Ahead of California and Florida run, American Football’s Mike and Nate Kinsella talk daddy issues, LP3 and more

The revered emo group plays five bi-coastal shows starting today.

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click to enlarge From L to R: Steve Holmes, Steve Lamos, Mike Kinsella, Nate Kinsella - Shervin Lainez
Shervin Lainez
From L to R: Steve Holmes, Steve Lamos, Mike Kinsella, Nate Kinsella

It should be expected from a band that quietly emerged from downstate Illinois before breaking up and building a cult following during it's 20-year-hiatus, but American Football is completely down to Earth. Well, at least Mike and Nate Kinsella were. The pair — cousins three years apart — played in a slew of influential Chicago indie-rock bands during the early oughts (Cap 'n Jazz, Owls, Make Believe, Joan of Arc, Owen to name a few), and over the course of two weekends, the band will play five bi-coastal shows in Southern California and Florida.

Before Tampa debut, American Football’s Mike and Nate Kinsella talk reunions, new music and more

For 30 quick minutes in May, the Kinsellas caught up with Creative Loafing Tampa to shoot the shit about American Football's third LP (working title of one song: "Dave Fucking Matthews"), being touring parents, hockey and Taylor Swift.

Read our print feature on the band's Ybor City show here, and read a transcript of the full Q&A.

American Football w/You Blew It!. Fri. Aug. 10. 7 p.m. $28.50. Orpheum, 1915 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City. More info: local.cltampa.com.

How are you, Nate? This is Ray from Tampa, Florida.

Nate Kinsella: Hi, Ray

How are you man?

Nate: I'm good, how are you?

Good, thanks.

Nate: Yeah, the weather has turned around here, it's a beautiful day, you walk outside and, I don't know, it's great, I feel really good.

Right on.

Nate: It's nice to be out the craziness.

Mike Kinsella: Nate, Ray doesn't give a fuck about the weather, he lives in Florida.

Yeah, I live in Tampa, man.

Nate: Where every day is just perfect.

The only thing I gotta worry about is like, how many pairs of underwear I'm gonna go through on a hot day.

Nate: Yeah, different challenges there I guess.

I'm not like your kids where I can poop in my pants and you can just throw the stuff away.

Nate: Yeah.

Who is watching your guys' kids by the way? I know that Nate's good at everything and probably parenting too, so maybe I'm talking to Mike.

Mike: Who's watching my kids?

Yeah, right now.

Mike: They're at school, my kids are at school right now.

Oh, that's awesome, I forget it's 1:30 over there, there's like, kids walking around my neighborhood at this time of the day, so I thought maybe you had them eating Mediterranean tacos or something to keep them quiet.

Mike: That would be awesome, I wish I had those right now.

Is that on the rider, with the special La Croix and stuff? Are any of the families are coming on this Florida run? I felt like Owen always kind of toured so that you could go to Disney World.

Mike: I mean, it's not that intrinsically connected, but the money I make usually goes toward Disneyland at some point.

Okay, and what about you Nate? I guess your kid's not in school yet, still pretty new, huh?

Nate: Yeah, so I am the primary caregiver, so I'm at home with her all day. She's taking a nap right now, so I purposely timed this phone call, to catch her during nap-time, so I wouldn't be totally distracted.

That's awesome, if you don't mind me asking, Nate, what's your daughter's name?

Nate: Her name is Leeila.

I think I was supposed to talk to you guys about American Football but I think one of you had mentioned that together you did nie song sketches in 2015? I don't know if that project ever grew any legs, and did anything.

Mike: I haven't done anything yet, since then we've started about 22 songs, and I use the word "songs" loosely. We're still trying to make that happen, it just seems like it hasn't happened, I don't know.

Is that because you guys are working on LP2 and LP3 for American Football then? Like, is the Dropbox going insane right now?

Mike: The Dropbox is busy, we started a bunch of stuff that started with just percussion mostly, and now we're stuck with 22 percussive songs with pretty much nothing else on it... so it's just drumbeats. Our buddy Jason, Jason Cupp who engineered the American Football record, the last one, he's sort of in the fold and he's gonna try to maybe organize and do stuff, I don't know. It's always on the back burner, might continue to be for a while I guess, I don't know.

Is that "back burner" for you too, Nate? Because I know you have the Birthmark stuff that everybody loved, but now you're in this band that you always admired thanks to, I guess as legend goes, Mike insisting that you be in American Football since you're fucking rad at what you do.

Nate: Yeah, I'm happy to be busy with American Football stuff, but, you know, having a child automatically puts everything on the back burner in your entire life, even eating or sleeping, like necessary things you have to do.

Mike: Dude, the hardest part about having a kid is, I have to get them both ready for school in the morning, and there's many days where I have to take a shit, and I don't have time.

So they can't prepare themselves as you yell instructions at them through a closed bathroom door?

Mike: I mean, it's down to the wire, they do what they can, you know?

Do you ever do that trick to Archie, where you're like "Hey, who wants to go with me?" and they're all excited to go somewhere with you and you're like "I'm going to take a crap!"

Mike: Ooh, that's a good one.

I'm sorry, I'm all excited and getting you guys off the tracks from talking about your music, but I can obviously talk about anything you want. So, is Jason going to produce LP3? Are you guys going to Omaha to record it or, do you know how that's going for you guys?

Mike: Yeah, that's the plan. We've made it like this tiny little family, so it all seems to make sense; it all functions well in this way. So yeah, Jason's involved for sure.

Cool. And Nate, has the initial surprise of being asked to play American Football faded at all? Obviously at first you were brought in to solidify this backbone, and bring a bass frequency to the whole thing, but obviously you were going to start contributing, and now we're on American Football album three so, what's your role now? How are you feeling about it?

Nate: Let's see, that's a good question. Yeah, it kinda changes when you start to contribute to it, like before when I was just playing at the shows, I was there to kind of, execute, to do just do the job as well as I could. I didn't have really creative input to it, other than just trying to play really well. But now that we're all writing together, it does change how I feel about it, because anything that I have a sort of creative input on, and I think this happens to most people, like there's infinite decisions that you can make, and at I'm always wondering if I'm making the right decisions. Being in a band that people actually listen to is strange and new, and there's kinda this pressure along to it also, of being like the new ingredient, in this sort of magic recipe that I don't want to mess up at all. So, that's on my mind too, I'm trying to retain all the best qualities of what I loved about the band, but also know that we're all trying to write now for ourselves in the present, and I'm trying not to pay attention to the pressure that I can sometimes let sink into my brain, so yeah it has changed quite a bit.

Mike: I don't think there's any pressure this time, for some reason. Like, I think the last time, there was, just because it was the first follow-up or whatever and, we were all sort of shocked when we realized people actually liked the first record, so we were like "Holy shit how did we do that!" So we tried to maybe redo that somehow. This time just seems like we're a band, and we're just writing songs that we want to write, which is sort of liberating and super fun.

Yeah I liked all your comments, Mike, after LP2 rolled out and stuff, and how confident you feel now and obviously you feel separated from the way that you wrote whenever you were in college trying to just bang out lyrics just so you could play a show. As far as the new album goes, I think Holmes has talked about ripping off Sea and Cake's "Jacking the Ball" for "The One With The Tambourine", so long ago. I also liked Mike's comment about how he only listens to LP1 to get into tunings. But I was wondering are there any bands that you guys kinda tap into as you start to work on sonic ideas for LP3? I mean, American Football itself obviously has its own sound now, but what kind of bands are informing the record, do you think?

Mike: All the working titles are usually band names that we're like "Oh this sounds like this band or this sounds like this band" so they end up having that working title for however long, a year or something. But what's funny is, they don't really sound like anything like those bands, like if I told you the bands that the songs are named, that wouldn't really be informative to what it sounds like, I don't think. Right Nate? I mean, the further we make them our own it's like, "Oh that doesn't really sound like Slowdive," or whatever the band is at all.

Nate: Can I mention the one that's been plaguing us all along?

Mike: Oh yeah yeah, sure.

Nate: Yeah we have one that the working title is "Dave Fucking Matthews," and it doesn't sound like Dave Matthews, but it's pretty hilarious to have that as a working title.

Mike: It's also crippling, like every time we're sort of subconsciously like, "Oh man, this song is a Dave Matthews song, that sucked," you know.

Now, is that because there's one single part of the song that reminds you of Dave Matthews like, is somebody like "skibble-de-bee-bap," or is there like a weird fiddle or something"

Mike: There's an electric fiddle, sure. There was one on the first demo that I think I did, there was like one guitar thing that was like a backup sort of, not even the lead riff or anything. We should've changed that earlier on.

N: There's usually one small element though, that would trigger the different band, and then here we are.

Mike: The biggest influence probably has been James Carter.

Jimmy Carter, like thee Jimmy Carter?

Mike: Yeah.

N: That's an inside joke.

That's definitely an inside one, but that's good, I'm wondering if one of the working titles is "Taylor Swift," and I was wondering Mike, does all the tour money from this tour go towards buying tickets for that tour, for Taylor Swift's tour?

Mike: Well, all the money from whenever the last tour was went to buying tickets. My wife and daughter are going, I'm gonna be out of town, and they're in Chicago still. All my money's going towards them buying me a T-shirt for probably like $70 or something.

Has Mila been to a Taylor Swift concert before?

Mike: No, first Taylor Swift concert. She went and saw CHVRCHES with us, and she was just wide-eyed the whole time, it was really just huge sound and bright lights blinking and stuff. I think she'll have fun, she's going with a bunch of classmates, so it should be fun.

Gasparilla Music Festival 2017: Phoebe Bridgers

That's awesome, I remember I saw Taylor Swift just once, on Halloween, like two years ago or something, and she brought Idina Menzel from "Frozen" out, it was the craziest thing I've ever been a part of, if you can imagine. I wanted to ask you again about this particular spring run, or I guess it's California-Florida run, you've got Phoebe Bridgers and You Blew It! opening, both regional bands there, Phoebe more than maybe You Blew It! but I like Mike's story about the way Rainer Maria had Owen open on some of these tours. How much do you interact with these opening bands on these short runs, maybe even specifically You Blew It! which is a band that only exists, I think, because your band existed, the same way your band only existed because of Fugazi and all those other bands.

Mike: Yeah, we definitely like these bands, we're super excited for both of them, I think there's something about, it's You Blew It!'s sort of comeback shows or something, so that's exciting.

Yeah they broke up like two months ago, and now you've made them get back together.

Mike: You know, I hate to call it a "reunion," like two months, that's like, one guy going to rehab or something.

Yeah it's like Tanner sprained his ankle I think, so they had to stop.

Mike: Right, so then they broke up, and now they're gonna play some. Yeah, it definitely helps, the opening band is sort of... as a dude who's been in opening bands his whole life until recently, I didn't realize that if I was opening for a band, and it was going bad, and I just walked offstage, that kinda affects the whole show, like it affects the vibe in a way that I didn't realize. I didn't realize it would have an effect on headliners, you know? But now from the other side it's like, "Oh yeah let's take bands we like that we want to hear every night," you know?

That's really awesome, I wanted to ask you also, aside from being physically older, does being in this band feel like a job at all yet? I would imagine it's just the greatest thing, since there's really not a lot of pressure, and you're doing it with some dudes that you really enjoy being around now.

Nate: There are parts of it, it's hard to say it feels like a "job," I think the traveling part of it, we just kind of end up being tired, and a little bit uncomfortable, but we only do that for like, three or four days at a time. So that's not so much like a job, I think with a job, with every job that I've had, aside from doing live sound which is a job that I actually really enjoy doing, you just don't care whatsoever, you don't care about it at all. You could be there or not, and you don't feel bad about daydreaming and like, fucking off for like three or four hours of the day. So being in a band, it's different than that because like, we all care about it, and it takes a lot of effort. I think in our traveling crew there's four of us in the band and then we have two other people, friends of ours who are helping on the tech side, like Jason and our buddy Mike Carzone. So, to get six grown men all to somewhere, that takes a lot of effort, so you have to make it work, if you're not having a good time you just gotta suck it up and like, do it.

Six grown men is a lot of Arby's consumed on tour, so it's good that you guys are only doing these things in short bursts.

Mike: We're all too old to do Arby's.

Oh man, so you guys don't even eat crappy food on tour.

Mike: I mean, we kinda do, Holmes does. Holmes eats like a bag of combos and Coke 24 hours a day. I guess it's like the best part-time job, but it definitely doesn't get like a full time job, but like Nate says, when we're traveling, it feels like it's a 24-hour job, if you're in a van for a six-hour drive you're like, "Oh my god, I wanted to be doing anything else." But if you're like killing time in a town, or if there's downtime you're like, "Oh man I should be home like, cleaning the kitchen or something." So in that way it feels like work, but then there's a bunch of perks that make it amazing.

Yeah, and in the context of that I was wondering about your personal lives, because that's something where you guys go on tour, and your wives could kind of hold it over your head or use it as leverage when you come back, so you have to do a bunch of kid stuff. Not that it sucks hanging out with your kids, but somebody's gotta pick up the slack when you're not there.

Mike: Well, like Nate said, he and I are sort of like the primary caregivers, so when we do leave, for my house it gets kind of turned upside down a bit, so I gotta come home and flip it over again.

Is Oscar cooking the food and stuff by the time it's all over?

Mike: Oscar's cooking the food, yeah. Ryan's eating out of dog bowls.

Nate, obviously you grew up in Chicago and now you live in New York now, and I was wondering, do you ever wonder if your kids, both of you, will have that same Chicago or Illinois experience that you did? You know, there was no internet, you guys were just into music, and you played in bands, and then you did this thing, and then your life went on. Kids these days, it seems like they have a lot of other things competing for their attention, so do you ever wonder what kind of life they'll have, and do you ever wish that they had the one that you guys did?

Nate: Well, I can't even imagine the kind of life that my child, potentially children, are going to have, if it's going to be so wildly different. But, that's okay, I don't think that it'll be terrible. I don't think they're going to resent me. I think it's gonna be completely different, and there's always huge fundamental differences when you get a generation apart, 20-plus years apart from somebody, there are just giant things that are gonna be fundamentally different from how you see the world, especially with the internet these days. I don't think I'm capable of understanding what growing up now, will actually be like, but that's okay. It happens and it's gonna continue happening, but I'm okay with that.

Mike:Yeah, Donald Trump's president, so there's no way to predict, like if you asked my dad, when I was born, or when I was 10 even, "What's he gonna grow up to be?" he wouldn't have thought Donald Trump would be president.

That is a big wild card, for sure.

Mike: I mean, in even just music, it's very specific to what we do, music has changed so much, being in a band meant you had to play a bunch of shows, and if you wanted to play for more people you had to literally play for more people, and now you can just like, bounce this song you recorded at your house, and send it out into the world, and people can hear it, you can become a super popular DJ, and you've never played a show. Maybe you never played in front of anybody or something, I don't know. Everything's different, and it's gonna be way different in like 10 years.

Mike: [Something about getting fat]

I don't know man, Mike, you're like, incredibly fit. I haven't seen pictures of Nate very recently, but I feel like Mike's always fit and has like, a decent haircut.

Mike: Nate is like the most fit guy ever.

I'm not saying that he's not, but I feel like Mike's always got face time, he's always on these videos, and people are interviewing him, and he's on Instagram and stuff, so you get more Mike in your life.

Mike: Well for the next album Nate's doing all the press as the front man.

Watching the Bruins' Brad Marchand lick the Bolts' Ryan Callahan makes me feel ______.

You should just tell him that he's taking over singing. I also just want to talk shit about hockey and stuff like that, do you want to talk about Marchand?

Mike: Are you talking about the guy that keeps licking everybody?


Mike: Yeah, you can't do that. That's not even a hockey rule, that's just life, you can't lick people in life.

At least not when the lights are on like that.

Mike: We've been sort of on a hiatus of sorts, just not playing shows, we're not really doing much, and I told my wife I'm gonna be home all these months, with all the traveling I did last fall I'm gonna be home, no big deal. Then once all the playoffs started I'm out like, most nights now,. She's getting pissed off at me like I'm on tour except I'm just watching sports at bars.

Now do you double up on that Mike, where you go to the bar with headphones on and look at people and think about Owen albums, or is this a pure sports thing?

Mike :Oh yeah, it's totally work, that's when I get my writing done, it's one of the perks again, of the job, where it's kinda like "You're just going and sitting in a bar, aren't you?" and I'm like, "Well yeah, but I'm working." But it's all good, we're kind of still figuring it out, I think we figured it out, and then we had kids, and then we had to figure it out again, and now we have kids that are older and can express their own desires, and their own wants, and you have to figure it out again. It's a work in progress.

American Football, Rainer Maria's Caithlin De Marrais will make appearances at Emo Night Tampa

You guys will do after-parties sometimes, I know that we're all older here and it's a little easier to deal with insecurities and things like that but is it embarrassing when you go to these after-parties and they'll play an American Football song or an Owls song or a Birthmark song or something that you've played on?

Mike: I don't know if that's ever happened, we don't really play after-party music, so it doesn't come up too often. You know, we're doing an after-show, we're DJing in Tampa after our show, I don't know if it's announced yet or not.

You're probably doing it with Theo, I'll ask Theo to see what's allowed to be announced.

Mike: Yeah, Theo asked me, so I said I'd run it by the band. They were cool with it as long as we didn't have to play emo.

Forgive me for not knowing this, but I think you always talked about going to Japan with this band, has that happened yet?

Nate: To Japan? Yeah, I think we've gone twice with American Football. That's always my favorite place to go, except there was recently this article in the New Yorker that was about people like, renting family members to go to their weddings and funerals and to even act as like, their children or wives if they've been estranged from the family, so they hire actors to come portray loved ones and it's, really very odd, and Japan is just stranger and stranger. I feel like the more naive I am about Japan the more I like it, once I learn more about it I'm like, "Oh that's actually kinda fucked up, why are so many people killing themselves?" It's so weird.

Mike: Are you saying that we should hire Japanese people to just be American Football, we don't even need to go there anymore?

I'm surprised there isn't at least like a Korean version of American Football, I feel like the K-Pop industry would've picked up on that and put it together.

Mike: I mean the band "Chinese Football" even exists, and they're great, they're really good.

I mean I can't understand anything they're saying.

Mike: I mean I'm not gonna translate the lyrics, but from the little I know, it sounds great.

You know when the guy wrote the lyrics the first time, it was so long ago he doesn't really identify with them anymore, so you shouldn't read too much into them.

Mike: I get the picture.

Well, thanks for your time guys. Safe travels, and we'll see you when you get to Florida.

Nate: Thanks, Ray.

Mike: Thanks for your work.

About The Authors

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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