Luke McNeill has been active in the Central Illinois punk scene for quite some time. The musician has made a name for himself alongside his friends in The Copyrights and has recently been splitting his time fronting Springfield-based band Hospital Job, a side project that has turned into more of a priority project for the members of the band in the past few years. The band’s most recent release, Never Get Cold, came out a few weeks ago in the midst of a tour that took the band to Fest in Florida. We caught up with McNeill after Hospital Job returned home to discuss his latest activity.
Ghost Track: Your newest record is called Never Get Cold. What went into making the record that was different from the last few Hospital Job releases?
Luke McNeill: It was written entirely in winter. It really feels like a winter album to me, anyway. I think my mood and the lyrics reflect that. I’m someone whose mood definitely gets affected by the weather. The days are always shorter in the winter. I think it’s more apparent on this than any of my other releases. I don’t really have a song in mind particularly I just think the overall themes of the album have winter themes and the emotions that can come from winter.
Ghost Track: One track I really love off the new record is “Hey Hey.” I would like to hear about how you wrote that song. No offense, but it sounds like a song that would be written by someone much younger than yourself. What inspired this sort of anti-school attitude in an older punk such as you?
Luke: The chorus was supposed to be an inflammatory way telling my younger self how little high school and college matter when it comes to your life and how it is shaped. Especially in this day and age, I feel college is less useful than ever. I mean, I loved going to college, but I definitely think it’s easier to write a song with big, hyperbolic statements than going through the subtleties. I wanted to make the message as clear as possible. I wanted people to think that if your life sucks in high school or your hometown you’ll come to realize that stuff doesn’t really matter that much.
Ghost Track: Hospital Job plays a pop-punk style similar to The Copyrights. What distinguishes the two projects for you personally?
Luke: I used to not differentiate I used to just write. Like, I could write a Copyrights record and a Hospital Job record back-and-forth. Now, I think Hospital Job is getting is own identity. It’s indie-tinged and it’s a little bit slower than the Copyrights. The bass is a bit slower for sure which for me makes it different that the fast stuff Copyrights does.
Ghost Track: Has your process changed going from drummer to vocalist and guitar player?
Luke: Not really, actually. I recorded all the Copyrights stuff too and would show the other guys in the band. I have a studio in my basement so I’m used to writing a lot and on my own in Springfield.
Ghost Track: You’re a Carbondale guy and Hospital Job hails from the glorious mid-state metropolis of Springfield, Illinois. How do you think living in this part of the state has influenced you as a musician?
Luke: I really lucked out as far as where and when I grew up. I was in high school in the 90s when punk was the biggest it ever was. That really shaped my influences. Carbondale has always had a great music scene because of the college. For the past 35 years there has been a really driving punk scene. Back then, there wasn’t Internet but I knew some older kids and they would give me punk compilation cassettes with Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Bad Brains and stuff on them. That’s how I found out about all the cool bands. I was totally down for when punk started getting well-produced too, though. I think the kind of punk like that will always be my favorite. Stuff with melody, you know? I really think it helps convey your message. That’s something I think the Ramones did really well. They’re probably my favorite band.
Ghost Track: Have you ever felt like your location has been inhibiting?
Luke: Well, now I think that doesn’t matter at all. Now you can just Facebook away. Create a demo and put it on the Internet and just market yourself. I think the Internet shrinks any sort of geographical advantage that anywhere had before by a wide margin. The big town vs. small town accessibility isn’t there anymore. Even when I was growing up we had a cool record store in Carbondale and we got all the same CDs. I never really thought there was a barrier for me. I found my people easily and bands were still coming through Carbondale.
Ghost Track: Where are your favorite places to play in Illinois?
Luke: Chicago is pretty awesome. I would probably say Chicago and Carbondale my favorites. We always loved playing at Firehouse in Bloomington, Illinois too.
Ghost Track: What really defines punk rock for you?
Luke: Well, that question is bigger than me for sure. I don’t know. I’m too old for this conversation (laughs). I think what was different about it for me though is that it was more community based. Sonically, it can be Fugazi to Less Than Jake. That doesn’t really matter. I just always sorta felt like I belong in the punk scene and I think that of inclusiveness is very punk.
Ghost Track: I know you just played Fest, a punk rock festival in Florida. What was that like for you as an older punk musician?
Luke: It was awesome. It’s always a joy. It’s always the most fun set you’ll play all year. This was Hospital Job’s second time playing it. It was cool too because a couple other Springfield bands played too, so it was nice not being the only representative.
Ghost Track: I think punk rock is commonly thought of as a young man’s game. What’s it like being a part of this scene compared to when you were a younger man?
Luke: Well, at Fest I would say I was right in the median age. Punk rock still has a lot of older fans. Not too many kids I’ve ran into listen to punk. They want to produce and make EDM on their computers.
Ghost Track: Do you ever feel like it’s harder to play the genre as you get older?
Luke: Well, you know, we all have day jobs now, but that hasn’t made it less fun. It’s still what I want to do in my free time. I’ll probably stop when I feel like I have nothing left to say. This is the most fun hobby I can think of for me. As far as getting older, most of the kids aren’t really starting bands so I want to keep playing shows for the kids that are getting into it. I just think it isn’t a big youth movement like it used to be. At least the scene I’m in anyway.
Ghost Track: Are there any bands from the Illinois scene you think deserve a shout out or are doing some exceptional stuff right now?
Luke: Bad Taste is a band from Carbondale that’s really cool. They’re a pretty trashy punk band with an awesome front guy. You guys should check em out.