New Jersey’s Night Birds have put out my favourite punk record of the year, Roll Credits. At just over 17 minutes it’s short and sweet and gives me the same feels I get listening to Circle Jerks’ classic, Group Sex. Vocalist Brian Gorsegner and I caught up to chat about the making of the record, song writing, collab-ing with Poison Idea’s Jerry A., inspiration Steve Soto and more.
BRIAN GORSEGNER: What’s happening?
I’m a little tired, I’ve been awake since 2:30AM working on some things.
BG: Oh God 2:30AM, ewwww! [laughs]. You’re crazy!
[Laughter] I’ve always been an early riser, I love waking up and getting into my day. How have you been?
BG: I’ve been good. Super, super busy. My wife started as the executive director of this new big print place; they do printing press stuff and they make paper, it’s been her full-time gig for most of this year. My daughter started at a new school. I’m doing the booking thing with, Wired, and working on this new Night Birds record. It’s been a very hectic 2018, it’s been good though; it’s almost done, it’ll feel good and rewarding once it’s done.
I remember talking to you not so long ago and Night Birds were talking about taking a hiatus, but here we are with a new record! What inspired the return?
BG: We did take a break, we played maybe two shows in that 10 month period. In that time, Joe [Keller; bassist] and his wife had twins, they needed to take time off for that and figure out how to be parents. During this time we recorded the new record, we did all the production on it and planned it so that when he felt like he was in enough of a groove with the home life, that the record would come out and we could slip away to do some shows—everything just worked out.
I’m really loving the new record, Roll Credits, it just might be my favourite Night Birds record yet. Since you sent me a sneak peek I’ve had it on high rotation.
BG: Aw, thank you so much.
How do you feel about the new record?
BG: I love it. I’ve always wanted to do a 12” EP, we’re calling it a mini album. It’s kind of based on Negative Approach’s Tied Down or Minor Threat’s Out of Step or Circle Jerks’ Group Sex… kind of albums that clock in at that 15-20 minute mark and that tend to have not quite as many songs as a proper full length. As far as punk music goes and as far as punks go, attention spans are very short and you want to get in there and make it short and sweet. I think it’s easier to write a record like that too… when you’re The Beatles you can put out a 14 song album and have the total space weed jams and they kind of work in the context of everything; I think it’s different though when you’re doing the 2-minute speedy versions of those pop songs. I tend to like a shorter punk album, I think it works out better in the end. It’s a format I’ve always appreciated and that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We wanted quality over quantity, we scrapped a bunch of songs. We wanted to put out all killer, no filler.
I like when a record is short and I feel like I can conquer it and learn all the words. When I go out for a run that’s the kind of stuff I like to listen to the most. I’ll listen to the first couple of ALL albums on repeat.
It was a little bit daunting coming of the back of three full-length albums! Jumping right into another one, I kind of thought this would be a nice stop gap between doing a proper album, assuming that at some point we do one of those.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
BG: I think maybe “My Dad Is The BTK” is probably my favourite. It’s the closet that we’ve ever honed into a later era Ramones song.
I love that track too and I’m really diggin’ “Radium Girls”.
BG: Cool, I like that one too!
Can you share with us a little about the recording of the Roll Credits?
BG: Sure. The first time we went to record it was supposed to be November of last year and the exact day we were all set to load our gear into the studio before we started tracking drums, I got a text super early in the morning that Joe’s wife was going into labour with the twins months early! [laughs]. Obviously we were meant to have the record done before that, which ended up postponing the record a couple of months. It made it tough because we recorded in Brooklyn but we all live in the Jersey Shore, it’s an hour and a half away… it was tough for him to slip away into the studio to do stuff with the babies being so young. It ended up working really well though, we ended up breaking it up and did sessions over a couple of weeks.
Our original guitar player, Mike Hunchback, came to the studio with us to produce it and play on it a bit. It was super fun and came together really organically, everyone had a really good time. We used the same studio [Seaside Lounge Studios] we’ve used for the last couple of albums, so we’re really comfortable there. Studio stuff with Night Birds is never stressful, when we get to that point we’re very prepared and have done a series of demos for the album and have played the songs live. We were playing these songs when I saw you in Australia last year. To road-test the songs and play them every night, we think that is the best way to punch them into shape for the studio.
Does writing songs come easy for you?
BG: Sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t though, that’s how writing has always been for me. I wrote the music to one song on this new album, and had a little bit of lyric help here and there. Other than that I tried and tried, this record is mostly written by Joe. The album before this one, I wrote half of it. For me it’s like, when it rains it pours… I’ll write a bunch of stuff in a chunk and then I’ll go a year struggling to write anything else. Actually just now for the first time in a year or so, I’m starting to churn out some stuff that I’m happy with that hopefully at some point will see the light of day.
Which song did you write the music for?
BG: “White Noise Machine” the fast one.
Nice! I love the instrumentals at the beginning and end of the record.
BG: Me too! I’ve always been a big fan of that stuff. I don’t have that much input or play on those ones so I feel like I really get to be a fan of those songs [laughs]. We’ve had instrumentals on all of the records and then we have a 7” that’s instrumental. I feel like calling the record “Roll Credits” there was a theatrical kind of feel, having an instrumental song at the beginning and end is like the opening and closing credits in a film. The opening instrumental for our album is one of my favourite things we’ve ever written, it’s really cool sounding.
Yes! Totally! The Suicide Commandos song “I Need A Torch” that you guys do on the record sound amazing too.
BG: Oh thank you very much. I love that song. I feel like it’s an unappreciated song on their album, the bass player wrote it and sang it, when I first got into that record I’d listen to that song on repeat. I showed it to the guy from Suicide Commandos the other day, he was into it! It’s good to know he likes it [laughs].
That’s awesome! The bass on the track is really cool, makes sense the bass player wrote it.
BG: Joe started playing on this album with a Rickenbacker, it was the first time he recorded with one. I feel like specifically his bass setup on this album was really important to nail that song, the bass is very, very driving and has a specific tone. We really wanted to do it justice.
You’ve totally done that my friend. You got the kudos from the guy that wrote it too.
BG: I know, it’s the best!
Speaking of the best, you guys have Jerry A. from Poison Idea guest on a track “Onward to Obscurity”!
BG: Yeah, he is the best, you’re right! We met him a couple of years ago, we played a show with Poison Idea in Connecticut and loosely kept in touch. He would play us on his radio show [No Rules… on House Of Sound] from time to time. We’ve had guests appear on a couple of our albums, when we were writing the music for the track it was kind of a dream idea, because he’s my favourite hardcore vocalist ever… I thought maybe we could ask him and he might be into it. He was really enthusiastic about it and super cool! It was easy, fun and he brought a lot to the table. For us it’s the coolest thing in the whole world to have someone we grew up listening to be on our album… it was the same as when we had CJ Ramone on the last one and Eric [Davidson] from the New Bomb Turks on the first proper full-length. First and foremost we’re all big music nerds! I get as excited about things like that now as I would have at any point [laughs].
I love that you guys have released your record as a 7” box set as well as a 12”! I love that you worked with some amazing artists – Chris Shary, Nathan Gattis, Perry Shall, Marissa Paternoster, Michael Saunders, Paul D’Elia, Alex Hagen, Sean Pryor, and Keith Marlowe – on the cover art too.
BG: Yeah, we were trying to figure it out… generally our records are titled after one of the songs on the record and I felt that a lot of the titles, that we could work a record around it… I had a lot of different art and illustrations in my brain for all the different titles, it came together in one big chunk. We have so many amazing artist friends and I just started thinking how cool it would be to have all these people take a part in it. The first idea was to collect all the art pieces and put them on the cover of the 12” and then when we thought about putting it out in a box set so we could see the full size art and properly display everything… I didn’t think the label [Fat Wreck Chords] would go for it because of how cost-effective it is to do for only an eight song album—they were super, super supportive though.
I thought it might be a headache trying to meet deadlines and get art work from so many people but everyone that took part in it is just the coolest and turned in awesome, incredible art work in a pretty short time frame. Everyone was so cool to work with. I’m stoked on how great the art work turned out as well as the music.
It’s such a great package!
BG: The 7” box set is already sold out, we got 100 from the label though because we wanted to have a couple available every night for the record release shows. They sold out of their 400 copies in the first day, which I was super, super surprised about. As cool as we thought it was, not everyone is as giant a record nerds as we are.
You guys just had a little release party… wasn’t it in a shipping container or something?
BG: [Laughs] Almost, we played in a storage locker [laughs]… it’s kinda like one. A friend of ours rents it out and it’s surrounded by other storage lockers full of people’s furniture and shit. In this one though the walls are soundproof, my other band, Character Actor, plays in there once a week. We threw a show there and the bands played in the storage facility and then the people watching stood in the parking lot. It was super fun, the cops didn’t come and everyone had a good time. It was rad!
I wanted to ask you about your film clip for “My Dad Is The BTK”, it’s hilarious! It looks like you guys had a blast making it.
BG: [Laughs] Thanks. That was mostly PJ [Russo; guitarist] and the fella who directed it, Brendan McKnight. Just being goof balls and riffing on ideas for comedy sketches… it’s basically a real life version of generally what it’s like on the inside of our tour van [laughs]. We had a super fun time doing it, we shot it at my house.
I noticed at the end of the clip you guys dedicated it to the wonderful, Steve Soto.
BG: Yeah, he passed away a week or two before we were working on that video. Obviously it was super crushing, his passing… Steve and The Adolescents’ music has always been hugely, inspirational to us as a band. The first time I ever played with The Adolescents, I basically came up to him and thanked him and apologised for stealing as much as we could of their iconic sound! He was super cool and laughed, he was a fan of the band. I talked to him two days before he passed away, saying we were coming out to L.A. and that we should have lunch and stuff… so yeah, it was a real bummer.
Totally. I was so bummed. I miss him. I only talked to Steve a week or so before… it just fucking sucks man, that’s the only way I can put it. He was always so kind, supportive, loving and hilarious!
BG: Yeah, that’s it. It came super sudden. He actually was the nicest guy in punk rock. He definitely left behind an amazing legacy.
It must be fun for you guys to have Mike back playing in the band?
BG: Yeah, it’s awesome! We left on good terms with Mike, he started running a record shop in Brooklyn and we had started touring more and more, we were in different places so it wasn’t really working. Years go by and he moves back to to the Jersey Shore where Joe and I live and we hang out and watch movies together and then we asked him if he wanted to work on the new record with us. It all happened so naturally, we were all just having a really good time. It evolved into him maybe doing a couple of shows with us and that snowballed into him doing all the shows and now every trip we’re doing we’re buying five plane tickets instead of four. We finally have our first show as a five piece under our belts and I think live it’s the best we’ve ever sounded, so I’m super excited.
I hope that line-up comes to Australia.
BG: Yeah, I don’t think that’s out of the question, there’s a good possibility that will happen.
Last we spoke we nerded out about records; any notable new additions to the collection?
BG: Oh my goodness, well… my personal situation has changed a lot in the last 12 months, I got laid off from a job I was working at for 10 years. I used the time when I lost the job… I could have launched into doing something else and having a boss again but, I’m focusing on my own booking gig, booking friends’ bands shows. Things have been a little tight as I start upon this new venture, so I’ve laid pretty low with record stuff. The record I did buy, actually in the week I lost my job, I bought this really expensive record AK-47’s The Badge Means You Suck. I immediately sold it for the same price I bought it for to a fellow that I met in Perth, Australia. It was a bummer to sell it. I found one for a decent price in the last month or so and I treated myself and got that back. Other than that I’ve been chilled out on the record front.
It’s good to have break sometimes. I’m forever spending my money on records.
BG: [Laughs] Yeah it’s been a good break on my wallet. Although there has been so many cool records that came out this year so I’ve been buying those; new records are nice because they’re only $15 as opposed to all the older records I want that cost hundreds of dollars.
Over here in Australia new records are $30 if you’re lucky or on average $40 to $50.
BG: I know, it’s crazy! That was my biggest culture shock when visiting Australia.
I can’t wait until you guys come back!
BG: Me too! There are low, low rumblings of us trying to get over for next year.
Roll Credits out now on Fat Wreck Chords. GET it HERE. Follow Brian’s record collecting adventures HERE. For more NIGHT BIRDS go here. All photos courtesy NB insta: @night___birds + live pic by @andyisrad
Create forever, Bx