Notes From Middle America - Chomp Womp

[This is the first installment of contributor Danny Phillips monthly column, Notes From Middle America]

Of all the names for a band.

"Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk is just something I came up with one day, I'm not really sure where it came from. It was an everyday thought." Drew Gibson (guitarist) for the Lawrence, Kansas genre defying darlings, told me. As previously mentioned on the Tripwire, we approached Drew and the Birds about doing an interview, only to find out that BBDDM is just a small part of the larger beast that is the known throughout the land as Chomp Womp.

[Baby Birds Dont Drink Milk by Barrett Emke]

Chomp Womp is a collective of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri bands that include: BBDDM, Boo and Boo Too, Rooftop Vigilantes, Burger Kingdom, Bandit Teeth, Naomi What?, Norrit, Coat Party, Weird Wounds and several others. But according to Drew, it is apparently much more.

[Boo And Boo Too by Derek Evers]

[Weird Wounds courtesy of Chomp Womp]

[Coat Party courtesy of Chomp Womp]

[Norrit courtesy of Chomp Womp]

[Naomi What? courtesy of Chomp Womp]

"Chomp Womp is an invisible prehistoric dinosaur that only I can see."

"Yeah, I can't attest to his existence," Jon Doerr, the band's manager type-person chimes in over speaker phone. With those statements and many to come, it was clear I was dealing with some interesting individuals and that this interview would take a series of strange turns. When I asked them if they themselves would classify Chomp Womp as a collective, they laughed. "I guess that's easiest way to understand it." Jon said. "It's like we're all in the Midwest, we're banding together, we're supporting each other. We plan shows together. We're trying to make something happen and we are."

The origins of Chomp Womp according to their website: When I first met Chomp Womp, he was snoring loudly next to a large tan spider web in eastern Tennessee. It wasn't until months later when I saw him rattling the bars of his cage in the Lawrence City Zoo that I realized it was the same omnivorous Chomp Womp I had heard about all through children's birthday parties across the Midwest and eastern coast of the continental US. Then in August I read of his escape and went on a month long quest to find him. It was in a sticky bar in Burger Kingdom that I saw him sipping a Bloody Mary on damp bar stool drunkenly spilling optimistic quotes about the salvation you find in holding hands with your best friends.

Collective or not, Chomp Womp has had a busy 2008. Releasing two compilations -- cleverly titled volumes Won and Tew -- for full, free download on their site and with bands touring regularly to both coasts, their reputation is starting to precede them. Most notably through the music of Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk and label-mates, Boo And Boo Too. And while being labeled a "collective" versus a label is really only a verbal technicality that allows the members of the bands to fluidly share music and promotional ideas, in the case of Baby Birds and collective-mates Boo And Boo Too, they even share band members. In fact, their line-ups are identical (Drew M. Gibson, Oscar/Allen Guinn, Derek Solsberg and Luke Namee) with the exception that Boo has two extra musicians in Gaurav Bashyakarla and Barrett Emke.

[Chomp Womp Sampler Vol. Tew]

The music of Boo and Baby Birds is hard to describe. Both are spacey, with Boo and Boo Too being the heavy counterpart to Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk's relaxing atmosphere, but is it psychedelic? "No. Some people may say that. You know, I don't really know what that word means; it makes me think of Pink Floyd and I don't really like that band." Gibson quips. Their music has been compared to that of Radiohead but they can't agree with that, either. "I know we all like Radiohead but I don't think we sound like them. My mom and Dad asked me if they were supposed to be able to understand our lyrics. I told them I wasn't sure if there were lyrics." The music of Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk -- and of all the bands in the Chomp Womp collective for that matter -- is exactly that: their music.

MP3 Download - "No Tempo" by Boo And Boo Too
MP3 Download - "Fort Pork Chop" by Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk
Boo And Boo Too just released their first LP, No Tempo on Iron Paw Records. And with songs like "Eating with Horses", "Widow of a Window Washer" and "Captured by Trees", the Baby Birds self-produced album, eek shriek beek, is setting their place at the sonic table. "It's just what we wanted to do and we had fun doing it." Fun is a recurring and refreshing theme in our conversation and apparently, their lives.

[No Tempo]

[eek shriek beek]

"I've never had the attention span to learn an instrument," Drew said with a chuckle. "That's why I use a lot of alternative tunings so I don't have to learn to play guitar correctly. I use effects and things to either cover up my mistakes or amplify them; whatever sounds cool to me."

When I asked about influences he gave me a unexpected answer along with his solid list. "I started playing guitar in different bands five or six years ago. I actually never started listening to music until then." Since then, he's discovered The Microphones, My Bloody Valentine, God Speed! You Black Emperor. "I listen to a lot of stuff now of that nature."

Our conversation shifted from our up bringings on cattle farms, Pink Floyd's The Wall, other good Lawrence bands and to science fairs? "We're going to have a Chomp Womp science fair," Jon explains excitedly. "Real old school stuff. I made a volcano. It's going to be part of an art opening at a friend's gallery in [Lawrence, KS]. I'm just hoping to get the community involved. It will be fun I'm sure." This would follow in suit with the Chomp Womp picnic they had last summer or the indoor beach party they had in honor of 08.08.08; fulling enveloping the notion of a community-minded group (but not a collective).

[The Chomp Womp picnic courtesy of Chomp Womp]

[Indoor Beach Party courtesy of Chomp Womp]

But while being something akin to, if not a collective means having a close-knit group of people creating and supporting one another -- and having a blast doing it -- what is the reaction among the other local bands outside of the Chomp Womp cocoon? "It goes back and forth," Jon explained. "There have definitely been times when the 'Old Guard' of Lawrence bands are frustrated with us but then again, a lot of those bands never seem excited that something fresh is happening."

And why do the guys think the "Old Guard" is frustrated? The answer is simple. "They've put in a lot of time and effort and some don't have much to show for it. We're much more relaxed; it's more about feeling then it is about music. I think they get aggravated because they feel like we don't take ourselves seriously." To reinforce that point of not taking themselves seriously, Drew emphasizes again, "It's really because we didn't have to learn to play instruments."

Being a group of semi-new, DIY bands, I asked the guys three run of the mill questions that appear in almost every interview with an "up and coming" band and got three not so run of the mill answers.

1. How far do you want to got with Baby Birds?
Drew: I wanna go to Japan, Europe; after that we'll see what happens. (That's not really what I meant but I'll go with it.)

2. Would you ever sign to a major label with Baby Birds?
Drew: If they threw me some money and I could still do whatever I want or they'd give us money and we could still put our stuff on that would be cool, but I don't see those things happening. I don't have any desire to be a rock star. Actually, I want to be the opposite.

3. With the record industry sinking, does it worry you that you may not make any money with music?
Drew: No, it kind of excites me actually. I think its time for things to happen in music that aren't controlled by the economy.
Jon: The downfall of the major label has been in process for the last five to seven years. The last major recession that the U.S. went through was in the 1980s and well, hardcore punk came out of that. It'll be exciting to see what happens.

Exciting indeed. I'm sure that whatever happens, the mighty dinosaur Chomp Womp will still be roaming the Midwest looking for his next victim. Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk will release The Puppy Cat EP on November 28, the same day that they head out on a West Coast Tour.

Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk West Coast Tour
11.22.08 - Boone, IA (Elphungeon)
11.23.08 - Lawrence, KS (TBA)
11.28.08 - Lawrence, KS (Replay Lounge)
11.29.08 - Denver, CO (Rhinoceropolis)
11.30.08 - Fort Collins, CO (Re-evolution House)
12.01.08 - Salt Lake City, UT (Kilby Court)
12.03.08 - Boise, ID (Baby Sale!)
12.04.08 - Spokane, WA (The Cretin Hop)
12.05.08 - Seattle, WA (TBA)
12.06.08 - Olympia, WA (Le Voyeur)
12.07.08 - Portland, OR (The Twilight)
12.13.08 - Los Angeles, CA (The Smell)
12.14.08 - Los Angeles, CA (Echo Curio)
12.15.08 - Los Angeles, CA (Pehrspace)
12.16.08 - Phoenix, AZ (The Trunk Space)
12.17.08 - Albuquerque, NM (1817 Gold Ave)
12.18.08 - Santa Fe, NM (MEOW WOLF)
12.19.08 - Lubbock, TX (Bright House)
12.20.08 - Wichita, KS (Eagles Lodge)

Chomp Womp

Notes From Middle America - Chomp Womp