Interview with Bang The Union - Psycho Sarah

Bang the Union has a voice all their own, they have their influences, and their traditions in music, and it shows. I purchased there album earlier this year, and loved it. I still do. Here is what they had to say when I questioned them….

Bang the Union are:
James Grevas: bass
Matt Blackmon: drums
Brett Ciaramella: guitar
Billy Wrench: vocals
Charles Garris: guitar

Where did your name come from? Did one of you come up with it, or did you come up with it as a band?

James: We wanted something that was more of an action statement than a name, and it kind of evolved from there.

Billy: A mixture of Bang the Street and Charles Wanting Union in the name.

What category do you put yourselves in? Are you Hard Rock? Metal? Or somewhere in between?

James: We consider what BTU does as rock and roll, with an emphasis on ROLL. This common thread in all of us is that we like music that grooves as much as it rocks. If it doesn’t move, it doesn’t really matter how loud it is.

Brett: Rock and roll band, period.

Billy: Hard Rock…R&B based…

How did you start Bang the Union, what is the history?

James: We have all known each other for a pretty long time, and had played together in various incarnations. Billy and Charles had wanted for awhile to put together something that gave them a chance to really let go musically, and had pretty specific ideas about who they wanted for which roles. We all drank over it for awhile, decided it was right, and there you go.

Brett: All of us were industry vets. Billy and Charles were together at the time writing songs. I knew Bill well, but never played with him. He saw what I was all about musically, and we decided we had to put together a R'n'R band immediately. He called James the next day and it was on.

Billy: Charles and Billy had a group that disbanded and we knew the other guys from different Atlanta bands.

Did you start out as a regional act, releasing your own records, EP’s? If so how did it get you to the spot where you are today?

James: A few of the songs on AMERICAN DREAM were released prior to the full CD locally in Atlanta, primarily as a demo disc. We later added a few more, and after signing with Fastlane, added two more. In the meantime, we played a good bit regionally, and were sending out a lot of material at the same time.

Billy: Yea, we put out our own c.d.'s and eventually Fastlane heard us and dug it.

Do you feel People get more out of the record, or the live shows?

James: If you like the record, the live shows will not disappoint.

Matt: We try to capture the passion of the record and convey it to our live performances.

Brett: The record is much cleaner in a sonic sort of way. Live there is much more dirt, at least for me. I just let go and don't worry about it. Feel it and let it ride.

Billy: Both are representative, but I feel that you really have to see BTU to know the full spectrum of the band.

How would you describe the music scene in your home state? Georgia is it?

James: Yes, Atlanta is home- Actually, the scene here is drying up to some degree. Two major clubs just closed in the last month or so. Atlanta is a lot like LA- very spread out- so people tend to stay in there own boroughs. There are some really good bands in Atlanta, though.

Matt: Atlanta has a number of different scenes. most people would probably recognize it as a more "hip-hop" friendly town. however, I think that people are not as connected with the music scene as they were 10 years ago.

Brett: The absolute worst radio market anywhere in the world, bar none. Other than that, I have no comment. Great place for R&B and hip-hop though.

Billy: We're from Atlanta, and the most predominant music scene here is Rap. There are some excellent rock bands trying to forge their way and be heard.

What song on the American Dream Album is the one that gives you the most satisfaction and why?

James: There are some I like more than others, personally, but I'm not sure I have a favorite (and the list of what I like more changes all the time.). I think there are moments on AD, however, that are unbelievable- I'm very lucky to play with the guys I do.

Matt: Not just because I play in the band, but every song on the AD album personally gives satisfaction. I can honestly say that I am BTU biggest fan, the other four members might argue that though! we try to construct every song as we think someone else would like to hear it played. we are all huge music fans ourselves, we don't want to write a bull shit song just to give us that 10th track for the complete album.

Billy: For me (Billy) On Your Knees...I love the groove and the message.

Speaking of the American Dream, what do you think the American Dream is? I wrote a paper in college about it and my teachers didn't quite think it was funny. I thought the American Dream was to get Paid, Laid, and Made. Wait. I learned that off of Wrestling, no wonder they didn't think I was funny. What do you think?

James: Pretty funny- and probably more accurate than most want to admit...Seriously- (wait, I need to find my soapbox...here it is...) the cool thing about this country is that you can pick your own dream and follow it. You may not get all of it, but at least you've got the chance.

Matt: Democracy

Billy: The American Dream to me is a little complex, but mostly is about being free and able to do whatever you want...Very important.

"We consider what BTU does as rock and roll, with an emphasis on ROLL...If it doesn’t move, it doesn’t really matter how loud it is."
Are there plans for a new record? If so when?

James: We are kind of in writing mode at the moment, and have some stuff already that I think is great. WE are maturing as a band, and the new stuff represents that. While it's not a dramatic from AD, it is, let's say, more "developed". If you like AD, you'll really like the new stuff.

Brett: Writing and recording as we speak. Actually, I am writing almost everyday in some way or another.

Billy: We are constantly writing and recording, but no dates have been set.

If there was something you could do differently or would do differently with the next album, what would it be?

James: More accordion. Seriously, because of how we work, we have the opportunity to refine things as we go- I think new stuff will better capture what this band is like live.

Matt: I would say more cowbell, HA!! HA!!

Brett: I would love to have so many great songs that we would have to pare them down and throw some away. Or put out a double album, but I think those days are sadly over.

Billy: You're always trying to improve, from recording techniques to performance, but specifically for me, more freedom in the structures and melodies

I haven't had the chance to see you in concert yet, how is it to play to such different audiences, or are the audiences really all that different?

James: You know, I really think that people are for the most part disconnected from music- which is odd given that there is more access to it than ever before. There are a lot of folks that don't really understand live, organic rock and roll- and when faced with it, they just come unglued. We've had kids that grew up on grunge and Nu Metal come up after shows and say "I don't know what I just saw, but MY GOD I have to learn!". That's a BTU show.

Billy: The audiences are quite different in parts of the country...It is always fun to experience new people and see the more reserved crowds as well as the CRAZY ones!! The reserved ones kind of suck, but I appreciate first of all that they're there, and second of all, they're trying to listen to the music and get something from it as opposed to just fucked up.

What are your influences in music, was 80's glam metal any influence?

James: We have varied taste in music, and I think it shows. There are a couple of us that were into that stuff, and a couple of us that were more into old wave punk and early R&B and all that. We do get a lot of fans that are into 80's glam.

Brett: Not really. Def Leppard is about as close to an influence that I could consider as far as glam metal. I was always much more of a Zep guy.

Billy: Didn't dig the 80's glam, but LOVED the 70's glam...Obviously AC/DC and Faces..

Your music has not one distinct sound to it, you hear something different with each song, was that planned?

James: Planned, no. I do know that most of the albums we all really love had lots of different things on them. That, and we all have really short attention spans.

Matt: Again, we all have such a wide variety taste in music, that I think there is a lot of representation of all forms. or that's what we would like to think!!

Brett: No. All of your influences should come out in various ways. You absurd what you hear through osmosis. So most sounds are unconscious. They are just felt.

Billy: When we were recording AD, it actually took about a year and we were a new band still figuring each other out, so it wasn't really planned, just evolved that way..

What advise if any, would you give to a band, that’s trying to break into the music industry?

James: I'm not sure we're in any position to give advise to anyone- But having said that, I'd say that it's the music first- create something you really believe in, and do everything you can to promote it. And most importantly, get used to the word "no". You will hear it a lot

Matt: Good question, I will let you know when we get there!!

Brett: Learn to enjoy being poor.

Billy: Be persistent and prepared to give up everything!!

Everyone has a view of pop music, do you feel that Bang the Union could be pop music?

James: Hmmm- I used to have this bar argument with a friend about bands based on whether they were pop acts with a big "P", meaning they added something valuable to music in general, or little "p" meaning they were not. In my way of thinking, GNR would be a big P, Warrant would be a little p. We want BTU to be a big P.

Brett: If you write that really incredible song, it will be a Pop song. The infectiousness will create that itself. Very hard to do if you are trying to stay true to what you are and not try to follow the leader. I have always said that The Clash's Train in Vain is the best pop song I have ever heard in my life. That song was an accident. It just came out. So if BTU can be a pop band in that way, I good with that.

Billy: In some circumstances, no.

I have heard countless times, that you as a band sound like AC/DC. Do you feel that people judge you on the fact that you sound like ACDC? Do you think that you should like AC/DC?

James: I'm not sure I have a problem with that- could be a lot worse... There are some easy comparisons to make on AD- one reviewer said we'd be better off as a tribute band (maybe there's something to that- we'd probably make a lot more money...). But I think that the real common element is that ACDC moved- The early Bon Scott stuff had more in common with Chuck berry than it did their contemporaries, and that's what I think BTU is all about

Matt: That's fine with me. you always risk the chance of being compared to something much worse, regardless of what you do. just to clarify, I’m not saying that ac/dc is bad, they are one of my favorite bands. if someone wants to compare us to ac/dc, I take it as a huge compliment.

Brett: Could be worse. Major influence on me ( not so much technique wise, but enormously as far as feel goes). Hell, I wanted to name my first son, Bon Scott Ciaramella. That didn't happen to say the least.

Billy: It's a great band to sound like and yea, at certain points we do, but as I said before, we continue to evolve and I hope people will be excited to hear the new songs...

Bang the UnionPsycho Sarah1/19/2005

American Dream
Psycho Sarah5/24/2004

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