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Saturday, December 16, 2017 
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Inquisitive

THE UNWOUND SOUND // Ten years on, the Olympia, Wash.-based punk rockers have delivered an epic album that finds them... well, artier than ever.
Interview Jenny Tatone Photography Jim McGinnis
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Vern Rumsey

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"Being independent goes beyond major label vs. indie labels. That's been the wrong focus for too long." — Justin Trosper
Tatone: So, if Unwound was presented with the opportunity to sign to a major, would you?

Trosper: I dunno at this point. Money, everybody wants money. But we do all right. We don't work ourselves to death with day jobs too much. I think the whole major thing would change a lot. A lot of people got the big advances and didn't have to put out the record. We actually had a publishing deal five years ago; we got a chunk of money but we actually never did anything for it. We were trying to figure out a way like, "How can we get some of this money floating around?" Some people survive that chunk of money and some people just destroy their bands. A lot of people are getting songs in commercials. A lot of really bizarre things have happened in the last few years. And it still gets weirder.

Tatone: You think if Unwound signed to major you'd get along pretty well, it wouldn't tear you apart?

Trosper: No, I don't think that would be a problem as much as change. I think getting onto a major label is a totally different world; you have managers and A&R people — people that push you around. Even the strongest independent people — think of someone like Prince who just hates major labels, a superstar — even the most powerful people like that get pushed around by money. But I think we'd be fine.

A lot of people that sign — and it's not a lifetime guarantee — maybe end up screwed, and then they can't go back to indie 'cause they're hated there. And then the band breaks up and tries their solo career and that doesn't work and then they're the A&R's: "Yeah, I live in L.A. now. I used to be in a great band...." [laughing].

Tatone: We've already talked about this a little, but just to get a little more specific, at some point in your life you've wondered what it would feel like to become a huge band that ends up becoming a legend. Is that ever a goal or a dream now?

Trosper: No. Being in a band for so long, when you get older, you get more realistic. It'll always cross your mind, being in a band, especially playing concerts. I don't really care too much. I think, personally, I would rather be exposed to new things, try to go to new places with the band.... What happens, happens. I'd actually rather make more money than be famous [laughing]. I feel like we've had a lot of respect, and it's great.

Tatone: I feel when you choose to put yourself in a band and work toward living off of that choice, you also inadvertently choose to live in a public space, where you are heard, watched and examined. Many have never experienced this. Could you talk about what it feels like?

Trosper: I guess being around band people for so long — creating our own little world — that's always been a part of my life. I never went through that transition of having a full-time job to all of a sudden, "The band's doing really well, let's quit our jobs!" From day one, I was like, "How can I avoid working? Hmmm...." [laughing]. Living here all my life, seeing the same faces, it's hard to get outside that idea.

I guess people judge you a little harder if you're in the public space. Say, if a random drunk person falls on the sidewalk and it's a bum, you're like, "Oh it's a bum," and then you see somebody famous fall on the sidewalk, you're like, "Hey look! Robert Downey Jr. just got arrested again!" Somehow it's more interesting.

We don't have to really worry about it. In this town, no one really cares who we are — we're part of the landscape. People that are super famous, people that are always in that sphere, no wonder they're all fucked up on drugs.

Tatone: As a musician, what has brought you the most satisfaction and happiness?

Trosper: Different moments, highlights from traveling, touring, things like that along the way. It's a long list. And being a record collector for so long, being able to put out records — being in the process.

Tatone: What's the most frustrating and difficult?

Trosper: Keeping everything together as far as trying to get things done. Being an idea person and being blocked, which I definitely got over early on. I wasn't willing to fail, and now I'm totally willing to fail. I know a lot of people that are really creative but have all these psychological blocks where they're like, "If I do this, somebody will think that...." They have this idea, they write it out obsessively for months or years, and never get it done.

Tatone: Do you have time for other interests other than music?

Trosper: I do have time, but I just buy records, listen to music. Most of my hobbies revolve around absorbing other people's stuff, listening to different records. I don't mountain climb or kayak or anything like that [laughing]. I like cooking, hanging out with my friends, enjoying the fruits of other people's labors [laughing].

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