Interview: Barb - I Object

I OBJECT is a band from Syracuse, New York which has recently released its debut album on the Alternative Tentacles/ Black Noise collaboration.  The band plays an incisive brand of HC that is intelligent, angry and wild while retaining melody. Given the band has a lot of interesting things to say, I thought an interview was in order. This is what vocalist Barb had to say...

..Usual opener – tell us a brief history of the band: when, where and why you got together. There has been a few line-up changes; what happened with the twin-vocal attack when Kurt joined the band? Was that some kinda NAUSEA-ism and why was it not continued?
I OBJECT began as Ryan on bass, Dan on guitar, myself on vocals, and Shawn on drums in January 2003 in Buffalo NY. We started the band because all of our previous projects came to an end and we wanted to create a new outlet for our frustrations. Biff, Kurt and Steve all joined the band around the same time and we did our first tour together in Summer 2003. Kurt quit after that tour to do another band called SKATE KORPSE. We kept to just me on vocals from there on out. The current line up is Biff on guitar , myself on vocals, and Steve on drums. Ryan has decided to leave I OBJECT to start a vegan vegetarian pizza restaurant in Raleigh NC. He put in 4 years of unbelievably sincere effort and we are sad to see him go but we wish him luck! We have not found a new bassist as of yet.

..Given the changes within the band – and some of the musical differences – how has the band evolved, both musically and as a social unit, through all these changes?
Biff and Steve joining I OBJECT really completed our band. It’s so important for ALL of the members to feel passionately about the music and lyrics. We all are 100% into the DIY lifestyle and love to play in this band. I think the way our music is, being a little bit of a few genres, is a good thing and with our song writing and it evolves each time we do a release.

..The band has released its debut album, ‘Teaching Revenge’. Do you think that is the best representation of where the band is heading at the moment? Given the benefits of hindsight, would you have made any changes to it?
We are really happy with how 'Teaching Revenge' turned out. I think sometimes bands rush doing something like a full length without giving the band time to really be prepared for something that big. We would not change anything about the release and we hope to do another LP sometime late 2007.

..The band, lyrically, is very political in the subjects tackled. Do the opinions in the lyrics represent just those of yourself, or does the band share the same political ideals and beliefs? You ever see yourselves writing something that is lyrically apolitical – a love song or something?
We as a whole feel very strongly about the lyrics written. Ryan and I have wrote the lyrics but we all discuss future song topics at practice. I OBJECT is never trying to address only social political issues. We just write about whatever is currently making us enraged. I mostly write about family issues or woman’s issues. I sing for a pop punk band and save all my love songs for that!

..If we could just talk about some of the songs on the album, starting with 'Heard The Herd?' Amid so much homogeneous Punk rhetoric about politicians, war, the cops etc etc, this song actually asks, "What about the solutions?" To me, that embodies I OBJECT's lyrical direction - you offer alternatives and solutions rather than just negative, blinkered polemics. Is that an important part of the band's ideal - to offer alternatives and throw up new, positive ideas while informing the listener?
I really enjoy seeing bands play who have something to say. It really enhances the experience of seeing a band by knowing they stand for something. But at the same time I get so sick of hearing people say generic phrases such as, "war is bad" or "fuck the police" because I think we can do more than just scratch the surface on issues. Speaking out (over the mic or not) is very hard because you are setting yourself up for criticism but I got to a point where I stopped caring about what people thought of my ideas and decided to speak my mind in depth about issues that are important to me.

..What about 'End Of The Line'? It's a great tale of an old guy who is not gonna sit back and wait to die like a lot of his compatriots. Do you ever, in quiet moments, look forward about 50 years and wonder where your life will take you? You ever see yourselves stagnating socially and physically as individuals?
'End Of The Line' is about an old man I knew who had such a fire in his eyes for life that getting old, losing his ability to drive, and being sent to a nursing home would not deter him from getting up every morning and trying to live a normal happy life. He told me daily that it saddened him to see his friends lay in bed or stare at the wall and waste away as if life for them were already over. He was very inspiring to me because he is living proof that you have to make the most of your situation. Also it makes me think about how I live and I know that if I do not enjoy any aspect of my life, be it a job or what not, I can change that.
I often think about how I will be living years from now and I think I have many positive things to accomplish. All four of us strive to make the most of our situation by surrounding ourselves with supportive friends and family, enjoy being in a touring band, exercising, and working jobs we enjoy. There are stagnant times for everyone but the key is trying to recognizing that and moving forward.

..What appeals to me about your lyrics is that they so often state, "live your own life, let me live mine and we'll get on fine." Too often you hear bands/ individuals preach their own doctrine that DEMANDS allegiance, or states that if you think differently from themselves, then get the fuck away. That's a real turn off if you ask me - no one has the right to tell anyone else how to think or act. You agree with that? I note you are all Vegan and Straight Edge - but none of the lyrics on the album demand the listener must follow those life options.
When it comes to having ideals the most important thing above all else is NOT PUSHING IT ON OTHER PEOPLE. Militant people are so counterproductive to any movement be it Straight Edge, vegan, or anything. I don’t care if people live the lifestyle I do or believe what we believe but if they want to talk about it with me I will throw in my ten cents. Preachy bands really turn kids off to politics. We don’t really mention veganism or Straight Edge in our lyrics because we didn't form our band based on those ideals. It is a coincidence. Those life choices are purely personal. We encourage people to check them out but to each their own.

..The album has been released on Alternative Tentacles/ Blacknoise – how did you hook up with the labels? It must be fulfilling to have the backing of a label of such integrity and with a back catalogue as impressive as ATs. Given your politics, I find it hard to think of a label more suited for releasing I OBJECT material – you agree with that?
Blacknoise is run by Brad Logan out of Lawrence, KS and his label is a subsidiary of AT. He saw us play and asked us to do a record with him and AT. We were really excited to do so. AT is a label we all have admired since we were teenagers listening to DEAD KENNEDYS and they know how to run a productive successful label. I think AT/ Blacknoise is a perfect fit for us because they are a great label and have ethics behind their label.

..Have you had any approaches from any of the other ‘big’ Punk labels to release your music? You ever see yourselves on Fat Wreck or that kinda label?
We are really happy with how working with Alternative Tentacles/Blacknoise has been. We think they are a great productive DIY label. We have no interest with working with a bigger Punk label such as Fat.

..What do you make of bands such as ANTI-FLAG and AGAINST ME! that have signed to major labels given their political out look and, certainly for the latter, their apparent disdain of the music industry? Do you feel the ideals behind ANTI-FLAG’s politics and anti-capitalist premise has been cheapened? I feel, certainly in the case of AGAINST ME!, that the band has used Punk Rock as a stepping stone to mainstream acceptance – you agree with that?
AGAINST ME! is a more ‘close to home’ reference because they are a band we used to do small shows for in our hometown when they were more acoustic. Being a ‘left wing’ band that uses Punk as a stepping stone to the corporate music industry is something we think is lame. Being a bigger band ‘with a message’ and ‘using the mainstream to expose regular people to issues’ is such a cop out. Take RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE for example. When I was young my brother had their CD. We knew all the words. The topics went over our heads completely. Punk is not a starting point. It’s a lifestyle.

..It’s clear you ardently support the all-ages DIY Punk scene. Do/ would you ever play bar/ 21+ shows? Given you are all Straight Edge and Vegan, do you think that maybe playing bar shows would present a greater challenge than all-ages shows where, due purely to the age of most of the crowd, a large percentage may already be of a SxE lifestyle?
We are very adamant on playing all ages shows because we were kids once too who got turned away at the door. We always ask if shows are all ages before we agree to play them. Some venues let underage kids in the back door at Punk shows to avoid strict 21+ rules. We have been on tour and showed up to a show to find out the promoter lied about the age restriction. In those cases the show has been moved most times. We rarely play bars because kids book other types of venues but we are not opposed to playing bars. Choosing other venues such as community centres or park lodges or houses keeps the money in DIY more so and not going directly to some bar owner.

..The ‘America Today… And Tomorrow’ 7" features a SPITBOY cover yeah? There’s also a cover of THE AVENGERS’ ‘We Are The One’ on the ‘First Two Years’ comp. Why choose those particular songs to cover? Is Penelope Houston someone you admire as a singer, Barb? You do any other covers live, or have any plans to record any others?
We have done a number of covers over the years. The SPITBOY cover was chosen because the lyrical content is amazing and the AVENGERS covers were chosen because they are a great classic band. Penelope Houston was interviewed recently saying that 'We Are The One' was a joke song which I found to be kind of a bummer. She is still touring with a different line-up. I think the AVENGERS was a good band but as far as admiring her I would say it’s purely on a female in Punk level. My favorite cover we've done would be 'Bikeage' by THE DESCENDENTS.

..That SPITBOY track deals with sexual harassment against women – is that something you have faced a great deal of Barb? You being a female seems to have worked as a positive for the band at least because I read an interview with you where you stated, "being a woman fronting a band who is vocal grabs people's attention more so than a male sometimes, and I use that factor to my advantage to speak my mind." That still a statement you agree with?
Sexual harassment in the Punk scene, as well as on a daily basis, is something I have not had to deal with. People in the Punk scene have been very respectful when it comes to my sincere involvement with Punk. I know a lot of girls who deal with street harassment but don’t have issues in Punk. I remember being at a show a few years back where this guy pulled a girl out of the pit by her hair because he didn’t think girls should dance at shows. Sexism needs to be called out when issues arise. That is the only way things will improve.

..Given the fact that women have played a big part in Punk Rock – from Debbie Harry, Siouxsie, and Penelope Houston through to Exene Cervenka and Kirsten from NAKED AGGRESSION and onto the likes of LUNACHICKS and Cinder Block from TILT – do you find it strange that sexism still exists within Punk? That said, with dicks like BLINK 18turd claiming affinity with Punk while spewing prepubescent sexism, maybe it’s not such a surprise. Have these women in Punk – or any others – provided you with a specific influence?
..Barb) No matter how many women are involved in Punk, that number cannot effect the existence of sexism within our scene. The only thing that can change that is every person standing up and saying something when a sexist situation occurs. When I started playing in bands and such, I wasn’t inspired by any one female specifically because I was young and not yet even exposed to bands with female members. I started singing in my first band after being encouraged by some friends to sing for their band when their singer wasn’t able to continue. It was really spur of the moment but a real turning point for my life.

..The band has played overseas a great deal, including several places not instantly recognized on the ‘Punk Rock Touring Roster’ such as Mexico, Serbia, Bosnia and Hungary to name but four. Out of all the shows, what single memory comes to mind over all others?
We are very much into the idea of touring small towns and countries that most other bands don’t put very high on their priority list. When we were planning our European tour many bands said, "don’t go to Eastern Europe because you won’t get paid and it’s very dangerous." Our friend Christophe booked us in 30 countries including a lot of Eastern Europe and we had some of our best shows in countries such as Serbia. Also we just returned home from our second tour of Mexico. It is always a great experience because people there are so giving and hospitable. They made us great meals and welcomed us into their homes. Life is very different in ‘poorer’ countries and being there experiencing it is a very humbling situation. Some memorable times are playing random awesome venues such as a lighthouse in Poland and attending shows in Mexico where whole families came to the shows together. It was wonderful.

..What cultural and social differences are most evident to you between many of the overseas shows and those in America? Do you get better treatment overseas? Do you face any prejudice for simply being American?
In Europe and Mexico a promoter always provides dinner and breakfast for bands. In Europe most venues have sleeping quarters with bunk beds for bands where as in America promoters usually never offer food and only sometimes offer a place to crash. The treatment of bands is usually better outside the USA. Being vegan is very hard while traveling and a meal means the world to bands. The American Punk scene should try to offer this to bands!
Rarely did we experience prejudice about our nationality but I remember in Italy being yelled at by someone for things Bush was doing. It is straight up embarrassing to be associated as an American because we do not stand behind things that our country does.

..The band is based in Syracuse, NY yeah? Is there much of a scene there for a band like I OBJECT?
Steve and I live in Syracuse and Biff lives in Buffalo. Syracuse has a very strong Hardcore element to it that I OBJECT doesn’t necessarily fit into; but we don’t play Syracuse very often because we were spread out across central and western NY and Michigan while Ryan was still in the band. It made it very hard to play local shows.

..What is Syracuse like to live in? Is there much homelessness? I understand it has a popular Uni – is there a high student population? What about crime – is it a violent town? What should all visitors to Syracuse check out?
I have been in Syracuse for one year now but my first impression was that there are a lot of homeless people in the downtown area. I work at the downtown YMCA which is a men's residence. Most of our residents are previously homeless or recently released from prison. Also there is a soup kitchen on the same street so there is a high concentration of homeless people that frequent the area.
Syracuse university does have a big student body. I think most students stick to the university area surrounding the school. There are a number of other schools in the Syracuse area. I am from Rochester NY which has a very high murder rate per capita but Syracuse does not reach that level.
Some places I think are worth checking out in the Syracuse area include the Palace theatre, the MOST museum, What the Crepe (restaurant), Halo tattoo or Scarab tattoo,China Road (restaurant) and Sylvan Beach.

..Have you ever considered relocating the band to, say, San Fran, DC or New York City itself? Had the band been based in San Francisco or NYC, do you feel it would have been a different band? Given you have toured just about every square foot of the US, do you find there are differing attitudes from state to state?
A few years back we considered moving to CA because the weather is beautiful. But if you move to your favorite place then you won't have anywhere to look forward to going. As a band I don't feel our location would have changed us but I do think that living in an expensive city would have limited our ability to afford to tour as much. I think there is a difference in the attitudes of a big city scene to a small town scene, but state to state not really.

..The media already seems ablaze with hype over the next US Presidential Election. What are your expectations? Could anything be worse than the Bush Administration? Do you think Hilary Clinton could become the first female US President, or Barack Obama the first Black President – or is sexism and racism, however covert, still too deeply seated in American culture?
Obviously Bush always handled every situation very poorly. I don't know if Americans have evolved enough to overcome something such as gender or race and are able to just vote on the facts. Certain issues that are important to me are abortion rights, gay rights, immigration issues, and the stance on the occupation in Iraq. Hillary Clinton has a stance on all these issues that I agree with but Romney is just an idiot. I suggest checking out the site to get all the facts because it is a non-bias site.

..Name the one thing which, if you had the ability, you would change about American society and explain why.
I would change the attitude America has about the rest of the world. If everyone got over the 'we are the best nation and we have all the power' attitude than I think people would come to the conclusion that we cannot just expect slave laborers to make our clothes for unlivable wages and we wouldn't enter any country we wanted to and try to control other situations.

..Are any of the band parents? What are your views on smacking children? There's a lot of discussion here in NZ as a politician wants to outlaw smacking. Your song, 'Like A Billboard' deals with pro-choice regarding abortion - do you feel the smacking issue should lie with the parents and that the criminalization of smacking is one step closer to a nanny-state or is the smacking of a child abuse and should be outlawed?
None of us are parents. We think hitting children is not acceptable. Hitting children should be outlawed there because if an adult cannot find another way to address bad behaviour with their children then there is a problem. 'Like A Billboard' is a very important song to me because abortion in the USA seems to be such a fragile issue. If someone thinks they would be an unfit parent or just aren't stable enough yet to support a child the option should be there for them. If everyone is forced to have their fetus then I think there would be an even bigger issue of neglect, abuse, and a higher rate of unwanted children.

..The next I OBJECT release is a 4-way split 7" release I believe – tell us some more about that. What are the band’s plans from there – any more tours lined up – any new countries you are gonna play a - what about Australia or New Zealand? You thought about the writing of the follow-up album to ‘Teaching Revenge’? Is I OBJECT a prolific band when it comes to song writing?
This release came out March 2007 and it is a 4-way split LP with CIRIL, KARNVAPEN ATTACK, and ACTIVE MINDS. The songs we wrote for this are our favorite songs written as a band. Our upcoming tour is West Coast USA for three weeks starting the end of May partially with MAGRUDERGRIND from DC. We want to tour Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan, New Zealand, and more of Europe in the next few years to come. We also plan to release another LP this summer. Because of our problems before of living all over NY and MI we only did song writing for planned releases very last minute. But now we hope to do more song writing as a gradual process like regular bands do!

..Anything you want to add?
Thanks for the interview! We love pen pals!  Email us if you want us to play your town.

136 Ridgewood Dr
Syracuse NY 13206