Every year I look forward to D.I.Y. Street Fair for a plethora of reasons including good music, good food, running into old friends, and drinking too much B.Nektar Mead from the beer tent. It's different from any of the other local events during the summer. Maybe it's the music, the lineups have been getting bigger and better every year. This year when I heard that The Suicide Machines were closing the show Friday night I smiled, but not as big as I smiled when I learned that Thunderbirds Are Now are finally doing a reunion show.
Let me back up for a second. I grew up in the music scene and consider Thunderbirds Are Now to be a pretty big time Detroit band. At their peak, they were signed to a record label and touring most of the year. I remember my roommate listening to their last album Make History over and over again when we lived together and frequently going out to see them play live whenever they were in town. But, for some reason I never got to see them play live, not once. Before I knew it, they had parted ways in 2009 and became something of a music legend in this area.
Thunderbirds Are Now will play the main stage on Saturday, September 14th, right before Death and I will be right up front finally getting to see them live. I asked Ryan to answer a few questions about the reunion and the future of Thunderbirds. Being the good friend that he is, he agreed and being the good writer that he is, he gave some great answers. Take a second and hear what he has to say about the big reunion and we will see all of you this Saturday at D.I.Y.
|Photo Credit: Doug Coombe|
Hip In Detroit- What made you decide to reunite Thunderbirds Are Now? Why now? Why D.I.Y. ?
Ryan Allen- "There’s a ton of reasons, but mostly because it just seemed like a fun thing to do. I know that doesn’t sound super intellectual or deep, but sometimes it’s ok to just do something because it’s fun and that’s it. But, there’s more reasons of course, from missing playing music with those guys, to doing something where the pressure wasn’t as high-stakes, to just wanting to be a part of a festival that we all enjoy going to. It’s an honor to be a part of it, right down to the fact that it’s called “DIY”... we did a lot of stuff, especially in the early days, with the same DIY mentality, so it seems fitting for us to want to be a part of that."
Hip In Detroit- I never had the chance to see Thunderbirds live, so I have only heard the legends. What can us newbies expect?
Ryan Allen- "Well, you can hopefully expect a high-energy show with fast, angular songs that you could potentially dance and have a good time to. Of course, we are all older and more grizzled and tired than we were, but I think the pure exuberance and excitement of playing a show for the first time in 5 years will get us through any potential rough spots."
Hip In Detroit- Thunderbirds Are Now did quite a bit of touring during its peak. Can you recall a favorite tour story for us?
Ryan Allen- "There’s so many stories that are hilarious, unbelievable, crazy, heartbreaking, triumphant, life changing, or just plain weird that I could honestly go on and on about them. Let’s just say that this band gave us the chance to see the world, meet amazing friends, watch inspiring bands, work with awesome folks, from van drivers to record label people, and it truly was a special time in all of our lives that none of us will ever forget. Of course, I could tell you about nude skateboarding, Wayne Coyne, David Cross, George Wendt (yep, “Norm” from Cheers) all being at our shows, almost dying in the mountains of Norway, getting to hang out on top of Capitol Records, or any other countless wild tales, but we’ll leave it at that."
Hip In Detroit- Why did the band call it quits in 2009 and, more importantly, do you regret it?
Ryan Allen- "I’m not sure I would officially say we “called it quits”... we more or less just, you know, stopped. I think it just got to the point where other projects came calling, we got sort of bored with the music, and wanted to focus on other things. Touring was becoming less lucrative and more and more time consuming, and we were very much known as a “touring” band. So when it seemed like we were getting away from wanting to travel all the time, again, things just sort of stopped. But none of us regret it, because we were able to kind of put things on ice before it got shitty. The “Seinfeld” approach, if you will."
Hip In Detroit- What have all the members been doing/working on musically and or personally over the last few years?
Ryan Allen- "Marriage, babies, new jobs, new bands, old bands getting more attention, putting out records… the normal stuff, I guess. Scott has Big Mess (who have a new 7” out with Copper Thieves, and a fantastic new record to be released later on this year), and put out a great record a few years ago under the name Arranged Marriage, where he wrote and recorded music with our dad. Matt and Julian have been in Javelins for the last 10 years or so, and are about to release a new 7” in a few weeks (their first new material in about 5 or 6 years), which is really exciting. Matt also plays with FAWN, who put out a great record last year, and are currently working on new material. I started Friendly Foes around the same time TAN! was winding down, and after that band, put out a solo record and two records with Destroy This Place, which is my main band project nowadays."
Hip In Detroit-What will be the weirdest part about playing together again?
Ryan Allen- "The weirdest part so far is sort of the mixture of the awkwardness that comes from the unknown with the supernatural magic that is muscle memory. Relearning these songs has been a trip - somehow, after all this time, those guitar parts and lyrics, drum beats, bass lines, keyboard parts, etc. are buried deep inside our psyches, so it’s been almost comical how easily they have come back. Mostly, anyway. There are certainly moments of like, “Uh, I totally DO NOT remember what I did there” or “Why the hell did we write the part like that? Why would we do that?” Mostly it’s been a really fun challenge and we’ve been having a blast at practice so far. Doing it live is another thing, of course, because there are factors that you don’t have much control over, and it’s so much more physically taxing to actually PERFORM for people, rather than just stand there looking down at your instrument, trying to remember how shit goes. So we’ll see… I anticipate and welcome the unknown."
Hip In Detroit- What kind of set list can we expect?
Ryan Allen- "Just the hits, man. All killer, no filler. High energy. Songs people who liked us will know. No fucking around. Just jamming and getting out of the way so DEATH can get up there and rip it up."
Hip In Detroit- Will there be any more shows after this one?
Ryan Allen- "Nothings is planned, but I think we’re open to the idea, if it worked out. For now, though, no."
Hip In Detroit- Will you be selling any copies of your LPs at D.I.Y for those of us that never got the chance to get one for our collection?
Ryan Allen- "Yeah, we’ll have some t-shirts, CDs and LPs for sale, hopefully for cheap, so they don’t take up any more space in my house anymore."
Hip In Detroit- Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Ryan Allen- "Only that we are super excited and glad to be a part of the festival this year, and that we hope to conjure up some warm feelings of nostalgia for a good 35-40 minutes. This is about celebrating a band that we had a ton of fun being in, and hopefully some people out there had fun seeing back in the day… so if you’re there, try and connect with that 2006 part of your inner child, and come rock the fuck out with us."