Last year former Latterman members Mattie Jo Canino, Pat Schramm and Phil Douglas announced they started a new band called Tender Defender. Just like that. And to make sure we knew they weren’t messing around, they posted the song “Hello Dirt”, which scored pretty damn high on our Rad-O-Meter™.
In case you spent your life living under a rock, Latterman was a heavily underrated band that called it a day in 2006, after which its members went on to play in the likes of RVIVR, Iron Chic and Bridge & Tunnel. While inspiring a zillion other bands along the way.
But this interview is not about the past. It’s about the present. Read on to see what Mattie Jo and Pat had to tell us about Tender Defender and the band’s upcoming self-titled debut on Dead Broke Rekerds along with a stream of their debut and the band’s upcoming US/European tour dates!
PRT: Tender Defender seemed to pop up out of nowhere. How long has the band been in the works and how did it come about?
Pat - Over the last few years, the three of us talked about trying to get together to play again. It has been about 9 years since we all have lived in the same town, but our new bands have stayed close and play together whenever possible. Our music interests haven't strayed too far and we are all still really good friends, so the idea of playing music again made sense. We all have been doing similar things with our different bands anyway, so we figured why not do it together when we can?
Mattie Jo - This has been in the works for quite some time actually, we just didn't tell anyone. Well, we told our friends, just not the internet. Phil, Pat and I started talking about playing together again right after the Latterman reunion shows in 2012. When we broke up in 2006, it was amiable; the band had just run its course and I was moving away from New York. We've all been friends since we were 14, so all the years apart were kind of sad for all of us. We were all doing our own thing, but missed each other quite a bit. Oh god this sounds like some Latterman "friendships are important" bullshit, I'm just trying to tell a story here! Anyways, the three of us made a plan to start writing new music, and in December 2014 we used the 300 entire dollars Latterman made during our time as a band to fly me out to New York. We wrote and recorded three of the songs on our upcoming record in about a week. It feels special to be able to do this with two old friends especially since longevity and sustainability are not generally valued in punk culture, much less mainstream culture. But they are very important concepts to me, both politically and socially.
Pat - Ah yes, a fat three hundo.
PRT: All three of you have been in Latterman together and the internet was quick to peg you as ‘the new Latterman’ and ‘Latterman 2.0’. I guess that definitely helps get the word out, but at the same time people will have a lot of expectations. Do you feel any pressure?
Mattie Jo - Not really. It's so easy to write and play together because we've been doing it for so long. It is annoying to be pigeonholed as some sort of "fest garbage beard punk" bullshit. I don't think anyone likes being told what they are instead of being able to define it for themselves in any context, so being labeled that way is particularly frustrating. As a queer trans feminine person, it feels like there is an inherent masculine gendering in the whole genre's aesthetic I find particularly distasteful. Chord progressions don't have genders, and neither do drumbeats last time I checked. Music is just fucking music, floating around in the air and bubbling up out of the ground. Having actually been to every single Latterman and RVIVR show, I can speak to the fact that all different types of people like our music, not just these faceless men with beards that the internet would have you believe attended every single Latterman show. Actually, most of the time there wasn't anyone there. This is so stupid I can't believe I'm talking about fucking facial hair in an interview about our punk band. Some of my best friends have beards. How did it come this? Who fucking cares? What I mean to say is: our music is for everyone, and I don't like the idea of music we write being "owned" by a particular type of person.
Pat - Well sure, I think people who know our bands will most likely form their own ideas of what to expect. For me, that's not really that important. If we were starting a new band, and it came together in that moment as a hardcore band or a stoner space rock band or some other genre, then that's what it would be. We got together again because we missed the feeling of being in the same room creating music, so I think whatever form that takes is totally cool with us.
Mattie Jo - "WANNA GO" might be a stoner space rock jam.
PRT: You started Latterman when you were still teenagers. Since then you’ve all been involved with other bands and well, gotten a little older. How do you think Latterman and Tender Defender compare? Is it even fair to compare the two?
Pat - There are certain aspects that are certainly comparable between the two bands, but I think time and experience are a big reason why we started this new project instead of continuing on as Latterman. Even when we did the first reunion shows, it was a little awkward to sing lyrics that were written when we were all still in high school. Starting Tender Defender is a totally new ballgame, which is super exciting!
Mattie Jo - Some review said we sound like "bionic Latterman", which I thought was hilarious and fairly accurate. Though we all prefer "Shitty Latterman". Pat, Phil and I were the three most consistent members of Latterman anyways, the only people who are on every record and every tour besides our very first one. But actually it's Tender Defender, not Latterman. Kind of like how Jesus is 100% man and 100% God, except gayer and dirtier. I mean, we could have just called it Latterman but since we're not fucking poseurs we came up with a new band and some kick ass new jams. Also, of course it's fair to compare the two bands. It's the same people writing the same type of songs; we're just older, prettier and smarter now. Or maybe stupider, who knows.
PRT: With the three of you being active in other bands, was it hard to figure out the logistics of starting a new band?
Mattie Jo - Yes, a little bit. I think that's why it took years of planning for it to finally happen. Even though I live in Olympia, my family is on Long Island so I visit as often as I can. We recorded the last two songs this summer while I stayed with my parents like a real 31 year old scumbag, as well as mixed and finished the record. I had the time because of being a fuck up, and Phil somehow fit it in between recording and mixing like 500 other bands.
Pat - The challenge is mainly that we all live in different places. It takes a lot of planning, but so far so good.
PRT: You played your first show ever just a couple of months ago. What has the response been like?
Pat - The show was really fun. It was a benefit show for our friends in New York and we figured we would use it as an excuse to try out the new songs. The people there seemed pretty stoked.
Mattie Jo - It was great! Me and Phil both used 2 amps cause we are just a 3 piece, but are professionals and stuff. The show helped raise a bunch of money for some old friends with crazy medical bills. We played first and there were some great folks there and the energy felt good. The main thing people said to me was "That was loud." Mission accomplished!
PRT: You have a mini LP coming out via Dead Broke Rekerds. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and did you already pin a release date?
Mattie Jo - Well, let me tell you about this 'lil LP we have coming out. Phil and I mixed the hell out of it at the end of august, then Pat did some cool art and now it’s done. It's self-titled and about 25 minutes long. We called it a mini-LP because though it is as long as a typical LP, there are only 5 songs. I really like it. I had a pretty terrible 2015 due to my health, but somehow also finished this record which feels like a fairly big triumph over the misery of human existence. Some of the songs on the record are about trying to find your inner light once you've lost it and have no clue where it could be. Is it in the earth? Is it in the people who love you? Is it just buried deep inside yourself? I'm not really sure. Others are about yearning for some unknowable thing and not being able to stop, while others deal with the struggle of identity and where your power comes from. Some of them are just like "fuck this bullshit" as well. Ya know, punk.
Pat - We're hoping it will be ready by early April for our east coast shows before we head to Europe. You can pre-order the record now at www.deadbrokerecords.com.
PRT: Mattie, in an older interview you said that RVIVR is the band you’ve always wanted to be in. If that’s the case, how does Tender Defender fit into things?
Mattie Jo - I must have said that like 6 years ago now. RVIVR is still the band I've always wanted to be in. However, I always was in Tender Defender. Fuck the binaries!
April 8 – Boston, MA @ Non Factory w/ Witches With Dicks
April 9 – Long Island, NY @ Mr. Beerys w/ Wax Phantom
April 10 – Philisburg, NJ @ Warhouse
April 11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle w/ Podacter
April 12 – Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus w/ Mikey Erg
April 14 – Berlin @ Bei Ruth
April 15 – Hannover @ Korn
April 16 – Hamburg @ TBA
April 17 – Köln @ Privat
April 18 – Brighton @ The Prince Albert
April 19 – Leeds @ Wharf Chambers
April 20 – Bristol @ The Exchange
April 21 – London @ VegBar
April 22 – Lille @ L’Imposture
April 23 – Zoersel @ JH JoeNiz
April 24 – Münster @ Baracke
April 25 – Erlangen @ Juz
April 26 – Stuttgart @ JuHa West
April 27 – Mainz @ Haus Mainusch
April 28 – Trier @ Mergener Hof w/ Iron Chic