Million Dollar Marxists

Million Dollar Marxists
Following the release late last-year of Zero Culture, a record brimming with dark, fast punk rock, Ottawa, Ontario’s Million Dollar Marxists are gearing up for their latest cross-Canada tour. Having added a new guitar player since their debut full-length, the equally awesome Give It A Name, the band’s sound has expanded substantially, marking a more varied musical approach that doesn’t fall into tried and true punk musical clichés. Having barely had a chance to road-test their newest material, the band’s vocalist Luke Nuclear appears to be looking forward to tour with equal parts excitement and reserve.

How has your approach to touring changed since the first time the band went out on the road?
Luke Nuclear: The first time we went out on tour we had no idea what to do or what to expect. We booked everything ourselves. We didn’t know what to bring, or how much merch we would sell. It was really blind travelling. We only ended up playing seven shows around Canada, so it was more vacation than anything. Now, we have someone helping us out with shows, and someone helping with press, and we’re a lot more focused on just having a tight live show. We’re also trying not to get completely wasted every night. I think we’re learned that over the last few years of touring.

Is that the hardest lesson you learned?
No, I think the hardest lesson we learned was not to buy a $3,000 van and try to put a 150,000 km on it. This time we’re going out with something slightly newer with no holes in the floor and doors that close.

What was the worst show on that first tour?
To be perfectly honest, they were all pretty bad. We only had an EP and it had only been out for a few months. So outside of a few people we already knew in each city, and the other bands on the bill, we were basically playing for ourselves. They were all really fun because it was the first time we had done any touring. We also had nothing to compare it to.

Do you have a high point from being on the road?
Probably playing South by Southwest a few years ago. We didn’t really know much about the festival, outside of hearing about it, but we got some great responses from that show. Unbeknownst to us, there was a lot of press at that show. It was a total fluke, but it helped a lot of things happen for us.

Out of all those good things, from being championed by David Fricke to having your music on Viva La Bam, what has been the coolest for you?
Well, it’s not like people recognise us on the street, but going on a European tour a few years ago was a huge deal. We had such a good time, and it was the kind of experience we never could have had in North America.

Now that you’re playing songs from Zero Culture live, how are people receiving the new material?
We haven’t really been able to do any serious touring since the record came out because of a few of the guys being in school, but every show we’ve done has been great. When we played North by Northeast a few weeks ago, we had people come up and tell us it was the best they had seen us play. By the time we were touring for Give It A Name, some of those songs were getting pretty old, so this stuff is a lot more fresh. I think that it’s going over with the crowd fairly well. They seem to like it, anyway.

What do you feel the greatest difference is between your writing on Zero Culture and Give It A Name?
With Give It A Name, most of those songs were brought to the band already completed by whoever wrote them. Now, it’s a lot more collaborative. It can take a little bit longer, but having everyone involved in the writing process is preferable. Now it’s more, "I’ve got this riff, does anyone else have anything?”

Do you have a favourite song on the new record?
I really like the last song, "Pangs of Creation.” Usually when we get interviews, no one asks what the songs are about, I guess because they think they’re rock songs about drugs and fucking. But that song is about using art as a metaphor for creation, and wanting things to come out. That making music, making art, making life can be painful.

I was wondering about that, because you guys have a pretty silly name, but all your songs aren’t just about getting drunk and fucking. Are there any particularly important lyrical themes on the new record?
Most of them are just personal, but there can be microcosms and macrocosms within that. "Zero Culture” is about what I see as the degradation of society as a whole, and being on the fringes as a band or a person and what that does to you. I think, if anything, there’s just a consistent musical mood that flows through the whole record. It’s a pretty dark record. When we were writing those songs, we were coming off touring for about a year with only a few breaks here or there, and feeling very alienated from a lot of things.

So does tour come as a vacation, or do you have a little bit of trepidation?
It’s exciting because we’re going to get to go see some people and some places that we haven’t in awhile. At the same time, everyone’s gotten really used to sleeping in their own beds, and seeing their girlfriends, stuff like that. I think that everyone’s a little wary about the fact that they’ll be sleeping on a floor for the next three weeks.

In terms of this tour coming up, is there one city you’re really excited to get back to?
I’m really excited about going back to Calgary and Edmonton. They’re just always a lot of fun, and we haven’t been there in a while. We also played a pretty sad show on our last Canadian tour in Regina, so I’m hoping to go back and do it right this time.