Interviews

Drummer Andy “Outbreak” Granelli (The Distillers, The Nerve Agents, Model American)

Photo: Pete Geniella

Time is a wildly crazy concept when you sit and reflect on it. It passes us by so quickly, but can seem endless the more you pour over it. The recent pandemic and quarantine ground my life to a halt, like it did a lot of us, and so gave me some extra moments to reacquaint myself with some of the things I love.

As I sat, digging through collected relics, it dawned on me that one of my all time favorite records, Days of the White Owl, released on Revelation Records in the year 2000, was about to turn 20 years old. 

I found the band, The Nerve Agents, in my local skate shop’s distro. Their gas-mask adorned cover intrigued me, and seeing the starred-R on the back made me excited at the possibility of what lived inside as some of my favorite recordings from Youth of Today, Sick of It All, and Gorilla Biscuits all wore the same emblem. But it wasn’t until they connected with hometown heroes, Kill Your Idols, that I actually took notice.

At a time when musical tastes were turning in a direction I was certainly not headed, The Nerve Agents had figured out a way of combining just about every element of everything I loved about underground music. They were intense, they were chaotic, they had more energy than you could possibly contain. Vocalist Eric Ozenne was practically leaping off the back cover of their aforementioned LP! 

Now here I am years later, with seemingly nothing but time. I began sharing some of the things I collected via social media, and after a while began reconnecting with some of the people I collected them from two decades earlier. It wasn’t long before someone tagged Andy Granelli (the one and only drummer of The Nerve Agents, current member of The Distillers, and all around nice guy) and we got to talking. 

A few weeks later we decided to schedule a chat and here we are today. Thanks again, Andy! 

So Andy, first question: how is your quarantine going, and also did you ever imagine, when you were crafting the song “Level 4 Outbreak”, you might live in a reality where that actually happens?

I talked to Eric pretty soon after this whole thing started and was like “you predicted it!” In the beginning, he was really fixated on a lot of those stories around Ebola. Coming from the military, hearing stories about tests and stuff on soldiers.

Agent Orange and stuff like that?

Yeah, I think it kind of stuck with him. But yeah, it’s been good for us. Working for Bell Helmets—we’re an essential business. It’s bike stuff, and everyone’s been riding their bikes so there has been a big push in sales for us. We’ve been selling a lot of stuff. I’ve been here, by myself, in the shop with a shipping supervisor and a receptionist and that’s it. It’s been good.

My wife and daughter are at home. My daughter is 4 and all her school, gym, swimming, and ballet? All that stuff’s been cancelled. So that’s been kind of tough, but kind of nice too cause spending time with her is pretty cute when they’re 4 [Laughs]. A lot of my friends are all out of work, you know? The Distillers? We’re not doing anything. And 1200 hundred bucks… it’s shit. That doesn’t go very far, especially in California. 

The Distillers (Photo: Jorma Vik)

Going back to the beginning, you’ve been an active drummer for what… 25 years at this point?

Yeah since I was 15. 

What attracted you to drums in the beginning, and did you parents actually let you play in the house? Because mine made me wait until they were out running errands. 

I don’t know why I liked drums. I always liked cars, and I kind of looked at drums like cars, you know? Cause it’s like a big thing with stuff that you put together. I thought it looked cool, kind of like driving a badass car, but you’re driving this drum kit. In the sixth grade we got to pick an instrument and I picked drums. The jazz band had a drum kit, but I couldn’t use it! I had to play ‘tip-tap’ on the practice pad. Your rudiments and shit. I was like “that sucks! I want to do my own thing.” But you had to graduate to it so I said “fuck that” and I got a job at California Candy Company on Burlingame Avenue.

I went to my Grandpa and said “I want to play the drums. I got this job, will you help me rent a storage locker?” So we went in San Mateo, down by the bay off of 3rd Street and he rented me a storage locker for like sixty bucks a month. I bought a piece of shit Sunlite drum kit and I fucking put it in there, hung up some moving blankets and just taught myself how to play. I did that for 3 years, 6th, 7th and 8th grade, and then got into high school and you know… I watched MTV.

That’s how I did it. Watching [Guns N' Roses drummer] Matt Sorum in the “November Rain” video:

Yup. [both laugh]

Like watching that shit is kind of how I learned “you don’t play like this [miming sticks] your hi-hats over here..”

They go this way! [miming cross over]

That kinda thing and you know, just kind of learning stuff. I took one drum lesson from this guy at B-Street Music in San Mateo and it turns out the guy was narcoleptic. I didn’t know! We get in there and he sits me down and says “play this beat.” He shows me this really simple 4/4 drum beat - kick/snare/hat thing. I’m playing it and it’s kind of going along.

I’m really focused on it so I’m not focused on him sitting behind me. I’m just trying to play this thing and I start to get tired. I turn around and I look and he’s just - OUT. ASLEEP! Right? So I’m like “hey, man! You OK?” And so he’s like “Ohhh… by the way, I’m narcoleptic.” [laughs]

I feel like even at that age you might not know what narcolepsy is! You might just be like…

“What is this? What’s wrong with this guy” 

“Am I playing that poorly that it’s putting you to sleep?” So at what point did Model American start? Was that your first band?

Yeah! In high school freshman year went by and I upgraded. I met this guy Chris Fitzpatrick, he came from another school, but he skated. At Burlingame High School I was like the only skateboarder. For me everything that I ever learned about or found out about was because of Thrasher and skating. That’s how I found out about everything in life really. 

Both: The Bible

Totally. Chris skated and I remember going to freshman orientation and being like “this sucks, this is weird.” But he had on a New Deal shirt or something and I was like “that’s my friend.” He played drums, as it turns out. He had just moved here from New York or somewhere and his parents, for moving him across country, felt bad for him so they had just bought him a new drum kit. So I was able to buy his old one. So I had a nicer drum kit and was stoked. I had been practicing on my own on this piece of shit and now I had this new drum kit, I was like “this is great”. He taught me a lot. He and I listened to music together.

Sonic Youth was big for us, and a lot of Sub Pop. Nirvana had already popped off, but because I was into Thrasher we always thought Nirvana were sell-outs. We were into punk by then so we were like “fuck Nirvana! That shit sucks. Beat Happening or fucking Sebadoh!” You know? We were more into that kind of vibe.

Then I met Ken Kirby through this girl that I knew, and Ken Kirby was the guitar player for Model American. It was his band pretty much. He started it with Tim Presley. He and Tim had gone to school together since like kindergarten. So that’s how I met Tim, and it was just like super random. Knew this girl, kind of liked her… and I think Ken liked her too, but Ken went to a different high school. And Tim went to a different high school too. It was after school one day and it was like “you want to meet my friends? They like punk rock too.” And it was Ken and Tim. 

Photo: Florida Jack

Was this all San Mateo? 

Yeah, San Mateo.

Model American didn’t last super long, right? That was about 2 years?

Yeah, it lasted through high school. We started Nerve Agents when we were seniors in high school. Model American and Nerve Agents kind of coincided. I don’t know why but I was just on this tear. I had to play, and I had to play live. I didn’t purposefully set goals for myself but there were just these things that I was just fucking fixated on. Like “I wanna play Gilman Street. I wanna tour.” After Gilman became a thing, and we were playing there all the time, I was like “I wanna start touring.”

I always had this drive to do music, I never thought of anything else. Fucking laser focus on that. That was it.

So with Model American we were playing Berkeley Square and Gilman Street, but then we were also playing fucking wherever. Any teen center that we could. Record Exchange on Burlingame Avenue. Redemption 87 was a big band for us. We always liked that band and they were pretty big at the time around the Gilman Street scene. We never played in San Francisco too much, because that was like the bar scene.

We weren’t 21 and the only thing you could get was the Boomerang on Haight Street, and it just fucking sucks. We couldn’t get a show at the Trocadero cause we were too small. But AJ Cardinelle, who was the booking agent at Berkeley Square, she was down and would give us shows. So we played Berkeley Square all the time. And that’s how I met Eric Ozenne and… I just liked Eric! Thought he was a fucking awesome singer and front man. Those shows were so crazy, with so many people, and the energy… it was fucking badass. It was undeniable. And so I just bugged him. 

The Nerve Agents (Photo: Knowles Allen)

Well I was gonna ask, is there truth to the story spun by Revelation that you “begged”...

Fucking Eric wrote that and he loves busting my chops on that stuff [laughs]. But yeah I was like “let’s start a band!” Cause you know how it is in art and stuff, especially with bands—people, and interpersonal relationships, and band drama, it’s never ideal. It’s really hard to find 4 or 5 people to have the same desires and motivation. Eric and I became friends, and I’m pretty perceptive. I would hang around those guys and be like “oh shit… maybe Ian’s a dick.” [Laughs]

Timmy Chunks, who was great, he also had his own gigs. So they had Jade, and there were these members coming in and out. Gary Gutfeld and stuff, all these guys, I was kind of—not star struck, but kind of impressed with them. But I could see, too, that they were older and I was just eager! So I was like “fucking… whatever! I’ll do whatever you want!” 

“Let’s do it… anything!”

Eric had an idea for Nerve Agents, so it happened. I got him in a room with Sweirs from Rely and Kevin Cross, who he lived with at the time.

Who actually came up with the name, and essentially the branding, of the band?

All Eric. The art and all those fliers—you can tell it’s his weird handwriting [laughs]. Kind of bubble letter vibe. But yeah Eric did all that. Lyrics too! He had everything.

So he was ready to go. He just needed someone to supply music, I take it?

Kind of, yeah. [laughs]

Tim wasn’t originally involved then, he was brought into the fold?

Yeah, so we had Sweirs, Kevin, me and Eric. Tim wasn’t in the band but Tim and I became close really fast. You know sometimes you meet people in life and you just kind of love them immediately? That’s how I’ve always been with Tim. I’ve always respected and loved his art, and just always wanted to be around him. He was always fun and funny so it was really easy for me to say “Eric! We’ve got to get Tim in the band! It will be fucking awesome.” And it was. Tim makes Nerve Agents fucking awesome [laughs].

The Nerve Agents (Photo: Knowles Allen)

Once you solidified the group did you guys decide you wanted to be a full-time band, touring and everything like that?

Well no, because high school had ended and Tim went to college. I tried to go to college but I just felt “this is kind of getting in the way of what I really want,  which is to tour and fucking be in a band.” To just play music and do art, I just wanted to do that. School didn’t appeal to me in that way. School was boring and structured and fucking mind-numbing bullshit! Just being spoke at by some guy. I wanted none of it. But I played the part and tried, but I also moved out.

I moved to San Francisco. Again, working a job it was like “if I’m making money at my job what am I not doing this for?” So we were just trying to fit the band in. Kevin and Eric lived together in this piece of shit house in West Oakland, a super sketchy place with Lars from Rancid. They just had this shithole! We were all just scraping by. But then the Nerve Agents shows started getting bigger and bigger. We then started to tour, like an East coast tour in the summer. Everything was like a week and a half, two weeks long. 

What was that first tour?

That was with The Explosion. We had done a bunch of shows with In My Eyes. And Eric knew guys through Timmy Chunks on the East Coast. We hooked up with Kill Your Idols. We did a CB’s matinee that I think Gary from Kill Your Idols put on for us. 

Found on HardcoreShowFlyers.net

Early on, I remember Revelation’s messageboard being a place that was a great resource for VHS trading. When I started to find you guys as a band I knew I was pretty much never going be able to see you live, so I sought tape trades. With a lot of early internet information, you’re getting some things here and there, but it’s just little bits and pieces.

People forget that most times you had to actually wait for a “web master” to punch in HTML code to update a website, so for faster access we used messageboards. I think for you guys it felt like staying in touch with fans and the community was important. Was that a goal of yours as a band?

It wasn’t a goal, but it was definitely a by-product. Getting the website going was big. The messageboard was a big deal because it was simple and convenient. You could interact, you know? It was me, Dante and Eric or whoever responding to silly shit, or talking shit. But it connected people in a new way.

One thing Eric would always say was “you gotta have lots of pictures in the record. For kids who can’t see us, they want to look at the album art and look at the pictures and stuff.” Well then the pictures became the words, and the fucking messageboard did a lot for the band in getting us people who were interested from all over the world. People who were curious and wanted to know what we were about. 

That was the precursor to social media.

Totally.

So I grew up in the Long Island hardcore scene and at that time it there was a wave of everyone wanting to be tough, all kicking each other in the face or something. To look at your scene from this side it seemed like you guys were all getting along. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. You’d see photos of people just smiling in the crowd and it felt like “damn, that is what I would want.”

Yeah, I mean all scenes have their same shitheads and stuff but I remember definitely that we purposely made the logo pink for Days of the White Owl. Eric definitely wanted to do the make up thing to kind of add a soft touch to hardcore. That it’s not for white guys and men only. That it’s not this violent thing. It could be inclusive and talk about subject matter that hit close to home for a lot of people.

Eric was very much a misfit. He grew up in Danville and was of divorced parents like a lot of us, like Tim and me. Just kind of weird childhoods where you don’t know where you fit in. You’re not doing sports but you’re looking for this outlet for your energy. And Eric spoke to a lot of people like that. Also it’s funny now because he is a counselor. 

He does social work right?

Yeah. Dude, he could talk to anybody for fucking hours... about them and be completely egoless. I love Eric Ozenne very much, and he’s a great listener and a good person to talk to. I think that kind of feeling comes out with the band too. With people being around it it became an infectious thing and brought that kind of vibe.

[Read No Echo's 2019 interview with Eric Ozenne]

A community vibe for sure. We mentioned Revelation earlier. I was going to ask, was there ever a demo being passed around before you released the first EP on Rev?

It wasn’t really a demo. We went and recorded with Paul Miner at his studio in Orange County over a weekend. Drove down there, did it, came back. We had the music and we were originally going to put it out with one of Eric’s friends. I forget what happened, I think he couldn’t pony up the money and shit kind of went sideways. Eric knew [Revelation Records owner] Jordan Cooper from his time in Unit Pride. 

Back in the day.

Yeah, and Eric being Eric just called him up. And what he played him was the first EP.  

So that EP was already done and you were just kind of looking for a label...

Yeah, pretty much, that was baked and ready to go.

How long into the band’s existence did you guys shift the line up into adding in Zac and Dante? With that member change it seemed like a noticeable difference in sound came with it. Was it the drive to change the sound that brought in the new members, or was it the new members that changed the sound?

Sweirs was in a hardcore band called Rely who were bigger than us and Model American at the time. I might be remembering wrong but I think he quit. Dante was this dude we knew from Redwood City who was like the punkest, scariest, sketchiest, gnarliest kid. He was like the bad cat in Garfield with the fucking notch taken out of his ear. Dante had a mohawk, he even had a kid. He was already a dad! And he was younger than us!

But he was fucking cool, and really cool looking. We were like “damn, who’s this guy?” We always liked him and he would come to Model American shows. He was a guitar player and Tim and I were like “dude… get a bass! Let’s do this.” When Sweirs left we needed a bass player so Dante got a bass, made it happen.

Damn, that’s insane! Cause his bass lines drive a lot of the record’s songs! It makes a whole new vibe, a lot of those moving lines, so for him to not be a bass player originally is kind of crazy. 

Yeah, I’ve done it to a couple guys [laughs]. Ryan from The Distillers is another guy who was a guitar player that had no interest in playing bass. But you kind of always need a bass player I’ve always found. Everybody always wanted to play guitar. No one ever wanted to play drums, except for me. I was the only masochist who wanted to be the glorified furniture mover. 

Yep, same here. 

[Laughs] But you can never find a bass player so I was always going to whoever was around being like “it’s 2 less strings—just do it!” 

I’ve tried to convince people myself. I’m like “you have to use one finger… it’s not even all the fingers!” [laughs] What about Zac, cause he played on the record too?

Zac was a dude from San Jose and he was in a band called Fury 66, a skate rock band from Santa Cruz. Friends of ours. When Kevin left the band we wanted to have another guitar player and Zac fit the part [laughs].

At that point you guys had done a couple tours right?

Yeah.

So you start seeing more of a reaction building behind everything. Maybe when you get to shows they are actually good, as opposed to hoping people turn up? 

Yeah, we started headlining Slim’s and stuff which is like a thousand people. Maybe eight or nine hundred in the Bay Area? Playing bigger shows. AFI was popping off at the time and we were playing a bunch with them. It became like a scene and we were very much a part of it. It was cool. It was really exciting and fun. 

Let’s talk about the recording of the Days of the White Owl. You had already done a Model American record with Andy Ernst. Was that sound and experience of that session why you chose to go back with the Nerve Agents? Because as a person who dabbles in recording, I love the quality of that record, sonically it is still fantastic to this day. 

With Model American, Ken Kirby and Tim were the real students, they were like liner note sluts. They were always like “oh shit, it was recorded here with these players” and that kind of stuff. Ken loved AFI and wanted to record at Art of Ears because AFI recorded there. And Andy, you were able to just call him up and be like “hey! ...how much??” So it just kind of made sense. And everyone knew Andy because he recorded all these bands. It was like Bart Thurber or Andy Ernst.

We didn’t have money to record at Fantasy. That was like the other Bay Area thing. A lot of bands wanted to record at Fantasy… that was a fantasy [laughs].

Was the writing process different when you guys came together as that particular 5 piece? 

Dante and Tim wrote a lot of it, and Zac. I think everybody contributed. Like boys do, there’s a lot of fighting, ego, and weird communication stuff but I think we all just kind of liked each other too. We were all friends for the most part so I feel like it went easily, but I don’t really remember. It was kind of a long time ago. I do remember going into the studio though.

I remember talking to Derek from the Murder City Devils and he was like “we just recorded [In Name and Blood], we spent a month on the album.” I remember being like “fuck… doing what? How does it take that long? What are you doing?” 

So you guys were a well oiled machine at that point?

You just hammer it out. Couple takes, you know? All the songs had to have been baked by then. I think we were playing them live too. We used to play live a lot so we’d play, and play the new shit and fucking test it out, and then record it. I want to say Days of the White Owl took like a week? I don’t think we took more than two weeks on an album. I didn’t know the fuck I was doing.  [Laughs] Change the drum heads I guess?

Found on HardcoreShowFlyers.net

That’s for sure the drum method. You’re like “where do I put things?” But drum sound is the thing that always makes a record sound good later on down the line. That’s one of the things that I appreciate about Days of the White Owl—that twapping kick sound, the snare that pops through everything. 

I learned a lot. I feel like everytime I record I’ve learned a little something. One thing I’ve learned in birch drums record really well. The kit I had in The Nerve Agents was this Premiere birch kit that I bought at Guitar Center. It always sounded really good and was really punchy, it had a lot of attack. Over the years in recording I’ve learned a lot in what sounds good and what kind of gear will get you there. And mic’ing. Mic’ing technique is something I learned a lot from Andy.

Andy had an intern named Thad who ended up becoming a long time good friend of mine, who I still know and am very close with. They were guys who liked to kind of tinker. I would be like “hey, how did Bonham get that sound?” and Andy would be like “oh! He put a mic down the hallway.” Andy was a buddy over the years too, so he was up to try shit out. 

So you definitely had a good experience in that studio. Was there any memory that stands out from that session? The one song that took thirty takes or something. There’s always that one thing...

No, I mean for us it was always jokes. We were always joking around. Me and Tim were two like silly billies always, you know? Goofing off and everything. But I do remember when it came time for Eric to record everyone was kind of just like: [Andy quietly slumps deep into his chair at this point to demonstrate] “We’ve got to be quiet while Dad’s working.” He would always demand tea. So Tim became his tea bitch. Eric would be like “TEA!” “Fuck, I need my tea!” You know? He had lead singer syndrome [laughs].

The Nerve Agents (Photo: Adam Lentz)

What was the age gap between you guys, just out of curiosity?

Eric I think is like 10 years older? 

OK. Because I do remember when I was in my 20s people in their 30s felt so much older.

Yeah.

But then when I got into my 30s I was like “it doesn’t really feel that different.” 

Ahh! In the lyric Eric says “27 years” ...something. He refers to himself being 27. He was twenty seven, so I was probably 18? 19?

OK, so pretty close to a decade. 

Enough for us at first to kind of be like... “wow.”

At a certain point I remember you guys were supposed to hit the East Coast and that would’ve been the first time I would’ve been able to see you live. There was something written about you guys breaking down in Death Valley. Did that actually happen? 

Well, I remember one tour, again with the narcolepsy, I drove from the Bay Area all the way to Utah in one shot. It was like thirteen hours just like dead-head, boom. Ryan, our roadie who we took with us said “ok, I’ll drive.” We had drums strapped to the top of this fucking minivan that my Mom rented. Dante’s asleep in the back stuck between two amps, squished.

Ryan starts driving, and you know I’m fucking passed out in the front. About an hour in you hear the rumble strip and the van goes like this [turns sideways] off to the side and out into this field and Ryan had fucking fallen asleep! You know why?

Narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy! 

Are you serious?

Yup.

So things come in threes, you’ve got to watch out this might still hit you at some point in your life. 

Yeah, that was something none of us had experienced. It was fucking scary, we were in a corn field you know? [mimes stalks hitting windshield] 

Shit, that’s insane! 

[much laughter ensues]

Let’s talk The Butterfly Collection. First of all, the concept behind the album—that was all Eric too?

Yeah.

So he was definitely the crafter of all these things. A lot of stuff was happening at the time, your peers like Tiger Army and AFI, everyone’s kind of blowing up, you guys are blowing up. You sign to Hellcat. 

We played the Fillmore, I think, with AFI and Tim Armstrong and Lars Fredrickson were at the show. The were like “we want you on Hellcat.” We had done our two records for Rev and we didn’t know what we were gonna do. We wanted to do a new record and Tim wanted us to do a record for Hellcat.

Tim and Eric… (not the show) [laughs], they knew each other from Operation Ivy/Unit Pride/East Bay. They’d known each other for a very long time. It kind of all made sense. Everybody, we all loved Rancid. Everything kept falling into place. 

The Nerve Agents (Photo: Hellcat Records)

Well that album, The Butterfly Collection, takes an even darker turn then Day of the White Owl. It seems to embrace that goth-punk flavor even a little more. Was all of this a planned move, or was it the natural progression?

I don’t know, and in thinking about it now, in this conversation that we’re having, I’m wondering. I think Eric got a lot of the ideas for the songs from people he met at the time. It could be that being in the position he was in kind of afforded him this exposure to these other people who all had issues and wanted to talk to him about it. He’d end up writing songs about them.

He wrote a song about Eric Hogan, the tattoo artist who died at the time who was a close friend of his. There were a couple people that Eric was friends with that he ended up writing about so I think it’s just time, place and circumstance a little bit? Who you know, who you meet. 

It sort of naturally evolved into that.

Yeah, and it kind of took that turn. I think Dante drove a lot of the vibe too. Dante was kind of goth [Laughs]. AFI was pretty goth, you know? It was like the style. 

It was definitely a time and place thing. I remember even in New York people were kind of going that route a little bit too. 

When we would travel we’d listen to a ton of fucking Morrissey. Loved Morrissey. And Siouxsie Sioux, Bauhaus. All that shit. 

So there’s a notable direction shift because of the overall exposure in the band.

Yeah.

In 2001 you ended up joining The Distillers. Did you already know Brody Dalle at that point? And did you ever imagine that they would be the band you’d still be playing with this many years later? 

In joining Hellcat, and with The Distillers on Hellcat, Brody and Tim… I met Brody at the Danville Grange in like 2000 and we hit it off immediately.     Just like Tim Presley and I, we just became friends. Hearing she had a band, and with Eric’s friendship with Tim Armstrong, it was like “of course we want your wife’s band to play with us, let’s do this.”

Kim, Matt and Brody were rad. They were always great friends and good people to us. Kim Chi and I, and Tim—we all became good friends. And Brody and Rose! Rose lived with Brody at the time and it just became a fast friendship. Brody is a great artist and song writer, and creative and has a killer voice. She’s Brody, she’s always been Brody. I immediately fell in love with the band, I just loved the whole thing. Nerve Agents and Distillers played together quite a lot. 

Found on SanFranPunk.wordpress.com

Yeah, I’ve seen quite a few fliers for sure. Then at some point you kind of get asked into the band I take it? 

Well, in Distillers folklore... Brody got into some hot water with partying on tour, she wasn’t supposed to. She got taken off tour and she was like “fuck it, I can’t do this. I’m not doing the band. I’m breaking up The Distillers.” This was with Kim and Matt. But in December of 2000 Brody also had a tour with Rancid and AFI coming up which was going to be the biggest tour of the winter. Tour of the year in punk rock at the time.

Brody had just gone through this deal with her old band on a tour, kind of a bad time, with Kim and Matt who are older than her. Matt was about 15 years older than her and had a family, and Kim Chi was like 10 or 15 years older than Brody too so she always felt like this little kid. She wanted to not do [the band], but she also had this tour. We were talking one night, her and I, and Nerve Agents had just turned down a winter tour.

We were supposed to go do Warped Tour Canada or some shit like that. Eric, Tim, and Dante all had to work. Tim had school. We couldn’t do it and I was mad. I wanted to fucking tour, you know! So I was like “I’m gonna take a tour with Brody.” So we were talking this one night and I was like “well, I’ll do it. I know your songs.” And Brody said “let me think about it.” We ended up working it out, I did the tour and I asked Dante to do it with us.

That’s what I thought! I remember for a hot second he played with The Distillers as well. I think because he sort of has a similar vibe to Ryan I was a little hazy. With internet memories you get a little like “was that him in that photo? Or was that a different person?”

Dante definitely influenced a lot of people at the time. He just looks like the guy from The Cramps t-shirt [laughs].

The Nerve Agents bassist Dante Sigona (Photo: Gilby Bradford)

Exactly!

But it was badass, he pulled it out. So yeah, then we did the tour, we came home and it got weird between me and [The Nerve Agents], Brody and I being friends. I have my own desires and the other guys were in work and school and I wasn’t. If there’s one thing that I do regret it’s that there was no reason we couldn’t have just done it all. There became these finalities like “you can’t do two bands at once!”

Looking back, it seems like a lot of bands could’ve co-existed if they had just said “alright, in a couple months we’ll just reconvene.” But at the time you feel like that’s not possible, the drive kind of dies out. 

Yeah, and for me, I put such high value on work that I needed to work. I needed to work to live, to pay my rent and eat, but also to validate my life! So if I wasn’t working, if I was sitting around waiting for whatever, what am I doing? I’m not living, I’m dying. It’s like atrophy. With Brody and I, I saw no difference in friendship with me and Brody, me and Tim, me and Eric. It just became an equation of need.

She needed me, and I needed her. We needed each other very much, and did [the band]. Unfortunately, it kind of became a point of bad feelings between me and Eric for a little bit, but time heals all wounds and I think he understands. I hope he understands. It’s a different situation.

So it was sort of a contributing factor, because I remember at the time he was also going through knee surgery. During performances he had the big brace going on. He also had his daughter growing up a little older at the time. So there was always that question of “what is the reason these guys actually ended?” 

Yeah, Eric always had hip problems and knee problems over the years. He’s had a hip replacement and yeah, Grace was getting older. It’s hard to be away from your family and tour. Touring is not a lifestyle that’s conducive to having a family, especially if you’re at that level. If you’re in a van and scraping by, sure you go home with five grand, but then what? Then you’re also gone for six weeks. And if you want another five grand you’ve got to go out again! 

Right, not always worth it. Looking back now, 20 odd years later, you’re probably still pretty proud of all the accomplishments of the band, and the scene of the time. What do you think the legacy that the band left behind for the next generation is? And do you ever wonder what could have been had the situations allowed you to keep the band together? 

I try not to wonder “what if?” It’s kind of a pointless exercise. I feel fortunate to have met guys like Tim and Eric, artists like them, and Brody. So for me, personally, it was definitely like “a lightning in a bottle” kind of situation, and one that defined me as a person. For other people too. I think there are a lot of other people in the scene, and people who saw the band, and people around the Bay Area, into punk rock in the early 2000s.

There was a lot of “schlock rock” bullshit on the radio at the time, but then there was this other movement of AFI, Rancid, Distillers, Nerve Agents, Sick of It All—these bands that kind of transcended this feeling, and this time and place. So I think it’s cool.

We are older and sometimes I look at it and think “is this like classic rock now?” It’s kind of funny being 41 working with people now who are my age and, I don’t know, it is kind of weird. Sometimes they know. Sometimes I meet someone through work and they’re like “oh! I saw that band at Warped Tour 2002!” [Laughs]  “Wow, that’s you! You look different!”

But art and music—it’s fluid. It depends on how nostalgic the person is. Some people value nostalgia very much and look back at these times and are grateful for them, and that makes me happy. Some people have listened to the band and that may have gotten them through a difficult time, and that makes me happy too. Some people see it as an experience and move on to whatever, and that’s fine. That makes me happy too [laughs].

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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They are all valid experiences in life basically!

Yeah, they are all people’s feelings and I’m happy for them all.

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