Interviews

Pandemic Profile: James Carroll (Time and Pressure)

Photo: Sarah Rose

In this latest entry to his ongoing Pandemic Profile interview series, Devin Boudreaux speaks with Time and Pressure guitarist and graphic designer, James Carroll.  —Carlos Ramirez (No Echo)

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Introduce yourself to the readers and you’re affiliation to hardcore. 

My name is James Carroll and I’m from St. Louis, MO. I play guitar in Time and Pressure, book(ed) shows under Gateway City Hardcore and do a lot of graphic design work for bands. 

So, getting started, how was your 2020 going prior to the pandemic hitting? I know Time and Pressure had just played LDB fest right? How was that experience? 

Oh man, just like every other band we had a bunch of plans for 2020 that went to shit. We had done a string of shows with Chemical Fix the month before that went really well and then played the LDB Preshow which has been our biggest show to date.

LDB was great until I got the flu mid fest and had to leave to go home and fly to Disney World a few days later [laughs]. This was all of our first times attending the fest and it was extremely well run, cool venue, great line up and over all just a really good vibe among people attending as well as the bands. 

I remember when cases were first starting to pop up in the US, I don't know if anyone thought it would sweep through as fast as it did, or maybe they did and no one wanted to admit it, either way, do you remember what you're thinking or feeling when everything went into lockdown? How was your area handling it when it all hit?  

So, the week lockdowns began, we were supposed to fly to California, so in my brain I really wanted to believe that it was just an overreaction, but then I didn’t leave my house for several weeks haha. 

I remember being annoyed that a lot of work went into booking something that I felt should’ve happened but as the weeks went on I think we made the right decision otherwise we would’ve been stuck in California with no way home. Our area handled it probably the same as everywhere else. It was a lot of confusion and chaos at the grocery store but overall I think it was as best as it could be. 

So, the California run with Spirits that had to get postponed. Did y’all already have plane tickets and all of that shit lined up or was it easy enough to get refunded, etc.? 

I booked our flights through Southwest so we were always able to get them refunded towards credits if something happened. Our band has weird schedules so I always plan for something to fuck up. We saved those credits and ended up using them to fly up to Chicago to record and everyone had $100 leftover to use later. Southwest kept pushing the time further out so no one really lost anything which is nice. We had to cancel our flights like, the day before we were supposed to leave. 

Bless up to Southeest for not fucking you then, now correct me if I’m wrong, but you were doing design stuff full time; at home, prior to covid hitting and the country going into lockdown correct? That must have at least been like “nice” in the sense that your work routine wasn’t as shifted. How was commission work impacted by the pandemic?

Prior to COVID happening, I actually worked at a local venue and did design work on the side; just when people asked for flyers, etc., but nothing ever serious. Early in 2020, I stopped picking up shifts because Time and Pressure was supposed to be out a lot more and I was just doing DoorDash on the side for cash. I didn’t start taking design seriously until I did the Discourage Folorn Hope 7 inch in the Spring of 2020. 

Design by James Carroll

I did the art for our split with Discourage and the guys asked me to do their EP and it’s honestly kinda spiraled from there. I’ve gotten a ton of work from their reference on top of the stuff I do for Safe Inside Records. Commissions have been pretty steady, honestly.

I take on a lot of smaller projects with the occasional full layout and a ton of just small fix-up jobs for friends in labels (shouts out New Morality Zine and Wide Eyed Noise). 

How has being a dad been throughout the whole experience? Did you become an impromptu teacher or did you make Drew take on some extra work [laughs]? 

It honestly rules. Being forced to stay home and not play shows has brought my entire family closer. My youngest daughter isn’t in school just yet but my oldest did first grade online for a lot of the year until 2021 when she went back 4 days a week with one virtual day. Our school district is great and super accommodating so the adjustments were pretty minor except for a desk and trying to navigate online learning for a 6 year old.

I know Time and Pressure tends to be pretty busy for a band that isn’t like a full time touring band. Y’all find time to play either locally or do shorter runs quite often. Did you find having more “free time” in a sense allow you to dive further into graphic design at all? It seemed like you were posting way more of that kinda stuff.

I’m the only one without an actual day job so I book all of our tours, handle merch related stuff, etc so without that taking up a huge chunk of my time, I’ve definitely gotten more into my art. 

When work was slow for a bit I did a series of Reid Miles-inspired covers for records I liked a lot the year before that kept me busy. I’ve grown and learned a lot as an artist over the last year and a half that I know I wouldn’t have been able to, had I been doing Time and Pressure stuff more. 2020 was slated to be a very busy year for us so I wouldn’t have really had time outside of the design work I do for us. 

Time and Pressure (Photo: B E N)

Time and Pressure seemed to be one of the bands staying active/busy during covid. Y’all were able to drop a few different merch drops with some wild shit including POGS [laughs], and did a couple live streams to help raise money as well. 

Specifically, y’all did one live stream to raise money for The Bail Project and y’all did a ben sherman live stream. Please shed some light on those two experiences. A fan of the live stream? A necessity given the situation? 

The pandemic threw a huge wrench in our plans but rather than stagnate we spent a lot of time writing, trying out new merch ideas and doing our best to stay creative and busy during the downtime from playing live. The pogs were all Drew’s idea. He’s been wanting to do them for a while and we had a design from Joey’s World on deck for a shirt that we partially used for those. 

We’ve done a few merch drops that helped pay for recording and we ended up donating profits from some to the Minnesota Bail Fund during the beginning of the George Floyd protests. Live streams are a weird one.

We did the first one in June and ended up raising about $3500 for the Bail Project, but it was still so early in the pandemic that we thought we’d be playing shows by the end of the summer at that point but wanted to do what we could to help.

The Ben Sherman one was wild. That was all Travis’ doing. He had me reach out to them regarding an ad they posted looking for bands, we were accepted and they sent us a shitload of free clothes to play some songs for 20 minutes. The first one was a lot of fun. We had some new songs on deck around that time and it still felt like the pandemic would be over soon.

The Ben Sherman one broke me as a person from streams [laughs]. I don’t want to do anymore and would just rather wait but it was still a cool experience.

Time and Pressure also headed to Chicago in 2020 and recorded with Andy Nelson at Bricktop a new LP that’s being released on Safe Inside Records. We planned on actually recording our new album there prior to COVID. How was recording with Andy? Y’all recorded the last LP with him, too, right? His stuff always sounds killer. 

I just wanna preface this with the fact that I usually hate recording. It is stressful, annoying, and probably my least favorite part of being in a band. All of that being said, Andy Nelson at Bricktop is the best recording experience I’ve ever had. We did the first LP with him and I never want to do another large project with anyone else. He’s very laid back while still being as helpful with direction as he can without overstepping.

Andy's really knowledgeable with gear, too, which is really helpful when we want to mess with new tones or add acoustic and piano tracks. I recommend him to everyone we can and hope we get to return sometime in the future. He’s also mixed both records and Pete Grossman, who also works there, mastered our first LP.

Photo courtesy of Time and Pressure

I know you post a lot about records on Instagram and love to talk about music. I used 2020 to rediscover or connect with older releases/bands that either hadn’t clicked for me before, or I just hadn’t had a chance to really sit with.

Did you find yourself diving into older music/bands and finding a new appreciation or fondness for it? What band(s) or album(s)?
    
I sold off my collection back in 2016 so once March 2020 hit, I started DoorDashing again and that was around the time people tipped well and considered essential workers heroes, so I was making a shit load of money a week that all went into buying records again. 

I think I went from around 20 records to just hitting 600 this week in about a year and change. I love talking about new music and I think if you’re going to stay involved in hardcore that its important to seek out new music and stay current but I’ve definitely been revisiting things I never gave a chance or used to like when I was younger that I wanted to see if it held up. 

I got really into the Grateful Dead over the last year. Like a weird amount of Dead. I started listening to them in June and they became my #1 listened artist on Spotify in a few months [laughs]. I love the lore of that band, plus the live sets, the change in sound from record to record, all of it. I also rediscovered my love for crust and D-beat.

I used to love it when I was in high school and buying all of the Discharge reissues Havoc did got me diving back into it and checking out bands I never gave a chance initially. I got into Tragedy, finally, and completely immersed myself in Japanese punk and hardcore. I think the majority of what I’ve bought in the last 6 months is all international bands.

Design by James Carroll

2020 was a huge year for human rights between the George Floyd/Breonna Taylor murders, the continued Black Lives Matter rallies, and the pandemic. How did your area of St. Louis participate with everything? I imagine being in the south it had to be different than less diverse areas of the country.

We’re dead center in the Midwest so depending on what part of Missouri you’re in, the response varies. Ferguson is right outside of St. Louis so the summer Michael Brown was murdered the city erupted in protest that lasted months. The city reacted in a similar way with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor but after living here during Ferguson it's hard to compare the reaction because I’ve seen the severity of things when it happens here as opposed to seeing it happen in other cities.

St. Louis is one of the more liberal-leaning cities in the state so there’s a lot of activism here and it's always cool to see. 

As folks continue to get vaccinated and shows are starting to get announced or even happen, it seems folks are quite eager to return to live music and feel that in person connection to hardcore. Being that the live element of hardcore is so important, did you find yourself feeling less connected or distant from hardcore during the pandemic?

How did you find ways to keep connected and involved with hardcore? Anything beyond Time and Pressure? 

I think it's a little of both, honestly. I discovered a lot of new music, worked with a lot of bands on their art and tried to be involved as I could with keeping up conversations about music as often as I could. I miss the live aspect a lot because I booked a good majority of the shows here and I miss being around people but the live aspect has kind of taken a back seat for me and I enjoy being home more.

I feel a distance between people I would see at shows just because I haven’t seen a lot of them in 18 months but that's fine, too. I think once things start to come back, I’ll feel differently but as of right now I’m not missing shows as much as I thought I would. Booking them kinda soured me towards the end anyway, so I’m sure when I’m just attending and not running that I’ll feel differently.

Did you find yourself picking up any new hobbies or find yourself enjoying things in a new light given the limited ability to do certain things during the pandemic? 

I spent a lot of time outdoors actually. I got really into hiking and did some camping and kayaking too. I think I went hiking every weekend for a solid 8 months until it got too cold, went camping a few times and hit up a ton of state parks. I would typically hike alone and listen to podcasts or Dead live sets but that's probably my favorite thing I’ve picked up in recent memory.

Being outside was really calming and I think really helped with my mental health as a whole. Gives you a lot of time to think and just kinda be by yourself and take inventory of things while seeing a bunch of beautiful scenery. 

Photo courtesy of James Carroll

There’s been a lot of talk for over a year now of if the pandemic will destroy specific local scenes, make it harder to get shows booked, break up bands, put into perspective how important hardcore will play into a person's personal life/free time.

Have you noticed it’s impact at all on yourself/band/local scene? If the pandemic can change or shake things up for hardcore, what are some things you hope it shake up or change? Sorry for such a long question. 

I think St. Louis will go back to normal honestly. Our venues have been pretty lucky to stay open so there’s always going to be a place to play. A few bands may not make it through but there’s more forming that haven’t come out yet so I think it’ll be just fine. I booked a good majority of the shows for a few years but I’m passing all of that on to a good friend since I’ll be moving to Cleveland in a month. I think our local scene, while small, is strong enough to keep growing. 

I really hope that people don’t take gigs for granted when they come back. So many people skip shows under the guise that bands will be back soon and now we know that might not be the case.

I also hope that bands realize asking a small promoter for $600 on a weekday when they haven’t toured before is ridiculous and they should fuck right off with that. 

Also, if you’re a member of a band, please stop saying you’re the fucking tour manager in the email you’re sending me. I know who you are. It’s weird. Stop that. I think professionalism is important when there’s an exchange of money but holy shit stop being so self important. You aren’t the tour manager, you’re the bozo I pay at the end of the night. Let's call it what it is.

Photo: Sarah Souders

I think we may have talked about this briefly online, but I know it seems pretty split down the middle between my friends or “feed” on how we want hardcore shows to be moving forward in 2021. Some folks are down to go now but at limited capacity masks, distancing, etc.

Do you think a hardcore show with protective measures in place is a viable alternative until it’s fully safe, would you rather wait, or do you like the idea of having options and if people want to participate that way, they can, and if they don't want to, they don’t have to.

The venue I work at recently reopened for masked, socially distanced shows and I think it works for certain genres but hardcore isn’t one of them. I’d rather just wait it out until I can go to something like I did in 2019.

I’d even go masked up but socially distanced hardcore shows just come off as poorly promoted hardcore shows [laughs]. I agree that people should do whatever they’re comfortable with, but there are repercussions to everything you do and I think its goofy as fuck when people try to pretend they’re being victimized for doing something that could potentially harm others. 

I’m fully vaccinated but I carry on like I’m not because I can still be a carrier and I’m not trying to fuck up someones life so I can go eat inside somewhere or go see a fuckin’ punk band. It’s not worth it to me and I’d rather just wait until it can be normal.

So Time and Pressure just dropped a new 2-song promo. I know release schedules are all fucky right now with pressing plants and everyone rushing to get things out. What are you hoping for folks to experience with these two new songs? How did y’all pick these two songs?  

We recorded these songs in June, about 5 months before we did the LP. They were originally going to be for a 7 inch on Blind Rage but pressing times were weird back in December so we decided to just sit on them for a while. When our LP was pushed back for  several months we talked to Burt and decided to just throw out demo versions of two LP songs on a flexi and tape just so we could release something new and stay busy. 

We had 4 songs from that June session and picked them based off of what's coming out before the LP, honestly. We have two singles coming out in the summer during the lead up to pre orders so we didn’t want to double up on those songs. I’m excited for the release and I’m glad we were able to include Wide Eyed Noise in it. Eric’s been a good friend ever since Time and Pressure hooked up with Discourage so it’s been great working on a release with him.

I think the songs are similar enough to our previous material that people will be into them but it's also more matured and fleshed out sounding. Very excited for our growth as a band and I think these two songs lay that out really well.

I know y’all give [Time and Pressure bassist] Blake [Fowler] a ton of shit, do you ever worry he’s secretly plotting and one day he’s gonna come for y’all with a pillowcase filled with soda cans [laughs]? 

I love Blake but he’s a weakling. Fuck you, Blake

What can folks expect from Time and Pressure for the remainder of 2021 even though it’s still difficult to fully plan stuff out, ya know?

We have a weekend of shows planned for November that’ll coincide with our record release but it's up in the air if it’ll actually happen. It's all booked up but we’re still waiting to see how things go. I think the plan is to just start writing the next release soon and figure out navigating me living 600 miles away now. The LP goes up for pre-order sometime in July so that's the big thing we have coming up for now.

Alright, let’s fire off some quick fun questions to end this shit:

Favorite Midwest hardcore bands?

Another Mistake, The Repos, Cardiac Arrest, En Love, Devil’s Den, and Spear.

Favorite melodic hardcore bands? 

Ruiner, Count Me Out, Go it Alone, and I also just wanna go on record that Bane sucks.

Is Youth Crew still cool? 

It 100% stopped being cool when that Ray and Porcell 7 inch came out but it was cool again when Mindset was a band.

Favorite tour food? 

Burgers. Specifically Wahlburgers. Fuck you.

Favorite energy drink?

It was BANG Power Punch for a long time but has changed to either Liberty Pop 3D or Melon Mania Reign.

Why did you cut your hair? 

Bro, it started getting hot as fuck and I looked like a dumbass idiot. 

What’s the next trend in hardcore?

Hopefully it's relying on being a good band to get popular and not being a punisher on the internet. 

What’s it like to be playing in a “new” hardcore band in your 30s?

It's a weird line. I think we’re all operating under the assumption that we don’t want to wear out our welcome and will end it before it gets stale. 

Your biggest musical influences? 

As far as guitar playing, it's probably Todd Jones. From an art standpoint, since most of the work I do is rooted in music I’ve always liked Reid Miles for his typography work and basically establishing the “vintage jazz” style so many people love. 

Reid Miles cover design on left, James Carroll design on right

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me James, I know you’re a busy fella so def appreciate it. Any parting thoughts, shout outs, words of wisdom, anything worth mentioning?
    
Hey, thank you for doing this! These were some really cool questions and I? had a lot of fun talking about dumb shit I’ve done over the year [laughs]. 

Shouts out my wife Erica and my daughters Olive and Layla, Mikey Bifolco and the MGK Fan Club, Delayed Gratification Records, New Morality Zine, Safe Inside, Jerry at Patient Zero Records, Wide Eyed Noise, the Grave Mistake Records distro for restocking the majority of my record collection, Matt Tyler, Eric Pocock and the rest of Discourage, Chemical Fix, every band that asks me to work with them on art, and the Gateway City for being the best place in the world.

I post my records and art at @jamesfromstlouis on Instagram. I’m usually open for commissions, so please feel free to reach out because I’d love to work with new bands/whoever. 

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Time and Pressure's next album, Halfway Down, will be out this summer via Safe Inside Records. 

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Tagged: pandemic profile, time and pressure

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