Scene Point Blank: I’m always interested in how people blend their personal and professional lives. You’re currently an architect, correct? Do your coworkers know of your double life/how do you mix the two seeming very different lifestyles?
Jon Lewis: I do work in architecture. I won't officially be an architect until I take a ton of tests, and tests are the worst, so I'm taking it slowly. My co-workers do know about The Dopamines. However the level of understanding varies. Some think that The Dopamines are a band that only jams in a garage in a Walmart neighborhood. Others know not to ever google The Dopamines. Others have seen us play. The firm I work at is very centered around individuality, so it's not that surprising overall.
Scene Point Blank: Does anybody else in the band have kids? How has parenthood affected the Dopamines as a touring band? Has fatherhood changed the content or focus on the newer songs you’re writing?
Jon Lewis: Well, parenthood hasn't affected the touring thing as much as our work schedules have. I finally got swindled into a two week vacation lockdown and Jon Weiner is a bar manager at the most popular bar in Cincinnati. So we're all really limited on the amount of free time.
My wife and son have definitely made writing a challenge, in a good way. I've been consistently positive and optimistic for over a year now, which makes writing hard because I like to write to vent about negative personal shit. But the good news is I've stepped out of my self-centered pity party (lyrically) and have found things within a 30-mile radius that notched a new chip on my shoulder. You know....long lines at the grocery store, putting together complicated toys, baby gates.
Scene Point Blank: You guys have a rep as being pretty heavy partiers. Is that changing with kids in the picture?
Jon Lewis: Not really. It's just changed when and where it happens. It's not about how often you party...it's about giving it your all when the time finds you.
What's most important right now is making sure that when my son wakes up in the morning, I'm ready to give him 100% no matter what degrading mess I got myself into the night before. It wouldn't be fair to him to be greeted by a hungover mess. My choices aren't his problem. Of the 365 or so days he's been alive, I've been a wreck maybe half a dozen times. But as every other father knows, you can put aside a hangover until morning nap time...then you barf.
"I love Fest because I walk away with some story that – if gone wrong – would have resulted in my arrest or death."
Scene Point Blank: You’ve talked in the past about how your songs tend to focus on the negative and, in another interview I read, specifically said that punk has affected how you look at the world—perhaps in a negative light. Care to elaborate on that? Do you think that it’s an unnecessarily cynical worldview within the subculture?
Jon Lewis: I think that the self-deprecating nature of the "punk scene" is a great for those who use it as a gateway drug into unloading some of that adolescent ire that comes from a lack of life experience. We all look back and cringe, in a good way, at how we were when we first let punk music take over our lives. It was this post apocalyptic world with mohawks and extra large Guttermouth T-shirts. And then someone hands you a Neutral Milk Hotel LP and you calm down and drink craft beer and get a job and talk about how crazy you used to be. I'm pretty drunk, I don't feel like this was much of an answer. My point is that Guttermouth is awesome and being negative and cynical is just a part of life, punk or not.
Scene Point Blank: You’ve said that you’re a non-confrontational guy and you use your songs to respond to situations differently than you would in person. Have any of your songs put you into a confrontational situation themselves?
Jon Lewis: I wouldn't say our songs have resulted in anything more than deep drunk discussion that nobody will remember in the morning. However sometimes people, or an entire group, or a bachelor party, doesn't play along well when we poke fun at the crowd, and there have been moments where I've had to diffuse situations as if I could handle it if it went awry. In reality, I would just start peeing if things came to a head. It’s my only defense. Start peeing and diffuse the situation due to the confusion of a grown man filling his pants with urine.
Scene Point Blank: Talking about “Paid in Full,” off Vices, you referenced that there is an expectation of what a Dopamines song sounds like. How does this affect your approach as a songwriter? Is it something you’re trying to move away from now that you’ve done it on a record and it wasn’t met with resistance?
Jon Lewis: Well, in the case of "Paid In Full," it wasn't supposed to see the light of day. I was writing an EP for my wife. Every song I wrote was going to contain elements that she loved from her favorite punk songs. “Paid in Full” was the first of what would have been 5-6 songs packed with all this epic shit inspired from her favorite Bigwig song, AFI song, Bouncing Souls, etc. In terms of writing a Dopamines song, we just write what we write. We've just been lucky that a few people decided what we do is acceptable.
Scene Point Blank: You sampled Futurama on Expect the Worst. Are you bummed that the show is done now?
Jon Lewis: Yes and no. The final episode should have been an hour long. It was equally moving and abrupt. But as a series, I've been watching it on repeat since it first went off the air in 2003. It really hasn't ever ended for me. I'm that guy who knows every line but still laughs at the jokes like I heard them for the first time. It's quite annoying. Ask my wife. For the record, Zoidberg is one of the best animated characters of all time, along side Doug Funnie, Ralph Wiggum, and Butters.
Scene Point Blank: Maybe going back to the party question…What separates Fest from other festivals?
Jon Lewis: The people. If you're brave enough, you can just walk up to a group of strangers and within ten minutes onlookers would think you were all best friends since childhood.
Also, I love it because it's the one fest (well two if you count Best Friends Day) that really takes risks. It’s easy to complain about how big Fest has become in the past 5-7 years, but the crowds continue to grow and people still have a great time. You can't put some shit this big together without putting your ass on the line every year. I envy the gumption of the Fest crew. Shots to all that put it together.
I also love it because I walk away with some story that if gone wrong, would have resulted in my arrest or death.
Scene Point Blank: At Fest the past few years you’ve been moved to the bigger venues. Has that changed how the event feels to you?
Jon Lewis: Not really. I think we've always made our best attempts at making every show feel like a muggy, sweaty, annoying basement show. For better or worse.
Scene Point Blank: What do you think of the Fest’s expansion into pre-Fest, and also all of the “special sets” from bands playing old albums and such? Is it something the Dopamines might do (full disclosure: this won’t publish until after Fest 12 so you won’t exactly be making a big announcement here—unless I start blabbing anyway)?
Jon Lewis: I think the pre-Fest stuff is awesome. More shows and partying for those who want to get started early, myself included. I mean honestly, at this point, there's bands that you can only see at "pre-Fest" so to me it feels like Fest just starts when the first set of the week begins.
The whole "special set" thing? I don't think we're at that level yet (or ever) as a band. I think we would do better with a whole cover set than if we just played one album in it's entirety. Plus, I don't think I could do just one album in a set. I like bouncing through our discography.
Scene Point Blank: What’s your favorite place to eat in Gainesville?
Jon Lewis: Boca Fiesta. My wife and I always eat there alone at least once during the weekend. It's our Fest date spot. Christianmingle.com
Scene Point Blank: How about sleeping arrangements? Do you get a hotel, crash with friends, or just skip out on sleep all together?
Jon Lewis: All of the above. As a band, we all have pretty separate goals throughout the evening hours. Especially when we have a situation where we don't have to be anywhere but at Fest for a whole weekend. We always have a home base at a hotel where everyone eventually ends up at together at some point or another, but we all choose our own adventure at Fest. I've woken up in rooms full of people I've only known for 10 minutes and passed out while drowning out Jon Weiner screaming Stooges lyrics in his sleep.
Scene Point Blank: What’s your favorite place to play in Gainesville? How about to catch somebody else’s band?
Jon Lewis: Common Ground, or whatever it's called now. High Dive? When we recorded Expect the Worst in Gainesville, that was the bar we ended up at most nights. Heather made me my first Bloody Mary there. We had a great pre-Fest set there once. There was also that one bar that was called Rum Runners for a while. I backed our van into a parked caddy one night during the same recording session after a few slushies there. Some great sets were played there too: John Walsh, Mixtapes, 20 Belows.
Scene Point Blank: Who is a can’t-miss set at Fest 12?
Jon Lewis: Torche. I'm about to pay way more than I should for a red eye plane ticket just to see them Thursday. I totally punished the drummer (Rick?) for like 5 minutes after a set they played in Cincinnati. Shorthairdontcare. Great band, flawless discography. Great live.
Scene Point Blank: Who does Tony need to get to play Fest 13?
Jon Lewis: Gallagher