Who Are…Male Bonding
The shortest song on Male Bonding's full-length debut, Nothing Hurts, is a frantic 89 seconds long; the longest is still comfortably under the three-minute barrier. Formed by three former record-store co-workers, they're way too caffeinated and enthusiastic to bother with anything that doesn't get straight to the point, and their songs sprint noisily from hook to hook to finish line. As you might expect, they're hardcore music geeks — they run a label in their spare time — and they've become the anchor of a London-based scene built around imprecision, speed and cassettes.
Kevin Hendrick talked to eMusic's Douglas Wolk about the band's trail of tape, and his bandmates chimed in with memories of their pre-Male Bonding groups.
On releasing cassettes on the band's own label Paradise Vendors Inc.:
The original concept for Paradise Vendors as a label was nothing more than wanting to release things we liked on a format we also liked. We were enjoying a lot of tapes at the time. And it's financially viable to buy and release a small amount of tape cassettes. This obviously led to where we are now, which is releasing music on 7″ and 12″ vinyl. No rules.
I remember being very young in Woolworths and buying Queen's Live Magic on cassette. I listened to it on my walk home in my Walkman. I got insane goosebumps. I remember being so excited by the helicopter sounds that opened the album: so intense! I recently found that record and listened to it and there was no helicopter. So I don't know if I dreamed it or what.
I also have this weird association of vomit and tape cassettes. Around the same time I was buying and copying my first tape cassettes, I went on holiday to Ireland and I managed to fill an entire drawer in a chest of drawers with all my tapes. My great-uncle came back drunk from a wedding and for some reason opened my tape drawer and puked in there. For months after I couldn't get rid of that sick smell. It's a very strange nostalgia.
On meeting Tommy Wiseau, director of the cinematic masterwork The Room:
We got stuck in L.A. because of the volcanic ash floating in the sky above England. We stayed with our friends out there and they introduced us to this DVD, The Room. It was a bonding moment for all of us there. We then found out that The Room screens the last Saturday of every month on the Sunset Strip. It was the last Saturday. We went. We didn't expect hundreds of other weirdos to be there. We didn't expect Tommy Wiseau to be there. We lost our minds a little bit. Suddenly I can understand people getting into cults and Beatlemania. Tommy had us eating out of his clammy palm.
On practicing bass by playing along with LPs at 45 RPM:
I always wondered what those heavy, groovy rock basslines sounded like sped up. They were really appealing and you can sort of play along to them. It helped me come up with basslines of my own. I quite like how it sweetens up the most dark, heavy, serious shit. Destroys the sentiment, I guess, but whatever. I haven't tried [listening to] Male Bonding at a slower speed. I should.
On the first bands they were ever in:
Kevin: Agatha Stepwedge. The best thing about it was the bassist, Little Daisy. I think he's in prison now. He had an elasticated guitar strap, and would just constantly throw his guitar at people and it would ping back to him.
Robin: Jesus Overdose, a school band circa 1998. We supported Muse at a local swimming pool.
John: Trouser Police Skiffle Explosion. Our first show was at the local youth center that my mum worked at. We killed it.
On songs much longer than their own:
That's the genius, those long songs that keep you enthralled to the end so that you don't realize they're so long, or that you don't want them to end. I would get that with Stone Roses' “I Am the Resurrection,” Prince's “Purple Rain” and Television's “Marquee Moon.” My favorite is this live version of Sonic Youth's “The Diamond Sea” that I used to have on tape cassette. I wore it out. Within that one recording I felt everything. It was like an emotional template for what I wanted to feel and do with music. Whenever I question any of this being-in-a-band nonsense, Sonic Youth are always the “go to” guys to reinforce the dream.
On Brian Eno's idea of “scenius,” or communal intelligence and creativity that rises out of an artistic community:
To make money, I used to transcribe Brian Eno lectures. I've a lot of time for Brian Eno's ideologies. I like how Eno talks about the fertility of creative communities, and how he puts value on that and its consequent culture, and not so much on particular individuals as genius. I just think we and the people around us that make music, art, run labels or whatever — I think we all rub off on one another, whether we realize it or not. It's a good, progressive thing, and we are definitely products of something much bigger and blurry.