BWW Interview: ANTHEM FOR THE MIDDLE AGED BAND Energetically Brings The Band Back Together at The Sidewalk Film Festival
Back in the late 90's, PAIN was a notable Alabama punk band with a signature sound. If you never heard them, just imagine scrappy audio vino with hints of Fishbone and Green Day. It was underground, fast, and lyrics with something to say. PAIN's fun music easily stands up to the test of time. These young knuckleheads from Mobile tossed full-bodied fat horns, guitars, bass and drums at audiences across the nation. (Thanks to the bands tour van). Punk music, silly costumes, and puppet hijinks were enthusiastically delivered to packed shows with reckless abandon. They were independent; without big label money or representation. Never the less, they were becoming popular. Things were looking great for PAIN. The floor dropped out when lead vocalist Dan Lord decided to leave the band. The rising momentum of PAIN came to a hard, and rocky stop. Like in all great stories however. This was not the end.
Filmmaker Rebecca Pugh's documentary "Anthem for the Middle Aged Band" gives a detailed walk down memory lane of the band, and its new resurgence as SALVO. The film is stocked with original 90's VHS camcorder concert footage, recent revealing interviews, and clips of their recent reunion concert. I was able to catch "Anthem for the Middle Aged Band" at its premiere at the brand new Sidewalk Film Center and Theater during the recent Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, AL. This new venue at the Pizitz Building in downtown Birmingham provided the film an intimate and comfortable screening experience .
The film's director Rebecca Pugh and band guitarist Adam Guthrie are actually engaged to wed. When they first met however, Rebecca had no idea Adam was in a once popular band. Pugh shares how a phone call stoked the fire to make this film. "Adam told me one day. "Hey my old band mate from the 90's called me, and he wants to make an album again." I'm like oh that's cool; not thinking much about it." The more she looked into the band. The more excited, and driven she became to film a documentary of this reunion.
DP - What was it like getting all the archival footage and interviews together?
RP - "I was surprised on how easy it was. So many people shot video of them back in the 90s. People kept the camcorder footage, and made DVDs back in 2000's of all their live shows. I had a plethora of amazing stuff that was all usable. Every time we go home to his parent's house. I would dig through the closets, and find letters, records, and pictures. They always documented themselves, and kept it all. This made my job a lot easier."
Filmmaker and editor Joe Walker took on the daunting task of editing the film. "They wanted someone who can edit literally ten different formats in ten different aspect ratios. You're talking everything; VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, cell phone footage, stuff pulled off the Internet, and junk from YouTube. The frame rates were all over the place. It was a nightmare for editing, but we got it done. They wanted me to cut together a story of a band coming back together after 20 years. You don't get to tell that story all the time. Most bands break up and that's it. This one came back together, and they all matured. It's a great story."
Guitarist Adam Guthrie shares how natural it felt getting the band back together. "Some of the guys have not played in a decade or more. We were eight-piece band at any given time. Singer Dan Lord and I ended up calling eight people, and that turned into fourteen. Before we knew it we had the world's greatest euphonium player Demondrae Thurman, and Kim Scott on flute. We had strings plus our veteran players." He pauses with reminiscent gaze on his face." It was tough for some of us to come back, and do it again."
DP - How so?
AG - "It was tough psychologically for some. It hurt some to end the band, and to come back to do it again. In contrast we had some of the guys saying heck yeah! Sure let's do it. We all wanted to make sure that we were going to enjoy it this time. I think in the past when we played, it was a feeling of "us against them." Meaning anyone that did not enjoy us. We were all very positive people. I had a very positive message and spirit. This time we really wanted to spread the joy. When we all went to dinner. We felt so happy about what we were doing. We wanted to share it with everyone rather than dismissively saying, well if someone didn't like it, they just didn't get it."
DP - What are some things that you have now that you didn't expect looking back to when you first started twenty years ago?
AG - You mean besides gaining weight, tendinitis, carpal tunnel, and all those fun things? (Laughs) I did not expect any of those
DP - (Laughs) Now that is a common reflection. What about something unexpected creatively?
AG - "Everyone collaborating on the same wavelength now that we didn't have back then. There's a chain of command that we had before, and that shifted from when we first started. We still have the same mutual respect for one another that we did then, and we picked up where we left off in 1999. That was a long time where I could not think about the band. Because there were things that were left unresolved. Now it's all water under the bridge. We have a sense of purpose and integrity to do this together."
DP - That sounds like a beautiful rebirth of a creative spirit.
AG - It's liberating. We changed the name from PAIN to SALVO because one of the co-founding members of the band didn't want to do it anymore. Out of respect for him, we decided to change the name to SALVO. We are creating new material, broader in scope that holds a lot of great dynamics. We were all beholden to something. We never felt that way before, but we can feel it now. Some things are different, but it still feels like a PAIN album. The joy that we have for each other is there more so now. Because we're not taking anything for granted, if we ever did. We now know exactly why we are doing this. Back then we were trying so hard to prove who we were. Now we're asking, "Are we still doing that again?" I know what I have now, and I know I don't have to justify it, and that's the difference. This album is like a weight being lifted."
Another highlight of "Anthem for the Middle Aged Band" is how it captures the SALVO reunion show at Saturn in Birmingham. This performance provided Pugh eye-opening experience at the mighty fandom of the band. "I was not expecting the turn out for the reunion show at Saturn. It holds 550 people. We were upstairs in the green room when we got word it sold out. At that moment it hit me that 550 people were here to see the show. I went downstairs to check it out. There were people screaming for the band all the way from the stage to out the door. People had on old PAIN t-shirts. It made me emotional just seeing their fans react to them. It blew me away. It truly was something special. (Laughs) Some of those people drove 14 hours to come see the show. It was nuts."
"Anthem for the Middle Aged Band" is a film that shows how a band is a family. Like any tight relationship that is worth a damn, breaking up was not easy. Time had to work its course to lead them to a collective resolve, and eventually to spark fire in constructive creativity. Last year inspiration struck and the group returned to the studio on a mission to make great music again. With a new spirit, they worked to reclaiming the bands heart that was dormant for decades. This new desire to make great music built up to an enthusiastic return. Their sound is matured, but still strong in melody, lyrics, and arrangements.
SALVO is Dan Lord singer/songwriter, Adam Guthrie guitar/songwriter, Adrian Marmolejo bass, Stuart McNair horns/accordion, Christopher Johnson saxophone, Jason Reid trombone, Demondrae Thurman euphonium, George Kennedy drums, Will Hudson drums, Rachael Wilson vocals, Niamh Touhy Fields violin, Melanie Rodgers viola, Kim Scott flute, Rachael Roberts vocals/guitar, Tommy Bowen trumpet
Film crew - Rebecca Pugh, Adam Guthrie, Joe Walker, Jeremy Burgess, Bill Schweiker.
SALVO is set to release their new album "OFF THE CHARTS" on September 13.
SALVO Album Release Party & screening of "ANTHEM FOR THE MIDDLE AGED BAND"
September 13, 2019
Alchemy Tavern - 7 S. Joachim St., Mobile, AL 36602
Time: 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM
Price: $17 in advance, $20 at the door
Buy tickets HERE
You can listen to the single "Off The Charts" HERE
The Sidewalk Film Festival - www.sidewalkfest.com