Hot Sauce Sweats: An Interview with Not Half Bad

Matt Scifres of Not Half Bad talked with WHRB about tacos, premium malt beverages, tortas, poutine and a handful of things unrelated to food. His music is not half bad (it’s pretty damn good), so check it out here and read the full interview below:

Tell us about yourself. How did Not Half Bad start?

Hey, my name is Matt Scifres (pronounced Psy-Fress), I live in Fort Worth, Texas, and I go out for tacos at least 3 times a week, which is why I look much older than I am.

Not Half Bad started with myself and Alex Weymier in his garage after a couple bands we played in fizzled out due to people’s lack of motivation. I got really inspired by hearing Matt and Kim for the first time and said “Fuck it! I want to do this!” So, we started a two piece, keyboard and all. We found out pretty quickly we weren’t going to be the next “Dance Punk Sensation,” so we veered towards the other things we were listening to at the time, which was a lot of Mischief Brew, Banner Pilot and Algernon Cadwallader. Alex learned the drums and after a couple months, we had our first EP written and we’re still waiting on our Grammy nomination.

Describe your music with 3 adjectives.

Uh. Premium Malt Beverage?

Hot Sauce Sweats?

I know you said “adjectives,” but I’m gonna go with these descriptions.

Do you think your music represents you well as a person?

I hope it does. I do a lot of oversharing in these songs and I try to use them as an outlet for positivity. I know that sounds cliche, but most of these songs are my direct thoughts or feelings on something at the time. I think we all see ourselves as our intentions rather than our actions a lot of the time and I try to look at these songs, once they’re done and take away what I can learn. It’s a weird feeling reading something you wrote and thinking, “Well, that was a shitty thing to do.” It’s almost like a self awareness exercise. I’ve been told I write “Sad, happy songs” which I’m alright with, I guess.

What do you hope people take away from your music?

That it’s alright to feel shitty, sometimes, but there is nothing you can go through that you can’t eventually get past. There’s also nothing you can’t make happen if you work towards your goal. I’ve gotten to eat poutine, knee walking drunk in Montreal because we wrote some songs. If dummies like us can do it, any old dummy can.

There’s a quote in one of the Addams Family movies that I refuse to Google so I can paraphrase how I want. It goes: “The human spirit is a hard thing to kill. Even with a chainsaw.” I think Wednesday said that.

You recently donated proceeds from your music to A Voice For The Innocent. That’s great! To what extent, do you think it’s your obligation, as a musician that can reach a larger audience of people, to advocate for and support causes and organizations working to promote positive change?

I think it’s vital. I consider us a political band, so I get surprised when people get mad when we get political. The crazy thing is people don’t get so up in arms when we say “Don’t bomb people” or “Go vote on this issue.” Consistently, we get the most backlash when we talk about issues regarding feminism. Some people told us they weren’t going to listen to us after we posted an article about not telling strangers to smile. Another time, a crappy metal band from here got upset because we called them out for their merch advocating for sexual assault. They went so far as to ask their fans to come to their defense (they did), which is both disappointing and surprising. Since I’ve played in bands, I’ve always experienced music as a progressive community, so it’s a bummer when you’re reminded of the shitheads.

I guess my point is, there are people out there who don’t get “it” and some of them are actively working against social progress, so it’s important to stay vigilant and stand with and for each other.

What was the first concert you went to?

My first show was a metal core show at a christian club when I was thirteen. I don’t remember any of the bands and it was about as fun as that sounds. My first “concert” was Rise Against, right around when “Siren Song Of The Counter Culture” came out and that show fucking ruled. I moshed for the first time and rode that high for weeks. I remember thinking something very teenage cringe like “That’s like your first kiss. You’re never going to forget that.” And maybe, that’s right, because I remember that show way better than my first kiss.

How did you get into punk music? What bands have been most influential to you?

My older brother was into it, and I remember just how cool he looked. I was twelve and wasn’t into “proper” punk or anything, until he left his binder of CD’s laying around, one day and I started snooping. A lot of it, I just couldn’t appreciate at that point; a lot of hardcore and street punk has to grow on you, but there was one CD that caught my eye. Anti-Flag’s “Underground Network.” We were in a super Christian house and I was attending a Christian private school in Texas, so when I listened to that record, it had an immediate, profound effect on me. I remember listening to “Culture Revolution” and thinking “THIS is IT. This is what I want to be. This is what I want to listen to. This is my thing.”

From there, it’s all I was interested in. I bought books, documentaries, movies, records, whatever. If it was somehow connected to Punk culture, I wanted to know about it. Punk is like Jazz or Blues; it’s a vast genre with wildly different sounds across its spectrum.

All that is a really wordy way to say that I love these bands - Defiance, Ohio!, Dear Landlord, Teenage Cool Kids, Mind Spiders, The Motorcycle Industry, Algernon Cadwallader, Sport, Summer Vacation, Swearin, House Boat and RVIVR

Do you see yourself in relation to a certain community of music?

I feel really at home in the DIY community. Punk, to me, has always been about making something happen for yourself. I didn’t start bands because of the ones I was seeing at shows. I started them because I wasn’t seeing ones I wanted to see. In interviews with early punk bands, they would always say “Anyone can do this” and if you’ve never heard that, playing music can seem sort of insurmountable. When you take that ethic and apply it, elsewhere, it opens worlds for you. You don’t need someone to make you shirts or tapes or to book you shows or tours. This community is huge and brimming with more interesting people and experiences than you’ll find having someone lay out these things for you.

Best taco you’ve ever had?

Okay, so awhile back, I think Yahoo did a survey to find the best taco cities in America. Number one was Arlington, the city next to us, and number two was Fort Worth. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a taco place, and they’re all fucking great. Lately, I’ve been going to this place by my house called Taqueria de Zacatecas. They do $1.75 for a taco of any variety (and they do all the fantastic weird meats), $4 for a torta, it’s BYOB and it tastes divine. My recommendation is a barbacoa taco with red and green sauce after an afternoon of day drinking.

(I would have said Taqueria Habanero in Lexington, Kentucky, but the last time I had them, I had been fed enough bourbon to kill a person and I threw up $20 worth of their tacos on the side of the van. Since then, I haven’t been able to eat there without getting sick.)

Describe your dream show to play (where, with who, etc).

Nashville house show at Exponent Manor (RIP) with Culture Abuse, White Reaper, Toys That Kill, Kendrick Lamar, Jawbreaker, The Ramones and us headlining because that makes sense.

Use all 5 senses to describe what’s going on around you right now.

Sinking into a really comfy chair, surrounded by the sound of infomercials and distinct smell that is equal parts, Texas spring and Grandma’s house with the nagging reminder that I could’ve been more thorough brushing my teeth this morning.

What’s next for Not Half Bad?

The new record is written and we all think it’s really fucking good. So, we’re touring the midwest in June, putting the record out this summer and planning to do as many tours as we can manage around it. We’re trying to make Europe happen next summer (get in touch if you’d like to help *cough*) and then we’ll probably drink some beers or something.

Amanda Glazer is a DJ and Online Content Director for Record Hospital