United Nations' Geoff Rickly
Published Sep 30, 2008Geoff Rickly is best known as the front man/vocalist for the emo outfit Thursday who stunned the post-hardcore world with their sophomore release, Full Collapse. Now Rickly is working with what has been touted as a "supergroup of musicians whose identity cannot be confirmed but have been said to encumber Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw and Ben Koller of Converge. Although no official line-up has been released, Rickly opted to take the fifth concerning this issue. When United Nations music first surfaced it was labelled as grindcore, which was not an apt description of their style, and Rickly helped to clear things up on this genre confusion. In a voice of utter satire, Rickly spoke to Exclaim! from an undisclosed location regarding the making of United Nations, the contentious cover art that set the Beatles Abbey Road on fire and whats so super about this group.
How did the making of United Nations come about?
We were taking a break from tour in Oklahoma and ended up getting hammered in an Applebees (we like to support our Friendly Neighbourhood Grill TM). The members of the band ended up getting kicked out for their drunk and disorderly behaviour, which sparked our interest in politics. United Nations was decided as the name and we talked about it for a long time because talking is much easier than action.
What comes to mind when United Nations is described as a supergroup?
It's really embarrassing. What's so "super" about a few people from bands playing in a band together? Like, "Holy shit! That guy is playing music and it's with new people! WOW! When a plumber quits working for one company and starts working with a different company you don't usually refer to them as a "plumber supergroup. It is helping to sell our record though and since we self-released it we might actually make enough money to buy a guitar pedal or two so we can shift to prog rock like you're supposed to after your second release.
I found one of many line-ups for the band. It was listed as yourself, Daryl Palumbo (Glassjaw/Head Automatica), Ben Koller (Converge), Chris Conger (The Number Twelve Looks Like You), Eric Cooper (Made Out of Babies) and Jonah Bayer (The Lovekill).Is this the current line-up? If not can you please tell me who is in the band and what they do?
No and no. I'm sorry.
Ive read a few times that this is somewhat of a secretive group. Are you trying to create a certain mystique with the band and all of its potential members?
We're trying to dismantle some of the identity politics involved with music. If this band continue after I'm no longer involved, I'd be thrilled. I'd also love to see someone release a similar record with common goals and be completely unrelated to us that'd be a real thrill.
Tell me about the problems you encountered with the United Nations album cover where youve taken the Beatles Abbey Road and set fire to them.
The Beatles apparently don't like being on fire. We've worked with some exciting artists that I've loved and supported for years. Even the artists would say things like, "Well, I'm not sure if you're going to be able to do this... I have a hard time and my stuff isn't even mass produced." All the trouble has been a lot of fun though. It's like you know you're on the right track once you start getting a ton of hate mail.
Why did you only press 1,000 copies?
We repressed additional copies with a black glossy cover to be distributed to major retail outlets. Although we are not looking to tour, release singles, videos or engage in any attempts to actively market this record... this band is reserved for the joy of acting on impulse. We'll probably get sued and lose the rights to all of this stuff eventually but in the meantime we want to explore the boundaries of copyright control, free expression, political commentary, satire, identity politics and generally anything that causes people to engage with each other.
Was it due to the contentious cover art?
What other problems did this bring up?
One major store ordered a couple thousand and then didn't even put them on the shelves. It was a kind of corporate cock block.
Is it true the band plans to follow up this self-titled release with a seven-inch on Deathwish Inc.?
Will it be titled Never Mind the Bombings, Heres Your Six Fingers?
It will be "Six Figures not fingers - although that could be a cool genetics research type thing.
How come you decided to take this approach of release?
The inspiration came from an Australian artist, Ben Frost.
Will the cover art be a parody of the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks, Heres the Sex Pistols?
Yes. Ben Frost is doing the layout and it will have a reference to that art. A lot of this band has been a parody of punk rock and how seriously it takes itself. Even though we are true believers in a lot of the ideals that being involved in this culture has exposed us to, we think a lot of the posturing is absurd, which is great because absurdity is the natural state of reality.
What does this band offer you in ways of musical creativity that Thursday couldnt?
We don't have to be ourselves and we don't have any worries about going too far because we don't expect to have a career or make record deal or anything.
How long did it take for you to get an opportunity to work on the United Nations project and was it in relation to Thursday not having a label?
It was certainly easier without a label. I didnt have anyone telling me to quit fucking around and work on a new Thursday record.
As a group of artists who have many times been referred to as screamo in your other bands what are you thoughts on working in a band that has lots of screaming?
Well, we were hoping people would pick up on the "guitaro" and "drumo" influence on this record, but yes, screaming is a good way to deliver lyrics when you can't or don't want to sing.
Is the song title "The Shape of Punk That Never Came a statement about punk music or was this more of a tribute/homage to Refused?
Refused promised a pretty awesome "shape of punk to come." So like how come it isn't here? A lot of this manufactured pop with punk attitude is super fun and all but that's not it. And a lot of the underground bands are so concerned with genre that they never experiment with melody or pop elements that could be so subversive and awesome. We're not exactly providing any answers but I at least want to ask some questions.
The United Nations album has some clean and harmonic parts like "A City By The Light Divided. Are these influences from Thursday?
United Nations seems to have had a lot of hype about it being grindcore music. Do you feel thats an apt description of the bands style of music?
Genre is ridiculous. It helps people to not have to think for themselves when they have categories to tell them what to like. That's why we keep changing our "genre label." It's also fun to piss off purists.
I read on United Nations FAQ page that power violence is a better description of the bands music. Is the band a fan of grindcore?
We love power violence but no we don't consider it to be a good description of what we play.
Tell me about your musical interest in "power violence.
It's what happens when punk and hardcore just aren't pure anymore. You have to push it to a new place. Hopefully our appropriation and misuse of the tag "power violence" will cause an acceleration of culture and someone will create a hyper devastation genre or some shit.
I think its safe to say that the band have some political issues or issues with politics. What are they?
Well according to a maniac that keeps sending us insane messages, this is what we're about:
I just came across a band that caught my attention on the front page of my space called United Nations (http://myspace.com/unitednations). When you visit their site and read some of their info you can see this band, whether knowingly or not, are indoctrinating their fans to accept the United Nations / Global Dictatorship / New World Order. The members are anonymous but speculations have been made as to who the members are (ex/current members of indie/punk/hardcore/metal/rock bands... coincidentally, some are the sons of military/government officials). Is this band an indication of things to come? A generation of slackers who acquiesce to enslavement? Are these dudes just ignorant to the UN global depopulation plan? Are you up for informing them and their fans? Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to add UN as a friend, then info bomb (leave comments full of educational information) on their page, with videos, links, etc regarding to new world order, United Nations torturing humans, global government agenda, eugenics/depopulation, do not assume they are intentionally misleading the youth to depths of Hell. Be completely civil and respectful, remember there was once a time when you didn't know the truth either... so maybe they are just sadly misinformed and need to see proof that the UN is not the saviour of the world. Re-post this message and help save the human race from extermination!"
Then again maybe this band is attempting to deconstruct the idea of political satire, but that's just my idea.
Why the Point Break-style Ronald Reagan masks?
Point Break is the most important work of fiction since Total Recall.
If the band could only accomplish one goal or be known for one thing what would that be?
Foster a more open discussion among our youth.
So what plans do you have for Thursday for the near and or long term future?
We're releasing a split with the insanely awesome Envy and working on a new full-length with Dave Fridmann.