“Escaping Persistent Digitized Confusion:” In Conversation With the Split Seconds

 

Wanda Waterman

The Split Seconds is a punk/rockabilly band that formed in Washington, DC in 2015. The band is made up of frontman Drew Champion, drummer Sean Peterson, bassist Stephen Parsons, and guitarist Alex Massi. The grittily retro video for “Where Have All the Good Men Gone,” a track from their recently released second album Counterfeit Reality, shows the discouragement faced by a woman in search of a meaningful relationship. Back in August lead vocalist Drew Champion took the time to answer our questions about the band, his musical influences, and “covfefe.”

What kind of childhood did you have and what role did music play in it?

I always had a very intense emotional response listening to music as a kid.  I recall being obsessed with certain Beatles, Beach Boys, and Ramones songs and some classical music as early as I can remember.  When I began playing music it quickly became a very important part of who I was and what I wanted to do.

Were you trained in music or did you teach yourself?

It’s been mostly self-study of various instructional material.  I also took lessons for several years during high school and took a music theory class offered in my high school.

Why did you choose to play punk?

I play a lot of styles, but at some level I think that the sound and feel and energy of punk resonates with me on the deepest level.  It’s probably an indescribably complex combination of factors that links somebody’s temperament to a musical style, but as soon as I heard punk it seemed like the right fit for me.

What’s behind the bulk of your discontent?

I think discontentment in general is a result of reality failing to meet prior expectations.  A lot of Split Seconds songs that deal with discontent or frustration are about feeling that somebody or some people have treated me in a way that I would not treat them and about lowering my expectation that other people and their opinions are worth a shit.

How did the bandmembers meet?

Originally The Split Seconds was essentially a solo project where I recruited my drummer friend Gu from Boardroom Heroes to make Center of Attention.  Near the end of recording that first album my mother met Sean randomly at a car repair shop where he was working, realized we would make a good fit musically, and put us in touch.  Sean and I started gigging with a variety of bassists and eventually brought Alex Massi on rhythm guitar and Stephen Parsons on bass.  I still wrote the songs for Counterfeit Reality, but the song selection, the direction that the songs took, and the arrangements were a much more collaborative effort on this album.

How did you come up with your band name?

I don’t recall exactly when I thought of it, but I had been holding onto it for a while as a good name for a tight, uptempo, classic punk rock group.  It was also fitting because The Split Seconds started as a vehicle for me to record a bunch of songs I’d been writing for my prior group, and I didn’t expect the project to last long or be successful.  So that fatalism was baked right into the name.

What do you like best about Counterfeit Reality, and why?

I think that for the first time on this record I’ve been able to fully integrate my influences from punk, classic pop, rockabilly, classic rock, and even jazz and classical into a cohesive style.  Also lyrically I think we’ve found our unique voice and message.

Did anything funny or weird happen while you were recording it?

For some reason I always needed Hot Fries during recording sessions.  I must have eaten twenty large bags of Hot Fries during the sessions.

Who designed that brilliant album cover?

I came up with the concept of the Washington Monument with the picture inverted.  It represents the primacy of subjective experience over objective truth.  Alex then took that idea and based the design on some old jazz album covers from the ‘60’s.

What’s the story behind the song “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?”

It’s not based on one single story, but a trend.  We see a lot of sadness and desperation in men and women trying to navigate modern love and relationships.  The title comes from an article about a woman failing to find a relationship with a decent guy.  There’s a lot that can be said on the subject, but we’re not trying to preach.  We’re just putting into music what we’ve seen in our lives.

Is Washington DC a creatively stimulating city for a music maker?

It’s very creatively stimulating if you’re trying to make music that expresses frustration.  If I were trying to write pastoral classical music or giddy pop music I’d probably need to move.

Have you ever seen the president in person?

I have not.

What do you suppose he’d say about your music?

Probably something along the lines of “covfefe.”[1]

How do you regenerate after giving yourself heavily to the music?

 I don’t. I just go to work.

What conditions do you need in your life in order to maintain creativity?

 Ample time to work on my music and semi-adequate health.

Are there any books, albums, or films that have influenced your creative work?

I like a lot of old movies like On The Waterfront, The Big Sleep, High Noon, The Searchers, etc.  Those old movies are really well-crafted, and the analog look, simplicity, and clear, bold messages really appeal to me. They allow me to escape the 21st century’s persistent digitized confusion.  It’s not a direct influence, but I feel that their clear messages and focus on the fundamentals of craft of good film making is similar to what we try to do with our music.

If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?

Tell the truth, make it catchy, keep it concise.

What’s next for the Split Seconds?

We’ve worked hard to put out two records that we’re proud of, and we’re looking forward to more extensive touring.

 

 

[1] This word is a Trump Twitter typo. It probably has a negative connotation but no one has been able to figure out what it means, and Trump isn’t talking.

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