Once, Matt Lamkin (vocals, guitar), Matty McLoughlin (guitar), David Lantzman (bass guitar), and Brian Hill (drums), were known as The Muslims, but the name (as you might’ve already guessed) attracted much “ignorant and racist” attention. So, the quartet made the bold move to instead become The Soft Pack — which sounds considerably…errr, softer, but here’s a friendly tip: Refrain from Googling ‘soft pack’ at work. Or when there are children present. Or your Mom. (You’re welcome).

As any band with an inflammatory name can attest, sometimes that name is more than enough; it gets you talked about, it gets you blog love, and suddenly  people are interested in your music. In response to the fanfare, The Muslims-turned-The Soft Pack quickly released their self-titled, 2009 debut. The headiness and urgency that swirled all around them was apparent.

Now in 2012, after taking time to slow things down and to actually consider their future, the quartet decided to boldly say ‘fuck it’ to previously-earned labels and released the carefully-crafted Strapped: a sophomore record full of risks, and as varied and diverse as the guys themselves.

Smack on release day, while on tour is support of said sophomore LP,  Matty explains the important decisions they’ve made — and are prepared to keep making — to preserve a future for The Soft Pack.


So congrats to you on release day! Are you experiencing ‘Exam Day’ butterflies or ‘Christmas Day’ butterflies?
Kind of both. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care at all what people think of the album, but we’ve been working on this album for two years and it’s exciting to share it and to finally have an updated representation of what we are and where we’re at.

How are you celebrating the big day?
We’re in Austin on tour. The shows have been good so far and it feels great to be out there again. We’ve been kind of out of the game for a couple years.

What have you been doing since the last record?
Constantly writing and recording; we wanted to really take our time. The first one was pretty rushed after The Muslims thing started to get press and then we were on tour for a long time, so we were just really excited to get home and record a new one and really branch out.

What’s your starting point when you set about writing a new record?
The music we were listening to on the road in the van for those two years we were touring is really where the new album began.
We were listening to a lot of Morrissey, for example, and that’s where a lot of the saxophone stuff comes from. In the van, we’d listen, talk about the things we wanted to do, and really pondered the direction of the band and where we would go next.

And what is that direction?
Basically, just to make an album that we would love listening to. We stayed away from listening to Garage rock and all the genres we’d been compared to with the first record. We’re all really big pop fans so we thought, ‘Let’s just fuck cohesiveness and make a mix-tape style record and throw in all the different styles we like; let’s just totally not care and throw in some curve balls.’

So, overall, what drives you to create music together? What’s The Soft Pack’s ultimate goal?
We’re motivated to impress each other and ourselves; that’s key. We’re all really driven people and I think you have to be to do this, you know? Next, we want to know we have the respect of our peers because it’s cool when someone you really like comes to you saying that they like what you’re doing. It’s important to us to progress and feel brave enough to do shit that people may or may not like. Old fans probably won’t like the song, Bobby Brown, but we wanted to do a track like that for the sake of trying something new and to show that we had the balls to put it out even if it wasn’t going to be popular.

I imagine the sophomore album is a difficult one to make because you want to cater to the fans that loved what you did the first time, but you also want to demonstrate that there are other things you can bring to the table…
Anyone I like doesn’t make the same record twice – except maybe AC/DC who’s my favorite band. I like when artists get weird and some of my favorites albums are ones that were totally bagged on at the time, where people were like, ‘What are you doing?’ You have to be tough enough to make things you know won’t be necessarily liked in order to satisfy yourself artistically. We couldn’t take two years to make a second record that sounds just like the first one — that’s so fucking boring! We’d be dead in the water.

But yet, you still care a little when the record actually comes out (laughs).
Oh man…I’ve been Googling ‘The Soft Pack’ like, a thousand times today (laughs). Nobody else in the band is like this but me, but now that it’s out, I do want to see the reaction; you just can’t worry about all that while you’re in the studio cause you won’t be able to accomplish anything.

So what are your favorite tracks from Strapped?
My two favorites are Bobby Brown and Tallboy. I love the lyrics to Tall Boy. We were listening to a lot of Stones records like Tattoo You and Emotional Rescue. I like how it’s mid-tempo and how it sounds very — fuck, I hate to say it — ‘bar band’; it’s not a George Thorogood fucking thing, but it’s like a Stones-esque, relaxed kind of thing. And Bobby Brown is just so catchy and different from anything we’ve done and it’s more of a statement.

It’s easy to pick out favorites, but was there one that was super tough to pull together but that you felt you had to see through?
Well, Bobby Brown was that one, too. We recorded that thing like, 7,000 fucking times. We finally got it right with our friend Rob Barbato who’s a producer out in LA who’s done a record with The Babies, Cold Showers and we worked with him before on song called Parasites. So yeah, that one was so challenging but it was all about us breaking out of what we were doing and putting our money where our mouth is and just not giving a fuck. It’s weird, but it shows growth. I mean, 2008? That shit’s over.

When you listen to Strapped 5 or 10 years from now, what will it most remind you of?
We were really burnt out after touring the last record. We felt like we’d been through a lot, you know? So I think I’ll look back on Strapped and say, ‘That’s the record that saved us and allowed us to make more records.’ We truly shut out everyone and everything and recorded this record the way we wanted to; I think I’ll remember that about it. Everyone worked so hard on this thing and had so much courage when doing it.

You mentioned earlier that the first one was rushed, so was it less sincere in any way or somehow more arbitrary in its process?
We’re proud of that record. We were trying to capture what the band sounded like live. I do love it; it has great songs on it, but it starts and then it ends. It’s fast all the time and kind of flat lines, you know? You can only push so hard before you hit the glass ceiling. You have to pull back sometimes. There’s tension on that album and it’s balls to the wall the whole time…I think it’s more important to have some back and forth and different styles, you know?

I just recently watched your terrific promo clip, Hal Clapp vs. The Soft Pack, which is pretty awesome. How did that all come together?
All of us love to go out to comedy shows and we all have the same sense of humor and we’re huge Bob Odenkirk fans. We love how he doesn’t do shit he doesn’t want to do. A friend’s brother is a comedy writer who has a party in his backyard every year where bands play raise money for schools. We played that and Bob was there; he came up to Matt after our set and told him that he was a fan of the band. They started talking and kept in contact afterward and we sent him a copy of the album when it was finished. He was like, ‘Oh, I’d love to do a video or promo thing, so all of it — the John and Yoko bed-in thing and his character of the old, cantankerous guy — was essentially all Bob’s idea. We showed up and he improvised for maybe 20 minutes and we were like… rolling on the floor. It was a pretty special moment for us in our career even though it had little to do with the music. We just let Bob be awesome and went along with whatever came out, you know? It was pretty fucking amazing to be three feet away from him as he’s doing his thing. He’s so funny!

Of course, John and Yoko’s famous bed-in happened in Montreal. Have you been to Montreal before?
Yeah, we’ve played there and really like it. There are a lot of awesome bands there, too; We’ve actually become friends with No Joy who are awesome and super funny and cool. The food is great and the people are really nice, though the city has a crazy reputation of stealing bands’ shit…like whole buses and stuff! We’ve been told to really watch our gear.

It’s not even just bands’ gear. Several weeks ago, 30 million dollars worth of maple syrup was absconded with not too far from Montreal.
Jesus Christ! Amazing.

That’s one sophisticated heist too. Maple syrup is expensive – but 30 million dollars worth? That took some planning!
That’s so crazy…I totally want to know how they did that!

Band gear and maple syrup: valuable, sought-after commodities here.

So, do you know how to say hello in French?

Yeah! There you go. It’s cool if you say something in French to the crowd. I promise you, they will love you for it.
I’m so doing it! I’ll totally pull that out of my bag of tricks.


Strapped is out now on Mexican Summer.

The Soft Pack tour dates
10-02 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
10-03 Washington, DC – Black Cat
10-05 Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
10-06 Boston, MA – Middle East
10-07 Montreal, QC – Le Divan Orange
10-09 Toronto, Ontario – Garrison
10-10 Toronto, Ontario – Garrison
10-11 Detroit, MI – Magic Bag
10-12 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10-13 Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club
10-16 Seattle, WA – Crocodile
10-17 Portland, OR – Doug Fir
10-18 San Francisco, CA – Slim’s

pixel The Soft Pack: Fuck then, this is now