By Johnny Vomitnoise
I first got in touch with Paul Reject due to a mutual fixation on archiving music; the worst part about nursing an unhealthy preoccupation with the less-heralded end of the punk spectrum is the cost, so I’ve been fanatically downloading music – poor man’s record collecting – and abusing the internet as a punk rock research tool since my early high school years. My friend Kevin once commented on how “dedicated” I was to amassing downloaded records and using the internet as a bottomless source for unearthing a steady stream of old punk records to ensure I leave home even less than I do presently. “Dedication is one word,” I told him, “and obsession is another.” My program of choice is Soulseek, a little blue bird that sits in the bottom right of the monitor (the bird icon actually spreads its wings), and once opened, you’re immediately let loose in a world where every hyper-obscure, foreign, or long-lost punk record you could hope to find is virtually at your fingertips (time is, of course, no object). Soon you’re mainlining badly dubbed singles and flexis (not to mention videos of only the shittiest quality) left and right, building a collection massive enough to (hopefully) satiate your pathetic punk rock lust.
One day I stumbled upon the username “paulreject,” and I don’t think I can recall a day passing that I didn’t take a look at his files, given that he always seemed to have something I’d been digging after for quite a while, or something I’d never realized existed. Being, you know, a complete fucking moron, it took me long enough to put two (the username) and two (the tastes) together and get in touch with him, finally asking one day if he was the same Paul Reject whose records were then currently sitting in my collection; and considering the time frame, I’d probably only just then picked up the second Teenage Rejects single. Of course, it was him, and he told me to check out the Catholic Boys when I got the chance, the band being the latest thing with which he was involved.
I did, of course, and upon receiving their split with the Kill-A-Watts (Electrorock Records No.01) in the mail, I took it right to the turntable. I’ve always been addicted to noise and static, and the Catholic Boys had that in spades. Everything is overblown– each instrument, as well as the vocals, emanating the most raw ferocity. Rhythmically, this band was a hell of a step (but a logical one) from the Teenage Rejects. Abandoning the previous project’s non-stop approach, the Catholic Boys employ more of a start-and-stop feel within their songs, jerking back and forth with psychotic progression and tight beats akin to being strangled, but all the same managing what the Teenage Rejects proved these guys could pull off long ago: violently noisy rock music that comes off screaming and pissed with genuine intensity. Upon that first listen, the one layer that really seemed to separate the two bands was the Catholic Boys’ slightly more angular approach. I know from my own personal prejudices that “angular” can be a pretty loaded word, I’m damn hesitant to use “matured,” and maybe “technical” would be more appropriate, but I’m a writer … scratch that: a collector-loser, not a musician, and anyhow, these words can only be used positively describing the self-proclaimed “Catholic Fags.” For this non-derivative approach (comparable really only to the Reds, yet still a far cry — or painful screech — from that band’s sound; maybe at times sounding like the best moments of the Suicide Commandos on a broken stereo) never manages to gloss over the underlying static appeal, and instead provides the Catholic Boys with a unique sound, an unmistakable definition that is truly rare today, even in underground circles. All of this seemed pretty apparent just from this first release. The next was 2003′s “Brainwash City” single on Kryptonite Records followed by the Trick Knee Productions 2004 CD (and more recently LP), “Psychic Voodoo Mind Control,” both bearing fascistic attitudes to match the titles, the latter of which is a fairly acute description of the Catholic Boys’ overall sound, and both with content that definitely delivers on the promises assumed from just hearing the split release.
A little more than six months after briefly speaking with Paul, it was on New Year’s Eve that I found myself DJing at Beerland here in Austin, with the Catholic Boys headlining. After finishing walking the equipment in, they splinter off and eventually Eric makes his way to the DJ booth to browse my 7″s. I introduce myself and we go over our mutual acquaintances from Milwaukee, realizing that about a month earlier I’d been at his house, fucked over on whiskey, and, as I was told later, had attempted to climb his backyard fence to escape the Kylesa show my friends had come to see (the band later told some friends they could spot the Texas kids a mile away, passing around a gallon of cheap bourbon in the center of the room with a halo of irritated locals keeping their distance). Eric was working that night, and soon after the fence thing it was deemed inappropriate for me to be in public and I was dragged to the nearest friend’s home, so I never had a chance to talk to him then.
After the show, the Catholic Boys stayed at my house where we proceeded to play records all night and smoke them into oblivion, instead of using my downtime productively and conducting this fucking interview then. They awoke to “WHAT THE FUCK?” — my roommate Roxie, undoubtedly still drunk, naked, and covered in marker from having passed out at a party the night before, howling and tearing open ramen packages on them for reasons that I’m relatively sure everyone in the band and my house remain unclear on to this day. I was still passed out in my room at that point, and they left soon afterward, but a few months later I found myself getting in touch with the band again to see if they wouldn’t mind filling out some questions for me.
Alright, who am I talking to?
Eric: This is Eric Apnea, the drum ruiner.
Nick: This is Nick.
Paul: I’m Paul.
So I know three of you comprised the Teenage Rejects, but before that, as individuals, how did you get into playing music? Subsequently, how did the Teenage Rejects come about?
Eric: I was a Reject. Before that though I was in a band called the Lookers (not to be confused with the lesbian group from Ohio). We started in Merrill, WI, and I’d have to say that seeing live music made me want to play it. I had seen bands play that had less talent than we did just fucking around, so it was really inspiring. Green Bay always seemed to like us, and was the perfect place to grow up playing music. The Rejects formed without me, and I think I’m actually their 4th drummer or something?
Nick: I wasn’t in the teenage rejects, but I guess I’d say I got into playing music just like everyone else. I liked music and guitars and stuff, and thought it would be cool to play one. Then, ya know, played with other people that played things.
Paul: I bought my first guitar when I was in the seventh grade. I didn’t have any friends, so when I got home from school I would lock myself in my room and teach myself how to play. Maybe a year later, I got a phone call from Jon, who I didn’t really know at the time, sayin’ he played bass and wanted to start a band up. Jon liked some of the same bands as I, and we started goin’ to the Concert Cafe in Green Bay together, where we saw an ad for an “all-covers show.” We decided we wanted to do Teenage Head, so I called up this kid Sam, a drummer who I knew from junior high, and got him to play drums. We came up with the name “Teenage Rejects,” just for the show. Since we we’re doing Teenage Head songs and we were a bunch of losers, we thought it’d fit. After the show, we were asked to play again, so I decided to try and write some songs. I think the first ones I wrote were “We Don’t Like You” and “I Feel Sick.” Sam was two years younger than us and his mom hated our guts. She slowly made it next to impossible for us to practice, so we decided to ask Eric (who was in the Lookers at the time) to play drums, since he wrote me a letter saying we were his favorite local band. He agreed to play, and that was that.
What led to the transition from the Teenage Rejects into the Catholic Boys (in terms of the sound expanding, the member change, etc)?
Eric: Well, there was another secret group in between, a few cover groups. Catholic Boys had a different drummer at first, and I’ll let them give you sonic details. They were really fucking good before I joined, and I tried not to miss them playing. They also played their first show as a Kids cover band (this was typical in Green Bay where there were cover shows one or two times a year).
Nick: Really, the two bands aren’t as related as people like to think. Like Eric said, we had another drummer before him, and even tried out another before Eric finally helped us out with a show. There was definitely a time between the Teenage Rejects and the Catholic Boys, which I don’t think some people understand. So the sound changing and stuff, I guess it just happened ’cause it was a totally new band and the people who originally started playing had never really played together before, except Paul and Jon. Then Eric came along and pretty much added what we were missing, and it turned out to be a different band from the Teenage Rejects. Or at least I’d like to think so. There are similarities, obviously.
Paul: After the Teenage Rejects broke up, I joined this band Sick Sick Sick. That didn’t really work out, and I quit. I met Nick G through him being in the Strong Come Ons. One day we were both talking about how much we loved the Kids, and sure enough, there was an ad for another cover show at the Concert Cafe. We got our friend Lugs to play drums, and we started practicing for it. Originally it was Nick on bass, me on guitar, and Lugs on drums, but Jon just got kicked out of his band Yesterday’s Kids, so I asked him to play bass, and Nick moved to guitar. At the time, just like with the Teenage Rejects, we didn’t have any real intentions of starting a legitimate band, but after playing together, we decided we should write some songs, so we started the Nazi Shocks. After our first show, we changed it to the Catholic Boys. As time went on, we pissed Lugs off over and over again, pretty much driving him out of the band, and out of my house (he was my roommate at the time). He quit, and we were without a drummer. I decided to ask this guy Logan, who none of us knew personally at all. He was in a band the Teenage Rejects had played with called Los Nosferatu… kind of a Supercharger rip off with a vampire theme. Anyway, he decided to do it, so we started practicing. He was a pain in the ass from the start, and a week before our first show with him (with the Lost Sounds in Green Bay), he told us he couldn’t make it ’cause his cousin was having “hot chicks” over at his cabin that weekend. We told him to fuck off, and called Eric and asked him to play the show. After practicing two or three times, we played the show and we had never sounded better. Eric said he only wanted to be in the band until we found somebody else, but we never bothered looking and just hoped he’d stay, and he did.
I remember Paul being involved with the Kill-A-Watts at some point. Was this before or after the split 7″ was released? How did that release come about?
Nick: I’ll let Paul talk about being involved with the Kill-A-Watts. The split happened just ’cause Ryan wanted to put out a record, and I think he had a crush on Paul at the time, cause he asked us if we’d do it after only seeing us one time. If I remember we were really, really, terrible that show, too. So I don’t think he was motivated by liking the band. Then it was like, “Yeah, we’ll be on a record for free. Woo!”
Paul: At the first Catholic Boys show in Milwaukee, which was probably our fourth or fifth show ever, Ryan approached us and said he wanted us to be on a split with the Kill-A-Watts. We only had about six songs at the time, so we picked two, drove up to Milwaukee one night and he recorded us on his 4-track. I still remember making up and writing down the lyrics right before we did the vocals, we didn’t really know what we were doing. After the split, when I moved to Milwaukee, Ryan and I started hanging out and started a band called Vic Modem and the Monitors. Late one night, he called me up and said Jennifer had quit the Kill-A-Watts and he wanted me to think about joining. I didn’t realize that would mean no more Vic Modem and the Monitors, but the Kill-A-Watts ended up being his priority. I showed up at a handful of practices and played one show before I realized that although I liked the Kill-A-Watts, I didn’t want to be a permanent member of the band, so I quit.
And how did the “Brainwash City” 7″ on Kryptonite come into being?
Eric: One of the Lookers put it out! And the infamous Roy Oden!
Nick: I think this also had to do with people liking Paul, oddly! Not just person, but PEOPLE. Paul has such an amazing allure.
Paul: I knew Wendy since I was sixteen, when she was in the Lookers. She was dating Roy at the time, who used to be in the Last Sons Of Krypton and ran the Kryptonite records label. After seeing us play a couple times, they offered to put out a 45. We recorded all of the songs that didn’t get put on the Kill-A-Watts split (8 or 9) with Jordan and Mike from the Mystery Girls and sent them a tape. They picked the four songs they liked best and it came out a few months later. One of the remaining songs (a cover of “I Got a Right” by the Stooges) ended up on a Big Neck Records comp, a few were redone for our album, and one of them (“Razorblades For Sale”, originally by the Kids) hasn’t been released.
And, yes you saw it coming, what led to the full length?
Eric: Todd Kellner and lots of songs.
Nick: Todd got laid off so he had a bunch of money and wanted to put out records of local bands he liked. He did a good job and is still doing an awesome job. Since that time it’s been Mystery Girls, Tears, Catholic Boys, Aluminum Knot Eye, and a Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones 7″. He’s gonna keep doing more, too. I guess I don’t really know, but it seems like it’s going well for him, at least as far as he enjoys it. I’m high, I’m sorry. I can’t stop rambling. What was the question?
Paul: We all knew Todd Trickknee from the Concert Cafe. He set us up with a tour, and after we came back, he said he wanted to pay for us to record, and that he’d release the CD version and find a label to put out the vinyl. We went to Simple Studios in Green Bay to record it with our friend Justin Perkins. We got completely wasted and recorded the thing in one day.
What do you think of the various labels and people you’ve been involved with as a band?
Eric: I like it A LOT. Compared to any other band I’m in, other people that aren’t me are paying to put out my music. I don’t give a fuck how long it takes. I’ve lost a lot of money trying to make music available to people, and it’s a financially losing battle! I think with this band, it would be possible to break even; but when you don’t have the initial capital, it’s hard to reap any potential gains. I wish Roy and Wendy would repress the Brainwash City record. I hope Rich represses the LP. I hope No Fucking Chance gets that Blue Balls 2XLP out before I’m dead.
Nick: I’ve never had any complaints.
Paul: Todd Trickknee has always been our good friend, so it’s always cool to do anything involved with him. And he’s the only label so far that hasn’t completely hated us after releasing out stuff. Our relationship with Kryptonite totally soured, especially after word got out that Roy was trying to get a gun so he could kill me. And after a while, Ryan got pulled into the “We Hate The Catholic Boys” club also, but I haven’t talked to him for a while. We’ve met lots of awesome people on tour, and have made a lot of friends. But we have definitely met our share of douche-bag asshole cunts as well.
What’s the songwriting process like for the Catholic Boys?
Eric: Very cooperative! I like the song writing process. It involves shit-loads of weed, jamming in our jam space, and letting everyone do their own thing. You don’t think we would sound the way we do without the weed, eh?
Nick: Well, Eric pretty much summed it up, I think. I really like how it goes. Someone plays something on their guitar, then everyone else does what they wanna do, and it works out.
Paul: Either Nick G or I come up with a basic song, we bring it to practice and play on it for a while until each of us makes up our own respective parts that we think sound cool. Once we think it’s good enough, we add vocals. Even though Nick and I write pretty much all the songs, the songwriting turns into a group effort once they’re brought in. Eric wrote a couple songs too.
As a band, is there ever any conscious effort to work certain influences into songs? What about as individuals? I realize as an obsessive loser who listens to music non-stop that “influence” questions can be damn hard question to answer, but I’m just curious if any of you had anything in mind when you started the band, or try for any certain sound writing songs, when recording, etc.
Eric: Having written only like three songs for this band, I can honestly say I didn’t set out to cauterize influences into my writing. I think all the songs we play of mine were actually written as part of a six song piece I had written about the life cycle. Oh wait, “Selfish Asshole” is actually about Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Nick: There are definitely records where the production is something I really like about it, and sometimes I want our recordings to sound similar, but that’s about it as far as EFFORT to include any influence. I’d say I personally probably wear my influences on the snotty wrist of my sleeve, but I don’t try and sound like anything in particular as far as the songs or whatever go. Thinking of it in the band as a whole, I remember someone asking me, when we first started, what kinda thing we were planning on doing. I said I didn’t know, but that we covered the Pagans and the Dead Boys (this was awhile ago, heh) and something else, and the person was like, “Oh, so kinda like the 70s rock punk thing,” or something and I was like “Well, no…we just play those songs cause we like ‘em.” Cause we never really sounded like those bands or anything. Maybe it’s naive and even pompous to say but I like to think we at least kinda got our own thing going. As much as we can, anyway.
Paul: For me, there’s no conscious effort to write certain type of song really, but in lots of my songs, I can listen back and say “Oh, you can tell I was listening to lots of Devo when I wrote this one.” Recording is a little different, because as a person who listens to records twenty-four hours a day, there are lots of songs, records, recordings, etc. in particular that come to mind when recording certain songs…I can’t think of any good examples really, but when we recorded with Jay in Memphis, Nick wanted the same vocal effect used on the Reatards’ “Grown Up Fucked Up” on one of his songs, because we liked the way that sounded. Little things like that.
I love that fucking Haskels cover, and I assume it was chosen, apart from being such a damn good song, for it coming from an old Milwaukee band. Are there any other old local (Milwaukee, the Midwest, etc.) acts you would say you guys look to?
Eric: Shivvers, Die Kruezen, No Response, Clitboys, Minors, Yipes!, Mentally Ill… my brain is dead, I can’t think of anymore.
Nick: I don’t know really that there are any I necessarily look to (did you mean, like, influences?), but I really like the Shivvers!!
Paul: That Haskels 45 blows my mind. Lubricants, Shivvers, and the Orbits were all radical Milkwaukee bands during the late-70s/early-80s. As far as Midwest bands… Dow Jones and the Industrials, Zero Boys, Mentally Ill, 20/20, Gizmos… just to name a few.
What about currently active locals? Anyone to look out for?
Eric: Terrior Bute, Period Three, The Kind of Jazz Music that Kills, Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones, High On Crime, the (Love) Movement, Roaring Girls, and the rest of my bands: the Boos, Quest for Fire, Total Boring, Holy Shit!, and Sludgy McStonerPants and the Bongriders.
Nick: I can’t remember all the ones Eric said, but I’m pretty sure he covered all the ones I’d've said. But I wish the Jukeboyds were still a band. I’ll say that.
Paul: My friend Colin and I just recorded a demo for this band called Jazz Music That Kills, who are fucking awesome noisy punk. The Monitors (feat. Ryan and Chad from the Kill-A-Watts and Wendy Looker) are really good bass/drums/keyboard punk. A teenage band called Terrior Bute who sound like the Screamers are one of my favorite local bands. There are more, but those are my favorite ones.
Apart from it being the brew city, what keeps you guys in Milwaukee and how’d you get there?
Eric: $3 twelve-packs and a lot of cool people, that’s what keeps me here… Paul and I moved here at about the same time. Green Bay basically died and we left to come ruin Milwaukee. I don’t think we’ll be here forever. I love shit city, but I’m already getting sick of the cold.
Nick: I basically came here ’cause I didn’t like where I had been living, and I was always coming to Milwaukee for shows or for practice and just to hang out anyway. I had nothing holding me where I was, so I came here. I just stay pretty much because I like the band I’m in and there’s lots of chances to see shows here and whatnot. I like some of the people, too. And I definitely don’t have money to move, or a great idea of where I’d go other than here anyway.
Paul: Once the Green Bay music scene was completely ruined by the cops, some of us moved to Milwaukee, and a bunch of people followed. I honestly don’t know what’s keeping us here, ha. We all live in shitty neighborhoods, but despite our cars getting ripped off and getting mugged constantly, it’s a pretty fun place to live.
What else are you guys involved in musically? Bands, labels, writing?
Eric: I already listed the bands I’m in above. I book one million shows in Milwaukee and distribute a calendar of, basically all the DIY shows in the city for a month, bunch of different houses and clubs… During summer it was easier to walk around and just put them in punk house mailboxes. Now I’ve been gone for the last month, so I gotta get back on that shit. Since I’ve been dropped from school and am unemployed, that shouldn’t be a problem! There is a new label in Milwaukee that is operating as a coop, too. It’s called Dingus records, and Dan from Modern Machines is basically the spearhead. I think the goal is something similar to what Chattanooga does with This Here records. If you can get together the money, the label will help a little, and then help A LOT with distribution. We are the most organized yet, but I think things are going well. Dingus has at least three releases:
1. Fury of 1,000 Zeueses, “Habenero Enema” 7″
2. Bob Burns and the Breakups, “s/t” 7″
3. Chinese Telephones, “s/t” 7″
Look out for Modern Machines/Ergs 7″ soon.
Nick: This is the first time in awhile where I’ve only been in one band. I have nothing to do with any labels or anything like that. I always have plans to start a second band, but there are always obstacles and drawbacks. Anything I do other than the Catholic Boys I’ll probably just do myself and then have other people learn it. I’m sure you wanted to know all that about me. God, it’s late.
Have you guys toured in bands before or was your first with the Catholic Boys? How’d it go? What were some of your favorite cities and people to play with?
Eric: This tour was amazing… the last one was even better I think. The Real Losers were with us, and those blokes were the best. I miss them. I have also toured with the Boos twice before. Holy Shit!!! has been on tour twice as well. One time it was Catholic Boys and Holy Shit!!! together. That one was fun, too!
Nick: I’d toured in the Strong Come Ons a bunch of times, and the Tears a few times, and the Catholic Boys a few times. This was a real fun one, probably one of my favorites but we all got sick and that really blew. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d probably have enjoyed it a lot more, but I have a feeling I got sick because I was enjoying things too much. There were definite highlights, though. Our show in Vancouver B.C. was totally rad. We played with Das Pussyhound and the Nons and they both kicked ass. And the people there really rule. I also had a blast in Berkley when we played at Gilman Street. There were a ton of people there for the headlining band, and it was like, just a sea of kids. And everyone was having a really great time and I was gettin’ tossed around this way and that just like in high school at the concert cafe where people actually had fun at shows. Those were the two places I’d never been that I really liked. Oh, and our show in Reno was a blast as well.
Paul: Catholic Boys was the first for me. Vancouver and Montreal are my favorite cities to play ever, and my favorite bands to play with are the Real Losers and the Feelers.
What have the Catholic Boys been working on lately? Any upcoming releases planned? Or just general plans for the band?
Eric: We have two singles coming out soon. One is on Bancroft, one is on No Fucking Chance. Seven new songs.
Nick: I just really wanna get some more stuff done so we can put out another record real soon. Oh, and Eric forgot one. Mitch Cardwell is gonna do a split with us and the Feelers from Columbus! They totally rule and it’s gonna be a great record I think. And basically this is happening because we’re holding Mitch to his drunken promise.
Paul: We’re doing another album later in the summertime, and maybe a couple more 45′s, and that’s it. We got two 45′s that should be in the mail to us any day now; I’m excited to get those!!!
And finally, any last words?
Eric: Can’t wait to see ya’ll again! Holy shit! In summertime or something.
Nick: No, I have a lot more to say. These are just the first of many words. I’m a retard.
Paul: I suck at filling out interviews.