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A Conversation with Bryan Funck

We sat down to talk with Bryan Funck of Thou (his band) and Sisters In Christ (his record shop) about the evolution of the music scene, Bryan's personal growth and values, and the charm of making records. Our long-form interview weaves through the topics of booking shows pre-internet, starting a band, toxic masculinity, and lands us at an appreciation – and playlist – for modern pop country.

Photo: Michael Tucker

We sat down to talk with Bryan Funck of Thou (his band) and Sisters In Christ (his record shop) about the evolution of the music scene, Bryan's personal growth and values, and the charm of making records. Our long-form interview weaves through the topics of booking shows pre-internet, starting a band, toxic masculinity, and lands us at an appreciation – and playlist – for modern pop country.

How did you get started in the scene?

I was friends with a band in high school, this band Head Pro, and they just started playing shows. Basically the first couple shows I went to were at middle school fairs. St. Pius and Hynes. So those were probably my first two shows. It was just their band and a bunch of other people, high school aged, that we knew were in bands and then they started playing real shows…

Probably around the same time, like ’96-97, that's probably when I first started going to show shows. There was the Faubourg Center, which was where Mason Music is now. And that had shows all the time. And so basically these bands with people I knew were playing shows there, and then we'd go and we'd see flyers for other shows there, some other places, so I just started tracking stuff down. Also, I’m from way out in Metairie, but I was driving pretty young. I started driving, I had a car when I was 15, almost as soon as I could get it – basically because I went to Jesuit and my parents didn't want to have to bring me to school. So they got me sorted out as quick as they could so they wouldn't have to bring me to school anymore. But I would also just go wherever, so if I saw a flyer for something, there was Monaco Bob's right up the street from here, and Mermaid Lounge and stuff, so when I saw flyers for that stuff I would just go to anything. So that's the start.

Were there also house shows then, or were there so many spaces that were real venue spaces that house shows weren't much of a need?

No, there were house shows - I think the first house space I went to was this spot called The Ranch, probably like five minutes from here on Roberts Street.

I think at one point, it must have been the summer of '98, me and this girl I was dating were walking down Decatur and I had an Earth Crisis shirt on, and randomly some dude pulls over in his car and is like "Hey you guys like punk shows? You got an Earth Crisis shirt on." And I was like yup. He was like "I'm going to this house show, ya'll want to go?" And we were like yeah! We just got in a car with a stranger, drove from downtown, drove uptown to Robert Street and went to a house show.

How long was it before you started playing in a band?

Probably '98. '98 I was in a band called Morality Dictates that barely played two shows, maybe. '98 or '99 I was in a band called Chopsley, like a hardcore band. So pretty early.

What motivated you to start a band?

There weren't really any hardcore bands and me and my friend, this guy Steve Springer, were way into mid 90s metalcore stuff, and there weren't any bands like that. Somewhere in the late 90s this band Indignation was around and they were like the closest thing to that. They broke up and there wasn't really anything else like that. That's how I got into booking shows too, was the bands I wanted to hear just weren't playing here, so I basically just would write letters. At the time, it was still pre-internet/the beginning of the internet, so you just write them a letter and say hey come play in this town. I went to Loyola in '98, and that was the first time I had email and access to the internet, so then I just started searching for bands and emailing every band I liked to come play New Orleans.

Hell yeah. That's awesome. And then you started a platform on the internet at some point? When did you start NOLADIY?

Yeah. That probably started in like '98 or '99 or something like that. Mainly it came from missing one too many shows of bands I really liked. Another house, Bryce’s Nowe Miasto was around, starting in like '97. And at the time, the Nowe Miasto people were sort of at war with the crowd of locally grown, not quite hardcore but not quite metal stuff that was going on. Those two scenes were butting heads. I think the Nowe Miasto folks were just hyper PC, and not in a bad way…it's a lot like how things are now.

But those scenes were butting heads. Those bands, it’s people from here…they'll say things to rile people up or say certain things to almost pay lip service to a certain fucked up ideal. Some people just can't see that for what it is and move past it. And I get that. It's tedious and irritating.

And so basically, a lot of those scenes became very insular, especially the Nowe Miasto – the deep punk kind of stuff. They would only promote to people they knew were down with their ethics. So I would just miss all kinds of shows because people weren't like flyering for them or putting them in a place where it was easy to find them. So basically, I just got on this kick where I was hunting down flyers for information for shows and then I would just put it on a comprehensive list – but it was more or less just a list for me.

“That's how I got into booking shows too, was the bands I wanted to hear just weren't playing here, so I basically just would write letters. At the time, it was still pre-internet/the beginning of the internet, so you just write them a letter and say hey come play in this town.”

Bryan at his record shop, Sisters in Christ

Was NOLADIY online at this point?

Well, it was on AngelFire, then at some point my freshman or sophomore year at Loyola I realized they give every student free web space. So then it was a LoyNo.edu site for a long time. Then one of my friends from high school, Trey Manthy – a computer programmer – was like, "You can just buy a URL and mask it as something cool or whatever and also I can rewrite this code and make it easier and blah blah blah.” And so the code we have now, he must have written that in the early 2000s. It's outdated, but at the time it was great.

Yeah, does it still work for you?

Yeah, it still works. I've actually been trying for the last ten years unsuccessfully to recode it. But it's a big task. The way the site is set up, it basically hinges on people manually putting information in. So if a venue or promoter or myself doesn't go and put every show in there, it just doesn't get up. These days I'm so busy it's just hard to make the time to do that data entry where you have to sit there for two to three hours and mine every website’s calendar for shows. It sucks. I need a programmer.

You've always seemed really busy to me, but it seems like a new level of busy-ness in your life right now. What all do you have going on?

Thou is just real busy; the shop has been busy. I'm in another band, I'm working on trying to get those two or three records out. That might be it. And then just life stuff, I'm in a relationship and I have a dog and cats and a house, so that stuff has to get maintained, I have to make time for all that. I don't have to – I want to.

How long have you been doing the shop (Sisters in Christ)?

We've been here since 2015 and we were kind of in limbo for maybe a year or two. Before that, I was doing records at the Iron Rail since 2006, 2007? So a little while.

When you were selling records at the Iron Rail was that your first venture in sales?

No, when I first started doing shows in like '98/99, I did distribution. Either at shows I was doing or shows I was tabling, I would have boxes of CDs or records and stuff. Then I stopped doing that at some point a few years before Katrina. Maybe I was doing it even up until Katrina. And then Katrina hit and I left for a year and when I came back in 2006 I started doing Iron Rail.

The sign outside of Sisters in Christ on Magazine

Did distributing start out as seeing a genuine need and trying to fill that? Or was it mostly stuff that you were into and you just wanted to be around it? What was the thing that most kept you going?

I think both of those things. I think coming from hardcore, that was the thing – you go to shows and there would be somebody there with boxes of records. I mean even when I was coming up going to the Faubourg center, there were a few people I would see at a table with all kinds of stuff, it was awesome.

And then kind of getting keyed into record shops, Underground Sounds, and then Rocks Off and Metropolis were up the street for a minute. I don't know, I think part of it too, when I started doing Iron Rail stuff, it was at a point where I was just coming back from being gone from Katrina and I got rid of a lot of shit, and I really liked not having stuff. And so doing the records at Iron Rail was sort of a way for me to get the records that I want in there and sort of have a collection without having a collection. And also push my personal taste on other people, you know?

That was really appealing. Probably the first three years I was there, that was a big part of the appeal. I didn't have to actually own the stuff, and I could still throw my opinion on anybody that would give me two seconds. Up until we bought our house – then I was like fuck it, I'll start buying records again.

Now that you've been releasing your own records, has that been a major part of the appeal?

Definitely the aesthetic and all the stuff that goes along with the physical record, I love it. I absolutely love it. And that's the thing that at this point, more than anything else, keeps me wanting to do bands — it's putting out the record. The physical thing that has all the ideas and just everything on one thing that you can touch and look at and kind of scrutinize. I love that. A piece of art; a sort of lasting thing. More so than shows, even. When I was younger I used to love playing shows and whatever. Now I don't even like playing shows any more.

Yeah. I can see how you are also into the life, the journey, the ongoing saga of releasing records for the band — as well as even some of the criticism. You recently shared all these hilarious biting reviews and comments on social media?

Yeah. That's my favorite. You know, we take Thou really seriously in a way. In terms of what we're putting out there. It is very serious for us. But on the other hand, we don't take ourselves too seriously. And I have never understood people who get mad about the bad reviews. I think bad reviews and people that just like talking shit are hilarious. I have like a collection of all kinds of people talking shit about Thou – it's just great. It's actually a kind of a hidden page deep in the Thou website. I want to do a zine, I want to do like a printed zine I can give out at shows of all of the fan reviews.

I just think it's funny. Maybe too it's because a lot of people would always talk shit about me specifically, as a person in the punk scene down here. Maybe because I am sort of out front doing things, or because I have a big mouth about a lot of things.

“That's the thing that at this point, more than anything else, keeps me wanting to do bands — it's putting out the record. The physical thing that has all the ideas and just everything on one thing that you can touch and look at and kind of scrutinize. I love that.”

Man. Has there been anything that has really stung, or caused you to change something about yourself?

No, it's usually like more serious things that sting or cause me to change, you know? It's usually like a deeper, more serious issue. Never something dumb like the internet saying whatever about me. I mean it's always gonna be like, somebody actually having a conversation with you, pointing out some horrible flaw or grave oversight. We've definitely made a few.

Over the years, what have you learned from people pointing out your flaws?

Yeah, I mean I think realizing how close and how insidious toxic masculinity can be, even when you don't think it is, was something we've had to kind of learn the hard way. I don't want to dig into the details, but yeah. But that thing where if I see you, I might tease you a little bit about something or whatever. That kind of alpha male thing. I don't know. Usually if I'm teasing someone it's not to bully them or demean them; it's more like put my arm around them, hey, tease me back, you are part of this. We're cool, we can tease each other like this, blah, blah, blah.

But I think that, I feel like the older I get, especially the more women I talk to about this, it definitely seems like a sort of obnoxious and insecure way of communicating with people. I don't think it will ever change in terms of people I've been friends with since I was thirteen or fourteen, or probably the other people in Thou, but...I try to be a little bit more mindful of that.

And we’ve gotten in trouble with it before, where somebody was just joking around making fun of somebody and the other person didn't realize we were just joking and it ended up causing a little bit of drama. But to be honest with you, I would prefer a situation where we know we irritated somebody or upset somebody, than a situation where me or somebody else is saying something that’s supposed to be innocuous and you don't hear about it cause they like hold it inside and don't want to say something to us about it, you know what I mean? That's the worst.

You definitely seem to have a set of values, where would you say you're coming from?

I mean, look. I am absolutely 100% of the very politically correct anarchist, milieu. You know that's where I'm coming from, but at the same time, I don't know if it's just cause I'm from here, because I grew up in a family that's not at all like that. That I just have a tolerance for certain people acting out. Part of it might be cause I'm a straight white dude. I don't have to think about those things in terms of it being threatening or whatever. But yeah, I don't know. Maybe part of it's because the line of work I'm in, I absolutely have to work with and tolerate a lot of scum bags constantly.

I would definitely say that I'm of the PC, weenie, soy boy, cuck, PC, fucking whatever. That's where I'm coming from. But also, other than artistically, my artistic things, I'm usually not trying to proselytize that stuff.

“I think realizing how close and how insidious toxic masculinity can be, even when you don't think it is, was something we've had to kind of learn the hard way.”

Yeah. Have you seen, like over the past twenty years, do you feel as though more people are sharing your values?

I think it's just the natural evolution of society that is moving towards progressive thought. A lot of the stuff that’s a hot topic in mainstream conversations, like radical feminism and trans rights and identity – all these identity pods – it's just funny to me cause all this stuff is like stuff that I've been reading about and talking about for like fifteen years. Not to put myself on a pedestal, it's just funny to see that these things that were sort of the thing for the punk house or whatever, is now the mainstream thing. Which I think is great, that's how those things become normalized, and society moves forward.

I think overarching movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter and all this stuff, I can see how those things seem very out there and heavy handed to a sort of white suburban middle class type person who isn't ready for that kind of change. And those things aren't perfect. You know those movements aren't perfect in the way that they have a certain bludgeoning component to them. But to me, I just see it as a sort of pendulum swinging in that direction. Things have been sort of totally fucked up for so long that as these ideas sort of become more prevalent in mainstream thought, the push is to really get rid of all of this bad stuff and sort of pave this new way. If it will work or not, I don't know.

Yeah. Are you hopeful?

Yeah, oh absolutely. I mean what's the alternative, to like wait for some Ayn Rand fire storm to you know…the world to be in chaos, all kinds of people die. Yeah, I would prefer things to change peacefully. Also I think that that kind of stuff is a very slow change and there are so many people that have such antiquated views of how the world should be that it's really a generational waiting game as you wait for people to die off. People to have these sort of fucked up views to die and be gone, you know? I mean that's really all it is. And kind of hoping that younger people are adapting more progressive ideas. Which is what it seems like to me is happening. But I'm not like a political science major or anything.

Have you seen first hand your direct impact on a younger generation?

I don't know, maybe getting people to go to shows. People have told me that some of their first shows were shows that I put on or whatever, which is cool. I don't know, if I wasn't doing it, maybe there just would have been somebody else doing it, you know? Filling that spot. I haven't really been doing shows for the last year or so. Stuff is still happening. Bands still play. Whatever.

People say nice things to us about Thou. It's great. I'm glad. I'm really happy it resonates with people. But you know, there are also people who we distance ourselves from, who have really fucked up negative views, that try to get in to Thou and be pals with us, and it's like I don't want to be pals with some white power shit. I'm not interested in that. I don't want to be pals with some fucking misogynist knuckle dragger that doesn't understand really basic social code. I don't know, Thou is just a weird thing cause the metal stuff is…I don't know. I feel like it's opened up a lot the last few years as far as the sort of politics that are in it, but there is still always this sort of chuckle head, dumb ass, metal dude mentality that we're in conflict with. Some old dude mentality that we're in conflict with. No matter what we do, no matter how effeminate we try to make our records and our shirts and whatever. It's like people still don't get it. They see what they want to see.

I don't know how we can be clearer about certain things. Certain basic political things.

“People to have these sort of fucked up views to die and be gone, you know? I mean that's really all it is. And kind of hoping that younger people are adapting more progressive ideas. Which is what it seems like to me is happening. But I'm not like a political science major or anything.”

Yeah. On the other hand you definitely do a good job of like being part of progressive communities and playing unusual venues or art scenes outside of standard metal or DIY music venues.

Well, part of that's just because it's fun. You know what I mean? And that's like the stuff we like. People always act like we're some like big built up DIY band or whatever. And compared to some other bands, maybe we are. But we're interested in those things because they make sense on a practical level. It makes sense, it's more fun, more interesting to do it that way. Or it's easier for us to just take care of something ourselves instead of handing it off to somebody else to do.

While there are definitely a couple of anarchist, anti-capitalist types in Thou, it's not like as a band we would be opposed to some awesome major label deal where we're getting millions of dollars. I would love that. Bring it on, you know? As long as the art doesn't have to suffer in any way, shape, or form. As long as we don't have to make any concessions that we wouldn't be comfortable making. Thou was a strange thing for me because it's been a sort of thing where it's been like an experiment for me to do different things that are maybe outside my wheelhouse a little bit or just try certain things that I normally wouldn't try.

What are some of the more unusual situations?

I don't know. Playing weird festivals. We did that Scion stuff for a while, which people hated. But it was such a ridiculous money grab and a easy way to sort of take money from people who had all kinds of money to burn and use it for cool stuff. With really making no compromise at all. I mean we even did some stuff that was kinda sketchy and kinda fraudulent on our part, as far as that goes. Which I don't want to repeat here, but in terms of getting some of that money out of the hands of some people that we probably don't like that much, and kind of reapplying it, reusing it for some people that we do like a lot more.

I don't know, we haven't really done a lot of stuff that feels too weird to me. But maybe that's just because with Thou it's always very gradual. Every movement is very granular. We've done a few things where we had a booking agent help us. Which is something we normally wouldn't do. Even then, the guy that was the bookie was a good pal of ours that we've known for like years and years. So it was less of a business thing and more of another person that we're friends with helping us.

That idea of shifting money from corporate parties and giving to others, that seems like a big part of your mission, if you will. I bet you would do more of that if you could.

If the opportunities were as easy as they were with the Scion thing, absolutely. I mean look, I do AV work. I do conference work, for conventions and business meetings. And that whole thing, that whole business, everything that surrounds it is a joke. It's ridiculous. It's just people throwing all kinds of money away, spending money on nothing. That's a whole other thing. But the very job I have is almost like that. You know what I mean? For what you're getting paid, you're not really having to sacrifice that much. That's usually the way it seems.

“While there are definitely a couple of anarchist, anti-capitalist types in Thou, it's not like as a band we would be opposed to some awesome major label deal where we're getting millions of dollars. I would love that. Bring it on, you know? As long as the art doesn't have to suffer in any way, shape, or form.”
“I just don't want to stay out late usually. But I don't know, maybe things will change. Maybe I'll get a second wind. I just hate bars. I wouldn't care as much if they weren't so shitty. If they were nice and clean, had some big windows, lights, and the shows weren't so late. I wanna be in bed. I wanna take a bubble bath, some bath salts, get in bed. I like getting up early – people should start doing some breakfast shows.”

What's next for Thou?

Touring. Then record again I guess. Put out more records. I don't know. We're trying to stay on a better schedule now. This newest batch of stuff we did was kind of a long time coming. So we're trying to not do that again. Trying to be a little bit more regular.

Yeah. That's cool. Who are some people in town that you think are doing the best right now? Who are some favorite other bands and stuff?

MJ Guider. Woof, Stevie's band. Everything that Canus and Ethan do – Mystic Inane, Special Interest. Patsy. Rimjob is real good. I think High is awesome. That Bulgarian choir, Trendafilka. Silver Goblin, my girlfriend's band. Casey's band Treadles. There are probably more I'm forgetting. Sorry.

It's alright. That's a great list. Is there anything you would say the scene is particularly lacking right now? Or something that you'd want to see?

It's hard for me to say because I don't get out as much anymore. Between Thou and shop and the house and the girlfriend and the dog and the cats and just being old and working all the time, I don't go to shows...I just don't go to shows like I used to. Now, when I go, it's really to see a friend's band if they're in town. Or somebody I'm good friends with from here that I want to go see. I don't stay up late anymore. That's part of the problem. I wish there were more spaces that weren't bars having shows that were earlier. You know. Done by ten o'clock.

There are spots, but even the spots that aren't bars, they still start so fucking late. I just don't want to stay out late usually. But I don't know, maybe things will change. Maybe I'll get a second wind. I just hate bars. I wouldn't care as much if they weren't so shitty. If they were nice and clean, had some big windows, lights, and the shows weren't so late. I wanna be in bed. I wanna take a bubble bath, some bath salts, get in bed. I like getting up early – people should start doing some breakfast shows. Thou's been talking about breakfast shows for years. We're probably the wrong band for it, but I think that would be fun.

Who else would do it?

That's the problem, we have to do it even though stylistically we're not the right band. I don't know. Musically, the stuff I've been listening to most is pop country. Radio 101.1, modern country pop stuff.

That's awesome. What are some names or songs that you're really into?

Every hit for the last two years. I've got a Spotify playlist, you can check it out, like a hundred songs. It's like Blake Shelton and Jon Pardi and Keith Urban. It's linked to the Thou Spotify. It's the featured playlist on the Thou Spotify artist account or whatever. I don't understand these people that have guilty pleasures or whatever. I've never understood guilty pleasures. Like what you like, you know what I mean?

I got in trouble one time, me and Michael had the spot at Gasa Gasa and some dude came in that I kinda know and basically he was asking for records and we didn't have them and I was kinda making fun of every record he was asking us for. He got mad. He was real mad about it. But who gives a shit what I think of some band you like – I don't give a shit what you think of anything I like. So why would you care what I like? You know what I mean? I don’t know. I just never understood that. But again, it's that fucking Alpha male dick wagging thing where you just have to tear each other down. That's the problem.

A few months back, Thou played a release show for the record Magus at DNO Downtown – you can watch that show, as filmed by Zack Shorrosh, here.

Below you'll find Thou's Modern Pop Country playlist.

Play on Spotify: Modern Pop Country.
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