Interview and photos by James Damion
Night Birds just sort of exploded onto the New Jersey punk
scene a decade ago. Seriously, no one saw them coming. Most
people thought bassist Joe Keller, of the late, great Ergs,
had hung it up. Brian Gorsegner, basically known as the
drummer in For Science (and a voracious record collector,)
surprised us all by grabbing the mic. Keller brought along
Mike Hunchback from the Ergs’ constant touring partners
and close friends, Hunchback. Guitarist P.J. Russo and drummer
Darick Slater completed the lineup.
From the start, Night Birds revealed that they crushed
it live. Crushed it. They’ve released a bunch
of very good records on some pretty big punk labels, but
if you haven’t seen this band live, you don’t
know Night Birds.
Mike left for a while to take care of some other stuff,
but he’s back now. Roll Credits came out
in 2018, the group’s fifth album and one of their
best. In addition, Gorsegner started a booking agency called
Wired Booking to help friends tour. Now, it’s been
over a decade since they started this, and Night Birds is
still at the top of their game. That doesn’t happen
a lot. James Damion talked to Brian Gorsegner to figure
out what the hell is going on here. – Jim Testa
Q: “Roll Credits” is a great record,
one that appeared on many “Best of 2018” lists.
However, the record’s title had a lot of people scratching
their heads, wondering if this was the last we’d be
hearing from the band. Even the record’s cover art
suggests that this might be a collection of old singles
from the band’s heyday. Considering the term “Roll
Credits” has always been associated with the closing
of a movie or production, who would question our confusion?
What does the tile mean to you and the band?
Brian: Making records is something that has always taken
us very long chunks of time, and that kind of time is becoming
fewer and farther between what with Joe and his wife having
twins. My daughter is five now, and by adding a fifth member,
it only makes it harder to coordinate things. I think every
time we do a new record, we have some sort of feeling like
it will be our last, as we don't plan on having recorded
output if it's not up to par with where we think it should
be. And a lot of what goes into making that is the time
allowing it to happen. As to whether or not this will be
our last, only time will tell.
Q: I mentioned the favorable reaction to the record.
Is there a particular song or songs you or someone in the
band particularly gets hyped about?
Brian: “My Dad Is The BTK” is my favorite,
it reminds me of a song that might have been on the Ramones’
Mondo Bizzarro, which was the first punk album I owned.
(Editor’s Note: Hearing this make your editor feel
very, very old.)
Q: I have a few, including “My Dad Is The
BTK”. For sanity’s sake, what is the BTK?
Brian: “Bind Torture Kill” was a serial killer
from the Midwest who was arrested, but we think they got
the wrong guy and it was actually PJ's dad.
Mike Hunchback in action
Q: After a few years of absence, you welcomed Mike back
into the family. What was his original reason for leaving
and what brought him back?
Brian: When he first left the band, we were getting increasingly
busier and touring more and he was part of a crew of people
who opened a record shop in Brooklyn and he was committed
to being there. There were no hard feelings and we remained
friends. Five years later, or however long it was, Mike
actually moved near where Joe and I live and we started
hanging out a bit and it just happened really organically.
We were working on the new record and asked for his input
and it sort of just went from there. First he was helping
us write a couple parts, then he was playing on it, then
he was going to do a couple shows, and now he is back in
the band full-time. We are all really stoked about it.
Q: I'd imagine his frenetic energy was missed?
How do you feel his presence adds to the band?
Brian: I love it. I think he's a really unique player and
has a ton of character. It adds a lot.
Q: How would you describe your friendship/relationship
with Mike, Joe, Darick and PJ? Does everyone have input
and play a part in writing the songs?
Brian: They are my best friends. I love hanging out with
those guys. Generally, with our songwriting, either Joe,
Mike, or myself will bring a large chunk, if not a whole
song to the table, and then everyone will have their input
and help punch it up to make it the best it can be.
Q: You toured to support the record and even made
it out to Seattle. I was hoping to catch your show at the
Vera Project, which is less than a block away from where
I was initially stationed in Seattle. I wanted to get your
impressions on taking the band on the road and due to its
size and intimacy, The Vera Project.
Brian: The Vera Project is a pretty awesome place. I was
given a tour of the whole facility. Such a robust art community
in Seattle and it's a really cool place for folks to learn
how to do sound engineering and things of that nature. I
feel fortunate to get to play a place like that rather than
some stuffy club.
Q: What are some of your observations of show goers
in Europe versus those in the United States? Do you notice
any difference in the ways show goers engage or react?
Brian: Not really, but generally speaking I think when
a band from another country comes over folks tend to be
max-capacity excited, as opposed to playing your own country
where there are five shows a week and people really need
to pick and choose or they will go broke. But with that
said, people have been really enthusiastic about our touring
of late anyway, so it's all cool to me.
Q: How would you compare playing small venues as
opposed to larger ones? Does it have any effect on your
performance or the way you connect with a crowd?
Brian: Yeah I much prefer playing a small intimate venue,
generally speaking. Some of my favorite shows we've ever
done have been on larger stages, so it's not so black-and-white,
but the small rowdy sweaty basement show will never not
be bad ass.
Q: Speaking of touring. What led you to start Wired
Booking and how do you plan on helping bands?
Brian: I've always booked my own bands for the past 20
years but the band Pears was interested in me helping with
their booking duties and it sort of took off from there.
When booking for other bands, I have the perspective of
going out there and doing it myself so I think that brings
a lot to the table. I also really enjoy strategizing and
game planning with bands as to the best plan of attack to
conquer the world.
Q: Off the top of your head, what do you feel are
the biggest mistakes bands make when booking their tour?
Some of the biggest misconceptions?
Brian: I really just think it's a matter of having your
expectations in check, and also the priorities for why you
were out there doing it in the first place.
Q: Before I let you go, I’m hoping that you’ll
indulge me in revealing some of your record/memorabilia
collecting habits. Having seen some of your posts on social
media, I felt I’d be remiss in not asking. What are
some of your methods of acquiring? Are you fixated on original
pressings? Color vinyl? What are some of your most treasured
records and what is the Holy Grail of what you someday hope
Brian: I do prefer original pressings. My white whale is
a copy of the Dicks’ “Hate the Police”
single. You just always need to be on the lookout!
The Night Birds discography is available at night-birds.bandcamp.com.
For tour dates and other information, follow them at nightbirds.oknoway.com.
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