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Capping off their discography with what is arguably their best album, Showbread is saying goodbye in 2016. Longtime frontman Josh Dies took some time recently to chat with JFH's Scott Fryberger about Showbread Is Showdead and the band's demise (and future)...
This interview took place on: 1/25/16.

Click here for Showbread's Artist Profile page.

  • JFH (Scott Fryberger): To start it off, how has the new album been received so far? Have you heard a lot of feedback?

    Josh Dies: I don't know if I've heard a lot of feedback yet. If people are extremely disappointed or hostile or negative about the album, I haven't heard any of it. I'm sure that that exists - it always does. But I haven't really gone about pilfering the internet to dig out those negative opinions. Most of the people that have said anything at all to me either had something very kind to say or have commented on the nature of the album being like the final album. And so they're usually quite gracious. It's been nice!

  • JFH (Scott): When did you guys come to the realization that it was time to lay Showbread to rest?

    Josh: I think it was actually a couple of years ago. We were in the midst of this horrible debacle trying to get the Cancer movie finished, and Garrett [Holmes], Patrick [Porter], and I went out to lunch at a Thai food joint, sat down, and I had this whole meeting agenda prepared, and it had occurred to me that it was going to take a lot to finish the stupid thing, and we had already had to bypass several other projects that we had wanted to do. We had two different concepts or themes for albums we were messing with, and then we'd say "Well, we don't have the time or money to work on this right now." Then we eventually got bored with it and put it aside. There was a tour documentary we were working on, but we couldn't really focus on it because we had this thing in the background, and we always knew that we couldn't release or even promote anything until we made good on the promise that we made to actually give people this stupid movie that we promised them. So, while we were bogged down in the middle of all of that, and our lives had changed quite a bit - we were all working full-time and were just in a different place where we couldn't tour to the outrageous degree that we used to. So I thought we could just kinda peter out, and we could still be this band that sits around in the background that's mostly forgotten and plays a show here and there and every once in a while makes a record that nobody cares about - and that's fine if that's what we wanted to do, because we said that, at the end of the day, it was all about whatever the heck we wanted to do - or we could make like one final statement album, and then focus our creative efforts on other musical projects that don't demand the sort of attention and grandeur and work ethic that Showbread demands. And Patrick and Garrett both agreed that that made a lot more sense, so we decided then and there that we'd make a final album, that it would be called Showbread Is Showdead, and we talked about what it would be like thematically and all those things, and then we said "Well, now all we need to do is find a way to finish the stupid movie and come up with the means and resources to do one last album." And somewhere from that point about two-ish years ago to now, we managed to do those things.

  • JFH (Scott): How did you decide to bring back the older band members instead of just having you, Patrick, and Garrett again?

    Josh: I think that the idea originally came up when I went to Georgia on an unexpected visit. The nature of it was actually pretty horrific; my dad died unexpectedly, and Patrick and I had to fly to Georgia in the middle of the week. And then Ivory [Mobley] had flown down; he was and is living in Austin, Texas, and he flew down to Georgia for the funeral, and then Mike Jensen, who was in the band forever, he came down as well, and we were all just in one place together, and we were laughing and talking about memories and everything, and they asked what was up with the band, and I told them about the conversation that Garrett, Patrick, and I had had over that Thai food, and I just asked if they wanted to make a record together. At that point it was just Ivory and Mike, and they said that if we did it, they'd love to be involved one last time. So that was just an in-the-moment type of thing, and it made a lot of sense, and the other guys were pretty enthusiastic about the idea as well. And then over time, as we were working on demos, we thought about who we would need to make the record. We wanted to have Landon [Ginnings] play on another record, so I talked him into it, and we filled out the rest of it with some musician friends we have out here in Portland. We had our friend Ryan [Peterson] play drums, we had a bunch of singers that we know come in and do guest vocals, and it became this amalgamation of old members, current members, and new friends that we've been playing music with out in Portland. It's actually a really fun, dynamic line-up. We spent about a week in the studio together; everybody at once recording live, and then we finished the rest of it in a friend's garage over the course of a month. Lots of late nights just bringing in friends and saying "Here, read this" or "Sing this part." It was definitely the most DIY thing we've done and it was fun.

  • JFH (Scott): The whole thing, from the band members to the album itself, feels almost like a history of Showbread. I hear everything from Nihilism through Cancer all over the place. Was that intentional?

    Album Cover

    Josh: It was. I think we were really struggling with how to wrap our minds around the premise of doing a final album, which is something we've never set out to do before. So we were way overthinking it in the beginning; how do we put everything we've ever done into one record? And we got to a point where we had painted ourselves into one corner, and it was no longer viable, let alone possible, to do this ambitious thing we had set out to do. And we thought "Eh, screw this, we just need to make a record." So the visual in my head that helped me make sense of it was thinking of the entire Showbread discography, those seven or eight albums (however you want to count them), as a circle, and they eventually come back around full-circle. So, at that point, if this is the final album, it would be almost connected to that first album in 2004, and it's that exact idea you're describing where you've gone on this cyclical journey and you've picked up all these different shades and genres and thematic tones along the way, but where the journey is ending is closest to that first record, so it's going to sound, at least ostensibly, like that first album, but have that baggage from all those other albums. Once we employed that visual metaphor, it was like "Oh! Well that makes sense, we can do that." And we were able to write without overthinking it.

  • JFH (Scott): I'd like to talk about a couple of the songs, if you don't mind. Of course, there's an instrumental on Showbread Is Showdead, which I don't think I've ever heard you guys do before. Where did you come up with the title "Nine Weeks, Four Days: The Fetus Develops Teeth"?

    Josh: I actually saw that exact line in this app that my wife and I had when she was pregnant with our son. You open it everyday and it would give you these little tidbits, and you put in the day that you think you got pregnant, and then it says what's going on with the fetus. It was really fascinating, because you learn a lot of these bizarre, freaky things about what happens to a woman's body when she's pregnant and how a fetus develops and everything. And there was this line when I opened it one morning that said "the fetus develops teeth," and I thought that was the creepiest thing I could have possibly read at that moment. So I wrote it down in a notebook; I have this notebook where I keep little lines and anecdotes and things that I hear that I think I should use in a song or something later. And then I wrote the instrumental, which I didn't plan to be an instrumental, but it was this song that I couldn't finish lyrics for, and I was using that as a working title, and it became to me like an instrumental odyssey through the nine months of pregnancy. In my mind, I was just imagining this fetus developing over a series of weeks and it helped me understand the voyage of the song. Because it has no lyrics, it's a little difficult to wrap your head around what it's doing thematically. So, that's like the big pretentious way of saying "Oh it's like this musical version of something that happens during pregnancy," but, in reality, it was something I had in a notebook, and I assigned it to a song, and filled out the meaning later on.

  • JFH (Scott): *laughter* There's nothing wrong with that.

    Josh: Yeah, you gotta cheat sometimes.

  • JFH (Scott): Exactly. Since you have your son with you, I was curious if you've played "Life After Life After Death" for him. I know he's a little young to understand the song, but...

    Josh: He has! His thing is that he'll just dance to something, and he recognizes certain songs. My wife and I are both trying to indoctrinate him from different angles; I'll put on a Refused record and he'll recognize it and dance to it and get excited about it, and she'll put on a Taylor Swift record and he'll dance to it and get excited about it. *laughter* We're both trying to sway him to our side. But I've played the song for him and said "This is about you! Daddy wrote this about you!" And he just kept saying his own name and dancing. So at least a little bit of it seemed to make sense, but the rest of it probably won't make sense for a really long time. But it's a weird thing to write a song for your son when he's a toddler and think "I wonder at what point in his life this will resonate with him." So I guess we'll see. Ask me in like fifteen years.

  • JFH (Scott): I'll get back to you on that one. Now, you guys are no strangers to controversy; in "Dear John Piper," is there a reason you specifically named it after Piper as opposed to any other famous Calvinists?

    Josh: Yeah, I just think John Piper is like the poster child for meticulous providence, which is the theological doctrine that song is really satirizing more than anything else. John Piper is the most recognizable name, at least in modern evangelicalism, tethered to meticulous providence. Part of just thought it would be funny to have a punk band with John Piper's name in one of their songs. And, ironically, John Piper's become a bastian for this young, restless, Reformed movement, where all these young people who are artists or are getting into intellectualism and theology and following Jesus for the first time are finding in John Piper this sort of theological mentor and they're all becoming Reformed. So like every Christian rapper in the world right now is Reformed and listens to John Piper's sermons and samples them in their rap songs. And I just thought it was kind of a weird thing that John Piper has this connection with the music world. And I also thought it would be more provocative because John Piper has a more recognizable name than other Calvinists. Saying something like "Dear Matt Chandler," or even "Dear John Calvin" doesn't have the same resonance as saying "Dear John Piper." And there is something fun about being provocative and generating conversations. Obviously we knew that there would be people who are frustrated by the song lyrics and people who are trying to make the lyrics say and do something that they can't possibly do. So, I did see - actually, I think it was on your review that I saw some folks who said stuff like "Oh they didn't talk about such-and-such" or "They should read their Bibles more" and this and that. And it's like, well, it's not an academic essay. It's a punk song. *laughter* So, it rides this frustrating tension between the fact that it actually talks about theological concepts and the fact that it does so within the confines of a narrow cipher which is punk rock. Half of these people wanted to interact with it as though it was an academic essay, and other people were like "It is what it is; it's a punk song." I have plenty of close friends that are Reformed, and they think it's funny. Like "Oh my gosh, I can't believe you put John Piper's name in the song title." But there are things you can do with punk rock lyrics that you can't do in other outlets that you engage in. If I'm in seminary class and I have to write an essay, or even if I have to give a sermon or have a theological dialogue, you can't really do the satire that you can do in punk rock lyrics, or you would be immediately dismissed. It's like Philosophy 101; you can't do ad homonym, you can't do a caricature of a person and expect it to hold water if you're actually engaged in a theological debate. But in punk rock, you have all this space to do satire and sorta make fun, and do so under the pretense of actually trying to generate questions. And controversy, to a certain extent, but controversy for the sake of conversation, you know? Anyway, to get back to your original question, that's why I put John Piper's name in the title as opposed to someone else.

  • JFH (Scott): That makes perfect sense. I've seen and heard things from Piper that I can get down with, but it is important to talk about things if they don't seem Biblical.

    Josh: Yep.

  • JFH (Scott): Well, let's move on. With this being your last year as a band, are you planning on doing a lengthy tour?

    Josh: I don't think we'll do a lengthy tour in terms of what's been typical of Showbread in the past. We definitely want to play some sort of farewell shows, though. In the beginning, we thought "What if we did just one final show for the record?" But where would we do that? We don't really have an established core fanbase in a singular place. We've never had that, even when we were in the height of our popularity. So we thought about going back home to Georgia to do that, and then here in Portland, and then in Southern California where we used to have some sort of a big fanbase that are now all old and have families. We just couldn't figure out how to wrap our minds around it, so then it became an idea to do just a handful of shows. We'll do one on the east coast, we'll do one on the west coast, and we just landed on basically putting out the open invitation to get ahold of us if you would like to book a show. And there have been a handful of people who want to bring us in, and they're kinda spread about all over the country. So now we've been looking at a map to see what we could feasibly do. It'll probably still only be a handful of shows, but that way, we can do them the best we possibly can instead of trying to wring ourselves out and go on a full national tour with only like ten shows that were actually worthwhile.

  • JFH (Scott): Well, the Kansas City shows you guys used to do were always really fun! Just a little plug for my area... *laughter*

    Josh: Thanks for reminding me of that. I almost forgot all about that!

  • JFH (Scott): Absolutely. So then after this tour - I know you guys are all working full-time and everything - but I can you talk a little bit about The Bell Jar?

    Josh: Yeah, The Bell Jar became kind of our secret identity when we were trying to finish the movie, because we were very wary of the fact that anytime Showbread reared its head publicly, even though our public is a very small group of people, the immediate question was "Where's the movie? Where's the movie? Where's the movie?" So we didn't want to go about flaunting any kind of big project knowing that we still hadn't even delivered on this promise we made people years ago, but, in the meantime, we still wanted to make music and dink around on creative projects. So Garrett, Patrick, and I would write songs and hang around with other musicians playing music and even playing local shows. And we just started calling it The Bell Jar. There was a point in Showbread's history, right when we signed to Tooth & Nail, where I desperately tried to change Showbread's name to The Bell Jar, just because "Showbread" is a stupid name. *laughter* And The Bell Jar was one of my favorite novels, and I thought it was a cool name for a band. It almost went through, but at the last second, someone said "No, we should keep the name Showbread." So we were stuck with it, and it became kind of a joke, like "Remember when our name almost became The Bell Jar? Let's just call it that right now so we can mess around and make music." But then we found in The Bell Jar this wonderful outlet to just be a local band again. There was a time in the late 90s/early 00s when Showbread's scope was basically just Savannah, Georgia, and we were friends with a bunch of bands and promoters there, and we would just hang around and there was this real communal thing going on, and you could just play a weekend show and not worry about whether there were five or a hundred people there and how much money you make off the show, and you didn't have to worry about this crowdfunding project or when an album was supposed to be done, or anything like that. If you want to make music, you record it and release it. You want to play a show, you just play a show. So, when we thought about putting out a finish line for Showbread, The Bell Jar became even more appealing, because then we could do this other band as much or as little as we would like to do, and there's not all sorts of obligation or expectation tethered to it.

  • JFH (Scott): So you're going to release new music as The Bell Jar? Or will it be strictly playing local shows?

    Josh: We'll definitely make records, but I think it'll be way more in the vein of a DIY punk thing where you happen to put together an EP and then you put it out online or you happen to make an album in someone's garage and put it out on a 7", or something like that, which is pretty exciting to me. Instead of the alternative, which is "Quick, we gotta find $20,000 and a month of free time and a producer!" *laughter* You know, if Showbread was going to a DIY record that cost little to nothing, then we'd put it out and people would question why it sucked all of a sudden. But if your band is more in the vein of a DIY punk band from the beginning, you establish your aesthetic as such in the beginning. We thought it'd even be fun to restrict the format of the way we've played to begin with, which is drums, bass, synth, and vocals, and doing music more in the vein of Death From Above 1979 and The Faint, and stuff like that instead of just doing Showbread 2.0 or something.

  • JFH (Scott): I do have one more question for you. And maybe this is just for me, I don't know, but should we give up hope on ever getting a Thieves Guild album?

    Josh: Hahaha... well, I have, I'll tell you that much. *laughter* I would still so love to do anything with Reese [Roper]. I thought those two Showbread songs we did with him came out fantastic. He's obviously incredibly talented and a hero of ours - at least for me and Patrick growing up listening to Five Iron [Frenzy]. You know, we got to play a couple shows with Five Iron when they were in the midst of their reunion, and even that was so cool for us. "We're playing with Five Iron!" I actually haven't talked to Reese since we played with them, but there was a while there where every six months or so I would poke him and say "Hey, are we gonna make a record or what?" And then he'd say "Yeah we should!" But then he's obviously gotten swallowed up in the unexpected glory of the Five Iron reunion. So, I don't know, maybe it's like The Refused reunion or Chinese Democracy; everyone's going to think "That thing ain't ever coming," and then, out of nowhere, there it is.

  • JFH (Scott): Okay, so I'll still hold on to the one little strand of hope.

    Josh: Yeah man, keep it way back there in like the back of your consciousness, but don't get rid of it altogether.

    Showbread's final album, Showbread Is Showdead, it available now!

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