Bummers Interview: Duck Spit, Stage Chemistry, and YouTube Winter Escape Routes

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A few months ago, while poking around Columbus OH, for a live show to cover for Overblown, I had the good fortune to catch Bummers playing the middle act between fellow locals Mount Carmel and The Main Street Gospel. The Bummers, by the way, were awesome (This is the show I mentioned where the guitarist, Jeff Pearl, casually removed a soft cast from his arm in order to play, which was a cool thing I’d never seen anyone do. Also, their set was choice for booty shaking). In addition to their absolute talent for pleasing a live audience, their album, “Bummers”, has the ability to make its listeners dream about beaches, eternal summers, and the sun. The type of shit you have to think about to get through the second half of winter (and being from Ohio, you can trust the guys in this band to know how to get through a winter).

And because it’s January, we all need a good distraction from the shit weather, so it seems like the absolute right time to get back in touch with Bummers (Chris Steris, Steven Sikes-Gilbert, Jeff Pearl, and Michael Murtha), and chat about how they make songs and where we can see and hear them next. I personally can’t wait to be able to go see them play without needing to wear a coat (it’s really, really hard to hard to dance comfortably to a band like Bummers under too many layers).

Overblown: First of all, sweet band name, dudes. What made you all choose “Bummers” as the title for your musical crew?

Bummers: Everyone’s a Bummer man. Not in the sense that everyone sucks but that all of our friends were kind of in that struggling to make ends meet, partying hard, just getting weird stage of life when we started. Life can get ya down but you just have to knuckle up. Bummers was kind of a title for all of us.

O: What “quick and dirty” phrase would you use to describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard you before?

B: Panhandle grit or duck spit. They both kind of sum up the vibe.

O: How do you collaborate on and offstage? Any practice tips?

B: We all have some side projects that we mess around with in the dark corners of our homes. In the beginning most of the songs came from these old rippers we would bring to the table and within a couple minutes the song would be complete. Nowadays, a lot of our songs were improv jams during practice. One dude will touch on a melody or a riff and everyone will fall right into place (that’s if the original dude doesn’t forget what he was playing. That happens quite a bit too).

O: Which instrument was each member’s first love?

B: For Steris, Steve, and myself I can safely say guitar was our first love. Bummers is technically 3 guitar players and a drummer. None of us are I guess “trained” at the power of the bass. We switch off because each guy has a unique style with that beast. It helps to keep the songs fresh and to give Murtha something new to go along with. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Murtha was born with some drumsticks in hand so I am sure that’s his first love.

O: Did the process of recording your first album change how the band approaches music making in any way?

B: We actually finished writing and tweaked a lot of songs in the studio while we were recording. We brought some friends in to lighten the mood and just had fun with it.  All too often the studio can be intimidating & a bit scary (deadlines, being broke, live tracking screw ups, etc), but if you kind of balance the weirdness of all of that with some chill people and engineers it’s actually a good time.

O: I’ve seen you guys play, and I have to say, your group has excellent stage chemistry. What tips do you all have for performers?

B: It helps to be solid bros before you start a band. Chris and I met in 2nd grade so we’ve had our share of weird times. We’ve known Steve & Murtha for around 10 years so I definitely think it helps to find a collective vibe over time. Even with knowing someone a while they are still going to get under your skin and/or do something you might not dig. Having a good foundation helps you work through it ya know. I sound like Dr. Phil.

O: What other artists have inspired or influenced Bummers?

B: Umm… I think we’re individually all over the place when it comes to tuneage. I tend to hang back in the classic rock realm for the most part but I still get hip to some of the bands out now (The Growlers, White Fence, Ty Segall, Twin Peaks just to name a few). There’s just so much out there. Steve is low-fi or die. You name a band he could tell you what the dudes ate for breakfast. It’s insane. Murtha is all over the place from Numero Group funk, Ethiopian jazz, Bubble Puppy, etc. Nice eclectic blend for sure.

O: Where can we plan to see Bummers this year?

B: Everywhere… The first album took a second to get out but we have a nice catalog of plush jams ready to follow it up. So maybe a spring E.P. and a couple splits here soon. We’re hopefully to branch out on some more regional tours here soon as well.

O: Your new album, Bummers, is absolutely warm weather music, a great break from January, so I trust you guys to have good advice on this: What is the best summertime video jam to be found on YouTube right now?

B: When I think of summer, I think Bronco. Cue this gem up at sunset and you’re good to go.

Photo Credit: Eric Cronstein