Dillinger 4's Paddy Costello: My songs now are about poopy pants and bears

Dillinger 4's Paddy Costello: My songs now are about poopy pants and bears
Photo by Christy Hunt

Founded in 1994, Dillinger Four is 19 years old. They've played something like 10-14 D4th of Julys, depending who you ask. They're toured the globe, released records on Fat Wreck Chords, and they all work full-time in addition to their role as Twin Cities punk godfathers. In the past year, though, the band has become more than just punk godfathers, they've become fathers themselves.

Gimme Noise chatted with bassist Paddy Costello, who along with fellow musician Christy Hunt (Pink Mink) welcomed a child in late May. The family jumped right in to reality, with Dillinger Four scheduled to play at Art-a-Whirl on the night after their daughter was born. As he fought sleep deprivation reconfigured his work schedule, the discussion with Gimme Noise covered what it's like to be a musician and to raise a newborn daughter.

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Gimme Noise: How was it to play the night after Hollis was born? Was your head in the show?

Paddy Costello: I had joked for months that I knew Hollis was going to be born on the day of Art-a-Whirl. Christy wasn't due for another ten days and she was super encouraging about it. And then it turned out to be the day before. She was the one who insisted, in the hospital, that I play the show. "Just run over there, play the show, and then come back." I literally showed up ten minutes before we played and I was gone not fifteen minutes after we were done and back to the hospital.

It was really great and it was all per Christy's insistence. Right when she came to, it was "Did you talk to the guys?" and I was like, "Sure," thinking it was gibberish. "No, about Art-a-Whirl." We just had our daughter and that's the first thing you bring up? "You have to play. Don't cancel it."

Have you been playing music at home?

Both of us have. It's been harder to make the time for it, but you can talk to anybody who is a songwriter and one of the best fuels for songwriting is sleep deprivation. There's been a couple of times I've gone down to the basement to do another load of laundry and I suddenly realize I've been fiddling around on the guitar for an hour. Most of the things I'm working on are kids' songs that I play to her. I wish I was writing songs of rip-roaring political value, but I'm afraid most of my songs nowadays are about poopy pants and bears playing the woods. I have quite a few songs about how Hollis is a monkey, Hollis is a bear, Hollis is a goofy little monkey-bear. I think I have 3-4 songs about that... I've been heavily influenced by zoo animals of late.

To tell you the truth I could probably be writing songs about the financial duress of 1980s Columbia and I don't think it would faze her at all because she has no idea at all what I'm talking about.

Are you going to be doing a kids' record, then?

Christy and I have actually talked about it. We have some loose jams we've been cranking out at the house. Tentatively, right now we're called the Nordeast Turkeys. We have a couple of songs that we play for Hollis. Again, a whole lot of talk of monkeys and bears, stuff like that.

Any music she hates yet?

It's very funny what I'm beginning to discover she likes and doesn't like. We've discovered there's a bit of Mozart Christy plays on the piano -- Hollis is a big fan of that. She's a big fan of "Your Brain Attracts Flies" by Toys That Kill, who is playing the 4th with us. Not so surprisingly, not a big fan of Slayer. She doesn't get very happy when Daddy plays Slayer.

The Liberace movie on HBO, Beyond the Candelabra: huge fan. I've seen that thing probably ten times the last two weeks. It's all sparkles and wafting, mellow piano. She can be having the fussiest night, I just put on Beyond the Candelabra, lay her on my chest, and she just zonks out instantly. So that's a little tip for anybody out there with a newborn: get very familiar with the Liberace story.

Are you concerned about how some of your exploits might look in the future when she gets older? Or will she just know you at that point?

I'm not worried about it, no. She'll know how goofy and ridiculous Daddy is by that point. It won't take her that long to see that Daddy's got a bunch of ridiculous tattoos. I'm sure there will be that day in elementary school where she throws a D4 record on and goes, "Oh, Christ, this is what my dad does?"

While all her friends are into whatever the next Hannah Montana is?

Yeah, right. With any luck she'll be in the next room listening to Sham 69 and the Gories but we'll have to wait and see. I've actually openly joked about I've wanted to hide all of my punk records and never talk about punk ever so she can find it on her own, because I've got this horrible, horrible prediction in my head that she's going to grow up thinking, "Ug. Punk. That's what my mom and dad are into."


It'll be like Family Ties?

Totally. People have already joked to Christy and I that she's going to have to be a drummer: Paddy plays bass, Christy plays guitar. Christy tells them: no, she'll be a professional tennis player. She'll be an accountant or something, being the one who as a teen is, "Oh, God, my parents played in bands. Dad, don't take your shirt off again."

So no family band plans?

The Costello 3, we'll see if we can whip that up. A couple of times when I've played guitar the hand has gone out. Just trying to get her used to the vibrations and the fingers running up and down and stuff...There's a part of me, but you don't really want to plan on forcing your kid into anything. We'll just wait and see what she's fiddling about with.

Again, I'm pretty sure she'll be about 8 and be calculating our monthly bills. "Mommy, Daddy, why do you spend so much on records?" She's going to be an accountant. Fair enough, man, someone in the family's got to be.

Are you going to have to tone back your "rock 'n' roll lifestyle" as a father?

It's already happened. If you did an interview with a couple of bartenders around town they'd tell you I've become a cheap date. The very casual lifestyle I've afforded myself for the last fifteen years was mostly because I just had work and the band. For the most part all I did was go see other bands. Pretty much each night of the week I went to a show. Not to sound too corny or too Hallmark, but everything everybody says about having children is true. When you look at this child and you realize, "you are totally reliant on me," it doesn't become like a hindrance or anything, it's very natural.

There was just a show that Christy and I really bad wanted to go to, but both of our major babysitters were going to the same show. We wanted to go but we weren't bummed at all... I feel like I'm giving the drippiest interview of all time here.

Are you going to be able to handle the D4th weekend or will you just take a big nap once the sitter arrives?

The baby's just another factor. I think we're easily about a decade into looking at every D4th, even when it was only one show, being "Am I going to be able to handle this?" Sometimes a really good time takes a lot out of you. I'm still not sure how I'm going to handle it.

Catch the three-day Dillinger Fourth of July at Triple Rock on Thursday-Saturday evenings. Dillinger Four plays on Friday. More info here.

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