Tenement, “Spaghetti Midwestern”

JP Basileo

Wisconsin winters and quiet town ennui have shaped yet another Tenement release, this time in the form of a ten-song LP of re-mastered (or first-time mastered) rarities and out-of-print songs from their earliest releases. The record, Bruised Music Volume One is due out March 10, on Grave Mistake Records, and Toxic Pop Records, and comes with an eight page zine, filled with notes and stories from the band, friends, and journalists. “Spaghetti Midwestern”, the first single from the record, is a charged anti-anthem filled with contempt for an all too familiar state of immobility in an undesirable setting. It pulls from all facets of the pop-punk world, with its restless audible in the vocals, and its multi-sequenced three chord palm-muting, and its solo-infused bridge interlude, written with the maturity and know-how, even at their earliest releases, of a well-seasoned third, fourth or fifth punk record.

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What was the process of putting together this record like? Why’d you decide to release all of these older songs now instead of writing new songs? Will there then be a Bruised Music Volume Two?

For the musician that’s spent the past nine years dragging this discography by its heels, it was tedious, nostalgic, and forced the adult to stare down the child in the mirror and analyze its zits and baby fat and naivety – then make those growing pains acceptable and presentable for its present self to give to the world. It was at times pleasant, as I realized that some of the material wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was. But what you’ve got to understand is that we toured on this material – and pretty much this material alone – from 2006 to 2011 (until our first full length record was released). The singles often sold out very quickly, and we resorted to hand dubbing cassettes of our out of print material. Before it was common as a band in the American DIY punk scene to hire an agent to throw your music out as bait into the internet critic piranha pool, we drained our wallets making hundreds of these cassettes and sending them- via U.S. Post – to every ear that would listen. Now, six years after all of the material on Bruised Music, Volume One has been out of print, it seems a good idea to release all these odds and ends into a more sensible format. Of course there’s new material awaiting its own release, and that’ll be rearing its ugly head in the early summer months.

Lyrically, “Spaghetti Midwestern” certainly seems like a personal, perhaps introspective song. When was written and what sort of experiences informed it? How is it similar or different from the songs Tenement is writing now?

“Spaghetti Midwestern” and the process of writing it is a lost memory, but upon relistening as I type this, it’s becoming obvious to me that the bulk of this song is about the American dream, its disappearance, and the fact that for many people it never ever existed in any form. In fact, more than anything, it’s a balloon deflating in slow motion: big and brilliant and colorful upon its conception, but flimsy and unruly upon being let go – and farting its hot air all over the crowd that once gathered to admire its beauty. This idea seems to be a running theme in our material and it continues to show itself in many forms. Even as a child I had a fascination with the ills of society and the dark eccentricities of the average individual’s life, and perhaps I take pleasure in the absurdity and perverse beauty of these ideas.

You’re releasing this collection of songs with a zine, too. What inspired you to include a zine? What are you hoping people will get out of the writing in the zine?

The booklet that’s included with the record consists of write-ups about Tenement as a band, from the years 2006 to 2009 by many folks that championed us during those years. The purpose of this idea was to paint a picture of the band from that period better than I ever personally could, and better than if the record had just been presented without any context other than the music and its title. Many, many people were asked to write for it, and a handful found the time to do it. We’re grateful and humbled by their recollections. The one thing that inspired the idea to make an actual photocopied zine style booklet to accompany the record was Charles Mingus’ Let My Children Hear Music, and the photocopied pamphlet that was originally included in the jacket of the record. To me, this shows character in the face of sterile, glossy packaging. For those unfamiliar, it included an essay written by Mingus himself, outlining his idea of a true composer all the while painting a picture of his philosophy and how it affects his music. In it he explains, “…The music on this record is involved with my trying to say what the hell I am here for. And similar ideas. Another one is: Let my children hear music -for God’s sake- they have had enough noise.” With this in mind, we hope that upon listening to Bruised Music, Volume One, the listener might understand that this represents the scuffed-knee childhood of our career -it truly is BRUISED MUSIC.

To ask a huge, general question: How do you feel about the current state of punk music and where do you feel Tenement fits in all of it?

I’m not sure where Tenement fits into the current state of punk music. Perhaps we’ll leave that for the punks to decide. We make music for anyone who wants to hear it and refuse to concern ourselves with whether it pleases a specific group of music nerds or not. As for the current state of affairs in punk: what ARE the cool punkys listening to these days? Who knows?? Hey, that OOZE EP was great. I’ve heard whispers about the POWER of The Downtown Boys, but I’ve yet to see them. Big Zit, from Northwest Indiana, is a favorite of ours. We might tour with them for a few weeks later this year. Something is in the water in Northwest Indiana right now, and it’s got a power and aesthetic that resonates well with us.

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