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Q&A With You Say Party! We Say Die!

Back in the U.S.A.

If there is one thing you can learn from Canadaís You Say Party! You Say Die! itís donít get caught up in border politics. The dance-rock outfit with references to new wave and punk found itself banned from performing in the U.S. for several years after an ill-informed attempt to tour here without a proper work visa. After a near breakup and the release of itís excellent new album XXXX in February, YSP! WSD! Is back with a fresh outlook and a message of love. The band returns to San Francisco on March 13th for a gig at Bottom of the Hill en route to SXSW. Vocalist Becky Ninkovic spoke with SF Station during a phone interview.

SF Station (SFS): They are finally letting you back in the U.S.

Becky Ninkovic (BN): Yeah, we had some border troubles a couple of years back. Weíve been working hard to get back in, and finally all of our hard work paid off. Weíre excited to get back to SXSW this year, and weíre looking forward to being in San Francisco again.

SFS: Did the stress from that situation almost cause the band to collapse or was it something else?

BN: I donít think so. On that tour, we were going 16 weeks straight with not nearly enough stops. We barely had any breaks and we really ran ourselves into the ground. My health just totally depleted. That is what led to that breakdown.

SFS: Touring for 16 weeks is an experience that most people donít know. Can you describe what kind of mind state that puts you in?

BN: Itís a combination of fatigue and total exhaustion. I really need my solitude, and I wasnít really getting much of that. I also had a really difficult time trying to find food to eat. I was going through some health issues and I wasnít eating because I couldnít find food that I thought that I could eat. My mental state wasnít really stable because I was really malnutritioned.

When my voice started to go, I started to make up for it by dancing and with dance performance. I was burning so much of my energy on stage dancing my heart out, but I wasnít replenishing my body. It was a lot of things working against each other.

I needed a few months to get my health back on track, and after that and I found a new, better way of living and thinking.

SFS: You got a day job. Did that bring new life into your music?

BN: Yeah, it definitely did. Stephen and I help people with disabilities. It really taught me a lot about living with my own disabilities, and being more supportive of myself and the band.

There are a lot of things that you can learn just by doing. Through the work that we do, I think it has enabled us to do this with a spirit of support and love for each other.

SFS That is apparent with a lot of the songs and the symbolism you use with the XXXX title.

BN: Yeah, it was definitely a loving spirit that re-emerged through the hardships that we went through, and that spirit kind of came over into the songwriting. Itís all I wanted to sing about and itís the only language that came out of me at the time. It felt so good to be expressing that.

I think I wanted to make songs that would feel really good to sing every night. Something I came up against a lot on tour was that with some songs of the past, it always felt like I was fighting against the music ó I was really yelling, and it was kind of abrasive energy. Once that energy of love came in, I realized there was another way to sing that felt really good and liberating. It helped me connect with others more and break the struggle. It was a slow process of many revelations.

SFS: It sounds like you had a big turning point in your life. Do you feel like the band is now at a pivotal moment, as well?

BN: We really feel like this is our time. We realized that we can create whatever we want and make our dreams come true. There is no limit to the possibilities. There are a lot of those kinds of realizations happening now collectively and individually.

You can do whatever you want; you donít need to let your disabilities get in the way of you accomplishing your dreams. That spirit is really keeping me alive right now, and it can be contagious. As long as you keep reaching out to people, and donít think of negative things that hold you back, you can make your dreams come true.

Itís my dream to help people and I feel like I can live out that part of me by sharing things that Iím discovering with others. I talk to teenage girls and let them know that it doesnít matter if you donít feel confident enough with what you want to do. Just act it out and start doing it and that confidence will come ó it did for me. I definitely started out thinking I could never be in a band. Little by little, it has grown into what it is today, and I think it will keep growing.

You Say Party! We Say Die! perform at Bottom of the Hill on March 12th. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 10pm.