Last month, MU330 played Chicago and opened for Streetlight Manifesto at the Concord Music Hall. We caught up with the band afterwards to talk about what’s led to them playing more frequently as of late. We spoke with singer/guitarist Dan Potthast and also discussed what he enjoys most about playing with the band, some his favorite memories from playing shows in Chicago and abroad, and how he still makes time for MU330 between his solo work and other projects. Additionally, we conversed about a new song that the band recorded earlier this year, their plans for the future and more.
Bill – Over the last five years or so, MU330 has played shows somewhat sporadically. You guys have done festivals in San Francisco, Montreal and Las Vegas. You’ve also played some shows in the Midwest, but in the last year the band has definitely been playing more often. What have been some of the factors that led to this?
Dan – One thing is that two summers ago I put out a solo record called My Living Room and booked a solo living room tour that took me all over the U.S. and Canada. I played in 64 living rooms in one summer. I kind of went for it and I had to give up a bunch of shifts at my job in Santa Cruz, and that resulted in pivoting back to touring more often. Also, I played a few shows last year with my band Sharkanoid in NYC and at Fest, and I realized I really kind of missed playing in a loud rock band. The other guys in MU330 were missing it too I think. It’s a nice break to step out of the office or the lab, (Ted the drummer is a scientist) and go play rock shows, especially good ones, which they have been lately.
Bill – After all these years, what do you still enjoy most about performing with the band?
Dan – I’ve been playing music with Ted the drummer and Chris the bass player for over 28 years. We played our first show together in 1988. I’d have to say my favorite thing about playing with them is just that – playing with them. When the three of us lock into a groove, to me it always just automatically feels perfect. I will never feel that same feeling with any other two humans on the planet. It just feels right and feels how it’s supposed to be done. I also love Rob’s energy and consistency, and Gerry’s unpredictability when he is setting up our last song. I never know where he is going to go with it and it usually cracks me up and takes me by surprise. I also love bringing up someone from the crowd to play on one of our songs. It’s something we’ve done for years and I love the unpredictability of it, and that it creates a memory for the person we pick that they won’t soon forget.
Bill – Which songs are your favorites to play live?
Dan – Probably “La” is my favorite, because we pick a random person out of the crowd to play guitar. I get to run around with the mic in my hand and sometimes the person we pick is really good and they shred it. I also love covering “Close To You” by the Carpenters because Gerry sings it and it still cracks me up, and I love watching the crowd’s faces at the end when he rips his shirt off.
Bill – You guys recently played some dates with Streetlight Manifesto. What were some of the highlights from those shows?
Dan – The biggest highlight for me was at the first show in Detroit. Our friend Matt Wixon came up on stage during our set and proposed to his boyfriend and 1,500 people screamed in approval. It was awesome. I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that 28 years ago when MU330 was playing our first shows, this couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened. Sometimes the wheels of change don’t turn fast enough for my tastes, but this was a good reminder that they are in fact turning. While politicians and right wing hate groups continue to attack LGBTQ people and get attention in the media, I truly believe that the roar of that crowd in Detroit is the future, and that love will win in the end, always.
Bill – Very cool. I always remember MU330 shows at the Fireside Bowl being an especially memorable occasion. What are some of your favorite memories from playing shows in Chicago over the years?
Dan – I remember it was DIRTY and SMOKEY and HOT. I remember it being so packed that hundreds of people had to stand out on the bowling lanes. I remember showing up late and loading our gear through lots of sweaty people wearing coats, because there was no coat check or groups of people sitting along the walls on a nest of parkas and sweaters. I remember the dark front bar and the genius bartender named Hammer, who had the best voice, mustache and jewelry. I remember the crowd swaying and surging and knocking over speakers as we played. I remember the bathrooms being the most awful, foul smelling pits that I’ve ever stepped into, and I remember that the Fireside was probably my favorite place to play ever.
Bill – That’s awesome. MU330 also did a lot of international touring as well. What are some of your best memories from playing overseas?
Dan – Playing on the beach in South Korea to 15,000 people was amazing. All the tours we did in Japan with Potshot – crazy crowds, great food, amazing people. Touring England in ‘96 was amazing too. We were the first ska/punk band from the states to tour England and it really felt at that time that we were doing something fresh and exciting and new, like we were sticking a flag in the moon. People seemed stunned and that felt good.
Bill – Tell me about the artwork you create and sell at shows.
Dan – I mostly do watercolors on 4×6 postcards. I paint while I’m on the road mostly, and it keeps me busy and out of trouble during the downtime. I basically learned everything I know about painting from Kepi Ghoulie. I’m sort of biting his style, (because he is the BEST) but instead of Big Foot and bats and chupacabras, I’m painting cartoony lanky birds and self portraits that make me look fat and have missing teeth. I also sell them online now too, and that has been going really well, (http://thedanpstore.bigcartel.com).
Bill – Between your solo work and the other bands that you play in, how do you manage to make time for MU330?
Dan – Mostly by not practicing ever. We are at the point where we pretty much fly into shows and don’t practice. If it’s been less than six months since we’ve played together, then it’s all good. If it’s longer than that, you will see some mistakes or maybe you won’t!
Bill – MU330 wrote and recorded a new song roughly six months ago. What can you tell me about that and are there plans to release the song anytime soon?
Dan – Okay, in January we actually practiced three times in a row before a couple shows we were going to play with Mustard Plug. On the third practice I brought in a new song and it was worked out in about 15 minutes. While we were in Grand Rapids, right after Mustard Plug’s sound check, we went to Rick Johnson’s recording studio, (he is the bass player for Mustard Plug and has a recording studio in Grand Rapids called Cold War Studios). We managed to record the song and get back to the Intersection just in time for our set. The song is called “Don’t Worry Don’t Stress” and it sounds a lot like what you would expect from MU330. I don’t know what we are going to do with it yet, but it is pretty much finished.
Bill – Has the band discussed writing and recording any additional new material?
Dan – Yes. I have more songs and we are planning on working a few new tunes out this August. I doubt we will record a new album all at once, but there is bound to be a trickle of songs or an EP coming out late 2016, early 2017, or not.
Bill – What else does MU330 have scheduled for 2016?
Dan – In June we are playing two shows at the Asian Man Records 20 year anniversary and another small show in Santa Cruz. In August we are supposed to possibly play in Denver and maybe some other Midwest shows. That’s still in the works. We also will definitely be coming back to Chicago and playing at the Metro in August.
Bill – Very cool. When you think about the future of the band, what comes to mind?
Dan – I’m hoping to just be able to play more fun shows and write more music with those guys, same as always. We do what we can while fitting it around their families and the limited vacation time that their jobs allow. I’m happy with it either being a bigger piece or a smaller piece of whatever makes up the body of work that I am creating. With all the stuff I’m doing, (painting, solo shows and recording, Dan P. and The Bricks, Sharkanoid, MU330) it’s like a big Thanksgiving Day plate. There’s always room for some more stuffing, sweet potatoes, beets or cranberries, and I’m always psyched to play music with those turkeys.