the CASUALTIES – you know, like full-bore red Mohawks – and we started getting them up there for like ridiculous songs, so they then started to sing us up for ridiculous songs and I got signed up for that Right Said Fred song, ‘I’m Too Sexy’. I’ll tell ya, you have never seen a bar in such utter horror than you did here. I mean, it’s Red Neck central. You got these kids with Mohawks covered in tattoos walking in drinking beer and then me singing Right Said Fred. These guys were like, "What the fuck?" and I could hear the rest of AVAIL and the CASUALITIES laughing over the top of that. It was one of the funnier things we did on that tour.
..OK – what are the AVAIL plans for after the European tour?
..Beau) After this we take two months off so I can play in my Sunday league, and Joe’s son can play in his Sunday league. Then we’ll probably go and do another US tour, hopefully after that we’ll get to Brazil and then – there are no plans. I guess we’ll just keep touring.
..You’ve not thought about the follow up to ‘Front Porch Stories’ then?
..Beau) No, no! It’s only been out like six or seven months!
..I have to ask!
..Beau) Haha!! OK. We’ll tour until we decide to put out another record and if it sucks, we’ll break up.