Here’s an interview I did with TruePunk in 2009. Check it out below or on their site.
Banner Pilot is a very young punk rock quartet from Minneapolis that formed in 2005. Their new album “Collapser” comes out on September 1st 2009 on Fat Wreck Chords. We sat down with Nate and asked him some question about his band and their upcoming projects.
What’s your name and what do you play in Banner Pilot?
Nate: My name is Mike Johnson (ed: ??? Weird typo on the website’s part. I did not forget my name!). On the record I play bass and lead guitar and live I play bass.
Your new album “Collapser” comes out Fat Wreck Chords on September 1st: how would you describe it to people who never heard of your band before?
Nate: Well, if I was describing it to someone who doesn’t listen to punk music I’d say it is fast music with loud guitars that sounds a little like Green Day. If the person looked at me in confusion after that, I’d say we sound sort of like Nickelback but better.
If I was describing it to someone who *does* listen to punk music, I’d say that we’re melodic punk rock similar to Jawbreaker or the Lawrence Arms. That’s probably enough for someone to have a decent feel for what we sound like.
You released a couple of albums before this new one. What changed in the approach of writing songs, if anything changed ?
Nate: The basic process has always been that #1, I write the guts of a song at home with a drum machine, then #2, Nick and me come up with vocal melodies over it, and then #3, we take that to the full band and flesh the song out. On the new record, there was less time spent on #1 and more time spent on #3. We were able to spend more time on the songs and have more input from everyone. It was fun to do and I think the end result is a little more varied and interesting.
How did you sign to Fat Wreck? Did you send a demo or did you receive a call from the label?
Nate: It was pretty straight-forward– we’ve always wanted to do a record with them so we sent a copy of some demos we’d been working on. They liked the songs, and that was about it.
“Collapser” is filled with great pop punk melodies: what are your musical heroes?
Nate: Thanks! Well, I’m a pretty big fan of stuff like Jawbreaker, Dillinger Four,Lawrence Arms, Superchunk, Screeching Weasel, and so on, and I think our tunes end up sounding similar to some of those bands.
You come from the Midwest punk scene: how is it? In which ways does it differ from the east and the west coast scenes?
Nate: I like it. It’s a good scene; there’s been definite ups and downs over the years but I think the current crop of bands and basements and labels are pretty great. I’ve never lived on the east or west coasts, so I guess I can’t really say how our scene compares to theirs. But probably, their scenes fucking suck and ours is totally awesome. Just kidding. I don’t really know. But I will say, Minneapolis feels kinda like a little city or maybe a gigantic medium sized town — if that makes sense — and I think that’s conducive to having a good scene. If you live in a huge city, it’s so spread out it’s probably hard to really have a “scene”, and if you live in a little town there might not be enough stuff going on to truly form a scene. So I think we kind of fall in the middle of that and it makes it easier to have a situation where you have a lot of different bands and a lot of different styles but it all feels at least a little bit connected
It looks like there are a lot of new bands coming out on No Idea and Fat Wreck that have great records: Dear Landlord, Off With Their Heads,Banner Pilot, Dillinger Four, Lawrence Arms, and so on. How do you think that these punks bands (you included) are making great records while older bands (as Pennywise, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name) are getting to sound a little bit old? Do you think kids are looking for something new, fresh and different these days?
Nate: Well, it’s probably just a simple difference in style I guess; the first set of bands you mention play a slightly different style of punk music than the second set of bands. So if you like that type of punk music you’ll probably be into those bands right now.
I didn’t really grow up listening to the other bands you mentioned — I was more into stuff like Screeching Weasel / NOFX / Rancid / Dead Kennedys / etc — and I’m honestly not that familiar with their stuff. But all of them have been around for 15-20 years so even if they’re still putting out awesome records, it’s pretty hard for them to be perceived as new or fresh, you know? I’m sure the OWTH and Dear Landlord and Lawrence Arms records of 2026 will be awesome but I doubt they’ll be viewed as, you know, “new” by anyone.
A lot of labels are making a hard work to promote their music, even lowering down CD prices: Fat sells cd’s for about 8 dollars, No Idea for about 7 dollars. What’s your position on the crisis of the music industry, mp3 piracy and record labels selling less and less records?
Nate: Well I think there’s good and bad to it, but mostly bad. The long term result of everyone grabbing albums for free will be less bands, less labels, less music, and what’s left will probably be of lesser quality. In an ideal world, an album would only be available for free download if that’s the way the band wanted it to be.
The good part is that if you’re a band your music will get around more now. And that’s pretty cool on an individual level, but on a large scale I think music piracy/illegal downloading/file sharing or whatever you want to call it does more harm than good for music.
How does a band like Banner Pilot survive in this chaotic world?
Nate: With album sales down, I think bands will have to start resorting more and more to weird things like endorsements and product placement if they want to make money off their band, but we’d never resort to something like that.
Hold on a second, I need to take a drink off of my delicious Mountain Dew so I can get the energy to be xtreme and finish this question. Ahhh. That really hit the spot. I hear that Mountain Dew is available in a store near you.
Anyway, we’ve certainly lost money on the band, but we’d be insane if we started a punk band to try to make money. It’s a fun thing to do– we write songs and hopefully people check them out and enjoy them. If at the end of the day we can break even that’s a nice bonus, but all it’s really about is playing music and having fun
You have a twitter account (twitter.com/bannerpilotband): is it helpful for a punk band to keep it? I have subscribed to some twitter accounts of some bands but what I mostly read is 140 letter bullshit.
Nate: It’s just a goofy, sorta fun thing. I don’t know if it’s really all that helpful necessarily but I suppose it’s a way for people who listen to your music to keep up on what you’re doing.
You’re right, though– most twitter accounts are just full of inane self-absorbed blather. Still, it’s entertaining to scroll through a bunch of updates a couple times a day and it can end up being a useful communication tool (like with the Iranian elections this year for example).
Speaking of tours, you will be playing at The Fest 8, and I will be there: what do you expect from this? Have you already played there? Which bands are you excited about? Any new band at The Fest that you might want to recommend to people, Banner Pilot aside?
Nate: This is our fourth year playing. It’s a blast! We’ve always had a great time and it’s one of the highlights of the year. I would recommend that people check out The Dopamines– great pop punk band who put on a super fun show. The band Good Luckis also really fun live; they were probably my favorite set from Fest 7.
Will you tour Europe to support “Collapser“?
Nate: Definitely! I think we’re aiming to head over there in March or April. Not sure for how long or to which countries, but we’ll be over there!
Thanks a ton for your time! Your music is awesome!
Nate: Thanks man!