Ship Thieves Interview Special
Irruption, the latest album from Ship Thieves is a brilliant collection of upfront, and anthemic songs albeit with a hint of darkness and sees the band (who feature members of Hot Water Music, Samiam and The Enablers among other groups) on storming form throughout the album. We caught up with Ship Thieves guitarist and vocalist Chris Wollard (who also plays in Hot Water Music) to talk about Irruption and its creation as well as how the pandemic has affected the band, Ship Thieves recent split release with Reconciler, cover songs, Hot Water Music and his journey through punk rock…
(At time of interview the album was about to be released, Irruption is out now) – Your new album Irruption is out soon. How did the recording and creation of the album go?
It went great. It really did. Black Bear studio is super close to all of our houses, and it was actually our practice space for a good while. So we have spent a LOT of time in that place over the years. And Ryan Williams is one of our best friends, as well as being an extraordinary engineer. He also has been the touring Soundman for Hot Water Music, the Draft, and Ship Thieves. So, yeah it’s always great there.
Are you excited to get the album out there and have you had feedback about the material you have made available so far?
There’s not much in life that’s better than when the box of new records arrives, and you get to hear the vinyl for the first time. It takes a lot of work to get it done, so yeah for sure, it’s super exciting!
The songs on Irruption and the music of Ship Thieves are very upbeat and anthemic. Do you think it’s important to have hopeful music at a time when things are so uncertain in the world?
Hahahaha well, ok, hahaha… I didn’t really expect that! Honestly when I think about this record, it is pretty dark to me. There is a lot of struggle and anxiety in this, but the songs are not ABOUT ME. The songs are about what I was seeing, and who I was seeing. In my own life though, YES! I think it is very important to be hopeful and positive and to spread some love. I think it’s very important. It’s crucial.
How has the worldwide pandemic changed Ship Thieves as a band and how do you think the music world will change in the near future because of it?
Well, the most direct way it has impacted us, is for the last year we haven’t really felt comfortable being all packed together in our warehouse, and I gotta say, the music world has changed so much already in my lifetime, that I’d never try to guess what is coming next haha. No way. It’s been way too bonkers lately to try to guess the future.
What does the title of the album and its artwork with the owls on it represent?
Well, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted this record to be when I started writing it. And the scene I was trying to present was an irruption. A chaotic mess. A crushing mass. Life off the rails. And then the issues that arrive within it. On the lighter side of that though, is really I’m just kinda like a low-level “birder” hahaha. I’m into birds, so sue me hahah. And here in Florida, we got all kinds… And yes, I do have a monocular, and yes, it’s badass. Hahahaha!
You have just released a split with Reconciler. What has the reaction to that release been like so far?
Yeah! I think it came out great! I’m not really sure what people, outside of my friends, think about it though… But I do know we achieved our goal of raising $1,000 for Save Our Stages!
How did you and Reconciler hook up on the first place for this release?
Well, I’ve known some of those guys for years. Their bass player Derron actually used to own a recording studio here in town with Addy (our guitar player).
I did a couple of the songs from the first Ship Thieves record there with George (HWM) and Derron actually played bass at one of the first Thieves shows. My wife bought a copy of the Reconciler LP when it came out, and I just thought it was a great album. So, I think it was only a matter of time before I was gonna ask them if they were interested in doing a split.
Who else do you think would be a good match doing a split with Ship Thieves in the future?
Well, we already have a couple we would like to do. With some Florida bands i have had a long history with. Hopefully they come together hahaha. It’s a lot of fun to do splits, but it can be hard to get the timing right.
Ship Thieves released a cover of Progress by Midnight Oil towards the end of last year. How much fun as it doing that cover?
Yes! I’d been wanting to do that song for over 20 years! That is a great band. I love that band. It took some time to really learn it and pull it off. I have so much respect for them that I wanted to do right by them, but they are so talented. I think we all had to really dive in to get it right. But I gotta say I think I’m on my 3rd or 4th copy of Midnight Oil’s “scream in blue” live album. I have listened to that record countless times. It’s incredible.
You have also covered Roky Erickson in the past. Do you love putting the Ship Thieves vibe on different songs and Who else would you love to cover songs by in the future?
Yeah, that Roky song is so beautiful. It was a cool opportunity to do it. Cleopatra Records does some holiday themed comps and we did that for their Halloween comp. He had some great tunes. We’ve done a lot of covers through the years and yeah sometimes I just want to, like ya said, put our own spin on it. Neil Young, Agent Orange, Roky, Paul Kelly, the Oils, we try to spread it around a bit. Usually it’s just “falling in love with a song” that is the impetus. Wanting to get inside the songwriters head. See how they build things, and yes we have a few we are looking at in the near future.
How did Ship Thieves start as a band in the first place?
Ship Thieves started like most of my other bands started, I was just writing songs that didn’t seem to have a home. The first album has a LOT of people playing on it. I was traveling a lot and recorded music with friends here and there. It was a slow process because there was no singular process. But as time went on, things came into focus. After the first record I just was lucky. Addy and Chad and Bobby, we just started clicking and we followed the road ahead of us. I’ve been very lucky in having great musicians to play with, and I’m thankful everyday for it.
The other members of Ship Thieves are also members of Samiam, Quit and The Enablers. Were you fans of those bands before you got together in the band?
I gotta say this, cause it’s true. Samiam is one of the very few bands that I can truly say that impacted my life. I remember when the first 7” came out, I loved it. Then with the Underground ep. Soar. Billy. Samiam very much changed my trajectory. I also have to say that Quit did the same. The first show I got to open for Quit I was 15 I think. My band was not good hahah, but Quit was awesome. At the Star Club in Ybor City (Tampa). Florida was very much ignored as a punk scene in the 80’s- early 90’s, but Quit was able to put a full length album/cd when it was still VERY hard to do. Addy has been writing great songs for 30 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to know him most of that time. It’s fucking awesome playing guitar next to that dude, and yeah! The Enablers have been an awesome band for a long time as well! And Bobby is my DUDE! He was also in another Gville band called Black Cougar Shock Unit. When Bobby joined the band is when the band really felt complete. That’s when we started to realize what we wanted to do.
What was your musical upbringing like?
Well, my musical upbringing has been a long road, and I sure hope it ain’t over yet.
I was born in Flint Michigan and that’s where I started playing. Maybe 7 or 8 years old? Not sure, but when I was around 9 I started taking lessons from Bruce Wench (I hope I’m spelling his last name correctly), he had a shop called “Flint Guitars” if I remember correctly. It was an awesome little shop. He is the one that laid the foundation for everything I’ve learned and been lucky enough to do. He was a great teacher. I also played trumpet for 7-8 years in orchestra when I was growing up, and I learned a lot from that too. No doubt about it. I didn’t move to Gainesville till I was 19 so I had already been playing music for years, but there was something very special about Gainesville when I started coming up here. The community was so tight. Everyone was in a band, everyone was having house shows all over the student ghetto. It was a beautiful time. It seemed like everyone was playing different styles of music, but everyone was in it together. That’s what it was like. Togetherness. It’s a great thing to learn.
How did you discover punk rock initially and what are some of your favourite ever punk albums?
I discovered punk rock through “in-school suspension” in 7th grade after moving to Florida. I had a guitar and a skateboard and I met my old friend Brad Pomeroy there. He turned me on to punk rock. Him and Paul Vanderschouw. Misfits, 7 Seconds, Minor Threat, DRI, GBH, Sex Pistols… that was my introduction.
After that I got really into what Dischord was doing, and the DC scene. I love that stuff… Gray Matter, Dag Nasty, Shudder To Think, Jawbox, Fugazi…But yeah, the list is always growing:Bad Brains, Naked Raygun, Leatherface, The Saints, The Wipers, Guided By Voices, Radon, Stooges. They are all in rotation for sure, but the list is always growing.
Are there any plans for a new Hot Water Music album?
Absolutely! We are writing it right now haha!
Will you play live with the band again when it’s possible after taking a hiatus from doing so?
I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been lately, and I’m just gonna keep doing what I’ve been doing. I love making records with my friends, and I’m going to keep doing that till I can’t.
What have been some of the highlights in your time with Hot Water Music?
I’ve been lucky. And I’ve made some great friends along the way. Those are the highlights.
Can you tell us about your time in the brilliantly named Sheryl Cro (w) Mags?
I think I was maybe 22 or so when Bill Clower and I first lived together. He was the drummer for Radon, and I was in HWM… Rumbleseat also started happening around then… We probably lived in 5 or 6 different houses together. It was a pretty time really. There were so many houses in the student ghetto where there would have house shows almost every weekend. I think me and Bill were just so close back then, that it was only a matter of time before we started a band together. I wanted to cut loose. I wanted to do a record that I would have looked for when I was 15. I still had a lot of anger and angst built up that needed to get out. Kaleb also lived with us for awhile and that helped us focus a bit, and when James Ross joined we felt solid. He was our second bassist but he was the guy that always did belong with us. It was just a really good group of friends. We did one east coast tour with Unitas and Army Of Ponch did some shows on that tour as well. We did some trips around the southeast… including to Charleston whenever it was Johnny Puke’s birthday party, but mostly we did house shows in Gainesville. The Compound was a regular.
You have also been in bands The Draft, Rambleseat and The Blacktop Candence. Have you found it a challenging task balancing bands?
Not really. As long as everyone involved is communicating, it’s fine.
You have written songs for Bad Religion in the past. Can you tell us about that experience and how that came about?
Well, speaking purely from my point of view… as I said earlier, I’ve been very lucky. Not only have I been lucky enough to play music with so many great people and players through the years… I’ve also been able to meet and play with some of my heroes. And sometimes things come out of nowhere… I’m not sure which album HWM had just finished, but I was talking to Brett after we had the album done. And I have to say that Brett is just such a great friend. He really did so much for the band. Those were really great times. So, yeah, here’s the way it went… and I wasn’t ready for it: HWM had just finished what was maybe the Caution record. I was talking to Brett, who had really been the most supportive person I’d ever had a chance to meet in the music world. We were talking on the phone. I said something like: Thanks so much much for doing this record. I can’t wait to work with you again! I think he said something like: What do you mean, we haven’t even worked together yet? Again, this is my scattered memories here… And I said: Well I just am saying thank you for working with us (HWM) on everything.. Brett said something like: Well I think we should do something together. (Or, what do do think about writing something together). I mean, this was not expected. Not at all. And he suggested getting together at his house with Brooks for a handful of days, and just writing together. I was sorta stunned to even be talking about it with Brett, and he was, as always, just awesome. I slept in the bottom floor of the house and everyday I would wake up and get ready to play.
I think we played 5-6 hours a day, non stop? Brooks is a machine! I was so lucky to be invited.
What have been some of the most memorable moments in your career so far?
Ok, since I’m already thinking about my heroes…
1: I was lucky enough to do 3 tours with Leatherface
2: Brian Baker working with The Draft on lead guitar during our demo sessions
3: the Bad Religion writing session
4: touring with Bouncing Souls in Canada, Europe, UK, Australia, and the USA
5: meeting Samiam in high school, and touring with them in my 30’s
6: watching GBH play in Las Vegas with Kevin Seconds, with our arms around each other’s shoulders… or maybe when I got to open for 7seconds on the Soulforce Revolution tour? Honestly, I have been very lucky. Much love and thanks for taking the time to do this.
Pick up the new album now – https://smarturl.it/Irruption
Thank you so much for spending time with Circuit Sweet
Words: Gavin Brown