Catch 22 Interview from Unclezine

(This interview was conducted in April in New Brunswick, NJ. my sincere apologies to the band for taking so long to publish it.)
The band:
Tomas Kalnoky .vox, guitar
Kevin Gunther .Trumpet, vox
Josh Ansley . Bass, vox
Chris Greer .Drums
Ryan Eldred . Sax,vox
Jamie Egan .Trombone, vox 
U: How did you guys become a band?
T: We evolved from a punk band. I'm sure it's the same story as many ska/punk bands - me and the drummer were actually in this punk band, and personally I got disillusioned with the whole 3 cord screaming sound you know? I love punk and I love the energy, we still have a very punk mentality in our song writing and our performance, but there's only so much you can do with punk music, and I personally as a song writer got a little bored with it, so we decided to add more members and more instruments. I'd always been a ska fan, so we just added Kevin on trumpet and then we went to a four piece ska/punk band. That was kind of thin sounding, so we added a horn section and it started evolving.
U: What was your other band called?
T: Gimp
U: Gimp?
T: Gimp! -- we were like 14 years old.
U: How long has C22 been together?
T: about two years
U: How'd you all meet?
T: It all started with the drummer and me, through school, then it turned out some of my best friends from summer camp play saxophone and trombone, so we added them on. We'd been friends for about 10-12 years. Then we walked through Camelot one day and he (Kevin) worked there, he was a Gimp fan so we started talking to him and we asked him to play with us.
K: I'd heard of Gimp!
T: Same thing! If you've heard of Gimp you're a fan. So we asked him if he wanted to play. He wanted to play in a ska band cause he'd been a trumpet player for a while, so we added him on. Our new Trombone player is actually Kevin's teacher, since childhood. His first lesson was Kevin when he was a little boy, like 10.
U: So when you made the transition to a ska punk band, did you look to any influences?
T: Not at all. If you're looking for ska or punk influences...not at all. That's one thing we try to do, we try to keep the influences away from what we're supposed to be influenced by, just because that will give us a unique edge I guess!? I've always been influenced by old swing stuff like Louie Jordan and old 50's stuff. I grew up listening to the Stand By Me soundtrack. That's my favorite record. I don't even consider us to be a ska band, we're more of a rock, punk band with influence. It's all about energy.
(Looks to Kevin)
K: What are my influences? Actually it's the same deal. I listen to a lot of punk and ska, but at the same time equal amounts of jazz and classical. I grew up playing band music, I was in the jazz band in high school and stuff like that. So I like it all.
T: My brother was a concert violinist, so I used to be dragged around from concert to concert. And I hated it as a kid but I guess is seeped in, cause now I'm always listening to the classical stations. (Interview breaks down into discussion of local classical radio stations and NPR).
U: So what's the age group of the band?
T: We're all freshmen in college, except for the trombone player and he's 32.
U: Wow.
T: He's an old fart. He has two kids actually, he's a teacher at a middle school?
K: Grammar.
T: But, he has the heart of an 18-year-old though. He's nuts. He loves music.
U: What's with the name Catch 22? Are you guys Joseph Heller fans?
T: I am, well not so much him, but the book. I love the book. I first read it a long time ago, when I was a little kid, and I've read it twice since. I'm actually going to read it again soon. I was so young, so I'm going to read it again to get everything. I've been rereading the books I read as a kid that I appreciated. When I reread them it's whole new world. I just read Catcher on the Rye again it was awesome.
(Talk moves to my love for Joseph Heller and a bunch of crap about me
you don't want to hear)
U: How'd you guys get on Victory? Victory's a pretty hard-core label.
K: Basically, when the Catch 22 demo came out -- the first demo -- about a year and a half ago, we sent a million of them out.  Tomas sent them out to labels he got off the internet. You know, smaller labels. He came upon a small label called Toybox Records. It turns out that the owner and the guy that run's Toybox Records, works for Victory in their art department. He played the tape and it happened that the president of Victory heard the tape through, actually, the wall. He heard it and said "I really like this, I'd really like to sign these guys."  He called us up, faxed Tom something, and within a month it was set and we signed the contract and it was over.
T: About the hard-core thing, they don't want to be called...I'm sure no label wants to be pigeon-holed as one type of music. They just want to put out really good music in any kind of field. They found us and they got to know what we're like and they liked our songs and our personalities. They hate it when people are like, aren't they a hard-core label? They also have a rockabilly band.
U: Hi Fi and the Roadburners.
T: Yeah, they're awesome, and they have...
K: A chick punk band.
T: Not anymore.
K: Well they used to have BabyDoll(?I think that's what he said) They were total wussy music.
(Lots of laughter)
T: Starting fights, all right!...They're not on Victory anymore, so who
U: Have you guys done any touring yet?
T: No (laughter)
K: We did the tour of New Jersey, the Asbury Park tour.
T: We've played everywhere in New Jersey pretty much, a little bit in
New York, but...We haven't toured yet.
U: Are you gonna?
T: Hells yeah! Actually we just got fan mail from Tokyo like three days ago.
U: Really?
K: We're playing our tour of Japan.
T: Japan and New Jersey! We're playing in Tokyo and Asbury park! We got fan mail from South Carolina this morning -- email. It's amazing, since the CD came out, I check my mail everyday and we've got like 5 to 10 to15 email's from across America, it's nuts! Canada, South Carolina, especially around the tri-state area. We're just like, kids, a bunch of kids who enjoy playing music. We do the best that we can and the next thing you know we're getting we're getting mail from Tokyo. It's hilarious. It's funny twist of fate.
It's been almost overnight, but hey...why not? We're just going to ride it and enjoy life while we can you know?
U: So, today Tokyo...Tomorrow MTV?
T: No! This MTV thing. Everyone's always like, don't sell out! Don't go on MTV! The thing about MTV is it's the only medium for videos and I am a very visual guy. All the art is done from the band. That's why we signed with Victory. They give us complete artistic freedom, so we do all the art. Victory doesn't do videos for MTV, but they just produce their own videos for video cassettes and video samplers and we're probably going to do a video. And as with everyone in the band, I don't care where it goes, MTV, I don't care. The word sellout doesn't exist to me, cause I just think, we're in a band and we make music and that's what it should be about. I don't care about the politics, about all this crap. It's just if, we do make a video, we're gonna do it.  We're gonna shoot it, we're gonna write the story. It's not gonna be like us in a room or us playing live. It's going to be a little movie, some kind of spy theme, James Bondish, Mission Impossible type thing with us as characters. I'm not going to say fuck MTV we're not selling out! Cause I don't care. I really don't care.
U: Plus, it is a way to reach more fans.
T: Exactly! Exposure. There's a lot of stuff on MTV and if you don't
like it, you don't like it. If you do, you do.  You know what I mean?
I'm sure a lot of people were turned on to certain bands through MTV,
and they were turned on genuinely,  not just because they were on MTV. I don't get the whole anti-media thing. Is that going to get us beat up?
K: Yes!
U: You guys are sell-outs! (garble garble)
U: Do you have any enemies now that you're in a band?
T: Yeah
K: Yes, that's all we can say!
T: Let's leave it at that! No, whatever, I think everybody who comes
upon success is going to have enemies for whatever reason.
K: For every enemy, there's a hundred people who like us. We've gotten a lot of support. Maybe not locally (laughter)
T: We're never playing in New Jersey again, we're staying in Tokyo! No, not at all, of course, who doesn't have enemies, but we're not "enemy" kind of guys.
K: That's the thing you've got to understand is we're so like....
T: We're such pacifists. Some people are so violent and yelling shit at shows, and we're like...
U: You're lovers not fighters!
Both: Exactly!
U: So, has being in the band improved your standing with the ladies?
T: We're all taken I think. Except the drummer.
K: I got a kiss! (laughter)
T: At the show! so there you go!
U: Do you guys have any crazy psycho stalkers?
Both: Christina! (laughter)
T: That's so fucked up! No I don't think so.
K: Actually, I did have a stalker. No Shit. I don't know if I ever told you that. I don't know if it was because of the band or Camelot, but some girl used to call Camelot hoping I would answer the phone, hoping I'd answer it, and when I'd answer she'd hang up, or ask me what was new for the week. But she was pretty nasty, so I didn't pay much attention to that stuff. I'm sure Tom's had a stalker though.
T: No I haven't.
K: Yes you have!
T: Who cares!
U: What do you guys do? Do you have jobs?
T: School.
K: I work and do school.
T: Half of the band works, has worked, or will be working like a
revolving door in a place called Moto-Photo. We're all photo developers.
K: It's really hard to work, especially like this summer, it's going to be really hard. Actually, pretty soon we'll probably all have temp jobs, because I've heard that's the best way to do it when you're in a band that could leave on the spur of the moment.
T: I'm in school though, some of us have dropped out since our success
or whatnot. But I don't want to take that route.
U: Hey guys, we just got signed on Victory! Screw college!
K: Exactly, some members have dropped out.
T: If I have to take a sabbatical I will.
K: I'd rather take time off then bail out though.
T: Yeah, cause you don't know how long it's going to last. I'm so
skeptical about the whole success thing.
K: Yeah, when Catch 22 is over, it'll be so easy to go back to school.
U: What are your long-term plans?
T: That's one of our biggest things is evolution. Ask many bands and
their always like, a band's great as long as they don't change, but I
think it's the exact opposite. I think the most important thing in music and being in a band is to evolve. I don't want to put out another Keasbey Nights. We're already planning for the next album and it won't be like Keasbey Nights. Of course, just because the instrumentation is the same it will be similar but we're going to have more influences. On this album, five of the songs are from a previous demo, so their like a year or two old. I'm really excited about the next album because it's going to be what we're capable of doing from January 98 to January 99. And we have changed so much as people and musicians that it's going to be completely different. And if we're not considered a ska punk band, if we go more swing or more hip-hop, whatever. Whatever we want to do, we're going to do regardless, because I think people will actually appreciate
the music for the music, not because it ska or punk, they'll stick
around. If we keep the level of quality the same, I think we'll be okay.
U: Do you all get along pretty well?
K: It's like a brotherhood. Like, we all hate each other and at the same time we all love each other. We all piss each other off, but it's all there's no real...
T: It's such a family. There's always spats and people teaming up on
each other. It's like the Brady Bunch.
U: So, if you guys got in a no hold barred brawl, who'd win?
T: I'd kick ass. (laughter) No, I'd get my ass kicked.
K: I've never been in a fight.
T: Chris?
K: Who'd win?
T: Chris is the biggest.
K: Jamie'd probably win because he's the kind of person who'd take the steel chair and hit us over the head.  (laughter) Yeah, probably like Chris.
T: Or Ryan, Ryan's a pretty tough guy. We were just talking about which one of us probably has the biggest penis.
K: Who's that?
T: We came up with Ryan.
U: Whoo!
T: That was exciting.
U: Do You write all the songs?
T: Yeah.
U: How does that work? Do you come up with the lyrics and then music?
T: I come up with usually the horn line first. I'm really into melodies. I don't care much for solos, or like, the new ska wave is really into intricate horns. So, I give it to the horn section and they harmonize it out and tweak it. I do it in my room on an acoustic guitar. Everything starts very simply and primaly. Then I bring a song to practice and they add their own things on.
K: Which is actually what we're going to do right now.
U: Yeah?
T: Yeah, we've got practice today. A big practice. lately we've been
playing two or three shows a week, so don't have time to...when we
practice it's just to stay tight, we play the whole CD through. But
today we have a die-hard, lock the doors, five hours straight, work on new shit, practice.
K: Usually what happens with this is we're going to practice for an
hour, then we're going to go upstairs and play the Playstation, then
eat, then go downstairs and we're gonna be like. We're cold, our
instruments are cold, why do we want to play now? We don't want to play, let's go home.
T: No dude, I am not letting anyone leave until seven. Cause we have to get stuff done today. A year isn't that much time for 16  songs or
however many we're gonna put out. And I hate writing a song right before you go to the studio. It's so much work, cause you've got to play it live a shit load of times. I don't think we've had one song that's stayed the same since we wrote it to we recorded it.
K: Yeah, you can actually tell, which songs were (grgrm) on the CD.
T: Yeah.
K: Im a little disappointed on one or two on the CD.
T: What?
K: Well I'm a little disappointed in a couple of songs, like, 1234. It was very rushed.
T: Oh yeah, but it's more of a joke actually, because there are only
three of us playing. It was just a three-piece punk thing - and it was just for fun.
U: Where'd you get the name Keasbey Nights?
T: Keasbey is the town I grew up in. We moved out of Prague when I was four and moved to Greece and then America. And in America we moved to Avenale and then Keasbey, which is right next to Perth Amboy.  I grew up there and it wasn't a ghetto exactly but more of a lower class suburb and a lot of the songs on the CD are influenced by my growing up there and so we decided to pay homage to my hometown.  And songs like Sergio, are about real people from Keasbey that I grew up with. Not necessarily friends, but people I grew up with nonetheless.
U:  Where'd you get the idea to put the thank you's on the album? Because that's the first time I've ever heard that.
T: Actually that's pure laziness. That's us not wanting to compile a
thank you list. I told everybody, get a list of everybody you want ot
thank by this day, and I got literally sheets and sheets of paper -
because of course, everyone wants to thank like , his second grade
teacher who said he's got a nice ass or something. There were so many
people that nobody wanted to type it up, nobody wanted to sit there and alphabetize it or whatever and so we were just like (rambling ensues) the day before we just said fuck it, let's just put it at the end and loop it and just record it.
U: Who does your homepage? Are you computer literate?
T: Homepage is run by a friend of ours who learned about us at shows and stuff, and is now a friend. He does the actual programing and I do the direction, because I'm not very good with computers. What I do is at home I take pieces of paper and pretend the paper is the homepage and I draw out everything (laughter) and he puts it on.  Hopefully this week, I'll send him a package of all new material and completely redo the whole site, except for the main page. Chris our drummer he's fairly computer literate, he does some stuff, but not so much html, but we keep it in the band in terms of direction, but actually execute it we have to get someone else to do it.
U: You guys seem to really enjoy playing live.
T: Hells yeah! That's one of the reasons where here and doing music in the first place. Studio's one thing, it's about producing music...
K: I hated it, I honestly hated playing in the studio.
T: Yeah, playing the studio Is.'s sure all live musicians hate it.
You've got headphones, your in a room with these egg cartons on the
walls, and you're sitting there by yourself playing. It just sounds
sterile you know?
U: So have you guys played with mostly local Jersey bands? Or have you played with some bigger touring bands?
K: I actually compiled a list the other day for something, of bigger
bands we've played with and I was actually kind of shocked. We've done a lot of big shows. We've played with Mephiskapheles a couple of times, the Toaster, Buck O Nine, The Slackers, The Pilfers. We've played with a lot of bands like that. We played with the Cherry Poppin Daddies last week, that was a pretty big show.
T: The Slackers was pretty big deal for me because I've always been a
fan of them. I ws so happy. Even though they hated us and were assholes (laughter) no they were just kind of cold.
K: Yeah, the only band, well not the only band, but Buck O Nine were
truly nice.
T: Normally we go up to bands after we play and talk to them and
bullshit a bit, shoot the breeze.  And, BO9 was actually a band that
came up to us before we got a chance to go to them and we were so happy. Especially because it was like a year ago.
K: Yeah, I'd say that was the first...Mephiskapheles and Buck O'
Nine...we kind of took a little break from playing.
T: We broke up (laughter)
K: Yeah broke up for a couple of months.
T: Girl trouble.
K: Somebody said he would never break up the band because of girls, but he did anyway.
T: I'm with her again, but it's better then.
K: That Mephiskapheles show kind of like started the whole....we sold a lot of demos and made a lot of fans out there.
U: I was going to ask you about the demo...
T: Yeah, that's pretty much obsolete because five of the seven songs are on the CD and recorded much better. We're probably going to do our own six or seven song demo type deal again, self produced, so we can have something else to sell between now and next year. There's some older stuff we'd like to get out there, but that will never show up on a Catch 22 album. We're just going to get one of those B-sides compilations you know? Only cassette, just for shows, for fun.
U: So, what was the best show you've ever played? Mephiskapheles?
K: The second time we played Mephiskapheles for me. I would say it's a personal thing. The trombone player will swear to you that the show we played at the Melon bar in front of 10 people was his favorite show.
T: My favorite show we've ever played, cause honestly I care most about us having fun. I care about the audience having fun too, but that's their thing. The best vibe I've ever had...
K: (laughter) I guess, I mean...
T: The Gothic bar. We got a horrible show in this Gothic Bar with black candles and people dressed in black, and there were about five people there. It was like 2 o' clock in the morning on a Thursday?
K: No, it was like a Saturday night, but it was like two or three in the morning.
T: I guess because they're night people - they're vampires! (laughter) So we're playing there for a bunch of Gothic people who are hating us and asking for us to play Chicago and Bush.
K: It was in Staten Island for one...
T: There was nobody there, everyone was standing, no one was moving, but the six of us were playing on this tiny little stage, on top of each other, and having the best time of our lives. And we played very tight, for the conditions. We loved how we played, jumping around bouncing off each other, talking to each other.
K: We did have a fun time at that show, but as far as fun, like, the
crowd, I would say the best show was definitely the second
Mephiskapheles show with Inspector Seven.
T: By then, people new us.

 (End of Part One - Part Two coming soon)

back to articles