SONG PREMIERE + Interview: John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees) Talks His New Damaged Bug Album Covering Michael Yonkers Catalog / Listen to Unreleased Yonkers Track “In My Heart”
John Dwyer, the hardest working man in punk rock, took a break from churning out original material under his Thee Oh Sees/Oh See monikers to make an album under his Damaged Bug nom de plume consisting entirely of songs by Minneapolis art-punk legend Michael Yonkers. The record, called Bug on Yonkers, is a stunning tribute to the unheralded legend and also an amazing link between two generations of savants of noisy pop music. The record was due to come out for the Record Store Day 2020 event in April that was postponed because of the pandemic. The record, available HERE to buy digitally, is now set to be released on the next scheduled RSD (set for June 20th).
In celebration of some point in the future when people can hear this outstanding record, Dwyer was nice enough to answer some of our emailed questions about the record’s creation, his appreciation of Yonkers and how this music helped him work through writer’s block. We also are lucky enough to be able to premiere the song “In My Heart,” which is an aching, beautiful Yonker’s song that had previously been unreleased. About the song John said, “‘In My Heart’ is an as-of-yet unreleased song from Michael Yonkers. I was handed a plethora of unreleased Michael Yonkers songs on cdr’s. This beautiful song stood out and we stopped during the final days of recording the album to go back in and track this one last minute. I’m very pleased we did. This song, in all its deceptive simplicity, breaks my heart a bit.” Read the conversation below and check out the world premiere of “In My Heart” below the interview.
Reviler: I read that like many of us, you first heard Yonkers via the Microminature Love reissue in the early 2000s. What did you think when you heard that record the first time?
John Dwyer: it blew my mind and i was immediately hooked and a bit obsessed with tracking him and all his work down
Reviler: Could you believe these songs had been (mostly) unheard for so long?
Dwyer: the human world is a ridiculous place so i cant say i am surprised that these songs were underappreciated and buried
most folks consume and spread what is simply handed to them (popular radio songs architecture repeatedly derived from previously popular songs )
not what they have to work for a bit
yonkers is a work out in terms of his output and his wide scope of song writing
work like this would be highly regarded if the world worked the way i feel it should
Reviler: Your covering of his songs seems inevitable and almost cosmically natural when I heard this record, but until I heard these songs I hadn’t connected the dots from Michael Yonkers to John Dwyer. What is it about his music that spoke to you?
Dwyer: its rawness. its personality , its freedom. and even still, its hooky as hell a lot of the time
Reviler: How would you describe his music to someone reading this who knows your music but not his?
Dwyer: i see his music and his lyrics as vessels of humanity , love and positivity
i think im drawn to him because i dont have a lot of positivity in my music
im not entirely negative but i don’t necessarily share his capacity for hope and positivity
he is an inspiration to us all and i learn from him in order to grow more in this direction
Reviler: Out of Yonker’s wild, disparate catalog, how did you choose these nine songs?
Dwyer: i picked 40 then got high several times and whittled it down
Reviler: You said you just “jumped in,” so are there more songs from his catalog that were left on the cutting room floor or were these the first nine you took on?
Dwyer: i only tried a couple that i left out as i think i chose wisely for stuff that was within my immediate reach musically and cosmically
Reviler: Any favorite Yonkers lyrics, songs or albums that you think speak to this crazy moment we are in right now? Is there one song or album that tops them all for you?
Dwyer: goodby sunball just broke my heart
i talk about it in the initial bio
it reminds me of my childhood
but hard to deny that “microminiature love” isnt a great jumping off for getting into Michael Yonkers
it shreds and its pretty applicable lyrically in today’s fucked up world
Reviler: It’s hard to believe someone as prolific as you experiences writer’s block, but you’ve said that this record was partially inspired to help break your writer’s block. What was going on and did this project help?
Dwyer: it did , but honestly i am still procrastinating the album i needed to slump-bust. i ended up going directly into oh sees writing mode after this
but it was fruitful and i owe it to Yonkers
Reviler: Did you get to share the stage with Yonkers during his comeback, either solo or when he played shows with The Blind Shake during their run of albums together?
Dwyer: Coachwhips played with him at the great sunset tavern in Seattle when subpop had him out to the west coast years ago
after the “microminature love” reissue. backed by dean and jed from subpop (at the time)
they were perfect and he was so friendly as to knock me off kilter with a hug when we met
i email with him often and surprised him with this collection
i think he dug it
Reviler: When things get back to where we can have live music again, will you be touring behind these songs?
Dwyer: i wish but i dont think so
this was just a fun project to mess around with
maybe oh sees can learn a jam or two
i am very ready to tour again however
till the time comes ill just do crunches on the deck of my yacht
Reviler: Any final parting thoughts with our readers about Yonkers or anything we didn’t cover?
Dwyer: thanks to you
and please , just dig in and listen if you are curious about his music
enjoy and be well
Writer / co-founder