Are they Punk, Oi, Hardcore? Hailing from the city of Brotherly Love , The Boils transcend the usual genre definitions to play an exciting blend of all three styles, and then some! Gravy shares a beer with singer Greg and six string twanger Bert. Interview by Ian Pickins
Gravy: Introduce yourselves
Greg: I'm Greg, the ugly mug that has been on the CD/7” covers since the beginning, varying in weight through the years from “is he on drugs” skinny to “super size me” fat. On the back cover of “From the Bleachers” I looked pretty good.
Bert: Bert, guitar.
Gravy: Describe The Boils in 3 words?
Greg: True. Fun. Vodka.
Bert: Beer. Hookers. And any type of disgusting-ness
Gravy: Would you classify yourselves as an Oi band?
Greg: I grew up on that shit. From the beginning, I came into the scene going to see Oi shows and being brought into to this world via the Stormwatch guys in Delaware and at shows at Unisound in Reading , PA. Everybody in the band at this point is into Oi! And punk rock, but I know we have influences in our music that keep us out of being classified as a straight up Oi band. I think the better bands manage to transcend their “genre” anyway, not that I'm implying we're a better band. Well maybe a little bit. Maybe a better band that's overlooked by many! The “Election Day” seven inch from the Anti-Heros was my first punk vinyl. I had no idea at that young age that years later I'd have a band that would be part of that whole GMM family. I wouldn't say we are an Oi! Band, but in America , we're definitely in the family. And I'm proud to be a part of that family and honored to count bands that define the best of American Oi! And street punk as friends. Pressure Point, Anti-Heros, Whiskey Rebels, The Wretched Ones and Niblick Henbane are all top notch bands that have helped define the Oi! Scene in America and it's an honor to be a part of that network of good people. I don't say this to name drop, I say it because I stand by what I believe in to be quality music from honest people.
Gravy: Do you feel it's a limiting description?
Greg: It would be limiting if you were known as just an Oi! Band or a streetpunk band or any other genre defining term. I don't think we have that problem. In fact, if we were more easily defined, we'd probably be more popular. People here in the states thrive on being told what to do, even the punks, though we'd never admit it. We love a good package, whether it's a burger and French fries value meal or a band with tight pants and crazy colored hair. If it's easily labeled then they eat it up over here. How many shit bands in the country are there who are trying to be The Causalities? It's a fucking joke. The Casualties worked there asses off getting to where they are today, I know because I've watched them since they played warehouses with The Varukers to playing the Warped Tour. And now there's a ton of kids with no song writing skills who are feeding off of The Casualties hard work because they copied their hair. It's so sad. They should be shot, like in the Cocksparrer song. It's as bad as bag pipe bands trying to feed off of the Murphys success, but at least those bands are listenable.
Gravy: There's also elements of mid 80s Hardcore and early UK punk in your sound; who were your main influences musically?
Greg: I don't listen to too much current hardcore at all, except for Out Cold from Boston . Mark from TKO has just gotten into a bunch of bands that he's introducing me to. According to him there's a whole wave of hardcore bands inspired by stuff like Negative Approach instead of being inspired to wear make up. I guess my early days in the scene, and the records that were a part of my foundation, are so imbedded in me that it comes through in our sound. And good records stand the test of time. I'm in my 30's, but myself and our 16 year old drummer have very similar tastes when it comes to hardcore. That's saying something for the quality of music that some of those bands delivered, bands such as Gorilla Biscuits, Breakdown, and a host of others. There were two venues that reared me on hardcore when I was just a newly licensed 16 year old driver. One was a club called City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey, the other being Unisound in Reading that I mentioned before. Every weekend I drove from Philly to Reading or Trenton . I saw some classic shit. Although, unfortunately, I got in an accident at what would have been my last chance to see the old Revelation band Judge. But I think that records like the first Negative Approach and all the old DRI stuff is such a part of my upbringing and bring upon comparisons that are unavoidable. The first Agnostic Front live at CB's album, with the boots on it, helped make me who I am today. The influence of UK Punk is equally if not more so of an influence on us. We've covered songs from Blitz, Cocksparrer, and Combat 84 to just name a few. When I discovered the first wave of Oi bands it changed me forever. I had an insatiable urge to continue loading up on Oi Comps and discovering new bands. If I had to pick one type of music that most affected me I would pick that class of bands. Lately we've been influenced by a lot of reggae. We touched on it on “From the Bleachers” and there's a bit of reggae and ska on “It's the Life for Me” on “Hockey Anthems.” Stuff like The Pioneers, The Creations, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals. There'll be a lot more of that on the new record. But still lotsa straight up punk too.
Gravy: Apart from musical influences what motivates you?
Bert: There was a girl on the beach that motivated me to start working out again and become a meathead.
Greg: Yeah I felt that way too. Maybe we should stop eating these chips. (We're doing this interview over beer and chips during a football game.)
Bert: I dunno. Why are they back so far?
Greg: Ummm…Anything I come in contact with motivates me. Books, movies, alcohol, and life's experiences all influence my creative drive. I'm motivated by other people who are doing or who have done great things. Sometimes that can be a band, sometimes it may be a different creative minded person. I'm obsessed with Caravaggio right now. Anything extreme or out of the ordinary I'm attracted to. I'm also influenced by drinking. I like my White Russians strong and my porn disgusting. I like movies that mesmerize me. I love going to Atlantic City , New Jersey , getting drunk and seeing what happens.
Gravy: Your new CD ‘The Orange and Black' is a collection of hockey anthems; it's a collaboration with the Philly Flyers right?
Greg: Yes. We were getting airplay on sports radio in Philadelphia for a song on “From the Bleachers” called Bullies, about the Flyers' hockey team from the 1970's who were nick named “The Broad Street Bullies.” The Flyers heard the song and got in touch with us to write a victory anthem for the stadium they play in. It was dream for me. I love sports, and every time I used to go to games and here “Welcome to the Jungle” I dreamed of hearing my own song played in a stadium over a sports game. And it happened. It's fuckin awesome. I love it. At a lot of the games we get to drink for free too!
Gravy: So your big hockey fans?
Bert: Keep it movin!
Greg: We're big sports fans. We love hockey, especially play off hockey. We love football, it's a religion here. Food, drinks, friends and family are the order of the day on football Sundays during the season. Bert's actually paying more attention to football right now then this interview.
Bert: What a crap throw! What an idiot!
Gravy: Your last album was called ‘From the Bleachers'' I'm getting the impression you guys are jocks?
Bert: I'm getting the impression that I'm very irritated right now!
Greg: We love sports. Before this game (opening game of the NFL 2007 season) Bert and I were just watching a football highlight tape of mine from almost 10 years ago. We love it. 10 years ago and we were glued to the highlights. We love drinking and eating. And if there's football on, or hockey, we love it. I also watch baseball, and post-season basketball. It's great. We're better than jocks. If we could just steal their women it'd be great. “Blood on the Fields,” Dominate,” and “Bed of Whiskey” are all songs about football. Watching football and eating is great. So is drinking during the game. We love punk and skinhead girls, but the girls at these games are REALLY sexy.
Gravy: From The Bleachers had some diverse influences apart from the regular Oi/Punk stuff; ‘Summer's Brightest Day' had a country feel to it; are you closet Billy Ray Cyrus fans?
Greg: Ha! I've seen him on Hannah Montana! She's sexy, isn't she? As cliché as it is, we are all Johnny Cash fans. Johnny defied genres over here. He was bigger than that. I revere him. And Hannah Montana too.
Gravy: And ‘Skinhead Reggae Beach Stomp'; shades of Rancid/The Clash?
Greg: We tried our hand at it. And there'll be more. “Arson Song” was more upbeat ska, where “Beach Stomp” had more of a laid back feel. We're huge Rancid fans; Lars has been a friend of the Boils for a few years now. But that song was more influenced by Judge Dread than it was Rancid or the Clash. I'd say Beach Stomp wasn't a complete success, but it wasn't a failure either. We're trying things. It's hard. We're trying new shit and embracing music in old school reggae that is really important to us. But we're five white kids. I think for five white kids, we did ok. At basement shows, while kids are drinking, they LOVE it.
Gravy: Do you get concerned that people may misinterpret you as a band by wearing your skinhead tendencies on your arm?
Greg: Nope. I have the tightest skinhead affiliations in the band anyway. But I don't call myself one thing or the other. Through the ‘good guys' and “bad guys” I grew up as a teenager around both groups. Stormwatch was one of the first Oi! Bands I saw, and Sab and Tim have been friends since the first days I stepped into the scene. But I am my own person. I'll stand by my friends in the scene and expect them to stand by me. But The Boils is a far broader spectrum than appealing to only skinheads or only punks. Through touring and playing Atlanta , Mark Magee and I have stayed in touch for years now. We're doing a project together. Whether that's appealing to more skinheads because of his role in Condemned 84 or the Anti-Heros we will see. The Boils pay as much homage to skinheads as we do punk rockers. We see it as one in the same anyway, skins and punks. Most of all though, we just don't care. If you like us, great. If not, whatever. I honestly don't give a shit. I love the skinhead veterans of the scene around here. The guys who have been around for years. But a lot of the new skinheads, the young kids, are annoying.
Gravy: The cover of ‘Pride and Persecution' could be taken the wrong way?
Greg: I don't think so! The Iron Eagle and the Liberty bell have become symbols of our band. Lars Frederickson ripped it off from us. I'm not kidding! We gave him the shirt in San Francisco …just ask him, he'll admit it. But we've ripped off of Lars whole career anyway, so we're even! As far as the Iron Eagle goes, to me it's a symbol of intensity, of war and confrontation. So I threw the Liberty bell in there when I designed it to give it a Philly identity. I read some reviews of it where people were taken aback but then knew what was up when they listened to the music and read the lyrics. Think of all the lame shit that is out there right now. Thank god there's a band out there with an iron cross symbol playing hard music that doesn't give a shit. We could've been another make-up wearing emo band. People should be THANKING us instead of getting worried about what the iron eagle means
Bert: Get it together.
Gravy: What does being a Skin mean to you?
Greg: It's about working hard at something. It's about family.
Gravy: Have you seen ‘This is England ' yet?
Greg: No, haven't heard of it. I like movies though. I just saw 300. Fuckin amazing.
Bert: This is Sparta !
Gravy: Do feel that Skinheads are misrepresented in the media?
Greg: There's not really any media coverage of skinheads over here. In the 90's there was, when the whole shock value of Nazis was still appealing to shows like Geraldo (remember the chair) Morton Downey and the like. In recent years there is coverage when white power activity makes news, such as the project schoolyard CD that was released over here from a now defunct label. That made major news like CNN and such. But I don't think regular skinheads really see that much media coverage over here.
Gravy: The rest of the band look more like a regular ‘punk' rock band; is there ever a conflict of image?
Greg: No, we're a punk band, an Oi! Band, street punk, however you see it. There were some members though where there were conflicts over music direction or how we're representing ourselves. They're not in the band anymore. Keep it movin!
Bert: We all enjoy the same amenities so there's no conflict.
Gravy: On ‘Anarchy in Action' you attack the ‘sparing for change' punks; do you feel Punk/Hardcore has lost its way?
Greg: No, I think there's just idiots everywhere. No matter what genre/sub-genre you watch. There's a big problem in West Philly with traveling punks and squatters. They actually threw some kid off a roof and killed him; it made the headline news and everything. Irritating. They even fucked up some shows around the city. Some people were afraid to book us because they were afraid those types of people would come out.
Gravy: ‘Crossover Rules' references some crucial 80s Hardcore tracks such as ‘I Don't Need Society' (DRI) and Sailin' On (Bad Brains) buts there's a couple I can't place; can you list the others?
Greg: My pleasure: Can't Tell No one (Negative Approach) I Don't Need Society (you got that one) Shadows of the Streets (The Trouble) Can't Take It Away (Kill Your Idols) Don't Forget the Struggle (Warzone, anyone?) Sailin'On (you got that one too) United Blood (Agnostic Front!) And finally…. Sarge's Last stand (Violent Society…the best Philly band ever) Idea's are Bulletproof (The Pist)
Gravy: Why did you name check those particular songs?
Greg: They were bands that inspired me, and were bands that I thought embraced the spirit of crossover music, that is, reaching out through hardcore and punk, or hardcore and Oi! music. For instance, at Kill Your idols shows over here, there were always a huge mix of punks and hardcore kids. The only band I regret not getting in there was The Uprise. But we're covering “around the world” on the next CD so we'll make up for it.
Gravy: Was the early 80s the ‘golden age' of Punk/Hardcore?
Greg: It was definitely a defining age for the music. I think everyone has their own versions of “golden ages.” I think there's been Golden Age pockets that have sprouted up throughout the years on this end of the pond. The early 90's was a golden age for Headache records in New Jersey , helping to define a new American Oi sound.
Gravy: Is punk rock still relevant?
Greg: If it's done honestly. Almost anything in the mainstream called punk rock doesn't count. Its shallow, it's here today and will be gone when the mainstream picks up on the next trend. But it's relevant if it's done by people who make it relevant and meaningful to the audience. And whether that's a song about getting together and watching a football game, or protesting America's action in the war in Iraq, both are relevant to our life's experiences.
Gravy: If you could put together a ‘dream' line up for a show who would be on the bill?
Greg: Manowar, an eating contest, a wet t-shirt contest, Cocksparrer, The Uprise, The Ventures.
Bert: Lousy Break, Whiskey Rebels, Low Budgets, and George Carlin.
Gravy: Have all your releases been on TKO so far?
Greg: We've only been on TKO for about 4 years. We have released From the Bleachers, Hockey Anthems, and Pride and Persecution on TKO. World Poison, originally released on Cyclone records, is now available on Thorpe records, as is The Ripping Waters EP. When the sun goes down, our first EP, is available on Creep records. We're looking for a European label to possible release a vinyl version of our latest stuff on TKO.
Gravy: You were on the Radical Records ‘Never Mind The Sex Pistols' comp right?
Greg: Yes. It had its moments. Good and bad.
Gravy: I didn't think that was a particularly strong comp; the Pistols actually seem pretty difficult to cover; is that because they were more about the attitude than the music?
Greg: That sounds like a good theory. Radical was doing a few cover comps at that time, they were all horrible. The Exploited comp they did sucked balls. I thought the Pistols comp was a good attempt; they tried to follow the track listing of Bollocks, so I guess that was a neat thing. We did Submission and it sucked. I wish we had performed better. We did the comp because bands like Lower Class Brats and Murphys Law were on it. But you're right, that comp was pretty weak. We didn't help make it any better. Submission was a debacle. LCB's Belson and Murphys Law's New York I thought were great. And Niblick's Rock and Roll Swindle was the saving grace of the CD.
Gravy: The bands on TKO seem to stick with the label; are they good people to work with?
Greg: For the most part. But Rainey lies a lot, that's our only problem with the label. We came out with a series of Boils' coasters and he said he'd sell them on the TKO website. I went to his house and they were all over the place. Cups, pint glasses, cans all over them…And this guy Josh Barnes he's got working promo….now there's a real agitator.
Gravy: They seem to have a genuine love of the music they release?
Greg: ABSOLUETLY. That's why we love them so much. Mark's heart is in the right place. We ain't sellin a million records. And there are bands like the Reducers who don't really tour that often, but Mark is committed to us all because he believes in what we do. That is a really unique thing today. Most of these people who run labels couldn't care less about what they're hawkin', as long as kids are buying. Mark wants to sell records, but he wants it to be for real. I'll stand by this guy forever.
Gravy: How important has the Internet become in making people aware of new bands; has it surpassed the traditional methods such as fanzines and gigging?
Greg: It's huge. We used to flyer all the time throughout the city….now we post on my space. I miss things like copies of flyers and stuff, but more people come to shows because the internet is reaching everyone. When the internet replaces people's desire to see a band live, then we're all doomed. But promotionally, it's an incredible resource.
Gravy: Have The Boils played outside the US ?
Greg: Once, in Japan . We've been dying to come to Europe though.
Gravy: What's next for The Boils?
Greg: Writing and recording our next record. We've got the first track done, called “We Hold a Grudge.”
Gravy: How can people get in touch?
Greg: hit us up on MySpace, do a music search for The Boils, www.myspace.com/theboils
Gravy: Parting shots?
Greg: thank you for the interview Ian! Sorry it was delayed, as we spent the last month drinking and looking at girls on the beach!
Bert: Thanks buddy!
Gravy: Thanks for taking the time out from the game to do this guys.