Dave Anians - May 9, 2014
Gina, from Constantine (Travis and Ian) are two super cool dudes who play fun/catchy/inspiring folk punk. Even though we’ve only known each other for over a year or so now, they’re quickly becoming one of the bands I’ve played the most shows with. We have a lot of similar ideals when it comes to music and we’re now part of a quickly forming group of Chicago area folk-punk bands (a scene, if you will, oh my).
They have a new album in the works and (as I’m writing this (5/4/14)) tomorrow we’re playing with one of our favorite bands Ghost Mice. Things are really cool.
I talked to Travis about the usual stuff and it was fun and now please read it, thanks!
Here’s them playing one of their raddest songs for Folk-O-Rama:
(side-note: finding this video for the link made me the 666th viewer of it, so yeah)
Check out Gina, From Constantine at http://ginafromconstantine.bandcamp.com/
Dave Anians 4/14, 11:02am
hey, if you're ready, we can start that interview whenever. ill just post the first question and you can answer when ya like. thanks!
1: please finish this sentence: My name is Travis and I.....
Travis Zohfeld 4/14, 2:30pm
My name is Travis and I play in a folk punk band called Gina, From Constantine.
Dave 4/14, 3:05pm
Why do you play music?
Travis 4/14, 3:39pm
Well, I decided from a young age that playing music was one of the few things that made me happy. I wasn't really interested by the other options given to me, I knew I didn't want to go to college or anything like that. I was really enamored by the musician lifestyle I guess. The idea of touring was amazing to me, going around the country and meeting new people and all that.
As I got older, and more into playing music, I started to learn about the different facets of wanting to be a musician, the organization and all that. I actually found that doing those things were just as interesting to me as playing music, so by then I was completely sold on the idea.
Dave 4/14, 3:50pm
Sweeet. when did you start playing music and when did you start writing your own songs?
Travis 4/14, 3:52pm
I started playing guitar when I was 13, or around there. I mostly just played covers of Elliott Smith, haha.
I don't think I started writing my own songs until I was about 16 or so, and even then they were very infrequent! Haha, I didn't really break away from the whole "cover artist" thing until Ian and I started Gina.
Dave 4/14, 3:53pm
So why did you start writing original music?
Travis 4/14, 3:56pm
I think I started to get tired of using other people's words to describe the things around me. Not that that isn't a totally acceptable thing to do. I guess I just started to form my own thoughts and ideals, and I also felt the need to contribute my own material to my respective music genre.
Dave 4/14, 4:00pm
nice. what do you think the importance of contributing to the genre is?
Travis 4/14, 4:07pm
To me, that's everything, honestly. I went through a long period of time while playing with Gina, where I thought we were kind of "on a sinking ship" with folk punk. There weren't very many artists putting out folk punk records, or playing shows, and it felt like we had gotten into our scene a little too late. It was a very sad moment for me, because I love this culture. I love the ideals, and I love the people. I didn't want this to end.
Eventually we found guys like The Suburbanists, Stufy The Sidekick, and Davey Dynamite (hey that's you!), and their work ethic, and general mood about the whole scene made me realize that I couldn't have been more wrong. I realize now that this thing is just starting, and it's us, and all these other wonderful artist's contributions that are keeping this thing going. And that's what's important!
Travis 4/14, 4:14pm
Oh, and discovering Billy Mack kind of changed my whole thought process about that, too. To see someone literally be on a forever tour, and be able to live happy and comfortable made me realize that this whole thing isn't going anywhere for a long time.
Dave 4/14, 4:23pm
Hell yeah! So in what ways do you think you contribute?
Travis 4/14, 4:32pm
At the very least, coming to the shows. I think that's the most basic, yet most important thing you can do. Come see the shows! It all starts with people being there to hear the artists, without that, I don't think anything else can exist.
Other than that, we personally contribute by trying to play, organize, and promote as many shows as we can. We're getting more and more involved with Hosham Records, because it's giving all of the artists involved a great chance to come together, and tighten our scene more. I was always interested in DIY labels, and Hosham shares a lot of the ideals that I was looking for in that sort of thing. The idea of collectivism and community.
Dave 4/14, 4:36pm
why do you think those ideas are important to music or a music scene?
Travis 4/14, 4:53pm
To me, coming together as a community and supporting the artists who play the shows brings us all together, and keeps the artists grounded to their "fans" I think by equalizing the artists and the fans, we all come closer together as friends, and it's a more positive and productive scene.
Dave 4/14, 4:59pm
Fair enough. So other than those reasons, how did you get into folk punk?/decide you wanted to play it?
Travis 4/14, 5:29pm
When I was about sixteen, a friend of mine showed me Andrew Jackson Jihad, and I had never really heard anything like that before. I believe he had shown me Lady Killer. I got into them pretty hard, and got their whole discography, which in turn got me into Ghost Mice.
Fast forward like three years, now, lol. At this point, I'm at a really weird time in my life. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship, I was super depressed, and generally had no idea what I was doing with my life. The job that I quit school for wasn't really panning out, I was working maybe 2 days a week and chain smoking and being sad. One night, a friend and I are hanging out really late at my house, just listening to music. I remember distinctly going to the bathroom and coming back and hearing the greatest song I had ever heard in my life at the time. I just sat and listened, not saying a word. The song was over, and I'm like, "Who the hell was that?" My friend's like, "Oh, that's Johnny Hobo and The Freight Trains, the song is called New Mexico Song."
For the next two weeks, Johnny Hobo was all that I listened to. I got everything Pat ever did, and just played it over and over in my car. I would listen for HOURS. I eventually learned how to play Whiskey Is My Lullaby, but I was really apprehensive about playing it for people because it was totally different from anything i had played before. I mentioned one night on stage at an open mic that I wanted to play it, but I wasn't going to, and Tyler from Mr Denim was like, "No, you have to play that. Here, I'll come on stage with you." And we totally played it. That was my crash course into folk punk, and after that night I decided that that was the kind of music I wanted to make.
Dave 4/14, 6:16pm
Beautiful, what about folk punk do you think attracted you?
Travis 4/14, 6:44pm
Oh man, what didn't? Haha.
I think what initially pulled me in was how emotive the songs were, while being very bare bones. I know I'm not the only one who can say that I've cried way more times over a folk punk song than I ever had over overproduced radio garbage. You can feel the emotion in every song, be it anger, happiness, or sadness. Whatever's coming out, the songs have a way of hitting you right in the heart.
Also, punk in general and anarchy go hand and hand, and around the same time I was getting into that, I was also getting into the idea of anarchy and community and what not, so that definitely had an effect on it.
Dave 4/14, 6:54pm
ha for sure. its a really really interesting genre to think about and experience. how would you describe folk punk to people who have no idea what it is?
Travis 4/14, 7:00pm
I usually just go, "You've heard of Against Me! Right?" To which the usual response is "...no?"
I usually say it is what it says it is. It takes elements of punk, like fast tempo and simple chord structures, and blends them with folk ideals, like protest songs and acoustic guitars. There's also usually a mandolin somewhere.
Dave 4/14, 7:09pm
haha randomandolins. i know people who are into/play folk punk without really knowing much about folk and/or punk. how do you think this affects things, if at all?
Travis 4/14, 10:53pm
I don't think it necessarily affects things, but I do think it's a testament to how much the genre has grown into its own thing.
It's funny you ask that, because I'll have days where all I listen to is Minor Threat. That's just my mood for the day. I'll be listening in the car, and I'll pick someone up, and they'll be very taken aback, even though they know the type of music I make. It took me awhile to realize that people don't think of me as a "punk" musician, hence them not really expecting me to listen to real punk bands.
Do I get punk points for name dropping Minor Threat? And are those points redeemable for pizza?
Dave 4/15, 6:06pm
Actually yeah, but only at participating locations.
Alright, cool. So wheres the band name come from?
Travis 4/15, 6:25pm
George Costanza is our mascot.
No, this is probably the most asked question we get, and I swear people are always really disappointed by the answer, but anyways...
So, in World War Two, there was an Italian fighter pilot who would use an American plane, and go out looking for other American planes who were damaged or low on fuel, he would then offer to guide them to the nearest friendly base, get their trust, and then shoot them down when they weren't expecting it. He did this for years, and he was very good at it. He spoke perfect English, and had an almost perfect American accent.
One of the pilots he shot down ended up surviving, and decided to draw a personal vendetta against the guy. He had the CIA gather all the intel they could against him, they couldn't come up with much, except that he lived in Constantine, and had a wife named Gina.
So, with this information, he constructed the greatest plan ever. They got a photo of his wife, and had a painter draw an extremely racy, pinup version of his wife on the side of the pilots plane.
So, he sets off, just circling around this guy's known area, acting like he was a straggler. Hours go by and... Nothing. No sign of him. The American is pissed, but he wants to stay out, so he's pushing his fuel levels. All of a sudden he's getting dangerously low on fuel, he's having the crew dump all of the supplies to lighten the craft up, and as he's about to give the order to dump the munitions, a voice crackles over the speaker.
It's someone asking if the pilot needs assistance, but he's still not sure if it's the Italian. So he bates him. They're just bullshitting back and forth when finally the guy goes, "That's a real pretty girl on the side of your plane, is that Gina, from Constantine?" The American pilot knew he had him, so while getting ready to attack, he starts telling him all the raunchy stuff he did to his wife while on leave in Italy.
Eventually the Italian gets shot down, but is alive and is taken as a POW. Legend goes that the Italian went to the American's funeral years later, out of respect.
What does this have to do with punk music? Absolutely nothing.
Dave 4/15, 6:49pm
Well damn! I did not expect that, but that's a really interesting story. What things do you like to write songs about?
Travis 4/15, 7:06pm
Well, when Ian and I first started this, we were really about writing protest/community orientated songs. I think that was one of the main priorities as a band, we're both very into anarchism and community orientated living, and we wanted to show that in our songs.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of romantic turmoil happening in my life around the time we started things, and I think that predominately showed up on the first record we put out (Unmodern Art). It was never really our intention to be a band that wrote love songs, but I suppose the climate of our situations determined how that record was going to come out. I'm not really disappointed by it, either. I suppose you can't control those sort of things, but it definitely wasn't why Ian and I wanted to make music.
With this record coming out, which is going to be a split with The Surburbanists, I think we really tapped in to what we were about in the first place. There's a lot of songs about modern farmer's strife, and government overreach into the farming community. We talk a lot about Monsanto, also, which is definitely something I've been wanting to do for awhile.
We also touch on community living in a couple of songs, so hopefully are original intentions are a bit more clear in this upcoming release.
Dave 4/15, 7:07pm
Nice! Why those topics specifically?
Travis 4/15, 7:21pm
Actually the farming specifically comes from a documentary and subsequent long conversation that Ian and I had about the whole farming culture. It's just an intriguing idea to me that these people are generally considered to me "all American", you know? Very patriotic, believing in freedom and what not. And the more you delve into that culture, the more you see these people getting harassed by the federal government. There's countless amounts of footage of these poor farmer's houses getting raided by federal agents with automatic machine guns. Over farming regulations. It's absolutely sickening to me. The government has such a big interest in big pharm, and it's completely obvious when you watch how the small farmers are treated.
Also, one side of my family comes from rural Tennessee, so a lot of that hits home for me. I know a lot of family and family friends who are farmers, and growing up it always seemed like they had a distrust of the federal government, and it didn't really click until I learned a lot of this information.
The documentary is Farmageddon, if anyone is interested. It's a very eye opening exposé into that world.
Dave 4/15, 9:55pm
Awesome, thank you. is there anything you want people to take from your music?
Travis 4/15, 9:57pm
Mainly I want people to know that their opinions are validated if they believe the same things we do... That there are many like-minded folks who want the same things they do and are striving to achieve those changes.
Dave 4/15, 10:09pm
Great! okay, so here's your next task for me, friend. find 3-5 bands/songs that mean a lot to you and your music and find an accompanying youtube video w/ a description if you want. thanks
Travis 4/15, 10:10pm
Wait, description of what?
Dave 4/15, 10:12pm
the band/song, what it means to you
Travis 4/15, 10:23pm
Dave 4/15, 10:32pm
Travis 4/15, 10:33pm
Dave 4/15, 10:37pm
it's not over yet! mwahahaha
Travis 4/15, 10:40pm
Travis 4/28, 4:14pm
OKAY #1. This song was the basis of South Holland on our Unmodern Art Split. Not a lot of people know that, but apparently it's pretty obvious after I tell people that.
This is one of my favorite AJJ songs, lyrically it's genius, and it's catchiness is something we've tried to grab in our own songs.
This song was a huge influence on how I try to write lyrics. It's passionate and it evokes feelings of community and love for your fellow persons, and there isn't much in this world that means more to me than those ideals. Plus the banjo is so steady and great and fits perfectly with his voice. So good.
I think this song is almost obligated to make an appearance on a list like this. This song is, for all intents and purposes, one of the songs that started the modern folk punk movement. And it's easy to see why. The song tells a wonderful story of poverty, friends, and love. I think everyone who knows this song knows the weight of the words "Free Pizza For Life". Simple words that describe an entire lifestyle better than my words ever could.
I think the song, "Christmas and Other Corny Things" from Unmodern Art was subconciously influenced by this song. I was listening to A LOT of Ghost Mice at the time, and I think it showed up in that song for sure.
Pat the Bunny is the biggest influence on my ideals and aspirations as a songwriter. This song could have easily been replaced by any other Wingnut song, honestly, but this song in specific is just perfect to me.
"And tonight, when I dream, it will be that the junkies spent all the drug money on community gardens and collective housing."
I think that sums up the beauty of this song perfectly.
As far as songwriting, and lyrical content for our newer stuff, I think Al Scorch has had a bigger influence on us more than anyone. Ian and I basically listened to this album for 3 months straight before we picked up our writing again. This song is my favorite on the album. The lyrics paint the image of a working man being disallusioned by the alienation and greed of capitalism and big corporations. I think we're trying to capture that feeling of "A man ain't but a number on a line" in our newer stuff.
I FINALLY DID IT! SWEET.
Dave 4/29, 4:38pm
Sweet! Thanks so much. That's a rad list. Okay, so, with your music so far: what do you think are some successes or victories you've had?
Travis 4/29, 4:43pm
I think our biggest success so far is being able to have more instrumentation of our forthcoming release. That's kind of a big deal to me, it's something I've always kind of wanted under my belt, and with so many great artists lending us their talents and time, the songs are shaping up very nicely.
Other than that I think our big success is still yet to come, we embark on a giant tour this summer with Billy Mack, and that's honestly been my dream since I was a kid. I can't even put into words how excited, and nervous I am at the same time. It's a unique and wonderful feeling.
Dave 4/29, 4:48pm
For sure : ). How about challenges?
Travis 4/29, 4:52pm
I think time management is a huge fault that Ian and I share. We're both hardcore procrastinators, and we'll end up in situations like, "okay, we have two weeks to write two songs and record five, we both have opposite work schedules and we're incredibly tired, what the hell are we going to do?" But that's a double edged sword, because for whatever reason we seem to work better under ridiculous constraints. I just wish we were a little more foresighted sometimes, haha.
Dave 4/29, 4:56pm
Ha fair enough. are there any other artistic outlets you take part in (painting/filming/etc) and if so, how does that affect your music?
Travis 4/30, 4:57am
I started writing poetry before I was a musician, and I think that had a huge effect on how I think of lyrics. Most of my earlier songs were poetry that I put over chords, or a lot of stream writing. I don't do that much anymore, because I think I've delved so far into both categories that they've diverged. Like, if I'm writing a poem, it's going to be in a strictly poetic sense, and the same thing with lyrics.
I think my importance of lyrics in other people's songs is also from my stints in poetry. I've always identified with lyrics more than melodies, which is why most of my tattoos are song lyrics, haha. Something about strong lyrics just makes me enamored, I guess.
I'm enamored by strong lyrics** oops.
Dave 4/30, 10:51am
Ah for sure. So then what do you think your life would be like without music?
Travis 4/30, 4:31pm
Haha I have no idea. Probably way more depressing and way less purposeful.
Dave 4/30, 4:35pm
It's a weird question, hahaha. alright so you mentioned this before, but what would your 12 year-old self think of your current music/projects?
Travis 4/30, 4:44pm
That's a really good question. I think he would be totally surprised. When I was 12, I had no idea that this music existed, much less how underground and DIY the following is. That was right around when I picked up guitar, and I was always told by my peers that, "I shouldn't get invested too much in it, because the chances of a lot of people liking your music are really slim. It's like hitting the lottery." That's kind of how it feels when we play and people are in to it, and singing our music with us and being enthusiastic. It feels like I've hit the lottery.
So in that respect, I think I would feel the same back then as I do now, that I'm the luckiest dude in the world.
Dave 4/30, 4:56pm
so, any plans/shows/projects coming up that we should look out for?
Travis 4/30, 5:01pm
Yeah! May 5th Ghost Mice, and this awesome guy named Davey Dynamite. Stufy the Sidekick, and The Suburbanists are also playing.
May 23rd is our split release show with The Suburbanists, which will be our first release in like a year, so come to that, and this summer we throw our lives in limbo and go on tour with Billy Mack to Portland, and then we branch off with our furry faced traveller and go to California and ride the coast states back home! Also we just got stickers and 2 different sets of patches if you guys want to help out with that. They're on our bandcamp.
Dave 4/30, 6:53pm
rad! is there anything you've ever wanted someone to ask you during an interview?
Travis 5/2, 7:04pm
I think you covered everything! Such a wonderful interview!
Dave 5/3, 9:04am
woo! one more my friend
do you have any advice or words of experience for people who want to get into playing music/putting on shows/becoming part of a music scene?
Travis 5/3, 3:43pm
If you want to do it, don't let anyone's opinion dissuade you. Don't let "real bands" tell you that playing house shows isn't worth your time, because my favorite shows I've played have been in someone's living room, or basement. Don't let your parents tell you that this kind of thing will get you nowhere, (side note, my parents are some of the most supportive people I know, I love you guys, thank you for being the coolest parents I could ever ask for.)
Don't let people tell you that you have to spend money to do certain things like merch and cd pressing. You can do it yourself.
And, as a personal rule that I like to go by, never play a show that's over 5 dollars to get in, or that you HAVE TO sell presales to play. Stay dirty, and keep doing what you love.
Travis 5/3, 3:47pm
Oh yeah, and go to as many shows that you can.