Photo Courtesy of Mikey Dew
Detroit Rock City is known for its music. Kiss may of sang about it and made it famous, but it's the bands that played here and have filled the Lager House, The Shelter, Clutch Cargos, The Magic Stick, The Majestic, St. Andrews, etc. that actually made this statement a reality.
Destroy This Place consists of members Ryan Allen (Thunderbirds Are Now, Friendly Foes), John Nelson (New Grenada), SeanSommer (The Cold Wave, Friendly Foes) and Monday Busque (New Grenada). All of these guys have been making wonderful music for years and they have finally combined forces. Imagine the Power Rangers forming into that giant, bad ass, super monster. That's kind of how you can describe DTP. When they joined forces something bad ass was formed. Something bad ass and very, very loud.
This Friday, they are playing The Metro Times Blowout at 11 p.m. at Atlas Bar and we will be there loving every second. I got the privilege of asking Ryan Allen a few questions and because he's also a great writer, his answers are better than anything I could try to say about the band, so read ahead for a little insight into the band and what to expect this Friday!
HipInDetroit: You have been described as 90's indie rock, with a mix of 70's pop punk and loud as fuck Fugazi, playing 70's power punk. Is that an accurate description of the music Destroy This Place plays?
Ryan: When the band started, I think that, as far as our previous groups were concerned, we all wanted to do something that maintained a sense of melody, but came off as a bit more aggressive than what we had all been doing prior. Using Fugazi as a point of reference, while huge shoes to fill, was our way of saying that these pop songs we were writing weren't necessarily coming from the same place as our other projects. We don't necessarily even sound like them (there's bits here and there), but aesthetically, they are a huge inspiration - their way of conducting their band and dedication to putting on awesome live shows is really inspiring, so that's kinda where that comes from.
HipInDetroit: Destroy This Place was formed when The Friendly Foes and The New Grenada ended, but how did you all meet originally?
Ryan: For the past, I dunno, 15 or so years, John, Monday, and myself have all run in the same Detroit "indie rock" circuit, with lots of our previous projects all sharing the stage with one another for quite some time. John and Monday have probably been friends the longest, though only recently played together in the final incarnation of New Grenada. I've known Monday since his days playing bass in a band called the Trembling, which an old band of mine - Red Shirt Brigade - would play with from time to time. Same with John and New Grenada. However, it was only really in the last five or six years or so, that John and I became much better friends - collaborating on music, being there for one another during tough times, etc. In a similar fashion, Sean and I met about three years ago when we started playing in a band together called the Cold Wave. Sean and I - and, honestly, the rest of the guys in the band - immediately connected over a similar sense of humor, appreciation for the same bands, and love of song-craft. He also rules on the drums. Which, then, made him an obvious choice when finding a new drummer for Friendly Foes. It was a no brainer, that when Destroy This Place came about, that he would be the drummer in the band. Same thing with Monday and John. It didn't take much thought that Monday would of course be the bassist. Coming together was relatively easy, and we were all stoked to work together. And considering that John and Sean and Monday, and Monday and I weren't completely tight when we started, I'd say we're all very connected now that the band has existed for a year and a half. We have a certain telekinesis when it comes to songwriting, and we've also discovered other commonalities that have drawn us closer. We bros, fo' sho'.
HipInDetroit: How did you come up with the name Destroy this Place? I'm assuming it wasn't derived from the bible verse in Genesis.
Ryan: We're all super Christian, and... no, kidding. The easy answer is that it's a line from a song called "Brand New Love" by a band that was somewhat popular in the 90s called Sebadoh. It just kinda fit with the aesthetic we were going for, and, though it might imply that we're this super heavy kinda band - which, even though in our minds we'd like to think we are, we're really not - still kinda gives off the impression that we're loud and pretty high-energy when we play live.
HipInDetroit: I have seen you do a couple cover songs, including Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Is that a staple of your shows? Will you be doing any special songs at the atlas?
Ryan: We've never done a Foos song (I don't think John would go for that, and neither would I, after seeing that dumb Deadmau5 mashup on the Grammy's), but covering Nirvana from time to time just seems like a fun, relatable, and super-impactful thing to do. Everybody loves Nirvana. My dad loves Nirvana. People who grew up loving hip-hop love Nirvana.
But yeah, I don't really know if I'd call it a staple of the live show. Sometimes we just whip it out when we feel like the show could use a final nail in the coffin. If the energy is high and people seem to be having fun, why not end with something they know? It's fun to do.
As far as for our upcoming shows, we're really stoked on our new songs that we've been working on, so we'll probably be debuting some of those, in lieu of doing any covers... but you never know...
HipInDetroit: I know that each of the guys has toured with former bands. Can you tell me what is different about playing a show in Detroit, other than the fact that your friends and family can be there?
Ryan: I can only speak for myself, but it always seemed that in past projects, other cities seemed to come around and enjoy what my bands were doing a lot quicker usually than a hometown crowd. People don't know you personally, so all they can do is judge you on your music, which, sometimes, has it's advantages. I know we've all had different experiences on the road, and have all played our fair share of bummer, unorganized, too long, under attended, and energy draining shows. But we've all played ones where afterwards we've felt on top of the world. It's just the chance you take when you get into a van and see what else is out there besides jamming at the bar down the street.
With that being said, though, there's a weird pressure when it comes to hometown gigs. You wonder if people that you know will go. You hope that the Facebook invite - the one showing 150 people attending - is somehow accurate. You want to impress your friends, and even make new fans of strangers, just to prove to them that, yes, there are great bands, right here, in your own backyard. Either way, at the end of it all, there's a show to play, no matter who is there, or how many people show up. And I would like to think that no matter what, we're going to put on a rad show, because that's just what we do.
HipInDetroit: DTP announced that they are doing a Split 7" with Chicago band, Hospital Garden, as a follow up to their release "Resurrect the Mammoth". Can you tell us how this came about?
Ryan: Yeah, we're super psyched about this project, namely to just share a piece of wax with a band as awesome as Hospital Garden. We played with them upon recommendation of my friend Eric from the band Congress, when we were looking for bands to jam with us at an already booked show in Chicago over the summer. They agreed, and we were all super blown away at how badass they were when we played with them. To top it off, they're great kids, really funny, outgoing, friendly, humble, all of that... so it's really an honor to have this project to work on together. A label called Forge Again Records, from Chicago - run by an old friend, Justin Wexler - is releasing it, so that makes it even more exciting for us. He was at that same gig, thought the bands were a great match, approached us about the idea, and this weekend we're going in to High Bias Studios with Chris Koltay to lay our shit down. It should be out sometime in May, most likely.
HipInDetroit: Does Destroy This Place plan to tour or are the 9 to 5's and cute kiddies going to keep the band local?
Ryan: There aren't really any plans to do any touring, as of right now. We're all in our 30s with kids and full time jobs and all of that big boy stuff. However, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of some weekend trips - probably a trip down to Chicago when our 7" is released - and maybe, when our next record comes out, we'll go on a little adventure, if time, money, family, etc. permits. With the internet, you can still get your music out to people, so that helps. But we're all really proud of our band and we know that we put on an entertaining live show, so who knows? We aren't gonna rule it out.
HipInDetroit: I love the sound of this band! How do you guys write? Is it a group effort or is there a primary composer?
Ryan: Thanks! When the band started, John had a handful of songs and so did I that were basically fully formed, written from top to bottom, without much collaboration. We really felt a need to start the band and play shows immediately, instead of just toil away in the basement for years before getting ourselves out there. So the first handful of songs that we all learned were put together quickly, kind of revolving around the "first idea = best idea" philosophy. As time progressed, some of the last songs we wrote before we went to record "Mammoth" were a lot more collaborative - "Exhausted" and "Rifled", which are probably our two favorite songs from that record, are a result of this. So when it came time to start writing songs for our next record, we picked up from where we left off with those two songs, and started running with it. I think we all feel like those two songs really represent what we want to sound like as a band - they're both the product of all of our influences kinda coming together, and manifesting itself as the sound of the four of us all locked in together, banging it out in a room. No disrespect to our other songs, because we're proud of those as well, but it's a lot more fun approaching the band as if it were a musical Voltron-type thing, where we're completely a sum of all four of our parts, instead of a few guys playing one of the guys in the bands' songs. So with our new jams, we all feel extra connected to them, and we're really psyched to start playing them, so people can get a taste for what this band is really capable of.
HipInDetroit: What band would you say is your biggest inspiration?
Ryan: That's a pretty tough question to answer, so I'll do so with an analogy: Sometimes I like to compare this band to the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons. They weren't the prettiest team in the league, didn't have a big name flashy player like Jordan or Magic, but were fucking workhorses. Those dudes, up until that point, were viewed as washed up, their best seasons maybe behind them, and nobody expected a bunch of wild, aggressive, hardheaded bullies from Detroit to win the championship (nor were they expected to come back the next year and win that shit again). So that's kinda how I view this band - we're inspired by the fact that, yeah, maybe we're not playing music that's considered hip or cool. We aren't out in the scene as much, hanging in the bars, going to tons of shows, etc. But we work. We work super fucking hard. We work on our songs, we work on our shows, and we work on promoting our band as best we can, because we believe in ourselves so much. We want to prove people wrong - that it's still possible to make viable, exciting, energetic, thought-provoking music in your 30s, when you have other life responsibilities to worry about as well. In other words: BAD BOYS.
HipInDetroit: Since you have all been around for a long time, can you tell me how you have seen the "scene" change over the past 15 years? Are there more or less people going to shows? Is there a better or worse vibe from the crowds?
Ryan: Well, I'd say that for as much bad as I could hoist on the "scene", there's just as much good. People still go out to shows, and Detroit still seems to have a bevy of great bands - more than other cities, I would presume. Sometimes I feel like it's more of a social thing for people to go to a show, and doesn't really have much to do with the music or band playing, but that's not a bad thing, I guess. People are there, right? But, I don't go out as much anymore, so I can't really fairly judge. Sometimes when we play, the vibe from the crowd is weird. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes people are really responding and into it and giving us more energy to keep playing harder. Sometimes they politely clap and go back to their beer and conversation. I guess as long as people are still interested, bands are gonna keep playing, putting out music, selling t-shirts, whatever. Then we'll get older, and not care as much. But, there will probably then be a younger crop who will come up and do it all over again. Hey hey, my my...
HipInDetroit: Ryan, how does it feel to be playing shows with your brother again. Not in the same band, but sharing the same event?
Ryan: My brother is more than a brother. He's a best friend. And he's also incredibly talented. Any show we get to play together is a treat - he's there rooting me on and I'm there rooting him on. "Biggest fan" is an understatement. Plus, I think we feel a real kinship with Big Mess. They aren't hip or cool or trying to appeal to some kind of idea of what they are "supposed" to be. They just write good-ass songs and play like animals. They rule.
HipInDetroit: For the fathers - Has having children changed your approach or taste in music? Has it changed how you feel about playing shows/ going to shows? Do you share your love of music with your kids? Will you encourage your kids to play?
Ryan: Having kids, families, full-time jobs, or any other responsibility just makes us want to work harder. It drives us. It makes you realize that time spent away from doing all those aforementioned things (well, not work, I guess) and spent on music instead should be considered precious. We're lucky to have families that support us and cheer us on when we play. I mean, shit, Monday's son Owen has been video taped numerous times singing along to our songs. That rules!
As far as sharing music, and encouraging the little dudes to rock... there's no doubt that we would love it if that happened. But I will say, my Dad never forced me to play music... he simply just made it available to me if I wanted to pursue it, and I plan on doing the same for my son. We do sit around and listen to lots of records though, so he better have good taste when he grows up!
HipInDetroit: Favorite venues, local band, bar and restaurant?
Venues: I'd say Small's... we've played there more than any other spot, and it sounds great, the people are sweet, and we feel good on the stage when we play.
Local band: It's hard to pick just one, but I'd say some easy picks would be Big Mess, K.I.D.S., Glossies, Waxgordon, and FAWN.
Bar: If there was a bar any of us could be found in, it'd probably be the Loving Touch or Sneakers... but we aren't much for bars, these days, honestly.
Restaurant: John really likes the Olive Garden.