BNBTV Spotlight: The Goondas, “Jackalope Jesus”

Remember the days when rock n’ roll was really rock n’ roll? When it was largely feared by the masses, when reeling guitars caused echoing screams, and lead singers shook and convulsed on stage like madmen, scaring but captivating mindblown audiences?  Before bands like Linkin Park turned everyone around you into a Hot-Topic-frequenting idiot whining into internet threads with a screenname like LnknPrk4EvA. Before your mom wanted to go with you to see The Foo Fighters play a show.  When rock n’ roll was rebellious and gritty. When it was hid from authority figures and was in many ways a gateway drug to the vast amounts of awesome music in the world.  

Well, welcome back.  The Goondas immediately take you back to the late 60s, when Mick Jagger was sexing up the world with his dangerous tunes, and when subcultural rock was just grabbing hold with its greasy palms and shaking a showered society to its core.  The Goondas have that old sound feel and an old school mentality.  They maintain the image of a reckless band who shows up (most of the time) to make some honest, awesome music. And in a modern context, this creates a sense of ironic purity amidst the corporate machine.

Claire Gallagher: Ok, who’s who? What are your names, what instruments do you play, etc?

Jackson Atkins: Guitar
Brenden Green: Vocals
Andy Meuwissen: Bass
Josh Miller: Drums

CG: Where are you from? Did you grow up there? Did you all meet there? How long have you known each other? If you didn’t meet there, where did you all meet? How did the band come together?

JA: Just outside of Minneapolis, MN – Andy, Josh and I met at Chaska High School, and I met Brenden at a private catholic elementary school. We all knew each other in high school and have been friends ever since. I was in another band with Josh and thought we could make some money starting a rock and roll cover band. I talked to Andy and Brenden (even though Brenden hadn’t been in a band before, or even sang before) – after a while we got bored of the covers and started writing our own music.

CG: Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Any influences besides music–people, art, literature, film, etc? Are there any particular eras or places or both that have influenced your work?

BG: The most records I have of any bands are Pavement, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, The Black Keys and The Kinks, so I suppose they’re my influences.

JM: John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin), Keith Moon (of The Who) and Travis Barker. British Invasion – I really like all of the production they did for Rock ‘n Roll – I guess the 60s; all the jazz stuff I’m into is mostly from the late 50s and 60s.

AM: Keith Moon

JA: The band as a whole is influenced by anything that sounds like badass rock ‘roll and blues – old blues. Black Sabbath, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Kimbrough, The Black Keys. Tom Waits is an artist/person who also influences us. Starting out playing in the middle of nowhere in the middle of nowhere started to shape our sound – especially the twangy, bluesier stuff – it just felt like we could do whatever we wanted.

CG: Did growing up where you did influence your music at all? Do you feel a kinship with your hometown?

JM: Yeah, I guess – you know I grew up with a bunch of skateboarding f***s who turned me on to the whole punk rock thing. I mean, they did and
they didn’t – it was the suburbs and they’re really wasn’t anything better.

JA: Being from a small town, yuppie-like area definitely has made people want to rebel and play rock ‘n roll. Basically to get out of there and do something different – anything to annoy the neighbors.

CG: What bands do you think you sound like, if any? What bands have others told you you sound like? Any strange or incongruent comparisons? What bands would you like to sound like?

JM: That’s a difficult question for me to answer – Black Sabbath mixed with The Black Keys I guess. That’s what I usually tell people. As far as what we want to sound like…uhh, I dunno…The Goondas.

AM: I don’t know if we necessarily sound like any band; you can maybe tell where some of our influences came from. It’s kind of like a hot dog, I mean, what is a hot dog? – what is it really made of? nobody really knows – it’s just a mixture of things. That’s how I think of The Goondas – it’s a good mixture that tastes good.

AM: I had a guy come up to me after a show who said, “I saw The Who in 1968 and haven’t seen a show like it since I saw you guys” – That was after one of our shows were we smashed a bunch of our equipment.

JA: I don’t like to do that – but I’d say somewhere between the Black Keys, Black Sabbath and Hank Williams (laughs). We’ve been compared to Tom Waits, The Stooges…and The Black Keys.

CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be when you were a kid?

JM: Going to school probably (laughs) – graduating. I wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid – I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world. You know, have a Bunsen burner with test tubes – seems like it would be badass.

BG: I would be pouring concrete. My mom told me when I was little I always wanted to be a garbage man. Besides hearing that – I never really wanted to be anything. I just liked sleeping – still do.

AM: I’d probably be living with my parents and still a virgin (laughs). Honestly, I would be pursuing my college career in video production – probably engaged or something. Settling down for the all-American life. I always wanted to be a rock star – that’s no bulls***, there are really weird videos of me when I was 6 years old strumming an acoustic guitar trying to play The Moody Blues. It just always seemed fun and made me happy.

JA: Growing up, I wanted to be a scientist.

CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?

BG: Personal high for me would be enjoying what I’m doing but I don’t like having to eat cheap, s****y food all the time.

JM: Personal high: Going on tour. Personal low: Going on tour. Well there was a time while I blew chunks all over my drum kit during a show recently and all the other bands thought I did it on purpose and got all pissed off.

AM: Album release show – felt on top of the world that night. Personal low, probably just the fact that you feel you’re never getting anywhere – the waiting and feeling like you’re accomplishing nothing is a real low but you gotta think positive about things.

BG: Doing an interview drunk was a pretty big blunder – I just “talked.”

JA: Personal high: making a record that actually sounds the way we wanted it to sound. Low would be probably passed out drunk on the bathroom floor of Ed’s No-Name Bar in Winona, MN during our last tour. Releasing our album and watching Brenden crowd-surf while I poured champagne on people. Blunder: Brenden falling off the stage flat on his face.

CG: So what’s the story behind your band name? How did it come about?

JA: We saw a pigeon flying overhead and suddenly a piece of paper fell from the sky – Brenden and I picked it up and it just said “Goonda” on it. Later we found out what it meant and it seemed to work.

CG:What is next for the band? Are you planning any tours? Any collaborations or side projects? As for your next project/sound, did you stick to your sound now or did you experiment/take a new route at all? If you did, do you think your fans will dig it?

JM: Superstardom. As for side projects, Jackson does some solo stuff but that’s pretty much it.

BG: Just working on new material, trying to hit the road whenever we can afford to – take as many chances as we can while we can. We don’t believe in that [side projects] – unless it’s with Phil Collins.

BG: We’re just gonna see how s*** comes out and go from there.

AM: It just sorta happens – whatever comes out, it’s just gonna come out. The songs that we’ve recorded and practiced; if they liked the first album, they’ll enjoy what’s coming.

JA: Sounds like we’re going on tour this spring – we’re recording an EP currently that’s almost finished; still unsure if it’s just be an EP or not. The Goondas don’t allow collaborations with other arists. [On the new sound] Yeah it’s still pretty badass – one of the new songs has a different sound but it’s definitely us.

OK, you can move your hands from your eyes now cause the video is over and the leader singer didn’t bite the head off a pigeon or leap out of the screen at you.  Watching him perform is much like going on a beastly roller coaster: you are scared to the point of peeing your pants but at the same time both enthralled and intrigued; and by the end of it, you’re immediately wanting to do it all over again.    

This conundrum of a song is off this paradox of a band’s self-titled album, The Goondas.
GET IT. That is an order.