As states and communities reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still tough for musicians who made their livelihood playing music in live settings. Because of as much, we’ve been checking in with various artists throughout the area to see how they’ve been coping.
This week, we caught up with Jerred Lazar and Steve Rovery from area pop-punk quartet, American Television. Among the things we discussed were the album they put out this year, “Watch It Burn,” as well as the single they recently released, a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Officer,” how important ska has been to at least one family throughout the pandemic and who we should be checking out online as most live music still feels like it’s a ways away from returning. For more information on the band, visit their Bandcamp at https://amtv.bandcamp.com or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/americantelevision.
1. What did you listen to while self- quarantining and what about it made you want to listen to it during a pandemic?
Jerred: We’re really fortunate to have some pretty talented friends and acquaintances, and some of them have put out incredible new music since this whole mess started. Kill Lincoln put out what might just be one of my favorite records of the year. Mike also runs Bad Time Records and has been consistently putting out fantastic material. What can I say, I’m a sucker for ska!
Speaking of ska, Urban Crater surprised us with their long-awaited debut full length. It’s catchy as hell and if you’re not laughing your ass off while you skank around the room you’re just not doing it right.
I’ve probably listened to Driving by Bashful the most over the last few months. There’s so many incredible bands from Richmond and this one resonates with me more than most. The album is the perfect blend of pop and punk, sounding bright and melodic with a hint of aggressiveness, but gets depressing as soon as you scratch the surface. I can relate to many of the sentiments described lyrically so, in a way, it can be a somewhat cathartic listening experience.
Lastly, we have the best record label, Wiretap Records, and there’s a reason they were our first choice before we even started recording ‘Watch It Burn.’ Rob has an incredible ear and a knack for finding talent. I befriended the guys in The Burnt Tapes while living in London a few years ago, and little did I know we’d be label-mates alongside bands like Mercy Music, Lost In Society, Audio Karate, Decent Criminal, Problem Daughter, Odd Robot, The Casket Lottery — I could go on forever. Did we beg Rob to put us on the label? I can neither confirm nor deny.
2. Have you come across any livestreams/internet-based performances throughout the pandemic that have stuck out? If so, which ones and why?
Jerred: I love what Tony’s been doing with the Fest At Home series. He’s always been really good about choosing lineups that are as close to perfect as you’ll ever get, and he spends the time interacting with them outside of just the performance.
Rob from Wiretap Records did a livestream series which has been absolutely awesome, and we played it back in May with Bristol To Memory, The Lucky Eejits, and Get Married. Rob’s consistently doing incredible things and this is just a small example.
I’ve also been digging the Mobile Suit Music sessions. The folks behind it have been friends of mine for years and it’s been cool to hang out and feel like we’re catching up like we used to, albeit in a completely different environment.
I think it’s safe to say we all miss going to shows, not just for live music but also the social aspects of engaging in the music community whether it’s supporting your local scene or the small world mentality gained from being a part of something global. Livestreams have brought something even more intimate right into our homes and on our screens. It’s not a perfect solution because there isn’t one, but being able to engage with friends and strangers alike has brought some semblance of normalcy and for that, I’m grateful. The glass feels half full.
Steve: Tim Barry from AVAIL did a few Instagram live streams that I enjoyed. I often tune into Marc Rebillet’s improv streams on Sunday — he is an absolute master of making loops and he’s entertaining as hell. Also, I’m looking forward to PUP’s Oct. 23rd livestream because it’s being produced/directed by their music video creator and claims to be ‘like no other livestream.’ Their videos are all quite amazing, so it should be a good one.
3. You guys have some new stuff out, from what I understand, and I’ve even been getting emails from your publicist team about everything you have going on. How did the latest project come together and what can you tell us about it? Have the last six months been a fruitful time for you in terms of writing?
Steve: We put out our first full-length LP in January on Wiretap Records, ‘Watch It Burn.’ It has been a really great experience being part of a label that has a strong community around it. Many people have discovered us because of the Wiretap connection.
We also got on FEST 19 which goes down Oct. 29 to 31, 2021, in Gainesville. I’ve been going to FEST on and off for 10 years and I love the experiences I’ve had there. We’re all stoked to be part of it from the other side of the stage because it has been a goal since American Television was formed.
We haven’t been in a room together for the last six months, but that hasn’t stopped us from creating. We’ve been recording covers and writing new songs in order to stay productive during the pandemic. The songwriting process is slower because we’re passing files around, but it has been a great learning experience to improve our individual recording skills.
Our cover of ‘Officer’ by Operation Ivy is available on the ‘Attention: Black Lives Matter compilation’ and on the major streaming services. We have another cover coming out in October on the next Attention comp, so keep your ears open for that.
4. What’s the most positive takeaway you’ve been able to experience from all the self-quarantining and the sort of art world being on pause for the time being?
Jerred: With so many aspects in our lives being beyond our control, I’ve been taking this time to slow down and focus on the things in my life that I can control. I’m married with children and it’s been a blessing in disguise to have so much time with them, especially when the kids are so young. I’ve also gotten back into skating over the summer. I used to hit the parks a lot when I was younger but it’s been awesome getting outside and sweating out some of my demons. I’m not sure I would have gotten back into it after nearly a decade away if it wasn’t for this pesky pandemic but it’s made an incredibly positive impact on my mental health. The pleasure and the pain go well together and can be a welcome distraction. Hey! Do a kick flip!
Steve: I’m with Jerred on this one. Time with family has been a blessing. I’ve been teaching my son important life skills like making bike jumps out of scrap wood, and how to build multi-roomed blanket forts. And my wife and I have been tackling projects around the house, so I’ve improved my woodworking skills.
5. If there’s one song that you think could help everybody get through these uncertain times, what would it be and why?
Jerred: Did I mention ska? We listen to a lot of it at home. It can be tricky to find things that are relatively appropriate for the younger half of the household and we get constant requests for The Interrupters. ‘Got Each Other’ is always a crowd favorite. It feels good to sing ‘We don’t have much but we got each other!’ at the tops of our lungs together! We listen to carefully curated Rancid playlists and my youngest is always singing ‘Fall Back Down.’ I think it’s good to have and to teach the belief that we’re all in this together.
Steve: John K. Samson — ‘Fantasy Baseball at the End of The World.’
BONUS QUESTION: What artists, local or not, do you think have done a great job staying engaged musically online and what about what they’re doing and have done sets them apart?
Steve: Our friend Craig Shay who plays in Answering Machine, Cold Wrecks, and a solo project has been releasing a steady stream of content from all three projects. From streamed covers, artist collaborations (Distractunes), and even did a stream where he and Matan from Cold Wrecks tried to play each other’s guitar parts which was fun.
It’s not a band, but there’s this project called Jersey Interchange, wherein new New Jersey bands are covering old New Jersey bands. And it’s stuff any aging punk would recognize. I think they release once a month.