Those Glorious Bastards! The Bastardane So What! Interview
BY STEFFAN CHIRAZI
Bastardane is all you hoped could still come from the youthful teenage garage rock scene.
The world needs wild, scruffy, unwashed youths who don’t care about bullshitting on social media. Scallywags who’d rather spend the time throwing down in some grotty little rehearsal space, tearing up a club, or hauling their scrawny arses into a studio to turn their four-track frustrations into more realized long-player angst than poncing about believing the world owes them.
The world needs single-minded youths who don’t give a shit who you are as long as you’re not an asshole. Youths who want nothing more than to throw themselves and their gear into a transit van and survive the roadways of America, huffing from gig to gig with nary much more than a pot to piss in, one bar of Irish Spring between them, and a stack of ramen to bridge the hunger gap between gig sandwiches.
Most importantly, the world needs these youths to make music that is weighted in lead whilst carrying a cracking riff, propelled by feral sledgehammer drums, an overall Sabbath-meets-COC air, and a total disregard for convention within that framework. The world (that includes you) needs Bastardane.
So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, PLEASE give a big, warm hand to Ethan Sirotzki on guitar, Jake Dallas on bass/vocals, and Castor Hetfield on drums. These boiler-suited teenage warriors are bringing all of the above and more to any set of towns and ears that will have them…which, by the looks of things, will be many. I can tell you, with genuine fondness, I get a huge kick out of Bastardane anytime I see them because they truly remind me of the early ‘80s when teenage rockers did not give a flying fuck, but in the nicest, most natural way. Their debut album, Is This Rage?, is out there, and you need to just stop whatever the fuck you’re doing and load that sucker up, OK?!!
The following is an unfiltered fanzine-like transcript of our conversation. They were in Jake’s bedroom; I was stuck in some godforsaken shopping mall Peet’s Coffee shop because my internet had crapped out earlier in the day.
Steffan Chirazi: So let me start with the ground-breaking question of how did you all meet?
Ethan Sirotzki: Well, we met at Savannah College of Art and Design. Jake and I lived across from each other in the dorms, and we just started jamming together. Then one of our other friends invited all of us to jam in early 2019. We all just kinda hit it off, became good friends, and kept going from there. We were playing music; it sounded horrible, but we were having fun and playing a lot though, yeah.
Castor Hetfield: Yeah, a lot of shitty covers.
Jake Dallas: Very loud, disturbing all of the other theater major kids upstairs.
ES: Yeah, we were right below. They were doing play rehearsal in the room above us, and like, they would kinda come down and tell us, “Hey, could you guys please keep it down? We’re really trying to work on something.” A couple months later, I met someone in the theater program, and they were like, “That was you guys?!”
JD: I think we played during their play. It was very, yeah. It was so loud.
SC: Before I get into some of the bigger questions, let me just ask; your equipment must’ve been shitty, right? I mean, you must’ve been just gathering whatever you could find, throwing it together.
JD: Yeah. I ordered my first real amp on eBay for like 200 bucks, and then you got your drum set on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist?
CH: Yeah, I got my drum set on Craigslist, went and picked it up. Sounded terrible, but it was something.
JD: I had the same guitar since I was like, ten. I just brought it with me to college.
SC: OK, Jake, I’m gonna start this next section with you. If you can just tell people about yourself in five minutes. What I want to know is a very packaged capsule. I’d like to know your early music influences. I’d like to know the first noises you heard as a kid that really kind of got you interested in sound. I’d like to know your cultural influences in general. And last but not least, I’d like you to tell me a little bit about life as a young man growing up in the Dallas family as a young Dallas, a young Jake Dallas.
JD: Alright, sure, I’ll try to keep it short. I don’t know. I don’t have a big musical family. I think my great-grandmother played guitar, but that’s about it until me. I tried sports when I was really young and hated it, and then I was so bad. My dad was trying to figure out things, you know, that I wanted to do because I didn’t know. He got me guitar lessons when I was eight, and then I kind of fell in love with it. Did that for a few years until I went to School of Rock where, you know, you kind of play in a cover band for a few months, and then you cover a specific genre or band’s set list, and then you play a show as a band in a bar? I did that from when I was eleven ‘til I was like fifteen. Every four months, there was a show. So I did that for a while, and that kind of helped me prevent myself from having bad stage fright because I kind of did when I was younger.
I was really obsessed with drawing when I was younger. I drew all the time, every single day. Like, I would get covers of my favorite movies or games or something and then just try to draw it over and over again. I’d tape them all over the wall in my room and draw all the time until I started getting into guitar. I guess it was both, yeah. 24-7. That was my favorite thing ever. And I would get in trouble in school for it, too, because I did not do good in school, but I would draw creatures and characters in all my textbooks like all day long. That’s kind of what I did most of my childhood.
I wasn’t antisocial; it just took me a while to find actual friends because where I grew up on Long Island is very sports-oriented, you know? So most of my friends played sports, and I didn’t, so I couldn’t really like, get along with them that well because that’s all they’d talk about. It just took me a while to find people that I enjoyed spending time with, yeah.
SC: Castor, you’re next. Same vibe, please.
CH: When I was younger, a lot of the music I listened to was my dad showing me stuff. A lot of Beach Boys, and he was showing me a lot of the Ramones. I loved that stuff when I was younger, maybe eight years old. I would listen to whatever my sisters were listening to on the radio – pop music. Not great, but it’s something to listen to. And then obviously, as I got older, I started deciding, “Oh, I like this kinda sound, more of the heavier type stuff.” But I think it does stem from The Beach Boys and Ramones that my dad was playing for me a lot. The Ramones was a lot of energy: cool, fast, and hard-driving like kind of punk stuff. With The Beach Boys, there’s a lot of really cool melody, chord progression, harmonies, and stuff like that. Those two things, I love the combination of.
I never really got into playing music until I was kind of older. I always had a drum kit at home, just messing around with it, but I was never any good. Obviously, my dad was saying, “Oh, you sound great, son,” but no, I didn’t! And then, probably around 16, I started actually taking it seriously, watching videos on how to do things, how to keep a beat, and how to do some drum fills. I picked up a guitar, too. That was awesome. Then I just started getting into some weird music. I’ve never really met a lot of people who listen to the same music as I do, and I’m okay with that because I could do it on my own time. Sit in the car by myself on a long drive and listen to some music that I enjoy rather than whatever my sisters were listening to. I sort of found my own outlet and time for doing that, and discovered my own style. So I’m talking about Corrosion of Conformity, they’re awesome, Mars Volta I like a lot, this band called Leprous, a progressive pop-metal band from Norway. Tool was a big band that got me into more progressive types of music, nonconformist type things a little more out there, and I think that’s what I’m gravitating more towards now – sort of exploring the space of the audio that you have and the platform.
I also played sports my whole life. My parents first put me in karate lessons when I was four years old just to kind of put me in line a little bit, and I think they maybe kept me in sports just to have some sort of extra structure in my life. I mean, I like sports, but I’m not a jock for sure by any means.
SC: What did you think when you first met these guys?
CH: The first time I actually met both these guys, I met ’em on the same night. We had a mutual friend who kind of just threw us all together in a room of instruments and said, “Let’s play music.” And I’d never met these guys. I’m sort of a not very vocal, nervous person, not very social, so it was a little strange.
JD: Yeah, and you were playing piano.
CH: I was playing piano, and I don’t really know how to play piano.
ES: He played upright piano, and Jake was playing synth.
CH: I mean, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We had a mutual friend; we just wanted to play music. We had that in common. So I think that was important for us to start a relationship.
SC: Which you got thrown together on a blind date.
CH: Yeah. Yeah. It was a blind date.
SC: That’s cool. So Ethan, from the blind date, let’s get into your story.
ES: I actually started drums when I was about five years old. I took drum lessons for like a year or so when I was a little, little kid, but the things I was into before music were skateboarding and skiing. I liked to draw, but I never really got as into the visual arts as these two, but I remember specifically I had a little iPod Shuffle that I would always listen to. The specific things I remember were “Paranoid,” Black Sabbath, and Dark Side of the Moon. I would always listen to those when I was skating around as a little kid.
I actually did School of Rock, too, the same thing Jake did, but I did it in Seattle. One of my family friends was in it, and I went to see her concert and thought it was so cool getting to perform, so I asked my parents if I could do drum lessons there. I went in for the lesson, and they had me try every instrument. I played drums and thought it was cool. Then they gave me this bright red Strat, plugged it into a huge amp, and showed me how to play a power chord. I was like, “This is what I want to do.” But yeah, I loved skiing during the winter, and I was obsessed with skateboarding the rest of the year. And then I played lacrosse for a period of time too. I played goalie because that was the only individual position – I didn’t have to work with everyone as much. As for musical influences, growing up in Seattle, well, KEXP is a huge resource for finding music there. Like, it was just always playing in my house. Grunge music was a huge, huge influence, specifically Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. I’ve listened to those bands more than anything else by now.
JD: Can I add something?
SC: Absolutely. Please.
JD: When I started listening to music, I was really into The Animals, but then I was really obsessed with Seattle sound, any Seattle grunge. I was so into it, especially Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, likewise to Ethan.
SC: Interesting. I’ll tell you right now, when I describe your band to people, I end up saying something along the lines of it’s like some sort of COC-AIC skewed but with Justice era time changes because it shifts in patterns that you make. They don’t always make sense, and they shouldn’t, but they seem to build around these whipping riffs as well. It sounds like an aural flag for all the freaks and geeks of the world to unite behind, like the people who don’t relate to jocks, who don’t relate to the internet – and I’m not saying you’re technophobes, but you know what I mean, who don’t live their lives dictated by technology.
Bastardane: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, right.
SC: You sound like a band that is flying the flag for people who want no part of making their life about that. You think that’s a fair comment?
ES: I’d say so.
JD: Yeah, I agree.
CH: Like you were saying, we don’t really know how to put our music in a genre. We just say what bands are an influence, so it is kind of a mixture of things. Jake mostly wrote all the lyrics, but it is a lot about discovering things about yourself, being a little lost, and being angry about that. So I would say that’s a fair statement.
JB: We’re definitely bad at the internet. It’s like a “not wanting to conform” to that kind of culture, that process. Because you do have to do that, you have to be a certain way to get attention, but I don’t know. I feel like we’ve mutually always had trouble trying to be, like, “Hey, this is our band.” We just can’t do it. And I’m sure it would be beneficial to us, but we’re trying to make it happen without that kind of ‘blogger style’ thing, you know?
SC: Let’s talk about the methodology behind your writing. Does your riff come first? Does your melody come first?
ES: I’d say it’s most of the time riff first.
JD: I’m always really late on the vocals, but then it’s usually either like I’m having trouble trying to fit it into what we’ve already made, you know, as far as instrumentals go, or like, once they come in things change a little bit because it’s like we’ve already worked on the instrumental part for so long that when you add the vocals it kind of changes the song at that point.
ES: Yeah, it changes the dynamics of it a lot. I mean, most of the songs are one of us having a starting riff, whatever section of the song that riff may turn into. There are definitely times where someone will present a completed song, and we all workshop it and turn it into a group thing, but I’d say most of the time, someone has one or two riffs that we build the rest of the song around, both directions.
JD: There’s kind of like this mutual understanding as to how we’re gonna finish the idea, you know?
SC: Interesting. So there’s little discussion; it’s just chemistry and jamming?
JD: There’s not much talking about it. It’s without words, mostly.
SC: When it comes to the lyrics, it’s solely your input, Jake?
JD: I usually write something, and then when I feel like it’s ready enough, I’ll show it to them, and we’ll go over it and finalize it with last touches of it being recorded or something, you know?
SC: In terms of the lyric content, there’s never any dispute about it?
JD: Not often.
ES: I mean, there will be dispute over words more than content, I think.
JD: Like, “Don’t say this, say that.”
SC: Do you think this is an expression of everything that happens in your life, or is it an artistic pursuit?
JD: For me, it’s both, I’d say. It’s my desire, it’s art, you know, but it’s probably also all the things that I can’t say that I want to present in the form of music.
ES: I think the actual songwriting is more of a creative pursuit, whereas performance is more of an expression.
JD: Yeah. True.
SC: One of the other things about the music that I like is it’s definitely not in any way shallow or surface. It works on a couple levels.
CH: Yeah, I’m not a fan of any surface-level type stuff. Like small talk? I don’t have time for that. So I feel like if we’re gonna make music, I don’t want it to be small talk or surface-level music. I wanted it to be us, what we are.
JD: There’s stuff like that that I do listen to and appreciate because sometimes the simpler things just work. They’re good, and they hit in the right places, but there’s a bigger picture.
CH: We’re still trying to figure things out, but this is where we’re at right now in the process of discovery in life and music.
SC: Do you think that you’re a band that benefits from what I would call “nonsensical counterpoints”? Do you each throw counterpoints into the mix that maybe don’t make sense on paper but make beautiful sense when you play them?
ES: I think there are a lot of things that work, that exist, in the context of the complete arrangement and everyone playing together. For example, there are a lot of riffs where the timing relies completely on the drums, some kind of simple polyrhythm where if all three of us weren’t playing it together, it would make no sense. There would be no context to understand the actual pulse of what we’re playing.
SC: Would it be fair to say that when you were making Is This Rage? it wasn’t necessarily smooth? You don’t strike me necessarily as people who are committed to a smooth “act friendly” process, but you’re very happy to go through it knowing what’s gonna come out. Is that a fair thing to say?
CH: Yeah. I feel like we all have our strong opinions on what we want to do. But we haven’t gotten into any big fights. We’re not all pushovers, but we’re not all trying to settle the world or overpower each other.
ES: We’re not gonna be a dick about someone’s idea.
CH: I mean, if it sucks, it sucks.
JD: Sometimes it’s a case of, “I don’t like this right now, but these two guys like it, so maybe I’ll go with it.” Then in two days, I don’t even remember what I didn’t like about it, you know what I mean?
SC: You’re trusting the chemistry.
JD: Yeah, we do.
CH: I think we trust each other.
SC: That’s a great thing. Before we wind down here, I forgot the most basic question. Where did you get the name from?
ES: Okay, so we all went to art school, and we needed elective credits. I had the genius idea that Jake and I should take chemistry class together. Not a class that we needed at all. It’s art school chemistry too, but the teacher was an amazing guy, and it was a fun class, simplified for us art students. So, a lot of the classes and lectures were just meant to be fun with some educational value, and one time, he gave us this list of funny and unusual molecule names. And one of the molecules on that list was bastardane.
SC: You’ve gotta be kidding. That’s a scientific term?
ES: Yeah. I don’t know enough about chemistry to fully describe it. If you Google it, you can find articles about the molecule and whatnot. But that name just stuck with me, and I was like, “That’s cool, I’m gonna write that down.” We hadn’t even started the band yet.
JD: We had horrible names. A big list of horrible names. And they were very bad.
SC: What’s the worst name that you could’ve called your band and didn’t?
JD: Falcon Raven. It was Falcon Raven.
ES: Oh, yeah, there was also Ratshit.
CH: Wasn’t Donkey Engine one of ’em?
ES: Yeah, Donkey Engine. What an idea that was.
CH: Just stupid.
ES: We had hundreds of ’em.
SC: I’d like to see some art for Donkey Engine! And speaking of the art, you guys do your own art, right?
CH: We do all our own art as of now. That’s half out of budget but also half out of “We can do it, and we’re expressing ourselves in the way we want to.” We don’t have to submit it through somebody else. There’s no middleman, so I like it better doing it this way.
SC: I thought the whole name was something to do with dogs or Baskervillian wolf creatures!
ES: We found it a lot easier to make interesting dog creatures, monsters, and stuff into artwork rather than a hex structure of a molecule.
CH: It works on a few levels. With the ‘Dane,’ we got our little dog going, but also the word ‘Bastard’ is in there, and that has a little more to do with not really fitting in with things going on around us… so yeah, I guess like bastard children of whatever society that we’ve been raised in.