Surviving three decades of dank bars, bad career choices, fast music, and themselves is no small feat. But “America’s Garage Band,” the Fleshtones, are back with their 19th album, Take a Good Look (Yep Roc).
DIMITRI EHRLICH: Your band rose out of the whole CBGB scene in the late ’70s. Given the very antimaterialistic stance of “Never Grew Up,” one of the heaviest-rocking songs on Take a Good Look, you guys are probably ready to vomit at the New York City we live in now.
PETER ZAREMBA: Back then, the city was in such decline financially — the crime is one aspect that we definitely don’t miss, but it was cheap. We all lived in Manhattan. We went to Max’s and the Mudd Club, stayed out all night, and you could survive on a part-time job. That environment was great for the artiste. Now, people are in Brooklyn and Queens and eventually . . . who knows?
DE: The biography Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band was published last year. Part of your enduring charm as “America’s Garage Band” is your innocence and lack of polish. How do you not ruin that after 32 years of performing?
KEITH STRENG: I don’t practice that often. That’s about it. And don’t take yourself too seriously as a musician. Rock ‘n’ roll, after all, should just be a lot of good fun that connects you with your audience.
DE: Still, I assume Sweat refers to how much hard work you’ve put in over the past three decades.
KS: We wrote a great song called “Pocketful of Change.” That should have been the title of the book because it really defines who we are, and what we do. I guess the publisher thought Sweat would sell more books.
PZ: That said, Sweat does call to mind a good Fleshtones performance — we’re definitely not shoe-gazers, or anything like that.
DE: And hopefully “Pocketful of Change” is not what you’ve earned.
PZ: A little bit more. But that title was definitely inspired by coming back.
KS: It could have been far worse.
PZ: Yes. It could have been called Failure.