Off With Their Heads will release Home through Epitaph on March 12 and I got on the phone with the band's vocalist/guitarist Ryan Young to discuss the new record and more:
Was there any particular reason for releasing the record in March? I know you guys finished recording Home last summer.
Yes, it was completely finished in July. I actually didnít want to wait, I thought it would be out in October, that was what I was under the impression of. When I found out it wouldnít be released until March I was kind of pissed, but then Epitaph explained that they donít release records after October, it comes too close to their deadline. They said ĎIt will work better if we wait, just trust meí so they know how to do their job, I donít know how to do their job. I canít believe it didnít leak until just last week, I thought we did pretty good.
What was the hardest part of the recording process?
Just working with a producer, weíve never really done that before. Bill [Stevenson] is like a pal of ours now, we get along really well, but for bits at the beginning it wasnít going so well. (Laughs) I was calling my friends who are in bigger bands and being like ĎIs this how this works? Do you get yelled at the whole time? This isnít much fun, I donít wanna do this.í And then we found a bit of common ground and ended up laughing about all the problems that we were having with each other. In a lot of interviews I do I talk about how much it seems like I just hated Bill, but I donít hate Bill at all. We just drove up from LA to Minneapolis and stopped to have pizza with him. So I like Bill, but the process of making that record was grueling at times and he is very straight to the point with how he feels about things. So am I, so when you get two people like that together it can get uncomfortable. (Laughs) But it made for a great record, Iím happy with it.
So it was just minor disagreements then? You felt like one part should be one way and Bill thought the opposite?
Yeah. Billís got quite the track record, heís got a proven record, but he didnít really know anything about us and what Iíve done over the last 10 years. When he saw something that should be a certain way, and I thought it should be the complete opposite, he would get pretty pissed at me and in turn I would get pissed at him. There were a lot of times where everyone would just stand in the studio and just be like ĎOh my God.í (Laughs) But that kind of thing allowed Bill to realize I was just as stubborn as he was. And I realized that he was a smart guy, he knew what heís doing and we found some common ground.
Would you say it was a conscious effort to make Home a bit slower than In Desolation?
No, not really. We would just play the songs in the control room of the studio and he would listen, he would set a tempo for it and we would agree. I think it was kind of his choice to do all that stuff, it wasnít a conscious thing. Just that maybe we should settle down and that was one of the things I listened to Bill about.
So Bill was the person that pushed you to try the slower songs?
Yeah, he liked those. It was funny because in the initial round of demos that I sent to Brett Gurewitz, he was like ĎI donít know man, I donít think these are good, theyíre not going to fit in with what you do.í But Bill really liked them, he was like ĎIt separates it, it makes it a little differentí and I liked that aspect of it too. I guess I was always afraid to try new stuff, but turns out thatís kind of what Iím better at. (Laughs) I donít want to make the exact same record over again and over again, which is something that I think we did a little bit of on the previous one.
One of my favourites is ďDonít Make Me GoĒ and I was wondering how that song came together.
Thank you, I like that one too. The 90s was a huge influence, Iím a big fan of that kind of song. I like Nirvana a lot and stuff like that. I wrote it on the fly acoustically and it was just this weird sad thing and I wound up recording a full band version of it in LA with Paul who was in the Street Dogs. I sent that to Brett and he said ĎNo, this is terribleí (Laughs) It sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd almost, it was really bizarre. So I did more of a Jesus and Mary Chain version of it where there was just reverb guitar and me singing. And thatís the one where Bill was like ĎYeah, this is good, this is the best song you have. Letís figure out how to incorporate drums into it and then it will be good.í It took a long time, it was funny because Zack whoís always recorded with us, Zack from Dear Landlord, he said that it was great to finally record a song that doesnít sound like every single other song we've ever done, even if it sounds like Temple of the Dog. (Laughs) Except it doesnít sound like fucking Temple of the Dog.
Obviously the idea of home is a big theme on the record, but I also noticed that religion seems to play a role in some of the songs as well.
Yeah, thatís always been the biggest problem that Iíve had with my family and home life. Both of my parents are incredibly religious to the point where that is all they can talk about when Iím around. If you know that about me and you listen to the record that should make sense. I actually was an altar boy and from that point when I was I didnít want to be, I was just forced to do all that stuff in the Catholic Church by my parents. You know how they shuffle around priests accused of molestation? They actually did that at our church and brought one of those guys in so thatís where that line comes from. They actually do that, itís not just in the media, itís a true thing.
Iím assuming ďFocus On Your Own FamilyĒ is directly about Focus on the Family?
Yeah, directly. Itís funny because we were sitting in the studio, I write all my lyrics right before I record to make sure itís the freshest stuff I have. Iíll have an idea about what Iím doing, but I have a pen in the vocal booth with me and Iíll keep changing stuff. But that one, I was thinking about how that stuff is pretty heavy in Colorado and how itís fucking crazy that these places exist in this day and age. They have these gay reformation camps where they can make you be not gay anymore. I thought that was the stupidest fucking thing Iíve ever heard so I decided to try and write a song for those kids. Whether or not theyíll hear it, probably not, but it was the first time I wrote something for someone else other than me. So that was kind of cool.
You told me back in October that you ďtried to write a few different things some people might make fun of me for.Ē
Yeah, I was mostly referring to my friends who are older guys in punk/hardcore bands, the fact that those guys will fucking hate this, but I love it, I donít really care. I just think itís funny to rock the boat a little bit and see who likes it or whoís like meh. I will say that so far no one has made fun of me the way that I thought they were going to.
Would you say that ďStolen AwayĒ would be one of those songs? I think you even tossed some synth in there.
Yeah, itís funny, that was like the last night before we left the studio. I had just recorded that with a jangly guitar that we ended up taking out. The other engineer in the studio wanted us to add something else. Zack and I were just drinking a bottle of whiskey and we were like ĎI dunno dude, put a fucking synthesizer on it or something.í So thatís what he did, it was all him, he added the synthesizer, the shaker, a tambourine. Heís credited on the record as playing the French horn, which is kind of a joke. But yeah, that song turned out kind of cool. Weíve been working on an actual full band version of it this week. Weíre going to play it live, but itís going to sound different than it does on the record. Itís actually super high energy, which is strange for such a slow song.
Youíve also released three music videos for this record already and I know Andrew from Against Me! directed two of them. Who exactly came up with the concept for ďSeek Advice Elsewhere?Ē
I did not come up with that, although we do have a track record of making the dumbest music videos we possibly can. Ryan Murphy, who works for the Fest, he manages a winter theme park in Florida and he told Andrew to get me out here because we could have the entire place to ourselves when they closed at night. Andrew came up with the idea, he decided to have a magical elf turn me into a snowman and then just terrorize the place and that was it. Itís funny because that video went through like seven different edits and then I was like ĎLetís not start the song until 40 seconds iní and thatís the one that wound up being the funniest. Itís stupid, but music videos are stupid too. The other one for ďNightlife,Ē we just wanted to make a 90s themed video where it was really weird and didnít really make any sense. I donít want to say trippy, I guess whatever word that means trippy, but isnít actually trippy. Itís just as funny to us, it looks like weíre being really serious, but when we werenít being taped we were just laughing hysterically. I guess it looks kinda cool for a weird video that doesnít really make any sense.
Whatís next for Off With Their Heads? I know you will be hitting the road with Bayside and Alkaline Trio soon.
Yeah, thatís going to happen, I donít know too much about it. I donít really like doing those types of tours, but theyíre good to do when the record comes out and Iíve always liked Alkaline Trio so that should be fun. Weíre going to go back to Europe, probably never, ever get to Winnipeg. (Laughs) They wouldnít let us in at the border and they apparently donít really let anyone through that border, which is such a bummer, especially right after we did those shows with Propagandhi. We wanted to hang out and play those shows, but sure enough one tiny thing was wrong with our paperwork and we were turned away. I think the only way we can do that part of Canada is to do what we did with the Bouncing Souls, which is start out east and head all the way across.
Do you not like doing those tours because theyíre bigger or is there another reason?
Yeah, itís like a completely different thing. There are pros and cons, it is cool to play to a bunch of new people, but I prefer doing our own shows. On these tours you set up at 3, youíre done at 8:30 and some people are like ĎGet the fuck off the stage.í If you know what youíre getting into itís OK, but thereís also the financial thing too. Those kinds of tours do not pay well, people think because theyíre huge shows they would, but we barely break even. Plus youíre going and playing to people who donít want to see you anyway, thatís traditionally how it goes. I donít know how this one will go, Alkaline Trio and us are pretty similar so thatís kind of cool. Iíve known Anthony from Bayside for years, before he even started Bayside. I actually met him on a message board, I went to New York and we were going to start a band together, but I was so bad he was like ĎNo, get out of here.í And then he formed Bayside within the next 6 months, which is kind of cool. I donít know much about Bayside, but heís a cool guy and heís worked really hard doing his thing.