Shipwrecked at The Shore Interview Series: Only Living Boy

maxwell barna interviews the headliners of pop-break’s Shipwrecked At The Shore Showcase, which debuts tonight at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J. …

Only Living Boy seems to be one of the only New Jersey bands doing this whole rock ‘n’ thing thing right these days. With a sound that’s gritty, raw and hits harder than a heavyweight, these fellas have made a name for themselves all over the country as a group of guys who aren’t privy to bad times and shit-taking. Whatever “it” is, I’d say Only Living Boy has it. They are a healthy mix of pure testosterone, cheap whiskey and good times. If you don’t believe me, feel free to pick up their last release, Hide Nothing from onlylivingboy.com/.

Recently, I spoke with OLB’s drummer Trevor J. Newcomb about rock ‘n’ roll, bar fights and beer.

And DON’T FORGET!!! Only Living Boy will headline the debut of Pop-Break’s first-ever ongoing music festival — the Shipwrecked At The Shore Showcase — tonight, Feb. 2, at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J. Feel free to stop by, check them out, and support Pop-Break!

Pop-Break: A little birdie told me that Only Living Boy is a band of “hard drinking rock ‘n’ roll motherfuckers.” Confirm? Deny?

Trevor J. Newcomb: Yeah … that’s mostly true.

PB: I’m sure you guys get this a lot, but where is the name from? I see “Only Living Boy,” and think I’m about to get hit with some folk in the key of Paul Simon. But then I get smacked in the mouth with some of the grittiest, bluesiest, rough and tough rock and roll music to come out of New Jersey in the last couple of decades. What gives?

OLB's Trevor J. Newcomb

TN: Some years back we went through a name change… We knew we had to loose the old name but it took months to come up with something new. One night we we’re heading to some blues jam out in Easton, Pa., and “Only Living Boy In New York” came on the radio … we rolled with it and the rest is history. I think if we sounded anything like Paul Simon, we never would have done it. At the time, we were going through some crazy shit and the name fit what we were feeling.

PB: Speaking of New Jersey, you guys have a very distinct style. It’s great, for sure, but not necessarily something typical of every other rock ‘n’ roll band in the state. Listening to it, the only thing I can think of is East Coast style meets Midwest, blue-collar grit. It comes together excruciatingly well. Where does it all stem from?

TN: We grew up in an atypical part of N.J. so maybe it makes sense that our music is not the typical Jersey thing. We just like to play rock ‘n’ roll… maybe these days it’s a rare bread of “rock” that we’re doing but to us, it’s really the only kind of rock. We grew up together and we idolized the same crazy rockers … they were dudes who weren’t afraid to take risks on stage, who played with energy and balls. A lot of so-called “rock” is just uptight pussy bullshit and it drives us crazy. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve played, especially on tour, and we get a sound guy or a fan or someone who says, “Man, its nice to have a REAL rock band here” or something to that effect. To us, that’s a fucked up thing to hear.

PB: Hypothetical: Only Living Boy and I are in a bar. Things are getting rowdy, and we decide it’s time for us to finish our pints and exit stage right. However, both exits are blocked. The front entrance is blocked by a group of cowboys. Literal cowboys, with cowboy hats, spurs, sheriff badges and whatever other goofy shit cowboys wear when they go out a-drinkin’. The back door is blocked by Manny Pacquiao, who’s armed with a machete and 10 fighting cocks. Where are we goin’, boss? Why?

TN: Sounds like the last few shows we played in West Texas …

PB: One of the most interesting things all bands deal with is the song writing process. Every band has their own unique formula, and while they’re all different, they all result in a finished product. Take me through Only Living Boy’s writing process. How do you gents get the gold?

PB: Joe Cirotti is the primary writing force and after playing and knowing each other for so many years its all just kind of natural … most of the time we do very little talking when we work out songs and none of us have any ego, relative to one another, when it comes to creating songs. Its all about just making the best songs possible. Here’s how it usually goes: Joe has a song or an idea for a song. We learn the parts. We work out the form. We jam on it to explore where we’re going to go with it (we do this live a lot with new songs) and then we often sit down and record a demo version of the song. Getting it down on tape forces us to solidify everything.

PB: I read on your music blog that Speak Into My Good Eye ranked your album, Hide Nothing, No. 12 on their top 27 albums of 2011 list. That’s pretty damn good. How does it feel to beat out heavy hitters like The Dropkick Murphys and The Black Keys, who were both featured on that very same list?

TN: I’m not so sure put much thought into it. We’re proud of our last album but as soon as its done we’re already focused on figuring out how to make another, better one. It’s cool that we’re on a list like that but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding.

PB: You guys are headlining Pop-Break.com’s Shipwrecked At The Shore Showcase, tonight. Are you guys as excited for it as we are?

TN: We’re so fucking pumped. We haven’t played a show since New Years Eve. We took the last month off to record some new tracks with Paul Ritchie [of Parlor Mob] and to work on new demos. So, we’re dying to play and we’re happy that we’re getting back to gigging at Wonder Bar. No promises, but we should be playing some brand new shit …

PB: I saw some photos of you guys playing at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick on your Facebook page. This past week we all received some disappointing news about The Court Tavern closing down indefinitely. How do you feel about it? Did The Court Tavern have an impact on Only Living Boy?

TN: Yeah … we saw it coming. We have a lot of good memories there and most of them we owe to Joe Chyb, our manager, who tended bar and booked shows there. I hope something comes along and fills the void.

PB: New Brunswick used to be a stronghold for the underground music scene in New Jersey, but it now seems that Asbury Park has taken the reigns, according to many of the people I’ve spoken to about it. What do you think about the whole scenario? How do you feel about the Asbury scene? In your opinion, how do the two scenes compare and contrast?

TN: I feel like the New Brunswick scene peaked and then failed to change with the times. I think it is amazing that a live music venue can’t make it in a college town. It’s like the Court Tavern, and the scene, lost touch with the kids. We love the Asbury scene. It’s got the right ingredients and it’s a town that goes out of its way to be supportive of live music … that always helps.

PB: Time for my final question. It’s something that I ask everyone, and there’s absolutely no wrong answer; only bad ones. If you were being taken to a desert island, where you’d be allowed to drink only one beer of the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

TN: Yuengling … cause it tastes good and it’s still pretty cheap. But honestly, we probably drink more PBR … it’s even cheaper.

Only Living Boy will perform tonight, Feb. 2, at Pop-Break’s Shipwrecked At The Shore Showcase, with Crobot and Those Mockingbirds at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J. Tickets are $5 at the door, and you must be 21 years or older to enter. There are $2 Coors Light specials, shot specials and the kitchen at the bar will be open. There will also be a giveaway to the Holdfast record and clothing store in Asbury Park for all those who sign-up for Pop-Break’s newsletter.

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