Q&A with Guerilla Toss

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By Kat Westbrook

Local rockers Guerilla Toss are no strangers to creative and changing sound, and with the release of their latest EP Smack the Brick these Boston natives have shown their ability to build on their foundation and expand their sound to whole new levels. On November 12th, I sat down with Kassie Carlson (vocals) and Peter Negroponte (drums) at Pete’s Jamaica Plain record shop, Deep Thoughts. They gave Five Cent Sound the scoop on what they’ve been up to lately, their latest Hassle Fest appearance, and their upcoming European tour.

Five Cent Sound: So first off, is Pete or Peter better?

Pete: Call me whatever—Pedro.

FCS: So guys, how was Hassle Fest?

Kassie: It was cool.

FCS: What’s the favorite venue for you guys as far as this festival goes?

K: The Elks Lounge. It was crazy—also the first place I went to a show, some kind of funk show.

P: It was our fourth time playing there.

FCS: Did anything go unexpectedly?

K: Pete bought me a trampoline for my birthday, and we used it during the set. We jumped on it and pulled people up onto it.

P: It was, like, right in front of the stage.  I actually didn’t really like how Hassle Fest went this year. People were too aggressive. I appreciate the passion about 90% of the time, but the rest of the time people use it as an excuse to be violent, and I do not like that. Quote me on that! It’s important!

K: Didn’t you say something the other day that even if we faked people out and didn’t really play they’d still start freaking out and pushing?

P: Yeah, I could probably even make cow sounds and they’d push.

K: Yeah, it just kind of sucks for people who don’t want to be pushed.

FCS: I am sometimes one of those people. I can understand that.

P: It’s ridiculous that I feel like we might just have to play really big stages, and I don’t like that, but if people can’t be—

K: Yeah, I don’t want to do that. Why don’t you like to be pushed?

FCS: A guy ripped some of the jewelry out of my ear at a show once when he pushed me. I was not amused.

P: I am honestly sick of the whole moshing thing. I wish people would just dance. I don’t even think our music is that aggressive anymore. I feel like it calls more for dancing, not just random pushing. I definitely appreciate people getting into it, but it puts me off when people are getting hurt. And the solution would be to play a big stage, and I don’t really want to do that.

K: The biggest issue is that stuff gets knocked over. That was a big problem at Hassle Fest; our stuff was getting knocked over and turning off.  We haven’t been playing Boston lately, though.

P: We played at Midway in Boston, and that was awesome, but I think it was an older crowd. They actually danced.

K: I didn’t think people were really moving.

FCS: Do you guys have a dream tour lineup? Any artist dead or alive that you’d like to tour with?

P: We’ve actually kind of toured with all of our favorite bands already.

K: Sediment Club. And Horse Lords was a really awesome tour, but as far as like rock-star-y —

P:  If The Boredoms took us on tour, it’d be fantastic.

K: Swans!

P: Oh yeah, that’d be nice. I have been really following Deerhoof. We were talking about this the other day, and we’ve never toured as an opener for much bigger bands. It’s kind of ironic, because we’ve had the option, but we like to just tour with friends. We had a booking agent for a minute, and there was the option to tour with Perfect Pussy or something, and we were like, nah, we’re going to tour with the Ryan Powers Band. And that was a great tour. I don’t regret it, really.

K: It sucks to be paired with a band just because, like, I’m a girl in a band, so we’re paired with another band with a girl as a comparison. That happens a lot.

P:  I mean to this day, I have a lot of say in what bands we play with. That will change if we decide to go with a booking agent again, but I don’t think we’re big enough. I think the thing I miss most is curating the shows, and I do this in a not-imposing way. I ask the bands to play with them on specific days.

FCS: Your European tour is coming up soon. What dates are you guys most excited to play?

K: I don’t really know much about it or the bands. I’m more excited to just be somewhere else and hear bands I’ve never heard of before.

P: Yeah, I don’t really know anything about some of the shows we’re playing. In this case we had a European agent book it all up. I’m stoked to go to Spain, but I think I expect it to be like in a movie, and I don’t know!

K: I’m excited for Portugal.

P: I mean, yeah, I know all the drugs are decriminalized in Portugal, and I respect that, but I don’t know what the vibe or counterculture is about. Or what the landscapes even look like. I need to start knowing.

FCS: How is the preparation the same as if it were a U.S. tour?

P:  Yeah, it takes like ten thousand times more work. Sorry I’ve been talking the whole time. Kassie is so quiet over there. And here I said I wouldn’t even talk!

FCS: Your new EP Smack the Brick was released recently. Was it meant as kind of a teaser for the tour? How fast did you guys put it together?

K: We wrote everything pretty quickly, within like a month. We had a lineup change, and we just rented a practice space for a month and a half, wrote all those songs, recorded all those songs in like a day right after we went on tour, and they mixed for awhile.

P: Yeah, it went really fast. It was part of the transition. It was a little rushed, but I think we work well under pressure. I’m not entirely sure this was the right way to approach this, but it happened so fast, and we’re all kind of ready to move on to play new songs.

K: I just feel like we move so fast, and I wish we could have practiced and written tons of new material, but it’s only been realistically two months.

FCS: What are some of the biggest challenges when writing music for you guys?

K: Getting everyone in the same room!

FCS: The album artwork for your albums is really unique and expressive. Do you guys have a direct hand in the production and design?

P: Yeah, I do it!

K: I was involved this time!

P: It’s mostly been, like, us asking people to do the art for us. I’ve been a fan of Peter Kalyniuk for a few years now, and this one image particularly caught my eye because of the dark contrast. It was just a psychedelic fucking picture, so I messaged him and asked if he would do it, and he was like, yeah!

K: We met him for the first time in Canada. He came to our show.

FCS: Do you guys have a favorite song to perform?

P: Uhhh, no. Do you?

K: Yeah, “Smack the Brick!” I love the groove of it. It’s so different from what we’ve done before. I feel like it makes people move in the way I want them to move. It makes them pay more attention.

FCS: What’s the biggest obstacle for bands with different sounds to thrive in today’s music scene? Inside and outside of Boston?

P: Well, you’re playing fucked-up music, and the challenge is to make that sound accessible to more than just people who are as nerdy as you are about obscure sound stuff. Our music is becoming more accessible. I’m so tired of playing fucked-up time signatures, meter changes, and stop and start. I just want to groove. I still think that you can make disjointed music without selling out, but it’s harder with a typical sound because there’s so much of that stuff.

K: Speedy Ortiz crafted this sound that really got to there.

P: They’re our buddies.

FCS: Last one, guys: Do you have a proudest moment as a band?

K: We played in this basement butcher shop, and all these people were moving and dancing. Ted Lee from Feeding Tube was there, and he was someone I looked up to, and now we’re friends! We were all giddy because he showed up. He does so much for us now. We love him.

P: I’ve got two! The first is the Cropped Out music festival two or three years ago. It was special because we played a really killer set between these amazing bands outside of Boston and the East Coast. It was the biggest show we’d played outside of our stomping ground at that point. People outside of who we know gave a shit about our band. The second one is when we were offered a ridiculous amount of money to go play at Oberlin College, and we opened for Merzbow.

K: We kept trying to prank him with silly shit like a whoopee cushion and a hand buzzer. The promoter was our friend Allison, and she was begging us to not prank him. Some teacher got pissed because Simon got naked.

P: It was such a great opportunity that went wrong, and I’m proud of that for some reason.

Like Guerilla Toss on Facebook and check out Smack the Brick on Bandcamp!

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