Minneapolis hardcore trio Condominium have been playing underground venues in the Twin Cities for six years now, intentionally flying under the radar of the larger music community while earning the respect of punk die-hards. This week, however, that’s all set to change. They have a new 7″, Carl, coming out on influential indie label Sub Pop—home of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and more recent heavy acts like Pissed Jeans and Metz—and just debuted their new music exclusively on tastemaking site Pitchfork.
Pretty soon, a whole lot more people are going to know about Condominium, so I invited the band (which includes vocalist and bassist Matthew Castore, guitarist Brad Stiffler, and drummer Joe Boyd-Brent, who couldn’t make the interview) into the studio to discuss their group’s history and what’s next for them now that they’ve made this big step. Read our chat below, and catch the audio version of this interview Sunday night on the Local Show.
Local Current: For the uninitiated, can you start out by giving me a brief history of the band?
Matthew Castore: I first started writing songs for Condominium probably in 2006, and shortly after that, I was living with Brad at the time, we were hanging out, and he started playing guitar with me and practicing the songs. Eventually we got a full band put together, with Joe playing drums and our friend Kim playing bass. We were a four-piece for a long time. I think we played our first show in the summer of 2007.
Brad Stiffler: And the first record came out in January of ’08.
Castore: We put out our first 7″, and a couple more after that, and after a few years Kim, our bass player, moved away, and we weren’t really able to replace her very well, so I just ended up playing bass and singing. So we were a three-piece after that.
Stiffler: We were never able to replace her parking skills or her ability to change the tire when it blew out, which none of us can do.
Castore: She was the handiest with the van, so it was a tough loss.
Have you guys done a lot of touring?
Stiffler: Not a whole ton. We’ve done two East Coast tours, a couple smaller weekend or four, five-day trips, and two years ago we toured the West Coast for a week and a half.
Castore: We’ve been out a few times, but we’re not a super ambitious touring band. And a lot of our tours have been ill-fated.
Stiffler: Yeah. We’ve mostly lost money and cancelled shows. [laughs]
Well that might all change now because you’ve got this new release coming out on Sub Pop. How did that come together?
Castore: That was something that came about last year. We were playing a show in Minneapolis with this band Feed Time from Australia, I think all their records just got reissued on Sub Pop recently. So we were playing with them, and one of the guys from Sub Pop, who I guess had heard of our band and had some of our records, came out just to see the show. We met him then and he asked if we’d be interested in doing a record on Sub Pop, and then we spent several months deliberating about it, and ended up deciding to do a single with them.
What was your association with that label prior to signing? Are there bands that have come out on Sub Pop that you respect?
Stiffler: Nirvana, mainly.
Castore: As far as current bands, I think we’re both into that band Pissed Jeans. They’ve put out some pretty good records on Sub Pop. Other than that I can’t think of too many current bands.
Stiffler: Yeah, actually I look at their stuff and I’ve never heard of most of them. It’s just mostly not the style of stuff we listen to. They’ve done a couple of—I mean, they did a Mika Miko single, I like that band. And then the Pissed Jeans stuff. But it’s mostly the old stuff, to me, I’m originally from the Northwest, and to me it’s just funny that we’re on the same label as Nirvana or Mudhoney or Soundgarden. It’s funny. It’s more those associations with the label than anything recent.
I would categorize your music as hardcore punk. Do you think that’s a fair category?
Stiffler: Yeah, definitely.
So I came across this quote while I was reading some of your reviews, and I wanted to see what you think: “Condominium reminds us of the reasons why hardcore punk may still be relevant in 21st-century America. If there were ever a time for such a genre, it’s now.”
Stiffler: I guess it’s just sort of weird, because from my perspective, and our perspective as a band, we’ve been in the hardcore punk scene our whole lives, and it’s really the only type of music I care about. So I don’t know that I need any other genre, or that there was a time that it was or wasn’t relevant. It’s harder for me to understand it because it’s clearly from an outsider perspective.
Castore: I mean, it’s relevant because it rips. But I don’t think any of us consider our band in terms of how the genre fits into the history of modern music or anything. I think we just try to be in a ripping band.
What kind of venues do you typically play?
Stiffler: The vast majority of shows we play are all-ages shows, either in a basement or a house, or in a sort of informal venue. I mean we’ve played in town at a bunch of places, but we’ve tried playing in bars and it’s not really our vibe, so we try to avoid it as much as possible. I don’t like to stay up late or hang out where people are partying, so I just try to avoid it.
Castore: We played that residency at Grumpy’s last year, and we have played a few shows at the Triple Rock, but in general I think that house show and warehouse show vibe is more our thing, and we try to focus on that.
Stiffler: We have an upcoming West Coast tour, and I think the majority of those shows are going to be either houses or sort of informal venues.
When you come out of that underground scene and sign to something big like Sub Pop, is there any tension there?
Stiffler: I mean, we only really signed to Sub Pop to do this 7″, so we don’t have some sort of lengthy contract or any type of thing where we’d be forced to do whatever.
Castore: I think since it’s just one 7″ release that’s going to be a relatively limited pressing size, it’s not like they’re putting the full force of their publicity machine behind us. So for the most part we’ve just been doing our own thing, and they’ve been doing things here and there that are ok.
Stiffler: I don’t know if I’d necessarily say there’s tension, but it’s certainly awkward. They want us to do certain things, and we’ve turned a bunch of stuff down just because we don’t want to be the type of band that would do that sort of thing.
Castore: We’re not looking at this as a way to break into the mainstream or be really big or become a professional band, or anything like that. So we’re not really trying to take serious advantage of whatever stuff they have to offer us.
Stiffler: I mean, we didn’t ask for their help on the tour, and wouldn’t want to play the type of shows that they could probably get us. I guess we’re treating it more that we would labels that we’ve worked with in the past, underground labels. They’re pressing the record and giving us free copies, and that’s pretty much it. Because I guess we just aren’t looking for anything else.
So Condominium doesn’t have a rider?
Stiffler: [laughs] No, never had a rider. If we did, it’d be all food.
Castore: We’ve never had a rider. We just show up and joke about getting hummus plates and stuff.
Stiffler: But it’s never happened. We’ve never gotten a single hummus plate, or Odwalla selection. Maybe someday we’ll get that dope juice spread.
Condominium play a 7″-release show on Friday, May 24 at the Hack Factory with Wild Child, Kontrasect, and Teenage Moods.