Excerpt below...full text over at Amie Street. While you're over there, why not sign up and download some music?
Amie Street: When you started this band, it was little more than a loose collection of friends. People played what they knew on whatever instrument they could, when their schedules permitted. From then to now, what's changed and what's stayed the same?
Mike Miller: it used to be easier to look at it like it was just one guy's band, meaning me. i guess i was the only one really "in" it at first. everyone else was only in the band while they were playing. now, it makes more sense to say that we're all in it, even when we're not all playing. there are close to 20 of us who do this these days. we don't all play the same show, of course. when we leave for tour on saturday, we'll be a seven piece. but that won't mean that the other thirteen people aren't in the band. they're just not there that night. i don't know exactly when or how that shift was made, but i know that it did, and i can't imagine thinking about it any other way now. but it's still somehow managed to keep it loose enough so that no one feels obligated. to us, it just seems unnatural to have to play in a band the same way you have to go to work or go to school - with a bunch of rules and times and all that stuff. a lot of bands can work that way, but i don't think i could ever do that.
AS: I've heard you say before that The Beagle Club's guiding principle was that anything "uncool" should be avoided at all costs. What effect does consciously avoiding uncool things have on life in a band? Shouldn't every band work the same way?
MM: most bands probably do work that way. but it gets tricky when you think about the fact that there is a difference between "not doing something because it's uncool" and "doing something because it IS cool," you know? and it's just our interpretation of what's "uncool" that we're going by. it's not about pandering or endearing ourselves to someone else's expectations. it's just about a set of principles that i noticed and related to and respected back when i first got into music that mattered to me, especially punk rock.
there's this really weird objective point of view that runs through this band for all of us. it's very strange. there are times when it feels like we're just a bunch of kids having a sing along, like when you'd go to a party and an impromtu "weezer cover band" would start up, just because everyone knows how to play those songs. so, it doesn't even have to be all that much of a conscious decision, honestly. i don't know quite how to say what's "uncool" and what isn't, but i guess it's sort of like the supreme court's definition of pornography: i know it when i see it. we're never ever ever trying to be cool to someone else, just not uncool to ourselves.
AS: Tell us a little bit about Johnstown, PA.
MM: johnstown, pa used to be a big steel city, like most of western PA. it was at one time on a nazi hit list of places to bomb in order to cripple american economy, so it used to be a very big deal in that regard. it's still a city. the mills are still here. they just kind of sit, though. my friend jacob koestler is working on what will be an amazing book of photography about the correlation between that sort of working-class, blue collar ethic that our parents instilled in us and how it still comes into the lives and methods of the artists who work here now. the city was still booming back in the late seventies/early eighties, but all we have to go on is stories we've heard and old run-down buildings. but it's beautiful to me, and to all of us, and it's my favorite place i've ever seen in this world. and good things are happening here as far as art and music goes. there's a new artspace/warehouse opening up, great new bands that truly sound like they're from here are starting to make some really great music, and a lot of the older "scene" kids who moved away for college are coming back now that they're done with school. we all keep joking about what we're calling the "johnstown renassiance," but in all honesty, i think we're all only kind of kidding. things feel good around here, even though it's starting to get cold at nights again.
AS: What are some of the less obvious difficulties of a DIY approach to rock and roll?
MM: i honestly believe that the DIY approach is the only way to do it. nothing else makes sense. the difficulties that come to mind right away are things like filling in every date of a tour, getting time off of work and still having enough money to do whatever you have to do, having a van that works, getting gas money for show to show transports, all stuff that wouldn't be difficult with a big label, or a big hype machine, or a booking agent. all that "uncool" stuff, really! but i love every part of it and i wouldn't want it any other way and i honestly don't think it's all that difficult. it just is what it is, i guess.
AS: What is the single most rewarding thing about being in THIS band?
MM: for me, the most rewarding thing about it is just how naturally and easily it all comes together. we never practice, but we always sound perfect to me. and when we write songs, they come together pretty quickly, like it's just what it sounds like whenever this group of people make music, without even trying to make it sound like anything in particular. it works that way when i write the words, too, like it just comes easily at this point. it makes me feel like it's what i'm supposed to be doing as an artist, like i've finally found a voice and a place, and that's the most rewarding thing i can think of, period. sometimes it seems like everything in society is working against the people who have to live in it. like money and government and work and all that is doing everything it can to keep someone from finding their voice or finding their place. so it's pretty rewarding to have something that makes you feel like you beat the system in some small way. small to anyone else, that is. to us, it's the whole world. and that's what music was to me when i first started to get into it, and that's even more the case for me these days.