Weird Womb and the Sad State of Punk
I wasn't sure what to expect walking over to Milano's Bar on Houston and Lafayette to meet two of the band members from the new punk rock set, Weird Womb.Their music rings of the careless trash bashing rock of the early 80's. The pearl of punk, when it was forming in New York City's downtown shell. It's noise from boredom, but it isn't put on like many of the other rock acts today. It doesn't sound lethargic, but frenetic.
Of his childhood spent in Tucson, Arizona, lead singer Dakota Pollack said, "I've never met so many talented burnouts." I meet him and guitarist, Eric Reeves, who is sitting at the grimy bar top. We make our way to the back to a quiet little table to chat about loud noises. The two of them are string beans, deceivingly tall, from the way they hunch over their beers sitting down. The locale they've chosen makes me like them more. Often when interviewing bands, they choose a sorta divey hole-in-the-wall. Divey enough that it smells like stale beer, but nice enough that they've got Rick's Artisanal Pickle juice if you want a shot of "Jamie" and juice. This place doesn't have pickle juice, but it's got beer, well drinks, and Fred, a drunk, upfront who the barwoman is telling to settle up his tab.
As we sit Dakota notices a book poking out of my jacket pocket and asks me about it. I say its a "girly book" and recommended to me by a friend. He laughs and says at least I'm reading something. I ask him what he reads. "A sh*t load man, but I like the classics. I've been reading Raymond Queaneau lately. He's a break off from realism, a mathematician, so it's all mathematics in literature. It's crazy," he answers. "He did this one book called 99 Exercises in Style. He tells this story 99 different ways, using different themes. It's insane. Funny as hell."
These boys are good in my book.
How'd Weird Womb come together?
Dakota: Well we all come from the weird capital of the world, Tucson, Arizona. All there is to do down there is lose your mind. Everyone's out of their mind. We all ended up in New York City somehow, intentionally or unintentionally. We've all been best friends since we were young. Eric and me met when we were ten years old getting busted in elementary school.
What'd you get busted for?
D: Some kid got beat up and got a concussion. A bunch of kids got called to the office for it. Eric and me were already known troublemakers so we got fingerprinted for it. We were walking out of the office with out heads down in shame, and we were like, "friends?"
What lead you to NYC?
Eric: I came here in 2006, right after high school. I wanted to continue my education, but it just didn't happen. I was working. I Had a couple of internships. Slowly, one by one we all started moving here. Inevitably, we all started playing music together.
D: I went to Europe for a while and I was going to move to LA, but the cheapest ticket was to New York. So I came here, but I ran out of money once I got here. It came to the point where I was so dejected and rejected by everywhere. I was living off the generosity of my friends, walking across the bridge with fucked up shoes, and then suddenly I got a job. I made some money. So I stayed and now I work over at 169 Bar.
E: I'm over at the Rivington Hotel as a bellman.
D: Punk rock doesn't pay the bills.
How's punk rock doing in the city? It's in a pretty depressing state, no?
E: I don't think there is a state of punk rock in the city right now. I think it's been taken over by low-fi chillwave stuff.
D: Some people are attempting to do what's pre-approved. They're all about getting the column on Pitchfork rather than doing anything relevant. Rimbaud said one must be absolutely modern. I think one must be absolutely relative to their time period. I think people are going back to the past and stealing it, which is fine, but they're not creating their own identity or sound out of it. Seeing a band now? it's predictable. A guy is dressed like Steven Tyler and you can assume he'll sing a 70's song about "baby in the backseat of the car." It becomes so regurgitated and redundant that you want to find something you can relate to. We have the media outlets to do something cool, but no one's doing it. It's sad that kids can't find their own voice.
E: It's so much easier to monetize a low-fi band rather than a punk band.
There's a similarity, but there's not much of a message to low-fi.
E: They're a little softer around the edges.
D: Say this was the 80's in LA. Those kids that are playing low-fi now, would be playing hair band music. They're still pretending to walk down the red carpet, dodging paps.
Another problem is this misconceived notion that punk is either Fall Out Boy or Rancid. Either it's pop tween bubble gum, or it's mohawks and sneers. I hear your stuff and I think the beginning roots of punk like Richard Hell or the New York Dolls.
D: It's funny because you show a picture of Richard Hell to a kid today and they won't think that's punk. This one guy was wearing an Exploited Punk's Not Dead shirt and he comes up to me and says, "Cody you listen to some sh*tty punk music. Like that brit pop idiot Richard Hell." I was like, yeah man brit pop. Television were the guys that founded CBGB, today they'd be dismissed as an art band. Punk is a movement where you can be yourself and do whatever you want but I think somewhere along the line it got skewed.
E: It's important to have the sh*tty bands you grow up with as a kid though. Limp Bizkit is hysterical man, and they shaped us in a way that we probably won't ever understand. Were they good? No. But it's fun. All those bands are so ridiculous.
So what are you guys trying to be?
D: We want to have a sense of humor. We're just a bunch of good-natured sh*theads. You walk around New York and you see these delusional people who are depressed and attractive and can't show any emotion. The music I like I found a relationship with the records, and I'm able to be okay with that. I want to connect with people and I think that's so rare. I'm not going to be one of those guys who's like "punk rock saved my life." It was there, and it was great, but it didn't save my life.
What's your performance style?
D: We're human beings man, having fun.
E: At our last set we played our stuff for 20 minutes. Then we stopped, and played some bluesy dad rock and it was rad. It was fun. We just want to have a good time.
What does Weird Womb mean?
D: We're really weird dudes. A lot of people are pretending to be weird, and I'm telling you it ain't that great.
That's a word that has infinite meaning. What's "weird" mean to you?
D: We came from a weird womb. There's this bar we used to hang out in Tucson and we've been going there for years, and then it caught on that it was a cool place. Then I started showing up and kids I went to high school with-jocks who called me a fag-were there wearing "Legalize Gay Marriage" shirts, not because they believe in it, but because it's hip. These kids would push me and spit on me, and ridicule us for being weirdos. Now they're trying to be the weird ones. Or speak for them and assimilate in this backwards way.
How does Tucson work it's way into the music
E: The freedom we had growing up there, allowed us to take that freedom in our adulthood. We go 3,000 miles away and do whatever the hell we want.
Tucson to Manhattan. What's the culture shift like?
D: We were so surrounded by weird people in Tucson, that we were desensitized. New York City seems tame man. Being yourself is key.
E: Yeah, that made my move a little bit easier. In Tucson at one point I could be having a conversation with some suits, and then having a conversation with some meth heads or bums.
D: That's true! You kind of found out that you find more sincerity in a meth head than a professional photographer.
Well there's the idea of neediness with those people. Addiction filters into the need for company as well.
D: One term I hate is networking. What can you do for me? Who cares? I'm a person. Sit down and enjoy our company.
E: It's one thing to have a community. It's another to have a network.
Weird Womb will play at The Wooly, 11 Barclay St. (betw. Broadway and Church St.) on Thursday, Mar. 8., with Cruisin' USA and Behavior. For more info visit their soundcloud at http://soundcloud.com/weird-womb.
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