Tweak Bird’s heavy yet blissful stoner-psych rock has been doing the rounds on a tour with the Melvins recently, during which the Melvins joined them onstage and Tweak Bird found themselves exactly where the Melvins were 25 years ago: amongst flies and pee stains (you’ll see what I mean).
I caught up with Ashton, one half of brothers-Bird, to talk about 250lb wasted and angry guys, weed wordplay and tour stories.
Noisey: Hey Ashton. So, the first time I came across you guys was when I was sent an email with the press shot of you and Caleb in the bathtub and on the toilet on it...
Haha! I’m glad! I enjoyed that photoshoot.
Is there a profound message underlying that promotional material?
Umm... I dunno if there’s much of a message, man. I just moved into a house and there was an open bathtub. I just called my brother up and told him to come over. Maybe the message is that we’re not scared anymore, we’re not keeping the doors closed.
Brave. Do you think people generally take heavy music too seriously?
Absolutely, man. It seems like everybody out there, or anybody that we play with at least, tons of heavy bands... I don’t think the musicians take the music too seriously, necessarily, I just think that the fans do. You get a lot of fans that want to start fights and party too hard. We just kinda like to play heavy music, and party really hard, but be happy about about it.
Yeah, I’ve found that even speaking to real dark metal bands, they’re usually really fun and happy.
It’s just the 250lb wasted guy at the front of the stage who wants to fuck everybody up!
So you guys try to dispel the stereotype.
Everything we do towards music is trying to eliminate any kind of stereotype. We’re just trying to have fun. We haven’t done anything in a while, you know. My brother had a child a year and a half ago and we pretty much chilled out on touring. We didn’t write any new material for a while, so we were both just ready to have more fun.
So, how’s it been being back in the game?
Well, we just got off tour with the Melvins. Man, it was totally awesome. We’re cheap guys, so we stayed in this really crummy hotel on the outskirts of town. Booked it online, of course, without even looking at the hotel. We show up and there are flies swarming all over the bed, it’s just totally nasty, it smells of urine and cigarettes and everything. So we go back up to the gig and we’re like, ‘man, we rented this terrible hotel,’ and the Melvins guys start telling me a story about how they rented the exact same hotel 25 years ago! They were like, "Yeah, it was shitty then too!"
What kind of place were they in?
They generally stayed in average hotel, I think.
Nothing too flash.
Nothing too flash but definitely no pee stains on their mattresses.
Sweet! So, I want to know if "stoner rock" lives up to its name—who’s the biggest stoner you’ve worked with?
God, I’ve been too stoned to notice...
Ha! What made you go with the name Undercover Crops for your new EP? Apart from the obvious reference...
I think in the last year we’ve both kind of become okay with the fact that we smoke pot and I think we’ve both kind of realized that a lot of people who “don’t” smoke pot, still do. So, we’re just speaking the obvious. But even our mum likes it, she thinks it sounds really cool. And she hates smoking pot!
Won over with a bit of wordplay! How come you always make your songs so short? Is it an attention-span thing?
Yeah, short attention-spans. Big time. And, I think we grew up... well, our dad was playing us a lot of Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and stuff but at the same time we primarily listened to The Beatles and stuff with our mum. I think we just grew up knowing what a pop song was, and even if that’s not the kind of music we play, I think something about that 2 and a half or 3 minute song just sounds right to us.
Maybe you’ve got your dad’s sound and your mom’s timing.
But no attention span!
Exactly. "Moans"—the opening track on the album—is that supposed to be quite an uncomfortable introduction?
When we recorded it, it was supposed to just be filler on the album. That’s a song that I wrote at 2AM one time on this organ—this old electronic hammered organ that I had in my living room. I was coming home from the bar, and I think I’d gotten stoned after the bar and I was feeling kind of paranoid and crazy, and my roommates walked in and I was playing this "AARRGH AARRGH AARRGH" and just kind of yelling it. That was two years ago and ever since then that song’s just kind of stuck in my head, and so I finally got my brother interested in it and we recorded it. It was like, "this is so stupid", and as we kept going were just having more and more fun with it. We just thought you can put a noise track anywhere on the album and nobody's really going to listen to it, but if you put it right at the beginning of the album everyone kind of has to listen to it, and once you’ve listened to that all the other songs seem better!
It’s kind of hypnotic if you listen to it enough.
Yeah, we were like: "Well, how long should it be? It should be really short. No, let’s double the length, let’s keep making it longer" I think it’s a real problem though, man. Everybody is kind of paranoid. I see it on tour all the time in the States, where everybody’s real worried about so much stuff that’s not even happening.
I don’t know, all the bad stuff that’s looming overhead. What could go wrong, I guess. You’re gonna break down, or you’re gonna lose your job. Stuff that I don’t really think about, I guess.
People need to chill out. Did you come across a lot of that on tour?
Any amount of it is excess, to me. Paranoia is kind of a bad vibe, I think.
Definitely. The last release "A Sun/Ahh Ahh" had a bit of a jazz vibe, was that one of you two playing?
No, our friend John McCowan came in and played saxophone on the album for us. He was a friend of ours from way back when we were kids. I think we went on a tour in 2009, where he was picking weed in Northern California or something, and we were driving through. He was like, "ah man, I need a ride". So we pick him up and he’s got two saxophones with him, and he came with us for the last 5 days of tour. And we loved it, then went into writing an album with him. That’s the first time we met him with saxophones.
So how did the new record go down with the Melvins fans on tour?
Yeah, really well. Their fans are pretty open-minded. I think that they kind of expect the Melvins to bring a band that they’re going to like; I think they don’t question it very much. It went over really well, especially when Dale started playing with us, that was always the moment in the set when all of the second-guessers jumped on board.
Other than the pissy hotel room, how's the tour been?
Oh man, I’m trying to think. I guess some of the more notable highlights happened before the shows and stuff, and after. We were getting into a pretty steady routine of whistle ball. We got these plastic baseball sets, y’know? So we’d get together after the shows in these theaters, and on the floor where a few hundred people had been hanging out we’d play home run derby and hit baseballs, so that was kind of a fun highlight. You know, we’re keeping that athletic physique on tour. Between the hamburgers and tons of beers, we gotta do something.
So that’s the Tweak Bird exercise class? Toy baseball?
Toy baseball, and sometimes wrestling, that’s about it.
Nobody ever wins. It’s always a tie.
All in the name of peace.
Sweet. Thanks Ashton!