Today I caught up with bass player Tommy Chung from Selmanaires a week and a half into their tour opening for Black Lips. Tommy, a consistently cool and confident fellow, always quick to deliver a handshake and smile, responded to my first question with the speed and precision of a world class chess master bad ass.
Aaron: "First things first: major credit card number and blood type."
Tommy: "1 900 HOT BUTT and F minus."
How Tommy knew to answer with A: my favorite phone sex line, and B: my average grade in high school, I don't know. I think he has ESPN. Oh wait thats not right. I mean he's got "the touch" like that weird kid Danny in "The Shining". By the by, if 1 900 HOT BUTT is real and you work there, I want a sponsorship.
I asked Tommy how his band The Selmanaires got started because really, I think they are the shit and I want everyone to know. Its like Kinks and Zombies showing Fela Kuti how to rock out 50's/60's style, and Fela getting back and saying, "Yeah but where I'm from, this is how you lay down the stanky shit people NEVER stop dancing to". Put that in the blender for a minute...promise it makes sense somehow.... I'll pause...
In short, Selmanaires got started when twin brothers Jason and Herb (Harris) moved to Atlanta from Austin Texas in 2000 and became instant buds with Tommy (born and raised ATL) out of a mutual appreciation for old records. Mathis Hunter, another ATLien, is a recent addition (percussion and samples). He's like that bad ass dude that chills out and then out of nowhere melts your brain with a few well placed drum hits and sampler noises. BLADDOWWWW!!! is a good word to describe what he does. Thats onomatopoeia-speak for "fuck YEAH MATHIS!"
A house on Selman St. in ATL played host to their first jam sessions...hence the name. To me, their name has always been instantly recognizable, because they're like the "debonaires of Selman St." but I wondered if they'd had any problems with it.
"Sometimes I'll tell people in a loud bar 'Selmanaires' and they say, 'Salmonella?'". People, if there is anything I'd like to accomplish by this interview, it's to establish that Tommy's band is Selmanaires and not a fuckin disease you get by handling raw chicken. Seriously who would name their band that unless they were hardcore death metal nihilists and threw uncooked poultry at the crowd during the gig? Yikes.
Clearly Tommy is the kind of dude that understands and appreciates artists working or trying to work in/out of ATL. When asked about sources of visual inspiration in his hometown he was able to rattle off the work of more than a few artists he digs who have displayed work in ATL and elsewhere. Among those mentioned: the work of photographer Stevie Brown, Melissa Cox AKA "Squanto", Katie Ridley, and Aubrey Pope. I did a little interweb homework on these cats and saw some amazing stuff, but I'm not going to try to describe the artists in more detail because I'd sound amateurish so click on their links to see for yourself.
Of the art scene in ATL Tommy relays, "Atlanta is a great place for artists and has great art because it doesn't quite have the same spotlight shining on it that NY or LA has. People don't necessarily come to Atlanta to 'make it'...they're not compelled to sell art in the biggest, nicest galleries or to meet deadlines and strike it big....it's more a place to refine your craft and experiment." I asked him what the deal was with half those artists he mentioned and Tommy made a pretty cool comment. "Makers", he said, "I refer to them as makers because some of my favorite locals deal in many mediums and make great things". I said, "Like Makers on the rocks?" "Exactly," says Chung. Which led me to my next question...
"What are the Selmanaires drinking these days?"
Tommy: Whiskey soda
Herb: Dark Beer
Jason: Whiskey soda
Mathis: Whiskey soda
Tommy and I then celebrated our mutual affection for whiskey for a moment. He sounded like a seasoned vet so I asked him if Herb and his whole Dark Beer thing was him holding out with a less stiff beverage until the end of the tour when the collective livers of Selmanaires and many other bands are probably begging for mercy.
"Yeah maybe," Tommy says.
Aaron: "So you're like the Sith Lord who's brought Jason and Mathis to the whiskey dark side while Herb is a lonely beer drinking Jedi."
Tommy:"Yeah that's about right."
Aaron:"I'll see you guys in rehab."
...which led me to my next thought. Its sad that in rehab we probably won't be able to use that 900 number we share in affinity for...
Now that you're done reading this 2nd rate interview ;) make sure to visit the selmanaires on myspace. Look for a new album early 2008 and don't miss their next performance! Every time I go see them I end up dancing with women finer than frog hair who probably think I'm crazy. You really have to see a Selmanaires show to get why this happens. I'll be the guy in the front row enjoying the hell out of making a complete jack ass out of himself. Buy me a drink... I expect to see you there unless you're sick and its coming out both ends...
signing off for now,