Dave Anians - November 15, 2014
Hoo boy! So it’s been awhile since one of these has happened. Green Dot Sessions has also been around for over a year. This is #7, and it’s with a real cool dude.
Stephen DeFalco is the singer of Chicago punk rock band Turbo Vamps and the main brain behind Friskie Morris and Friends, the awesome band/podcast. With the podcast, he interviews Chicago punk bands and labels/distros. It’s always a lot of fun to listen to and the bands are always badass.
I had been aware of and seen Turbo Vamps for quite a while, but I only met Stephen recently. We both have similar histories of the whole suburban white kid finding punk rock at a young age thing, but there are some cool differences as well. I had a lot of fun picking his brain and you’ll have a lot of fun reading about it.
Turbo Vamps: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Turbo-Vamps/91085749394
Friskie Morris: https://www.facebook.com/FriskieMorrisFriends
Friskie Morris Sessions (podcast): https://soundcloud.com/friskie-morris-sessions
Dave Anians 11/3, 12:10pm
hey dude! we'll get started now if that's cool. if you need to ask any questions or interrupt at any point, that's fine. ill edit it out. other than that, this is super laid back. take as much time as you need for answers, there's no deadline or anything
that being said, please fill in the banks:
Hey! My name is __________________________ and I _________________.
Stephen DeFalco 11/3, 12:50pm
Hey! My name is Stephen DeFalco (Friskie Morris) and I am D, all of the above.
Dave 11/3, 1:20pm
Rad! what's your favorite thing about music?
Stephen 11/3, 1:42pm
Aw man the answer is kind of two fold for me. The therapeutic effects it can have and the ability to bring people together. With the therapeutic effects I mean if you look at most Friskie Morris/Turbovamps songs there are no ex-girlfriends being written about or love songs...they are all personal stuff that's got a darker side to that I wouldn't really open up and talk to someone about so I use music. There is something about screaming all the shit at the top of my lungs that is exhilarating. It's that music as therapy idea that has kept me sane these last 10 years lol. The second being the ability to bring people together directly puts me at a soccer match; I played since I was 4 all through school and a little in college. Even simple musical chants just brings chills up and down my spine. I'll never forget walking into the Fulham Futbol stadium in England and just feeling the ground shake because everyone was singing together the same tune and it just took my breath away. Only music can bring people together like that.
Dave 11/3, 2:03pm
Ah for sure, so how did you get to the point where you started playing or making music?
Stephen 11/3, 3:53pm
Well I was raised pretty religiously and was in church choir pretty much as soon as I could talk. Took piano lessons in grade school and played alto and Barry sax from fourth grade till freshman year of high school. I moved to trombone and played in marching/pep/ full orchestra and jazz band and that was the time I really started writing my own music on a bass guitar and kinda just grew from there.
Dave 11/3, 3:56pm
What brought you to wanting to make your own music?
Stephen 11/3, 5:39pm
I think once I got into punk rock and the whole ideology I found my voice and knew I had something to say as corny as that sounds. I'm definitely one of those guys that doesn't like to be on the sidelines and after a year or two of seeing my friends bands I wanted to get up on stage too and never stopped
Dave 11/3, 6:13pm
Sweeet. what about the punk ideology do you think promotes that? like, the idea of making your own music.
Stephen 11/3, 6:52pm
I think it's the whole idea of DIY and like if you want to do something the only thing that's stopping you is you. I think it's that DIY spirit that invites so many people to form their own bands and not wait on anyone to get what you want-to be truly independent. Depending on the circle your in everyone is super supportive about anything someone wants to do. I know I wouldn't have the podcast if people around me didn't encourage me to follow through with it.
Dave 11/3, 7:19pm
Ah totally. so then, how did you get into punk music?
Stephen 11/3, 7:26pm
For me it was an escape, plain and simple. My father was on my schools Board of Education and cared more about his reputation than anything else so in turn I was in constant fear of disappointing him. It didn't help that because of this every staff member at my school and a lot of various community members knew me and kept tabs on me because they knew who I was. Punk rock shows were a place where I wasn't Ron DeFalco's kid and no one cared what I did. There were no repercussions for my actions and could be totally free without a care in the world. It was a community that was judgement free, for the most part, and I felt more accepted in the local punk rock scene than any sport team or club could provide.
Dave 11/3, 10:18pm
That's a really interesting perspective. do you think there's something about punk rock and the scene that allowed you to find that freedom that would be different from maybe another type of music scene?
Stephen 11/4, 10:11am
I think punks whole fuck you mentality kinda opens it up for people to do whatever they want and let's face it, the punk scene brings a certain type of person that demands an everything goes policy. I feel other scenes are 80-100% about the music and nothing about the people where the punk scene is a family and is more about the party sometimes than the music
Dave 11/4, 10:35am
Haha i feel you. So how did you get into your first band?
Stephen 11/4, 10:39am
Um I actually asked my buddy Andrew if we wanted to start a band and he knew some guys and we started this blink 182/green day type band called Down and Out hahahaha omg yea that really was the name. That was in like 2005. Very short lived, I thing we played one song and it was all covers.
Dave 11/4, 10:47am
haha did you play any shows?
Stephen 11/4, 10:50am
One show at a church and was all covers. Our guitarist broke his arm or and hand too so our one and only show as a band we had a fill in guitarists lol!
Dave 11/4, 10:58am
Hahaha awesome. so was Turbovamps next?
Stephen 11/4, 11:01am
Yea, after that kinda fizzled out I still wanted to play music and was talking about it with my buddy Sean who dabbled in bass and asked Andrew to play guitar and our buddy jack was really good at drums so we got him involved but he didn't have a kit so out first practice was getting him a drum kit.
Stephen 11/4, 11:01am
That was winter of 2005
Dave 11/4, 11:10am
Sweet. so what bands were your biggest influences?
Stephen 11/4, 11:13am
Rancid, misfits and adicts. Ever since I saw the adicts for the first time I always aspired to be a front man like monkey. So of course we covered journey to the end of east bay, knowledge, steamroller and various misfits songs while writing our own horror/street punk
Dave 11/4, 11:22am
Radddd. how has that changed since then?
Stephen 11/4, 11:30am
Well for old times sake well do a cover here and there but overall the focus of the band has changed. Our priority isn't to tour and play shows every week like it was but instead just have fun when we can. Like we have an EP that's been ready to record since march when we played our last show but life hasn't given us the time to really polish and record the songs and it's a friendship first and a band second. Im not gonna let the business of the band ruin life long friendships ive had with these guys. The new stuff is defiantly a mix but more street punk; a little harder and faster. We've also lost the whole horror thing. I think our philosophy on the band has changed more than the sound though-our songs have always kinda been all over the place.
Dave 11/4, 12:52pm
cool, have your inspirations changed as well?
Stephen 11/4, 1:01pm
umm you know I really haven;t thought about it but I guess they have a little. I guess with age in my case things have toned down and there's a lot more melodic stuff in my everyday listening habits but let's be honest if you're still living the dream of your 16 year old self waiting for the next casualties CD to come out that's pretty sad in my opinion-people need to grow and with that things like musical tastes change. I mean don't get me wrong I still love songs like ADD by the unseen but its more nostalgic of a simpler time in my life. Writing wise it's gone more in that true punk rock 'n' roll style with the occasional street punk or hardcore song thrown in- with solos still reminiscent of lower class brats because I have never claimed to be a guitarists haha. at the end of the day my inspirations are still a clusterfuck, just a different kind
Dave 11/4, 1:46pm
Fair enough, now for one of my favorite parts of doing these: When you have time, could you please send me like 4 or 5 bands that you consider to be your biggest influences (youtube links and short descriptions would also be awesome if you can)
Stephen 11/4, 1:46pm
Dave 11/4, 1:56pm
Stephen 11/4, 2:11pm
One of the main bands that got me into punk and one of my biggest influences is G.B.H. I got a burned copy of Midnight Madness and Beyond from my buddy Pat Dirvin in The Horrids and after playing it so much it wouldn't play I knew I was hooked...
Lower Class Brats always holds a special place in my heart. Watching them I knew I wanted to be in a band like LCB. Four piece, one guitar, a crazy front man and street punk through and through. It's simple, people can sing along to it and that's all I need if done right...
The Misfits really got me into the older classic punk bands like The Clash and Sex pistols. The Misfits were that band where I loved everything from the tone of the recording to the short songs. As a songwriter it was also a gateway to the idea that you could write about darker things and it can still get people dancing and didn't have to be all love songs like a lot of pop punk bands. The Misfits were one of those bands like Lower Class Brats where I knew I wanted to be in a band like that...
The Adicts showed me a very important thing, at the end of the day PUNK IS SUPPOSE TO BE FUN! I will go to the grave in defending the idea that you have not been to a punk rock show until you have gone to an Adicts show. Their energy and overall showmanship is on a whole other level and I really gravitated to that. This band showed me the bridge from poppy punk to street punk and how you can write music that ALL punks can enjoy...
Rancid introduced me to west coast punk and opened me up to ska and reggae music. Rancid's storytelling style of lyrics is how I write my lyrics to this day. I write stories and lyrics always come first for me. Rancid also showed me it's ok to have a super heavy 30 second song and a 4 minute ballad if that's what the song calls for. This band is an influence for so many but it truly is one of those that could sing every word to any song you put on...
There ya go, my top 5 influences
Dave 11/4, 3:12pm
Stephen 11/4, 3:13pm
of course man! Thanks so much for including me on this.
Dave 11/4, 3:13pm
Awesome. Have you ever had any cool run-ins or experiences with some of your musical role models/idols/whatever?
Stephen 11/4, 3:15pm
I did get to take my picture with monkey after a show with my monkey tattoo lol I'll try and find it but other than that it's always been like when a band member is in the crowd and then is like oh shit and hops on stage to set up and you're like WTF I was standing next to him the whole time?!?! lol
Dave 11/4, 3:17pm
Hahah that's an awesome picture
with that in mind, you've obviously been inspired by alot of different artists and such, so what are some of the things that you want people to take away from the music you make?
Stephen 11/4, 3:23pm
I think the main thing is to have a reaction. whether the lyrics connect with you on some level or you're pissed off and need something to mosh to or you're happy and you just want to sing and have a good time; I want to give that to them and be part of that experience with them. I've had people say they love a certain song and others say that same song is annoying-it's all about the person listening and what they take from it and as long as they take something, hopefully positive, away from my music I've done my job.
Dave 11/4, 3:28pm
Radddd. so how did Friskie Morris and Friends start?
Stephen 11/4, 4:00pm
well in the summer of 2012, TurboVamps took a little hiatus and I was pretty bummed and frustrated about it but knew it had to happen. I had a ton of songs I wanted to record with the band but recording wasn't going to be happening for awhile. The songs were good but after a while of holding onto a song you start to over think every decision you made until the whole song is stupid and you throw it out-my goal was to find a way to record these songs before that happened. From there I had this idea of getting other musicians that I knew to help out on a track or two since I'm not that good at drums/bass/guitar. That way they would be good to go and recorded so when TurboVamps started playing again it'd be super easy to record another album. After putting out some feelers and getting a positive response my brain started thinking 'what if each track was like a local super group??' and I basically said ok man it's time to put up or shut up. I took my grade school porn name (Friskie=first dog I had, Morris=street I lived on growing up) and told the guys in TurboVamps that i was going to do a side solo project during the time away from the band. I started contacting all the bands I had played with in TurboVamps over the past 6-7 years and ended up getting so many people that wanted to do it I wrote another song to accommodate everyone haha. From there I mashed musicians together and sent them scratch recordings of the songs to learn on their own in November of 2012 and started recording in December of 2012. With so many schedules I only had time to meet with each super group once to practice all together before their studio time and recorded from December 2012-May 2013 (6 months). The CD officially was released in June of 2013 and I thought that that was going to be it. TurboVamps were playing again and any new music I wrote would be for TurboVamps but the reaction from people and the bands involved was so great I had this feeling that I had to continue that idea somehow. So after the CD was out for a month I did my first podcast episode with Dead Split Egos in July of 2013 and my podcast Friskie Morris Sessions started in October of 2013. The podcast was a way to still bring bands together, promote all the awesome music we have and unite the local scene.
Dave 11/4, 4:17pm
Damn! That's badass. and an awesome name history hahaha. no one's ends up being that good when they do those things, but Friskie Morris is legit.
Stephen 11/4, 4:18pm
right?!?! lol that's why I had to use it
Dave 11/4, 4:18pm
so the song themes and styles are basically the same as Turbovamps stuff, then? since they were supposed to be for them originally?
Stephen 11/4, 4:36pm
um yes and no. Since TurboVamps have only released one record back in 2010 the Friskie Morris stuff is very much the same as post 2010 TurboVamps stuff that just hasn't been recorded yet but not like the 2006-2010 material that's on the record that the majority of our fans know. It's also a little different because I could go a lot more personal with some of the lyrics knowing it was a solo record.
Dave 11/4, 5:24pm
Okay for sure, so will Friskie Morris continue making music as a solo act, then?
Stephen 11/4, 5:31pm
I think so. I had an idea to do a 10 inch vinyl that I'm almost done writing. It's a concept album of about 7 songs. I'll do new Friskie Morris songs here and there but not going to plan for it if that makes sense. I'll also still play acoustic shows when I can if i get an offer to but wont hunt out shows like I did this past year
Dave 11/4, 7:13pm
For sure, how have the subjects and themes of the songs you have written changed over the years?
Stephen 11/4, 7:17pm
I think I have more 'real' things to talk about now haha. Like early TurboVamps songs were like about movies-return if a killer about Michael Myers of Halloween and our song zombies about night of the living dead-but my lyrics now are way more serious and about deeper life experiences I have had or things I've noticed about the Chicago scene.
Dave 11/4, 7:30pm
Ah yeah, cool. So what would you consider some successes or victories you have had with your music projects?
Stephen 11/4, 7:33pm
Well TurboVamps have had the privilege to play with some awesome bands like the misfits and off with their heads and Friskie Morris has grown into something I could never image but the best feeling is when your at a bar or something a complete random person is wearing a TurboVamps shirt or recognizes you from a show. It's so crazy but that's the best moments and most memorable for me
Dave 11/5, 2:20pm
Nice! what are your future goals with all this music stuff? like, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Stephen 11/5, 3:56pm
Well I see TurboVamps still playing shows but after this next album I think that'll be it for writing. We have already agreed with where our lives are well play 3-4 times a year but nothing crazy. For Friskie Morris I just want to make the podcast as big as it can be. I'm working with some people to add a video component and have been toying with adding different types of episodes into the mix. in five years if it turns into a Wayne's world meets jbtv I would call it a huge success and would be done expanding it.
Dave 11/5, 4:26pm
do you have any other artistic pursuits besides playin and podcastin?
Stephen 11/5, 5:26pm
Well I wish I could draw but I've come to terms with the fact that I suck at any form of drawing hahaha. Artistic wise it's always been music and I guess the podcast is a form of art but yea those are really the only forms I've had time for. I have a huge appreciation for drama and going to black box theater events and art events but haven't really done those myself.
Dave 11/5, 6:08pm
Ah for sure. So what do you think your life would be like without music?
Stephen 11/5, 7:39pm
Oh man i'd probably be like an elite athlete or something lol. I played soccer from age 4 and into college, played basketball in high school and was top ten in my high school conference for rings (10th), high bar (6th) and parallel bars (3rd) in gymnastics. I also do half marathons and run a lot so without music I'd probably just focus on sports and who knows what could have happened haha
Dave 11/5, 10:45pm
okay we're in the home stretch. let's get deep for a second
what do you think the role of music is in our society?
Stephen 11/6, 8:06am
I think music is society's truest form if expression. Without music, musicians or not, there wouldn't be a lot of avenues for people to express themselves and for people to enjoy it. Without music, life would be boring and just eat sleep work repeat. Music is the easiest and most acceptable form of expression that's why music is everywhere.
Dave 11/6, 9:39am
right on. so what would 12 year old Stephen DeFalco think of current music makin podcastin Stephen DeFalco?
Stephen 11/6, 9:45am
lol well 12 year old Stephen was just being introduced to cypress hill, rage against the machine and all the bands on drive through records around that time so he'd probably be confused haha. Also 12 year old Stephen would not understand nor have the patience for the whole idea of a podcast, I think he'd be a shithead and give me the old 'those who can't do teach' routine when it comes to the podcast. Like HEY! why aren't you touring all the time and signed to a record label yet?!!
Dave 11/6, 9:55am
Stephen 11/6, 9:56am
yea he had no cares in world a zero fucks to give haha
Dave 11/6, 9:58am
haha fair enough,
so is there any other question youve always wanted someone to ask you for an interview?
Stephen 11/6, 10:02am
haha I don't think so. To be honest I love interviewing other people but when it's turned around It's weird for me. Maybe some random speed round questions like I do on my podcast?
they're just random questions that I usually get a kick out of asking like a weird pet peeve and stuff like that
Dave 11/6, 10:04am
Stephen 11/6, 10:05am
yellow! some others are my pet peeve is when people don't use their turn indicators. first cd I ever bought was Smash Mouth Astro Lounge and No Doubt Tragic Kingdom. Band I can't stand would be Pearl Jam and favorite venue to play in Chicago is lair's Club.
Dave 11/6, 10:06am
are there any dates or shows comin up or podcasts happening that the people need to know about?
Stephen 11/6, 10:08am
TurboVamps are playing Liars Club on Black Friday, November 28th. Got some awesome bands coming through the pipeline for December-February but wont announce any yet. Everyone can check out the Friskie Morris & Friends page for updates after Thanksgiving.
Dave 11/6, 10:12am
Sweet! so damn, we're about to wrap this up. one last question
do you have any advice/suggestions for people looking to get into doin music/being part of the scene/whatever?
Stephen 11/6, 10:19am
So three things. The main thing is talk to people. You're not going to get involved in a scene or music if you never go to anything. I'll admit I tend to be really shy/awkward at first when I go to a show or party but you get over it and you end up walking away with a couple new friends. It's all about building relationships. Second, never underestimate what you can do on your own. With the way things are now, the scene is a DIY/commune mecca so there is always a way to get a cd made or merch printed that is quality without braking the bank or having to get signed to a label. And finally, if you start a band make sure everyone is on the same page with the direction of the band BEFORE you start. It's shitty when half the band wants to tour every month and the other half is content playing a local show once a month. Decide what you want to get out of the band and your music and go from there.
Dave 11/6, 10:35am
thanks a bunch dude. that is IT
Stephen 11/6, 10:36am
Thanks so much man I really appreciate it!