Following on from the recent update featuring The Lost Riots, here's an interview with the band's frontman Jeffrey Thunders...
Hi Jeffrey, please introduce yourself and tell people which bands you're in
Hey I'm Jeffrey Thunders. I'm currently in 2 bands. I 'sing' in The Lost Riots. I also play guitar in The Ratz.
Which bands are your biggest influences?
Oh man that's a tough one. I'm still influenced by things around me. Friends bands, relationships, our current state of affairs with the government in this country and probably growing up in the shadows of one of the biggest cities in the world, New York City. As far as musical inspiration/influence the old standbys are: Black Flag, The New York Dolls, The Replacements, Joe Strummer, Rancid and pretty much anything Jay Reatard does. I'd like to add that as odd as it may seem Supergrass "I Should Coco" is still a great album. It definitely stands the test of time.
The Lost Riots - Downtown
When did you decide you wanted to be in a band and how did you go about it?
I'm just old enough to remember how huge Nirvana was but to not be 100% influenced by them. Great band, and I wont deny that In Utero got heavy play on my stereo as a kid, but it wasn't until Dookie by Green Day was released. That was my "holy shit" moment. It wasn't until years later at the tail end of High school that somebody put a bass in my hands. The 3 of us jammed in a basement. It was horrendous, but it was incredible at the same time. It was all downhill from there. Short end of it all.....it was the summer I graduated high school. That's when I realised how much I needed to be playing music. As I got older and started going to local shows, or hopping the train to Manhattan, I started meeting people in the scene. Eventually after asking a few thousand people, a few sorry saps started a band with me.
Which band was that?
The band I jammed with in the basement, in which I played bass, was called The Fuzz. We didn't really do anything except one evening we kind of crashed our drummer's sister's party. We set up our stuff and just made a bunch of noise because we really could not play our instruments. We stumbled through a cover of "I fought the law". At that exact moment the police showed up because there were noise complaints from the Neighbors. However, the first band that I really played shows with and got my face out there was called Fatale. I don't even think we were together for a year. But it was fun while it lasted. We had a Modern Lovers meets Lou Reed kinda sound.
You play good old school punk rock music and I suspect that your live shows can get quite lively. Have you got any good tour stories?
Well some shows you play to an empty room, some there are people jumping around. I try to put my all into any show. A lot of times I sacrifice my body. Tons of days after shows I find bruises or cuts on me. I'm not so sure about crazy stories. Any good stories? Some I probably shouldn't say, like when we did a few shows with Cheetah Chrome that were a ton of fun. We met some guy in Atlanta who played saxophone with the MC5 on a Russian tour. We met a crackhead in Albany NY that gave us a mannequin head. Someone in Charlotte North Carolina tried to flatten our van tires by putting vodka bottles under them. But for the most part there's good people out there. A lot of people come up to us and question us about the patches on our vest or whatnot. We've met some tremendous people in other bands while travelling. Bands from across the country that we still chat with and play shows with. Whomever said punk rock is dead is a liar!
The Lost Riots - Save Rock n Roll (live)
To me, The Lost Riots and The Ratz play a similar style of down and dirty old school punk. What would you consider to be the main differences between the bands and if you were to write what you considered to be your greatest song, which band would you record it with?
Well I'm gonna piss someone off with this answer haha. The Ratz have a new 7" about to come out, and The Lost Riots released a full length in December. Once this Ratz record comes out people will be able to tell the difference. The major difference is Ines Segarra (formerly of Damn Broads) is now playing lead guitar and handling a ton of the vocal responsibility in The Ratz. The new record is more raw and in your face. To me it's very early Adolescents. Plus our songs are all close to one minute in length. With The Lost Riots our sound has evolved into more of a rock n roll sound. Once Scott "Son Of A Fitch" Fitch came into the band our whole sound completely evolved. Plus we added a rhythm guitar player. Everything sounds more full and mature. It's almost like Social Distortion meets Bruce Springsteen. There's also definitely a New Jersey influence on the new Lost Riots stuff. I don't think you would be fair to either band, or myself to have to choose. It would be like asking which child you like best.
The Ratz - Let's Get Drunk Tonight
The new album by The Lost Riots, The Kids You Love To Hate, is a very enjoyable listen. Where did the ideas for the songs come from? How much is autobiographical?
I really appreciate that compliment. Especially coming from someone that has pretty much heard all of the best underground punk in the world. That's a huge commitment. I try to include as much of myself in lyrics as possible. There are quite a few songs on The Kids You Love To Hate that are very much auto biographical . "When you're back in town" I wrote about a friend that moved out to LA and ended up winning an Emmy award. If it weren't for punk I never would've met him. "Goddamn Town" and "we were wrong" are about adventures in NYC. "Gentrified" Scott wrote but it's essentially about how gentrification has hit our hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. Songs like "I Just Lied" and "Suburban Insanity" are about substance abuse. I really concentrated on the lyrics on this record. I hope someone out there likes them.
Yeah, i think the lyrics are a big part of the album. You mentioned both Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed earlier and I can see similarities in the way many of your songs are like mini stories.
Growing up as an Italian in the Tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut), Bruce Springsteen is just part of your upbringing. His songs transcend through the generations. Bruce Springsteen is one of those artists that people need to get past "Born in the USA" or "Glory Days " to completely appreciate. Its middle class, blue collar life in a little shoreline town. Lou Reed I never fully immersed myself in. Sure I have Velvet Underground records and some of his solo stuff, but I never got deep into what he did. Lyricists that have meant more to me than some legends out there are Dave Weinberg from Boston hardcore band The Suicide File, Defeater frontman Derek Archambault, Laura Jane Grace and Brian Fallon.
You've mentioned The Lost Riots and The Ratz but tell me a little about Jeffrey Thunders and The Scabs...
Jeffrey Thunders And The Scabs - Get Out
Jeffrey Thunders and The Scabs is just a once in a while recording project. Its basically myself and Scott Fitch. There are some songs that we write that may not totally fit in with The Lost Riots. It's just something fun once in a blue moon. There's really no intention of it being a full blown band at this time.
Tell me about your label, Die Hipster Records...
Die Hipster started off as a way for me to get my band out there. After years of trying to get someone to help out I came to the realisation that nobody is going to help. To get the name out there I did some comps with bands within the Connecticut punk scene. That was just over a decade ago. Since then the label has definitely grown. I get bands from all over the northeast sending me stuff. We have a nice little roster of bands right now with a few more coming on board in 2020. In 2019 Mike Sneek has come into the fold to help. He brought a fresh attitude into the mix. We now have seasonal/quarterly comps as well as zines to coincide with the compilations. DHR has also been booking shows for roughly 15 years now under the same name. Even though its defunct I use Lookout Records as a model. Lookout pretty much only had Bay Area bands. They supported their scene and helped those area bands. That's what we wanna do with Die Hipster Records.
And there's a Die Hipster blog...
Of course! Who doesn't have a blog nowadays ha ha. I do a lot of interviews and wanna do more. It's fun.
If you could interview one person, who would it be and which would be the question you'd most want to ask them?
It would probably be my grandfather who came to America from Sicily and ask him about the hardships he had to endure being an immigrant.
Which local bands do you recommend we check out?
There are a ton of great bands around here :
Enziguri - The Bronx, they have a classic NYC hardcore sound.
Sonorous Rising - New London Ct. They are very unique. Ukulele, keyboards and drums. Really awesome band!
Killer Kin - New Haven Ct. Old school sound. Imagine Iggy singing for The Heartbreakers.
Fast Times - Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I love Fast Times. They are a good old fashioned punk band with a splash of pop punk in the mix.
White Thrash - Danbury Ct. Three piece punk rock band with an early 80s hardcore mix. Great bassist. The dude is so good.
I gave ya 5 but I could've kept going.
What would you like to be doing music wise in 10 years time?
I'd like to think that I'd still be a punk in 10 years. That's even if I'm still alive. If no one wants to be in a punk band with an old man I'll probably be doing acoustic stuff. Or at least still be releasing records digitally.