Thursday, February 11, 2010

Walter Schreifels on CIV

Civ and Arthur with CIV in Syracuse, NY at The Lost Horizon, Photo: Traci McMahon

Last month we caught up with Sammy to get some memories on CIV and his time in the band. If you missed it:

Walter just got in touch and had some thoughts to share as well - so consider this round two. -Gordo DCXX

I got the idea for doing this band at a time when Green Day and "punk" had taken the place of grunge as the big new thing. I thought it was a shame that HC was overlooked when it was so much more powerful and original than what was being passed off as punk. Hence, "Civ" started to take shape in my mind as a response.

I wrote "Can't Wait One Minute More" in the spirit of "Start Today" but with more of a glam rock/Adam & The Ants styling. I wrote "Et Tu Brute" to show the full range of what I wanted the band to do. It was really fun because there was no pressure for it to succeed, Civ didn't even know about it at that time. I sort of talked him into it later on but I wanted to be sure it would be really good before I went to him with it.

Charlie Garriga was my roomate at the time, he's an amazing guitarist and helped to hatch the idea of the band. Sam has always been one of my favorite drummers, he was playing in a Reggae band at the time (from what I remember) but was down to play some hardcore and Bow Wow Wow grooves. The three of us practiced "Can't Wait One Minute More" and "Et Tu Brute", and got the concept pretty tight.

Sammy with CIV at The Lost Horizon in Syracuse, NY, Photo: Traci McMahon

Then we went to Civ with the idea. He didn't say yes right away...he was a little nervous about the band being his name - though I thought that was absolutely key. In my mind CIV was going to be a mix between Morrissey and Rollins, both band guys who went solo successfully. Eventually he agreed, though I'll never know how I got him to go along with the suits thing.

Arthur was a shoe-in on bass, he's a great musician and wasn't playing with anyone at the time and he was way up for it.

The early rehearsals were super fun as were all the rehearsals we did together. Once the first five or so songs were down it became really apparent that it was going to be something pretty great. We were all having fun playing HC but it was from a different point of view from when I was in GB or YOT. I was older, had a broader palate as a musician, and had more confidence as a songwriter. There's a rehearsal version of "Can't Wait One Minute More" on the Civ discography with me singing that really captures the spirit of "Civ" at that time.

For the most part I wrote the songs at home on an electric guitar and presented them at practice. Being as I lived with Charlie, I would work with him on the songs at home too. As for the lyrics, they were mostly fit into the songs after the recordings. I would usually have a title, a chorus that I would sing at rehearsal to get the feeling, and just fake the verses.

Once the songs were recorded I took a lot of care to make the lyrics sharp, some of them are pretty serious but there's always a sense of humor in there somewhere. It's the same balance to GB, that was the template really.

I recorded a vocal guide tape for Civ to listen to and when it came time we worked it out in the studio, making changes and improvements as we went along. Quicksand was a totally separate thing, although I remember working on Civ lyrics in the hotels and on the back of the bus during a Quicksand tour in Europe.

The recording process for the LP was fast, fun and easy. We recorded at Don's and had complete creative control. The record label was already satisfied with "Can't Wait One Minute More" as the single, so we just had fun and it didn't have any of the major label trappings except that we had money for lunch and we paid Don more than we would have on our own.

Civ shows the Syracuse crowd a little
Et Tu Brute, Photo: Traci McMahon

How the record ended up on Atlantic is a whole other story, it was a crazy time for us to have snuck in there. The only thing that took a while was the vocals. Because I was writing the lyrics and melodies, it would take some time for Civ to make it his own performance-wise.

That said, working with Civ is super fun, he's hilarious and works hard. Often times I was thinking of a line going one way and then Civ would do something by accident which would take us in a new direction (punny!). There's some lines that are just so funny to me like "not for nothin" because that was something Civ would say in ordinary conversation, so I wanted that in a song. The way he delivers lines like that is priceless to me.

Charlie and I both played guitar on the record splitting overdubs and rhythms. I definitely ripped some sweet leads (United Kids, Can't Wait...come to mind) and I'm really happy with many of the tones and subtle overdubs on that record, particularly in songs like Trust Slips Through Your Hands and Do Something. Charlie is a super tight and natural guitar player, I think he really shines on All Twisted and Boring Summer, where he played the leads or Gang Opinion, where he wrote the main verse/chorus riffs - that's another example.

Initially, I didn't see the band play live for a while. Their first show as I remember was in Detroit opening for Sick Of It All. I was on tour supporting Manic Compression that year. I saw them every night on the Warped Tour and I thought they were awesome. They came on a Quicksand tour that year as well. They were super polished and I think Civ really emerged as a great frontman, more so than in GB. Though to be fair I don't think GB ever played regularly enough for Civ to find his rhythm.

Ironically, I think it might have been all the touring they did over those few years that eventually cracked Civ and lead to the end of the band.

Was fun to reminisce!



TIM said...

"There's a rehearsal version of "Can't Wait One Minute More" on the Civ discography with me singing that really captures the spirit of "Civ" at that time." - kinda comes off "douche baggy", but who am i to say...

Anonymous said...

"a mix between morrissey and rollins" = LOL...but somehow it's kinda true?

Ben Edge said...

On the first album, at the very end of "Trust Slips Through Your Hands" there is what sounds like a sound byte from a porno movie of a woman having sex. Anyone know the story behind that?

Anonymous said...

never sounded like a woman to me? sounds like an old dude or something?

Anonymous said...

Hey, is it true that Luke wrote "United Kids"?

Russ said...

@ Tim not that walter IS a douchebag but this whole anecdotal commentary or whatever it is comes off "douche baggy"

ROA said...

Great record. Great lyrics. I got the whole concept and thought it was effective. Nice.

seanmo said...

I don't think it came off any other way than a cool piece of history on a great album.
can't let your expectations of what you want to read wreck what is written.
nice guy, good record, cool band.

-cja said...

hmmm. i was always under the impression that Civ's first show was at Limelight and their second was at Coney Island High. interesting read.

GOOD LIFE RECORDINGS - Belgium. said...

@ TIM : "There's a rehearsal version of "Can't Wait One Minute More" on the Civ discography with me singing that really captures the spirit of "Civ" at that time."

C'mon, cut Walter some slack here,
Civ-the-band was his concept, his baby, and as a songwriter myself, and i can totally understand where he is coming from with that remark.
It is just how it is when one creates...

On the other hand, "I recorded a vocal guide tape for Civ to listen to..." , there I see a new 'Walter sings the Hits' CD on the horizon... lol

- Ed.

EricP said...

really cool post. this is why double cross is so highly regarded. who else is getting this type of info and sharing it? as always, thanks gordo and tim.

Anonymous said...

I agree this does come of sounding
douche baggy. with that being said
it still doesen't erase the fact that he's a versatile musician. the picture of walter is the funnest thing i have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

"I was older, had a broader palate as a musician, and had more confidence as a songwriter"- sad these Civ songs sound so uninspired compared to when he was younger no confidence and had a less palate to work with.

Esteban™ said...

saw the first show in detroit and a second time at warped tour.
fun band!

walter said...

I just reread this interview and the comments too and I'm happy to discover "Set Your Goals" and CIV still resonate on Doublecross.

To answer some of the comments, I'll try not to sound "douchey" but in regards to the practice version of "Can't Wait..." I only meant that we were having fun, my version was only joking around. Civ deserves the credit for realizing the potential of the song and the whole idea of the band for that matter. Along with Lou's great cameo vocal, Civ was able to preserve the fun but stopped short of leaving it there, which is why I love it.

I'm almost positive the first CIV show was at St. Andrew's in Detroit with SOIA, I was bummed to have missed it, they were always a great live band in my opinion.

I may have been thinking Morrissey meets Rollins at the time but in retrospect Civ is as much Frank Sinatra as either of those guys.

The voice at the end of "Trust..." is Charlie recorded through the pick up of his SG. I don't remember who or what it's supposed to be but it was hilarious and a little scary so we left it in. I hear it as an old man being beaten and loving it.

I think Luke wrote "Dead Serious" by Side By Side

I also recommend checking out the second CIV album "13 Day Getaway" which was criminally over looked by their record company at the time of release. It's not as much a HC record as "Set Your Goals" but to the open minded it's a bold evolution with great song writing (by the band, not mine) that really works. I listened to it recently and it's ageing very gracefully. Civ and I collaborated on "Little Men", he wrote the lyrics to my music, still gets me misty.

Thanks Doublcross!


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