Interview By Sexual Ryan (with Gabe as the casual observer) in front of the Troubadour on Monday night, May 24, 1999. Photos by Travis Keller
I asked Omar and Tony a few questions before they played to a packed house in Hollywood. I really like At The Drive In and I should have been able to come up with better questions than this but because I am lazy I really didn’t put much premeditated thought in to this one. Sorry folks, next time will be better.
Omar: I’m Omar, I play guitar and I’m 12.
Tony: I’m Tony, I play drums and I am about 14 and a half.
Ryan: Neither of you are original members from what I hear. When did each of you join?
O: I joined in early 1995.
T: I joined in late 1996.
O: I replaced the original bass player. We had a string load of drummers and Tony put an end to that. He was the last of many people who we tried to compute with.
R: Were either of you in any other bands that people might know of?
O: I was involved in many other bands, but just El Paso bands.
T: Hardly any body knows about At The Drive In.
R: Where is the band most popular? Is it your hometown?
O: Our hometown, not really. Our hometown has usually been really apathetic towards us although lately it’s been all right. We do way better going on tour
than playing in out hometown. Usually it’s the opposite for most bands but not for us.
R: What’s your favorite place to play?
O: Probably for me, New York because, just like any one else, I’m enchanted with it.
T: Me, here in LA and probably second Sioux City, Iowa. It’s a great vibe and the kids really enjoy it. I just have a great time there.
R: Is it weird being in a band that started from almost no where that now has a pretty decent sized following?
O: We’ve been touring pretty much un-noticed since the beginning of 1995 so we’ve played plenty of shows were there were no people, ten people, twenty people, etc. I don’t feel like it is overnight. It’s been a progressive thing of really hard work and going back and working shitty jobs. We weren’t really respected in our hometown so we’ve been busting our ass a lot, the opposite of any kind of overnight thing. When we hit 1997 with this lineup with Tony and Pall joining with started touring obscenely for 4 months at a time so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it.
T: It’s beyond overnight.
R: On tour do you ever wish that you had stayed home or not gone out as long?
O: Every tour we wish we were at home but it’s never like “we should not have done this”. It’s the inconsistency that comes with being a human being. Some nights I say ” Fuck. I could do this for the rest of my life and other nights you think this is bullshit, I wish I was at home.”
T: I want to be in my own bed with loved ones. It gets tiring; we do it a lot but some of us like to tour more than the others. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you just can’t wait to be home and sometimes after a show you feel like you’re on top of the world and you don’t ever want to go home, at all.
R: Do you feel lucky that you have found five guys who are willing to tour like crazy?
O: Totally. Five people that are not only willing to tour but who have good chemistry in making music together. There’s a good creative flow.
R: Would you advise bands to tour as much as you do? Was touring a lot planned from the beginning or have you just toured heavily recently?
T: That was the plan.
O: We live in El Paso; there’s not a hell of a lot going on and if you love music and you love travelling it’s a great way to do both.
At this point Blair from Knapsack comes over and says hi and we take a break…
R: What’s the most enjoyable tour you have done?
R: Why’s that?
O: Europe. Europe. It was totally different. It was one of those dreams come true. We’ve been waiting a long time for it.
T: It’s hard even for me to talk about it because it was such almost a dream. When we were flying out I was like “Wow. I just left another world.” And it’s like that, it’s amazing.
R: How were the crowds there?
O: They were great.
T: Not everywhere but in most places they knew who we were.
O: We thought we were going to lose our ass like our first tour in 1995. We took a lot of money with us because we thought we were going to have to put money in from our own pockets but we did more than break even and people knew the songs.
T: It’s all about money.
O: Had we not made money it wouldn’t have been.
R: Did you play with any really good bands there?
O: Sunshine from Czech Republic. We are going to be doing a split record with them.
O: Beside from being amazing musically they are the greatest people we have ever met. They are the most hard working, authentic souls. If they come here which I’m sure they will because they’ve toured the states once and it was kind of rough for them but when they do go out and support them and buy their records. They are great.
R: What would you say your music sounds like?
T: I’d say rock n roll to the people that know about the music and to people that don’t know about the music. Come see us live.
O: I always feel weird when people ask. I say noisy, maybe not so noisy, kinda heavy, kinda not heavy, a little bit poppy. It’s a plethora of sounds.
R: What are some influences you have that might surprise people?
O: I love hip-hop, dance music, dub, and I grew up on salsa music. We’re all music fans. We grew up in the punk scene but we are still music fans.
T: Death metal to dub to drum n bass, anything.
O: There’s good and bad of everything.
R: Why do you think so many people don’t like your first record (Acrobatic Tenement on Flipside Records)? Is it because of the production?
O: Because it sucks. I don’t like it personally. We didn’t know what we were doing. We gained a lot of fans because they liked the way it sounded. They liked the tones and clean guitars but it was a complete accident. For example, Jim did his guitar tracks all on clean and he thought he was going to be able to go back because he thought they were scratch tracks essentially and it wasn’t. The engineer said “No. We’re done with your tracks.” I guess Jim was under the impression he was going to go back and do them and then we were like “No, those were your tracks.” It was our first time in a studio using all 24 tracks before that it was 2 track live. Our first experience and we only had 3 days to do it. We basically didn’t know what we were doing. We went in there, we recorded, we drank beer, we smoke pot; everything we should not have done. We didn’t take it 100% serious I guess. Plus we came up with those songs a month before we recorded them.
R: Do you have any plans to remix it in the future?
O: Yeah, hopefully Jim our other guitarist is going to put it out on vinyl.
T: Remix it and put it out on vinyl.
O: Yeah, definitely remix it.
R: What are the re-releases that you have out now?
T: Alfaro, Vive Cajaro is just a 7 inch on CD.
O: Originally we pressed 500 on Jim’s label. Those are the ones that fold out with the pictures inside.
T: Then it was pressed twice on Off-Time and the fourth press is the CD.
R: What about the first 7 inch?
O: It fucking sucks and we’ll never press it again.
R: What is your future with Fearless because I hear people talk about labels trying to sign you right now?
O: It’s just label talk.
T: We have an EP coming out on Fearless in July and from then on we are pretty much free. It’s not about leaving Fearless and being taken away but there’s nothing left.
O: It has nothing to do with being stolen. As far as labels wanting to sign us, that’s what labels do. If you are doing well then more labels are interested than if you are nobody.
T: Before Fearless signed us nobody would pick us up. We sent our demo tapes out and they’re all “Yeah, sure.” From pop-punk to emo labels no one wanted us and Fearless took the chance.
R: Has anything negative happened because of you being on Fearless? Do you get heckled?
O: Not at all. People think it’s weird but it’s not exactly grounds for heckling.
Gabe: Do you have any good broken down van stories?
O: Not really.
T: We’ve been pretty lucky.
R: Besides the EP, what are the plans for the future?
T: July 29-August 29 across the US and after that a long break. Buy our new record. We’re going to take our time.
R: Do you have any idea what label the new record will be on?
O: Not at all. We are just concerned right now with writing songs.
R: Are you nervous the next record might not do as well?
O: We don’t care, we just want to make music. If we lose fans or we don’t do well it’s because people want the same record.
T: And we won’t do it.
O: We are trying to keep ourselves happy and entertained.
R: Do you have any news songs that you play live now?
O: No, because we get into a bad habit of playing it before it comes out and by the time it comes out and people want to hear it and we fucking hate it.
R: Are you a little sick of playing the songs of the last record?
T: Oh yeah, we’re very sick of it but we gotta do it. It’s only a few more shows and then we don’t have to do it anymore and we can start practicing the EP songs.
O: Then we can mix it up.
R: Are you playing any old songs?
O: Some, off Acrobat but not off the 7 inches.
T: Acrobat’s the farthest we go.
R: What’s the best thing about being in a band? Why do you keep doing it?
O: Because you get to make music and actually have it go out. Music and travelling, we just went to Europe. I never thought I’d even go over there on my own much less presenting music to an audience.
T: The passion of writing music together.
R: Do you remember the first show you ever went to?
O: Yeah, I went to see the Beastie Boys and RUN DMC in 1986.
T: I’m not really proud of my first show.
R: Now you’ve got to tell us.
T: My brother took me to Whitesnake and Great White.
R: (To Omar) Are you a little upset at Cedric (the singer) for ripping off your style? Was that a planned thing?
O: No. He has naturally curly hair.
R: (To Tony) Are you upset you can’t do it?
T: No. We all have what we do.
O: I think he just got tired of cutting his hair and straightening it out. He has a job at home where he has to be presentable.
R: Any closing words?
T: Support music.