Northwest Arkansas punk band Always Tired reminds me of a few different eras of Arkansas music: early/mid 90’s Little Rock mixed with early 00’s Fayetteville. They combine the feeling of second wave Midwestern emo with the freedom of pre-social media experimentation, before blueprints were readily available. They sound like a multi-genre, all-ages show. (Someone open an all-ages venue and start booking multi-genre shows again – I’ll donate to your GoFundMe and help get the word out)
They’ve been a staple of DIY and house shows for a while now, and are starting to burst into local venues. Get out and see them. On Monday, Nov. 21 – they open for Cloakroom and Colour Design at Smoke & Barrel Tavern.
I talked to singer/guitarist Michael Sweater about Always Tired and here goes…
Give us a brief history of Always Tired. How did you all meet? When and how did you start the band?
Jared the drummer and I started playing pre-covid for a bit and we started trying to get back on it after things started to normalize a bit ago adding Kyle and PJ into things. Pre lockdowns I was actually dead set on Always Tired being a two-piece thing since I have difficulty working with other artists, but after spending a year alone with my wife in the woods I have become way more open to interacting with people. I think it was good for me to be cut off like that for a while. I really learned to appreciate other people.
Fayetteville is pretty thin on drummers. Sometimes I think Dick Darden carries this town around on his back playing in so many things. I actually ended up meeting Jared on Craigslist or Facebook. It’s weird, but he is the best drummer I’ve ever played with and I love being around him. Kyle and PJ were friends of mine that I didn’t know super well but I knew I wanted to know better after getting back into the swing of things. I honestly didn’t care if they were the right fit for the music, I just wanted an excuse to spend more time with them. Luckily they were a perfect fit and have better taste than I do.
How would you describe your music to a stranger?
I try to just let people fuck around and find out. We pull from so many things and I am so musically uneducated that I am never able to accurately copy anything and it just ends up sounding like us. We started trying to be a heavier Dinosaur Jr, but I am really into Title Fight and hardcore. Maybe stoner metal pop punk? Emo shoegaze? If you can answer this please let us know. It would actually help us a lot.
On The Map Presents:
Who: Cloakroom / Colour Design / Always Tired
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21
Where: Smoke & Barrel Tavern
Tickets: $15-$17 at Eventbrite.com
What’s a book or film that’s influenced your lyrics? And what have you been writing about lately?
Until recently I would have said none, but I have a lot of close friends that are very into fan-fiction writing and I think their passion for it is incredibly cute. I haven’t actually read any fanfics, but just from hearing people talk about it a lot of the second album we are doing is just me playing with the idea of writing fan-fiction songs. The big track I am excited about is just called True Detective Season One.
What are you working on at the moment? As a band and outside of it?
Just getting things recorded. As a musician, I tend to write a lot of music and it can be hard to get everyone on top of things and get the music to tape before I’ve moved onto the next thing. But we all have pretty complicated full lives outside of music. I draw comic books and write for animation and TV. Kyle is going to school to become a bike mechanic. PJ is a tailor and is always up to something wild. Jared however is an enigma to me. I know he loves rock climbing, is a great drummer, and is likely the World’s Greatest Dad. But we learn something new and insane about him everyday. At this point I am convinced he is being obtuse on purpose.
Who are some 80’s/90’s emo/punk bands that affected you?
I know this is blasphemy, but I genuinely hate most old punk with the exceptions of bands going for more poppy angles. Lots of bands with one or two songs I love and hundreds you couldn’t pay me to say nice things about. The Replacements when they were on are amazing. There is a band called Leatherface that is like a more “punk” Jawbreaker that I listen to a lot. If a band doesn’t have hooks and is just annoying to be intentionally obtrusive I just don’t care about it. For me art is best when it is in the margin somewhere between purely pop mainstream filler and something more experimental that completely loses the thread.
That was kind of what I loved about the late 90’s / early 2000’s emo thing. You take all of the really interesting music ideas punk developed, sing about politics and deeply held personal beliefs, but you also somewhat resemble what music is to most people. Like At The Drive-In is undeniably art but everything they ever made is as catchy and listenable as Charlie XCX.
Who are you listening to right now?
This is the best era of music that has ever existed as far as I am concerned. Everything has become so accessible and people are really just out here doing whatever they want. Even in Arkansas you can go to a house show and catch a touring band that beats ass. I saw these two bands Nightosphere and Ghostlike at a nice young dude’s house and they are now in heavy rotation. I also just check out what all of the small labels are doing. I’ve probably listened to “A Drip Is All We Know” that New Morality Zine put out by Fake Eyes a hundred times this year.
Also Soundcloud rap demos. It’s the punkest most diy music that has ever existed. And it sounds good.
Favorite Arkansas bands, past and present?
Listener and Deadbird are amazing. I had moved from Fayetteville to the Northeast and discovering new music from where I was ended up being pretty important to me. Being able to see Deadbird now is surreal.
Outside of Colour Design right now Arkansas hardcore is what has me the most amped up. If you are into hardcore and aren’t aware a fully formed scene of great bands is popping up and it’s great to see. Heldtight, Codemn, Obliviate, Losing Game, Second Life. The show coming up Dec. 3 at the American Legion in town is one of the things I am most excited for. It’s going to be nuts.
This is a divisive question, but what’s the best seasonal dessert?
Ice cream is the only truly great desert even in winter. My wife can do some wild stuff with apples, but I couldn’t tell you what any of them are called.
Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
Stretch, don’t drink, try to smile. Kyle likes to bother us by giving us crystals but I just think it’s cute. I’ve got one I forgot to give back in my pocket right now.
What are your plans for 2023?
Release more music. Try to get more young people involved in the scene by harassing bookers to get more of their bands on shows and get bands they actually like to town. The fact that (most) of our venues are 21+ is the biggest nonsense I’ve ever seen. If the kids don’t like it and can’t develop and start their own stuff it’s over. If the only people at shows are over 30 you don’t have a scene, you’ve got a graveyard.