Bear vs. Shark: An Interview with John Gaviglio


Bear vs. Shark hails from Highland, MI, a suburb nestled between Detroit and Flint, a part of the rust belt, a part of a community that like most suburbs across the country harbor the talent that make up the indie rock and punk geography of America. BVS is comprised of Marc Paffi (vocals, guitar), Derek Kiesgen (guitar and bass), John Gaviglio (guitar and bass), Brandon Moss (drums), and Mike Muldoon (guitar, bass, keyboards). Seems like everyone plays bass in BVS, except the drummer and one would assume that so many bass players would ultimately mean the sweetest party machine dance music ever, but its not, its some of the most interesting and creative music to come out of Equal Vision Records for a long time.

John G. (not the Memento mystery man), guitarist/bassist for Bear Vs. Shark, recently spoke with themusicedge.com about his band and how he got started as a musician.

All the members of Bear Vs. Shark have recently graduated college. John double majored in German and Economics. John started playing the trombone in the 6th grade, continued with it until he was in 8th grade and received his first guitar. It was in school band that John learned about time signatures, beats per measure and had some basic understanding of music theory and how to read music, which helped when he picked up his first guitar at 13.

He states; “Everybody who is starting to play music should have some basic elements of music instruction.”

Mike, Derek and Brandon have grown up together and played in some early incarnations of BVS before forming the full version several years ago, although the entire band has lived within bike riding distance from each other since childhood.

His early memories of music aside form six months of guitar lessons, are fondly remembered and influenced by his mom, which John cites as, “My mom used to play guitar so she gave me a little bit of instruction herself. My mom has really exposed me to a lot of music, especially when I was younger. I remember sitting in her old Buick Riviera listening to Led Zeppelin and she would show me some bass lines. I remember the first time she showed me what a bass guitar was, and she pointed out the bass lines in the songs. When I first started getting into music it was classic rock, like Jethro Tull, Zeppelin, The Doors and stuff like that, but as I got older I got into bands like Metallica and Guns & Roses, Smashing Pumpkins and Black Sabbath too. And Nirvana.”

Some of the bands that inspire John now are bands like Hot Water Music, Mars Volta, Bjork, Les Savy Fav. He says that, “I think Les Savy Fav is amazing, they really inspire me.”

BVS’s influences are apparent in the sound of their debut record, Right Now You’re in the Best of Hands…, which jumps from style to style seamlessly and effortlessly without sticking to any one sound; it encapsulates all of the influences of BVS. Though each member of BVS works fulltime jobs outside of playing in BVS, being grounded in the “real world” not only makes their music more accessible to a broader range of people but also makes it difficult for them to tour. Some of the members get fired from their jobs at places like Home Depot or various restaurants, but they tour in spite of the job security. “I’m really lucky, I’m a waiter at a restaurant and their really happy for me for the band thing so they let me go whenever I want.” John plays out of a Marshall cab with a, “crappy valve state head, but I didn’t record with that, I recorded with a Fender Bass Man amp head and used a TC Booster which boosts the signal. It boosts the signal and adds some distortion but cuts out a lot of the noise. What we do as a band is upgrade our equipment as a band. We save up our money and sort of all go in and trade our equipment out around the same time. We really want that warm tube amp sound.”

Right Now, was mixed and engineered by Arun Venkatesh at Big Blue Meanie studios in Detroit. John says Arun really helped BVS with the recording process, which they did in analog and for the most part, live. “We really are a live band, so we wanted to capture that sound and analog is warm and the best way to do that.”

Some words of advice that John left us with was, “Try and always wear clean underwear. Always make music for the love of music, don’t do it for any superficial reasons.”
____________________________________________________________________ I really think Equal Vision Records got back some of that glory of their humble beginnings with this amazing band. They came through San Diego a few times, one most notably about a year after this interview and after their swan song, Terrorhawk, was released to critical acclaim. They played with Planes Mistaken for Stars (RIP) at the now fully operational Black Box Studio in San Diego, which is run by a couple of pretty awesome dudes from a local band called Hialeah. This interview wasn’t my best, and the writing was starting to show some of the burn out and fatigue I had gotten from doing 3 features a week and sometimes up to 5 interviews a week. I actually had an interview with Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy that I never ended up using right when they got signed to Island – that was a weird experience. Something similar happened with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. I’ll have to go back and see if I can drudge those stories up.

BVS was amazing. Tons of heart. Lots of charisma. I wish I had done the second interview with them at the show a year later but another writer did it, while I was getting drunk with Gared and Mikey from PMFS. Priorities right? I almost had my eye torn out of my head in the drunken swaying crowd as I tripped and got cut on a stray nail from the half finished wood floor of the main tracking room at Black Box. I was really bummed out when they turned in their punk rock cards but sometimes its better to just hang it up before that inevitably bleak ending that great bands often succumb to. I sincerely hope that you’ll at least try and find Terrorhawk in a some used bin at one of the rapidly dwindling independent record stores near you. Heres a sweet video by them. Dig It!

Walking Concert: An Interview with Walter Schreifels

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Walking Concert: Walter Schreifels

Singer/Songwriter/Producer Walter Schreifels began his genre-defining career by moonlighting in seminal hardcore acts Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today but it wasn’t until his band Quicksand hit the scene in the early nineties, solidifying the post hard-core sound and taking the reigns from the grunge movement. His contemporaries in Jawbox, Helmet and even Fugazi set the momentum by which every band of that era measured them. However, like Jawbreaker’s album, Dear You, as being a demarcation line for the punk movement, Quicksand’s Slip inspired a million kids to pick up a guitar, detune their strings and try, albeit without as much eloquence, to co-opt a signature sound.

Over a decade and a half later, Walter Schreifels is still bending the formula to fit his vision with his latest effort, Walking Concert. A powerful guitar driven band, Walking Concert opens a new chapter in this veteran music makers book by utilizing his voice as an instrument and making new fans and old wish they had the ability to write such great hooks. As Quicksand dissolved in the mid nineties much to the disappointment of fans, Rival School (United by Fate) arose to take its place (eventually), with Walter again at the helm, churning out shinning rock nuggets never seemed so palpable as it was with Rival Schools. With Rival Schools, Walter was able to expand upon the melodies set in motion by Quicksand, but the songs took on more intricate shapes, utilizing varied time signatures and emphasizing on more complicated vocal arrangements.

But, like all things, Rival Schools came to a somewhat abrupt end some time in mid 2003, again, to the disappointment of fans. As the chatter on the Internet assumed, anything Walter touched turned to gold, so it was merely a matter of time before the Midas of indie rock began a new project. Rumors abounded about a project called Walter and the Motorcycles, similar to the post Quicksand band, Worlds Fastest Car, but again that project never came to fruition.

Walter, as a songwriter, is prolific and always evolving, a man consistently setting things in motion by his drive to continually outdo himself. Between Rival Schools and Quicksand, Walter was a producer for the breakout Hot Water Music album, No Division and even lent his vocals to a few tracks. No Division eventually gained Hot Water Music the momentum they needed to get to that next level and the stellar production quality of the record again cemented Walter as a talent behind the boards (he also produced CIV’s breakthrough album, Set Your Goals).

Not satisfied to rest on his laurels, Walter began writing songs in the sundown of Rival Schools, which later would make up the bulk of Walking Concert’s debut, Run to Be Born. Released on his record label, Some Records, Run To Be Born marks a decisive advancement in song craftsmanship and fully accentuates Walter’s range as a singer. Recently themusicedge.com caught up with Walter as the he and his band mates were navigating the turnpikes of the Midwest.

Walter’s interest in music began at an early age and says that, “I guess pretty early on I got into the Beatles and The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. And then got into The Ramones and The B 52’s and The Clash and things like that and when I was thirteen I got a guitar and just started doing it. I think I took five guitar lessons to start off and I had most of the chords down and I could sound things out and started to go on my own.”

With Quicksand, Walter altered the assumption that vocals have to serve the beat, cutting the nascent punk aesthetic and utilizing a completely different method of phrasing, a method that subsequently spawned countless imitators. Though it wasn’t always that easy, according to Walter it was due to, “Practice. I practiced like crazy. I had to write the music and then the lyrics over the music. Mostly in Quicksand is what I’m thinking of, is like, if I wanted to make a lyric or rhythm work, I was oblivious of how hard it would be to play on guitar. But it’s sort of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time – you just have to practice it.

“I think I formed my guitar personality in a couple of years and after that I’d add on to it but my first kind of influences like ACDC, U2’s the Edge, or REM – that was the kind of stuff I was listening to when I first started playing guitar and I think that still comes through in a lot of my writing.”

Run To Be Born is largely a guitar opus, one that was primarily written on acoustic prior to even being envisioned in a band setting. When it comes to songwriting, Walter stipulates, “I think I get a sense of the songs and am able to grasp the dynamics of the people I’m playing with. Guitar wise, I think I have an idea of places for things and create space for certain things to go. How I play and how Jeff plays guitar, I really just go for a feeling. Intellectually I know the part I’m trying to create and what it’s going to do but when I’m playing it I just try and pour as much feeling into it as I can. A lot of that just comes from the live take (in studio settings). Sometimes you just have to take a separate stab at it but that’s mainly the way I like to do it.

“I think with Walking Concert the way it differs from all the other projects I’ve done is that I could play every song acoustically before I even recorded anything. I knew how to sing and play them (the songs) so I really understood the basis of the song. In the past I would understand the structure of the song and where a chorus would go and a bridge would go and where the verse would go and the structure of the song was determining that. With this I started to go with an idea and a melody and just wanted to see where it would take me naturally. I depended less on what I knew about songwriting in an intellectual, craftsmen sort of way and just went with more of my intuitive ideas like, ‘this would be funny to do this here or this would be a nice way to off set ‘this’ feeling.’ You know, just have the lyrics and tempo and feel all be of the same mind.

He adds, “I think that comes from being able to sing and play your songs with a guitar.”

Walter has been making records his entire adult life (and his teenage years with Gorilla Biscuits, Warzone and Youth of Today) and says the studio experience for Run To Be Born “was a blast! It was really fun and I think we spent time making sure the songs were good and tight but we really wanted to make it sound as live as possible. We didn’t want to get too into overdubbing things and really just depend on the music itself to carry it and the performances to sound human and spontaneous.”

Run To Be Born was recorded with a combination of using analog and digital technology. Walter says that originally he wanted it, “to be done all on analog but the way it is these days it’s so expensive to do it that way and I don’t even necessarily believe – or rather I’m not so pressed to cling to that idea anymore as I was at one time. Analog tape is my definitely my preference but on a budget, Pro-Tools is so much easier and it’s the way that people are doing it. I think it (digital recording) has its advantages, as long as you don’t get to into clipping it and editing it. I think after a certain point the returns begin to diminish.”

Walter again helmed production for Walking Concert and says that when it comes to producing, “I like to produce. I prefer to work on my own stuff, but producing is cool cause you’re like a cheerleader for the band. You can join that band and you can have an outside perspective on what you like about them and you can encourage them to give out a look.

“It can be creative as well because you can have a flow with the artist. The trick is to let them do their thing as much as possible,” adding in reference to his work with CIV and Hot Water Music.

Walter’s experience with his half dozen projects has given him some insight into band dynamics, or rather, the way the members interact and create together. Some important things to remember are, “generally, your general rule when working with other people is that people are usually at their best when they are doing what they want to do. You have to give people room to do their thing and at the same time you have to be willing and able to look at the picture as a whole and to be able to communicate between the players without stepping on each other’s toes. It’s best I think when that is intuitive on every body’s part. For example, in a conversation there isn’t someone you have to keep explaining the jokes, you know. That sometimes can grow and take time to establish it. I think people, based on their instrument have different roles to fill and coordinating that is understanding what the other guys are doing and knowing where you fit in and being willing to find your place on the team.

“Like in sports, or a basketball team, one guy might be really good at getting rebounds, one guy might be really good at outside shots and everyone wants to put the ball in the basket but sometimes you have to look at it a different way to make your goal. I think that is key to making something sound solid and that there is a thought process behind it instead of something that sounds like people playing at the same time.”

Always humble, always friendly and positive, Walter Schreifels and his latest project, Walking Concert are on the road and their coming to town near you. Keep your eyes open and make sure you pick up a copy of Run To Be Born, it’s sure to please fans of Quicksand and destined to reestablish Walter as a rock and roll mainstay who continually evolves.

Thanks Walter!!

www.some.com

www.walkingconcert.com

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Mark this one down in the books as one of the cooler interviews I’ve done with one of my favorite musicians. He was as nice as Lou from Sick of It All and informative. I had always had the uniformed impression that Walter was a bit closed off prior to speaking with him. My experience of the ‘Walter – the dude from Quicksand’ was that he’d been in some of the more influential bands of the late 80’s and nineties and he was always changing bands. An assumption of mine was that maybe he just couldn’t outrun what he’d done in YOT, Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand. Alas, assumptions are really foolish and he assuaged my stupidity by being humble and totally appreciative of all that he’d been involved with (don’t forget Hot Water Music’s No Division record he helped produce!). So if you want to see how deep my man crush goes for this guy check out the post I did about the first concert I went to that I’ll be posting soon.

Government of the Mind

Outsourcing torture.
Can you outrun the government of the mind? It’s all in the head, the diplomatic approach to talking yourself out of things. The kind of bravado reserved for youth and narcissistic types, who, at some point in the life cycle will put enough red tape into the daily affirmation of self-conscious behavior to sum up a personal coup.

That’s the distance put in place where your eyes see nothing but the self. Id is deleted. And where does the fight begin? It begs the question; what am I without my own backdrop, red carpet, limo chartered lifestyle? And is it set in place by the television, the media, the radio and Internet and advertisements that push skin? Its time to redirect our values, to move the congress of thought into a new paradigm. The one where fear is the reality of boredom.

You come home and turn on the lights after an hour long commute, listening to all the exposition on the radio or the ‘art’ of the music to your life’s soundtrack is based around. You identify – a thing that helps your justification of certain decisions like, ‘What would Calvin Kline do?’

Or, “Does this shirt make me look fat?”

Who decides and when does the order come down from the top administration officials?
How do you measure success?
You can’t outrun time! You only continue on a path that is wrought with danger and self-deprecation. And in the half-light of the evening, that blue glow of cathode rays from the television pulpit dictates your pattern(s).
A.) What to wear.
B.) What to eat
C.) When to wear it
D.) When to ingest it.

It’s a ritual based on culture – the culture of the corporation that has taken over your internal government. What will your peers think? What motivates their thought? You are insignificant so you compensate by posturing yourself to be amicable in all situations. Like a dog at your heels with a nose of shit, licking the hand that feeds in an attempt at intimacy.

We are the duplicates. Made of atoms, whispering individuality as a stage play based on someone else’s idea of what life is supposed to be. We are the lost. Emasculated by our mothers and wives.

Cut from the cloth of indifference.

Scavengers feeding on apathy. With a hidden agenda that makes us detainees of our own prison.

The gentle is our ghost of feigned chivalry…