4AM downstairs at the Frequency
When you’re talking to the guys from 4 ASPIRIN MORNING, the longtime Madison ska-punk band, it’s like hanging out with a jukebox, you can just put your quarter in and the hits keep coming. Always energetic, frequently ridiculous, and constantly irreverent, they are the kind of band that makes clubowners regret giving free drinks to musicians. If you wanted to dance at an original rock show in Madison, 4AM was your best bet for most of the 2010s. As time passed, members moved away and the group took a hiatus but are reuniting to release a new album Cut For Content at the Crystal Corner on February 15th. They’ll be joined by Milwaukee ska vets SOMETHING 2 DO and local punkers NOT DEAD YET (who share their singer, Chandon Vicarous, with 4AM and are also releasing a CD that night.) We talked with Chandon and the entire band for this reunion: J Marsden on lead guitar, Drew Ferguson on bass, Jon Kussow on drums, Ryan Mooney on saxophone, and Joe Golemb on trumpet.
Maximum Ink: The last time we spoke was in 2012, what the hell have you been doing since then?
DF: Wow, that was 8 years ago. Crazy.
JK: Playing shows, writing music, drugs, and questionable life choices.
JM: I believe I hadn’t yet joined the band at that time, so me joining would be one thing, haha. We played a ton of shows in the mid 2010s and had some excellent turn outs. We ended up slowing down as members started to move away.
CV: Growing as people, I guess? Heh. For serious, in the last eight years we’ve played several hundred gigs, and some of them were even alongside ska legends like The Toasters, Mad Caddies, and Mustard Plug…
We initially started writing for Cut for Content back in 2015, and it’s been a slow and steady process while some of our members moved out of state or left.
Recording started in 2017 and pretty much ground to a halt with the tragic 2018 death of our head engineer and close friend Derek Brady (aka Derx Brax of Derx Brax Band). It took the better part of a year for us to pick up the pieces and recover the bulk of his session files, and we finally decided to DIY the remaining 10% or so of the recording process in summer of 2019. Marsden has put in a ton of work and done a phenomenal job mixing this beastly project—it definitely shows in the end result.
Maximum Ink: What’s the inspiration behind the new single"Used To Be”? It’s a great track to shout along to.
JG: Haven’t we all longed for the way things used to be? No? Guess it’s just me.
DF: Chandon had a guitar part and I came up with something stupid on bass—the usual 4AM writing process. I also misheard lyrics and thought the song was about the zombie apocalypse (“No longer sunshine, it’s Day Z”). So I’m probably not the one to ask.
JM: You’d have to ask Chandon, but my take is that it’s about trying to grow and progress as a societal whole while dealing with the fact that humans in general suck at change.
JK: Toxic nostalgia, basically…
CV: Yup - it’s about how people’s fractured perceptions and unwillingness to change have lead our country down its current dark path.
Maximum Ink: What’s the significance behind the title Cut For Content?
JK: That is an inside joke that I don’t even understand, but I like it.
JM: Not sure, I think it’s just because the alliteration sounds cool.
JG: This response has been cut due to time constraints.
DF: We had several contenders for the album name, but they were mostly inside jokes and, honestly, not that good. Then Brad Klotz (Something 2 Do’s drummer) had a dream where 4AM revealed we had been on Saturday Night Live in the 90’s, but our sketches and songs didn’t make it to air. He didn’t believe us, so we popped in an SNL DVD titled “Cut For Time” with all our material on it. That’s the inspiration. Thanks Brad!
CV: Drew nailed it. Besides being the direct inspiration from Brad’s fever dream, we’ve also joked around that Cut for Content is the Mr. Bungle of 4AM albums - it’s a lot more eclectic and experimental than our past stuff. Maybe some of it wouldn’t have made the cut onto a normal studio album with lesser time and cost constraints, but overall it still retains the same heavy riffs and ska-punk roots.
Maximum Ink: Is there any theme that runs through the new album?
RM: It’s an evolution of the 4AM sound, some songs may be familiar, but they all have a new sort of funkiness to them that we haven’t had on previous albums.
JM: Not really a theme, but I definitely feel like there’s a consistent sound across all the songs that ties the album together. If anything it’s more of a tone. A mixture of good times and laughs alongside somber reality. Our good friend Derek Brady recorded the album with us and we had a blast with him, and then he suddenly passed and left our lives. It’s been 2 years since we recorded this album. We finished vocals this past summer, and I mixed it over the last two months. I feel like you can hear the energy of all the emotion from this in the final product. I’m not sure if I’m just noticing it because I’m deeply involved in the project, but to me it’s definitely there.
JK: I feel it has a bit of a political theme, but also rampant fun.
JG: “Remember when America used to be great? Everyone of all races were treated equally, the poor were taken care of, the mentally ill had a support system and people could get treated if they were sick? Oh, Neither Do We: The Album.”
DF: The Cowbell Powerdrill really ties the whole thing together.
CV: It’s the perfect 4AM balance. One part social commentary, one part individual struggle, and one part extreme goofiness.
Maximum Ink: For old fans and ones that maybe haven’t seen you live yet, what can people expect at the Crystal on February 15th?
JK: They can expect whatever they want, and we’ll do our best to disappoint.
JM: A bunch of dudes who haven’t played a live show together for too long having an excellent time rocking out.
DF: Ska, more ska, and singalong punk.
JG: I expect it to be a high energy show with everyone that has been fans and friends coming together and having an excellent time. It will be a reunion of sorts. I expect an great time for all.
CV: That’s a double set for me, so I’m getting into prime performance shape for this gig. It’s gonna rip up the stage for sure.
RM: It will be a hell of a thing, getting 4AM back together on stage for the first time in a while - it’s going to be crazy fun. Be prepared to dance, laugh, cry, and have the time of your life.
Maximum Ink: Where are you guys going from here?
JK: Straight to hell, if we don’t change our ways. Or, THE ZOO.
JG: It’s difficult to say how we will go forward with everyone being in different places. I don’t expect this to be our last show ever, but there definitely won’t be as many 4AM shows anymore. Come enjoy this one and we’ll see what the future holds!
JM: We’ll keep promoting the album release, we put a lot of work into it, and I think it’s a slammin’ album, so I want to get it in front of people. Other than that though I’m not really sure. With half the band being out of the state we’ll most likely only be doing a reunion show here and there. I’ll probably start to focus on some more of my solo stuff and keep writing!
DF: We’re doing a very limited run of physical copies for the show, but it’ll be online for sale and streaming in all the usual places. We don’t have any plans for after the 15th. The band is on an indefinite hiatus.
CV: We all discussed this many times at length. 4AM has been a big part of our lives for the last decade, but life has to come first. I don’t think “indefinite hiatus” is quite the right phrase - we’re not out of the game forever by any means. Still, we’re spread all over the country. Rather than several shows a month, we’d rather have just a few big shows a year with all of our fans and friends. Let’s not call it a hiatus, let’s call it a… “perpetual band reunion party”.(433) Page Views 4 Aspirin Morning 2020 Online:
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4 Aspirin Morning 2020
CD: Cut For Content