When the Atlanta Mess-Around lost Columbus, Ohio’s New Bomb Turks as its second-day headliner, it quickly snagged the most-referenced band of its past festival programs–even though the band technically called it quits years ago. “It was the last thing on earth that we wanted to do, but you know, it was one of those things–bands playing music and stuff,” said Jesse Smith. “They break up, and then three years later they do a reunion show. It’s stupid.”
Carbonas has no interest in recording new music as Carbonas. In days leading up to the Mess-Around, Carbonas barely wanted to rehearse as Carbonas–not with new, scorching and rollicking efforts bearing their names (Gentleman Jesse, GG King, Barreracudas). So when Smith, former Carbonas bassist, and Greg King, former Carbonas vocalist, sat down to talk about the Atlanta Mess-Around amidst an odd combination of former band members, they touched upon both their many break ups and their founding gigs at Dottie’s. More importantly, though, they discussed their past struggles in shopping for pants.
So, did Damon [Hare, of Triple D's Productions] call you?
Smith: Well me and Damon book it. It was one of those things where we just knew. I say this a lot: I love playing in that band. I don’t know how good I would be in it.
King: It’s like riding a bike, I’m sure–right?
Smith: I still remember all this shit. We would play once a week to empty rooms in Atlanta for the longest time. I guess it’s like people give a shit now. I don’t know.
King: We peaked in the middle somewhere.
Smith: In the middle?
I realized that you guys broke-up so many times, which made me think, “This is the band who cried break up.”
Smith: Oh, you know how many times I quit the band? It was like, five times. I actually quit at one point, but it lasted for like a month.
King: Yeah, you were out of the band for like one month.
Why did you quit?
Smith: I don’t know. Carbonas is one of those very high-tension bands; we never disliked each other or anything like that, but it was always very explosive when we were together, you know what I mean? We’d be fine with everything, we’d bro down, then we’d get mad about something for no reason and then I’d punch Clay [Kilbourne, guitarist] in the face. That’s usually how shit went down, but if I’d punched Clay in the face, the next day I’d be like, “So, you fucking asshole, does you face hurt at all?” You know, my hand would be all busted up. He’d be like, “Did you punch me last night?”
King: Because he was a little drunk, you know.
Smith: I don’t remember what the question was. Did we answer it?
King: Other people would say this was the last Carbonas show ever. We would never say that necessarily. I can safely say though that we would never be a band again. We would never write new songs, like a new record. But playing as a band every couple of years, I don’t see that being out of the question.
Smith: It’s not that big of a deal. I like the band; it’s one of the few bands I’ve been in over the years and where I go, “Man, this was a good band.” It’s just classic punk rock, man. It’s BS, man. There’s a time and place for that.”
For fun, you mean?
Smith: Yeah. Punk rock’s not dead. I read that somewhere. The big thing is that it wasn’t ideal timing, you know what I mean? We could have waited a little bit longer to do the show, so it would have been more substantial.
Smith: Just a little more time to breathe. I guess time flies. It’s been four years or something, but it feels like we just broke up to us, and that probably has to do with the fact that we still see each other’s fucking faces every couple of days. I played with Dave [Rahn, drummer] for years after the Carbonas. I was in a band with him for a while, and Greg still plays with Clay, me and Greg have been playing together again for the past year. We’re always together, so aside from the fact that Josh [Martin, guitarist] is in New York, it’s like we see each other all the damn time. “It’s been so long bro; it’s fucking Monday.” I feel like, it might not be the Carbonas, but I still feel like our bands are carrying the torch a little bit–like GG King. I would say, I’d much rather see GG King play than play a Carbonas show.
King: Me too.
When I was looking through past Mess-Around programs, the name Carbonas is scattered everywhere as a reference point.
Smith: We were a big force in the Atlanta punk scene. Make sure to add the chuckles and the funny faces in the final version.
Greg, in what ways do you think you’ve changed from the start of Carbonas until now?
King: That I’ve changed? I don’t know.
Smith: Let me answer this one.
King: I suppose that Carbonas was in my early 20s, and now I’m in my late 30s. So I hope I’ve changed. I’m a bit more responsible; I’m not as focused on bands as I was back then.
Smith: You have two dogs.
What else are you focused on?
King: I don’t know. Lately, it’s hard to say. I’m trying to move on into adult-life stuff.
What does that mean?
Smith: A career?
King: A career.
Do you guys remember the first show you played as Carbonas?
King: When Jesse was in the band? Jesse, do you remember your first show?
Smith: My first show? I think it was at Lenny’s, or maybe it was still Dottie’s. I remember an early one was Die Rotz at the Neutron Bomb, and you were like, “These guys kind of suck, but they’re nice guys.” Turned out we really liked that band, but that was the warning I got. But there was one at Dottie’s. I remember thinking, I didn’t have the right clothes–you know what I mean?
King: No one really dressed like anything.
Smith: I know, but I still felt like I was wearing funny pants.
King: Yeah, okay.
Smith: I don’t know. I need more jeans.
What were you wearing?
Smith: I was wearing bondage pants. No, I’m just kidding. I think I was wearing cowboy pants, either Lee or Wrangler–stretchy pants, you know–but then I was like, “I can’t wear these pants in this band.” That’s what I think about all the time: pants.
King: Pants, pants, pants.
Smith: The whole time this interview’s been going I’ve been thinking about pants. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was wearing the wrong pants. But Clay–Clay never got the right pants.
King: Parachute pants. Zippers everywhere.
Smith: I think we spent a good portion of the time with the band, when we were together, making fun of Clay’s pants. He always had some questionable, questionable pants.
King: We had to make deals with him. “Look, Clay. You can only wear the purple parachute pants for this show, and we’ll, I don’t know, we’ll buy you an extra beer.”
Smith: I gotta say that it was the dark ages. When Carbonas started, we were a punk band. You know punk bands, they don’t wear the baggy clothes. They wear the tight-fitting clothes, you know what I mean? Looks better. So what we had to do in order to have these tight-fitting pants was we had to shop at the girls sections in the stores.
Was that weird at first?
Smith: Yeah. The thing that sucked was that you didn’t have anywhere to put your shit.
King: I always went to Charlie’s Trading Post, because they had out-of-print pants. Killed by Death pants. Old pants that they didn’t make anymore. Eventually they ran out of pants in my size. I was getting weird colors like orange just because they were in the right size. Then finally they ran out of my size, so I had to get girl jeans.
Smith:You joined us over at the Gap. Come join us at the Gap for girl jeans, bro. The pockets sucked, and I remember buying–this was the cut of the jeans–boyfriend pants. I basically fucking cross-dressed all the time just trying to have reasonably-shaped jeans. I can’t fucking piss in public,because the zipper is a fucking quarter of an inch long; I gotta drop trou to take a piss. But Clay would always buy the most fucking ridiculous girl pants–designs in the pockets and shit, not like Jersey Shore or anything like that, but like Hot Topic pants or zippers in weird spots. We would give him a hard time about it.
King: Which only made him want to do it more.
Smith: It’s not even us making fun of him that was fueling his fire. It’s that he’s so goddamn stubborn with all the decisions that he makes that he’s gonna follow through to the end no matter what.
King: It’s true. He still wears those fucking purple parachute pants.
Smith: He dyed them black though. They were tight-fitting pants, too. They looked ridiculous. We called them his purple people eaters.
I feel like you guys got a load off your shoulders.
Smith: What, with the pants? I’m not done. More about pants.
King: Do you have more questions about pants?
Photo Credit: Tim Song