"I would put Mike Patton as world-class troll, but also maybe a sociopath," says Drug Church's Patrick Kindlon with a laugh. "And I can't compete with that. I can troll to an extent, I can tease the audience to a certain place."
The singer is reflecting on Faith No More's epic frontman in relation to his own predilection for getting a rise out of audience through his occasionally confrontational, often irreverent and generally hilarious streams of consciousness that make up his stage banter, social-media presence and lyrics.
His willingness to say whatever the fuck he's thinking is are rarity in 2019's heavily scrutinized media landscape, but Kindlon doesn't pull any punches onstage and on record. Sometimes his antics get him in trouble (his headier band Self Defense Family has been criticized, and by Kindlon's estimation, blacklisted for being too "masculine"). But it's exactly his eagerness to call shit out on Drug Church's latest LP Cheer that helps make it a refreshing listen. He points directly at self-righteous punks that wish to take him down in "Tillary," yelling "No Gods, No Masters you sing but you sure love playing police."
Released in 2018 on Pure Noise Records, Cheer is a pipe bomb of late-Nineties big-room rock music filtered through a bunch of Albany hardcore kids. The poppy-yet-chunky guitar work is able to quickly snap between thoughtful and sugary. The divergence between fun music and yelled vocals creates a push-pull dynamic that ties the record together.
In fact contradiction is intrinsic in Cheer. After seven years, Drug Church have dropped a big, accessible hook-filled record that still serves up some acerbic commentary — which has surprised more than a few longtime fans (as well as some close friends). "I played this new Drug Church record for Self Defense and they said it sounds like Sum 41 and POD," says Kindlon. "There's a lot of stuff going on in there that isn't what people think of me as playing. But I've always said that, look, you trust your band mates; if they kick out a ska song, you fucking sing on a ska song."
Lead single "Weed Pin" uses a gig as a scientific assistant as a metaphor for having no idea what to do when you have no skills. "Unlicensed Hall Monitor" calls out those online looking to moralize any poor decision by a public figure, when they themselves are guilty of far worse things in their own lives. The reflection is all set to driving, massive guitar riffs and a generally upbeat kind of playing that ironically mirrors the dissonance that Kindlon lyrics confront. "Unlicensed Hall Monitor" criticizes the criticizers and scene cops, calling out the guy with "a search history darker than a sea trench telling you how to live."
Cheer is a record for the now, a siren of fed-up emotions towards those around him, though done with wit and restraint. We spoke to Kindlon about the new record, trolling the masses and more.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST?
PATRICK KINDLON Oh, damn. Probably when I realized I wasn't good at anything else. I don't know. I still feel it's kind of how I make my money now and it's the biggest part of my life, and I still in some respect don't know if I would leap straight to that in telling someone what I do for a living or how I see myself even. Also, a thing that I've come to reflect on a lot as some of the older comic book professionals that I grew admiring are starting to pass away: how the world sees you, and if they see you only as a utility that provided them with something that they enjoy versus the more intimate, human version of yourself.
So to be honest, I don't even know if I ... I wouldn't run from the title artist. And if somebody said I wasn't, I'd punch them in the nose. But I wouldn't rush there. Even for someone that's done it their whole life now, it still feels like it's got some air of pretension. But fuck it, everybody says I'm pretentious anyway. Whatever. I guess I'm an artist.
WHAT WERE YOUR BEGINNINGS AS A MUSICIAN?
In high school, some friends were forming the band and they wanted me to be involved; but I can't play anything. So I ended up singing and I don't know why. That's happened a couple times in my life, that people just said, "You're the singer." And I don't know why that would be necessarily, as I displayed no aptitude for it. I think maybe in the absence of a talented person, you just kind of defer to the person most willing to be untalented publicly. You know what I mean? Maybe bands just say, "Well, we don't have a real singer. So we're gonna need someone that's comfortable failing." And maybe I give off that energy.
IS DRUG CHURCH THE MOST POPULAR THING YOU'VE DONE IN YOUR CAREER?
I wouldn't say that. It's funny, 'cause to people that follow my shit, I think a lot of them saw Drug Church as, "Oh, obviously this will go bigger 'cause it's got much more of a pop sensibility than Self Defense does" for example. And people ask me which band is bigger and I would have to kind of explain that it's a bit apples and oranges because Drug Church, certainly if you look on Spotify is bigger; but if you look at physical media sold, then Self Defense is bigger. And then you've got the whole idea of what lasts, what's gonna matter to people in a few years? It's impossible to guess, if anything.
We might all be fucking in a bomb shelter eating some cans by then. But it wouldn't surprise me if Drug Church was the thing that people gravitated to just because it's, and I don't mean this as an insult to my own work, it's just a little bit easier I think.
FOR SURE. TO BE 100% TRANSPARENT, I PITCHED DOING A SELF DEFENSE INTERVIEW EARLIER THIS YEAR AND GOT TURNED DOWN. BUT THEY WERE WAY INTO THIS INTERVIEW. IS IT WEIRD TO HAVE ONE BAND SUCCEED IN ONE REALM OVER THE OTHER WITH STUFF LIKE THAT?
That's actually the thing. Right now Self Defense just put out the best record of our career, and we found it hard to get press. And part of that is because we've been around for a long time. It's gonna be another few years before that's enough of a story. Before, "Oh, look at this band that's been doing good work for fucking 20 years" is enough of a story. So right now, it's just band that's been putting out good work for the last few years puts out more good work. Whoopdie do. You know what I mean?
So it was really not easy to find press on that last record. But Drug Church, this new record is kind of just breaking through for a lot of people. A lot of people are hearing us for the first time, which is making those numbers kind of grow. And it's a bit easier to write about. Particularly because Pure Noise did a smart thing by kind of making it part of the press rollout that this is the easy record to love. That this is a popular record, that this is our more go for it record. And it's meant that I've had to answer a lot of questions about that, but it's also, it's a nice hook because it's simultaneously true and also just kind of the type of talk that if it's honest and it's transparent, you don't get a lot of it. So it's made it so media journalists ... at least there's a hook. There's something to put your fucking claws into. Because, "This is a good record" has never gotten any journalist to write anything. You know what I mean? There's got to be a gravity well of speculation or something sexy about it.
IN THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BAND, WAS THERE EVER A POINT AS A MUSICIAN WHERE YOU WERE AGAINST THE IDEA OF DOING SOMETHING THAT WAS MAYBE CATCHIER OR MORE ON THE POP SIDE?
Yeah. There have been a couple riffs that I've just said, "No, I can't do that." And we'll fight about it or whatever. On this LP, there was definitely a song ... fuck, I don't remember what the single is. The newest single. But the riff on it, the demo version; I had nothing but derision for. I wasn't willing to put it on the record. I said, "No, that one's got to stay in the vault so that we can cannibalize it. Do something interesting with the parts. But I can't fuck with that riff." And then in the studio, when we actually did the LP; not the demos for it, they beefed up the riff and made it ugly. So then I could fuck with it.
I say that I say yes to everything in Drug Church, but there's a limit. There are just things that I physically can't do. Like there was a fight about me being in the video. And I just kind of refused to be in a video where a band plays, you know? And then there are riffs that are just too bubblegum for me. But at the same time, that's the fucking deal. 'Cause it's all a challenge and trying to make it compelling for yourself is part of the excitement of the whole thing. It's basically problem-solving. It's only when I can't solve the problem that I eventually put my foot down and say, "No, I can't fuck with those. It's too much."
IT'S KIND OF INCREDIBLE WHAT WORKS WITH THE BAND, AND HOW YOU PULL IT OFF. THE END PART OF "TILLARY," AND I DON'T MEAN ANY OFFENSE BY THIS, BUT UNDER A DIFFERENT BAND IT COULD SOUND LIKE SUCH A CORNY OUTRO. BUT THE WAY IT LOCKS IN WITH YOUR LYRICS EARLIER, IT BECOMES CATHARTIC. THE BAND SOUND LIKE A GROUP OF PUNKS THAT HONED IN ON A NINETIES KIND OF VIBE WITH THESE HUGE CHORUSES. WHAT WAS THAT PARTICULAR SONG LIKE TO WRITE?
You mentioned that there's this kind of Nineties approach of big riffs, or maybe early 2000s would be more appropriate. The approach of big riffs on this record. The reason I think that that works for us is that the band members are sincere fans of that, except for me. I hate that sort of shit, but they're sincere fans. They grew up on that, they love that and I think that that probably makes it so there's a better understanding and it's not particularly cynical. 'Cause whenever dudes that played in fucking hardcore acts or whatever try to do a band that is more traditionally palatable, they always seem to be reaching to a bag of tricks they don't fully understand. You know?
Like maybe they don't fully love it, so it feels cynical. It feels too self-aware in a way, too. The one thing I can say for better or for worse with Drug Church that everybody that I play in the band with is, they're not scared of rock music. They like that shit. So I think that means it those riffs are a little bit more informed. They're not corny because there's a better understanding of genre.
YEAH. I FEEL LIKE THERE'S A SNARKY WAVE OF WEEZER CLONES PLAYING LIKE DIY VENUES THAT TAKE NINETIES INFLUENCE IN A VERY UNINTERESTING WAY TO THE POINT WHERE IT SOUNDS LIKE A COVER BAND. BUT THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THE SINCERITY AND A LOT OF DIFFERENT INFLUENCES COMING TOGETHER THAT MAKE IT WAY DIFFERENT AND AGGRESSIVE.
If I have any role in shaping the sound of the band, it's my limitation as a vocalist. We couldn't be a Goo Goo Dolls rip, because I'm not physically capable. So instead, the writing kind of meets me halfway. So it stays fairly aggressive because what choice do we have? And then as a result, it's more interesting. Maybe if I wrote all the music, we would sound like Minor Threat. Maybe if they decided solely on the direction of the band, we'd sound more like Goo Goo Dolls. And I'm grateful that we didn't achieve either of those things.
I'm grateful that it's its own thing. So yeah, I think that those bands that find themselves in a rut of maybe sounding like an homage to something or a pastiche, I think that they just need to be bad at something. Have somebody in the band be bad at something and then it'll help inform. Or have somebody be exceptional at something. I suppose if you were playing Letters to Cleo and you had a drummer that just could not stop, you might be on to something. Developing a purely original genre is ... It's almost never intentional. And when it is, it's quite contrived and stupid. So most things probably are born out of limitations or having one exceptional player that can't be contained. Honestly, that would be an interesting thing. What if you tried to ... What if somebody tried to do Weezer but their natural inclination was prog?
Now that sounds like a nightmare to me, right? That sounds like the worst music that's ever existed, but in 2018 with all the Weezer clones I've seen in my fucking life; I would be very grateful for the band that is just too talented to do it straight. That just can't stop touching the guitar. A Weezer riff, like they can't do it correctly because they're given to that other sort of excitement.
WITH DRUG CHURCH, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU PLAY IN FRONT OF DIFFERENT AUDIENCES WHO YOU WOULDN'T ACCESS OTHERWISE WITH SELF DEFENSE. THERE'S THIS VIDEO ONLINE OF YOU IN ORANGE COUNTY OPENING FOR THE STORY SO FAR, AND YOU'RE MAKING JOKES ABOUT THAT OC METALCORE WAVE LIKE EIGHTEEN VISIONS, AND THE CROWD HAS NO CLUE WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. IS IT FUN TO PLAY IN FRONT OF CROWDS WHO JUST COMPLETELY DON'T GET YOUR PERSPECTIVE OR SENSE OF HUMOR?
Yeah, it definitely can be. There's dudes who are natural trolls, they're born trolls. You have to be three fifths a sociopath to be a truly legendary troll. I would put … oh fuck, who's the kid from Faith No More?
OH, MIKE PATTON?
Yeah. I would put Patton as world class troll. But also maybe a sociopath. And I can't compete with that. I can troll to an extent, I can tease the audience to a certain place. Like David Yow at his best is a monstrous goblin of a man. He's a troll, and he's perfect at it because there's a fearlessness. And I'm not quite on those mans level yet, but I find it very fun to try to win and lose an audience and then win them again. My bandmates don't always appreciate it, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.
But sometimes I'll intentionally lose an audience fully and then at the last song I'll try to win them back and see if I can't do it. And sometimes I just hit the side of the mountain and there's no winning them back. And it's just a loss, you know? 90% of the audience will never have an interest in us ever. But it's fun. Losing the audience intentionally is a thing that I'll sometimes still do.
But other days, it depends. Sometimes it's fun to win everybody over and have everybody in the same space mentally. And then other days it's more fun to gain and lose and gain and lose. Being on stage, I don't say this with any bit of pride because it's not about me being good at anything; it's just familiarity. Anybody's capable of what I'm about to say, which is just if you've been on stage a whole lot and there's not much that scares you anymore; you kind of got to set yourself up to be a little scared. You've got to set yourself up to fail in some sort of way, you know? Because I've had just about every ... I've shit myself multiple times. I've had mishaps. So you kind of got to still find ways to make being on stage a tight rope walk of some sort.
DOES SUCCESS SCARE YOU?
You know I don't know, that's a good question. I continuously do things to stand in the way of it, so maybe. This sounds heady, like I've put too much thought into a thing; but I think that part of the reason that I have been a dick online for 10 years is because I don't want anybody to approach me with a false impression that I'm not a human being that says and does bad things sometimes.
Look, the things that I'm interested in are public facing. It's not like I'm trying to be a success at day trading. And I really, really, really hate a stranger's expectations. Every moment of my life, I hate it. I hate it when I'm fully anonymous, and I hate it when I am recognized. I hate somebody putting their totally unwanted expectation of who I am on me. So in that respect, yeah success is a bit scary. But not because I don't want nice things, just because the careers that I have are public facing and I just don't want to deal with quote-unquote fans.
I just don't want to deal with somebody coming up to me and then if I disappoint them in some sort of way, they get all frowny. And you want to slap their face because it's like, "Yo, we don't know each other at all. I don't owe you anything. It's bizarre that you should think that a stranger has to behave in a way that corresponds with your totally manufactured expectations of them." So yeah, that's the only part of success that I have no interest in. But I'll take the money, definitely. I'll take the recognition at being good. But that's another thing.
There was a band that Self Defense used to play with a fair amount; and they went from not being able to fill 100 cap to we played with them and they filled a really big room. And they brought a new record, they had a lot of energy around it. And afterward, I was congratulating them on their success and everything. I said, "But be honest with me, do you hate these people?" And they were real honest back. They said, "Oh yeah, we fucking hate these people." They're like, "We made the same music a year ago, but these people are here now. Why is that? That doesn't feel very honest to me."
Because it takes a sick narcissist, it takes a fucked up person; not the type that I am, I'm the self-aware narcissist, which is the least functioning and least successful. Because if you know it, then you can put in little safeguards against your own behavior. But the people who are most successful have no sort of boundary, no safeguards against their behavior. But you've got to be a sick fuck, you've got to be a real ugly narcissist to be like, "You know what? It's time people realized I'm a genius. These people are late to the game, but I'm glad they showed up."
Like what kind of sick fuck are you? So I'm not that sort of guy. Imagine if Self Defense breaks out and becomes and indie darling of some type. I'm gonna be like, "Fuck you. Fuck all these fucking music critics. Fuck music press, fuck the fans. Fuck this, fuck everybody." I've been doing this thing with a lot of passion for a lot of years, where the fuck were you at? You know what I mean? Oh, you weren't reading the right periodicals? So you didn't that a fucking great thing existed? Suck my dick. Same thing with comics.
My comic work, there's nobody on Earth that says it's not good. So not to talk myself out of a job or anything for any editors that might be reading this, but when editors come around on me and are like, "Oh yeah, I heard from so and so that you're doing good work. I wanted to check it out." I want to be like, "Why do you need to hear from so and so?" I've been doing good work for years. I guess that's that ugly, self-aware narcissism right? Which is I'm self-aware enough to know that not everybody's got the bandwidth to just absorb everything at all times and that I should be understanding, and say, "I'm just glad that people are coming around to a thing." But then the narcissist in me is like, "The motherfucker, fuck. You know what it is to fuck your ass for years doing good work?" Where the fuck were you at? So yeah. So in that respect, I fear success because obviously I'm gonna go online and witness myself.