Introducing the gnarliest punk band this side of the Mississippi with an interview from front man Zachary Schweitzer that pulls no punches. Plus an exclusive stream of a song from their debut album.
“Bottle Rat are the switchblade knife sticking in your kidneys. They're the back alley blood bath on the wrong side of town. They're a punk rock brick to the back of your fucking skull." – This snippet from the bio sent by the band to introduce themselves is terrifying, exhilarating and accurate. Bottle Rat are fast, aggressive and raw; they epitomise a punk scene that instead of being dead is running round causing mayhem. These punk rats mean business.
Who is Bottle Rat and how did you all meet?
Sean and I went to high school with each other, and we had played in a couple of bands together in the past. The last band we were in, 'The Undercover Saints', broke up a while back, and I started 'Steel City Slingers' with Aaron Z-man (drums and vocals). I knew Aaron from when 'The Undercover Saints' would play with his old band 'Rustbelt Homewreckers'. We did the country punk thing for a little while, but I knew that I needed to get into something with more raw power. We called it quits with 'The Slingers', brought Seany Saint (bass and vocals) on board and our sound came together quickly.
Where does the name come from?
We like to drink. No, we LOVE to drink, and I mean get totally shitty drunk all the time. It's more than a hobby, it's our passion.
When is the album out? A tour coming up?
See my previous answer. We love to drink and party. That really slows down the process. We've got the album recorded and mastered, and the artwork is done. We are working on funding now through pre-orders, so it'll come out... eventually? No plans for a tour yet; we've all got families and jobs which make touring hard. We do a few short trips a year to nearby cities, but we never go on really extensive road trips. Maybe that'll change when the album comes out.
Who are the bands you feel most inspired by?
The Ramones are definitely our biggest influence. We just want to play fast and loud. When you watch The Ramones, they just come out and play straight through. They barely talk, and there is nothing between songs except "1-2-3-4!" It's perfect.
What is the Pittsburgh punk scene like these days?
We've got a ton of great bands right now. We have bands like The Cheats who have been around forever, and we have bands like 'The Scratch'N'Sniffs' that have been coming into their own over the last couple of years. Pittsburgh's scene is cool because all of the bands come together and make shit happen. It doesn't matter which sub-genre of punk or rock & roll your band plays, there are always shows with no lines drawn. It's not unusual to see a bluesy rock band playing with an 80s -style hardcore band. We just really dig on each others music and support each other. The labels don't matter. We lost a great venue last year, The 31st St Pub, which hurt for sure, but there are still great places to play around town and a ton of bands to play with.
Weirdest thing to happen to you whilst in the band?
I have a good one for this. We got an email asking if we played private events. The person had all kinds of weird requests though. They were going to pick us up and transport us and our equipment to some kind of secret S&M club. It was super sketchy, but we figured, what the hell, live dangerously. It got really weird, when a van showed up and the driver demanded that we be blindfolded. He said that we could keep our phones and shit, so we ended up going along with it. When the van stopped, he told us to stay seated with our blindfolds on. When they took the blindfolds off, the van was parked in a large empty warehouse. We loaded our stuff into a freight elevator, and when we got off the elevator there was a dude tied up to the wall and a dozen girls in leather walking around the room. We set up and played for an hour while these girls beat the shit out of this guy. They paid us $500 plus the guy tipped us another $500. I still have no idea where that place was. We loaded our shit back up, put our blindfolds on, got back in the van and they drove us home.
What do you make of the situation in the US right now, with a possible Trump presidency and Black deaths at the hands of the police still such a regular occurrence?
Trump is a jagoff. Everybody should stop killing each other. It seems pretty simple, you know? Just don't kill each other. That's as political as I'm going to get when it relates to our music. We've never sat down and said, "Let's decide where we stand politically." We are all like-minded individuals, but that's not what Bottle Rat is about.
How much do you feel politics has a place in your music and music in general?
There is always a place for politics in music just not ours. Some of the greatest bands of all time were fueled by the political landscape at the time. Music can be about anything you want. Some bands make social or political statements with their music, and those statements can be really powerful. Music doesn't have to have a political or social message to be powerful or meaningful. We write songs about growing up, getting drunk and skateboarding, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful.
Should punk always be political?
Punk should be whatever the fuck you want it to be. That's the point, isn't it?