Burnt Ones have recently given me hope… in a hopeless time… It’s been years since “Rock’N’Roll” has evoked thoughts of anything aside from chunky, post-frat boys kicking it for people in cargo shorts in front of a banner for some drink that makes you hyper… or people your parents’ age still trying to make long hair and leather pants work in front of upper-middle-class honkies in a basketball arena. But Burnt Ones remind me that there was a time when “Rock’N’Roll” wasn’t quite so safe, wasn’t quite so palatable, and wasn’t quite so… expected. Last month they released their sophomore LP, You’ll Never Walk Alone, on Burger Records. And although these San Francisco rockers are aware that the city’s garage scene is really more or less done, they’re taking their fuzzy chops on new sonic adventures… And don’t worry, these adventures are neither “older” nor “wiser,” but just as juvenilely reckless as any great Rock band should be… If anything, they’re sounding slightly more soulfully sloppy (Their latest music video was actually shot on VHS.) Next week the band kicks off a month of dates (which I’ve listed below, because they don’t seem to exist anywhere else for public viewing on the internet) and I recently got a chance to chat with Burnt Ones’ Mark Tester about the most significant ingredients behind the band’s latest sounds.
Izzy Cihak: You’re from San Francisco, which seems to have an amazing music scene. Despite being a Philadelphia-based publication, I feel like I interview more acts from SF than any other city. What are your thoughts on the city’s music scene? Any favorite regional peers?
Mark Tester: San Francisco is a pretty interesting place right now. I think the music scene here is in a bit of a transitional phase. Most of the bands that I imagine people identify San Francisco with have moved way beyond an isolated scene, per say, or in some cases just moved away or stopped playing altogether. And then promising younger bands that were carrying the torch, like the Mallard and Blasted Canyons, have since broken up. I also feel like there’s a general disillusion among San Francisco bands about being tied in to any sort of scene that defines several different bands as being part of the same thing. For our part, we’ve only lived in San Francisco for three years and really just caught the tail-end of that whole thing and, in my opinion, have always been kind of on the outside of it, just cause we generally don’t base what we’re doing on what other people around us are doing. My favorite band from San Francisco right now is either Violent Change or the solo stuff that Mike Donovan of Sic Alps is doing.
IC: You just released You’ll Never Walk Alone. How does the album compare to previous releases?
MT: I spent a lot more time recording You’ll Never Walk Alone than any record I’ve ever worked on. I also generally write songs, record them, and then don’t really think about them again unless we have to play them live. With the new record, I imagined it, more or less, in its’ entirety and tried to work on it as one cohesive thing, instead of a collection of recordings that are in no way tied together.
IC: What would you consider to be the album’s biggest influences, whether musical or not?
MT: I started writing the record after we moved from Indianapolis to San Francisco and basically had to start everything in my life over from scratch, which wasn’t really as hard as it sounds at all. I did, and still do sometimes, feel really isolated from everything around me. Maybe “unfamiliar” is more accurate? Isolation brought on by new surroundings, low self-esteem, and uncertainty. Just the general spinning of a wheel with nowhere in mind to go but an unflappable feeling that there is somewhere, it hasn’t gone yet. Musically, I just knew I wanted to get away from what people might be expecting from our records, while still trying to be realistic about and comfortable with what we naturally sound like. I guess I just tried, and still try, to relate more to records and bands that tend to never get trapped into any one thing. Getting an 8-track 1/4-inch tape machine and having to teach myself how to use it was probably the biggest musical influence. That and getting a wah-pedal.
IC: I fucking love that your latest video was shot on VHS… Almost like 2013’s version of Super 8 and Cinema of Transgression. Do you have any particularly favorite or influential cinematic artists?
MT: I really like Ingmar Bergman and Roman Polanski as far as films go but, to be honest, I’m not a huge film buff. I’m more interested in found footage and bits of video that catch my eye without explicitly trying to … just everyday stuff.
IC: You’re about to embark on a US tour. What can be expected of the live dates?
MT: We’re playing mostly stuff off of our new record, and some songs that are even newer than that. We’re also playing with a second guitar player now, which has really helped expand what we sound like live. Hopefully we will be a sonic powerhouse by the time we make it to Philadelphia.
IC: What are you most excited for in 2013? What are your most significant hopes and goals?
MT: Just the regular, old, tunnel-vision band stuff, really. Looking forward to starting on our next record the most and trying to just keep on shape-shifting in to whatever Burnt Ones does or doesn’t become.
Tues. June 11 – San Francisco, CA @ The Eagle
Mon. June 17 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Wed. June 19 – Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl Social Club
Thur. – Sat. June 20 – 22 – Calgary, AB @ Sled Island Festival
Mon. June 24 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
Tues. June 25 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Hexagon
Wed. June 26 – Milwaukee, WI @ Mickey’s Tavern
Fri. June 28 – Indianapolis, IN @ Broadripple Park
Sat. June 29 – Cleveland, OH @ The Happy Dog
Sun. June 30 – New York, NY @ Death By Audio
Wed. July 3 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Chameleon
Thu. July 4 – Indianapolis, IN @ Secret July 4 House Show BBQ Bash
Sat. July 6 – Knoxville, TN @ The Pilot Light
Mon. July 8 – Atlanta, GA @ The 529
Tue. July 9 – New Orleans, LA @ The Circle Bar
Wed. July 10 – Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas
Thur. July 11 – El Paso, TX @ Calavera Cafe
Fri. July 12 – Tucson, AZ @ TLMS
Sat. July 13 – San Diego, CA @ The Soda Bar