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DJ Mick writesThe CHIRP Radio Interview: The Methadones

By CHIRP Radio DJ and Features Co-Director Mick R (Listen to his most recent shows / Read his blog)

Chicago's Methadones are one of the more consistent and best-remembered bands of the pop-punk revival of the early '00s. What started as a side project for Dan Vapid back in 1993 while he was still playing guitar in Screeching Weasel, quickly became his main gig after leaving Weasel and his other other band, the Riverdales. 

With a penchant for classic pop-song structures and a shrugging, down-to-earth attitude, they were emblematic of a certain counter current in the punk underground that resisted the drive for fame and fortune (back when both were still viable career routes), sticking with the more earnest motivations of having fun with friends and making personally validating art. 

They came into their own as a full band in 1999 when Dan recorded a handful of songs with Chris Barnard of the Mopes and Weasel drummer Dan Lumley. In two short years, the group had their debut out on A-F Records and were touring with bands like Dillinger Four and the Lawrance Arms and filling out the lineup of the then nascent alternative rock showcase Riot Fest, performing with a steady lineup of Sensitive Pete on bass, Mike Byrne on second guitar, and Mike Soucy on drums.

In 2007, they released their final studio album, the power-pop wrecking ball, This Won't Hurt... on Red Scare Industries, which featured some of their most well crafted and catchy songs, including the power-chord pin-wheel "Six Degrees of Seperation," the pumped-up pogo-pop of "Turning Up the Noise," and shredding confessional "Falling Forward."

The band would break up in 2010 with a final compilation being released on Asian Man, and many of the members would go on to play with Dan's other band, another group intended to be a one-off for a Memorial Day set, the Cheats. The Methadones have been mostly silent for the past 10 years, playing sporadic reunion shows but mostly moving on with their lives. But their relative absence hasn't dampened enthusiasm for their music. If anything, they're bigger now than they've ever been, traveling internationally to play festivals in Italy and co-headlining this year's T1 Fest in Chicago with Nerf Herder. 

Because it's always exciting when the Methadones relapse back into the rock 'n roll lifestyle and start playing shows again, I caught up with the group's current members to feel out how the past decade has treated them and find what we can expect from the band next.

The Methadones is currently Mike Soucy, Pete Mittler, Simon Lamb, and of course, Dan Vapid. 

Their final album This Won't Hurt... is getting a re-issue on vinyl through Red Scare Industries and you can score a copy here.

And as mentioned above, the band will be headlining T1 Fest at Reggies this weekend (June 10th and 11th) at Reggies Rock Club. You can find ticket information here. 

The following interview was conducted over email on June 8, 2022. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity. 

What spurred you to begin reissuing your albums, including This Won't Hurt…

Dan: These reunion shows put the idea of the reissue into Mike’s head which then telepathically put it into mine. We’re good that way.

From my perspective, when This Won't Hurt... first dropped it felt like a pretty big deal in the Chicago scene. Did you get the sense that you were releasing a "classic" while working on the album?

Dan: I did not. I thought it wasn’t quite good enough – I suffer from that kind of thing. Looking back now, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to This Won’t Hurt… and our other records as well, it was like I became a fan, and it felt good.

Pete: I don’t know whether or not it can be called a “classic,” but it’s my favorite of all of our albums. I think it’s the most consistent and has some of our best songs on it. It’s a great record and I remember having a pretty good time making it too. For me, I felt like that was a high point of the band.

What has changed about your lives since the album was first released and now?

Dan: I’m married with three kids, work at the post office as a mailman, and live in southern Illinois not far from St. Louis. I play in the band Dan Vapid and the Cheats with Simon now, too.

Pete: Holy cow, every single thing in my life has changed since then! Just like Dan, I have three kids now. I’ve never stopped playing music, and have been in several bands since the Methadones. I recently retired from my job of 31 years and moved to Florida to start a new chapter of my life.

Mike: I was told I would lose my condo, my job, and my girlfriend once I joined the Methadones. That turned out to be true. But, I’ve since gotten some of those things back since we stopped playing. After this year I’m fully prepared to lose it all again.

What has stayed the same?

Dan: Love for music. Always. Our personalities remain intact as well.

Pete: Yeah, I still love playing music and playing live. For better or worse, my personality has mostly stayed intact as well. [Laughs] Aside from that – I’d say that it’s one of the only things that has stayed consistent in my life since then.

What are you looking forward to most about playing these songs live again at T1?

Dan: To put it simply: Playing them well and just enjoying them.

Pete: I’m looking forward to playing some of these songs again that I haven’t played in a long time, and playing with these guys again. As for the rhythm section, Mike Soucy and I have a connection that I have rarely felt with any other drummers I’ve played with. Oftentimes I feel like I know what he is going to do before he does it – and I can recognize his drumming any time or anywhere.

Simon: This is my first time playing in the Methadones; I’m pretty stoked to be playing these songs and playing with the band.

Mike: I’m super excited to play with Pete and Dan again, we always had a great chemistry. Simon and I have been preparing a lot for the shows so I can’t wait to have him join us on stage.

What are your connections to Red Scare Industries? Can you describe what role they've played in the scene over the past 15 years?

Dan: We met Toby in San Francisco on a tour around 2004. He moved to Chicago not long after, and we got the ball rolling. Aside from the obvious press and distribution, Red Scare is good camaraderie while making shit happen.

Pete: You should ask Toby about this – he’d probably tell you a story about me seeing him at a show I played with my current band, the Bollweevils, in Denver, Colorado. I was completely shitfaced and I kept telling him, “Toby, you’re a complete asshole, but you’re the only asshole that ever paid us.”

When the Methadones were most active, it seemed like a lot of punk bands were going for big '80s riffs that were more reminiscent of Springsteen than Black Flag, and you can definitely hear a bit of that in your work, especially on Career Objective and Not Economically Viable. Why do you think that trend developed the way it did, and why do you think it wound down?

Dan: Funny you say Springsteen, because I’ve tried over and over to listen to him and he keeps coming across like a sanitized Bob Dylan. So, I don’t get that, however – I grew up listening to a lot of hard rock which eventually made its way to punk rock. When done well, I like the combination. My point of view is a little different from yours. I thought every band wanted to be Screeching Weasel or the Lillingtons. Two bands I like – but didn’t want to sound like. I was cognizant of steering clear of that sound. Power-pop and early punk was instrumental in influencing the sound of the Methadones.

Pete: Yeah, that was a strange time... it seemed like the “bigger” bands at that time were all either trying to sound like Jawbreaker or they were trying to be famous in some way. That was when emo and screamo were really popular. I hated that shit, but I tried really hard to be open minded about some of it. I have always been a traditionalist when it comes to punk and pop-punk. Like Dan, I also love old school pop punk but at the time I kind of felt like it was played out and I think we really wanted to do something that mixed that with something else. I also grew up listening to tons of classic rock and metal and stuff like that. I thought what we were trying to do was pretty cool and I felt like a lot of other bands weren’t really doing that at the time. Dan and Mike Byrne were the two guys who were really into a lot of the power pop stuff and sort of introduced me to some of it. I think that all heavily influenced our sound at the time.

Would you describe yourself as "orgcore" and what does this term mean a decade on from Punknews's hayday?

Dan: Never heard the term. You didn’t just make that up now, did you? [Laughs]

Pete: Yeah, I’ve also never heard that term and don’t know what it is.

Mike: I had to look it up, and I would say the fans of orgcore like us too, but we’re not gruff enough to be considered orgcore. We always had street punks at our shows even though we’re not street punk. Same kind of thing.

What is the most annoying sub-genre tag you've been pinned with, and why do you think it did/didn't stick?

Dan: Well, like I said above, I like Screeching Weasel, the Lillingtons, and Ramones a whole bunch, but felt pinned down by that description and felt like it was missing the point. I always hoped people would open their minds ever so slightly and expand their music tastes... and many did, thankfully.

Pete: The “pop-punk” label never really bothered me except when I heard bands like Fall Out Boy and some of those other wimpy bands thrown into that category as well. That was when I would get bothered by it and I felt like I had to explain to people that those bands were not pop-punk. They were just crappy mainstream pop.

Why does power-pop from the Midwest hit differently?

Dan: Great question in which I have no answer. Will ponder this one.

Pete: I think it’s due to the no-frills, no bullshit, and very low level of pretentiousness of the people from the Midwest. Having traveled all over the country, it seems to me that people from there are pretty simple and like to keep it that way. Overall, we typically don’t like all of that fake bullshit. I think that comes across with bands as well because they just want to write a good song and have it be memorable. Isn’t that what this style of music is partially about?

What do you love the most about the Chicago music scene?

Dan: Bands like Naked Raygun, Smoking Popes, and Alkaline Trio are huge for me, but there are also lots of people who I have known going on 30 years now that I still see on occasion. It’s like we are an extended family… and that I can enjoy it without living in it [laughs], that traffic, sheesh…

Mike: Dan and I are going to start a traffic core band. If you listen closely, Dan writes a lot about traffic so we’re going full tilt with this next project. Sorry, that didn’t answer the question.

Pete: I moved away about six months ago, but the bands I met before I left seemed to just want to have fun. I think that the whole “trying to get famous from punk” movement is pretty much gone. It seems like a lot of those people have moved on to other things now. Those who remain seem to be doing it for a genuine love of playing music and the camaraderie that goes along with it.

Are there any bands from the Midwest that you used to play with, miss, and wish were still around? What do you miss about these acts the most? (As an aside, this band for me will always be the Soviettes).

Dan: Yep, absolutely. The Soviettes were a really great band. Great people as well.

Pete: Yeah, I love them too. That’s one of the things about punk—great bands appear, last just a couple years, and then disappear. I guess it’s both good and bad.

Mike: Soviettes were so much fun. I miss playing double duty with the Bomb too. We always had an awesome time with the Copyrights, Lawrence Arms, and Dillinger Four. The Methadones drank all the beer at a club in St. Louis once. Literally.

Playing off the title of your reissue, what's the worst any of you have been injured and/or what's the closest call you've experienced? 

Dan: Pete should answer this…

Pete: [Laughs] I’m not even sure I know where to answer this. It’s kind of a miracle to be alive right now. I was like the “Florida man” before I even moved to Florida. I’ve broken many bones and had more stitches than I can ever tell you about. If I had a catch line it would probably be, “Hey y’all, watch this!” Thankfully I think I’m finally at a point in my life where I have slowed down a bit. Also, I play in a band with an ER doctor now, so that's pretty convenient.

What's next for the Methadones?

Dan: We’re playing St. Louis, Raduno Fest in Italy, and Gainesville Fest in October. Looking forward to getting out there and playing again.

Simon: I’m looking forward to playing the shows we have booked, especially Punk Rock Raduno in Italy next month. Hoping we can continue to play and maybe even get some new music out.

Pete: I think that’s something we definitely need to discuss. I definitely hope these are not the only shows we play from this point on.

Who are you excited to see at T1 Fest?

Dan: Josh Caterer for me. He’s one of my all time favorite song writers, so I’ll be looking forward to his set. Lots of old friends are coming out and it will be nice to see them.

Pete: Yeah, there are a lot of fans I will be happy to see. I have been so busy with other life things in the last couple of years, I have kind of lost touch with some of it all. It will be a good time for sure.

Mike: I’m looking forward to seeing Bryan Roe (QBall) our friend and frequent merch roadie. It’s been a long time.

Any final shout outs/ things you'd like to add?

Pete: Thanks for talking to us. See you at the show.

 

Image courtesy of the artist

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