Artist: We Are Augustines Video: 'Book of James' Highlight: "The video was…
- Posted on Aug 26th 2011 3:00PM by Dan Reilly
Despite the advice of friends, McCarthy and Sanderson (with the help of drummer Rob Allen) carried on to finish the songs that make up 'Rise,' even though they came close to giving up music forever. Spurred on by the desire to tell his brother's story, McCarthy kept fighting, giving up alcohol and emerging from the depression that plagued him after Pela's split. Spinner recently spoke with McCarthy about how he turned these tragedies into a triumphant album.
You recorded some of these songs with Pela. What happened, and in what order?
We had such a difficult time in that band. We did [the recordings] twice. We did it in two different countries, in Canada and the U.S. We did it on the East Coast and the West Coast. I think what we were attempting was we wanted to break out of the sort of the indie ghetto we were in: The tours, shoddy management, sketchy lawyers. There was all this crap on top of us that we wanted to emerge from. So we got the first draft of the record and it just wasn't there. We didn't feel it. I've seen some Oasis documentary, they were saying that it happened to them, and it sort of inspired me, like "I don't care if we have to borrow more money or whatever we have to do, but we have to do this thing the right way."
And I kept writing, so there were more songs. When we finally got the rough draft, the band broke up. Because of everything that transpired personally, I was told by everyone I knew, the majority of people, to leave it behind. I really do believe there were only two of us who wanted to continue with it. All of our friends were saying it was a bad idea: "It's going to be messy. It's going to be hard. You don't have any more money. The fan base is gone. These songs were written in a different period."
We took about three months off. Everything happened in August, which is where we got our name, and around October, November we started kind of talking about it. Come December, we started to want to record again and get the songs out. It was very difficult. It took a long time. We had no money. We were devastated. I think I sat on a couch for a month, just shell-shocked. We slowly learned to get back to life, but it was really difficult.
Did you have second thoughts about regrouping with Eric?
Oh yeah. Our last band, it seemed there was a bit of a self-destructive side. I don't think we ever played sober and I certainly did not believe in the music industry any longer. It seemed that our fans and our band was all that mattered. The shows were getting amped up and they would get a little more reckless and a little more reckless. I ended up in a hospital twice that year, with surgery. I sliced my hand on a pane of glass. I fell off the stage. I broke my foot on stage. I don't have insurance, so all these hospital bills came in on top of the band breaking up. You can't even make this s--- up. And my family!
There were a lot of reasons for people who love us say, "Hey, you've been in the hospital, you went through this whole prison thing with your family." It was such a bad thing that people don't even know what to say anymore. We went from opening for Sonic Youth and a month later just devastated.
And then you got sober. How did things change?
Playing again, we realized we could do it differently. I felt a responsibility. My brother wasn't well these past years before he passed away. It was a really unique situation. I had to deal with the prison system. I felt like I had been ripped off. It was done very swiftly and very quietly, sort of brushed under the rug. It just felt like, "Not on my watch!" I'm not going to have my kid brother swept under the rug.
When you know somebody that is locked up and doing life in prison, they don't get a lot of their rights. I had to deal with his lawyers. I was his number one advocate for him to get treatment. There was none. You can't believe what goes on in the prison system. It's a larger topic, larger than indie rock. It was dismal, sad, tragic and I can't believe it even happens this country, how people are treated. Not to mention, before he was incarcerated, he was homeless -- and a f---ing ladle of soup ain't gonna solve that problem.
The song 'Juarez' is about your father, a truck driver that you've never met. How long ago did your mom tell you who he was?
My mom passed away when I was 19. I had spoken to her that week. She mentioned it to me once when she was drunk when I was a little kid, about him. I had to ask her, because she was deteriorating and I was afraid that if I didn't get that information from her then I might never know. She told me his name and what state he lived in. I've looked. I've been looking for him my whole life. I don't anticipate that I will find him, but yeah. It was the roaring '70s, the freewheeling '70s. Wear a condom people! Or you're going to have some angry f---ing songwriters as kids, you f---ers! [Laughs]
It's good that you can laugh at it.
If I wasn't laughing, I'd be crying, man. It's bulls---!
How close are you with the other guys from Pela?
There's a love there. It's also very strained. There's strain there because, one of them had children; he had twins, and another one went on to do a very quiet folk project. I think it's just very painful. We do our best to keep in contact. It's just hard because I don't think the forces were internal that made us crack. The external forces made us crack. Those things will be smoothed out with everybody in time. It hurt. We loved that band. We loved that band. We loved our fans. It's very understandable that people would need time to go into their own lives and try to find their way.
There are religious references in your lyrics. Are you a church-goer?
I was baptized in an Irish Catholic family. That was about the extent of it. I don't have a problem with church, but I don't find myself going. I was thinking about this last night, wondering why there are Old Testament names and references to Jesus and the devil. [It's] probably because those forces were walking alongside me when I was writing.
I definitely knew that my brother's days were numbered if something didn't happen. When someone is really doomed like that and you can't do s--- up against the system ... I already saw it happen with my mother and that was the dark force. And the other forces were very healthy. With the 'Book of James' stuff, I felt like I needed to set it straight. I saw his mug shot on the Folsom Prison website and it really f---ed me up because it's like that's what he was being viewed as -- a criminal. It was like, "No. I'm going to have the last f----ing word on this one." That's why I wrote that song. And that's that.
So what kept you going?
In the beginning, we just wanted to finish the record and give it away. But there was so much new meaning in these songs and it was creepy as well because some of the songs were sort of about Jimmy and his journey and about trying to wake him up before he went into prison. It reminded me of that Brandon Lee movie, 'The Crow,' where he passed away during the making of it and they had to finish it posthumously.
Eric said in our bio, he knew he couldn't quit then. Our community really became the people to help us, to hold us up, because we certainly could have been blown over by it. A very weak gust of wind could have knocked us on our ass at that point.