An interview with
James G. Carlson
Portland, Oregon is one of those cities, much like Seattle and New York and Austin, which at any given time can boast some of the best bands and singer/songwriters in the U.S. One of those bands is the punk rock quartet The Taxpayers, whose album releases and shows have managed to impress music listeners and audiences all over. And that's not exactly surprising, since they have been crafting and serving up their fun and energetic signature sound, a most unlikely combo platter of musical styles, to be sure, like blues and jazz and folk, but all piled atop a strong base of punk rock, since 2007.

After doing a little write-up on The Taxpayers a few months back, I approached the band about possibly doing an interview piece in the not too distant future. Though they were interested in doing the interview, they were playing shows, writing new material and recording their upcoming album for Plan-It-X Records at the time. That was just as well, actually, since my plate was quite full with writing projects for a small handful of publications. I literally had a milk crate filled with albums to listen to, as well as a stack of both 7” vinyl and LP’s on my bookshelf to sort through and review.

Despite being swamped with work on both sides, we recently found the time to do the interview. And the contents of that interview have been included here for you in their entirety.
Punk Globe: It's become somewhat of a routine opening question in my interviews to ask the artists I am working about know, in the interest of giving the readers of these pieces a better understanding of the artists. So, just who are The Taxpayers, not just as musicians and singer/songwriters but as individuals, as human beings of the mad, mad world in which we live?
The Taxpayers: Yikes! That's a heavy one right off the bat, James! On a broader scale, I'd say that we're all folks that are trying to maintain a balance between goofing-the-hell-off and living as compassionately and ethically as possible, with an awareness that life can be extremely difficult and unforgiving at times, but also rewarding.
On a more personal level, Rob teaches Preschool part of the year, Phil is an enthusiast of all things science related (physics in particular), Danielle is a jack-of-all-trades artist that screen-prints and helps out friends in her spare time, Noah is a graphic design junkie who makes awesomely ridiculous videos and animations, and Kevin is an aficionado of wild edible mushrooms who plays his trumpet every hour of the day. Oh! And we all friggin' love water slides. And bobsledding, too.
Punk Globe: How about a brief history of The Taxpayers?
The Taxpayers:'s a fairly long and convoluted story involving dragons, murder, and mayhem, but we basically started playing in the basement of Rob's old place called the Slime House, which was a former meth lab and pretty gnarly place. We were throwing a benefit show at the house and were having a tough time talking bands into playing, so we decided to start a band! Noah and Rob wanted the band to sound like a cross between the Minutemen, Melt Banana, and Ronnie James Dio, but sadly, we weren't and still aren't talented enough musicians to pull that off. Eventually, we talked more friends into playing with us, went on long and exhausting tours, made rad friends on those tours, lost TONS of money, broke several vans, recorded a handful of albums, and ended up where we are now: just as broke as before, but with a bunch more friends and some seriously insane stories.
Punk Globe: Is there anything to the band name? Why The Taxpayers?
The Taxpayers: God, I've always been hesitant to tell people the origins of the name for fear of sounding like a cornball hippie, but I woke up from a nap one day and the name was stuck in my head. The first thing I did when I got out of bed was do some research to see if the name was already taken by another band, and it wasn't at the time.
After thinking about it, it seemed appropriate for a number of reasons. Every single day, human beings pay proverbial taxes under the assumption that there will be a reward for their investment, be it emotional, work-related, friendship-related, etc, and sometimes that reward ends up being positive and sometimes it ends up being negative. It's just like the literal act of paying taxes: Sometimes you end up paying for awesome infrastructure like water, electricity and fire departments, and sometimes you end up paying the government to build a fucking bomb to drop on third world countries.
It's also tough to pigeonhole a band with such a vague name, which is important when you're trying to work under the influence of several different genres.
Punk Globe: Your sound, though generally associated with the punk rock genre, obviously is a hodgepodge of different influences, from blues, folk and country to indie rock, punk and hardcore. The opener on Exhilarating News, for instance, is just as much a bottleneck blues number as it is a punk song. Is it a very deliberate and focused process putting together the compositional fusions and genre mishmashes that are so much a part of your signature sound? Or does it simply happen without much individual forethought and band deliberation?
The Taxpayers: It's absolutely deliberate, focused, and intentional. Predictable repetition is fucking boring, and musical stimulation can come from so much more than just punk rock, or just jazz, or just blues. I think we'd all lose interest pretty quickly if we had to play straight up hardcore for an hour or more every day.
Punk Globe: “To Risk So Much for One Damn Meal,” your upcoming full-length release on Plan-It-X Records, is really your first departure, to my knowledge, from Useless-State Records and Quote Unquote. PIX is an awesome label, granted, and Chris is an awesome guy, but why them out of all the other independent labels out there that would have undoubtedly took The Taxpayers on in a heartbeat?
The Taxpayers: Ha! Well, we pretty much just asked Chris if he'd be into putting it out, since we respect his label and ethics so much. He heard the unfinished versions of the songs and liked them, I guess. We haven't really ever asked a label to help us release our stuff before that (with the exception of a single on a Traffic Street Records split), and always figured if we did it outside of our label, Useless State, we'd like it to be Plan-it-X, or another label with a similar world-view as us. PIX has always put out really varied and interesting punk rock, and it's really awesome to be a part of that.
Punk Globe: When recording The Taxpayers albums you guys, the core band members, enlist the assistance of several auxiliary musicians to play horns, harmonica, accordion, piano, and so forth. Do those musicians ever tour with you? Or do you pretty much keep it to the core members when touring?
The Taxpayers: We're always trying to talk our friends into touring with us, but between day jobs and school not everybody can (we'll get you and your saxophone with us someday, Alex!). On the past two big tours, it's been Phil on bass, Danielle on accordion and keyboards, Noah on drums, Rob on guitar, and Kevin on trumpet. Someday, though, we're gonna find a bassoon player with an immaculate driving record, unlimited cash, and ridiculously huge muscles.
Punk Globe: Speaking of touring, what have been some of your most memorable touring/gig moments to date?
The Taxpayers: Remember that movie “The Mighty Ducks”? A few years back, we used to do this thing at shows where we'd get everyone to do the Flying-V Formation from the movie while chanting “QUACK. QUACK. QUACK.” Why? Uh...I'm not exactly sure. So, this one time in Corvallis, Oregon we got everyone to do it up and down their main street (and some folks were naked, too!) and it stopped traffic for a while and freaked some locals out. Well, the next time we came through Corvallis, their City Council had a meeting to discuss whether or not they should ban the Taxpayers show from happening. I guess they voted in favor of the show happening, though.
There's a million other stories I could tell, like the dead body we found in the river in Richmond, Virginia, or the mountain lion in Santa Barbara, California, but I'd prefer to keep those, uh, private. To protect the innocent, ya know?
Punk Globe: Star Wars or Star Trek? Elvis or The Beatles? Tofu or hamburger? Rural or urban? Marilyn Monroe or Betty Page?
The Taxpayers: Diabetic Ninjas VS Hypoglycemic Ninjas? A tie.
Keanu Reeves VS 18th Century English Literature? Literature gets in some good jabs, but Keanu Reeves wins through sheer dumb luck.
Stephen Malkmus in a fight against anybody? The answer is pretty obvious.
Punk Globe: Having spent much of my life in my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I can say without a doubt that that particular city has had a significant affect on my artistic endeavors, in a musical, literary, and poetic sense, etc. Artistically, what impact has your geographical location had on your songwriting and overall sound, if any?
The Taxpayers: Well, the Pacific Northwest is fucking depressingly rainy and melancholy for nine months of the year, so people usually point to that as a reason there's so many damn artists packed into Portland and Seattle, since they spend most of the year holed up in a basement rather than enjoying the great outdoors.
Between the five of us, though, we've lived in probably twenty different cities all around the world for pretty significant amounts of time, so I'd say we all draw from those different places and experiences way more than our current location. I've heard it said that James Joyce wasn't able to write about Dublin until long after he had left some ways, it's difficult to process a situation or experience until you're far removed from it.
Punk Globe: What’s on the not too distant horizon for The Taxpayers…at least the upcoming weeks and months?
The Taxpayers: Lots of nudity. We're on tour right now, heading towards Florida, and when we get to Florida we're gonna live there in a warehouse storage unit (right near the beach!) until the Portland rain subsides. We plan on making cash by starting a Jimmy Buffet cover band called Coconut Telegraph and playing for tourists. After we get enough money together from that, we're gonna record songs for a 7-inch based on the collected works of William Shakespeare using instruments made out of rubber bands and iced tea.
Punk Globe: Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, or if there’s anything you would like to express or discuss, please feel free to do so now. The floor’s all yours, Taxpayers.
The Taxpayers: Hey White House, two things:
1) Quit fighting terrorism by blowing up schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan!
2) Keep your hands off our Four Loco!
Link to my original artist profile piece on The Taxpayers for The Philadelphia Examiner: