AM/PM: Max Pain and the Groovies
Written by Alexandra Graber
Photographed by Alexandra Peace
Grease is more than a word to the members of Max Pain and the Groovies, it’s a lifestyle. Living greasy started for the quintet back in their old stomping grounds of Salt Lake City, Utah. The band would get together as teens to skate, chase girls, and stumble their way through learning instruments in the hopes of one day spending their lives touring, traveling, and skating together. Eventually they’d grow into spending their nights chugging beer, hosting house shows and wrestling matches in their garage, all while honing in on the psychedelic, garage sound that would define Max Pain and the Groovies. They even named their 2016 sophomore album Ancient Grease.
Shane Preece (guitar), Kallan Campbell (bass), David Johnson (vocals/keys), Troy Coughlin (drums), and Dallin Smith (guitar) make up the raw, skateboarding fivesome that now calls New York City their home. Over the years, Max Pain accomplished a majority of their creative goals from their home state of Utah. They started to spend a number of months out of the year touring, while being one of the buzziest bands in all of Salt Lake. Their hometown success had seemingly reached its peak.
On one fateful national tour, the group broke down in Bushwick, Brooklyn. As they watched their bus set aflame, they thought, well this is it, better look for jobs and apartments in Brooklyn. Even though the bus eventually started back up and the group set back out on the road to home, New York was heavy on their minds. Shortly after that they packed up and moved everything, two of the guys on their motorcycles and the rest crammed in their tour bus.
Once the band collectively moved to Brooklyn, they immediately started booking shows and setting roots in their new home. To this day, all five of the members call their band house home. They jam together in the basement, run a screen printing company out of their backyard, and work on their motorcycles out front on the street.
The sense of togetherness runs deep in Max Pain and the Groovies. If anything, their upcoming EP will be a testament to the growth each of them has done individually and the growth they have undergone as a unit.
We spent the day with Max Pain to get the inside scoop on their new music and what’s up with their many side projects and interests. We also picked up beer at their local bodega to find out who would drink the warm beer in the keg out back. No surprise to us, it was David.
POND: Hello guys! How’s everyone feeling?
David Johnson: Crazy.
POND: What’d you do last night?
Kallan: Got back from the Catskills and went straight to partying.
POND: Dang, good on ya. So, skate culture seems to be pretty rooted in the Max Pain brand. Skateboarding is really how you guys all met. Can you tell me a little about that?
David: We all met in Junior High. Me and Kallan, I think, met first out of all of us. We started skating with Tcoy and Shane and the whole Salt Lake crew that we’ve got and then we started hanging out with Dimebag in high school.
POND: Do you feel like skateboarding has had a big effect on your music and you guys as a band?
David Johnson: Yeah, we grew up watching skate videos and getting stoked on all the songs they used in the skate parts. We always associated music with skateboarding.
Kallan: The traveling aspect of it as well. Just going and driving to a new place and doing whatever we wanted to do. Skateboarding was huge for us.
David: Skate trips turned into music trips.
POND: Is that what happened, you guys would go skateboard together and then...?
David: Yeah, we’d lie to our parents and go on a trip to Phoenix, but tell them we were going to a cabin like thirty minutes away.
Kallan: We’d just be like, we’re sleeping at Shane’s house or David’s house, and then just go to the next state over.
POND: And play music?
David: No, that’s when we were just skating in high school. We’d have our girlfriends pretend to be our parent’s moms, “Hi, this is Shane’s mom. The kids are sleeping over this weekend.” We got busted once. Shane’s mom called out my girlfriend.
POND: Did you guys all play music at that time or not really?
Kallan: I didn’t.
David: No, not really. We [Kallan and David] kind of transitioned from skating. Shane, Dime and Tcoy did.
POND: When did you guys decide to pick up instruments?
David: Like twenty. We had a band together, me, Shane, and Tcoy. I guess it was earlier than that, but we had a band called The Petes. I played the drums, Shane sang, and Tcoy played guitar. That was around seventeen/ eighteen. And we had a band when we were all fifteen. What was our band called?
Kallan: Eat My Face. That was pretty funny, we only had like two shows. One was a kid's birthday party, a mormon kid kind of thing, and we said, "Yeah, we’ll play your birthday party." We were just yelling vulgarities, screaming “Fuck you!”
David: We bought a picture of Jesus and a douche and we were douching Jesus. We started taking it serious at twenty. I always figured I wanted to be in a band and travel.
POND: When you were twenty was that when Max Pain & The Groovies was born?
David: So, it was Tcoy, Shane, and Dime first and I joined after. We had a few bass players and then Kallan joined after. I think everyone was between eighteen, nineteen, and twenty when it happened.
POND: Now a decade later you’re still mostly skateboarding, playing music, but no longer living in Salt Lake. What inspired the move to New York City?
David: We broke down here on tour, the bus caught on fire. We were sitting in the bus and the bus was having problems all tour so we bought a bunch of starter fluid and sprayed it into the intake. You are not supposed to spray lighter fluid in diesel. So, we sprayed it and tried to start the bus and nothing happened. Then, we went back into the bus and heard this giant BOOM, it sounded like a bomb. We kind of thought someone threw a firework at us because it was the 4th of July.
Kallan: But then the hood just ignited into flames.
David: Shane starts freaking out and he’s like, “Grab what you need!”
Kallan: Yeah he was yelling, “We need a fire extinguisher, someone help!”
David: There was this guy on the third floor of a building yelling down that there was a fire extinguisher in the lobby. And he ran downstairs and was like, “Someone took the fire extinguisher!” So we were just dumping half drank beers onto the fire.
Kallan: This was after an all night party.
POND: Did you play a show the night before?
David: I think we played Alphaville because we were parked over by Wilson and that school.
Kallan: We ended up at this saloon. At least, me and Holland did. It’s funny, while this was happening he was asleep with his eyes open. He got robbed the night before. He fell asleep outside and someone took his wallet and phone. So then we started looking at places to live after this giant explosion.
David: Then the bus started first try after that.
Kallan: But before that we were just like, "Well we live here now." We were looking up jobs and apartments. That’s when we started actually thinking about it.
POND: All because the bus lit on fire in Bushwick, out front of Alphaville. Crazy. You just finished recording a new EP with Paul Ritchie at Insidious Sounds in Asbury Park. How do you think the EP’s sound has evolved with the band’s transition from Salt Lake to New York?
Tcoy: I think it’s probably more raw and rockin’. There is definitely a New York difference.
David: We’ve got a faster tempo now. We’re tighter in our writing because we practice more since we’re always together. We get inspiration from things and events that happen in New York. We put that in the writing of our songs. Plus, seeing a lot of different bands you subconsciously add things to your music, and being in a different music scene has an influence.
Kallan: I think living together in this hole and having to undergo personal growth, having to uproot and reroute definitely effects the music.
POND: It’s called Sounds From the Hole, what’s the story behind that name?
David: The Hole is the name of the basement. That’s where we do all of our songwriting and jamming. If you're outside of our window you can hear this noise coming from the underground. A lot of the neighbors will comment on it when they walk by.
POND: Speaking of The Hole, you also have your screen printing company, called White Light Printing, out of here. How’s that going?
David: It’s good. We’ve got a couple jobs we’re doing this week, we’re doing shirts for the band New Myths. Know them? We just did some rapper that lives in the neighborhood, his band is called Zero Zero. We’re doing this guy from Australia’s shirts that’s going to be here to do some tattooing. Our first job ever was for Dr. Dre. We made empanada sleeves for Dr. Dre, we made six hundred of them, it was hell.
POND: You guys live together, work together, play music together, you do all these things together. Do you feel like it forces the creation of your songs to be more collaborative or is it maybe one person coming with an idea and you guys all adding to it together?
David: We’ll start with a riff together, but we all put our parts in there. Once the song’s done, that’s when the vocals go into it. We structure songs in a very specific way.
Kallan: It’s always a collaboration. We play music a bit more when we’re focused on songwriting.
David: It’s easier to get together out here because we all live together.
POND: Usually in New York everyone’s schedules and getting around is super difficult. You’re probably one of the few bands with that opportunity.
Kallan: Even though we do live together, it still can be hard.
Tcoy: We had more time in Salt Lake. Everybody has more time outside of New York.
POND: You guys play quite a bit of motorcycle centric shows and events. How are you guys associated with that scene.
Tcoy: Me and Dimebag rode our motorcycles out here. My first friend I met moving to New York was Tim Vonderboss. He does a lot of motorcycle stuff. We played his party, he had a party for his wife’s cancer benefit, and then after playing that for a bunch of motorcycle dudes we got asked to play a lot more events.
POND: Who is going to cave and cut their hair first?
Tcoy: When it happens I’m going to shave my head and get a head tattoo the same day.
POND: Urban Lounge was kind of your staple Salt Lake City venue, have you guys found a venue like that here?
David: We definitely go to Alphaville the most, but here there are so many more venues that you’d don’t get as attached.
POND: When will Sounds From the Hole be released?
David: Hopefully later this summer.
Kallan: We still have to do the mastering, but the recordings are done.
POND: Any tours coming up for you guys?
David: We got a new manager and he’s helping us put together some stuff right now, so that’s all in the works. Hopefully we’re going back to Europe.
POND: I have one last question, will the grease ever cease?