There's not a person on this planet that could accuse perennial songsmith Scott Reynolds of taking the easy route.
Time and again, through rejections, restarts, and reinventions, the man who once fronted "that other band" associated with the Descendents, ALL, has charged forward and insisted on claiming his stake in the annals of aural artistry. And a zealous number of supporters have backed him up along the way, as was made evident last year by a successful Kickstarter campaign which yielded him the funds for a new solo album.
As it turns out, that's not all he has in the works.
County Grind caught up with him between tour stints for an interview. In the first half, we discussed, among many things, the aforementioned solo album he's putting together, how confusing his "ALL Family Tree" leaf is, and what he'd name his ultimate fantasy band.
In this, the second half of our interview, we discussed his new solo project, a kid-friendly album with Florida native Sam Williams of Down by Law, and other subjects including his current relationship with some former band mates, how to nurture a successful marriage, and what his drink of choice is.
New Times: Thanks for the exclusive breaking news of your new band, Baron Von Thunderbolt, with Florida native Sam Williams! How'd this project come together, and what can you tell me about it?
Scott Reynolds: It came together when Sam messaged me that he had some tunes that needed vocals. He wondered if I might want to come up with something to sing. I said, "Send me some mp3s and I'll tell you." So he did, and they were really cool. I didn't know he wrote such pretty music. Is it OK to call songs pretty? Does that make me a sissy? Anyway, I liked them a lot, so I said, "Yes." It was that simple.
We've already recorded a couple songs, and Stephen Egerton mixed them. We'll be putting them up on Facebook shortly. The band is called Baron Von Thunderbolt, and it's going to be a record for kids. Or maybe more accurately, families.
Why a kids album?
We're doing a "kids record" because Sam mentioned that he'd like to do one, and I have been wanting to do one for years. I put kids record in quotation marks, because I don't really consider it a "kid's record." I hope people will think of it more as a family friendly record.
We're doing it because a lot of kids' music is almost unlistenable for adults. My kids are older now, but I remember when they were little. Their music made want to crash the car. It was so annoying. We're hoping to make a record that everybody likes. Mom and dad, as well as the kids. It's just a pretty straight rock record with lyrics about being nice to the new kid at school, or going outside instead of watching TV, or whatever. I think it sounds tremendous so far.
What's your greatest memory, your proudest achievement musically, thus far? What is your biggest aspiration?
Wow, that's an exceptionally difficult question to answer. I really don't have a greatest memory. I've done so many things I never thought I'd do. I seriously don't have room here to even begin to tackle that question, and I could never narrow it down to one memory. I think what I'm most proud of is the fact that I'm still at it, still reasonably prolific, and haven't really embarrassed myself yet.
Maybe I'm delusional, but I don't think I've done a single record that sucks. I know a lot of musicians who've been around as long as I have, who can't say that. Their music has become formulaic; like their idea tank ran out out years ago. I'm pretty sure that happened to me. I might be kidding myself, because I'm sure they don't think they suck either. but I feel more relevant and enthusiastic now, than I did 20 years ago. And I'm pretty proud of that. It makes me happy.
My biggest aspiration is to make a record that I truly love, start to finish. One that satisfies me on every level. I've never done that. I've come reasonably close, but there's always something that falls short.
There's a bit of a recurring theme in your songwriting -- the mistreatment and neglect of kids by their parents and the gross objectification of women. What draws you to these topics you deal with so tastefully, yet provocatively?
Are those really recurring themes? Maybe the mistreatment of children by their parents, and their classmates does show up in my music from time to time. Never really thought about it. If it does, I guess it's because kids can be very helpless and trusting, and ugly people of all ages hurt and manipulate them because it's easy. That saddens and angers me on a level that few other situations do. So since it affects me so dramatically, it's bound to show up on a record or two.
As far as the objectification of women goes, I'm not sure to which songs you're referring. I hope I have written good songs about that. It certainly is a worthwhile concern. As the father of two daughters, I'm constantly confronted by the obnoxiousness, and misogyny they face everyday everywhere. So if I have addressed that topic, and you feel that I've done it justice, then I'm elated. Thanks!
Years ago, I spoke to your old friend and band mate Stephen Egerton and he told me how you wrote nearly every ALL song on piano. What's the ratio of instrumental choice for you nowadays between guitar and piano, and how long have you been playing both?
Well, that's not exactly true. I wrote Charligan, Frog, Cyclops, and Crawdad on piano. I think that's all. The rest were on guitar. Nowadays, it's almost exclusively guitar. I poke around on the piano from time to time. But it's much easier for me to write on guitar. Piano befuddles, and angers me.
What's your relationship with all of your former band mates nowadays? Do you still speak with the guys from the Pavers? A couple of years ago you did that reunion thing with ALL where every singer sang with them. I know Bill's busy with Flag and everything, but considering ALL hasn't done a new album in ages, the door's kind of open for something to happen. Thoughts?
I just saw the Pavers guys the other day. We correspond from time to time. Tim prints my T-shirts so I talk with him the most. I'm not very good at keeping in touch with people (just ask my mom), but I'm still on good terms with all of them. So it's really fun to see them on the rare occasion when we have the chance to hang out.
As for ALL, I talk to Stephen every so often. He's mixed some of my stuff, and I've sung on some of his recordings. So I'm probably closest to him. I also, talk to or text Bill every once in a while. Usually it's about something stupid. Karl, I don't really correspond with, but I'm always glad to see him when our paths cross. We usually have a good talk, and drink too much. Those are a couple of my favorite activities. So that's cool.
Yes, we did a couple of those "every singer" reunions. I don't really like to do those. It's kind of gimmicky, and marginalizes each singer's contribution to the band. It feels like we're all interchangeable, and I end up feeling kind of silly. Plus I hate the "who's best?" debate. I've played in too many other bands over the years to have my entire existence as a musician boiled down to my contribution, as one of three singers, to the first band I ever made records with. So I don't see that kind of thing happening again. I'm too grumpy.
As far as a new Scott/ALL thing goes. I don't really see that happening either. They are the Descendents these days, and doing pretty damned well. I don't really see a need for a new ALL record. I think the vast majority of Descendents/ALL types are drooling over the idea of a new Descendents record. So I don't think an ALL record would do that well sales-wise. ALL records have the obnoxious habit of not recouping. And that makes recording them hard to justify. Especially when you're constantly broke as a joke, like I am. But you never know, stranger things have happened.
You've been married for a long time now. What, in your opinion, is the secret to a successful marriage? What are some obstacles to one nowadays?
I think the secret is not to expect too much from your marriage. The idea of a soul-mate is silly. There is no perfect cosmic connection out there. And the belief that there is such a thing, and that you've found him/her, puts an absurd amount of pressure on a relationship. No one can live up to that.
Recognize that your wife is a partner, and a friend. And that's plenty. Anything beyond that is gravy. Don't expect it. Just be pleasantly surprised when you get more (which you will from time to time). Marriage is like the best friendship you ever had. That sounds corny and cliched, but if you look at it that way you won't put too much pressure on it. That's how marriages snap. You don't break up with a best friend when he screws up. You get mad for a while, and then get over it. That's how marriage has to be, because everybody screws up.
What real-life person would you say is your hero? Why?
Jimmy Carter, because he has used his life to lessen so much misery for so many people. He has built homes for the homeless. His foundation has single-handedly practically irradiated guinea worm infestation from the planet. If you don't know what that is, look it up. He has helped provide clean water, and outhouses for impoverished fellow humans all over the world. And his is efforts are nonpartisan. All are welcome.
His diplomatic efforts have helped to proliferate peace throughout so much of the world, yet he remains gentle, and quiet, and humble. I can't imagine what it must be like to know that your life has brought so much comfort to so many. It must be amazing.
Looking back on your career so far, is there anything you'd change?
Contracts, contracts, contracts. Also, I would have paid attention more, played a much more forceful role in decisions regarding my records and tours. I would have learned the business better, and more about recording.
You've got a tour gearing up. Any chance of you coming down to South Florida? Your fans would love to see you, and I'll buy you a beer!
I'll definitely get down there soon. Promise! And I'd rather have a bourbon.
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