Back in February we were amazed to discover that there was a band from Canada who had named themselves after Professor Julius Sumner Miller, a science educator who made his name on tv in the 60s and 70s, primarily in Australia but also in North America. We reviewed their single, ‘Leave The Key’, from their fourth album, ‘Try It Out’, and now we introduce you to Darren Ollinger, frontman of Julius Sumner Miller – or as we like to call them, JSM.
Hi there, thank you for agreeing to talk to us!
First off, I grew up in Australia in the 70s and 80s, and Professor Julius Sumner Miller was an absolute fixture on tv in that country back then, with his gruffly delivered shows about the wonders of science winning us all over. How on earth then does a band from Calgary, Canada, know about the man? What is the story behind you naming the band after this legend? Why is it so?
In Canada, we only know the good Professor from an amazing kid’s show from the early 70’s called “Hilarious House of Frightenstein”. He was basically the Mad Professor…and would do a physics demo segment on every episode. The show was on in syndication forever here, so anyone who’s seen HHoF knows exactly who he is.
There’s no real good story as to why we decided to name the band after him. A couple of us were just hanging out at our old studio watching YouTube clips and laughing our asses off at his “eccentricity” and thought it would be a cool/funny/unique band name.
Years later, it’s really paid off, because a lot of people, who don’t live in a punk rock world, check out our band because of the name and end up digging it.
That’s also how we realized he was bigger than Jesus in Australia… once our first album “Why is It So?” was released. We kept getting tagged, mentioned and played over there. And we were like “WTH??”. That definitely wouldn’t have happened if we had some standard punk handle like “Putrid Oi-Hawks”.
Your song, ‘Leave The Key’, was released last month, an incendiary punk piece that is as ferocious as Professor Sumner Miller was grumpy. What’s the source of your rage, and do you feel putting it into your music is cathartic?
I’m not really an angry fellow, but I do seem to always write a couple of “pissed off” songs on each album. I find it a healthy way to get things off my chest, without causing any real-life issues. For ‘Leave The Key’ in particular, I had a law suit that I was named in finally get settled after 8 years… and this was pretty much my swan song to a shitty situation.
How’s the Covid-19 Pandemic of the past 2 years affected JSM? Has it been a help or a hindrance in terms of motivation and energy? Have you found that having more “free” time has helped you musically? Or has it been life as usual?
JSM took the Covid stop down and really ran with it. We wrote and released our full length “Try it Out”, made 5 music videos, found a new bass player, played live a few times… and we just finished in the studio on another new record. It’s crazy how productive you can be when 5 people aren’t being pulled in different directions.
If you could do it all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently, and why?
For the band… 2 things. I would have tried to stay on fire longer than 26 seconds in that video shoot, and we for sure would have asked our new bass player “Robito” to join earlier. Cause he’s the god damn best.
For me personally, I guess nothing… ‘cause I like how I’m turning out.
What are the band’s musical instruments of choice? Why?
Scott Burton is our drummer who doesn’t own drums.
Sean Hamilton is our guitarist who owns the drums that Scott plays.
Monty plays lead… most likely because he’s wonderful at it, and most everything else.
Robito plays the Bass (because someone has to).
Darren Ollinger (me) sings… and we’ll use that term loosely. Mainly for the reason I don’t have the patience to learn an instrument and I’m pretty comfortable on stage doing ridiculous shit.
Who – apart from the great JSM – have been your greatest inspirations in life? What about in music?
I worship the mighty “ALL” in life and music.
But we are totally inspired by anyone who hustles as hard as we do. Especially if they’re doing it just for their love of the art and not for any other reason.
Also, Scott is really into the band “Creed” for some reason.
What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
Nobody ever asks if Sunday Mornings are really that easy.
The answer is “no”.