This interview with Bluetip singer/guitarist Jason Farrell was the second time we spoke for Eventide. The first had been an interview with Sweetbelly Freakdown. While the two groups shared some members, each had their own idiosyncrasies, and their own obsessions. Bluetip took a guitar-driven post-punk sound and added a pervasive air of paranoia to it. One of Farrell’s lyrics in particular — “stamps make shitty band-aids” — is about as grittily evocative as you can get. The moods created by this band are still inside my head, fifteen years later; if that isn’t a testament to what they got right, musically speaking, I don’t know what is.
These days, Farrell is currently making music as one of the members of Red Hare. This interview appeared in the fifth issue of Eventide. And if you’d like to see what the original pages look like, Dischord’s Tumblr has you covered.
This is only the second tour that you’ve played without Kerosene 454, if I’m not mistaken. What was the Farewell Bend like to tour with, and was it difficult to tour with a band for the first time after touring many times with a band that you had had a long history of touring with?
We were sick of them anyway. It’s nice to travel with friends, we’ll miss Kerosene as a band and as people to tour with, but ultimately we are/were two separate entities, so touring alone or with another band doesn’t create as much of a postpartum depression as you might think. The Farewell Bend were very fun to tour with. We seem to all get along very well.
Bluetip toured with Tool and the Melvins; what’s the transition like from playing larger venues with them to smaller clubs as the headliner?
We’ve been headlining shows from our inception. That’s not to say we were all that right out of the gate, it was more like we wanted to tour and nobody was asking us to open up for them . . . We didn’t want to stay at home so we booked smaller shows and play last. That Tool/Melvins/Bluetip tour was a unique phenomenon for us. Like a chance to house sit in a mansion for a week or two . . . when it’s over you gotta go back home to your basement (that you know and love so well). The transitions weren’t hard . . . we played the same songs the same way. People were receptive, or at the very least patient. We definitely enjoyed that tour, seeing how larger bands function. I ended up with a new found respect for Tool and how they operate within their situation.
What would you say accounts for the differences in music between Bluetip and Sweetbelly Freakdown? Do you write songs for both, and if so, how do you decide which song to use in which band?
Different people will write and work together differently. That seems to be the main cause of difference. Sweetbelly is much more from the hip kinda writing, done in practice pulled out of thin air. There are no pressures of touring or many long-term goals to be monitored. Bluetip’s writing starts outside the practice space, with parts in a rough arrangement to be hashed out together. Sweetbelly Freakdown songs are born while the band plays. The self-critiquing is toned down immensely, so songs just flow and grow naturally . . . ending up to be songs obviously suited for Sweetbelly.
What do you do to support yourself outside of the band?
We work. I do graphics, Dave Stern builds newscast desks and furniture, Bryson makes copies, Jake builds stone walls and does some graphics.
How do you balance your work as a graphic designer with your music?
The graphics pays the bills and bends around the usually wide open band schedule. Tours usually mean I’m rushing to finish an album cover or something. I just finished a new Lungfish cover mere hours before we leave for a European Tour. Graphics can be flexible.
How would you compare the creative process as a musician to the creative process as a graphic designer?
I don’t know. They seem pretty separated by their mediums and the senses used to perceive them, but similarities exist; Working with others, getting input during the creative processes seems to yield better results; I can’t answer this one well.
What’s been your favorite work that you’ve designed?
Besides the Bluetip stuff (my heart n’ soul) I’d say the Ignition Complete Services CD.
What’s been your proudest moment in the band?
Tokyo Japan, then maybe the new album coming out and being received so well.
Your lyrics have an edge of despair to them – what’s the cause of this?
That would be despair.
A lot of people in the DC scene have started their own labels; have you ever had the urge to do this?
Already did. Back when Swiz started, Colin and Roger from Dag Nasty had a side project called Blood Bats. We all decided to share a P.O. Box and release our records under the name “Hellfire Records”. They put out a couple albums, Swiz put out a seven inch . . . Bluetip revived the name for our first seven inch split with Dischord . . . it’s still just a P.O. Box and logo, but I plan to put out some stuff soon, like a 7″ from Grand National (Our first drummer’s new band). I don’t have the time or effort to put towards making a label. I like playing music.
You’ve toured all over; what’s been your favorite place to play?
Japan was amazing. To tour there had been one of the only personal goals I had for the band . . . wish list stuff I thought, but we had a chance to go so we took it. The people were so nice, the last two shows in Tokyo were amazing. It seemed all the bands involved were at a sort of peak (musically, but more importantly some sort of mood/life thing). It was a culmination of people and friends and music covering 10 years. (Shawn, Alex, and I had been playing together since back in ’87 with Swiz . . . those early beginnings actually started us on the way towards the Japan tour in a convoluted kinda way). I also liked seeing Eastern Europe.
Since you started, Bluetip has seemed to have a bit of a ‘buzz’ around them. Has that affected your attitude towards the band at all?
A bit of a buzz is nice. We’re still constantly humbled by the loud roar surrounding other bands in our circles, but I’m happy people like us or dislike us enough to create a “buzzzzzz”.
How do you feel that you were perceived after the release of ‘Dischord No. 101’ as opposed to now, after the release of the new album?
Hopefully people won’t be asking us to play Hardcore matinees anymore. I think our first album made people think we were depressed and pissed or something. Few people picked up on the tiny slivers of goofiness in the album (even with a country song). We had hoped to lighten up a bit, maybe try to broaden the range of emotions and cut the seriousness with a bit of humor or irony or at the very least a sense of contentment. Somehow the new album still comes across as abrasive/caustic or serious to some people.