& THE RESISTANCE
by Ryan Bray
While they've only been together a brisk three years, Jason Bennett & the Resistance (guitarist Jimmy Burke, bassist Ryan Packer, and drummer Mike McCabe) make music steeped in local street punk history. With roots and ties stemming back to old guard punk heroes such as Suspect Device and the Pug Uglies, and modern day torchbearers the Street Dogs and Death and Taxes, the Resistance,with but a five song EP to their credit, have become the reigning local champions of sing-along, hook-heavy street rock.
Bennett, Packer, and McCabe took some time away from prepping their first full-length to talk with the Noise about their new album, where folk and punk rock meet, and the importance of putting out music with a message in a world gone haywire.
Noise: So you guys are getting ready for the new record.
Ryan: Yeah. We just got the dates. We go in to record in a couple of weeks. We're going back in with (producer Paul) Kolderie, so we're excited about that. We're ready to start it anyway.
Noise: Where are you guys recording?
Ryan: Camp Street Studios. It's where we did the [Hope Dies Last] EP. We don't want to go anywhere else. Paul's a real good guy to work with. He definitely pulled some stuff out of us that we didn't know we had in us. It gives the band a little more focus and direction as far as songwriting.
Noise: It must be nice to work with someone who has that trained ear. It's almost like music is a second language.
Mike: He's a good person to listen to. He's been around the block.
Jason: He's a producer who will tell you what works or what doesn't. You know, he'll say, "Eh, it's taking too long to get to the hook. Go in and fix it."
Noise: What about the sound of the new record? In terms of comparison and contrast with Hope Dies Last, what's changed?
Jason: I think things have definitely changed this time around. We're gonna do a couple of the songs from the EP. I think we've added more texture and depth. Jimmy, Mike and Ryan had a lot more input into these songs. With the EP, there were only a couple of songs that we worked on together. We knew this time there had to be more depth and more sides to it.
Noise: Would you call this the first real Jason Bennett & the Resistance record, at least in terms of you doing it as a unit where everyone has their parts to play?
Ryan: Sure. The first time, we had only been together six or seven months before we recorded. Now it's like a different thing. We know what kind of a drummer Mike is and he knows what kind of a bass player I am. In terms of songwriting with Jason, that's really come into itself. The songs are more involved and just a step up.
Mike: We also packed in a lot of live shows in a really short period of time. We must have played eight weekends in a row, between the Darkbuster Throw Up show and the [WBCN] Rumble and other stuff. You just become more seasoned as a player, and definitely as a band. We need to click together on stage, and that helps us gong into the studio.
Noise: You guys must love playing in Boston. It's just such a purebred, meat and bones punk rock city. It seems that people would welcome you guys with open arms just given the pedigree of bands in the area.
Ryan: Oh yeah. We did that Wreck the Halls show with the Street Dogs, and after that it was like kids just came out of the woodwork. It was a great opportunity to play in front of our core audience.
Noise: Well, they're the band you want to play with.
Ryan: Yeah. That show just kind of put us on the map. I just wish we could play more all-ages shows.
Jason: My first impulse when we got the first record done was to take it on the road. Based on my experiences in other bands, I knew we could do that, but I thought, "We need to do some shows in Boston. People don't really know us here. We had booked a bunch of shows and then there were seven or eight straight weeks of stuff that opened up around here. The Street Dogs called, then the Rumble, then the Throw Up and then the Rumble again. It was unexpected."
Noise: Who are some of your influences? A lot of it is on the surface, you hear a lot of Ducky Boys and Bruisers, but talk about your music culture as a band.
Jason: I came up with the original hardcore, the real stuff as far as I'm concerned. I was friendly with a lot of those bands, and got to tour and play with the Bosstones and other bands. I was friends with them, which is actually how I got to know Ryan. But I grew up with a lot of Agnostic Front, Cro Mags and a lot of the British stuff. I was really into the Clash, Billy Bragg and the Pogues. I lived in Ireland for a while, so I listened to a lot of Irish music. Then there was old ska and bluebeat stuff….
Mike: I listened to a lot of Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Throwing Muses and stuff like that. That's why working with Paul was great, because he worked with a lot of those bands. Just drinking beer with Paul and talking about J Mascis going to the store to buy candy between sessions was cool.
Ryan: Yeah, in the van our iPods go all over the place, from punk to Muddy Waters and everywhere in between.
Jason: I mean really, when I sit down to write they start as very simple folk songs.
Noise: It's funny how so many different songs across different genres start that way. It's very universal.
Jason: Well it's American music. That is the original American music along with the blues. I mean we robbed a little from the English, Scottish and Irish, added an African beat and called it rock and roll, but folk is that foundation. I don't think folk music and punk rock are really that far apart, it's just the medium in which you do it. They can be protest music, celebratory music or sad music, and it all depends on the context. I think rock 'n' roll needs more of that, because that's the way it always was. I think we've gotten away from that. We get bands every two weeks now, and there's no depth and no soul to it. They don't know where they came from.
Noise: You're talking in terms of musical history?
Jason: Yeah. When I hear a new band and they say their favorite band is from 10 years ago, that upsets me to find that's where their musical education starts. You should know where you came from. I don't want to sit and hear these bands whine. The music should tell a story.
Ryan: We're not here to preach or anything, but in these times to not say what's on your mind is asinine.
Jason: I want to tell a story, and you can take whatever you want out of that story. I've had people come up to me and tell me what my songs are about, and I'm like, "Nah, nah, but if that's what you got out of it, that's cool."
Noise: What kind of a story are you guys trying to tell?
Jason: There's a couple of different things, but they're all variations of the same theme. We're a really fractured society right now, and I find that absurd. I think Woody Guthrie would have found it absurd. I think Muddy Waters would have thought it's stupid. We're all Americans and we're all essentially the same people. We're really not all that different. We face a lot of the same issues. I think we have to realize that we are a common culture and we are a common people. There are definitely common points we can all agree on. The solution to our problems isn't screaming and yelling at each other.
Ryan: We're all in this shit together. We've got more similarities than differences, and we just need to be more human about it.
Noise: Your music reflects that. There's a real socio-economic slant to it. Have you always looked at the world through that kind of lens?
Mike: How can you not? Especially right now. I mean we're bailing out the banks, bailing out the auto industry. Something like 32,000 more people just lost their jobs the other day. The media inundates you with it, and you have to form an opinion about it.
Jason: And that all comes back to the music. People used folk music in the '20s, '30s and '40s to counteract what was happening around them. They were trying to give people another means of getting information. What you read in the paper, that's not necessarily the whole equation. They were using the music as a different way of communicating.
Noise: And you're trying to bring a little bit of that back.
Ryan: It's absolutely okay to have an opinion, and to me that's what punk rock is about. If I didn't believe that, I'd have spikey hair and an N'Sync shirt on. I mean I hope there's kids out there who are getting pissed off and are in bands that are writing music that says something. It's maybe the only way some kid out in Omaha is going to find out what's happening in Boston without turning on the news.
Noise: What bands spoke to you guys that way?
Ryan: Hands down, Ignite was the first band for me. I listened to the Dead Kennedys and all of that, but when I first heard Ignite, I was like, this dude Zoli totally knows what he's talking about. They were from Southern California and I was just a kid from Boston, but I was just totally picking up what they were saying.
Jason: Obviously the Clash and Billy Bragg, Toots & the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, just a lot of stuff that came out around that time. Then there was Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine. I guess we sort of pick and choose.
Mike: We're not telling anyone to do anything. We just want to give people an opinion. We want to tell people what we think, and if you agree with it, cool. And if not, that's fine. If you reach one person who gives a crap about making a change, that's great.