Von Bondies mix anger and pop on comeback disc

By Yusuf Siddiquee

Back in 2004 you might have heard a song called “C’mon C’mon” by The Von Bondies and a so-called “garage rock” movement before that. Their 2004 album, called Pawn Shoppe Heart, was released to generally favorable reviews and The Von Bondies were a hot item that year, sure to make some kind of mark in their genre for us to remember.

Then, they disappeared.

Four years later and now back on the road, lead man Jason Stollsteimer and company are ready to release their third full-length album, Love, Hate, and Then There’s You. I got a chance to catch up with Stollsteimer and talk about marriage, divorce, not touring, and the fate of the music industry, just in time for their show this Thursday.

Yusuf Siddiquee: So it has been almost four years since your last full-length album…. What were you doing?

Jason Stollsteimer: Don and I have been in the studio constantly recording, whether we thought it was Von Bondies stuff or not. We have about two records’ worth of material we decided to keep. Also in those three years I’ve been married and will be divorced by the end of this week, I hope. We toured for four years straight and just needed a break; though we didn’t intend on it being three years, it ended up being nice. A lot has changed since we started. No one comes to shows anymore or buys CDs anymore, but so far our recent shows have been great. We’re back with no label, no nothing yet. We sold the EP at shows and through the website; so far it’s paying the bills.

YS: After listening to your recent EP We Are Kamikazes, I’m tempted to throw the word “pop” at you.

JS: When I hear pop I think Nirvana, Beatles, Pixies. There are two EP songs that for sure will make the new album, and we tried to put a good variety of stuff on the EP. The first song on there, “Pale Bride,” (the one you’re thinking of, I think) is where we’re at right now. There are only a few songs like “Wake Me Up” on the record.

YS: When is that new album coming out?

JS: This EP and maybe our second one are going to be used as tools for people to remember that we’re still around. We might put out another EP at the end of summer because we don’t want to release the album if nobody knows we’re still around. We haven’t played the West coast in over four years. If the second EP comes out at the end of summer, the full-length will be out in January of next year. If there is no EP, then it will come out after summer.

YS: Are CDs dead?

JS: Well, everybody has iPods or MP3 players so they don’t want to carry around CDs. I guess it is more environmentally friendly this way, but there is a whole lot less listening of whole albums. more casual listeners today, who only listen to a couple songs out of 10. Bigger labels will start dying since they’re not willing to change. They’re dinosaurs, but they don’t have to be. For our album we would’ve maybe put out 200,000 copies before, now we’ll only send 50,000. I wish it was the ’80s again, where you weren’t automatically praised for only selling a million CDs.

YS: Tell me about your progression as a songwriter: Have you intentionally tried to change or add to your songs or was it a product of habit over the years?

JS: Our first album, Lack of Communication, was recorded when we had only been a band for six months. It was very raw, very live-sounding, and it was awesome for us at the time. When we started, garage rock didn’t really exist, and then it just started to blow up around us. 2004’s Pawn Shoppe Heart was three years later and it had maybe two blues songs and most others were poppier. The new songs are less one-note stuff and more melodic. I went from never having been in a studio to being in one every day for eight years. I can’t make myself not learn how to sing.

YS: Has the constant change of live lineups changed anything important about the band?

JS: Me and Don have the most influence in the band. Before this album, he had never recorded a song, ever. And four of the songs on the new one are co-written by him and me. I had never done that; it took me eight years to write a song with someone else. But yeah, it’s always been just me and him in the studio, and the live shows have kept their high energy throughout the lineup changes. This divorce will probably help me get more pissed. I can just find a face in the crowd and get pissed.

YS: Most people will probably know you by the song “C’mon C’mon.” What was that song actually about?

JS: It was actually about an ex-girlfriend, a violent ex-girlfriend. It’s the theme song for Rescue Me, and I suppose it has taken on a different meaning for that, since it fits so perfectly. It’s crazy because I’m flattered to hear it as the New York Rangers come out on the ice, but that is totally not what it was meant for. Typically the more poppy it sounds the more likely it is about death. If it sounds evil, it’s probably an inside joke or something.

YS: Did you stop touring and creating because of your marriage?

JS: That was half the reason the band quit touring. Marriage will never happen again; this divorce has really pissed me off. You should definitely see us live.

Catch The Von Bondies on Thursday, May 15 at Subterranean at 7 p.m., with Die! Die! Die! and My Were They.