- by Tom Dumarey
With ‘Chris’, Philadelphia’s Big Nothing just released one of my favorite albums of the year so far. Makes sense when you think about it. The band features Spraynard’s Pat Graham (all hail Spraynard!) alongside Crybaby’s Matt Quinn, Casual’s Liz Parsons and Young Livers’ Chris Jordan. That’s a whole lot of awesomeness for one band and it shows. They trade off vocal duties, drop infectious riffs and melodies like an afterthought and play the kind of emo/indie/punk that owes as much to Superchunk as it does to the Replacements. We caught up with Pat to talk about ‘Chris’. The album, not their drummer. (photo credit: Jared Castaldi)
PRT: I have lost count of how many good bands there are in Philadelphia. Does it ever happen that you run into someone who is not in a band? Is that statistically speaking still possible?
Pat: It’s definitely absurd how many bands/musicians/artists there are in Philly. It’s fucking cool! I love it. But also, there’s a lot of hipster looking folks that I don’t see at shows walking around my neighborhood all the time… and I wonder what the hell they’re all about.. poets? Sculptors? Most likely graphic designers… it’s a wild art-filled city!
PRT: You have all been in bands before. What was it about Big Nothing that made you want to start the band?
Pat: The main motivation was Liz. She had freshly moved to Philly and was super driven to start a band. She hit me up on a weekly basis, and once we found a drummer (I met Chris at Lou from Thin Lip’s party), it all clicked. Matt jumped in knowing this band would be SICK. Liz and I agreed that it should sound like Superdrag, and Matt brought in a Replacements vibe that has stuck ever since.
PRT: Your bio starts by saying that being in a band is a cheap alternative to therapy. Does it really help to just voice the things that bother you and get them out there? Or is it more of a subconscious thing?
Pat: It’s a little bit of both, for sure. A lot of our actual lyrics are therapeutic in themselves (discussing topics we have trouble bringing up in conversation), but a lot of the help comes from the physical and mental release you get from actually playing music. Getting together for band practice once a week, playing shows, going on tour - it all creates a strong bond that can help anyone get through some seriously tough times.
PRT: I have the feeling that you released the self-titled 7” pretty fast, but then it took you the better part of two years to get the album done. Was that just a matter of life getting in the way?
Pat: Well the 7” was actually supposed to be an LP in the first place. We got together in 2016, LOVED playing together and ripped out like 12 songs really quick. Once we recorded all of them, we kind of realized it was all over the place and didn’t have a cohesive sound. So we took the 4 most “rocking” songs and put out the 7”. We planned on getting the LP out fast - but once we started writing it - we found that we REALLY wanted to take our time and be deliberate with the songs. We are all of the “just do it as fast as possible” school - so we took this record as an exercise in patience and intentionality. I think we succeeded in making it a cohesive message.
PRT: You named the album ‘Chris’ and it features vocals from three of you. Except for Chris. Were you like well, if we all get to sing, he should at least get the album title?
Pat: Ha! There’s a lot of reasons it’s named Chris. First and foremost is the fact that we recorded the album in a cabin in Narrowsburg, NY - and the guy we rented it from was named Chris. He was super down and hands off with us recording there - so we were like “how do we repay this guy?” So there ya go. It also helps that Chris is a sick drummer, Chris Reject prints shirts for us, Chris Baglivo mixed it, and Matt’s favorite Replacements record is “Tim”.
PRT: Was it clear from the outset that you wanted to share vocals?
Pat: It was clear from the outset that all of us had written songs we wanted to sing haha. We’re three stubborn (and IMO, talented) songwriters and we all love each other’s songs… so we figured why the hell not? Matt and I were in a deep discussion at a bar in West Philly when the band first started. We kept being like “Fuck - what bands have three singers though? Will people hate a band with three singers? There’s literally NEVER been a band with three songwriters that people can dig…” - The Beatles were literally playing on the bar sound system at that very moment.
PRT: How do you decide who sings which song? Is it just whoever writes it, ends up singing it?
Pat: For “Chris”, we all just sing the songs we wrote. Matt ended up writing like 100 songs for the album, so it was tough to cut them all down to fit the record. But in the end, we just ran with the songs that all 4 of us were like “hell yeah” to. For the next album, I’ve already been talking about writing songs for Matt and Liz and sitting out on vocals. That just seems like a fun idea. Who the hell knows.
PRT: Multiple singers immediately makes for a more varied sound yet ‘Chris’ comes off as an incredibly cohesive album. Is that something you paid a lot of attention to or did it just come off that way?
Pat: YAY! That means a lot for you to say that. As I mentioned before, we fucking STRUGGLED with that for sure. We literally went through phases of completely changing our sound to try and fit stuff together on this record. Almost all of these songs have a way more chilled-out demo version out there. We wanted to be Teenage Fanclub completely at one point. Then Matt and I saw Against Me! in New York one night and were like “Wait - this is what we’ve always wanted.” It was a roller coaster, but I think we came out on the other side with the most honest representation of the 4 of us.
PRT: You are influenced by the likes of Superchunk and the Replacements. Suppose the Replacements were still around and you got the call that both bands asked you to be their opening act on an upcoming tour. Which one would you choose?
Pat: Ha - all 4 of us would have different opinions. I can confidently say I’d say yes to Superchunk… probably same for Liz, but Matt and Chris would certainly say Replacements. I found Replacements pretty late in life. While I love them, Mac from Superchunk is an idol of mine. He probably also knows Billie Joe Armstrong and could introduce me. Man, the same could be said for Replacements, though. Yeah, whoever can introduce me to Billie - that’s the one.
PRT: Being the total babes that you all are, you get offered to be on a reality show of your choosing. Which one would you pick and why?
Pat: One time at practice… I brought up how I think the Kardashians are actually kind of cool. I think their influence on the world at large is fascinating. Having that kind of influence, albeit not always positive, is just totally wild and I’d love to meet them. It caused a HUGE fight. Apparently my band hates the Kardashians. I think Liz even like gave me the silent treatment for a little while. It was hilarious and weird. So - Keeping Up with the Kardashians because it’d be a great dynamic.
PRT: The album is out, you are currently on tour with Radiator Hospital. What is up next after that?
Pat: Hopefully another tour very soon. We’re trying to accomplish a couple of tours to support this record. Then right back into the studio to record another album. I’m a big fan of momentum - so I want to roll with this because playing music is the only thing we like to do.