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Notes from the Underground: Sink the Bismark

By Dan Kroeger
On July 10, 2009

Sink the Bismark, hailing from St. Charles, is a band with a style and sound similar in nature to a new ripple in the punk rock scene: Folk-Punk Americana.

While their sound is hazily reminiscent of this trend, the band add their own edge to it. With a slew of shows under their belts, the act utilizes Midwestern logic in writing and playing, honing fast paced rock-n-roll with youthful, provoking lyrics and catchy song structures.

The band's new record, A Midwestern Classic, tentatively slated for an August 10th release date, will be an independently recorded/packaged album, adding to the DIY nature of the groups idealology, one that is a catalyst for local St. Louis artists.

Dan Kroeger, contributing writer for the SCCougar, sat down with the band (Andy Binder: Lead Vocals/Guitar; Jeff Tiller: Drums; Matt Brennecke: Guitar; and Mike "Gecko" Kostecki: Bass/Vocals) to wax logistics on the St. Louis scene, the folk/punk sound, influence, writing, and identity in general.

***

Dan Kroeger of The SCCougar: With a new style emerging around an American-Punk/Folk sound (within the frameworks of a broader rock-n-roll), what is it like trying to establish an identity within a sub-scene, and what do you do differently?

Jeff Tiller: The good thing about the sub-scene is it's just only now beginning. [Bands like Against Me, and the Gaslight Anthem] have already established themselves, but locally there isn't really a scene as far as the Americana/folk/punk thing...we're lucky enough to be the only band around here that sounds like us...Hopefully we will actually significantly change the scene in the direction of that style of music. We open up to our influences.

Matt Brennecke: We have plenty of that big atmospheric, ethereal tone to a lot of the stuff we do, it's not just straight forward rock, and it's not just straight forward punk...

Mike Kostecki: Each member has their own identity and music style that [they] bring from past bands and also [our] musical tastes, so I think we have a wide variety of musical talent in our separate identities, and when we bring them together, it becomes something.

D.K.: What besides music do you use as an influence? Art, film, literature, etc.?

Andy Binder: A lot of my ideas for songs and melodies I'll get from film scores. I'll watch a really awesome, sweeping epic movie that will have a sweet score, and I'll get an idea for a melody or a song or a riff...

M.B: I'll pull from visual art and stuff like that...like Dredg did a CD based entirely off a Salvador Dali painting. I'll use stuff from individual art I'd say more so than anything I'm listening to at any given point.

J.T: We're lucky enough to have [the four of us] as best friends in a band together. We don't just have music in common; we've got everything in common. We wrap all of it together and we've got a unique thing...

A.B: We're with each other constantly.

D.K: The last Notes From the Underground column was focused on an individual singer/songwriter: What's the songwriting process like in a group such as this opposed to a single person?

A.B: The way we write is we'll start with a single songwriter's approach. One of us will write a skeleton of a song, and then we take it to the other guys and jam on it...

J.T: We're really good at jamming...We've written a song around a four chord riff...

A.B: ...then Gecko and I will write all the lyrics. And [for example] Matt will come up with a riff or a 2 minute part and we'll sit down and jam on it, then eventually [the song will come together]...Sometimes the melody will come before the song, sometimes the song will come before the lyrics and the melody.

D.K: Where did the title for the new album come from?

M.K: The life and the times and the changing of the times, [our] view of the world as it is now...

M.B: We're in the Midwest; this is our current state of being...

A.B: You can hear the midwestern twang of our songs, things that are influenced from living in the Midwest, and growing up in the Midwest...that rubs off.

D.K: With the new CD coming out, how much influence does the economic downturn have on pricing it?

A.B: We don't really pay attention to that too much because we're not super far along. We're not a professional band whose livelihood is going out and selling CDs. We do it more for fun than anything. Besides the fact that it's going to be more to press and send out our CDs, mixing and all that...obviously if our economy is a little bit more [downturned] like it is now, it's going to cost more for production. We all grew up with CDs being 10 bucks, so we really try to keep it where we're not taking everyone's money. That's not what we're doing it for.

D.K: What do you think about the St. Louis rock-n-roll scene?

M.B: There's a large amount of people that have settled for one certain style of music; one certain style of "doing." There's even stuff that I'm finding out about now....stuff that's buried beneath mounds and mounds and mounds of stuff that all sounds the same. It's been a really strong scene at one point, it still is to a certain extent, you've just gotta find the right bands.

A.B: A lot of the all ages clubs that were prevalent in the city when we were coming up as teenagers, a lot of them are closing down. There are only a select few places to play in St. Louis now, and if you don't know somebody that can get you in there...[it becomes hard] to get onto good shows. It has a lot of potential; I just think the rock-n-roll scene is in a decline; people aren't going out as much [and finding new things.]

J.T: I've seen some of the most talented musicians in this city, doing really great things. Currently I think there's a rut to where music is going to go next... it all seems to be running together, there's no differentiation. I think when creativity comes back into play, once the new generation of musicians start to meld with the old ones...regardless of whatever genre you decide to play, I think it's going to come back...it's dormant.

M.K: ...everything I could say has been said.

D.K: On a final note, what would you like people to know about Sink The Bismark?

A.B: That they should come have a drink with us!

J.T: Come meet us, we're a lot of fun. We have a great fan-base, a great core group of friends...give us one shot, come out to one show...and I'll buy you a beer.

A.B: Our band stretches besides the four of us...we're the four dudes playing on stage, but our friends and fans are the band too...one game, one win!


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