Story and photos by Hannah Shulman, Multimedia Editor
Hot off an “east-coast ribbon” tour, San Marcos, Texas natives Blue Healer sat down with WSN. The rock group, known for music layered with synth and distortion, gives a lot to listen to without being overwhelming, just like their interview. They spoke about YMCAs, their sound, and what they may or may not get up to in the future.
WSN: How was being on tour?
Bryan Mammel: It was really fun.
David Beck: We were out all of April and May. We went all the way up to Boston, came back, went all the way up to Minneapolis.
Dees Stribling: A big east-coast ribbon.
DB: It was really fun, we got to see a bunch of new towns and meet a bunch of people. We held together pretty good. That’s a big test for a band, you know? To see if you can be in a van for two months.
BM: But we’ve all toured together before, so we knew it’d work. But it was always with a lot more people, so it was kind of fun to be able to play shows and then go camping on your off days because it’s just the three of you.
DS: Lake Puskus.
BM: Lake Puskus, Mississippi.
DS: It’s in Mississippi. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was good for us. It’s just a lake. Kind of dirty.
BM: Kind of dirty.
DS: National forest, I guess.
WSN: What would you say your favorite adventure has been?
DS: We went to this YMCA in Boston. It hadn’t changed from 1938 and that was really creepy and cool.
DB: We tend to go to YMCAs on tour.
WSN: Any particular reason?
DS: To take showers, mostly.
BM: There’s just no – if you’re in a touring band, you show up in a city hours before you gotta play, usually. Because usually you’ve woken up, you want to leave whatever situation you’re in fairly quickly. Not all the time, but often you want to get on the road. So you show up in the next city fairly early and your choice is – we learned that the YMCA was founded to keep young men out of brothels and bars. Which is kind of exactly the choices you have as a rock band. If you show up in a city, your choices are either you can go to a bar or maybe some form of brothel equivalent. Or you can go to the YMCA.
DB: We’ve taken to heart, for sure. We just go to the YMCA.
WSN: I don’t know why, but when you said that I had it in my head that every YMCA you visited was abandoned and from the 1930s.
BM: Haha no, some of them are close, but just the one in Boston.
WSN: Your email campaigns are hilarious–
DB: Those are all Bryan’s doing. Bryan’s taken hold of the email newsletter.
BM: It’s the small, tiny way I get to put my graduate studies in English to any sort of use in a rock-and-roll band. I did literary criticism for a while and it was just wasting away until we had a band that we could throw these email letters at.
DS: We have 250 followers now.
DB: Everything that Dees and I write just rails through.
DS: A lot of red lines on Instagram captions.
BM: I like to give ample feedback.
WSN: Do you feel like it’s a good way to connect with your fans?
BM: It’s fun! I mean, you’ll read some bands that’ll do a newsletter and sometimes it’s just like –
DS: It’s just like tour dates.
BM: Yeah it’ll be like “Oh! We’re playing these shows here and next week we’re here” and you’re like, you can find all that shit on the internet. You can find anything on the internet, really. So it’s try to make sure that there’s something to it that’s not just information, right? Because we all have enough information in our lives.
DS: Yeah a little bit of personality is what we’re going for.
DB: [looking at Dees] that hat has a lot of personality.
BM: Look how big that bill is on his hat.
WSN: I think that’s the first bill on a hat that actually looks like a duck bill.
DB: Like a duck bill, yeah.
DS: Yeah and you can tie it up.
WSN: So tell me about doing things DIY, like your music videos and that whole process.
DS: Well, it’s a necessareality. I invented that word a couple years ago. I never get to use it.
WSN: Is it one word, hyphenated?
DS: No, it’s just one whole word, necessareality. That’s all I have to comment about that.
DB: I mean we don’t have anybody dumping money into this thing so that’s why it’s a necessareality. And it’s uh – we got some buddies that are really good and we have ideas that don’t take a lot of production, and so we do them ourselves, mostly because we can control the outcome. Because when you work with a bunch of people, sometimes you spend a bunch of money on something and the outcome is skewed.
BM: Did you see where we went to the zoo? Did you watch that video?
DB: That was all on iPhones. The most expensive thing was buying the zoo tickets.
DS: We got fun passes.
BM: Which got you the butterfly exhibit, which got you the train ride, and the carousel and a bucket of popcorn.
WSN: That sounds like the deal of a lifetime.
DB: We didn’t even know we were making a video, we were just having fun. You can try to dress up a band and a make a fucking crazy cool looking video and you go see the show and it’s like not the same thing. We’re not a very glossy band.
BM: And it all kind of starts there too. Because the music, David produces a lot of albums and records and works out of studios in Austin. I mean, if you’re doing the music yourself, you want that much of your vision and heart and energy poured in the music, you may as well pour it into everything else and not necessarily outsource that. Unless it’s people you really love and want to work with. The people that we do have helping us out and working with us are great people.
WSN: You released “Music For Your Car,” a CD you only sold at live shows. So why the choice to only make it a live show release?
DB: Because we kept playing shows and people wanted something to go home with. Everybody wants something to go home with after a show. And you gotta give them something. It’s very literal, but it’s true. It’s really just music to play in your car.
DS: We were looking around for a CD player, and I don’t even have a CD player except in my girlfriend’s car. And we’re like well, music for your car.
BM: So we bought a stamp online, off eBay.
DS: It’s three different rubber stamps. It’s my handwriting and then a car, and then something that says “Music For Your Car.”
WSN: And you just hand stamped them? All 300 or something?
BM: We did a run of 250 and we have another run of 250 that –
DB: Which may be different.
BM: Probably not.
DB: I think it should be different.
DS: We can change the color. Put different stamps on them.
BM: We’ve got a couple tracks that’ll –
DB: [talking to DS in the background] We can make them red! [highfives DS] Criticize that!
BM: – be off the album. And there’s some like analog demo versions and live versions.
DS: We need to add Pizza Dudes.
BM: We’ll throw Pizza Dudes on the secret thing.
DB: Do we have a pizza stamp?
WSN: What is Pizza Dudes?
DB: That’s our alter-ego. That’s a release that’s going to come out soon.
DS: Pizza Dudes was going to be the name of the band. But we didn’t think that would be very viable. It wasn’t serious but then the other day, we had some time to kill so we made the first Pizza Dudes song called “Pizza Dudes Know Where You Live.” And so if we can get like five or six song and another rubber stamp with a pizza on it –
DB: We’re in business baby!
DS: Yeah, we’ll be out there.
BM: Yeah, the vinyl or the CD with the pizza. That’s the real ticket.
DB: Oh, it’s going to be so good!
DS: These are all copyrighted ideas, they cannot be stolen. Everybody loves pizza except my older brother.
WSN: Where did the idea for the distorted upright bass come from? It’s not a very popular thing.
DB: I think it’s popular. It’s popular to me. I’ve been trying to do it for a long time and then about six years ago, I took a stab at it and just didn’t have the right gear, didn’t have the right set up. So when we started Blue Healer, that was something that I really wanted to accomplish, and so I finally figured out how to make it work, just sonically, logistically. And then it kind of took off. It’s really fun to play, it’s a lot of – it’s really powerful. It’s just a fun thing to do. And nobody’s really done it, I don’t think.
BM: Not with the upright.
DB: Not with the upright. I don’t know, I’ve played upright pretty much my whole life. And it’s really frustrating because it’s a cool instrument, but in live settings especially in bigger venues, you just can’t ever really hear it and it’s always really woofy and there’s no definition so I wanted to change that because I beleive it. It gets more attention than it usually gets. And I just don’t like rockabilly music. That’s the only time that people are like “oh sick.”
DS: Do you stand on it? Spin it around.
WSN: How collaborative is your process?
BM: We’re basically the only friends we have, I think so…
DS: It’s true.
DB: We collab on everything. I write a bunch of songs and lyrics and stuff and bring them to the table and we see if they fit the mode. Some songs just don’t really work for our set up. Some songs take off. We also wrote some songs by just straight up jamming and drinking a bunch of Tecate. And in coming up with just a jam with no words or anything and stuff that works in our trio and then writing – using that as a base to start a song.
WSN: Where do you guys want to end up? In the long run, when do you think you’ll be able to say, “yes, this is it, we’ve done it.”
DB: When we have enough going on for us that we could all, each of us, support a family based on Blue Healer.
BM: Yeah, we’re a career group. We’ve all been playing music for a long time, but the goal was to make this project be the one that is able to sustain it and be the thing that we do because it’s the most fun I think we’ve ever had playing music. It can get to be a real chore and a pain.
DS: Yeah I didn’t get into this to have a job. Another job. A job job.
BM: So some of the bands and projects that you’re a part of become a job. We want this to have all the benefits of being a job but none of the feelings.
DS: And health insurance.
BM: That’s probably when we’ve made it is when we can pay for our own health insurance.
DS: Yeah, that’d be cool.
DB: To get to the cleanest answer, it’s for Blue Healer to have its own health insurance.
Email Hannah Shulman at firstname.lastname@example.org.