The last time The Suicide Machines released an album, back in 2005, the world was a very different place. George W. Bush had just started his second term in office, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the southeast and Inked was still a year away from releasing our first issue. It’s been a long 15 years, but the time was finally right for a brand new Suicide Machines album.
On March 27, the quartet from Detroit will be releasing “Revolution Spring,” their first album of new material since 2005’s “War Profiteering Is Killing Us All,” on Fat Wreck Chords. Last month we got a taste of what was to come with the release of the album’s first single, “Awkward Always,” an upbeat, ska-influenced tune that will surely be a singalong for years to come.
Today, Inked is pleased to premiere the second song from the album, “Anarchist Wedding.”
“That was a good friend of mine who got married and it was just so strange to me,” frontman Jay Navarro explains. “It's a strange thing to think about someone like two activists getting married. You just don't think of anarchists getting married.
“That's silly. Why wouldn't anarchists fall in love and get married?” Navarro continues. “It's something I'd never thought about until that moment. It was a straight-up, really anarchist wedding. There was a maypole, and kids [the bride] teaches in the city playing violins, and home-brewed cider. It was everything you think it would be. And you think, okay, you know what, the world's not so bad right here in this moment.”
We spoke with Navarro about the long wait between albums, the importance of optimism, scaling abandoned skyscrapers in downtown Detroit and a whole lot more. So crank your speakers up, throw the song on repeat and read the highlights from our interview down below.
Inked: It’s been 15 years since you’ve released an album. What made you want to make new music once again?
Jay Navarro: I guess it's been 15 years cause we’re lazy (laughs). I don't know, we wrote songs over the past 15 years and they didn’t… It was like forcing it a little bit. Then about two-and-a-half years ago, we wrote a batch of songs and we were like, “Wow, these actually really came out great.” I finally felt like I had maybe something I could write about, a focus on where I wanted to go with all the lyrics for the record.
I wanted to approach stuff a little bit differently and six, seven months after that we wrote a bunch more, and they were even better. And we're on a roll. Next thing you know, we had like 29 or 30 songs.
It sounds like the decision to move forward with the album came from finally being happy with the songs that you were writing.
I also don’t want to be one of those bands that is just a nostalgia thing either. It was definitely just waiting for the inspiration in it.
One thing that has always made The Suicide Machines unique is the way that each album seems to have its own signature sound. What were you going for this time around?
The record definitely has a little bit of everything we've done, but there's definitely a new flavor in the music. I don't know if that's because [guitar player] Justin [Malek] put his stamp on the band finally. The other thing I was trying to do, and I'm not trying to be self-centered, but this record is more about where I've been and where I'm at now. Whether it be personal, socially or politically. It's where I'm at now and the road to get here. I wouldn't say it's autobiographical, the whole record, but it's pretty close to that.
Another weird thing was when we wrote those first three or four songs and we were like, “Oh, these are good songs.” I realized all three were not about me, but about where I've been, I guess.
Like you had tapped into something that had been building up?
Right, right. And then it dawned on me that I've never really done that with a record. So that's kind of where most of the writing went as far as lyrical content. There's a lot of living in 16 years, you know what I mean?
Can you elaborate on that a little?
I mean, for example, the last two records were very like, “This is bad. These people are bad.” You know what I mean? Pointing the finger at “them” but not really doing much about it and just, you know, screaming and kicking about it. I think 16 years later I realized maybe I should have been pointing the finger at myself. I don't know if that makes any sense.
To me, everybody can be like, “Oh this band is political and it's a political record.” But not really, it's just music. It might motivate you to do something, but it's just songs. My records aren’t actually doing anything.
But don’t you think that the messages within the music do something? I remember listening to my first Bad Religion album and it definitely helped develop how I think politically.
There are things that change your mind, things that point you in a direction. I think The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra pointed me in a direction. [Music] can set your pace for the day when you hear the song or something, it can steer you a little bit. But I feel like I was just complaining about the world and doing nothing. People are so quick to point a finger and they don’t think, maybe be a better person or be more involved. The music can inspire you, but nothing's going to happen unless you make it happen.
I’ve seen elsewhere that you’ve been describing the album as optimistic.
This album has an extremely positive outlook. Don't get me wrong, there are dark moments because like I said, it's a little bit about where I've been and I'm here now. But it's seriously a very optimistic record overall. It's really more of asking yourself these questions. I know what I've been through. To be a little bit more hopeful about things, because more likely than not there are a lot of people worse off than you.
I think sometimes everyone gets so lost in their shit these days. It's hard to be optimistic.
You're 100% right. I'm just as guilty as falling into it once in a while lately. But I really try a lot more to think about the possibilities of what could be better in my life, or in general really.
When it comes to optimism, having a little ska in there always helps.
For sure. It can always lift up your mood even if it's a negative song.
Can you tell us about your very first tattoo?
It was probably about 1987 or 88 and I was playing in a punk rock band called Positively Negative. Yeah. (Laughs) I know there's probably a million of those bands around the United States. That's like the most common punk rock band name of all time. And unfortunately our symbol was a torn, half smiley face/half skull. It’s so totally stupid. I went to this biker guy’s apartment building. He tattooed in the basement of his apartment complex. I mean, it was the community basement, like where they store stuff. They had a locked up storage unit with fencing. It must've been maybe for the laundry room, it had a sink and a toilet.I got that symbol tattooed on my back, about the size of a baseball. It was very much illegal and I was very much underage.
Is it still there?
(Laughs) It’s covered up. To be honest, I think I wish I still had it. Now I have a better sense of humor about things. I think I would enjoy it if I could see it still.
That’s a great introduction to the world of tattooing. Have any other crazy tattoo stories for us?
I can tell you a really fun one. I used to go get tattooed a lot in San Francisco. Jeff Rassier did a lot of tattoos on me, as did Scott Sylvia. Those guys were in Detroit [along with Freddy Corbin from Temple Tattoo] for a tattoo convention and they called me up like, “Hey, come on down, let's go hang out.” So I went down there and they're like, “Well, it's almost over.” I'm like, “Where do you want to go? I can get you in a bunch of abandoned skyscrapers. You want to go downtown and go in all the abandoned skyscrapers?” They're like, “You gotta be kidding me. Are you serious?”
I took them into the Old Book Tower, which is like, I dunno, 37, 40 floors abandoned completely. Took them all the way to the top right up on the elevator shaft. roof. Now like they're totally uneasy about it and afraid. I've been in there a million times, it doesn't bother me. And we got into the elevator room upstairs and we got totally swarmed by sparrows. They're screaming like little kids don't get me wrong, I jumped too. We got seriously swarmed by like a hundred sparrows or pigeons, I don't even know what it was, in the middle of the night (laughs).
(Laughs) Detroit is pretty wild. I’m guessing that by this time you’ve met a lot of fans with The Suicide Machines logo tattooed on them. What’s that experience like?
I don't know man. It's, it's uncomfortable. That being said, we ripped off that logo from a local band in Detroit that we love called Gangster Fun. It's kind of like our tribute to them and I think I'm actually going to get a gangster fun tattoo.
So I don't know. I guess I'm a hypocrite by saying it makes me uncomfortable. I'm flattered. It's humbling, by all means. But I just always think, you know, this is a logo for our band. What's it matter?
Bands can mean a lot to people. I’m sure you have some music-related tattoos.
I've got lyrics tattooed on me from other bands, so maybe if there was like a lyric or something it would make me feel less uncomfortable. It's weird. It's like getting a Nike Swoosh tattooed on you or something. I'm not sure how else to put it. It's a strange thing. Um, I'm not knocking it.
I’ve got an Avail tattoo... I've got a bottle of poison with two snakes. I love that record so much. I've got some Operation Ivy lyrics on me as well. Now I'm starting to realize I do have a lot of band stuff.
I was sitting down eating lunch one day with Bill Stevenson from The Descendents, and on my shoulder, I have a coffee cup and it says, “Thou shall not partake in decaf.” One of the All-O-Gistics. He was like, “Jay, you have an All-O-Gistic tattooed on you.” I was like, “Oh yeah. I guess it's weird cause we're friends, right?”
It’s not weird to have talented friends.
I love it. (Laughs) I love a lot of my friends' music, you know what I mean? I'm very lucky to have a lot of friends that have done some very meaningful things as far as activism or music or art or skateboarding or any of that.
What are your plans for supporting the album? Will you be touring?
For the Midwest and East coast, we'll probably just do weekends because we can do that while living in Detroit. We are going to hit the West coast at the very end of August and September. We're going to Europe— the UK and Germany for a bunch of festivals. We never really had that. People never really liked us very much in Europe for some reason. We always just played squats to like 50 or 100 people. I don't know if it's because we’re on FAT or what, but there is all of a sudden this crazy interest in us.
Maybe they’ve spent the last 15 years listening to all the older albums.
(Laughs) I mean, maybe it finally caught on. It only took 25 years.
Be sure to pick up "Revolution Spring" when it comes out on March 27, 2020. You can find all of the places The Suicide Machines will be hitting on tour by clicking here.