It's been a good year for Bottom Line. During 2002, the band has returned to the road — where they spent the summer of 2001, including a date on every Pop Punker's wet dream, the Vans Warped Tour — with a successful East Coast jaunt, followed by a another Warped Tour stint (seven dates) in August.
On Oct. 1 the band released its debut full-length, In and Out of Luck, on Cincinnati's own Nice Guy Records. A straightforward, potent slab of Pop Punk fury, In and Out of Luck's 10 tracks (half of which appeared on their 2000 EP of the same name) are punctuated by the churning guitars and passionate vocals of Ben Howard and Dan Kinzie and the ample rhythms of drummer Brian Penick and bassist Greg Yock.
They're even big in Japan: In and Out of Luck is slated for release on a small Japanese label, Big Mouth JPN, followed by a possible winter tour. Oh, yeah. They also nabbed a 2002 CEA nomination (for Best Punk Band) from the wiseacres at yours truly. Not bad for a band who can't even buy beer yet.
CityBeat recently traded e-mails with Bottom Line vocalist/guitarist Ben Howard, who graciously took time out of his high school studies to answer a few questions.
CityBeat: How did you guys get together?
Are you all from Cincinnati?
Ben Howard: We all came together in high school, of which I am still a senior. Greg, Dan and I all met through mutual musical interests at Sycamore High School and acquired Brian — a St. Xavier High School grad — when we began to write our own material. That was roughly two-and-a-half years ago.
CB: I'm sure you've heard this before, but you guys sound like a synthesis of Blink 182 and Face to Face. How did you come around to your sound?
BH: Well yeah, we've heard that we sound like Blink, New Found Glory, Face to Face, the whole nine yards really. I guess we just expect it because we are in the same genre as them and also grew up listening to these bands. I would consider us to be influenced by those bands, but then again we're influenced by The Beatles or Billy Joel, too. We write music that makes us happy and that enables us to express ourselves musically, and we can't even explain how awesome it feels that we can connect that way with kids all over the country. We are fans of all ends of the Punk world, and I guess that inadvertently works its way into the music we make. If we watch a band make a crowd of 2,000 kids go crazy, we all just look at each other and say, "Hey! We could do that!"
CB: How did you hook up with Jamie (Mandel) at Nice Guy?
BH: We met Jamie when he played for The Scrubs, and Nice Guy Records was just a sparkle in his eye. Actually it was just a label to release Scrubs albums on. We really wanted to break into the real Cincinnati Punk music scene, so we figured we'd start at the top — which we tend to do too often — and ask The Scrubs if we could open for them. Well, Jamie didn't know who we were — big surprise — but we eventually ended up playing together at a suicide prevention benefit concert called Hopefest. After he heard us, he had us play with The Scrubs and Ultimate Fakebook a few weeks later.
CB: With the demise of Sudsy's, The Void has become Cincinnati's Punk Rock Mecca. Tell me about its emergence as the place to play.
BH: The Void (old location) was the first place in the scene we actually played, and since then we've just been in close touch with Ryan (Thomas, owner and operator) and the club. In all of our travels, we've never met one club that has catered to unknown touring bands or smaller local bands (as much as The Void). It's truly the greatest place in Cincinnati for Punk shows. When The Void went down for a while, I mean, just look at how many different benefits happened in order to get it up again. It's really become the center of the Punk scene.
CB: How was the Warped Tour experience?
BH: Warped Tour was nothing short of amazing. It was non-stop work: getting there at 8 a.m., setting up the stage, running around with samplers, cooking in the sun — but we would have never traded it for anything in the world. We were lucky enough to meet people, bands and see places we never would have if we hadn't played the tour.
CB: Punk is now more than 25 years old. Do you think the original vision (anti-establishment, anti-careerism, etc.) of the old schoolers still holds true today?
BH: I think the real power of Punk music has been, yes, the message, but more or less the in-your-face connection. While the anti-establishment cliché seems to have been skewed into the new Pop Punk "girl song" cliché, it's still all part of the same vision. Kids are just finding new things to bitch about. Pop Punk, while rapidly gaining popularity, is doing so because so many people are finding out they like the aggressiveness of the music and bands like us, who mightsound mainstream, have been 100 percent independent.
CB: What is Bottom Line's ultimate goal?
BH: I think our ultimate goal is simple: Have fun and connect with people. And write some awesome tunes along the way.
Bottom Line's In and Out of Luck CD release party is Friday night at The Void. For more info on the band, check out www.bottomlinepunk.com