Brothers Joel and Troy Otte have been a part of the Grand Rapids, MI punk and hardcore scene for the better part of 20 years. Their aptly named metallic hardcore band, Brothers was hugely important and influential amongst the young suburban kids of Grand Rapids; kids that were trying to find their own voice in a conservative, uptight western Michigan landscape. Joel even filled in on a tour for Comeback Kid which furthered Brothers popularity, and importance to a new generation of punk and hardcore devotes.
The brothers Otte even ran a studio called Studiotte where they gave the new bands of punk kids a voice when no one else would. Their rates were fair and the quality of product coming out of the studio also made it a place that more established acts in the city sought out to record at.
Things got busy, and life happened, as it does when you start to reach your thirties, so the brothers took some time off to focus on life outside of music; families, careers, and just basic human connections began to become the forefront. However, as anyone will tell you that has been a part of a band, once you’ve gotten your teeth in its hard to completely walk away.
In 2015, the bug bit the brothers again and the germs that would eventually become Worst Self began to form. Over the past four years the band strengthened their sound, and just this year released their first EP, Everyone Is Replaceable, on Dropping Bombs Records. I recently conducted an email interview with the band about the band, their new EP, and their love of Oasis. Enjoy!
So, let’s start at the beginning. How did Worst Self come together? Give us some background.
Worst Self got together in the fall of 2015. My brother and I had a few songs written and some rough demos recorded. Our drummer back then was our longtime friend David Koetje. 15 years prior to Worst Self we had a metalcore band that was very short lived. It was a great fit, and we actually brought back one riff from that project. We quickly recorded a 3-song demo and booked our first show in February of 2016.
Our motivation for starting the band was primarily just something fun to do, and we wanted to play some relentlessly heavy tunes. At the time it seemed like there were not a whole lot of heavy bands around. I’m sure there were, but that was my perception. After writing a full-length with David our lives got crazy busy. He stepped away and our friend Nick Nawrocki joined us in September of 2017 on the drums.
How did ya’ll come up with the band name?
The name came from a Vince Vaughn quote from season two of True Detective: “Sometimes your best self is your worst self.” I thought it sounded cool, cooler than that season, anyway. The name turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way.
How did the band end up linking up with Dropping Bombs for the release of Everyone Is Replaceable?
Eric Scobie is one of the first dudes I met when I moved to Grand Rapids, MI. He was an awesome guy and very kind, and super into hardcore/punk. He moved to the east side of the state and we would bump into each other at shows, and occasionally our bands would play together. When he started Dropping Bombs, I thought that made sense. He’s passionate about music and wants to help bands get their music out there.
I pretty much just reached out to him with the idea of putting out our new record. I had sent him a demo of three of the songs and he was pretty stoked on it but wanted to wait until we had all the songs finished and recorded before he would sign off on it. Needless to say, he did, and it has been a great experience working with him. Handling all the logistics of this stuff makes my head spin, so it has been amazing having him help guide us.
The lyrics are deeply personal and tend to have a push pull relationship with the darker themes of life. One lyric that particularly struck a chord with me is the first line to the track “Living Proof”: “What could have been / I could have killed someone / What could have been?” I was hoping you could expand on what thought went behind the lyrics, and how the band approached the song writing of Everyone Is Replaceable.
Everyone Is Replaceable is my journey out of alcoholism. I was in a drunk driving accident over 2 years ago that very easily could have been it for me. The question “What could have been?” was what I was saying to myself when I went to the junk yard to get the things out of my car. I saw the truck that ran into me as I blew a stop light. I saw my car completely smashed up, completely wrecked.
“Living Proof” is my inner dialogue of struggling with the choices I made and being truly scared that I came so close to abandoning my family, my wife and my children. It’s really dark and honest, and the end is hopeful and uplifting, at least it is to me. It’s also become my favorite song to play. It’s therapeutic; “I will be the living proof.”
For the songwriting usually myself of my brother will bring a finished song to the table. I wrote a majority of this record but that was just kind of how it turned out. We collaborated on a couple of the tracks but, Everyone Is Replaceable was kind of my baby. Lyrically I wrote everything, and we usually start with the rough demo and just go from there. By the time the three of us have hashed it out the song takes on a new form and is by far better than the original demo. We are not really a band that likes to jam. We are busy dudes with careers and families, so we try to be as productive as we can when we get together to write.
The music for Everyone Is Replaceable was recorded with Andy Nelson at Bricktop Recording in Chicago, and some additional recording was done by yourselves back in Hastings, Michigan. Have you worked with Andy before in any sort of capacity? How was working with Andy? Why did the band decide to record the record at two separate places as opposed to doing it all at one studio?
Going to Andy and recording at Bricktop was an incredible experience. It was the first time in almost 20 years that I wasn’t the one pushing record and setting up all the mics. It was nice to be on the other side of the glass. I had never worked with Andy before this project, but I really like the Axis record Shift he recorded. Andy was great to work with, and he’s very knowledgeable which helped us get some great tones. We tracked the majority of the music with him, and we recorded the vocals ourselves in Grand Rapids.
I also mixed the record in Grand Rapids in my home. The only reason we didn’t do the vocals with Andy was because we didn’t have enough time. My brother has a small vocal booth setup where he works so we just used that. In hindsight it would have been nice to have Andy mix it, but we were pinching pennies and I’m kind of a control freak, so I mixed it myself.
How does it feel to know your record was mastered by a Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer?
Feels good. Brad did a great job on the mastering! I’m happy for him and his success. The vinyl master sounds so good!
What were some of the main influences for Worst Self during the writing process of Everyone Is Replaceable?
Musically, I’d say Nails, Axis, 7 Angels 7 Plagues, Vein, throwback metalcore before it got lame. Some of our nu-metal roots came out as well. I wrote these songs sober as well so I found myself with a renewed clarity. You don’t realize how much alcohol is destroying your creativity until your sober.
Looking over some of your merch, and even at the way you chose to display your band name on the cover of Everyone Is Replaceable, I have to ask if the tip of the hat to Oasis was done as fans or as more tongue in cheek, or both?
Definitely huge Oasis fans! My brother came up with borrowing their logo after watching the Supersonic documentary. Being in a band with your brother can be tricky. I’m sure Nick would tell you he feels like he’s surrounded by the Gallagher brothers at times. I don’t hate my brother, but we definitely can get into it verbally.
What’s next for Worst Self now that the record is out in the world?
We hope to spread our wings a little bit and get out of Michigan. Lining up some things for next year, and until then we are going to start writing some new songs. Maybe start a new band?
Any final thoughts you want to share on the current state of hardcore, or anything else?
It’s our hope that this record will get people thinking. It seems like there are not a lot of bands with much to say these days. We just wanted to put out a record with substance. Even if alcohol is not what’s holding you down chances are it’s something. I hope this record can offer a glimmer of hope. I hit rock bottom and have crawled my way back up. I’m not at the top yet, but I won’t stop until I am.
Worst Self tour dates:
Jan. 17 - Fort Wayne IN @ The Muse on Main
Jan. 18 - Columbus OH @ Big Room Bar
Jan. 19 - Detroit MI @ Refuge Skateboard Shop
Tagged: worst self