By Nicholas Jason Lopez
The COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head upon the music industry and effectively shut down all live shows and large gatherings across the globe. New Orleans based alt-rock band The Bummers had toured briefly in California in January and had been set to record their second album by early May, but were forced to postpone their plans.
Between March and June, they also had a handful of local shows that had to get canceled. They were however, able to secure a new studio space and finished recording a track called “Quitman,” which has now been released as a single and streaming on Spotify.
The Bummers are vocalist/guitarist Ben Shooter, vocalist/guitarist Sean Doyle, bassist Clay Hakes and drummer Fox Capone.
The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Shooter about the new music and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe New Orleans to someone who has never been there before?
Ben Shooter – New Orleans has a unique appreciation for the zany and wild that we love, but also, there’s so much good community here, so much good music and so much good food. Specifically in terms of the music scene, people generally think of jazz, blues and funk when they think of New Orleans, but there’s so many more styles of music happening here in smaller pockets. You can easily go out and find any genre of live music any day of the week and it’s all generally pretty good and all of the musicians are generally cool and friendly people. It all feeds off each other to an extent too – even if you’re in a metal band, your friends might play funk rock or blues. We’re all really hoping the live music community will come back eventually with the same energy because that’s such a huge thing that sets the city apart.
Music Bugle – What inspired your band name?
Ben Shooter – At this point, I don’t even know. Some bands have really cool stories of how they settled on their band name. When we started, we made a huge list of names we liked and we thought “The Bummers” sounded cool. We liked the idea of a “The _” name. It did end up being really fitting because most of our songs are pretty dark and moody and bleak – and we like it that way.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your new single “Quitman”?
Ben Shooter – We recorded the instrumental tracks for “Quitman” at Record Office Records in New Orleans, which is a really unique studio space. It’s hidden away in an unassuming office building and its recording room is a law library. We actually did two songs there – the other one is the previous single we put out called “Smart Boy! (Do a Trick!)” When we were writing “Quitman,” the music came together first. We spent a lot of time perfecting the time signature switches at the end of each chorus and all the riffs that come in during the outro section. It took us a long time to come up with lyrics and I think this is the first song where every member has contributed to some of the final lyrics. We had a concept in mind, the idea of this washed-up superhero character who misses the glory days, but can’t quite pull it together to save the day anymore. Everyone came up with some of their own lyrical interpretations and the final lyrics include bits and pieces from everyone. I really liked the image of Quitman ignoring whatever signal the city projects into the sky when they need him because he doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, so that made it in there. I think the “Quitman” character we put together ends up being very relatable to anyone who feels a struggle to live up to their own expectations of their “best self.” By the time we finished the lyrics, we were in the middle of the pandemic and no longer able to go to Record Office Records, so we recorded the vocals ourselves in the new practice/studio space we’ve recently moved into.
Music Bugle – You guys went on a short California tour in January, not long before the pandemic hit. What were playing those shows like and do you miss the live atmosphere?
Ben Shooter – We had a great time playing those California shows. We did a little mini-tour with two bands from there, Crash 45 and The Viles and then a couple of others at each stop. It was the first time we’d played on the west coast at all, so we went in just wanting to feel it out and we ended up loving the atmosphere at the DIY venues we played. We were thrilled that the kids coming to the shows wanted to hear the fast, heavy stuff and mosh to it. Our set-lists in California were interesting because we ended up putting aside a lot of our main singles/tracks that are more popular with our fans at home and going into the more obscure stuff we have, since that’s the faster and heavier stuff. At those shows, we had the most success with tracks like “Pamela,” “Elephtheria,” “Pile of Little Arms,” “Gazebo” and “Kill Yourself.” We also got to debut a new track called “Brainmoor,” which will be on our second album. We really miss playing live shows and it was so abrupt how everything stopped. We had a ton of local shows that we were super excited for that all had to be cancelled. I wish we’d had a better last show too before this started. Our last show was just kind of a random quiet Tuesday night, albeit with a really cool lineup at one of our favorite bars in New Orleans, Banks St. Bar, but we want everyone to be safe and we’re looking forward to coming back and doing more shows when it’s safe to do so.
Music Bugle – The COVID-19 pandemic obviously affected your plans to record your second album. Did you have any extra time to focus on those new songs you were set to record or did anything change?
Ben Shooter – Due to COVID-19, we had to push back the recording sessions we had booked to record our second album. We were planning to go up to Nada Recordings in Montgomery, New York where we recorded two of our recent singles “Animal Familiar” and “Fists” and spend two weeks there doing our album. That said, we just moved into a new practice/recording space in New Orleans and we’re hoping to do some recording there and demo out all the songs we want to have on the album. Now, we just have a bunch of extra time to fine-tune our existing songs and write more material, so whenever we do go to Nada, we’ll be even more prepared. We’re also hoping to play around with recording in our space and maybe do a few releases we record there. Plus, we have a bunch of live recordings from our summer 2019 tour that we’d like to release soon and this might be the right time.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
Ben Shooter – Social media does help in that it makes it really easy for us to connect to everyone we need to on the DIY level. It’s nice to be able to connect to other bands, along with photographers, artists and of course, our fans. That said, there’s always a pressure to have constant “content.” That’s not necessarily bad, as it encourages you to do more interesting things and document the things you do as a band, but it’s also exhausting sometimes when you’re like, “Fuck, I should post a picture today so people remember we’re a thing, but we don’t happen to be doing anything cool right at this exact moment.”
Music Bugle – Who are some of your musical influences?
Ben Shooter – Bands we like include Car Seat Headrest, Violent Soho, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Coheed and Cambria, The Toadies, Donovan Wolfington, Rozwell Kid. A couple of us also like some rap/hip-hop stuff, like Young Thug, Lil Peep, Ghostemane, and also some electronic stuff, like GRiZ and Com Truise. It doesn’t always come across super obviously in The Bummers music, but the influence is there. We all also have individual side projects that lean a lot more into those styles.
Music Bugle – To you, what is the band’s most emotional song?
Ben Shooter – This is actually kind of a tough question for us! All of our songs are emotional, but a lot of them are also funny, a lot of them also talk about weird sci-fi stuff. We often like to speak to very real problems and fears through sci-fi imagery and we all have really dark senses of humor, so there’s an element of that in there as well. I think there are a couple that struck us as the most emotional. First, there’s “Kill Yourself” from our ‘Dairy Beach’ EP. The lyrics to that song are straight-up about wanting to kill yourself because you feel like nothing matters. Heavy stuff. I wrote those lyrics at a time when I was feeling really frustrated and directionless and one thing after another was going wrong and I was isolating myself because that’s what I always do, but since I have a dark twisted sense of humor, I was kind of amused with how relentlessly bleak it ended up being and of course, the chorus has this bright major-key chord progression. Some of the lyrics are so over-the-top, like, “I hope that my funeral is beautiful and everything is black just like in the movies.” I was sitting on the demo of that song that I made in Garageband for a while and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to release it or if it would be too weird and dark, but then one day, I showed it to Sean and he was like, “We need to release this, can it be a Bummers song?” There’s also “NHL 2002” from the same EP, which is about the experience of growing up right now. It’s about how soul-crushing adult life and existing within the capitalist system can be and about wanting to go back to simpler days and just play video games with your friends again when you know you can’t. It really addresses the feeling of getting lost in nostalgia for the past. Sean did an incredible job putting that song together and those are some of my favorite of his lyrics. He worked in all these video game references too. Then, there’s “Fists,” which was actually written by Seth Dykes, a friend and former bandmate of Fox’s who passed away in a car crash. Our version of “Fists” is in remembrance of him. The lyrics to this song are so haunting.
Music Bugle – Of course, this depends on the COVID-19 pandemic, but did you guys have any ideal future plans as far as what the band will do?
Ben Shooter – We definitely want to record the second full-length album. I’m not sure when it will be able to happen, but we’ll make it happen whenever we’re able. As I mentioned before, we also have this great new practice space to use and we’re hoping to eventually be able to record ourselves and also record other bands/artists too. Right before the pandemic, we were also beginning to put together a small music collective called Nut Milk Records. This currently functions mainly to promote our own music, but we’d like to bring other local artists in, so we’re hoping to use our recording setup as a component of Nut Milk as well.
Music Bugle – What do you feel people should know about the group?
Ben Shooter – First, we’re always working hard to make stuff that’s new and different. We love finding new sounds to play with and we love building weird musical worlds that people can really get lost in. Second, we really love and appreciate everyone who’s supported us and all the great bands we’ve played with in the five years we’ve been together. If you come to one of our shows and simply mosh your face off or if you’re a great band that we had a fun time doing a show with, we will genuinely love you forever. Third, we just want to see capitalism crumble once and for all.