Friday, May 31, 2013

Interview with Eric Scobie of Great Reversals

I first met Eric Scobie in about 2001 or so when my old band would play Grand Rapids, Michigan on our tours.  Eric was a friendly face who was always supportive and wanted to engage in some good conversation.  He would bring food to shows for touring bands and never ask for any type of reimbursement.  All in all, he was a great guy.  I reconnected with Eric a few years ago and was pleased to find out he was now playing drums for Great Reversals  He's also been keeping busy being a dad, a teacher, and putting on shows in the Detroit metro area. 

OPFM: You play drums for a band called Great Reversals.  Your record, "To The Ends of The Earth" is pretty incredible.  It seemed like, even though you're the drummer, that you had a big hand in the lyric writing process.  Can you talk about that process a little bit?

ERIC: I've always been interested in writing, whether it's for school, for a zine, lyrics, whatever so I've been able to try my hand at it a bit over the years. Aaron & I did a band a long time ago where we basically split writing lyrics although it worked somewhat differently for "To the Ends..." than it did for our previous band. Basically when we started Great Rev I knew I wanted to have a release that served as an outlet for all my emotions that stemmed from raising Elijah (my oldest son who is deaf and has a bunch of other developmental delays), so after we did our demo which Aaron wrote all the lyrics for, I literally took a day off work and went to the library one day and wrote 7 or 8 sets of lyrics. I'd had titles for all of them floating around in my head for several years so it was super cathartic to finally sit down and flesh them out, knowing that they were going to be used for our next project. Once I had them on paper, I sent them to the guys, and there was sort of an editing process that went on....some of the stuff was too personal and raw, too "close" to my experience. But anyway, we picked a few of them and then Aaron took them and re-worked things. My writing (especially with those songs) is more raw and to the point, whereas Aaron has developed a much deeper poetic sense to his style. So he added a lot of the visual imagery to the lyrics and really enriched the emotions I was trying to evoke. I should mention that Aaron and I have been best friends since we were little kids so he knew exactly what I was going for and he obviously knows the challenges my wife and I have experienced with Lij. So while the subject matter was mine, the final product was truly a collaborative effort.

OPFM: When I listen to the record it seems like the music really fits the lyrics.  It's amazing that you wrote the lyrics before the music to me since they seems so well placed.  Do you feel that the songs musically lived up to the standard of how important those lyrics are to you?

ERIC: We were definitely VERY conscious of the mood for each song as we were writing. We actually wrote the last song “In Hiding” first and when Steve brought that song to practice and we started working on it I was absolutely blown away by how perfectly it captured the feeling of those lyrics. That song is really for me the centerpiece of the record where all the emotion crescendos….the first time we played it live I was a sobbing mess. Thankfully it was in a basement with like 15 people and I don’t think anybody filmed it, haha. Same thing with “Open Wounds”; we knew that we wanted that song to come raging out of the gates and Alex did a great job putting that one together. So in short, I am completely happy with how those songs compliment the lyrics and vice versa.

It’s funny because right now we are working on the next batch of songs and this time we’ve been working on the music without having the concept/lyrical direction nailed down so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. We had an idea but as we were fleshing out the songs we decided to scrap it. So we have the music 95% set, but now Aaron has to get busy writing.

OPFM: You told me back in March that you've been putting on shows about once a month. Can you tell me how that is going?  Is this something you see yourself doing long term? Does the stress of putting shows pay off?

ERIC: I can truly say I consider it to be a labor of love. The shows are going good as far as I'm concerned, I've been booking again since the summer of 2010 and since then I've done somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen shows. Turnouts are usually in the 30-60 range. So not too huge, but certainly enough to make sure bands get gas money and sell a few records.

I can definitely see myself doing it into the foreseeable future, as long as there are bands I want to see that are willing to play, why stop.

In terms of the stress, I certainly still get the day of jitters and there are always last minute details to take care of, but we've got a good little system going. The other guys in Great Rev help me run the shows....Aaron usually cooks vegan food for everyone (donations highly encouraged), Steve brings his p.a. and runs the sound, and for the last few shows Sam has drawn up the flyers. Without those guys all pitching in it would be much more stressful. Honestly for me the main thing I stress about is the financial end, but I generally prefer to work with smaller scale d.i.y. bands so even that isn't generally much of an issue. I have worked with bands that have had guarantees on a couple of occasions, but I felt they were reasonable so I went for it because they were bands I really wanted to see. The space is certainly big enough where I could try to bring in package tours and whatnot if I wanted to, but honestly I don't want to deal with booking agents and all that and for the most part the bands I am most interested in don't partake in those kinds of tours in he first place. So I kind of feel like I've found my little niche here in Metro Detroit and I'm really thankful to still be able to do it.

OPFM: You're a dad, husband, teacher, show promoter and drummer. What piece of advice would you give to folks who are getting older but want to remain an active part of the hardcore scene?

ERIC: I think the biggest thing for me is trying to find balance. Great Rev practices once a week, we try to play a show a month, I try to book a show a month. I find that if I go beyond that it just stresses me out way too much and throws thing out of wack. I am a husband and a father first and foremost; hardcore is a huge part of my life but ultimately it has to take a backseat to everything else. So basically touring is out of the question for me, and a lot of times I have to say sorry to shows we get offered or to bands who ask me if I can help them out. It sucks sometimes, but I have a good sense of what my limits are. We have gone out of town to record and we’ve done a couple weekends, but that stuff has to be planned out waaaaay in advance. I get to do less these days than I did ten or fifteen years ago, but I think it means more to me now, I really find that I appreciate it in a deeper way.

OPFM: Does the band understand and support your decisions when it comes to touring and shows? Are any compromises made like having a fill-in drummer or anything like that?

ERIC: Oh yeah the dudes are all super supportive and understanding. They did a 4 day weekend down to Tennessee and back a couple years ago and our friend Matt filled in for me for 3 of the shows. The last show of the run was in Toledo so I drove down and played that one. I’ve always told them I don’t want to hold them back in any way so if opportunities to tour come along and I can’t pull it off they can definitely get a fill-in. But the band is pretty much designed to be fairly part-time. Steve plays in Tharsis They, as well as Hollow Earth who up until recently have been touring like crazy, Alex has a pretty solid job that he can’t get away from very much and has recently started a second band, Sam plays bass in another band called Boneshaker, Aaron is married and has a daughter, so we’re all busy guys. I think for us it’s more important to continue to plays shows and write when we can rather than try to pull off a bunch of touring and then get burnt out.

OPFM: To close up the interview could you talk about the new 7" that you're going to put out with How Soon is Now?

ERIC: First of all we’re super stoked to be working with Chris! We got burned by a label on the last record so to have somebody as solid as him behind us is really awesome. It’s going to be 3 new ones and they are definitely the heaviest songs we have ever written. We feel like they bring some new elements to the table for us which is cool and exciting. I think most bands want to stay anchored in their major influences and at the same time expand or add wrinkles to their sound as they grow together. That’s something I feel we’ve been able to do as a band and the new songs continue that.

Lyrically when we started writing the plan was for the songs to revolve around Aaron’s transition into fatherhood, but as we’ve gotten into the project there was a sense that maybe we didn’t want another “dad-core” (for lack of a better term) record again so we’re going to be shifting gears. Aaron tends towards the philosophical; grappling with issues of ethics, religion, and meaning so I would imagine that’s where he will go lyrically.

We are however taking pieces of the aforementioned lyrics and using them for a new song that we start recording tomorrow! It’s going to come out on a split 7” with another Michigan band that we’ve become really good friends with these last couple years.