"My whole adult life
Is working to nearly die
To barely get by
Under the poverty line"
- from “JJT”
Jake Ward and Marie Uhler have been doing this for a long time. Their band, Eureka California, has toured across the US and UK and has become a staple of the DIY indie rock scene. They are back and better than ever on their newest record, "Roadrunners."
"Roadrunners" brings back the two-piece’s unique brand of power pop. But this time, there’s a darkness beneath the surface. It’s the sound of angst mixed with fatigue; something we can all relate to given current events. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better soundtrack for the decline of Western civilization than "Roadrunners."
Even though they have a very busy summer tour schedule, Ward and Uhler took some time to answer a few questions for The Southern Sounding.
What was it like recording in the UK?
Ward: It was a dream. This was our 2nd time recording with MJ (MJ Johnson of Hookworms, who also produced "Versus"), and I’m so glad we went back. I think he really “gets” us as a band if that makes sense.
Uhler: It was great. We always have a really great time touring in the UK, and being able to record an album right at the end of a tour has worked out really well for us. I think being away from home and free of distractions helps a lot. MJ is a wonderful producer; he always knows when a better take is possible and at what point to stop pressing, and that really works for us. We have to record on a budget so we don't get very long in the studio, and he knows how to make the most of our short time.
The new album is great! What are your favorite songs to play live?
Ward: Thank you! "MK Ultra," "Perfect Grammar," "Threads," "Time After Time After Time After Time," "Mexican Coke," "Buffalo Bills 1990-1993." Pretty much the whole record is what we end up playing now at shows.
When I listen to "Roadrunners," I can't help but think it's a little bit darker sounding. Was this shift in tone intentional?
Ward: I don’t think it was intentional but more of a logical progression with the direction our work has always seemed to head towards. The only conscious effort when writing this record was to just be as honest as possible.
Any interesting gear used in recording?
Ward: I’m the worst at remembering or knowing anything about gear. MJ likes to experiment with different pedals and amps so yes, but as to what exactly, I wouldn’t have a clue.
Uhler: I can't really bring my own stuff, but I got to play a Black Beauty on these last two records -- and that was pretty fun.
How was the most recent West Coast tour? Did you stop at In-N-Out burger?
Ward: It was great! I really love the West Coast. It had been years since we toured out there, and it was great to see friends and fans. I can’t wait to go back. We did, and here’s my controversial opinion: Cook Out > In-N-Out. Fight me.
You both have been doing this for a long time. How have you seen the scene in Athens change? For that matter, how have you seen USA DIY change?
Ward: The most obvious example is how we’re seen different styles dominate the popularity of the town. Scenes coming and going. There are fewer house shows going on than when we started and also fewer clubs in town for that matter. There are still lots of great bands and exciting things going on. It’s a little harder to get people to pay for shows. As for the whole country, it’s weird because I think it changes from scene to scene. Town to town. Some places it really thrives and others you come back through, all the DIY venues have shut down.
Uhler: Rent and cost of living in Athens has skyrocketed while wages stagnate. It’s a huge problem and pushes a lot of artists that have to work for a living further and further out of town. There used to be this image of Athens as a place where you could work super part-time, have a room in a pretty nice house, and just make art all the time -- that used to be a thing you could do, but those $200-300 bedrooms are more like $500-600 now, and pay is the same. Local bands rarely get added to bills with national acts (this used to happen all the time 10+ years ago), so it’s harder to build an audience, and bands that do get the chance to build that audience and actually become more successful leave town.
As far as music scene content, the hip-hop scene is really flourishing right now and gaining more support from more of the community, and that’s really exciting. And for USA DIY -- to me that’s something that has always been constantly changing anyway, due to necessity. There are still a lot of great people out there doing great things.
What's next for Eureka California?
Ward: A nap.
Uhler: We have a UK tour in July -- we’re playing the Athens Popfest in August and doing a short east coast tour in September.
Check out the new record, "Roadrunners," out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records,