Meet ‘Broken Locker,’ a punk band from Buffalo NY. Comprised of guitarist Mike Clifford, bassist Chris Gibbo and drummer Jeff Szatkowski, the trio will soon be bringing their raw, energetic music to stages throughout the area. (Hear them on Bandcamp HERE) 1120 Press recently caught up with the guys for a get-to-know-you Q & A to find out what they’re all about and what’s happening in their world. — (photo provided, L to R: Chris Gibbo, Mike Clifford, Jeff Szatkowski)
1120: Talk about Broken Locker’s origins. How’d it all start; how’d you guys get together?
MIKE: I tried starting a band over a year ago. After a little searching, I got a hold of a drummer I used to know who played in bands and was interested. Chris answered an ad to play bass. We met up and it should have been a clue when (the drummer) told us didn’t want to play fast. If felt good practicing again, but it wasn’t really going well. I couldn’t write about the subject matter that I wanted to because the drummer was a Trumper, and although we had some good songs, we weren’t playing punk, which is what the goal was. The drummer wanted us to appeal to everyone. I think Chris even described us as alt rock! After awhile, the drummer and I ended up kicking Chris out for all the wrong reasons. I called Chris back, we talked, and I apologized and asked him to come back. Dude’s awesome and he did. Long story short: we ended up kicking that drummer out and we found our guy.
JEFF: I met them from Craigslist.
MIKE: Craigslist is our friend.
1120: Mike, you told 1120 it was something like 35 years or so since you were last in a band. What prompted you to get back to it and how does it feel?
MIKE: Hell yeah, it’s been a long time. The pandemic got me back playing guitar. I was laid-off work and bored as fuck, man. I started playing again, playing every day, man. I began writing songs again and putting them up on social media to a good reception, too. That inspired me. I began to realize that I really missed the aspect of sharing music with people. Writing songs made me realize that I missed having an outlet to get my message out.
1120: Who are your influences? How would you describe your style/music?
CHRIS: The past four bands I have been in have either been country or blues driven. Prior to that, I played in punk bands back in Vermont. I feel like my biggest influence on bass is probably classic country and western swing. Where in some songs, you can really swing and stand out in front, and other songs where you can sit in the pocket for the better part of the song to help provide better emphasis on the common goal of that song as we see fit.
MIKE: I’m a guitar player inspired by Greg Ginn (Black Flag) and Mike Ness (Social Distortion). That said, we are guitar driven, but I always loved the way Matt Freeman (Operation Ivy, Rancid, Devil’s Brigade) and Brendan Kelly (The Lawrence Arms) play bass, and that style comes out in Chris’ playing. To me, the bass is another instrument to be heard, not only to provide the backbone but also to fill a layer. Like, I’m playing a chord while Chris is running the neck, filling gaps, it’s awesome!
Our songs are fast, noisy and somewhat melodic. We aren’t pop punk and we aren’t hardcore, either. We sing about current events, social issues, and economic issues. Like our song, “Falls On Deaf Ears,” which tells a basic history of the segregation of Buffalo from 1967 to now. We want to affect people in a positive way. Maybe someone can learn something from one of our songs. Maybe someone will be inspired by one of our songs.
JEFF: Music style is gritty.
MIKE: Yeah, Jeff nailed it. We are gritty for sure.
1120: How’s the writing process going, and how do you guys approach it?
JEFF: Mike does a majority of the writing, but all of us have contributed. Chris helps to compose the songs mostly originated by Mike’s writing.
MIKE: I usually come up with the basic songs, and if I really like them, I’ll send them to the guys. They either like them or not. If they like them, I bring it to practice and we hammer it out. We give Jeff an idea of the tempo and he nails the drums and, like, Jeff says, Chris really helps with the arranging. What makes us really comfortable as a band is that we are open to change, and once a song is complete and it’s earned the seal of approval from the three of us, we add it to the set.
1120: You guys will soon begin to play out, which will be the first time you guys perform together. What’s been going through your minds as you now begin to take this band from the ‘basement,’ so to speak, to the public?
CHRIS: It's all about being prepared and comfortable with the song and remembering that it’s all about having fun. Mike and I saw a show the other day where a national act was playing and no one was into them or moving around, but they still rocked out. It's about knowing that those gigs happen to the best bands and to not get frustrated if they happen to you.
MIKE: I’m super stoked with getting back out and playing to an audience. It’s a positive feeling. One of the things that I remember is the connection with the audience. You’re on stage and giving out energy and the audience is giving it back. I mean, even if you only reach one person out there you play for that one person. The energy — it’s all about the energy for me. There’s no better feeling than being together with the audience for the common goal of having fun.
JEFF: Keep the setup simple for easy setup. Mike spent time finding the right type of gear.
MIKE: I had a long time to work on that (laughing).
1120: Does Broken Locker have any mission or goal?
CHRIS: My goal is to get people excited about rocking the fuck out again.
MIKE: For me this is an interesting question. At the beginning, I would have told you that the goal was simply just to get the chance to play out again. As time went by, I’m realizing that my personal goal has evolved into a band goal. The goal is to get our message out to as many people as we can. There’s so much fucked up shit going on in our country, man, whether it’s the mass shootings, bloated war budget, women’s rights, corporate welfare, the list goes on and on. We want people to listen to us, have fun while doing it, but more importantly also to get people thinking about the topics we’re singing about.
1120: Is there anything you want to touch on that we haven’t asked?
MIKE: I’d like to plug our Bandcamp page. You can find us under Broken Locker. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook. We have shows coming up and you can find the dates on our Facebook page. We’d also like to thank you so much for this opportunity to introduce ourselves. This has been an awesome time. To everyone out there, be safe and remember to take care of each other. Up The Punx!