Gangs, porno, and video game addiction. That’s the hook right there, but we’ll keep going. With Drakulas, a band featuring familiar faces from Riverboat Gamblers and Rise Against, about to release a new album next year, SPB reached out to frontman Mike Wiebe to learn a bit more about the new record and about how Drakulas’ members split their attention between different projects.
Scene Point Blank: When we talked briefly at Fest last year, I got the vibe that Drakulas is becoming a little bit more of a focus than it was before. Is that accurate?
Mike Wiebe: Indeed. It's getting the most attention as of right now. Things are getting planned farther and farther out and Drakulas has several planned goals for 2020.
Scene Point Blank: What kinds of goals?
Mike Wiebe: To really get out and tour more. Get over to Europe. Really give the band a push. Make more videos. Become media darlings…
Scene Point Blank: Is goal-setting a big part of your creative process today? Is that just how you like to do things, or does it have to be that way because everyone has multiple bands?
Mike Wiebe: I suppose. Yeah. I never really thought of it that way but maybe because there is less time in general with all the projects I have and finishing things has become much more important to me. There is still a sense of "just doing things to do them," but with so much going on I have to prioritize. It's not a natural thing for me. I'm naturally scattered and unorganized.
Scene Point Blank: How did Drakulas start?
Mike Wiebe: Riverboat Gamblers were slowing down from touring so much and Zach had a spot in some in between Rise Against time. Someone brought in a song and then someone else brought in another and the next thing you know we had 6 or 7 that didn't sound anything else like what we were doing. And between the 7" on Red Scare and the album on Dirtnap, I started taking it a lot more seriously and seeing the potential in it.
Scene Point Blank: Did you expect it to still be going four years later, or did it feel like a one-off at the start?
Mike Wiebe: By the time the album started getting recorded I knew that it had legs and there was more to be done with it. I don't know that I ever thought more than a year ahead though. I really hope for the best and prepare for the worst and I can say that, the older you get, the harder it is to start a new band unless you have a great influx of money from the get go.
Scene Point Blank: What was the concept at the beginning, and how has it transformed to the present?
Mike Wiebe: By the time we got to putting that first 7" out it was pretty solid, conceptually, that the songs were all going to set in a late '70s fictionalized metropolis. Initially I was thinking of everything from the films The Warriors to 40 Blocks from Tiffany's. Gang stuff that was very time specific and kitschy looking by today's standards. By the first full-length, Raw Wave, it was still the same universe so to speak but I shifted the focus on the songs away from the gang stories to more about the golden and early post golden age of pornography. So new characters and subjects...I guess, really, Raw Wave was about half-and-half subject wise. But it really opened me up to the idea of other characters and I had really gotten into researching that era and art movements and politics of the time.
So by the time the writing for this new record -- Terminal Amusements -- started I just kind of got even more specific with subject matter and wrote a bit of a storyline in my head. There are really three characters in Terminal Amusements that these songs are coming from.
This is all really back story for me to work with and if someone wanted to dig in really deep. The goal is for the songs to be enjoyable with or without this. It's all Easter eggs for anyone who might care.
Scene Point Blank: That background undoubtedly helps with the lyric writing. How do those themes shape the music portion?
Mike Wiebe: in my head there is a certain sound that the characters might have associated to them, like themes in a movie. The posh art stuff surrounding an Andy Warhol character is going to be more new wavy and the songs about the drug-addled Kid playing video games are going to be punkier. Just sonically and tempo wise. To me it's a little like scoring a film. I doubt anyone will hear that though...maybe it'll come through subliminally or if people dig into the concept and lyrics, but there is an overall thought that we also have that none of it should be inaccessible to a casual listener. I don't want anyone to have to do homework to enjoy it.
Scene Point Blank: Tell me about the new record coming together. Were you working on it a year ago when we chatted?
Mike Wiebe: Yeah. It was a long process. We had a lot of bumps getting this together, [but] not creatively, really. Mostly just delays and music business stuff that was out of our control.
Scene Point Blank: When did Dine Alone get involved? How?
Mike Wiebe: We pursued them. Zach had worked with them on Vanishing Life. We really liked their roster and the diversity of it.
Scene Point Blank: How important are the thematic elements when writing for Drakulas? If you come up with a great new idea but it doesn't fit that theme, what do you do? Does it ever feel limiting?
Mike Wiebe: The thematic elements are kind of everything. I have a few things that just didn't -- or won't -- make it because they don't fit the world lyrically or sonically. I mean, sometimes you can rework stuff. Really get in there and dismantle it and see if it could fit. There was a song that almost made the process, but I didn't want to lose the hook and the hook just doesn't work for Drakulas. It doesn't really feel limiting to me yet. I really think there is still a whole lot of room to explore and corners of that world that I haven't even touched. I can easily fall into boxes [when] writing and this isn't letting that happen...It keeps me out of the boxes, mostly.
Scene Point Blank: You have a few different bands you play with. What stands out about the Drakulas lineup when you're on stage together?
Mike Wiebe: From the inception there was a very concerted effort that it needed to be different. Especially from Riverboat Gamblers...We've got players from that band and we all said, "Yeah this can't just be the Kinda-Gamblers." So everything...the clothes, the attitude, the characters...the goal is to feel as different as possible.
"I really hope for the best and prepare for the worst and I can say that, the older you get, the harder it is to start a new band unless you have a great influx of money from the get go."
Scene Point Blank: How about playing with different musicians? I imagine there are some habits from hundreds of Riverboat Gamblers shows. What does it feel like to switch-up the chemistry and playing with Zach?
Mike Wiebe: Lots of personal onstage habits, yeah. Honestly it took awhile to shake a lot of them. I bet anyone who saw us in the first 6 months might not have noticed the difference. I really want everything to be in character with Drakulas and once that was defined it got pretty easy to click in. But i'm still figuring out new things with it.
Scene Point Blank: We talked earlier about the group's progression, thematically. Where do you see it going? This record took a while; is the next one underway?
Mike Wiebe: I have some ideas...But, back to the goal oriented shit: right now we're really putting all the effort into getting this thing out and making it look good and figuring out how to deliver all the pieces of Terminal Amusements to the world in the best way possible.
Scene Point Blank: Could Drakulas ever tour with Rise Against or Riverboat Gamblers?
Mike Wiebe: Exhaustion-wise one of those combos sound much more appealing than the other. I don't honestly don't know about touring but Drakulas and Rise Against played Riot Fest this year. Festivals make a lot more sense...Then again, if we can keep everyone in the same van...
Scene Point Blank: I think we've covered a lot here considering news about the new record is still a little hush-hush, but is there anything you'd like to add?
Mike Wiebe: Calling it now: Drakulas 2020
Drakulas will release Terminal Amusements in 2020 on Dine Alone Records.