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A Criminal Risk Finally Feels Like a Real Band

Toms River punk band A Criminal Risk discusses their past and where they're going.

A Criminal Risk: Finally a Real Band

It isn’t too often that a band will stick with all original members their entire career. When that does happen, many times, it’s a short-lived career. Band members will come and go, but the will to move on is what fans often respect.

A Criminal Risk made their name as a punk rock trio from Toms River, NJ. However, as people grow, so does their style. Now working towards a four-piece band, ACR says they finally feel like a real band. They also realize that sometimes, people are just living to die and the only certainties in life, as they say, are death and Batman.

Dolla Bil Facciponte: Right off the bat, you guys are currently going through a lineup change. You’ve recently been working with a new bassist.  How’s he working out?

Tom Kunzman: Awesome. He’s doing good.  He’s actually an old friend of mine from my first band where he played bass. We kind of lost touch for a while and I realized recently he wasn’t playing with anyone so he was one of the first people I thought to call.  I didn’t know how Joe was going to feel about him but the second he came over and right off the bat it was really comfortable.

DB: Well aside from him, you’ve also added a second guitarist, right?

TK: Yeah, we’re going to add a fourth member. The three-piece thing is cool. I personally love it. The majority of all my favorite bands are three pieces and the bands we mostly agree on are three pieces. When you see a three piece band pull off such an amazing sound on stage we think if they can do that, so can we. Plus, there’s less minds clashing so it’s easier to work as a three piece.

Joe Appolonia: The night we got the guitar player, Tom texted me and asked how I felt about a fourth member. I said yes and he was shocked because I’m also into three-piece bands a lot.

DB: Is it weird having a fourth member now?

TK: It feels better. He stopped by and jammed with us one weekend and he already knew the songs because he already had the album. So he just said tell me which ones we’re playing, I already know him.

JA: Yeah, he was already adding his own stuff to the songs. Even with past experiences I’ve had, people come over and what they write is terrible and you have a hard time saying it, but he came over and played stuff and I was blown away.

DB: It has to be cool that he just comes in and meshed with you guys so easily.

TK: Yeah, that’s the thing. He’s got a very open mind. He’s been in tons of different styles of bands, but that influence makes it more listener friendly, I think.

DB: Let’s talk about the original formation of the band. How did A Criminal Risk first come together?

TK: I was just coming out of a band with our first drummer. Our old band had more of a pop side to it. I had all these ideas that I wanted to write that I couldn’t put in those bands.  So we wanted to do something more aggressive, a little more real and not so over-polished. Then our old bassist was looking for a band so he joined with us and that was that.  We weren’t as busy then as we are now. I feel like we were waiting for the lineup we had now.

JA: Yeah, I’ve been in this band for about three years now and I haven’t had as much fun as I’m having now. We haven’t even played a show with the new guys yet and I’m already having a better time then I’ve had in a long time.

DB: You recently released your album “The Art of Dropping Names.” How was putting the album together?

TK: Awesome. It’s hard to explain how excited I was to get that CD out. A piece of it was already recorded and we weren’t happy with it at all.  So we went back and re-did some of the older ones. Then we did the rest of the songs that people had been hearing live for years that we never got to record. 

JA: Tom was so stoked to be putting the album out. At first, I didn’t really think much of it. Once it came out, I just thought this is great.

TK: Actually, we didn’t even know it came out. Someone called me and was made that we didn’t let them know our album was on iTunes. I was excited and it came out two weeks before the tour so it was perfect timing. 

DB: You guys released that album with a former lineup. Now that the lineup has changed, do you think the sound is going to change at all?

TK: Honestly, no.  The music is still the same. It’s just as busy. Guitar-wise, it’s not all my ideas. As far as the bass player goes, I like them to have their own freedom and do what they think fits. Then they’ll feel more relaxed which is exactly how they should feel. I guess our new sound isn’t what you’d expect, but it’s not the opposite of ACR.

JA: It’s also cool to have somebody else in the band that can actually sing now. He does harmonies, but it’s in a good way.

DB: So you guys are relatively young. Not many people are going to get to go on tour at a young age like you have. What kind of feeling is that?

JA: It was weird for me because I’m the youngest. The first tour was really weird because I should have been a senior in high school but I dropped out to go on tour. All my friends were graduating and wondering what they were going to do and I’m about to get in a van and go to Chicago.

TK: The last tour was kind of weird for me.

DB: Well that was also your album release tour, wasn’t it?

TK: Yeah and what was cool about it was another band was touring for their album as well. And then the headlining band, Freshman Fifteen, was touring for their single, “Anywhere but here.” Like I said though, it was a little weird only in a sense of we’re nobody at all and these guys wanted us to go on tour with them. They had another band in mind but we sent them a copy of our single “65” and when they heard that they wanted us, so that was a good feeling.

DB: You guys have been doing this music thing for a little while now. What have you learned the most?

TK: I learned how much I love the style of music I play. My first band was similar to what we do now but then I ventured out into some heavier stuff. That stuff got old quick so I got back into this style and realized this is what I love to do.

JA: I’ve learned to enjoy it all and take it all while it comes. At first all I wanted to do was just go on tour. So we got calls for tour and we were excited. Tom was the one that kept us in check and its good to have that realist in the group.

TK: Another big lesson was the cliché of when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We had $1200 worth of van troubles on tour once and we had no money. Then we had all of our regular expenses so it got tough.

DB: You guys always show your passion and how much fun you have playing music. There’s an awful scenario where bands will say this is their life plan and it doesn’t work out. What if that happens to you?

JA: Well Tom and I met at school for audio engineering while we were still in high school. After I dropped out to go on tour, I paid to go back to that class. When I got done with it I thought this was cool for a back up plan. But this is what we love, and we won’t get sick of it.

TK: That’s a tough question to answer. You never really know when it’s done. There have been times, like with our most recent situation, where I questioned if Joe and I should just start over. Even then, anything we’d ever write would be the same thing because it’s just who we are.

DB: Since you guys are living out your dream, what advice do you have for anyone else?

TK: Whatever you’re doing, just do it cause you mean it. Anything you do, say it from your heart and mind because people can tell when you’re lying, especially people who care. If you love something, you won’t get sick of it.

JA: Enjoy it. Take every day as it comes and have fun.


Bob Hockenfrocken May 18, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Sounds like they're going nowhere. Dropouts? Wow.


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