I don’t know if it’s dawned on the guys in Inspection 12 — Rob Reid on vocals, Pete Mosely on guitar/piano/vocals, James Trimble on guitar/vocals, Jeremy Baker on bass, and Tim Grisnik on drums — that they’re bona fide vets of the Jacksonville music scene. Local bands — good ones and not-so-good ones — have come and gone in Inspection 12’s existence, and the boys are still blending excellent melody and bar chords. Most of old groups have disbanded. Inspection 12 began in 1995 — they’ve endured for 20 years. It’s hard to be in a band for 20 days, let alone 20 years. Inspection 12 has always had a loyal local following, and the songs (“Labels Are for Cans,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Secure,” etc.) are anthems to those true-blue fans who’ve gone to shows for two decades. Along with successes most bands don’t even sniff (record deal, national tour), lineup changes and heartbreak, I-12 has built a distinctive musical career. The guys may have pared down the number of annual gigs to a precious few, but they still make solid music.
Their latest release, Redefine, is a nice mix of what they already do well — punk with melody and texture — and what they’ve learned to do — mix in strings and piano and focus on themes. Recently, longtime 12er Mosely talked to Folio Weekly about what it’s like to be playing for a fifth of a century (face it; not too many synonyms available), how the band’s evolved, and a side to a musician most folks don’t see.
Folio Weekly: It’s 20 years. How does that feel?
Pete Mosely: There’s a lot of different ways we look at it from time to time. We’re not Aerosmith kicking on three very successful decades or anything, but to be able to keep it together in some form or fashion for this long, in this day and age, I think is great. I think right now we’re happy, we’re all in our 30s and we still get to get together and play in a punk rock band. I think it’s cool, I’ve always wanted to keep it going as long as we could, and we’re at a point where we can do it for as long as we want to.
How has it changed for you? Is there a difference doing a Christmas show now as opposed to headlining at Club 5 or Milk Bar then?
I think there definitely is. I think before — you’re talking about going back 15 years or so — for us, when we’d get together to play shows, it was just for the sake of playing the shows. Now when we do it, we want it to be an event. We don’t play out a lot, we do the annual holiday show, and so I think there’s a little more pressure. Before, when we’d get off stage at Milk Bar, we never thought about attendance, but now we have something to live up to or worry about. But all in all, it’s one of the most fun things we get to do, and we appreciate the opportunity.
Rob sounds amazing. How was that transition?
To be honest, I was a little hesitant about the transition at first. Rob, between when he last performed with us, in ’96 or ’97, wasn’t in any other bands. So he was … coming back into singing for the first time in years. I knew that could be a challenge — would he still have it vocally? But he came in and took charge of what his role was and made it very, very easy for us. He put the time in, and he got right back into the swing of things. We were kind of nervous about carrying on without Dan (McClintock, former singer/bassist). Dan left of his own accord and we thought there may be some slap-back, with people saying “No Dan/No Band,” things like that. James and I sat on it for a while; we decided we still wanted to play, and if people still wanted to hear it, we wanted to do it.
You’ve toured, been with bands with record deals, had good times and shitty times, too. What have you learned about what it means to be a full-time musician?
I’ve definitely seen and learned a lot of things, and I’m still kind of learning what that means, to be a full-time musician. I’m not really sure that when I started playing guitar that I aspired to be a rock star. I enjoyed learning how to play Pearl Jam or NOFX songs, but I don’t know that I was trying to do anything that a lot of other people were. But I was very fortunate to end up in a situation that was successful for a period of time. Coming out of that, I was a little jaded about what it meant to be a musician or to be in a band; after … that, I didn’t play music for a few years. I’d do the Inspection 12 show, but that was it. … I went to school. I didn’t know what I was going for, but I figured I should go because I didn’t [go right] out of high school. I decided on music as my major. Once I took that on, I got into playing in some ensembles at school and some orchestra stuff. I picked up the upright bass as a new instrument; at the same time, I got involved with Canary in the Coal Mine, so I got into a different part of the music scene, with actual gigging musicians, people who earn their living strictly playing music; but it’s not being on MTV, it’s not the rock star life. It’s the real life of being a musician, not what you see on TV. It’s getting gigs when you can, it’s driving however far you have to get there, teaching music lessons during the day, doing studio sessions, transcribing music as a side job, all these different things. It’s still in the category of playing music, but it has nothing to do with selling … albums, … there’s all these different elements of being a musician that really get lost, because people can get lost in the limelight and lose how important the craft is and all the areas of the craft it involves.