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INTERVIEW With C.R. and the Degenerates’ Chris Gennone, Fresh Off The Release Of Their Newest LP ‘Coming Of Age’.

Maybe you’ve seen him. A staple of the NJ music scene, Chris Gennone’s hard livin’ songs frequently haunt the air of punk clubs, DIY spaces and the occasional house party. Resembling a countrified vampire cheating on the evening, he often sports an unapologetic stubble and smudged dark sunglasses. Backed by the powerful Degenerates, he matches their live intensity onstage with a never-ending flood of inspired albums. Following the release of their excellent new record Coming of Age, these insomniacs celebrated with an ambitious tour of the southern United States. Needless to say, their 5-day itinerary was fierce and tight, taking them as far as Charleston, South Carolina.

Recently returned from carving his initials across scorched American highways, Chris was kind enough to meet and discuss the new record and his relationship to music.

C.R. and the Degenerates consists of Chris Gennone (vocals and guitar,) Jim Abbot (lead guitar,) John Dewitt (bass,) Harrison Bieth (keys) and Evan Luberger. Naturally evolving out of Chris’ solo music, the Degenerates have put out 5 (!) albums since 2016. Additionally, they have toured other local heroes like Joy Cleaner, LKFFCT and Rosey Bengal (Evan and Jim’s other band.) This seasoned band’s potential is thrillingly realized within the sounds of their latest… Coming of Age.

CHF
Tell me about Coming of Age?

Chris Gennone
It’s sort of the first album. The first one where we’ve come together as a band. Previous releases have felt like it’s just me with everyone else playing on it. This one was definitely more collaborative. Jim Abbott (lead guitar) and Evan Luberger (drums) both wrote great songs for it. On Jim’s one, Quicksand, Pt. 2, I wrote the chords on Christmas day and sent it to him. He got right back to me and said “yo dude, can I write lyrics for this?” I was thrilled. It came together beautifully. Evan’s song, Marigold, is largely him. Brandon (of Evan’s band Rosey Bengal) and I sing a bit on it. Other songs like “Leave it to the Pros” started as more of a slowcore song. However, it took on a new life when Jim suggested we speed it up. It was magic. Meanwhile White Noise started with this synth melody Harrison had. He really came into his own on keys for this record. He got a new synth and it sparked a lot of cool riffs. Brings an interesting New Wavey element to the songs.

“The first one where we’ve come together as a band. Previous releases have felt like it’s just me with everyone else playing on it. This one was definitely more collaborative.”

CHF
When did you write it?

CG
I started writing most of these during spring of 2017. We road tested them a lot on tour with LKFFCT and then we fleshed them out during the end of summer/fall. We just let it develop and let the creative juices stew. The title track is definitely the oldest. I wrote it for our last album The World According to C.R. but we decided to sit on it.

CHF
Who did you record it with?

CG
We recorded it both with Skylar Ross (Delicate Flowers) and Max Rauch (LKFFCT and Mauch)

CHF
Where did the title “My Ceiling is a Trailer Park” come from?

CG
That song is sort of an ode to Jason Molina (Magnolia Electric Co.) It has 2 meanings. First, it alludes to baseball. A prospect in the minor leagues is gauged by his potential. So if you’re hot shit, people say you have a high ceiling. When I said my ceiling is a trailer park, I’m essentially saying I have nothing, no potential. Additionally, I was reading about how Molina grew up in a trailer park in Ohio. So yeah, double meaning.

CHF
What’s next?

CG
If this record is us coming together, I think what’s next is tearing down all the fucking walls. I want to get real uncomfortable. That’s where you find the best shit. Gotta make your own bed. The new stuff is going to force me to grow up a bit. That’s the next step forward.

CHF
What pisses you off?

CG
That’s a tough one. I guess forces I can’t control. It’s kind of an egotistical way to think about it. Maybe it’s the struggle in keeping balance. I like being in control but I also like it when something unexpected comes and flips the script. Luckily, this band is great for that.

Getting back to the question, I think maybe it’s not being where I want to be. Doing things I don’t want to do. I hate working, dude. I don’t like being told what to do. It’s hard sometimes to find fulfillment in day-to-day things. A lot of the time I feel really empty. Music’s one of the few things I feel connection to. I’m sure a lot people feel that way too.

“It’s hard sometimes to find fulfillment in day-to-day things. A lot of the time I feel really empty. Music’s one of the few things I feel connection to.”

Often I feel like I’m not allowed to do what I want to do. But… who’s telling me these things? Society? Family? Friends? Do those things really matter? Haha. But yeah, at the end of the day what matters most? So yeah, I definitely feel tension because I don’t like to upset people. I think it comes out in the music. Some of these songs might be the darkest shit you’ve ever heard. I just have all these things bottled up inside and when it comes out it sounds like I’m at the end of my rope. Sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes it’s all on the table. But that’s a good thing. It’s ok to accept that every option is on the table. Success, failure, death, life, friendship, love. It feels honest to me. If you can’t accept successes and failures… I don’t know what to tell you. Life and death are right next to each-other. That’s how it should be.

CHF
If you weren’t making music what would you be doing?

CG
I’d be dead. In the grave. I’m scooping Ice Cream right now haha. What else can I do? I’m under-qualified for everything. The main reason I haven’t found a better job is I don’t have my heart in it. I don’t give a shit. I want a job… but I really don’t want a job. I would love to have a decent salary at a 9 to 5. But am I going to care? No. I’d probably kill myself down the line. It’s the most obvious answer. The only thing that makes sense to me is writing songs. It’s the only thing I can do right… and wrong.

To give up on the only thing I care about and turn it into a hobby is the saddest thing in the world. My parents think I’m crazy haha. I’m done caring about that shit though.

“I’d be dead. In the grave. I’m scooping Ice Cream right now haha. What else can I do?”

CHF
Favorite scene/place to play?

CG
I’ve only played there twice but Richmond, Virginia. Everyone is so friendly there. When we toured their with Joy Cleaner we played this tiny living room. It was packed with like 50 people. It was insane. I loved it. Richmond’s The Camel is also great. Also, WFMU’s Monty Hall. They’re the greatest radio station in the world.

CHF
Best deal you’ve ever found?

CG
Virginia. Cheap as hell. I had 5 quality beers and meal. The bill was $15. You can’t find that in New York.

CHF
Worst trouble you’ve ever been in?

CG
When I was homeless. Probably the loneliest I’ve ever been. I remember the first night living in my car that summer. I was like “let’s do this, I’ll sprawl out in the backseat.. it’ll be fine.” I woke up to the gnarliest thunderstorm. BOOM. Rain pouring down. I’m parked in some condo development and my old bandmate wouldn’t let me crash on his couch. I kind of alluded to that time in Leave it to the Pros.

Another instance during this stretch I encountered a black bear. I was taking a piss in the woods, looked up and saw it. We just stared at each other and eventually he walked away. Maybe it was my spirit animal

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