I chatted to Defeater's Jay Maas and Derek Archambault about the Boston band's amazing new album, Letters Home, the band's recent time on the Warped Tour and the band's lyrical themes.
What are Defeater up to at the moment?
Well, I can only speak for myself. I'm getting ready to have dinner. Defeater has just got off Warped Tour, we're just hanging around. In November, we're doing a full US run with a band called August Burns Red.
Awesome. How has the reaction been to Letters Home so far?
Oh, it's been awesome. I would say it's probably been one of the best reactions to any of the records we've done. I think it has some of the good vibes we got from some of the reactions we got earlier on in the band's career, but we've grown since then so it's on a bigger scale. It's pretty exciting for us, for sure.
How was the process behind the album?
It was cool. We all wear different hats in the band so I (Jay) do most of the musical composition. My drummer and I got together for a few days and sat down and did a ton of demo-ing and I send those demos out to the guys and they give me feedback and make revisions from there and Derek's really the point person when it comes to scribing the lyrics and the phrasings and then he comes in, I own the recording studio so he comes to my studio and we iron the rest out together, just like everything else and then I sit around and mix the record for a couple weeks and make sure it is representative of exactly what we want it to be which is a nice thing that we get to do without worrying about studio time. And, then we give it to the label.
Did you set out for Letters Home to be different from Empty Days And Sleepless Nights?
Yeah, for sure. Well, we'd known from get go that this record was going to be heavier because of the fact that the content we were writing about was - we were writing about the father's character from day one. We knew that this record was going to be a heavier record just from, even when we started the band, talking about what we want to do as a band and how it's all going to go down so it wasn't a surprise to us. The band was really good about reigning me in and giving me great feedback, y'know, "It's a little too melodic", "It's a little too weird" or whatever and sort of just focus upon what the vibe of this record was going to be. That was really helpful to me. So, we did that and we did are best to execute that.
Was there a lot of pressure after Empty Days? Because it was such a success and so critically respected, was there a lot of pressure on you to deliver?
I don't know. I think that we don't really think about it. I mean, I think there's more pressure internally from us as people trying to, well, we want everything we put out to be as close to perfect we can possibly make it so I think there's always a lot of pressure on us. At the end of the day, we just want to put out what we think is awesome. We want to make a record that we're really proud of, that represents us the best we can, that represents the themes we're going to be talking about, or that Derek's going to be talking about on the record. So, there's a lot of internal pressure but not from the label or anything like that.
The heavier sound on Letters Home, do you think that's more representative of Defeater at the moment? Can you imagine yourselves continuing on with the heavier vibe or experimenting more, like with Empty Days, in the future?
We've already tossed around ideas but I think that we're not going to give away anything at this point. I don't think we're ready to say what the next record's going to sound like, I just think we're super stoked on this one and we're still living in the moment with it right now.
Onto the lyrics, obviously a big talking point is the storyline and you've continued it on with the father this time. Is it harder or easier to write like that? Is it hard to fit the band's songwriting within a storyline, or is it somewhat easier because its less personal?
I write both ways, and, I don't know. I make it hard in order to challenge myself, I do it different every record in order to challenge myself. It's hard but writing a song and actually having a crowd of people be receptive to it in the first place is hard. We're in the fucking throwaway generation where people like a band one minute and then it's old hat a month later and the fact that people have stuck with us and give a shit about the concept is great but as far as the writing goes, yeah, it's hard but anything that's hard work is worth it. I write songs both ways, so personally as well. I mean, there's reflective stuff from my life and my family's lives and Jay's family's lives within the records anyway, that's how we've always written it. It's truth within fiction and vicea versa.
Do you plan on continuing on the storyline?
Yeah. I mean, we've always said forever that Defeater is the story, the story is Defeater. We're not planning on stopping because it's pointless otherwise. It's just going to cheapen it if we just started writing personally, if I just wrote a record about whatever the fuck I want to write about - that's not Defeater, y'know?
How was your recent stint on the Warped Tour?
It was great. It blew away everyone's expectations. It was a lot of hard work and we met a lot of really good people and it was definitely an experience that we had all wanted to have, most of our adult punk rock lives. We've all wanted to go on the Warped Tour and play in front of those people and get a chance to meet Kevin Lyman. The whole production team is completly amazing, they ran such a tight ship over there, it was incredible.
Considering Touché Amoré's comments recently about Warped Tour and taking into consideration what a lot of people have been saying about the tour recently, did you feel like you fit on the bill well? Or do you feel like the criticism people have about it aren't realistic?
I read those comments and I read Scott Heisel's response. Both Scott and Jeremy [Bolm from Touché Amoré] are close friends of our's. I think what's cool is that he can have his opinion and they can conduct Touché any way they want and they're a really hardcore, talented artist band who I really admire and we may not have exactly the same ethos but a lot of bands from our world have started to do Warped Tour - Title Fight, Polar Bear Club, Make Do And Mend. So, these are all close friends of our's in real life and they're all bands that we really look up to and, for us, we're just excited to show whoever's willing to hear Defeater and we're excited to just be ourselves. And, I think, no matter what tour we're on or who we're with, or whatever, it doesn't change the core of who Defeater is. We're really passionate about creating artist's music and if that resonates with anyone, whoever that may be, it's always exciting to us. Personally, I don't think we're out there to set any boundaries around that.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We're going out with August Burns Red in the fall, that's a full US six week tour and that'll take us pretty much right up to the holidays. So that'll be it for 2013. Derek is doing a little thing called getting married in October, which secretly, I'm excited about for a million personal reasons and the fact that I get to have more of my fall at home. So that, and the tour. It's the biggest tour we've ever done so it's excited and kind of scary.
How's the environmental side of the band going?
Still great. We're still environmentally passionate individuals, there's no one is the band who runs a veggie van company anymore but the rest of us are all environmentally forward people who care.
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