Generally throughout the course of a band that’s been around for over fifteen years, there is going to be quite a few changes to the band line-up; however with Germany’s own Itchy (formerly Itchy Poopzkid), that is not the case! Since forming back in 2001, the duo of founding members Sebastian “Sibbi” Hafner (Guitar/Bass/Vocals) and Daniel “Panzer” Friedl (Guitar/Bass/Vocals) have only experienced one back in 2011, when Max “Max” Zimmer (Drums) replaced the third original founding member Tobias “Saikov” Danne.
Since forming all those years ago under Itchy Poopzkid, Itchy first released their EP …Having A Time! In 2003, before live album Fuck Ups…Live! in 2004 paved the way for Heart To Believe in 2005; the first of not one, not two but seven studio albums that are released like clockwork every two years. Fast forward to 2011’s Light Out London; the band had decided to take their fate into their own hands by releasing it, as well as Ports & Chords and Six on their record label Findaway Records.
2017 has been a year of change for Itchy though; not only did they make the decision to shorten their name from Itchy Poopzkid to the fan favourite AND created nickname Itchy, they’ve also teamed up with both Arising Records/Nuclear Blast to release their seventh studio album All We Know, which became available Friday July 21st!
OVERDRIVE got the opportunity to speak to Sibbi on Monday July 23rd about the new album and the growth that has accompanied the band alongside it, the decision to change from their own record label and pair up with Arising Records/Nuclear Blast, as well as receiving a couple of truly deep, honest insights into the band. Our first topic of conversation was about All We Know, as well as whether the name change was as much of a statement about growing up as the lyrical contents contained within the album:
“Well I think it’s all linked together. We have been hating our old band name for as long as I can remember; it sucked to be honest! (laughs). You know, it closed a few doors for us because the band name portrayed us as a childish humour, fun, punk kind of band but we aren’t a fun punk band as such; we hated the name but we stuck to it for whatever reason! (laughs again) But now we felt it was the right time to change it or shorten it to get rid of the bad part of the name and just use Itchy from now on. It feels great for us to have people focusing on our music mainly and not get distracted by our band name; you know, it’s just a name and the music is the important part! It feels greater to have that short name and we are happy that we made that decision. Of course we’ve been growing up and we’ve been getting older; when we started the band we were 17 or 18 years old and you don’t think about what’s going on in 15 years for now, we never thought we’d still be touring with this band for that long and playing almost 1000 shows now! When you’re young, you just think about the next day and the next beer (laughs), but we’ve been around for so long now that it feels good to have the name shortened and we can’t wait to get going for another 15, 20, 30 years; we don’t want to stop! We love what we do so much and we appreciate that we’ve been able to play music for a living for such a long time; I almost tell everyone that for me it feels like I’ve never worked a day in my whole life because playing music for us doesn’t feel like work; we’re just so blessed and grateful that this is our job and we can play music whenever we want! There’s no need to change that stuff because we love what we do so much.”
Those last few statements actually made this interviewer alter the ordering of his questions, as they made for the perfect segway to not only talk about how much energy was evident on the album, but how much it sounded like Itchy were really just enjoying themselves this time around! That also led this interviewer to ask what songs off of All We Know the band are looking forward to playing live:
“Firstly, thanks for the compliment! We’ve started playing some of the songs live because the album came out three days ago and we’ve played a few festivals; we’re also currently on tour with Bad Religion.” That was all Sibbi got out before this interviewer unintentionally interrupted to say that touring with Bad Religion would be an amazing experience, to which Sibbi stated how “That’s a good reason to interrupt (laughs)” before going off on a really personal tangent which shed some personal light on Panzer:
“It is for us as well; Panzer our bass player is a really big fan and the first punk rock show he ever attended as a 15 year old was a Bad Religion show and we just played the same club together last week where he first saw them all those years ago! It’s always great to play with bands that have shaped your youth, your life and the way you make music as well. The guys are really nice and have been really amazing to us and it’s made for a really fun tour; we’ve got two shows left together, tomorrow in Hamburg and then Hanover on Wednesday.” Sibbi went on to explain though that it hasn’t always been so easy:
“It’s such a great thing to get to play in front of fans that wouldn’t necessarily come to our show, however it’s also been a challenge to win them over because they’re there for Bad Religion. We’ve supported lots of bands; I mean we toured with Sum 41 last month and Deryck (Whibley – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) and their audience is pretty much the same as our own audience, so it’s pretty easy to win those fans over because most of the fans already know us and they listen to the same kind of music. Bad Religion fans however, I know it from experience when you go to a Bad Religion shosw that you want Bad Religion; you don’t give a damn about who is playing before them, so it’s kinda hard and we were a little scared before this tour. The shows were great and we’ve been around for such a long time, so we know what to give the audience in order to make them to want to listen to our show and the response was great and we’ve had a really good time on tour! When our bass player got the All Access Area pass from Bad Religion, he was in heaven (laughs)”
Sibbi then turned the conversation back to the initial question about what songs the band are looking forward most to playing live on stage:
“To get back to your question about which songs we’re excited to play live, we’ve played a few of them live now; “Nothing” for example has been the opening track to our set and it’s been great! It’s always exciting and and you never know how the songs will come across live; just because you play them in the studio and have a feel for them doesn’t mean you’re going to know whether a song will work live or not so much, but so far all the new songs we’ve played have worked well! We can’t wait for our tour in November/December where we’re going to get to play more of them live; it’s always cool to be able to play the songs you’ve worked on for so long in front of an audience.” before also delivering this little gem about the satisfaction the band is feeling: “It’s not just about playing them live; we started working on the record 1 ½ years ago. We started writing the songs, then pressing them and going to the studio to record them etc all the way up to promoting the record and FINALLY after one and a half years people get the chance to hear it and we get the feedback! So far the feedback has been amazing; so far I haven’t heard one negative comment from the fans about his record and that’s just incredible…after such a long time of working on the record we’re very happy to be hearing all these positives!”
Itchy have decided to join forces with Arising Empire/Nuclear Blast Records for the release of All We Know; what made Itchy decide to stop producing their own records (like they had done with their previous three) this time around? Sibbi explained the thought process that took place:
“Firstly, that’s a good question. We were really happy with having our own record label; we were signed to Where Are My Records? for our first three records. After that we decided to start our own label and release not only three albums but even a book a few years ago. We were pretty happy and there was no need to change for us! However, the CEO of Nuclear Blast is a dear friend of mine and because we come from almost the same town; there’s roughly 10 miles between the company and our band so we’ve known each other for quite some time and we’re really good friends. One day last year, we were having drinking and having a good time catching up asking each other “Dude, why don’t we do something and work together?”; that’s basically how it started and from there on we said “Yeah, let’s try this!” because we work in the same industry, come from the same place and really like each other! I know so many people who work at Nuclear Blast/Arising Empire so I just thought “why not give it a try?”. Obviously Nuclear Blast are a huge independent label; I think we would never go back to a major label because we have tried that experience and it’s not for us; as a band we want to participate in everything and know what’s going on; actually we want to do everything on our own! But since we know the people at Nuclear Blast so well and they also came from that do it yourself attitude, we thought “yeah let’s give them a try!” as they have connections all around the world of course and a huge network, so it just made sense. Up until now, as a band we focused on Europe, Austria, Switzerland, of course Germany and the surrounding countries, but now we want to have a wider approach and try to play internationally more; this interview right here is a result of coming together with Arising Empire/Nuclear Blast.”
Sibbi then touched on how much of a family the people behind the scenes at Itchy are:
That’s how we roll; our whole team, our whole live crew, that’s pretty much how we work! We are surrounded by good friends that have been working with us for years, be it our management, our booking agent or our live crew; they’ve been with us for over 10 years and hundreds and hundreds of shows, so it just made sense for us to surround ourselves with people that we know we like and those who share the same enthusiasm for the band and things we do! We don’t want to work with people that always look at everything as a business; we want those who are passionate because passion automatically relates to great work; that’s just how we think, which is why we operate that way!
Unfortunately this interviewer made a small ass of himself because of a misinterpretation about some phrasing within the promo pack; upon reading that Itchy have started to travel with no luggage, the assumption was made that they literally travel with NO LUGGAGE bar their instruments, which was something that HAD to be asked; however upon asking Sibbi who first came up with that idea, this interviewer was informed that “I think it was more like a metaphor, I haven’t read the promo pack (laughs); we just wanted to start a new and afresh! Now we’re in the here and right now, which is where we want to go instead of talking about the past. That’s always been our focus; whatever has happened has happened and now we’re in the right here and now, wanting to look forward and do what we think is best at this moment.”
Itchy have been fortunate enough to travel all across Europe, visiting 20 different countries and playing well over 900 shows in that mean time; what sort of countries/international festivals would Itchy like to get to play at for the first time? This interviewer was in the middle of asking when Sibbi opens up with “AUSTRALIA (laughs as he interrupts the rest of my question)!! We really want to get out there and I hope that early or the middle of next year we can try to make that happen. In general, we want to play in more places; we’ve played all over Europe so far which is great, but we want to see other places as well as it’s going to be a great thing to get out of the common area. It’s also a challenge that we want to do and try to win people over abroad, which is what we’re planning to one of the next places we get to travel to for the first time! We love travelling to new places and we hope to make that happen.”
This interviewer forgot how intertwined Europe is and how easy it is to travel across international borders compared to living in Australia; upon mentioning that to Sibbi, Sibbi responded with “It’s easier to tour here of course; I mean you can do it all with a few stops every 100 to 200 miles. Of course Australia is a big journey but we’ll take that (laughs) and hopefully we can make that happen. Other bands do it as well; friends of ours called Mookie Sands, they’re more a pop band and they’ve played Australia as well, as well as some friends of ours from the United States like Zebrahead and Sum 41 and all of the other bands we’ve played with have travelled there.” before going to touch on where else there the rest of the band want to travel. “Actually, we want to go everywhere! You hear stories of South American fans who are really passionate and crazy; the United States of course is always a dream to go there but they’ve got so many bands and they’re not waiting for some German band to come there and conquer their world, but we’re willing to try them. Japan of course, it’s just a whole different kinda story, all the other Asian countries; I travelled there for myself on holiday but it would be a great experience if we could go there as the band. I mean we’re working on all of that now and we can’t wait to go to those places!”
Those who have purchased the album would have seen that there is a blacked out word on the album cover; this interviewer saved this last question until the very end, in case the answer had to be off the record and couldn’t go into the interview which drew a good laugh from Sibbi, before he proceeded to give the all-clear to ask. So just what is under that black strip between We and Know in the album title?
“I have to tell you, on the record that there is no word underneath (laughs) We’ve already solved that mystery. It’s just also maybe a metaphor for all the stuff that’s happening in the world right now; that people should try to understand the world more and try to look behind stuff more, as well getting more informed in the background of the things that are happening. People right now are just screaming as fast as they can; typing something online or posting something on Facebook without really thinking about what’s behind the story or what’s behind the scenes. People should just try to take a look behind the obvious and that’s what we’re also trying to say with the blanked out stuff, the album title and the album cover. We want people to talk to each other and not just scream as it means nothing; people are just making shit up and other people are believing it without checking the facts! We just want people to make sure they’re informed before shouting one direction or another.”
“All We Know” Available Now Via Nuclear Blast Records! Grab It Here!