Guantanamo Baywatch

photos by Chris Scott

Most people don’t usually take “party bands” too seriously except, well, when they want to party. Those people have yet to meet Guantanamo Baywatch. These guys have been giving rock ‘n’ roll fans what they want since they dove head-first into the scene about five or so years ago. Guantanamo Baywatch was one of the first in the recent revival wave of classic surf and garage rock, but rather then straight up appropriate an already existing sound, they’ve added their own raunchy twist to the mix for a sound that pulls you into a 1950s California beach party: All of a sudden you know how to do the twist amidst all that moshing and mashing around.

You’d never guess that they hail from Portland, OR, as their steez exudes an eclectic spunk that falls outside the vegan food truck village that is Portland’s mellow indie-hippie vibes. After three years since their last release, their latest full-length album Darling… It’s Too Late dropped May 12th on Suicide Squeeze.

It was quite a gap for the three-piece, which is made up of Chevelle, Jason, and Christopher, but it certainly was not a wasted one. In that time the band has evolved their sound and slowly moved to cleaner, more twangy country waters while still holding on to those beloved surf punk roots. .

Here’s what they had to say about touring, partying, music and their new album.

 

GBW GROUP

Hey guys! I want to start off with what the very first GBW tour was like.

Jason: It took like four months on MySpace.

Chevelle: We did it.

 

What year was this?

J: 2009 or early 2010.

 

That was like the end of MySpace.

Chev: Yeah! We really used it. We even called venues on the phone, like found their number and just asked for a show.

J: We’d go through some other band’s tour list and called them up and stuff.

Chev: It was like a two month tour. It was our first tour, we had a different drummer at the time and I don’t think he had ever left Oregon before, he had like just turned 21. Jason got a car for 500 bucks.

J: Yeah I got a $500 Plymouth Voyager.

 

Did it last?

J: Yeah! It lasted for two tours it was a pretty good car haha.

Chev: Yeah that’s a good car. But I don’t there was an AC or anything it was bare bones.

J: It was a piece of shit!

Chev: No it was great. Um yeah it was intense, it was learning a lot.

 

Were people cool about letting you guys crash at their place?

Chev: We had to sleep in the car a couple of times.

J: But actually a lot of the people we met on that tour are people we are still friends with and still tour and play with them.

Chev: We still stay with them. Everyone was really awesome and we met a lot of bands that we still book shows with all the time. It ended up, because Shannon and the Clams gave us a list of people to contact, we weren’t really too lost. There’s a couple places where I think we were like “Ohhh crap.”

J: Well we tried to play every single night too.

Chev: Yeah we had no days off.

J: We played like 50 shows or something. I don’t remember taking a day off.

Chev: I don’t think we had a day off and I had just graduated from college so my family had given me some money so we all just spent our own money, we weren’t really making money. It was all of our money.

J: I don’t think we made anything. We sold records though and we had a tape. And we went to John Waters house. Not inside though.

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That is sick. Did you meet him?

Chev: No but I looked at the mail to make sure it was his house. I didn’t open the mail, I just opened the mailbox.

J: We left him some stuff.

Chev: We left him like a pizza box full of tar from the tar pits.

 

Did you ever hear from him?

Chev: No… I gave him my phone number.

J: We’re going to see him here in a couple of months. Better see that motherfucker and ask him if he ever got our record

Chev: Yeah on the 4th of July in Oakland (at Burger Boogaloo). Haha yeah ask if he got the record. Maybe he’s a huge fan.

 

So how was the turn out of the shows then compared to the turn outs now?

J: Probably had more people then than we do now (laughs).

Chev: No we played a lot of shows to like two or three people. Or we’d book a show and it was like, “Oh crap we are playing with the wrong bands.” There would be this show down the street and people would be like “why aren’t you playing at this venue?” and we’d be playing at the one place and it’s just like a bluegrass band and a frat boy band and then us… And no one knew what to do with us.

J: Or venues would close…

Chev: Yeah without even telling us.

J: You know like we’d show up and there’s a guy like sweeping the floor like “Nah, you’re not playing tonight” and we’re like “yo we just drove to Omaha come on!”

Chev: Yeah it was weird and we didn’t have smart phones at the time, we just had regular phones. I had my computer and we would spend all of our time trying to find Starbucks and using the WiFi and opening MapQuest and taking pictures of it with our phones because my computer would die… It was just so stressful.

 

What was it that prompted you guys to start playing together and made you realize that you wanted to be a band?

J: I wrote a bunch of songs in high school and college and then Chevelle worked at…. I don’t how we met, in school or something.

Chev: We met in school.

J: We like the same kind of music you know, it was mostly instrumental kind of stuff… And then we just started playing and kind of ended up doing it.

Chev: I mean the way we started was very much just like “we don’t know what we’re doing.” We would just get really wasted at practice and then go to shows and just play horrible but we played so much that we just kind of learned.

J: We played a couple of times a week easy.

Chev: I think our first two or three shows we played twice on those nights. We’d get really excited like “let’s go find another show!” It was fun, but we sucked.

J: There was a lot of house parties and stuff in Portland back then and all these all-ages venues and stuff like that so it was really easy to play a lot if you wanted to.

 

And when did you (Chris) start playing with them?

Chris: I joined maybe…

Chev: Immediately after that first tour.

Chris: Yeah.

Chev: It was maybe a week after. We had a house show in Portland with the Clams and we needed him, he was in this other band called Boom! in Portland and they played with us so much and he’s such a good drummer we were like, “you can just totally figure it out.”

Chris: I already knew the songs you know, so I would just jump on a drum set and start playing with them. They asked me to play one show with them, it was this art type festival in Portland called TBA and they had built this crazy set design with like dinosaurs and paper machete and boulders and stuff.

Chev: And like a huge stage on top of the stage.

Chris: And it was my first show with them and there was this huge drum riser so I was the tallest person in the room playing drums.

J: It was like a BIG stage, humongous like a big theater.

Chris: Yeah it was my first show with them ever and I wore the stupidest outfit, like an over-sized Minnie Mouse pink shirt, it was really stupid.

Chev: It was your first show so we did a ton of practice with you to make sure you could do every song.

Chris: Yeah we practiced and played that show and then they were like “let’s do one more show” and I was like “okay, let’s do one more” and then they were like “let’s go on tour” and I was like “all right, let’s go on tour” (laughs).

Chev: You like accidentally joined haha.

Chris: And that’s what it was.

 

 

Okay I want to talk about your new album now. So your previous albums have paid ode to the classic surf-billy genre, but this new one has a cleaner country-vibe to it… What would you say brought on that progression?

J: I think it was just listening to a lot of… Well it’s been three years since the last one came out so I think shit just changes over time. A lot of old rock ‘n’ roll is just kind of country music you know? And that’s about all I listen to is country music.

 

Who are some of your favorite country artists?

J: Conway Twitty.

Chris: George Jones…

J: Yeah, George Jones. I like country from all eras.

Chev: Even like ’90s country. Which when we tour a lot we listen to a lot of country music by accident because we just go through the radio and around the country there’s a lot of old country stations, especially in Texas, we end up hearing a lot of that.

J: And I grew up listening to that, like Alan Jackson.

 

Do you guys ever play with country bands?

Chev: Not really, that’d be cool! That’d be fucking cool. We have a friend in Austin, we actually named one of our songs after him, “Corey Baum’s Theme”, and he plays in a really legit country band there and they play fairs and they’ll play for like five hours and just do a bunch of standards. But we never played with him. We should, that’d be really cool.

 

And you guys got Curtis Harding to play on one of your songs on the new album, how was that? Curtis is the best guy.

J: It was so sick.

Chris: It was awesome.

Chev: He’s such a good musician.

Chris: Yeah he’s so awesome. His voice is fantastic.

Chev: We hadn’t even sent him the song beforehand, he just showed up and was like “okay what do you want me to play?” and we kind of showed him, and he was like “got it.” And his first take was like that most beautiful thing I ever heard. He just killed it first take. And we did a couple of more, but it was just the most beautiful, perfect voice.

J: Yeah, he’s like actually good.

Chris: He didn’t even really try, he was just singing and then was like “is that good?” and we were like, “dude, that’s amazing, good to go.”

J: And then I’m like “Fuck I gotta do my take again because Curtis just owned that shit.”

 

 

So you guys recently toured Australia, and that place is fucking wild. Tell me the craziest story from that tour.

Chev: I’m going to tell a story that doesn’t incriminate anyone…

Chris: All right I want to tell my crazy story. We were playing a show in this little town called Ballarat and we played this show, and behind the stage there are bunks where you can sleep and stuff. And they closed the bar down, it was just us drinking all the liquor in the bar, whatever we wanted to drink we just drank it.

Chev: The bar was locked but we could get into it.

Chris: Yeah and they didn’t care what we were doing. So we were waking up in the morning and there was like… glass on the floor.

Chev: Haha yes! This is the story I was going to tell.

Chris: Yeah like a chair laying on the ground, and everyone was looking at me and were like “are you all right Chris?” and I was like “Yeah! I feel awesome, what’s up?” And they were like “Well you were insane last night.” And I was like “What are you talking about? We had a great time it was fun!” And apparently I threw a glass against the wall, next to the stained glass.

Chev: Next to the stained glass! He threw glass and it shattered on a bunk bed… Luckily no one took that bunk bed, no one cleaned it up it was just there.

J: Well I was in the stairwell making out with this girl and I hear “WHAAAAAAA” just like a fucking scream.

Chev: He screamed.

J: And we were like “what the fuck was that?” And it was Chris picking up a chair, screaming, and throwing it.

Chev: I was in bed and he just came in and he was like “WHAAA” and threw it against the wall…

Chris: And to this day I have no idea or recollection of that happening at all.

Chev: That’s why when you woke up everyone was scared of you…

Chris: Everyone was like “are you okay dude?”

Chev: He was like Hulk Hogan.

 

Damn that’s so good… Did you play with any cool Australian bands that really stood out?

Chev and Jason and Chris: Yeah!

Chris: There were some awesome bands out there.

Chev: We didn’t actually play with this band but this one band called Mangelwurzel, which is kind of an Australian No Doubt sort of thing, a little bit of Ska like they have horns but it’s also really jazzy but also progressive, lots of weird parts and changes, and the main girl has this big blonde poofy hair and a gap in her teeth and she’s super adorable.

Chris: Kind of like Cindy Lauper.

J: They were really tight and really good, like best musicians. It was amazing.

Chev: Yeah super amazing. So we saw them and hung out with them. And then we played with this band called Shabbab. The main guy is from Israel and when they are playing he will get naked, and he’ll squat and his balls are just hanging there. The other guys are giant Frank Zappa looking dudes and he’ll climb on their backs.

Chris: He’s tiny.

 

Would you guys say Portland has an influence at all on your Cali surf soaked music?

J: Absolutely none.

Chev: None. Not at all.

 

Yeah you guys are so different from the rest of the local bands out there.

Chev: We really don’t like Portland that much.

Chris: We don’t really hang there that much or hang out with anyone there that much except Mean Jeans.

Chev: It’s just like our home base and we tour so much. We probably play Portland least out of all the cities because when we get off tour we are home and we just kind of want to chill or we have shit to do get ready for the next tour or we are recording.

J: I don’t even know what the bands in Portland even are right now.

Chev: Yeah the only band we really know is like Mean Jeans. And there’s new ones but we don’t go to shows or anything, we are kind of clueless about Portland.

 

Would you ever move?

Chev: Yes, we are trying to move as soon as possible.

Chris: We’re working on it.

 

To California?

Chev: Probably down here yeah. Because most of our friends are actually here and when we are it feels way more like home. When we get to Portland it’s kind of …

 

 

What bands do you guys hate being compared to?

Chev: Ohhhhhh

J: (Laughs) That’s a good question.

Chev: Now we’re going, oh no I guess we don’t have to burn bridges by saying… (laughs). I don’t like being compared to newer psycho-billy.

 

Like what feels like an inappropriate or inaccurate comparison?

J: The thing that pisses me off are the reviews of our shit. It’s also like “Oh they are like Dick Dale” or a Quentin Tarantino movie… Which just shows how little you probably know about surf rock or rock ‘n’ roll and I hate when people review our shit and I guarantee I know a hundred times more than they do about rock ‘n’ roll or country music and that always pisses me off.

Chev: Or they’ll just compare us to the Black Lips or something that’s like “okay garage rock here you go” and pick out something, they don’t try to think about it. That’s what I mostly hate. If you can tell someone really thought about it, even if it’s a band I don’t like I’m like, okay cool this is what they got from it.

J: We used to get compared to The Cramps a lot which always bugged me.

Chev: Or Dead Kennedys we used to get all the time, I’m glad we don’t get that anymore. Not that I don’t like Dead Kennedys.

J: That doesn’t bother me quite as much.

 

I think I read something that compared you guys to The Mummies.

Chev: That’s a huge compliment.

 

What are some current bands right now that your fans should listen to?

Chev: Well out here No Parents, they’re great.

J: Natural Child.

Chev: I’m trying to think of newer bands I’m super stoked on. We played with Empat Lima in Australia, one of the girls is from Indonesia, one’s from Japan, one’s from Australia.

Chris: They’re amazing.

Chev: We saw their video and were blown away and then live it was the same. It was really good energy and so different from anything else you hear ever, in a really cool way.

Chris: The Memories, they are good friends of ours.

J: Wet Nurse from Florida. I’m sure there’s a bunch that we can’t think of.

Chev: I know now we’re being dicks.

 

No that’s all really good! Now to wrap it up, what would GBW’s motto be?

J: Fuck it dude life’s a….

 

Fuck it dawg life’s a risk?

J: Yeah just FIDLAR, YOLO FIDLAR

Chris: Yolo. (laughs)

Chev: Yolo, haha that’s stupid don’t say that!

Chris: Put it in a bag and twist it.

J: Yeah, put it in a bag and twist it.

 

All right kids you heard it straight from the source, put it in a bag and twist it, then catch GBW on the rest of their USA tour (dates below), and buy their new album while you’re at it, or pick it up via Suicide Squeeze.

06.08.15 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
06.09.15 – Asheville, NC @ Tiger Mountain
06.11.15 – Baltimore, MD @ Wind-Up Space
06.12.15 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Pharmacy
06.13.15 – New York, NY @ Elvis’ Guesthouse
06.14.15 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Wick
06.16.15 – Montreal, QB @ L’esco
06.17.15 – Ottawa, ON @ Ottawa Explosion
06.18.15 – Toronto, ON @ Johnny Jackson
06.19.15 – Detroit, MI @ Painted Lady
06.20.15 – Chicago, IL @ Bric-A-Brac Records
06.21.15 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
06.22.15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club
06.25.15 – Calgary, AB @ Sled Island
06.26.15 – Calgary, AB @ Sled Island
06.27.15 – Calgary, AB @ Sled Island
06.30.15 – Vancouver, BC @ The Fox Cabaret

07.02.15 – Seattle, WA @ The Highline
07.04.15 – Oakland, CA @ Burger Boogaloo
07.05.15 – Oakland, CA @ Burger Boogaloo