In this week's Underage column, I say you should go see new Seattle band Health Problems right now. I sat down with them recently at their incredibly hangoutable chillzone/practice space at Crybaby Studios and asked them a few questions as they passed around a mason jar larger than my head full of coffee.
You're not from around here, are you?
Ian Kurtis Crist (howls): None of us are from the Northwest. I guess I'm from the North Northwest. I'm from Alaska, so. And he's from...
Dan Shaw (bass): I'm from Massachusetts, and I moved out here two years ago for graduate school.
David Dempsey (drums): Me too, I moved out here exactly two years ago.
Dan: But I didn't know you guys... Ian does a solo project called Bat, and I had seen one of his performances in a basement at a house show in the U-District. His performance was pretty nuts and I just thought 'I need to start a band with this guy.'
Ian: We used to have a different drummer, Zach. [Health Problems] started when Zach and Dan were jamming and then I showed up, it was super nonchalant. They had a recording of what our song "Homophobic Father" is now. It was just bass and drums, but it was like, "you're here, you wanna add anything to this?"
How did your name happen?
Ian: Here, let me show you. [hands me an empty bottle of Old Rasputin] This is beer. Look at the last two words on that label [Surgeon General's Warning]. This band started very drunk. Dan is very clearheaded and has no issues with substance and things, but Zach and I struggle with alcohol, and we were incredibly drunk at that period of our lives, and the music sounded drunk.
Dan: At one of our first practices, we said "this band sounds like beer." We were sitting around practice drinking beer and kinda looked at the label and were like "this is everywhere!" It's a good name, you can interpret it all kinds of ways. There's personal health problems, societal heath problems...
Ian: Everyone has health problems. Everyone can relate to it.
So you met in Seattle?
Dan: Yeah this was in March this past year, so we've only known each other since then.
Ian: I moved here a little over two years ago, when I was seventeen. I was in a couple bands around here... [Which bands were you in?] The biggest one really was this project called Get Mean. It was more of a "friend thing", not like a serious project that I wanted to carry out. And then Bat, but I came up with that in Olympia, because I lived there for three months before I moved here.
How do you like Olympia?
Ian: I fucking love it. I didn't move here by choice, I ran out of money and couldn't find a job. It's really hard to find a job there...
Dan: I feel like there's a lot of Olympia respect or worship going on in this band. I'm the only one who hasn't lived there.
What have you released? Just a split with Pores?
Ian: Yeah, that's the only release right now. That was the last thing that we did with the old line-up... [Dan] left while it was being mixed and Zach left shortly after that... and that was the end of Zach.
Dan: I had my wedding midsummer and Zach was one of the groomsmen at my wedding, and I flew out there and flew back but he hopped freight trains across the country, and it took him a long time to get back here. Months. That's why we had to make a decision of how we were gonna move on. We wanna be a full-time band, dependably doing this.
When did this new line-up form?
David: In September.
Ian: Zach was gone and is gone a lot around the country, so it became a variable. So we kinda had the intention of well, when he's not here, at least David will know the shit. He showed up when we came up with the name.
Let's talk about your influences.
Dan: I always say Lungfish is my favorite band. And then Fugazi is always a favorite of mine. And then yeah Joy Division... And since we started the band, Ian has shown me a lot of bands that could potentially influence us, and I've gotten really excited about Pissed Jeans, No Trend, Flipper...
Ian: Essentially it would be the 80's. I like hardcore punk and stuff that came around in the 80's, but specifically anti-hardcore, just the sarcastic, noisy, fucked-up drunk music, but I also fucking love corny ass 80's like Duran Duran and Genesis and shit like that, and then I really like gothic rock and death rock out of the 80's like Christian Death and Bauhaus. And then a little 90's you know, sprinkled over the top.
David: I listen to a lot of drum and bass and breakcore, and that's completely electronic. It's weird, but that's a huge influence.
How do you feel about David Yow?
Ian: I love the Jesus Lizard. That's one of my favorite bands. That dude is badass, too. He is like 40 or 50 now and is still taking his shirt off...
Dan: I have a friend who when asked what Health Problems sounds like, he just says "Jesus Lizard". That's an oversimplification, that's not really true, but if I don't feel like having a long conversation...
Ian: I hear that the most of what we sound like.
Dan: We do wanna record with Steve Albini someday.
Are you planning on recording soon?
Ian: The idea is hopefully this month. Right now we have a lot of material, and so we've been planning on just going in and recording all of it, and then out of that will probably come an album and a few singles. I would hope that we would potentially have something come 2013 in January or February. I would like to do a full-length.
You've talked about your music being sarcastic. Where does that come from?
Ian: A lot within what I would consider the attitude of the music, like in our song "Androgeny". It's this really driving, macho, testosterone-fueled, crazy powerful punk song but the whole meaning behind it is questioning your gender and questioning your sexuality. So it's kinda like where all the dudes would come out and mosh, and then the lyrics are like "Man or woman/ What do you see in me/ Androgeny". I like when I write lyrics or write anything to kinda be sarcastic and slap myself in the face with what I'm saying to just kind of make a joke out of myself.
Dan: I think we're forced to live in a lot of complete absurdity. There's a lot in life, that it's just important to highlight the absurdity of...
Ian: There's a definite lyrical vibe of talking about the mundane with everyday, and the systematic ideal of family life and life of like 9-5 job and your 25 year mortgage plan and mom and dad's 3 or 4 bedroom suburban home and going to work. Just mundane bullshit. It's almost mocking that but speaking about it from a first-person perspective. One of these songs that we don't play much anymore is just like "We oughta get married and squeeze out a coupla kids/ Love our lives and careers just like our parents did." Just kind of a sarcastic take on that every day life you're supposed to live. Like go to college, get a degree, get a job, get married, have children, retire, and do nothing with your life.
Dan: I think that attitude is important when performing. Since we have this sarcastic front, this kinda weird attitude, if shit gets fucked up at a show, it's sorta like we're safe to fail.
Ian: I think we feel best after shows when people are awkwarded out, rather than... yeah, if people are into it and stuff, that's cool, but when we hear about people feeling really awkward or super weird, it's fulfilling. We want to make people feel uncomfortable.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and how would you live your animal life?
Dan: I would be a combination of a monkey and an octopus. An octopus has rudimentary problem-solving abilities, but then it dwells at the bottom of the ocean with eight arms. If it had the opposable thumbs of a monkey and the ability to scream and traverse the trees, it would be terrifying, everyone would respect it.
Ian: You would be an utmost respected animal.
Dan: I would spend my life just gliding through the trees shrieking at other creatures, then die of old age happily.
Ian: I would be a moose and I would spend my time grazing and thinking and shedding my antlers and spending time with my moose family. I grew up with moose in Alaska a lot, they were in my front yard, they were on the highway, everywhere. Everyone is like "moose are fucking stupid, they graze like cows and do nothing." But to me, witnessing a moose is kind of like a wise fool who thinks a lot, who just slowly goes through life smelling all the roses and experiencing things and I think slowly being happy by going through life and enjoying each bit of grass and bark that it munches on and losing its antlers and spending time with its family. A moose mother is insane— you can't go around the moose cubs— because it's so protective, so there's this whole other side of the moose. It's a very calm, reclusive individual, it's very happy and nice, but you fuck with the cubs and that shit comes out. It gets real and it will stomp the shit out of you. I would probably live my life being thoughtful and then I would probably die of old age, and doing not very many things, probably overthinking.
David: A platypus/mountain goat hybrid. A platypus because you have the best of both worlds— you can swim on water and go on land at the same time. You look fucking insane— you have these poisoned barbs at the end of your heels. And mountain goats for kind of the same reason [nods to Ian] except I would live in the deep bogs. I would just lurk. Almost like, do you ever look at deep sea beasts? They don't look like they belong at all. They look like aliens.
Ian, how many Flipper patches do you own?
Four. [laughs] I really like Flipper.
Health Problems playing the second half of "Boy Problems" & "Homophobic Father" at Chop Suey 12/05:
Health Problems play tonight at the Josephine with Freak Heat Waves (BC), Thousand Statues and Slashed Tires. Go see them right now.