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Interviews: Union Drag

Union Drag: Interview
August 2003
By: Lauren Patrie and Angeline Vuong

It can be difficult to set yourself apart from the crowd when you're a band in a town as large as Atlanta, Georgia. And then there's Union Drag. Combining some of the best elements of rock with an edgy pop hook, these four guys are creating a buzz within the local music scene. After a show one night in June 2003 at Atlanta's Cotton Club, they dished with us about musical influences, gay personal ads, and the real reason to why they let Mark Dannells in the band.

Jeff Gardner (lead vocals/guitar)
Mark Dannells (lead guitar)
Mark Green (bass)
Rob Hammersmith (drums)

courtesy photo of Union Drag Okay, I know all you guys came from different various local Atlanta bands. So how did you guys get together and actually form Union Drag?

Mark Dannells: It was a gay personal ad in the Creative Loafing.
SA: Okay. . .
MD: Single white guy with a gr- no, seriously. . . Rob and I have played together in The Bibles, Mark [Green] and I have never played together. Jeff and I have never played together.
Jeff Gardner: Exactly, so it was time for that to happen.
Rob Hammersmith: That doesn't answer the question.
MD: No, the question was. . .
Mark Green: Rob and I have played together.
MD: You guys played together for years.
MG: Right, then me and Jeff lived together and played guitars, like at drunken parties.
MD: They were actually in a band called Spankin Catherine.
RH: And Eliot James and the Snakes. . .
MD: and Eliot James, but Spankin Catherine was the first time I met you guys.
JG: This whole thing came by piecing members together, finding a whole lineup or whatever, and it just really...honestly, I have no solid answer for it, we just ended up together and it was supposed to happen.
RH: This is a product of, and I told myself I wasn't gonna cry, but it was a product of mutual respect and admiration. And Mark [Dannells] got the gig because we just needed a guitar player.
MD: Exactly.
RH: The other guy, he was too busy.
MD: Right, every gig I've ever gotten it's like, who's left? Mark ain't doin' nothin'! [laughter] He'll work for peanuts.
MG: Here's the thing, when I came in, Jeff called me and said, "Come in and just play, we want to just have some bass. . ."
JG: He became available, and I was like, f*** this, let's just do it, let's get Rob. Mark, come in, play some bass man.
RH: Actually, I had a rehearsal room, he [motions to Mark Green] had a van.
MG: That's how it happened.
MD: And I had dirt on both of you guys. You know it's awesome, since we're not videotaping this, we need to say this for the record: Rob is the only guy standing on a chair drinking booze.
JG: Lookin' sexy as hell.
MG: He's got the package.
JG: Was that a good answer?

SA: That was a great answer.

MG: He's got the lace up [jeans] AND the belt...
JG: Next question.

SA: What do you think sets you guys apart from all of the other local Atlanta bands?

JG: Not a damn thing.
MD: Our gym memberships. I have no idea.
MG: Sets us apart?
SA: Like musically.
JG: Just like with any band that's out there doing anything, it's songwriting. You're different by the songs that you write, you're different by the way you present them. I mean, this is a great band, we've got some great talent here. . .
MD: It's all about. . . well, there's two things in rock-n-roll that make a difference--- it's songs, and attitude and vibe. Because generally, if you're in a rock band, you're selling either a lifestyle or a vibe. Most of the great bands, it's like they could go up there and play anything, and you'd be sucked into it because you'd believe in the whole vibe. I guess one of the things you want to do when you put a band together, you want to take guys from different bands that you like their vibe on stage or what they bring.
JG: Yeah, from the very first poster we put out, "featuring members from: Eliot James and the Snakes, The Bibles, the Butch Walker band," and all that stuff. And that instantly grew. I think the Creative Loafing or somebody said "a virtual supergroup"
MD: Yeah, but then they said virtual supergroup from the 10High. . . which is cool.
MG: The basement dwellers?
MD: The cellar dwellers.
JG: The cellar dwellers, the 10High hipcats.
MD: I guess I can probably take my earplugs out now [throws earplugs in trash can across the room, and then puts Mark Green's hat on] you got a big ass head, you know that?
MG: It's big on me too man. . .

SA: Have you guys gone in the studio yet?

MD: We have not.
JG: We are about too, we're in the works.
MD: We're actually trying to narrow down one that we can get in.
JG: This band needs to be in the studio very soon. It's one of those things where we've already played five shows, and people are going "That song! I really like that song! Where can I get a copy?" The songs are really catching on.
MD: Well, the cool thing is, we're in a position where we know most of the good studios in town. It's just a matter of finding the right one that will work for us. Whatever we're doing, I want to get paid for it. Never do a spec deal.
JG: Yeah, never play battle of the bands, never do a spec deal, never have a sock up your ass. . .

SA: Alright, so who would you guys say your biggest musical influences are?

MD: Anybody who wears stonewashed denim.
MG: The Marvelous 3, The Floyds. . . Trinket? Trinket…put Trinket on there.
JG: You're about to get a varied response. Let's go ahead and get the basics over with. We all like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, KISS. . .
RH: Aerosmith.
JG: I like Camarosmith. Chevy Metal.
MG: Rob Hammersmith.
MD: The guy who worked at Turtles in '91, that guy was pretty cool.
RH: The Cars, one of my favorite bands.
JG: You know, hate to say it, but pretty much all the shit that came out of the 80's. You look back on it now and you're like, "that was really good."
MG: Mine was The Clash. Cause when The Clash formed, three of those guys in the whole band could not play a f***ing instrument.
MD: Jane's Addiction, Perry Farrell is one of those guys that when he sings out of tune, you're like, oh, that was good. One of my best memories I had from Berklee is that we were driving around in a van, and the Rolling Stones's song Shattered comes on the radio. It's one of the most simple songs in the world, and you're like, "wow!" I went to Berklee and I'm never gonna even be able to write that song. I went to see "X" last week, it was the most amazing shit, it was unbelievable.
JG: I still get mine from bands like The Beatles. I'd even go as far as "Beatles meets Foo Fighters," and that type shit. . .
SA: And the Wu Tang Clan.
JG: Oh yeah, the Wu Tang Clan, that's right.
RH: Let's not rule out Sisqo. I mean, TheThong Song.
SA: That guy has his belly button pierced.
JG: Oh yeah. And Eminem. I mean, I am so into Eminem.
SA: I can tell, I can really tell. I hear the huge Eminem influence in your music.
JG: Oh yeah, and 99 Luft Balloons. . .that song changed my life. Ok, next question.
MD: You need to be like William Burroughs. You know who William Burroughs is. You need to transcribe everything we've said, and cut out every third word.

SA: One last question. Where do you guys see this band going?

JG: To Charlotte! To uhh. . . we're gonna go to Columbus! Yeah!
MD: The music industry is so bad right now. Even right now, if I were offered a major label deal, I don't even know I would take it.
JG: That's what my answer is. You know, we have a great collection of songs, we have a wonderful band, you know, give me an independent deal, let us record something, put it out there. Do it yourself.
MD: Unfortunately, when we were coming up to the scene, it was all about getting the major label deal.
SA: You're right, It's not like that anymore.
MD: It's not like that anymore. You have people like Ani DiFranco, she's a freakin' genius. She's doing well, she couldn't afford to sign a major label now. Dave Matthews, I don't know how he does it.
JG: The thing about this band, we have stuff that could be considered 'right here, right now,' we could jump on the bandwagon, but then we'd be lumped in as all the same. If that happens, then it happens, whatever, but I'd rather do it with some meaning.
MD: If you try to sound like something that's popular now, it's like it's already been done. By the time you get signed and your record comes out, it's already been over a year. You really have to stay true to what you want to do.
JG: We would love to get paid major bucks for what we're doing right now, no doubt about it. . . if it happens, it happens, if it doesn't. . .
MD: There's plenty of work over at Atlanta CD-R.
JG: Exactly. I'll stomp some shit for you.

SA: Okay, to wrap it up, This one's a fan question, sent from Liz. "Why do you insist on wearing pants? Is it to hide your ugly underwear, or to cover up the fact that you don't wear any?"

JG:Tell Liz she can kiss our ass, how about that?
MD: I wear pants because I spend a lot of money on them and people are going to appreciate them! Because there's nothing more offensive than the naked male body.
MG: Except for Rob, I want to see Rob naked.
SA: Whew, okay, we're good, thanks for the interview, guys!

For more information on the band, please visit: