Since forming in 2013 Richmond pop punk heavyweights Centerfolds have done a fair amount of growing up but never forgot how to let loose. With the release of their CI Records debut Bad Heaven, the band shows no signs of slowing down.
Beyond four years in the band together, vocalist Tommy Wiseman and guitarist Ben Ciucci have been playing music in Richmond since they were kids. Dust Up’s Joe Fitzpatrick sat down with Wiseman and Ciucci to discuss their history in the Richmond scene, the band’s new direction and what listeners can look forward to from Bad Heaven.
Before y’all started Centerfolds, your members played in a few bands from around town and outside the area as well. Can you give me an overview of your history leading up to the Centerfolds?
Tommy Wiseman: Before Centerfolds, I did vocals for Cowabunga! — a pop punk band from the Northern Virginia area. We had really good times, and they were a fun band to play with. I got lucky meeting those guys, and I got to do a single and one record with them. My first time touring was with that band, and I still talk to those guys today.
Jesse [James] played in a rock and roll band called I Time Bomb from Virginia Beach. He was originally the bass player, and due to some member issues, he swapped over to singing. Now he plays bass with us.
TW: Logan [Himmler] played in a reggae band, but other than that had no prior band experience. As for Ryan, our other guitar player, Centerfolds is his first band.
BC: Ryan [Walsh] was some stage dive kid, and I thought he was cool because he had a sick beard and a fuckin’ Les Paul. I gave him a call, and here we are.
How did Centerfolds come together near the end of 2013?
BC: It just took a couple phone calls. I picked up my guitar one day and started jammin’, so I called up Ryan and our first bassist Benny to invite them over to hang out. We all started jammin’ together, so I called Tommy, and he asked me, ‘Do I need to try out?’ I told him, “Nah Tommy, you’re my friend. You’re my dude, and I know you’re good at what you do so let’s fuckin’ do this!”
TW: The funniest part about it all was prior to me even knowing about the potential of the band. Jesse was kinda jammin’ with them on vocals for another project they were gonna rip, but it ended up not working out. It’s funny how it came full circle getting Jesse back in the band.
Since then, you guys have self-released two EPs, Setbacks & Letdowns and Pushin’ Mongo, and you will be releasing your first LP, Bad Heaven, through CI Records. From your perspective, how has band grown both as songwriters and performers?
TW: We started the band wanting to play really fast punk rock songs. Ben and I were in heavier bands prior to this, so we wanted to just rip. We got our first record done the way we knew how to do it at the time — find a guy who had a sick computer, knew how to record music and then wham bam thank you maim.
Our second record, Pushin’ Mongo, tuned that sound in a little more. We were able to create some really catchy jams, and we still play them at practices almost every time. Mike Bridgett recorded a lot of Cowabunga’s stuff as well as Let’s Be Honest and Have Mercy’s new record.
When we went in to record the two singles about a year ago with Pete Adams before any of this took place, we knew we wanted to be pushed to a new limit. He also plays drums in a band called Neverkept, formerly known as Count to Four. They’re about to put out a new record too, and they’re really sick. Ben knew Pete way before this band too. BATTLEGHOST! toured with his old band before Pete recorded anything, so again it’s funny how we keep going back to our inner circle. We had never worked with a producer before, and so we let him take the reins and went for it. We were really comfortable working with Pete, but as a producer, he will push you to the fucking limit.
BC: It’s all about execution with Pete. If you can go in there and execute playing to a click track, it can be quick and easy. But if you go in there playing sloppy and your instrument isn’t in tune, Pete’s gonna make sure you sit there and work it out. While it’s tedious at the time, the outcome is perfect and really exciting.
TW: We went back to Pete for Bad Heaven and dialed in that sound even more, but every song on this record sounds completely different. If you were a fan of our previous records, there’s definitely something for you there. If you love “9621,” there’s a lot of elements from that song. I think everyone has improved at their respective instruments, and I know that my voice doesn’t give out anymore. Ben is shredding on a Gibson Explorer now.
So it’s still Centerfolds — it’s still fast and aggressive — but it’s matured a lot to give it a more complex sound.
BC: It’s sad songs for tough dudes.
How did your relationship with CI Records begin, and what was their role in the creation of the new LP?
TW: CI Records has been around since the late ’80s. They have put out music from bands like August Burns Red, The Pink Spiders, Texas in July and most recently Carousel Kings, who are now on Victory Records. They also own the McMillion Club, which is a great venue.
Jeremy Weiss runs LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival, and it’s a great place to mingle and talk with everyone in the music business. Jeremy has been a great guy to have around, and he’s given us a lot of advice on how to get places.
Andrew Zell is another guy we work with, and he helps us out with everything marketing related through CI Records. He was responsible for the latest issue of New Noise Magazine that had us in it. On August 23, if you grab that issue of Substream Magazine you can see our ugly mugs in that. You can pick that up at Barnes & Noble, or wherever you get your magazines.
Overall, we have a great relationship with them. CI Records is really awesome. It’s a smaller label, and for us that’s a good thing since we’re not looked over. I’m happy to be with them, and I’m excited that Bad Heaven will be coming out with them.
What’s the McMillon Club?
TW: So CI Records is based in Lancaster, PA, and the coolest part is we had no idea going into it what it would be. We thought it might be some weirdo in his bedroom or a crazy mecca venue. CI Records has a storefront with a huge banner on the outside. They sell all kinds of vinyl and CDs, everything from CI Bands to bands that Jeremy or anyone on his roster listens to. They invited us back there, and in the back room are plaques from bands like The Descendents, Hatebreed, Minor Threat, New Found Glory, and Silverstein thanking CI Records for supporting them.
Jeremy used to be Coheed & Cambria’s tour manager for their record The Second Stage Turbine Blade, so he’s been around for a long time in the scene. We’re really happy to work with him. I’m interested and anxious to see what the future holds for us through that pact.
BC: Jeremy is also very positive and encouraging. When we have an issue, we can go to him for help and he offers to take care of it. He also prints all of our merch in-house, which makes it way cheaper on us. The shipping in quick and easy, and it’s perfect every time.
TW: Shout out to Caleb at CI too. He makes the merch, and he’s a cool guy. Make sure Caleb knows, he’s the guy.
What are your thoughts on the current state of pop punk in Richmond and beyond?
TW: I think it’s at a new chapter for us at the moment. Just like anything else, music genres come in waves. We don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves as a “pop punk band,” we’re a punk rock or rock and roll band, or just a band. As far as kids that seem to be interested in pop punk, there’s a lot of really cool bands emerging from here.
In fact, our record release show will have a ton of our friends’ bands from Richmond. Shout out to Tell Tale, House & Home, who are both made up of former members of Kept At Bay, and Flight Club who grinded on Warped Tour all summer long.
The scene in Richmond is full of younger kids playing instruments better than we ever did when we were their age. They are grinding and literally putting everything on the back burner to try to play music. I think there’s a lot of potential in Richmond right now.
As for the current state of it in general, I think it’s interesting. There are several niche categories like the poppy vibes or the downtempo stuff, and it’s cool. There’s so much more to it now than there ever was before.
BC: It’s also more accessible now. If you find a band you like, you can find several other bands they are friends with on social media, and you can listen to all the different bands to figure out what you like and hit them up on a Spotify playlist.
TW: You can also see more cross-genre shows in the scene now. Like we’ve seen nothing,nowhere. be on tour with Real Friends, and a couple years ago we saw The Story So Far playing shows with Rotting Out and Foxing. All these bands are so different from one another, but kids are vibing to all of it. I think people’s minds are more open to accepting music. There’s not a genre stigma as much as there maybe once was.
Earlier this year, you guys gave the world a taste of the album with the first two singles, “9621” and “Honestly.” What about those songs and others on the album sets you apart from other pop punk or rock bands?
TW: I think on this record we’ve been able to find our own sound, not that it’s not cool to take inspiration from any other band. Someone might compare us to X band, and I’m flattered by the compliment. But I really think we’ve created something new for people that might be bored with whatever. I think we’ve been able to adapt to that, and I think it’s a very emotionally driven record. Honest to God, I believe there’s a little bit for everyone in it. Maybe you’re not into one song, but the next song will give you a different vibe.
BC: One thing that really stands out to me is that we all honed in on one another, and we were able to create a record that really speaks to how we all are feeling in life and where we’re planning to go. It’s really cool to be a part of this and see where we can take it. We’re all super excited, and we hope the listeners are just as excited as we are. We put a lot of hard work into it, and we’re ready to see what people think of it. It’s our baby.
Your physical record release show is this Friday at Canal Club, including many of the bands you previously mentioned. Why did you pick this lineup for the show, and what are you most looking forward to about it?
BC: It’s a lot of friends, and we really wanted to showcase the talent that Richmond has to offer. Unfortunately, She’s A Legend had to drop off, but we were able to add two touring bands from Iowa —Stars Hollow and Exit Emergency — that we’re friends with and needed a show that day so it all worked out.
We’re leaving for a month and wanted to see everybody off so it isn’t as much a record release show as it is a tour kickoff. We wanted all of our friends and family to be there, and it’s going to be a big night for all of us and everyone involved.
What do you guys plan to do in order to sustain that month-long touring schedule?
TW: This tour is going to be a good one for us. It will be the longest one we have done consecutively. We just got a new van, but we still don’t have any air conditioning so it’s gonna be hot. As far as sustaining it, we just gotta keep positive, man. We will be relying on the kindness of strangers, and we also have the understanding that no matter what fucked up shit we have to deal with, God forbid something breaks or we run out of money, we could be at home working our jobs and doing the same thing every day.
Touring is a whole new adventure, and everyone in the band is excited for the ride. It’s not something you can overly prepare for; you just gotta go with the flow. We’ve all gotten really good at that, and I’m excited to see some new stuff, man. California, what’s up?
BC: These guys are my best friends, and I’m excited to see the country with them — some places for the first time that seem really awesome and others that seem similar to back home. Many of us are in relationships and have pets or other responsibilities back home, and we’re very grateful to have people who care about us and can’t thank them enough.
I know you guys are big fans of professional wrestling, so have you figured out how you’re going to keep up with the new episodes each week while you’re out?
TW: WWE Network, baby — $9.99 a month! I just renewed my subscription.
BC: I’m gonna bring an HDMI cable, and we’re gonna set it up on a TV whenever we get a chance.
Where can people purchase the new record after its release?
TW: What we’ve decided to do is a little bit of an odd situation. While we already had the “9621” release, both singles will be on our new record. On Friday, we’re releasing “Losing Touch,” which will be our first single released through CI Records on Bad Heaven via iTunes, Spotify, etc. In about three weeks, we will put everything online. We’re gearing up a bunch of pre-order packages for anyone who might not be able to see us at a show or grab our tour merch.
We you just thought it would be really cool to throw it back a little bit. So if you want to hear our record first, you gotta come see us at a show. There’s so many places we’re about to play on tour so come out and pick up a physical copy of the record, play it forever and I promise we will have it.
BC: We also printed 100 copies of our physical CD which will have different album artwork for each one. It’s not about giving people an incentive to buy it, but it has more sentimental value and is a way for us to show appreciation to our fans.
TW: The first 100 will be numbered, and if you’re interested in keeping it forever or playing it in your car until it’s scratched and unplayable, that’s awesome. I think a lot of people are losing the value of having a physical copy of a record, and we hope this helps people to understand how important it is to support the bands you like. Your $5 or $10 that you can spare for a band’s record goes so much further than just a hole in your wallet. That’s gas and food we’re eating on tour. But for those of you who strictly stream, we promise that Bad Heaven will be out within a month’s time.
Centerfolds releases Bad Heaven tonight at Canal Club with Flight Club, Telltale, Neverkept, Exit, Emergency and Stars Hollow. Doors open at 6pm and tickets are $12 at the door. Find more info on the event page here.