|Dem Boiz on the Cover of their album "Uck Life"|
For a while I had seen the band Paint Fumes on different posters throughout the Triangle area - I had assumed they were from there since I used to see them play with bands like Last Year's Men, but it turns out that they are from Charlotte (Boy, am I a dolt!). They recently released a full-length record on Slovenly Records, which I just picked up based on recognizance of the band's name.
When I popped it onto my turntable I really was surprised how this band had slipped away from me during my time going to shows in the Triangle area. Fuzz to melt your brain with a singer who could melt your face (not to mention a great drummer [but we all know that drums don't melt because they pulverize instead]). I immediately found myself enjoying this record. It was a reminder of the spectrum of punk bands who could pick and choose the roots of rock history that appealed. Paint Fumes dissected this history and picked apart strains of the psychedelic while mounting that on top of a Buzzcocks-like 80s punk, while still maintaining a pungent scream from their lead singer.
You can check them out on their FACEBOOK
I got in touch with the band and Elijah, the songwriter and singer was more than happy to help out explaining the psychedelic sounds of the Paint Fumes.
Jordan: Elijah, tell me a little bit about your band. How’d it start? What kind of background did you come from? Did you guys know each other for a while?
Elijah Von Cramen: I met Bret, the lead guitarist a while ago and it’s been years and years since I wanted to start a band cause I had been going through some weird shit in the head and decided to start playing guitar and then I started writing shit. From there, Josh joined after our first drummer quit. I’d say we’ve been a band for about two years now.
J: Can you go over your release history?
E: Basically, we just have our newest LP and the 7” before that. Before that, all we had was an EP that our friend in Charlotte did. What was it called? Something like “We Don’t Know What the Fuck We’re Doing” or “What the Fuck Are We Doing?” I don’t know. Now most of the songs we have now were on that EP but they sounded way worse because we were still figuring everything out. That was probably only two or three months before Josh, our drummer, joined the band. Then Slovenly picked us up pretty fast.
J: What was it like working with Slovenly for this newest release?
E: Oh man, they’ve been great. They’re such nice dudes and we’re always in touch with them. We’re one of their few US touring bands on the current roster- most of their stuff is in Europe, but it’s nice because Joe who handles distribution lives in Pennsylvania so we can talk to him and Pete’s in Amsterdam, which makes it hard to get in touch with him, but other than that, they’ve been great and very supportive of everything.
J: How did you guys meet them?
E: Whenever we had our original drummer, we played a show with Davila 666 at Milestone Charlotte and Pete was on tour with Davila and they all came back to my house and we had a party and I talked to Pete for a while because I used to do house shows when I lived in Reno. Basically we just kept talking and made that connection. Whenever we recorded our full-length with Josh I just said “hey, we just recorded an album. let me know if you’re into it.” He wrote back about an hour later saying “Let’s make a record.” We were super excited when that happened. I’ve always loved the stuff that they put out too - it’s always really good.
J: So you all are from Charlotte - what bands do you like to play with from around there?
E: It’s kind of a weird scene, but there’s a bunch of good stuff there. We definitely love playing with anything Nick Goode does like Joint D, Brain F≠, and he’s got a new band. He’s an amazing songwriter, and an amazing punk songwriter. There’s a lot of good bands going on and I’m actually starting another band with some other people. It’s an all right scene. There are a bunch of good venues, but the scene is kind of small. Milestone is really great.
J: I actually just moved from Durham in May so I’m totally into the Sorry State bands, especially Nick Goode’s stuff. I remember always seeing you guys on bills with Last Year’s Men. Those dudes are awesome.
E: Yeah, those dudes are super nice. They’re a great band, but it’s not my favorite stuff - the straight garage like Black Lips, but they’re great at what they do. They have awesome energy.
J: See, I hate genre questions, but would you call yourselves more of a punk band than a garage band?
E: I don’t know. I think about that all the time. We cover a lot of ground based on what we like. I like garage stuff and punk stuff and psychedelic stuff. Same with Bret and Josh. I like to call us “Panic-Attack Punk.” Just feeling crazy - trying to convey the feeling of feeling crazy.
J: That’s a great name.
E: That’s the main reason I was starting a band cause I was having panic attacks all the time and I stopped doing drugs and drinking for a short period of time and felt like I was losing my fucking mind - I had to figure out something to do.
J: I never really understood how people in bands could just go full-throttle at all times. It doesn’t make sense to me, as a person who took biology in high school. How does the body even function like that?
|The Gang Eating|
E: Like partying all the time?
E: I know, man. I’m still wondering that myself. I went from quitting to back into full-throttle and I’m still at full-throttle and it’s totally crazy. But, I get you get used to it - it turns you into a bit of an alcoholic, which is why I’ve tried to stop drinking as much. But, you know, partying is partying. I guess it’s a matter of having self-control and realizing that when you’re on tour you can’t party every night. You have to eventually take a break a little bit. It’s just hard to sometimes actually do that.
J: What’s the feeling like when you go into a show as opposed to finishing a show? Are you super stoked or nervous to start and what’s the feeling after?
E: That depends on the show we play. We just played with King Khan & the BBQ Show and I was super nervous. I had done a bunch of Adderall that morning and drank a bunch of gin & tonics because I was so nervous and I felt terrible. I was really mad at myself but releasing all that stuff and sweating during a show is really relieving. Most of the time I’m not that nervous. Being in front of people can be hard. I’m surprisingly more nervous with playing in front of people in Charlotte than anywhere else because I have to go home and see them all the time. I feel like no one really likes us here anyways so I have to make it up and make it a good show and that always turns out weird.
J: So what do you do outside of music?
E: Well, I have a job. I pretty much play music, work, skateboard, and draw. All kinds of stuff.
J: What kinds of stuff do you draw?
E: Mostly fat, ugly people.
E: Yeah, I don’t know why. I always draw really fat, weird things. I can’t not draw that kind of stuff. It’s the first thing that happens when I start drawing - I don’t even know how to describe it. Monsters. Just dumb, ugly things.
J: (laughs) Do you have any influences in drawing?
E: I don’t know. I’m sure there are a bunch of influences in my head but I’m just grabbing at straws. I can’t really think of anything now. Have you ever seen like Roky Erickson’s drawings? That stuff is cool.
J: No, I haven’t. I was actually just watching a documentary on him but I haven’t finished it yet.
E: You’re gonna miss me?
J: Yeah, yeah.
E: Oh, man, that movie’s insane. It makes me cry every time.
J: I remember the first record I ever got was the 13th Floor Elevators’ first record, but I really don’t know much about Roky Erickson at all.
E: It’s awesome. We actually met him in Atlanta. He’s still pretty out there, but that same thing happened to me. I heard that record and it changed everything for me. You should listen to Bull of the Woods - that one is badass. It doesn’t have the jug player, but it’s still psychedelic in a totally different, weird way. It’s got horns. He’s one of my biggest heroes - just the fact that he was in an insane asylum and got crazy treatments just because he got caught with a joint. They made him go crazier than he actually was.
J: Yeah, mental illness is something interesting too because there’s been such a huge range of developments in psychopharmacology and psychotherapy since the 60s. Insane Asylums then were still super cruel back then.
E: Yeah, exactly. I don’t know how far you’ve gotten in the documentary, but it recounts all his experiences with the institution and it sounds miserable and awful. How could you possibly not go insane if you’re forced into a situation like that? That kind of stuff happens - when you’d have panic attacks and feel like your mind is about to break, but it’s not the way you go insane in a violent way, but rather become a person that is more likely to see a ghost or something. That kind of stuff happens to me. That’s how I can relate to all the Roky Erickson stuff.
J: So does the idea of balancing society and having breaking points along the way get into your music?
E: Honestly, I feel weird every day because one time I took a hallucinogen and I had a good time, but then about two months later I started feeling like I was on it all the time. That’s when I quit everything and I was feeling absolutely nuts. My vision was weird and I felt like I was messed up on drugs when I wasn’t. Sometimes I still feel that way, but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t feel as crazy. It just feels like every day is weird. Maybe I’m just getting older.
J: How old are you guys?
E: I’m the youngest, I’m 23. Josh is 33 or 34 and Bret is 27.
J: That’s a big range.
E: Yeah, and they’re both married. I’m just the young guy. Bret, Josh and I all get along really well. Bret’s basically band-dad. He doesn’t get as wild as Josh and I. Josh and I are very similar in that way. Bret will be the guy at 4 in the morning saying, “no, we’re not gonna do that because we have to tour and play tomorrow.”
J: Have you guys toured the U.S.?
E: Yeah we’ve done a bunch of tours. We’ve done the West Coast and we just got done doing East Coast and West. We’ve done the East Coast a lot. We’ve basically been touring the whole time. We’ve only really had about 3 months since Josh joined the band started where we weren’t touring. We’re going to Europe in April and we’re also doing a lot of the U.S. in March.
J: For South by Southwest?
E: Yeah. We’re gonna be doing SXSW and then going to California with Bloodshot Bill. Do you know him?
J: Yeah, he played with Tandoori Knights when I was in Durham.
E: Yeah, he plays guitar in that band. So this will be our second time touring with him. We did a two-week tour with him once. We’re planning with Useless Eaters, do you know them?
J: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of their tapes.
E: Yeah, I’ve been talking with Seth and I think we’re gonna tour with them in December. Basically we’ve been touring the whole time. Basically, I feel like all you can really do in times like these when you can’t make a whole lot of money is to put yourself out there and gain exposure. The Black Lips did that. They were out forever and a lot of people hated them, but they kept touring and look at them now - they’re huge.
J: That band rocks too.
E: Yeah, exactly. A lot of people still hate them. But they definitely have the right idea about it, just pushing themselves as much as possible. It sucks being on tour all the time though and the fact that Bret and Josh are married and I have a girlfriend back home. It sucks being gone for that long, but your band becomes your job.
J: So what’s it like getting back home after a tour? What’s the feeling like that the world didn’t stop when you were gone?
E: That’s the weird thing. Charlotte doesn’t feel different. When I get back to Charlotte, nothing’s changed. I get back and do my job - my job lets me tour whenever I want. All of our tours have been a month and a half to two months every time. I don’t know how I still have a job still. I must be doing something right. I’m always relieved though when I get back. If I didn’t have a girlfriend though, I’d probably be pretty bummed out when I got back home. I’m psyched to be back home because I haven’t seen my girlfriend in like a month and a half.
J: So what’s the songwriting process like for you guys?
E: I generally write all the basic stuff and the songs and then Bret writes a lead guitar part. The one that he wrote though, which is still my favorite one was “Uck Life.” He wrote the main riff and then I went off of that. But I pretty much write everything and they fill in their part. Josh has never lived in Charlotte though. We meet up before a tour and practice for a day or two and go out.
I still don’t really like our new record because it feels really rushed. We recorded it in four hours and there wasn’t much time to do what we wanted. But this next record we’re gonna have a lot more time to work on. We’re gonna sit down for a week where we don’t have work and write something cohesive.
I don’t want to sound like every other garage or punk band. A lot of our songs are different, especially with the way Bret plays guitar.
J: Any idea about timing for the new record? Do you all have any songs done?
E: Oh yeah, I’ve got like thirty songs already ready. We’ve got a couple new songs that we’ve been playing on tour. We’re gonna have a seven-inch out in the next couple of months. That’s going to have a couple of my favorite songs on it. And then when we’re in Europe I want to record in Greece with our friends Bazooka that we’re touring with. They were helping with the Acid Baby Jesus record.
J: Oh, I love that record.
E: Yeah, me too. It sounds really good. So I want to do it with John who’s in Bazooka and maybe that’ll work out. It just depends on timing and stuff. It’s hard with Josh being in L.A. and flights aren’t cheap to just record for a week. Hopefully that’ll be done pretty soon. I also have a few other projects that should be getting done soon.
And if we do that tour with The Useless Eaters then we’d like to do a split seven-inch in December, which is hopefully when the next LP will be out.
J: So where’d you all get the name Paint Fumes?
E: Oh, so me and the old drummer were initially in the band - his name is Marcel. He had never played drums before and I was barely playing guitar and we were both screwing around talking about figuring out a name. I was just saying how I wanted it to be about cheap kicks, like that Ramone’s song about sniffing glue. We both used to do a bunch of graffiti and thought we should do something about paint. One of us just thought “Paint Fumes.” The name kind of has that sound that makes you feel dizzy and intoxicated. Like, fucked up in the weirdest way possible, which is how I feel all the time, so it worked out perfectly. It fell together in a weird way, but I guess that’s how it was supposed to be. You don’t really think of anything when it first happens if it’s good.
J: That’s about all I have - do you have anything else?
E: No, not really. Hopefully we’ll be coming back to Chicago pretty soon.
J: That’d be awesome.
E: We’d love to go back to the Empty Bottle.
J: Yeah, thats my favorite venue.
E: Yeah, I love hanging with Matt Williams over there. He’s the shit. It’d be a blast. Hopefully on the next East Coast tour we’ll be through there.