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New Jersey-via-Brooklyn-DIY-periphery act Night Birds have been hovering since about 2009, but they recently soared into a higher atmosphere, packing shows here and on the West Coast and garnering slobbering reviews for their debut LP The Other Side of Darkness (Grave Mistake) and recent singles (compiled on Fresh Kills Vol. 1 (Grave Mistake)). Their sound must’ve gone over well out in skate-punk land, since there is a bit of the old Posh Boy pep under their wings—bouncy bass, pissy harmonies, surf-y riffs. But in keeping with their working-class home base, Night Birds specializes in a trashy beer-braised bruising of the decidedly non-happy-go-halfpipe variety.
Having been around a few years now, you guys have played just about every NYC-area venue they’ll let a punk band stumble into. What are your favorites? And which ones will you avoid from here on out?
Joe Keller (bass): I think I like Lulu’s is the best, followed by Cake Shop. Most places in New York right now are really shit for sound, but who really cares about that?
Brian Gorsegner (vocals): I really like The Acheron. They recently tore a wall down and made it a little bigger. I think it’s a good space, run by people who know what they are doing. I love Death By Audio too. Good stage, really good sound, perfect size.
You’ve been touring much more lately. Where’d you go, and what were some favorite shows?
BG: We got home last Sunday from a three-week West Coast tour. We did a bunch of shows in the L.A. area, the Bay Area, Vancouver, San Francisco, Victoria, Portland, and four shows in Hawaii. Hawaii ruled! They don’t get a lot of bands touring through there, so everyone was really excited to have us. They had a big barbeque for us on the last day at North Shore, and there were big turtles on the beach. We ate a ton of food, a bunch of people dove off this big cliff—It was a great time!
Some rough shows/stories?
BG: We were in San Diego and this fancy guy in an SUV had his bike strapped to his roof standing straight up. He made a really quick turn into this parking lot with a really low overhang, and his bike was obliterated. There were like 100 young punk kids rolling on the ground laughing and yelling and pointing. It was hilarious. I shat on the side of the road for the first time in my touring career on an 11-hour drive from Portland to the Bay Area. That was eventful. Some shitty weirdo hopped in our van in Canada and it was one of those situations where we each thought someone else knew the guy, only to realize no one did. And then he got really drunk and told us he was going to steal our souls. Then we called a cab to come take him away.
Ryan McHale (drums): The only real low point of the west coast tour was getting shafted with a nine-hour delay coming back from Honolulu. The airline attendants kept fabricating details like that the meals for our flight were in the oven on another plane, which is such bullshit, because they only serve you crappy middle school style sandwiches. I had to sneak into weird parts of the terminal to smoke cigarettes. After about six hours of waiting around watching people flip out, we got $20 meal vouchers. PJ (Russo, guitar) and I spent all of ours at Burger King, which was disgusting and pathetic. After all that, our flight ended up having tons of turbulence, no lights and a screaming, smelly baby.
BG: I actually really enjoyed the delay. It got really funny watching people freak out. It turned into an episode of Boiling Points.
I find when you get out on the road, people have some, uh, interesting, stereotypical ideas about “New York” bands.
JK: Yeah, you get the same shtick from everyone about how New Yorkers supposedly talk and act. And although I should make it clear I am a lifelong Jersey resident, I get hit with the same things from people. I think all of my regional arguments stem from my pizza and bagel snobbery. New York and New Jersey are good at making both of these things (I can almost hear the collective scoff and guffaw of New Yorkers at my inclusion of New Jersey), and pretty much the rest of the country is not. In fact, they are almost always terrible at it. Free pizza is free pizza and I will eat it and thank people for it no matter where I am, but I am not going to tell you that it in any way compares to what I get back home.
You’ve been to Europe—when, where? Plans to go again?
BG: Last fall we toured Europe. We went to the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands. It was great! Most of me really wants to go back, but I have awful anxiety issues, so touring in general is a really daunting task at times.
Please relate all the great things about touring Europe that bands love to always wax rhapsodic about.
JK: The goddamn food. You get a steak dinner when you play The Pits in Kortrijk, Belgium. Some venues spring for full-on catered meals. It always seems like a mistake, like they must think we’re some other band that is way more important than we are. They just treat all of the bands well over there. Actually, the hospitality wound up making me feel guilty about how shitty it must be for a European band to come to America and get nothing pretty much every night in terms of food and drink.
And how about what made you miss America while over there?
JK: American soda. I’m a soda addict and I only like soda made with high fructose corn syrup, which I know is terrible. I’ve tried to get into the stuff that’s made with cane sugar, but it just does not do it for me. They have stricter food regulations over there which consequently prevents Europeans from imbibing diabetes fuel all of the time as we do here in the States.
You list yourselves as a Jersey band. Do all the members live in New Jersey?
BG: No. Ryan lives in Brooklyn, but when we started we were an all-New Jersey band. We grew up listening to bands like the Misfits, Adrenalin OD, and Chronic Sick, so claiming New Jersey is not such a bad thing in my eyes.
You just had two record release shows for your new singles compilation. How were they?
BG: The Philly show was with Sickoids, who I think are one of the best bands currently playing. It was their last local show for a long time because they are all moving away, so it was kind of bittersweet, but a great show all the same. It was in someone’s kitchen, it was wild! The Brooklyn show was with a bunch of our friends bands—like Nuclear Santa Claust, Mutant Genes, and Barge—so that was cool. Always nice to come home after a tour and play a local show with our buds.
What made you decide to do a singles comp already?
BG: Our first single, “Killer Waves,” was limited to only 500, so that had been out of print for a while. Our 2009 demo was out of print too. Our two other remaining singles sold out recently at the same time and we either needed to repress them both; or we had the option to just press all four of those releases on one 12″ and then just keep that in print. It seemed like the easiest route.
You’re playing House of Vans. Are you all skateboarders?
BG: I skateboarded for fun growing up, but always sucked. PJ is pretty good. Ryan is really into roller blading. If you see a guy in hot pink shorts doing food delivery on rollerblades in Brooklyn, honk and wave, because that’s Ryan.
PJ: I actually haven’t made it out to a skate park in well over a year, which is stupid and pathetic. And I’m not very good either. But the last couple times I skated around town and stuff I kept my boots on, which I must say is pretty cool.
If the Night Birds play a day show, are you just called The Birds? And have you ever seen that Hitchcock movie?
JK: It’s actually “Big Brian Gorsucker & The Daytime Fowl.”
BG: We played a day show the other day under the name Sack Lunch, that’s way better. The Hitchcock movie is a classic, but being the glutton of pain that I am, I tried to watch the remake the other night and wanted to toss my TV out the window.
PJ: Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a far superior film.
Night Birds play House of Vans with Turbonegro and Doomriders tonight.