Arms Aloft on the long road to Sawdust City
Photo by Adam DeGross
It's been five years since the Eau Claire, WI punk band Arms Aloft started up and released their first demo. In that time, rather than pumping out release-after-release, they'd dropped just an EP and a split 7" before they finally released the full-length LP Sawdust City this October. It's not that the band hasn't been active in that time -- they seem to be constantly on tour -- but they wanted to go slow and do things right. The new LP shows that the extra effort was worth it, delivering twelve ripping punk songs that blend singalong choruses, introspective slowdowns, and an impressive ability to shift gears without compromising heart or melody.
Gimme Noise caught up with vocalist/guitarist Seth Gile on tour to talk about the new record on Florida label Kiss of Death. Arms Aloft also includes Alex Bammel (guitar), Isaiah Davis (bass, also in Dios Mio, ex-Regret), and Jack Gribble (drums, Dios Mio).
Gimme Noise: You wrote the record a year ago. What took so long?
Seth Gile: Just delays and delays and delays. We took our sweet time actually recording the record. That alone took a year or so. And then, once it was finished up, the Kiss of Death guys wanted to make sure they took their time putting it together well and releasing it well, which was cool of them. It's easy to rush a record and just get it out, but they wanted to make sure the art was cool and that they had spread the word about it.
You had a member change in the making of the record. How hard is it to bring somebody new into the mix? Did you ever consider quitting?
Gile: It was easy this time around. Jack, who plays drums now, has been a friend of ours for years. He likes to say that he decided forever ago that he was going to scam his way into this band, and it just finally worked out. We knew going into making the record that Zach (who played drums previously, including on the record) was going to be moving, but we wanted to get the record done with him. He'd done all the writing with us and whatnot. But yeah, at any rate, we definitely weren't going to quit at any point. It was all as planned as things like that can be.
I hadn't heard the name "Sawdust City" before. Why do you think the Eau Claire nickname fits as an album title?
Gile: It's fitting in a couple ways. If you don't know where the nickname comes from -- well, and fuck it, even if you do -- it can sound pretty desolate. But it's just where we're from. We like Eau Claire. It's a term people in Eau Claire are proud of. So I guess in an overanalyzed, over-poetic, make-myself-sound-like-an-asshole way, the title kind of sums up the theme of the lyrics on the record: it's pretty negative at first listen, but there's more to it than that. It's not wallowing in it or anything. We've got a weird pride in our pessimism. Ha!
Wikipedia tells me that Eau Claire is also the Horseradish Capital of the World. Why isn't that the album name?
Gile: Holy shit, news to me. Is it really? Apparently that's what we'll call the next one. The deluxe, mega bonus disc, fan club only, Target-exclusive version.
(Note: Actually, Wikipedia cites three different "Horseradish Capitals" on the same page.)
The new record has a nice balance of big chorus singalongs, slowed down moments and, all around, a variety of sounds--especially for punk. Do you strive to mix up your tempos from song to song, or do you just write what comes to you? Do you write songs with the album format in mind?
Gile: Yeah, I mean. I like a lot of punk records where every song is sort of the same tempo and every chorus is huge and so on. But I love punk records where the bands stretch themselves. I like to hear bands play songs live that make it seem like they're writing about their heads, too. So we just tried a little bit of everything because that's the kind of stuff that we're into hearing.
I read in another interview that you lost your jobs to go on a 50-day tour. How does this sort of situation affect the band? How much are you on the road?
Gile: As of right now, in the last year or so, all four of us have lost at least one job over tour shit. It doesn't really affect the band, honestly. We weren't accidentally hitting it that hard. We've been on the road about three or four months out of the last six, and we planned to do it that way. So we just took it in stride. For the most part, we've all got jobs again, though, if anybody's worried about us. Or if our parents are reading this.
You just played Fest 11 in Gainesville, FL. How did that go?
Gile: Fest is the best party of the year, every year. We love it. The show we get to play is always really fun, but that's not even it. We get to see our buddies from all over the world that weekend: friends from the UK, Japan, France, fucking everywhere, even bands from the US that we know. Usually they're on the road when we get to their town and then we're on the road when they get to us. So to have everybody in one place in one time? It's fucking amazing. It's great to get to play, but it's just all about seeing friends that we never get to see. This year was intense. Our show was packed and apparently quite a few kids had gotten their hands on the record already, because it was the big, sweaty, singalong pile that Fest is supposed to be. Probably the most fun any of us have had playing in this band.
Is it hard to play a festival show in the middle of a tour?
Gile: Nah, it's kind of like a bubble of hope. Laughs. No matter how shitty the shows to-and-from something like that are (and I'm by no means saying they were) you know you're coming into something awesome. And when that something is 80 degree weather in October that shit doesn't hurt either. Fest is Punk Rock Neverland though, so touring after it can really be hit or miss. It's quite a high to come down from.
How bummed were you that the NOFX show cancelled? Will be able to play with them when they come back through town?
Gile: We were pretty bummed, definitely. But we ended up throwing a last minute party at the Triple Rock with Teenage Bottlerocket that night, and it was really fucking fun. As far as I know, we're playing the make-up shows in December, too. So it's hard to be too let down.
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