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Turn it Down: Q&A with Rent Strike's John Warmb

Rent Strike bids farewell to Lansing

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Fresh off another lengthy tour spanning the United States, Rent Strike just returned to its home base of Lansing — for now, that is.

John Warmb, 26, the folk-infused punk band’s frontman, will soon say goodbye to Lansing as he relocates to his new home in Pittsburgh. The prolific songwriter, red-hot banjoist and guitarist confirmed: Rent Strike, as it is now, is going on an indefinite hiatus.

For those looking to say goodbye to the quartet in person, there is a going-away show in the works, visit facebook.com/rentstrikemusic for show details. In the meantime, Warmb chatted with City Pulse. Here’s what he had to say.

With the big move nearing, what’s next for Rent Strike?

My partner got into a really great PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. Since then, I’ve started thinking about the future of the band. Obviously there will be some changes. I’m going from living in the same house as two-thirds of the members, to six hours from all of them. But I have another album that’s about a third of the way finished.  I’m looking forward to holing up and working on that. Beyond that, I guess nobody can see the future.

Mixing traditional folk and gritty punk seems to be your forte. What inspired that sound?

It isn’t unprecedented. There are a bunch of bands — Mischief Brew and Against Me! —  that really laid the groundwork. It comes pretty naturally, too. The two genres, in their best forms, share a lot of commonality in simple and approachable songs, strong messaging, the thread of struggle and resistance.

You’ve been keeping busy writing and performing songs since 2012. What do you recall of those early days?

I did a couple solo EPs that were very poorly written and recorded and I “toured” solo. Really, I was just hitch-hiking and busking on street corners for a couple years. A couple friends toured with me in 2014, and then we recorded the first (self-titled) LP right after that. After some more bouncing around, I moved back here in 2015, and started working on arranging and recording “IX.” We’ve added members and gotten louder and louder since.

How did 2018’s “IX” LP come to be?

“IX” was recorded in two parts. One half was cut in a DIY studio where we did some workshopping and arrangements, and the bulk of it was recorded at Elm Street Studios in REO Town. It was a long process. It took about six months, all told.

Lyrically, what’s been your biggest stimulus — both in the past and today?

In the past, my struggle with addiction served as the base for most of my lyrics. Such suffering endured and it was so concrete. It’s not like this diffuse suffering that’s replaced it since I quit using — the kind that permeates all modern life under capitalism. It’s a lot harder to put your finger on it, but that’s what I’ve been trying to channel recently. Maybe it speaks to my Christian upbringing that I’m so fixated on suffering. Of course, the appeal of the suffering is the eventual emergence into redemption and justice, too. That’s a big theme in “IX” – redemption. For all the endless suffering we endure, I remain an optimist in the better nature of people and society.

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