Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Blast From The Past: The Line Of Best Fit speaks to Ringo Deathstarr

Blast From The Past: The Line Of Best Fit speaks to Ringo Deathstarr

08 August 2011, 10:59
Words by John Freeman

Without doubt, this is the sweatiest interview The Line Of Best Fit have ever done. In fact, the airless dressing room at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge is the hottest room we’ve ever been in that wasn’t calling itself a sauna. Beads of perspiration drip from the end of our nose. It is not a good look. But on a muggy August evening, Texan noiseniks Ringo Deathstarr seem unaffected – in fact bassist Alex Gehring likes the furnace-like temperature because she “gets cold easily.” Currently, there is more chance of her eyeballs melting than her busting out a goosebump.

In fact, Ringo Deathstarr are in very high spirits, even though they’ve had a very, very long day – one which has stretched over 32 hours. The morning before, the band played their first ever festival – at Fuji Rock in Japan. Adrenaline and exhilaration seems to have overridden any jet lag. “It was like everything you would ever dream about that people tell you could happen to you, happened yesterday to us,” says singer/guitarist Elliott Frazier, clearly still high on post-gig euphoria.

Drummer Daniel Coborn is happy to expand; “It was our first festival and we had the opening slot on the second biggest stage. We didn’t know whether that would be bad or good. And it rained. But, there were probably 10,000 people there. It was absolutely insane. It was definitely our best moment.” “They were holding our t-shirts up in the air and waving and yelling,” beams Alex from behind her fringe and a genetic inability to keep warm. “I went on stage and took a picture, because I thought no one will ever believe us,” she continues, as yet more drops of sweat sting our eyes.

The trio, who hail from Austin, are back in Europe to play an inaugural round of festivals and to promote their new ‘album’ Sparkler – which is a collection of their early back catalogue. Containing their debut EP and the follow-up single ‘In Love’/‘Summertime’, Sparkler clocks in at 27 minutes and showcases a love of bands like Jesus And Mary Chain and Evol-era Sonic Youth.

With their debut album ‘proper’, Colour Trip, released only a few months ago the obvious question is why did Ringo Deathstarr feel the need to repackage their previous music? Elliott takes up the story, “Back then when we made those songs, we never really had any labels. It was just idiots who would press 200 copies for us. At the time we thought it was awesome.”

Surely they were nice, friendly, trying-to-help-out sorts of idiots? “No, we say ‘fuck you’ to them,” says Daniel with a huge smile, while giving ‘them’ a wonderfully theatrical finger.

“Anyway, they never got the proper exposure they could have,” Elliott says getting back into his promotional spiel. “The EP and a seven-inch quickly ran out of print, but in Japan they were also released with two bonus tracks. So, the logical thing seemed to be to put it all on vinyl and get some press on those songs that never got reviewed or anything. That is what is happening, and people are liking it – so it is good.”

And people tend to like Ringo Deathstarr because of their referencing of some rather marvelous influences. Elliott’s initial vision for the band was to try and capture some of the visceral excitement of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and the aforementioned Jesus And Mary Chain and Sonic Youth and he remains unmoved at any criticism of his band’s originality. “Obviously, we’d like to come into our own, but being compared to those bands was what we were always trying to achieve. It is better than saying ‘if you like Jesus And Mary Chain, don’t listen to Ringo Deathstarr because they fucking suck’,” he says before adding, “I hear a lot of stuff that claims to be new and I think it sucks.”

If anything, Sparkler outlines a spikier, less layered version of the Deathstarr sound showcased on the subsequent debut album. “Colour Trip was when Daniel and I joined the band. Before that, it had been more Elliott’s creation,” Alex explains. “So, the album is more of a band effort. It is definitely different from Sparkler. It has a, I dunno…”

“Je ne sais quoi?” suggests Elliott.

“Yeah, je ne sais quoi,” Alex agrees.

“For the songs on Sparkler, I played all the instruments,” explains Elliott. “There was a girl playing drums on two songs and doing some backing vocals. The first five songs on Sparkler I had done in April 2007. Alex joined the band that June, before that EP was released. That is when it all took off; we opened a couple of shows for The Dandy Warhols and stuff like that.”

We have one tidbit of scurrilous gossip on Ringo Deathstarr. It is rumoured that Alex turned down the chance to appear on America’s Next Top Model, the reality TV show hosted by Tyra Banks. “I was in a bar in Austin and was asked to appear on the show by a woman who claimed to be their casting agent,” Alex confirms as her bandmates roll their eyes and nestle into their seats. “I was like ‘whatever’ but this woman then called me and said ‘we really like you and if you come down to the audition you can skip the queues, and you will probably make the show’.”

So why didn’t she take part? “Well, it is girls living in a house. Also, I take terrible photos and I found out that they script some of the shows to have girls fighting. I didn’t want to be part of that and have people thinking ‘She’s a bitch, I saw her on America’s Next Top Model and she is just so mean’. And, I’m not competitive and I wouldn’t survive a second on that show, so I was like ‘thanks, but no’.”

If we are honest, The Line Of Best Fit is left reeling (and sweating) at the notion of a reality TV show actually being scripted. Please make it not so. But Alex does look the part; she is tall and super-slim and has eyes the size of tennis balls. During the gig that night, there is a definite skew in the audience, with the males gravitating to her side of the stage. When she bends over to rack up some feedback from her amp, the amount of smartphones thrust into the air is just plain sleazy.

Thankfully, the show is mightily impressive, even if Gehring wrestles with sound problems for almost the entire set. Both her and Frazier’s vocals get sucked into the throbbing guitars, and along with Coborn’s machine-gun drumming, Ringo Deathstarr are a powerful proposition. A recently completed US tour with …Trail Of Dead has tightened them as a unit.

But back in the sweat-box, Elliott is still in a semi-dream state about their triumphant festival debut. “A week before Fuji Rock, we played at a house party,” he remarks, still wrestling with the enormity of the previous day’s events. “I still don’t really think it has sunk in. We are now back here doing our thing. Tonight’s show is a great thing, and we are stepping up here too, but we are used to this. But we had never experienced anything to prepare us for what happened yesterday.”

In fact it is lovely to witness a band in such an exuberant mood. The experience of playing in front of thousands of excited fans has etched deep joy onto their souls. “It was a validating experience too,” Daniel concedes. “My mom doesn’t understand our music, but if I showed her a picture of the crowd then she would say ‘okay, I get it’. There were a million people there, who were there totally for us. I’m not saying we are awesome or deserve it, but it was important.”

So, if Fuji Rock indicates that Ringo Deathstarr, in Japan at least, are very much in the ‘now’, and Sparkler addresses the past, we are intrigued to know about the future. We ask how the next batch of songs is shaping up; “We are trying to do more noise and more pop melodies,” says Elliott. “I think it is going to have a little more of a punk influence,” adds Alex.

It would also seem that Elliott’s vocal might be placed higher in the mix on future songs. “I feel I am more confident as a singer now, and I don’t have to always sing in a hush-hush vocal style,” he admits. “I just never fancied myself as a singer. That’s why I was drawn to singing this way, because I wouldn’t have to draw attention to my voice.” A new album is due out in early 2012: “We have a lot of ideas,” Elliott confesses. “When we get home from this tour, we will let things stew.”

Ringo Deathstarr are a band who have proudly – and openly – worn their musical influences on their sleeves. We do wonder, however, as to whether the ‘real’ Ringo Deathstarr will ever come out into the open, stripped of the need to pay homage to the past. From Elliott’s steely gaze, we immediately get a sense that this is a dumb question and that we haven’t really understood what Ringo Deathstarr are about.

“We are not trying to create a particularly new sound,” he says. “For the next record, maybe imagine My Bloody Valentine mixed with Fugazi and Bad Brains. That’s what we are trying to do, but also getting in some De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest somehow. We are just trying to do what we like and have fun. Fun is the main thing we do.”

The album Sparkler is out now via Club AC30

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next