Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Total Rubbish

Artwork for ‘What’s Your Damage?’ Courtesy of Born Losers Records.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

While bands such as Garbage, Veruca Salt and The Dandy Warhols made an impact with loud, guitar-drenched, female-fronted rock music first, Philadelphia-based vintage-rock trio Total Rubbish have applied the formula and added a modern take, with the recently released official music video for their single “What’s Your Damage?”

The song and previous single “Honey Ryder” will be featured on their upcoming EP ‘Triple Negative,’ slated to drop Nov. 20, 2020 via Born Losers Records. It was produced by Nick Bassett of Nothing, Whirr and Deafheaven.

Total Rubbish is bassist Bre Steinfeldt, guitarist Cass Nguyen and drummer Kiki Schiller.

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with the band about “What’s Your Damage?” and more.

Music Bugle – What’s the biggest challenge in being a three-piece band? 

Cass Nguyen – I think the biggest challenge for us as a band has been plainly that not any one of us has been in a band before! A couple of us have played live music before, but never anything that we have written ourselves. We’re so new to this, but at the same time, the advantage is that we are all learning from each other and growing so organically with one another that it just feels so comfortable. We all are lacking in ego. We play off of each other’s ideas, strengths and weaknesses and I think that is what makes our band so special.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your type of music? 

Bre Steinfeldt – I think what excites me the most about our type of music and our sound is that it gives me nostalgia for growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I’ve been waiting for a resurgence in our type of grunge, but something more relatable, so the fact that we are putting out this music from the perspective of three women is super exciting to me. 

Cass Nguyen – For me, I think it is that most people don’t get the exposure to this genre of music anymore. I’m always super stoked when people tell us that our music reminds them of music they used to listen to back in the 90’s or early 2000’s. That’s the music we grew up listening to, among other things. There is that sense of nostalgia that comes with it, but with our fresh, new twist on it. 

Kiki Schiller – It’s been a blast experiencing our sound and collaborating together. We all had thought originally, we would be more nervous at the beginning, but we quickly realized that we bring out the best and push each other to just go for it. Since we are all at about the same level experience-wise, it’s exciting to see our skills grow during each practice. 

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your EP ‘Triple Negative’? 

Cass Nguyen – It was fun for us, but also felt like a huge undertaking. It is our very first EP and our first time recording music. It was a lot of back-and-forth in terms of recording something, sending it to our producer, Nick Bassett in California, sending it back to us, listening to it, then resending, but it was a blast and Nick made it super painless! 

Music Bugle – What made you want to put out “What’s Your Damage?” as a second single?

Kiki Schiller – It’s fast and fun! We had a strong opener with “Honey Ryder” and felt this was a nice jolt of energy to keep the momentum going.

Bre Steinfeldt – I think putting out “What’s Your Damage?” as our second single was super smart. I feel like “Honey Ryder” gives everyone an idea of what we’re about and I think it gives our audience the opportunity to really take us seriously. “What’s Your Damage?” is such a fun song and my personal favorite from the EP because it’s so fun to play and I think it shows everyone our range and what they can expect from the rest of our EP. 

Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days? 

Cass Nguyen – Harder for sure! It almost feels like a second job. I’ll still never understand how algorithms work! (Laughs)

Bre Steinfeldt – This is such a hard question, because social media is so oversaturated, but honestly, I do think that at the end of the day, it is an advantage and gives us the ability to reach so many people from all over. If it wasn’t for social media, I think it would be so much more difficult to put ourselves out there, especially in times like these in the COVID world.

Music Bugle – What do you attribute your recent streaming success to? 

Cass Nguyen – I think the same thing that excites us about our own music is the same thing that has excited other people. Our music sounds so familiar, yet so different. I think it reminds people of another time. We’ve been put on a few early 2000’s playlists, which is awesome and hilarious to me. I don’t know if the person who made the playlist actually knows that our song was actually recorded in 2020 and I love that! I think people hear our songs and see our photos that our amazing friend, Caro Ramirez, captured of us and think, “When is this from?” I think on that mentioned playlist, we come right after Shaggy! 

Music Bugle – Which of your songs do you find gets the most reactions out of people? 

Cass Nguyen – That’s a tough one, since we only have two singles out so far! (Laughs) I would say we garnered a bigger reaction to “Honey Ryder.” It’s a much heavier song with a super powerful guitar sound, but I also think the reaction was attributed to the fact that everyone we knew either didn’t even know we had started a band – as it was kind of in-secret, due to quarantine – or had no idea what to expect from our sound! I had one friend tell me that because of our name, he was expecting to hear some angry trash punk music, but he was pleasantly surprised. 

Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something people might be surprised to know about the band? 

Cass Nguyen – We all have not only different personalities, but also insanely different skills and trades as well! I work in optometry and own a small floral design business. Bre is an amazing photographer for Urban Outfitters. Kiki is this insanely talented woodworker and artist. We all have super different backgrounds, but we all bring something different to the table as well! 

Music Bugle – What inspires you the most? 

Cass Nguyen – Movies. So many movies. “Honey Ryder” is actually based off of the first Bond girl, played by Ursula Andress! “What’s Your Damage?” I bet you can guess – and other music is always inspiring. Ever since we saw him in concert last year – wow, remember concerts? I get into these phases of listening to only Rob Zombie! (Laughs) Also, books. A lot of lyrics from this first EP were scenes from books that I was reading over the winter.

Kiki Schiller – People who are true and authentic. Also, people who overcome and challenge things they were afraid or scared of facing! 

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Cass Nguyen – My boyfriend and I go on a lot of hikes with our dog. Whenever the city feels just a little too loud, we try to escape to nature. The nice thing about living in Pennsylvania is you can drive 40 minutes outside of the city and you’re in a nice lush forest! 

*Photo credit – Caro Ramirez*

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