I sat down with Trauma Illinois via a phone interview after the festival. Things just did not line up for us to meet in person the day of their show. I had read their entire story before the Bunbury Festival and I was super excited to have a chance to speak with these three very talented individuals and learn more about them. I could tell from the moment the phone connected they were a fun bunch. They all laughed and spoke in turn. I had them all say who they were to get a feel for their voice since I could not see them. Jack decided that they should say their name before they spoke and that got a laugh from everyone, including me. After a few introductions more and some basic conversation we began the interview.
Garrett – vocals Jack – drums Brendan/BB - guitar
Michele Blue: You have been together for about a year now? Garret: Officially yes, as Trauma Illinois. We were another band called Blank State for like 3 years prior. MB: Was it a different sound or was it something similar? G: It was totally different. We had 5 members. Jack played guitar and sang, and we had a keyboard player and a different bass player. It was very alt-rock sort of in that Coldplay and like between Coldplay and the Black Keys.
MB: So how would you say that this band here, just the three of you, how has it changed your friendship being that it is more business than friendship? Jack: Yeah, that is something that we have talked about from the very beginning. I have been in several bands throughout my life and this group here were the first one that BB and Garret were a part of, Blank State and so I have been dealing with the business part of being in a band since I was about 12 years old. When I started my first band I was the leader of everything and I was in charge of everything, so I had to make sure that everybody was clear on, you know, who gets paid what and why and copyright issues and all of that stuff. So, I’ve made it very clear when I met these guys that those things were going to be a big part of being in this group. I think that we’ve all handled it very well. We can pretty much treat the business like it is something that is a given. Like that is just something that we have to do, and our friendships don’t really... I mean they aren’t really affected by it.
MB: There are a lot of times in bands where people have issues with it being more than friends, I mean you are all guys, so it is a little different, but sometimes people will date when it is guys and girls or date each other’s siblings and there are issues. J: Haha! Yeah, I actually have a story with the first group that was called Feedback that I was in. We tried to bring a girl on and my best friend was the guitarist at the time and I told everybody, I mean I had a sit down with them with the girl and without the girl and I said, “you cannot date this girl. She is our singer and she is there to sing for us and she is not there to ogle at and blah, blah, blah.” And it still didn’t work, and the guitarist ended up betraying me and it was this big dramatic thing. Unfortunately, I have lived through that… you know, the times when business gets in the way of the friendship. MB: It reminds me of No Doubt and that situation. J: I compared it to Fleetwood Mac, but yeah… it is all very similar.
[There was a lot of laughing in between questions and I was totally loving that about talking with them.]
MB: Was Bunbury your first festival? BB: Yeah kind of. G: Yeah, we’ve been for the past 2 months… we’ve been playing this festival called Hippy Fest. Where there are a bunch of locations all around the east coast and the Midwest. The booker Tyler booked us for all 12 Hippy Fest events that happened throughout the country. So, we have now played 4 of them. And that is sort of what we have been doing for the summer. MB: Wow. that is impressive. G: Yeah, it’s really amazing. It’s all hippy’s and free love and that kind of stuff.
MB: Were you prepared for the acoustic set, artistically speaking since you are more rock than a laid-back acoustic sound… or would you have preferred to be on a different stage? J: We would have definitely preferred to be on the main stage, but yeah, the acoustics set was sort of a challenge. Every once in a while, throughout our history we have played acoustically, but we definitely do it infrequently. G: Now though, with our longer shows, like our Hippy Fest show… it’s a 2 hour show so we actually do end up playing 4 or 5 acoustic songs during that set. So recently we have had a little bit more practice. BB: Definitely enjoy it, it’s just different. G: Yeah, the difference is that you can hear… I mean the voices are the main focus on the acoustic set, and so it sounds very beautiful when it all aligns nicely. So, it’s good to hear and it’s also just easier to perform. BB: That’s true. G: But you don’t’ get that effect on the crowd, you can’t get the, you know, that big presence that we are going for when we make our music. MB: I was there for the first 4 or 5 songs of your set at Bunbury and you sounded great. BB/G/J: well, thank you. MB: And it is hard to slow it down when you have more of a rock sound. G: It kind of helps you know, like the way I write lyrics… it’s kind of folky. It really is like a folk song, so even if we play a rock song we can always adapt it to be more of a folk acoustic type of thing. J: it’s a fun challenge too, because of the fact that we are constantly playing electric guitars and electric instruments so when we strip it all down its kind of difficult because you have less at your disposal. BB: Yes.
MB: Do you have any upcoming studio time, or are you focusing on touring this summer? J: We just got out of the studio in like early May we went and spent 4 days in Cleveland with this guy named Ben Sheagle. So, we are about to release a new song. BB: Two new songs, right? G: Or I guess we’re doing them one at a time, but we recorded two new songs. J: And then hopefully at the end of the summer, if we can work up the funds for it we will go back and record a third song and release an EP. BB: Yeah. G: The main thing right now is just getting the venues to pay us more than $300-400 bucks to play a show. MB: Right, because that barely pays for the gas and hotel. J: Barely, yeah.
MB: Are there any festivals that you would like to have a chance to play at? J: Sonic Temple BB/G: Oh, yeahhhh! G: Sonic temple would be awesome! The one where System of a Down played earlier. J: Bonnaroo, I mean if we are talking like real dreams… Bonnaroo of course. I mean like all the big ones. Coachella, that would be amazing! G: We see a lot of bands that get big and then they stop touring… I mean, they stop really playing out a lot and I think that’s going to be the opposite for us. Once we start getting opportunities, I think I just wanna stay on the road most of the time. BB: Yeah, me too. G: And play like every festival that they will let us play. You know, just be at every show in the country. I mean, why wouldn’t you? J: I mean we are in this for life, so… MB: If you ever get a chance to go overseas are you open to that as well? J: Oh yeah, G: Absolutely! BB: I would love to do a European tour. G: Australia. J: Australia, yeah… that would be so cool!
MB: So that leads me into a more in-depth question. I personally feel that a healthy mind and just being in a good mindset is important for musicians. I know a lot of musicians struggle with that while they are out on tour, because there is a lot of influence out there with drugs and alcohol and just going down the wrong path. Do you feel that you support each other, do you have people back home for that support, or how do you get that feeling of being grounded while on the road? J: That’s an in-depth question there. G: Basic answer is that the three of us are absolutely best friends and we will never let each other do anything stupid. J: We’re like a family or sorts. BB: Yeah. I would definitely describe our little group, we’ve had a group of friends that’s been with us forever or that you know we’ve just developed really close relationships with and we have this home base and no matter where we are in the world… we know that we can always come back here and that it will be safe. And drugs and alcohol are something that we’ve thought about and talked about an awful lot. We’ve kind of exhausted the worst-case scenarios. We’ve worked really hard to get into, like you said, a healthy mindset. To get into a mindset that is sustainable and successful. J: We’re all pretty big on exercise too. Because a healthy body contributes to a healthy mind. And when the two can synergize… G: However, I have a little nuance answer to that too. There have been times in my life where I was deep in a miserable hole, you know. I mean I’ve always struggled with depression and then when we got into this car accident, I don’t know if you heard about that? MB: Yes. G: We got into the car accident and it kind of really ruined my whole experience with high school at the end. It pretty much dropped me into a really bad state of mind, with anxiety and depression. But I found that when I’m at my worst, I can write some of my best lyrics. So, there is a little bit of a weird thing going on there. Where you kind of have to be subject to some emotion and some feeling… whether it’s pain, panic, or stress, or umm… a deep longing. To really get into that zone of songwriting… passionate song writing. So, there is always a balance, you know. You have to experience your life and you have to face reality head on. No matter what the emotional cost of it is. But you have to also make sure that you have friends and family to fall back on.
MB: I completely agree. That actually leads me to my next question. Are there any lingering issues from that car accident… the one that gave you the name of your band, or is everyone pretty much healed up as far as injuries go? G: It is something that none of us will ever forget. It certainly is something I will never forget. I mean, yeah... it will never go away completely. BB: At this point, it’s done a lot more good than bad, believe it or not. G: Exactly. It’s the greatest worst thing that has ever happened to us. It really opened up our eyes to reality and the world. We’ve pretty much buckled down about becoming a successful rock band almost immediately after that. J: Like after we had that insane bonding experience it was really hard to just go back and try to resume a normal life. BB: Yeah, exactly. MB: Yeah. I was in a minor car accident last summer, and it does… it puts things in perspective and I just had to focus and realize, hey you’re ok… you’re going to be ok. G: Yeah. And it is… it’s traumatic. Trauma Illinois! That’s what happens and these traumatic events… I think back to therapy sessions and they seem like to us, they are like these giant pillars in our history and everything else in your life kind of blurs together but these either traumatic or extremely pleasurable events happen to us and they seem like the only things that ever happened to us. A lot of times right after a traumatic thing, that’s all you are thinking about. Even if you have other things on your plate to take care of and be responsible for you still can’t get that [event] quite out of your head. And that’s a really powerful drive to try and get better.
MB: So, lighter question. Did you have any favorite festival foods when you guys travel, or did you stick to the catering food? BB: Well, the Bunbury festival food was amazing! J: Yeah it was so good! BB: It was the best food I ever had in my life… like anywhere. G: We didn’t get any catered food at Hippy Fest. MB: Yeah, I heard that it was an industry secret, the catered food for the artists. Most people do not understand that the musicians get this amazing catered food all day, so they do not have to go out to the food carts. J: I didn’t even know it until we walked in! G: Yeah, I had no idea that was even a thing. It was so crazy. And they had three meals. They had breakfast, lunch and dinner. They like changed it all up, and all of it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it… it was so cool. MB: So, you stayed to just the catering and not any of the festival food? G: Yeah. I mean I have attended Bunbury festival 4 years in a row. This was my 5th. So, I’ve had my share of the festival foods. J: That was the crazy thing. We’ve all been there before many times to watch our favorite bands and it was… I mean we never even thought that it was really possible for us to play there until like a year ago really. Just walking there, like the crew was guiding us through the back areas, you know, past the crowds and through all these back-stage areas. It was freakin surreal! It was amazing! G: I felt like a real rock star for sure. BB: Yep, yep! That was a great experience.
MB: That pretty much answered my next question of how you felt performing at Bunbury… BB/G: So amazing! J: You go there as a member of the crowd for so many years and then you are like… suddenly you have these VIP only and all access passes and you can walk right into places like you own the place. Like, it was so crazy! BB: Definitely the number one recommended way to enjoy a music festival. J: Yeah, just play there. G: When The 1975 were getting ready to go on stage and they were putting together their giant rectangles that they have, and I was standing in the VIP area just waiting and enjoying the weather and I looked over at the general admission side and they were completely packed in, like sardines. J: In the same spot, like the same row that we were in. G: And behind me was like nobody. I think no one even showed up until 10 minutes before the band went on and it was just so nice. Although there is some art to being in that general admission area where you are like hot and sweaty all day because you waited for your favorite band to go on. There is something very beautiful about that as well.
MB: Last question here… is there anything you want people to know about you as a band or just your message that you want to get across to the fans? BB: Hard question. G: Everybody LOVE everybody J: Yeah that’s a good one. G: Mainly that everybody feels alone, and everybody feels like they have to take life’s hardest challenges on alone and none of those challenges are easy even if you have people and you know, there is always going to be something that you can do to pull yourself out of some bad spots in your life. I mean, unless you die. In which case, I am sorry, but you know no matter the trauma and no matter the hardship…. Everything is temporary. You will get through it. It will pass. Recognition that it is not easy. Basically, I just want people to know that they are not alone in these fucking hard questions that we have about life. Why are we here and why are we doing this, uh, and what is this all going towards anyway. These big societal questions. We don’t have answers to them, but we can certainly lay them out for people… and also just good rock and roll music. J: Yes, it’s a lot of messages. We haven’t really figure out a way to sum it up really easily. We’ve got a lot of thoughts to get out. We’ve got a lot of songs to write before we can really show people what we mean. BB/G: Yeah. exactly.
MB: So again, I love all of your back story about everything that you went through with the accident. I was really excited to see you guys play, and I was excited to get a chance to interview you. Sorry it wasn’t in person during the show. Things got a little hectic there at the festival. G: You were great, this was great… thank you! MB: No, thank you guys so much for taking the time on your weekend to get together with me, and hopefully I will see you guys at another festival or hear your songs on the radio in the upcoming years. G: Hell yeah! MB: thank you guys so much, I wish you all the best. G/J/BB: thank you very much. Peace!