The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Q&A | Fishbait

Fishbait is one of four bands featured in Headliners, the newest concert video series by The Daily Iowan.
Emily Nyberg
Iowa City band Fishbait performs at The Daily Iowan Headliners in The Daily Iowan newsroom on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.

Fishbait is an Iowa City band with members J.J. Razor, Thomas Halligan, and Nathan Ward. The funk metal group’s first album was released on Oct. 28 and is available on streaming platforms.

Fishbait is one of four groups of musicians The Daily Iowan invited to perform for a video series of live concerts called Headliners, a recorded and edited version of these concerts to bring Iowa City’s music scene beyond the community. The first episode of The Daily Iowan Headliners will be live on Nov. 10.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

DI: How did Fishbait form?

Razor: That’s an interesting story — a lot of different pathways.

Ward: We needed a place to practice. We kind of met through school for a little bit at Kirkwood. I was living in this janky, old, unfinished house in a closet space, and J.J. — we had a mutual friend — so J.J. came over and jammed, and he knew Tom.

Razor: Yeah, I had known Tom before I met Nathan. We had been jamming a little bit and we had a class together —

Halligan: American music history —

Razor: — and we started playing music together. We couldn’t find a drummer for a very long time, then we had a mutual friend we were helping move in, move out and stuff. She was like ‘Nate’s a drummer. You could play with him.’

Halligan: I approached J.J. and my first words to him were: ‘Primus sucks.’

Generally speaking, how would you describe Fishbait’s sound?

Razor: I’ve normally just told people we’re like alternative punk rock or funk metal. Funk metal is what it says on Spotify.

Do you guys have any career highlights or notable moments that have really stuck with the band?

Halligan: The album coming out is the biggest one.

Razor: Our first big moment, at least in my eyes, is when we opened for Aaron Kamm. That was the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for, up until that point. It was just really cool to have that energy with a giant crowd.

Nathan Ward: I’d say Aaron Kamm [and the One Drops], man. That was one of our first big shows.

How have you found yourselves slotting into the Iowa City music scene?

Thomas Halligan: The scene is alive and beautiful right now. There are so many great bands, and I’m just happy that we can offer our own little piece. I think that the music we make is a little weird, a little eccentric. It finds its own little niche, which is really fun because the people who like it are weird like us.

J.J. Razor: We moved here to pursue the band because we knew that if a scene was happening, it was here, and it definitely is. It’s just a place where people appreciate music, man.

What’s your favorite part of performing in front of a live audience?

Razor: I think it’s really cool to make something and have somebody respond to it. Just connecting with people through something you made is a very cool feeling. Catching one person’s face in the crowd, like, stank-facing at a certain part, is just a really cool feeling. It’s just cool to see people enjoy this stuff you make.

Halligan: I mean, it’s why you do it — to be on stage and then to kind of hear what started in your bedroom blossom into something. Like J.J. said, people are grooving with, and just to think about all the progress we’ve made as a band. Then you get those moments on stage where we all lock in together, and then you just can’t miss it.

How was your experience participating in DI Headliners?

Razor: That was awesome. Very cool. I didn’t know what to expect.

Halligan: It was a nice, intimate experience. Some great bands, for sure.

Razor: I’m excited to see how the edited video comes out. There’s a lot of cool angles you guys got.

What are you guys hoping your next step or future is going to look like after the release of your album?

Halligan: World domination.

Razor: Yeah. Probably one of us will become president, and then we’ll just keep making music.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Natalie Dunlap, and Evan Weidl are the executive producers of Headliners. Sound production was by Dan Miller, and videography and editing were by Emily Nyberg and Cody Blissett.

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About the Contributors
Jami Martin-Trainor
Jami Martin-Trainor, Managing Digital Editor
Jami Martin-Trainor is a third-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Political Science with a minor in Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies. Prior to her role as the Managing Digital Editor of The Daily Iowan, Jami was the Assistant Digital Editor, a digital producer, and an arts reporter. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Jami has interned at KCCI in Des Moines and the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.