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Scrimmage Heroes
Nothing Comes Clean
Off Ramp
Scrimmage Heroes are a slightly above average punk band that hails from Southern California. I could pretty much stop there and you would get the gist of where these guys are coming from. The band has been compared to Dag Nasty, Foo Fighters, and Seaweed. Nothing Comes Clean is a record of well-produced punk pop that isn't terribly original in sound or execution, and that's the problem.

The band does come roaring out of the gate with "Happy Accidents" and produces some decent harmonies on "Tired of Making Friends." "My Fault" is catchy and riff-happy. "Arkansas" sports the record's best melody and a dueling big guitar sound. They finally stop to take a breath on the weird ballad "Red Tape Phaser." There's even a cover of Mission of Burma's "Academy Fight Song."

But it's clear early on that these guys don't have much of anything interesting to say. On "Melodrama," singer Noel Paris comes up with these profound sentiments: "Velvet paintings of my fears/ Gentle laughs and phony tears/ I can't believe how many beers I spilled for you." Combine that with their run of the mill, dime-a-dozen sound and Scrimmage Heroes seem a little lacking in raison d'être. Even worse, they seem disgruntled that they aren't huge stars yet. As Paris sings in "Ripped Off": "I've waited endlessly/For the world to suck up to me/ I've paid the price, I just can't pay my bills/ Anticipation's giving me the chills/Am I just wasting all my time." Hey buddy you said it, not me.

Sean Slone

Rolling with the Chords - interview by John Chedsey

The Scrimmage Heroes are a brand spanking new rock'n'roll outfit with a lineage dating back a few years further than most. Containing former Big Drill Car guitarist Mark Arnold in the band's ranks, The Scrimmage Heroes have a very potent lineup full of some very good songwriters and onstage performers. I caught up with Mark Arnold and second guitarist Frank Valasquez after they finished opening for Buck-O-Nine in Denver Colorado. Aside from having some minor troubles with the touring van forcing Mark to become Mr. Goodwrench for a bit, the band was in good spirits on their tour. This particular interview was rather impromptu as I had just discovered I could use a tape recorder for the night and had approximately their set length to come up with a few questions

SSMT: So anyways, have you ever been to the ALLcentral website?

Mark Arnold: I haven't personally because I'm computer illiterate but I've been on it when a couple of my friends have been on.

SSMT: It's an active message board. The kids are curious what happened to you after Big Drill Car split up.

MA: Well, for me after the band broke up, I started working at a studio and I met this band Rocket From the Crypt who I known a little before and went on tour with them for awhile. These guys, Jay [Smith - drums] and Frank - who's here - and Noel [Paris - vocals] were playing in a band called Feeble. I was recording them in the studio. We kinda did other things and after I got done with Rocket I did a short tour with the Adz, filling in on guitar for them, did a little thing with the Doughboys, filling in for them. Then I started playing in a band called All Systems Go and did a record with them. During all that with All Systems Go, I was playing in this band. And now we got this record out [Nothing Comes Clean] on Offramp Records and we got this tour opening for Buck-O-Nine. We're trying to lay the groundwork to be able to tour on our own.

SSMT: How did you hook up with Jon from Buck-O-Nine and Offramp Records?

MA: It was really a strange thing. Our bass player Adam [Neill] was working at Soma, which is a club in San Diego. Jon was kinda talking to Jerry, this guy who was kind of stage managing the club and Jon was asking Jerry who are some up and coming bands and luckily we played a really good show when we played at Soma. Adam worked at Soma and knew Jerry so he saw the band that night and thought we were okay. We gave him a little three song CD and he gave it to Jon. Months went by and Jon finally got around to listening to it and was kinda curious about it and called Jerry back finally. Jerry got in touch with Adam who finally worked it out with Jon and his wife Laura, who is the co-owner of the label, and came and saw us three times, I think, and said, 'We wanna do your record.' It wasn't finished yet. We had just started recording some of the songs. We were really lucky how it happened. It just sorta fell into place.

SSMT: And to get a good tour like this...

MA: Exactly. They [Buck-O-Nine] were gonna do a tour right when our CD was gonna be out. It couldn't happen at a better opportune time for us. Everything has been really lucky. We just want to keep the luck going.

SSMT: I was talking to your singer at the merchandise booth and he said you guys have been together about ten months. Based on a lot of the songs I've heard and what I saw tonight, you guys sound like you've been together a lot longer. What would you attribute to that.

MA: I would think that's because Jay and Frank and Noel have been in a band together too. They were in that band Feeble so they have a bit of a continuity between them already and I recorded them in that band so I knew a bit what they were about. They had been in a band for three years so that's why it sounds a little more cohesive. For me to step into it, I kinda knew what they were going for and I'd actually played a couple little things on one of their Feeble releases so I was kinda halfway there. So once we got Adam in the band then we decided to start the band Scrimmage Heroes. Once you get different members, it's a different kind of band.

SSMT: A different chemistry...

MA: Right, so we became the Scrimmage Heroes, played a few shows and recorded a few things and that's where it all picked up. We gave tapes to everybody. We wanted to get out of playing San Diego and Orange County, though they're not bad markets and we love to play there. We just want to play other places too.

Frank Velasquez: We practiced a lot

MA: Yeah, we practiced a lot. But, you know, this is the real practice. You gotta get out there and tour and get your real tour legs.

SSMT: What are some of the band that make you want to go out there and rock? Basically, what are your influences, bands that inspire you to go out there?

FV: Oh wow... [ponders this question] Actually lately a lot. I've been a lot of The Jam records. On this whole tour I've been listening to The Jam a lot, the Pixies, the Ramones. Hmm. I don't wanna leave anyone out.

MA: Everybody's got a wide variety of tastes. We all listen to different things. Lately, like last night when I was falling asleep in the van on that long drive, I listened to Swervedriver and Superchunk, which I really like the energy of that band. They always inspire me - both those band inspire me to play. I love the Descendents. I love all those old records. Those inspire me to really play hard because it's odd timed and technically unusual and I like that. There's all kind of different things recently, like Wilco, which kind of a country band. But I really enjoy some of the songwriting. It's weird. There's a lot of bands like ALL/Descendents that are very musician oriented because they're really good players. They play the shit out of their instruments and really play good. And there are the kind of bands that we go for. We try to be a little more song oriented because we're not that good. I wish we were, you know, that awesome but we're not quite that good so we have to rely a little more on our melody which Descendents and ALL definitely have a lot of melody in their songs.

FV: Like what Mark said about Superchunk. The last time we saw Superchunk down in LA...after I saw their show I just wanted to go home and play guitar.

MA: Because they're a great two-guitar band. That's the thing me and Frank are trying to do sometimes, as much as we can where we don't play the same things. We make a point like, 'on this part you're gonna play this and I'll play this and when we do it right, it will cohesively make this.'

SSMT: It adds a lot to have two guitars doing two different things.

MA: That's what that band Swervedriver...they're really good at that. They have this little rhythm and then they layer the guitars and paint this beautiful picture with just basic guitars. Some with a little bit of keyboards but yet they have this really nice smooth melodic thing there.

SSMT: That's kinda like what the Pixies used to with Frank - or Charles Thompson, Black Francis, whatever they call him - playing simple rhythms and Joey Santiago going nuts.

MA: Yeah, like beautiful lines and he's a great lyricist. He plays melody...he just rolls over chords. You're like, 'wow, that sounds a little weird' but if you were, as you are playing it, just hum the melody over it, it fits like a glove. I love things like that. I love writers that do that, do chords that necessarily aren't predictable in that sense, but with the melody overlapping it. It makes this beautiful picture.

FV: It's got that sound Joey Santiago played, his tone...some of the stuff he played was simple, but it was great. Like the beginning of "Letter to Memphis"...that makes my hair to stand up every time.

SSMT: Like the solo to 'Alec Eiffel' on the same record...just weird...

FV: It's how Frank Black just rolls through the chords.

MA: But that smooth melody just takes it to another place.

FV: And getting back to texture, I love the way Sonic Youth did that.

SSMT: Probably the ultimate in texture bands.

FV: Definitely. And they're so identifiable. You hear some of their guitars come on and you're like, 'I think that's Sonic Youth.' Then all of a sudden their vocals come on and you're like, 'yeah.'

SSMT: Getting back to you guys, how has the response been on tour in front of the Buck-O-Nine crowd?

MA: We've been really lucky, really receptive.

FV: Tonight was a really good example of how everything's been going. Kids seem to be really into it and it gives us a rush onstage. We've been having a blast ever since we've been on the road.

MA: We've been lucky because their fans seem to be a little more tolerant to us and accept us. I kinda wondered about it but we don't care. We welcome the challenge. We just want to get out there and play. So even if a few of the people are put off by us not being similar to them, that's okay too.

SSMT: I noticed that too. I tagged along on ALL's tour with Less Than Jake last year, there'd be a certain amount of the crowd that was stand-offish and wouldn't bother.

FV: Sometimes they don't even know what to expect. They come to see a certain band and we're on the opposite end of the spectrum sometimes.

MA: We kinda surprise them. The first few songs are kinda like getting their bearings, 'what are these guys doing'. Then they kinda realize what's going on. Then they're like, 'I don't mind it' or they just think it's something to sit through. At least they're tolerant of it. We never play very long. The opening band should be straight to the point. Do your thing, be polite and get off the stage.

SSMT: Do your work and go.

MA: Exactly. Do your work, work hard and get paid for it.

FV: It's been really fun. Just experiencing this whole thing.

SSMT: Did you do much touring with Feeble?

FV: No, actually Feeble was pretty much Orange County, San Bernadino County...that's pretty much all we played. It's strange because we took it serious, but we didn't take it serious. We wanted to write cool songs and we recorded them but we never really had the opportunity to actually tour and support. Towards the middle and towards the end of Feeble, Noel and I started going in a different musical direction. Members changed, we got Jay, Jay played in the last few shows with Feeble. That's when we started coming in this direction.

MA: People went a little more straightforward kind of punk, a little faster than we are, but the same kind of thing. Now, with me being such an old guy, I try to mellow them out.

FV: With Mark in the band now, it helps me try to become a better player myself because I want to try more things and we try to work things together. In Feeble I was just rolling through chords and playing little lines here and there. Now we have this whole fullness of everything and it's kinda fun to work with and get more musicians in the band, everyone's personalities jump into it.

SSMT: Last question: where do you guys plan to take things next?

MA: I think our next goal is to finish this tour, get back home. We have half a record already. We have a couple goals. Before the first of the year have a whole other record, fifteen songs ready, release like twelve. Have them at least ready and then do some more touring. We try to set goals - realistic ones that we can reach - and once we get there we set more. The latest one was we wanted to get a CD out by the end of the year and we did that. Now we gotta get another record ready because now that record is out it's old. Technically speaking. We gotta keep up on that. That way you can do a little bit of homework on your next record and make sure it's what you want to do. We played a couple songs tonight that aren't on the record. We've been doing that a couple song that we have. We can work on them live and get a little bit of feedback on them.


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©Satan Stole My Teddybear 1997-2001

Scrimmage Heroes Interview

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Noel Paris, lead singer and songwriter for the indie-rock band The Scrimmage Heroes. Noel and I work together at Etnies, and though we’ve been friends for some time now, I’ve never really sat down with him to talk about the band. The one thing I do know about The Scrimmage Heroes is that they are a band without barriers. Their unique blend of ’60s Mod-Pop, Rock and New Wave is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and that distinct sound has recently landed them a spot on the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day, Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World. Noel and I talked about everything from love and life to crazy ex- girlfriends, the I.E., and, of course, skateboarding. In the end, I was worried maybe I didn’t have enough material about the band. But looking back, I realize we actually were talking about The Scrimmage Heroes the whole time. Enjoy. -Timmothy

So, you guys just finished up the Pop Disaster Tour with Green Day and Blink, how was it?
The tour was larger than life. We were in awe everyday just seeing the amount of kids that were touched by that kind of music.

The Scrimmage Heroes are quite different musically than what might be expected on that tour. What was that like?
It was great. Kids came there to see a certain type of music and were introduced to what we do—which is a little bit more aggressive and personal. It was a very special tour for us.

Did you get any skating in while you were on the road with those guys? I know you must have represented the “Fontana Shifty” at some point.
(Laughing) Very little skating, actually. It was a lot of driving—that’s the one thing about touring, I’ll always take my board and pads and things like that, but you actually get very little time to skate. Most of my skating was with Micah Matsen and Chris Cote of Kut U Up, another really good band that was with us on the tour. I’d just cruise around with those guys, watchin’ em’ do a bunch of flip tricks I couldn’t do (Laughing).

Didn’t Micah used to ride for Zero back in the day?
Yeah, Micah rode for Emerica and Zero and is so talented—he’s a talented person all around.

But you did teach him how to do a 909-style shifty right?
(Laughing) Of course!

What impact has skateboarding had on your music and what you do?
I was thinkin’ about that recently and I don’t necessarily know if skateboarding has influenced my music, but I definitely know that music has inspired and influenced my skating. I can’t think back to any time in my life—when I’ve been skating with friends and havin’ a great time at a ramp or backyard pool—that I don’t remember the music playing. I grew up with some guys like Allen Losi, Art Poduska and Ron Yerman that were a few years older than me, listening to punk rock at the time.

What were you guys listening to back then?
We were listening to things like Sparks, SNFU, The Descendants and The Angry Samoans—there were so many good bands. There were always just certain records that got me pumped to skate.

It definitely sounds like music has had more influence on your skating than the other way around.
Yeah, I think the other way around. I know there are a lot of bands where skateboarding has influenced their music lyrically—that kind of skate-punk style. We played in Chicago with a band called The Monster Trucks. That was a band that solely let skateboarding influence their music, and it was great to see that, but for me it is a little bit separate. Music is one thing, and skateboarding is another thing to me. When I’m writing music, I like it to be a little bit more personal and like to focus on that side of it.

When did you know you wanted to play music?
Well, I pretty much owe everything to my dad, Dan Paris. He was really into quality music. When I was a kid he was playing Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention, Charles Mingus, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart and Thelonious Monk—that’s what he was into. He was into music that was about paving the way. He’s the one that turned me onto The Beatles album, Rubber Soul, and that album touched me like no other. When I got a bit older, as an early teenager, I got an album called This Is The Modern World by The Jam, and I just remember my friend putting the needle on and it made me want to destroy things. That was it, that was the album that made me want to play music. This Is The Modern World was the album that really solidified what I wanted to do in life, and that was to play quality music.

Tell me about the latest Scrimmage Heroes release, The Mighty Insect.
It’s very lucky that it even came out. The things that happened before it’s recording would send many bands, including us, to the brink of breaking up and the brink of disaster. It’s such a long story to get into—there were so many things...

Like your heroin addiction?
(Laughing) Right, things like that.

Seriously though, you can really feel the emotions on that record.
It’s a document of songs that Frank (guitarist) and I wrote during this very hard time, very down time in our lives, and it wasn’t until we finally got everybody back together and started focusing on our priority—which was being a band and trying to get back on the road—that this album came about.

It does sound a bit different than previous Scrimmage Heroes recordings—there seems like there is a broader range of sound.
It is a very experimental record, it’s got a lot of little fou-track things that Frank and I did, but for the most part it’s a special album to me because there’s so much involved in those songs that just pinpoint a certain time in my life, and a certain time where I really thought I was never going to play music again, or be in this band again. To see the album come out and actually take place was more important than anything to me.

How long did it take to write it, record it, basically everything involved with its release?
It didn’t take too long to record, because when we finally realized that we were going to do this again, we had these songs that had been written during the time of all this tribulation. Frank and I had to get a lot of things out—that’s the way we do it, that’s the way we get through certain times in our lives. We write music about it and somehow get it out of our system, and that’s what this album is all about.

Like a mighty insect?
Right. The mighty insect is sort of another abstract expression that just represents the microcosm of what an insect is, how small it is. It still creates quite a reaction in people sometimes. I think about a bumble bee and how small and productive it is, but in another sense, there’s people that run from them. They’re so afraid of this tiny little stinger and what it could possibly do to them. I think it’s such a great analogy, and to me that’s kinda’ what we are— sort of this little insect that tries to get out there and scare people to a certain extent.

What do you want people to really know about the Scrimmage Heroes?
I think it’s refreshing to listen to a band that you know in your heart has never been touched by anything else other than the quality of songwriting, the integrity of their music, and refuses to kiss ass or become part of this cloning process that seems to be going on in music. It’s like you get a band out there that seems to make an impact on people, and then everybody wants their own little version of that. , I hate to say it, but it’s really frustrating to be involved in an industry that is so manufactured and so put together—it’s like that in every kind of music now.

I know what you mean, there just seems to be a huge lack of originality in so much of the music that’s being shelved these days.
Exactly, there’s just so many of these boy bands or girl bands that just seem to barely touch the surface of the real roots of music and it really brings me down. The way I get through that is to keep focused and keep writing music that maybe people are gonna’ get, and maybe some won’t get. My favorites are bands like Husker Du, The Pixies, The Minutemen—bands that were never really quite understood, and to this day, still can’t be categorized into any one style of music. If I think if that’s what we’re gonna be, then I’m okay with that. I don’t mind people not knowing how to take us, as long as they know that were not trying to fool anybody. That’s we’re all about—not fooling anybody. We’re all working men with day jobs that really care a lot about music and sacrifice a lot of things in our lives to do it. That’s what the Scrimmage Heroes are all about.

I guess there is only one thing really left to ask.
Sure, what’s that?

Ping Pong, how has it changed your life? The way I understand it, if you live by the paddle, you die by the paddle.
(Laughing) Ping Pong has a direct influence on our music…

(Laughing)
...and it wasn’t until I beat Mike Durnt of Green Day right before he had to go onstage, that it really hit me that table tennis was the most important thing in my life.

(Laughing)
I had a chance to throw the game, but I decided I’d much rather win that game and send him on stage thinking about that (Laughing).

You have to earn that kind of power. Are there any shout-outs you’d like to give?
Shout-outs? Yes, I do. I would like to say “what’s up” to all my sponsors (Laughing) —I’m just joking. Shout-outs are for the Grammys, and shit. Everybody that has helped us and supported us—they know who they are. I guess I’d really like to thank Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices because he’s a reason I’m still doin’ it. He’s one guy that lives and breathes rock and roll, and doesn’t care how old he is or how rich he gets. That would be my shout-out.

What about the women you met on tour? You’re gonna’ burn them like that? Don’t you have anything to say to them?
No. There’s nothing to say.

Nothing to say?
Nothing.

Nothing to say?
Nothing at all.

Nothing?
No.

That’s not what I heard.
Uh, I miss you. See ya when I get back out there (Laughing).

Well, it was good talking with you.
Actually, can I say one more thing?

Sure.
Because I may never get the chance to do an interview in Thrasher Magazine, Big Brother, or Heckler, I want to tell you one thing. There’s a few skateboarders out there that deserve recognition that probably aren’t gonna’ get their names in any magazines any time soon, and that’s Jimmy “The Greek” Marcus, Kelly Cavanaugh, Ron Yerman, Allen Losi and Pat Splat. There are some skateboarders out there that I think deserve some recognition and that’s five of em’. Those are the skateboarders that inspire me—the guys that keep me skating.

Me, too. Thanks for the time, Noel.
Naw, thank you.

The Scrimmage Heroes are:
Noel Paris: Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Frank Velasquez: Guitar & Vocals
Adam Neill: Bass & Vocals
Shane Gallagher: Guitar
Jay Smith: Drums

Visit their website at ScrimmageHeroes.com to download music, check music info, and find tour dates.

 

This is one band that without a doubt grew up on alternative rock. Every element of the alternative movement is there. From the not-always-distorted guitar to the jumpy drum beats to the pounding bass grooves. While they sing songs about angst and heartache. They still sound happy . . . . pleasantly belting out each tone as if their lives depended on it. Although it might be a little harder nowadays for alt rock bands to distinguish themselves apart from the pack. Scrimmage Heroes unquestionably has what it takes to make it big on the indie rock ciruit, and could certainly move up to the big time whenever time permits.
--Ryan Gutierrez {SKINNIE MAGAZINE}