Protomartyr, Their Love for Detroit and Debut Performance in Indonesia
We had the opportunity to do interview with Protomartyr, before their debut performance in Jakarta.
by Amelia Vindy
Besides being the last city to visit in the Asia Tour, it seems like Jakarta leaves a warm impression for every single member of the Detroits’ band, Protomartyr. Thanks to 630 Recordings and Winona Tapes who successfully filled the ground floor of Rossi Fatmawati with a large crowd and impressed the band. So, before making their debut-performance in Jakarta, we had the opportunity to do quick interview with their lead singer, Joe Casey and the guitarist, Greg Ahee to talk about the process behind their music, Detroit, and the experience by having a senior member in the band.
Many people says that Protomartyr has a different style of post-punk music. How do you describe the music, knowing that Greg once said that he never considered Protomartyr as a post punk band and Joe prefer to name it as Detroit band?
Joe: I used to think it was a kind of pretentious title, but I liked the idea of art punk better than post punk. It’s just because when I think of post punk band, I think of it as a specific period of time, and we’re far way outside that time. Rock n roll is the easiest way to describe our music. But I think; if people think of rock n roll makes them think about The Rolling Stones or something like that, I think we disappoint them because we don’t sound like that either. It’s not our job, really, to come up with what we sound like I think.
Greg: I just don’t like when people call us as a revival band. We’re not trying to revive anything, and we’re not trying to looking to the past. So it’s fresher, and we think that we’re trying to just recreate something that happened in, like, 1979 or 1980. Besides that, people can call us whatever they want.
Protomartyr’s lyrics are very poetic, but Joe said that he doesn’t really read poetry or other similar writings. How did you get the references for those lyrics?
Joe: I don’t read much poetry because I just don’t understand it (laugh). But what’s great is, when they come up with music, I first just kind of lay sound over it myself, where you kind of speak extemporaneously. And the I go back and I say, “What was I trying to say there?”. Then I kinda add layers, like, “Oh, I can pull this from there” or something like that. It’s fun trying to working words that make sense with the music. And I bet with poetry is a lot different. I’ve never written something and gave it to them, then came up with the music for the lyrics afterwards.
Detroit and Protomartyr are inseparable. How important is this city to your creative process – because you often include it into your music narration?
Joe: Well, as far as the lyrics go, I just take – I read about what I know. I once heard many years ago that “The best way to write is to write what you know”. So I include stories about Detroit because I’ve lived there my whole life. And I think as far as a band being influenced by Detroit, there are mostly two things. The first one, it was affordable to being in a band, you could have like a day-job, and have a basement or garage where you could have your equipment there and practice. And also there’s bars and places that you can play where people won’t judge you too harshly. I think those are two majors that really add to our music so far.
Greg: There’s a thread that kinda runs through a lot of Detroit music, some sort of an approach to how to make music, and that’s kinda just to keep things simple and not to complicate the process. Not to add too many things into your songs unless it’s necessary. I mean, I think you see that with everything from The Stooges, The White Stripes, to Danny Brown. You have to admit that the holiday season is the most awaited occasion for a teenager throughout the year. Hence, the efforts that you make to provide gratitude and pleasure to your family during Christmas can be overwhelming. buy fake id online , so most kids celebrating it with your family is the best but there are other fun ways to get the most out of it. Your attitude and behavior can win you the best time. It runs through all different kinds of music. So I think that we should have that form of mentality that if an element is going to be in the music, it should be necessary. Like, if you take that element out, it should feel like a different song.
Protomartyr often write about your personal life. Have you ever thought to write something outside that approach?
Greg: Of course. Especially two albums ago, I thought that I got too personal. And i was like, boy if we’re gonna continue moving forward on this, I can’t keep on dragging my own life because then I would think that I’d try to live my life in such a way where I can have interesting lyrics from it, which it’s just a stupid way to live. So I really embrace kind of universal theme, or writing for characters. And for me, it’s just fun to try new ways to write each time. I’ve learned to avoid super personal things.
“Relatives in Descent” is known as your album that explores political issues, especially around presidential election back in 2016. What were you trying to depict in this album?
Greg: Well, it wasn’t by choice what the album was about. We had, maybe, half the record written, and I already had the lyrics and everything. And then we were on tour, we were playing Las Vegas for the first time ever. So it seems that – I didn’t want to avoid it. I was hoping that we could write one album about how we were feeling about what was going on at that time, and hopefully the next album will be much different. But I’m worried that we might have four years of this, so I don’t know. We have always been this political in our sense. And I guess since we’ve kind of toured America, we’ve seen enough of America that I felt comfortable enough widening the picture a little bit, or talking about it. I don’t want to get stuck in that route though, but for that album, it made sense.
How does it feel to have a “senior” member like Joe? Since Joe’s stage presence always gives some kind of surprise to the audience, especially those who have never seen Protomartyr before.
Greg: It doesn’t feel as strange for me, I don’t really pay attention. I just focus on my own thing. So it’s good that people find it engaging, or they are surprised by it. But it really doesn’t affect me that much.
Alex: Yeah, he’s just a guy (laugh).
Joe: I’ve seen a video of us. Like he said, he doesn’t really pay attention to anybody else on stage – to what they were doing. And I would say that if anybody wants to pay attention to anybody on the stage, you’ll see everyone’s doing something interesting in their own thing. And that’s kind of four people in their own world, coming together and making beautiful music (laugh).
Is there any interesting things that you experienced while touring in Jakarta?
Greg: Well, we just got in here. Our flight was delayed for like 5 or 6 hours. We were gonna spend some more time, but instead we got here from the airport. But we have some time tomorrow.
Joe: We can say that this place is very different from where we’re from, so it’s exciting. It’s also beautiful, and pretty nice. Just like, you know, a climate that we don’t really get into. I don’t really like the humidity, it’s very… Like in this room, you know, we’re kinda dying (laugh). We like air conditioning. And it’s just we’re not used to this climate, because Detroit is very cold. It’s gonna be tough show (laugh).