Weege from 880 South Interview
Weege, I would just like to say thanks for agreeing to answer these questions. I am a big fan of your band.
How would you say Sublime have influenced your music and the whole Cali scene?
I was influenced in a lot of ways…well it wasn’t just that I looked up to a band like Sublime for being courageous & bold. It was more that they allowed me to get in touch with music that I had not paid enough attention too. All those bands Sublime covered and made renditions should be thankful that Sublime exposed their music to a vast new youthful audience. Without Sublime a band like 880 South would not exist. I think by listening to Sublime I came to learn about a lot of their influences and in time those influences became my own. I would not have learned about Half Pint, Toots & the Maytals and a lot of reggae legends.
I think the Cali scene got an early jolt of Sublime during the “Date Rape” era because here was a band playing a ska rhythm infused reggae with hip hop and punk but it didn’t sound whiney & corny. I’m not saying that it had to sound tough, but the songs had a lil more relativity to them. I think that’s the beauty of Sublime, you can easily relate to them. The radio played the hell out of it (Date Rape) and for some of the grunge rock lovers (I’m one of them) it was way too different. It really took me a minute to understand the movement & the style and no matter how much my friends were ragging on it…I couldn’t help but keep playing it in my car. It was almost as influential as the first time my brothers played me Led Zeppelin or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even though Date Rape isn’t my favourite Sublime song I have to admit it is clearly the song that broke them into the scene. All of the sudden Alternative rock was blown wide open and unfortunately some of the cornier ska bands stepped in and really washed things away. Still…I think California and the world was taken by storm after Bradley passed away because when you hear albums like the Self Titled & 40 oz to Freedom you think to yourself. What if? What if he had lived and they had created more albums? What would the scene be like today? It’s like that mystery creates curiosity and opens youthful minds up to experimentation. I know a lot of people believe the party atmosphere; the drinking & the pot were what turned them to Sublime. I feel when you look deep down inside when you’re pumping a Sublime album… you feel like you’re not all that alone when you’re having a good time.
Do you have any personal memories of first hearing Sublime?
Well it was definitely an eye opener…or should I say ear opener. When I first heard Sublime I felt liberated, confused, excited and annoyed all at once. It’s hard at the age of 16 to really have a good understanding of music because like your personality I believe your musical taste tends to mature. My friend Lydia was playing 40 oz to Freedom in her car and I remember hearing Smoke 2 Joints which was a jam I already liked from the Toyes in the 80s. My brother Joe was listening to a lot of the Clash & early Bob Marley albums. So I was sort of lightly introduced to Ska, Rock-steady & of course Reggae. That was until I discovered Operation Ivy which was the first ska/punk crossover I had ever heard after the Clash. So when Sublime came on the scene I heard the album and was like…uhh. I know that song. I know that song too. Where have I heard that before? Yet I had never heard Sublime before. It was the renditions of reggae classics & punk jams that I grew up with. But of course…for some reason…it was identifiable, but it was WAY different. I think the rhythm section (Bud & Eric) really were just as important to Sublime as Bradley’s vocals.
Have you ever seen the band play live, could you describe it?
I was at the Palookaville show in Santa Cruz where Eric & Bud arrived late and Bradley played all the songs on his guitar by himself. I actually was too drunk to catch the show and I was underage so my brother’s friends kept making me sit in a corner. Yeah I was that guy that night plus at the time I wasn’t yet a full blown Sublime fan. I definitely wish I was more into it and sober. I do remember him playing a few punk covers that I liked.
Apart from Sublime, who else would you describe as musical influences?
Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5 & Michael Jackson, James Brown, Queen, the Who, the Eagles, Metallica (pre Black album & before Lars threw a hissy fit), Stone Temple Pilots, Guns N’ Roses, Misfits, NWA, Eaze-E & I can go on and on…seriously. Hands down though, Zeppelin, Sublime, RHCP are my biggest key influences.
What was the first record you remember buying?
Tricky question and I’m assuming you mean the first record I bought with my own money or do you mean my first album I ever picked out. My mom bought me the single for Queen “Another One Bites the Dust” it also had “Killer Queen”. Yes I’m talking vinyl. I was born in ’77 so gimme a break. My brother got a Blondie record & my other brother got “Led Zeppelin”. That was a cool weekend. All the CD/mp3 era kids are probably giggling but I still love the sound of vinyl. Ok…so my first album I bought was Beastie Boys – License to Ill & Metallica – Master of Puppets. My mom was thrilled when she saw a couple of hands reaching down like a puppeteer to a graveyard of crosses n shit. Haha Then I played Beastie Boys in the Big Red (the family Suburban). She looked at me different for a while, haha
My parents were always supportive of my musical habits & influences though. My mom said she thought I would end up a musician because I used to pound on the walls and play drums on everything. Apparently I did a mean rendition of “If Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart. Gimme a break…it was the 70’s. It’s funny because my daughter now does the exact same thing. She’s a bongo master. I think music is in the genes and the soul.
Moving onto 880 South; you seem to have been around for a few years now. Could you describe how the band came together?
Oh boy. Dirty laundry is gonna be aired out. Haha I’ve told this story before but I will try and be more detailed than our regular old bio.
Well we started in 1998 as the Floppy Rods. The Floppy Rods was a funk rock outfit…in vein of bands like RHCP, Fungo Mungo & Mr. Bungle. I think we really wanted to reach out with more of a jazz funk meets hard rock vibe. We dabbled with ska/reggae every now and then. We just were more of a rhythm section heavy duelling guitars motivated type of band. Everyone in this band liked different music but we all seemed to meet somewhere in the middle of funky & rock. My vocals were very simple in those days. This band started early on as just myself, Greg & Steve writing songs @ the One Nine(slummy house in the San Jose Barrio/Downtown border where we’d drink and create havoc, some of us lived there).
The Floppy Rods were myself on Vocals, Greg Medeiros on bass, Steve Shyshka on guitar & Aaron Liebelt on drums. Additionally we added Jimi Heeney from (Jalopy Taco Stand) to play rhythm guitar and fx. He quit after a year and we replaced him with Scot Miller (Sinister Sam) who really brought our music up a level. I unofficially quit the Floppy Rods in 2002. I pretty much just stopped going to rehearsal. I always regretted quitting like that because I should have respected my band mates a little more than I did. A band is like a marriage. There has to be some level of respect for each others and some form of compromise otherwise it is doomed from the beginning. At the time I harboured a lot of resentment towards them because of the song writing formula and the direction of the music was starting to feel unadventurous to me. There was also an incident where two of my band members failed to show up to an important acoustic benefit in Santa Cruz. I made an effort to unite the core of the song writing talent in order to maybe re-spark the fire which got this whole thing started. I think that was the last straw for me and I was tired of trying to convince people to see it my way. I was young and full of steam. So a few weeks after I stopped showing up our drummer Aaron Liebelt officially quit because he was tired of none of us getting in touch with each others & felt the same lack of respect. Things were weird for about a year there. I stayed in touch with Greg mostly because we had a lot of history & I would see Steve occasionally at parties & friends houses. I always told him we should work on some side stuff and we never got around to it. I think it was 2003 when I finally picked up a guitar again & started messing with some of my old songs I wrote prior to Floppy Rods. I called up Greg Medeiros & I said I think you should play guitar and we can lay down a demo. I dunno why I didn’t ask Steve, I think I just felt more comfortable talking to Greg about it first because we played football together & went to high school. Something about teammate mentality or something allowed me to be more open with him. So then I asked Steve and he was actually more interested in playing bass. So it kind of worked out funny that way. So just for fun we decided we’d make a demo…so Greg played guitar, Steve was on the bass and then we decided to hook up with an old friend Kasey Cox who played in some local bands (Jalopy Taco Stand). He played drums on the 4 song demo & because I didn’t know anyone else with a studio we hooked up with our old drummer Aaron and recorded everything at his studio.
I decided to name the project 880 South. I thought of it while I was driving to the studio because everyday I would take Interstate 880 to meet up for rehearsal, studio and to play shows in downtown San Jo. All of my band mates at one time were connected by 880 South. Shortly after the demo was finished I made a huge decision that would change me forever. I had decided to pack up my life, my woman, my dog and move to Texas. As much as I loved living down in the Rio Grande Valley I knew I was bored out of my mind & there was a void in my life. It was then I realized how much I needed music to keep me centered. We moved back to California in 2004 so we could get married closer to our friends & family. It was then I saw an opportunity to release some of my music which I had already starting playing on MySpace. So in a turn of events Greg got in touch with Aaron. I was reluctant at first because I didn’t think Aaron would be into it (the style that is). The music had changed a lot and the song writing was 90% my concepts & influences. Still, we met up at a bar where Steve’s jazz band was playing and we decided to work things out. We patched up the wounds, hashed out old issues and made sure the communication was gonna be better…and then we drank a lot of hefeweizen, bud light & pale ale’s. So now we are wiser, wittier, drunker & more mature. So that was the transition of Floppy Rods to 880 South. That was the birth of 880 South.
Aaron Liebelt recently parted ways with us to focus on his studio. It was a huge blow but at the same time we lucked out and found Nick Fishman who played in Steve’s jazz band. So there will be a lot of performances with Aaron from time to time but we also play with Nick more regularly.
The song “Baja”, a favourite of mine, talks of “going down to Baja, where I lost my youth”. It could have many connotations, what does it that line actually mean?
It was a very immature time in my life. I convinced 4 of my good friends to do the Spring Break we never go to do. Haha I spent an entire week down in Rosarito to see the Long Beach Dub Allstars & meet drunk college girls. That was good times because they pretty much let me drink their beer and hang out while they played 2 hour sets. It was cool hanging out with Eric & Bud who I had admired so much. I also met Jack Maness, Ras-1, Opie & Tim Wu who was always the kind of guy who stayed in touch. I think as a fan of the band I grew to appreciate the people as much as the music. So it was a weekend of drunken debauchery and craziness.
So….basically I lost my innocence. Plain and simple because until that weekend I had never cheated on a woman before. I spent a lot of my life being a sucker and being a softy. You know like the Ziggens lyrics…wearing his “Heart on a Sleeve.” Haha. I’m man enough to admit when I’m a fool. I spent a couple of years being the type of guy waiting on a woman (or should I say girl?). I think desperation is disgusting but when you’re fixated on something it’s hard to see everything clearly. It’s like you have no peripheral vision. You know…like a tunnel? As liberated as I felt after that night I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I had just started learning how to play guitar and it was actually one of my first complete songs. So in the long run that song is a declaration of my feelings towards a girl I thought was the one for me. It’s kind of like me saying…well ya bailed out on me woman, ya left me high and dry…but I got the best of you. Couldn’t you picture some old blues guitarist on a park bench singing the blues? I met a girl that night and never looked back at my life the same way. I think in some weird way I wanted the girl who I met in Baja to hear this song cause even though it may have seemed like a one night stand. I was appreciative of what she had done for me. I think she lived in Corona. I doubt she ever knew it was about her. At the same time I didn’t want my X to not ever hear it. I never told her and maybe someday I’ll get a mean e-mail from her. I still don’t know if she knows about that song and I dunno if that’s selfish of me to admit. In the long run I think the song is just funny and a lot of folks can relate.
I remember reading your, excellent, “Ask Weege” section on the Pier in which you were asked about song writing. Do you ever have trouble writing lyrics?
I think it’s harder to think of a concept of a song that you’re totally feeling right then and there. The lyrics come pretty easy but they don’t always come at the same time. So sometimes timing is key. I tend to write my best stuff when I’m in a completely different surrounding then what I’m writing about.
How do your songs evolve, do you need the lyrics first and then you write the music or is it a mixture of the two?
It’s always mostly some of the time…you know what? I really can’t put my finger on it. Sometimes I just write a catchy melody or a hook and marinate on it for a year or two and then one night or day out of the blue the rest of the song comes to me. Sometimes I write a song in one day. I usually think of something I hummed first and then add some lyrics I wrote a few weeks back. Sometimes I think of something clever to say and I think of a cool melody and sing those words. Sometimes it just comes together through a series of different events. I mean there are times where I just get this incredible urge to write and lay down like 3 or 4 songs in a day. Then I go back and listen and try and play it again and only 30-50% of it all transpires the way I wanted to. Song writing is a frustrating and rewarding process all the same. I love it. Then when the song is finished in my mind I bring it to my band mates & they sorta dissect & resurrect and we all kinda pull together something beautiful in the end. Sometimes I even tend to add more lyrics to something maybe Steve added or Greg may have laid down some different type of bass line and that alone can inspire me to sing a certain part just a little different. You know? So I guess if everything was written the same way every time…we would have some pretty boring material.
I see you have a new album coming out soon, what can we expect from it?
Youth Bus Sessions is going to be one of the best albums of 2008. This is no knock to any of the bands in our genre. There are a lot of immensely talented bands in this reggae/rock alternative scene. I wanted to call this album City Boy Reggae. Then we had a ton of other names that could describe it. Blue Collar Reggae…and then in the long run we thought of Youth Bus Sessions. Which was named after our tour van(a former school bus)…hence the name “Youth Bus”. I can fully guarantee that this album is more satisfying than anything, it will blow your mind and I know it seems that I’m just hyping up my own album but I’ve played it many times at high volume in my truck for friends, family & neighbors and the feedback is killer. I know just by all the compassion, sweat & beer consumption that went into this album. Just listen to it…it will make you think twice about doubting a band like 880 South. You can expect a well nurtured, well thought out collection of brutally honest, compassionate life stories as well as a lot of humor, salt, brown sugar & a dash of alcohol. Oh and you can also expect some kickass melodies & harmonies. It is something that we never had the time to experiment with on the “Beware” album. We’re very proud of everything done on this album and the process was a lot less rushed. I think the last album was a cool album and a great introduction to 880 South. But this one tells you so much about the band’s character & song writing. The energy & experimentation are off the charts. I think this is one of those albums where you turn off all the lights and put on headphones and pump it but at the same time you can blast this album in your car while driving home from work!
How can we get hold of it?
It will be available through CD Baby, Amazon & pretty much anywhere you buy music. Of course the majors like iTunes, Rhapsody & Napster. If you want my honest opinion on digital music then I suggest that you download the mp3s on CDbaby.com because you will get a high quality mp3 and not a low bitrate sound file. If you’re trying to find us at your local music shops you can actually request our music there through Super D One Stop. They’ll know what you’re talking about and if they don’t…they’re lame. We’re available in the US, Japan, U.K. Canada, South America, Mexico & Australia. I think we’re even available in South Africa. No seriously.
What are your future plans? Any UK tours in the pipeline?
We want to tour. Let’s face it, what band doesn’t want to tour? The bottom line is that it is expensive and unless some big artists’ steps up or the fans step up and request us. It’s going to be hard for us to tour. If you’re a fan and you want to see 880 South. Go to eventful.com/880south and demand us. This will allow us to tell venues, promoters & other bands that we have the fan base to tour! We have great album sales all over the country and all over the world, but this is a great tool for us to prove the type of touring potential 880 South has. Please do your part.
Once again Weege I would just like to say how much I appreciate you taking the time to respond this interview, it has been one of the most honest and refreshing interviews I have read. Big props to Weege.