Interview: Flatfoot 56

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The Chicago punk rock scene has always been wide-open; everything from pop-punk, to hardcore, street punk, and even ska music, has been prevalent within it. But for nearly two decades now, Flatfoot 56 and their brand of Celtic punk rock have carved out their own unique path within it and built a tremendously loyal following over the years. We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Tobin Bawinkel (lead vocalist/guitarist) about the Chicago punk rock scene, their brand of Celtic punk and what makes it different, their upcoming performance at the T1 Fest (more information on this festival is at the end of the interview) in Joliet, IL on Saturday November 9, 2019, and much more!


1. You’ll be part of the bill for T1 Fest in Joliet, IL on Saturday November 9th. What are you most looking forward to with being a part of this show?

I think It will be great to see some of the incredible bands the fest has. The fact that the fest is for such a great cause is also going to be a great highlight for the event. 

2. T1 Fest is all for the benefit of JDRF Illinois, whose mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent, and treat T1D and its complications. What does it personally mean to you to be able to be a part of helping with their cause?

It’s an incredible honor to be included in this great cause. Growing up we had a few friends who had to deal with the effects of T1D. I remember multiple times going to see friends who had been hospitalized because of having complications with this debilitating condition.

3. The rest of 2019 will see you playing shows aroudn the Midwest (Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa). For someone in those areas that hasn't been to a Flatfoot 56 show, why do they need to come out to one of these and what can they expect to see from your show when they do?

Flatfoot has always been known for being a band that takes the stage and an explosion of positive energy shorty follows.  We have had fans tell us that their entire outlook on life has been impacted by coming to our shows and realizing how much they are not alone. Its more then just a good entertaining evening, it’s a show where the crowd is encouraged to celebrate the community that can be experienced in a punk show. These were the kind of environments that we as a band used to experience when we would go to punk shows when we were younger. I fear this has been lost in many shows I have experienced lately. Let’s get it back I say.  

4. Your last music, The Vancouver Sessions EP, was released about a year ago. Can you tell us a little bit about the EP?

This recent release was more of a concept album where we were able to explore more of our celtic music roots, rather then just the punk drive we have become known for. We wanted to take older flatfoot tunes that we felt had awesome lyrics and translate them into a slowed down version where the message of the songs could actually be more easily ingested. The result was really cool and a bit out of the box for us. The intent was to expand the dynamics of what Flatfoot 56 is and present a side to who we are that isn’t often seen. It was really fun to make.

5. Are you currently working on new music? If so, when can we expect to hear some of it and are you planning to release it as singles only, or an EP/album?

We are currently writing new stuff, but progress has been slow moving. A few of us had kids this year and one of the guys got married, so life has been kind of kicking our butts as of late. We are hoping to get something new out this upcoming year.

6. We mentioned your Celtic punk sound; With so many bands - Dropkick Murphy’s, Flogging Molly, The Tossers, etc. – categorized in that very vivid scene, what about your music do you feel has made you stand out on your own from the pack the most?

I think we are more of a punk band with Celtic overtones rather than a Celtic band with punk overtones. There is a difference here with the content and over all sound. While we respect all the bands in our scene, and are friends with most of them, we have really tried to let our influences come from outside of the current Celtic punk scene. These bands all do what they do well, and we want to do Flatfoot 56 well.

7. You’ve been involved in the Chicago punk rock scene for almost 20 years now. How do you feel, for better or worse, the scene has changed over that time and how do you feel that you fit in even better now as a seasoned band rather then you did as the rowdy newcomers?

The scene has gone through so much since the early years of Flatfoot. I feel like it has gotten older and settled down a bit. When we were younger the scene was very diverse and oftentimes, it was very conflict oriented. We would see and hear about beefs that groups would have for each other and fights that would break out. It started to be known for the conflicts. There was one show that we played with the English band The Adicts where the police were waiting out in front of the show with riot gear on. They were expecting it to be a blood bath. It wasn’t uncommon to see a fight happening between two punk crews in the parking lot of a local show. It would oftentimes be many on one or two. Saw some really rough stuff during this time.

When the violence started to die down, great stuff started happening like the creation of Riot Fest and other punk festivals that have popped up. Things got more fun loving and our crowds started to grow as well. We have always found ourselves in this strange place. While we know we are getting up there in age as a band, we are also surrounded by many more bands in the scene who have been around since the 80s or 90s. We have had the honor of playing alongside of bands that we loved when we were younger. This is great, but also hard because we always feel like we really haven’t been around that long.

The one thing I would say is that crowds aren’t nearly as active as they used to be. Pits have slowed a bit, but I would argue that the life of our scene is still very much alive. 

8. Chicago has always been a great place for new music. Which band from the current local scene do you feel we need to be keeping an eye on and why?

There is a great rock and roll punk band called Criminal Kids who are awesome, as well as bands like the Eradicator, Montrose Man and the Magnifires.

9. We’re all about helping the next generation at, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?

I love this question! I would say be careful who you build your band with, and make sure you are clear with each other on your intentions for the future and vision of your band. It’s a hard thing to go through member changes and you can save yourself a lot of trouble by opening up communication early. Also, share equally with each member the profits of your bands work. This was told to me by one of the guys from Rancid when I asked him the same question. It’s solid advice.


For more information on the T1 Fest, Click the photo below!


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