The mid ninetees was the peak for Fat Wreck Chords bands many of whom are still going today. NOFX are still as big as they ever were and Lagwagon are still making music. After many frontmen from various punk bands set out to make acoustic projects/releases its safe to say these two pioneers of the genre will not have theirs going noticed. This tour was seen to many people as a pleasent reminder of songs many of the crowd may well have sung at a sundrenched festival years ago.I was lucky enough to catch up with two of the biggest names in pop punk Tony Sly (No Use For A Name) and Joey Cape (Lagwagon)
Tonight is your last date of the European tour with Jon Snodgrass, how has it all been going?
Tony: It's been amazing. The tour really exceeded my expectations, everyone's just really perceptive and appreciative and it's just been a great experience.
Joey: This tours been cool because every night i'm hearing new NUFAN songs, alot of them are new to me but some of them i've known forever. Every night he might pick up a harmony or something, it's like an organic kinda tour. It's cool because i've seen it blossom a little.
As this is your first time playing your solo music to fans over here, were you nervous as to how people would perceive it?
Tony: You know what, I was. The first few nights I was kinda holding back a little bit, it was a lot easier picking songs as I could just play whatever I want. In my band (NUFAN) it's a lot more set out and professional, but this time round it's a lot more intimate.
How did the idea for an acoustic project come into being?
Tony: It really was a coincidence for me, and I think I should have been doing this 10 or so years ago. The thing is our drummer said that he was going to do this full time job, so he decided to that. So I decided over the Winter i'm going to tour as a solo artist. Just take my backpack and guitar and do the solo thing, and out of that I came out with a few songs.
How well did the songs transfer?
Joey: The Lagwagon songs worked beautifully as its how they started, it's just going backwards a bit. The problem is that a lot of them end up really slow. I really like Tony's record though, I have penis envy [laughs]
Tony: I was just aiming to play these songs to bars really, it's sorta just like aiming low, which I think you can't really lose on.
Joey: That's just the kind of records that guys like us want to make though, we're both fans of the same music and have similar song writing techniques. When I record, I write anything.
Tony: I think as long as you're open and honest about whatever you're doing, as long as you're excited about it other people are going to be excited about it too.
It must be cool to feed off of each other's music too.
Joey: Yeah definately, John [Drag The River] is like our secret weapon too and he's been a mentor of mine for so long. He has this gift and natural ability for what we're doing now and although we've been writing this way for some time I think we can both admit that John's been doing it forever I've been touring with him for years now but he just makes you better in a sense.
Tony: I agree.
You've been part of the pop punk scene for some time now and see it change quite a lot. What do you make of recent changes?
Tony: It has changed, but that's just time I guess. With Fat Wreck Chords bands the peak really was in the mid-late ninetees. Still NOFX and Bad Religion and so forth all still play to sold out venues today, and thats great. But bands like mine and Joey's, we had to fight for everything we got and I think that the biggest misconception is that we're all the same because we're on the same label.
Do you think it's easier to get your music out there today?
Tony: There's a lot of competiton out there, but I don't think bands are like what they used to be. I think alot of these younger bands have it a lot harder though. In the ninetees it was so low expense, super community thing where bands like Lagwagon and No Use were making tonnes of money just touring.
Joey: In a way you don't have to any promotion. It depends on what sorta heights your shooting for I guess. In my case i'm pretty comfortable with the network that i've developed. The lack of communication and label stuff. A lot of the time generally labels are run by dear friends of yours and they're suffering more than you, their the middle men that gets screwed. But yeah it seems enough.
It must have been easier to promote both of your solo stuff as you've both been in two massive bands in the pop punk scene.
Joey: Well you know that's what I'd say about my band, we're massive. [laughs]
Tony: I know what you mean though, there's definately a foothole because of my band. I mean its not like that I can just start doing something like this at my age and draw people right off the bat. People want to hear NUFAN songs but that's kinda what i'm used to, so I just use that as leverage.
Joey: I've always written everything on an acoustic guitar so I wasn't really doing anything different. Alot of my demos that I brought to my band were just like that. I definately got something out of this tour from Tony, more than just being with him and having a great tour. I think for the next record I think i'm going to start thinking abit outside of my box in the future. Most of my songs sound the same, I got to many slow ones!
Joey: It's all about conviction.
Tony: Exactly right, and I wrote some of these songs knowing that i'm going to alienate some of the No Use fans, and I know that I do. I don't read messageboards or anything like that but I know there's people out there that prefer the songs that sound like No Use compared to the folky ones, and I don't care if they don't like it. I'm doing it for people sure, and i'm doing it to sell records but I have to like it. If anything, I have to love it for people to like it.
One of the main things I picked up about your CD is how much 12 Song Program felt like a record of reminission.
Tony: Yeah, it didn't mean to come out that way but it sorta did. I didn't mean it to be that way but every song is like a single piece of therapy to a 12 step program I guess.
What sort of aspects of being a musician keeps you striving to play?
Joey: I think it's a mixture of things, I love it still so there's not really any reason not to do it but I spent a lot of years doing it professionally so I feel like that. I've often thought about trying something else in life, but I would always still be a musician regardless of what i'm doing.
Tony: It's about all the cool positive things that music does to people for me. That's what I like about it the most. It makes people sing, dance you know it's just not a negative thing at all.
Joey: Most cases trancends religion and politics all the problems in the world so it's an escape for people, and that's something i'm pretty hooked on. It's powerful.
Tony: When you're writing a song and you can hear the words all coming together and it's all starting to connect then you play that in front of people and you see them react the way you did when you wrote it, that's the best feeling ever.
Joey: I haven't had it yet but i've heard alot about it. [laughs]
What are your plans to do next?
Tony: Well Joey's going over to Japan straight after. but at some point we're going to Australia together, i'm going to learn a bunch of Joey songs, and Joey's gonna learn some more of mine for it.