You and I’s Tom Schlatter talks discography reissue, favorite new screamo bands & more
New Brunswick, NJ screamo band You and I were around from 1996 and 1999, during which time they released two albums and two EPs that helped define the sound of late '90s screamo, inspired the more popular screamo boom of the early 2000s, and remain influential today. (You and I were especially influential on and often shouted out by fellow New Brunswick band Thursday, who featured You and I guitarist/vocalist Tom Schlatter's screams on "Cross Out the Eyes" and "Autobiography of a Nation" on their breakthrough 2001 album Full Collapse.) In the years since You and I broke up, members formed a handful of other bands: Casey Boland played in the much-loved Hot Cross, and Tom played in tons of bands over the years, recently Capacities and now Hundreds of AU, whose lineup also features You and I's Justin Hock). You and I also put out a self-titled compilation in 2005 which featured most of their discography (sans 1999's The Curtain Falls), and they briefly reunited in 2011.
Now, they're teaming with the awesome reissue label Repeater Records (who was also behind the recent Gospel, City of Caterpillar, and Funeral Diner reissues) to put out a complete discography reissue, The Curtain Falls included. All the music is being remastered by the great Jack Shirley (formerly of Comadre, frequent Deafheaven collaborator, etc) and there will be new artwork. They're pressing 300 copies on orange vinyl and 700 on black. Pre-orders are up now and apparently they're going fast.
Ahead of the reissue, we caught up with Tom from You and I (and Seth from Repeater Records) and asked him a few questions about the reissue, his history, the early 2000s screamo boom, and the exciting new wave of screamo bands that Hundreds of AU are part of, including a bunch of his current favorites. We also asked if You and I had any plans to reunite again, but sadly no dice. Read on for our chat...
This is one of many cool reissues that Repeater Records has been doing lately. How'd you hook up with those guys?
Tom: I met Seth in 2001. He was singing for a band called Walken and their tour had sort of fallen apart. They ended up at my apartment because my roommate knew them. At the time I was playing guitar in a band called The Assistant and we were about to leave for tour. Walken asked if they could hitch along with us and try to jump on some of the shows we had booked. They came along for about 5 days on their way back to the West Coast. In that time I got to know Seth pretty well. Later Seth started singing for Funeral Diner. The Assistant ended up playing with Funeral Diner quite a bit, so we were able to see each other and play together pretty regularly back then. We've been friends ever since. When Seth began putting out records he mentioned doing some You and I stuff at some point in the future so it was just a matter of getting around to it.
The reissues were remastered by Jack Shirley, who also is constantly involved with cool stuff. Can you tell us a bit about working with him?
Seth: I have been working with Jack since before he even started his Atomic Garden studio. I have recorded with him a lot and it's been great to see him grow his studio. When Chris and I reissued City of Caterpillar's S/T as our second release it needed some help and we got Jack to remaster it. With the exception of Gospel - The Moon is a Dead World he has mastered or touched up all our releases.
If I'm not mistaken, You and I briefly reunited in 2011 but haven't played since. Any plans for shows to support the reissues?
Tom: We played in 2011 to re-establish friendships and at the behest of some friends that were putting on a fest that was centrally located to our hometowns. My sister-in-law at the time was having a blood transfusion done and her health insurance wasn't covering the whole procedure. We donated the money made from the show to supplement some of her costs. We have no plans to play any shows again.
You've all been busy in other bands over the years, and Tom and Justin, you now both play in the newer band Hundreds of AU, so you're obviously still very involved in the current screamo scene. It feels like the scene is having a bit more of a moment right now than it has in a while. As longtime musicians, have you noticed this, and if so, how would you describe the scene right now compared to even just a few years ago?
Tom: I'm very thankful to still be playing music and have the younger crowd take Hundreds of AU into the current fold. For the past 5-6 years the genre has been going through a resurgence of sorts and it's bringing with it a social/political awareness and broader representation. This is very different from the more homogeneous and aesthetics driven scene of the early 00's, and it's better on so many levels. The bands I think of right now that I really love were together a few years ago, but we all mainly exist in our smaller DIY scene playing basements, galleries, etc. They're not playing these huge fests or hiring publicists and booking agencies, so the exposure they get is mainly from playing as much as possible and using social media for promotion. Outlets like BrooklynVegan, Noisey, Kerrang, etc are starting to take notice of it now and I like that it's happening organically this way.
On the past two Hundreds of AU tours we've gotten to play with so many talented bands. The representation of POC, women and LGBTQ people within bands has grown so much in this genre. Cities like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Chicago, Richmond and Toronto have been hotbeds for great new bands with some really great people.
Who are some of your favorite newer bands at the moment, screamo or otherwise?
Tom: Off the top of my head, the current screamo bands that really get me stoked are Drei Affen, Closer, Shin Guard, Frail Body, Burial Dance, Supine, Carrion Spring, Soul Glo, Flouride, Kissies, Massa Nera, Hawak, Eyelet, Coma Regalia, A Paramount A Love Supreme, New Forms and Crowning.
Other bands that I'm into outside of the genre these days Thieves Guild, Colonial Wound, Djunah, The Murder Capital, Overo, Power Trash and Laika's Orbit.
Tom you might get asked this a lot, but I assume a lot of people first heard your voice when you guested on Thursday's 'Full Collapse.' Did you notice a greater interest in You and I (or any of your other bands) after that album came out? Also, looking back on that era now, how did you react to that type of music -- which You and I obviously influenced -- getting so popular just after You and I had broken up?
Tom: By the time that Thursday was getting mainstream attention I was playing guitar in a band called The Assistant. Geoff would routinely mention both You and I as well as The Assistant in interviews back then. There wasn't a whole lot of interest that manifested into people coming to shows or buying records. The Assistant did get an email from TVT records (I think they had done releases for Nine Inch Nails and Sevendust) about wanting to meet us and work out a deal. I could only imagine this was the result of Geoff mentioning us so regularly. We didn't have any plans of being a career band so we never answered the email.
The second part of your question is a little tougher to answer. When You and I first started we were taking influences from a lot of 90's bands (early Converge, early Cave In, Indian Summer, Reach Out, Jasmine, Lincoln, 108, Portraits of Past etc). The idea of any of that music becoming commercially successful was really laughable back in 1997. The co-opting of 'screamo' by outlets like MTV and Alternative Press that took place in the early to mid 00's was definitely a little weird to me at first. It was a more digestible version of what bands like You and I, Saetia, Closure, etc were doing in basements and with a sleeker aesthetic that was more marketable. I was working at a high school at the time and I would see kids wearing Thursday t-shirts. It was a very funny sort of 'undercover' feeling of how these kids were probably listening to me on their headphones and I'm right under their nose. The people in Thursday were good people who wanted to just play in their band rather than work mundane jobs. In my talks with them over the years it's clear they never wanted to be poster boys for any sort of genre or the gem of this whole marketing scheme that took place. I had no ill will toward them because I think they really understood and cherished what their experience in the DIY scene had given to them.
Unknown to them though, the local scene back in New Brunswick harvested a whole new batch of college freshman who had really romanticized the Thursday success story. As a result we had a ton of Thursday-esque bands who had no context for DIY, hardcore or punk starting up in our city. It really changed the dynamic of shows from a music-focused event that helped touring bands to all of sudden these free shows where a band was the background noise to a raging party. None of these bands had the mindset of creating a sustainable community or network for touring bands because that was never part of the context that MTV or Alternative Press offered.
Hundreds of AU have some upcoming shows, including New Brunswick's Mum's NBNJ on 3/20, Brooklyn's Gold Sounds on 3/22, Albany's Fuze Box on 4/25, and Toms River's Clubhouse on 5/10. They're also working on new music.
Check out some old photos of You and I in this gallery: