Trash Boy talks new music, Philly’s DIY scene, and the hopelessness of our society
Punk-rock quartet Trash Boy is exemplary of Philly’s independent music scene, and proud of it. Forming in 2016, the band put out their debut album The Future is Trash in 2017. Two years and one bass player later, Trash Boy has polished off their second studio album Who Will Take the Trash Out When We’re Gone?, scheduled for release this Friday, August 16th via Good How Are You Records. They’ve recently shared a single from the new record, entitled “Perfect Teeth”— a catchy, uptempo, humorous-yet-accurate rejection of societal conventions.
To celebrate Who Will Take the Trash Out When We’re Gone?, Trash Boy will play a release show at Everybody Hits this Friday, August 16th. They’ll also be playing Johnny Brenda’s on Wednesday, October 30th. For more information about both of their Philly shows, visit the XPN Concert Calendar. To read what the band’s guitarists and vocalists Chris Fortunato and Dan Baggarly have to say about their single, their album, and how much the world sucks, read on.
The Key: I really love this new single. It’s got this awesome message that I totally feel on a personal level, and a fantastic energy to back it up. Can you talk to me about “Perfect Teeth” and how the single came to be?
Chris Fortunato: It’s kind of like a rejection of the kind of jobs that people take without thinking and the way people live their lives focusing on generating wealth for themselves without really asking themselves about the implications of their jobs or what they do. I started writing the first lyrics of the song when I went to this fundraiser for Syrian refugees and I met up with the father of this kid I went to high school with. He was telling me about how his son works for Exxon in Vietnam and he travels all over the world. He was so proud of his son and how much money he’s making and I just kind of realized how distant I felt from that, and how I didn’t relate to that in any way. So I started writing a song about not caring about a person’s perfect family or their resume. I kind of had a sense of, “How did it end up like this?” I brought that to my bandmates and we finished it up and the song came to be.
Dan Baggarly: It was a big collaborative song lyrically. Usually Chris or I will write most of a song and then we’ll finish it up with the rest of the band. I remember we were listening to a lot of pop then. I think that’s in this song. Definitely a strong pop influence. I remember a couple of days after he showed us the first verse, I was driving around for my job as a social worker at the time, and just hearing all these extremely materialistic songs on the radio. And I remember being like, “Why is this being encouraged? This doesn’t seem desirable at all. I don’t want this life.” So then the chorus popped into my head and I remember as soon as I got home— we were roommates at the time— I was like, “Alright let’s finish the lyrics right now.” That was fun. That was a fun one.
TK: You have your sophomore album coming out this Friday called Who Will Take the Trash Out When We’re Gone?, which is such a great title, by the way. Can you tell me what we can expect from the new record and how your sound has grown and changed since your first album?
DB: I think a really quick and easy way that the sound has changed is that we added a fourth member. Davey Jones is on bass now. Chris and I used to switch off playing guitar and bass through the first album when we’d play live and on the recordings, and just having two guitars all the time and a full-time bassist really solidified the sound and gave us more of a direction we could band around together.
CF: The first album was really kind of made in much more of a rush. I mean, both of these albums were really made in a rush because we all have full-time jobs. The amount of time we have to spend on making music and writing music together is always a super tight time crunch. Some of these songs we barely even played through before we recorded them. But with the first album, it was the first time Nolee [Morris, drummer] had ever played originals in a band, and I think she really came into her own on the new album. I think she’s much more comfortable in the driver’s seat, directing the rhythm of a band. I also think we all are a lot more comfortable writing together as well. All four members wrote songs or contributed to writing on this new album, which is really a huge change from the last album, which was all me and Dan.
TK: I love the satirical vibe that Trash Boy embodies, mostly because it’s all true. You call out people and things that are destroying this planet— both physically and spiritually— and you do it through catchy lyrics and melodies. At a time when our world (especially our country) is truly turning to shit, do you hope that your music offers listeners a reprieve from this nightmare? Or is it more of a way for you guys to stay sane?
CF: I think reprieve is the right word. We were just talking the other day about taking pictures of the band for promotional pictures, and we had all these ideas bouncing around. We were thinking about doing a picture where we’re looking stressed out after a hard day on the job or reading a newspaper and freaking out about what’s going on in the world. But ultimately we decided that we wanted to make content that’s more about the cure rather than the sickness of our society’s problems. We try to always put levity into everything we do.
DB: To me, live music inherently does that to a big degree. Philly has such a great music scene and a real community that does not exist in any sort of corporate way. Me and Chris lived at a house venue together for three years; I still live at one; we both do a lot of stuff with booking shows and running them and playing with other bands. Being a part of that community and doing whatever we can to help it grow and be a fun and meaningful and safe, not stressful, place for people to exist in— largely just out of people’s own homes or small bars that aren’t making an insane killing off of the music.
CF: The [Philly music] scene itself is kind of an artistic expression, right? It’s people who are intentionally taking time out of their day to create something without gain or profit. That’s what we’re all about and it’s where we started making music. Our first shows were all in basements.
TK: Do you guys ever feel like you are the people you make fun of in “Perfect Teeth”? I mean, do you ever feel like you’re just doing your job to make money so that you can do what you really want to do and make music?
DB: Yeah, for sure. I feel like the four of us are always constantly trying to find the perfect job that could let us do music or one that allows it more easily than the one we’ve had before.
CF: One of the things I love about my bandmates is that none of us are spoiled in doing this. I know so many bands who live off their parents’ savings or a wealthy family member or spouse and they can focus on music. We don’t have that! We’re really grinding our jobs and taking off the little bits of time that we can on weekends or days off just to make this happen. There’s a lot of struggle in there that’s really beautiful and authentic I think.
DB: I mean, I think that’s why this album in particular is sort of centered around unfair working and labor conditions and just the insanity of the capitalist rat race in our society.
CF: All of these songs are about us. They’re just about our experiences. There’s nothing here that’s fictional. Well, maybe 90% real. It depends on the line.
TK: Going back in time, how and when did Trash Boy form?
DB: We usually say that we became a serious band when Nolee joined because she’s such a good drummer and was the only drummer that we had played with that actively contributed and was really serious about doing it. That was in November 2016, a year before our first album came out. Me and Chris went to college together and we’ve known each other for nine years at this point and we—
CF: Dude, that’s a really long time.
DB: Yeah, it’s a really long time, dude. We played some in college as it went along. Afterwards, I didn’t really have much of a plan and Chris had a job in Philly. I was just kind of like, “Do you want to do music seriously? I’ll move to Philly. Let’s fucking do it and see what happens.” Then it took us two years to find Nolee. It was a long process at the beginning, but we’ve kept trucking on.
CF: An interesting aside about the song lyrics if you want to throw a random bit of information in there. There’s that line about working at a cookout and stealing silverware. I’ve never actually stolen silverware, but I did work as a waiter for a summer at this fancy golf course. And there were these old dudes there who were really raunchy and hit on everybody— male and female. They would just be extremely sexual with them. One time this guy was giving me a ride to work in his Ferrari because he saw me walking, and I was like, “Wow this is a crazy nice car that this asshole drives.” I kind of just wanted to grab the wheel and drive it into my job. Just being in this guy’s super nice car and him doing me favor giving me a ride, but I’d still be a huge asshole and crash it. That’s kind of where that came from.
TK: You guys have an album release party this Friday at Everybody Hits and you’re also playing Johnny Brenda’s in the fall with Full Bush and others. Besides these shows and the new album, what’s next for Trash Boy? Is there a tour on the horizon?
DB: We’re on track to go for a longer tour, like 15 or 16 shows for three weeks, at the end of October. We’re going to go up to Boston and down to North Carolina.
TK: And is there anything else you want The Key readers and Trash Boy listeners to know about you guys as a band or your new music?
DB: I guess our main thing is— I personally don’t have a lot of hope in our society changing significantly through the mechanisms it allows. I personally want to create my own little society to live within it with people who agree that we could come up with something better than what the status quo is, and better than what mainstream culture and media and value system and status symbols say.
CF: Hell yeah, that’s why we do music.
Trash Boy plays Everybody Hits on Friday, August 16th, and Johnny Brenda’s with Full Bush on Wednesday, October 30th. Tickets and information on both shows can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.