Best and worst thing? Urm… that’s an interesting question, so open ended. I think the best thing about the United States is that it is geographically and culturally diverse on a crazy level. For it being one country, you can find a lot of different types of people, which I consider to be a good thing, and a lot of really beautiful landscapes. I mean that’s a lame way to answer the question. There are a lot of things I like about the states.
I think it’s a gorgeous country full of a lot of different kinds of people and it has a very unique cultural history, where it’s the product of so many other cultures that there almost isn’t a unique culture at all. So you have this sort of fragmented landscape of cultures that are all interesting to think about. You can’t really paint America with one brush, which is something interesting about it that a lot of people overlook, I think.
So that’s the best part I guess. It’s a shit answer and I apologise, but the worst thing, that’s easy! The fact that, as a person who tours around in a van and doesn’t really have a great job or steady job. I have to be paranoid as fuck every time my throat’s sore, hoping to god that I don’t have to go to a hospital because I don’t have any health insurance.
Easily that’s the worst thing about the United States. That there’s massive funding for the military and industrial complex but shit funding for schools and healthcare.
So, back in your hometown, what’s the music scene like there?
Fort Collins. It’s a college town. There’s about 150,000 people there so it waxes in ways. You’ll have a bunch of good bands for a couple of years, but they move away after they’re done with college. When we first started as a band, there was this really vibrant DIY scene of people playing shows in basements and living rooms in their houses.
There was this venue that was literally an old school house. We had a really great DIY community where people contributed to bands and the shows were amazing, so it was really really great but then it went through its lows, but it’s a town that cares a lot about its local music scene, through thick and thin.
How did the band originally form?
Well, I went to college there at Colorado State University and met our drummer and our bass player. I was in a band in high school which was shit but I moved up to college and I had no one to play music with. I was playing acoustic guitar, writing songs and playing open mics in coffee shops and things like that.
Then I met these guys and we decided to start jamming in our basement to try to put together some really shitty renditions of songs together and just started slugging it out, playing shows in peoples basements and eventually at dive bars and bigger venues. It was basically a way to vent the frustrations of being a poor college student. That’s how Elway was born, for sure.
How did you come up with the band’s name?
Well, Elway is the surname of a famous American football player called John Elway, and he’s from Colorado and he’s like a legend there. It’s David Beckham, but for Colorado. He’s a dickhead. He’s a notoriously conservative guy, a misogynist, owner of a fucking steak house and car dealerships. He’s awful and none of us in the band care about sport at all. We have no interest in it at all, but it’s kind of like a knot to where we’re from, cause Elway is embedded in the local vernacular. It’s local colour, its like, just part of what it is to be from Colorado. You can’t avoid John Elway.
But also, if it can be a car dealership and a steak house and a shitty conservative christian football player. Why can’t it be a shitty punk band as well? So, its sort of like snide. It didn’t come off that way because he tried to take legal action against us.
Yeah, his lawyer sent us a letter years ago and tried to get us to change our name and we kind of went public with it and it turned into a whole thing and they just left us alone. It wasn’t like a big dramatic thing. It was just a strongly worded legal document underneath a letter head and it was just trying to like intimidate, as if it was a contest.
Wow, that’s unusual.
Yeah, it was a very strange day. We were in Canada when we found out and I was trying to find wi-fi so I could fucking figure things out. Pretty cool though.
How would you describe your music in 3 words?
Can I hyphenate them? (laughs) I dunno, urm… I would say… overwrought-emotional, punk, rock.
What was the first CD you ever bought?
My 1st tape that I ever had was Weird Al, ‘The Food Album’ (1993). That was definitely a big one for me. The first punk rock album I got was No Doubt’s self titled on tape (1992), so this was before they were massive and yeah they’re awesome.
Have you still got it?
No way. I have no clue where it is, I wish I still had it. It was so cool with the red cover and the funky no doubt font on it. But yeah, then I got into shit like Green Day and Bad Religion and things like that afterwards. But yeah it all started with Weird Al. Maybe that’s why I can’t take myself seriously? (laughs).
Have you toured a lot as a band?
Yeah, this is our third time in Europe. We just played our 500th show in February in New Jersey.
Did you do anything to celebrate?
As a band you’ve toured around a lot of countries. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you?
That’s an easy one to answer! We were in Russia and we were playing in a town called Kovrov which is the Russian word for carpet if I remember correctly. The birth place of the AK-47, in the middle of nowhere. I mean it’s like 5 and a half hours drive to the east of Moscow. So, kind of in the middle of nowhere, near a larger city called Vladimir, but it’s a small town. I don’t know how many people live there but we played the show and it’s like a bar that is all tiles everywhere and there’s a suit of armour standing there with a sword and no one speaks a word of English.
We get on stage, use other peoples gear and it sounds awful and kids were going nuts, cause they don’t really get an opportunity to see bands there let alone a band from the United States and it’s a crazy, really awesome, fun show. Drank a lot of vodka and then came outside and there were 20 cops in full military gear. We tried to leave the show, our promoter said “You need to get your stuff, you need to get in the van, you need to go”.
So we go and then the cops stop us and two interrogation cops detain us and take us to jail. They wanted to see our visa paper work and so we show them our visa paperwork and it was for like a tourist visa because to buy a visa to be an artist or to get paid in Russia is very expensive, so we just bought the tourist visas and then lied essentially. We spent all night in a Russian jail being asked questions and stuff, they took my fingerprints the old fashioned way with an ink roller and stuff. It was classic, I had ink on my hand for like a week.
Then they let us go and sent us a fine but it was very strange. It was our bass players 21st birthday and we were there from midnight til 5am in the morning. That’s a great story. “Hey I turned 21 in a Russian jail” that’s awesome! That could be the first line of a book. So yeah, that’s got to be the weirdest thing. I think it would be hard to top that.
You’ve been together since 2007. What lessons have you learnt along the way about being in a band?
Well, a big one is if you’re gonna go on tour for 200 days a year and you’re gonna go all over the world and travel and be in close proximity with the same people for all those years and all that time, you better love them! And I do, I think everyone in our band loves each other, they’re my best friends. I haven’t been in a relationship for 7 years with somebody, but I’ve been in a relationship with the same 3 guys for almost 7 years now and yeah, I think the reason why it works and why we can still have fun doing it is because we are close friends.
There are things about each other that we’re bothered by and we get over it and we have a good time. We go on tour with people that we love, we make friends. That’s the lesson, if you’re gonna do it and expect to keep doing it, first of all don’t expect to make money, second of all, be okay with making little money and last and most importantly, make sure you’re doing it with your friends, because I would hate it if after all of this I grew to resent the 3 people I spent a huge portion of my life with.
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Tomatoes. I think tomatoes are the greatest thing on earth. They’re god’s chosen fruit. If you have tomatoes and anything else, it’s a fucking meal. I don’t know why that’s the first thing that came to me. If I had to choose a fruit, for some reason, tomatoes. All fucking day long.
What have Elway got planned for the rest of the year?
Well, we’re finishing the European tour now and then going back to the states and finish writing and recording a new record and maybe we’ll have it out by the end of the year, but it’ll probably be next year. I’m assuming we’re probably going to play some shows. We’re gonna play a festival called The Fest in Gainesville, Florida which we do every year. It’s like small scale Groezrock. It’s always like Christmas time for us. Yeah, its wonderful. I love it.
Then we play a show here or there. It’s our record label’s (Red Scare Industries) 10th anniversary, so we’re playing a show in Chicago that’s like a 10th anniversary party. So yeah, that’s what we’ve got planned. We’ll end up going on tour, we can’t stay off the road, so at some point we’ll be back on the road.
Have you been able to see any bands yet here at Groezrock?
What were PUP like? I heard they’re really good live.
They were so awesome! I’ve become obsessed with their new record. It’s so amazing and it’s been out for a while, but you couldn’t get it in the states cause they were on a Canadian record label and so we just recently got it in the United States cause they have an American label now and I cannot get enough of that record.
It was such a pleasure to watch them, nice guys too, all Canadians are nice though. I watched some of The Smith Street Band, I’ve seen a band from Brighton called River Jumpers, fantastic! I was just watching Apologies I Have None before I came here, so that’s all I’ve seen today. I’m gonna go see Touché Amore later and Crazy Arm, another English band and I guess I’ll watch The Offspring, I don’t know. Yeah, why not, might as well!
Interview by Kaori Manz.
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