L-R: Brian Hamilton and Matt Whipple
Seeing Cymbals Eat Guitars live is not unlike seeing Shamu at SeaWorld in the front row -- both leave me feeling really, really wet. Ew, like water-wet, not whatever pervy thought just came into your head. CEG is probably the sweatiest band I know and every show I’ve gone to, I have left happily drenched in singer Joseph D’Agostino’s spit and sweat and who knows what other bodily fluids. It’s awesome and disgusting, but if you’re in a first five row-radius, it’s sink or swim, baby. Unfortunately, Joe was sick when I saw them at Bowery Ballroom a few weeks ago, so he was probably fever-sweating (eek), and the venue was so packed that I couldn’t even get anywhere close to the splash zone. With drummer Matthew Miller sick too, it was down to bassist Matt Whipple and keyboardist Brian Hamilton to chat with me after their set. (Survival of the fittest.) The two were coincidentally the only ones with day jobs (zing!) so it worked out pretty perfectly. Matt is a self-proclaimed “paralegal lite” at a law firm and Brian’s got his own effects pedal company, but their resumes are littered with all sorts of odd jobs from the past, including lifeguarding, lumberjacking, and valet parking with fratty douchebags.
NOISEY: You guys are getting big! Is Cymbals Eat Guitars the only thing you do now?
Matt: No, definitely not.
Brian: It’s perfect that we’re the two that made it to this interview because we’re the only ones with day jobs.
Perfect! What is it that you do?
Matt: I work at a law firm in New Jersey. I’m sort of like a paralegal lite. There are other paralegals at the firm who are actually essential to the work flow but I’m not.
Are you the cool guy cause you’re in a band?
I feel like I’m the guy everyone is annoyed by because I’m in a band. I leave work for six weeks at a time. I’m basically a file clerk -- I scan, I shred, I remove staples, I write letters to clients saying “come get your file.”
Exciting. What did you study in school?
I studied sociology at Colgate University, middle of nowhere, New York. It really has nothing to do with what I do now.
What do you do, Brian?
Brian: I have an effects pedals company called Small Sound/Big Sound, so I just make guitar pedals.
So, I know guitarist/singer Joe and drummer Matthew met in school. How did you guys end up meeting them?
Matt: Brian and I actually both auditioned. The first album was basically a studio project with Joe writing the majority of the parts and dictating to Matthew what kind of drum stuff he wanted. Then they built a band with Craigslist guys they found online. So the record came out and it was pretty well-received but the band hadn’t fully formed yet, so to replace the Craigslist guys that came and went, they held auditions. Brian and I auditioned at different times. I had heard about it through an email that was forwarded it to me.
Brian: For me, it was through mutual friends.
Well, congrats! Have you guys ever found jobs through Craigslist?
Matt: When I lived in New York, I didn’t have a job for three months so I stuffed envelopes for an events planner for a few weeks, just to make ends meet. In that same month, I used to take notes on a criminal trial of a sitting New Jersey state senator. Just because [laughs].
Brian: I auditioned for this jam band through Craigslist. The guy told me I had to learn 75 songs in a few days and he lowered the price on me after our phone call. It was not cool.
Oh well, you’re in a way cooler band now. I actually wanted to talk to Joe because my good friend took Spanish class with him and I wanted to test his Spanish a little bit.
Brian: I’m sure his Spanish is non-existent.
Not sure if that girl is a friend or a rando
What were some of the worst jobs you’ve had, unless it’s your current one?
Matt: No, my current job is great. I was a country club lifeguard once, which is equal parts medic and baby sitter and busboy and lifeguard. It was in suburban New Jersey. There were a lot of very inattentive, entitled parents and their children. It was very much like Caddyshack.
Did you save any precious rich people lives?
Actually, the most saves are in the baby pool because you have little toddlers who can’t quite walk yet and their parents just set them in water. They just topple over face down… [laughs].
Oh no! So you just, like, scoop them out?
Yeah you just gotta get in there and scoop them up really quick.
What were the parents doing?
They were completely unfazed. Like, “Oh, thanks.” I’m like, “OK cool, your kid was drowning but yeah. You’re welcome.”
Brian: I like my job now because I don’t have a boss but my worst job was when I worked at a lumberyard. I had to move all of the lumber from one building to another and I had to do it all on my shoulders. It was the most awful job and it was during the winter too -- while I was on winter break! It just sucked so bad.
How did you end up with that gig?
My dad’s a contractor so he would buy his lumber from there. When I was home for the break, my dad was like “I have a job lined up for you if you want it” so I took it. I did not know it was gonna be like that. I’m this skinny guy and I was carrying 40, 50, 60 pounds of lumber. I had cuts on my shoulders from it.
Hopefully it was a character-building experience at the very least.
Actually, I was a valet in Boston while I was attending Berklee College of Music. I think that was worse than the lumberjack gig!
It wasn’t fun?
No fucking way. It was such a shitty, fratty scene. All the guys who worked there were huge douchebags.
The last time I saw you guys play was probably two years ago. Joe used to be super sweaty on stage -- he was much less so today!
He’s chilled out a little bit.
Matt: Maybe he’s more in shape. He also thrashes around less.
Ha! What do you guys do before each show to prep for that kind of energy?
Not much. Matt, our drummer, likes to get as drunk as possible.
Brian: There’s a perfect drunk playing level he tries to reach.
I think playing the drums allows for the most drunk tolerance.
Yeah, cause it’s the most physical. I’m kind of in the same boat as him, though. I try to drink just enough to a point where I let a little bit more loose. Nothing else though.
Matt: Yeah, we’re boring in that respect. But we have been doing shots with Cursive before shows while we’re on tour with them.
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