It was pouring rain while I drove up to Sonoma County, the birthplace of Tsunami Bomb. Both Andy (current guitarist) and I were in separate cars and communicating our ETA to meet up with the band. When we arrived, we quietly walked into an intense session at White Whale Recording Studio, where the band was very focused on the screen in front.
Kate, the new lead vocalist circa 2015, came out of the sound booth after doing a take and I was introduced to the band. Everyone looks pretty wiped and Kate had been recording there since 10AM. They were down a member, Oobliette, who lives in New York. But they were determined to work together to make this sound as good as possible.
After the session, we moved to the back of the studio near the sound booths so the engineer could finish up. While I never really listened to Tsunami Bomb as a teenager, I remember the name bouncing around in the late 90s when I started listening to the radio. I sat down with Dominic, Gabe, Andy, and Kate and we chatted it up.
Tsunami Bomb in the studio.
I didn’t do any research… so the only thing I know about the band-
Andy: We are AFI.
I do remember hearing Tsunami Bomb on Live 105 when I was in high school, in like 2000. Would you technically consider this a comeback?
Kate: Technically…. well, even beyond technically, it is at the end of the day.
Dominic: Don’t call it a comeback!
Kate: Somebody had to say it!
Dominic: We just weren’t doing anything for years *sighs*.
Was there any motivation for the comeback? Like how did it happen?
Gabe: Well actually what it was – Dom can kind of correct me here – ’cause it’s all foggy. It was Dominic that came up with the idea. I mean we’ve stayed in contact; we’ve been close friends since Junior High. He was like, “Hey, what if we released a collection of all the old stuff?”
Dominic: It was actually Kung-Fu Records that hit me up and said that our stuff was still selling. They then suggested collecting the old stuff, and so long story short, we started to make that happen. Then somebody suggested that we do a show. That would be crazy, right? So we said, “Okay, let’s explore that. Let’s check it out!” Certain people didn’t want to be involved because they were busy with other things, but the rest of us, “Shit… let’s do it!”
Initially we were thinking of doing a kind of “flag” thing. If we didn’t have certain people on board, maybe we should be some new band and be like we are playing our old stuff. But when we got together it was so obviously Tsunami Bomb, it was dumb to be anything else.
Andy: Brian was a big component.
Dominic: Brian our old guitarist was a huge component; he really pushed for it.
Kate: It’s kinda funny ’cause there’s a piece that I don’t even know if you guys know about which came out about a year before any of this got up and running. We were actually at a New Found Glory show at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz and Brian said, “I miss the stage.” Like, I miss the stage so much. I want to figure out how I can do this. And that’s when I found out that he had been in Tsunami Bomb. It was around then that he was like, “I gotta talk to Dom.” So when everything with Trust No One came out, he was chompin’ at the bit.
Dominic: Brian was initially very involved and was a big proponent of making this actually be Tsunami Bomb. We wouldn’t have been Tsunami Bomb again without him. Though, as things progressed, he wasn’t able to continue with us due to personal health reasons.
But he even was the one who brought Kate into the picture because they worked together. He believed she was the right person to front the band. When we met Kate, it really it became obvious that she was the right choice ’cause she sang the songs true, really loved the band, and really cared about what it was. But still sang it in her own unique way. Now it was initially supposed to be just a show or two, but eventually it evolved into more because it was so much fun and people were into it.
We knew we were taking a lot on to do this again, because you get all these expectations based on who the band was. It’s funny ’cause everyone thinks, “Oh Tsunami Bomb! It’s easy to be Tsunami Bomb again. But you know what? It’s actually kinda fucked up and hard!” And well, it’s because everyone has this thing in their head about what Tsunami Bomb is and it doesn’t even matter to them, like what it really is or who really wrote what or who did what. To them you have to present it as it is, and have to kinda earn them back and that’s what we’ve tried to do.
Look, we aren’t trying to presume anything here. We just missed our band and we wanna play in our band and write this style of music and honestly just have fun with this. So far it’s been a lot of fun. I mean being in a band is a pain in the ass, as I’m sure you know, but it has been a lot of fun!
Andy: It’s been a really cool adventure for me because I’ve known these guys since Day One. I was at their very first show in Merced at the Fatty Mocha. I was friends with them from way back, my old band Kalifornia Redemption would play shows with them and like we ended up playing a bunch of shows together over the years. Dom and I actually ended up living together for a little while and working together as Tsunami Bomb was coming back, and I was like, “Hell yea! This is awesome!”
So when Brian eventually couldn’t continue, and after Chris from 30 Foot Fall filled in on guitar for a while, it became obvious that logistically speaking – with Chris living in Texas at the time – it wasn’t going to work out very well. We already have Oobliette – who lives in New York – which has its own set of challenges already. So when Dom brought it up to me, he brought it up to me as, “Hey wanna help write some songs”?
Dominic: That’s how I got him!
Andy: It kinda just trickled in ’cause then he was like, “Hey, do you wanna just do this”? and I said well yea! These guys are great.
I think one of the things that I’m really happy about it something that Dom pointed out. We make mistakes and we aren’t always gonna be that perfect band that everyone expects, but WE have fun. There’s smiles all around. Yes, we take this seriously. We want to make great music and preform good for the crowd. But when someone makes a mistake it’s not like, “Ahh! we are awful.” That’s a really liberating moment in a band. You don’t have to hate yourself after you make a mistake. That’s one of my favorite things about this group – everyone’s attitude.
Dominic: Whatever anyone else might think this is still a punk band and everyone can fuck off! It’s supposed to be fun. Jen’s band knows what I’m talking about, yea?
I sure do!
Okay. Old members, new members… ROLL CALL! Who’s new and who’s a veteran Tsunami Bomber?
Kate: You’ve kinda got a mix. Dom initially started Tsunami Bomb in 1998 with Oobliette and Gabe joined soon after.
Dominic: Well, he actually filled in on the very first shows and we begged him. He was like. “Oooh kaaay” and then he later joined full time and it was awesome.
Kate: So you kinda got these eras. With Dom and Oobliette and Gabe you got this core of what Tsunami Bomb was in its inception. Gabe has actually played the most shows in Tsunami Bomb out of anyone in the band, because there was a period when kind of everyone had transitioned and people came in and out. But Gabe was through that whole piece…. and then came back! It’s kinda funny that the drummer is the constant….
Gabe: WHY’S THAT?
Kate: Well it’s poetic, ’cause the drummer is supposed to be consistent and constant like a metronome.
Gabe: I thought that was going in a completely different direction.
(The room erupts with laughter)
Kate: Then you’ve got me, the new kid on the block, starting with the Trust No One release in 2016 and now Andy is the new kid.
And now you are recording a new album. What’s the deal? Got any details? Spill!
Dominic: That was kind of key on all of us coming back. Those of us who had been in this before were like this has to move forward. We don’t wanna be a cover band of ourselves. It took awhile; like any band it didn’t just lock in.
It wasn’t until Andy showed up that we felt like we could make stuff happen. We technically at this point don’t have a record label. Kung-Fu Records has our discography, but we are considering a lot of options including self releasing. This session, we did six songs and we are gonna review them and see what we wanna do with them. Then there’s a possibility for another session. We wrote so many songs! I wish we could say more, but all we can say for now is that something is coming out soon and this recording gonna be a part of it.
Kate: We are writing music not knowing if we are going to put it out or not. You put five creative people in a room and it just kind of happens. We just want to make sure that what we put out is in the voice we have now. Some of our fans are ready to kick us, ’cause we are like “It’s coming, it’s coming.” It really is, but we just want to make sure we are proud of it when it’s out and it’s something that we can stand by.
Andy: We’ve peppered the last few shows with a few new tracks to see and so far it’s been well-received. It’s a really great motivator for all of us. I think we collectively are pretty happy about the material we are writing and we ultimately are doing this for us, but we care a lot about the people that are coming to these shows. So we wanna make sure it’s going to meet their expectations to a certain degree too.
Dominic: It’s important when we did this, that it should reflect everything we were, but move on. I don’t want it to sound like 2003, or 2018 even.
Andy: Our biggest hope is that these songs reflect the evolution of the band from Day One all the way up until today with respect to every era to the band.
Kate: Also it’s cool. You can hear the five of us in every song. You can hear the five individuals coming through Tsunami Bomb. Oobliette and I talked a lot about how to find that balance and I think we found it.
Very cool. Does the album or the songs have any concept? What are you trying to do or accomplish?
Dominic: Tsunami Bomb has always been thematically a band that isn’t a posi-core band. But at the same time, I think our songs have a reflection of defiance and an attempt at finding yourself. There’s a certain sadness to a Tsunami Bomb song.
Kate: A lot of it is that we are our own biggest critics in every way, shape, or form. I think kind of what you are going to see is that tension between staying confident in yourself while hearing and understanding others around you and that comes in different contexts. I think that’s what you’ll hear not only lyrically but musically.
It’s kind of this challenge against things that we feel need to be said to the world right now for ourselves and talking ourselves into what we are doing or talking ourselves out of what we are doing. There’s this tension between how do we live the way we wanna live and how do we get others on board. At least that’s kind of what I’ve taken from it.
Andy: As someone who was an observer for so long and seen like every version, I’ve always kind of felt there’s always been this darker tinge, like a minor key, even when it’s an upbeat song. I think it just has to do with the love of horror films kinda bleeding into it a little bit and kind of trying to keep the shadows involved with the light. You can take the good, you can take the bad…
Andy: I’m almost, 40 I gotta make dad jokes!
Dominic: I think horror is kinda where it started and it’s matured into this sort of melancholy view of the world. It’s really about us trying to fit who we are into this moment.
So, the band has a show at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on April 20th…
Andy: It’s a big homecoming for the band.
Gabe: I know Dominic, Oobliette, me, and Andy have a lot of history at the Phoenix Theater. I personally was hanging out there since I was a kid. I learned to play the drums there. Tom who has run it forever used to always have drums set up onstage during the day and I’d go up and play them. He didn’t tell me until the first time we (Tsunami Bomb) played the Phoenix Theater, “Every time you went up there I cringed”.
Tom said, “You had a long way to go. I was always worried you were going to break my friggin’ drums!” ‘Cause I was always like RAAAWWRRR! and he said, “No offense. But of all the people I thought would have made it where you are now, I didn’t think it was gonna be you!”
Well, did you break any?
Gabe: (grins) I did.
Andy: Can I point out that Tom is the best human ever?
Dominic: Tom, whether he realizes it or not, is singlehandedly responsible for this band because Gabe and I would not be playing instruments unless he had provided a place to learn and play. I used to put on shows there- well he let me put on shows there. I did security, I did everything. Some of the shows I helped put on completely failed but he still let me do it!
This one time there was this local band that kept blowing shit off and I got mad. I said to him, “That’s it! I’m gonna do my own band! Tom if I start a band, can I play here?” I was like still at teenager and he was like, “Yeah sure. Why are you so angry?” I said, “I… I DUNNO!”
If it wasn’t for that though, that was everything.
Kate: There’s a lot of layers to this show. It’s this homecoming for these guys and it’s 20 years of Tsunami Bomb and this is a NorCal fire benefit as well. We don’t wanna screw it up!
Andy: I have booked and promoted a lot of shows. I wanted to put on some sort of show to benefit the fire victims up here. It gives us a chance to give back to this awesome community that’s done so much for this band. I didn’t grow up here, but for Dom and Gabe and Oobliette, this place means so much more.
Well, that’s all I got for the questions. I’ve actually only done one interview before this.
Andy: Well, you got any weird questions for us?
I guess we could get weird. Like what’s your favorite food?
Kate: I’ve got a funny food story!
So for one of our shows we were down in San Diego, we decided to go get Mexican food. Everyone was ordering like one taco or fries or something like that ’cause we are about to go onstage and I ordered a full sized wet burrito. We sat down and Gabe was like, “You’re gonna eat that? You’re NOT gonna eat that.”
I was like, “I AM FINISHING THIS!” And I did. He looks at me and says “…now you’re gonna go sing. Alright. Let’s do this!”
Kate: I LOVE BURRITOS.
Gabe: She ate the whole thing
Kate: Oh, his face was great! You should of seen his eyes!
Dominic: It was like this dad, concerned look.
Gabe: She was like jumping up and down onstage later and I was like what are you doing?
Andy: I’ve seen the repercussions of this before…
Dominic: Usually it was me… they’d be all, “You ate that burrito?” I’d be like yea! Then, while we were playing, I’d go behind the amps to throw up.
So what is your stance on the best burritos? Foil? Paper? NorCal? SoCal?
Dominic: I like all burritos.
Kate: Foil. I grew up in Monterrey. That’s like Central California. I have my own standards for a burrito.
Dominic: I feel like I’m the biggest hippie for once in my life. I think, “Hey man, what’s the deal? It’s a burrito! What’s the problem?”
Kate: Not all burritos are created equal! I say go to Chula, California!
Dominic: Burritos are like sex… even when it’s not great, I’m grateful to even get it.
Andy: I’m a salsa guy. For me, it’s less about the burrito being perfect, it’s the salsa. If a place doesn’t have good salsa, it’s ruined. And I prefer foil.
Gabe: I got my burrito. In order for a burrito to be good it has to have these four things: chorizo, jalapenos, black beans, and cilantro.
(Andy and Gabe high-five)
Dominic: Man, this is the only hippie thing I have. I’m like, “Oh man, doesn’t matter what you put in it. Whatever, thanks for the burrito!”
Anything final that you would like to add?
Andy: Oh, we have some East Coast dates coming up! We are playing Brooklyn, Boston, Philly, THE FEST in Gainsville, Pouzza Fest in Montreal, Canada. It’s all part of this East Coast run.
Damn, you guys are BACK back!
Andy: We’re unfortunately not in the best position to do a TON of touring. But we are doing what we can, when we can.
Dominic: We do runs now rather than full tours.
Gabe: A little chunk here and a little chunk there.
Well that’s it. Thanks everyone!
Andy: Thanks for coming all the way out here! Tsunami Bomb will be playing at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on April 20th, 2018. Proceeds from the ticket sales will be going towards The Redwood Empire Food Bank & The Sonoma County Music Coalition, which is donating to the fire relief for Sonoma County.