By: Charlie Daffron
On April 9, the first half of the Fest 17 lineup was announced. One of the bands I was most excited to see on the list was Nervous Triggers. I’ve tried (and failed) to see them at the last two Fests, so hopefully I’ll finally catch them this year. Nervous Triggers are a five (and sometimes six) piece punk band from Asbury Park, New Jersey. I recently had the chance to talk to the band’s singer Jay Insult about the band’s history, his songwriting influences, and all things Fest. You can check out the interview below and be sure to catch Nervous Triggers at Fest in October!
How long have Nervous Triggers been together?
We started practicing in the spring of 2015 and played our first show in June of 2015. So, right about now we’re coming up on three years.
What inspired you to start the band?
Well, I’ve always just been a super big music nerd. I had a band back in the day, but then that band broke up in the early 2000s. I hadn’t had a band since then, but I stayed involved. I roadied, I DJ’d, I booked shows, and just supported my friend’s bands as much as possible. I had some false starts with putting projects together and then it was just the right time I guess. My buddy Pat and I started working on songs and Eric and J were available to play as well. It just all came together. Everybody was at the time when they wanted to start something up and it’s been great.
What’s the best show you guys have ever played?
Oh man, that’s really tough! Certainly, one of the best was when The Ergs were asked to play with The Descendents and that show sold out. So, they booked another show of their own so that people would have a chance to see them. They asked us to play, as well as Exmaid and Weird Fantasy Band. It was kind of like a big family reunion. The show was crazy and huge! It really meant a lot to be part of that show. We’ve been lucky, a lot of bands that I loved a lot that I never got to play with would do one-off reunion shows here and there and we’ve gotten to play with them in that way. It’s always an honor to be asked.
What’s your favorite song to play live?
They all mean a lot to me in different ways, but we usually close our sets out with “Spent the Rent”. I really love to do that one because it’s a rocker. Just by the nature of the song it’s like all bets are off, one last chance to go crazy during the set. It’s just a lot of fun to go nuts in that song!
I noticed a lot of your songs are very politically inspired, what else inspires you when you’re writing songs?
You definitely nailed the political thing. I’ve always been inspired by bands that address socio-political situations. It was one of the things that really drove me to punk rock as a kid, the idea that these bands were talking about something meaningful beyond just their own personal experience. Although, I do think it’s important to write about your own personal experience. I think a lot of the best bands find a way to make the political personal. Not that I would never write a love song or a pop song because I love a lot of bands that write pop songs and love songs. But, it just so happens that when I sit down to write I’m usually a little more angry about the world than inspired to write about anything else. So, that’s usually where it comes from, a sense of wanting to address my frustration about what’s going on and wanting to express compassion for people who are suffering. That’s what it comes down to, looking at things that seem like very large and intimidating wrongs that don’t have very easy answers and trying to grapple with the feelings of not knowing how to contribute to changing those things. When I was younger I was very much of the mindset that punk songs could change people’s minds about all sorts of stuff. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve backed off that a little bit because a punk song isn’t going to bring down the worst political leaders in the world or anything like that. However, some of the ideas I’ve been introduced to by punk songs have certainly had an impact on my life and the way I engage with the world. So that’s a goal for me, to get in touch with people as individuals. That’s the best thing a punk rock song can accomplish.
Yeah, absolutely. Like you were saying earlier, when I was listening to bands like Propagandhi and The Dead Kennedys in middle school that really changed the way I looked at a lot of things.
Yeah, for sure! Those are definitely two of the bands that inspired me as a kid and continue to inspire me today. Those are two bands that also have a big impact on our band as well.
So, You guys put out your last EP (Do the Drool) last year, do you have any new music in the works for 2018?
We are definitely trying to work towards the goal of a new record. It can be tough when you’re a punk band all in your 30s and 40s to find the time to get together as much as we would like. So, when we have a bunch of shows booked, it’s easier for us to play the material we’ve been playing for a while. Lately though, we’ve been trying to make it a priority to get together and really put our noses to the grindstone about writing and getting a lot of new material together. There’s certainly ample inspiration out there. Creatively, we certainly want to get some new material together to keep it interesting for us and the people that come to our shows.
You mentioned earlier that you’re kind of a music nerd. There have been a lot of great records that have come out so far this year, what are some of your favorites?
I might have to fact check myself about whether this came out in 2018 or 2017, but we’ve been absolutely obsessed with this band from Australia called The Chats. They have an EP called Get This In Ya and it’s just this really gnarly, low class garage punk made by these teenagers who are basically just scumbags. The songs are really entertaining and really fun. They’re just awesome! Our guitar player Pat was the first one to discover their song “Smoko” and it basically spread like wild fire after he played it for me and I played it for J. We’ve been obsessed with that band ever since. When I played it for J Nixon in the car his first reaction was, “Holy shit, this is like Mean Jeans but dumber!” I thought that was a great description.
Are there any big records you’re looking forward to later this year?
For sure! Our buddies Night Birds have a new record in the can. It’s going to be their second LP on Fat Wreck Chords, which is obviously a big deal. They’ve done very well, and we couldn’t be happier for them! They’re some of our best buds and they deserve all the success they’ve gotten. I’m sure this new record is going to be just as mind blowing as the rest of the stuff they’ve done before, so I can’t wait to hear that! There’s a lot of great stuff happening locally to us in New Jersey and New York. Our friends from Asbury Park, a band called Hot Blood are one of the best hardcore bands playing right now and they’ve got and LP coming this year that’s going to be called Fear of a Unified Public and I would definitely encourage everyone to check that out! Some more friends: Jeff, who played in The Ergs and Black Wine has a band with Brian from Night Birds, as well as our friend Evan, who played in Full of Fancy and bunch of other cool bands. It’s a really cool three piece together called Character Actor and their debut record is going to come out this year. I’ve already heard the tracks from it and it’s really great! Friends of ours from New York City, called Headlines just got together last year and they’re one of the new bands I’m really excited about. Their demo came out last year and I’m really looking forward to anything else they put out. I don’t know if they have plans to get something new out this year, but I’ll certainly be eagerly awaiting it. The list goes on. There’s a band called Sick Bags from Richmond, Virginia that I really love. I’m also really stoked on anything the band Neighborhood Brats from California put out. I should probably go back and add the Neighborhood Brats’ Night Shift seven inch is another one of my favorite releases from this year. I could listen to music non-stop! I’d spend my time just checking out all the bands I love that are local, and all the great bands from far away. It’s great when you have so many friends butting out good music, it’s like an embarrassment of riches.
That sounds really cool! I’m also really excited about that new Night Birds Record, I’ll have to check the rest of those bands out too.
Oh yeah, absolutely!
Nervous Triggers recently got announced on the Fest lineup, how many times have you played Fest in the past?
This is going to be number three for us.
Awesome! What bands are you looking forward to seeing at Fest this year?
Night Birds are playing again this year. Like I said, they’re best buds and they’re also one of the best bands, so I’ll never get tired of seeing them. At home, away, anywhere. Also, Bad Cop/Bad Cop! They’re one of my big favorites. One of the first times we got a chance to really get out on the road, which we don’t get to do as much as we’d like too thanks to work and life, we went out to Minneapolis to play One Last Party, which is an awesome festival arranged by Jesse from Slow Death and Annie from Soviettes, and Bad Cop/Bad Cop played at that. It was the kind of thing where sometimes you meet bands on the road and you just immediately see eye to eye and become super good friends, that was the situation with meeting them at One Last Party. We’ve been super tight buds ever since. When they came through New Jersey we played together. I’m always excited for the stuff that they’re doing. I think they’re a fantastic band, one of those bands that’s also been doing well, and I couldn’t be happier for them and I can’t wait to see them again at Fest this year! The Copyrights are another band I really love. They’ve been doing it for a long time now over in Carbondale, Illinois. Great band, great dudes. They’ve stuck it out a lot longer than most punk bands have at this point and they still put on a great show every time I’ve seen them. Iron Chic are great. Another local band that we’re friends with: our pals from Asbury Park, Lost in Society are going to be playing. They’re another great New Jersey band that always puts on an excellent show and I hope a lot of Fest folks check them out! Oh, and Radioactivity are one of my big favorites. I was a huge Marked Men fan. In fact, I remember seeing the Marked Men for the first time at what is now the High Dive, what was Common Grounds at the time, at the Fest when Marked Men had Fix My Brain out. That was something I could point to as one of the most excellent sets that just hit me on a visceral level and really reminded me of why I’m involved in all of this in the first place. Radioactivity have carried on in a similar trajectory, continued that quality of songwriting and intensity of playing. They’re definitely one of my favorite bands going today and I get very excited any time I can see them. So, seeing them at Fest will be a real kick! Oh, and War on Women! They are a fantastic band! Getting back to the idea of how much music can affect meaningful political change or at least address the socio-political atmosphere by making the political personal, I think they are one of the bands going today that are really addressing issues of note and really have a chance to make an impact with listeners. As they’ve been addressing a bigger and bigger audience you’ve seen that, and you’ve seen how important their message is, both in how popular they’ve gotten, as well as some of the backlash that they’ve dealt with. I think that the way the band has dealt with that backlash really proves a lot of the points of what they’re talking about in the first place. A lot of times it’s people from within the punk rock scene who are supposed to be more enlightened, that for whatever reason are having temper tantrums about the stuff that War on Women are saying. I think that’s really important because they’re a band that is very willing to call out the bullshit when they see it. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sue, War on Women’s bass player, is originally from New Jersey and played in a lot of amazing New Jersey bands including Stormshadow from New Brunswick. Any chance I could get to encourage more people to check out Stormshadow is an opportunity that I want to take, because they’re one of my favorite New Jersey bands and Sue is one of my favorite New Jersey people!
What’s your favorite place to eat in Gainesville during Fest?
I always make time to eat at Reggae Shack, that’s one of my favorites. Although that does require a commitment of time to be able to sit down there and wait for food, but it’s so worth it. By the same token, I have a sentimental attachment to Five Star Pizza. This is almost like sacrilege, considering I’m from New Jersey and we have some of the best pizza in the world up here between New Jersey strip mall pizza and New York City being right there. We have access to some of the oldest and best pizzerias in the nation, but there’s something about Five Star that I just associate with Fest. It’s like Fest comfort food. It’s always right there when you need it to soak up some of the beer that you’ve been drinking or give you a quick boost of energy. The first Fest I went to was Fest 5 and Five Star was just carry out or delivery only during the weekend. But given their proximity to what was at the time Common Grounds, Fest people were going in and asking for pizza constantly and waiting for them to make whole pies. It wasn’t until the next year that they realized they had a gold mine on their hands, so they started setting up that tent and selling the individual slices and that was a genius idea. I definitely walked in there during my first Fest and carried out a couple of pies. There are also other places in Gainesville that I miss, places that aren’t there anymore. I used to love to go to Gator Dogs, which was a silly hot dog joint aimed at the college kids. I lived in New Brunswick for a long time, it’s also a college town, college towns are great for trash food. Gator Dogs luckily also had great vegetarian hot dog options, so I would get a vegetarian chili cheese dog and be quite happy.
What bands are you hoping to see on the second half of the Fest lineup when it’s announced in June?
Oh boy… If we’re just playing fast and loose with speculations, I guess given how obsessed with them I’ve been this year and also given how important the presence of Australians has been to Fest, especially in recent years, I would flip out if the Fest managed to get The Chats on. I don’t know what the actual chances of that are, but that would be incredibly exciting for me because they’re from Australia and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever get to see them here in the states. Seeing them at Fest would be the best-case scenario. A band that to my knowledge has never played Fest, but again are one of my favorites, I would love to see Neighborhood Brats from California. I think that they are just the coolest hardcore band playing today! All their records get me super excited and they also have an incredible way with putting pop hooks in their hardcore songs. Now that they’re back to touring again, I’m really hoping to see them because I’ve had a lot of near misses with that band. They’re probably my favorite American band that I have yet to see these days. Seeing them at Fest would again be the best-case scenario because it’s always great to see a band that you really love in that hugely positive atmosphere that is the Fest. They’re definitely on my fantasy list. If we’re just daydreaming now, it would be awesome to see Jawbreaker. My all-time fantasy reunion would be Operation Ivy. In the realm of complete absurdity, but an Operation Ivy reunion at Fest would be my “Ok, I’ve seen everything I need to see in my life now” moment. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one, but that’s kind of the holy grail of Fest reunions to me. Jawbreaker is obviously a little more realistic since they’ve actually been playing. But yeah, Neighborhood Brats in terms of American bands would be probably my number one bug out, and in terms of international bands The Chats. It’s also been a couple of years for both Dillinger Four and The Arrivals, they’ve been fixtures since I’ve been going. I adore both of those bands and getting to see either of them always really kicks up my excitement for Fest to the next level. So, either of those would be on my list as well. I also mentioned our friends Headlines earlier, I think there’s a very good chance that they will be in the second announcement. Between the four of them, they’ve been in tons of bands that have constantly played Fest, like Off With Their Heads, Latterman, and Bridge and Tunnel. So, there’s a very good chance that they’ll be on this year and like I said, they’re one of my current favorites so it would be great to have them there as well.