The Strafing Run: Talking to Republicans We Actually Like

She seems super-psyched...

The only surviving picture of Gay Republicans playing in their own basement.

Well hello there, dearest readers of mine. I’m back with a new local band I think is worth checking out.

In my continuing effort to bring our readers the best independent music State College, Pennsylvania has to offer, I try to catch as many local shows as I can. At one of those recent shows, in a dingy basement swarmed by millipedes, I saw two great acts. One of them was Swiss Alps. The other was a local Punk band people had been telling me about called Gay Republicans. I liked what I heard, so I asked the band to answer a few questions for THE BOMBER JACKET. The fellas were gracious enough to give me the following answers, as well as a little background.

The band Gay Republicans is Andrew McHenry and Kevin Sullivan. McHenry, drummer for Gay Republicans, has been playing music for a while in town, both in bands (Inside Voices, Amber Lamps) as well as solo. In fact, he’s played in some form at every Arts Crawl for the last few years. Sullivan, guitarist/singer for Gay Republicans, was McHenry’s bandmate in Amber Lamps. Gay Republicans formed last year from the rubble of Amber Lamps. Even McHenry’s cousin David Staver got involved, helping with production on some tracks. Check out the interview with McHenry and Sullivan below:

THE BOMBER JACKET: So the first question is obviously, how did your band get its name?

Kevin Sullivan: I think I thought of it when I was drunk. None of my friends thought it was funny. I’ve since gotten new friends.

What reactions have you had from people when you tell them the name of your band?

K: Girls usually laugh and then throw themselves at us.

Do you have an actual favorite Gay Republican? If so, who?

K: Andrew Sullivan? I don’t think he’s still all that conservative, but he has a real baller last name.

Andrew McHenry: Yeah definitely a great name.

K: Also he’s the only one I know of.

How long have you guys been playing together as Gay Republicans?

K: We started this project last fall when Andrew decided he wanted to get good at drums and told me to write a bunch of Refused riffs.

Who are some bands that influenced your sound?

K: Originally we ripped off Pissed Jeans pretty shamelessly. Now we rip off all sorts of stuff. We write more indie rock kind of stuff these days. Or at least its just weirder and there’s a lot less yelling.

A: As a two-piece, I think we eventually started looking to a lot of other two-piece bands for inspiration. Also things we could get away with stealing. Bands like Lightning Bolt….that’s about it. We’ve since broadened out.

How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard your music?

A: I think I’d have to ask them to think back to the first time they ever heard The Beatles, then the first time they heard The Beatles ripped off. Meanwhile, I’d probably bang pot lids in their ears and scream.

How do you feel about the local music scene in State College? How hard is it to get gigs here?

K: I had a friend who was busking a few days during arts fest. He said he made few bucks after a couple hours and then started playing “Wonder Wall” and got like $15 immediately. That about sums it up.

The State College music scene is atrocious. There’s a handful of great bands around–Think Twice Dublin, Cop Killer, Swiss Alps, Warmingtons…but the area doesn’t really facilitate or help incubate original music very well. There’s a good cover band scene I guess. Kids are only here for a few years though and half of that time they are living in dorms with no access to drums and it’s kind of hard to meet like-minded people. For the most part we have to throw our own parties if we want to play or just show up to parties and trick a drunk host into letting us perform. There isn’t much interest in it.

How do you feel about the state of punk music in general?

K: It’s great. It’s really spread out; a lot of divergent-sounding stuff could be called punk and being punk could constitute totally contradictory things depending on who you ask.

What are you listening to lately?

K: I’ve been listening to so much Modest Mouse I don’t know how my roommates haven’t castrated me in my sleep. Really into the new Ty Segal and Frank Ocean. New Hop Along is pretty great. There’s a song on that album that’s sung from the perspective of a mattress and I’m really into furniture right now.

A: Recently I’ve been revisiting bands like Heatmiser and Veruca Salt, I really like their album American Thighs. I also like the Great Lake Swimmers and this girl named Jenny O.

Most underrated punk album of all time?

K: Really difficult question. The first Black Eyes album is pretty underrated. Fire of Love by the Gun Club is pretty spectacular and
doesn’t get enough love, though it does get a lot of it.

What’s the most/least punk thing you do in a typical week?

K: Most punk thing: Pray to Virgin Mary to deliver us from Putin. Least punk thing: Get a Canadian restaurant to deliver us poutine.

How do you guys write your songs?

K: It generally starts when there’s a girl that won’t let me have sex with her and then it just sort of snowballs from there. We write a
lot of songs.

Tell us about your new release…

A: Our upcoming release is called Raw Doggerel. It’s going to have four tracks, and is basically a point of departure for sounds we’re planning on exploring in the future. We’ve been working with my cousin, David Staver, who agreed to take some time away from his other recording projects to give us a hand–an ear? Anyway, it’s definitely going to exceed your recommended daily allowance of awesome, and it should be out near the beginning of next month.

With a name like Gay Republicans, some readers may wonder about your own political orientation. Do any of the band members follow politics? If so, what’s your opinion on the current political climate?

K: I generally follow Kanye West’s advice in every aspect of life. In this area I go off the one line in the “Runaway” film: “The first
thing you learn in this world is never pay attention to anything you see in the news.”

What’s the biggest problem facing our country right now?


A: Probably the Ancient Aliens using the World Energy Grid to harvest our resources.

What’s the biggest problem facing musicians like yourselves right now?

A: Money

K: Yeah, Money.

Which is harder: Being a Gay Republican or a Muslim Republican?

K: Or being a Moderate Republican?

Band you’d most like to open for on tour?

K: The Traumatics.

A: The Traumatics or Pussy Riot.



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