A success story in the making
By Whitney Weiss
(see bottom of page for unreleased tracks)
Heralded as local punk rock gods, Inspection 12 has shown consistently that they’re more than just some boys in Converses trying to write songs. Their collection of solid originals (six DIY releases and one full-length on Honest Don’s) and energetic live performances continue to draw fans, and are largely responsible for Honest Don’s Records signing them in the first place.
Definitely not punk by the book, Inspection 12’s members listen to a variety of music and don’t fall victim to the punk rock dress code—this and their solid musicianship allow them to transcend the “number band” stereotype (Blink 182, Sum 41 anyone?)
In the hours before they took the stage on March 5, I managed to speak with three-fourths of the band of the band and find out how it feels to embark on your first tour, release your first record as a signed band, and be on the road to making it big.
Movement: I really enjoyed your acoustic Christmas show. Are you planning on doing more stripped-down stuff in the future?
Dan: I think so. I think the next record is just going to be a lot more, I guess, mellow on some songs. There’s going to be a lot more acoustic guitars. I don’t want to say we’re slowing down…we’re integrating more instruments.
It seems like your diverse music taste has always had a good effect on the band. What’s in your CD player right now?
Uh, Bruce Hornsby is in my CD player right now (laughs.) And I’ve been listening to “Abbey Road” a lot, but I always listen to…any Beatles album. And the new Ben Folds… Anything he does is great; he’s an amazing songwriter.
And how’s this tour going?
It’s good; it’s so long. I mean, if this was a month-long tour we would have been like, “Okay cool, we’re done,” but we’re not even done yet and we started January 10th.
“In Recovery” is mostly old songs that you redid. When can we expect an album of completely new Inspection 12?
We are gonna go into the studio hopefully this summer and start doing all the new songs. We have almost all the songs written, and we’re working on two really old songs that are kind of revamped like on “In Recovery”. So I guess maybe [in] fall the new record, hopefully.
Now that you’re signed to Honest Don’s is it a lot different than when you were an unsigned band?
Yeah it is different, coz they do a lot for us…the support from Honest Don’s is awesome. They call us up and say, ‘What’s up? How’s it going? Tell us what the deal is with Inspection 12.’
And what kind of reception has your music had in cities other than Jacksonville?
It depends. There’s been good ones, we did really well in Chicago, and kind of like the more major cities, New York was really cool, Chicago, Dallas and Ft. Worth in Texas. We did a lot of real small cities on this tour so some of the shows were smaller, which was cool. As long as there were at least five people there, we were stoked.
Locally, what’s your favorite place to play?
I like the Freebird Café.
Has being based here benefited your career?
I love Jacksonville. The whole time we were on tour, we were like “Let’s go home, we wanna be at home” because we’ve been playing here for so long, and it’s just been Jacksonville, that’s why the turnouts are so big at the shows, and it’s still awesome every time. But yeah, I do. It’s my hometown.I love it here.
And how do you personally define success?
I guess success would be (pause) doing something that you love and being able to support yourself.
So right now would you consider your career in Inspection 12 a success?
(Laughs.) We’re not really supporting ourselves, but so far it’s been awesome. We’re on our way, I guess. We’re succeeding.
That you are. What do you feel sets your music apart from everything else that’s out there?
I don’t know, we try not to bite anybody else, we try to just write…I guess you can hear influences in our music, but we try to sound like ourselves…Lately too, we’ve been using more theory in our music...Growing up a little bit.
That’s always good. How would you describe the Inspection12 sound?
I think I should just probably say melodic rock, I guess,coz that covers so many different areas.
Tonight you’re playing with NOFX, homecoming show; it’s abig deal. What was your first show like as Inspection 12?
We played at a kid’s birthday party at Timiquana Golf club or whatever it was…Scott, our previous drummer, one of his friends, who was turning 12 or something [said] ‘We need a band to play’ and we were like, ‘Alright we’ll play,’ and we played like all Nirvana and Green Day covers and stuff. And it was fun of course, we were rocking out coz it was the first time we’d ever played in front of people besides each other. So we were having a great time. It was cool. It’s a lot different now.
Do you think the sound of the band has changed a lot now that you have Tim, or have you kind of stayed…
Pretty constant, I think. He sounds a lot like Scott when he drums. Which was cool. When he first tried out, we didn’t think it was going to be anything like the songs, and then he just started playing the songs and we were like ‘He sounds just like Scotty’… And plus, Tim’s been my best friend since pre-kindergarten. We have pictures of each other with us two in pajamas at birthday parties when we were six. We can trust him.
I haven’t been to an I12 show in Jacksonville in a longtime that hasn’t been packed; like sold out, kids waiting outside. How does that sort of audience reaction make you feel?
The support here is amazing. I can’t even thank the scene…It’s been amazing. I’m just freaked out every time. ‘Again this happened again? I thought it was like a one-time freakthing.’ It makes me happy.
And what local or largely unknown unsigned bands that you’ve encountered elsewhere would you recommend that people go out and listen to?
There’s a band called Unsung Zeros. I like them a lot. The guy’s a great songwriter. We played with a band in Iowa; they’re called Keepers of the Carpet. They were awesome; we’re really into them. And the guy from Stalemate [a now defunct Jacksonville band], his new band, the singer in Mark’s new band, they’re called Monroe, he just let me hear the CD the other day and I really liked it.
And what are I12’s plans for the near future?
We’re going to California. And then when we get back, we’re gonna have a week off. And then hopefully we’re going to Europe from April 26 to June 2.
And would you be headlining or still with NOFX?
We’ll be headlining.There’s another band in Switzerland that would be supporting us. They’re the ones who set it up. We’re excited.
And how is it to play with NOFX?
They’re awesome. Mike is just rad. He’s just really cool. And he’s one of those guys you always look up to since you’re in high school…All the guys are just normal guys; it’s cool coz there’s not that feeling of when you were just a fan of theirs. They talk to you and stuff.
Movement: So how’s the tour going?
James: A lot of great shows, a lot of bad ones, I do think this was a really good idea because we did become a lot stronger as a band. I’d say maybe two months was a little long to just send us out there on our own…We didn’t have any serious accidents on the tour. I actually left the trailer open one time, it wasn’t that bad because we only lost Pete’s bag. He wasn’t that upset over it either, I think he was too tired to be mad…We’re all looking forward to more touring.
Do you prefer to be out on tour, or would you rather berecording new stuff and writing?
I’d like to do half and half. I wouldn’t like to do too much touring straight and go on another tour,coz I feel like we have all these great ideas and haven’t had time to work onthem. I guess the reason we’re having to tour so much now is because we put it off for so long…We have half an album ready. We could start laying some stuff down and see where it went.
And you did the acoustic Christmas show that was more stripped down. Has that had an effect on your writing; are you going in adifferent direction with your originals?
Whenever we write we always use acoustic and stuff like that, and it’s just a better way because you can hear everything clearer and you won’t find the mistakes later, make sure all the guitars are agreeing. Yeah I’d say it’s going to have a little effect, but we’re also going to step up this next record and be a lot harder.
How has getting signed to Honest Don’s affected your life?
Even after we had signed I was still really in the dark about how this whole system worked. Being on the road…you start to see the dynamics of your business…And you see that it is possible to go ahead and do this as a career.
And everybody in Inspection 12 seems to have really diverse taste in music. It has a good effect on your originals, so what is in your CD player right now?
And are there any Jacksonville bands or unsigned bandsyou’ve come across on this tour that you want to get the word out for?
Left Front Tire is signed to a small independent label called Gladiator. They actually have a song on the “American Pie 2” soundtrack. They haven’t really done much touring at all.They’re just a great pop rock band, but they’re all like South Georgia country boys, so it was really hilarious…I’m sure we’re going to get them on the next Jacksonville bill.
And what is your favorite show that you’ve played to date?
Um…it was probably one ofthe Marquee shows. That first one we did, that CD release. That was almost kind of scary, walking out there…I thought we were going to have 400 people there and there’s a thousand. It was humbling.
And you all have been filling clubs consistently in Jacksonville lately. So how does that make you feel?
I hope the crowds stick around. I know they’re probably tired of hearing the same stuff. I hope they stick around and that it keeps growing, because we want to get to a position where we can actually make a difference around here…we wanna do larger benefits and stuff like that. It’s funny coz you have a graduating class, and then the next year you see all their brothers and sisters [at the shows].
How do you think being based in Jacksonville has affectedyour career?
Well um, it’s harder…Florida’s a pretty good market but California’s a lot bigger market. I think we kind of hit it at the right time, with a bunch of bands jumping out of here, giving this place notice…It’s the right time, it’s a great place to be.
How do you personally define success?
(Pause.) Probably the happiness side of it. Being satisfied and enjoying what you’re doing on a daily basis. Not just keeping your head above water and waiting for something along the road.
And by your definition do you think your band’s successful?
We’re getting there. This is as hard as it’s ever gonna be, and the tours are gonna get better and better. I think it could be a great success story.
I caught up with Tim on the side of the stage after the fans had started to pack into Plush. He offered to do the interview right then, so we headed back out to get my recorder,debated where to go, and decided to do the interview in the photographer’s van. Tim got to take a glimpse at the line of kids snaking its way from Plush down to the Winn Dixie. He was absolutely amazed by the turnout, and spent lots of the interview looking out the window.
Movement: I know you replaced Scott. What was it like coming into the situation?
Tim: Like, trying to learn his stuff?
It was pretty tough because just the situation, and especially like, because he was one of my really good friends. But we used to play drums together all the time, and he influenced the way I play, and I influenced the way he played. So it wasn’t too hard to learn the songs. That part wasn’t really the hard part. It was just kind of hard filling in at first.
Your drumming sounds quite good. How’s it been playing with NOFX?
Before tonight, we weren’t with NOFX. We played so many shows by ourselves and some of them were so small. But it was cool. We definitely got a good response, even at the small ones…now, playing with NOFX, it’s crazy. It’s like a dream come true.
And now you’re signed on Honest Don’s. What’s that like? Is there a lot of difference with being signed?
Yeah, it’s a little bit different. Well, I don’t know. It doesn’t really seem different to me. It’s just you have managers and stuff. That’s the only thing that seems different. You have to fill out sheets and send them to Fat Wreck Chords. But other than that, it just feels normal.
What’s your favorite local venue to play?
I like the Freebird.That’s where the funnest show was.
Everybody in the band listens to diverse music, and itreally seems to have a positive effect on your originals. What’s in your CD player right now?
Right now, it sounds really retarded, but the Softer Side CD. Coz I just got a copy of it, so I had to listen to it. So it’s my own band. But my influences…I still listen to a lotof punk. Dan and Pete and James don’t really listen to a lot. I like Slick Shoes, NOFX. I like Metallica, I love Tom Petty. Mainly punk but other stuff, too.
What’s your favorite show that you’ve played in Jacksonville?
The last one at the Freebird. That one was really fun.(Looks out the window of the van at the mass of kids.) Tonight might be more fun, though.
When I12 write songs, do you all jam and work from there or does someone bring in a song and say ‘This is the part I envision you playing.’
Basically, Dan pretty much writes the songs. He’ll show us the structure of the song and we’ll throw in our ideas. Just change it around a little bit, like add different bars and stuff. But for the most part, Dan writes them. But he’s totally open to our input and our opinions.
And how does it fill to consistently fill clubs in Jacksonville, and cause these huge lines?
Oh it’s crazy. It’s weird for me especially because I didn’t always play with the band.
What was your first show like?
[My] very first show was the night before the CD release party. It was in Gainesville and it was cool, there were 150 [or] 200 people there, and Gainesville’s not too far from [Jacksonville] so there were people who knew the words.
And how would you define success?
And by your definition of success, do you feel Inspection 12 is successful right now?
In Jacksonville, yeah. Hopefully that right there will spread. (Points out the window at the line).
unreleased INSPECTION 12 SONGs
originally available at a room filled with darkness fan site
.mp3's available for DOWNLOAD:
> here I am
> coup de grace