Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Interview with Ary Lehrer (ex Poison the Well and Foolproof)
Ary Lehrer was a fixture of the South Florida scene in the 90s, having played in both Poison the Well and Foolproof. He was nice enough to take time out of his day to talk with me and here's what went down
• First off introduce yourself and what bands you have been in.
Aryeh Lehrer - Poison The Well and Foolproof
• When did you first start attending shows?
I first started going to shows back in the early 90s. I wasn’t even old enough to drive yet so I used to make my parents drop me off around the corner from places like Cheers, Far Out Records, and The Edge(now Revolution) to avoid tarnishing my 14 yr. old street cred hahah. I realized quickly that I needed to find a friend with a driver’s license.
• What bands were you into when you started going to shows?
When I first started going to shows I was all about the stuff being released on Lookout Records (The Queers, Screeching Weasel), Epitaph (Pennywise, Bad Religion), and Fat Wreck. As far as local stuff, I really started out going to see bands like Hudson, Radiobaghdad, The Crumbs, Against All Authority, etc. Mostly the Miami Punk stuff. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I started getting into hardcore. I remember one of my first hardcore shows being Tension. I was blown away by the energy they got from the crowd and their singer Mike was doing these crazy high Ray of Today style jumps all over the stage. It was freeking electric and totally got me hooked. After that I started getting into bands like Earth Crisis, Strife, Snapcase..mostly all of the mid 90s Victory stuff that we all grew up on. The pinnacle of local hardcore for me came a little while later when I got to see Culture...I think it was the Born of You CD release party..when they had Damien singing for them and Wylie and Thurston were playing guitar. Those guys absolutely killed it. I left that show thinking that was something I for sure needed to become a part of.
• What do you feel your biggest accomplishment was as far as the South Florida scene goes?
I think the first Poison The Well cd really set the tone for what that band was going to become and the influence they have had on music today. When I think back to the diverse group of individuals with varying influences, ideas, and styles that went into that record, it's a wonder we were able to write music together. I came in there wanting to play super heavy stuff. Ryan Primack shows up playing Rush riffs on the guitar. At the time Hornbrooke just wanted to see how fast he could play punk rock beats. Somehow all of these random ideas mixed with a bunch of youthful exuberance became that album. I think when it came down to it, we just wrote an album that we all liked. We weren’t really trying to impress anyone or consciously break any new musical ground or anything. We just wanted to have a good time and write music that we could enjoy. Clearly those guys have taken their music to much higher levels these days, but I think its sticking to that same "lets write music we like" attitude we had back then that has made them great.
• Can you remember anything specific that made South Florida different from other music scenes?
I think the biggest thing that made our scene unlike most others was the unity between the different genres. In visiting a lot of other scenes, there always seemed to be this divide between the different sects of the music scene. The hardcore kids didn’t go to punk rock shows and the emo kids didn’t go to HC shows. I remember our scene feeling like this huge melting pot of musicians that just wanted to play music and have a good time. You even saw a lot of musicians in multiple bands in different genres. Look at a guy like Chad Gilbert who started out playing bass in Tension and singing for Shai Hulud who then ends up starting New Found Glory. Or Chris and Ryan coming from playing in a Fat Wreck style punk band like Last Minute to being in Poison The Well. Or even myself going from singing in Poison The Well to playing guitar in Foolproof. Most of those guys had never even really listened to Poison The Well when I joined that band. You didn’t really see that in a lot of other scenes in those days. Most people just stuck to what they knew, or were known for. I think you see the crossover a lot more now. I guess we were just ahead of our time haha.
• Can you tell us a story or something memorable that you remember from your time attending shows in South Florida?
One of my claims to fame has always been that I was one of the few people to see Shai Hulud perform with Damien Moyal on vocals. Shai Hulud is one of my all time favorite bands and "Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion" is one of the greatest albums ever..Period !! However, Shai Hulud did a recording of a lot of those songs with Damien singing and it was just incredible. Chad probably had one of the greatest voices in HC history but that recording was like a completely different band. If I’m not mistaken, Jason Lederman also played drums on that recording.
• You were an original member of Poison the Well. How did the band get started?
I used to play in this old school style hardcore band with Lowell (Promise No Tomorrow), and Peter Bartsokas (Bird of Ill Omen). A while after that band ended, I just kind of decided I wanted to take a stab at singing for a hardcore band (not as easy as it looks!!) I had been friends with Ryan Primack for a long time and I knew that although he played bass in Last Minute, he was actually a phenom on the guitar. So I called him up and pitched him on a "hardcore side project"...After he agreed, I enlisted an old friend of mine Russ Saunders to play guitar. Russ and I had known each other for years from skating and punk rock shows and stuff. I had also just met this kid Shane (Halpern) who just moved down here from NC and played bass. Originally, South FL HC scene staples Chuck Deuce and Derek Shamora were supposed to play drums and sing, respectively, but we could never get them to show up for a practice. So Ryan got Chris, who was playing in Last Minute with him at the time, to come play with us. After our first few practices, we realized Shane had a killer voice. So we decided to make him the second vocalist and I got this guy Andrew (Abramowitz), whom I met through his sister who I went to HS with because she thought the stickers on the backs of our cars seemed eerily similar, to join as well. So solidified the original lineup. (We ended up trading Shane to Keepsake for Duane Hosein and a 2nd round draft pick before we recorded the first album)
• Can you tell us some of the highlights of being in the band?
To be honest, I think the coolest thing about my time spent playing is the earmarks in the history of others. Touring with Poison The Well, we got to play with some pretty awesome bands early on in their careers. Touring with bands like Twelve Tribes and playing basements and squatter houses around the country with bands like Cave In and Saves the Day. That’s the type of stuff you don’t forget. And on a local note, getting to be a part of a scene that bred the careers of bands like Shai Hulud,New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional and a ton of other bands who exploded out of South Florida was pretty cool too. We can all say "we were there when..."
• After Poison the Well, you played guitar in Foolproof. How did you get hooked up with them?
I had seen Foolproof play quite a few times waaay back in the day when Andres played drums and sang and never really took notice of them. After Poison The Well, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to some guys in Miami and we started a band called Once A Hero. That band lasted about 10 shows, one of which was at The Skatepark with Foolproof. At this point they had gotten a new drummer and Andres was now solely the singer. Best move they ever made moving that guy out from behind the drums. They put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen that night. Absolutely blew every other band (including my own) off the stage. The one thing they seemed to be missing was a second guitarist. I got Andres' email from one of the guys in my band and wrote him this message about how they killed it that night but that I really thought adding a second guitarist would make them even that much better. At first, he kind of brushed me off telling me they weren’t really looking to add a second guitarist because they had had some issues with their last one and stuff. But I guess I bugged him enough because after a few more emails back and forth, he agreed to let me audition to play with them. I went to his house and got a copy of their demo to learn a few of their songs. I actually remember sitting with Ryan Primack, of all people, listening to that demo and figuring out the songs by ear together. About 10 practices and two shows later they finally told me I could be in the band and two weeks later we were out on tour with Caught Inside.
• Are you doing anything musically now?
Unfortunately not as much as Id like to be. I sometimes get the itch to write new stuff and record it in my buddy’s home studio, but nothing serious. Unfortunately the responsibilities of adulthood have taken their toll so these days I’m a suit and tie kinda guy. Damn Corporate America haha. At least I’ve got a mind full of memories though ! Most people don’t even have that.
• Thanks for doing the interview. Any last words or shout outs?
My pleasure bro. Props to you for putting this website or blog or whatever you want to call it together. This is one hell of a documentary of a scene that was a hugely influential part of my life and the lives of a lot of others. And for everyone who was around back in those days, "we'll always have the memories." Peace.