Kerosene 454 were a fantastic quartet out of Washington, DC. I’m pretty sure I have a tape somewhere around here with a soundboard recording of a show they played at NYU in 1997. Maybe not. Either way, they were a tremendous band who don’t get talked about nearly as much as they should. (Fun facts: the guy who wrote their bio on AllMusic would go on to co-found Kickstarter.) As a bonus, bassist John Wall was also one of the folks behind the excellent label Slowdime, who released plenty of music that challenged expectations about what punk-rooted DC music could sound like.
Also, please note young me’s awkward attempts to summarize the DC punk sound. “[T]here’s something in the music that sort of identifies some bands as being from DC.” You could have phrased that better, young me.
After this interview, the band would release one more album, At Zero, before calling it a day. Members went on to play in groups like Oswego and Office of Future Plans.
This interview first appeared in the third issue of Eventide.
I first heard of Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s film Half-Cocked through its soundtrack, which contained an impressive array of indie bands circa 1996: the Grifters, Unwound, Helium, and Versus. Not long afterwards, I saw the film, in which a young woman living in Louisville (played by Tara Jane O’Neil) who, along with her friends, steals the van belonging to her older brother’s band. (Said older brother is played by Ian Svenonius, in a wonderfully self-parodying mode.) The ensuing film is a hybrid, somewhere between a story of a young band on the road and a low-key take on the “young outlaws on the run” plot.
I was in film school at the time — something that will become very clear as you read the interview — and was deeply intrigued by the idea of an indie film that touched on a music scene for which I felt a strong affinity. The film itself was reissued on DVD a few years ago; since then, Galinsky and Hawley have made such films as Battle for Brooklyn, about the controversy surrounding the Atlantic Yards project; and Horns and Halos, about the process of publishing the book Fortunate Son in 2000.
This interview was conducted by phone in the summer of 1997. It appeared in issue 3 of Eventide.