by Kacey Fields
What happens when old school punks grow up, get married, have a few kids, and decide to start making music again? The Washups, that’s what. They describe themselves as “washed up punk rock dudes making music,” and that’s about as accurate as you can get (although I would add that they make damn good music).
These guys are a local duo who forge their music in a long distance kinda way. The process begins with Tyler Mauws – a talented and prolific songwriter, mentor to youth, and spreader of kindness – who composes and records all of the guitars, bass, and drums, in Portage la Prairie. Then he sends it off to Mike Braconnier in Winnipeg – a radio nerd, unicyclist, and successful podcaster – who then writes and records all of the vocals. This process has generated their first self-titled album, four more singles, and a brand new EP titled Hugo.
Stylus had the chance to sit down with Mike, ask him some questions, and let him tell me some stories.
Stylus: Tell me about Tyler, since he’s not here.
Mike Braconnier: Tyler and I have known each other for almost 20 years. We were putting together this thrash band called “A Few Pennies Short.” We had heard about this dude who had just moved to Brandon who could play it all – all the 90s old school punk that we all listened to, Ten Foot Pole, Good Riddance, NOFX – all those Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph bands. Immediately he was the most talented guy in the band. There was Valcourt who could really shred on guitar, and Adam was learning the bass as we went. I was on drums. Tyler was really the anchor for that group. We lived together for quite some time. We stayed friends and he contacted me in February, emailed me a song, and here we are. It’s cool because there is no collaboration really.
We technically are a studio duo, but I get these songs blind, and I don’t know what they’re going to be. Tyler has no idea what I’m going to send back either. That’s probably why we have such a throw back sound, because we aren’t pushing each other to sound different or progress. Our best songs were written by Tyler in ten minutes, tracked in ten minutes, sent to me, and I wrote the lyrics in ten minutes. They are our most catchy tunes. That is purposely what we are trying to do. He’s the talent, and I’m just really happy to be involved.
Stylus: Tell me about Hugo. Why Hugo for the EP title?
MB: Way back in the day, this must have been about 17 years ago, I was in A Few Pennies Short with Tyler. We had this cat, Hugo, who had a few litters of kittens while she lived with the band in this crazy house, and nobody would get her fixed. It says that in the song “no one could fix you, your kids were driving us insane.” I think at this point we had about seventeen cats and kittens. It was absolutely irresponsible. If Bob Barker would have known about our house he would have kicked in our front door and kicked the shit out of all of us for not spaying and neutering anyone including ourselves. We took Hugo and all the others out to an abandoned school in Brandon that was overrun with mice and left them there with a giant bag of cat food.
The good thing was that right away we started hearing about other guys who were taking all the cats from the building and were finding them homes. I felt really good about that, but there was neither hide nor hair of Hugo. A year later I was out with friends and Hugo just walked right up to me. She would have had to cross the Assiniboine River to get back. It’s this epic Homeward Bound story! She came back home with me and she was my cat. I wrote a song and I named the record Hugo. The five songs on our EP are considerably harder than the first album. I screamed and bellowed a lot, and that was like our old group. It was a throw back, and it ended up being a good song, and I’m happy about it.
After our interview Mike hooked me up with an unreleased song called “Blue Notes,” in which he criticizes auto tuning, shares his respect for musicians that aren’t afraid to show their flaws, and the sheer joy of hearing honest music. Look for it on their next album! Follow the Washups on Twitter, download their music for free on Bandcamp, and go listen to Mike’s podcast, OneGoodWheel Radio (Episode 37) for the full interview where Mike gives advice to young musicians, talks about his tribute song to Felix Baumgartner, and what he would do with a time machine!