(This story was written for Ghettoblaster Magazine, issue 37.)
Self Defense Family lyricist/vocalist Patrick Kindlon is a complex dude. Part comedian, part curmudgeon he is self-critical, idiosyncratic, and honest in ways that likely immediately endeared him to his closest friends and quickly put him at odds with others. But he’s not worried whether his outspoken personality will alienate him or overshadow his output and isn’t afraid to say so, in frank terms.
“I don’t exist solely so some redneck can enjoy my music. Music is just part of the whole of my human experience. Anyone who would dismiss my work because they don’t like my personality is a shithead who doesn’t like music anyway.”
Similarly, it is his band Self Defense Family’s unflinching honesty that makes them so instantly enigmatic and compelling. Simply they aren’t the kind of band that waits around for the most ideal or convenient conditions to magically appear before beginning work, they react to and are catalyzed by whatever events are unfolding in their unique universe and their output follows suit.
“Not to get too new age on you, but a finished record is just a byproduct of the experience,” Kindlon explained. “If a situation sucks, we’ll make some stressed-out and irritable music that we will enjoy as much in the final summation as the material created in ‘ideal’ conditions.”
With this type of approach and sentiment at the forefront of SDF activities, it is no surprise that the family is in league with Jacob Bannon, Converge vocalist and Deathwish, Inc. head cheese, given Bannon’s own outside-of-the-box approach to his art, music and business. Doing it their own unmistakable way is the only approach that makes sense to Kindlon.
“There’s no real payoff to this if you don’t do it your own way,” Kindlon explained. “What’s the point of doing shit the same way as people who may do it significantly better or are at least more well-liked? Can anyone answer that? What is the possible return on that investment? You put in all that time and there’s nothing interesting to say about it in the end. I can’t do that shit.”
Self Defense Family’s family tree isn’t one that could ever be stitched neatly on a pillow either. The constant evolution of the act lends itself better to a musical collective than the traditional independent band mold of one simple, solid lineup. It isn’t unusually for there to be ten active family members at any given time. And no member of the assemblage has played every show or played on every recording by the collective.
Regardless of the rotating cast of characters and collaborators, Kindlon and company were busy in 2013. First, Kindlon’s other band, Drug Church, released their full-length, the now unfortunately titled Paul Walker, as Self Defense Family put finishing touches on the The Corrections Officer In Me and You Are Beneath Her EPs for Family Drugs and Iron Pier (respectively), splits with Code Orange Kids, Tigers Jaw, Goodtime Boys, and others, and the Try Me full-length (released in January via Deathwish Inc.). Kindlon is also one-half of Ashcan Press, a duo responsible for comics Newt, I Was A Teenage Vigilante, The Urn, Last Days Again, etc., and is involved in operation of Harm Reduction Records. It goes without saying that being busy is a natural state for Kindlon.
“I don’t get off on the same shit other people do,” Kindlon confessed. “Parties and all that do nothing for me. I like activities like video games, but after a short time I feel a nagging sensation that I should be doing something productive. Even if I’m not accomplishing shit, I want to at least feel like I am. Hard to get me off with anything else.”
Although Kindlon isn’t one for sitting still for long, he does recognize a time and place for certain undertakings. As with SDF’s earlier efforts Kindlon wrote all the lyrics for Try Me in the moment, ie. in the control room during the recording.
“I wrote the lyrics for each song immediately before walking into the vocal booth,” he confessed. “This is how I prefer to write if the session allows for it. Weird things come out and it’s more intuitive.”
As for the resulting output, the themes only recently became clear to Kindlon, “Now when I listen to it, I realize I was speaking on my dissolving romantic relationship. I didn’t know that’s what it’s about until recently.“
There are also a handful of glaring left turns on Try Me, including the inclusion of length interview/story pieces titled, “Angelique One” and “Angelique Two”.
“Angelique became a friend after I contacted her to model” Kindlon explained. “We’d talk and I was enthralled by her stories. I wanted to use her experiences as a direct inspiration for the record, but it came through entirely in the tone rather than the specifics. The interview felt like a natural part of the album.”
Self Defense Family spent late 2013 debuting the actually musical output from Try Me in the live setting. Atlthough at inception (around 2003), the band were primarily profoundly influenced by melodic Dischord bands, in recent years the band has grown into a new phase. This evolution has seen them explore post-hardcore territory also occupied by Lungfish and Wilderness, as well as delve into alt-country reminiscent of the Drive-By Truckers.
“People mostly stare at us,” Kindlon joked. “I assume that means they love it.”
One such jaunt included a trip to Europe with friends and labelmates Touche Amore, whose vocalist Jeremy Bolm spent part of 2013 answering the mail on some of his own outspoken opinions, most notably a refusal to consider doing Van’s Warped Tour.
“Self Defense Family wouldn’t play that either,” Kindlon admits. “Not for any high-minded reason…just because it’s not a good format to watch us in. And we’re a band of snobs that wouldn’t enjoy the experience.
“Drug Church, on the other hand, is the least snobby act I know and in that band I’d do almost any tour because I know the dudes would have fun. And I like motocross women with skunk hair, so no. I’d be into it.”