As their name might suggest, Male Bonding, made up of John Arthur Webb (vocals, guitar), Kevin Hendrick (vocals, bass) and Robin Silas Christian (drums) share a particular fondness for collaboration. Although it’s important to point out this isn’t limited to musical bromances, but also includes female- fronted bands such as Pens, Vivian Girls and the Dum Dum Girls. If the Minutemen’s mantra was “jamming econo” it might be fair to say that Male Bonding’s is “jamming collabo”, having recorded numerous cassettes with fellow bands on different sides. “Doing splits is economical and fun” explains Robin, “our first release (with Graffiti Island and Pens) happened because our friend found a box of tapes at his work and rather than put them in the skip he made a release which we each designed a cover for. It made sense to do this as all our bands had started at the same time and none of us were gonna wait for someone else to come along and put out a record.”
This strong belief in DIY also prompted the band to try their hand at their own record label, Paradise Vendors, which has been steadily putting out various splits and compilations. “Releasing music in this way is natural to us, just something we have always done and it’s good to document things physically, put them in the archive. When you have written a song and put it out you can say, great that exists now – let’s move on and do something else.”
One of the more unusual releases on Paradise Vendors is a compilation dedicated to punk cult figure, GG Allin, appropriately entitled Violent and Obscene. Lead singer, John Arthur Webb has made it clear elsewhere that “I love GG Allin’s music, but not his views and opinions – some of them I do, but certainly not all of them. He fascinates me as a person – how over the years he went from “Don’t Talk To Me” to a song like “Shove That Warrant”. Male Bonding’s live setlists frequently include covers as a semi-tribute to other influencing musicians. “Doing covers is just something we have always done; Black Flag, Blur, Baby Gecko, The Connells…” explains Robin.
These more unorthodox punk tastes along with the Brit pop of Blur and power pop of The Connells is perhaps why the band made a comfortable addition to Sub Pop’s roster in 2010, releasing their debut Nothing Hurts that same year. Since then the band have recorded a follow-up Endless Now with producer and record engineer John Angello (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Andrew WK), released in August. “John was great to work with. We recorded it in an old converted church and slept in another church at the bottom of the drive. Each day we ate breakfast together and listen to stories about the Breeders. John set up a lot of microphones and then sat in the alter of the church (the control room) whilst we played surrounded by stained glass and a huge African drum.”
“We definitely embraced the sound of the big room and added more layers of guitars this time. We like mistakes, still do so we didn’t mess with it too much after, but I think it sounds bigger, rather than cleaner.” Endless Now also marks a milestone for Male Bonding’s characteristic song brevity, with one track even reaching six minutes. Robin politely dismisses suggestions of the band having a creative epiphany or perhaps some divine insight “We like longer songs and shorter songs. That song [Bones] is very repetitive and we all liked it that way. We just played it and kept playing until John Agnello ran in the room with a huge board that read ‘eight minutes thirty’.”
Currently the band has just finished an epic US tour and are sic’ing themselves for slightly smaller road trip for their UK tour in October and November. Expecting tour tales of a fun-yet-economic kind, Robin’s anecdotes are, surprisingly, instead about the availability of public baths. “‘We swam econo’. America has a great selection of swimming pools, slides, and spas”, before kindly offering on some passed down tour advice on heating pasties by leaving them out on dashboards – results are forthcoming.