Originally from Palm Desert, California Lowercase was brought to my attention in the form of their debut album All Destructive Urges...Seem So Perfect. I was immediately amazed and mesmerized by the sounds Imaad Wasif (guitar, vocals), and Brian Girgus (drums) had created on this masterpiece. Their structures were minimal and haunting. Very few albums get my blood racing like this one did. The band has relocated to San Francisco and since the interview added a bass player, Justin Halterlein, and released yet another wonderful album Kill The Lights. Brian did most of the talking because Imaad was feeling ill from the meal he had just eaten at Taco John’s. They both advised me to stay away from the food there. MAY 27, 1996.
Fungus Boy: Since I don’t
know too much about you guys give me a run down on how the band got started.
Brian: We’ve been playing together for like two and a half years. We started playing in his old house in Palm Desert and then we started—like first I was gonna play bass and he was gonna play guitar, we figured we’d find a drummer and that seemed really hard so then I decided to play drums and we figured we could find a bass player and that didn’t really happen. So then we just said, “let’s leave it the way it is”, ‘cause it was
easier than finding people (to play with).
FB: So you guys met in high school?
Brian: Yeah, we’ve known each other for like—I’d always had known who he was.
Imaad: Actually I think that we just met from going to shows and seeing each other. We sorta knew each other.
Brian: Yeah, we always knew who each other were but we were never friends until just like a while before we started playing music.
Imaad: We were just tired of what was going on in our town.
Brian: Yeah. This is the first band I’ve been in, and this is like your second band? Yeah, I’ve only been playing drums for as long as the band’s been around.
FB: So you decided you just didn’t need anyone else in the band?
Brian: We had this one guy that we were playing with like before we called ourselves anything.
Imaad: He was into playing punk rock.
Brian: Yeah he was a shit for brains so we just said, “Hey we’re gonna break up”, and we were lying ‘cause we wanted him to quit. So then we just started playing just ourselves and we just said that we’ll turn the guitar up a little bit and maybe that’ll pick up some of the slack.
Imaad: And it did, we think it did.
FB: How long were you together before you put out your first single?
Brian: We got that in February, about a year.
Imaad: Yeah, around a year.
Brain: Punk In My Vitamins put that out, a label that we like. It’s run by this really nice guy named Vern.
FB: The guy from Unwound.
Brian: Yeah. He put that out. It originally was just gonna be like a cassette but...
Imaad: It turned out so shitty we decided to make it a seven inch.
FB: How did you get signed to AmRep, because your music is kind of a departure to their usual.
Imaad: Yeah really.
Brian: That’s whats kinda rad. (loud motorcycle in the background causes me to miss a line) I have this friend, this guy Gary, have you ever heard of a place called the Jabberjaw?
Brian: I’m pretty good friends with the guy that runs that place. He was always friends with the guy that runs AmRep and he just had a tape of some stuff that we recorded and he sent it to ‘em and Tom liked it. Then he called us one day and then he came to see us one day and asked us to do a seven inch, so we did a seven inch and that was fun.
Imaad: He said. “Lets go do some records”.
FB: Do you think the name Lowercase throws people off any, they might think you to be a heavy band?
Brian: I don’t think it’s the name of our band it’s the name of the label, everyone knows AmRep.
FB: They think of like Guzzard.
Brian: I mean, I don’t know...
Imaad: I think we’ve both thought about it for a long time before like if we go play to an AmRep crowd and there’s people that don’t have any idea what we’re like. I mean it’s just like fuck it we’re just doing a record on a label that we like and we think is good. If people are not gonna listen to it because the label it’s on then that’s their problem.
Brian: I think that if any band puts out a good enough record I don’t think it matters who puts it out. And
AmRep have been like the awesomest people to work with.
FB: They’re branching out more.
Brian: Yeah, they’re definitely taking a turn from the usual deal which is pretty good because it gets stagnate. Don’t you think so, if a band has a good record it doesn’t matter what it’s on.
FB: I know.
Brian: It doesn’t matter if its on Atlantic or Capitol or Kill Rock Stars or AmRep.
FB: Thats what I’ve tried to say to people before, if it’s a good album who gives a shit?
Brian: I’ve totally been guilty of like “Oh, it’s not indie”, but then when it comes out—think about like all the good records that came out in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s, all that stuff was always on major labels. Like Gang Of Four and Echo And The Bunnymen, or whatever, it’s always on major labels but they’re fuckin’ great records. You know how you’re like, “Oh, it’s on a major label so I can’t listen to it”, I think it’ll be the same, it’s the same way now (he’s talking about the number of good albums out on majors). I mean, fuckin’ who cares what label something’s on, if it’s good it’s good.
FB: I don’t the liner notes for the new album because I just have the promo CD....
Brian: There’s no liner notes.
FB: Where did you record it at? Did you record it in a house?
Brian: We recorded it with this guy Tom Grimley. This really amazing guy in Los Angeles who has this studio (Poop Alley).
Imaad: Do you know who he is?
Imaad: He does stuff with like Beck and That Dog.
Brian: He’s an amazing guy to work with, he’s just fucking awesome. Like we recorded that first AmRep seven inch there too. That’s my favorite thing we’ve recorded. But he’s really nice to work with and he’s really totally mellow. He’s pretty affordable, you know.
Imaad: That’s where we did that (the album).
Brian: We didn’t take as long as we would have liked to ‘cause it didn’t really come out sounding kinda how we wanted it. But I sorta like the way it sound but there’s a lot of things we could have done differently.
FB: I like they way it sounds. To me it sounds as though you were just playing live somewhere and somebody
just happened to tape you.
Brian: Yeah, that’s what everybody always says. They say it sounds really live.
FB: It does. Especially that one song when you can hear a phone ringing in the background. It sounds like
you were playing at someone’s house and just popped a tape recorder out.
Brian: And then like the third song like at the beginning you can hear like a door open. And it’s my friend walking into the bathroom and she’s about to use the bathroom. And she like takes her pants off and you can hear like the “shhh” of her pants, but then it gets louder before she pees, so would’ve been able to hear her pee maybe. I don’t know, I mean I wish it could’ve been a little like cleaner, ‘cause there’s a lot of like weird things in the background.
Imaad: There may be, but I rather have it cleaner next time.
Brian: But hell, it’s our first record.
FB: I think the whole sound of it is—I don’t know, it’s kind of rare to capture something like that.
Brian: Yeah, I’m glad you feel like that. That’s the way I thought about it too for a long time. I mean I’ve just listened to it too many times, it’s hard to have an objective opinion on the record of your band as opposed to someone else’s.
FB: Who are some of your favorite vocalists?
Imaad: Uhh, David Bowie, Lou Curtis(?), Robert Smith, Kurt Cobain.
Brian: Kurt Cobain. No shit, he’s awesome.
FB: I was thinking of things to say in your review and I thought of some of the screams like Mark Arm in early
Green River and some Kurt Cobain style.
Imaad: That’s pretty good.
Brian: Yeah, but I mean all those guys have awesome voices. I love Mudhoney and I love Nirvana, I don’t really like Green River. But, fuck, Nirvana, it’s like fuckin’ heavy, so much of the time it was just amazing.
FB: A lot of the times a voice makes a band.
Brian: Yeah, totally.
FB: Even if the songs aren’t that good...
Brian: Look at that guy. (laughing) (a guy driving by) A tie, and a fuckin’ coffee, and a fuckin’ cell phone. What an asshole!
FB: I’ve heard bands that have had great music and then their singer just ruined the whole thing.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Imaad: Who’s a good example of that?
FB: This band called Into Another. The music’s good but the singer ruins the whole thing.
Brian: I’ve heard of them but I’ve never heard them. Who’s a really good example of that? You know I was thinking about this the other day, I was thinking about how I really liked this band but the vocals just drove
me fuckin’ up the wall. I was just thinking about that.
FB: So do you already have a lot of new songs written?
FB: How long ago did you record the album.
Brian: October, so that’s like eight months. We have just about enough for a new record but I think it’ll be a good while because this one just came out. But we hopefully talking on a maybe putting something out in January or February. I mean that would be great ‘cause the stuff we’ve written right now, (to Imaad) I think you’ll agree, is like the best stuff we’ve ever written. It’s the best stuff we’ve ever written. It kinda makes the other stuff sound like shit.
FB: When are you supposed to start touring with Unwound?
Brian: That already happened. We finished off with them Thursday? This past Thursday in Green Bay.
Imaad: It was like—there was nine shows. We started in Northern California and it was eight or nine shows.
FB: I was hoping both of you would come here together.
Brian: I wish they could take us farther, that would be amazing.
Imaad: Yeah, they’re fucking great.
Brian: It’s funny ‘cause like I kinda lost a little faith in that band, you know. Just because like I’m not really into “New Plastic Ideas” or “Future Of What”, but like there’s really good songs on both, but I just don’t like the way they are as records, or something. I haven’t seen ‘em live like in a really long time, and I’m like, “Wow”, they just fuckin’ blow me away every time. But then the new record is, thank god, an amazing fucking record. Almost every show we played with them it was like, “Thank you for getting us back in line”.
FB: (We take more about Unwound) I don’t know how those guys keep it up though, every year an album.
Brian: I know, even less than a year sometimes.
Imaad: See that’s what I want to do. I just want to fucking keep putting records out. ‘Cause we write stuff all the time.
Brian: We write like a lot of music. We write songs really fast.
FB: Are you one of those bands that likes to record a lot too? Even home recordings?
Brian: Yeah, we haven’t really had a chance yet. We started touring quite a lot. We never record four track or anything, we haven’t in a long time. I like to when we go home actually, I'd like to see what we can get down. Not necessarily to put out because I don’t like—you know like all the stuff that Lou Barlow does, like Soul Junk, you know them? It’s just like they put out so much stuff, it’s probably all good but you just can’t
keep tabs on what’s coming out.
FB: That’s part of the reason I never got into Sebadoh. I felt that there was just so much shit out I wasn’t even
going to bother.
Brian: Really, they’re so good though. We played shows with them and they were awesome. Yeah, see I totally agree with what you’re saying ‘cause I have like two or three Sebadoh records and there’s so much stuff I don’t have that I’m even gonna try to get it because I’ll be spending oodles and oodles of money.
FB: That’s my problem, usually when I get into a band I want to have everything they have out.
Brian: Yeah totally. It’s so hard with... But I definitely like the way with Unwound you can always count on a record coming out. I want to put out a record like more than once a year, like once every nine months.
FB: How many times have you toured the U.S.?
Brian: We haven’t.
FB: This is the first time?
Brian: No, we’re not even going across the whole U.S.
Imaad: This is actually our Wild West tour.
Brian: (laughing) Yeah. We’ve done like all the Western states like Utah, like Colorado, and Wyoming.
Imaad: Yeah, we’ve done all the crazy...
Brian: We haven’t done the East Coast or West Coast or South on this tour. It’s like the Western States and in between. It’s like 20 shows, it’s our biggest tour yet. We just haven’t really gone.
Imaad: We’re just waiting for someone to take us out, ‘cause we’re way too lazy.
Brian: I mean I booked this and I hate booking. I mean I booked like the last eleven shows of this tour, fuck that. I mean I can totally respect the bands that book their own tours but fuck that, booking sucks. It’s total hell. I got like 220 dollar phones bills too, and it’s like “Fuck, that’s a lot of money”.
Sometimes I Feel Like A Vampire b/w Surefire Solvent 7” Punk In My Vitamins 1995
Brass Tacks b/w Star ‘80 & Sixteen Million Reasons 7” X-Mas Records 1995
Cadence b/w No. 6 Arc 7” Amphetamine Reptile 1995
All Destructive Urges...Seem So Perfect LP/CD/CS AmRep 1996
Kill The Lights LP/CD AmRep 1997
The Going Away Present--PNMV 1998