Crime In Stereo is one of those bands that has been pushing themselves as much as possible since their start in 2002. Now with 4 LP's, 2 EP's and a Split with Kill Your Idols under their belt, the Long Island natives are on the road once again promoting their latest album, "I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone", their second release on Massachusetts record label Bridge Nine Records. I was able to catch an interview with guitarist Alex Dunne at their recent Boston CD Release show at the Middle East Downstairs on March 2. We sat down in the upstairs restaurant, ordered some coffee and dug deep to find out what Crime In Stereo is really all about.

Tom: Why don’t we start by having you introduce yourself.

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex from Crime In Stereo. I play guitar and sing, kind of.

Tom: I wanted to talk about your new album, “I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone.” I think it sounds a lot different than your other albums, but what exactly was going through your mind when you guys were writing the album. What was the band going through during the writing process?

Alex: Hmm…I don’t know, that’s kind of a very abstract question. At the time that we did it I was teaching high school government, actually. I was teaching 12th grade high school government, and at the start, this is when we started doing pre-production because we started the record in I believe April so I was teaching through the end of the school year in June and I was basically, you know I was at work from 7 to 230 and then I would drive straight to the studio and then I was at the studio from 4 to 1 or 2 in the morning getting like 4 or 5 hours of sleep and then back to work every day. Christian was going through a pretty bad break up. I don’t know, it was a tough time. It was stressful.

Tom: Well, something good came out of all of it and that’s all that matters right?

Alex: Yeah.

Tom: So in your opinion, how does this album differ from all your other albums?

Alex: Uhm, I mean it is different. I mean I think the ways that it is different is apparent to anyone who listens. I don’t know, if I had to describe how it’s different, I don’t know, it just is. It just is.

Tom: Why did you guys decide to redo “Dark Island City”?

Alex: When we did the first Dark Island City it was written as two. They were always together and it just ended up being one that made that record and we always had the other one. But it was re-written several times, the lyrics were there and the concept was there but the music kept changing over time and with this one it just came together. But it was always going to happen, ever since Troubled Stateside. I mean the fact that the second Dark Island City would have come out on another record was always going to happen.

Tom: Why was that the plan for it to come out?

Alex: Just the whole idea behind the two songs. When you’re making a record, not everything goes as plan, you know, you run out of time, you run out of money, you know something maybe doesn’t fit the feel of the record, you know there’s a million things that can go into it so it just came together now, but if it wasn’t on this record it would have been on the next record or a record ten years from now. Maybe there will be another one.

Tom: Now, the two times I have seen you guys in Boston, they have been at all ages venues. I know that the last time you played here was on the Brand New tour at the House of Blues, which was also all ages. How do you feel about the all ages scene in Boston and New York right now? It seems like they are diminishing.

Alex: It’s very difficult, these record release shows are really like our first time ever as a band having to deal with not all ages shows. We have always been an all ages band as long as we have been together. But really what’s happening now, is promoters just don’t want to do all ages shows because there is too much risk for loss with you know, them not being able to serve at the bar and, I don’t really know what goes into the decision making process , but its not like behind the scenes there like you know there’s some big nefarious kind of like “oh if we do 21 and over they’ll pay us more” or anything like that. Its not the case. What it really comes down to is it’s a 19 or over or 21 or over show or there is no show. It’s not like it was even an option. So for example, the show here, if they wanted it to be on a Saturday, they would absolutely not do an all ages show on a weekend and then the only way we could get it 19 and over and not 21 and over was to have it as a matinee. So we fight hard, we really do and our booking agents kind of you know probably think we’re being immature about it, but we do fight hard for all ages and the fact that it was a matinee show at 1pm was the compromise we had to make to even get that Boston show to be 18 and over otherwise for them on a weekend they will only do 21 and over because its Friday night, its Saturday night and they need to have the bar open. That’s how they make their money, they don’t want to waste their time with an all ages show on a weekend. So for example, the New York City show, when it was on Friday night was 19 and over and now that it got moved to a Tuesday night its all ages. So on Tuesday night they don’t give a shit, you know they’re like “alright whatever its on a Tuesday night have it we don’t care.” But on a Friday night, they know that if they put in a drinking crowd, for example, a club like Webster hall where our New York City show is…if we’re going to sell it out with 350 people, that same room would rather have 100 or 120 people of a drinking crowd than 350 people of an all ages crowd because of that 350 the only money they’re getting is what comes in at the door and that’s it, where as if you get 100 or 120 people of a drinking crowd and it ends up being a good drinking night, there’s a huge potential for backend profit, so almost every venue of every where now doesn’t want to waste there time with all ages shows on weekends. They want a drinking crowd and for us as a band now with a major booking agency and starting to be in more legitimate venues and less VFW’s and catering halls, it’s tough. It’s tough…it’s crazy. I’m sorry that was such a long winded answer.

Tom: No, no. The whole all ages topic, I love it because it’s so surprising how the alcohol industry has such a hold over the music industry.

Alex: Well, that’s really a broad generalization because its not like the alcohol industry has a hold over the music industry, it just comes down to dollars and cents like if it was you’re business, if you owned a club, you would feel the same way. You could be the most DIY legit dude, and you know have all your punk rock ethics and ideals but when it comes down to it, you need to pay your bills and if it’s the difference between keeping your business open or not, I mean those are the tough choices you have to make. For example, like the Triple Rock in Minneapolis, those are the guys from Dillinger Four and they know what’s up, those are like legit DIY down to earth dudes but their shows aren’t all all ages, they do a ton of shows that are 19 and over or 21 and over. You know we have to ask specifically for all ages shows and it’s the same thing like if we want a Friday night at the Triple Rock and we want to do all ages, and they have an offer for a Metallica or some gimmicky cover band that they know is going to bring a 21over crowd regardless, absolutely 10 times out of 10 the dudes from Dillinger Four are going to do the gimmick cover band over Crime In Stereo because that’s there business, they have to keep their doors open. It’s not like the alcohol industry has a stranglehold on anyone, it’s just those are the economics of real life.

Tom: So what do you think people can do to, even though the whole business aspect of everything kind of takes control and you have to look to making a profit, what do you think people can do to still help the all ages scene in the meantime?

Alex: Well, you know the same option that was always there, which is do DIY shows. Rent out a VFW, rent out a catering hall, an artspace, you know something like that and put on your own show. The problem becomes when you’re dealing with bands that then outgrow those things. You know what I mean? So for example, us on long island, its tough because there is really only one legit venue, the Crazy Donkey, and it sucks. You know I think there is a new place but for arguments sake to illustrate my point, there’s really one place you know the crazy donkey and it sucks and its 1000 capital and they don’t want to do lower than 15 dollars a ticket and they don’t want to do all ages shows especially on weekends. But the DIY spaces that are available hold 150 kids, 200 kids, so what do you do? You can’t make everybody happy. If you play the DIY space you have to turn 200 kids away at the door who don’t get to get in to see the show. Or you do it at the Crazy Donkey and everyone has to go to the venue that they hate and half the kids cant get in because they’re under 21 and its like there’s no good answer. It is what it is. You’ll never be able to make everybody happy. Ideally you could, but there’s always something. Take like Gilman Street in San Francisco, Gilman Street is amazing. If you draw 40 kids or 400 kids they’ll have a show for you and its DIY, there’s no bar, there’s no alcohol on premises, they divvy up all the money between bands, other than expenses. It’s amazing. But if you’re with a major label or a major booking agency, they wont deal with you. We go way back with Gilman Street, we’ve played there a bunch of times, we’re good friends with the people who book there. But if we sign with a major, they won’t book us there anymore.

Tom: Really?

Alex: Absolutely, 100%. And what do we do about that then? So now we want to play San Francisco and we can’t play Gilman and now we’re stuck at a major club. And it sucks because for a band like us we’re kind of a mid size band. We draw, you know a couple hundred kids maybe, or less, give or take.

Tom: Yeah, you’re right on that threshold.

Alex: Exactly. So like most of the major venues are for 500 or 600 people. So what happens when you’re less than that but slightly a little bit more than the 150 cap DIY space. It sucks, I mean it sucks but it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do.

Tom: Well, that was a pretty good response on the all ages topic. I ask a lot of people about that and its really surprising how a lot of bands aren’t really that passionate about it, because the whole business aspect makes sense, you need to try and make a profit. But at the same time I feel like a lot of bands need to work harder to kind of, even though they’re trying to grow, still maintain the DIY ethic.

Alex: Well I mean it depends because for years it was never an issue for us because we always played like underground DIY shows and so it was a non-issue, you know what I mean? Like it never came up. No one ever said “oh you have to do 21 and over” because in the world in which we existed it was just not an issue and no one ever said that to us. Like, we only played DIY shows, we were always in CD bars and VFW's and catering halls and things like that and so when we would go out and do a tour with like, Have Heart or Blacklisted and Verse and Guns Up and Life Long Tragedy kind of like our group of bands that we all came up touring with, it was never an issue, it was totally a give in that the shows would be all ages. But now, things have changed for us slightly and so now we’re kind of playing more like legit clubs, less DIY spaces. Some of that is because of us and some of that is because a lot of those DIY spaces just don’t exist anymore. And now its an issue and it’s a totally new experience for us because it was never something we had to deal with before and it was actually pretty shocking to us when we started booking with our new booking agents and they were like, “you know you guys cant do a whole tour of all ages shows right?” And we were like, “wait really?” You know before this year I would say that the number of 21 and over shows that we played literally was no more than 3. In our entire existence as a band I could name them. You know like, I know there was night in San Diego, we were on tour with Polar Bear Club and Broadway Calls and it was the only show we could get. Maybe 1 or 2 more times when we were first starting out, but before this year maybe 3 times total in our 5 or 6 year history that we played age restricted shows and now in the last month we’ve probably played half a dozen.

Tom: Wow. That’s Ridiculous.

Alex: It’s crazy.

Tom: Are there any cities or areas in the country that are more lenient as far as the all ages scene is concerned?

Alex: No, I mean there’s not really so much a thing as an all ages scene. Some places you go and there’s subsidized community centers which are always really, really cool. In Santa Cruz there’s one, there’s like a community center that they let have shows. There’s some places in the Midwest in Missouri, and places like that. Strangely enough, there’s a lot of like, Christian collectives and cooperatives like in Joplin, Missouri that have amazing venues that do all ages shows, that don’t care whether or not you’re a Christian band and they’ll do all ages shows. But for the most part, it’s business. Owning a venue is like owning a restaurant or a bar and its basically the worst business you could go into. On top of that its so hard to own any mom or pop self proprietor in this day and age. And when you’re dealing with like, Live Nation, who owns venues and like, these major conglomerates that are in the business of owning rock clubs and you own like, the Middle East or like, a local kind of place, they’re not trying to fuck around with all ages shows. I mean the stakes are big for whoever owns this. This is there livelihood, this is how they pay their bills, this is how they pay their kids tuition and if you think they’re going to risk all of that because of your local punk rock show, it’s just totally unrealistic. That’s just not the way the world works and people need to understand that. So I wish there was an all ages scene. I feel like when I was growing up there was, but when I was growing up I went to shows in warehouses, you know I went to shows in warehouses and every VFW in long island and catering halls and shitty dive bars where they would have shows because that was the only way they could make money, they couldn’t get people in the door otherwise and you know that’s never going to die out. I think when you talk about in terms of all ages, you mean like big shows “all ages” you know, kind of in legit venues and things like that you know the VFW’s and catering halls are never going to have age restrictions, that’s never going to die out. But if you want to go see the Dropkick Murphys do something like that, then it’s a different a story. Imagine you were in, I’m just using them as an example, I have no idea if their shows are all ages or not, but say you’re in the Dropkick Murphys and you’re going to do a 60 day tour and they average out the numbers and they’re like well if you do 21 and over you’re going to average out 17000 dollars in guarantees a night and if you do all ages shows you’re going to average out 7000 dollars in guarantees a night and someone puts that in front of you and you’re a dude in this band and you’re talking about a difference of coming home from tour with 30000 or 40000 dollars in your pocket…its rough out there. As much as people want to support DIY and independent music and shit like that. It’s tough. It’s definitely tough out there. Not everyone can be like Ian Mackaye and really stick to their guns. It’s not black and white.

Tom: That’s a good answer, I like that. Well, I think that’s going to do it for the interview. Thanks a lot, it was great to have you. Do you guys have any plans for after this tour to come back to Boston.?

Alex: Yes. I think we’re going to come back and do a very special something…a very special show at probably like the end of April, early May. I think we’ll be back to do something very special.

Tom: Why exactly will it be so very special?

Alex: Well, you’re going to have to wait. I can’t say yet. But yeah, you know this show is at the Middle East and there was a problem with the age restriction and everything so next time we come back in about, I guess like two months, I would definitely like to and expect to see the show at the ICC in Allston or the Cambridge Elks Lodge right across the street. So when we come back it should absolutely be in one of those two places.

Tom: Well, that will be a lot of fun.

Alex: Cool.

Tom: Well thank you for the interview and congratulations on the new record.

Alex: Thanks a lot man I appreciate that.

Crime In Stereo is currently on the road promoting their latest release, "I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone." Make sure to catch them when they come to your town, or when they come back to Boston in April or early May. You can go to to buy their album or for tour information.

Also, as we were leaving I realized I didn't pay for my coffee. Oh well.


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