Not My Year
An interview with Karl Bernholtz (vocals), Billy Graziadei (guitar/vocals), Jennifer Arroyo (bass/vocals), AJ Marchetta (guitar), Dan Lamagna (drums)
By Michelle Huckle
photos by Stefanie McBride
After forming in 2004 and taking an astonishing leap into the scene in 2005, the self-managed, all-star lineup of Suicide City has yet to show the world exactly what it’s in for. Selling close to 4,000 copies of their self-released album, Not My Year, this Brooklyn based band knows how to pack a punch with their adrenaline pumped live shows and are bound to have you singing along and asking for more.
After riling everyone up on the Mindless Self Indulgence tour, how has the current self-promoted Fun Tour been?
Billy: It’s fuckin’ awesome! We prefer having a band play after us then “headline” our shows. Opening for other bands is cool. We get to hang out and watch bands that we like, like MSI. We get to meet a lot of great local bands, and some really shitty bands, once in a while. (laughs)
Jen: Local bands are the rock stars of the country. (laughs)
You guys play with different bands every show, right?
Jen: Yeah, with the local talent, or whoever puts the show together. We’ve played with a lot of cool bands.
Billy: Some really good bands: As Summer Dies, the guys in Fatal Edge, The Pennyroyals, and Lourds. We brought Lourds up with us tonight. They’re from New York.
How did you scout out the local talent to find bands you really wanted to play with?
Billy: We find different ways, like through friends. We’ve all toured a lot, so there are bands that we know from the bands we’ve been in. Bands contacts on the Internet and MySpace and all that makes it so easy to check out a band and you can see what their fans think about them. That’s a big plus.
I heard you guys sold out the Long Island show. Did you have any idea that it would sell out?
Billy: I was surprised. All 62 members of my family showed up, and all 74 members of Danny’s family. (laughs)
Dan: It was fuckin’ awesome. I’m from Long Island, so it was really cool to have our first sell out be where I live. If all else fails and I get kicked out of my house, at least I’ll have one happy memory in Long Island. (laughs)
A.J., how have van travels been? Everyone getting along?
A.J.: Actually, everyone gets along very well. I can’t remember being in the van and fighting when we were sober, to tell you the truth. The roughest thing about traveling in the van is, or course, if someone gets sick. It means everyone else has to take even better care of themselves. Being this close to a whole bunch of people can be very dangerous.
(A.J. was very sick at the time of this interview)
The stage show is super energetic. Where does that spawn from?
Jen: The personality of each of us truly shines through on stage, because we’re all out of our minds in different ways. Once we hit the stage, the passion and everything behind what we do shows. I mean, this is all we have, and that really shows on stage. We wait all day for the 30 or 40 minutes to get on stage and bring fans the deadliest, sexiest show on planet Earth.
CD sales have been great. Are you surprised at the number of sales, seeing as you released it yourselves and it’s not in every store?
Jen: Yes and no. Yes, like on the MSI tour, it was so fantastic for us to go in front of such a big crowd of people who have no fuckin’ clue who we are, and they love us by the 3rd or 4th song. And no, because we work our fuckin’ asses off, and with hard work, you get results. It’s been really in the street. Talking to every single kid, shaking everybody’s hand, kissing babies, the whole thing. We’re pushing ourselves harder than I’ve ever seen any band push, just to really make it happen.
Billy: As of today, we have five CDs left to the 4,000 mark. So we’ve sold 4,000 CDs by hand. There’s no distribution, you can’t find it in any record stores, so it’s awesome, ya know?!
It’s obvious some great bands have influenced the five of you. Is there anyone out today that everyone agrees on and gets just as excited to see play live?
A.J.: It’s mostly bands that’ve been nice to us and shown the love. Like MSI, who were nice enough to take us out. We went on tour with Devilinside, now called Horror, and basically anyone who treats us like family are the kind of bands that we’ll all go out and support.
Have you met the expectations of what you wanted to create when forming Suicide City? The group is solid and complete?
Jen: Fuck yeah, they kidnapped me.
Karl: I told Jen she was fired if she didn’t call us back.
Billy: We told her she was fired before she was hired. (laughs) We all really wanted to do it, and we were trying to get it all together. Jen was still in Kittie, and I was still with Biohazard. Karl and A.J. came up from Florida, so Danny, A.J., and Karl were ready to go, and Jen and I were still doing are own thing. As soon as we were done working with those bands, we were ready to go. So as of last February…
Jen: February 12th!
Billy: …we were born.
Jen: It’s really amazing, we have this strong family bond, because it could’ve not worked out. Our personalities could’ve really clashed, it happened when we first got together, and we all knew right off the bat. The first time we jammed, I was like, “Oh shit! This is something I’ve been looking for all my life. Holy shit, I’ve got a big decision to make!”
You’ve been approached by some top labels since the release, and you’ve created quite the buzz, especially in New York. Are you planning to sign with a label and release a full-length in the near future?
Billy: You know my history (Biohazard), and Jen’s (Kittie), and Karl, A.J., and Danny have all done a lot of stuff (Karl and A.J. had a band called the Groovenics). We’ve been through the ringer. There’ve been so many different labels… I myself have been on fuckin’ seven record labels and have made money for so many other people, but with Suicide City, we just want to have fun and make music. We have our own record, we have our own recording studio, we record for free there, we have our own van and our own merch, it’s completely D.I.Y., and it’s awesome. We’re very proud to be an unsigned band. Our terms, our way, our music, our hearts, that’s it.
A.J.: Whenever we play a new town, everyone comes up to us and asks “What label are you on?”
Danny: And they’re shocked. “You’re not signed?!”
A.J.: When they find out we’re not signed, we don’t have management, we’re doing this all on our own, we get this look of absolute respect. It’s a tough thing to do, to go out on your own, without anybody’s help, and just work your way up.
So you may just write and tear it up yourselves?
A.J.: The only way you’ll ever see us on a label is if it’s on our terms. That’s the only way I could see it happening.
Billy: No one knows your art better than you, and when you release control of that, you become a puppet. Biohazard’s been through that, Kittie’s been through that, Groovenics went through that. IT SUCKS! That’s not what we’re about. Suicide City create our own path, and we’re walking down that path. You can’t describe Suicide City, you can’t put us in this category or that category, we’re Suicide City, and we’re creating a niche of our own.