War On Women’s Shawna Potter interviews Good Riddance’s Russ Rankin ahead of shows together
Back in 2018, Good Riddance singer Russ Rankin interviewed War On Women singer Shawna Potter ahead of their bands' upcoming tour together, and now that they're set to hit the road together again, they've flipped the script and had Shawna interview Russ. They talked about Russ' recent solo tour, requiring masks at shows, Good Riddance's Twitter presence (or lack thereof), being members of the Green Party, new bands Russ is listening to, and more. Read on for their chat.
The tour begins in Brooklyn this Friday (5/13) at The Kingsland with Teenage Halloween and then hits Asbury Park's House of Independents on Saturday (5/14) with School Drugs, before touching down in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Toronto, and more, and eventually landing at Montreal's Pouzza Fest. All dates are listed at the end of the interview.
Shawna: How's Chuck?!
Russ: He's doing great! Thank you for asking. His recovery is ahead of schedule, and he is up and around, bothering people again.
Shawna: The only other time our bands played together, me and Brooks were just playing acoustic. You do solo shows, too. Is that something you've always done, or is it a pandemic-specific thing? What do you like best about playing solo?
Russ: I think we actually played together at a festival outside Austin, TX, in 2016. I started writing and playing solo material around 2010. My friend Tony was doing it, and he kept telling me to do it. He took me out to support him on many shows around that time. I like the freedom to talk more about the songs, and have a more intimate connection with an audience. I'm known as kind of aloof and stoic and serious, and I don't like that about myself, so solo shows give me an opportunity to practice being more gregarious, tell jokes, and have fun interacting with an audience, usually a very small one.
Shawna: You toured solo overseas last month. How did it feel over there compared to the States, as far as the people, their resilience, and government support (or lack thereof)?
Russ: I didn't have any expectations for the tour, given I have zero history over there as a solo act; many parts of Europe are just coming out of heavy covid restrictions (I was the first live music at many venues in over two years), and the war going on nearby. Overall, the audiences were fantastic, and I'm grateful that I got to do it. I'm not sure what you mean by government support. Traditionally, European governments prioritize funding for the arts on a broader and more robust scale than the U.S., which applies to music venues, festivals, and helping bands get music (and videos) recorded.
Shawna: What are your favorite responses to people who question you wearing a mask? I'm torn between "OH.KAY?" and "Oh, I have COVID, so...."
Russ: I don't really have one. I'm still shocked that so many people are concerned with what I wear or what vaccines I choose to get. My social media is a daily barrage of insults, about so many things, so the mask comments kind of get lost in the wash.
Shawna: Your band hasn't tweeted since 2019. There's no question there; I just wanted to congratulate you.
Russ: Hahaha - that is amazing. It looks like somebody fucked up.
Shawna: You and I did a political podcast-y interview show before the 2020 election that ended up not airing. We were the lone green party members, and even we had disagreements about how to vote that year. Being the lone green voter, or vegan, etc., in the room is still common, even in progressive/activist spaces. Does that isolation ever get to you? If so, how do you push through that feeling to keep fighting?
Russ: Elections are an odd time for me, even more so these days. The people on the right already hate me, because I'm a libtard, but, when elections roll around, suddenly all the people I consider to be like-minded, progressive, peers, lose their minds and run into the arms of the Democratic Party, who couldn't give a fuck about anything close to a Progressive agenda. Then, these people, many of whom are respected friends & colleagues, turn on me, and tell me things like "a vote for the Green Party is a vote for ___________ (insert the Republican boogeyman du jour here)," or "you got ______________" elected! So everybody hates me, basically. I had to just learn to tune out the noise. I know that the Democratic Party doesn't give a fuck about the things that are important to me (Single-Payer Health Care, abolishing the Electoral College, ending capital punishment, tuition-free university, guaranteed basic income, a living wage, etc.). They don't have to, because they know that, every cycle, frightened Progressives will give them their votes. There's also the quintessential American trait of front runner-ism. People don't want to "waste" their vote on something that they don't believe can win; values be damned. To wrap up, the Green Party platform so closely mirrors my own values, that I believe it would be stupid not to support it, no matter what horrible things people say to me.
Shawna: What are your go-to book or podcast recommendations for someone wanting to learn more about where you're at politically?
Russ: I was radicalized primarily by music, but I owe a lot to people like Noam Chomsky, and Chris Hedges. I also listened religiously to Mumia Abu Jamal's audiobooks from prison. I don't read as much as I'd like to these days.
Shawna: The last Good Riddance album, Thoughts and Prayers, came out in 2019. (Though you did release a benefit EP in 2020 with four unused songs from those recording sessions). How has your perspective shifted since those songs were written? (I find that the hope I was trying to hold onto from our last album is getting harder and harder to grasp.)
Russ: I was dealing with a lot on a personal front during the writing and recording of that album, and so I believe it may have ended up being less overtly political than some of our stuff. I always endeavor to be hopeful and solution-oriented rather than just yelling about what a dumpster fire my country has become. Sometimes I am more successful than others.
Shawna: Our guitarist Jenarchy told me you used to play in Florida a lot in the late 90s and that you always made a point to hang out and talk to the baby punks about politics and life (Jenarchy & her friends being among them!). I remember being that baby punk and that feeling of being taken seriously by the touring bands. That's why I always talk to people at our shows. Do you have a similar story? Was there a specific band that particularly inspired you?
Russ: I'm glad that they have that memory of me. Usually, I hear that I was a total dick. I always do my best to give my time to people who support the band. Based on how I am typically portrayed in these scenarios, I have rarely succeeded. I don't recall any bands taking time to talk to me, but I also didn't really ever seek anybody out. I remember always being conscious of not wanting to bother the bands after the shows.
Shawna: When you interviewed me for BrooklynVegan ahead of our shows together back in 2018, you asked me how men could be allies to women in this new paradigm (post- 2016 election, Kavanaugh confirmation, & #metoo breaking big). Have you been examining your biases and intervention skills since then? And who (or what) has been helpful in that process? What advice do you have to other cis men right now as the attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQIA+ people are increasing nationwide?
Russ: The biggest thing that I have seen happen, that gives me hope, is that, within my circle, which is admittedly almost 100% cis, white, straight, men, is that we are having conversations around consent, and our own histories and behaviors, which we never had before. Most of us would have previously just shrugged, said, "I'm a good guy," and that would be the end of it. We are also calling each other out way more. When a group of cis, straight, white, dudes, hang out, there can be an assumption that they are all of the same mind, and that it is a safe place to say things that are grossly inappropriate (at best). What is happening now, at least for me, is, if I hear something, I'll interrupt and say, "what did I just hear you say?" Or "can you clarify that? I'm not sure what you mean." Kind of eliminating safe spaces for what would have previously been considered by some as "harmless" racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. The jokes, the stories, the opinions on current events, etc.
Shawna: Fans probably want to know, do we require masks at our shows?
Russ: I believe we are (?), at least backstage and around our shared spaces. I'm down for doing what is best for the greater good. I'm into keeping people safe and healthy. These are now controversial concepts in our country.
Shawna: What newer bands are you listening to these days?
Russ: Ebri Knight from Catalonia
Restorations (not new, but new to me)
New Cassettes (not new, but new to me)
Shawna: What do you wish I asked you about instead of all this bullshit? Go off:
Russ: You really should have asked me about hockey (kidding).
Good Riddance / War On Women -- 2022 Tour Dates
May 13 Brooklyn - Kingsland^
May 14 Asbury Park - House of Independents*
May 15 Pittsburgh - Thunderbird Music Hall^
May 16 Covington, KY - Madison Live!
May 17 Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen*
May 18 Hamtramck, MI - Small’s*
May 19 London, Ontario - Rum Runners #
May 20 Toronto - Velvet Underground #
May 21 Montreal - Pouzza Fest
^ - w/ Teenage Halloween
* - w/ School Drugs
# - w/ Brutal Youth