2017 Artist Survey: Travis Johnson of Grooms | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2017 Artist Survey: Travis Johnson of Grooms

Johnson on 2017's Best Albums, the "Me Too" Movement and Sexual Harassment, Trump's First Year in Office, and the End of the World

Jan 10, 2018 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar‘s 15th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2017 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Travis Johnson of Grooms. The band released a new album, Exit Index, in 2017 via Western Vinyl.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the various sexual harassment and assault allegations, the “Me Too” movement, the chaotic first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Charlottesville alt-right rally and racism in America, embarrassing moments, professional regrets, which Breakfast Club character they are most like, the end of the world, and much more.

Top 10 Albums of 2017

No order:

GAS: Narkopop
Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.
Deradoorian: Eternal Recurrence
Operator Music Band: Puzzlephonics I & II
Apollo Vermouth: Crashing Into Nowhere
Protomartyr: Relatives In Descent
Kelela: Take Me Apart
Art Feynman: Blast Off Through the Wicker
Exploded View: Summer Came Early EP
King Krule: The OOZ

What was the highlight of 2017 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

Highlight and low point were both releasing our new album.

2017 saw sexual harassment and assault allegations against many men in the music industry, film industry, journalism, politics, and elsewhere (including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Mondanile of Ducktails and Real Estate, Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Democratic Senator Al Franken, and others). Why do you think the floodgates opened in 2017 and do you think any meaningful change will come from it or will sexual harassment and assaults continue to be prevalent in certain industries?

The floodgates opened, I would guess, because we have a president who is a sexual predator and half the country didn’t/doesn’t care. Then the Weinstein story really cracked it wide open. As to whether or not mass cultural change will occur in the long run, I’m not sure, but I really fucking hope so, obviously.

In 2017 the “Me Too” and “It Was Me” social media hashtags further brought sexual assault and harassment to light. Have you ever been the victim of harassment or assault, or witnessed such behavior, or been the perpetrator? And what concrete steps can be taken to combat sexual harassment and assault in the music industry and make it a more welcoming place for women?

I’ve certainly been made very uncomfortable and felt pressure and coerced, but nothing on the level of what just about all of my close girl friends have told me they’ve experienced over and over again. Concrete step 1: Listen to women and non-binary people and anyone who’s been a victim. Concrete step 2: Step up when you see something even if it can fuck with your wellbeing to do so. It makes me so mad that people put their little music careers above helping to protect people from predation and harassment.

It has been said that 2016 was the year your favorite artist died, and, because of the litany of sex scandals, 2017 is the year that your favorite artist became dead to you. Which artist did you stop being a fan of this year? Which public person would you be most devastated to learn had a history of abusive or predatory behavior?

None of my favorite artists, or even any that I liked very much, were accused of anything this year (that I know of). It could obviously still happen. I think hearing something gross about Stephen Colbert would be especially awful and devastating.

Should we be able to separate an artist’s work from his or her actions? Or should an artist’s negative behaviors completely negate the quality of his or her work?

I don’t know. I know that, over the years, I couldn’t really like certain bands or artists as much I had before after I heard something awful about their behavior. Or at all. That’s my general reaction. I come to music to feel certain things, and I can’t feel those things if I’m listening to the music of a rapist, a racist, a misogynist, a greedy careerist, etc. And that’s on top of not wanting to support them. But in general, the music of those people just can’t be good for what I want anymore.

The first year of the Trump administration has been chaotic to say the least. What has President Donald Trump done so far that most concerns or angers you? Is there anything President Trump has done, proposed, or said that you actually agree with? Why do you think his base continues to support him?

Picking a thing he’s done that’s most concerning seems impossible. But I guess if I had to, it would be his mission to undercut the idea of truth. Obviously truth is hard to find much of the time, but it’s also sometimes readily verifiable. He’s convinced vast swaths of people that things are literally the exact opposite of what they are, and to not trust anyone who would tell them otherwise. I agree with him on literally nothing.

Many predicted President Donald Trump wouldn’t last long in the White House and yet he’s still there. At this point how hopeful are you that he’ll be impeached? Barring that, how optimistic are you that he won’t win reelection? And although it’s still very early, is there already a potential candidate you would most like to see run for president in 2020?

Well, while it’s been a very, VERY, long year, it’s only been a year. Him being around this long is still in the “won’t last long” realm. There was no way he’d be out already unless he’d been assassinated. Honestly, who knows if he’ll win again or what will happen. By the time this is up, we’ll know who’s won the election in Alabama. The fact that we don’t know whether a pedophile will be elected means we don’t know anything about what will happen, just like a rapist pig like Trump getting elected means we don’t know anything about what will happen. I’d like Elizabeth Warren to run in 2020.

The alt-right/neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ensuing violence, and President Trump’s reluctance to condemn such hate groups further showed that racism is alive and well in America. What concrete steps can we take to improve race relations in America and the world at large?

Not letting the literal forces of darkness push back the laws. For me, reaching out to people who are in trouble. Being available to help and fight and not focused only on myself. Giving money and time. Recognizing how privileged I’ve been and having difficult talks with family.

2017 saw several music festivals cancelled due to low ticket sales (not to mention the Fyre Festival debacle in the Bahamas). Are there too many music festivals right now?


Which Breakfast Club character are you most like and why?

I don’t like that movie, so I guess that would make me the janitor.

What’s the most embarrassing (or funniest) thing that’s happened to you in front of your bandmates (or on stage)?

I fainted onstage while singing and crashed into the monitor. My mom was there.

What’s your biggest professional regret?

Not touring more when I was younger.

If you heard that the world was ending in one week who would be the first person you’d call and what are some of the things you’d do in that week?

I live with my wife so I guess I wouldn’t have to call her. I’d call my mom. I’d take that as my cue to start taking guitar lessons.


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