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An Interview with Big Tobacco

An Interview with Big Tobacco

by Isobel Abbott-Dethrow

Isobel Abbott-Dethrow sat down with the members of St. Louis band Big Tobacco at Webster University: Max, Coleman, Chris, and Daniel.

Isobel: How was Big Tobacco formed? What inspired the band name?

Chris: It started with Coleman and me, mostly. We started sending each other demos over the summer into fall of 2016.

Coleman: It was after we graduated high school.

Chris: I was down here, Coleman was not going to school at the time. We traded demos back and forth and we were like, “Hey, we like this. We should get together and jiggity jam.”

Coleman: Chris had recorded an entire album by himself under the name Drown Craft.

Chris: …Don’t say the name.

Max: We got to name drop Drown Craft.

Coleman: I heard it and thought, “Oh my goodness, this is amazing.” It was the fact that he did it all himself, and I wanted to do something.

Max: We were called Drown Craft until two years ago.

Chris: It wasn’t even the band. It was just my crappy songs.

Max: When Daniel joined, that’s when we became Big Tobacco.

Daniel: It was Big Tobacco when I joined.

Max: We changed it very briefly; it was brand new.

Chris: So yeah, Coleman and I started trading stuff and Max was always around.

Max: I would like to say something: I was actually ghosted. I came to Coleman’s house one day because we used to live very close together. I had to drop something off at his house and there were all these cars outside. I walk in and they are having band practice without me. Needless to say, I helped them write two songs, two nights before that practice. I just wanted it to be known that I was ghosted in the beginning.

Chris: It did happen, I have to admit. It didn’t take long until we got Max back involved.

Coleman: Over the course of our band, there has been many ghostings.

Daniel: We’re off to a terrible start.

Chris: But yeah, we recorded two demos early on and one of those ended up being Time is Overrated, which ended up being a direct put-on to our first EP.

Coleman: Around the time I met Daniel, we had come up with this band and had another drummer at the time. We were jamming under the name Drown Craft, writing and playing some shows. After that drummer stopped being in the band, we became a three-piece. I met Daniel my first semester at Webster, the first week.

Daniel: It was the first week at West Hall.

Coleman: He introduced himself with, “Hi, I’m Daniel, I write music and wash cars.” I thought this was my guy.

Daniel: I didn’t just say that dorky crap. Everyone on the dorm floor was saying something about themselves. I didn’t know what else to say.

Coleman: We needed our cars washed and our music to sound better, so we got Daniel in.

Daniel: Then I met Chris and thought he was the coolest guy I had ever seen before. He was doing some pretty cool stuff. They invited me to come over and run the **** on the EP Coleman had showed me. I was just sitting in the dorm with my headphones on, just playing it over and over, having fun with it. I felt really at home with these guys. They’re all just super nice and inviting.

Max: With how we got the name Big Tobacco, Coleman, Chris, and I were just shooting band names and someone said “Big Tobacco” and I said it was really cool and if we ever change the band name it should be that one.

Coleman: People kept getting Drown Craft wrong.

Max: We got Brown Craft, Drown, or Down Craft on posters. So we just changed it to Big Tobacco after that.

Isobel: How come Big Tobacco had to disband?

Coleman: I had an opportunity to go to college in Kansas City at UMKC for various reasons. We never concretely said we were done.

Max: It was an indefinite hiatus.

Coleman: We’ve kind of found a way to make it work now.

Isobel: How did the conversation come about where you decided to have reunion shows?

Daniel: I think we always wanted to.

Coleman: Chris and I would send each other late night texts.

Daniel: Chris was doubtful.

Max: He was the doubtful one.

Chris: I was the one who got it together! What are you talking about?

Coleman: Chris and I would have these sweet, late night texts being like, “Oh man, I miss being in a band. Oh, those were such good times.”

Chris: What actually happened was the Aquadome in Kirksville hit me up and said they wanted to have Big Tobacco back and I was like, “Huh, we haven’t played in a little bit. Let me see if the guys are still down.” That’s right, I was not the one saying we shouldn’t do it. They were all hyped, we did that show and said screw it, let’s have one in St. Louis, too. Then after that, we got asked to play a Webster AES show. There will be another one in Champaign, Illinois at some point. Shout out to Caitlin.

Coleman: There’s a studio in Columbia, Missouri that we practice in and has become a lot more convenient for us recently to get together. It’s in between both of us.

Chris: Shout out to Barry.

Max: We get to meet halfway. Barry is your stereotypical record producer.

Daniel: Rock ‘n’ roll dad.

Chris: He always greets people with, “What’s up, daddio?”

Isobel: What is the status of the band?

Max: Happy.

Coleman: Why are you looking at me? I’m obviously the root of all this. We are jamming right now, we are doing well and have shows booked in. In April, I am going to Japan for six months, so it’ll be Hiatus Part Two.

Chris: We were talking about getting an animatronic Coleman.

Max: Thankfully and conveniently, they make them run on poop.

Coleman: Everyone is going to read this interview and be like, “Man, this Coleman guy. He eats poop!” I don’t remember how this came about.

Daniel: We all have a thing to make fun of each other.

Max: You don’t; Daniel can’t be made fun of.

Daniel: I’m the wild card.

Coleman: Daniel hasn’t gotten made fun of yet. Max has a picture of himself reaching inside of a toilet.

Max: That’s not fair! My friend clogged his toilet. We had to use the gas station bathroom for two weeks over the summer, and I got sick of it and didn’t want to keep doing it, so I reached in and grabbed all the toilet paper out.

Coleman: He was also eating poop! We all have demons.

Max: They like to make fun of me because I can’t play Mario Kart Double Dash on the Gamecube.

Daniel: He sucks at it!

Max: Chris can’t read. He’s illiterate. You should try having a conversation in our band chat with this guy. It is impossible to get anything together.

Chris: I can read just fine. Next question. Let’s end this one.

Isobel: What are you currently working on in the studio?

Coleman: Fire.

Max: In the spring, we went up to Columbia and recorded a three-song EP. We recorded a couple hits and a brand new song. Then, over Thanksgiving break, we recorded another three-song EP with three older songs. They hadn’t been recorded yet. We never played them that much. We did one of my songs, “I’m Not Going Outside Today,” which was new before we broke up. Then we did one of Daniel’s songs, “Mouthwash,” which we didn’t play for that long. Then we recorded Chris’ song “Jesus Camp,” which we played a handful of times. We’re hoping to do more.

Chris: The one we recorded over the summer should be out pretty soon. The other one will take a little while yet.

Isobel: How do these projects compare to your previous records, production and composition-wise?

Coleman: With the old EPs, we recorded them ourselves in various basements across the Midwest. The Barry EP is in an actual studio and sounds really crisp. The other one was recorded here at Webster.

Daniel: That was just the other day and it was awesome. Shout out to Scarato.

Chris: Barry’s going to be tight. We’ll see how the Webster one turns out. The last EP we did, I don’t know if anything really ties the songs together all that well; they are just songs that we have always done and figured we would record them. But this newest one has a surfy vibe to it, for sure. It’s also garage-y and louder.

Max: Our first album was a little bedroom poppy, kind of indie style. The second one was very post-punky, new-wavey. The Barry one is not really cohesive, but this new one definitely has surf rock, heavy songs. I’m pretty sure everyone is yelling in every song. That’s new.

Coleman: You have Daniel yelling?

Daniel: I dabble. From time to time, I’m known to yelp.

Isobel: What has been your favorite moment from a reunion show?

Daniel: We had a crowd surfer at the Aquadome.

Coleman: We looked up and suddenly someone was on top of everybody.

Max: I was messing with my pedals.

Coleman: At our Foam reunion show, I think people moshed to every single song, even the slow ones.

Max: I did not stop.

Chris: That was my favorite show.

Max: My favorite moment was when we played with the Slow Boys at Fubar and they came in at the last minute because they were probably doing Slow Boys stuff. They did a wall of death during “Rock ‘n’ Roll America.”

Chris: I always remember Dylan from that show, after we played “Waste of Time,” and he yelled, “Coleman, what song is that?!”

Max: Shout out Dylan Andersen, please.

Isobel: Overall, what has been your favorite moment on stage?
It wasn’t necessarily a stage, but at a house. It was the show right before I left for UMKC.

Daniel: We played a last show at Foam. George from the Sigmund Frauds was like, “Hey, play again, as a surprise.” But, it wasn’t really a surprise. Word got out, then we played at St. John’s house.

Coleman: The house was packed. It was all our friends we made through being in music.

Daniel: My favorite video on Facebook is of it.

Coleman: It was tight and sad.

Chris: Danny from the Sigmund Frauds got a video of it.

Max: My favorite moment is also from that Fubar show, where I accidentally stepped on a bag of strings and did the banana peel fall, on my butt on stage during “Waste of Time.” I tend to fall over a lot.

Chris: He did that at our Ready Room show.

Daniel: He’s a cartoon character.

Max: I don’t know how to keep my balance on stage. I’m really bad at it.

Isobel: Do you think Big Tobacco will get back together as an official band in the future?

Coleman: After Japan.

Max: We’ll see.

Chris: I feel like every time we call something our “final” show, we always end up being like, “Well, we can do one more…” I don’t want to ever say we are done done.

Daniel: I think the interest is there with all of us.

Max: We all enjoy playing together.

Coleman: There’s definitely not going to be the amount of vigor we had. I think we’re doing it because we enjoy it. We take any chance to play and record.

Chris: Early on, we definitely took it kinda seriously. I feel like the more we loosened up, the better stuff became.

Max: We were critical of ourselves, but we stepped back for a year. We came back, practiced, did all of that stuff. With these last few shows, we are not so worried anymore. When we first started, we were caught up in just trying to be good. Now, we’re just trying to have fun with the people who enjoy our music.

Isobel: What’s your favorite song to play live?

Coleman: Uh oh. This could tear some relationships apart. Lately, my favorite song is “Jesus Camp.” It goes hard. “Rock ‘n’ Roll America” is just a bop.

Daniel: I don’t get to play bass very often. We all switch around though; I get to play bass on Chris’ songs. “Jesus Camp” has been really fun lately.

Chris: I’ve got three that come to mind immediately: I love drumming on “3 4,” “I’m Not Going Outside Today,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll America.”

Max: As of right now, my new favorite song is Chris’ new song that was introduced at the Webster AES show. My second favorite is “I Don’t Know,” which I love playing.

Isobel: What’s the best STL venue you have played at?

Chris: I’m going with Foam.

Daniel: I loved playing at the Ready Room with these guys. I’ve gotten to do it before, but playing with Big Tobacco was a really fun night.

Chris: The Ready Room is cool because the bigger bands play there. Nothing is as warm as the spirit of Foam and I’m really sad it’s closing.

Daniel: St. John’s, too.

Coleman: Our bands before Big Tobacco also got their starts at Foam. It’s just very nostalgic there.

Max: Coleman and I’s very first live show was at Foam.

Chris: They leave it up to you, what you want to charge for people. They’re really good about giving money to the touring bands.

Coleman: They take on bands with no reputation or who have never played shows before. They’re very welcoming to the scene.

Chris: Foam was the biggest oasis for DIY music in St. Louis. Now that it’s gone, I am kind of worried it will be a lot harder for bands.

Max: There are a lot more house venues now. There’s Dugan, Nu Craig, the Nest, etc. There’s plenty of house venues that will try stepping their game up, too. They’re also pretty accepting. RIP Foam.

Daniel: Even though it’s not in St. Louis, the Aquadome. They’re our friends.

Coleman: We played in a barber shop once.

Max: It was the Drown Craft days, in Galesburg, Illinois.

Coleman: We made a joke against pop-punk music and the crowd was not having it.

Isobel: Who are your go-to bands STL to listen to?

Chris & Max: The Slow Boys.

Chris: Lobby Boxer.

Daniel: Lobby Boxer when I’m pissed. The Slow Boys, the Public, Frankie valet, Jr. Clooney, all such good boys. Shout out to Bleach.

Daniel & Max: The Lizardtones.

Daniel: Jackie Presley…

Max: Don’t name drop me!

Coleman: Inches From Glory. There’s too many.

Chris: The Slow Boys were in Max and I’s Spotify Wrapped.

Isobel: When should we expect the new record to come out?

Coleman: Right now.

Chris: It’s hard to say with the one EP we recorded at Barry’s. One more song needs to get mixed. Hopefully within the next two months. It’s very close. It’s just hard to get up to Columbia to finish it. The next one will be a little while. I am taking engineering here at Webster next semester and Coleman will be in town for two whole months. So, who knows.

Daniel: We plan to use that time wisely.

Coleman: I don’t know about you guys, but I think we’re still planning on doing stuff when I come back from Japan. I’m down.

Chris: We will see. I’m going to be graduated at that point.

Max: Yeah, he’s gonna be an adult. Chris is going to have a job.

Chris: Hopefully. In this economy?

Big Tobacco

From the heart of the Midwest, Big Tobacco ranges from chorus and reverb soaked dream pop mixed with 80s post-punk, while dipping toes into fuzzy garage rock on occasion. Influences include Chastity Belt, The Cure, and Wavves. The band features four members, all of which songwriters, all of which play multiple instruments during live performances. 

Big Tobacco released their debut EP in August of 2017. The EP titled “What’s Wrong With Being Sexy?” features five hook-oriented and lighthearted tracks.

Currently, the group in the process of completing a full-length that will feature a stylistic throwback to 80s post-punk greats and a unique cross-breed of dream pop with influences of modern r&b. 

Big Tobacco

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