Behind Punk is a D.I.Y. punk blog/fanzine/record label based out of Moscow

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interview with Aaron Zorgel and Sam Sutherland of Junior Battles

Keep Up With Junior Battles:

Here is an interview I recently did with Aaron and Sam from amazing band called Junior Battles. In the interview we discusses their NEW album, future plans and more. Do yourself a favor and check/buy/donate/download their stuff HERE!!  
Junior Battles, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.

Hey Guys! how are you?
Aaron Zorgel: Great, thanks! It's the day before Canada Day, which is a federal holiday here. That means a 3-day weekend, which is always fantastic.

Can we start with some background info. How long have you been playing together as Junior Battles?
Sam Sutherland: We've been doing Junior Battles for about three years now. The band started as an excuse to hang out and get drink tickets at shows, so the first year of our existence wasn't the most serious time in our lives. I think we eventually just discovered that we actually enjoyed what we were doing and, if we just worked a little bit harder, we could be at least passable at it. So we recorded our first EP, which led to our second 7" EP, then a split with O Pioneers!!!, and then our new full-length. It's all been a really slow progression from us just wanting to play some songs in our practice space as buds.

 What made you decide to form this band?
AZ: Sam and I were tied up in a fairly serious folky emo band, and it just wasn't fun, and it wasn't going anywhere. Actually, I think all the members of JB played in this band at some point, but never all at the same time. After that dissolved, we started Junior Battles as a guilt-free return to the pop-punk music we loved in Highschool. It was designed to be very unserious, and very fun. Since then, it's gotten a bit more serious, but it has never stopped being fun. That's the only rule that governs our band. It has to be a good time, and if it stops being fun, we'll stop. But, so far so good.

How did the name come about and what does it mean?
SS: I was originally super, super stoked on naming the band Younger Strike, which everyone else hated but was slowly resigning themselves to. Aaron was watching a movie with his old roommate when they spotted a character named Junior Battle, and it was suggested as a similar alternative to this name everyone hated. We all agreed, and haven't looked back since. I've also never seen the movie it's from. I think only half the band has.

What other bands have you been involved in?
AZ: To the best of my knowledge...

Aaron: Kostanza (jazz/hardcore), Arcs (folky emo), Great Lenin's Ghost! (electro-punk), Junior Battles, O Pioneers!!!, SCARETWINS (guy/girl spooky electro punk)

Sam: Birchview Park Symphonic (acoustic orchestral emo), Arcs (folky emo), Whore For A Heart (metal/hardcore), Hot Friends (spazzy punk), Junior Battles, O Pioneers!!!, Old Cars (garage rock)

Joel: Metacomets (dance rock), Arcs (folky emo), Brothers (rock), Junior Battles, Little City (folky indie rock)

Justin: Blue Van (rock), Arcs (folky emo), Junior Battles, Milk Run (classic rock), O Pioneers!!!, Old Cars (garage rock)

Sam and I were also in a pop-rock musical that he wrote, and I workedon as well called Giant Killer Shark: The Musical. It was a musical version of Jaws, complete with a hardcore song called "SHARK ATTACK." We performed that in Toronto, Winnipeg, and New York.

Your full-length debut “Idle Ages” came out a some days ago. Are you happy with the overall response?
SS: It's been great. We spent so much time cooped up in our practice space writing it, then even more time sequestered in a recording studio trying to make it sound right. After a while you start to go a little crazy and you wonder if anyone will even notice when it comes out. Thankfully, the response has been amazing. It's especially gratifying when you feel like someone has truly connected with it; we've had a few reviews that were really great, where the person had obviously spent a lot of time digging into the record, and we've had a few people e-mail us just to tell us about how much they've been enjoying it, and what about the record is connecting with them. Given how personal and intense and weird a lot of the lyrical content on the record is, that's been unbelievably gratifying. After getting one of those e-mails, we all just agreed it had been worth the work.

Please, tell me about the writing and recording process for debut album:
AZ: We had been writing songs for it since before our self-titled 7" came out, so that was in April 2010 I guess. We started demo-ing stuff in August 2010, and recorded it with producer Steve Rizun (The Flatliners, The Creepshow) at Drive Studios in Woodbridge, Ontario in December 2010. We worked on it kind of sporadically over the course of the winter, and finished recording in mid February.  So the whole process (from writing to recording to release) took about a year and tree months. It was nice to be able to take our time, and make sure the songs were right, and that they were recorded in the best way possible. Steve was super patient with us, and brought out some good performances. A couple of the songs were unfinished going into thestudio, so there were some stressful spontaneous lyric writingsessions, but it all worked out in the end.  We had some friends contribute too, including some vocals by Damian from Fucked Up, some trombone from Matt Keegan of Bomb The Music Industry!, and some Banjo, Piano and Organ by Franz Nicolay, formerly of the Hold Steady. Having them contribute meant a lot to us.

 Tell me about the cover artwork to Idle Ages:
SS: Our friend Greg Pepper ( designed it. He had done the art for our O Pioneers!!! split and a few recent tour posters for us, so we were excited to work with him on something a little bigger and more conceptual. A lot of the record deals with growing up and finding a new place for yourself in the world as you change, along with the signposts that music provides for you along the way, and how you assert and shape your identity using things like music and the people you spend time with. We decided we wanted to have a four-panel design, capturing four distinct parts of growing up, and also the way the band had grown over the past few years. The cover panel is an aerial shot of our bassist Justin Taylor's parents' house in Etobicoke. We crashed there a lot when we were recording, since it was closer to the suburb where the studio was then our places downtown. There's also Aaron's parents' house in Holstein, which is a really small town in Ontario where we spent a weekend recording demos for the album, talking about the album, and really settling in to what we wanted to accomplish with it. The other panels are the weird, industrial street where our practice space is, and the corner of Bathurst and College where Sneaky Dee's is, a venue in Toronto we play at a lot, eat at a lot, and generally spend too much of our time. Besides just being these weird personal snapshots, we felt like they kind of captured a personal evolution; country, suburbs, industrial, and downtown. They idea was the trace our evolution, and how a lot of people evolve, too, from teenagers to adults, and the way the spaces around them define those periods. Whew.

So if you were to describe the musical orientation of the album what would you say about it?
AZ: In terms of influences, we're all over the map. There are some pretty diverse tastes in the band. But our sound has always beenrooted in 90's and 00's pop-punk. The songs begin there, and we weave in some third-wave emo, some indie-rock flavour, and a lot of pop sensibility. It's hard to pinpoint one specific genre or influence, but I think that's what makes the record cool. It's not a standard, typical pop punk throwback record. We wanted to push the boundaries of the genre, and I hope we succeeded.

What's your experience been like with Paper+Plastick Records?
SS: It's been amazing. Everyone involved in the label is enthusiastic and excited about the bands, and they're eager and willing to try new thing. Our record was available as PWYC download for the first week, which was something we really wanted to do that the label embraced wholeheartedly. They're willing to take risks, and also willing to invest in bands. It's a special situation and we're incredibly grateful to them for the support they've given us so far.

Which of your shows was the most memorable for you?
AZ: Playing Fest 8 & Fest 9 were both incredible shows. Recently we played a house show in Guelph, Ontario with our friends in the Decay, and that was insane. Playing Pouzza Fest in Montreal was huge for us as well, both of our sets there were incredible. It was one of the best festival experiences I've ever had.

What do you do outside of Junior Battles? Do you guys have day jobs?
SS: We all have jobs, and Joel, our drummer, also goes to school. I'm a journalist, Aaron is a music composer for film & tv,  and works for a big cable company, Justin is a videographer, and Joel works at an old folk's home.

 What is something you have always wanted to do but have not done yet?
AZ: Definitely going over to Europe. That's on the band's bucket list.

What song(s) do you never get tired of hearing? why?
SS: Lately, I've been able to play "Came Out Swinging" from the new Wonder Years record without ever stopping, which I think is totally annoying my neighbors. The production on it is perfect, the lyrics are great, and it has a breakdown without sounding like it has a goofy breakdown.

What have you been listening lately? What are your favorite recent releases?
AZ: One record we all agree on is the new Fucked Up record, David Comes to Life. I know Sam's really digging the new Touche Amore record. Joel loves the new Bon Iver record. I'm really looking forward to the new record by The-Dream, I'm the guy that loves all kinds of pop music in the band. Justin digs a lot of Canadian roots-rock like Shotgun Jimmie.

If you could do a split with any band that's currently together, what band would it be?
SS: The-Dream. Call us, bro. We're ready.

What's your biggest gripe with the punk/hardcore scene?
AZ: Tough to say, really. I love the community we play music with and for, because it's always felt really welcoming and nurturing. I've honestly never encountered any outrageous acts of violence or sexism, but I know it still exists and is a huge problem with the scene today. One thing I will say, is that I would like to see more girls on stage, starting bands, running shows, etc. It's a male centric scene, but hopefully bands like PS Elliot, Bridge & Tunnel, and White Lung are influencing more girls to pick up guitars and make their presence known.

What are the plans for Junior Battles for the rest of 2011?
SS: We're starting a summer tour we've dubbed the Weekend Warrior Tour this Thursday. Every weekend, we're playing a run of shows in a new state or province. We start with Ohio, then Ontario, then New York, and so on and so on. It should be a great way to cover a lot of ground without getting stuck playing a Monday night in some podunk town just 'cause. In the early fall, we want to try and cover more of Canada, as we've never done more than Ontario and Quebec. And after that, who knows?! Except Fest. We know that.

 Thanks for doing this interview Guys! And finally, is there anything else that you want people to know, that you want the readers to know.
AZ: Thanks for the interview! Go grab our record Idle Ages from It's available now for CD order (and vinyl order coming soon) at Paper + Plastick here:

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