It may have taken them 19 long years, but 88 Fingers Louie are about to release a new album. The band (named after a shady piano salesman from the Flintstones cartoon) was off to a running start after forming back in 1993 and played an important role in Chicago’s punk rock history in spite of only having been around for a couple of years.
Shortly after 1999’s split EP with Kid Dynamite, they called it quits and moved on to play in bands like Rise Against, Explode and Make Up, The Story So Far and Alkaline Trio among others. They then got back together in 2009 for two reunion shows, have been playing shows off and on since and are now getting ready to release “Thank You For Being A Friend” (out on June 30 via Bird Attack Records). Read on to see what vocalist Denis Buckley had to tell us about the band's history, Chicago and the new album!
PRT: It has been nearly twenty years since 88 Fingers Louie last released an album. You’ve been playing shows again for a number of years now, but when did you decide you wanted to record a new album?
Denis: Late 2015 was when we really started giving it some serious thought. We had played some great shows that year and knew we wanted to keep the momentum going. Dan and Nat had some demos they worked on, and John also had some great ideas. It was really down to time management, and near the end of last year we found the time to start tracking.
PRT: You released “Advice Column” as the first song from the album, which talks about looking forward rather than staying stuck in the past. Is that meant in general or specifically about 88FL’s history?
Denis: It was written as a cautionary tale to those who think their best years are behind them. It wasn’t necessarily written about the band’s history, but perhaps subconsciously it is?
PRT: The band’s history has been a bit tumultuous… what is it about 88 Fingers Louie that keeps you coming back to the band?
Denis: Bands say this all the time, but 88FL really is a family. We get on each other’s nerves, we lash out and we sometimes go for extended periods of time without talking to each other, but we find our way back because deep down we love each other like brothers. I’ve also found over the years that any musical chemistry I’ve had with others doesn’t quite match what I have with these guys, so if we’re still healthy enough to do this, why the hell not?
PRT: Did you guys talk about how you can avoid situations like the ones in the past? Or has everyone become a bit milder?
Denis: At the risk of sounding like Dr. Phil, I’ve found that therapy has worked wonders in my life, especially in the area of anger management. My nickname in the early days was “short fuse”, as I was prone to fly off the handle over the simplest of matters. One of the biggest hurdles up through the 1999 breakup was being able to navigate the band and my family through my life without letting either down. I found that I couldn’t do that properly, so when my time in 88 ended in 1999, I focused on my personal life, especially in areas concerning my son. He’s now almost 22. Without speaking for the others, I think as we’ve all aged, we can look back on the mistakes of the past as teachable moments and work toward not repeating such mistakes going forward.
PRT: Speaking of advice columns, what is the best piece of advice someone ever gave you?
Denis: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
PRT: The new album, "Thank You For Being a Friend," is a Golden Girls reference. Who of your fellow Elder Punk Rock statesmen would you have as roommates in your retirement community?
Denis: Daryl from The Bollweevils. He’s a doctor with the good pills (kidding!). Chris from Doc Hopper will want to blare Black Flag and Dag Nasty way past “Lights Out” time.
PRT: Since the last album, all of you have been involved in other bands… was it easy to start writing 88FL songs again or did it take some getting used to?
Denis: I had plenty of ammo to write from, so I was never short on lyrical ideas; finding the time to sit down and write them down was another matter but I made it happen. Musically, this is the most collaborative record we’ve ever done, with each of us bringing our own ideas in. I think it’s definitely made for our most focused album as well.
PRT: I read that Dan produced the new album. I’m guessing doing it yourself it makes it easier to make the songs sound exactly like you envisioned them?
Denis: Absolutely. Instead of working with a set 10-15 day block, we were able to do a lot piecemeal. Drums were tracked first, followed by bass and guitar, then leads/rhythm. When it came time to work on vocals, the goal was to work on two songs a day, which allowed Dan and I to edit as necessary and try out different melodies and harmonies. I can’t imagine recording any other way now.
PRT: Time for the Chicago-area rapid fire… Best place for pizza?
Denis: Dino’s! Pequod’s and Lou Malnati’s can kick rocks
PRT: How do you feel about people putting ketchup on a hot dog?
Denis: Get the hell out of here (I stopped doing that about a decade ago)
PRT: Cubs or White Sox?
Denis: Whoever is winning (the other 3 are diehard Cubbies)
PRT: Best bar to drinking at during the summer?
Denis: Small Bar, Revolution, Reggie’s Rooftop