Raw energy. Electricity. Blood. Sweat. Mojo. These were the elements used to forge what we now know as “Rock and Roll”. Knowing the storied musical history of our fair city, it’s surprising to see all of the different ways that successive generations of modern youth have evolved that original formula and used it to express their discontent, lust for life, or any other fleeting emotions incidental to youth. With the proliferation that’s possible because of technology, and the ever expanding genre database thats applied (or mis-) to music, it’s heartening to see a band like Flaming Death Trap get back-to-basics with what made rock music so initially exciting. Does it still work? Their debut EP Drugs Alcohol Little Sister made the top selling charts at Vintage Vinyl.
We talked to Anthony Maurice about how growing up in a small town is inevitably a Midwestern songwriter’s muse, and why he was pleasantly surprised with our town’s reaction to his relatively new band.
MOTH: How would you describe Flaming Death Trap’s group dynamic?
Well I’ve known Danny, our guitar player, since I was a kid. He was one of my first friends when I moved to the small town that I grew up in, and we had a band. He was the one that taught me how to play guitar when I was about 15, and we’ve always played together. Brandon, our bass player, moved to our small town and we befriended him pretty quickly. He played guitar at the time. And my brother plays the drums.
MOTH: What was the small town that you grew up in?
We went to St. Clair High School, an hour west of here. Terrible town.
MOTH: What is the songwriting process like for Flaming Death Trap? Is it a collective or singular effort?
It’s me. I’ve been writing a lot of songs lately, actually, but it just depends. I can’t sit down and write a song. I constantly have a guitar in my hand and I’ll probably write 10 or 15 things that I like a day, but I just usually don’t do anything with them. But lately, it’s been fairly easy. I’ve written three songs this past week, and that’s pretty good. So I mean, that’s what it is, I guess. It’ll usually happen at the same time, too [music and lyrics]. I’ll write the lyrics off the cuff and usually they’re pretty good, and I’ll work with them to make them as good as I can. Then I take it to the band and they’re like, “Alright”.
MOTH: Your debut EP, Drugs Alcohol Little Sister, just came out. What recording experience, if any, did you have prior to that?
All the recordings that we’d ever done were off of GarageBand and it was usually just Danny and I. Danny, our guitar player, would just play the drums and I would write the song and we would just record everything ourselves, track all the stuff. But when we did the EP, we went to Patrick Crecelius, who did Radical Sun’s and Bear Ceuse’s album as well as bunch of other people, and we had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t have any money and we basically recorded our entire EP in about four hours, so we just blasted. We had like 50 bucks and wanted something, so that’s what came out. Just… blast.
MOTH: What is the catalyst for the set of songs you have on the EP?
They’re all about growing up in a shitty town and reading good books, failing school, and smoking cigarettes. It’s about, I don’t know, being dirty. I think for me, if you wanted to know anything about me, “Dirty”. The lyrics are pretty heartfelt and meaningful and that’s exactly how I feel, and that’s my song. But as a band, I mean, all our songs are just stupid, dumb, rock n roll songs. They’re smart and witty in their own way, but they’re not meant to be tearjerkers or party music. It’s just supposed to be indie rock: cool, fun, and loud and fast.
MOTH: What are your intentions for recording vs. performing live?
Everything we do is what I want on the record. I don’t want to do overdubs, I don’t want to auto-tune my vocals. I want it to sound like a dirty trash band; sound like a band. I hate that bullshit, that pisses me off. When we went to record with Pat, I dug out his old shitty mics and I was like, “Use these. This is what we’re using.” We used all the shittiest stuff and that’s what I wanted it to be.
MOTH: Well an album can always be misconstrued, but you can’t deny a band’s live presence. Are there any benchmark bands for you that have a stage presence you’d like to channel?
I haven’t seen a whole lot of bands lately that have a very good live show, and I don’t think we do, either. We just play really loud and get hammered. I haven’t really seen anybody that surprised me with their stage presence. Musically though, definitely. Nowadays I don’t know if that exists so much anymore. Older ? The Replacements. The Replacements are my favorite band, and they’re nuts and fun. Those are my idols. Paul Westerberg is a genius, I love him. That’s kind of who I built Flaming Death Trap around a little bit.
MOTH: You talked about growing up in a small town, going to St. Clair [High School], so obviously you’re from the county.
I guess. I grew up in a field…
MOTH: Do you have any ideas on what would have to change as far as making independent music more accessible to kids outside of St. Louis City?
You know, I don’t know if they even care. Maybe it is that they just don’t even know, but I don’t know if they know better. I don’t know if they even care that it exists, and that sucks. I mean, we play dive bars all the time in shitty towns and I think it’s really fun. And we play the kind of music that I think a lot of people can get into, that stupid Rock N’ Roll. And it’s fun even if you don’t like cool music. It’s still kind of fun, I would imagine. Hopefully. But I don’t know how to do that. We play, and I talk about cool stuff and try and get people into cool things. Laura and my Dad were the only people I knew that had that had that kind of … I don’t know what they have. Whatever it is that can kind of guide you in some sort of direction. I didn’t know any better, I was a kid in the woods, and they were doing artwork and reading good books, and that’s the only thing I think, that kept me on track even a little bit. My dad, even though I didn’t see him very much, he would mail me books all the time and stuff like that.
MOTH: You live in the [Central] West End now, is that just a matter of proximity?
Cameron [Matthews from Bear Ceuse] told me he could get me a job at Pi, so I work at Pi slinging pizzas and yeah, I live in the West End now. It’s okay.
MOTH: Who would you say are your peers, musically?
Raphael Maurice, from Miles of Wire. Ray had a lot to do with me liking music and the right books. He’s my uncle and still, he’s my best friend. He actually lives right down the street from me; we hang out all the time. He’s in a new band called Grape Knee High and I kind of play with them a little bit. They’re pretty cool. All his music is fantastic.
MOTH: Being a fairly new band, what would you say has been your overall impression of the St. Louis music scene so far?
Pleasantly surprised. We’ve only been a band six or seven months. I didn’t expect anybody to even notice who we were, but I’m glad. And I’m glad that people understand a little bit what we’re doing, too. There’s always somebody talking to me, writing about us or whatever, and that’s really cool. I definitely didn’t expect that at all. I don’t know why bands don’t get noticed from around here. I mean, locally they do, but on a major level they don’t. It’s weird. Highway Matrons and Miles of Wire, to me, are two of the most fantastic bands of all time, hands down. And they made $2 and two albums and nothing happened. It’s just a shame to me to see that and it scares me, frankly.
MOTH: What’s up next for Flaming Death Trap?
We are recording some new songs in the next month and putting out a new EP and possible LP. We’re shooting a new cover this week hopefully, and the album will be called Are We Getting Pulled Over.
MOTH: What are you listening to?
I actually just made some sweet purchases the other day. I got the new National, which is fucking amazing. This one’s called High Violet, and it’s fucking phenomenal. And I got Beach House, their new CD, which is really, really good, Morning Benders, and Brazos. None of it’s Rock n’ Roll, which is funny. I don’t listen to Rock n’ Roll for the most part, I just play it.