By the Barricade caught up with Mike Cambra, a multi-band drummer (The Adolescents, Death By Stereo, Common War and others) at the Pacific Amphitheatre before his show. He’s a tough guy to catch but we snuck in an interview while he is on tour with The Adolescents between Australia and Europe. Balancing life in the studio and life on the road for these busy bands can be a challenge, but Mike Cambra manages to do not only that, but also launch a clothing line in his spare time. You can learn all about Mike in the interview that follows.
By the Barricade: What was your first influence or inspiration to be a musician?
Mike Cambra: To be honest, my parents were. My dad has been a bass player in the Bay Area funk scene since the sixties. I grew up around that and one of my uncles played drums in a few bands while I was a kid. I have another uncle that played guitar and keyboards in The Tubes back in the day. I was around it and to be honest, I tried playing guitar as a kid around when I was nine. My dad gave me one and put my hands in a chord while we were in the garage and said, “Alright, practice that and I’ll be back in ten minutes.” I just looked at the electric guitar that wasn’t plugged in and I didn’t know what I was doing. I became board and decided I hated it. I wasn’t into it after that. My grandpa had an accident while mowing that cut off the tips of one or two of his fingers. He had a bass guitar he couldn’t use anymore and asked my mom and dad, “Would Michael want the bass?” My parents said, “Absolutely,” and then I fell in with that because I think it was a little easier at the time. I was around ten and could pick that up quicker than I could pick up a regular guitar. From there, I had an older brother that had a drum set. Like most younger brothers, I wanted to do whatever he was doing. When he was out at sports practice or something for baseball, basketball, BMX racing, etc… I would sit behind it and I started playing and I was having more fun on it than the bass. I kept doing that, I gravitated more toward that, dropped the bass and played drums more. I got in a band in 7th or 8th grade with a bunch of my buddies and that was the beginning I guess.
By the Barricade: You juggle being in a lot of bands. How does that work out and what keeps you going with that kind of schedule?
Mike Cambra: Luckily most of the bands I’m in are not that busy at the moment so the 3 or 4 bands I play at any given moment equal one really busy band. I also just started a clothing label called Learn to Forget, so between my job and my girlfriend, it’s one busy schedule but it is working. I’m stoked it’s working right now because a lot of people tell me that they struggle with their one or two bands and I get that too, but this happened to click. It’s been working out so far and I hope it doesn’t stop.
By the Barricade: Do they work with you for scheduling?
Mike Cambra: Definitely! One of my bands, Common War that is with JP (JP Gericke) from Death By Stereo, so automatically if Death By Stereo is doing something, Common War can’t. So it typically takes lead on that. With The Adolescents, it’s really cool because we don’t tour much besides the summer and school breaks because our singer Tony (Cadena) is a school teacher. So while school is in session, he is a teacher and that is his main job, he’s been doing it forever and he’s very dedicated to it. That saves me time in the winter when I can do everything else. Now, for Adolescents it’s summertime and now we are gone. It’s been working out.
By the Barricade: Do you have a rehearsal schedule with these bands?
Mike Cambra: Not at all. As far as Death By Stereo and Adolescents we don’t practice that much. If we are going to do a record, we will practice like crazy or if we have a tour coming up or a random one off show we will do a couple of practices. I think it is kind of up to everyone individually to study, do their own thing, and get the set down. Practice is just for getting things tight with each other and not really learning the songs. I try to tell friends too, unless you are the band that practices all the time, you are writing all the time, if you are doing your homework and practicing by yourself, if you make a mistake, four other guys don’t have to stop. That might be kind of the lazy way to do it, but like everything else right now, it’s been working.
By the Barricade: We have a lot of readers that are in up and coming bands who are doing a similar thing, so it’s good to hear your perspective. If you could give them any advice what would you say?
Mike Cambra: You should do as much as you can. You never know who you are going to meet through musical avenue or bands. You never know who you are going to run into and what connections they have. I always say to try to meet as many people as you can. Go to shows, play shows, and be cool when you meet someone because you don’t know who that guy is going to be. He might be someone you really want to know, but you just blew him off. It’s good to be nice anyways. Why be a dick in the first place? You are killing two birds with one stone.
By the Barricade: Have you had a favorite show thus far? Where and when?
Mike Cambra: I don’t know if I would say one specifically favorite because I have had some shows that are the biggest I’ve ever played, Some shows where the crowd have been the gnarliest, and some in the coolest locations. Death By Stereo played a show in Celje, Slovenia. It was at a festival, inside a castle, on top of a hill. You look around this old castle and it’s crazy. You are in the mountains, in the forest, and you look over the back wall and you see the entire city of Celje. It was pretty mind-blowing to see. The festival was alright, but the location was so rad. I never thought I’d be able to say that I played a castle in Slovenia. It is pretty cool.
By the Barricade: You have played with some legends, is there still someone you look up to that you would one day like to meet and/or play with?
Mike Cambra: There is one band called Propagandi that have been my favorite band since I have been a kid. To this day I think everything they put out is the new best record. I have never played a show with them, I’ve seen them countless times and I’ve kind of met them once. It was a handshake and I got all fan-boy on it and was really nervous. I would love to play a show with them, I wouldn’t even have to talk to them, but to know I shared a stage with those guys would be so cool to me.
By the Barricade: It’ ironic that we were listening to a Propagandi CD on our way here.
Mike Cambra: To me, they are the best band in the world! As far as punk, when they started out they were kind of skate, Fat Wreck Chordsy type of skate punk. But everything they do makes it seem like they are a new band. They change and their style just progresses. You can tell that even as musicians they grow and they put it into their music and you can hear them step it up. A lot of bands do that as well but with them it just draws me in. Everything they do, every chord, every drum beat, I think they are these unsung heroes. Jordan (Jord Samolesky) their drummer, I don’t know why he doesn’t get more credit for what he does. I think he is so artistic with his drums that it’s insane.
By the Barricade The last time we saw Common War was at the Get Busy Living Fest, do you guys have tour plans or future music plans?
Mike Cambra: We actually just got signed by Eulogy Records so they are going to be putting out our album. I don’t know how quick that is going to happen, hopefully sometime soon. I think late September is when we are going to try to go into the studio. After that gets done we want to plan some small tours, then figure it out and then get bigger tours and try to do as much as we can. Get Busy Living was a fun festival. All of our friend’s bands played on it. Assuming we Survive are our friends and it was pretty much their fest. It was really cool of them to ask us to play on it. We were really happy and we love all of those guys.
By the Barricade: You launched Learn to Forget; a brand which focuses on individualism and forgetting things that get in the way.
Mike Cambra: Do your thing, be your own person. Same kind of thing as with music; itkind of preaches to be who you want and to be decent human being. It is like the music scene. My partner Reilly Herrera is in a band called Night Verses that is starting to blow up and we want to hold on to this ethos kind of like we are selling merch at a show. We don’t ever want to make the prices super high because it’s not what we grew up with. We grew up playing shows in the streets. Not that I was raised on the streets, I had a nice family and a nice upbringing, but the graffiti vibe in the arts it is kind of what he is into. We try to blend the music, punk rock, hip hop, skateboard scene without trying to hit on one particularly. We want to find a good medium and provide a minimalist version of all of that.
By the Barricade: I saw there is a Lean to Forget online store.
By the Barricade: Is that going to be your primary vehicle, the online stores or will you be at shows or retail outlets?
Mike Cambra: Primarily we will be online. We are going to be at Programme Skate and Sound pretty soon. We are actually going to have our launch party there when I come back from Europe with The Adolescents so sometime late August or early September. From there we are going to try to get a shop in every main city that we want. I’ve been talking with someone in Melbourne who said they would be down and that really stoked us out. Every tour helps us out and at the places we tour we meet someone that owns a store and talk to some of those people we meet about it.
By the Barricade: Was there a particular catalyst for starting Learn to Forget?
Mike Cambra: It’s really the brainchild of Reilly. He started it and I saw a few shirts and hats he made; he wanted to do it for fun and I loved everything he did. Every shirt I wanted and when it came time for him to figure out what he was going to do next, I approached him and said, “Hey, I don’t know if you are into this and I don’t know if having a partner is something you want to do, but I love what you are doing and I would love to be a part of this.” Then we got together and started collaborating for some of the newer stuff that we are doing now. Artistically it is all him, he’s the guy, it’s his vision but its cool because he lets me have input with my opinion on things. I think everything he does is rad and say, “Let’s do that.” We collaborate more on ideas and what we are going to do financially. I let him run with the artistic side because that was his thing in the first place. I respect that and his vision was rad. I didn’t want to change anything about it, it was great.
By the Barricade: You are here at the OC fair today with The Adolescents. Are there any crazy fair food items you are going to try?
Mike Cambra: I’m a big bacon fan. I’m a big aficionado of the swine so anything wrapped in bacon, wrapped in bacon, deep fried and then wrapped in bacon again is what I’m going to try, but probably not before my show.
By the Barricade: Anything else you would like to tell By the Barricade readers?
Mike Cambra: Support, go to shows, and buy local stuff. If you have a friend that has a clothing company or is in a band, go to a show and buy a shirt or CD and share their stuff on Facebook. Try to support the local scene. It’s not that it is dying, but it could use some help and all it takes is just a few people preaching the message of supporting it. Support your friends, the little groups, the small companies, that is what’s hot and what’s next. Even big companies were small one time and that is how they got so big.