Rock Out and Repent with Your New Friends: Tartar Control
The name Tartar Control conjures up images of dental care and dental care accessories, but that’s no longer the only thing I think of when I hear it. I think of Mormons, because I met a three-piece band made of two Mormons, Robert and Sean, and their gangster robot named Robot. It’s not every day I go to Anaheim. It’s an hour drive even when the roads are clear, but on June 15th, Paco and I decided a 2 ½ hour drive would be worth it to meet one of the most unique acts in the punk scene. Calling themselves ‘Hug Rock’, Tartar Control is out to clean up the punk scene in the most religious way. You might think this Mormon group would be squeaky clean, but you’d be wrong. With songs like Smoking Crack and My God’s Cock, they’re showing the world that they are not afraid to get a little dirty.
How did you get the name Tartar Control?
Robert (Vocals): We had a brainstorming session one day…
Sean (Guitar, Vocals): That’s right.
R: While we were forming our band…
S: That’s right.
R: I have pizza in my mouth, this is gonna be…
S: Do you want me to do this one? Here, I’ll –
R: I’m ready now!
R: Oh, you go ahead then.
R: Are you sure!?
S: By all means.
R: So, while we were brainstorming, we both decided. What are we? We both started with some analogies, and we decided upon being The Lord’s toothpaste. Ready to clean up some stuff.
S: You see, because the soul develops plaque on it, similar to teeth, from consuming life, and sometimes you have to blast it off with music. That seems to be the most effective way, and if there’s a big group of people it all helps to blow away all the detritus and clean everybody up nice and squeaky clean.
R: We’re like a water pick!
S: That’s right! With music!
Give me a Day-in-the-Life of Tartar Control.
R: Well it starts every morning at 6am. We get up –
R: Tea. In the morning. I like a good peppermint.
S: I like a diet peach Snapple myself, cos I’m diabetic, and it’s not good to have too many carbs.
R: I have a breakfast: Eggs and toast, no butter. Then we spend the day proselytizing.
S: That’s right, we just go out and start talking to people! Make a connection.
R: For the longest time, we were both – I live in Seattle now – We would go out; we would spend our day doing our job, which is proselytizing. Serving the church, and then we take a lunch break. Most the time we take our lunches with us. There’s a lot of nice parks in South Central. At the end of the day, we come home, have our dinner…
S: And we go play at a punk rock show.
R: A long day, but WORTH IT!
S: And night, but it’s fun.
R: You may be asking “Where does the money come from?”… Trust Fund.
S: That is correct. But please, if you could not share this interview with our parents or our church, we’d REALLY appreciate that cos we’ll get in trouble.
R: We need the money.
S: Yeah. Our state president does not need to know that we’re out here having pizza right now at a punk show.
R: Though it should be known that all of the money we ever make from any show goes directly back to the church, and they don’t know where it comes from.
S: We do tithe. That’s absolutely certain.
With that busy schedule, I imagine there’s not much room for hobbies, but do you have any hobbies?
R: When you have The Lord, do you need hobbies?
S: Well, we do have a lot of time taken off of our hands by this project. That’s our mission in general.
R: We have the holy trinity and this band. That’s a lot!
S: That’s quite a bit!
R: I don’t have enough hands for it.
S: OH! I have a hobby! I’m a video editor. I’ve edited a lot of our music videos, and I also help program Robot.
R: I like to watch the sunset, really, if I have any extra time.
Sean, you edit videos, does that include the 10 min short you have on your site?
S: Oh yes, that’s right. Well, we collaborate on everything that we make.
R: We usually direct things together. I do a lot of the storyboarding for most of our material. Sean edits everything, and when we have animated stuff, we animated that together.
S: He draws it, I make it move.
R: All the writing and all of that is always us. But I wouldn’t call that a hobby. I would call that more of being of service.
Well, you’re reaching an audience that would be unreached without you.
I wanted to ask about your record label, I read on Facebook that you’re on “God’s Record Label” and I was wondering if that’s real.
R: If The Lord is creating everything –
S: Then it’s all DIY.
R: And He created us, and then we create an album, isn’t He the CEO by association?
S: If we do it by ourselves, we are doing it WITH The Lord.
I can’t argue with that logic.
What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?
S: Oh, man! One time we were playing a venue near Oakland called The Burnt Ramen, unfortunately it’s no longer there cos they took it down –
R: [mouth full of pizza] No, it’s there!
S: No, I heard it was closed!
R: I just learned something!
S: I was told that last time we were up there when we played Gilman.
R: Oh my!
S: Yeah. It’s a Squat, is what the Punk Rockers call it. Where people are literally living in the walls and skateboarding during the day on their half pipe by the stage. It was so hot in there, that I had to take off my shirt and my tie, and I stripped down to my garments in order to finish the show.
R: That was very embarrassing.
S: I was SO embarrassed, [Robert] was very embarrassed for me too…
R: I was very embarrassed too, I tried to cover him up, but he wouldn’t have it.
S: I couldn’t do it, it was too hot! I was down to my bare garments, and it was very sweaty in there and I was embarrassed, but we had a job to do…
R: It was a Mormon Wet T-Shirt Contest that should have never happened.
S: With Masonic Symbol nipples showing and it was very gross. I’m sorry that they had to see that, but we got through mercifully and I hope all the Punkers had a good time.
R: Here is mine: One time, I mistook a Japanese person for Korean. I was very embarrassed.
S: You’re an anime fan, too.
R: I KNOW AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT! I made an assumption based on their looks, it was judging a book by its cover. I was very embarrassed. We’re no longer friends.
S: Awwwwww, I’m sorry.
R: It was at the temple in Koreatown.
S: Well, did you forgive that person?
S: Well that’s what I’m saying is that if you forgive them, they’ll forgive you!
R: If I had something to forgive them about.
S: You should forgive yourself! I think you’re worrying about it too much.
R: I mean, we were just talking. I forgave myself.
S: Oh, good!
R: After I asked for forgiveness from them.
S: They’ll come around.
R: I did my due diligence is what I’m saying.
S: That’s good.
Robert, you mentioned you like anime, do you have a favorite?
R: OOoooohhhhh boy! Have you opened a bag of worms, sir! Have you seen One-Punch Man?
S: Oh my goodness!
[I took a walk down and back along the side of the building because I, too, love this anime]
R: It’s one of the most well-written animes, and incredibly subtle, and incredibly funny. I have seen every bit of Naruto, and I was disappointed how it ended. Honestly. Disappointed. When it came back and they were all older and – I didn’t think that was necessary. Gurren Lagann. It’s one of the best. ONE OF THE BEST.
While we’re on entertainment, do you have a favorite movie?
Genre of movies?
R: WE-e-ell, I love musicals. Old musicals. Bye Bye Birdie! Dick Van Dyke, I am a HUGE Dick Van Dyke fan.
[Sean starts singing Oklahoma!] I like Singing in the Rain. What’s the most recent one you’ve seen?
R: I try not to go past 1960s. The Fantastics, that was in the 1960s. The Fantastics, You ever seen that one? It’s pretty old, but it’s pretty good. Bye Bye Birdie is also early 60s, but stuff like Guys and Dolls, classics.
R: South Pacific!
I know one!
What is your favorite food?
R: Mayonnaise sandwich. With a good glass of milk.
S: I’ve seen you put a piece of turkey on there before.
R: Sometimes I like to live dangerously.
S: That’s what I thought it was.
R: I’m eating all the pizza right now.
S: My favorite food of all time is a Reuben sandwich. Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut, I prefer pastrami to corned beef.
What is your favorite movie? We asked Robert, and he gave us all the musicals up till the late 60s. And Dick Van Dyke.
S: Dick Van Dyke is a genius.
R: If they made some Diagnosis Murders-
S: Into a musical!
R: Into a musical!
S: A Disney Musical with Diagnosis Murder. I like it.
R: Right!? Who can we talk to about this?
S: Do you know anyone who we can talk to about this? We’ll get it out there. We’ll manifest it… Favorite film… You know, I am a big fan of musicals myself, actually. In fact, I think this is what sparked our initial love of music to begin with, between Robert and I. Back in the Tabernacle Choir before we started the Smiths… We are big fans of musical theater, although we HAVE NOT seen The Book of Mormon yet.
[over each other]
R: I’m sure it’s great!
R: I’m sure it’s fantastic!
It’s actually in LA right now.
S: Those guys are some funny folks…
R: What’s that?
It’s in LA right now.
S: IT ISS!?
R: Is it at Pantages?
Yes. Till July 9th.
R: Well we’re on tour right now. So We’re gonna miss it.
I’ve heard the Church didn’t like it.
S: … If the Church can change its stance on caffeine for Coke-a-Cola vs. say Coffee, maybe they can change their stance on musical theater.
R: Oh, I’m against it.
S: Yeah, 7-Up for me!
How did the band get its start? How did you meet?
R: Well we’ve known each other since we were children. We’ve been hanging out as friends; we were neighbors in Salt Lake. When we first started, we were an acapella duo. One night, we would go on the streets and then we would sing. Singing for change!
S: I had an acoustic guitar at the time. This is well before Robot was built for us.
R: We first heard Punk Rock when we were outside of Bert’s Tiki Lounge in Salt Lake, and we walked in, and our hearts – Like the Grinch, grew three times larger.
S: We came to convert them, but honestly, Punk Rock converted us.
R: And so after that, when we decided we were gonna go on our missions, we both got stationed in Los Angeles…
S: South Central.
R: And that’s when we decided that we would form a band.
What was it like growing up in SLC?
R: CLEEEAAAANN!! CLEANER THAN LOS ANGELES! SO CLEAN!
S: Gorgeous, the air was clear and you couldn’t taste it while you breathed! It was wonderful! Beautiful clouds and rivers and lakes out there, and the people were so friendly.
R: We grew up as any other upper-middle class white sub-urban child did. Lots of gymnastic classes, singing lessons, piano lessons…
S: Home schooling.
R: Home schooling, private high school. All of that…. It’s not very private, sometimes we’d get to hang out with the kids from the public schools.
S: They were a rowdy bunch, I’ll tell you that!
R: I didn’t like any of them!
S: You didn’t!?
R: No. I mean, I didn’t tell them!
S: Of course not, you don’t want to be rude, but did they tease you?
S: Okay, that’s good.
R: I just didn’t have anything to say, I couldn’t relate.
[Stuff that isn’t worth typing here happens]
How do you feel about South Park?
R: It’s a show.
S: It’s definitely a cartoon show. Which leads me to believe it’s for children to watch. I understand the animation is done very fast; I understand there’s a documentary made about the creation of a South Park episode. I don’t remember what it was called.
R: Didn’t watch it!
S: That’s an awfully fast turnaround for anything! Those guys must work really hard!
What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen at a show?
R: One time we played a show in Norman, OK. At the Pastafarian Church.
S: The First Pastafarian Church, with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
R: it was the first. Probably the last. It wasn’t so much as a single thing that happened, but what we walked into overall was incredibly strange. We played for a very small group of very small children, and everybody was sad the whole time. We played our entire show and EVERYONE WAS SAD! Then they thanked us. They were happy that we were there…
S: They said they had a good time, but it was kinda hard to tell with all the Doom Metal that was going on there and the slouching…
R: There was someone who was obviously mentally disabled who had VR…
R: Goggles on…
S: He kept taking pictures of people and saying he could see into their souls, which intrigued us, so we of course went over for a conversation.
R: So, that whole situation was one weird thing.
S: The promoter of the venue put the show on a Sunday. Now I don’t know if you know the laws in Oklahoma, but on a Sunday in Oklahoma you can’t purchase alcohol that’s more than %3. Of course WE don’t drink, but we were coming from Texas from a show before, and he ASKED US if we would buy whiskey so the people at the show could get drunk, and I was APPAULED!
R: We didn’t buy him anything!
S: We did no such thing!
S: The law is the law and Oklahoma knows best.
R: This individual also told us that he played a washboard in a band!?
S: No, no! A FEW bands!
R: AH! His talents for the washboards was needed in multiple bands!
S: if you gotta busk, you gotta busk.
R: Obviously this was the best show we’ve ever done.
S: Yes. It was fun! It was the first time we’d been out to Oklahoma. We’d love to come back again. We had a good time at the theme park that was nearby, Pioneer City, is that was it was called?
R: Yes. One time we played a show in Toronto at four in the morning, and it was PACKED! A man did a back-flip over and over in the show, and I had the worst headache I’d ever had beforehand. By the end of the show, it was gone.
S: You screamed it out.
R: Is that a weird thing or maybe a miracle. It’s more of a miracle.
S: That was the Bovine Sex Club in Toronto as I recall. A REALLY preposterously named thing for music! I mean my goodness!
R: I was afraid of the place before we got there, then it wasn’t anything that the name implied…. One time we played a back alley in South Central Los Angeles and someone threw a bottle at us-
S: Oh no, it was a lot. The Ska Punk show? That rained glass down on us?
R: That’s what I was just saying!
S: That wasn’t an alley –
R: IT WAS LIKE AN ALLEY! It was A LOT! It was a place where a show shouldn’t be happening, and it rained glass on us. And we were like “Oh no! This is the end!” The show happened. We didn’t die, but we were informed later on, via the promoter that the person who had thrown the bottle at us had been dragged out and beaten up. HE WANTED US TO KNOW THIS!
S: Though this was NOT to our pleasure at all!
R: We didn’t say much, because he had done that to him… Sometimes you want to get home in one piece.
S: People at Ska Punk shows want to dance and punch each other simultaneously is what I learned from that experience.
R: In August we will be playing in Calgery, Red Deer and Edmonton, that is august 10th – 12th. October as a part of Pre-Fest in Ybor in Florida. Then we will be playing FEST shows haven’t been announced yet, but we will be playing. Working on a new album, well a series of EPs then we have a documentary of our first tour.
S: JULY THROUGH THE SOUTHWEST
R: Yeah, that was in 2016 and we’re working on it still.