Interview with Greg Horbal and Steven Buttery of The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die!

After remembering that  one of my favorite records from 2013 was released by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, I was eager to interview two of the masterminds behind the twinkly and emotional concoction that was their debut full-length, Whenever, If Ever. As the line in front of The Door amassed, our friend Jason waited with me for the musicians. It was a sunny but windy day in Downtown Dallas on June 27, and few clouds graced the sky. After a few minutes, Greg Horbal and Steven Buttery shiftily scooted past the line of people waiting for doors to open. We walked a half a block to another parking lot to commence our discussion.

Although the Connecticutters were happy to give the interview, they were also eager to go home. “The Drive from Austin sucked,” said Horbal. Buttery added, “everything in Texas is under construction.” I guess that means that even the concrete per area is bigger in Texas too. Luckily for The World Is, the energy from the crowds is bigger as well. “The Austin show was pretty good,” Greg assures cheerily, “We played at Mohawk Outdoors…it’s one of my favorite venues. Our singer, Dave, it turns out one of his weaknesses is alcoholic slushees. He drank too many of them.” The band was happy to report that Austin in all was a success, despite the “distractions.” Greg asserted that he was an “Edgeman,” a nickname he donned on himself to describe his straight-edge lifestyle.

I decided to try to delve deeper into Greg’s psyche. I inquired as to the origins of his infamous nickname, “S***y Greg.” The name actually started during the early stages of The World Is. “I’d say, ‘Hey…let’s do all these things [as a band]…’ Derek [the guitarist] didn’t want a Tumblr and I said we should get one,” Greg recalls. Steven explains that Greg is the “band dad, but sometimes [he’s] a bad dad…he’s not s***y Greg anymore, though. He’s business Greg.” This name change is a result of people chanting “S***y Greg” at shows, which is offensive to the band. “Don’t call him [that], that’s our thing,” asserted Steven.

Speaking of business, Broken World Media, a label that members of The World Is run, has a bright year ahead. Steven does the printing for Broken World media, and, according to him, “it’s going fine. There’s like 5 records at the plant…that I can’t talk about.” Stay tuned… Business Greg, on the other hand, works for The Kenmore Agency, booking shows for a lot of bands. He said that while in Austin he “met bands that [he] works with,” aside from eating pizza and listening to the band Crying. Steven “ate a chicken sandwich the size of [his] head.” Everything truly is bigger in Texas.

I asked them whether or not they had checked out End Of An Ear Records in Austin, my 2nd favorite record store. “I think the first time we came through Austin we went there.” I then asked them about Redscroll Records in Wallingford, Connecticut. Greg affirmed that “Redscroll is…possibly the best record store on the East coast.” His last venture to the Anthony Fantano-cosigned Redscroll Records was pleasant: “I went there with my  business partner (aka girlfriend)…Got to talk with everyone there,” which was nice since he has relocated from Connecticut to Philadelphia. His latest vinyl venture was at Everyday Music in Seattle. It was an extravagant outing for Business Greg. He recounts, “I spent like 100$. It was really irresponsible.” He bought a Melt Banana LP entitled, Charlie, which was out-of-print for awhile. Greg said, “it had the song, ‘Spastic,’ which was the first Melt Banana song I’d ever heard…on a mixtape in high school. I had never heard anything like it before. I used to show it to friends as a joke, but 6 months later it was no longer a joke, I started to really enjoy it. I got a Dismemberment Plan record, as well as [Deafheaven’s] Sunbather. I’m a really big fan of Kerry McCoy’s twitter.” I referred to Kerry as the Lil B of black metal on twitter. Greg also got “the new Parquet Courts record…Teenage Cool Kids is one of my favorite bands [also].” He was hesitant to buy the new F**ked Up record , but he has a long history with said band.

Greg began to reminisce: “I saw them live very early on…Hidden World is one of my favorite records. I brought Mandy (Steve’s ex, who I was unknowingly hooking up with for awhile) to a F**ked Up show. There was this band called 80s Hardcore opening for them once, and the singer [Sean of Vice Magazine] made Mandy get up on stage with lyrics to the songs. Pissed Jeans also played that show and blew F**ked Up out of the water. It was at the Market Hotel in New York. Pissed Jeans were about to put out King of Jeans. The entire audience went bulls**t! The singer smashed all the lights in the room with his microphone! It was very good. They do what they want, just like F**ked Up.” Steve and Greg discuss how F**ked Up have a rotating cast of members for some live shows. Greg says, “One time they played in New Haven and one guy kept shouting for them to play ‘Generation.’ One guitar player starts the song, and one guitar player says, ‘I don’t even know how to play that.’ Then they finish again and one guitar player starts ‘Nervous Breakdown.’ Then they all had to play that; it was a great show.”

I then inquired about their relationship with fellow Connecticut native, Anthony Fantano, who runs The Needle Drop, a well-known music blog much like this one. Greg said the relationship is solely that “He’s from Connecticut as well. However, this kid Chris Capello who writes for Portals and Lewis and His Blog is a World Is super fan. He used to intern for Anthony, so I think that’s what got our record reviewed on The Needle Drop. [Chris] has a band called Loner Chic that’s really good, like I hope they start touring. He talks about music so much, and he has a ridiculous output.”

In addition to having connections with Chris Capello, Greg has deep ties with Topshelf Records. In addition to being a former employee, he is former roommates with co-founder Kevin Duquette. “I book a bunch of their bands. I met Kevin [and co-founder Seth Decoteau] when they asked my old band, My Heart To Joy, to put out our LP. Actually the first time i was supposed to meet Kevin, I blew him off to go see F**ked Up. I made the rest of my band meet him, because I forgot I made a commitment with a friend to go see F**ked Up.” He’s also close friends with other label mates, like Donovan Wolfington and You Blew It!…especially You Blew It!. “They are beautiful boys,” Kevin dreamily states, “Prawn is great, Empire! Empire! Pretty much everyone on the label are our friends.” Steven comments that he’s “excited for the new Sundials [release]…I like Pianos [Become the Teeth].”

Steven for most of this interview had been relatively quiet, but then he opened up about his percussion background. “I’m a professional percussionist,” he admits, “I started playing drums when I was in middle school. I’ve taught drums for like 10 years at this point. I’m classically trained, jazz trained, all that stuff. I came from a musical family.” Greg asserts that Steve knows more about music theory then anyone else in the band. Greg admits this fact: “My friends asked me to play bass in high school…I taught myself how to play. I played in some pop-punk bands. I got to My Heart To Joy. When I got to My Heart To Joy, they asked me to play guitar. When we recorded our first 7 inch, I had been playing for like 3 weeks. I got asked to play guitar in The World Is when their old guitarist left. Steve was playing drums in My Heart To Joy, and we that band broke up, he joined us in The World Is, and here we are now.”

The large and rotating lineup of The World Is is a key element of the band’s history, so I asked the two about how spoken word artist Chris Zizzamia into the equation. He has actually been playing with the band for quite some time, especially during the early stages of the band. Greg recounts, “he started seeing this girl that I had dated previously, so we stopped talking to each other. I was like ‘Chris just won’t play with us for awhile.’ I remember one time, since we had the same circle of friends, we were in the same house together and I CLIMBED out the window ‘cuz I didn’t wanna see him. We eventually reconciled with each other; I came down to the kitchen in my underwear to talk with him once and we talked.” He eventually worked his way back into the band, and now they are planning on releasing a record featuring his spoken word. Greg says, “It’s called ‘Between Bodies,’ codenamed ‘The Roomclearer.’ Everyone’s gonna hate it, we don’t care…they can all die.” Steve thinks it’s better than their debut full length. Greg recants his aggressive stance on ‘Between Bodies,’ instead saying that it’s a testimony to how the band is just doing what they want as a musical collective, regardless of what the general masses say: “we’ve decided today that we’re going to record a 7 inch and call it ‘Between Bodies’ and have it be a completely different record just to add to the confusion. I hope our manager hears this, because it’s gonna give her a panic attack.” Steve says, “we have a lot of [stuff] coming up at the end of this year and the beginning of this year.”

Greg then dives into the secrets behind the sonic soundscapes of all of the bands releases: “If you put a delay pedal on with reverb, it makes everyone think you’re sophisticated. The writing process is more or less like jamming.” Steve says, “we write a bunch of stuff, record it, demo it out, and then go back to it, and then re-record it and then play it and then we don’t play it again…like “Fightboat.” None of us can play [that song,] or “Ultimate Steve” or “Gordon Paul,” or “Walnut Street,” “To the Jailor, To the King.”

Greg appreciates living in Philly. With cool people and cheap rent and close proximity to Connecticut, he’s happy as a clam can be in a city that he admits is “a dump.” He plans on attending the infamous This Is Hardcore Fest to support his friends in the band Code Orange (formerly known as Code Orange Kids). He wants to be on stage off to the side in the “Friend Section.” He says, “in a punk show, you know you’re hot s**t when you’re off to the side when the band’s playing.” He wants to witness the aural slaughter that Code Orange is notorious for delivering, which apparently contrasts their amiable personalities. Steven ascertains that “they are some of the nicest people…Joe [the bassist] will be so mad if he hears this, but he’s a sweetheart. So you have to print that…they would never hurt a fly.”

Greg also shows a love for a handful of Texas bands: “Teenage Cool Kids, Football Etc., Two Knights.”
Lastly, I asked them the best advice they’d ever gotten. They both said simultaneously “it gets worse.”
So sometimes I guess The World Is Not So Beautiful and Death Is Inevitable? I’m not sure, but at least Greg and Steve keep it real, even when the going gets rough.

Watch TWIABP perform “Blank #9” and “Heartbeat In The Brain” off of 2013’s Whenever, If Ever

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