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Local Limelight: Q & A With Andrew Jackson Jihad

 by Ben Horowitz
 published on Thursday, April 13, 2006

Molecular biosciences and biotechnology major Marshall Reaves at his work station in the Biodesign Building. Reaves says he plans on having his body cryogenically frozen when he dies. His reason?
Scott Pennelly / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Molecular biosciences and biotechnology major Marshall Reaves at his work station in the Biodesign Building. Reaves says he plans on having his body cryogenically frozen when he dies. His reason? "There's so much I want to do, and I'd be upset if I missed out on any of it," he says.
 

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Since they started playing together as Andrew Jackson Jihad, bassist Ben Gallaty and vocalist/guitarist Sean Bonnette have played an uncountable number of shows -- on stages, in basements and across the Western half of the United States.

In mid-March, they opened for Flogging Molly in front of thousands of people at the Mesa Amphitheatre. In early April, they played for a dozen happy audience members at Four White Walls in Phoenix.

SPM visited the two core members of the band -- their music also occasionally features friends Dylan Cook on banjo and Own Evans on mandolin -- at their house.

The band's home is a testament to the unassuming nature of the band: Bonnette was recording a song on a simple microphone attached to the computer. The house's was decorated, among other things, with a broken guitar, an old wig and pen-and-paper role-playing paraphernalia.

SPM: What's that 12-sided die for?

Ben Gallaty: Everyone else in the house plays Dungeons and Dragons. They make fun of me for not playing. I have a character built and I'm really excited to play it.

Sean Bonnette: I'm a level four rogue.

SPM: Is that a reflection of the songs you write about robbers and murderers?

Bonnette: (laughs) I don't know what songs you're talking about! I mean, those songs fill a deep need in me for some reason.

I started writing songs for therapeutic value. I love playing music with my best friend, and I'm starting to get better at playing guitar.

I feel like I'm getting better at saying what I'm trying to say. It's like my mom bought me a dictionary and I'm looking up all these cool new words.

SPM: You guys have a lot of guest musicians at your shows and on your songs. Have you ever thought about expanding the band?

Gallaty: We just basically know that we are both interested in doing what we're doing. We both want to tour, and we both want to put out albums. We're both willing to devote lots of time, money and stress...

Bonnette: ...and love!

Gallaty: Yeah. And we can count on that. Unless someone else comes along that's willing to show that kind of commitment, it'll just be us.

Bonnette: We have a lot of friends who play amazing music, but they can't always make it to the shows.

SPM: How would you describe your music?

Gallaty: I typically tell people we play punk rock with acoustic instruments. That's where I came from -- that's my musical history.

Listening to my sister's Bobby Brown tapes and Pearl Jam, and then finding punk rock.

SPM: Some of your songs could be taken offensively. Do you ever have people react negatively to you at shows?

Gallaty: One of the more interesting shows we've played, we got booked in Kimberly, ID.

It was like everyone was 40 or 50 years old, and it was a cowboy bar -- very reminiscent of that scene in "Blues Brothers."

They were digging us for the first eight songs, and then we tried to sell some merchandise. Our shirts had satanic symbols on them, and they didn't like that.

We had to get out of there really quick.

Bonnette: I didn't realize for most of those songs that I was being offensive.

It's kind of like when you doodle a picture and you realize you've drawn something really fucked up, or you sit at a computer and randomly type curse words.

I didn't have any feedback from other people until I was done with them, and then Ben liked them. They're an exaggeration.

Reach the reporter at benjamin.horowitz@asu.edu.



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