Ship Thieves (Hot Water Music) & Reconciler (ex-Less Than Jake) team for split, interviewed each other
Ship Thieves is another band led by Hot Water Music co-frontman Chris Wollard (who's currently on hiatus from HWM) that also features Addison Burns (Quit, The Enablers), and they're about to release a split 7" with Reconciler, a band featuring their old pal Derron Nuhfer who played sax in Less Than Jake in the '90s and bass/vocals in Gunmoll in the 2000s. The 7" comes out this Friday (1/15) via Anti-Flag's A-F Records (pre-order), and $2 from each purchase will be donated to the Save Our Stages fund to help support independent music venues. All purchases made between January 12 and 31 will be automatically entered to win the original painting used for the cover art. The winner will be chosen the first week in February.
We're premiering both songs from the split in this post, and if you're fan of these musicians' most famous work, you should give these songs a spin too. The Ship Thieves song sounds like classic Hot Water Music, and the Reconciler song is cut from a similar gravelly Gainesville punk cloth.
A-F Records' Chris Stowe recently sat down (via Zoom) with Chris, Addison, and Derron to moderate an interview between the three of them, and that interview is debuting in this post as well. It's a great read that's full of old stories from the Gainesville punk scene, the small-world connections that these three musicians have, and the kinds of jokes that get told when three old friends get back together. Listen to the two new songs and read on for the chat...
Chris Stowe: The year is 2020, and tonight all I can think about is the 14 year old version of myself that’s sitting on his bedroom floor flipping through the No Idea Records mail order catalog. If only I was able to tell that kid that someday he’d get to sit down and talk to 3 of his musical heroes, people that would alter the course of his life forever with the songs they wrote, he’d probably be pretty stoked and maybe have a little less angst. If I’d also tell him you get to put out a vinyl record for both of their bands, his brain might explode. He’d probably also be like...what the fuck is zoom? A video call...you mean like on Star Trek? But yea, I got to do both of those things, so here it is, a conversation with 3 lifelong friends and compatriots Chris Wollard, Addison Burns, and Derron Nuhfer:
Wollard: Well, if we wanna talk football, it’d be crazy not to talk about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, obviously the greatest organization in pro sports. That’s obvious. But, what we’re talking about, is rock and roll history.
When I met Addison, I was this fucking kid in high school. I was 15 years old and Addison is in this band called Quit. And that kind of gets us into Florida punk rock history too, there were bands like Pink Lincolns, Belching Penguins, Roach Motel. And I was in this crappy band...the worst band...but we got gigs!
Stowe: What was your band called?
Wollard: Last To Go. like, we’re gonna be the last to go…. (laughs) and it’s so funny man I was 14 when I joined that band and all those guys were outta high school and in their mid 20s. And I had this Les Paul, but they wanted me to play bass so I was like... shit yea I’ll play bass! Fuck it I don’t care I wanna be in a band that plays shows! So we did some shows at the Star Club in Ybor City...my first show we opened for Filth, the Lookout Records band. And I was so terrified...my anxiety was through the roof...and I looked up and the drummer of Filth was standing in front of me and he gives me a thumbs up. (laughs) So it was like, alright I'm not doing too bad! So we did some more shows...we were like the shitty band who’d open up for anybody. But then we heard Quit were coming to Tampa.
Stowe: Right because Addison at this point you live in South Florida
Addison: Miami, yea.
Wollard: I mean honestly this was like the first band we knew of as kids in Florida…Quit like had a CD out that you could get at the mall, that was a huge thing then. That was a big thing to local folks, and all of a sudden “Quit” is coming to town and they ask us to open for them, so I was like...15 when I met Addison? I’m sure Addison doesn’t remember when I met him, but I do. Because this is like, a band that’s done something that no one else in Florida has done! They’ve got a CD!
Addison: But then they played it! (laughs)
Wollard: I remember Marilyn Manson opening up for Quit...there was some sort of Tampa independent festival...in the old days it was Slam Fest...but I remember going to the Quit show and watching Marilyn Manson and the keyboard player set his keyboard on fire and it was so….
Wollard: (laughs) Well I guess yea but all the punks were there for Quit! But yea when I got to open for Quit that was a big deal for me and Quit was a big deal in the early 90s, they were a band that showed everybody that like…
Derron: That it can be done
Wollard: That we can do stuff, yea. And later on No Idea started doing 7-inches that came with their zines and after high school I moved up to Gainesville and that’s where Hot Water started. And then years later Addy moves up and I’m like “oh my god dude!” It’s like, how many years have gone by and we’re still into this? (laughs)
Derron: That's what blew my mind, because when Stowe asked me to try and write some notes or whatever, I start going back and it’s like, holy shit. There’s a lot of fucking weird connections that the three of us have.
Wollard: It’s so wild, and just like, the two of you guys having the studio where I sat with the two of you guys before Ship Thieves was even a band and you helped me finish mixing and producing the (self titled) album and put it all together.
Derron: Well yea to fill in the gaps between that, when I moved to Florida, I’d already heard about Quit, I don’t think you guys were still playing by then, like ‘94 ish. But when I joined Less Than Jake those guys were still all about Quit and how awesome they were. I know we crossed paths back then, and that’s when Wollard and I started crossing paths more, playing shows together. Then fast forward a few years and I started doing the studio stuff and you’re moving into town, then we’re doing it together...crazy.
Addison: I would say Stowe, also, we’re older dudes that all started at a younger age, but we all had the same...we’re all kindred spirits. The music, that was it.
Stowe: Yea absolutely, and it’s that thing that shows up a lot like, everybody has that moment where they realize “oh fuck, anybody can do this, I can maybe do this” and that goes back to like the Ramones or whatever. It’s interesting and also a crazy story that, Wollard, you saw Addison when you were 14 and that happened, then that came completely around and you get to be in a band eventually all these years later.
Wollard: I don’t think you can even understand how strange that was for me. But also yea, Derron, fuckin-a, we were playing shows together with Less Than Jake and Gunmoll…
Stowe: Yea Derron so what’s your timeline with stuff?
Derron: I moved to Florida to go to college in Orlando, I was in a band that played shows with Less Than Jake and I'd see Hot Water at Club Nowhere in Orlando, so we were crossing paths then. But then, that summer we played a show with Less Than Jake and their trombone player was going to Germany for the summer and they wanted somebody to fill in and they asked me
to play sax for a bunch of shows. Next thing I knew that turned into “well, when you finish school you can move to Gainesville and be in the band.” and that’s kind of what ended up happening.
Wollard: Did you finish school before you joined?
Derron: I did finish, yea.
Wollard: Oh wow well ok, so you’re a dick. (all laugh)
Derron: What’s that!?
Wollard: You’re a dick! Why didn’t you tell me to do what you did!
Derron: Yea but the joke is that I got my audio engineering degree, moved to Gainesville in August, and by December we were touring full time. So I had an internship for 3 months at a studio in Gainesville but then I was gone on the road playing sax which I never would’ve dreamed would’ve happened.
Wollard: Yea that’s how I felt too man, I never thought I'd end up in a band that, like, could sustain itself.
Derron: Yea and I think all of us have been lucky enough to take music and find a way for it to sustain us. Whether we’re making it or recording it, in the studio or on stage teching, it’s pretty awesome.
Addison: It has been our beacon. When I moved to Gainesville, it was only a matter of time until all of us started weaving in together. I just attribute it to just like, starting at a young age, when you’re in that scene, if you’re really gunning for it and it’s who you are and whatever, you’re gonna cross paths with people later in life. Just look at all the kids in Chicago in the early scene, and everybody’s still in big bands but they’re all still around. I mean, I work for Less Than Jake now, how full circle is that? And I worked for Hot Water too.
Derron: Yeah, so did I! When I quit Less Than Jake, my first gig was touring with you guys (Hot Water Music) being your fucking guitar tech!
Addison: Stowe, I get to write music with the guy that, for years when I stopped playing I was like “damn it I want to be in that band! (HWM)” “If I can just get into that band it’d be great, and my voice would sit right here and it would sound…”ya know just pipe dreams and whatnot.” Years later and I'm like “Hey Wollard, what do you think of this riff?”
Wollard: Yea and that’s how it is for all of us right? Like, we’re all enjoying the chance to play with each other.
Derron: After all these years, and that’s what still blows my mind.
Wollard: Yea just evidently, it was just meant to be! I mean, me and Addy, we’re planning on being in a band, the Ship Thieves wasn’t supposed to be a band. That was more like a ummm…
Derron: ...just your solo project.
Wollard: Yea just sort of eh, there’s some stuff here let’s put it out. And Derron and Addy own the studio where I actually figured out the first record. Like I had recorded it at all these different studios...
Stowe: Chris, when you had the Ship Thieves project to begin with, was it just songs that you wanted to have a secondary outlet for?
Wollard: No no, Ship Thieves wasn’t supposed to be anything. Ship Thieves was...there was no plan. I was just travelling a lot. Ya know when like, me and Addison ended a tour in Barcelona we were just like...why don’t we stay here for a few days? Ya know? And before I started doing that with Addison I was like...well the tour ended in California why don’t I stay there for a week. I have a plane ticket home, I don’t have to make it tomorrow, so I was just kind of traveling around and just like, let’s see what we can do with this song with whoever was there.
So there’d be some days where I'm just like in a garage with random punk rockers that I like that were friends. And there've been nights where like...Volcom, ya know the skate surf company? They used to let me into their offices at night and me and my friends would set up like (laughs) we set it up like, ya know it looked like “the Office'' in there so we’d just set drums and bass and guitar up in the cubicles and we’d just record what we came up with. Whether it was in Florida, or any other state, it didn’t matter. I thought initially the plan was I was going to do a record where me and (Brett) Gurewitz were gonna kind of co-produce it and do, like, a thing with it. But I just got so into these crazy sessions I was having with people where we’d be like hey, we’re here for the night, and you’ve never heard this before, and we’re just gonna record it.
And ya know, at the end of the day...at the end of a couple year process, I was sitting with Addison and Nuhfer, and it was like, what else can we do! So we just started building on those sessions.
Stowe: I have so much reverence for that record, it’s in the top five records of all time for me. I’ve listened to it enough that I’ve burned through...like I burned through the grooves in the LP.
Wollard: Well all three of us worked on that ya know. Hold on (laughs) I really want these guys to talk about their studio but i’m gonna say, one of the coolest things that ever, eeeeeeeeeeever happened to me in a studio, was at their studio.
Derron: Is it Stan Lynch?
Wollard: It’s Stan Lynch.
Addison: Yea that’s a big one for me too.
Wollard: So, Stan Lynch is the drummer for (Tom Petty and) the Heartbreakers right? So we’re sitting in there in the studio, and we’re waiting for our last drummer before Bobby Brown...the Ship Thieves didn’t become the Ship Thieves until Bobby Brown, but this was a night, with our last drummer, we’d set up some studio time….for us to do….something...i don’t remember what it was.
Stowe: Wait what? What record was this for?
Wollard: This was not for a record, this was just…
Addison: Yea I think this was just like “yea, hey we all got the night off let’s hang out.”
Wollard: Yea it wasn’t like a big thing. It was just like, hey none of us have anything going on let’s set up some equipment and let’s go have some fun. But, our drummer didn’t show up. So we were like, while we’re all sitting here, why don’t we goof around. And we had all these different drums...so we set these drums up in the studio and it was like, we set this ridiculous drum set up where we pulled out every drum that you could find that was the biggest one of those they had. Biggest snare, tom tom, kick drum...the biggest everything. And we set this up and we were all just laughing about it.
And then we heard this like, doorbell maybe?
Addison: Yeah, the front door, the bell would ring in the studio.
Wollard: Yea ok, so we’re all just sitting there and ya know, the whole session is kaput because our drummer didn’t show up. And I don’t know which one of you fuckers went out there but you let in Stan Lynch, the drummer of the fucking Heartbreakers. He comes in, he’s got a baseball cap on backwards, and he’s just like the most pleasant person you’ve ever met, right? Like, "oh man you guys are working on stuff, that’s cool what’re you doin?" But then he looks over to the right and he sees the live room, and he sees that we’ve got the most ridiculous drum kit on earth set up. I mean, every drum is bigger than it’s supposed to be. And he’s like “Oh wow! Can I go play?'' So, this is my favorite memory of Crescendo Studio, because Stan Lynch went in there and everybody stopped what they were doing and he just played this ridiculously huge drum set ya know? And all of us were just going, is this really happening? This is so cool. And there was no ego, he was just there with a friend, and he just wanted to jump on that drum set.
Addison: Yeah we all told him he should be in a band (laughs.) He's great though. He's 8 feet tall, he walks in the room and is like “hey I’m Stanley, it’s good to know you!” So there’s two things that hit me: 1.) Nobody says “good to know you.” and 2.) How the hell am I supposed to call you Stanley? Ya know!? Mr. Lynch...Stan, if I had a drink or two in me, but Stanley, I felt like he was setting me up for something.
But yea dude, it was some of the best years of my life hanging out with these guys. It was a thing where either we could go into the studio and we’ll have fun, or later at night if Derron’s working a show, because he was front of house at the big club in town, and we’d go hang out in the front of house booth with him. It was just years, good years of something to do every night.
Wollard: And I gotta say, years and years of stuff I’ve done with Derron through Gunmoll and Less Than Jake and all these shows, and all of a sudden I’m listening to this fucking Reconciler record
Wollard: This is not a joke, I got the record, the vinyl, and I told everybody in my fucking band, I said holy shit this is really fucking good. And sooner or later me and Derron were talking and it was just like...why aren’t we doing a split? Man, I just felt like this connection...there’s so many
connections and so it was just like let’s figure out how to do this. This seems like a great fucking idea.
Stowe: I was thinking about that today too, going over Derron’s cheat sheet of timeline stuff, one of the things on there is when he went to the Live At the Hardback show that was supposed to be Hot Water Music’s last show in 1998...Derron had just survived a motorcycle accident and so that was an extremely important show for him. And then for myself as a 14 year old kid in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, when I heard Live at the Hardback that was its own very important thing for me. And it’s wild that Derron and I were having these very important moments together like that, he was at that show, then I listened to it and that changed a ton of shit for me too...then that turns into all of this shit, there’s just so many tiny dots, moments in time like that.
Wollard: Isn’t that how art is supposed to go? Right? Like we’re supposed to be moving and grooving along with each other. And like, I didn’t know that Derron, I didn’t know that.
Derron: Yea so it was August of ‘98, I got hit by a car when I was on a motorcycle, and was lucky to survive ya know. I was so focused on like, “I made it, I lived, no biggie” ya know, I’m gonna avoid all the emotional trauma that can come with a near death experience. And I just remember being at that show, in the back standing on the, like, the red cushion booth with my crutches. And just to be there and everybody and the unity, especially that show, all the heart, all the emotion in that...that was a big moment for me. What music can do to heal, and to release, and provide emotional...just like triggers.
Wollard: I totally agree man
Stowe: So yea it all comes back to that thing like, everybody has that point where they realize this is something worth chasing forever then they chase it.
Addison: Yea, and it doesn’t stop. Derron you coined it better man, like I think the goal now is to be able to keep doing it the older that we get.
Wollard / Derron / Stowe: Yea.
Wollard: Really like, especially like a thing like this, I go...I go back to my old days. And I go, man, isn’t this a beautiful thing? Like, how are we even able to have this opportunity to do this split? Why are we so fucking lucky? And that’s what made me want to do this split. Like aren’t these supposed to be art projects? Ya know like, it isn’t supposed to be like, how to sell the most shit. And I realize that that’s part of it but, I just love this idea of old friends being able to come together and be like, there is no reason for this other than we’re old friends and we still make music, and we want to make a record together.
Derron: Yeah, that’s the honest truth! We’ve got more heart, more blood, sweat, and tears shared among us in various stages of our lives...yea you guys are more family than some of my own blood.
Wollard: that’s right, and when we’re all making music that seems like it’s kind of parallel, my instinct is why don’t we stop being parallel and bend ‘em in a little bit? And have some fun!