CMJ: Archie and the Bunkers interview
Time to check in on that hotbed of punk, northeast Ohio (shut your mouth). The latest rust belt roustabouts are a keyboard and drums-only trash act that Ohio’s underground punk lovers are spazzing about (though that could be the trucker speed)—ladies and gentlemen, Archie And The Bunkers!
This teen two-piece—Cullen on organ, Emmett on drums; both yell and avoid last names—have only been at it for under two years, but they’ve released a couple EPs and have been getting on all the good garage bills in the area lately, inciting bodies to bounce with their snotty vox and explosive clatter. Now they’ve gone and reached up just over the curb to nab gutter rock’s producer par excellence, Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Clone Defects, Dirtbombs), to help fashion their self-titled debut LP, out August 24 via Dirty Water. They’ll have the somber honor of being one of the last bands to record at Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders studio.
Oddly, this isn’t even the first great Ohio punk band with Archie in the name. If you can track down Archie And The Pukes 1995 7″ EP, do so. We’ll see if Archie And The Bunkers have, as we question them about all sorts of punk junk.
So, just organ and drums, right? What kind of organ?
Cullen: Yep. Just organ and drums. I have a collection of vintage, garbage-picked and chopped organs including an Acetone Top 5 and Hammond Piper II. They’re a bit dodgy. When gigging, I always bring my Casio XW-P1 disguised in a wooden shell we call “The Blue Bomber.” It’s got all the vintage vibe and works every time (so far).
Was there a particular band whose wild organ sound inspired you?
Emmett: The Screamers are a big influence.
Cullen: Jimmy Smith’s organ style has been a real inspiration to me personally. When I heard him, it just clicked—this is how an organ should be played.
How many times have you had to punch someone for asking, “Why no guitar?”
Emmett: We’ve lost count.
Cullen: The other question we get is, “Dude, are you looking for a bass player?”
Have you ever heard of Archie & the Pukes from Cincinnati?
Emmett: No, but I’ve heard Cincy has a great garage rock scene. We need to get down there.
You guys were born long after All in the Family went off the air. So where did you first come across All in the Family repeats and meet Archie Bunker?
Emmett: Antenna TV, Channel 8.2. We don’t have cable.
How hard was it to wear ties in the video for I’m Not Really Sure What I’m Gonna Do?
Cullen: Once we figured out how to tie them, no problem.
Emmett: The last time we wore ties was for elementary school pictures.
So how was it recording with Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit?
Emmett: The recording session went great. Jim’s a really cool guy, a music genius! We were the last band to record a full album there (that’s our story anyway). It’s really sad he shut down the studio. So much history in that place.
Cullen: We jumped out of the car, started recording, went to bed and repeated that cycle for three days. We wanted to get a full album recorded, so it was all work and no play…. I like the authentic sounds of the Hammond B3 and the Fender Rhodes, and at Ghetto Recorders, I was lucky enough to use both of these on our new album. Jim Diamond’s collection of vintage gear is legendary.
How have the recent shows been going? I noticed you played with the Cheater Slicks in Columbus.
Cullen: The shows have been going great! People have been very receptive. Saturday was our first gig in Columbus. The people were really cool, and we were well received.
Emmett: This was our second gig with the Cheater Slicks. They’re awesome! Really great guys on and off stage.
Any shows that didn’t go so well?
Emmett: We played a benefit show in central Ohio this summer. It was at a lodge. When we showed up, it was a really weird vibe.
Cullen: We should have worked on that theme to Rawhide. We went on and everyone was plugging their ears. The dance floor parted like the Red Sea in front of the bandstand.
Emmett: It ended up well actually. We got to hang out with the Woggles who we had played with the night before. Overall, It was a pretty fun night.
Who do you play with in Cleveland these days?
Cullen: We’ve been really fortunate to play with a ton of great bands: the Sonics, Oblivians, Cheetah Chrome, FIDLAR. We are really excited for some of our upcoming shows: the Cynics, the Rezillos, Dick Dale and another show with Obnox.
Do you get shit from your peers in school for playing that old rock’n’roll music?
Emmett: We’ve been home schooled since junior high, so teenagers we hang out with are usually musicians or show-goers. We’re still in school…. We’re from a little burb on Cleveland’s west-side. We’ve been playing music together for almost 10 years. Our parents gave us access to music and instruments at a young age. Our dad is a drummer and our mom teaches ballet. I’m in 11th, my brother is in 10th grade. Both of us are taking full course load at community college this fall.
Who do you consider to be your contemporaries?
Cullen: We haven’t run into any bands out there that are our age.
Emmett: We’ve been getting booked with a lot of older garage rock bands. It’s been cool. I feel that we’ve really been accepted by people from 10-60. I’m really into Danny and the Darlenes, JSBX and the Gories.
Cullen: The Damned is my current obsession. I’m digging deep into 70’s punk.
Emmett: It’s been great getting to play with all of these seasoned veterans. When we started we weren’t looking to form a retro “garage rock” band. We’re definitely trying to move the ball forward and create something personal and unique. At the end of the day, I don’t know what kind of an impact we’ll have on a generation being raised on autotune, American Idol and smart phones, but I hope we reach them.
Cullen: It’s gratifying to look out in the crowd and see an audience that ranges from 13-73. We have fans that’ll come up to us and tell us stories about the first time they saw the Doors. That’s amazing!
The good and bad about having a band in Cleveland:
Emmett: We love being a Cleveland band. The scene here is very supportive and the people are great. On the downside, Cleveland’s not a very big city.
Cullen: And the weather sucks.