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Boisterous Punk and Modern Mythology: Child Bite Live
Hunched over his homemade keyboard, complete with flashing lights, faux wood panel siding, and a video game joystick, Shawn Knight resembles a raving Old Testament prophet. Sporting a long Amish style beard, he spouts of his disturbing mythological tales with intense furor, at times exchanging knowing glances with the audience, at other times absorbed within his music.
Shawn's stage presence is the centerpiece of Child Bite's live show, ably rounded out by guitarist Zach Norton, and bassist Sean Clancy who slash about on stage with a reckless abandon, and drummer Danny Sperry, whose constant smile and youthful appearance make him look out of place, though not unlike he is having the time of his life on stage. Concluding their line-up was a guest trumpeter, filling in for Christian Doble, who was unable to commit to touring.
Child Bite has been ripping up the Midwest for some time now, but on September 21 they entered the "true North strong and free" for their first Canadian, and also first international tour date. Playing a tight, passionate thirty minute set to a crowd of about 27, the band made it quite apparent that they will give it their all even to a small crowd.
For most in attendance this was their first exposure to the band, but a few were seen singing along to some of the band's best known tracks, like the horn-drenched "Never Ending Mountain Slammer" and the affirming yet silly "I Like Friends." Other tunes included the boisterous "Ape Along" and crowd-pleasing "100 Eyes," as well as an excellent brand new still untitled song.
Prior to the show, the band hung out with the audience at the bar, where I sat down to an interview with Shawn. Contrary to his stage persona, Shawn is rather laid back off stage, talking quickly with a nervous excitement, showing both attention to detail and a genuine appreciation of his fans. Over the course of forty-five minutes we discussed the band's new record, Fantastic Gusts of Blood, the fall tour, and graphic design. As well, Shawn candidly explained how the band resolves internal disputes via a complex voting system, complete with graphs! Enjoy.
Tollbooth: So how's the tour been going?
Knight: This is actually the real start to the tour. We've been touring around the Midwest, doing a show, then going home. This is our first date outside the US, and it feels good that we're not going home again until the tour is over.
Tollbooth: I understand that you're a graphic designer. The album art is quite eye-catching, what was your inspiration for it?
Knight: I've always been interested in mythology but don't know a lot about it. So I decided to do all my research on Wikipedia, and then purposely (bleep) it up, you know, keep it really vague. And we all know that Wikipedia is not the best source in the first place, so the lyrics are kind of a modern retelling of the mythology.
So for the cover I called up my friend Dan DeMaggio and asked him to do two hundred drawings for me 'cause he's cool and I knew he'd do it. He based them on the lyrics and also used some other stuff he had lying around. Then I arranged it all and added the color.
Tollbooth: Were the lyrical themes a planned thing or did it just happen over the course of writing?
Knight: We don't really write unless it's for a record. It was on purpose because I wanted there to be one thing about all the songs in common to help me with the writing process.
Tollbooth: In an interview for Real Detroit you stated that the band can't agree on things, and that your friends picked the band name from a list. Since then the band has expanded to a five-piece. Is it still difficult to agree? How did this affect the creation of your new album?
Knight: Yeah we still disagree, even more so now because there are the two more members. So we set up rules in order to get things done. For example, with the band name thing, the three of us at the time picked out three names each, then made a list of five friends that we trust. So we had nine possible names being voted by fifteen friends, and after the vote I got all the results and made a graph so we could see the trends, although Danny usually wins at these things. He's just good with song and album titles.
Tollbooth: Your first album came out in 2006, and two years later you've got another full-length, and EP a Split EP and a remix EP. That's about four more releases than other bands will make in two years! What inspires this relentless creativity?
Knight: Actually we're a lot less relentless now than I'd like to be. Having the label, you know, they want a product they can promote for a specific amount of time and not be releasing stuff constantly. I have a fear of not making my accomplishing things, so I like to get as much done in the shortest amount of time.
For the new record I booked the mixing dates before we even wrote a song! I think that if you wait for when you're ready for something you'll never get it done, but if you have a set deadline, you know, we're mixing on this day, so we need to actually have songs recorded, and that means we need to write them in order to record them, then you'll get stuff finished on time.
Tollbooth: Sometimes I sense a bit of humor in your music... mostly in the delivery. Do you intend a little bit of humor or perhaps irony in the way you perform?
Knight: Well, we're definitely not a joke band by any means, but we have fun, and we all have pretty good senses of humor so I guess I can understand why you'd sense that.
Tollbooth: Your first album had germination as a jam project. What were the differences in how you approached Gusts as compared to Wild Feast?
Knight: Mostly, we like to do stuff fast. For the first record I asked Danny and Zach to come over and jam because I liked their stuff with El Boxeo. Writing songs comes naturally to them, where I like to build onto the ideas I hear from them. So I listen to what they write, and add lyrics, or keyboard and guitar parts, that's what inspires my creativity. It comes naturally that way, I don't like writing songs, but I enjoy adding to their stuff.
Tollbooth: Not very many bands in the punk scene release remix albums. What inspired you to release the Exquisite Luxury EP?
Knight: There's this band Thunderbirds Are Now! and I did some art for one of their records. I was wondering, "are you gonna pay me?" and since they didn't have a whole lot of money we decided Scott (Allen) would do some remixes for us.
The other guy, Vice Cooler, I didn't know him before but I saw him live and got his record, and we asked him to do some stuff to contrast with Scott's.
Tollbooth: What was it like creating videos for all the remixes?
Knight: It was really stressful. I got some friends involved, kind of like with the songwriting, so that I could build off their ideas. Danny did some stop motion for one video, others did art and I edited them and animated it together.
Tollbooth: What's the story behind the remix "Bone/Sleep" video? It seems to me to be a comment about prostitution and drug addiction? (Note: The video is a stylized cartoon of a girl having sex with numerous men, shooting heroin and drinking alcohol, eventually dying while walking down the street).
Knight: Well, it wasn't meant to be that serious but I understand how you could get that from it. The song "Bone/Sleep" is about a really boring girl, you know, she has sex then falls asleep. She goes to work, but has no creative outlet.
For the video a friend of mine, Christian Doble, did all the illustrations, then I animated and edited it together. It was the last video we did and the label needed it for the release, so I remember sitting at work all day animating these little keys going into cartoon vaginas and not caring if anyone saw what I was doing...that project you needed, yeah, still working on it, sorry, something else came up!
Tollbooth: So, what records have the band been listening to in the van on this tour?
Knight: I've been getting into black metal a lot lately, like Emperor and Mayhem. Just got the new Gorgoroth record. I used to be into that a lot in college and now I'm getting back into it a bit. Also I like the new Randy Newman album, one of my buddies from the Pop Project got me into that. The band can't really agree on music, we all like different things, but the one band that we can all enjoy together is Deerhoof.
Tollbooth: Thanks for your time, I'm looking forward to the show tonight.
Knight: No problem, hope you enjoy it! Thanks for coming out.