Banquets: Feast or famine

Infectious songs are usually associated with watered-down radio fodder, so it’s always utterly refreshing when a bona fide good band has an ear for a melody.

New Jersey’s Banquets are certainly one of those bands – their latest self-titled release is full of catchy melodies and intelligent hooks and as a result, they have managed to build up a reasonable following despite a relatively bare touring schedule.

We caught up with guitarist David Frenson to talk about the band’s influences, juggling the band with full-time jobs and their local music scene…

Banquets

Give us a brief history of the band.

It’s your pretty standard story. A bunch of guys who had all been in bands before got together and started writing music. At that point Travis left Let Me Run, and I asked him to come sing for us. The rest is history.

How would you describe your sound? Do you think it’s true to say you bridge the gap between a couple of genres (i.e. pop punk and punk rock)?

We basically just play the kind of music we like to listen to. Big influences for us include Hot Rod Circuit, The Promise Ring, Hot Water Music, The Get Up Kids, and all that good late 90’s early 00’s stuff. I think it comes across pretty clearly where we all come from.

I’d definitely say we bridge that gap you mentioned. Mostly because as much as we’re into grittier punk stuff, we all have a pretty good ear for pop/melody, so our stuff comes out pretty polished.

What is the NJ music scene like?

It’s different to what it was when we were younger, but it’s definitely still strong. We have a couple foothold venues that we can always count on a good show from. The Court Tavern and Warren American Legion are two shining examples. There are good people doing good work at both of those venues.

How important is touring to a band like Banquets? Do you see it as the main way to make new fans or a way to connect with existing fans?

We’ve managed to be relatively successful with little to no touring. Since we all work full-time jobs, it’s difficult to do any extended touring. That said, we have managed to get out of New Jersey pretty extensively. We did a short tour this past August that brought us to a lot of new places. We also did a four-day European tour last Spring that was incredible and an absolute blur.

Tell us more about your European experience.

We did a whirlwind ‘weekend’ in Europe where we managed to play two huge festivals and two tiny club shows in a total of three countries. We flew into Berlin, and immediately got picked up and headed to our show in Chemnitz. We played with Zebrahead and Such Gold in the side room of a pretty big venue. It was bizarre and amazing.

The next day we were at Monster Bash for about 12 hours. We saw Red City Radio, Hostage Calm, Lagwagon, and Refused. Then we did an overnight drive directly to our set at Groezrock and made it with about 15 minutes to spare.

We were the first band to play Groezrock that year, and we played to about 2000 people. It was a really humbling and awesome experience. We got hang out with lots of friends and see some incredible bands. Groezrock is the best festival I have ever played, or even been to.

The next day we drove to the Netherlands for a little club show with our buddies The Bouncing Souls and The Menzingers. It was probably the most poorly attended show of our little Euro tour, but it was a lot of fun either way. Right after the show, we got back in the van and headed back to Berlin to fly home for work the next day. It was exhausting and absolutely insane, but worth every minute. Tobi from Coffeebreath and Heartache is an incredible dude – he did all the driving and is an absolute saint for dealing with all our bullshit.

How hard is it to juggle full-time jobs and a band? As a band, would you like to tour more?

It can get pretty tricky. None of us have the kind of job where we can just say “fuck it” and book whatever. That’s why we mostly end up doing quick weekends where we get as a far as we can without missing work on Monday or Friday.

I’d say that in theory we’d all like to tour more. Obviously playing more shows and getting out to areas where we never get to play would be awesome. But on the other side of that, none of us would really like to trade our lives at home for a life on the road.

Do you have any particular tour stories that will always stick in your mind?

Although seeing Grown Ups 2 in a theatre in West Virginia with all you can eat popcorn and free refill Icees ranks pretty highly, the best story I can think of has got to be the karaoke night in Burlington, Vermont with The Stereo State and Great Lakes USA. Brian and Andy did a duet of “Turn the Page” that will stay with me until the day I die.

If you could tour with three other bands, who would you choose?

I think my number one choice would have to be Alkaline Trio. They’ve been a favourite band of mine for well over a decade at this point. I’d also love to go out with our buds from Oklahoma, Red City Radio, as well as Restorations.

How do you go about the songwriting process? What comes first?

We always write the music first, and Travis does the lyrics and melodies after. We usually just start with a single part, and see where it takes us. We try not to overthink anything, and we don’t force anything. We do a lot of open air live recordings on our phones, and when we hit a wall, we just take a break and move on to something new.

What’s next for the band?

We’ve got some cool shows coming up: a one-off with Into it. Over It., a Shades Apart reunion show, a show with Jason from Hot Water Music’s new band Unwed, and some cool festivals as well. We’d love to get over to Europe again this summer, as well as back up to Canada for a couple shows in the spring.

We’ve also got a split or two coming out really soon, but we can’t say much more than that.

– AC

Check out the band’s back catalogue here – http://banquets.bandcamp.com/

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