Not many punk bands incorporate can masterfully incorporate the intricacies the keytar instrument brings to musical arrangements, but DrainBabies aren’t your run-of-the-mill punk quintet. Yes, the five men of DrainBabies enjoy beer swilling and skateboarding but three of the band’s members are software coders and guitarist Chris Wireman shares The Carpenters as an influence on their music. Wireman along with vocalist Alan Stewart discussed the punk rock lifestyle here in the Mile High City with AXS just days before their upcoming performance at the UMS.
AXS: Are you all Denver natives? If not, where is everyone originally from?
Chris Wireman: I’m originally from Lexington, Kentucky but I’ve been in Denver since 1989 with stays on most major continents and in most major pubs.
Alan Stewart: John is from Washington, D.C., Dave is from Iowa, Lelan is from Oklahoma, and my spaceship crash landed in Brooklyn.
AXS: What brought DrainBabies together?
Chris: Beer. Punk rock. Bad jokes. A lounge on Larimer Street. Web Service calls and SQL queries. And most definitely our love for applying rhinestones to our dance costumes.
Alan: John, Dave, Chris, and I used to drink at the same spots and watch the same bands, after a few years of drunk talk about it, we finally made it happen. Lelan joined about a month after our first house party show.
AXS: Where was your first show in Denver (with all five members), and what was the experience like? Who else did you play with at the show?
Chris: I believe it was at the infamous Rockaway Tavern. I remember a women hit on me after the show, but I was too sweaty and tired to react, mostly because I had to work the next day and load equipment that night. The glamorous music business in all its glory.
Alan: Our first full show was at The Rockaway Tavern with Sons of Disobedience, Ill Will, and Tard. We had a great time but it was a little stressful due to worries about whether we were going to be awful.
AXS: Have any Denver musicians inspired DrainBabies?
Chris: Lothar and the Hand People, Firefall, The Apples in Stereo, and Frontside Five.
Alan: We're inspired by anyone who gets out there in front of strangers and puts their heart into their performance. For us it's all about the live show and connecting with an audience. For me personally, The Fluid defined what a great live band is like, and John Robinson is one of my major role models as a front man.
AXS: What else is DrainBabies involved in locally, either as individuals or as a group?
Chris: I pay the bills by being a software coder in sector 7-G for a mega-corporation, as well as do a very random skateboarding video podcast at 64mm. I live in Five Points with my wonderful wife, Amy, and an insane dog named, Keith. I skate when I can.
Alan: We're working stiffs for the most part. Dave, Chris and I write computer code during the day, John does package delivery. Lelan is the interesting one, he has his own company hosting Bingo nights at local watering holes.
AXS: Does DrainBabies have a goal in mind for the sound the band produces? Are there certain influences or themes the band tries to inject into its own music?
Chris: I’ve always been an avid fan of American garage rock. I learned guitar by playing hardcore punk rock and bluegrass/country blues. So, I infuse those elements and a healthy influence of The Who, XTC and The Carpenters into the mix.
Alan: We don't usually think too hard about we want it to sound like, but we definitely want to make people move, and hopefully share what we're feeling in our songs. There have been times we'll try to write a fake Pixies song, or a fake Husker Du song, but those don't stick with us like the songs we come up with organically. More rock organ is about the only consistent goals for our songwriting.
AXS: What projects are DrainBabies currently working on?
Alan: We're currently working on a four song EP with Bart McCrorey at The Crash Pad, we're pretty excited about that, it will be our first release. Trying to get a few new songs finished is our only other current project.
AXS: For the UMS attendee who has never seen or heard DrainBabies, what would you tell them to entice them to watch your set?
Chris: That if you place three computer nerds and a professional rhythm section in a small basement they can indeed produce some face melting rock and roll along with an exciting live show. Plus, there is Devo sometimes, Lelan is sexy and Dave plays a keytar.
Alan: We love music, the people who listen and watch it, and the people who perform it, let us show you how much and you'll have a great time.
AXS: What would DrainBabies’ ideal live show look like?
Chris: A crisp fall evening. DrainBabies opening for a reunited Husker Du, April Wine and Prince at the Ogden. An encore of ‘Big Bottom’ by Spinal Tap with everyone in all the bands plus local bassists Tim Vigil, Bryan Wentzle and Rocky Ramjet.
Alan: My dream bill would be at The Gothic with DrainBabies opening for The Hives, Reigning Sound, and The Murder City Devils.
AXS: Besides your upcoming performance at the UMS, what other shows are you looking forward to this summer?
Chris: I’m always down to watch Black Lamb, Frontside Five, Pitch Invasion and Smokie. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Giraffes will do on this upcoming tour. Also looking forward to playing some shows with bands we haven’t played with yet and some more with bands we have.
Alan: I'm looking forward to The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), and The Afghan Whigs.
AXS: What has DrainBabies learned in its years together?
Chris: That we all really are fans of one another’s playing.
Alan: Relax and have fun on stage and the audience will have fun too. Finding enough time to practice and write new material is hard when everyone works for a living. Trying to organize things with other bands in the mix is like herding cats with ADD.
AXS: What do you enjoy most about Denver’s music scene, and why?
Chris: I often enjoy reading the free alternative papers at venues, numerous beer specials, reading bathroom stickers/graffiti and the sheer amount of musical talent in this city. You can catch a good local act almost any night of the week if you are so inclined.
Alan: How inclusive and supportive it is. It's pretty rare for a local show not to have a significant percentage of the audience be in bands themselves. It's like one big social circle with very soft lines between audience and performer. I know when I got back into seeing shows about 10 years ago I made a lot of friends who just happened to be in bands that I watched perform regularly.