Friday, January 24, 2014

Jim Berres of React! Records and Growing Stronger

I got to meet Jim Berres at the last React! Records showcase at Gilman a couple years ago. I was helping to put together records for the show and was having fun stamping the records. Mr. Berres was running the setup. I talked to him a little bit, and I thought he was really smart. It was cool because he and my friend J25 were playing in their new band Growing Stronger. They are a really awesome band, and you should go get their record at React! Records.

PMAKid: I know that you know I am a big fan of all the React Records bands. It is really cool how there are so many different kinds of bands. Can you tell me how you first got involved with React? I think you were there near the start when Aram first started React, right?

Mr. Berres: I was living in Colorado when the Get the Most – Core Values demo came out, so I had pre-ordered that record (glad I did, since I think it sold out during pre-orders!). I moved back to Seattle when Aram was putting out the Right Idea record, which is when I started helping out. When the label started it was being run from a friend’s house in Seattle and it was not much more than some of us sitting around, talking about hardcore, putting records together, and sending out orders. I was in grad school at the time, which provided me with some free time during the day and automatically nominated me to be the lucky person to take all of the orders to the post office. As time went on, I became more involved with the label and things grew from there. REACT! is about to put out the 40th release and I am still involved at one level or another.

PMAKid: My friend J25 is in Growing Stronger, but there are a bunch of other older straight edge guys in the band too. Why did all you guys want to start the band in the first place? Can you tell me about the members of Growing Stronger and what everybody does in their "real" life?

Mr. Berres: Growing Stronger was the brainchild of Kyle De Ville (aka Bubs) from Get the Most, GBNF, and a bunch of other NWHC bands. Everyone in GxS had been in bands before, but none of us had ever played with each other, which was part of the idea behind the band. I also think Kyle really wanted a band where he could do the things that none of his other bands would let him do. The GxS video is a perfect example of something Kyle was super excited for, but was never able to do prior to this band. I don’t know if the intent was to be an “older guy” edge band, but it kind of worked out that way. Here’s the run-down of the dudes in band:

J25 (bass) spends most of his time hanging out with Thomas (his awesome basset hound) and reading comics. He is now back in school for graphic design.

Greg (guitar) is busy being a new father, as he and his wife had their first baby last summer. He works as a developer for a video game company, which I think is pretty sweet.

Morgan (drums) spends most of him time consumed by music. He plays guitar in Clarity (check them out at and works at Guitar Center.
I spend most of my time either at work, outside, or hanging out with my girlfriend. I work for a company doing consulting work for some of the larger tech companies in the northwest.

Bubs is no longer in GxS as he moved down to Southern California at the end of 2012 to sit on the beach and drink virgin strawberry daiquiris. He and his wife have since moved to Portland as he couldn’t take the California heat. He claims he was kicked out of the band for liking hockey, which I can neither confirm nor deny.

PMAKid: One of the really cool things about the hardcore music community is how almost everybody is supportive of each other. That's what my dad always says, and I feel the same way. I love that I have made friends all over the world. Can you tell me your thoughts on this community?

Mr. Berres: I think the hardcore community is a large part of why I continue to be a hardcore kid, going to shows, playing music, helping out with labels, etc. Some of my best friends have been made through the hardcore scene and that is something I would never trade. Growing up I listened to a lot of punk music but was too preppy for the “punk” kids and too punk for the “preppy” kids at school. It wasn’t until I got to college that I was introduced to hardcore and felt like I truly had a music scene and community that I was a part of.

PMAKid: Obviously, you are straight edge. Can you tell me what being straight edge means to you? Were you always straight edge like Toby Morse, or did you come to be edge later like Aram?

Mr. Berres: I was not introduced to The Straight Edge until my freshman year of college by a guy in my dorms named Mike Medina. Mike continues to be one of my best friends and I will never forget what happened when he had me listen to Start Today. I drank a little bit during the end of high school and beginning of college, but it never really made sense to me. It was one of those things that I did to fit in, as it seemed like something all of my friends were doing. I was a bike racer at the time and I couldn’t figure out why I was spending all of this time and effort training, just to get drunk on Friday and Saturday nights. I starting claiming straight edge in February of 1998 and it remains one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I don’t have anything against people who drink, as some of my best friends and the people I love the most consume alcohol. I just hope that people are responsible with their choices and think about the repercussions of their actions. I am however continually appalled by the liquor industry, bar culture, and wine culture. It is impossible to go through a day without a constant reminder that drinking is something that is expected of someone my age and with that there is an immense pressure that doesn’t get any less as you get older.

Smoking on the other hand…well that just sucks.

PMAKid: It was really cool to see you in Pomona at the Revelation Records 25th Anniversary. I still think it was really funny how you got a pizza delivered to the plaza across the street from the show. I know some people do not like the reunion shows of some of the older bands. How do you feel about these shows? For me it was really cool because I got to see a lot of the bands that my dad saw in the 1980s. It was also cool because Dan O'Mahony pulled me up on the stage during Youth of Today. That was fun!

Mr. Berres: We were all starving and didn’t have time to go get some food without missing at least one of the bands we wanted to see! I think the delivery driver thought it was strange, but I made sure he got a good tip.

I’ve never been an anti-reunion guy, as it has allowed me to see some of the bands that got me into hardcore. I think for me it really depends on if the guys on stage are having fun, or if they are just going through the motions. I’m not going to name any names, but there have been a few reunions that I have seen where no one of the stage is smiling and none of them look like they are having fun. If that is the case, then what is the point?

I’m a little weirded out by some of the merch bonanzas that are associated to some of the reunion bands. It seems strange to me when there are private reunion shows, but public merch sales (where the band isn’t even playing). I guess the simplest way to deal with it is to not support it if you don’t like it.
It was awesome seeing you pulled onto stage during YOT. The younger kids at shows are the future of hardcore and experiences like that are what will keep kids coming to shows and hopefully bringing their friends with as they get older.

PMAKid: Is Growing Stronger thinking about doing any more records after the really cool "Toxic Fumes"? Are you guys going to be playing any shows? Especially outside the Seattle area?

Mr. Berres: We didn’t do much for a while because we lost our practice spot and people had been busy with life. We just went into the studio last weekend to record six new songs that are will be coming out via REACT! on a soon-to-be-officially announced project. I know we would all love to get down to California and out to the east coast, but we will see what happens over the next 6-9 months.

PMAKid: One of my coolest interviews was with your friend Aram. The stuff he said about how important it is to do well in school and get a good education is some of the coolest stuff in any of my interviews. What are your thoughts on education?

Mr. Berres: This was the primary issue that I didn’t fit in with the punk kids when I was in high school. I was raised to believe that getting an education is important and always did fairly well in school. The type of education you need really depends on what you want to do and what will make you happy. When I moved back to Seattle in 2008 it was to go back to school and get my MBA. I enjoyed the job I had at the time, but knew that I would need my MBA to progress with my career and I have no regrets with that decision. I’m not a huge fan of the school loan debt that I acquired during those two years, but I’m glad that I’m in a situation where I will be able to pay it off (eventually).

PMAKid: Here is the book and song question! What are your three favorite books and three favorite songs and why are they your favorite?

Mr. Berres: I’ll be honest with you; I’m not a big reader as I would rather put on a record than pick up a book. Most of my reading ends up being business related books that I wouldn’t say are my favorite reads ever. I will give you two of the more entertaining books that I have read recently (or am currently reading):

1 – The Passage – The best way to describe this book is a government experiment that leads to a post-apocalyptic survival story. They scary part for me was the thought that there are things going on in our world right now that could lead to this type of situation!

2 – DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow – I just picked this up and it is about skiing, the things we do for powder turns, and the effect that climate change is having on our winters. While most people would find it incredibly boring, this hits close to home as I try to spend as much of my time in the snow as I can.

Songs are going to be hard because I don’t know if I can limit it to just three!

1 – Descendents – I can’t decide between Hope, Bikeage, or Coolidge, so I’m going to pretend that they are all one song. Descendents are one of the bands that I have listened to since I was in junior high and I have always been able to connect to.

2 – Minor Threat – Minor Threat. I feel like this one is pretty self-explanatory.

3 – Frank Turner – Photosynthesis. A guy with an acoustic guitar might be an odd choice, but it’s a song about growing up and still being punk rock. How can you really go wrong with this?

PMAKid: Now that Aram has transferred React Records over to Evan from Mindset, are you still going to be a part?

Mr. Berres: Luckily for me Ev still wants to keep me involved with the label. I’m helping him out where I can, which is mainly with the website, digital download codes, and maintaining the REACT! archives. I am super excited about the direction of the label and the things that Ev is doing with it!

PMAKid: What is the weirdest thing you have EVER seen?

Mr. Berres: I can think of a lot of weird things that my friends have seen (look what we’ve been up to!), but I don’t know if I have seen that many weird things myself. I once saw someone take off all of their clothes and ride a grocery cart into a swimming pool after doing a root beer keg stand. Does that count as weird?

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