Succinctly summarizing the career of Ed Schrader is a daunting task. The Baltimore polymath, best known for fronting proto-punk duo Ed Schrader's Music Beat, has also written magazine columns, performed stand-up comedy, acted in theatrical renditions of Jurassic Park and pitched cartoons to Adult Swim. But it's onstage with bandmate Devlin Rice where Schrader shines, his manic voice accompanied by little more than a floor tom and Rice's sludge-driven bass lines. And even though ESMB's recent material flirts with poppier sensibilities, it still maintains its lunging, epileptic punk energy. Orlando Weekly caught up with Schrader somewhere on the road between Reno and Oakland to talk about The Odyssey, mojitos and Baltimore karaoke.
OW: When you originally started the band in 2008, did you have a particular creative goal in mind?
Schrader: I wanted to strip things down and focus on the word, the beat and the rhythm like those I love: Massive Attack, Jay Z, Patti Smith. Though instrumentation is key and they ace that, they each focus on the core of what matters – the "sauce," the word, the hook, keeping people entranced. ... Their ability to tell a compelling story is what makes [them] timeless.
Devlin joined the band in 2010, and you guys have been touring relentlessly since then. Is it because you love performing live? Or just an economic necessity?
It's not so much an economic necessity as it is the fact that unless you have a trust fund and look like an H&M model making easy-listening dance music, you have to hit the road to build your audience. It's The Odyssey, man – you have to walk the gauntlet and just be true.
How much experience do you have touring Florida?
We've never really gotten a chance to dive into Florida, with the exception of our tour with Ceremony, when we hit up Orlando and Miami. I'll never forget the Cuban food – mind-blowing and completely within our budget. So we're looking forward to mojitos ... and excited to connect with the thriving noise/punk scene in Florida.
You've opened for a lot of other well-known bands but have committed yourselves recently to smaller headlining shows. Any particular reason?
We work our butts off and play our hearts out, which tends to attract the right people. We're shooting for the moon – we want to take this to the max, so U2, watch out! I want to connect with everyone, not just folks "in on the joke" but your parents, your grandparents ... hell, bring the kids. Just keep 'em quiet!
How have things changed in Baltimore, from artists like Future Islands and Beach House attaining mainstream success to the city dealing with so much social unrest?
The rising tide raises all ships. Baltimore is "the little scene that could" and remains a warm, accepting and supportive place for weirdos like us and people of all genres, styles, races and genders. Venues have definitely been making more of an effort than you'd see five years ago to put on shows that showcase a plethora of styles and voices, too. I think the time is now – that's all we're saying, despite what CNN might be telling you. We're realizing how much we've been secluding ourselves to a small audience when there's a whole city of people who want to share the experience and connect – and music is a great place to start. Karaoke at the Crown has been a nexus for folks; I've met so many amazing people just by busting out Billy Joel songs that everyone loves like "Piano Man."
>Which might explain the pop sensibilities of your recent material, including 2014 album Party Jail. Will that carry over onto the next record?
I grew up on radio – I want to be on the radio! Right now we're listening to [Prince's] "When Doves Cry," Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge," and Bowie's Scary Monsters. And then we're in the studio all of December – get ready!