THE VON BONDIESPosted: 16.04.2009
After a five year break, a new record deal and another dramatic line-up change, the Von Bondies are back, with the album Love, Hate and Then There’s You. Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer and driving force behind the band spends quite a bit of time in Ireland, since he’s going out with Donna McCabe from the former Dublin band The Dagger Lees, which explains why the Von Bondies are playing seven dates here and only four in the UK. The band are probably best known for their hit “C’mon, C’mon” (of the Lifestyle Sports ad fame), while Stollsteimer’s biggest personal moment in the media spotlight was when he was involved in the now-infamous punch-up with Jack White outside a Detroit club, which culminated in pictures of his battered face appearing all over the Internet and ended in the White Stripe frontman having to attend anger management classes. Strangely enough, neither the altercation or “C’mon C’mon” were mentioned in the interview, since I walked in on a particularly animated conversation between Jason and the publicist about the eccentric habits of a dog that he and his ex-wife rescued. It spiralled from there, really.
So why was the dog so strange?
He used to crawl on top of me, and he was a big 65, 70 pound dog, and would sit on top of me and lick me while I was sleeping, and I’d wake up happy because I’d think it wasn’t a dog. But the dog would hug me like a human being. It had been so badly abused that it was obsessed with being close. It always spooned. It never curled up in a dog position. He had separation anxiety.
How long have you had him?
My ex took him. That’s the only thing I miss about my ex-marriage, the only thing… About two years ago I got a divorce, but I started dating her when I was about 16 so I dated her for 13 years on and off. I’m not a very good rock star. I never really hoed around or any of that shit.
I always wondered about that, because the Von Bondies are two guys and two girls, and the girls do tend to change a lot.
No, I’d never touch those. Out of nine girls that have been in the band, no. I’m probably more attracted to my drummer. After being on tour with girls, there’s no difference. I think girls are actually messier than guys, on tour. At home they might be cleaner. Some girls. But some are just nasty. The girls now are clean.
That’s just because they’re new and on their best behaviour.
Yeah, they’re nervous. They know not to mess up mine or Don’s bedroom. We all share beds, that’s true, we all do share beds.
Two double beds?
Yeah, so we switch.
Do you have people that you particularly like to sleep beside or do you tend to rotate it?
Don, but, um, I think he runs in his sleep. I put pillows between us. He does too – I don’t want to misquote – he puts pillows between us too because I sit up with my eyes open when I sleep sometimes and that’s scary. And I talk out loud, like really full, fluent sentences. They don’t make any sense, but they’re like ‘Man, I don’t think so. Man, I really don’t think so.’ And my eyes will be open and I’ll be totally asleep. (Pauses) I’ve a lot of issues.
Can’t they afford to give you a bed each?
Who? Who can’t afford?
The record label?
I’ve paid for everything for ten years…. The more a record label does the more in debt you are. And that’s the reason why we have a recession in the first place, because society is set up that way. I don’t want to be in debt to anybody. I don’t have a credit card. I don’t owe anybody personally anything. So everything we have I pay for. The van, the hotels, the flight, like today, if I take a taxi, I’m paying, so I try not to have anybody pay for anything.
Aren’t you tempted to leave the record label completely and go it alone?
I need distribution and I kind of base the label off who I’m gonna talk to the most, which is going to be our publicist. I normally like strong female publicists who tell me what to do. ‘This is a bad idea Jason’. And I’m like, ‘yes, okay, I trust you.’ I miss my mom when I’m on tour, I guess.
So what’s your favourite band that you’ve ever toured with?
(Long pause) God, this offends everybody else then. Oh god, well honestly, Fight Like Apes hung out with us all the time. We took Kasabian on their first tour, The Kills, The Datsuns on their first tour, Franz Ferdinand on theirs…
You took Franz Ferdinand on their first tour?
We did, it was the NME tour, it was us and The Rapture who were headlining and Franz Ferdinand was the first of four. And by the end of the tour they were the biggest band. We all knew they were going to be. It was obvious they were going to be… Even Kasabian, we took them on their first month of touring. They’d never played live in front of audiences outside of their home town. We have open minded fans and a lot of press come to see us because we put on a good live show, but our opening bands always end up being huge. I don’t know what that says about us. That we have good taste? That’s the only nice thing I can think of that would relate to that. But Fight Like Apes were the most fun to hang out with, because they were like kids. Like little monkeys on stage. And they’d try to sing one of our songs, it was great.
I went to a gig of theirs in Whelan’s and ended up standing next to their parents.
My grandma comes to my shows. My grandma’s eighty. My grandma and grandpa come to every show in Michigan. They just came to one two weeks ago. I think they’re deaf. At least, I think I’ve made them deaf. I always point them out to the audience. At our last show in Detroit, our bass player was signing this really big boned guy, huge guy, like Buddha, and she signed his left breast and I signed the right one, and my grandma was standing there, my eighty year old grandma whose probably only seen my grandpa naked in her entire life and she signed his belly with a really large “Barb”. Can you picture your grandma being at a concert at one in the morning doing that?
What do you think of Irish music scene in general?
I think you guys have a lot more going for you than you realise. You guys might complain about so many British bands getting big and all that, but you guys have a lot. I think Ireland needs to invest money into sending their bands overseas, like Canada does. That’s why Canada broke so well right now. Canada pays for them to go on tour. Same with Sweden. That’s why The Hives got to tour Europe and America. They were given grants to tour. Australia has the same thing.
So where’s your favourite place to go in Dublin?
There’s a pub we always go to and I don’t know the name, probably because it’s a pub and I can’t remember anything at the end of the night.… I can find out what pub it is that I like. Do you want me to call?
He picks up his phone to call his girlfriend.
It’s where everyone goes, it’s always packed…
I’ve got pictures of me there with beer all round my face, I don’t even drink beer, but beer is everywhere.
It turns out to be Anseo on Camden St. After arranging to meet his girlfriend after the interview, Jason looks contemplatively at the massive television in the corner of the conference room. We’re in the Westbury, which explains the surreal size of the television.
She has a nine year old son, so he’d love that TV. I’m just like the dorky boyfriend, so I’d like to impress him with the big TV.
Have you any plans to move over here?
I’m probably going to move here for three months, then Australia for three months and then Japan for three months, because – this is going to sound really morbid – I don’t know how long I’m going to live, nobody does, but I want to see the world. If I have the opportunity to see the world I should, and I never have. I spent the last four years trying to get this record out and now that it’s out I’m like, I’ve no goals left in my life and that’s not good.
Why did the record take so long?
I sued my old label for three years and they wouldn’t drop us. Normally if you’re on a major label they just drop you… but our label (Sire) wouldn’t drop us. So I got a lawyer to get us out of the deal and it took three and a half years.
I heard about the problems you had, like when they tried to make you work with a songwriter.
Nobody will ever hear any of those songs. Every song on the record we wrote. I never physically finished a recording of one of those songs. It’s bad. I probably have it on my phone and it’s like… I’m sure it would be a big hit here, I’m sure it would be a huge hit here. Like David Gray or some shit. Seriously, that’s what it sounds like. David Gray writes good songs, it’s just not what I do. Nothing wrong with what David Gray does, my mom likes that kind of stuff…. And I was going through a divorce so I couldn’t fight. I was so tired from fighting in the divorce that I didn’t want to fight with the label. So eventually I just told the label ‘Fuck you, I won’t back my record.’ I feel so good right now, though, it’s like I got rid of everything at once. I’ve no credit debt, no nothing. I can go anywhere I want and I have nothing to prove to anybody because I pay for everything, so I don’t care what anybody else thinks… And because my rent’s like nothing, I don’t need money, so I don’t have any expenses. I can just tour and play in front of 800 people every night for the rest of my life. It’s not a bad life. Well… until I can’t move anymore on stage and I’m geriatric. I have to have a son who can take my place when I retire.
Yeah, if you just get him to wear his hair the same as you.
I don’t wish this hair on any person in my life. I’ve had the same haircut since I was 15. I can’t do anything else. I can’t put hair product in it. I can’t…
You could shave a bit of it.
No, oh my god, no.
You could bleach it or something.
Frost it? That thing all of Europe does?
A lot of guys have frosted spiky tipped hair.
I didn’t know it was called frosted. I thought it was just a series of random bleaching accidents.
No, they frost it. It’s when not all of your hair is dyed, just the tips of it. A lot of men get that. I’m talking footballers, you know the guys who put all the gel in? It’s like a very feminine thing to do, but they have that in their hair… It’s worse than metrosexual. It’s called frosted and the fact that I know that makes me a little questionable.
Were you ever tempted to get your hair frosted?
No, although I did dye my hair white when I was like 14 and I also had my ear pierced. I think I was trying to impress some girl, probably. Isn’t that what boys do? There’s nothing left to impress, I’ve got nothing left, the tank’s empty. You get what you get.
Maybe they just want someone with frosted hair.
You like frosted hair, don’t you?
YOU have frosted hair.
No, that’s called roots, Jason.
I’m kidding, but if this was a radio interview live you’d be screwed because there’s no way back… the interviewer has frosted hair… it’s just more entertaining that way. I could say that the reason why we haven’t put out a record in five years is because we invested all the band money into Eddie Murphy movies. I can say it with a straight face. And I can go into detail about it. How, like the trailers alone cost $80,000 each and that movie didn’t even make a quarter of a million dollars. We lost money on Eddie Murphy stuff. When Don’s not here, I can’t pull it off. He’s great because as soon as I’m about to crack, he’ll go into some other detail about how we make clothes for dogs, like top hats and canes. Have you ever seen a dog try to walk with a cane? It’s beautiful, like poetry in motion.
Mimics dog walking with cane.
I know. Because he’s not here. Because that’s his line.
Do you do that frequently in interviews?
If we know the interviewer is funny, we’ll totally do it, but if we know they’re really uptight, we’ll do worse. … We’ll fake cry, hug each other randomly, you know, tap each other on the butt when we first walk in.
So you two have a ‘special relationship’.
We do share a bed that is true… I know that’s ruining or making some woman’s fantasy, one or the other, but yeah we have to share a bed. The more times we share a bed the more likely we’ll come to your small town because that means we can tour more. I told you we’re not very good at excess.