Cloak/Dagger Interview

Cloak / Dagger are one of those rare bands that are able to play the sort of music which may look to the past for its influence but still sounds relevant and totally up to date. They inject an energy into their songs which has made every release so far pretty much essential. With a new album in the pipeline, it looks like there will be plenty more to look forward to. Questions by Tony, answers from singer Jason Mazzola, photos nicked form Cloak / Dagger’s MySpace page.

For the uninitiated, can you tell us who is who and what made you all get together to form Cloak/Dagger? Was there any particular pre-conceived idea as to how the band would sound?

I’m Jason and I scream for the Dagger. We started in late 2004 as a not serious at all band. We didn’t have any certain way we wanted to sound but we knew we wanted to keep things on the punker side and wanted to keep things fun. Our big goal was to maybe play a few shows and after we recorded our demo things just kind of picked up from there. We didn’t really plan to do anything big with this band at first. I think everyone’s different tastes in music just came out a little more than I thought they would to make us sound the way we do. We all come from a hardcore background and our tastes have changed but I still think that there is still that hardcore sound in everything we write.

Some (all?) of you have previously been in bands people will know, can you remind us who they were? Does it annoy you when stupid zine writers ask about previous bands?
How does the Cloak/Dagger experience compare to those previous bands?

Me and Drummer Colin were in Count Me Out together and he also played drums in Time Flies and toured with American Nightmare for a little over a year. Guitar player Collin played in Trial By Fire and Matt Michel our bass player played and sang in Haram and Majority Rule.

It’s always cool to me that people remember the bands we have done before although I don’t think that we sound like any of the other bands we have been in. The only thing that bothers me is heavy promotion of ex-American Nightmare since Colin didn’t really write and record anything with AN but a BBC session. I just don’t want anyone to see us and be disappointed because they expected something else.

Compared to the other bands I have done I would say that we seem to be appreciated in a different way. At every show people aren’t going crazy and stage diving but they can still enjoy what we are doing and still be into it. It took a while for me to get over expecting that reaction from shows. Now we don’t expect anything. Touring now is a lot harder than it used to be but I’m also a lot older then I used to be but it’s still fun now and always has been.

You were recently over in the UK, how many dates did you play and was that part of a wider European tour? Did your visit make you want to come back?
That was around two weeks and we flew over just for that tour and loved it. It was the best tour we have done yet because at almost every show there were people excited to see us and that’s all you can ask for. We definitely want to come back at least for the good chips and the good used Fred Perry’s I found in Camden.

What do you do outside that band, do you have full time jobs and are you able to tour a lot, or do you mainly play one-off gigs around your local area?
I temp at an office job right now and haven’t had a problem getting time off but we also don’t really make money at the end of tours either so it can get hard. We were able to break even when we toured the UK and that felt good but we still had rent and bills stacked up and had no money coming in. We do play around Richmond and DC a lot and try to make a weekend out of it if we play any further up north to make it easier on gas and really it’s just better that way. New York, Baltimore and Philly are all so close to us and are all great places to play.

You have just been in the studio, right? Can you tell us about that? Do you enjoy
the recording process, or is it a necessary evil?

We just recorded 15 songs for our second LP on Jade Tree “Last Words, Lost Art”, 13 of the songs are going to be on the LP and we are all very happy with how it came out. I love recording but this time was a bit hectic for me since I flew home early since my girlfriend was rushed to the hospital for her appendix. I found out at 3 p.m. she was going into surgery and booked the next flight which was at 6 a.m. the next morning so I finished up my part that night. There are some things I wish I could change but that is life.

Are you going to continue to work with Jade Tree? What attracted you to them as a label?
I love the tree. They are the only label I’ve ever known or dealt with that sends you a statement where you can see where all the money spent on a record went to. I trust them and think they do a great job. I personally like the diversity in bands they put out over the years and not to mention they released the best 4 Walls Falling LP, Damnation, Lifetime. Those are all bands I looked up to when I was younger and before us they put out Hidden World and Paint It Black so they have a good track record.

What inspires your lyrics? Do you feel you have a platform to educate and inform or are your words more personal than that?

I am just writing lyrics based on where I’m at right now in life and trying to document how it feels to get older and to get concerned with money, death and what we are doing here and with our lives. Sometimes there are some political lyrics just based on how I see things but I would not consider myself that educated in politics. I just don’t trust them.

You have a track on the 7” that came with the Adult Crash book, how did that come about?
Wasted Time was supposed to cover a song for Dave and we see him every week when he works Mondays at a record store here in Richmond. He was telling us about how he needed a band but who is going to be recording in the next week? We were able to record it ourselves with the help of Matt’s brother Paul and get it to Dave in a week or so. He wanted us to cover a band that he had photos of in the book and at first we were going to go for Descendents or Social Distortion but then we thought it would be fun to do Warzone and it was. I love the way that song came out and it’s something I used to listen to a lot on the NYHC comp when I was younger.

Ok, on a personal level, when did you get into punk rock? What happened to
steer you down this path and what do you think it’s brought to your life?

I first got into punk and hardcore around age 12 by trading a skate board for some tapes that had Misfits and Circle Jerks on them. Skate videos always had such awesome sound tracks and I got into Dinosaur Jr., Bad Brains, Descendents all at 14. By 17 I started getting into real hardcore but my first show was Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine in Alabama where my dad was stationed in the military for a year. After that it was Lollapalooza and then Lifetime. I think I fell in love with the honesty of punk and core music and without it I would have not seen many of the places I have seen or met any of the people I have met. I’ve also been put in some messed up situations by touring where you have to get through it and not give up. Aside from that it has brought me no money but all happiness. It’s fair.

Is there any particular band, or bands, that you think are essential for people to check out? Who are your have current favourites?

Hot Snakes, the Damaged LP by Black Flag, Pixies, The Wipers, The Stooges. If you’re reading this you already know them but just in case you don’t. My current favourites are The Shitty Limits, Wasted Time, Fucked Up, Pygmy Lush, Sonic Youth, Ladies.

A little bit of politics now; the US has a new president, he seems to be pretty popular all over the world, how is he viewed in the US? Is Barack Obama really different to those that came before him? Can he really make a difference that some people are expecting?

I think that there has never been a president that relates to people the same way that Obama does. He goes out of his way to keep in touch with every day people in DC by going to eat at some of the smaller local owned restaurants around DC and he is a great speaker. I think right now people are sceptical that he can make good on all the change they wanted when he was elected but by being the first African American in office that is a big change and by keeping up the lines of communication with people not in the government that is a change. It really helps to not have W. as the face of the USA right now and I’m happy about that. I think Obama is doing a good job right now but I think a lot of people fear he is too nice or not strong enough to make the same decisions that W. made but I think that’s a good thing. We don’t need another W.

Ok, back to the band, what does the rest of 2009 have in store for Cloak/Dagger?
We just recorded and our planning a trip to Europe in September. It is mostly booked right now and we are going to announce the dates soon. We are going to release some 7”s also with some songs we have had recorded for a while and we are going to keep writing more as long as we stay happy with what we are writing.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks to you and for any one that read this. We are in need of a smaller venue here in Richmond so if you have one don’t fuck it up by fighting or doing what you shouldn’t do in public. That’s common sense.

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