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Tobin Bawinkel of Flatfoot 56.
By Len Nash

Tobin Bawinkel is from the Chicago band Flatfoot 56. The interview was held inside The Warehouse, a club in Willmar,Minnesota on February 28th, 2004. We took a seat in the game room before the show with the tape recorder rolling. Come on in and take a seat on one of the surrounding couches. 

Len Nash: Tobin, what's the name of your band, who are the members, and what do they do?

Tobin Bawinkel: Flatfoot 56, from the south-side of Chicago. I am the main vocalist and rhythm guitar player. Josh is our bagpipe player, lead guitar player, and he also plays mandolin. Justin is our drummer,he's a phenomenal drummer and also does back-up vocals. Kyle is our bass player and sings along with me. Both Justin and Kyle are my brothers.

Nash: Why the name Flatfoot 56?

Bawinkle: We kind of changed the meaning of the name a little bit. The name Flatfoot is an old slur for a police officer. It was an old gangster type poke at police officers. Originally, the reason for the name was that we were making fun of our little brother. Who was running around the bases and his baseball number is 56. He has really flat feet and he looks really funny when he runs. He's embarrassed about it (laughs). So we kind of changed the name to the whole police officer thing.

Nash: What's the history of Flatfoot 56?

Bawinkle: We started in around August of 2000 as a three-piece pop-punk band. It was me and my two brothers, Kyle and Justin. Josh joined in February of 2001. The idea was for him to occasionally play bagpipes. When we learned he played guitar too, we said, "You know what?? Lets just throw him into the band." In around the year of 2003, my father and Justin and Kyle's father started to manage the band for us. It has been a real blessing ever since.

Nash: What are some of your guys' influences??

Bawinkle: As far a Christian bands go, we're influenced by The Deal, The Hanover Saints, and we're old fans of Dogwood. We love Dogwood stuff [and] just started listening to a band called The Remnants. We're old ska fans; The Insyderz, are good friends of ours. Just a lot of the old punk stuff. 

As far as secular, we listen to a lot of old British 80s punk bands like Cockspar. [We] listen to bands like Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Real McKenzies, Tossers, Blitz, and Blue Bloods (from Boston). [We are] influenced by a coalition of bands. 

We also listen to a lot of worship music. It doesn't directly influence what we play and how we play.

Nash: What's Flatfoot 56's style all about?

Bawinkle: It's kind of called Celtic punk, some call it Scottish punk. Sometimes we get rid of the (bag)pipes and have a regular punk sound.

Nash: Lyrically, what do you guys sing about?

Bawinkle: Our lyrics talk a lot about brotherhood; standing strong with our brothers in the Lord, under Christ's banner; being a light for Christ. Many times our lyrics talk about our struggle with sin; how God's grace is always there to pick us all up when we fall down; some old ballads, with story lines, with a theme at the end of them. A new song, "Battle of the Bones," that's like that. The next CD is going to focus on brotherhood in the Lord, your brothers in all of life, about reaching out to everybody; touching everybody's heart with the love of Christ and being a light. That's pretty much what our lyrics are all about.

Nash: If someone wanted to know God better, what would you say to them?

Bawinkle: I'd say read God's word. Have a time with him everyday and just spend time with him. Also get involved with a local church. A Christian on their own isn't going to last long, especially in the day and age we live in. I think it's very important to find a body of believers that you feel comfortable with; that you can be discipled underneath a person of God; that you feel they can really encourage you in the faith. Get involved in a Bible study; read the word; spend a lot of time in prayer everyday, everyday is really important; always remember that Christ is there to help you through everything.

Nash: Are you going to be playing at any festivals this year?

Bawinkle: We're definitely going to be at Cornerstone. We're playing at the Underground Stage. We will also be at the Fat Calf Stage probably 2 or 3 times during the week. We'll be touring mostly through the East Coast this summer and trying to go down to Texas again. It's a great place.

Nash: Would you call your "ministry" effective? Have people been saved by your ministry?

Bawinkle: Directly and indirectly. We played at a skate park one time. First one that comes to my mind that is a guy walked up to Justin (the drummer). It was the second time we had played at that skate park. The first time, this kid had come and he got saved and we didn't know it. He came to us the second time and he [said], "Do you remember back when you guys at this place before?" 

Justin said, "Yes." 

The guy said, "Because of that show I gave my heart to the Lord." To hear that was the biggest joy. It was the first person that we've ever heard that was touched like that with our music. That's what we do it for, and that's what really pushed it. 

We were just down in Dallas, Texas played at a secular venue with a friend of ours who goes and ministers at secular places. There was a skin-head SHARP there. SHARP stands for Skin Head Against Racial Prejudice. Very hardened guy, had tattoos all over the place, had SHARP written on the side of his head. Very, very hard beer drinker, swore a ton. He listened to us, really liked what he heard, went to church with that guy the next week, [and] got saved. Now he's a born again Christian. That was more of an indirect thing. My friend down in Dallas really put a lot of time into witnessing to this guy. I think our being there and showing him that there is good music that he can listen to in the Christian realm helped him, too.

Nash: Who have you played with and name a few of the places that you usually play.

Bawinkle: We've played with bands like Five Iron Frenzy, Bleach, Holland, Dogwood, The Insyderz, and The Israelites. Haste The Day, and up and coming hardcore band that's phenominal; Sleeping At Last, on Interscope Records. The Craze, a secular band from New York City; Headnoise; The Remnants; and The Deal. We play a lot of youth groups at times. We play a lot of bars at other times. Wherever God calls us to be. We've been versatile at where we play at, a lot of fun.

Nash: Out of the up and coming hardcore bands, who would recommend?

Bawinkle: Definitely, Haste The Day. I am a huge Haste The Day fan. Showbread is a phenomenal band also. They're a great band that has a lot of punk influence, I really appreciate bands that respect the punk roots. A lot of Comeback Kid. In The Face of War; phenomenal, awesome guys, unique, another band, that's not too active at the moment, they'll be coming back. As far as getting big goes, As I Lay Dying and Stretch Arm Strong.

Nash: Any words to the audience that may be reading this?

Bawinkle: Yes. Always stay in Christ, remember that he's the author and director of your life. Whether you want to follow his path for your life or not. I encourage you to follow his plan.

Nash: Thank you for your time, enjoyed talking to you, and hope to talk to you again.

Bawinkle: Absolutely, I'll enjoy talking to you again


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