Interview | Low Culture
Formed in the wake of Shang-A-Lang and featuring members of The Marked Men and Total Jock, Low Culture are making a case as fixtures in the contemporary punk scene. We got a chance to catch up with guitarist/vocalist and founder of Dirt Cult Records, Chris Mason to talk politics and punk rock.
You guys have been part of successful projects in the past. How did you get together to form Low Culture?
I recruited Sam and Cade to play in a new band when it was clear that Shang-A-Lang was coming to an end. We were playing in kind of a jokey hardcore band called Total Jock together. I liked playing with them, so I thought it would be cool to do something a bit more serious. We recorded a demo as three piece and when Joe (who played with me in Shang-A-Lang) moved back to New Mexico from Denton I asked him to join the band. I didn't even ask Sam or Cade - we just showed up at practice and I said "hey guys, Joe is going to play second guitar."
Did the approach change compared to playing with previous projects? Was it a smooth transition between writing processes?
Everything that Low Culture has done has been fairly organic. I don't think we ever really thought about what our approach was - except maybe that we decided, after the demo, that we'd record songs in a studio setting, rather than me recording everything on a shitty 4-track with Radio Shack mics. We're currently writing a new record, and the recording process is going to be interesting, given that 3 of us live in Portland now and one of us lives in El Paso.
How did you guys end up collaborating with Iron Chic for the 7-inch?
I've been friends with Mike Dumps (Iron Chic bassist) for years. Our bands have toured together and our labels (mine - Dirt Cult and his - Dead Broke) have done about a dozen split releases together. We were hanging out in San Diego and we can up with the idea or doing a split that would be released by both our labels - a split band/split label release.
Canada is in the last week of a federal election, and between Trump and Sanders, it seems like things are starting to get heated in the States as well. Despite not being an overtly political band, does Low Culture draw influence from politics?
While I'd agree we're not overtly political, I would say that we our lyrics touch on issues that affect our day to day lives (rather than talking about "neutron bombs" and hating Reagan or whatever ) such as the dehumanizing nature of working for a company that doesn't give a shit about anything except how much money you're making them, how the technology supposedly designed to connect us to one another only serves to disconnect us even further, etc. We even have a new song about Kim Davis and the religious right's absurd notion that to deny someone their basic right [to be a legally married gay couple] is somehow comparable to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But if we were to name names and speak directly to THAT event, we'd immediately date ourselves, while the same backwards attitudes continue to persist.
Not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s been recent controversy over a Canadian punk band called Viet Cong with respect to their name. Considering bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four never really faced the same scrutiny over their names, to what extent is cultural sensitivity necessary in punk rock today?
This is a conversation the four of us find ourselves having almost every time we're in the same room together, and I'm not sure any of us have come to any hard and fast conclusions on the matter. I think what we can all agree on is that punk is an ever evolving subculture that's pretty far removed from the shock rock days of wearing Swastika armbands to provoke some kind of reaction. The bottom line is that people should call others on their shit, and if you're going to name your band something intentionally provocative, it shouldn't come as a surprise when people are provoked.
What are your current favourite bands?
Vacation and Royal Headache recently released two of the best records of 2015. We're also stoked to be playing these dates with Radioactivity - they're easily one of the best bands going these days.
What’s the last record you picked up?
Sam and I both picked up the new Nervous Talk LP at the Vancouver show [last night].
What are your plans after this tour of the Pacific Northwest?
We've got a new record written. We're practicing the songs and hoping to record a new LP sometime before the end of the year.
Bonus question: Trump or Kanye?
As entertaining as Donald Trump is, he didn't release "808's and Heartbreaks." On the other hand, though Trump has made countless terrible comments about women, he's never fucked with Taylor Swift...so I guess it's a toss up.
Head to Wheelies Motorcycle Cafe tonight at 8pm to catch Low Culture, along with Radioactivity and Line Traps. Tickets available at the door!
-Truman and Jenn