Saint Louis’ Better Days have been on the In Effect radar now for a few years now. Each time they put out a new release we get an email, their drummer Travis starts a new band (Time & Pressure) and we get an email, if they have a new video or flyer for a show, we get an email. I always wanted to get around to doing an interview with them but it never came to be until their guitarist Kevin Carter popped up at a show recently in Queens while visiting NYC with his wife. The following day (September 29th) we connected again in Tompkins Square Park at the big benefit show for Jimmy G of Murphy’s Law where this interview went down. They have a new one out in “Away Team” on Coin Toss Records which you can check out within this interview. A good band playing real old school style hardcore that draws from various areas of the hardcore punk world. Give ‘em a shot! Photo by: CRUSTYMOCOSX. Graphics by: John Franko
IE: What’s up Kevin? Last night when I was introduced to you at a show in Queens I had no idea you were in town and this interview was thrown together pretty last minute. What brings you to NYC?
Kevin: Me and my wife came up here around this time last year for a vegan food fest. My wife wanted to go again this year and I am going to be away for most of October for work, after that Better Days has some shows set up in the Midwest, so this is kind of a mini-vacation before I am gone for a bit.
IE: For those reading this that may not have heard of your band Better Days yet what can they expect? Can you also give us like a short history lesson as well?
Kevin: We officially got going in 2010 with most of the same lineup that we have now. I was playing bass at the time and now I play guitar. Travis is our drummer, and Chris does vocals. We started off just having fun, trying to do some more Saves The Day, Lifetime type of stuff, things we just hadn’t done before with previous bands. Our first demo completely had that type of sound and then we went on to put out a 7”. We put a little more punk rock hardcore into it and the sound just started progressively getting faster and heavier to where we are now.
IE: In 2017 you guys had this sort of band revamp where you literally threw all the old Better Days songs away and aren’t playing them anymore. Can you talk about this some more?
Kevin: That switchover you are referring to actually happened in the winter of 2016. I had a heart attack and a quintuple bypass, so I was laid up for like two months. I couldn’t pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk, couldn’t drive. My sternum was cut open and held back together with wire. I started writing some songs that were a little more hardcore, a little faster, a little more pissed off. Then our guitar player just flaked on us. Quit via text and quit talking to us. Me, Chris and Travis were thinking what are we going to do? I gave them the songs I had been working on and they loved them. We decided to throw away everything we had done and just start from scratch. I switched over to guitar, got Owen on bass, and the other Kevin on guitar.
IE: The new one you recently put out is a 7” called “Away Team”. Can you talk about the “Away Team” title and the evidence label that is used as the graphic on the front cover?
Kevin: The packaging and the layout all ties together. Are you familiar with the Heaven’s Gate Cult? They were big Star Trek fans and they had these patches that said Heaven’s Gate Away Team, for the people that were going to be sucked up into the comet and leave this earth. A few months before we recorded this record we were going to play this Halloween show and a buddy of ours made a design that said, “Better Days Away Team”. We were going to get these patches made and dress as Heaven’s Gate cult members for the show. The show fell through, but we had this great design. Naming a record and coming out with a layout is a real pain in the ass. I suggested that since we had it already to use a Heaven’s Gate theme. Indy who runs CoinToss Records put us in touch with Charles who plays in Spirits as well as Bystander. We started going back and forth with him and he came up with this layout that has the evidence folder, one of the “Away Team” patches, it has the Heaven’s Gate manifesto in it, and some evidence photos. The limited edition version of the 7” comes with the patch, all the 7”s come with an “Away Team Better Days” sticker. When you open it up there is a big picture of Marshall Applewhite who founded the Heaven’s Gate Cult.
IE: I do remember that guy and remember it was a pretty big story when it happened years back. I used to have a sticker with that guy’s picture on it and it said, “All Aboard”.
Kevin: I picked up this rad shirt that is a knockoff of the Andre Obey shirt and it says, “Marshall Applewhite Has A Posse”. One of the cool things about the evidence folder idea is that on the front and back of the covers we have hand stamps. “Better Days”, “Away Team” and all the song information on every copy is hand stamped. We are very into the DIY side of packaging and making things a little more unique.
IE: Better Days has forged this friendship with the band Dying For It from Northern California which is kind of a surprise considering the distance between your home areas. Can you talk about how the two bands became close?
Kevin: When Travis was shopping around our 7” to labels one of the first labels he talked to was Safe Inside Records. Burt who runs Safe Inside put him in touch with Thomas who is the drummer for Dying For It and also helps out with the label. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right time to be working with Safe Inside but we created this great relationship with the people in Dying For It. With Dying For It we are doing the Flyover Fest pre-show in Tulsa, our record release show in Saint Louis, and then going to Chicago to do this big show with the Repos and Noose, the old straight edge band who are doing a reunion show. We are still finalizing the dates but in like the third week of February we are going to be going out there, starting in Sacramento and working our way down California doing 5 dates with Dying For It.
IE: How did the name Better Days come to be?
Kevin: On the sides of my hands I got Better Days tattooed which actually predates the band. I was previously in this band called The Requiem and our singer Chris had passed away so part of me dealing with that process was getting Better Days tattooed on the sides of my hands.
IE: What bands would you say have a direct influence on the sound that Better Days is putting out there?
Kevin: The stock answer that everyone says is we pull influences from everywhere. As far as like the speed that we have that is from listening to Kill Your Idols records and that sets the pace for us. We also get some influences from Reach The Sky and Good Riddance. Our influences are really from all over the place.
IE: What about music you are all into outside of hardcore music? When Better Days goes away on a road trip who is the main DJ sorta speak or the one running the music selections in the van or car?
Kevin: Travis controls the playlist when we go out on the road, he curates his own stuff, and man is it all over the place. There is a lot of hip-hop, new rap, we get into Motley Crue and a lot of the 80’s hair metal stuff… I love Motley Crue, have a Motley Crue tattoo. I spend a lot of time driving in the car by myself as well. Just a couple of days ago I drove from Lexington, KY to Saint Louis and I worked my way through the Sisters Of Mercy discography.
IE: Better Days, although revamped in the last year or so does date back to 2010 which is kind of a long time in hardcore years. Where have you guys played/toured in that time and what shows stand out as some of your better ones?
Kevin: We’ve done a lot of Mid-West regional stuff, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, Springfield, MO, which is a big college town, shows there are a lot of fun. We’ve done a couple of shows down in Texas. Probably the coolest out of town show Better Days has played was on the side of a levy in New Orleans. It literally was on the banks of a levy that broke during Hurricane Katrina so everything was desolate and trashed. It was insane, we played with a couple of crust-punk bands so a lot of that type of crowd was there and we got a good reception from them because we play fast and they were into it. My favorite things about that show was that there were dogs wearing bandanas running between us while we were playing and because there were all these crust punk and squatter kids we got partially paid in loose change.
IE: From talking to you here and yesterday it is obvious that you are a well-traveled dude with your roots in the Mid-West so you have seen your share of hardcore from different places in this country. With that said what are the major differences that you notice hardcore scene wise from the different areas of this country that you are familiar with?
Kevin: I would say it is the size. On the East and West Coasts you get bigger shows, bigger turnouts and crowds, more people enjoying the music and dancing. In the Mid-West it is really feast or famine. It goes in waves… either kids are into it or they’re not. Right now Saint Louis is on an upswing. There are a bunch of active bands. We are starting to get more touring bands coming through again. The Mid-West is getting strong again. Chicago has Decline, New Heart from Indianapolis are killing it, you move over to Cincinnati and you got Treason, there is a lot of stuff going on right now. My favorite local band in Saint Louis right now is Redbait. They bill themselves as proletariat crust, communist leaning, very left with their politics and very in your face about what they are about. They have 2 singers and they actually just got picked up by New Age Records. Time And Pressure who is our drummers other band, their demo just came out on cassette on Safe Inside Records. If you are into Carry On and Count Me Out kind of stuff they are a must check out. They are my two top picks for Saint Louis.
IE: Time And Pressure is a band that we recently featured on this site and they made it clear that they want to play out as much as possible. Does that potentially hold back Better Days considering that you share the same drummer?
Kevin: With Better Days everyone is really busy in their lives. We are all between 30 to 40 years old and I travel a lot for my job. I am anywhere from Albuquerque, NM to Monroe, OH working and I am very limited on my availability. Our bass player has a 1 year old, he is also a bartender and hard for him to get away for any amount of time. So we get out when we can, which is actually more now than it used to be.
IE: What does everyone in Better Days do for work?
Kevin: The other Kevin works for a machine company, or a tool company? They make custom parts for machinery. Our singer Chris owns his own pedi-cab business. You know like the big bikes with the two wheels in the back? He works the ballgames, concerts… people needs rides and he drives them. Travis works in an auto dealership doing online stuff.
IE: The reason I asked that last one was to get to you as someone we both know tells me you work for Hustler Magazine. What do you do there?
Kevin: What I do these days is not really headline grabbing. I am a district manager. I oversee a bunch of retail stores. I am on the numbers side of things. Spreadsheets, payrolls, that kind of thing. Real boring stuff but it all involves fake dicks and porn. I have been with the company for 11 years and I have done some really cool stuff. My favorite thing I have done besides having been able to go to dinner a few times a year with Larry Flynt which that in itself is a trip. He has a nickname for me and likes to bust my balls and would call me mountain man and Grizzly Adams. He met my dad one time and was talking shit about me in a fun busting balls way. Whenever he talks to my boss he wants to know how his mountain man is doing in Saint Louis. Touring a sex toy factory was probably one of my highlights working there in my 11 years. We went to the Doc Johnson Toy Factory in California and I giggled like a 12 year old the entire time.
IE: What’s in store for Better Days over the next couple of months? Anything else you wanted to add?
Kevin: We definitely want to keep an eye on the Midwest, it’s the easiest for us to get out and do. We got that short run with Dying For It, we just put out a comp track on this comp called “Quarter Power Of Hour” which is a 14 song comp on a 7”! 14 bands in 14 minutes. It kind of showcases the entire spectrum of the Saint Louis guitar driven underground scene. It’s really like a whole smorgasbord of what is going on in Saint Louis. As far as us, we are focused on pushing “Away Team”, we got the West Coast run in February, and then an eye on an East Coast run in the summer of 2019.