Q&A with Harvey Milk's Kyle Spencem, Playing Churchill's Saturday

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Harvey Milk, like most if not all other bands, has been the subject of only semi-accurate comparisons to the influential groups that have gone before them during the course of the career.  

Most frequent among these has been a comparison to the power trio the Melvins, which started out in Washington in the early '80s. But even that infers other comparisons to older-still godfathers like Black Sabbath and Black Flag. While some of the distinguishing characteristics are there -- the slow, steady grind of creamy distortion-laden guitars, deep, guttural vocals, more snarling than singing, and thundering bass notes and drums reminiscent of that scene with the T-Rex in Jurassic Park -- the similarities end there.

Unique are the off tempo rhythms and unexpected stops, a penchant for

playing between notes and against what the ear demands. It's a facet of

the music the band attributes to vocalist/guitarist Creston Spiers'

unique ear, his ability to, "hear things differently." But bassist

Stephen Tanner and drummer Kyle Spence add to the unpredictable

unfolding of the band's every song commendably, at times almost as

though each member plays independently of the others and somehow it all

comes together by mere cosmic chance.
Though they've accepted comparisons as a natural byproduct of being a band, Spence admitted in a recent phone conversation with New Times

from home in Athens, Georgia, that after 15 years it's still

irritating. He also shed some light on the history and the future of

this underrated band.

New Times: The band started in '92 with Creston, Stephen and Paul Trudeau on drums, then split in '98 and rejoined with you in 2006?


left in '96 and I played from '96 to '98, and then we quit playing and

went to do our own stuff. Then in '05 Paul and the other guys started

playing a little bit again, they did a few shows, and they recorded

special issues and I helped out with that. So it was sort of like we

all started back again at the same time.

How would you compare the two incarnations of the band, on each side of the 10-year gap?


some pretty big differences, you know? Now, in a lot of ways it's a lot

cooler.  Because, shit, 15 years have gone by. So people have actually

heard the band by now and they'll come see us and buy the records. And

that wasn't the case back then. That's for sure.

And we did a

lot of stuff that didn't really help then. Like putting out records

that were really limited pressing and just making stuff difficult to

find. Just dumb shit you do, I guess. And now it's cool 'cuz you got

the internet now, and the information just goes so much quicker and you

don't really have to depend so much on other people supporting you.

You can just kinda do your own thing.

Pretty much in every way

it's better. Except, you know, we're older, so it's harder to play some

of the stuff we used to play. But, you know, we figure it out.


sound has been described as sludge metal, noise rock, experimental rock

and others, though on your MySpace you guys list have it as rock. Is

that an honest assessment or just an aversion to genre labels?


I mean we all think of it as a rock band, really. People have to label

stuff, and, that's fine. I understand why. I think we all have a

particular aversion to being called doom or stoner rock, or anything

like that. I think at this point, you know, Harvey Milk is just like

it's own thing. It can jump around.

There have been comparisons drawn between you guys and the Melvins.  Any reactions to that?


guess any band that plays slow sometimes, you know, people are just

naturally going to say it sounds like the Melvins. Just like before the

Melvins, people would just naturally say it sounds like Black Sabbath.

So it is a little annoying to keep hearing it sounds like the Melvins,

but we're kinda used to it. We've been hearing it for 15 years.

To us it doesn't sound anything like the Melvins, but I guess there's worst things we could be compared to.

Tell us about the last record, Life...The Best Game In Town.


record was pretty hard to do, because we didn't have much in the way of

ideas for any songs really. And we kind of decided we were gonna do a

record, but once we got together we kinda had to dig around for ideas

and rack our brains for stuff to play. And you know, that's different

from every other record we'd done. It took a long time and a lot of it

wasn't particularly fun. But it worked out in the end.


started another record and it's the complete opposite of what Life was

to make. You know it's all been written and there's a clear idea of

what's going on and what's supposed to happen and that's a lot more fun

to do it that way, rather than sitting there with a guitar in your hand

trying to think of something to play.

Just the fact that we got

that record done, to me, is pretty impressive. However it turned out is

irrelevant to us. Some people really liked it, others didn't. It didn't

really matter to us, we were just glad we finished it. We're all a lot

more excited about the next one.

You'll be performing live in SoFla on Saturday. Tell me about the live show. Will there be sledgehammers and mayhem?


was a song where Creston would play, he would his a metal pipe with a

sledgehammer onstage. You know, you could do that in 1993 and not have

many problems with it. But we were considering it this summer and we

just realized, man, there's just no way you could do this shit anymore.

There's sparks and people would worry about you setting the stage on

fire and someone would get a spark in their face and sue you.

Besides, Creston doesn't need to be swinging a sledgehammer around anymore. You know, he's a 43-year-old man [laughs].

Okay, so no sledgehammers.

No, you know, I mean we wanted to. But times are different now.


got a lot of songs under our belt now though, so it'll be a lot of fun.

We'll be able to pick from the very first song that Harvey Milk every

wrote to the last thing on our last record. You know, we've learned a

lot of shit. So it should be fun.

Harvey Milk plays Churchill's Pub (5501 NE Second Ave.) with Torche on Saturday, July 11, at midnight.

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Christopher Lopez