Words by Kevin Duffel, photography by Blair Alley
As evidenced by the recent SOPA and PIPA bills, the shutdown of Megaupload, and Metallica's infamous bitching and ensuing lawsuit with Napster over intellectual property theft 10 years ago—which lowered their street cred by a good thousand percent (if they had any at that point anyway)—there are those who get it, and those who don't. The Internet, with all its widespread piracy, is a strange place for music, but bands have more or less accepted their place in it. Giving out their tunes to skaters, and making their EP available for free online, the Manhattan-based band Guards definitely get it. Vocalist Richie Follin, drummer Ted Humphrey, Omnichordist Kaylie Church, and I huddled into their white Econoline tour van a couple hours before a show to shoot the shit about skate video music, the direction of the music industry, Brian Wenning, and more. Tune in, ’cause the band rules as people and musicians. Look for the debut full-length album coming soon.
What's the strangest thing you've seen on the road so far?
Richie: On the way out here we played a cafeteria. That's the only thing we've seen.
Ted: Or the only thing we've smelled. Remember the smell outside that place?
Richie: Yeah, the shit smell.
Ted: It was some college in Cleveland.
I heard you guys have given your music out for free for skate videos. Is that true?
Richie: Yeah, we did the éS video.
Ted: For [Mike] Manzoori. It was an éS advertisement.
Josh Matthews’ intro to éS featured Don’t Wake The Dead.
Why give it out for free?
Ted: Because he asked [laughs]. I used to be in a band with Jesse Fritsch. He called me and was like, "Hey, you wanna use this Guards song for Mike?" I called Richie, and he was like, "Yeah, let's do it."
But you guys give all your music out for free right now too, right?
Ted: For skateboarding [laughs].
Richie: Well, our EP is available for free on the Internet, right now, still.
Do you think it's silly, then, when bands are so uptight about piracy?
Richie: Yeah, at this point. I can understand when it first started happening and all those huge bands felt as thought they were going to be poor, because that's how they made money. But now I think everybody's pretty well adapted to it. And if you don't understand it, then you should stop. Everything's changed.
So bands have to accept it more or less?
Richie: I think so.
Ted: The only way to embrace the positive side is to give away your music for free. At least you can monitor it that way and see how many people are listening to you.
Richie: People are already going to steal it, might as well give it away. Then at least people are going to hear it, and hopefully come to your show.
That's definitely happening with skating right now too, just as far as skate videos are concerned. Everything's online for free and it's getting tougher and tougher to sell DVDs. What other parallels have you found between skating and music?
Richie: Ted does the songs for Element. And I found out about a ton of bands through skate videos. I guess they didn't get all the rights for that [laughs].
Ted: Nobody got the rights before [laughs].
Richie: It's crazy. People come to Ted saying, "Make a song that sounds like this."
Ted: Well because the deadlines, too. They'll be like, "We need to have this done in three days, and so-and-so just used the song we wanted." It also has a lot to do with the fact that getting the licensing for those songs could take a long time—it could take months.
Richie: But yeah, I think people are basically just searching for new ways to make money.
It was always rad that you could pop in a skate video and discover a new band. So I guess for you it's perfect because after the Josh Matthews part came out, all these skaters all of a sudden knew who Guards was.
Richie: Yeah, totally. Except now you've got guys like Ted ruining it. You're not going to be finding new bands [laughs].
Who's the best skater, musician out there?
Ted: Danny Way. What's his band called? Backlip? Ray J sings. I mean, Ray Ray. Wait, Renee Renee, yeah Renee Renee sings [laughs]. I played with them once in Aspen or something.
Richie: Our old band played with Andrew Reynolds' band. Well, you [looks at Ted] were in a band with a skater—you've gotta say your band.
Ted: Operatic, with Jesse Fritsch.
Richie: Or Black Power Ranger with Tony Hawk. Have you guys heard that? It's a rap project.
Ted: You can't bring that up. His sister will kill all of us.
Richie: He'll lose his Bagel Bites sponsorship [laughs].
As far as skating's concerned, you said you grew up with Pappalardo and Wenning. Are they your favorites?
Richie: Yeah, I grew up watching those guys skate. Especially Brian. You'd open up a magazine and see ads of pro skaters doing shit, and then you'd go skate with Brian and he didn't even have a board sponsor yet but he was doing the same shit they were doing, switch. So he's one of my favorites of all time. But I liked all those Toy Machine guys growing up. I used to go to Huntington Beach skatepark every day. With my old band I emailed him [Ed Templeton], saying, "If you want to use our music for any of your videos, you can use it for free." But he never wrote me back [laughs].
Do you think it's necessary for a band to release their music on a record label nowadays?
I think releasing your music on a record label becomes important when everything that goes into getting a record heard begins taking away from the band's focus on the music. In other words, I feel like bands should focus on making music—getting your music out to people is a lot of time consuming work. If you can put 100 percent into both aspects, then screw the label.
“If you can put 100 percent into both aspects, then screw the label.”
On a different note, I've definitely noticed both Guards and Cults don't have "The" attached to the beginning.
Richie: That's true.
What do you have against the "The"?
Ted: You could throw a "the" in there.
Richie: Yeah, I honestly don't mind if people call us "The Guards." But it's funny because our old band—we were in this band called The Willowz—and we were part of "The" band movement, and now we're part of "Not The" band movement.
Ted: You've just gotta get with the times. Stay fresh.
Yeah, I guess it's the exact same thing. Now there's just a movement against the "The" bands.
Richie: Yeah, exact same thing. With Ramones, people call them The Ramones, but it's just "Ramones." You know what I mean? If you want to put it on there, put it on there.
It's super well publicized that your sister is in Cults. And I caught you guys play together a few months ago. So uhh, I guess I wanna ask, did it bum you out to open for your little sister?
Richie: [Laughs]. No, because we were actually in their band.
Ted: I played drums in Cults and Richie played guitar for the first year.
Richie: And we took them out for their tour in France with The Willowz. Essentially why we did that tour is because I had left the band and it's my sister and my best friends, and now I'm not gonna see them anymore. So that was a way to wean ourselves off each other. As far as competitiveness, I'm competitive with a lot of people in music, but my little sister, her being successful, I want that for her more than I even want that for me. When they first started blowing up I couldn't have been happier. And I don't think there's any comparison in our music really.
How sick of that question are you?
Richie: I've never gotten that question. It's a pretty ballsy question [laughs].
Well the little sister tie-in, you've gotta get that every time.
Richie: Well yeah.
Kaylie: Speaking of, there's the Cults' daddy [looks and waves at a man standing outside the tour van].
Richie: Yeah, there's the bass player for Cults' dad. Speaking of Cults love, we've got the parents at our show. We were essentially the same band. When we first started, the songs were written for Cults. But we're a band now, and we focus on our own music.
“When we first started, the songs were written for Cults. But we're a band now, and we focus on our own music.”
[Cults parents hand us a bunch of king size candy bars. Thanks dudes!]
Richie: You can be on the list whenever you bring that much candy.
Ted: Nathan [bass player for Cults]'s mom asked if we were hot-boxing the car
Richie: Make sure you put that in—that Nathan's mom asked if we were hot-boxing the car.
You guys being so close to Wall Street, what's your opinion on the occupy movement?
Richie: I was just down there the other day. Half the people down there are just there to be in the drum circle and f—king party, or they don't actually have a place to live—like my friend, he came out from California, and he just didn't have a place to live. He tried to sublet from this guy in Queens and the guy just kicked him out. He was like, "Yo, my girl's here, you gotta leave." And he was like, "I just paid you 500 dollars." And he was like, "I don't care. Get out." So he went to Wall Street and he's been living there. I went to visit him on his tarp—you're not allowed to set up tents or anything. But he gets free five-star meals, free cigarettes. The McDonald's bathroom is open. But then it's like people who lost their jobs and actually have something to say. It's cool that it's catching on everywhere. It's some end of the world shit, if you ask me.
Well you guys could go play. Be the protest band.
Richie: We were already talking about doing something [laughs].
For all the broke-ass skaters sleeping on couches, what's the secret to traveling on a budget?
Ted: Doing everything yourself.
Richie: DIY, so it yourself. I guess staying with friends when you can.
Getting free Snickers from parents?
Richie: Yeah, getting free Snickers from parents. Trading guest list spots for Snickers. Doing sexual favors for money.
For more on Guards, go to guards.bandcamp.com