It’s been a year since the release of the stellar debut CD by *The 65’s*, _Strike Hard!_ and the whirlwind of acclaim and recognition that came with it. Since then, in-between gigging hard throughout the Northeast, the band has withstood a multitude of personal and professional hardships, including a lineup change, a devastating house fire, and a number of other issues.
The band has recently entered the studio to record the followup to _Strike Hard!_ and was kind enough to give us a taste of one of their new songs, “Holes Dug Deep.”
Singer/guitarist Joseph O. Pugsley and drummer John Steele took also took some time to answer a few questions. Here goes:
*What’s your impression about the reaction to “Strike Hard!”? In hindsight, are you happy with the record? Are you happy with the response?”*
JP: I’m extremely happy with the reaction to the record. We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback and all of the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, supportive, and most surprisingly, quite reflective. I was taken aback a bit by some of them as you could tell the reviewers really listened to the record, enjoyed it, and seemed to enjoy writing about it. The compliments on our songwriting were probably the most appreciated and the shows have gotten more crowded as well, which is always a good thing. We worked really hard on this, and it feels really good that people seem to really enjoy it. I think we made a fine record.
JS: It’s funny how it started out and eventually how it ended up, sort of as a “side project” – two different studios over the period of a few years. The thing that took the longest was writing it, but it came together so quickly in the end, it had a great, immediate feel to it, a good spirit, “magic,” if you will.
*The band has replaced bassist Cindi Merklee, who has gone on to join Speed the Plough. Tell us about your new bass player.*
JP: Jeff Gashler is an old friend of mine that I played with in a few bands – c.i. infidels, The Dark Brothers, Blackberry Mohawk – he shows up, puts the time in, and plays great, so it was a perfect fit. Dan played all the bass on _Strike Hard!_ anyway; Cindi joined right as we were completing the record and did a bunch of shows with us, but the foundation of the band hasn’t changed at all.
*Last year, in the midst of the launch of _Strike Hard!_, Dan (Smith, bass player) had a devastating house fire. How did that set everybody back? What was lost? Was any recorded music recovered?*
JP: Dan lost everything in his home studio except for maybe a pedal or a mic here or there, and there was a significant amount of structural damage to his house. He was displaced for about six months. Somehow, he was able to remain enthusiastic about the band and continued to play all the shows and everything. There were some songs that were recovered, but since we were in the process of supporting the record and not really recording, there wasn’t much 65’s material to be concerned about. Not like that was a major concern anyway, I mean, a friend’s house got totally fucked and he was displaced, that was the issue. Band stuff is secondary.
JS: I agree, what Dan went through was horrible. 2012 was kind of a rough year on all of us; we were glad to see it go. Thankfully everything that was lost could be replaced and no one was hurt.
*How did the fire impact the band’s plans?*
JP: Like I said, band stuff is secondary to real life, and our main concern was for our friend and being supportive as best we could, so I never really thought about it in that respect. I’m happy to say that he’s back in his house and that his studio is up and running and better than ever, and we’ve been doing overdubs for the new record there. Aside from the fire at Dan’s, it’s actually been a really trying year for all of us. There have been serious relationship issues, family illnesses, and personal health issues as well. We’ve been through a lot, and I feel a lot closer to the guys, as they’ve been very supportive to me with some of the difficult things going on in my life, and I hope they feel the same about my support. You have no choice but to work around the unexpected; you can’t let it dictate the direction you take, you just take the twist and turn and get back on track as soon and as best as possible. Make tweaks if necessary but keep moving. If you stay in the muck too long, it’s on you, man.
*You’ve unveiled a rough mix of a new song, and it kicks ass. Are you in the studio now? What’s the plan? When can we expect to hear new music?*
JP: Thanks, glad you like it. We’re very pleased to unveil this rough mix of “Holes Dug Deep.” It’s a good representation of where the band is headed musically; we’re experimenting yet keeping the song structure intact. We hope everyone enjoys it. We’re in the studio and are really having a blast working on the new stuff. We are in the process of working on a couple of things. Here’s the plan:
We will be releasing a digital-only extended single/EP for the last single from _Strike Hard!_, for a song called “I Got You” very soon on Dromedary – March or most likely April – along with a new video for the song. We’re really excited about this, as it’s our last single from our first record and it’s a very personal song for me, one that a lot of people have said is the best song on the record.
We’re also pleased to be working with Brian Fitzpatrick again for the video. He did a great job with “Walk On Selfishly”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJXXQt05R64 and I can’t wait to see what we come up with for this one. He’s so talented on the visual end of things, something that’s foreign to me, so it’s really exciting to collaborate with someone of his ilk.
So the EP will be the first opportunity for people to hear new 65’s material. It’ll be a stripped down EP, with mainly acoustic tracks, including some really strong songs by Dan.
We’ve also got seven tracks down for the next full length record, which we plan to release in the fall or early winter, which so far has no acoustic tracks at all. It seems to be ending up a pretty loud, heavy record. So, safe to say there will be a healthy dose of new 65’s stuff out there to digest in the near future.
*What are the band’s plans for live performances to support the EP and the next record?*
JP: We will be performing more shows this time around, including some mini east coast tours to spots we didn’t reach last time – Boston, DC and others – but we’ll also return to spots we’ve already been to. We are making a concerted effort to reach out and do more DIY-type networking with other musicians and bands to collaborate and book strategically, in order to best serve all involved.
It’s this sort of collective effort that I think can really help us as well as other bands on Dromedary, and in the indie/punk scene of NJ to reach out and get more exposure. So if anyone is interested in working with us in any capacity, please feel free to get in touch. As the bands on Dromedary and others that know me are aware, I’m always working on something, putting together shows at different venues, benefits, acoustic gigs, all sorts of things – so we’ll continue, yet expand our approach in the process.