The story of Black Tide plays like a quirky indie teen comedy. A group of peach fuzz youth gather after school and jam out in the like of their favorites, Judas Priest and Metallica. Maybe they knew they were good or maybe they didn’t. Either way, they score a few gigs to brandish their classic metal guns at a local showcase. In attendance, predictably, is Joe A&R. A multi-album deal follows and a spot opening for one of the greats. The bond of brothers in Black Tide try to prove to the metal masters that yes, despite being 20 or 30 years their minor, they’ve got heart to prove. Ellen Page might even be the love interest.
I wish I could make the tale of Black Tide that romantic and fantastical, but in speaking with real life metal act Black Tide bassist Zach Sandler, we learn that his band is a whole lot more grounded than you may think. Sandler explains his rock-n-roll dreams, being the odd men out of the 2009 Warped Tour, and the question for the touring ages - have you paid your dues?
Let’s start off with … How old are you?
Zach: I’m older than the 16-year-old [laughs]. I’m 20 years old.
That’s young for [Warped Tour]. Or at least it feels young. Or no wait, it’s actually not that young at all, now that I think about it.
Zach: Yeah, compared to most of the tours that we’re usually on, we’re with bands that are mid-twenties, some even in their thirties. A few bands have been in their forties. This tour is the first time age-wise with the other bands, I feel most connected with people. There are dudes in bands, like I Set My Friends On Fire - their singer I’ve seen at a bowling alley where I’m from.
And you guys are from Florida, right? What part?
Miami! Was that a good place for Black Tide to grow up?
Zach: No. Well, it kind of was. There really is no major music scene out there poppin’ out there. But I think that’s what helps gets a band out of there. You’re surrounded by hip-hop and pop and Latin music, and to be a rock band, kind of drives you nuts. Ricky Martin was HUGE. He was Hispanic and he was from there. I was nine at the time and I was like, this isn’t fly. I need to get out of here.
I was reading up on you guys before the interview, and what I find so cool about Black Tide is that you guys are young and playing music with genuine heart, especially here on Warped Tour where you’re not a band kids aren’t going to run into every day. This is different for them.
Zach: This is the tour that we said we’d see if we’re really growing and really making an impact. A lot of these kids, especially in New York and stuff, they’re like, “Wow, I’ve never heard of you guys.” The closest you’ve heard to this is maybe Bullet [For My Valentine] or Avenged [Sevenfold]. Kids do want something different. Kids are tired of the trends.
And you guys aren’t pulling from this nu-metal stuff or anything that’s on the radio, you’re pulling from the classics, essentially.
Zach: It was never something where we woke up and were like, we have to sound like Metallica. Or we have to sound like Maiden. Growing up - I’ve been in this band since I was 14 - and even before that when I was playing guitar and bass in other bands, it was more, this is what we love. We like Guns N’ Roses. I don’t care about Papa Roach’s new single. I don’t care what the Red Hot Chili Peppers are doing. They’re great bands and fun to listen to, but who wants to play the cookie cutter music?
Absolutely. Are you still finding it difficult to bring in the new crowd?
You guys are kind of the black sheep out here [on Warped Tour]. I mean, there are several bands that are black sheep too…
Zach: I think we stick out a little more. I guess you can say the rap acts, but then you can say Brokencyde and 30h3! are kind of doing the hip-hop thing. And Jeffree Star, but whatever.
Let’s leave it at whatever [laughs].
Zach: There’s this huge conglomerate of music and it’s catering to one audience. I’m not saying that we’re trying to cater to everybody, but I think we have a sense of commercialism in our music that some of these kids do look for, but it’s still not in. Like, I wouldn’t find that, normally. I think it’s something special.
Some of these kids are dumb. Well, to them, you guys don’t straighten your hair and cover one eye or you don’t do breakdowns. It’s really close-minded, but every band faces it. Every band on this tour will face it if they haven’t already on previous tours. Kids just don’t care because they’re not what’s in.
How did you guys even end up on Warped Tour?
Zach: Funny story [laughs]. We did the Rockstar Mayhem Tour last year, which was Kevin Lyman’s first metal tour. We were already talking about what we were going to do next year. Well, we can’t do Mayhem. Ozzfest isn’t coming back. Well we can always do Warped Tour, we’ve never done that. But it’s so different. Lyman within a month of that tour ended, was like “You guys wanna be on Warped Tour next year?!” I think we were one of the first few confirmed bands. It was weird. It went from the joke of well, you can always do Warped Tour to hey, you guys are doing Warped Tour next year.
Were you scared?
Zach: I’m still scared. I guess it’s that fear of being accepted. Nobody wants to be hated.
Do you think the other bands on the tour are accepting of you guys?
Zach: The bands? Definitely! So many bands have come up to us, and said, “Wow!” These are bands that are only surrounded by this. Like the dudes in Attack Attack. We did a tour with them and Escape The Fate before, and they were like “Oh, a metal band?” And they watched our set and got to know us, and then it was like “They’re having fun on stage!” I think it’s great on these kind of tours are better than some of the metal tours that we’ve been on because these kids are a little bit more accepting and more open. All the other bands have been around their scene for so long and seen a lot that they don’t have any close-minded values that the audience might have. It makes for everybody to be comfortable. I heard stories out here before about bands talking shit, and it’s really not that bad. We’re here to have a good time. There’s no point in being angry.
Are you on a bus this year?
Zach: Oh, yes we are. We’re sharing with P.O.S. So awesome. At first we were like, we’re going to be sharing with a black group? This is going to be awesome. Great dude. Last year we did half of our U.S. run in a RV with no A/C. It was horrible.
I’ve talked to a lot of bands out here, and some of the bands in the van are trying to say, yeah we’re doing alright. They’re barely sleeping and eating. I don’t know how they do it.
Zach: We thought we were going to do it a van, just because it costs a lot to do it in a bus. If we were in a van, we’d be saving so much money. I say that now because I’m not in it, but if I were in a van right now, I’d probably be ready to gouge my eyeballs out.
Now, you guys were signed so young, almost right off the bat. Do you ever feel as though you missed out on some phase of being a band?
Zach: In the public eye, we were signed early. But I’ve been in this band for seven years, so to kind of think about it, publically we’re been signed for three years.
So really, you think you’ve paid your dues?
Zach: No, I don’t think if we’ve really paid our dues. We never toured before we were signed. Basically, we didn’t know how. We didn’t know how to do anything. How many 15-year-olds are going to go on tour? I used to feel really bad. When we did tours before, we’d get shit for not paying our dues. I used to feel really terrible about it. And now, especially after seeing some of these bands, you didn’t do shit. Like Jeffree Star? Never toured. He got a record deal because he was an Internet celebrity. I don’t want to knock him because he’s doing well [laughs].
And selling more merch than anyone on the tour.
Zach: [laughs] We even try to prove it to ourselves. On one of the last tours, we fired our entire crew right before we went out. We’re gonna see if we can do this ourselves. We’re gonna see if this is true. Are people right when they say we didn’t do it? And then we did it and we’re semi-successful. We didn’t screw anything up, anyway. I didn’t drink for like, six weeks.
Because you had too much work?
Zach: Because I had to drive and take care of money. Can’t be wasted and counting money.
I guess you can, it just wouldn’t work out too well [laughs]. What are your major goals for the future? Is there anything particular that you really want to do or accomplish.
Zach: I don’t know. Just because of this day in age in music. Ten, fifteen years ago if we were a band, the goal maybe have been be bigger than Metallica. That’s not realistic anymore. I guess there’s no more rockstars. There are no more arena rock bands. There’s nothing. There’s nobody new coming up. Somebody said Kings of Leon and I was like, kind of. Yeah, they’re playing amphitheaters and arenas, but…
A lot of bands are playing amphitheaters and arenas, but there’s still not the same.
Zach: Yeah. I think the whole rock-n-roll dream is just kind of over. Nobody aspires to be a rockstar, they just want to be the guy that plays music and touches his fans. I get it. But I grew up watching Van Halen and [Lynyrd] Skynyrd. Bands are playing stadiums. I went and saw Bon Jovi in a massive sold out arena! Nobody is ever going to do that. Personally, that’s one of my goals. I would love if we as a band could be that band, be that next Judas Priest.
Well you have the music that can fit the arena.
Zach: I just don’t see 3oh3! changing the world.
Hopefully 3oh3! won’t change the world [laughs].
Zach: Do you remember that show Icon?
Was it like Behind The Music?
Zach: No, it was like a ceremony. They had bands like Aerosmith. A bunch of bands would do tributes. That show doesn’t exist anymore because MTV finally realized that there isn’t anything. Metallica is finally in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What now? What now? Where do we go now? Metallica was the last of that breed, I guess.
For someone who has never listened to your band before, what do you want them to know?
Zach: We’re honest. We’re not a band that’s going to say, we’re going to try to make the best album ever. We’re not going to say that every record is going to be better than the last record. We’re a band that’s going to evolve. We don’t want to do the same, follow the trend. Each record will be different and who we are at that moment in time. And then we’ll continue to grow. I don’t want anyone to judge by the reviews they’ve read. Come out to the show. If you like it, awesome. If not, at least you were open-minded enough to come out to the show.
I hardly think metal is a bad trend from the 80's. Modern rock music owes a ton to it, so maybe you should rethink your opinion.
I'm not talking about metal in general, I just think this band in particular is trying to bank in on hair/glam metal and has a ton of gimmicks, and isn't original. I'm a big fan of metal, just not this band in particular.