Punk Interviews

Interview: Ray Carlisle from Teenage Bottlerocket!

Teenage Bottlerocket recently passed through London on the Slam Dunk Winter Jam tour and played an absolute belter of a set! Punktuation’s Alex Goose caught up with co-vocalist/guitarist Ray Carlisle for a chat before the show.

Ray, hello! How’s the tour been so far?

“It’s been great! It’s an honour to be on this tour, and to be surrounded by so many lovely people. We’re just gutted that it’ll be over very soon.”

Thanks for coming over when the weather here is so bad!

“No problem, man, the plane tickets were so cheap!”

Have you toured with any of the other bands [Millie Manders and the Shut Up, Spunge, Zebrahead] before?

“Yes, we played with both Millie Manders and Zebrahead at last year’s Slam Dunk Festival in the UK. Also, Zebrahead’s singer, Adrian, used to sing in a band called Assuming We Survive, and their bus broke down on Warped Tour back in 2016, so they hitched a ride on our bus! We also know [Zebrahead guitarist] Dan from his days in Death By Stereo. We didn’t really get a chance to talk to Millie Manders at Slam Dunk, but we’ve hung out a lot on this tour, and now we’re good friends.”

Teenage Bottlerocket, Electric Ballroom, 26/01/24. Pic by Alex Goose.

It won’t be long now until you guys reach the 25-year mark – a quarter-century of Teenage Bottlerocket! 

“That’s true! We’ve been celebrating a lot of 20th anniversaries of our earlier releases. Our first record, ‘Another Way’, came out in 2003, and then next year will be twenty years since our second record, ‘Total’, so I guess we think about it in terms of records rather than years.”

Any particular memories of your first trip to these shores?

“Absolutely! We first made it over here with the Descendents [in 2011]. The first time we played, it was a disaster, because [Descendents vocalist] Milo lost his voice, and then they cancelled the second night in London. So we put together a last-minute show at an open mic night at the New Cross Inn, and apparently since then they’ve had hundreds of punk shows! Maybe us showing up with 300 random punks made them realise they could do shows there.”

Yeah, I think you may have started something there!

“It’s possible – I’ll certainly take credit for it! [laughs]”

Tell us a bit about ‘Sick Sesh!’, your most recent record. Was there anything you did differently in writing or recording it, or was it made in classic Teenage Bottlerocket fashion?

“We were certainly interested in making it a bit more noisy! We wanted it to sound more human – not to say that we don’t like the sound of our previous records – but yeah, the ‘human’ knob has been turned back on.”

And I can hear it! How do you manage to sound so positive and youthful after all these years? What’s your secret?

“I think it just comes from playing the kind of music that we love to listen to! We love expressing ourselves with that hi-hat rhythm and the downstrokes on our guitars, and it just creates this kind of wall of sound that the Ramones basically invented. On our records, we’ve managed to capture a kind of ‘concentrated fun’ – just good feelings! We like to throw a few oddballs here and there, though.”

Even on darker songs like ‘Bloodbath At Burger King’, you all sound so stoked! 

“[laughs] Yeah – it’s like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones had these super-melodic, poppy songs, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s like “Jeez, what are they singing about here?!” We’re certainly guilty of doing the same thing!”

You’ve also avoided politics in terms of lyrical content. Still no plans for your own ‘Bonzo Goes To Bitburg’?

“No, I think we prefer to stick to what we know – and that definitely doesn’t include telling people what to eat or who to vote for!”

You’re constantly compared to the Ramones, and I’m a huge Ramones fan – I even like a lot of the late 80s stuff, when they started faffing around with synthesisers? Did any of you ever see them when they were around?

“I didn’t, and neither did Kody, but I think Joey came to a show that The Lillingtons [TBR lead guitarist Kody’s previous band] played, or something like that. But we’ve watched ‘End Of The Century’ countless times, and I’ve certainly seen plenty of footage of them playing here [the Electric Ballroom]! The Ramones made it here in London long before they made it in America – they often played CBGBs in New York, which is a closet compared to this place. Then they’d fly over here and sell out an over-1000 capacity venue!”

Do you ever get tired of the comparison, though? Any other bands you’d like to be mentioned in the same breath as?

“No, we’re fine with it! Recently, though, I’ve been listening to a lot of music that’s not punk. I heard a band recently that I stole a couple of guitar riffs from – I’m not going to say who! So yeah, we’re still influenced and inspired by newer bands. But the Ramones, Screeching Weasel, Green Day, The Queers…they kind of laid the foundations for much of what we love, and as I said, our formula is to play the kind of music we love!”

Well, thank you for keeping the pop-punk torch burning! Personally, I can kind of credit NOFX for getting me into you guys, after Fat Mike mentioned that The Lillingtons’ ‘Death By Television’ is his favourite pop-punk album. So I discovered TBR via the Lillingtons.

“Yeah, I think quite a lot of people discovered us that way! And then others would see our name on flyers and start listening to us out of curiosity. Nowadays, of course, a lot of people find out about us via Spotify and other streaming services. But yeah, especially at the beginning, a lot of it came from being on tour with bigger bands. The Bosstones took us out, so did Me First And The Gimme Gimmes…NOFX took us out five times! It was very much a different age as far as getting your foot in the door.”

So how’s the rest of 2024 looking for you? Any particular plans for after this tour ends?

“Absolutely! After we get home, we’re doing some dates in Texas and Florida with Broadway Calls, then some more dates with Authority Zero to celebrate Brandon’s birthday. Then a bunch of festivals that are mostly yet to be announced, like Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas.” 

And finally, any new bands that you think deserve a mention?

Yep, check out the SACK record, ‘Ripper’ – it’s mine and Kody’s other band. He writes all the songs, and it’s inspired by bands like Day-Glo Abortions. If you like Teenage Bottlerocket, you’ll also like SACK!”

Teenage Bottlerocket’s ‘Sick Sesh’ is out now on Fat Wreck Chords. Check out their official website for all things TBR!

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