Future Punx (Jake) | The Family Interviews
Meet Future Punx
Future Punx are back baby and they have got WORDS about our current state of affairs. The post-wave Brooklyn band is known for their distinct punk and electronic tunes, creating synthy dance tracks even the moodiest, grimiest punks can boogie too. Their new EP, The World is a Mess, is less doom and gloom than the name suggests, and more of a call-to-arms to put out this dumpster fire.
We called up frontman Jake to discuss his varied musical phases, politically charged creativity, and the privilege of getting to play live.
Would You Rather…
always be vibrating, glowing like a very bright light bulb? Why?
From what little I understand, in some sense we are already always vibrating. I definitely do seek to "raise my vibration" to a higher level. It'd be awesome to get naturally high to the point where I'm always glowing. I think you might transcend the physical body at that point though. I can't say if I'd rather without experiencing it first.
Some Questions With Jake of Future Punx
Did you go through any musical phases in high school? Has it in any way shaped what you are making now?
I went through several musical interests during my teenage years, which were during the 90s. Im grateful to have parents and an older sister who all love music. My parents had a sizable record collection and growing up I would hear lots of good classic rock and roll like the Beatles, Stones and Springsteen as well as plenty of jazz and reggae around the house. Some slightly stranger things like Talking Heads, Zappa, Tom Waits, and the Bonzo Dog Band crept in too. I definitely found myself preferring the weird stuff at an early age. My family would encourage me to listen to all kinds of things and I definitely took that spirit and ran with it in my teenage years. Eventually i started cherry picking their collection and still have a bunch of their old ones.
I started watching MTV a ton in my early teens and got heavy into punk for a long time via Nirvana, Green Day and Sonic Youth. There was a punk show on nearby Vassar College radio called The Hurdy Gurdy Show that I would just barely pick up on my bedroom boombox. The DJ Anthony Annoyance would play all kinds of punk rock. I spent many Thursday nights finessing my dial and antenna to try and hear his show. I had one weird punk friend who had moved to the next town over and would listen from his house. We would call up and request things like Black Flag, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat because we had read about them and were desperate to hear them. We would often make up fake names and make multiple requests a night and send them out to each other. I would tape the shows and listen to them repeatedly. I still have tons of Hurdy Gurdy shows on cassettes in a box somewhere.
That show was really mostly very straightforward "punk rock" but every now and then he would play something a little deeper and funkier like Gang of Four, PiL or The Slits. I found myself drawn to new wave, post-punk, and no wave but apart from Talking Heads and Sonic Youth, most of that music seemed near impossible to acquire for me at the time. For Christmas in 1995, my parents got me a book call the Spin Alternative Record Guide which was basically an encyclopedia of "alternative" artists which included a lot of the buzzy alt-rock of the day but also turned me on to the importance and influence of countless older and further out artists like Can, Eno, Funkadelic, The Raincoats, Ornette Coleman, Kraftwerk and so on - lots of really foundational record nerd stuff that I might tend to take a little for granted now that it's all so available but at that time you still had to kind of get turned onto and seek out. I would read that book over and over and just drool imagining how these records sounded. I lived upstate on the Metro North train line and at that point I was getting old enough to occasionally get to come into the city for a show and would get so excited to go to stores like Kim's and Other Music and find the stuff from that book on CD and bring them back upstate to get my mind blown.
At the same time I was getting into the sort of weirdo hippie clique in high school and was discovering less mainstream current like Ween, Phish, and Sublime who I give all so much credit for cracking my brain open to the importance of humor in music and the notion of playing with genre. My friends and I saw Ween and Phish a bunch of times, those shows were important formative experiences for me in many ways.
A freaky record store opened in my hometown around 97 or so and we would go hang out there and discover so many things. We made fast friends with the owner Dan who was easily the coolest and strangest adult in our quiet little town. I remember many times sitting on the floor smoking a joint after hours there while Dan would throw on record after record. One night he turned me on to Jandek with his album You Walk Alone. The idea of this guy cranking out records in total anonymity completely blew my mind. I got pretty obsessed with Jandek for awhile after that. I don't listen to him much these days, but You Walk Alone still does it for me. That's one of many things Dan turned me on to. I started "working" for him and would hear everything that came into the store. Mostly older stuff but he would get some random new cds in too. I distinctly remember getting copies of Minutemen Double Nickels, Boredoms Super AE, Silver Jews American Water, OK Computer, Blur's 13 and Hello Nasty there, among other things. Eventually some of us started a band, and one of the first shows I ever played was at that record store. It was a total mess but we had the most fun. We played mostly Ween covers, although I remember we definitely closed out with Fight For Your Right to Party by the Beastie Boys.
I have a lot of musical memories from this that time and feel like I could fill a whole interview with them. Basically once I figured out how good music made me feel, I started devouring anything I could find, and naturally fell in with people who were feeling similarly.
Long story short, I'm grateful that I enjoyed the privilege of a fairly well rounded musical youth, which certainly shapes the music I make to this day. I think my youthful focus on punk and it's ideologies did lead to an unfortunate lack of development of more complex and subtle techniques in my own playing, but over time I've figured out that I also want to play less aggressive forms, which are often more effective in conveying a wider spectrum of emotion. My hope is for Future Punx to be able to play in many different modes and styles while still retaining our voice - I think thats part of what all my favorite artists do.
What are punks going to look like in 100 years?
That's hard to say. Despite the band name, I don't know if I've ever really identified as a punk, and I'm not very in tune with punk fashion. I think punks in 100 years will probably dress however they want, and it might be pretty similar to how they dress now - if we haven't gone extinct or undergone an evolutionary leap in our way of being that renders things like punkness utterly irrelevant. Regardless of how people look, I think the spirit of punk music is the same spirit that inspires all music, and we'll continue to create and hear new and inspired variations on it as long as we're able.
Are you self taught or did you take lessons/study music?
I am mostly self taught. I did learn how to play the baritone horn in high school orchestra and marching band, but I didn't take it very seriously or retain much theory from that time. I started playing guitar around 15, but for a long, long time, subscribed to a primitive, punk minded, almost anti-theory approach to playing and songwriting. I'd gotten myself inoculated with the bullshit toxic notion that knowing the rules of music wasn't "punk" and would somehow inhibit my inherent creativity.
Eventually that approach started to feel really stifling and boring, and I recognized that it didn't resonate with my true musical interests, which are broad and deep and go far beyond punk and its offshoots. Around the time Future Punx started I was finally getting inspired to break out and go deeper with my playing. In the last 5 or 6 years I've been slowly shedding a lot those primitive tendencies. In the last 3 or 4 I've finally started learning theory again and how to improvise on the guitar. In a way I can't really claim to be self taught anymore, theres a few youtube teachers I've been clicking around to further my knowledge that have been working wonders for helping me break open my playing. It's an incredible resource for lessons on any style you can imagine.
What was the creative process like working on this latest EP? Was it any different from your previous work?
For this EP we had a collection of more angry, aggressive, almost political songs that seemed to go together - a couple of them were written more or less in the wake of the 2016 election, when I think Chris and I both felt like it would be a bit superfluous to write a song about anything but how fucked up the world felt in that moment. "F Boys" and "Society Implies" were both definitely written around that time. The rest of the songs were less directly political and older but felt sort of appropriate thematically to collect with those two on an EP and tie it all together with our cover of X's The World's a Mess (It's in my Kiss), which we had been doing live for a while already.
We recorded them with our friend Andy Chugg who recorded all the Pill (RIP) stuff among other things. It was our first time working with him, and I have to say it was the best experience I've ever had working in a studio. Often for me the studio can feel very clinical and stressful compared to playing live. He had me relaxed the entire time and got amazing work out of all of us.
If you could only play one instrument for the rest of your life what would it be? Why?
Lately I am more in love with the guitar than ever. The more time I spend with it, the more it opens up to me. I think I'd be glad to play it for the rest of my life.
Do you have a party trick?
I can play Wonderwall on acoustic
Who did the album artwork for this EP? What was the thought process behind the design?
Our friends Brendon and Jess designed the artwork. They're incredible artists. I love their work but don't know how much insight I can provide into their thought process. We gave them the EP to listen to and they ran with the "World's a Mess" theme, creating an image of a globe that's bisected into abstract layers of texture. All the lettering was custom created. Brendon also designed us an awesome long sleeve shirt using elements from the design. Ironically and unfortunately, they forgot to list themselves in the credits. Shout out to Brendon Avalos and Jess Hutchinson! Look up their other work, it's amazing.
What are practices typically like between all of you?
We'll usually get together around 9 on a Sunday or Thursday night. We have a lot of gear so it can take us awhile to get set up but we're usually playing by around 10. I'll roll a spliff or three and we'll pass them around. Depending on if we have a show coming up or not, we might practice a set or work on new material or free jam a little bit to warm up and down. We'll go to around midnight usually and then break down.
Did you ever get grounded growing up? If so why?
Not that I recall. I got in trouble a few times for smoking weed and sneaking out but my parents were overall very lenient when it came to punishment. My older sister would get in a lot more trouble than me and I think there were times that took the spotlight off of my own mischief.
Do you drive? Are you a good driver?
I can drive, but I don't have a license. I've been thinking lately that I might finally get one, mostly because I feel bad when we're on the road and I can't contribute to that aspect of the haul.
What do you want people to take away from one of your live performances?
We want to engage and stimulate the audience as much as possible. It's an incredible privilege to get to play our music on any stage. I feel honored when people show up and bring excited energy to the room. It gets me excited too and I feel a responsibility to give them a good time, and I think we rise to the occasion. We love when people dance at the shows. It helps ramp up the energy for us on stage. It really is an exchange of energy that goes on, and on the best nights, when we're really tight and theres a good sized crowd and they're focused in with us and dancing, it becomes really palpable, like the audience and band become a united being unto itself. We all enter this little unique world for the duration of the show and when we're done we all share this afterglow of inspiration and excitement. At least that how it feels from my point of view! That level is rare for us to achieve still, but I hope our audience is picking up on those feelings too, and I hope for us to tap into it with greater frequency. I think we will if our audience continues to grow.
If the sky wasn't blue what color would u want it to be?
I really like the sky how it is just fine. If I had to change it I might go with just a slightly more greenish shade, like a sea green. However, I am a big Deadhead and this question does bring to mind a line from Scarlet Begonias, "The sky was yellow and the sun was blue". We collectively love that song and probably listened to 10 different versions on this last tour, including the Sublime version multiple times. Bradley's rap on that goes hard in the Future Punx van.
Any final comments? (This is your electronic soapbox for one last answer.)
Thanks for the interview. Our next show is October 5 at Union Pool in Brooklyn. Be kind to each other. May any benefit we've enjoyed from this conversation be shared with all beings of this great and beautiful universe.