His 2 Cents
An Interview with Adam O'Rourke of 2 Cents
(Or "How Our Band Got Asked to Join The Warped Tour Without Really Trying")
by Gail Worley
"Are there any Silver Bullets left in the Cooler?"
That's the first thing I hear when I pick up the phone for an interview with Adam O'Rourke, 22 year-old drummer and lead singer for southern California rawk quartet, 2 Cents. "We're in Texas at a camp site," Adam tells me cheerfully. "We finally have a day off, so we can post it up next to a river, and we've got a bunch of beers and burgers. We're just chillin'! Adam and his band mates -- including his brother/lead guitarist Dave O'Rourke, guitarist Dean Woodward and bassist Brandon Jenner, are enjoying the break from a two month stint on the famous VANS Warped Tour, and while the touring schedule is grueling, these guys sound like they're in paradise. As America's longest-running touring festival, Warped has become a summer institution for fans of the punk/metal/hardcore genre blend.
This years' tour features popular headliners like Rancid, Pennywise and Sum 41 -- and literally dozens of lesser known and local bands, some of whom play a few selected dates while others sign on for the whole gig. What distinguishes 2 Cents from the 2003 Warped pack is the fact that they are the only unsigned band on this years' tour -- a feat they accomplished with a fervent but limited local following, a CD -- Victims Of Pop Culture -- made up of studio demos and absolutely no radio airplay. Did somebody say, "Right place at the right time"? You know it.
I had called Adam to basically get the download on how an obscure, unsigned LA band whose music brings in elements of Fugazi, Sublime, Black Flag, Kid Rock and Slayer got the coveted Warped Tour gig. What I got was one of the most unexpectedly hilarious and insightful interviews I've done in quite some time.
How are the traveling accommodations out there? Are you in a van or are you guys in on the bus action?
We're not up to bus level quite yet, but we're in an RV, which definitely does not suck. I wouldn't go so far as to say we're not living in our own filth [laughs] but we're able to actually stretch out at the end of the day and get a good night's sleep, as opposed to sleeping in the fetal position, sitting up in a van chair, which we have done a million times.
Most of the girls out here are 15 or 16, but they look like they're 24 and they will lie to you just as easily as they'll take a breath. I seriously have to ask for ID. I'm not even kidding. Girls come in our RV and are like, "Can I have a beer?" and I'm like, "May I see your ID, please?" [Laughs] The last thing I want do is go to jail in a place like Texas.
Tell me a little bit about 2 Cents; how long have you guys been together and who's in the band?
Oh Lord! Well, I believe we've been 2 Cents since I was 15 years old, so we've been a band maybe seen years. My brother Dave and I are the only original members, I would have to say. When we started, Dave and I were just fucking terrible at our instruments, just terrible. But we kept playing together and then people started to think what we were doing was pretty cool. And we were like, "Oh, wow, huh?" Our friends would say, "You should go out and do that some place besides your garage" [laughs]. We had this lead singer named Will, who was not much of a singer, but he was our good friend. Then we had a bass player named Jim (note: "Jim" is still listed on the band's website as a member of the band) and we trucked along. Finally we thought, man, this could go somewhere.
I've always loved music my whole life; it's always been what saves me on a day to day basis. I started to feel like, if I could manipulate my life to just travel around the country and play my drums and scream into a microphone, I could live with it [laughs]. Basically, two and a half years ago, we met the metal lord, Dean. One of my neighbors, who went to college down in San Diego, had started a band down there -- and they were all pretty terrible. They came up [to LA] and -- like I said, they were all pretty terrible players -- they had this guitarist named Dean, who just fucking ripped the guitar so hard, you wouldn't even believe it. We were always really picky about who we let into our band and we thought, "We'll never have another guitar player in our band. Fuck that shit." But he comes up [laughs] to my house, because they were practicing in our studio, and he opens his guitar case, and in his guitar case he's got a Flying V! A black Flying V -- one of those really loud, obnoxious guitars! He's also got three porno mags and a half ounce of weed. We were like [lowers voice] "Alright, you can join our band." His personality fits so well with all of us that I could never dream about being in this band without him. Then about seven months ago, Brandon, who I've been best friends with for a long time, joined us [and replaced Jim] on bass guitar.
Do you think 50 Cent stole the idea for his name from you?
[Laughs hard] You have no idea how much I hear that. Especially in places like New Mexico, you hear [adopts southern drawl], "Are y'all like 50 Cent?" and I'm like, "Yeah, we're a 50 Cent cover band." [Laughs] I wish I had the body of 50. He's cut and he's got the ladies all on him. I'm gonna start doing that whole jazzercise thing that he does.
Is Victims of Pop Culture your first official CD release?
Yeah, I guess I'd have to say it is. The heartbreaking thing about that is, even though I dearly love all the songs on Victims of Pop Culture so much, that CD is a result of maybe five or six odd days in the studio at different points in time, different months, just doing demos. We just pieced them together on one record and put it out. It's our first official full-length, but it's kind of heartbreaking for me, because I wanted to go into the studio and have time to do it all right. At the same time, there's a certain thing that happens when you listen to the CD, where it's classic in a way that it's not so produced or overdone. If you've ever listened to Sublime's 40 Oz's to Freedom, which is one of my favorite albums of all time, the production of it is, in a way, kind of 'jenky' but it adds to the classic-ness of the album
What does "Jenky" mean?
Well, it's like if you compare 40 Oz's to Freedom to the album that came after that, right before Brad died, you'll hear a huge sonic difference. The bass drum is just fucking crisp and clear and rings through and the guitars are all in phase and it's a really produced, studio album; as opposed to 40 Oz's to Freedom which is a just a bunch of different demos and B-side recordings thrown together. Jenky means 'not professional.'
I did actually think of bands like Black Flag and Sublime, and maybe even a little Kid Rock, while I listened to your CD.
Yeah, we get the Kid Rock thing a lot on the song "Headlights." That comes from me and my brother growing up in the south. We just thought it'd be funny. People in the punk scene fucking take themselves way too seriously, first of all. It's like, everything has to sound the same and it's got to have the same cookie cutter form of what's hard and what's punk. That's why I love the fact that we threw "Headlights" on the CD and that last song, which is an acoustic song. We can play hard music, but I'm not ever going to pigeonhole myself into playing just one style of music. I'm a versatile person and I listen to all kinds of music. I won't just express myself in one way.
I guess what everyone wants to know is how did an unsigned band, that's not yet had any type of radio exposure, get asked to join the amazing colossal Warped Tour?
It kind of went down like this: our managers knew Kevin Lyman (organizer/ founder of the tour). The Warped Tour kickoff party was held at the Key Club [in LA] a couple of months before the tour started and our managers asked if we could be added to the bill for that show. First of all, I'd like to say that Kevin Lyman is one the of the fucking coolest, nicest, most real down-to-earth guys we've dealt with this business. He's such a good person. But we went to play the Warped Tour kick off party and he was like, "Well, if I like them I might give them a couple of LA dates." After he saw us play he just gave us the whole tour. It was pretty cool and pretty exciting to get that news.
Definitely, without a doubt. You'd be surprised how hard the scene is to break into. We've been around for so long and to even get a show with another band that's in our genre of music is hard. When we got put on this tour, and we're touring with some of my most favorite bands of all time, it was just insane. I was hanging out on the Pennywise bus the other night with Fletcher, drinking vodka, and I was thinking, "this is one of the most glorious moments of my whole life" [laughs]. Oh my god, I'm out here and I'm mixing it up with these bands whose records have lived in my CD player my whole life.
Aside from that, the exposure is great. There's thousands and thousands of kids at each Warped Tour stop, so we're getting a couple hundred names on our mailing list and selling a couple hundred dollars of merch at each show. That helps, because we're not getting paid for this, so that's how we're sustaining ourselves out here.
You do something that is becoming more common these days, which is being a singing drummer. Who are some of your drumming influences?
Ooohhhh...I would say Vinnie Paul from Pantera would be one of my highest. It's funny, because in Pantera the drummer and the guitar player are brothers, just like how it is in our band. When I watch my Pantera DVD, I always get choked-up when I get to the section where Vinnie's brother comes up to him when he finally made the cover of Modern Drummer -- I think it was in 1993 or 94 -- and he handed him the issue, and it was this special moment. I always daydream that if I could ever get on the cover of Modern Drummer I'd probably break down and cry myself.
There's so many different kinds of drummers I like. Gee wiz, the drummers from NOFX, Pennywise and Strung Out would be my three top favorites in the punk genre. From listening to them, I learned how to go balls out but still be intricate. Then I went and saw...I don't know if you know who Steve Smith is?
Sure, Steve Smith from Journey. I love him.
Oh god, he's got this band called Vital Information, and it's just this jazz five piece -- the craziest jazz players in the world. I went to see him play in this little restaurant called the Catalina Club the other night and, dude, I was sitting five feet away from him. There were only like ten people watching him and he just blew me away. I've always loved Steve Smith, but that experience of seeing him play in that little club kind of sealed the deal. He did this drum solo just on a hi-hat that was crazier than any drum solo I've seen on a 30 piece kit. He's an animal.
You're about half way into the tour at this point. What have been some highlights for you and the band?
The shows have all been really good. It can definitely be a roller coaster, where one day you play to 400 kids and the next you play to 40 -- because where they place the stage changes every day. One day your stage will be in the sickest place, right next to the BMX guys in a big field. The next day your stage will be in a small, cramped area that you can't even find with a map. For the most part, it's been awesome. We got to open up the whole Warped tour on the main stage on the first day. It was glorious! We played for 4,000 kids and we went over really well. We actually ended up covering a Slayer song, "South of Heaven," on the main stage [laughs]. Ever since then, we get so much respect from all the behind-the-scenes people, because we had balls enough to get up at the Warped Tour and cover a Slayer song!
That's very metal. Have you hung out with the Sum 41 guys yet?
I was talking to Stevo [drummer Steve Jocs] the other night. They're cool, but they seem kind of up on their own plane, to where they just float around with their own vibe. Anyway, Stevo was really cool to talk to. Those guys looking fucking dead though. I've never seen paler kids in my entire life. I'm Irish, and everyone always tells me, "Man you look sick!" I always feel like, "Why can I never get un-pale?" Then I stood next to the kids in Sum 41 and I felt healthy. I was like, "Oh, thank god! Finally, someone paler than me!"
Those guys are hilarious, and Steve is a riot.
He's a good drummer. He knows what he's doing, too. I got to sit back stage and watch him and he's... the Warped Tour does have its share of drummers that sound good but have no fucking idea what they're playing. Stevo's definitely not one of those guys.
How do you feel when fans compliment you on your drumming?
It's so embarrassing. I've had people come up to me -- just because I do sing and play the drums in a kind of crazy metal punk band -- and they're like [gets excited] "Oh, you're the craziest! You're the best drummer I've ever seen!" In my head, I'm thinking of Steve Smith and Dennis Chambers and all these old school guys that can just make me cry. I wouldn't even understand what they're doing, and here's this kid telling me I'm the best drummer he's ever seen. It feels good, but at the same time it just feels wrong. It's like [whispers], "No, don't say that man!" It's just so far from the truth. As good as anyone can get, there's always going to be someone out there who blows them away. The funny thing is, as good as I could get -- at the pinnacle of my career, at thirty-five or forty, when I think I'm the best -- there's going to be a twelve year old kid that's going to be able to sit down and own me.
I was just introduced to a four year-old drum prodigy the other day. This kid does clinics with Dave Weckl. It's unreal.
Ego is nothing. You just can't have one, because if you have an ego you'll just wind up being disappointed. [Laughs] I won't even name names, but there's a couple drummers in a couple of mediocre fucking bands that think they are just the topnotch shit. And look, we're talking about a four year-old that can sit and school these guys, who are in their late 20s. Ego only hurts, it doesn't help.
Which songs on Victims of Pop Culture are your favorites? Which have good stories behind them?
Well, the last song on the CD, "The Lethargic Response to Life's Simple Pleasures" is about anal sex. It's like a country/folk song [laughs]...there's a story behind that but I don't know if I want to dive into it. So let's think about this. I really like the first song a lot, "Brand New Day." It's about shedding all my fears and insecurities. I used to get all nervous when I'd play in front of people, like, "Oh, I hope they like us," and I hope this or that. It just got to the point where I realized that I don't give a fuck, this is the most fun thing I've done in my life. This is the reason my heart keeps beating every day -- the music and these songs. I don't really care if anybody else likes it; this is the type of music I'm going to play and this is how I'm going to play it.
It's funny, now that you're asking this, I can't even think of the song titles on our album. Oh! "March of The Newlydead"! "March of The Newlydead," lyrically, is one of my favorites. That song was recorded live even though it doesn't sound like it. That's a really dark, cynical view of what's going on with this whole threat of nuclear war and the whole terrorist thing, where there's a group people in this world that -- no matter what we do -- just want to kill us. There's no compromise, there's no talking, there's no "We'll stay over here if you stay over there" -- even though we don't fucking stay anywhere, we invade everywhere. That whole song is about the people who think it's justified by god to go out and kill, yet it has a very sarcastic tone to it. If I'm going to write about something serious, I like to make it a bit sarcastic or funny in a way. I'm not going to get all Oprah on you.
What is it about 2 Cents that makes the band different from other Warped Tour bands?
[Long pause, then laughs] Oh god, there's so many different directions I want to go with this. Let's narrow this down for the main stage bands, because there's bands that play on the grass and bands that play everywhere, so to look at all the Warped Tour bands...that's just so many different styles of music. So let's compare us to the bands that are on the posters. I would say that our vibe is that we just want to kick ass. Even though we have that soft song at the end of our CD, we don't want to pull the ballad on you, we don't want sing about the girl that never loved us. We just want to go out there and have a good time, make kids sweat and freak out as much as possible. Plus the fact that we don't have a lead singer would probably set us apart in a really big way.
I don't know dude, there's some bands on the tour that make me want to puke. Seriously, and it's not that I mind -- play whatever type of music you want -- but it's just so obviously calculated to sell records to little girls and little kids. I don't really believe that this group of guys got together and they're thinking "This is the type of music we want to play." It seems that they got together and went, "Look, we're going to play these four chords. I'm 27 but I'm going to sing like I'm thirteen years old, and we're going to sing about [imitates squealing lead singer] 'She never held my hand in the lunch line!' Like, give me a fucking break, okay? You're 27 and it doesn't sound like your balls have descended from your body. Why are you doing that? To me, it only equals money. God knows, money is nice, but I'd way rather keep my integrity [laughs]. I don't think I need to mention any names, but you know who I'm talking about. I don't see how those guys can walk around with their heads up and feel like they're contributing to music. Not to selling records and not to the music industry, but that they're doing their part to add to that circle of music that, when they were growing up, they used to listen to and the songs blew their minds.
Music touches everyone. Everyone grew up loving that one song that would just floor them. When I was in the second grade and I heard Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," that song changed my life. Everyone has those songs. Later on, it was Pantera and Slayer that really got me going and made me look at things in a different way. That's what we try to do; we try to write songs to add to that circle of music -- to get kids fired up. We don't write songs so we can get on TRL and put money in our pockets. That would be very easy to do, but it's just not my vibe.
Does 2 Cents have a special message or credo that drives the band internally?
"Pop Music Is the Enemy." [Long pause] Let me explain what I mean by that. A perfect example is a band like Korn. When Korn first came out, they weren't pop music. What happened is that Korn broke, and then fifty fucking billion bands came out that sounded exactly like Korn, and it just turned their original sound into pop music. I'm not talking about just Britney Spears and N'Sync, specifically, but the idea of not having an original idea; of trying to bite off someone else's idea to cash in on a trend. It's the same regurgitated recycled fucking nonsense. You may listen to our CD and think we're not the most original thing you've ever heard, but we do our part to change things and add different ideas, as opposed to just recycling old ones. A lot of bands don't give their fans enough credit by thinking that if they vary their sound too much, they will lose their fan base. I trust kids enough to have a broader taste in music.
It's kind of the trend that bands are hard-as-shit, good and real-as-shit and then they get on a major label and it's like the switch is flipped. You can't help but think that big money is behind that. You can just hear it, "That fast drumbeat is really cool, but what if we slowed this one down to 60 beats a minute and I'll get my synthesizer out and we'll do a kind of "rock your body" thing in the middle?" It's like, get the fuck away from me! I'll tell you something, if we ever get put on a major label, that will be one of the hardest records we ever put out.
Catch 2 Cents on The Warped Tour Through August 10, 2003
2 Cents: http://centsless.net