Flatfoot 56

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Flatfoot 56 Interview
Questions answered by Singer/Guitarist Tobin Bawinkel

Written by Brandon Jones for Indie Vision Music

Well it’s a real pleasure interviewing you guys and I’m super pleased to have this opportunity. So without any further distractions, let’s get this thing started.

BrandonIVM: So tell me a little bit about yourselves. How did you first start as a band, what are each of your names, how long have you been playing, etc? Give our readers a little back story on you guys.

We started in August 2000 as a three piece punk band. The first three members where Tobin (me), and my brothers Justin and Kyle Bawinkel. After writing a few songs and playing one show we added Josh Robieson on the guitar and bagpipes in February of 2001. Josh was an old friend who we all played basketball with in high school. After touring the world and playing for the last nine years, Josh decided that his touring days were coming to an end and he left the band in December of 2009. Our two new guys are Brandon Good on mandolin and Eric McMahon on bagpipes. Both of these guys have been Flatfoot fans and friends for the last ten years so it was good to have them join up.

BrandonIVM: Your new album is “Black Thorn” and is being released on Old Shoe Records March 30th. Tell me a little bit about the new album and what all went into making it.

This album was recorded last February 2009 in Houston, Texas at the studio that Johnny Rioux works at. It took us about a month to complete. The idea was for us to create the record and then shop it out to labels after it was finished. This process took a bit longer than we had planned, but I feel that we ended up with the best possible solution by joining with the crew at Old Shoe.

The new record is by far our most developed release to date. We put much more time and effort into Black Thorn than we ever have into past releases. We feel its possesses much more depth and maturity than our other albums. We touch on a few themes that we have never really addressed before. Things like love and loss characterize some of the songs, which is a different tone for us. Working with Johnny Rioux was also a huge blessing. He pulled us out of the box we sometimes find ourselves in and challenged us to step out in areas we haven’t always felt comfortable diving into. We are really excited to get this one into listeners’ hands. 

BrandonIVM: What significant differences are there on “Black Thorn” compared to your other releases “Knuckles Up” and “Jungle of the Midwest Sea”? What can fans expect to find on this new album?

This record has much more in-depth production and I think much more thought out instrumentation, composition, and lyrics. I think we just took more time and put more energy into making sure we cut to the point and cut the fat.

BrandonIVM: What studio was “Black Thorn” recorded at and who was the producer?

We recorded in Houston, Texas with Johnny Rioux at Absolute Sound Studios .

BrandonIVM: Tell me a little bit about the songs on this record. What tracks are your favorites and what lyrics really speak of your band’s purpose? Do you think there will be any controversy with this album?

We are all big fans of songs like We grow Stronger, The Hourglass, and Smoke Blower, but to be honest, we love them all. Some are more fun to play live than others, though. It’s funny how a year after a song is written, it can resonate with you as the writer that much more after time has passed. Songs like Born For This totally have encouraged me when I’m sick of touring. Some times it’s cool to remind yourself why you do what you do. Way of the Sun also is one of these songs. When you’re in a band there are so many people out there who want to express what they think. Most of the time, we get encouraging words but there are also times when it’s important to not be ruled by opinion, and Way Of The Sun reminds me of that.

As far as controversy, I’m sure there may be someone out there that might get hot under the collar about something we wrote about, but I guess that’s always going to happen when a band writes from the heart about what they believe.

BrandonIVM: How did you get hooked up with Old Shoe Records? Will this record have distribution worldwide? Will it be sold in stores? Any chance of it being pressed on Vinyl?

We met the guys from Old Shoe on our tour with the Street Dogs. They seemed to have an easy-going way about them and had a great appreciation for the music we all love. Later when the album was ready, they shot us an offer and blew us away. We feel it was a great deal and more importantly it was coming from some awesome and stand-up people. They also came with high regards from many of our friends.

The album will be released though Old Shoe Records in the US, Stomp Records in Canada, I Hate People Records in Europe, and Big Mouth in Japan. This is something very exciting for us because we have labels that are experts in their own countries and regions. The album will be available in some stores and online for download. It will also be released on vinyl world wide some time in the summer. The dates for this release will follow soon.

BrandonIVM: Tell me what happened with Flicker Records if you can. Is the label still around or did they close up? Was it a mutual decision for you guys to part ways with them?

Flicker Records started dropping their bands a few years ago. When it came up for us to leave, we were let go with a clean cut. This was fine by us due to the fact that we weren’t very much of a priority for the label. They where great people who where seeking to downsize the label and eventually dissolve the label to just a name. We were let go with a mutual understanding that it was the best thing for us. We are cool with the learning experience we had at Flicker.

BrandonIVM: You guys play a pretty unique style of punk rock, Celtic influenced or may I say, “Celtic Punk Rock”?There are other bands out there doing this style, like Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, and even a bit of the Street Dogs. There was also this classic band called Black 47 that I remember played a similar style. Oh, and there was a group called Ballydowse that was somewhat similar.

BrandonIVM: How do you guys keep it original while drawing influence from these other groups? What are some of your influences that go into the creation of your music?

All of these band are amazing and do amazing things for the Celtic punk community. While we love and respect many of these bands, we are also very careful to not use them as musical influences. Yes, while their influence does reach us on some levels (with bands like The Street Dogs and Flogging Molly), we try to keep it on a very minimal level. These bands also do what they do very well. Whats the point in regurgitating it? We love to grab our influences from non-celtic punk bands like Cock Sparrer, Blitz, and old school hardcore bands like the Zero Boys and the Cro-Mags. We then try to add cultural and Celtic flare to our songs. We do love old Celtic artists like The Pogues, The Wolftones, and the Clancy Brothers. We also grew up on American folk and bluegrass which plays into our musical style a lot.

BrandonIVM: What influences you guys personally and spiritually?

I think we are all different on this question, but some things that we can all agree on is the stories that we hear from people that we meet. There are so many stories of courage and strength that we hear from people we meet on our travels that inspire us. Our faith also plays a huge part in deciding how we write and what we write about. This obviously comes through in our lyrics.

BrandonIVM: You guys are clearly Christians and it shines through in the music you create. How would you say your faith plays a role in the band?

Our faith plays a huge role in how we conduct ourselves as a band and as people. In order for any musician to be genuine about what they believe, it’s important to be open and honest with it. This band is not a farce created to push an agenda. Instead we just want to show people what kind of love God has for them. This is the basic message of our faith, and we as a band have tried to be a good example of what we believe. If people don’t want to hear it or see it, then we can at least show them a good time at a great show. We aren’t afraid to step up and speak, but we just figure a picture of Christianity is worth a thousand words.

BrandonIVM: What speakers and/or preachers do you guys look up to? Any mentors you have of the band that really help you out on your spiritual walk?

We have always been really encouraged by our dad (Pops) over the years. He is a minister in a small church on the South side of Chicago and has always been a great moral and spiritual source for us to go to when we need some encouragement. We also have brothers and sisters all over the states and the world that are always praying for us and checking up on us. I can’t tell you how much that means to us. It’s a real blessing to know that there are a few pastors and the strong fellow believers that want to encourage you when you’re on the road.

BrandonIVM: How do you feel about the tag “Christian Band” and do you think it applies to Flatfoot 56?

The tag of “Christian band” is a rough one because it sets a premise that no one who isn’t a Christian can listen to this band. I have talked to many of my non-believing friends who felt like it was off limits music for them because they don’t share my faith or beliefs. WE ARE NOT DOWN WITH THIS!!!!! For years the label of “Christian band” was always used around us as a label that told Christian soccer moms that it was OK for their impressionable young kids to listen because they wouldn’t get stained irreparably by something that wasn’t sanctioned by Nashville. It was because of this that many bands that I even grew up on had to claim something that they weren’t even living. I have tons of friends struggle with their own faith based on this categorizing of music that is not Christ-centered at all. Yes, we are Christians and we play music, but I hope I don’t have to wear a “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt in order for people to know that I am. (Sorry for the little tangent.)

This being said, I feel our whole stance on this one can be summed up with this statement: I (as a Christian) wouldn’t be interested in listening to a band if they were labeled a Muslim or Buddhist punk band. That label would alienate me as a non-practicer of those religions. We as Flatfoot write about many things that can touch and challenge both the atheist and the Christian alike. We don’t want to limit with a label who can listen and who can’t.

BrandonIVM: What do you think about the Christian music scene in general and any thoughts you’d like to share?

There are some amazing talents out there that God is using in a huge way. I am very proud of many of the artists and bands that are going to the highways and byways to share their God-given talents with the world.

BrandonIVM: Do you guys have families and if so, what is like being out on the road as much as you guys are throughout the year?

Life on the road is very tough for a touring band. Luckily, a few of us are family, and lately two of our wives have been on the road with us. This has been a real blessing to us. Our family deserves a ton of credit because they sacrifice so much for all of us to be doing what we do. They are awesome!

BrandonIVM: Any personal tour stories you’d like to share?

We have so many stories; I could write a book on some of the crazy things we have been a part of. Everything from fights and riots at shows to accidentally lighting the center median on fire of a Colorado highway while driving. The sparks that flat tires produce are intense, let me tell you.

BrandonIVM: What are your favorite bands to tour with?

The Street Dogs, The Last Hope, The Business, The Planet Smashers, FBS, and OCD.

BrandonIVM: Any bands that you’d really like to play shows with that you haven’t been given the opportunity to do so yet? Any dream tours?

We would kill to tour with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Thee Legendary Shack Shakers, Teenage Bottlerocket, Social Distortion, Rancid, and maybe the Bouncing Souls. There are a few others as well.

BrandonIVM: Who will you be touring with in the near future?

The Briggs in Europe, maybe the Street Dogs, The Brains from Canada, and whoever is on 2010 Warped Tour.

BrandonIVM: What festivals will you guys be at this summer?

We’ll be at Cornerstone, Soul Fest, Spirit West Coast, Warped Tour, Irish fest, Xnoizz Flevofestival in Holland, and I’m sure a few more.

BrandonIVM: Will you have a video filmed for one of your singles and if so, what station will it be played on? What company is filming the video (if one is being shot)?

We had a video shot that will be out in late April for our song Courage. It looks like it could be the best video we have ever done. We are very excited about it. It’ll be played in as many places we can get it into.

BrandonIVM: Do you plan to chase after radio with this album? Any stations you’re particularly fond of that will be playing your singles?

As many places as will play it, honestly.

BrandonIVM: What are your top 5 favorite albums released in the past year? Any current faves you’re listening to right now? Favorite bands?

There is a new record out by a band called The Avett brothers that is amazing called “I and Love and You”.

BrandonIVM: What are all of your social networking links so our readers can find you on the web?

We are on Myspace, Facebook, our web site at flatfoot56.com, Twitter, and we have our albums available through Interpunk.com, iTunes, and a ton of other places. Just Google Flatfoot 56 and we’re easy enough to find.

BrandonIVM: If you could leave our readers with any words of advice, what would you say?

Make sure to always make God and family first and you will never be alone.

BrandonIVM: Any prayer requests you might have that we can do for you?

Pray for safe travels. Its a rough world out there.