Welcome to today’s interview, where we have the opportunity to dive into the captivating world of Vonnegut Hardware, a band that has fearlessly ventured through various genres, from punk to metal, hardcore to post-hardcore, and now back to their alternative roots. Throughout their musical evolution, Vonnegut Hardware has always held the pursuit of authenticity as their guiding principle. In a recent conversation with Mister Styx of Musicarengh, Vonnegut Hardware shed light on the origin of their name and their latest single, “Apocalypse Blues.”
The band’s name draws inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut, an influential figure who holds a special place in their heart. Vonnegut Hardware was a hardware store chain in Indianapolis, owned by Kurt Vonnegut’s family during the early 20th century. It serves as a tribute to the author and pays homage to the band’s roots in Indianapolis history. The decision to adopt this name was not only a nod to their influences but also a means to offer multiple interpretations to their audience.
Vonnegut Hardware’s latest single, “Apocalypse Blues,” reflects the tumultuous year of 2020 and its impact on the band’s journey. As the world grappled with unprecedented challenges and lockdowns confined individuals to their homes, the band discovered a renewed appreciation for the importance of creating music. The song serves as a response to the chaos and showcases the band’s ability to channel their emotions into their craft.
Another notable track, “Broad Ripple Is Boring,” emerged from a pre-pandemic era and embodies the band’s punk rock essence. It playfully references the song “Broad Ripple is Burning” by Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos, as well as Chamberlain’s “Magnetic 62nd,” both of which depict Indianapolis’ renowned bar district. However, Vonnegut Hardware’s rendition reflects a realization that comes with age, acknowledging the transition from youthful revelry to a more mature perspective.
In this interview, we explore the creative process, inspirations, and aspirations of Vonnegut Hardware as they continue to carve their unique path in the alternative music scene. Join us as we unravel the genuine and captivating journey of this remarkable band.
Listen to Apocalypse Blues below
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What is your stage name:
Is there a story behind your stage name?
Vonnegut Hardware was a hardware store chain in Indianapolis at the first half of the 20th century. Obviously owned by Kurt Vonnegut’s family. I thought it was a fun name because it pays tribute to Kurt, who has been a huge influence to me, and it references Indianapolis history, which is important to me. I started this as a solo project but didn’t want to use my actual name, It could mean a lot of things to different people.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’ve always made music for myself. It’s something I do for my own mental and social health. Just the act of creating something out of some notes in my head and hearing a full fleshed song a few months later is really rewarding.
When I first got into music I was in the punk and then the hardcore scenes. I’ve taken from them my general DIY ethic and aesthetic, but obviously have a lighter edge these days, and have grown as a musician. Overall I’m inspired by other artists who create really original stuff, it makes me want to push harder.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
Starting in middle school, music has always been a big part of my life. I started my first terrible band then, and have been in bands basically nonstop since. So many hours just going to shows, playing shows, playing my guitar late at night with headphones on. I’d like to think it shouldn’t take that level of obsession to get to the next level but that was my experience.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
I got a lot of inspiration from artists locally like Chamberlain, Burn It Down, and Virgil. It was really cool realizing at a young age that normal people could create something and be part of a scene and not have to pretend to be rock stars or any of that. When you take the commercial aspect out of the music, it’s really freeing.
I’d say probably obviously people like Kurt Cobain and Ian MacKaye were huge influences to me early on as well and have really shaped my worldview. These days I’ve been really more into pop acts like Guided By Voices, Teenage Fanclub and Nada Surf… they really distill the essence of the melody into something short and simple but completely pure. It’s so so so hard to do.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
I took a couple guitar lessons but really was self taught. Just listening to punk albums and playing with friends. It’s a little frustrating because I don’t know many cover songs or formal training in music. So I mostly just play my own stuff. I’ve started crossing over and writing things on piano as well and that has helped with some of the writing process.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
The first big concert I remember was Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks, and Juliana Hatfield in the mid 90s. I’d still go see that lineup if they came back.
How could you describe your music?
I’ve always described my music, even in other acts I’ve done, as music for people who make music. Vonnegut Hardware is probably the most accessible thing I’ve done, and I’ve tried to move more towards the Teenage Fanclub / GBV melodies, but it’ll always have some dirty edge I’ll throw in there.
That’s part of the reason why I wanted Justin Avery in this band. We’ve known each other forever and talked about playing together but it never happened because we were both guitarists. In this band I wanted to take a back seat on guitar, focus on the songwriting and have him come in and do something crazy on top. I told him “I need you to be my Nels Cline”
Describe your creative process.
I don’t know. It just kind of happens. Usually, it’ll be some kind of guitar lick or vocal pattern and I’ll just build the song around that. Then when it’s 85% baked, I’ll bring it to the guys and we’ll bang it out until it all works.
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your career?
Absolutely. I started doing punk stuff, have done metal, hardcore, post-hardcore… and now I’m back to alternative stuff. It’s really mellowed. But I think generally I’ve always had a pretty laid-back aesthetic. I’ve always wanted to be genuine. I appreciated artists who worked on their aesthetic without pretending to be something they aren’t.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
What are your interests outside of music?
I’ve always been into comics, sci fi, literature, history. These days it’s mostly hanging out with my kids and doing what they do.
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
I mean, I have a career. Music is what I do to escape from that. If I could make money full time on my own terms making music that would be great, but I know that it’s not realistic. So I just make my music and send it out into the world with no real expectations but that it fulfills me artistically.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the journey of music?
I’ve been adjacent to some pretty successful groups, but always wanted to maintain control of my own process. I think if I tried to make things for other people I might have more success but I wouldn’t be as happy. So it goes.
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
I hate streaming, and the move away from albums. I know it makes me sound old but it’s just not something I’m in to. At the same time though, music has never been as accessible for artists than it is right now. The upside has dropped a lot but we can control our own destiny and reach more audiences more than any other time. It is what it is. No point fighting it.
Why did you choose this as the title of this project?
Apocalypse Blues is sort of self descriptive of the lyrics. 2020 happened right when I started this band and pushed everything back, and this song was a response to all that craziness. Being locked up at home, it really made me appreciate how important creating music is to me. Broad Ripple Is Boring is a song that I started pre-pandemic, a pretty straight up punky rock song.
It’s a tongue in cheek reference to another Indiana band (Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos)’s song “Broad Ripple is Burning”, and also sort of a reference to a Chamberlain song called “Magnetic 62nd”. Both of them are about a neighborhood in Indianapolis that is known as the bar district. This song is about the night you realize that you’re too old to be there getting wasted all the time.
What are your plans for the coming months?
Looking to do a bunch of shows, some regional touring. Nothing crazy. We’ve got some more songs in the can, and will probably do a physical release down the line. Then back in the studio, we’ve already started writing new stuff. And repeat.
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans
Musical Family Tree is an organization in Indiana that I love. They have a series called Indiana Covers where a current artist reimagines an older song by an Indiana artist. I’d love to do a couple of those.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
To quote another Indiana musician, Otis Gibbs, “Thanks for giving a damn”