The 65’s are a Jersey indie/punk band. They play powerful songs about loss and suffering. I had the chance to speak with Joe from the band and here is what came of it:
BMN: You’ve all been together for a while now. Besides playing together, what things in your lives contribute to the creative process of writing your songs?
Yeah, we’ve been together seven or eight years now at this point. As for the creative process, that’s tough to pinpoint, but I often say that I do this as a sort of therapy. I don’t want to speak for everybody else but I’m pretty sure they’d agree with that sentiment. That’s probably the best starting point as to what contributes to our writing. We’re not a ‘have a good time hanging with your friends’ kind of band, for lack of a better way to put it. Recently I saw a review for a new release describing it as refreshing in that it was actually a song not really about anything but having fun and not thinking too much. I don’t get that. I don’t get what the point of the release or the songs would be. I think way too much. I overanalyze pretty much everything. There are pros and cons to that I guess, but I enjoy the examined life as they say. So instead of going and paying somebody who I’m sure I’d resent in some way to listen to all the shit rattling around between my ears I write songs about it. Getting something out that I need to get out and putting it together with my friends to make a great song is to me, a great accomplishment, and is therapeutic in nature. Or in short, the shit that torments me.
BMN: Do you believe in the collective unconscious? Why or why not? Do you think you draw inspiration from something like this?
Yeah, I think so. We act in herds, don’t we? It seems natural that we behave in groups - different nations, cultures, belief systems, etc. From that perspective I do draw inspiration from it as it is directly linked to anything political, no? Politics in the most purest of forms should be about how to structure a society and distribute its production in the best way to assure the needs of the people are met. In my view you can’t ignore politics, you need to be engaged, not only to potentially enact change, but also just to have an awareness and understanding of what and who you are. Here in the US, we are almost all children of immigrants. That history, how people are/were treated and what opportunity exists to who and why, and who is left out or oppressed and what those reasons are, are important for everyone to be aware of in order to have a coherent sense of self. And without that, you’re writing about having a good time and hanging out with your friends I guess.
BMN: I like alcohol and I like to drink it. I think you do too. So many people say one thing or another, that booze helps them reach that creative spot or that booze is a hindrance to reaching that spot. Does it help or hinder your songwriting?
Yeah, I like to drink. That’s a tough one though, probably both. For me, although I know I have written while drinking, generally it’s probably more of a hindrance. It can be useful for performing but only if I don’t overdo it, otherwise it can end up a shit-show and I may think I was great but I most likely was not. I’ve seen video to prove it. Ha. It’s a slippery slope from having a few to relax, write or just to loosen up to drinking straight whisky after work regularly to forget the day. It’s a battle. So in that sense, as much as I hate to say it, moderation really is key. You may hit that sweet spot after a couple drinks, but once you’re “over the edge” so to speak, I really doubt much creativity will come out of that space. There are other intoxicants that work better for creativity, and aren’t as hard on the liver.
BMN: To that end, what is your songwriting process? Who does what and where?
I have a zillion topics in my head for potential song ideas generally, but often many of them don’t materialize. The first step generally is I’ll come up with a guitar riff or chord sequence that I like and think is worth working into a song. Then I’ll work on phrasing and melody. By that time the ‘song’ has a feel musically that I let dictate what topic to choose from the chatter in my head. Sometimes though, the feel dictates or gives me an idea for a new topic I hadn’t thought of previously. When this happens I go with that as it’s most organic and there’s probably a good reason it sparked the new idea. A song might splinter off a previous idea but morph into something else due to the shape the song is taking. Then there are other times when the song seems to fit a previous idea perfectly so I’ll write lyrics from that. Sometimes we’ll jam on the new stuff and it’ll take on a whole new life with John and Ryan and it’ll change the direction somewhat, perhaps even enough to change lyrically. We try to let the song take it’s most natural course. You can’t force anything or else it’ll sound forced. Recently we’ve been collaborating more such as with “Wolves and Men”, where Ryan wrote the majority of the music. We worked on the arrangement together, and I took an idea I wanted to express that seemed to fit the feel of the song really well, and I’m really happy with how it came out. I look forward to doing more of that. Writing is clearly an arduous process, and I think that most songwriters can get “stuck” with particular keys or chord structures, sort of in the same way we can get stuck in thought patterns. Writing lyrics, melodies and phrasing over someone else’s musical parts is a way to break those patterns, and it’s also a lot of fun.
BMN: On your track, “As My Body Numbs,” you say, “Come on down where the real people live.” Tell me more about the meaning behind this line and how it relates to the rest of the song. Also, comment on your line, “Hold in, hold out.” are you suggesting something about bottling up emotions and “toughing it out?” Please, tell me!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I need to allocate my time more carefully. I’m sure this is pretty common. The line “Come on down where the real people live” is a snarky spit in the face of someone I’ve come to the conclusion is not worth my time, veiled as suggestive advice. In relation to the rest of the song, it’s the point in which you realize you need to move on, or allocate time more carefully. “Hold in, hold out” is something about bottling up emotions and in a way, “toughing it out”, yes. Here I’m talking to myself, urging myself to bite my lip and avoid a pissing contest, which isn’t worth anyone’s time. A lot of adults act like children. The song is about struggling to avoid that in the context of a specific situation.
BMN: How has your music evolved over the years of playing together? Have you had any lineup changes that helped shape your current sound?
We’ve seemed to have gotten heavier in a sense, moving more towards our gritty punk sensibilities, and away from the coffee shop acoustic stuff, not that it was an intentional change or that we won’t play slower and/or acoustic type stuff in the future, it just seems to be where we’re at at this point. Maybe all the turbulence we’ve had in our personal lives is a factor, shit’s been pretty hectic. But yes, we have had lineup changes that have definitely
had an impact on our current sound. Not only in musical influence, but also in personality of the band overall. John and I have been doing it from the beginning, and we’ve moved back and forth from a 3 piece to a 4 piece and back again a few times, with a few different players, all of which had their own respective contributions to our work. When Ryan joined about 5 years ago, everything just fucking clicked. Since we’ve been busy with other projects, it took us a while to get where we are now, working on finishing up our second full length. We’re having a blast.
BMN: Where do you record your music?
Homebrew Studio in Sparta NJ. Kevin Lacatena from Homebrew has mixed and engineered every song we’ve recorded. John and I have been working with him with various projects for many years. He’s the shit.
BMN: Do you think it is a bad thing to meet the members of your favorite band? Does that destroy some of the magic of the music? In other words, do you think it is better to never meet the people who write the music that influences you the most?
I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. I’ve met a few over the years, never to the point of having a long conversation or anything, but exchanged pleasantries and in some cases hung out briefly or chatted briefly. It didn’t destroy the magic of the music for me, no. I guess if they were total pricks it might, but that hasn’t happened and you gotta kill your idols. Everybody is just a person, with their own baggage and bullshit, no matter how extraordinarily talented they may be. And everyone can be a prick at times, so it may not be fair to judge someone based on a short encounter.
BMN: Is your geography a factor in your creativity? In other words, does NJ influence your songs? What is a NJ band? Is there such a thing?
I guess it must be a factor in some sense since we’re all from the area and grew up here. You can’t help but be influenced by your surroundings, to what extent though, I’m not sure. The socioeconomic status that we came up in I think surely influences our creativity. I don’t think anyone can escape that. As far as what a NJ band is and if it exists in truth I have no idea. There are a lot of bands in NJ, some good, some not so much but that’s gotta be the same everywhere. The tri-state area in general is very fast paced, everyone seems to be thinking - get out of my way I got shit to do - so we’re all kind of sped up in a sense. If there’s anything a NJ band is, it probably has something to do with living in that kind of world. Everyone can sometimes seem anxious and fucking crazy at all times, and you gotta navigate through that and keep your shit together. It ain’t Big Sur, that’s for sure.