Mike Rosenthal of Eight Fingers Down was more than willing to share a few minutes of his busy day to answer a few questions for Ska Punk and Other Junk. Aside from playing the tour every day, Eight Fingers Down is 2006’s Barbecue Band for the Vans Warped Tour. Basically, after a grueling day of helping set up for the tour in the morning, playing a full 30 minute set, selling merch, and doing interviews, Mike and his band mates have to throw a party every night for the other bands on the tour, complete with a schmorgasboard of barbecued delights, cooked by the band as well as a live nighttime performance from Eight Fingers Down.
This is the band’s first full Warped Tour, and is extra special for Mike because not only was he able to play the main stage the day before his anniversary, but he also proposed to his girlfriend during their set. His future wife spent the whole summer traveling with Warped working at the Reverse Day Care Tent, where parents can relax and watch movies while their kids enjoy the Warped festivities.
Eight Fingers Down is the BBQ band this year, so you’ve done the entire tour?
Yes, we’ve done the whole tour and we’ve met a whole bunch of awesome people. Especially for a band like us, we’re small we don’t have a label, we don’t have management, we don’t have a booking agent we’ve done everything ourselves. So, to get on this tour and not really struggle as much in the past, that’s awesome.
Explain exactly what being the “Barbecue Band” entails.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s the opportunity for a band who is at a smaller status to play every [show], and at night hold a barbecue/ party for all of the other bands. Because of it, we’ve had the opportunity to network and meet all the guys, now we are life long friends with the bands we used to idolize. It’s such a great opportunity for me, at 21 this is my tenth tour and I’ve seen everything in the U.S.
And how long has Eight Fingers Down been together?
We’ve been together for five years, and it will be six years in November.
Throughout that time, you never had a label?
We’ve never had a label. We’ve been getting a lot of press, there’s a lot of hype about us. We’re talking with a few people now, and whether it happens… I don’t know. Right now the music industry is kind of in a slump and labels aren’t signing bands like they used to and records aren’t selling like they used to. I’m not going to blame it all on the Internet, but that’s a big chunk of it with downloading and iPods and burning CDs, it’s just the way technology happens. Labels don’t make money off record sales anymore and bands aren’t giving up their royalties and publishing, because that’s how they make money.
How do you feel having that lack of confidence as a touring band getting by mostly on your CD sales?
We sold like 4,500 of our latest release, which is great for a small band. We have private investors we had to pay back, but I’m confident in CD sales. If we get signed to a label, I know that I can make it happen and get the press that I need to sell over 100,000 but the thing is we need a home and I need someone to be like, ‘I represent this band and they’re on this label and yadda yadda’… Today, it’s all about acting, honestly. I got this far by saying I was the manager of my band when in reality, I’m a member of the band. People don’t take you seriously, that’s how the industry is. If you’re in a band, everyone’s in a band, you gotta just work it, it’s a business. In the end, my whole dream would be to make $80-100,000 a year playing music. I don’t want to be a millionaire I just want to provide for my family and buy a house in Oregon or somewhere cheaper than California or New York and just have a good life playing music.
This is your first Warped Tour?
Our first Warped Tour playing full on. The way we got Barbecue band was, in 2004 we were on the tour and played four official dates. We kind of weaseled out way into playing more; bands, don’t do that anymore they get mad, in two years this industry changed so much. I ended up helping out with production a lot, I hung up banners, my drummer did sound for the Maurice Stage which is now the Hurley Stage. We just did that voluntarily to slide in there somehow. The next year, we came back and played ten dates. We did the same thing, we hustled and I ended up getting a job washing dishes for catering. During that time, I went up to Kevin [Lyman] and asked if we could be Barbecue Band. It also helped that we were really good friends of Left Alone who were Barbecue Band for ’04 and 05. They’re now signed to Hellcat, but they really helped us out and were just on our side rooting for us.
So, you’re one of those kids walking around with the headphones asking everyone to listen to their music?
In 2004, I single-handedly sold 7,000 records on my own of this compilation that we had out. It got our name out there, but in the end it’s not the right way to do it. It’s good, but we toured after that but no one really came, so it was a bummer. We tour all year around and wanted to see what we could do, it worked out, but no one really came, so of those 7,000 records how much help did it really get? These kids, a lot of times, if you’re not on TV or not in the magazines, no one really cares, it’s a sad industry. Especially for us, we’re a punk rock band, like straight up NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use For a Name, Face To Face, that’s the kind of music we play. When we first started it was one of those things like, ‘oh you’re just another punk rock band’ everyone was in a punk rock band, everyone was like a No Use For a Name cover band. Now, we’ve stayed true and what we play is what we write. All these bands are just like ‘we’re going to scream, and we’re just going to do this to get people to like us’, but we’re just staying true to ourselves. Nowadays, it’s cool because we’re unique there’s not too many of us left and it kind of gives us a little more pull. People are like ‘yes, I’m glad there’s still punk rock around’.
It’s refreshing to know there are still some real DIY punk bands out there who can survive, and still be going strong without label help and with just their own passion and drive. Fans of NOFX, No Use For a Name and Lagwagon should check out what Eight Fingers Down have to offer at http://www.eightfingersdown.com.