To be at ease: A long talk with Whirr guitarist Nick Bassett

In his first — and final — honest interview, the shoegaze musician goes deep on his and Whirr's history, addresses the band's controversies head-on, and muses about their future.

To be at ease: A long talk with Whirr guitarist Nick Bassett
Nick Bassett, photo by Devin Nunes

Let me start by answering the question running through many of your heads right now: Yes, really. This is real. This happened.

Just over a year ago, I wrote an extremely lengthy essay about the shoegaze band Whirr. It's impossible to paraphrase everything I wrote in that piece, so I highly suggest that you read it before scrolling any further on this page. Not for my own vanity's sake (though I am proud of how it turned out), but because that article is, up until now, the most nuanced and clarifying article about Whirr's knotty history on the entire internet, and knowing the full context is important for what's written below. And also, because the tenor of that article heavily informed the conversation I had with Whirr guitarist Nick Bassett last week.

But alas, I'll paraphrase anyways. Whirr are/were a shoegaze band from Modesto, California, who formed in 2010. Between then and 2015, they put out two albums and several EP's/splits, and did a decent amount of touring across the U.S. and Europe. At that time, they weren't a hugely popular band, but they were central to the American shoegaze revival that was bubbling up in the first half of the 2010s, and they were notorious for other reasons. Specifically: talking shit.

If you were involved in the shoegaze/hardcore/punk/indie/emo/pop-punk scene(s) in the early 2010s — if you listened to albums released on Run For Cover Records, had opinions on Deafheaven, or could hum the melody to Title Fight's "Head in the Ceiling Fan" — then you probably knew who Whirr were. They had a brash, abrasive internet presence where they would clash with writers and shit-talkers on their social media pages, and then bring that antagonistic persona to their interviews as well. They frequently called haters in their comments "retarded," and in one infamous Noisey Q&A, Whirr guitarist-spokesman Nick Bassett said that "weeding out the pussies" of shoegaze was the band's M.O.

Plenty of people liked their music, too, but at that time, it was hard to separate the band's hostile attitude from their comparatively drowsy, morose, inward-facing shoegaze output. Then, in 2015, Whirr got canceled. Someone on the band's Twitter referred to the now-defunct trans punk band G.L.O.S.S. as “a bunch of boys running around in panties making shitty music,” among other insults about their gender. The tweets were quickly deleted, and the next morning, Bassett posted a brief statement on Whirr's Twitter apologizing for what was said, and attributing the transphobic tweets to a friend of the band who had control of their Twitter account, promising that the unnamed culprit had been "dealt with."

But by then, Whirr were the subject of an internet firestorm. Dozens of bands in the collective punk/indie scene were publicly condemning them and affirming their support for G.L.O.S.S. in an act of trans allyship. Whirr's sometimes-label Run For Cover Records released a statement announcing they were severing ties with the group, and Whirr were effectively exiled from the scene within 24 hours. The band went dark, never posted on Twitter again, and ostensibly broke up or good. Over the next few years, I personally never heard or saw anyone mention their name again in a positive light.

Then, in 2019, Whirr surprise-dropped a new album called Feels Like You. They released it themselves, neither sought nor received any press for it, and still managed to sell out its first vinyl run within a day — and then sell out every subsequent pressing. Clearly, people still loved Whirr, and in 2024, more people love Whirr than ever before. Over the last few years, as shoegaze has exploded on TikTok and streaming, and a new wave of bands are building atop the groundwork they helped lay in the 2010s, Whirr have become one of the most popular shoegaze bands in the entire world.

They currently have nearly twice the number of Spotify monthly listeners as U.K. shoegaze pioneers Ride, and according to statistics Spotify provided me last year for a different article, over 60% of Whirr's Spotify audience consists of Gen-Z listeners — as in, fans who were barely entering their teens when Whirr got canceled back in 2015. Do people in that age bracket even know about Whirr's controversy? Anecdotally speaking, a very popular teenage shoegaze artist I recently interviewed namedropped Whirr as an influence, but had no idea about their 2015 "cancellation" until I mentioned it to them. (And for the record: no, it wasn't Wisp, the major label shoegaze breakout who uses the Instagram handle "@whirrwhoreforlyfe".)

If you pay any attention to modern shoegaze, Whirr are essentially unavoidable, and my article last year was about me wrestling with how members of the shoegaze scene — and people like me who cover it — should treat Whirr while discussing their involvement in shoegaze's arc. Again, go read the article if you want to know where I was coming from on that front, but essentially I was asking: Should they be canceled anymore? Are they canceled anymore? Were they ever even canceled to begin with?

Once I published the article, it quickly garnered the most intense reaction of anything I'd ever written up to that point. Hundreds of readers voiced their support for what I wrote, and seemingly just as many Whirr stans called me "retarded" and berated me online simply for relitigating the transphobic shit that was said in Whirr's name back in 2015. If anything, the response confirmed to me just how divisive — and pervasive — the band still are.

Getting my thoughts on Whirr out there, and initiating a nuanced dialogue about a topic that most people in the shoegaze/punk scene had shoved under the rug for the previous eight years, felt good. But as I continued to write about shoegaze and document the genre's history, especially the era encompassing the last 15 years that Whirr are undoubtedly a huge part of, I felt a nagging duty to go deeper. To actually do the messy, interrogating, not-hiding-from-tough-conversations work I called for in my essay and do what no other music journalist, blogger, or YouTuber has done — or could do even if they wanted to — since 2015: Talk to Whirr.

Since the band's ex-communication nine years ago, Whirr haven't played any shows, and outside of releasing Feels Like You, a couple singles in 2023, and a live album that was recorded in 2015, they've been virtually inactive. They calmly post on Facebook every now and then to announce the aforementioned releases (a stark shift in tone from how they used to post on there), but otherwise have no public presence. Bassett has always been the band's spokesman, and without a social media profile of his own, and a reluctance to ever do interviews, he's been virtually off the grid for nearly a decade.

Not that he was easy to track down beforehand. Even when Whirr were active, Bassett was an enigma who almost exclusively gave joke answers during interviews. Considering how cultishly beloved Whirr are, there's actually very little verifiable information about them out there. The history of the band had never been told, and only glimpses of the real personalities behind Whirr peaked through their veil of edgy humor and coordinated mystique. Until now.

Back in March, I had a conversation with Nothing frontman Domenic "Nicky" Palermo that changed my perspective on Whirr and, by extension, Bassett. I brought up the possibility of interviewing Bassett, and Palermo said he'd see what he could do, emphasizing that Bassett is extremely private and swore that he'd never do another interview again. Eventually, the Whirr guitarist changed his mind, and after some back and forths, I ended up speaking with Bassett for four hours straight about Whirr — their music, their history, their many controversies, and their future — and his personal life, which is something Bassett's never publicly spoken about in a meaningful way.

It's by far the most lengthy, honest, vulnerable, and sincere interview Bassett has ever done, and he told me that it'll be the last one he ever does. Everything he ever wanted to say — or didn't want, but wholeheartedly, and consensually, revealed to me in a concerted bout of honesty — to fans and skeptics alike is down below. There were laughs. There were (almost) tears. And I think for both of us, in some weird way, there was closure.

To be clear. This isn't my attempt at rehabilitating Bassett's career, and as you'll see in the following conversation, that's not his intention either. Far from it. I did this because I didn't feel that I could honestly and accurately continue writing about Whirr's music, or even Whirr's era of shoegaze music, if I didn't know exactly where I stood on Bassett and the band. And I wanted to provide an accurate, first-hand document of Whirr's history for a fanbase, a scene, and a genre that's never had access to that, and likely never would have if I didn't do it myself.

Below, is a lightly edited Q&A with Bassett. Roughly the first two thirds of it, from Bassett's childhood up through Whirr's G.L.O.S.S. controversy, is available for anyone to read. The final third, where we discuss what happened to Whirr after 2015, address their present-day popularity, and talk about their future as a band, is for members-only. You can sign up for Chasing Sundays below to get access to that portion of the interview, while simultaneously supporting the type of independent music journalism that I'm committed to producing with this website.

Thank you for reading.

You haven’t done an interview in a long time. When was the last time you did an interview? 

Maybe 2015? I honestly don’t know. So often, back when I would do interviews, mostly they were [via] email and we’d literally be on tour having emails coming in for interviews we had set up. And I would tell PR agents ahead of time, “You can send me interviews. I’m not gonna do them seriously, it’s not in me to do that.” Cause I don’t wanna come off as an asshole if someone’s setting up interviews for me and I’m wasting their time. But [not doing them seriously] kind of became a thing. Especially with the Noisey interview. It became a gimmick. 

We’d be in the van driving to a show and I’d just be fucking around being like, “Yo they asked this, what should I write about?” It’d literally be like, “What’s the most stupid thing we [could say]?” There was never really any real thought put into them so I couldn’t tell you a date, but probably 2015. Maybe even 2014. 

Why did you feel like you were ready to talk to a journalist again about Whirr and your life? 

I didn’t, honestly. I had no intention to. People had reached out to me and emailed stuff like, “Hey I’d love to interview you.” And I’d always respond — that's one thing I pride myself on. I respond to almost any email I get, and I’ll usually be like, “Thanks for reaching out, I appreciate the offer but it would be a waste of your time to do an interview.” And I’ll tell them that upfront. It’d just be bullshit. 

It wasn’t really until I played that Slide Away show that Nicky [Palermo, Nothing singer-guitarist] had talked to me afterwards like, “Yo, I met this dude. He might want to talk to you.” I was like, “Eh, maybe.” As I told you prior on the phone, if I did do an interview I’d rather speak with someone [who's not a Whirr fan]. Speaking with someone who’s into the music I make is different. It just seems like the dynamic would be weird. It’s more like I’m answering questions from someone who’s into the music that I'm a part of. Rather than asking real questions.

It wasn’t until Slide Away that Nicky had said, “I talked to this dude, it might be good to talk to him. He seems like an intelligent dude, I told him you don’t really talk to people but maybe you could.” And then I thought about it and I was like, “Maybe.” At a certain point...Whirr has put out music in recent years. We’re not an active band by any stretch but we’re more active than we were seven years ago. So it’s just like, it might be [an opportunity] where I can shut the lid on everything, so to speak. At least because all there is to pull from is our last big moment, which was all that negative shit that happened. 

I’m not into interviews, I’m not really into talking about myself. But it does seem like it would make sense to do one. And also, just kind of put out actual info for once. Just to have it there. Just like one thing where people can go, Oh, here’s how these people feel and here’s how their band happened. So at least there’s an official answer rather than forums or speculation or people taking things I said seriously that I thought were jokes. Like, here’s some chunk of honesty from this band. 

Where are you living these days? 

I live in Oakland, and I have since 2015 maybe? 2017? I lived in Philadelphia for three years from about 2012ish to about 2015 or '16 and I’ve lived in Oakland since, and in the same house with all the Whirr dudes. 

What brought you from Philly to Oakland? 

I moved to Philly and there was no plan. Nothing and Whirr did a tour, which is when we met them, and we all got along super well. Immediately, we were just like really close friends just two days into the tour. And at the end me and Nicky were like, “Yo we should make music together.” And I was like, “I’ll fly out to Philadelphia, that’ll be sick. I’ll [be there] for like a month and we’ll record.” At the time I was living in Modesto [California] in my mom’s apartment. 

So I just flew out there with my guitar, a shitty Focusrite recording interface, and my shitty Windows laptop at the time – literally from 2002 – and a backpack of clothes. [Nicky] had an open room in his apartment, and the month I was out there, their lease ended and they were moving to another apartment. And he was like, “You wanna just move in?” And I was just like, “Yeah.” And at that point I was like, “I’ll just play in Nothing, too.” 

So that happened, and all at the same time and both Whirr and Nothing started organically growing bigger and then touring started happening relentlessly. So I was living in Philadelphia, but at the same time I was just constantly gone. I had a home in Philadelphia but I didn’t even really live there. I was home like three months a year and when I would be I would just fly back to California because my friends were out there, my girlfriend was out there. 

Eventually that apartment [in Philly] ended cause Nicky was moving to New York, and he was like, “You wanna live with us or do you wanna leave?” And I was like, “I’m just gonna go back to Oakland.” 

So you grew up in Modesto? 

Everyone from Whirr is from Modesto or this town Ceres. It’s a farmtown, so you can just drive across the street and now you’re in Ceres. Especially back in the Nineties and 2000s, Modesto was a considerably smaller town. It’s still a small town but there’s grocery stores and shit. It’s not a hick town in the middle of nowhere but it’s not a major city anybody goes to. 

I want to make that clear. We always got billed as being from San Francisco, it’s been a thing forever. So I made a point to be like, “We gotta throw Modesto on everything to let everyone know that we’re from Modesto.” Cause I don’t wanna claim a town I’m not from. 

I feel like that sometimes happens where a band just gets grandfathered into a bigger city even though they lived in some small town outside of it. 

I think that always happens unless a band tries to make a point that, “We’re from this town.” There are bands that do that. Title Fight does that. Or even Guided By Voices will be like, “We’re from Dayton, Ohio.” Like really rep it. Which is sick to me. I don’t mean it in a diss but it’s just such a loser thing to do, which I respect. It’s like, “No, this is our shitty town we’re from and we just want people to know.” 

From my perspective, it’s this point of pride when you’re from a shittier town if you have any success cause like, you grew up there and don’t think you’re gonna have any success. Like, if I was to tell someone [in Modesto], “I want to be in a band one day,” they’d be like, “Yeah, OK, cool.” You either go to college at MJC, the local college, or you’re gonna work at the post office or the grocery store. That's the reality of most people I know’s whole family cause that's how it is out there. And I felt that, too. I didn’t believe it was possible to make money in a band, even touring. I was like, “We’ll tour but there’s no chance we’ll ever make a dollar.” 

I know you’ve always been a pretty private person. There’s not much info out there about you. But what was your life like growing up in Modesto? 

Definitely super shy my whole life, I’ve always been that way. I grew up in Modesto which kind of speaks for itself as a blue-collar farmtown. The first thing I got really into was skateboarding, in seventh grade. That was my first introduction to alternative anything. And from there I got into punk, and when I say punk I mean Blink-182. Them and Korn were the first two bands that made me like, “Fuck dude, music is sick.” In sixth grade I heard NOFX for the first time and I was like, “That is the most punk shit ever.”

I had [AOL Instant Messenger] back in the day and there was a search function for finding fools. And I would just type in, “skateboarding, punk” and I would just find fools and chat them. And old fools would just talk shit to me like, “What do you like?” And I’d be like, “I like NOFX, Blink-182” and he’d be like, “You’re a fucking clown dude that's not real punk. You don’t listen to Global Threat.” And from there I just evolved in hardcore and metal, and indie-rock as well. 

And most people from that town weren’t part of one singular scene. It was kind of this melting pot of all these different genres because it was just a bunch of fools who really needed friends, and that's who you cliqued with. Around 14 I got a guitar but still was obsessed with skateboarding. Like, I get super obsessed with shit. Whatever it is I’m into I’ll get hyper-obsessed on it and not do anything else. So, if I’m into skateboarding I’d wake up at 7 a.m. and skate all day until 7 p.m. and if I was home I’d be reading about skateboarding. Once I got into guitar, skateboarding went down and music came up. 

And by 16 I didn’t care about anything but music and making music. I’d have an eight-track that I’d make shitty demos on. And I just got super obsessed with guitar and being in a band — any band, there was no genre [in mind]. And that's kind of how I was through high-school and I never was in any real bands until Whirr. I was just obsessed with music from 16 until now. I remember some kid at a show years ago asked me, “What else are you into?” And it was such a crazy question cause I was like, “I don’t know, nothin.’ There’s nothing else I’m into.” 

Did you have a relationship with both of your parents growing up? 

I did. They were both around at points. Things got a little weird at some point but I definitely knew both of my parents. They had issues like a lot of people do but I wasn’t a fucking orphan or anything like that. 

You were into skateboarding and punk, and you were shy, but were you a troublemaker or were you well-behaved as a teenager? 

As a kid I was super well-behaved. I’ve always been goofy, that's just how I am naturally. As a teenager, I’d say overall I was pretty well-behaved but I still fucked around. I did prank calls a ton and ding-dong ditched people. And I got expelled from high-school. But not cause some crazy [shit], I just ditched all the time. I just wanted to fucking skate all day or do anything else. There wasn’t enough time in my life, I thought, to do things I wanted to do, so I would just ditch. 

It started in ninth grade. I had like five friends I was really connected with basically from junior high through the end of high-school. And once we got to high-school they all had one lunch period together and I had one separate, so I would’ve had no friends. So I would just ditch my fifth period class to go hang out with them at lunch. I ditched it one time on a Friday, so then Monday came and I was like, “I can’t go back to class now, they're gonna ask me why I wasn’t here.” So that just turned into, “Fuck it I’ll ditch today.” And that turned into weeks of ditching school, so at that point I was like, “Fuck this, I’m just gonna ditch the whole day.” So I’d ditch the whole day and I would skate so much. 

And I would get caught, for sure. They had people who drove golf carts around the campus so I would see them and take off running into the street, and the area the high-school was in is a pretty shitty area. So pretty sketchy, and I’d be out there running through the streets and they're not gonna chase you cause it’s pretty gang [infested] territory. So I would just do that and I got expelled cause by the time I got to 12th grade the only way for me to graduate was to take a zero period and an eighth period, and go to extended summer school. Which meant getting on a city bus to go to another high-school halfway across town. And I tried, and then five days in I was like, "Fuck this,” and I stopped going and got expelled. 

So I got sent to this school called Elliott that's a fuckin’ prison for high-school. All the bad kids are there, it’s pretty sketchy, but luckily I knew this big Samoan dude from junior high that was the nicest dude but he was huge. And he was a hard-ass dude. It was like prison, I swear to god. He was in my seventh grade math class and I would let him cheat off my math test, so when it came to high-school…There was a lot of gang shit in Modesto. Norteños and Sureños were a big thing out there. So this guy was like, “If anyone fucks with you, let me know.” So I was just always cool, it was sick. 

So you never finished high-school? 

I did, I graduated from Elliott with straight a’s. But that shit was like school for straight-up dumbasses. A dude gave me a packet of work and was like, "Here’s your work for the week.” And I would just do it in two hours. It was so easy. 

Did you ever go to college? 

I went to MJC [Modesto Junior College], which is the local junior college that basically everybody goes to unless you go to four-year. I went there but I basically just went there to tell people I was going to school. I didn’t actually give a fuck and I had no real ambition to go to college except for my friend told me that if you go, you can get money from the government for financial aid. So I would just go and get financial aid and take online classes and just fail them and use the money to buy amps and guitar shit.

A good story about that. All the dudes from Whirr before Whirr — because we were friends before we started a band. That's why we started the band, we were just all friends. We were like, “Yo let’s take classes together.” So on Friday we took Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion. I was like, “That’s gonna be sick. It’s gonna be about monsters and shit like that.” And I got there and it was like, “What the fuck? This is about actual religions. This shit’s wack.” So I just stopped going and that was my last forte in education. But that shit was hilarious. I really thought Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion was gonna be Magic: The Gathering cards type shit. But it just turned out it was a history of religion class. 

You were into punk and shit for a while, but what brought you to shoegaze? 

My two closest high-school friends were straight-up indie as fuck. And in that era indie was different, it was really pre-internet — it was around, but not what it is now. So they loved Sunny Day Real Estate and Death Cab, or emo shit like The Get Up Kids. I got into The Smiths and The Cure and Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears in 10th grade. Once I heard The Smiths it kind of changed everything. Maybe Blink-182 and Korn were the first bands I loved, but The Smiths definitely changed my life. It was that cliché everybody has when they listen to The Smiths: It was like, “This is music for me.” It was the first band where I felt connected. 

I would go on that website Omegle. Cause in Modesto, even my friends who were indie hadn’t heard of The Smiths or didn’t care about them. So I would go on Omegle and just open the chat and be like, “Have you heard of The Smiths?” I had it copied out and would paste it. Fools would be like, “No” and I’d close out and [send to the] next person. Just so I could talk to someone about The Smiths. 

So I got really into The Smiths and would be like, “What’s similar?” So I’d read online and people would direct me to The Cure. I got into them super hard and then Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. Those four bands became all I cared about, everything else went away at that point. I think Disintegration and Pornography got me into [shoegaze] cause it’s kind of adjacent. “Plainsong” is pretty atmospheric and has buried vocals, I guess that probably prepped me. 

There was this book called “The Great Indie Discography” and I would go to the public library in Modesto and just look up records on there and read about them and write down records. And I wrote down My Bloody Valentine and I was like, “I gotta hear this band.” But I still hadn’t heard it yet. I think Lost in Translation was probably the first time I heard The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine and was like, “Damn, this shit is sick.” And then later went back and heard Loveless, Psychocandy, Souvlaki. But still, I heard those records and liked it, but it wasn’t like, “Oh this is my new shit.”

But I saw this live video of My Bloody Valentine playing “When You Sleep” from ‘91 or ‘92 and I haven’t seen it in years, but I don’t know if it’s black and white, but it looks almost purple and white, the color of the video. I was like, “This is fuckin’ sick.” It seemed like everything I was about. It was punk as fuck and loud, but not this tough guy shit. Not aggressive outwardly, it was way more introverted. That video made me go, “I want to do a band like that.” Just this loud-ass band that's not macho whatsoever but still cool. And then that became my new genre, I would listen to any record adjacent to that and just obsess. 

Now, I feel like band’s names are thrown around, but My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive felt like what The Smiths were [to me]. I didn’t know a single person who knew what shoegaze was, but some of the Whirr dudes did. I would bring it up to Eddie [Salgado, bass], “Yo we should start a band like shoegaze.” And he was like, “Hellyeah I’m down.” And Loren [Rivera, singer-guitarist], too. We all liked My Bloody Valentine but I don’t know how they got into those bands. But by the time I brought it up we were all down. 

Whirr has always called themselves a “punk band.” Do you identify the band as a shoegaze band? 

I swear there was an era where tons of bands were straight-up shoegaze bands and I’d say Whirr is…if there’s a bunch of genres, you’re putting Whirr in shoegaze. But so many bands, I’m not gonna say names, almost got afraid of saying that. Like, “We’re not a shoegaze band,” even though they clearly were. Like, what, is it all the sudden not cool to be that? So yeah, obviously Whirr is a shoegaze band. But a punk band in terms of the ethos behind it. We are a true DIY band. 

One time we got billed as "punk" by accident at South By Southwest and we were just like, “That’s fucking sick.” So it’s kind of an inside joke. But also, we are a DIY band. Like, behind me there’s boxes of records and I mail those all myself and handle all the email. If we’re putting records out, I’m sending them. We come from that DIY background. That's kind of what separated Whirr, and even Nothing, too.

It’s easier for me to say cause I’m a part of those bands in some way and they're really connected but they always did feel separate from the other indie-rock scene. We kind of always felt like outliers on that because we didn’t come from straight-up indie-rock. It’s just a different background. Whirr and Nothing are just hooligans, almost, who got into this kind of music. I’m shy as fuck but we’re different than the average guy who’d call himself an indie guy back then. Who has black-rimmed glasses and has a bookbag and goes to Barnes and Noble and reads in the store and drinks coffee. I’m not disrespecting those people, but it’s a caricature of what indie is, and those people gatekept that genre forever. 

So when we came around it was almost like, “You guys aren’t part of that.” That's why I think we got billed as being bros and stuff. Cause we just fucked around and didn’t take it the same way. We approached it more punk. Just fucking around constantly. We always took the music seriously. The music part was always dead serious. But everything around it was more punk, chaos. Fucking around, skating on tour, just goofing around doing prank calls. 

Between you and Nothing did you feel like there was also a class disparity? You come from a working class background, I know Nicky from Nothing did, too. Which is, generally speaking, uncommon in indie circles, especially the more mainstream-adjacent indie of the late 2000s and early 2010s. 

It’s hard for me to say that for sure because I don’t know those bands and what their backgrounds are to really say. I couldn’t say it was a class background because I don’t know where those bands are from. It’s easy for me to point at them and be like, “Oh these fucking rich kids.” But I don’t know them. It’s hard to say. But definitely Whirr and Nothing come from similar backgrounds in terms of working class or…I just use the term loser shit. Loser fucking families, people who just work and they don’t have any ambition. Rather than people who’ve been told they could do anything and have more confidence in themselves. 

[Editor's Note: After our conversation, Bassett reached out to clarify what he means by "loser" in this context: "I don't mean that I think people from that town or a working class town are like that. I moreso am saying how I perceived myself and the mentality that comes with growing up in a small town like that where ambition isn't super high for what someone can accomplish. I love that place and want to respect it."]

You’re saying Whirr were just goofballs, but were drinking and drugs a big part of Whirr ever? Or are you guys straight-edge? I actually don’t know. 

Everyone in Whirr drinks except for me. But Whirr are not like hard drug users by any means. Fools might dabble in some stuff on occasion but you’re not looking at anybody and being like, “Oh that dude’s on meth.” They drink like any other band probably does. I’m not “straight-edge” but I’ve never drank or smoked in my life. I saw shit around me when I was younger and I was like, “Yeah I’m not [touching] that.” But also everybody I’ve ever been friends with has drank or smoked and I’m fully comfortable being around that kind of thing. 

In terms of the music, have you always been sort of the main creative force of Whirr? 

I’m stoked you asked that. Whirr is a collaborative as fuck thing, it basically always has been. And that's one of the main reasons why I wanted to set the record straight because I’ve always been uncomfortable that I’m billed as, “Whirr is my fucking thing.” It’s always been Nick Bassett/Whirr, and it feels weird to me. Because when we started Whirr we were like, “Hell no, we don’t wanna have a fucking frontperson of a band. We’re all in a fucking band, that's it.” And we started off that way, it was pretty mystique-driven. We just had album cover art, we didn’t have any photos initially. A) Because we didn’t have anyone to take photos for us. But B) Because we thought it was cool. 

I was also playing in Deafheaven at the time, and they kind of both at the same exact time had records come out, and [Deafheaven] definitely got immediate attention before Whirr, even though they started right around the same time. And I remember Whirr being billed as a Deafheaven side-project, and I think just media, the way it works, was like, “Well we’re gonna write about this band, how can we bill it? Well, this dude’s in both bands so it’s this guy’s project.” 

But as far as Whirr goes, everybody adds to the band. And I’m not just saying that. If I just wrote everything then it would be a completely different band. Or even if it was just me and Loren, it would still be different. Everybody adds a unique thing and it’s a fully collaborative band. Because I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being the dude behind it. I do handle most of the professional shit for sure. I’m shipping out records out every week and handling emails, just because my brain works best for that. I’m good at being responsive and on-time with shit. I’m good at organizing stuff. 

And we never had a manager. Again, back to the DIY shit. It’s like, “Why would I hire some dude to answer emails? I’ll just fucking do it. Why would I hire a guy to come to the venue and tell us where to go where I’ll just walk in the door?” And I just did the interviews cause someone had to do it. And I did “start” Whirr. I had written two songs in a fucking program called TabIt. Have you ever heard of this program? 


I didn’t even have a guitar. I had no instruments. I had a shitty acoustic, maybe. I had no real instruments and no recording software, but I had this program called TabIt where you input tabs. It’s made to make tabs instead of looking at a tab for guitar music, and you would hit “space” and it would play the song. So that's how I would write songs. I didn’t have a way to demo them so I would spend 10 hours a day typing in tabs.

I would have my acoustic and I would play chords, and I don’t know how to read music or anything like that. So I would just be writing out and hit space and be like, “dit-dit — alright, that's wrong. Type it out, ‘dit-dit.” I would spend full days tabbing out drums, bass, and I made full demos for these two songs on our demo. 

So that's kind of the birth of Whirr, so maybe that's why I handle all the shit cause it started with me. But as soon as those two songs existed, we recorded those two on the demo and then we wrote Distressor and that's fully collaborative. At that point it was dudes writing songs together and making music together, and that's how it’s been since. 

You mentioned you were doing double-duty in Deafheaven for a couple years. How did you get linked up with those guys? 

Well, they're from Modesto, too. They went to different high-schools. Different schools had different vibes, and I went to Modesto High. That was like the hood school. And you talk to anybody in Modesto they’ll tell you, “That school’s scary, there’s fuckin’ Norteños there.” And there’s other schools that are maybe more punk-focused. The school Davis in Modesto is like that, for whatever reason. I think some of Deafheaven went to Davis. So basically when you go to local shows everybody collects together, so I knew of them and we knew each other casually cause it’s a pretty small scene. But we weren’t really cliqued-up like that. We were all in our own groups. 

It just so happened that we were both starting bands that were somewhat focused on shoegaze shit, so it just made sense. I was like, “I’ll fuckin’ play in this band, it’ll be sick.” And then we kind of just hung out. I was in Modesto but some fools in Whirr lived in Oakland. Before I moved to Philadelphia I would just stay for free at the Whirr house out here and Deafheaven was in San Francisco so I would go there once a week and jam with them, and we became friends that way. And we were never super close friends. We were cool for sure, and I’m, to this day, cool with them, but Whirr are my best friends and always have been. Deafheaven, we were cool for sure, but we were kind of just in a band together, too. 

But Whirr was always the thing I really cared about. So I did Deafheaven for a while and was like, “Yeah, I’m just gonna do Whirr.” I cared about it way more and just enjoyed being in it more since they're my best friends. 

In the early days of Whirr it seems like it took a minute for the band to take off, but when people started listening to you, did it feel like they were understanding what you guys were doing creatively? You had fans, but were you satisfied with how the band was being received generally and how the band was going in the 2011-2012 era? 

It’s hard to say because definitely early on…It’s weird to talk about it now because it’s so different now, but now shoegaze is almost what "indie" was at that point. Back then, nobody knew what [shoegaze] was. We’d be put on bills with hardcore bands because there was no one to bill us with. So we did tours with Dead End Path and Title Fight that now might make more sense, but back then, fools would be so confused. Like, “What the fuck is this boring-ass band?” Because whether or not someone likes Whirr or not, if you compare it to a band like Title Fight with fools stage-diving, then we come on and it’s this boring band.

Online, there were definitely people who knew what we were doing. I was part of shoegaze forums back then, where I would post the Whirr demo and talk to fools on there reading about shoegaze. Because it was such a small community back then, and fools in there got it. And there were blogs that would post about it. But in real life, it didn’t seem like fools really got it until like 2014 when it started to shift.

I don’t know how it happened but people started to get it and it became cool. Right place, right time. We were ahead of the curve enough that by the time shoegaze started becoming cool, we were there, and Nothing, too. I think we all helped fuel each other to help it all make sense. And also Slowdive had gotten back together, so that helped. There were precursors ahead of that like M83 that were adjacent to the genre that probably prepped people zeitgeist-wise. 

But early on, you asked if I was satisfied, and back to being the small town thing, I was just satisfied we could play shows. Just the fact that I knew one person was going to see us and was excited about it was so sick to me. I was like, “Fuck, someone actually cares.” I still feel that way. The fact that someone actually wanted to see you was fucking crazy to me. And I’m not saying that to be some humble-ass dude, that's just how I felt. Still, it’s nothing to take for granted. People appreciating any sort of music I make is still sick to me. 

Could you think back to a specific moment where you were like, “Oh wow, Whirr is actually blowing up”? 

Maybe the first one was getting asked to tour with Title Fight. That was like, “Woah,” cause I knew who Title Fight were and liked the records. And I was like, “What the fuck?” At the time I thought they were a huge-ass band, and they weren’t really. They were playing 300-cap rooms, which is not nothing but it’s not huge. But I was like, “How does this band even know who we are?” And they liked us, too, they were wearing our shirts. We got put on some tour with them where we played a week of shows from maybe Oakland to Arizona. It was some big bill with Title Fight, Tigers Jaw, Single Mothers, Pianos Become the Teeth, it was a bunch of bands that would hop on and off. And Whirr got on it and we were definitely the random-ass band that nobody knew. 

But Title Fight were down with us and they asked us to go to Europe with them. I had been to Europe with Deafheaven before but it was a moment where it felt like we got some attention I never would’ve guessed. But that shit was weird. Maybe in the U.S. there were some people who knew who Whirr was, but in Europe playing with Title Fight, it was a grueling-ass five weeks. It was us sharing a van with Dead End Path which is just straight-up mosh as fuck, and they were sick people. But those shows translated way less, and we were opening, too. So we’d come out and play this 30-minute set of boring-ass shit. 

Especially cause the record we were touring, Around, was kind of an outlier in the Whirr discography — honestly, a lot of records were outliers. Up until Sway we were doing whatever the fuck we wanted to do. One record might be super pop, one might be borderline [doom-metal], very slow and heavy. And that's the record we were playing on that tour, so like an eight-minute song that was like tempo-less. And it had a two-minute intro of just guitar. And fools would be so bored. And I was like, “Fuck it dude, this is tight.” That's the punk shit. I don’t give a fuck, imma play this boring-ass song to these fools because this is what I want to play. 

But that was grueling because we made no money at all. I didn’t expect to make money in this band, but we made such little money that…Our tour started in England and then ended somewhere in England at a festival. And we were driving from our last show to a festival, and then were gonna drive back to London and fly out. We were driving and the driver who was also the tour manager was like, “You guys can’t afford to have me anymore for the next two days. I can’t even afford to take you to the show, you don’t have enough money to pay for us to drive you. You can’t go to the show, you have to go to the airport now.”

So they dropped us off at the airport and we were there for three days before we flew out, with no money at all. I was like, “Alright, that sucks but we’ll just chill at the gate.” And we try to go in there and they're like, “You can’t go through security unless it’s 24 hours before your flight.” So we’re here for three days and we’re broke fools with no jobs, touring with no money. We didn’t have money in our pocket. We literally had duffle bags and merch bags we had flown with, with records and our guitars and pedals, and we just set up shop at the area where doors open for fools to buy their tickets. And we had to sleep there in sleeping bags on the floor for three days. Some people would be fuckin’ broken from that but we were just still stoked that we were playing shows. 

So when you were sleeping on the floor for three days, that's when you felt like you really made it?

Yeah [laughs]. Still, though, the fact that we were in England on tour, if you told me that three years earlier I would’ve been like, “Hellyeah, I’ll go to England and sleep on the floor just so I can play a show.” That tour was the first moment [where I realized Whirr were taking off]. And the second was we were touring, I don’t remember what record, and we were headlining a tour and we played Dallas at this venue Club Dada. I remember looking out and it was a full room and I was like, “This is fucking crazy.” It was what I dreamed, and this was a 200-cap room so it wasn’t even that big, but still it was like, “Fuck.” 

Did you enjoy touring? Were you built for the road or was it tough for you? 

At first I loved it. I think I had nothing to miss. Prior to Philadelphia I was living in a Section 8 apartment, a one-bedroom that my mom lived in, so I just lived in a shitty living room in a shitty area of town. So that was never really home to me, so to get away and do whatever I wanted to do all day. I wanted to be gone. I remember telling a friend of mine, “I would like to not even have a house and just be on tour all the time. Just be a fucking transient.” 

At a certain point I definitely burned out. Because Whirr and Nothing put out records right around the same time and we were just relentlessly touring, both bands. I would do five weeks with one band and come back for three days and start another five-week tour. I just used to play guitar all day, that was my hobby. And I remember coming home after tour and picking up a guitar in my room, just naturally, “Oh I’ll play guitar now.” And I just played a chord and literally was like, “I don’t wanna do this.”

I was just so over music, I had burned out fully on it. At that same time I just wanted a place to stay, and I had a girlfriend so I would be bummed as fuck to be away from her. I don’t know if it was me getting older or my balances changing…I did like it at first but once the novelty wore off and I got used to it and accustomed to it, I fully lost interest. 

And I think in that same circle of time happening, I realized that I didn’t like live music either. I never knew that was an option. And then I realized, “I don’t think I even like live music. I think I just thought I did because I thought I was supposed to.” But I’m realizing I would rather just listen to records and I actually don’t like playing shows because I would rather make records at home.

I would rather be in a studio where I could control every aspect of the sound. Especially later once Whirr got a little more notoriety, I would be so hyper-focused live. On the sound check I would walk offstage and stand and listen and be like, “More reverb in the snare. More this.” And I would just be stressed like, “Does this sound like shit? It probably does sound like shit.” 

There were four times ever when I actually enjoyed playing. I wasn’t jaded, I was just worried about how it sounded. Whirr didn’t have a sound guy so it wasn’t like I could rely on [that]. And most sound people are just used to mixing bar bands so they were just like, “Put the vocals up loud.” Our fucking stage plot, I would send this out to the venues. I had this app on my phone called You Doodle that's basically MS Paint, cause I used to just be obsessed with MS Paint by the way. Especially on tour, I would spend hours drawing. 

So I made a stage plot and it’s just a drawing that says, “Push guitars as loud as possible,” and I had a big-ass arrow pointing at “vocals” and in huge letters [I wrote], “Not as important as guitar volume.” So I’d just be onstage tripping the whole time. 

The Whirr stage plot, courtesy of Nick Bassett

Like I said earlier, you were never really very into doing interviews. Why is that? 

Multiple reasons. The truthful, number one [reason] is I’m not comfortable doing them. I don’t know if “deserve” is the right word, but I don’t know if I’m interesting enough to be interviewed. The easier answer would be, it doesn’t matter to me. Music is what matters. You don’t need to hear what we think about songs or how we look. Just put the record on. From my perspective, it doesn’t really matter, just listen to the record and that’ll tell you anything you need to know.

And that goes into the more hooligan-y side of Whirr. Back then, so many bands feel like they networked and you had to be cool with certain people to be able to get press and people to like your band. Like, "Oh you have you be cool with this dude from Pitchfork or this writer here to get your band big." And I was always like, “Ah fuck all that.” Then, my thought was, I would rather have people be like, “Fuck these dudes, they suck.” But hear the record and be like, “But the fuckin’ record is good, though.” I would rather have people dislike us as people but then hear the music and be like, “Well the music’s good.” 

Because in some fucked-up way to me, it would proved to me, OK, the music is good. People aren’t just liking us because we are saying the right things or doing the right things to make people be like, “Oh they're our friends, we like them, thumbs up.” Nah, fuck that. I would rather say abrasive-ass shit and have people be like, “Ah, god those dudes suck, but that song they have is good.” 

But truthfully I’m not comfortable doing [interviews] and feel like, “What the fuck do I have to say?” I’m not that important. And that's not me being humble either, that's just how I feel. This is probably the only real interview I’ll ever do. I can’t say what the future holds, but I don’t like giving them and it seems like, I’ll just get one and done, and have it be a sincere interview. Cause in the past it was either someone asking questions that I didn’t have good answers for, so I’d try really hard to think of good answers. Early on, I thought that's how you’re supposed to be in a band. I’d try to think of some really introspective answer like I saw some [other] band say in their interview. 

Or…I remember seeing interviews with J. Mascis or even The Jesus and Mary Chain. J. Mascis is just weird. I’ve met him before, too, and he was weird as fuck. Just really short. And I was like, damn that's a cool way to just not answer questions and be like, “Yeah, cool man.” I did that for a second because it’s a good way of answering questions but not giving too much info. Or there was The Jesus and Mary Chain, who had an interview where they were on some [Belgian] TV show. And the dude’s asking questions and the drummer is just making out with a girl on a couch the whole time next to them, and I think they're just fucking around. The interviewer is like, “What do you think of Joy DIvision?” And they're like, “Joy Division’s shit. They're terrible.” And he’s just aghast that they're saying absurd shit. 

And I was like, “That’s fucking sick. They're not taking it seriously.” I didn’t know it was an option to do that. I was like, you don’t have to go by the rules, you can say whatever you want. So that's how I got into the fucking abrasive thing. And I’m saying this now and I really want to put it forward because I don't ever want to try and cover some shit up under some guise. I’m not saying that anything I said down the line is, “Oh, I was in a character the whole time.” Like, nah, I’m not hiding behind it. In the interviews and shit I was definitely playing a heel, but that's not to say that I wasn’t saying shit…I would definitely talk shit to people. 

I would see someone on Facebook be like, “I saw you guys last night, you guys sucked.” I would be like, “Drive off a cliff.” I would say shit like that 100 percent. And I am talking shit because if you talk shit to me, I’ll talk shit back to you. At the same time, I’m also playing a gimmick. 

It’s interesting that you didn’t want to do interviews, partially because you wanted the music to be the focus. But also, you were so into making this played-up personality part of the band, too. So there was a part of you that wanted the band to be more than just mysterious guy music where you don’t know the personalities. 

You’re right. Initially, the idea of the band was to be mysterious. Then, one thing happened and it kind of turned to that and it was like, “Welp, this is where we’re going now.” Because it worked. I posted some shit on Facebook talking shit about Anthony Fantano, because I always thought he was corny. I’m not trying to disrespect him nowadays, I’m telling you then how I felt. So I just made a fucking drawing and didn't think anybody would even think anything of it.

I don’t remember, it was a photo of him in MS Paint and I drew him crying and put like, “World’s biggest dumbass.” [Editor’s note: It was “Internet’s Biggest Dumbass”] Some juvenile-ass shit. I posted it and it kind of blew up overnight. And at that point it kind of became a thing where it was like, “I’m just gonna go in on this now.” It was almost like a split in the road. I either backtrack on what I did, or just go forward. And I was just like, “Fuck it, I’ll just talk shit now.” Because I kind of opened that door. 

It seemed like being mysterious works when you’re already established, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re just coming up. Until someone knows who you are, it doesn’t really work. We were getting way more attention immediately with [shit-talking]. I was like, well this is getting us more attention, so I’ll just keep doing this. 

You said earlier that Whirr is a collaborative thing, but the shit-talking on social media was always, at the beginning at least, you? 

At the beginning it was always me. Nobody else in the band was doing that at all. Because initially we didn’t have Twitter, we just had Facebook. So initially it was just Facebook comments. I wouldn’t just talk shit to [random] people. Someone would say some shit like, “You guys fucking suck,” and I would talk shit back to then. I never just came at people for no reason. 

And then later we got a Twitter, and it wasn’t even my idea to get a Twitter. Like I said earlier, we never had a fucking manager. We’d have fools do merch for us but we’d just bring one of our friends and they’d come out and do merch or be “tour manager,” which is just our friend who'd tattoo people out of the van and who would just walk with me to our hotel to check in before we snuck fools in our room. But we brought one friend along — not the same friend who would later post the Twitter shit — who told us, “You should make a Twitter account and you can use that to do the same type of shit.” 

So we made one, and at that point the login was kind of public knowledge to anybody, but really nobody used it except for me and this other dude, later. But almost all the Facebook shit was all me. And Twitter was maybe 60/40 me. At a certain point, our other friend also had a login, and he also had our consent to say shit. I was like, “Yeah post whatever the fuck you want.” So I’m not being like, “You did shit without my knowledge.” It was just a thing that was loose. We were like “Fuck it, let’s just talk shit to people. If you can think of a funny insult, go ahead and do it.” 

And you brought that shit-talking persona of yours out in interviews, too. Like the infamous “weeding out the pussies” interview with Noisey

Yeah that was kind of right after the Needle Drop thing. 

I think some people thought that interview was a joke. That was around the first time I first started hearing of Whirr. But I also know a lot of people, myself included, who weren’t sure if it was actually a joke. Like, are these guys actually these ridiculous, high on their fumes, macho dudes? And talking to you now and knowing so much more about the band, that sounds ridiculous. But at the time, I think people bought into it to an extent. Did you feel that way? 

Totally, yeah. It’s weird cause when it’s around you it’s like, “There’s no way they're gonna think we’re serious.” But it’s almost what I said to you earlier when you asked me about the class difference between bands. Whirr is the same thing to where if you didn’t know and you’re like, “Who’s this fucking band?” I don’t remember everything I said in that interview. I remember the “weeding out the pussies,” I shouted out a bunch of friends, and I’m guessing I probably said we were the best band in the world or something like that. [Editor’s note: He did.] I was just saying that constantly, I was telling people I was the world’s best guitar player and stuff like that. 

To me, that was so obviously satire, but I guess it’s easy to think if you don’t know anybody and you just read [this interview] like, “Who the fuck is this fucking dude?” Being able to imagine it from the outside I could see why somebody would think that. But being involved with it it was like, “There’s no way somebody could take this shit seriously. It’s so obviously ridiculous.” But clearly, a lot of people did take it seriously. 

And the shit-talking thing is a little different. To me, that's half-serious and half-joke. Like yeah, I’m saying absurd things like, “Saw off your own head.” But also I’m like, fuck this dude coming at me like, “Your band fucking sucks.” Back in the day, conventionally, it’d be like, “Oh man you just have to take that.” But I’d be like, “Fuck that. Fuck you dude, you’re a fucking clown.” Shit like that. That was always half-and-half [serious]. But the interviews were clearly satire. 

And I imagine you thought it was pretty funny and entertaining when you did see people who took that satirical gimmick seriously. 

Oh yeah, 100 percent. Because like I said earlier, I love prank calls. I like juvenile, goofy shit like that. We’re all dudes from Modesto, a shitty-ass farmtown, and we grew up watching Beavis and Butt-Head and South Park and Jerry Springer, all this edgy-ass shit that we grew up on and were part of our whole upbringing. Everyone just ended up being sarcastic and fucking around constantly, ragging on each other. So that's part of our personalities inherently. So yeah if people were getting upset and being super uptight, I would love it. 

I saw an old interview from around 2014 where you said one of the old Whirr drummers had died. Is that trolling? 

[Laughs]. Never happened. That's one of those things where we could’ve been in the van answering the questions like, “Should we say someone died?” Like no, nobody ever died from our band. Most of the answers you’re gonna see from back then are gonna be full of shit. I don’t think I said anything honest back then. 

Did you feel like the behavior or the attitude of your fans began to change once you started to put on that aggressive persona? 

Totally. I think some of them thought that that was serious and took a personal interest in being like…It’s almost like their own version of mob mentality where it’s kind of the inverse. You get people being like, “Fuck [Whirr]” and then you get fools who were really riding out for us at all costs, no matter what. I appreciate people liking our band, but not at the cost of saying shit that didn’t make sense.

It’s almost like a culty kind of thing, where they're regurgitating lines [of mine] that they’ve seen. I think some of the fans really took it to heart and felt like they needed to ride out for us, which I appreciate that people were passionate, but also I don’t want to have a divide. 

There were people who just took it way more seriously than I ever did. They would be fighting for us on our behalf. And I appreciate there’re people who loved our music and wanted to ride out for us, but at the same time, we weren’t trying to fight anybody or cause issues. It was just talking shit. 

You were just antagonizing people. 

A hundred percent. And that's my personality. I don’t not do prank calls anymore cause I’m more mature, I’m just not on tour so I don’t have any reason to do it. But I still would find that funny if I heard a prank call. 

So you were the person on Whirr’s Facebook who called Ian Cohen “a retarded pussy” for a Pitchfork review? 

Yep, I 100 percent said that. Absolutely was me. And I knew that was offensive, too, at the time. One thing with this interview that I don’t want to do is offset fucking shit and be like, “I didn’t say shit.” I said that absolutely. At this point I don’t remember the full context of it. There’s not much context [if] you’re calling someone “a retarded pussy,” but I don’t remember what the reason was. I just kept pushing shit. And to be honest, shit definitely got more out of hand as I kept pushing it more. And people around me were like, “Yo man, you gotta be careful.” And I was like, “Ah, you’re tripping, man, it’s not a big deal.” 

At one point it was like, “Oh these people are just P.C.,” but at a certain point a shift happened culturally. So I knew I was pushing a line, but from my perspective at the time, shit hadn’t happened to be like, “Yo man that's not cool [to say “retarded.”] So yeah, I said that, and reluctantly so now because I look like a fucking fool. But at the time I thought, “Fuck it man, I’ll say whatever I want because…" I don’t even know what the thought process was outside of being wild, a hooligan. Just going against what I thought was the typical thing to do with a band. 

I think I had gotten really caught up at that point at really not wanting to do what a conventional band did. Like, OK you have to suck up to these dudes. Nah, fuck that I’ll fucking clown on them and spit in their hand and they’ll still review my record and I’ll just talk shit about them even if they did. It’s pretentious now that I look back, but I didn’t look at it then as so. But it was like, “I’m doing everything wrong, but our band is still able to play shows and people are still covering us in the media.” And I enjoyed that. In retrospect, I definitely said shit that was stupid, without a doubt. And I knew it was stupid then. Now, if I was out, I wouldn’t say someone is “a retarded pussy.” Culturally, shit has shifted to where it’s like, that's just offensive. 

So you would say you regret using the word “retarded” as much as you did? 

For sure, and especially now. At the time, I didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. To me, at the time, it seemed no different in my head than calling somebody a dumbass. That's how I felt. Now I’m like, yeah, it’s shifted. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have said that. 

I think it depended culturally where you came up. That word was accepted moreso in some spaces than others. But something I’ve noticed as someone involved in the scene Whirr is in, that after Whirr’s breakup from like 2015 onward, no one was saying that word. That word was definitely taboo. But Whirr fans still did. And it was sort of like a badge of honor that some proud Whirr fans, to this day, still show their fandom for Whirr by calling people “retard” on Twitter. What do you make of that? 

You’re right. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m shitting on people who want to be fans of Whirr, but it’s such a tough thing. People grabbed on and just took the wrong thing from it. It almost comes off as fanatical behavior. I don’t want people to think that that's what I’m about. Like, “Hellyeah man go on out there and call people retarded.” Like, nah that's not it. They're taking it way more seriously than I did, I guess. And at the very least I regret using that language then. Because I don’t want to have a divide. I’m not a hateful person. 

I was saying shit, I was trying to piss people off for sure, but I wasn’t trying to cause people to fucking fight each other or verbally do anything. It wasn’t a stance like, “It’s us vs. them.” I guess the biggest regret of this shit back then is the fallout [now] where there’s people who, like you said, [say that] as a badge of honor. That shouldn't be the case. I feel like I’m gonna get blowback from these people now like, “This fuckin’ dude’s walking back.” Nah. You don’t get it. 

I regret it the most because it did create a brand of people who wear it like a badge of honor to be hyper-offensive still to show that you’re in support of Whirr. You don’t need to do that. That's not really what it’s about, it’s never been about that. That wasn’t our thing. It was a gimmick I used to get people to talk about our band and get us more attention. I don’t want to come off like I’m trying to walk back what I said either. It’s such a complicated thing. 

It was a persona, not the identity of your band. And I think some people have made it the identity of the fandom in some way. To parrot your abrasive language. 

Exactly. And I don’t want them to parrot. People almost quote things that I said and I’m just like, that's such a tiny fragment of that [time]. That's just a means to get attention, that's not what our band is about. And that's not what I want our band to be about. If that's our legacy — which parts of it definitely are — that's the last thing I want. I would like it just to be back to the music.

I hate that the shit-talking is tied to it, but I understand that it is. Those are choices I made then and that's the fallout I deal with. The shit that I said that I guess I didn’t then realize would have any sort of greater impact outside of being in the moment talking shit with your friends. And again, I don’t want to downplay it either because that shit’s corny, too. I’m just being honest.

Yeah. And I’m not saying this because I want you to apologize to me, or to make myself some sort of victim here. But when I wrote that article about Whirr last year…I’ve written a lot of articles in the past that’ve gotten negative feedback, and whatever, that's part of the job, I don’t care. But it was definitely the most times I’ve ever been called “retarded,” and people saying really insulting things to me and anyone who was defending what I wrote. And that wasn’t the totality of the Whirr fandom because at this point there’s so many people who just got into Whirr three years ago and have no idea that that was part of the fandom. But there is, unfortunately, a really toxic portion of the Whirr fandom who are into being toxic keyboard warriors. I guess if you were to speak to those people, what would you say? 

I’d just be like, “You don’t need to do that to support our band.” I appreciate that there’s people who really fucking love Whirr, I know there’s a cult thing. I would just tell them that you don’t have to do that shit to support us. If someone says something negative, I know back then I would’ve talked shit, for sure. And I understand you think you’re doing the same thing that I was. But you’re just feeding flames on either side.

People have a right to hate on Whirr, for multiple reasons. Whether they don’t like the music and they think it’s boring, that’s fine. Or whether you have issue with what we said, and you don’t like the band because of that. People who are offended by Whirr have a 100 percent right to not like Whirr. And that's not me trying to save face. That's fair as fuck. When you come back and say, “Fuck you, retard.” What are you doing here? You’re not accomplishing anything except for causing more chaos. Please don’t do that, there’s no reason to do that. 

It’s a fair viewpoint on the other side to be angry at Whirr. People that hate Whirr might view us as this fucking crazy..."right-wing" isn’t the term — but people could think that. They could be like, “These fools probably love Trump.” If you don’t know us I guess it’s easy to look at us and think we’re these egotistical stand-our-ground-and-fight kind of fools and really it’s just not that. 

I think people see it, to a lesser extent, like a GG Allin or a Seth Putnam type thing. These guys who were edgelords, who were provocateurs, who wanted to just get a reaction out of people. And they obviously did things you guys never did in terms of taking that to the level of real-life violence. But I see it as kind of like that. People were attracted to those artists because of their ridiculous personalities. 

Totally. And even when I was younger, I never liked GG Allin or Anal Cunt’s music, but I did like that they were wild. I remember I saw that documentary Hated, the GG Allin one, and when I was 15 I was like, “Fuck this fuckin’ guy.” Then I saw it again when I was 18 and I was like, “This guy is kinda crazy, he’s kind of the man.” And I’m not saying that now, but part of me did like the fact that he was the wildest dude ever. Same with Seth Putnam. He said wild shit, but at the same time- 

He also said racist shit. 

Exactly. At a certain point the line changes where it’s like, “Alright man this is getting pretty fucking far.” That was the one thing I could say about Whirr. I didn’t think I was crossing a line when I was doing it, I was riding a line. I was calling people a “retarded pussy” at the point where I didn’t think it turned [over the line] yet, but I didn’t call people “gay.” Cause I don’t believe in that shit. At the end of the day, me and all the Whirr dudes, we’re fully open minded and cool with everybody and always have been. We’re cool with gay people, trans people, all that shit. We have no problems with those people and never did.

I’m not saying I love GG Allin or stuff like that. When I was younger I liked the allure of a wild-ass band, but to a point. I was like, “This is crazy, this is crazy.” But then you get to a point and he grabbed a lady and pulled her hair and choked her, that's fucked up. That's a different thing. But I guess Whirr kind of did something like that, too, now that I’m saying it.

I called people “retarded” and now there’s a bunch of people…you get to the point where you say offensive shit and people start parroting it and taking it seriously. I don’t know what Seth Putnam said, but say he said some racist, now you might have fools who think it’s OK to be racist and that's fucked up. And maybe Whirr has a similar thing with people saying “retard.” And it’s like, yo man, that's not what it is. I don’t want people to think that that's OK. 

Just to pivot a little bit. You haven’t had any member changes in Whirr since 2013, when Devin joined on drums. There were several members who played in Whirr before then, including several vocalists. What ended up happening with those Whirr members who came and left the band? 

Byanca [Munoz], the first person who did vocals, she sang on the demo and on Distressor. She was a childhood acquaintance, we went to school together since kindergarten and she was always around me in high-school. So we definitely grew up together, but like I said I was shy as fuck. So even though I’d be in class with kids for seven years straight, I might not have had a conversation with 20 of them cause I only talked to three kids. 

So when we started Whirr we were just trying to find anyone — we just wanted a female vocalist. We thought, like, [it's] shoegaze, that's what you need. And it does add to that ethereal quality, a female vocal is generally a prettier sounding vocal. It cuts in the mix in a different way, it just sounds more angelic. I don’t remember how Byanca came on the radar but it was like, “Oh, Byanca sings.” And I was like, “Damn that's gonna be awkward as fuck for me.” Cause I had known her since kindergarten and never really talked to her. 

But somehow we reached out and she came and jammed with us and it worked out, it was cool. But we never became great friends. It was always kind of separate with us and her. We were friends but we didn’t really hang out outside of that. So when we recorded our demo she just came and did vocals. And then when we did Distressor we went to a real studio and did it all in three days. In two days we did live recordings, because we always tracked live. We tracked the core of the song live and then did overdubs. But pretty raw, especially earlier records. So we did that, Byanca came in the last day and did vocals, and it was cool. We were all hyped on it and she killed it, too, 100 percent. 

And then basically we did a couple shows with her and it was just weird. I’m not disrespecting her or anything but the vibe just wasn’t right. She didn’t know any of the music we were into. We just figured out real fast, like, "This isn’t right." We were just kind of like, "Let’s find somebody who’s more fitting." So we parted ways, and then we got Alexandra [Morte] to sing, who was also from Modesto. Someone knew her through an acquaintance and we heard she played piano and knew Slowdive so we were like, “Hellyeah.” 

So we got her and she came in and played on Pipe Dreams. Immediately it was so cool cause we didn’t just have a lead singer, we had someone who played keys. And to me and all of us it mattered to not just have someone up there [singing], it was cool to have someone playing an instrument. We did a record, some seven-inches, a tour, and South By Southwest with her, and then she just wasn’t able to tour. That's basically what it came down to. So we just had to part ways. 

And then we got Kristina [Esfandiari], who sings for Miserable and King Woman. We found her on Craigslist actually. I just posted a Craigslist ad trying to find a singer and she replied. She maybe less versed in the [shoegaze] genre than Alexandra was, but still knew underground shit and was down. She was dating somebody that knew fools from Title Fight, so we jammed with her and it clicked immediately. The only downside was she didn’t know how to play keys, but we were like, “Fuck it, this works enough.” So that worked and she did the record Around with us. 

We all clicked well as a band and we did a Title Fight tour with her, the U.S. one. We did the Europe one, too. But I feel like once we started touring…and it’s fair in her defense, she was probably annoyed like, “Yo, I’m playing in this band where I’m singing but I can’t hear my vocals onstage cause these fools want to be loud.” That was our thing, we wanted to be the loudest band ever. So she probably was just like, “This is fucking bullshit.” I could tell there was a tension building through the Europe tour where she was probably just annoyed like, “Why would I even come to a soundcheck?” 

And I think at that point we had all discussed privately, “This is so hard, we should just make the band” — oh, and Sergio [Mendez] had played drums with us before, but he just didn’t seem dedicated. At some point before the Title Fight tour Sergio was no longer in the band and Devin joined, cause he was basically our merch dude who came around. And he didn’t even play drums at all, he was just our fucking friend and we just taught him how to play drums with Whirr because we wanted him to be in the band.

So at that point we knew [the five of us] clicked, everyone was on the same page, we all wanted to tour a ton, let’s just try [it ourselves]. Everyone around us thought it was a bad idea. They were like, “No it’ll never work,” and I was so skeptical. And then we toured with Nothing and I was like, “We’re doin it. Shit still works and it has the same type of vibe.” I was so nervous to do it but we tried with Loren [singing] and luckily it worked out. 

Was there ever any drama in the lineup between you guys or were you always best friends who got along perfectly good? 

The only drama I could say was…we definitely kicked Kristina out of the band. And then that got weird cause she was definitely upset about it. So that was the only drama, was after the fact. Once Kristina was no longer in the band there was, fairly enough on her part, some “fuck these dudes” kind of [attitude]. And rightfully so, she was probably really annoyed that she was trying to sing in a band that didn’t care about the vocals live at all. And that's not a slight against her cause we did the same shit with Loren. When Loren did vocals we just [cranked the guitars] and he never heard himself again. 

Before we get into the 2015 controversy, how was the band doing at that point? How were things behind the scenes? Were you planning to just keep doing Whirr with no end in sight? 

I don’t fully know what the plan was. We had done a split with Cloakroom that got recorded at Earth Analog right as this stuff happened. I knew at that point that we were already over touring. I don’t know that I never would’ve toured again, but I definitely wanted to slow down heavily. I didn’t want to be touring in Nothing anymore. I hadn’t quit yet but I was pretty over it and knew it was something I didn’t want to be doing. Loren had a kid, too. I just knew Whirr was gonna slow down naturally. Whether we were going to keep writing another full-length, we probably would’ve. 

We had recorded a split with Cloakroom where we each did a song and then did two songs where we collaborated in the studio and did them as everybody playing on both songs. We recorded the whole thing and then a week later the fucking shit happened and it was like, “Alright, everything’s off now.” 

So when did you have the other guy start contributing to your social media? 

It’s hard to say a for-sure timeline. We did some shows with Pity Sex in early 2015, and this dude who came with us was the one who recommended we make the Twitter. I was like, “Hellyeah, good idea. We can cause more trouble.” So we made this login and everybody knew the password but nobody in the band ever really did anything [on social media] besides me. And then another dude who was around us a lot of the times, who was our “regular merch guy,” but not always. 

He was just a dude who was our friend. If he wasn’t fucking busy with a job he’d come with us on tour. He had the login too and he was cut from the same cloth in terms of shit-talking and prank calls, so I was like, “Yo if you ever want to talk some shit on here, go for it.” I definitely told him free rein. Both of us would use it to talk shit about people. 

Was he someone you were friends with for years? 

He was a dude who I knew from Modesto who I knew when I was younger but we didn’t really stay in touch until after Whirr had become a thing. He knew friends of friends and we just kind of got back in touch. We weren’t super close when we were younger, but I was the guy that brought him around for sure, though. 

He was in the scene and shit? 

Hard to say. He wasn’t in bands or anything like that, but he might go to shows and stuff like that. But he would definitely be at shows with us, for sure. 

So when he tweeted out stuff about G.L.O.S.S., was that totally out of character for him to be saying those transphobic things? Was that something he may have said in conversation that you wouldn’t have expected him to say on Twitter? 

To say it was fully out of character, I think “complete surprise” is better. I had posted the first thing at G.L.O.S.S. a few days before. I remember I was walking through San Francisco and a friend of mine had texted me like, “Yo, G.L.O.S.S. had been doing some shit.” And I was like, “Oh that's fucking corny.” I don’t want to get into the details because I don’t know if I’m even right about what I had heard, but it was about something they were doing and [I knew] it was gonna be a probing message that I sent out.

I put, “Lol @ G.L.O.S.S.” [on Twitter] knowing that that was gonna be a probing thing, and that was all I was gonna do. The angle wasn’t to talk shit on G.L.O.S.S. for being a trans band, but I knew when I put “Lol” it was gonna get people stirred up. 

So you just tweeted, “Lol @ G.L.O.S.S.”?

That was it. Definitely a fucking stupid thing to put, but it was in regards to something that was happening at their shows. But nothing that's here or there. And I think that was Friday or Saturday or some shit, and then a few days later is when that shit happened. So on that front I wasn’t completely surprised that shit had popped off because I had put, “Lol @ G.L.O.S.S.”

Then we recorded the Cloakroom split in Illinois and we were mixing our side of the songs in Palo Alto. The whole band was there and we were mixing the record, and shit had happened while we were in the studio mixing. We’re driving back and even [the engineer] who we recorded with at the time had texted me like, “Yo, is this shit real?” And he had sent me one of the screen caps of the G.L.O.S.S. tweets that was made [on the Whirr Twitter]. So I was like, “Ah fuck.” 

Was it out of character? That kind of shit never really came up. We never even spoke about G.L.O.S.S. or trans [stuff], so I think the dude who posted it, he thought, “Fuck it” — I don’t know, I’m not him. He definitely felt bad as fuck about it. But basically immediately, I was like, “Yo stop posting, delete that.” My thought immediately was like, “Oh shit.” Like I said earlier, there was a line that we didn’t cross. So once that happened I was like, “Fuck, this is going too far." 

And then from that point on, shit just went like "boom." It was kind of like with the first Anthony Fantano thing that happened where I was like, “Oh shit,” but times a million. At least when the Fantano thing popped off I was scared for sure, but I was like, “Fuck it, I can get out of this, I’ll just talk more shit.” When the G.L.O.S.S. thing happened it was like, well, what am I gonna do? I don’t believe in this shit. I’m not gonna be like, “Fuck trans people," or anything like that. I was just like, “Fuck, man, we fucked up.” Regardless if people got upset. Let’s say it wasn’t a big deal and nobody really saw it, I’d still be like trying to backtrack on it immediately. I wouldn’t ever have rode out for that type of behavior cause that's not what we’re about. 

I never really talked about — even with Whirr stuff. We didn’t even talk about it amongst ourselves, it’s kind of become this really uncomfortable thing around all of us. And I felt super guilty in particular because even though I didn’t say those things, I still felt — and I was — super responsible for what had happened. Because it was my fault that it had gotten to that point in the first place. If Whirr's [persona] hadn’t started with my first Anthony Fantano shit-talking, there’s no chance we would’ve gotten to that level. 

And it’s tough because on one hand I don’t want to be like, “Oh, I said those things and I regret it,” because I didn’t say those things and I wouldn’t have said those things. But I also hate being a fucking dude being like, “It wasn’t me it was our fucking friend.” Because you don’t want to be that person. Clearly [it looks like] I’m full of shit. Immediately anyone could go, “Yeah, I don’t know if I’m buying that. All of a sudden this is your friend now?”

At the end of the day it’s my fault that that happened, regardless of who said it. And honestly if those things weren't said, something probably would’ve happened sooner or later. I knew there was a line I would never cross, but maybe I would’ve said something else that would’ve been offensive. That shit would’ve probably happened either way in some regard. I was on that warpath, we were gonna hit that level. 

The next day you guys released an apology note that was credited in your name. Would you have rephrased anything in that note differently, or handled the initial response differently looking back, if you could have? 

Honestly I don’t even know what that note says at this point. Like I said, this shit is kind of not even discussed even amongst Whirr dudes. There was a lot of fallout and shit all around it and it kind of became an elephant in the room where it was like, “Well, Whirr is done now, for the time being. Why would we make more music right now? It’s just not a good thing to do." It was a clear understanding. It was just like, this is a fucked up situation. So I can read through the note right now if you want me to and just tell you what I think? 

Sure, if you don’t mind. 

OK, so reading that now, it’s pretty fucking stupid of me to say, “Admittedly, some of it was funny" [in regards to past Tweets the friend had made]. But the sentiment overall is kind of similar to what I would say…It’s such a tough thing to navigate for me still because it’s like, should I have said it was our friend? I don’t know because it’s the truth, but also nobody wants to be the guy saying it was our friend who did it. But at the same time, maybe it would’ve been better if I was like, “I made this joke too far, I’m sorry, I don’t mean it, I fucked up.” Maybe that would’ve been better. But it’s hard to say because it’s hard for me to admit that I would’ve said that because I didn’t say it. 

One thing I hate is people being like, “I didn’t do this but I take responsibility.” Cause you’re just kind of saying you’re taking responsibility, but are you actually? But I’m saying it’s my fault it got here. This dude said this and it’s fucked up, and I apologize. I let him do it, I shouldn’t have let him on there. I need to take responsibility for that much. I didn’t say these things but it is my fault. 

It is complicated but I think there is a distinction. Like, the fact that you take ownership and responsibility for allowing that guy to have the platform and initiating the sort of persona that got to that point, I think that's mature. Because you are responsible for part of this. But it’s also an important distinction that you never believed those things and you never would’ve said them yourself. I don’t think those two things negate each other. 

That's what I want to get out there. It’s my fault that it got there. I let it get there. I said stupid shit and it kept going and going and I told someone, “Say whatever you want,” and they fuckin’ pushed it too far. 

One thing I remember saying then and I’m still saying now is you could never find a trace of Whirr prior where we crossed a line of saying “pussy and “retard.” Nowadays, maybe you could see [“retard”] on the same level as [hate speech]...But I just hoped that people could go back and be like, “Well, these dudes had never shown hate toward a direct group of people until this post.”

And I guess what I still believe in then and I will say now, is that one of the things that I think helps our case is that if I was really about that shit, you would think I would go with it. If we really hated fucking trans people you would think we’d just continue in the path, but we were immediately like, “Yo this is fucked up, I’m sorry it got out of hand, I apologize.” 

That's not to say that there wasn’t damage done. And especially if people are parroting me saying “retarded,” there’s probably people who don’t like transgender people and that's…that’s a bummer. That's a huge bummer. That is maybe the largest regret in my life. [Editor's note: Basset starts choking back tears here]. It’s just fuckin’ sad. Not just for us, but for the community at large. I hate to think that I brought any negativity to anybody like that. 

After that stuff happened, you guys got dropped from all your labels, right? I remember Run For Cover made a statement. 

Run For Cover was not our label, but yeah they did never work with us ever again. Graveface was our label but we never signed a contract with the label, we were never that kind of band. It was always a very loose thing. We didn’t even have the opportunity to [get dropped] cause we just knew, “This shit has to go away. Either forever or for a long time.” And at that point we knew we didn’t want to drag anybody into future shit. I don’t want negative shit happening to them due to us, if we put stuff out. 

Did you ever reach out to G.L.O.S.S. privately after that stuff happened? 

I tried to. I reached out to somebody I knew who knew people who knew them, and this was maybe a year after. I just wanted to speak to somebody on that side. And the person I spoke with was like, “I’ll see what I can do,” and nothing ever came of it. Which I get, they're probably like, “Fuck these dudes.” And rightfully so. I don’t want to pry, that makes it look like I’m trying too hard to do something for myself rather than make things good on both sides. Once I start prying it starts to feel like I’m doing this for my own benefit rather than the benefit of everybody. 

One thing I’ve thought about, and especially after having this whole conversation with you and knowing more about the reality of the situation, is that I’m almost surprised you haven’t made more of an effort to publicly clear your name. You put that note out and a lot of people didn’t think it was good enough. Pretty much anybody in the indie scene in that week was like, “Fuck them,” anyways. And as far as I’ve seen, you never followed that up some other time down the line. Did you just not feel like it was worth it? 

I did an interview with Billboard [that week]. I was actually serious in that interview, I gave them full-ass real answers. I don’t remember what I said but I probably said similar things to what I’m saying here. To me, Whirr was like, “we’re done.” For a million reasons I just didn’t want to put that back out there. It didn’t seem appropriate to be a band then. We never had a discussion, we’re not those kinds of people. It wasn’t like, “Is Whirr done?” It was just understood. 

And we never “came back.” We wrote a record and were like, “Let’s just put this out,” with no intention to play shows. I’ve always kind of felt like some people are gonna hate Whirr no matter what at this point, and it doesn’t matter what happens now, we have a stigma forever. And my thought was, “Well, there’s information out there about how I feel about it, what more can I say?”

I think what you’re saying now is coming across very sincere. But I just wanted to give you one more opportunity, nine years after that controversy, to say something to any trans people who were hurt by those words or continue to see Whirr as transphobic. Or anyone who felt unsafe or unwelcome in the scene based on how people reacted to those comments. What would you say to those people now? 

I sincerely apologize that we let that shit get out of hand and it could affect anybody’s life in any real way. Early on we were just saying shit that was like prank calls to get people riled up, and it obviously evolved into something way heavier and something I never could’ve expected could be such a negative thing to people in the world.

And if we, in any way, have affected people or made their life any harder or more difficult or feel fucking uncomfortable in their own skin or any sort of insecurity…I don’t want people to feel that way. I myself have always been shy and insecure. And if I did anything to cause permanent, long-term, or even short-term damage to anybody, I don’t know. I regret it heavily and I’m sorry that it got out of hand like that. I wish that wouldn’t have happened and it fucking sucks. 

And I’m not trying to save Whirr’s reputation. That's another thing where it’s like, I don’t think Whirr’s reputation is to be saved. That seems a little too self-serving. It’s moreso, I’m saying this now because I feel bad. I don't want to hurt anybody. It sounds so emotional or something but I hate the idea that anything I’d do would cause any actual pain.

I don’t want to make people feel sorry for me. And I fucked up big time. Made a huge error. And at the end of the day we just wanted to make music together and be friends. And the fact that negativity was spun out of that is the antithesis of what I want it to be. 

Subscribe to Chasing Sundays to read the rest of Bassett and I's conversation. Topics include: Whirr's 2019 album Feels Like You, their unfathomable popularity today, whether they'll ever make a new record or play another show, potential vinyl re-presses, and what Bassett himself has been doing since 2015.