promise ring punk emo band
Band Interviews

Back from the Dead! Interview with Jason, Dan and Scott of The Promise Ring – 1998

promise ring band interview 1998 punk emo

Before we get into this interview I would like to apologize for the format during the Q and A portions. The original transcribed interview was lost and the thought of taking notes at that time was non-existent. Sometimes you just want to let the recorder do its job so that you can “Be in the moment”. This was my downfall as a youngster getting caught up in the conversation with these guys. To reference the excerpt from “Your War (I’m One of You): 20 Years of Joan of Arc” by Noisey, “You would think that someone would have thought to take some notes at the dawn of time, confusion would be totally unnecessary”, “I can say whole heartedly and with all the confidence I can muster, fuck it.”

This second attempt at deciphering these tapes was very challenging, the audio was extremely rough and hard to tell the difference from one person to the next so we had to generalize the responses from the members. We hope you enjoy this interview with Jason, Dan and Scott!

  • Davey VonBohlen – Vocals, Guitar
  • Jason Gnewikow – Guitar
  • Dan Didier – Drums
  • Scott Schoenbeck – Bass
  • Labels – Jade Tree Records, Anti-

Silent Nation: Where are you guys from?

Promise Ring: Milwaukie

Silent Nation: Did you guys have a lot of support in your home town and places to play?

Promise Ring: Sort of, it was slow. It was a slow start in Milwaukie for people to start coming to our shows but now it’s pretty good.

Silent Nation: How many years did it take before you guys started to take off?

Promise Ring: Almost 3 years I think.

Silent Nation: How many years have you been playing now?

Promise Ring: We’ve been playing for four years, in mid-March it will be five.

Promise Ring Second: God no?!

Promise Ring: Yeah, our first show was on March 10th so that’s where I go by. I just go by March 10th, I just remember that date. But we started practicing in January.

Silent Nation: What was the first record you ever bought?

Promise Ring: I remember the first record I ever bought. It was the Oakridge Boys, the oom poppa mow mow song, self-title right?

Promise Ring All: *singing* Get it up, Oom poppa Mow Mow!

Promise Ring Second: The first record I remember buying was Rolling Stones, Tattoo You. Just bringing it home and I remember it being weird because everyone was like, why did you buy that record? I just remember having a really bad record player and I remember playing it and it was really hard to hear it *mimicking scratching sounds* but I remember that being my first record.

Promise Ring Third: I really liked earlier records like I had the Ghostbusters sound track. *laughter* which is actually totally awesome! And Price, Purple Rain, I used to steal my sisters Purple Rain record.

Silent Nation: What is your favorite song that you guys have released, lyrics wise?

Promise Ring: Lyrics wise? I’ve never thought of this before.

Promise Ring Second: That’s pretty good. That’s tough, I would say… wow, this is tough. Ok, the worst part is that I know there are some that I have been like “I love this song, for the lyrics” but I can’t think right now what ones.

Silent Nation: What about your favorite song in general?

Promise Ring: I really like the way… Oh! I think “Nothing Feels Good” is my favorite song lyrically. There may be another one coming to me but that one I can definitely say is my favorite song lyrically.

Promise Ring Second: But that one came with a lot of struggle too. We argued on that one!

Promise Ring: We had a lot of push and pull with the lyrics on that one.

Promise Ring: I think I really like the way that Raspberry Rush came out on the “Nothing Feels Good” album, musically that would be my favorite. Those songs that we usually don’t play live all the time, like that one we don’t play live so we don’t get totally sick of it. But I really want to answer the lyric one but I don’t know what it is.

Silent Nation: I like the “Sea of Cortez” lyrics

Promise Ring: really, yeah, I like those too.

Promise Ring Second: Yeah, I really do, those are good.

Silent Nation: Or, “Anne You Will Sing” with “We’re only seventeen forever for a moment”. And “B is for Bethlehem” lyrics.

Promise Ring: Yeah! I do too actually, I really like those lyrics

Promise Ring Second: This is kind of a half-ass answer but I think it would be “Best Looking Boys” where we have “Michael D., David K., best looking boys go all the way”. I think that’s my favorite because of our friends that are Michael D and David K, knowing them and then reading those lyrics it’s funny, it’s really amusing.

Promise Ring: Actually I got to amend mine, I really do like the lyrics to that song (Nothing Feels Good) but I’ve got to go with “Tell Everyone We’re Dead” and “Best Looking Boys” our two new songs that aren’t out yet, well I guess they are out now on our new single. But “Tell Everyone We’re Dead” I really like those lyrics.

Promise Ring: Oh Yeah! I really like the line “Storms are born really far away out west of LA. Where birds have kids like crazy, seagulls and turtledoves” because I really love this song by Art Garfunkel called “99 miles to LA” so thinking of west from LA reminds me of this song so it’s kind of a full stretch.

promise ring band interview tim kinsella

Photo by Mark Beemer

Silent Nation: How has it been being out on tour? Do you guys feel like rock stars?

Promise Ring: No, I feel like it’s just a lot of driving around.

Silent Nation: Is it a pain or fun?

Promise Ring: It’s both.

Promise Ring Second: It’s painful and pleasurable.

Promise Ring Third: I would say that it’s not very much of a pain, I think that while you’re stuck on tour you might think that it’s a pain but when you consider the alternatives. Like a week before you leave on tour everything is so busy running around doing everything that needs to be done and then it’s the best feeling to just get in the van and go. You have so much time to kill during the day and you have no responsibilities, it’s not like anyone is depending on you for anything. Your responsibility is to just show up so that’s not too much to ask, can’t really complain about that. It’s pretty awesome.

Promise Ring Second: There are a lot of other good things that make all the loading, unloading and all the bad things that could possibly happen on tour be a lot less stressful or painful. Like seeing things that you’re not used to seeing, like Wyoming skies and stuff like that. In Wisconsin there’s not much, just grass and trees, it’s not hilly, no mountains.

Promise Ring: Even Wisconsin can be interesting but against Wyoming it’s not.

Silent Nation: Where do you guys like to play the most out of all the places you have been?

Promise Ring: There are spots in the mid-east, in Boston that are really good.

Promise Ring: I’d like to play the Chubador again. (Hope that’s correct, that club is no longer open so it couldn’t be fact checked.) I like the place at the bottom of the hill last time in Southampton.

Promise Ring Second: I really like the town Austin, we haven’t really played a good venue there.

Promise Ring Third: Emo’s is good, it’s kind of wild, It’s half outdoors and half indoors.

Promise Ring: The electric lounge in Austin is awesome!

Promise Ring Second: Yeah!

Promise Ring Third: The Metro in Chicago is cool.

Silent Nation: How about in Europe?

Promise Ring: Yeah, but I can’t really think of any specific venue. Rome was insane, we played at this really weird place last time. It was awesome because it was in Rome, but it was in this huge squat with real gypsies with them cheering from their huts and stuff. We played outdoors on this huge stage. It was really weird, a really weird experience but you’re in Rome so it was cool. It wouldn’t have been the same if it was in the US, I would be like “I want to get out of here”, but there it was something special.

Silent Nation: How did Promise Ring get started?

Promise Ring: All of the bands that we were with had previous broke up and we all knew each other because Milwaukie is kind of small. Davey was in Cap’n Jazz, Jason was in “None Left Standing” and I was in a band called Ceilishrine.

Promise Ring Second: It was just normal. Nothing special about that, we just knew each other and decided to play.

Promise Ring: Yeah, nothing crazy like, two of us where in prison together but I have actually used that before to make it sound like a huge elaborate deal to make it sound more interesting.

Silent Nation: What was your most embarrassing thing moment of stage?

Promise Ring: *Laughter* Too many to count! So many times where I think “why did I do that?”

Promise Ring Second: Trying to think of something that stands out but there have been so many things.

Silent Nation: In a previous interview with Avail, one of the guys actually shit themselves on stage.

Promise Ring: *Laughter* No, Nothing like that for sure! I’ve never lost my bowel movement or anything like that.

Promise Ring Second: That happened to Cap’n Jazz once though, Tim Kinsela.

Promise Ring: Tim did?

Promise Ring Second: Yeah.

Promise Ring: I guess I can define a moment like on this tour I totally fucked up this song and we had to stop. I think that drummers have it really hard because if a guitar player misses a note, it’s a load guitar and it can kind of go unnoticed or it gets a little pitchy and some people don’t know that. But if a drum gets off beat or you fuck up a part, it’s the rhythm and you can tell right away. If the guitar just stops, nobody will really notice, it’s like “oh wow, the guitar just stopped for a second, that was awesome”. When the drums just stop, it’s a big deal.

When we were in Lawrence, Kansas we played this show and I fucked up a song and it just stopped and I was like “Oops”. I felt like a horses’ ass! So that was an embarrassing moment but not my most.

Promise Ring Second: I think the most embarrassing moment that happened not too long ago was when we were playing in Chicago and a friend of ours was kinda heckling us and he was backing up into a corner so we couldn’t really see who it was, me and Davey both at the same time realized who it was and we were like “Hey Erik, your busted, we know who you are!” and I was standing right at the mic and said “Yeah dude, we totally know who you are” and I sounded like a complete stoner idiot. I wasn’t joking but everyone thought I was and started laughing but I was serious and then I was like “God I sounded like an idiot!”

promise ring band interview tim kinsella

Photo by Mark Beemer –
Minneapolis, MN at The Coffeehouse 1997

Silent Nation: How do you come up with all of your lyrics?

Promise Ring: Davey writes them

Promise Ring Second: He studied English in college, he writes all the time and reads a lot.

Promise Ring Third: The way I think about his lyrics is that Davey is the kind of guy that, to use chess as an example there are difference movements and everything’s precise, it is a strategy. He will do these exercises and he will study these words like and say “I found this word and it kind of has this rhythm to it so maybe I can rhyme it with this one that has a similar rhythm to it, but how would that work? And what do they mean together?” but it’s very strategic like playing chess but with words.

Silent Nation: Yeah, I get that impression when reading the lyrics.

Promise Ring: Everything he does is very intentional. He’ll go on a five-minute rant. “Hey guys, listen to this!” and he will go into all this detail and talk about the duality of the words. We are all like “OK”.

Silent Nation: Do you guys write the music first or base your songs off of the lyrics?

Promise Ring: The music gets written first but he’s got this little book that he always carries around with him that has tons of stuff that he writes all the time. He’ll go back in his book after we write the music and find something that fits the melody and make some adjustments.

Silent Nation: It’s been great to talk with you guys, thanks for taking time to chat with us.

Promise Ring: Yeah! let’s go watch the show.

Silent Nation: Thanks guys!

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