By Rick Perez
I love hearing travel stories. As someone who is in a constant state of wanderlust, I gravitate towards people who can share with me their stories of far off lands. It allows me to imagine myself in those places, mentally taking notes about where I should travel to next.
Bootblacks, a post-punk band from New York City, is that type of group that has a treasure trove of travel stories. Having gained a large following in Europe, they have been fortunate enough to tour in places like Germany and Sicily. Over a few beers at my house in Brooklyn, Panther MacDonald (vocals/keyboard), Ali Gorman (guitar), and Roger Humanbeing (drums) told me about a few of their adventures in Europe. One story was about getting complimented by a gothic mob boss, another was about almost getting robbed by a Sicilian gang.
I was thoroughly engaged and amused throughout our entire interview. We went off in a lot of tangents, letting the conversations flow naturally. It almost turned into a therapy session, all of us having the freedom and joy of sharing stories with one another. I’m excited to re connected with them when they return. I wonder what sort of mob boss they will run into this time.
Check out BoC’s interview with Bootblacks, where we talked about their new EP Veins, their upcoming tour in Europe, and how Leipzig, Germany is their home away from home.
Who is BOOTBLACKS and what is your music about?
Ryan William MacDonald also known as Panther, because of a deformed hand
Roger Human Being, known as Roger Pefley
Panther: I don’t know if it’s about something. Personally I’m a great lover of music. For me, I think that music is the most powerful experience, the most powerful art form and I want to be a mediocre participant in that. If I did halfway between something that was amazing I would still feel pretty good. I would feel humbled amongst giants, that sort of thing. I just want to be a part of music, so I don’t know, I guess it’s for other people to decide.
Ali: We try to be conscious of the experience of the person listening or at a show. We aren’t writng to sort of masturbate, we think about the experience of the listener. We want to make moments that hit you.
Panther: We want to make music that people want to fuck to, cry to-
Ali: -Dance to
Panther: -drink a cup of coffee to, jog to. Music is a really personal experience
Ali: If we are playing a show and I see that people are having fun and dancing, I know we are doing what we should be doing
Panther: Art should be connective.
Ali: If you see people on their cell phones, you are failing.
Roger: I like the idea that you can fill in the blank. You can finish someone’s idea or thought of their night.
Panther: You wanna make art, and you wanna give something to someone.
Ali: Everything happens really organically, and there’s nothing fake or forced about it. We are very conscious about making sure that it’s good. Making sure that everything is considered and everything feels good to us. We have never felt mediocre about a song.
Panther: We save mediocrity for the every day.
If each member could talk to one species of animal which would it be?
Ali: I wanna talk to my cat like woah.
Roger: I was going to say that, too. I spend so much time with her, she just stares at me and I would like to know what she’s thinking for once.
Panther: To find out if she’s truly in love with you?
Roger: I just want know!
Panther: I want to say cats since my name is Panther and all, but I don’t know.
Ali: Cats are actuallhy moody ass holes and that encapsulates him (Panther) pretty well.
Panther: This may be contrary but I think animals’ greatest power is that they can’t talk. It’s this weird human fantasy to talk to animals. It’s in every kids movie. They’re just experiencing and living purely. I think our trap sometimes is language. I feel like going the other way sometimes and going “ I don’t feel like talking to anybody.” Am I wishing for silence?
If you can pick any celebrity to be the mother or father of your child, who would it be and why?
Panther: David Bowie. I’m gonna let my dog answer this: there are no words.
Ali: Tom Waits
Roger: Henry Rollins
You released VEINS today (3-11-16). Thanks for hanging out with me on your release date! Is there a story behind the album?
Panther: VEINS is a lift from Aleister Crowley. I’m not an occultist but I am fascinated by a person who is so extremely arrogant and confident in their life. He said “ I wanna write something about veins because if you care about something you should open up your veins and bleed out.” I felt like it was free association and very vulnerable. That resonates with me, the idea of being uncensored.
Ali: We basically got halfway through recording the album and then lost our bass player. We were wondering: should we try to get another bass player or do we not so we don’t have to rely on another person? We were kind of going in a different sound anyway, and our producer Brian was holding our hand in the process “If you wanna go in a synth/bass thing,” he said, “this is how we’ll do it.” It changed the course of the whole album.
Panther: Like Depeche Mode and New Order, we are more of a post punk band in a stricter sense.
Ali: Like a balance between electronic and organic. I was super excited about it and glad we went in this course. Brian introduced us to this world. I was kind of intimidated at first. When you are playing with acoustic instruments, you can adjust to each other if someone fucks up. If you have an electronic track going, it’s going with or without you. You have to retrain everything you know about live music.
Panther: The album is a journey of us transitioning and ultimately what you hear in the album is that realization. And it’s all accidental. I’m proud of it.
How are you going to celebrate this release?
Ali: We have a record release show at Don Pedro’s on Saturday March 26th. It’s a club night called Arkham that they do like every 3rd or 4th Saturday. There will be Dj’s and we will be performing around midnight. And then going to Europe! This is the first time in my musical career when I have planned logically a record release and then a tour where we play the record.
Next month BOOTBLACKS is touring Europe. What are you most excited about?
Ali: The beer. It’s incredible.
Panther: The underbelly. Usually when you go on vacation, you see the sights. When you are playing to the people that live there, you get to see the real parts. That is hands down the most exciting part. I can say that I have been to all these places in Europe and I can also say that I haven’t really seen anything famous about those parts. That is extremely exciting for me.
Ali: We get to play for really cool people, stay with the promoter, and he takes us out. He shows us around town, he introduces us to his friends, and we hang with the people who live there. I always feel really lucky.
Roger: I generally don’t like to travel or take vacations. But the idea of being able to travel around Europe and play drums,something I have been doing since I was 11 years old, is kind of amazing to me. I can play the beats that I wrote all over Europe. That’s what I’m excited about!
What are you most nervous about?
Ali: I’m not really nervous about anything. I mean, if we don’t flip our van I’ll be really fucking happy. I mean here’s the thing: some shows will be packed, others will be dead. You never know what you will get into but it’s always fun. It always up as something that you are happy you did.
Panther: I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous about things like crashing.
Roger: I’m the type of person that is nervous about anything at any given time. Being apart of the band gives me a liberating experience. The minute I go on tour I feel free.
Is there a particular city you are most excited about visiting?
Ali: Leipzig. It’s like our home away from home.
Panther: The place is like a mecca of art. It has a lot of things that are idealized like livable loft space, cheap art spaces, streets covered with graffiti, and a real utopian kind of feeling.
Ali: There are a lot of communal spaces. There will be a bar where people volunteer their time and cook and stuff. It’s run by like crusty punks. It’s like “pay us what you can” type of place. We tour with band that’s from there and everyone just treats us really well. Every time we go there it’s always a really good time with good food and cool people.
Who was your first crush?
Panther: Phoebe Cates
Roger: Drew Barrymore
Ali: I was obsessed with Michael Jackson.
Favorite song as a child?
Ali: P.Y.T by Michael Jackson.
Roger: Hungry Like a Wolf by Duran Duran
Panther: Maneater by Hall n Oates.
What’s next for Bootblacks?
Ali: Fame. Money. Prostitutes.
Panther: My entire life mission has been towards a pile of coke and Phoebe Cates.
Ali: Haha it’s tough to answer. We are finally at a place where we all get each other. I guess we’ll just keep making music.