Reagonomics’ Trickle-Down Sound

In what would have been the year of Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, what better way to celebrate all that the staunchly conservative icon stood for than to launch a goofy – though remarkably infectious pop punk band, named after his questionable economic policies.

Reaganomics did more than just prop up the rich, crush the working-class labor unions and lead to the closing of mental health facilities across the country (helping the homeless population explode in growth nearly overnight), it also serves as a kickass name for the Chicago-based pop punk band comprised of the former members of Ryan’s Hope.

Singer/guitarists Greg Alltop and Terry Morrow spoke about the band’s mission, the future of Ryan’s Hope and their frenemies in the 80’s cover band with the same name… Oh, with Lower the Bar they’ve also managed to turn in the best debut of 2011 so far… you know, for what it’s worth.

IW: Were all of you in Ryan’s Hope?

Greg Alltop: Me, Terry and Nick (McLenighan) we’re in Ryan’s hope but I really wanted to play guitar in The Reaganomics so we recruited our old buddy Eddie Cantu to play drums.

Terry Morrow: Eddie’s been in every band, ever.

IW: What happened with that band?

Alltop: We are talking about playing a show soon.  Like the great Aaron Lewis once said “It’s been a while.”  The ‘Nomics have been taking up most of our time, which I enjoy because playing drums is exhausting.

Morrow: A lot of people say, “Hey ‘Nomics is okay, but please bring back the Hope.”  We’re just having a lot of fun doing this right now, it doesn’t mean Ryan’s Hope is no more, it just means we’re enjoying not taking being in a band too seriously right now.

Nick said something about using a thesaurus to write Ryan’s Hope lyrics, and now we just write about anything we want, mostly light beer and animals.  It’s just honestly so refreshing doing Reaganomics.  We’re having more fun than we’ve had playing music in years, and I for one am loving sharing the lead singing duties.  I used to kill my voice in Ryan’s Hope every night and I like sharing the reigns with these goofballs.  I think it’s funny that Nick’s in the middle when we play live.  I feel like Slayer when he’s singing lead vocals…like a sloppier, poppier, less impressive Slayer.

IW: In putting together Reaganomics – did you have any rules about the music you were going to write and play?

Alltop: When it comes to writing songs and playing live we just don’t try. Whatever happens just happens.  With Ryan’s Hope we really thought everything out so it’s nice to shut our brains off, drink beer, and see what happens.

Morrow: There are no rules…it’s really relaxing being in this band.  Sometimes we set up and just throw around new songs, sometimes they formulate into something, sometimes they turn into improve nu-metal jamming.  It all depends on how many cold ones are in the mix.  For me, when I write a ‘‘Nomics song, I just want it to have a good melody.  I think about old Green Day songs and how they still have so much meaning for me because the melodies were amazing.  I don’t think about lyrics as much, I’ll say anything if it fits a good melody nowadays.

IW: Is the song “Stop Sending Me E-Vites To Your Show” directed at anyone in particular?

Alltop: Not anyone…everyone.  For awhile it seemed like every band we met and played with was more focused on looking the part, having the nicest gear, having enough merch to clothe a small village, and constantly promoting their product rather than writing a song that was worth a damn. I’m sure we’re not the first band to touch on the subject.

Morrow: I just honestly hate opening my e-mail and seeing “Free download of The Blackest Tears EP, come see us in Elgin!” as much as I’m an advocate for starting a band and playing music, I really hate being force-fed promotional info, especially from bands who have no idea who they are.  Plus I just think the term “E-Vites” is hilarious.

IW: Ryan’s Hope tended to bounce around to a lot of labels. How did you connect with Toby at Red Scare for this one?

Alltop: We recorded a couple of shitty demos of some songs we wrote and posted them on MySpace.  Toby got a hold of us and said he liked the songs. We did the first EP Get Lost, Stay Lost, digitally, and Lower the Bar is our first proper release with Red Scare.

Morrow: We really just wanted as many people to hear our tunes as possible because we thought our stuff was pretty solid. Toby understands the situation nowadays, in fact he’s the best match we’ve had label wise with any band we’ve been doing.  We’re humongous fans of all the Red Scare stuff, so it felt like a huge deal getting to work with him and playing with Teenage Bottlerocket, Cobra Skulls, and I still kind of wonder how this band has gotten to play with these bands that we look up to so much.  Toby has been a good guy through all this, and he’s responsible for any bit of success we’ve seen.  We’ve just been sitting on our asses, playing Beat Kitchen once a month!

IW: Who did you record the album with?

Alltop: Joe Gac manned the board for us.  He’s pretty good at putting up with our smells and drinking habits.

Morrow: He really dealt with a lot.  We did both releases with Joe, he’s a lot of fun, and he really knows how to capture our shittiness.  We did a lot of drinking and fiddling around with parts.  Nothing was off limits, i.e.: the organ on “You’re Done”.  We were in my basement, and Greg was like, “Hey play organ over the outro.”  “Okay.”  Then I was like, “Hey hit record I’m going to laugh obnoxiously at the end of this song.”  “Okay.”  We didn’t all agree on everything, but it never got too “Some Kind of Monster” in there.  Nick was having trouble getting his vocals started so he ordered Eddie to grab some Bushmills.  Eddie doesn’t drink, so part of the fun was knowing Eddie went to a store and said “Do you have Bushmills?”  A few swigs later, Nick was knocking his takes out. We almost called the album “Whiskey Helps.”

IW: You guys played a decent amount of live shows in 2010. Do you plan to tour much in 2011?

Alltop: We’ve got some shows coming up and plan on booking more.  We’re not planning on any six week tours or anything.

Morrow: We honestly didn’t play that much in 2010!  Like I said, a handful of Beat Kitchen shows and a couple trips outside of Illinois, but our support of Get Lost, Stay Lost was pretty much us playing a monthly show and hanging out with our friends and acting like fools.  I think we definitely want to support this album and at least get the word out on Red Scare and what it’s all about. But we have this way of just playing gigs as they appear, so we’ll see what happens this year!

IW: Was this pretty much a one-time album or do you plan to record some more as Reaganomics?

Alltop: I know we’d love to do another album for Red Scare.  We really like what they’re about and they’re roster is impressive.  No matter what happens I’m sure we’ll be putting out more music.  We have a few songs recorded that didn’t make the final cut to the album and we’re always writing.

Morrow: We’re going to keep getting together and making more songs.  I’d really love to do another full length release next year.  It’s so much fun to just turn it up and play.  I’m not sure how things have gone this well, given the people in the band, and the content, but I’m having a ball.  I think having Greg and Nick writing so much has made this what it is.  We sort of work off one another, and end up influencing each other’s songs and Eddie always takes to new tunes really well and chimes in with good ideas, and pizza.  I’ll never stop writing songs.