Feels so Good When You’re Gone (Rise Above)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Sina, bassist Nila, and drummer Clementine
by Craig Regala
In Lollipop tees photos by Pia Schachter
Bottom are a three-piece without a permanent address who have a roadworthy van, a buncha gear, two records (Maiden Voyage and Feels So Good When You’re Gone) and a sound/approach which lands somewhere between Soulfly, Eyehategod, and Coalesce with a pumping power groove that appeals to citizens outside metal (nü or not). Don’t be a stupe, buy in now so you don’t have to lie again.
You guys are tremendous road warriors, touring relentlessly. Obviously this throws your personal life into a different spectrum than the rest of us, and even most bands. Here’s a few things I was wondering how you handle: 1) Writing and rehearsing material, especially new material.
C: One of the greatest things the road can do for a band is to allow you to experiment in front of an audience. It took a long time for this to happen for us, but at a certain point after playing every night, the intimidation or shyness broke down and we were able to try new things on stage. It’s like we were comfortable enough with each other musically that the possibility of that eventual musical train wreck that happens sometimes when trying new things didn’t terrify us anymore. We realized that that’s part of the wonderful thing of seeing live music, that out of the screw-ups, sometimes fresh things happen. We’ll allot time in the set to jam, five minutes here or there, and the parts grow organically. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s pure confusion!
2) Gear maintenance/replacement.
S: I destroy gear regularly. I have an ongoing improvement scenario happening and I’m always surprised how amazingly cool other players can be about helping out. Most of my gear has been pulled apart and doctored on a club table somewhere.
C: This is done on a wing and a prayer. We’ve been fortunate to find help along the way, especially since blowing up amplifiers, breaking cymbals in record time, destroying sticks and strings, are common occurrences. We’ve been lucky to find people at music stores who take pity and give help. And fellow musicians often step in to help. Vince, the drummer from Sloth in the UK, just gave me a cymbal to replace the pie pan I was playing.
N: I love Ampeg and Fodera basses for their amazing support and help. To know that there are those guys out there, that can fix what I break… I would like to know more about my gear though to be able to do some repairs myself on the road.
3) Sickness/injury. If you’re really out, you’re out. But the colds, bangs, bumps, etc. of life have gotta be a real pain in the ass. If someone’s having a bad day, do you tailor your material? Like if Sina’s vocal cords are shredded, do you change things around?
C: Well, first off, we’re lucky in that Sina’s vocals haven’t given out once in nearly five years. She can be completely speechless all day and on stage her voice appears. She has vocal cords of steel.
N: We do a lot of vitamin C, and I wear purple gloves when I load gear. Prevention is much better than suffering. Whiskey helps with about everything, tastes better than Pepto Bismol and is very medicinal.
S: Gaffer tape and painkillers work on sprains. For most other ailments of evil, the secret cure-it-all kidney-killing combo is tea, Robitussin, Theraflu, DayQuil, all the Advil you can eat, and ginger. This can get you through.
C: We’ve weathered more illness and sickness than you can imagine, due to so much moving, so many hands shaken, so many changes in temperature. I would say that at any given time, there’s some ailment being attended to in the band. From lungs to stomach to limbs, something’s always happening, real or imagined. In Europe, playing such smoky clubs, our van sounded like an emphysema ward! There’s also a direct correlation to illness and how often we need to sleep in the van instead of inside a building. We have become very good at self-medicating, that’s for sure.
4) Family, friends, business? Do you schedule dates and places to meet?
C: One of the best parts of living this way is that we get to see our families way more than before touring. If we have days off in the States, it usually corresponds to visiting friends or family.
S: At first, my folks thought we were out touring willy-nilly, with no game plan. And it took a while for them to catch on that I was always showing up on birthdays and holidays.
C: I have to say that of our touring lives – once the driving is done – most days are spent very tediously in Kinko’s, the post office, the pharmacy, the music stores, and with the mechanic. The errand part of touring is what gets to be a drag. To just drive, pull up, load, and play, that would be a piece of cake! It’s the stupid little tasks that really get me down. So much for the rock and roll lifestyle!
I found out about you from a couple big fans: The guy that works the copier for Lollipop and the myriad mutant metalhead/hard music/power goofs that inhabit stonerrock.com. I have, in turn, trumpeted Feels So Good…, as have many. Are you actively shopping for a label? Anyone mail you the old “please sign this contract for a great deal” type scam?
C: We learned a long time ago that the more we keep it to ourselves, the better off we’ll be. We are very distrustful of music industry types, so we haven’t gotten very far with big labels since we generally have a bad attitude about such things. If we met someone we believed in and who really believed in us, it might be different…
S: Until then, we adhere to Rule 2080: Record industry people are shady!
Bottom seems to get at it pretty good without worrying about niche marketing, which is a goddamn relief. Hell, you remind me as much of ’90s AmRep band Janitor Joe as anything else. I read that you once played the Warped Tour, as well as being one of the bands Wino (Spirit Caravan) named as being a favorite to gig with. Does this confuse potential label suitors?
C: Confusion is our middle name! Or maybe it’s dichotomy… Look at the blank, open-mouthed stares of many audiences we play to for the first time and tell me different… We’re attractive women who don’t play the sex card, we’re nice people who play very angry, violent music, we’re sweet girls who carry our own gear, and we know as much if not more about the technical aspects of our instruments as anyone we play with. Yeah, we’re not a niche band. I don’t know anyone like us. So far, only Man’s Ruin and Rise Above have been forward-thinking enough to recognize our potential. Thus, our dire financial circumstances. But who wants to live in a box? I’d rather be us and be poor than put on some monkey suit and have to live with myself that way.
S: We’ve played with punk bands, pop bands, country acts, legends, freshies, crust-core, dirt rock, all-girl line-ups, a cross-dressing vaudeville show, a creepy sex-circus, skate fests, a graduation party, nü metal, old metal, death metal, thrash speed metal, and, of course, stoner metal bands. Ya never know who we’ll be sharing a bill with. We enjoy the variety (most of the time). We just like to play. The main reason we joined the Warped Tour was the chance to play twice a day: Once at the festival and then again at night. Playing live is where it’s at.
Playing together so much, do you rework your songs, do different versions, jam them into different directions on some nights?
N: Three different directions sometimes, and different versions of one song mostly played at the same time in various speeds, always interesting…
C: We do tighten things up.
S: …Or completely train wreck in the process of trying. Thus, the beauty of the live show. We get to test out new material that’s been dreamt up in the back of the van or better yet, come up with new ways to demolish and rebuild something old.
C: We just revamped an old song that we’d all come to hate. Took a while, but now we’re happier with it. Because we play pop songs, with specific structures, jamming the songs doesn’t happen so much as trying to tighten down the existing parts. The jamming comes before the set and between songs.
I’ve asked some bands if there is anything they want from clubs, bookers, fans when they roll into town. Stuff “we” may not think of; 9 volt batteries, clean socks (requested by Scott Hill of Fu Manchu), CDRs/tapes for the play stack, directions to really good Indian restaurants, etc.
C: I would love some Power Bars, Internet access, a perfectly safe parking spot right outside.
S: Clubs should have guitar stands built right into the stage wall and a back line… a couple 4x12s and a bloody SVT cabinet for Christ’s sake. Sure we’ll bring ours, but wouldn’t two of everything be better?
N: I’d love to have a merch person available at the club, and laundry.
What three bands from any period, and any period in their career, would you like to tour with?
C: The Rolling Stones, upcoming tour, for my dad; Led Zeppelin, just to get to stand next to the drum riser; Babes In Toyland, just to say “see? We have nothing in common, other than our anatomies.”
S: The Dillinger Escape Plan, cuz it’d be great to share a stage night after night with a band whose live energy is that insane. Slayer, for the chance to demonstrate my Marshall is louder than King’s… well, and also to face their roaring massive crowd of testosterone-charged die-hard fanatics chanting Slayer, SLAYER, SLAYER. Try opening for that… hell yeah.
N: King’s X just to drool over Mr. Pinicks gear every night, Motorpsycho, Faith No More/Soundgarden (Cornell’s long hair phase in ’91).