By Reed Romanko
On his show ska is dead and we killed it that aired on July 13, WTBU’s Reed Romanko chatted with Catbite’s Tim Hildebrand and Brit Luna. Check out the transcript below.
Reed Romanko: I’ve looked around online, and maybe I’m bad at looking, but I don’t think I’ve seen where the name Catbite comes from. In a previous interview, you said you “always wanted to start a band called Catbite,” but why?
Tim Hildebrand: I don’t know… When I first started writing music for my own, without a specific project– I used to be in a band called the snails, and we’d write music for that band, but then I just started writing music for some imaginary band that would start down the line. Whenever I would save the demos, I would just put in the artist, “Catbite.” I don’t really know where it came from, it started five or six years ago. I wanted to start a hardcore band, and I had hardcore songs and called ‘em Catbite.
Brit Luna: I just remember you drawing a poster and it was Catbite with a cat on it.
TH: Yeah, I even made logos and stuff. I don’t know why, it just sounded like a cool name… I don’t know, I like cats. That’s pretty much the origin. When we started this band– cause I started another band a couple years ago, just a punk band – the name floated around, but everyone was like “Eh…” and then this one everyone agreed to it.
RR: I’m glad to see there’s a consensus this time around. A few months ago, y’all worked with another Bad Time Records band, Omnigone, on a split, and recently the vinyl shipped out– I think there’s still a few copies left on the Bad Time Records store. Looking back, how was that? How was the split-working experience?
TH: It was cool! The way it all came up is Mike, from Bad Time, messaged me once and somehow told me “By the way, Adam from Omnigone actually covered one of your songs.” And I was like “Whaaaat?”
BL: But he wouldn’t let us hear it.
TH: He wouldn’t let us hear it, and he wouldn’t even let us know what song it was for a while.
BL: We were just like, “What the heck is happening?”
TH: Yeah, and then I guess as a band we had the idea to… Our friend made a dub version of one of our songs. We were like, “Hey Mike, would you be interested in maybe doing a seven inch where we release this dub version of this song and also we’ll do a cover?” And he’s like, “Well actually, now that you’re mentioning that–”
BL: “We’ve had it in the works already”
TH: Yeah, he’s like, “What if you covered an Omnigone song, and they put out your Catbite song, and then you also do another cover.” That’s how that all came to be. We had recently done a London Calling forty-year anniversary show. For the encore, we played “White Riot” and a couple other songs. Pretty much, we had this crazy deadline of a month to record these two songs, so we’re like “Alright, let’s pick this gnarly Omnigone song and the heaviest song we know really well that we can record in two hours, which was “White Riot”–
TH: We never actually as a band had played the Omnigone song as a band. I made a demo of it on the computer, just guitar, vocals, and fake drums, and sent it out to everyone what we were thinking for how we play it. We went in the study like a week later and just recorded it and “White Riot” in like nine hours so… pretty cool!
RR: Nice! And, I’m sure you’d be happy to work with any of the bands on Bad Time Records for another split, but what about off the label? If you could choose any band rocking right now, who would you want to work with on another split?
BL: I’d like to do something with The Interrupters, probably. I think that would be cool, because we both have a similar kind of style, and they’re huge right now, so that’d be sick.
TH: I’m trying to think, what’s a band I listen to right now…
RR: Doesn’t have to be ska, it can be anything.
TH: Yeah, I’m trying to think outside of ska right now. Who do I listen to right now?
BL: You’ve been listening to–
TH: Oh, Jeff Rosenstock, that’d be the sickest!
RR: You can’t go wrong with Rosenstock!
BL: Jeff Rosenstock would be frickin’ awesome.
TH: Yeah, even if it’s any of his projects, like Bomb the Music Industry!, Arrogant Sons of B*tches, or the solo project. Just to collab with him and do some sort of split would be the coolest thing ever.
RR: From my understanding, Philly is one of the best cities in the country for DIY. How, if at all, has that shaped the dynamics and sound of Catbite?
BL: How has the DIY scene…
TH: I don’t know… The music scene in general, the DIY scene definitely built me as a musician. I moved into Philly about ten years ago to go to college, I went to Temple University. There’s a huge, huge, huge DIY– pretty much all of the colleges have the DIY house shows and stuff like that. At first, it was so hard to play shows at legitimate venues and stuff, especially being new to the areas, and we would just play at all these cool house shows and DIY venues popping up. That’s where I made the majority of my friends right off that bat moving to Philadelphia, very likeminded people. It was all across the board musically. I would go to hardcore shows, I’d go to folk-punk shows–
BL: That’s something that I think Philly does very well, there’s a huge variety of different styles, and especially for DIY, there’s all different types of genres, not one specific thing that started with DIY scene.
TH: It’s kind of always been when we’re playing shows in Philly, we don’t want to just– there really aren’t other ska bands anyways, but even if there were, it’s– the most interesting shows I go to are the very mixed bill. I want there to be a heavy band, a hip hop band, a soul band, that’s the most interesting stuff. You kind of bring your fans that have a similar open-mindedness to all these different genres, and then each band leaves with a whole bunch of new fans that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise if it was exclusively a ska show. And that’s always kind of been– there’s a lot of shows where I’ve been to where a lot of the bands sound the same, but the best ones that I’ve noticed, that I remember, are kind of all over the place.
RR: I’m totally with you on that. So, in terms of like Philly DIY Right now, who are you listening to, who are you really vibing with?
TH: We were supposed to have, right before COVID hit, we were supposed to have our first headlining Philly show. It was at this cool bar called The Tusk. It’s above a sports bar, but upstairs it’s a super DIY style thing. It’s just like a cool, small little bar. The owner, he books all the shows and is super cool in the punk scene and stuff like that, lets you have full control over the shows. We picked our friends, Queen Vice, which is this really cool–
BL: They’re so good! They’re probably one of my favorites in Philly right now.
TH: They’re like grungy, garage-y, just rock and roll.
BL: They’re so good! They put on such a good show.
TH: And then we were also going to have our friends Teenage Bigfoot, which is like this really tight, I don’t want to say pop-punk, but kinda pop-punk. The good kind of pop-punk I guess. I know there’s so many types of pop-punk. I feel weird just calling them a pop-punk band, but they’re like three-piece, really heavy, and they’ve been playing all the time for the past three years. Every time I see them they’re so tight.
BL: They’re also all really nice people.
TH: Who else… there’s also Soul Glo. They mix hip-hop and very heavy hardcore. Who else… there’s just so many! It’s been so long since I’ve been to a show.
RR: Haven’t we all! Speaking of shows, last week y’all announced that you’d be playing with The Slackers, The Pietasters, The Bar Stool Preachers, and DJ Boss Harmony on August 1st at 3:45pm Eastern Standard Time in a fun, fully virtual concert. Could you talk about that a bit?
TH: Yeah, so Dave Hillyard from the slackers, he reached out to me a couple weeks ago, and he was like “Hey, we’re going to be having this virtual concert. Would you like to open the show?” and we were like “Yeah, we can do that.” And then he was kinda like “that’d be awesome!” And then we were trying to figure out how to really make this one stand out. Cause we’ve been doing a lot of livestreams…
BL: Yeah, Tim and I will do these duo things, but we really wanted to have a whole band kind of e-gig.
TH: Yeah, and we’d already done a lot of stuff with quarantine videos where we would basically have our drummer, in his home, record the drums on video to a click track, and then he’d send it to us. Then we’d all, piece by piece, put our parts on top of it and then put a video out, and then be like a cool, you know, we’d basically just release videos and songs that way. Then, I reached out to this guy Robert who owns this venue in Delco, which is just outside of Philly, and it’s this really, really cool venue, it’s like a…
BL: An antique shop!
TH: Antique store, record store, and venue.
RR: Holy trinity!
TH: And it’s just been sitting there empty, and I was like “Hey!”– and he’s also a big fan of ska and we’re good friends with him and we reached out– “Hey, is there any chance we could just play a show in there to no one but cameras?” and he’s like “Absolutely!” Didn’t charge us at all, he’s like “Yes, tell me when.” So what we did is, the four of us we played a show on a stage. We had a friend, Dorrigan, who runs sound at a couple venues around the city, mostly World Café Live, he’s a great friend of ours, he did all the sound for it, so it’s professional sound. Then we had our two friends do video. Just a nice, socially distant concert to no one. [laughs] It’s so weird, but it was really cool because we haven’t really played together much as a band this whole time. We just recently in the past month, the four of us have been getting together to practice and write because we’re actually going to be recording soon, but more of that later. But yeah! We’re currently just editing the video, and it’s the closet you can get to seeing us live for a while.
BL: It felt really good to just be on stage and perform, even if it was for no one. It was just really nice.
RR: I’m sure, and given COVID of course, I imagine it’s been very hard to continue progressing and being active as a band. You can’t practice together, but on the other hand I’m sure just the experiences of being in quarantine have done a lot in terms of lyrical and perhaps musical composition. Have y’all been working on anything since quarantine began?
TH: Yeah, so right off the bat, the two of us are married and live together, which is really convenient. So we just, right off the bat, we started just doing acoustic covers of all of our friends’ music, and releasing a song every single day, and video. That was just kinda keeping us going, otherwise we probably would have put our instruments down, just have no motivation. Seeing all of your shows being cancelled and cancelled and cancelled, it’s pretty depressing. We actually had to, we had a really big tour which got cancelled which included us flying out to LA, and we had already bought the tickets, so we made the decision as a band that we’re going to keep the tickets and record our next record. We didn’t really have any new songs, so that was kind of our motivation to write a whole brand new record.
BL: We were like “Well, we got our tickets, we’re going to LA.”
TH: So this September, we’re going to be going out to LA to work with this super awesome producer that we’ve been wanting to work with for a while, and we spend two weeks out there recording, so the past couple of weeks we’ve just been making as many demos as possible and getting together once a week to try and run those, so yeah.
BL: Yeah, we’ve got a handful right now, and they’re sounding pretty cool, I’m excited.
TH: We’re up to eight new songs at this point.
RR: That’s absolutely insane considering the time crunch! Again, in terms of I guess the feeling of the songs and what they’re about, has quarantine played any role in what’s going on in them?
BL: I think this album, to me, I think I said it to you, but it feels more aggressive.
TH: At least lyrically it’s a lot more aggressive. I definitely think, not only quarantine, but just everything that’s going on in the world, especially with Black Lives Matter movement and the protests. That really affects us, we’re very moved by the movement and stuff. We’ve been out protesting and stuff. All these feelings are making our songwriting a lot more aggressive. We’re not like a political band, but all four of us are political people and have a lot of feelings about all this. It’s just, you know, a lot more aggressive, but the song writing is pretty consistent with the first record. I don’t know.
BL: I don’t know, I think our song writing has gotten better [laughs].
TH: Oh yeah, the songwriting has definitely gotten better, but the style…
BL: A kind of more similar style:
TH: It’s hard to describe. We’re really excited about this new record, I think
BL: It sounds cool.
TH: Yeah, these new songs are really… I feel like we’ve found our sound with everything that’s going on.
RR: You love to hear it! Backing up a bit, over a year ago, y’all released a music video for “Can’t Give You Love” off your self-titled album, where Brit, it was you, right, who wore the bizarre, mesmerizing cat mask while you sing along to the song. TH points camera at the cat mask. Oh, there’s the cat mask! [all laugh] So, how did that come to be?
TH: The music video?
TH: All of our weird videos, that’s my weird mind doing that.
BL: Tim’s got weird ideas.
TH: I don’t know if you’ve seen any of our music videos, you should check out the one for “Scratch Me Up,” it’s even weirder and way better made. We had our friend Al who does video for a living, he directed and shot and edited the whole thing, super cool. A lot of green screen, cat mask makes an appearance.
BL: At one point, Tim was like “We should have the Cat Mask in every video that we make.” And I was like “Oh my god, we need to retire the cat mask”
TH: Yeah, now it just chills over there.
RR: Alright, any parting words for fans?
BL: Thanks for supporting us during this weird time where it’s been really hard to stay relevant, but we’re trying to thank people for continuing to support us and listen to us and want to hear more.