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Midriff: Homework on the band bus

Midriff from Austria released their debut EP “Grassman’s Cottage” in 2010. Last year they first relased the longplayer “Broken Dreams” and in December the unplugged EP “Blackout”. In 2013 they are planning to promote both with an extensive tour. Reason enough to interview Paul Henzinger (drums and vocals), Joshua Lentner (guitar) and Jeremy Lentner (bass) via email.
Even in writing they appear so likeable I almost regretted not doing a face-to-face interview. Their music surely is something I’d like to hear more of, so if they happen to come to my neighbourhood, I’ll go to watch them.

Can you start with telling me a little bit about the history of Midriff? I read that you all grew up in the same village. Since when have you been making music together?
Jeremy: We’ve been making music together since the summer of 2008. Back then Josh’ and my high school band dissolved and we were looking for a suitable singer and drummer. We already knew Paul through friends (like you know each other in a village) and it just worked out.

How did you come up with your band name?
Paul: Dictionary! No, we were looking for a name that would describe our music and the music we like. The term midriff fits nicely with the Mirdriff’s earthy rocksound that comes from the belly.

You have already released 3 CDs, but you are not signed by a major label but distribute your music via Office4Music. Did you choose being independent, and if so why?
Partly... with Office4Music we have found a distribution partner that is fair and works well for us at the moment. Of course you can often sell more records with a label, but the music industry is changing largely at right now. A major deal would be great, but you have to get it first.

How come you released the unplugged EP “Blackout” only a few months after your full length CD “Broken Dreams” last year? How did you select the songs for “Blackout”?
Joshua: We have been playing unplugged from time since the beginning. Thus the fans have been persistent in asking for a little unplugged CD. It was also appealing to record the songs we mostly play at ou acoustic gigs. It was much fun.

How were the reactions to the different albums?
Paul: Very good. We got a lot of great feedback for both albums. The longplayer is more for the rock fans, whereas “Blackout” is more for fans and a much wider audience.

Can you describe for me how new songs come develop? Who writes the lyrics, who writes the music? Or is all of that teamwork?
Jeremy: There is no recipe for Midriff. Josh and I write a lot of riffs at home, record them, send them to Paul; he checks what he can do with drums and vocals, and then we meet in the rehearsal room to work on the songs. We are not really a jam-band, but that does not mean we don’t write songs while we are jamming; „Broken Dreams“ is a „jam-song“ for example, it just came together spontaneously.
Paul: The lyrics often develop after the music, but sometimes they exist before the music too. In that case we just see what fits with the music. Apart from myself, Jeremy often writes lyrics as well, and we have another ace up our sleeve – my brother Christoph has a talent for lyrics, and he leaves a few fragments to me from time to time.

On your website you say that your songs are inspired by everyday situations. Can you tell me what inspired you to write “Grassman’s Cottage”?
Joshua: The song tells a story of a partly fictional person who used to live in a very simple cottage in the woods close to our house. When we were kids, we often visited the cottage that was already in ruins then. The idea for the song came to us when we were looking for a good location to take band photos.

I think all your lyrics are interesting. How come they can’t be found online?
Good idea. Thanks!

Last year you played concerts in different European countries. Did the audience differ in those countries? How did people react?
The audience is different at every gig. It happens that one day you have a really dull audience and the next day you play in the neighboring city and people go totally wild. Generally you sometimes notice that the further from home, the more the audience appreciates it. England 2012 was a great experience for Midriff.

What would be a dream-tour or dream concert for you?
Joshua: A tour with Alter Bridge or Black Stone Cherry.
Jeremy: That would be great! But we are happy we’ll be touring Germany with Godsized in March.

I read that you, in addition to music you are also studying. How do you manage to balance university and being in a band?
Jeremy: No alcohol, no drugs, but lots of food. Then you’re only a bit tired the next day and can write a term paper on the bus from time to time.

What are you doing in your spare time when you’re not making music?
Jeremy: Booking! I don’t really have any hobbies that are not related to music. Maybe some sports.
Paul: I enjoy photography or I go driving my motorbike.
Joshua: American TV series are addictive...

What kind of music are you listening to when you are not playng music?
Paul: We all listen to different stuff, but we all love American rock sound like Alter Bridge, Creed, Black Stone Cherry and our all time favorite Audioslave just to name a few. I personally have been listening to Pink Floyd for as long as I can remember and also classical music.

What are your plans for this year?
Jeremy: In 2013 it is important to play live of course. We have two great records out and want to promote them as much as we can through concerts. In March we will play a few gigs in Germany, some with Godsized who were touring Europe with Black Label Society in 2011. There will also be same festival gigs, but I’m not supposed to talk about those yet.


Author: Stefanie Oepen, photos: Paul Henzinger
Date: 2013-01-25

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